Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Florida Nature Art; Ibis, Green Tree Frogs and the Pickerelweed

Ibis' legs and beaks turn a blazing bright red during spring mating season.
Ibis, Green Tree Frogs and Pickerel Wildflower, Gíclee on aluminum plate

Once referred to as 'Everglades Chickens', Ibis, Eudocimus albus, have survived the hunting onslaught of the early twentieth century and are now a commonly seen waterbird here in southwest Florida's wetlands amongst pickerel weed plants, Pontederia cordata.

Can you find the alligators?

The Green Tree Frog, Hyla cinerea, on the other hand is now under attack by the larger, more aggressive brown Cuban tree frog.

The smaller native tree frog requires taller plants to escape the invasive predator but with urban development, proper habitat for the Florida native amphibian to escape within is rapidly disappearing.

Celebrating Florida wilds in art!  Gíclee on aluminum plate, signed and numbered limited edition.

Inquiries to kssonger@gmail.com.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Florida Nature Art - "Mangrove Creek" with Great Blue Heron, Ibis, Spoonbill, Cormorant and Seagull

Mangrove Creek is one of my favorite places to go along Florida's southwest coast.
Mangrove Creek, Gíclee on Aluminum, Signed, Limited Edition by Kevin Shea

This is a place full of beauty, mystery and healing.

Not only do amazing colors flow together but sounds I never hear in the city surround me, like the Mangrove Snapping Shrimp - hearing this third loudest but tiny sea creature should be on everyone's bucket list.

Sea birds call.

Gentle salt water currents lap the shoreline.

It is good.

Gíclee on aluminum plate or canvas, 10" x 40", signed limited edition.

Inquiries to kssonger@gmail.com.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Florida Nature Art, Ghost Orchids, Dendrophylax lindenii and the Cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus

Mandala for Saturday is Ghost Orchids and the Cottonmouth.
Mandala Ghost Orchids and the Cottonmouth by Kevin Shea

Dedicated to the Fakahatchee Strand park in the Everglades.

Gíclee on aluminum plate with hanging racks on back, signed limited edition by Kevin.

The ghost orchid is many times found on pop ash trees, as illustrated in the mandala.  Pop ash, Fraxinus caroliniana is a small tree typically found growing in many parts of South Florida's everglades.

Along with the pop ash, the mandala celebrates a variety of lichens, including Christmas lichen, Cryptothecia rubrocincta.

Celebrating nature and biodiversity through wild art!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Rabbit on a Stick, Green Roofs, Fresh Fertilizer & Florida Permaculture

My green roof friend in France once suggested a good way to eat rabbit is on a stick with mustard.  It sounds good, 
but I've never tried rabbit on a stick.
Florida Permaculture Garden's Jack Rabbit in his Green Roofed Pen
However in the Florida Permaculture Garden rabbits played an important permaculture role.  The bunnies provided us
with some of the most potent, ready to use fertilizers.
Ruby the Rabbit, Florida Permaculture Garden
In the Permaculture Garden, rabbits are one of the easiest livestock animals to keep.  They are quiet (except when a 
predator is around), their poo is ready to use without the required cooling off period normally associated with chicken 
manure, they are tasty and reproduce at lightening speeds.
Permaculture Green Roof for Rabbit Pen under construction

Our rabbit hutch has a vegetated roof.  Simple permaculture concepts.  Rabbits eat clipped forage off their green roof,
rabbits grow, rabbits poo, we use the rabbit poo to fertilize and grow more plants on the rabbit hutch green roof, 
rabbits produce more rabbits and green roof plants feed the babies.
Rabbit forage on the Pen's Green Roof
Perfect perpetual motion machine.  Almost.

Fortunately, the rabbit hutch green roof was not expensive.  In fact, the hutch was built with only recycled stormwater 
panels, used felt material, wood scraps, old tin sheets and some chicken wire left over from the hen coop.
Remember, for green roofs on the cheap - structure, soil media and proper plants!
The rabbits loved their 'green' coop and the living roof kept them cool during the hot summer months.

