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Hello everyone! I am back from the family farm and ready to get to work blogging. I am sorry that Ferrebeekeeper has lain fallow for the last week (and seen scarce cultivation in the weeks before that) but maybe I can channel vacation energy into some thrilling new posts (and answer some long-neglected comments) before the daily grind reduces me back into an empty husk. Also, although I did not find anyone to take over writing while I was gone, I found some authors who expressed excitement over the idea of some iconoclastic and thought-provoking guest posts…so prepare yourself for that treat!

Speaking of treats, today features a topic which I haven’t written about for a long time: turkeys! When I was a child, I had a special fondness for the great birds, and the noble fowl still delight me (even if I have said almost everything that I can think to say about them). Fortunately when I stepped out of the study and out into the farmyard, I encountered the material for a new turkey post–in the form of new turkeys!

My parents keep a lovely flock of pilgrim geese (along with the remarkable tame wild goose named LG, who just showed up one day). Despite some run-ins with predators and the multitudinous snares of the world, the geese have been flourishing to such a great extent that my mother has been selling goslings to other hobby farmers and poultry enthusiasts. One such enthusiast had his own flock of hand-raised birds, and rather than paying for goslings with the coin of the realm, he obtained his geese through the most ancient custom of barter. Here is what he traded for his goslings: three adorable turkey poults–already grown to graceful near adulthood by the time I made it to the farm.

They moved deceptively quickly for my poor phone camera

These turkeys are much smaller than any I have seen so far and are currently about the same size as a large chicken–an extreme contrast with the huge double breasted bronze turkeys which my parents raised five years ago which puffed up to seem like mastiffs or cassowaries (although maybe the surly disposition if the bronzes called such comparisons to mind). I could not ascertain a breed for these little turkeys per se, though my mother thought the farmer mentioned a heritage of red bourbon turkeys in their lineage. Whatever the case they were sweet and affectionate and evinced a particular fondness for my dad, whom they followed around like puppies when he was near.

To my eyes they seemed too pale and too small to be red bourbon turkeys. It is hard to tell in my pictures but they are pale orange buff on top of a French vanilla color. I think of them as the orange creamsicle turkeys, although perhaps they would not appreciate being affiliated with such tasty imagery (it is also possible that they are “buff turkeys” a reconstituted breed meant to approximate a vanished lineage). I am sorry that I obtained limited photos of the three birds, but I promise to follow up with adulthood photos of them later in the year (maybe for November when the internet and society reward turkey-themed content). In the meantime I wish the little birds well and I hope that they survive the foxes and great-horned owls so that we can see what a little creamsicle tom looks like when he puffs up and fans out his feathers. Speaking of which, hopefully one of the turkeys is a tom! it is hard to tell turkey gender until they reach full maturity. It would be sad if they are all hens (although turkeys do have an elegant but shocking cell bio solution for such a contingency).

Dangit, out of all of these pictures, did none come out right?

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I saw some jonquils getting ready to bloom and it made me happy and excited.  I am ready for spring.  Winter was mild until the end but it has really been lingering around and we need spring flowers.  Jonquils are domesticated ornamental flowers descended from are a specific sort of daffodil: “Narcissus jonquil.” They have dark green, tube-shaped leaves (compared to other types of daffodils which have flat leaves).  They tend to be smaller and their central tube is flared and flattened like a little saucer or cup.  There are so many sorts and I hope to see them all within a few weeks!

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garden

A photo of my garden in Brooklyn (April 17th, 2016)

Until last week it was a slow cold spring in Brooklyn—but, then, suddenly, the season sprang into action in a flurry of beautiful colors.  The tulips leaped up out of nowhere–although the accursed squirrels are beheading them as fast as they bloom–and the cherry tree blossoms are just beginning to open (more about that later).  Here is a picture of my garden the other day: you can see some of the classic Dutch-style tulips and the bleeding hearts over in the left corner.

