Friday, July 21, 2017

Morning mists

This morning I yawned and walked past Morris who was sound asleep on the couch.
I checked the time.
I had plenty of time before sunrise.
I stretched, yawned some more and then glanced towards the north east.

I could see a hint of clouds through the trees and another hint of pink.

The rest of the day was destined to be overcast according to yesterday's weather report. More heavy thunderstorms and torrential rains.

If anything interesting was going to happen. It was now.

I grabbed a cup of coffee from yesterday's pot and put it in the microwave while I put together some photography items. I rushed around like a maniac. The Nikon, should I take my phone? Okay phone.
The old Fuji point and shoot? Yes always have a point and shoot.

The 85mm lens or... yes take that one but leave the 35mm lens on. I rushed around while I waited for the coffee to warm.

Mr. Morris never even moved is head. At one point he opened an eye and then closed it as if to say. "Too Early Lady, Go Back To Bed!"

Had it been a year or so ago, he would have been underfoot and pouncing on me.

I swept out the door and headed to the car. Years ago I may have just walked, but I have found a fantastic spot on the ridge that never seems to fail me. Driving is just quicker.

I nearly slid to a stop on the gravel road. I'd seen the fog in the distance and was in a hurry to get to the high point above it.
Until I saw "the Island". This area usually gets predawn fog and presents itself as an island of trees surrounded by fog.
Sometimes I am lucky enough to get the cattle in the photo too.

I took three shots and used a program called Microsoft ICE [Image Composite Editor] which is free to put them together in a panoramic type shot.

I was stunned when I got to my parking spot. Which is actually a pull in spot for cattle to be loaded and unloaded from a huge pasture that belong to my ridge neighbors.
I am just experimenting with trying to get what is called a blended shot together.
I expose for the sky and merge it with an exposure for the foreground.
I walked through the weeds and got soaked.
This year the north east field was soy bean. My lucky break, I'd get to see sunrises all fall without the corn in the way.

I set up the camera and tripod to try and get some neat foreground and sky shots.
Well the fog came in so hard that I had to give that idea up.
The fog confused my Fuji camera. But by the time I got back to the car...

The landscape was disappearing.

I got back in the car and headed towards home.
Since the fog was moving slowly from east to west, I pulled over on our gravel road and parked.

When the sun peaked over the trees, the fog had enveloped the landscape.

Time to go home and make the coffee.

Oh wait.

What did I see?

I love landscapes and small details.
I absolutely love fog and heavy dew.
Did I say how much I love fog and heavy dew?

And last but not least. I thought it would be a fun challenge to take a shot that made the soybean field look beautiful.

Not bad.
The light seemed just right to get an interesting shot.

When I walked into the house with my camera bag, Mr. Morris looked up and then yawned. He seemed to wink at me and then went back to sleep.

I do love early mornings, fog, sunrise, and heavy dew.

I have water in my Outhouse Basement!

I do.

July 19th started out innocent enough with a beautiful incredible sunrise. I went to the ridge and enjoyed a brief flash of colors.

I drove to Black Bottom Creek and the clouds rolled in darkening the morning light.
So I should have heeded the old saying.
Red sky at Dawn
Sailors take Warning...

The sky had turned an incredible red before I got to the ridge.

And the saying proved very true.

This was after the hard winds of perhaps 70 miles an hour raged through with 1.5" of rain in less than an hour.
However the sunset was stunning.

I received a warning on the Smarty Phone saying that more severe storms were on their way.

So I made a quick check of the fences and animals. The mules had gone down into the hollow and were fine. No trees were across the fences and the animals were quiet.

Then the next round came. And the NOAA noted that it would be a long night of heavy storms with heavy rain and lots of lightening.
They were not kidding.

The hail hit at about 3:30 in the morning. I'd given up sleep by then. I worried about the animals and wondered if the heavy rains would wash out the creek again.

I started to chore and noticed there were some limbs down and it appeared that a tree was over on the fence.
We had sort of expected something like that.
So I went to the outhouse which also serves as my storage for my nippers and machete.
I grabbed the nippers then glanced down into the hole.
It was filled with water.
The rain had come so hard and so fast that it ran down the hill from above and had come into the outhouse hole.
I shrugged.

This looked like a job for a chainsaw.

I did chores and checked quickly on the rest of the animals. They were all just fine.

The garden looked like a mess but as of this morning the corn seems to be recovering and didn't suffer too much damage from the hail.

We were lucky. In McGregor Iowa a tornado had come through with the first storm and tore up that little historic town. The storm raged across the river and winds tore up Prairie Du Chein. So we were lucky.

The total rain fall for our place in 24 hours was 6.10 inches.

We finished up the day and have started to make preparations for the next round of storms.
Heavy rains, flash flooding, hail, and high winds.

