11 March finds me being filmed as I paint the stand of Scots Pines in Limerick Forest. John Barclay of Triune Arts is adding another sequence to his video documentary on what we do, and this time it's plein air painting. He filmed Fred and me carrying my paint box and easel along the snowy track to the spot I'd decided upon as the best view of some of the towering pines that I painted in 19== in my journal. Since then, Buckthorn and young pines have filled the spaces among the tall trunks - invasive aliens invading the invasive aliens.
The native Red Pine does better in the old blow sand areas of Limerick, but they die in wetter sites, so the Scots Pine was selected for damp areas. For seed production they thinned the stand out more than they would have for timber, but that made the trees vulnerable to breakage in the ice storm of 1998. You can see that the tops have been broken and limbs twisted. The ice storm damage opened up the stand even more, and that made room for the Shining Buckthorn and the baby Scotts Pine, now 14 years old at the feet of the original trees. We find it strange that there hasn't been any move to take these trees out because they are invasives, nor has there been any removal of the young ones. We think that the foresters are downplaying the invasiveness of this species that they deliberately planted many years ago. An elm among conifers, it produces gnarly unsplittable wood.
I feel driven by the inevitable changes in light, and take no breaks, but paint steadily for three hours. John has set up behind me, with the upper half of my painting filling his camera's frame. I try to describe how I choose the colour for underpainting. One of these days I'll underpaint three canvases each a different colour, to see how it influences the development (and the outcomes) of the paintings in different ways.
The interview is interrupted as Fred falls into the hole that he'd dug in 1992 as a hibernation site for frogs. During the warm spell late in each winter he chops the ice away in order to dipnet up any frogs that are there. Today he finds five Green Frogs and one Leopard Frog, all alive!