An Unexpected Visitor in My Classroom

With the school year finally winding down, May 23rd was a “review day” for the upcoming semester tests and exams; graduation is on Saturday, May 28th.  During the second class of the day, I (again) started going through things the students should know to be prepared for their second semester art test.

At one point, while talking about artist Claes Oldenburg, I happened to glance up, and then I stopped–mid-sentence–looking toward the ceiling.  One of my students followed my gaze, and then loudly asked, “WHAT IS THAT?!”

01-Bat-Miller

It doesn’t take much to totally de-rail an end-of-year test review, and this little guy hanging above our heads accomplished that with ease.  The girl who asked the question was already out the door by the time I answered her question: “Um, it’s a bat.”

The students were (obviously) distracted by this unusual classroom visitor, and after quickly covering a few more key points in the review, I sent everyone to the library to use the rest of the period as a study hall.  Aside from their distraction, I was concerned that the bat might start flying around the room, which could put both the kids and it at risk.

To digress for a bit, I like bats.  Really.  I first started learning about them in 2005 when I found a baby bat in some bushes on the side of my house.  It was still alive, but very weak, and I was completely at a loss as to what to do with it.

Bat1-062305

I contacted The Wildlife Center of Virginia, and they put me in touch with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in my area who specializes in bats.  Robin gave me some instructions over the phone, and then she came to my house that evening.  She said that I had a maternal colony of Big Brown bats living in the louvers of my attic (not IN my attic), and that the baby had fallen out of the louvers. She took it home to care for it until it was ready to be released.

In the years since then, I’ve had a number of baby bats fall from the louvers, and with Robin as backup (in addition to the classes I’ve taken through the Wildlife Center), I’m a pretty competent and safety-minded “rescuer” and “first-responder,” though I’m still not a permitted/licensed rehabber. My job is to keep a baby hydrated and/or fed, and to give the mother bat a chance to retrieve her baby by putting it on a piece of mesh that is raised up towards the louvers.

BabyBat3-052911-5

If the mother doesn’t claim her baby after a night or two, then Robin steps in to care for it, releasing it when it is capable of being on its own.

During the Spring of 2012, I was involved in an unbelievable number of rescues, and I became increasingly concerned about the well-being of these little creatures which play such a vitally important role in our environment.

Between the loss of habitat and White Nose Syndrome, some areas in the northeastern United States have seen a decline in bat populations of approximately 80%. (http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/white-nose_syndrome/)

I haven’t had a maternal colony of Big Brown bats here since 2012, and last week I checked with my neighbors across the street.  They haven’t had any at their house (roosting behind their chimney) for a few years, either….

Just last Friday, I asked Chris, one of our maintenance guys at school, if he had seen bats flying around the campus, because several years ago I was involved in a rescue there: http://art-rageous.net/BigBrownBat-Winter2011.html )

BigBrownBat-020111-4-low

Chris said that he’d seen a few flying–and that he’d safely removed a couple from one of the buildings on campus recently–and I told him about my interest in and concern for bats.  I told him to let me know if he ever found any he needed help with.

Well, as it turned out, Chris was the one who showed up this morning to help me with the bat in my classroom.  It was still hanging onto the wall when he arrived, and it was still there when he returned with a ladder.  (I didn’t want to use the flash, so I brightened this image in Photoshop.)

02-Bat-Miller

It appeared to be an adult, and it didn’t move or make a sound until Chris gently pulled it from the wall, wrapping it in a heavy, folded-up shirt.

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Fully alert at this point, it squeaked and protested; scared out of its wits, but doing its very best to look fearsome.

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After I snapped these pictures, Chris placed the bat on a nearby tree and we both expected it to immediately fly away.  It didn’t.

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06-Bat-Miller

Realizing that it was probably dehydrated, I went back to the art room to get some water and a clean paintbrush.  Over the years, I’ve re-hydrated–and fed–a lot of baby bats by delivering liquids to them via a paintbrush:

Baby6-052612-1 Baby7-052712-1

It was still on the tree when I got back with the water, but as I moved closer, it turned around, stretched its wings out, flapped a couple of times, and then flew off towards the woods.  Yay!

These days every little bat in every little colony is important, and I’m so glad that this one appeared to be okay.

The following article about Virginia’s bats was published in 2013, and things aren’t improving in the state or in the nation. The risk for extinction is real. 🙁

http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/article_890ae3b7-9956-5458-a054-2e35176136c5.html

 

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Bear Creek Lake State Park

After a couple of rainy weeks with gray, dreary skies, the weekend of May 7-8, 2016 was warm and beautiful in Virginia!  On Saturday we made more progress on the travel trailer we’re renovating, and on Sunday we decided we were long overdue for a day trip adventure.

We decided to go to Bear Creek State Park.  There are several ways to get there, and we opted to travel east on I-64, then south on VA Rt. 15.  The drive took approximately an hour and a half.

After paying the $4 entrance fee, we drove through the campgrounds, looking for sites that appealed to us.  We really liked sites #1 and #3 in Acorn Loop.  Both are pull-thru sites, close to the bathhouse, with water and electric hook-ups.

011-Campsite-1-Anon  012-Campsite-3

Our next stop was the lake.  A few people were out in canoes and paddle boats (which can be rented near the beach), but we enjoyed simply relaxing by the water for an hour or so.

002-Wayne-BCLSP  010-BearCreekLake

005-Geese  004-Turtles-Lake

006-Heron  008-BearCreekLake

It was so nice to just sit for a while!

