Nez Perce Road

Thursday Howard had to visit a work site up the West Fork of the Bitterroot at the start of Nez Perce road, so we made it an afternoon drive and dinner outing. Although there are still a few green trees spaced here and there, the majority of cottonwoods and quakies are in bold yellow and gold all along the river. It was too early for dinner, so after he looked at the work on the riverside, we decided to continue on and drive up to Nez Perce Pass.

A few miles up, you cross a bridge and the paved road ends. Here is where winter snow plowing stops, so there is a lot of snowmobile activity beyond this point once there is enough snow on the ground. For now, it's mostly outfitters and hunters accessing the woods. The Forest Service has been logging here and there along the road, clearing out some of the many, many dead trees. Past the houses and ranches, the road is paved again. We've always wondered about this paved stretch, so I did a little research, and according to a FS document on the Magruder Corridor "Before the 1980 Central Idaho Wilderness Act was passed, some of the area was prepared for timber sales.  This 14-mile section of the road was paved in the 1970’s in anticipation of those sales." We hadn't been up here in several years, and the paved portion is in pretty bad shape in spots; trees growing on the edge, and frost heaves and slumps. Close to the top, some snow was on the hillsides, and in places along the roadside.

Up at Nez Perce pass (6598 ft.) at the trailhead there is a parking lot, bathroom, and helicopter landing pad. The trail runs north/south and on the south side is the stock unloading ramp. We've hiked both north and south sections more than once. On the Idaho side, the paving ends again, with the one lane road continuing west through the Magruder corridor to Elk City. It forms the boundary between The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to the south, and the Selway/Bitterrooot wilderness to the north. In the last two years there have been very large wildfires to the south of the pass, but we couldn't see the burned areas from that vantage point. We've talked about making the 171 mile drive to Elk City, but haven't made that trip yet.

We turned back east, and headed to Bradley O's steakhouse, south of Hamilton, where we had an excellent filet mignon dinner. Nice end to a relaxing outing. 

Bright Light

Driving down the hill, I'm seeing more and more color changes in the trees, and now in the grasses and ferns, too. Last year's fires didn't get all the larch trees at the top of Downing mountain, there is now some yellow at the peak. Summer's heat and lack of rain had the ninebark and other shrubs looking Fall-like in August, now the other foliage has caught up.

The cottonwoods and aspens along the Bitterroot river finally found their Fall color, so bright you almost needed sunglasses. Yellows all along the banks of the river, but in Hamilton some very large oaks and maples add shades of orange.

Lots of very large rose hips on the bushes along the road above the house, but they need a shot of hard frost before they can be used for tea. Waiting -

Fall Equinox

Only the younger, smaller quakies and cottonwoods have started to change color. The weather though, has turned cool and rainy. Time to put away the hoses and sprinklers; we've had enough rain to end the threat of forest fire this season. Robins seem to be flocking together, getting ready to leave. Deer are elsewhere, I haven't seen them around at all. There has been a die-off of whitetails in the Missoula area, but not that I know of in the Bitterroot.

I've already blanched and peeled several batches of tomatoes for the freezer. They taste so much better than the canned varieties. For now I've left most of the potatoes and carrots in their containers. For a taste test, I did dig up a few potatoes to cook for dinner, and again, being able to use fresh produce is always a treat.

The forecast is for temperatures to get close to freezing later this week, so I need to continue cleanup and start covering up in the greenhouse. Other than the vine on the outside stairs, the squash plants did poorly again this year, so I pulled those plants up. I'll give the tomatoes another day or so to vine ripen, and then clear those away, too. The strawberry, potato, and carrot containers I'll pull into the middle of the greenhouse and cover. There were just a few losses in the potatoes to freezing last year, so I know this works.

August Journal Sketches

 More welcome rain - a respite from the forest fire smoke.

More welcome rain - a respite from the forest fire smoke.

Cool enough that I felt like taking the dogs for a hike.

Mixed media watercolor and Micron pen. 

