My mother-in-law was de-cluttering her house some years ago and gave me this painting which I thought was fun. More recently, I tried to read the signature and find out more about the artist. I knew the artist was from Little Rock, Arkansas. I found out that the painter was Helen Terry Marshall who died at age 98 in 2007. I could not find other examples of her art on the internet, but one interesting fact (here comes the Christmas connection): her son, Fred Calvin Marshall was a jazz musician in the Vince Guaraldi trio and played the bass in the original soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas which aired on PBS a few nights ago.
I was “down on the farm” last week and got to bottle-feed two orphan calves, Lightning and Thunder. Lightning’s mother was hit by lightning out in the field. Thunder was his mom’s first calf and she refused to feed him.
An ekphrasis is a poem describing a piece of art such as a painting or a statue. Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese contemporary artist. I loved her sculpture of a flower and wrote an ekphrasis about it.
Yayoi’s Flower in the Woods at Crystal Bridges
lime-green serpent stem
red/white polk-a-dot petals
Please Feed Me, Seymour
Wonderland, Wonka, Whoville
A Technicolor Triffid
This mushroom was growing on a dead tree in my daughter’s yard. The scientific name is Sarcodontia crocea. Sarco means “flesh.” dontia means “teeth.” crocea means “yellow.”
I found this mushroom while walking the dog. It was growing where there had previously been a tree stump and looked like a pepperoni pizza. The scientific name of this mushroom is Ganoderma sessile. Ganoderma means “shining skin.” The Ganoderma family are edible. Other Ganoderma species called “reishi” mushrooms are said to have healing properties and have been used in traditional Eastern medicine for many years.
As I was recently driving north on Highway 65 in northern Missouri, I saw numerous hedge ball trees full of the strange yellow fruit. My grandmother used to put hedge balls in her basement to get rid of crickets and spiders. The weird fruits are also known as Osage oranges, hedge apples, and monkey brains. The scientific name of the tree is Maclura pomifera, and it is the only living species of the Maclura genus.
The thorny trees were used as fencing along the edges of farms before barbed wire was invented.
Hedge balls apparently are not very good at repelling insects. My own observation is that they do have a smell much like a citronella candle which is used as an insect repellent. It would be a good science experiment for a kid to recheck the Iowa State University results. https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2014/10-24/hedgeapple.html
The wood of the trees is strong and burns well. It was once used by the Osage Native Americans to make bows.
The fruit is nonpoisonous but has a bitter flavor and few animals will eat it although some of the fruits appeared to have been partially eaten. The hedge ball contains a white, thick juice that gives some people a rash. The seeds can be toasted and eaten. Here is a Youtube video of kids tasting the seeds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UoPIizdWto
The hedge ball is rumored to have some healing properties. https://www.npr.org/2015/12/09/459099506/iowa-chemist-turns-inedible-hedge-balls-into-valuable-cash-crop
I saw this wolf spider in the driveway, carrying her egg sac to protect her spider babies until they hatch. After the eggs hatch, she will carry the baby spiders on her back until they can fend for themselves. There is a nice blogpost about wolf spiders at https://animals.howstuffworks.com/arachnids/dont-be-afraid-big-bad-wolf-spider.htm
This tiny barn is made of petrified wood and is on display at the Petrified Wood Museum.
I met this guy at Hobby Lobby. I realized I had never seen this breed of dog before.