We had the very best permaculture fertilizer one could have, a gift from the rabbits in return for their 'green' digs.
Florida Permaculture Garden's Green Roof Rabbit Pen makes for happy & hoppy bunnies
Much the way many living wall designers use felt or a non-woven geosynthetic, I rolled and inserted the felt fabric 
into the stormwater panels for a base growing platform.  The panels were placed atop a standard piece of roofing tin 
over wooden rafters above the rabbit cages.
Simple piece of tin covers the pen rafters under the DIY green roof system
The purpose for using the 50mm stormwater panels was to give the living roof a structural dimension, one that would 
place the weight of the green roof over the stronger outside pen supporting walls rather than on the rafters.
A reused gutter drain served as a green roof crown cap
Once the felt was embedded, rabbit poo, leaves and compost was added to the panels.  Garlic, rye and  other forage 
plant seed was added.  Soon the roof was green with tempting bunny forage.  The felt acted to wick water across the 
roof,  provided oxygen, drainage and a structural grid for roots to attach to.

Green roofs don't have to be expensive.  Think - support, innovative soil platform and proper plants.

As for the rabbits, I'm a vegan so I'll stick with collecting poo pellets for fertilizer!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Florida Nature Art, Monarch and Milkweed

Monarch and sulfur butterflies (Danaus plexippus and Phoebis sennae) and milkweed (Asclepius tuberosa) mandala.
Monarch and Milkweed Mandala, Florida Nature Art by Kevin Shea

Gíclee high gloss on aluminum plate with hanger, limited edition, signed by Kevin.

Tribute to amazing butterflies and an amazing wildflower.

Contact kssonger@gmail.com for inquiries.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Florida Nature Art, Sea Turtle and Kelp Mandala by Kevin Shea

Enjoy the endangered sea turtle mandala below.  Available on aluminum plate with hanging rails (produced in Germany) in 15" diameter size or larger upon request.
Sea Turtle and Kelp Mandala by Kevin Shea

Limited edition signed and numbered.

Inquiries may be directed to kssonger@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Aorta Diet for Aorta Health, No Fat But Oh So Hearty

Tonight's Potato and Vegetable Bowl meal is created to promote aorta health and improve gallbladder issues.
Aorta Health Diet - Potato and Veggie Bowl, No Fat
This meal contains no additional oils or fats.  The only fats are those found naturally in the plant ingredients, such as the important omega 3's occurring in the broccoli and other veggies used.

What I like about this meal is it's heartiness.  I need solid, filling food sometimes and this dish fills the order besides being delicious!

Another bonus is that the meal is quick and easy to make.  Total preparation time runs about twenty minutes.  This is important for me as I can not stand for long periods of time.
Start by chopping and steam cooking your vegetable selection
To start I steam chopped vegetables in a stainless skillet using a little water or rice vinegar to the stir-steam from sticking, adding more water as the veggies steam.

Tonights veggies include: sliced and diced portobello mushrooms, chopped sweet onion, chopped garlic, and broccoli florets.  You could also add chopped carrots, peas or corn too.  The portobello's texture is very much meat-like and will fool some people into thinking they are eating steak.

I add lemongrass-based red curry powder and organic tamari along with a teaspoon of ground ginger and turmeric.

Potatoes are cooked in the microwave for ten minutes then whipped with hot water.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cooked potatoes whipped with water, salt and pepper (skins included)

Place the warm mashed potatoes in a bowl and surround with the steamed veggie mixture.

Aaaaaah.  Your aorta and your taste buds-stomach will be very happy.

This is a low calorie, high fiber meal.  Always consult your doctor before changing diets.

Aorta healthy diets can be so much fun!

Monday, March 14, 2016

How Strong Is Your Aorta? Even Dissected the Aorta is Tough and Durable. The Plywood Matrix.

For a couple years after those two open heart surgeries night time would bring with it a Pandora's Box full of demons I created in my mind.
Aortic Dissection.  Check out my existing intima flap!  Both sides are patent but the false lumen is a dead end.

Recently I put a lock on that box.  Once in a while, in an evening's moment of self pity I'll still unlatch the box and peek back inside.  And then regret hits me for days.

Laying in bed at night the fear of dying would consume me.

Each new twinge of pain or hurt was a prelude to, as Fred Sanford used to say on his TV program Sanford & Sons, "Oh, this is the big one".

Unlike Sanford & Sons, my fears weren't funny at all.

Getting all my 'loose ends' tied up and affairs in order helped, but whenever I opened that wicked box again demons flew in my face.