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However I wanted to draw your attention downwards to a flower that barely makes it into the picture because of its delicate tininess: the muscari or grape hyacinth—a diminutive but exceedingly lovely plant.  Muscari originated in Central Asia, Asia Minor, North Africa, and the Mediterranean Basin.  The little flowers bloom in temperate woodlands of the region’s forests early in spring before the trees have a chance to set leaves. They propagate easily and can become beautiful purple, blue, and white carpets on the woodland floor.  Muscari have escaped the garden and naturalized in parts of North America, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

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Grape hyacinths have that name for a reason:  they are botryoidal and take the form of a pyramidal cluster of grapes (although each individual blossom is actually a tiny urn).  The effect is enchanting up close.  At a distance the little urns become indistinguishable. In fact the individual plants blend together into an amalgamated mass of color–and what a color. The finest feature of grape hyacinths are the exquisite hues.  They come in pale blue, white, and (lately) steely pink, but the most characteristic color is also the finest—an incredible blue-violet with a glaucous shimmer.

grape-hyacinths-and-daffodils--keukenhof-gardens--lisse--holland

I have always wanted a vast field of muscari, because they begin to take on the otherworldy haunting qualities of their relatives, the bluebells. From a distance, large numbers of muscari look like rivers or oceans or the surface of alien aquatic worlds.  They are just beautiful!  Hopefully mine will keep expanding so that future springs will be even more dramatic.

jump

Hunter/Jumper (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)

I don’t know what happened but the drawings in my little book seem to have a country/horsey theme lately.  Above is an equestrian jumping over some weird antiques in the middle of a nebula.

downhomeimp

Provincial (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)

Here are some down-home characters (maybe corporate mascots?) annoying a hard-working farm woman and a quail.

thegate

The Gate (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)

This is a vignette sketch of the eminent bar in Park Slope.

cemetery donut

Dawn Horse, Culture Vulture, Doughnut Man, & Princess (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, Colored Pencil and ink)

I guess this is about unwholesome sugary treats maybe?  Frankly I have no idea–I am as surprised and perplexed as the vulture, however I like the expressions on the animals.  The dawn horse looks so pleased.  They usually look scared.

horse

Horse Treats (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, Colored Pencil and Ink)

This horse just looks pleased to be presented with such an array of treats.  I think that gray block is a salt lick. I need to draw more horses.  They are pretty but they are not an easy subject!

Sunset over Jersey City (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, color pencil sketch)

Sunset over Jersey City (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, color pencil sketch)

My New Year’s resolution was to make more art…and (more problematically) to show more art, and make more art world connections!  To start working on these resolutions, here are the New Year’s sketches I made in my little sketchbook which I carry around with me.  One of my friends invited people over to his production studio for New Year’s Day.  He said the view was nice (and the address was self-evidently in the West Village), however the studio was spectacular!  It was a photography studio for fully financed movie productions and for super model photo shoots and suchlike well-financed sorts of things.

W Hotel across the Hudson (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, color pencil sketch)

W Hotel across the Hudson (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, color pencil sketch)

I foolishly didn’t bring my camera (which was a shame since there were all sort of lights and even a giant infinite white backdrop) but using the colored pencils I had on me, I sketched the sunset over the Hudson in my little book.  I also drew a view of the W-hotel which casts a baleful red gleam over the entire West Village (sort of like a hipster luxury version of the eye of Mordor).  There is also an abstract doodle of a bizarre phantasmagoric paradise filled with whimsical abstract creatures.  I particularly like the marsh in the foreground and the heavenly cloudscape in the back.

Fantastic Landscape (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, color pencil sketch)

Fantastic Landscape (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, color pencil sketch)

When I got home I kept drawing: I drew a cartoon of the pineapple which somebody brought to my holiday party (and which is filling my kitchen with delicious tropical fragrance).  As you can see the poor fruit is filled with horror at the prospect of being eaten yet it is also unfulfilled since it remains uneaten.  Finally there is a doodle of a pie goddess who advocates my tasty dessert foods (although I realized too late that she should have a rolling pin in her hand and maybe an apron).

Anxious Pineapple (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, Color Pencil Sketch)

Anxious Pineapple (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, Color Pencil Sketch)

Of course I am working on actual paintings as well, but, for the year’s first post I thought I would share some of these little visual jokes, doodles, and humorous sketches.  Another resolution is to sharpen up Ferrebeekeeper in general, so if you have any ideas for things you would like to see here, let me know!

