Sunday, September 25, 2016

Flooding in our area


If you follow the news I imagine you've heard about the flooding in Southern MN, NE Iowa, and South Central and SW WI.

We have approximately 60 some roads closed and some of those roads are major highways. Some of the towns near the Kickapoo River have very limited ways to get in or out of town.



Townships have limited resources and apparently a limited amount of Road Closed signs.

There are mudslides, and road wash outs everywhere. Even the scenic River Road aka Hwy 35 has been closed between Prairie du Chien and Genoa. 

I drove up highway 14 from Readstown yesterday to Viroqua and I can say that I am happy that this is not my only route to to town. The roadside is cluttered with rocks, logs, trees, and busted up pieces of buildings and culverts.

Most of the folks who live along the valley near 14 have had either flooding of their homes or lost most of their driveways due to the flash flooding.

I followed the request of the Vernon County Sheriff's Department and stayed home on the 22nd. Two people have died due to the flooding and mudslides. 

Many small towns along the Kickapoo and the Pine Rivers have been affected. 
The flooding is pretty widespread in this state. From the Mississippi River to Hillsboro.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Flutter by ... Butterfly


I went to pick the peppers and tomatoes for processing Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday.
The forecasters in our area have called for heavy rain, flash flooding, a brief tornado, and generally some really crappy weather for later this week.

In fact they are predicting several rounds of thunderstorms which will produce flooding again.
Oh.

So I decided I best save what I can from the garden and get it put on the porch out of the weather.

However I didn't plan on seeing all of this beautiful insect activity.

So I ran back to the house and grabbed a camera.

The macro camera was a poor choice as I soon found that the Monarch's would startle if I got close to them. I pulled out my old zoom lens.


Everywhere I turned there was activity going on.


And then the flight of Monarch Butterflies, dozens of them everywhere! Swirling and dancing.


Not a great shot, but I was trying to follow it. This lens is a kit zoom and it doesn't focus as quickly as the pro lenses.

But, I did get some nice shots never the less.


After about 45 minutes the sky darkened and it threatened to rain. I watched as all the insects except the squash bugs seemed to disappear.


I was so delighted to have seen dozens of Monarchs.
I think it made my whole day.

Color me happy with flutter...byes..

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Taking photos/Random Thoughts

Of course there will always be the debate about how much editing is acceptable.
There will always be a huge debate.
To Edit or To Not Edit.

I am somewhat in the middle. A little editing can go a very long way. 

I like to take .RAW files now. I can breeze through them in CorelAfterShotPro 3 and get a good job done quickly. I guess I am plugging Corel because they haven't gone the way of Adobe where you have to pay monthly to use Lightroom and CC.

I've also found ON1 to be extremely easy and fun to use.
It has the ability of taking my .ORF and my .NEF files and working with them and I can save them in a variety of file types.

However, I am always interested in improving what I do. I read up on tutorials and watch the occasional video. 

One of the items I see floating around the internet is videos that teach you in certain programs of how to change the sky in your photo that you've taken.
Yikes! Okay, that is fun and it can add a lot of drama to a photo.

But when did we stop taking real photos? Or better yet, why do some folks post edit photos and spend more time on them in the digital dark room than they did thinking about taking the shot.

I've harped on this before. And I am as guilty as the next person for post editing shots. And perhaps I am all wrong too...

I have learned a few tricks that could help me get a more interesting shot than the conventional way. But swapping out skies seems a bit extreme for me.

I don't mind cloning out a small distraction, but going to the far end of the spectrum is a bit unrealistic.
So I don't know if I'd qualify as a purest ~ no, I am not. But I won't spend hours swapping skies, cloning in or out rocks, and other items on a photo.

I think about what I want to do, watch the weather for a perfect sky and then try to compose something that will work.

Here is an edit that is very obvious.
Here is another. Replaced sky added a moon, but it is all quite obvious.