The years of fear that my aorta was going to 'pop' paralyzed me, mostly when I lay down to sleep in the evening.  During the day I kept myself so occupied that time never arose where I could concentrate on my ever imagined mortality as I could after quietly sliding under the sheets.

Looking back on the night when I dissected and drove myself to the ER, I was not afraid then - even when the doctor told me what was going on and of my chances.

Laurence Gonzales in his book, Surviving Survival, suggests that the real challenge to our sanity comes not during the traumatic ordeal but afterwards when our demons gather around.

I grew to dread sunset for that was when my demons would gather to discuss my future.

Then one day I met this interesting doctor.  We moved to Fort Myers from Palm Coast so I could avoid the cooler winters.  My Raynauds issues prevented me from participating in many activities when the temperature dropped below 60F.

My new primary care physician came with multiple recommendations from friends.  I liked him instantly.   He listened to my thoughts and discussed my ideas as valid rather than quacking dismissing them.

Blood pressure maintenance was critically important when managing an aortic dissection long term he reiterated.  And he praised me for maintaining a 'low risk' range of 105/60 with  a pulse of 60 beats per minute.

'Doc' as I'll refer to him, told me a blood pressure of 105/60 carried with it almost no risk for causing cardiovascular damage.  He repeated the 'almost no risk' over and over.  This has stuck in my mind.

"But Doc!" I'd exclaim. "My aorta is peeling apart!"  It could blow at any moment.

"Yes it could with a high blood pressure.  I have patients with systolic over 200 and diastolic approaching 150.  In their cases, yes.  The aorta could rupture."  He shook his head. "But your aorta is still strong.  And your blood pressure is perfect for long term management."

"What do you mean my aorta is still strong?" I asked, puzzled.  "I feel like my aorta is much like a thin, over filled balloon ready to burst!"

"That is what I hear from my other dissection patients," he replied.

"Listen, let me use an example.  Your aorta, Kevin, is built like a sheet of plywood.  Think of layer upon layer of wood glued together.  Now like plywood may do if it gets wet, your aorta has had the inner layer separate.  Plywood does this often but still retains much of its original strength for a very long time".

He continued.  "We know you have a connective tissue challenge so your aorta and body parts may have a tendency to separate.  This is aggravated especially when you have high blood pressure.  However when you remove most of the stress from the layered plywood or layered aorta, the remaining layers can hold up for a very long time.  You may well live a normal life span."

I could relate to his analogy.  There are plywood boats I've seen warped and separating but still floating.  Plywood used to cover windows many times stays in place for years.  It is easy to imagine the difficulty of trying to pull a separated layer of plywood apart from the remaining wood panel.

"Hmmm" I muttered.  "So even though I have a seriously dissected aorta, the remaining layers are still quite strong'" I said.

"Yes, very strong.  Now aneurysms do happen and aortas do rupture, but not 'normally' with proper blood pressure control.  Keep your blood pressure down, avoid straining of any type, eat healthy and exercise."

"Wow, Doc."

"You are going to live a long time I suspect.  Anything else we need to talk about?"  Doc shrugged and opened the examining room door to usher me out.  "See you in six months or sooner if you need to come in."

The battery of annual CT scans and echocardiograms I have seem to prove Doc right so far.  My dissection/ aneurysm is stable, not much change so far after four years.

Now I am not an unrealistic dreamer.  I do recognize the seriousness of my condition, after all my aorta is dissected from the ascending Dacron graft down into my kidneys and iliac arteries.

But for some reason the idea of a tough matrix like plywood, even though it is separated, puts my mind at ease, at least to the point of where I don't feel anymore like I have to invite the demons each night to come and discuss my future.

Perhaps it was Doc's almost caviler attitude about not being too concerned with the chances of an immediate aorta rupture.  Perhaps it was because I could relate to just how long warped plywood could last.

Definitely it was a paradigm shift from the thin over filled balloon to a low pressure tough matrix vision of my heart and main blood vessel that convinced me to snap the lock shut on that box of taunting demons.

I believe there is truth in what Doc says.

And because I am convinced that my aorta is a separated but still quite strong I am not going to burst or pop any given moment, I have been able to go to sleep with less worry.  Maybe I will, maybe I won't burst in all reality.  But if believing in the strength of plywood keeps me from opening that wicked box at night, then I will keep on believing.

Blood pressure control is very important.  And with proper blood pressure control my layered blood vessels may really stay put.