Endorsement from the Pie Goddess (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, color Pencil Sketch)

Endorsement from the Pie Goddess (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, color Pencil Sketch)

The Shore Crab or European Green Crab (Carcinus maenas)

The Shore Crab or European Green Crab (Carcinus maenas)

The green crab (Carcinus maenas) is a tiny brownish green crab native to the European shore line along the north-east Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea.  Although it measures only 90 millimetres (3.5 in) across, it is voracious omnivore which feeds on all sorts of small mollusks, tiny arthropods, and worms (not to mention whatever dead flesh it happens across).  Green crabs are great and all, but this blog is not about crustaceans…Why is this little crab showing up here?

A green crab eating a clam

A green crab eating a clam

It turns out that the green crab is one of the most invasive species of our time.  Like the fiendish zebra mussel, the green crab is capable of traveling by boat (either among barnacles or in ballast).  As far back as the age of discovery they were hitching rides around the world on the hulls of wooden ships.  The little crabs seem to have piggy backed into temperate climes along with the British Empire and they have set up ranges in Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and both coasts of North America.  So far this has not been a big problem: for hundreds of years, cold waters and big hungry fish have kept the little crabs from proliferating.  However as humankind moves forward with its dastardly plans to kill off every fish in the ocean (and as ocean temperatures rise) the crabs are beginning to flourish in places where they were once barely holding on by their claws.

Green Crabs Spreading through the World's Oceans...Yikes!

Green Crabs Spreading through the World’s Oceans…Yikes!

Green crabs eat clams and juvenile oysters—so their success is causing hardship for mollusk fishers (while simultaneously removing filter feeders from the ocean).  Along the Mid Atlantic coast of North America, the native blue crab has proven effective at out-competing (or just straight-up eating) the invasive green crabs.  Similarly the rock crabs and Dungeness crabs of the Pacific northwest can hold their own against the invaders, but humans are overfishing these native crabs and allowing the invaders to proliferate (and seafood enthusiasts in America have not developed a taste for the tiny green crabs).

Not exactly a whole seafood platter...

Not exactly a whole seafood platter…

Will the warming of the oceans cause blue crabs to spread northward to defeat the invaders?  Will humankind stop killing every fish in the ocean so that the green crabs are eaten by sea bass?   Will we introduce a new species which preys on the green crabs (but brings its own problems)?  Only time will tell, but already coastal Maine is being swept by a tide of little green claws (and delicious east coast oysters are becoming more expensive and more rare).

"Dead or Alive", people...

“Dead or Alive”, people…

Two black sail cory cats--Corydoras melanistius (Photo Credit: Daniel Cardoso)

When I was a child, I kept tropical fish. The first tank I had in my bedroom was an Amazon community tank where angelfish, neons, serpa tetras and hatchetfish lived in a little miniature paradise of plastic swordplants and petrified stone.  Among the very first batch of fish I added to this tank were two adorable little masked Corydoras catfish.  The Corydoras genus consists of over a hundred and fifty species of small friendly armored catfishes from South America.  Corydoras means helmet-skin in Greek because these fish are armored catfish with two rows of bony plates running down their bodies (like the superfamily Loricarioidea). Most of the “cories” are only an inch or two in size.

These fish are popular with hobbyists because they are extremely endearing.  They race around the tank in bursts and then root enthusiastically through sand and gravel (burying their bewhiskered snout to the level of their eyes).  They like to have other cories for companions.  Occasionally they dart to the top of the water for a little sip of air.  Like most catfish, their fins have a leading spine for protection.  Unfortunately when I got my two cories, one of the two fish freaked out and deployed his spine thereby injuring the other fish’s gills.  It was very touching how the catfish which accidentally harmed its friend would hover near the hurt fish nudging him (or her) to eat and to swim up for sips of air.  Unfortunately it was no good and there was no way I could help the tiny injured corydoras. After a few sad days, the poor catfish was the first fatality in my tropical tank.  Death came quickly to my underwater paradise and would thereafter be a frequent guest. I was very upset.  I buried the fish on a big hill in a little tiny cardboard box (according it an honor that few of my other fish ever received).  It was the first of my many, many failures as an aquarium keeper, but it provided me with an abiding lesson about fish personality–which is more nuanced, deep, and likeable than most people suppose.

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