Here is a shot I took a long time to think out and do. I took many shots on a beautiful morning. I used an Infrared filter and also did some shots with a ND filter.

I came up with this, edited to black and white.
[This shot was taken obviously before our house remodel.]

I like to do less as more.


I studied the lighting in this shot and went with what filtered through the window in the late evening out onto the porch.

I've done some pretty wild stuff, but always seem to come back to the basics.
I even once in a while go a bit overboard in exploring things like HDR.


Recently I've gotten an interest in bugs. I've read up on how some of the professionals get great 'insect' shots and learned about something called Image Stacking. Image stacking led me to Focus Peaking and searching out how to manual focus properly in an Automatic Focus world.

I'm making the circles. Landscapes, Macro, Panoramic, High Dynamic Range, Long Exposures, Still Life, and Infrared Photography, a bit of over the top artistic stuff, and then back to the basics.

All challenges to make taking a photo interesting and challenging at the time.

Edit? Of course. Have fun with it. 
After all when the debate dust settles, I guess it all comes back to the photographer and what the Artist Photographer wants to portray.



I guess if you are going to take photos, you just need to enjoy what you are doing.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dynamite


Also known as Dyna, or Dina.

Dyna came to us in June of 2009 after her owner passed away from her last fight with cancer. 
Dyna came from the state of Washington, near Palouse.


She was a very welcome addition to our place. We'd promised her owner that Dyna, the sometimes cantankerous mule, who was just as stubborn as my husband would have a home forever and never be sold.

We kept that promise. Dynamite lived mostly a life of leisure. Rich would work with her occasionally and the two of them would come to an understanding in the round pen and her manners would always be better.

She learned to love coming to get caught, she stood perfect for the farrier, she loved being curried and fussed over. 

She loved racing with the other gals on the farm and was always an instigator.

She fancied herself as Lead Mare and often challenged Peaches who was our Alpha Mare for many years.

These challenges always were more bluff than anything else, but they were fun to watch.

She always though ended up with Rich. Quiet and docile. As I said, the two were made for each other.



In March of 2015 Rich was diagnosed with throat cancer and we began treatment in April.

In June we noticed an odd growth on Dynah's ear. I cleaned it as best I could and then put her in a paddock to keep an eye on it.

In the end she was diagnosed with sarcoid tumors and more than likely cancer. 
Treatment for both items was beyond our rural veterinarians. We would have had to apply to transport her to the Madison Veterinary School and await their decision. 
Treatment in Madison would have also been beyond our financial means.

We watched and waited. Dynah became miserable and started to lose weight. 

There comes a point when you cannot let an animal suffer any longer. 

Dynamite aka Dyna crossed the Rainbow Bridge on September 15th.
I know that her master was awaiting her on the other side. They are probably racing across green meadows.

I wonder if Dyna ran into Peaches and her old pasture-mate Feather from Washington?

In the end. Dynamite was loved and touched so many hearts from Washington to the Midwest. She never was sold or put on auction and was given a life of leisure until it was time to go.

I always loved trying to explain her full name to people. 
"That's Dyna."
"Oh Dinah?"
"Oh no, Dyna is short for Dynamite. You figure it out!"





Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sole Searching


Gotcha!

But I couldn't help think that when I found this sole from an old boot in the creek today.

We had flash flooding again this past week and I went down today to look around and well, ... just get a bit lost in nature after the hectic week I've had.

This 'sole' is familiar, I've seen it further up the creek in years past. So I thought it quite funny to find that it had moved with the flash flood to another area of the creek.  I think in all it has moved about 250 feet with this summer's floods.

Some things move great distances. Not this rubber sole.

I really went searching for cool fungi. Of course if you search for something, sometimes you cannot find it. So I quit looking and decided to just climb rocks in the big wash and enjoy the peace of the woods.

The little creek itself was pretty amazing. The water was so clear.


I'd seriously think about this as a wading spot to cool off if it gets hot again.


