Pine Needle Basket

Pine Needle Basket

Pine Needle Basket

In follow up to my last post about the longleaf pine restoration project in Sussex County, here’s an entry from my original Yahoo blog on a basket I made several years ago.  When I was gathering the pine needles with my cousin, he explained to me the difficulty of handling longleaf pine seedlings – they have a very long tap root that’s easily broken. Finally cone shaped packaging was developed that would protect the root thru shipping and handling and allow for successful plantings.   This little basket is 4″ in diameter and 5″ tall.

Friday October 6, 2006 Blue Ribbon!

Of my eight entries in the arts and crafts section of the State Fair, I took one third, three seconds, and a first place!  Latter, as you can see above, was on the pine needle basket I made from the 18″ pine needles cousin Jesse and I collected last November in Patterson, Georgia.  The hen feathers are from a jaunt with Julia and Debra to the mountains in 1998 – found them when we went gem hunting.  You can’t see from this angle, but there’s an eucalyptus nut on the other side of the pine cone from Los Angeles; probably collected around 1987.  Life is good!

Hike: Chub Sandhill – long leaf pine, resurrection fern & salamander eggs!


Last Thursday I joined ten others for a Chesterfield Parks and Recreation hike thru Chub Sandhill Natural Preserve in Sussex County, Virginia. I love hiking with these folks! The pace is moderate, the company is good, and our fearless leader, Mark Battista, is an enthusiastic, well-informed naturalist. The hikes are listed in the county program guide and fill very quickly.

The first leg of our hike was thru a long leaf pine restoration burn. The loblolly forest we walked thru shows remains of old sand mining and has been planted with long leaf pine seedlings. The burn had been done in the previous week and cleared out the underbrush. We could see the long leaf pine seedlings, yellow on the outside from the fire but with strong green buds in the center of each. This is called the ‘grass stage’ and the seedlings look like long tufts of grass. Just before we pulled off for the hike we passed a growth several years older – the needles are so long and soft looking! Each needle can be up to 18″ long – excellent for weaving pine needle baskets! Click here for a site that describes the growth stages of the long leaf pine.

For lunch we drove a bit further down the road to a boat ramp at the Nottoway River.  Highlight of that stop was the discovery of a resurrection fern growing on a sycamore tree along the bank of the river.  This plant shrivels up during dry times, then unfurls when it rains.  I saw a lot of it in Charleston, SC last spring but I hadn’t seen any in Virginia.  This specimen had both a unfurled area near the base of the tree and a drying portion further up the trunk.

Our next jaunt was thru a mature loblolly forest with several vernal pools.  The path was cushiony soft with pine needles! This area has been a preserve since the mid 90’s, and scattered throughout were old dumps of jars, bottles and rusted cans.  Not far from one of the pools we discovered an old jar and can that had been undisturbed for so long that moss and ferns have taken up residence! Nature’s own terrariums!  In another of the pools Mark pointed out spotted salamander eggs – and pulled out a bunch to show us!  They looked like orange jello with tiny raisins scattered throughout!

I’m looking forward to two more hikes in April – hopefully wildflowers will be blooming by then.  Destinations are Belle Isle State Park in Lancaster County and Hickory Hollow Nature Preserve in the Northern Neck.  Stay tuned!!

Spring at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens


I stopped by Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens earlier this week to check out the nature journaling exhibit in their library. As always, I found so much more! I taught a nature journaling class in February with a friend at Covenant Woods, and her notebook pages are included in the exhibit. I hadn’t realized that some of my water colors are also in the video accompanying the exhibit! That was a fun surprise. In the corridor outside the library is an exhibit of recent crocheted/nature pieces by Hillary Waters.  I’ve included above my favorite piece. See her website for a portfolio of more works.

As I wondered thru the gardens, I discovered a bicycle sculpture, topped by a small pedal airplane! The mania for the UCI Road World Championships in September has started!

Flowers are beginning to bloom – dwarf irises, daffodils, crocus! Spring is here?!

Little Layered Landscape Quilt


On a very rainy Saturday this past weekend I joined 70 other members of the Virginia Consortium of Quilters in Toano, Virginia for our quarterly meeting and workshops. The workshop I took was on Little Layered Landscapes taught by Martha Berry of Two Rivers Quilting in Williamsburg, VA. She based the class on Karen Eckmeier’s book: Accidental Landscapes: Surprisingly Simple Quilted Scenes. Only straight stitching was required, so my trusty Featherweight did the job. When I’ve done similar pieces I’ve fused the fabric with Wonder Under onto a base piece of material.  For Martha’s class, we took strips of fabric, cut one long side in a curve, turned under a scant 1/4″ and then stitched to the next strip.  The wonky border was done in the same manner.  It was simple and quick, much  more so than I expected! The little trees were added after all the strips were stitched.  Give it a try sometime!

Watercolor with Ellie Cox


This weekend I had a wonderful time taking a Virginia Landscapes watercolor workshop with Eleanor Cox. (Click on her name for a link to her website.) I’m very pleased with the two pieces I did, and I learned a lot in the process.  She’s does beautiful work and was very helpful.  She gave me good pointers on showing depth though used of warm/cool colors, mixing colors on the page, and highlighting the center of interest.  She used a much larger brush than I’m accustomed to.  The workshop small  – a dozen or so students, and two full days –  Saturday and Sunday, 9 am til 4 pm – lots of time to get in the groove. She did a demo each day, then we worked on the same image or another of hers or our own.

The scenes I chose were two of my photos, one taken in 2011 in Highland County when the Virginia Consortium of Quilters toured the barn quilts – see my blog post from August 2011. The other is from a Spring 2009 hike with Chesterfield County along the Appalachian Trail along Coles Mountain west of Amherst, Virginia. See blog post for June 8, 2009.

Now to paint some more and see if I can reinforce the lessons!

Wild Flower Embroidery

I found an excellent book of wild flower designs last summer at the Oconaluftee Visitors Center in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and I’ve just finished the Catawba Rhododendron! I did that one first since I tend to confuse it with Mountain Laurel. Now I think I’m straight!

I’ve transferred 15 of the designs to pale green Kona fabric and I’m using brown embroidery thread with a threaded back stitch. I enlarged the designs to 11″ to fit on a 14″ block. My plan is to use these, eventually, on the back of a mountain Tshirt quilt. The needlework designs were compiled in 1971 by the Park Service Wives Organization of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The designs are by Novie Ahrenhold and include many of my favorite wild flowers. There’s even one that we have in our yard that I thought was yellow broom – come to find out it’s called Hearts-A-Bustin-With-Love! Such a great name! The flowers aren’t very distinguished, but the berries are charming.

I’m enjoying working on the flowers in between other projects, as I wait for Spring and day-dream about the Smoky Mountains.

Watercolor Journey

I mentioned in my last post five watercolor paintings for my local art association – here they are! I welcome your feedback – what you like about them, what you think could be improved, what you would have done differently.

I’m already exhibiting photographs with the group, and I would like to also show my watercolors. However, first my work must be accepted by a jury of the association’s board. Didn’t make it this time; maybe next time. Meanwhile, practice, practice, practice!! The Facebook group, Artist Journal Workshop, has been very helpful and I’ve been viewing Cathy Johnson’s youtube watercolor videos.