Vacation Day Four: Resting Up

OK, today I’m resting up a little bit from the last few days, and getting some housework done (little bit at a time).  I’ve got laundry, dishes, tidying up the bedroom, and washing the car on my list.  Let’s see how many I actually to.  Hah!

I’ve signed up for a two day dragonfly seminar in July with Kathy Biggs (who just a lecture for Tuleyome’s “Nature and You” lecture series.  There were only 2 spots left when I signed up so I was able to grab one of them.  Yippie!


Instructors: Kathy and Dave Biggs
Dates: Saturday-Sunday, July 18-19, 2015
Location: Siskiyou County, California; lodging at Flowing Waters Retreat Center in Stewart Springs

This year we’ll shift to northern California and focus on the southern Siskiyous’ gorgeous dragonflies. Species we’ll likely see include the Petaltail, Clubtails, Cruiser and Emerald and Skimmer dragonflies and the Spreadwing,  Broad-winged and Pond damselflies. Our home base will be the serene Flowing Waters Retreat Center, which has its own mountain stream. On the first morning, we’ll concentrate on dragonflies’ unique biology, life cycles and identification, then spend the afternoon at a nearby lake. Day 2 will focus on more unusual mountain species. A field trip to high mountain lakes and a creek will follow a short morning indoor session. In the field we’ll practice species identifications and behavior interpretations.
Treat yourself to a full-fledged naturalist retreat by lodging in Namasté House boasting three bathrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen,  deck overlooking Parks Creek and a refreshing swimming hole. The house sleeps 13, including two double beds for couples. Very limited campsites are also available. A two-night minimum stay is required in order to lodge here. Visit for more information.

Sounds like it should be FANTASTIC.  I’m a little confused about what nights we’ll be spending at the house. I think it’s Friday and Saturday, the 17th and 18th… and the classes are on the 18th and 19th, and then you leave, but I’m not sure.  That’ll be clarified before July I’m sure.

Vacation Day Three: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Day Three of my Vacation.  I got up at 6:30 this morning and headed out with the dog to visit the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was about 53° when I left, but got up to 79° by the time I got back home around 2:00 pm.

At the refuge I saw a lot of White-Faced Ibises, along with Killdeer, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Redwing Blackbirds, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, Ring-Necked Pheasants, sparrows, Widgeons, Northern Shovelers, Green Teals, Cinnamon Teals, hawks, White-Fronted Geese, Greater Yellow Legs, and other birds.  There were also quite a few jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits, Blue Belly lizards, and Painted Lady butterflies.  I also saw a lot of dragonflies along the auto tour, so I was looking forward to maybe getting a lot of photos of them on the “wetlands walk” foot trails… but the wet areas along the trail are all dried up already, so… no dragonflies there.

One of the Great Egrets I photographed had just come out of the water so all his mating plumes (aigrettes) were matted together, but he still has his neon-green mating face going on…  And I’d stopped the car at one point to get a photo of a thistle outside the window that was in bloom.  Just as I took the photo, a Painted Lady butterfly landed right on top of it!  Hah!  Kewl shot!

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It was a nice day over all, and as I mentioned I was home again by 2 o’clock so that was great.  I crashed for the rest of the day with the dogs…

Vacation Day Two: “Paint Your Pet”

Day Two of my vacation.  This isn’t really “nature” or “walking” related, but I want to add it in here anyway…

I slept in until about 8:30 this morning, then did my ablutions stuff and had a little breakfast.  My brother Marty went off to a car club board meeting, and around 10:30 or so, I headed out to a “Paint You Pet” class, a fundraiser for the Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary (where I used to volunteer) hosted by Creative Juices. Before going to the class, though, I stopped off to pick up something for lunch, and put some gas in the car.

Can you find me an "Sergeant Margie" in there?  (Photo by Aimee Rebmann)
Can you find me an “Sergeant Margie” in there? (Photo by Aimee Rebmann)

OMG, the class was soooo much fun!  I had brought a lunch along, but I didn’t need it.  They had fresh fruit, cheese, crackers, salami, Italian soda, lemon-water, and wine for everyone.  The wine went fast; hah!  There were about 20 people in the class, and most of them were painting pictures of their cats (or cats in the Happy Tails shelter).  OH, before I go on about the class: I have to say that this new SPCA shelter is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen.  There are three large buildings, runs for the dogs, fenced in yards so you can take the shelter pet you want outside and play with them.  There are art pieces all over the grounds… even the ceiling tiles have little paw prints in them…  It’s a beautiful setting.