It just seems so inviting.

No, I did not bring Morris along on this little walk. We've had a pair of wolves sited near by. I'm not in fear for Morris, but if I am super distracted I don't keep track of him and ... well... I was afraid that I'd be distracted quite a bit on this little hike.

I guess I didn't want to worry about him. I'd been personally a bit stressed over a few things and wanted to do the 'chill out' thing.

That is exactly what I ended up doing. I followed the deer trail to the end of the property then decided to take the 'dry run' back down to the creek.
I took my time and didn't consult my watch.

Imagine my delight when I saw "NO Service" on my cell phone. I was happy then.


The coyotes are pretty active right now and I found quite a few of their tracks. I admire their stealth and cunning. Some farmers around here have had a lot of trouble with coyotes.
Our Dexter cattle don't seem to be intimidated by them. Especially the horned moms.
They will chase down a strange dog in their pasture and try to gore them.

[They are used to Morris...no worries there..] They are small but they are tough!


Valerie has some awesome horns, and she is not shy about using them.  That is a plus and a minus. But I'd rather her be aggressive with dogs than let them attack.

Anyway...

I went rock walking. Not really climbing, just rock walking.

The flash flooding cleaned out this section of the dry run very nicely. I spent quite a bit of time here just enjoying the sounds of the forest above me and the noise of the water still trickling down through the rocks from the ridge above me.

...Same rocks just a different camera angle.

I really liked it here and I think I spent a lot of time just sitting and daydreaming.

I eventually decided to climb the rest of the way down and head towards home.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that I'd been wandering...daydreaming...for over 3 hours.

I however did find a lot of slugs. And I found some orange colored lichen. I thought this was my prettiest find of the day.
It wasn't fungi. It was the Slug Fest.




Friday, September 09, 2016

Cool Bugs and Storm Fronts!

The day the grands left we had a hard long day of rain. We received 5+ inches of rain overnight and during the day.

Yesterday was a pleasant day. It was too muddy in the garden to do much but lament about how muddy it was in the...garden.

I took a very long rest again yesterday as I hadn't been feeling well at all. It may be from the long overnight shifts and trying to do too much with too little sleep.

I think it finally caught up with me and knocked me down. 

However during the nice sunny humid day yesterday I found some interesting bugs.
My neighbor kids love bugs and since they are so excited to share their finds with me, I now too have an interest in insects.




This handsome...not so handsome caterpillar we identified as a caterpillar that would develop into an Imperial Moth.

Then I found this curious insect. I found it to be incredibly beautiful in its colors.



I found out with some help from some folks that this was actually a Blue Mason Orchard Bee.

I have never seen one before, but hope to find them again. This one at a glance could be mistaken for a fly.  It was making a nest in a piece of wood I had on the porch.

Then late yesterday I saw a small spider on the porch. I grabbed my camera with the macro/micro lens and decided to try and get a shot of it.
This proved pretty difficult as when I get near, she moved. I had to sit pretty still for a long time for her to come back into the center of her web.

After talking with another photographer last week, I would so love to be able to get a 100mm macro lens, but alas, I'm afraid that will have to wait for Christmas perhaps?
The photographer told me there was no other way to do fantastic macro shots. I believe him....but...sigh.

Anyway I'm going to keep finding bugs and trying to do decent shots. The only way possible, is by practice!



This iridescent beauty is called Basilica Orbweaver. Aren't the colors simply amazing?
This morning there was a storm front moving in rather quickly. I saw it while moving the vehicles.
Rich told me to go up on the ridge if I wanted to get some awesome cloud photos.

This is a panoramic from 4 shots that I did hand held. There was no time to set up a tripod.



I sent this shot to our local NOAA office and they sent an email that simply said "Wow! Thank you!"

Now I am sad as when the first frost comes through, the bugs will disappear and I'll have to wait until spring to hunt fantastic and cool bugs with the kids.

All good and fun things come to those who wait.