 A little alpenglow.

A little alpenglow.

Very crispy balsam root.

More hot and sleepy pets. 

The sun appears as a red ball when viewed through forest fire smoke. 

Jem sunbathes on the couch.

Closeups done using Papilio binoculars. 

 Wasp invasion starts -

Wasp invasion starts -

 The wasps were certainly trying to get to our salmon while it was getting smoked!

The wasps were certainly trying to get to our salmon while it was getting smoked!

 One little cloud and a few drops of rain.

One little cloud and a few drops of rain.

 Waiting for another of Jem's chemo. treatments.

Waiting for another of Jem's chemo. treatments.

 Our late bloomer squash vine grows down the outside stairs. 

Our late bloomer squash vine grows down the outside stairs. 

July Journal Sketches

Didn't realize I hadn't posted any pages in a while - here we go: 

Watercolor of the sunrise over the Sapphires.

Hefeweisen by brush pen.

Mixed media graphite and watercolor, Sun Valley, ID.

 Howard's son Todd's mountain bike race.

Howard's son Todd's mountain bike race.

Welcome rain clouds. 

Rowdy and Jem in napping poses.

Freshly baled hay in brush and micron pens. 

 On my way to Yellowstone for the journaling workshop.

On my way to Yellowstone for the journaling workshop.

 Graphite tonal exercises during the journaling workshop in Yellowstone. 

Graphite tonal exercises during the journaling workshop in Yellowstone. 

Graphite sketch of the Bitterroot river, done while waiting for cat Jem's chemo. treatment to finish.

Wouldn't It Be Nice

to be able to sketch outside? This summer's influx of wasps had made being outside anything but comfortable or relaxing. Two to three years of mild winters have produced a bumper crop of these stingers., and while summer wanes - it is still hot though - the paper wasps and yellow jackets are getting more aggressive as they get ready for winter. Difficult to draw or do anything else while they fly around your head and face and try to bite.  The hardware and feed stores can't keep wasp and hornet spray on their shelves, and everyone is talking about how bad they are this season.

In the mean time, I bought some acrylics to experiment with. We'll see what comes out of that. 

Digital vs. Digital

I create artwork both ways, on the computer and on paper, etc. Since both are created digitally (I use my fingers for both), I am amused by the resistance to art created on the computer by a lot of the fine art realm.

When Photoshop and other drawing programs first came out about 30 years ago, many in the medical illustration community were sure that they/we were doomed. After a few years of gnashing of teeth, the computer became another tool. Sure, as computer and non-computer artist Dan Seegmiller point out, it's much easier to correct mistakes on a computer, but you still have to know how to draw. The computer program won't draw it for you. If you don't know about light on form, contours, shading - all the basics - it will show.

As a member of the Board of Certification of Medical Illustrators, I see the candidate portfolios, and you can tell at once, no matter what computer program is being used whether that person has true drawing skills. One place to see very high caliber drawing skills is on the

Some would say there's no original art for a computer created piece, but I say my computer file is analogous to the lithography plate or stone.

Not fog, but smoke -

Last night smoke rolled into the valley, not from the large Gold Pan fire south of Salmon, but from the Pony complex fire east of Boise, which during Saturday afternoon began to send up a 30,000 ft. column of smoke. This morning before sunrise, we could see the lights of town, but now we're "smoked in".

Before going into town for my birthday dinner Friday night, I checked the radar at, and saw there was a large storm passing through Salmon headed due north. On the drive in, the view south was dark gray, and you could smell the rain coming. By the time we were finishing dinner, the wind was starting to pick up and the first drops of rain were coming down. Returning home on Westside road, we passed a dead tree lying across the opposite lane,  and reported that to the sheriff's office. Ours was only one of many emergency calls that evening, with others for lightning caused grass fires and downed power lines. None of those problems up here on the mountain where the winds weren't as strong, and we did thankfully, get some rain.