Plywood matrix means strength.  And our aortas are quite strong.

Finally, lying in bed the other night I realized that our friends, family and even dissection and aneurysm forums on social media are like a strong matrix too.  We all help hold each other together.  We are the glue and layers of a very strong community.

I like the idea of strength in matrixes, even if there is a misaligned layer here or there.

How strong is my aorta?  Plywood tough!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Florida Nature Art, Horseshoe Crab, Limulus polyphemus, Tricolor Heron, Egretta tricolor and the Sanibel Estuary

Mandala Horseshoe Crab Estuary
Red mangroves, seagrapes, the tricolor heron and horseshoe crabs celebrate life each day in the Sanibel estuaries on the lee side of the island.

Salty breezes, snapping shrimp popping in the near distance, wading birds calling and flying overhead as the sun sets - these are nature's wonderful attributes found back up in the mysterious red mangrove bayside inlets of Sanibel Island.

Mandala Horseshoe Crab celebrates life.  Each plant and creature alike glorify our infinite cosmos, the wonder of life.

15" Gíclee on aluminum plate with hanger, signed and numbered limited edition print.  Inquire kssonger@gmail.com.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Florida Nature Art, Mandala Monarch, Danaus plexippus and Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa

Mandalas are awesome, the circular nature and abstract content layout actually open my mind to new universes of awareness.

Mandala Milkweed and the Monarch by Kevin Shea
Monarch butterfly's beauty invites my mind to travel deep into the universe.  Intricacies finer than cut gemstones reflect and diffuse sunlight into amazing hues of orange and burnt sienna.  Nature is amazing.

Monarch butterfly's larval food of choice is butterflyweed or orange milkweed.  Orange milkweed is a magnificent native plant here in Florida and across many  portions of North America.  Drought tolerant, milkweed takes sand or dirt and a minimal amount of water and produces stunning, bright orange terminal flower clusters.

Mandala monarch and milkweed was a challenge to turn into art.  The brilliant orange colors of both the monarch butterfly and the orange milkweed are unusual in nature and were difficult for me to integrate into an overall color scheme my eyes could accept.

I spent hours outdoors studying habitat and both the native plant's leaves and flowers as well as the monarch larvae and adult butterfly.

Mandala Monarch takes me up and away high into the sky.  I am ready for the migration voyage across the Gulf of Mexico to great oyamel firs found within mountain valleys of Michoacan Mexico.

We live within the midst of amazing, infinite nature.

Travel there with the Monarch and Milkweed mandala.  15" diameter Gíclee on aluminum plate with hanging rack attached to rear, signed and numbered limited edition print.  Inquires may be directed to kssonger@gmail.com

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Florida Nature Art, Mandala Elderberry, Sambucus nigra and Purple Hairstreak Butterfly, Altides halesus

Elderberry is a magnificent native wildflower and fruit bearing plant, cherished by humans and wildlife alike.
Elderberry and Purple Hairstreak Mandala by Kevin Shea

Flower and Berry Detail
Great purple hairstreak butterfly can often be seen foraging across elderberry flowers in parts of Florida and across the nation.

I like to think elderberry makes a great urban landscape planting.  She is drought tolerant, grows quickly, provides good screen coverage with her foliage and attracts birds and pollinators.

Elderberry fruit makes delicious jam, jelly and of course is renown for our ancestor's elderberry wine.

The purples and greens in this mandala take me to those hot summer Florida afternoons where the mockingbirds are calling and sweet, cold ice tea is in my cup.

I love this Florida nature mandala.

15" diameter gíclee on aluminum plate with hangers, numbered and signed limited edition print.  For inquiries contact the artist kssonger@gmail.com

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Seepage Sand Mandala, Florida Native Plant and Wildflower Art

Seepage Sand Mandala. 
Seepage Sand Mandala by Kevin Shea
About a year's worth of illustrating. Seepage sands habitat are special. Our plant nursery was located in such an area and I grew to love and appreciate the native plants and wildflowers. Seepage Sand Mandala incorporates; gallberry, shiny blueberry, smilax, rayless sunflower, xyris, pitcher plants, Sabatias, Grass pinks, Sundew and more ( check out the level of amazing detail ). Limited edition ink on aluminum plate. Inquire kssonger@gmail.com

Level of detail