Meanwhile, after my 3 days of work, ... perhaps I can go out and find some really cool fungi and there are always slugs!


Monday, September 05, 2016

Siera Becomes a Million Dollar Mule

It isn't often that a mule 'earns' that 'degree' from me. Although I must say that Badger was the very first one to earn that title.



He most definitely was a 'kid' friendly mule. Even if he was 15 hands tall. He was always careful with the children and walked as though he was carrying eggs on his back.

He was calm and cool headed.

Today I rode out with Ariel and then Dennis. Ariel has a bit more experience with riding and has more confidence in herself.
Fred picks up on that right away. He worked like a charm for her.


Ariel can ride independently from Siera. 
Oh, by the way. Fred is another one of those Million Dollar Mules. He has at least 20 years of experience with novice riders and even experienced young riders.

When Dennis and I rode, Fred walked slowly and carefully. He only followed where Siera walked. Dennis is doing very well but I don't think he quite has the presence of his sister while on top of a mule.

We rounded a corn strip and stopped to admire some Monarch Butterflies that were flitting about.

Suddenly a doe burst from the corn and raced in front of us. Siera stiffened and perked up her ears.
The doe's twin fawns still had their spots, and raced across in front of us also.

Siera stood and watched them intently. I glance back at Fred and Dennis.
Fred was nonchalantly playing tug of war with Dennis to get a snack of nice green alfalfa.

I was relieved that Siera had done her usual. She rarely spooks and generally her spook reaction is to stiffen and then after a big breath it is okay to go on. Had she whirled and fled I would have probably run into Fred and Dennis.

I patted her and told her she was a good mule.


We finished the ride and then I had the kids put on their blue t-shirts from the Titanic Canoe Rental place. Lily, Dennis, and Ariel had all survived canoeing with Morris and I. We all have t-shirts to attest to that fact.

I asked Ariel if she'd get on Siera and we'd take a photo of her, Dennis, and myself for fun and memory's sake.


Boots, helmets, and mules, along with the bright blue t-shirts made for a nice photo.

The kids still wanted to ride, so I asked Ariel if she'd like to ride Siera.
She shrugged. We let them into one of the paddocks and stood back to let the kids ride.

I strongly feel that kids can learn a lot after they've had the basics by just putting more time in the saddle.

Siera performed beautifully. Once Ariel figured out how to 'operate' her, they worked well together.


It looks like I'll have to get Sunshine out if I want to ride with the kids next summer.

Sunshine is a great little red molly mule that we raised out of my old mare. 
She should be getting used more. I think she'd do well again with a job.

After all, she did start out her riding career as a grand kid mule also.


I think I'm pretty lucky to have grand kids who want to ride and mules who love to work well.

Siera has officially gotten her 'kid' stripes.

Would I ever sell her?
Oh, just like I said to the man who wanted to buy Badger from me years ago.

"You got a Million Dollars?"



Labor Day Blues

Normally I don't bother getting excited over holidays or days such as Memorial Day, 4th of July, or other ones. However Labor Day weekend has come and that means that the visiting of Grand kids is pretty much over.

For a long while.
And that makes me sad.


No more surprising photos of me taken by a grand child with a camera.


No more PJ Sunrise adventures for quite a while.



That black blob in the lower right of the photo is me.
Below is Ariel sporting her PJ's and my sweatshirt.


Or having a riding partner...



So I guess this will be my first Labor Day in a long time where I will look at it...as the end of the visits from the grand children.

I will sport a sad face when the kids leave. I'm pretty sure that I won't see them for quite a while again. That is unless I go to see them at their 'city homes'.

Everyone seemed to love their stays at the farm this year.

I hope to have all the grands together again for Grandpa & Grandma Camp next year.

We should have the house finished and plenty of room for all 5 grands at once.
That could be a fun week of madness as they will range in the ages of 2 to 13.

Why not, you only get to be a grand parent once in your life.