Back to the class:  We all started out with a greyscale “template” of the photos we had submitted of our pets, so we didn’t have to worry about size, proportion, or anything like that. The templates were on canvas, so we painted OVER the templates as we worked. Then we were each given a pallet of colors specifically matched to our color photo, so we had the colors we needed to create out paintings.  After everyone was situated we were told to first paint the outside edges of the canvas so we could get that done and out of the way and also learn the “feel” of the paints and brushes we were using.  Then we were told to turn the template UPSIDE DOWN.  This kept us from focusing on the image of the pet, and instead focus on each part of the painting as a separate entity made up of different color blocks (like jigsaw puzzles).  We were all skeptical of that at first, but it really served us well!

Starting with the image upside down
Starting with the image upside down

Then we painted in the large background area – any color we chose – with a large flat brush.  Next we painted the eyes, using a kind of “pointillism” technique with different colors to make them look like crystals.  Sergeant Margie’s eyes are varying shade of amber which made point-technique work really well, but some people’s dogs had dark black eyes or brown eyes, which made getting that “crystal” quality a lot more difficult.  The outline line of the eyes was also done in this point-technique to keep the pets from looking like “Cleopatra”.

After the eyes were done, we worked on the nose, tongue and lips… and the hint of putting some blue in with the pink, red and orange helped all of us get a more realistic color for those things.  Again, those who had black or brown noses on their pets had a harder time than those of us whose pets had lighter noses.  I used the point-technique again on these features to try to get the colors to blend more naturally. It looked weird close-up…but from a distance it looked great.

Using a "pointillism" technique for the eyes
Using a “pointillism” technique for the eyes

Then we were allowed to turn out paintings right side up… and it was funny to hear everyone “oooh” over their work.  Hah!   After that we were told how to block in the basic underlying body color.  Those with single colors pets had an easier time of this than I did.  Sergeant Margie is basically “white” but underneath that are red tones, amber tones, blueish grey tones…  So I had to block out a lot of different things.  Then we were shown how to lay the “fur” down over the base color… starting at the rear for those who had full-body images, and starting from the outer edges for those of us who were just doing head shots… then working forward or in from there, laying the fur up as we went along with a very “dry brush” technique.  Because Sergeant Margie’s fur goes every which way, I had a lot more freedom in this process than those with flat-coated pets.  I was able to incorporate a lot of “movement” into his coat and make him look “jaunty”.  Some people really struggled with this part, and one woman actually walked out of the class to take some time to compose herself because she was getting so frustrated.  The hardest part for me of this portion of the painting was to not “over-work” it.  I found myself putting on so many layers in some areas that it lost all of its “softness” and went kind of flat.  I had to really restrain myself, and just let the paint do the work.

Almost finished
Almost finished

Once the fur was down, we were shown how to add whiskers, ear hair, and extra highlights… and by then 3 hours had rushed by and the class was over.  Wow!  It went by sooo fast!  We all went outside to have our photos taken with the paintings, and then headed out for the day.  On my way to the car, several people stopped by me and said, “You won… Yours was the best.”  Awwww!  How sweet.

That was an awesome way to spend a Sunday morning… and I would totally do it again!

Me and my finished painting.  (Photo by Aimee Rebmann)
Me and my finished painting. (Photo by Aimee Rebmann)


Vacation Day One: American River Bend Park

Day One of my vacation.  I got up around 7:15 this morning and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  The weather was perfect while I was out there, starting out around 50° with a bit of a breeze, and then getting up to about 70° by the time I headed home.

Spring was fully “sprung” at the park and I got to see the Wild Turkey in strut, Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly eggs, hatchlings and some nearly adult caterpillars (as well as the adult butterflies everywhere), Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, Buckeyes and Painted Ladies.  And I think I saw a Monarch, but it was too far away to be sure.  I also got some photos of the Mule Deer (mostly does and their yearlings), several hawks (including a gorgeous red-eyed Cooper’s Hawk who posed for me near her nest), Acorn Woodpeckers, Spotted Towhees, Tree Swallows and other birds.  The Tree Swallows are pretty noisy little dudes, and I was able to locate two of their nests because of that.  One of the nests was too high for me to get any good shots of it, but the second one was closer to the ground, and I was able to photograph the mama looking out through the nest-hole.  I also saw a bunch of Lady Bugs, Craneflies, Snakeflies, Damselflies, wasps, mosquitoes, moths, crickets, Boxelder Beetles, and what I think was a Common Soldier Beetle (Cantharis pellucida).  When the trail took me closer to the river, I saw two cormorants sunning themselves on the rocks.

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There was so much to see that I got carried away and lost track of time.  I ended up walking for almost 4½ hours!  That’s waaaaay too long for me, and by the time I got back to the car, my feet and ankles were killing me. I stopped at Togo’s on the way home to pick up some sandwiches for “linner” and could barely walk across the parking lot.