The forecast has varying percentage chances of rain for next week, and we are not in as dry circumstances as last year, which gives us hope we won't have to evacuate the house this August.

Field Journal Workshop in Yellowstone National Park 7/13

I took a second field and nature journaling class with Hannah Hinchman at the Yellowstone Assn. Institute's Lamar Buffalo Ranch last week. We were to have made our own journals, but Hannah realized that that would take too much time away from sketching, so she made the Japanese-style folding books for us. Other than the fact that it was in the upper 80's at over 8000', it was another excellent Institute class.

Before the class, I drove down to Salt Lake City to attend the meeting of the Board of Certification of Medical Illustrators, and to help score Certification exams. Going this route enabled me to get to YNP via the South entrance for the first time, and to go through Teton National Park. We'd been past Teton before, but it was in the dark, so I hadn't seen those magnificent mountains before. The lake area, unlike Old Faithful tends to be quieter, with much fewer cars and people. I would have liked to stay a night at the Lake Hotel, but my schedule just didn't permit that.

 Teton National Park

Teton National Park

 The shore of Yellowstone Lake.

The shore of Yellowstone Lake.

Journal sketch on the first morning of class. The uinta ground squirrels were everywhere, and eventually got a little too close, and got a "shoo!".

An "event map" at Lost Lake, which is up above Tower/Roosevelt, on a trail that starts at Petrified Tree. Our goal was to sit and note with writing or sketching, what noises or occurrences went on around us over a period of time.

Quick watercolor sketch of the cabins at the Yellowstone Assn. Institute's Lamar Buffalo Ranch campus.

Back to basics - light on form.

Classroom view of Just Another Perfect Day in Paradise -

Dog Watching Television

On a Saturday afternoon, post our glass of wine and crackers and cheese, the dogs had play-time on the deck. (No wine for the dogs, but probably a third of our snacks.) Those two "tasks" done, they settled down on the boards to watch the scenery to the south. 

 TV was on, but without sound so I wondered why Rowdy began whining and looking over his shoulder in that northerly direction. I turned around to see the tag end of a Cascade dishwasher detergent commercial, and had to assume a dog, or dog shape was included in their message. Unlike Jessie, Rowdy often watches TV, and whines, barks and jumps about before heading to the room behind the TV to find that other canine, or outside to check there. both Howard and I were surprised and amused that he'd notice - let alone watch - anything from perhaps 20 ft. away, through a window and screen. Having read this recent Smithsonian  blog post I would have figured he had seen a fairly degraded image of what might have been a dog or four-legged shape. Perhaps I'm remembering incorrectly, but I do think I've seen a dog in a dishwasher soap commercial at some time, but as of yet can't find one for Cascade. Until then, Rowdy will maintain his vigilance over the Tube.

Havin' a Heat Wave

Not a tropical one, but a hot one nonetheless. The last couple of days, the dogs have balked at going outside after the sun is up - you can't blame them! Cats Tippy and Jem stretch out, but you still find them laying across patches of sun shining on the floors; an inexplicable spot to the rest of us.

We haven't made it to 100 yet, but have gotten quite close. The temperature over night dropped to a chilly 75.  Upstairs has remained in the mid-80s, so we've retreated downstairs to the guest bedroom to sleep.  The greenhouse has needed double doses of water, too.

May and June Journal Art - 3rd one finished

These images will close out my third journal - I've already started on number four!


The "Squirrel Girls"/FSU roommates reunion. Freshman year was 40 (gasp!) years ago - 

View from our poolside cabana at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.

Mementos - 

Some of Spring's color, from the hillsides around the house.

Always an interesting subject

Kitty chemo. day -

Complicated little structures!

An event map - 

No morels on our property, but up higher they're a lure for people to trespass.....

"Eating like a bird"  means they drain this feeder in just a few hours -

Jessie's summer "do".

A special gift - 

The end of Journal #3.