While we plan on camping at Bear Creek Lake, we decided to drive around to the other side of the lake to check out the cabins.  Very impressive!  Some, like this one (#4) have water views.  Yes, I could see myself in one of those rocking chairs, looking out over the water!

013-Cabin4  014-Cabin-4

015-Cabin-4-View

When we left the park, we took a variety of back roads, and we were delighted to see several fields full of buttercups!

020-Buttercups  021-Buttercups

There were wonders everywhere!

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Our route home took us through the historic town of Scottsville on the James River.  We enjoyed a late picnic lunch beside the river, while watching the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies “puddling” in the mud near the river bank.

027-JamesRiver-Scottsville  026-Butterflies

We detoured to stop by two cemeteries where I paid my respects to my mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, and a great-great grandmother.  It seemed like an appropriate close to a beautiful, relaxing Mother’s Day.

056-Witt-Cemetery  065-Sky-Mountain-Hebron

Things took an unexpected twist, however, shortly after we got home.  I walked out on my porch around 9:00 pm, and I was stunned to see a large BEAR in my back yard, tearing down my thistle feeders!!  When it heard me, it ran across our small garden area, easily scaled the 4-foot fence, and disappeared into the woods.  Whoa!!

After making a few phone calls to alert my neighbors (I live in a suburban neighborhood, not out in the middle of nowhere!), I was surprised when my security light came on again because the bear was dragging a bag out of my trash can!  WAY too bold!

After chasing it off a second time, we went out the basement door, armed with two pots that we banged together to make a lot of noise.  We retrieved the trash bag, and brought the trash can into the basement.

I’ve lived here since 2001, and this is a first….  I frequently have deer in the yard (along with raccoons), but a BEAR?! Uh, no….

Some time later, I realized that the Universe must be having a belly laugh at our expense: Yep, our Mother’s Day adventure was to Bear Creek Lake State Park! 😉

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Fun Afternoon at a Ceramics Studio

This year our school started something new–asking each Advisory group to plan an enrichment activity that would involve a field trip of some sort.  My first proposal was to visit Maymont in Richmond, Virginia.  With its mansion filled with Art Nouveau treasures, formal gardens, wildlife exhibits and so much more, Maymont is “enriching” on many, many levels!

When it was not going to be possible to be gone for a full day, however, I started looking for something local that my advisees (7 girls, in grades 8-10) might enjoy.  I’m so glad I thought of offering them a “painting party” at Lazy Daisy Ceramics!

The school covered the flat-rate studio fee for each girl (which included all paints/glazes, use of the brushes, studio space and assistance), and then the girls purchased the items they wanted to paint.  Prices for the unglazed pieces ranged from $3 to well over $20 (for large items), and most girls chose a piece that was around $10.  There was a wide variety of items from which to choose!  Some girls opted for figurines, others for mugs, some for plates, etc.  And once they had chosen and paid for the piece they wanted to paint, and selected the colors they wanted to use, they started painting!

08-Grace-Rabbit  09-Cathy-Mug

10-Jordan-Saucer  11-Emily-Mug

12-Kayleigh-Girl-Wolf  13-Olivia-Tray

14-Sherry-Penguin  15-Cathy-Mug

16-Sherry-FlowerBowl  17-Grace-Rabbit

18-Olivia-Tray  19-Emily-Mug

We were at the studio for a little over two hours, and everyone finished at least one piece.  Can’t wait to see these next week after they’re fired!

21-Glazed-Pieces

It was a nice change of pace from our school schedule, and a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon!

Update: May 5, 2016

Here are a few pictures of the finished pieces:

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25-FinishedPieces

27-FinishedPieces  26-FinishedPieces

 

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Introduction to Color Theory

In a new-to-me experiment to introduce color mixing to my students in grades 8-12, we used milk, food coloring and dishwashing detergent to create some very cool colors and designs.


More color theory projects are on my website: http://art-rageous.net/ColorTheory.html

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Supporting Our Local Musicians – April 1-2, 2016

On Friday night, April 1st, we visited Starr Hill Brewery in Crozet, VA to catch a bit of the show by Chamomile and Whiskey, an incredibly talented group of young musicians.

On Saturday night, April 2nd, we were at Rapunzel’s in Lovingston, VA for the show by the “Blazing Saddle Tramps,” a Western Swing group.

These are two very different genres of music, for sure, but with a fun common denominator: Brenning, the percussionist for Chamomile and Whiskey is the son of Mark, who’s the drummer for Blazing Saddle Tramps!

Occasionally you’ll find father and son on stage together, as in this brief clip of Willie De‘s band (featuring Justin Esposito on fiddle), from February 27th at Pro Re Nata:

Mark is the drummer for Wayne’s group, Peace, Love & Harmony:

But sometimes Brenning fills in for his dad!

Wayne’s bass player, Brandon, has his own band called Swagger, and he also plays bass for Double Faces Gogo Band.  In the meantime, Rob, the lead guitarist, plays with Peace, Love & Harmony, Swagger, and in a group called Bubba Rose.

In addition to Peace, Love & Harmony, Wayne plays with “Buck Island Bluegrass”:

Wayne also does music workshops for elderly and disabled adults, and he enjoys going to drum circle gatherings that are organized by Jim (of the Dreamtime Project and Positive Collective):

There is SO much amazing music in this area, and so many talented musicians!  Some of our other local favorites (and friends) include:

Keith Morris & The Crooked NumbersJason Burke, and members of the Central Virginia Blues Society.

Please support YOUR local musicians! 🙂

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