Yeah. And there is still water in my outhouse 'basement'.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chillin' Time

It has been a bit since I've had some solo time.
Last night I returned Siera, Fred, and Sunshine to the large meadow. I had intended on going riding last evening.

Good intentions get ruined by unexpected thunderstorms with a lot of lightening.
It was probably a good thing though, we ended up going to bed a bit early and I slept through the booming and crashing around us.

The other night when we watched a storm come slowly in from the porch the girls and I were amazed with the show of 'fireworks' in the sky.

I had the tiniest of urges to set up a tripod on the porch and do some photography but the thought fleeted through my brain and went out my ear.

I was tired and sleep sounded much better than watching the skies.

Tonight and tomorrow night there is a chance that we could see the Northern Lights. I may have to take a rest so I can check that out.

Today? I'm thinking it could be a nice quiet hiking type of day. Yesterday was spent cleaning up the gardens and weeding them.

However, we had a huge supper of good things. Fresh beets, lettuce, turnips, leftover carrots and green beans, onions, peppers, and pork steak.

I pulled my very first baby carrot out of the ground yesterday. I think our carrots will do nicely now that I think I have figured out how to grow them in our soil!

Well, off to do chores alone which will feel strange this morning.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mule Magic

I took out Siera last night'' to give Fred a break from the constant 'do overs' of training two young people at the same time on him.

I actually discovered a few things about Siera that I can now use in the future.
The kids tried to 'operate' Siera in the very same manner that they learned on Fred.

However I soon realized that I didn't train Siera in the same manner. She will not respond to confusing signals period. She will resist more than Fred, so in a way she is less forgiving unless you open up to her 'magic'.
Fred has been trained in the traditional "Whoa". Siera has been trained in the hands and seat 'whoa' with no verbal words.

When I realized that this was how I rode her, I showed Grace and then talked her through a non verbal no rein pulling whoa. When Siera complied quietly and calmly Grace's face lit up like she'd learned a great secret. Indeed she did.
To 'whoa' Fred one needs to pick up the reins, and ask out loud for a Whoa along with giving the reins a slight traditional tug.

Siera responds as I have unconsciously trained her to take photos. I bring up a hand and change my seat bones to put a slight weight in the back of the saddle.
I don't utter a sound. Siera halts quietly.
I couldn't figure out why the kids were having so much trouble with Siera at first. She'd pull her head up and turn it sideways at the pull of the reins. Oh she stopped, but she let you know that it wasn't a Happy Stop.

On directions. With Fred and new riders it is best to plow rein as the direct rein gives him a lesser chance to refuse the turn. He can do the western rein, but just depending on that doesn't help the novice rider when he really doesn't feel he needs to follow your direction.

With Siera neck reining is a combo of things. I use my body and a light one hand rein with the pinky finger of the second hand to direct the rein if she gives a slight refusal. With Siera, it is all light hands. Heavy hands and yanking will make her quit working period.

Siera is a bit temperamental. She is partial to females and to kids. She seems to thrive on attention and could care less if her equine pals are not around. She relaxes with the kids and seems almost as if she were a statue.
If someone has a loud deep voice she freezes. If she doesn't think she can go through a mud hole, she will be to put it lightly, a butt head. Once through though she goes back to being herself.
She is an animated ride.  Being a Peruvian Paso Mule, she stretches out those legs.
She doesn't do "Rough". I am not and advocate of rough anyway. I am an advocate of quiet uncomplicated riding. I like my animals to take verbal cues.

Grace was amazed again when I told her, "Just pick up the reins and say 'Walk'."
She did and Siera walked. I have other verbal cues I use such as a kiss means trotting. Since Siera is gaited I've never asked for a lope, gaiting out at 12 mph is all the speed I need.

I now can take this knowledge and help Ariel the next time she rides Siera.
And I realize that in order for anyone else to ride her properly without frustration, they would need to learn to use Siera's personal cues.

Perhaps that is not the proper way to train an animal, but I sure do like it.
Siera listens attentively to me and my body language. I like that a lot.

Surely Siera has some Mule Magic.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pinch Me!

The girls wanted to learn to ride. It is a fairly long process the way I teach it.

But it is step by step without skipping any safety factors. The goal of these lessons is to learn that a horse or mule are wonderful and fun. However these are huge animals with lightening fast reflexes.

You need to control that huge animal especially if he outweighs you by at least 10 times. Here is Evelyn using the finger method to turn Fred. The girls have to teach Fred that they are in control and the girls have a challenge with Fred.
While he makes a great schooling animal, he also makes you work each step of the way.
He won't kick, bite, or buck. However, while handling the reins, he will stop and not do a thing if the rider is sending mixed messages.
He doesn't just let the rider ride, he requires them to gain knowledge.

The end result of good schooling is a happy content pony mule that will take you where you ask him.
Once outside the girls found out that he will go more willingly. After all a mule gets bored doing the same things over and over indoors in a round pen.
Fred may be 30 something years old, but he still has a mule mind and dislikes mindless circles.

