Charcoal Sachet — What is This?!

 

3b

I am continuing to teach myself to work with inks. This is just a doodle from my 2015 sketchbook. The paper, though of good quality, doesn’t allow me to completely capture the quiet energy of the piece. Still, it comes close, considering that this is just a doodle. Later on I will expand and expound on the subject matter on cold press paper (from either Strathmore or Arches). As of now the work is untitled but the three elements are a rosebud, an owl and several destroying angels (mushrooms) that I came across on a hike up on Russian Ridge, over by Skyline Boulevard and Alpine Road.

3I was thinking that maybe I could do the owl in charcoal, but am not sure yet. I may stick to using  inks only for this piece. Still, if you want to learn about the latest innovations in charcoal, watch this five-minute video about the charcoal sachet. I had no idea this thing existed, or that there were innovations in charcoal use! Thank you Rosemary & Company for introducing EdgePro and its products in your last newsletter.

 

Down By the Bay, East Palo Alto Way

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From bay to landfill to garbage dump, to boatworks and now, back to bay.

Efforts are afoot to restore the area in front of Cooley Landing in East Palo Alto. Cooley Landing was once a wharf in the now defunct town of Ravenswood. The entire landing is made of landfill and is owned by the City of East Palo Alto. It was opened/reopened in 2012.

The area directly in front of Cooley Landing, was held for quite some time by POST (the Peninsula Open Space Trust); it has now been entrusted to the MROSD (Mid-Peninsula Open Space District). Only recently opened, this section of Ravenswood Preserve is also a part of the Bay Trail. Restoration continues on this area and will continue for years to come. In the meanwhile, the Bay slowly heals itself: marshes, tidal flats and wildlife are returning to the area.

To enter this section of Ravenswood Preserve and Cooley Landing, take Bay Road in East Palo Alto. Drive past an industrialized zone. The road here becomes riddled with potholes but once you enter the preserve, the roads are paved and in excellent condition suitable even for wheelchair access.

These open spaces, Ravenswood and Cooley Landing, include portions of the Bay Trail. The view here is incredible. Signs of wildlife, especially birds, are evident. So too, are remnants of garbage, including discarded tires. Still, revitalization of the space continues. This is not just a boon for flora and fauna. It also provides more open space for the residents of East Palo Alto and beyond.

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Purisima Creek Redwoods — All the World’s a Stage!

In the opposite direction from Half Moon Bay, off Highway One, is the Higgins/Purisima Road entrance to the Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve. Hike through this peaceful canyon with its magnificent stands of old redwoods and enjoy an unspoiled Northern California gem. By the bridge to your left, not too far from the entrance, is a stately pair of red alders standing guard by the creek. These wind pollinated beauties have both male and female parts. Red alder trees are usually found at elevations below 2,400 feet and within 125 miles of the ocean. The beautiful silvery-white patches that you see all over the trunks are lichens. The barks of these trees are actually a deep tan color but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their mottled, distinctive silvery-white lichen laced trunks.

Many natural delights reside in this canyon in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The red alders with their attendant lichens are but a few. The redwoods for which the preserve is named are the real stars here but beauty abounds elsewhere, like for example, in the red elderberries (toxic), stinging nettle (with its heart shaped leaves) and the California bee plant (part of the Snapdragon family).

coast pretty face
California Bee Plant (watercolor sketch)

I didn’t come across any bees during my recent hike but l think I recognized the leaves of the bee plant close down to the ground. You should definitely start seeing them a little after New Year’s. For soon, very soon, after the first good rains — and we have already had a few of those — the bee plant will come alive. By March it begins to bloom and will continue doing so way into July. Hummingbirds, bees and deer love this plant with its reddish-brown stems and eye-catching red flowers. Look for it while you hike in Purisima. You can also find many of these plants in Montara Mountain just outside of Half Moon Bay.

Bugs in the Sun and Other Creatures

A little up the trail, along the creek, I encountered a burst of sunlight, a sun hole, that managed to pierce through an opening in the dense redwood canopy. Many flies, all male and of the same specie, danced about in their territory in the air. These were probably dance flies doing a lek/breeding display.Similarly, you can see this lekking behavior in the Monarch Butterfly when it over-winters further down the coast in Pacific Grove and Monterey Bay.

Down on the forest floor were two clown millipedes, easily identified by the yellow markings down each side of their otherwise all- black bodies. Millipedes don’t really have one-thousand legs. The clown millipede, for example, has about twenty body segments with two pairs of legs on each segment. That is far less than a thousand legs. Yellow lines with black is generally a warning in the insect/bug world. Think, for example, of the lines and colors of bees and wasps. Sometimes this pattern is merely a camouflage but in millipedes, it is not. Centipedes are different; they are harmless. But millipedes are poisonous. The clown millipede, for example, produces a cyanide gas when threatened. As always, do not disturb the creatures in any of the preserves. They are protected by law.

The funniest bug I encountered on my walk was a spittle bug, a baby frog hopper. Overall, it is pretty harmless. It drills a hole into the phloem of a plant and sucks out the liquid, bubbles it out of its back part and forms a bubble house around itself to protect it from birds and other bugs.

Ode to a Spittle Bug

You! Frog face spittle bug

Sitting on that sage

What do you think you are doing?

Oh, you think you are so clever

hiding there in plain view

I want you to know spittle bug

I am on to you.

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