Raven's Gift

Late this afternoon the sun peeked out again, after yesterday's 0.46" of rain. Also (see previous post) I took Jessie into Bitterroot Kennels for her summer shave. She was most reluctant yesterday afternoon (oh! my body image - and it's cold!!) to go outside, so I tried again today.

A few hit and miss mistings of rain an bits of sun most of the day, so the more obvious sun this afternoon made it OK for a short walk. After retrieving the card from the trail cam in the draw, I walked along the lower driveway. Rowdy tried very hard to get Jessie to play, but she was having nothing to do with that. Every once in a while she will chase him along the hillsides, but most times, not.

Closer to the end of both the lower and upper driveways, I saw the shape of a raven flying above. In the last week or two we had heard the adolescent call of an raven downhill of us it's voice higher, not yet changed to "basso",  and knew that possibly the same family had returned to our general area. Watching overhead, I noted that the raven had a tail feather or so missing. Following its flight I saw it perch high in a pine tree where I saw it pluck at something close to its body that at first instinct I thought was a kill of some sort. It was then I saw a feather spiraling down like a maple leaf seed, the white shaft marking its path downwards into the grass.

Seeing where it fell, and before and after retrieving the treasure of its feather, I thanked the raven. I have no way of knowing if we've had the same pair nest and fledge their young in our area over the last three years, but it is a treasure hearing that silly youngster calling out again and again with its high-pitched "caw!" for that last free meal from mom and pop. Last year, Howard saw the young one playing joyfully on the ground, jumping up and down and tossing sticks in the air - throwing rosebuds while it may.


Jessie's Coat

We had close to a half inch of rain yesterday, which made walks or hiking outdoors not a great idea. However, considering the state of our moisture last summer, we appreciate every drop we get. 

Yesterday was also Jessie's beauty shop/Bitterroot Kennel grooming appointment for her yearly "do" AKA, shave. Last year I did this in March, which was a mistake, since we get many cold days before it's finally fully warm in July, and she spent more than a few days in March and April curled up on the couch. I thought that mid-June might be better, but of course weather being weather, post shave she's again reluctant to go outside. Recalling past experience with other family pets, this isn't entirely due to temperature, but also to body image. I do say that her shaved self does look quite different from her full, formal coat, but I know that in a few days she will be comfortable in her .warm season look. More importantly, with her typical full coat she was a perfect magnet for hound's tongue (beggar's lice) and cheat grass seeds. If you know what they are, you know that both are more than an irritant for dogs.

2013 GNSI exhibit

My piece, "Along the Hillside" was accepted into the 2013 Guild of Natural Science Illustrators' Annual Exhibit, so the girls and their calves are headed to the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Greenhouse setup 2013

So far, this year's greenhouse layout is working much better. We gave the cucumbers more room, and repositioned the potato and squash plants. Flowers have appeared on the cucumbers and squash, and buds are out on the potatoes and tomatoes. I've been able to harvest quite a few breakfast radishes already. 

The "bell tower" is actually the platform for the solar panel for our solar powered pump.

Hard to see here, but there are actually two rain barrels.

Morning alarm

During the week we set the alarm clock for 5 a.m., but at this time of the year with first light coming not long after 4 a.m., that has the dogs and cats up, and letting us know in various ways it's breakfast time.

This morning before the alarm clock could go off, Jessie gave a growl and then a bark, and I got to the bedroom window in time to see a black bear loping out from under the deck, headed towards the draw North of the house. We waited a minute or two, and let loose the dogs, who gave chase, barking the whole way.

Except for a suet cake, I stopped filling the bird feeder a couple of weeks ag, and the garbage is closed up in the garage, but I suppose the bear feels it might as well stop by to see what might be left out. Heading into town on Tuesday morning, which is garbage day, I saw someone picking up after a bear raid on the trash cans set out along the sides of Owings Creek road. I only saw one garbage bag actually torn apart, the rest were just scattered in the road. FWP set up a bear trap in the neighborhood last year after some bear break ins and mischief, but never caught the culprit. They may have to try again -