The girls and I stopped on a good note. They are ready for the next step and the easy mule who is lazy and doesn't mind the round pen.
Two mules for two Sisters!
Once they have ridden Siera, then I can get them both mounted in the little lot to experiment safely and ride on their own.

Here is what we have been up to.

We went to the ridge on Tuesday night to watch a huge front come in from the southwest.
After some oohhhs and ahhs, the girls climbed a round bale and did a nice pose for me.
"Let's pretend we like each other!"

Then they were off to stretch their legs and run. They played hide n' go seek. Chase,
I watched the storm approach and enjoyed their shouts of wonder.

My neighbor has goats. The girls love goats. The goats are the 'bomb' [I don't know if that is the proper term or not]. Each day we must visit the goats. MUST.
And we must pick black berries.

Who can resist these faces?
Yesterday was adventure day.
The kids who used to live in the 'upstairs' house came to spend some time and we all took off hiking to the creek after playing a break the ice game of Roll The Pigs.

We made it back to the house in the stifling heat in time for PB&J sandwiches on the porch. Our guests left and we rode.
Then we had to go back and visit the goats of course!

While in the goat pasture we heard rumbling and thundering. I called the girls who were disappointed and we headed back home. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning had been issued.
Rich came out on the porch and we all sat and watched it rain and chatted.

Pretty soon Grace got up and went inside.
She was rummaging in the kitchen.
I asked what she was looking for.
"Pans!" she replied, "I'm going to make supper!"
Tonight was grilled cheese and she was going to cook.
Count me surprised and pleased.
Not only did she make our sandwiches, but she also cleared the table and washed the dishes and cleaned up.
Pinch me.

We decided that after supper we'd grab a movie off from Netflix and enjoy some quiet time.
The girl's parents called half way through the movie and the girls went out on the porch to talk to their parents.
Everyone sounded excited and happy. Mom and Dad were having great adventures as were the girls.
When asked how their day went, the girls talked about the goats. They mentioned Fred and riding in passing, but the conversation went to the goats.
And what goat diarrhea looks like.
After the phone call, Evelyn suggested that she make microwave popcorn for us and she did.

Today is Thursday and as I write this, Morris has come down to go out and has returned upstairs to be with 'his' girls. He is going to be one very lonely old dog when they leave. He always spends a day or two wandering the house and looking for children after they have left.

The girls mentioned that they didn't think 5 days were long enough for them to be able to do all the things they wanted to do. I sort of agree. We haven't gone to Jersey Valley, we haven't gone to the river, and we haven't done a major adventure in Awesome Creek yet.

Each of our days have been jam packed with adventures around the farm. The kids are getting to be experts at helping with the chores and we've settled into a good routine.

The two sisters are having a good time.
...and so are we!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Two Sisters Camp

This is sort of a Grandma & Grandpa Camp for non biological grandkids. Grace and Evelyn are not my grands at all though but they are staying with me for most of the week.

I've known Mom and Dad for years.  I taught Mom in 4H when I was a leader in a time long ago and far away. I find it fitting that their children can spend some time at our farm and do some learning about equine and riding.

Yesterday was our first full day. And wow what a day it was.

The girls had some very long faces when mom and dad pulled out and drove away. I thought "Uh oh, I am in for it. The kids are going to be so heartsick and homesick, they won't make it very long."

Well, that hasn't happened so far.
We ate breakfast and before we went out to do chores I sat with the girls and we made out a menu for the week and made up a grocery list.

Then we headed out for chores. Rich came too. The girls got busy with feeding the hounds and putting out hay for the equine. Grace I could tell right off had eyes for 15. And why not? Everyone who has met her has really fallen for the little bay horse.

We did so many things yesterday. I'm not sure I can keep track of them all. So perhaps I'll just try and make a quick list.
Fred introduction:
The first 'lesson' in riding an animal is how to be safe around an animal. We spent the cool morning hours learning about how to safely lead Fred. How to make Fred make right and left turns while leading him. How to stop him and back him up.
Fred is a pony mule and does well with kids. He can also be a bit of a challenge. I thought of using Siera to teach the girls about leading with a rope and halter. However Siera is too polite and too good.
Fred is just about perfect, but will make the kids work for it.
If it was too easy, it wouldn't be a good lesson.

After Fred
Painting on the porch

Goat visit
Play in neighbor's goat pasture
Climb trees
Pick berries
Fill the old stock tank aka Mt. Tank
Play in the water
Take 15 out
Apply lessons from the morning to 15

What Grace didn't realize, is that she was actually training 15. 15 was learning that a sponge bath with a towel was a nice thing, that someone fussing over her mane was a very pleasant thing.
15 has always been very quiet and has nearly impeccable manners when being groomed. It was interesting to watch Grace and 15 interact. At first 15 was fairly wide eyed and watched Grace carefully.
By the time Grace was done with her, 15 was so comfortable she was dozing in the shade.

Play in Mt. Tank
Take Morris swimming

I have to give the old dog credit. He went along with whatever the girls wanted to do. He was busy most of the afternoon following them so he could just be near them.
They asked me if Morris could go in the stock tank and swim. I said only if they helped him back out.

Second lesson with Fred
In lesson two with Fred the girls learned how to mount and dismount. They learned the importance of an emergency dismount. Grace is tall so the challenge of mounting Fred was not an issue.
Evelyn is small so there was a challenge to get up in the saddle. However Evelyn is an avid climber and an athlete like her sister. Getting mounted soon became a non issue.
The girls learned balance and how to ride with poise. We first learn to ride and sit a saddle with no reins in hand and no stirrups. Fred was good, the girls were excellent.

Evelyn jumped in when I started to put the hamburgers together. She helped make them. I was surprised a little but it was a very pleasant surprise.

Grace engaged Rich in conversation and they chatted while Eve and I worked on supper. I could tell by the tone of Rich's voice that he was really enjoying it.
Rich had spent most of the afternoon taking a nap and had stayed inside because it was so hot and humid out.

We cleaned up and everyone decided that it was time for bed. Morris went up the stairs last night to sleep with the girls. His skipped his spot on the couch for better sleeping quarters. He rarely passes up an opportunity to snuggle with a kid if they are willing.

This morning I woke up early as I usually do. I thought about the girls visiting. Outside the fog was dense and I could see that the dawn was going to be amazing. So I stepped out on the porch to watch the sky change colors.

The fog glowed as the sky brightened. The colors began to change from a pale pink to a dark pink, to nearly a brilliant red and then just before everything faded, the fog turned orange ...
and day two began.

Then it hit me. Two Sisters.

Okay. This week I'd call it: Two Sisters Camp

I went inside and made coffee. Day Two had begun.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Gone Fishing

We do a daily morning list nearly every day to set out two things that should be accomplished.

This is to assist with Rich's Aphasia and mild Apraxia. He has had some difficulty processing new things. We found out that spoken language is harder for him to recall than things that are visual.

So to help with the memory issues we have been making our morning list each morning with our coffee.

The list can be super simple.
Mow yard
Move hoses
Do Speech Therapy Homework
Move water tank

Yesterday we thought about the list and I started getting some things together. Rich looked up and said.
"Fishing. I'd like to go fishing."
Then he went on to say that the fish are probably not biting, or it won't be any good or there may be crowds.
But I got the hint and said, "Fishing would be awesome. Let's go fishing."

I headed out the door and did chores while he got the fishing poles together and arranged his little tackle box.

Off we went. He wanted to go to the place where he and Daryl had gone a few weeks ago. That is all he has been talking about for a while now.
I knew where Blackhawk Park was, but insisted on asking him which way did we need to go?

He gave me directions.
I really wanted to go to a place just south of Ferryville below the lock and dam. However, Blackhawk it was.

The little fish were biting but no big ones. The waters had receeded in the park leaving some brown stained shorelines along with gnarly trees. All neat things to get your fishing hook snagged in.

The snags made for an interesting composition with a long exposure at least. I sort of cheated. I love fishing, but love photos of water too.

I took out my Infrared filter and attached it to the camera.

Things look so much more interesting in the bright sunlight with an IR filter.

The fish weren't biting here either. So we drove left Blackhawk.

Rich said we should have brought snacks and said he was hungry. I suggested we drive over to The Bright Spot in DeSoto and have lunch.
As luck would have it, fish dinner was on special. So we had our fish dinner anyway!

We drove past the Veteran's Park in DeSoto, and then checked out the landings on Hwy 82. The wind was gusting by then and so we decided to call it a day and head home.

The day was not a bust. We'd enjoyed each others company, went out to lunch, and scoped out places to fish.

It was a good day.
We'd gone fishing.

And I got a few IR shots that turned out pretty nifty.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Here and There

I've been wandering again. To find the elusive yellow raspberries.
Mission accomplished.

Of course I had to do it on the hottest most humid day we've had so far.

I found some St. John's Wort.

Everyone is in a huge scare over the wild parsnip. If you mess with it and get juices on you while they are flowering, you will get burned and blistered.

However I walked carefully through a field full of them. Walk carefully. Don't wear shorts and be very cautious.

In order to find the yellow wild raspberries, I had to get through them.

It was a delight to find them and eat them.
I didn't bring a pickin' bucket.

I just enjoyed the taste.
However, I wonder why I always decide to pick the hottest days to do these wanderings?

At least I was able to cool off in the creek on the way home.
After splashing myself with cool water, I sat on a rock and just enjoyed the forest sounds.