Thursday, February 04, 2016

A Hike ~By Morris

Here she goes again.  She puts on her coveralls.  I stare at her hard.  
I walk over to my crate and stand.
Is she going out to do chore stuff?  Is she going to leave me?

I have to carefully watch for signs.  If she goes for the camera bag and gun belt I will start to hop around and whine a lot.  I will circle under her feet and jump on her.  
If she allows that, then I think I can go with her on a hike of some sort.

I start to quiver.  She is certainly taking her time with her boots, the lace up kind.  I move in close and whine, and do my very best to look desolate and cute at the same time.  Will she take the bait?  

YES!  She reaches for the red leash she keeps by the back door and tosses it over her shoulder.

OH JOY!  Hike time!  Perhaps I can find things to make her go "Icky Icky!"
I start to race around the small kitchen and keep bumping into her.  

Come on, come on! Let's not be wasting any time!  I don't want you to change your mind!
Let's go, let's go, come on, come on.

What she hears is "Whine, whine, squeak, squeak." It is obvious that she doesn't speak Jack Russell language.

Out the door we go and I race off!  She puts on her snowshoes and I know that we are in for a good time.  The snow is deep and great fun to race through.



She makes a trail and I go off on my own looking for deer pellets and other good smells.  



What a NAG!  She is always keeping an eye on me and won't let me run off too far.
Doesn't SHE know what great smells are under the snow?  There are mice smells, rabbit pellets [yum], deer smells, and today there are no coyote smells at all!
She calls and tells me to stick close.



I am close, I can SEE you!

Let me be!
I need to find some smart pellets, I have such a taste for them.

She ignores my ultra-cool body language and points to her snowshoes and gives me that stern look.  I know, she wants me to stay close enough so that she can protect me from wild animals.
Does she not know that I can detect them much better and faster than she ever could?
Humans, they are so hard to work with sometimes.

I'm a good dog, I obey her and stay with her.  Besides, if I walk in her trail, I won't have snow up to my chin.  



She gets caught up in the "beauty of the snow" she tells me.  "Isn't it beautiful Morris?"

What, I am supposed to talk back at her?  

To me, it is just so much harder to find goodies that have been left behind.  I wander off while she takes photos.  I have to dig deep for Smart Pellets.  I find a few.  Yum!

She is not even looking!



I run up and down the deer trail and try and get her attention. 
Finally she notices me and we head up the hill through the woods.

She asks if I am cold.  I am not cold, I am enjoying being outside.  I have a fur coat on and I am fine. She can be such a worry wart.

If I get cold, I will start to quiver and give her such a look of pity that she will pick me up and carry me.
I've trained her well over the years.

When we get to the place in the trail that comes out on the road, she nearly has some sort of fit.
She is saying things out loud like, "Wow!" "Oh my goodness!" "Beautiful!"

I look around and see snow. And more snow. And a plowed road.  I tear off to the road because the snow is not deep there.

She stops and takes pictures.



I hear a truck approaching and as the sworn duty of a Jack Russell, I must surely stand in the middle of the road and see if whoever is driving will stop and let me go for a ride with them.

Oh, I have this thing for riding in vehicles.  It can be a riding a lawn mower, a tractor, a skid steer, and any kind of vehicle.  I once hopped in the mailman's car and sat on his passenger seat.

All of a sudden you would have thought all heck broke loose. there SHE is on the side of the road screaming my name.

"Morris, Morris, you get your -ss over here right now! Damm-tt you! Get. Over. Here. Now!"

Oh as if I am deaf, really?
A big truck came roaring around the corner. I trot off to the side of the road. They didn't look interested in giving me a ride.

Ho-hum.

I return to her. And she hugs me with a death grip.

Really?  Wow, that seemed a lot more intense than her yelling at me for eating Smart Pellets in trails.

When I got home I was ready to hit the couch for some serious snooze time.

I think She was still a bit excited about me thinking about hitching a ride.

People.  So difficult to train.
But I can get her to cover me up in nice warm blankets when I snooze.
Isn't that nice?




Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Snow Fun!

Ground Hog Snow Day!

Thor shows off his 'SnowMuffs'

The snow came hard and fast with temperatures in the 30's.  Within an hour after we did chores, the critters that get flakes of hay were spending time looking for it.
That kept Siera, Thor, and some of the others pretty content while the snow came down with a vengeance.

Siera's Snow Coat

We had 3" to 4" within an hour. The schools had all been closed for the day. 

There was a knock on the door and my neighbor's 6 year old was there covered in snow.

"Val!" he said, "Can you come out and play? We are at MY house, you can come! Bring your Val Barbie Doll! Do you want to build a snow man? I want to build a fort!"

Well how could I turn that down!


The snow was coming down hard and fast and everything was grey-white.  So I headed up the driveway hill to find the neighbor kids and their mom.

We turned the snow storm into a play day.  We hiked and played out of the wicked winds in their woods.  We built a demented looking snowperson.


And I did bring the Val Barbie.  Carson had taken a Barbie doll and cut off her hair, mom created an outfit, complete with green coveralls, glasses, camera, and the Skunk hat!  The kids said I could have the doll and now I could play with them with MY doll when I visited.

Of course, who can resist a bit of silly fun with a Barbie like that?



After a couple of hours of playing in the wet heavy snow, I came home to bake brownies and relax for a while before chore time.

Rich laughed when I came in the house, covered in snow.  My coveralls were soaked as were my gloves from making snowmen.

Morris gave me the 'Stink Eye' when I sat down to pull off my coveralls.  He was going to hold a grudge against me for not taking him out to play also.

Today I promise you Morris, I'll get my snowshoes and we'll go hiking!








Monday, February 01, 2016

New Farrier Visits!

Siera's left front foot before and after trim.

To our new farrier's credit, he was not finished when I took the second photo. He had some more work to do as well as quite a bit of rasping to shape and not have the toe so 'sharp' looking.

I got so involved in listening to his description of his plan on being able to help Siera grow frogs back that I didn't take any more shots.

I will state here that I am no foot expert and I won't pretend to be.  I rely on the expert work of the farrier I work with.  The farrier we had for the past 10 or so years seemed to do a fine job.  At times, he seemed in a hurry, cut, rasp, drop the foot and on to another.  If he was not trimming up to par, it seemed most of our animals were still getting along.

Except Siera.  Gaited Peruvian Paso Mule.  Over the summer, her feet did get neglected and when trimmed it was a quick shot deal.  I was busy with my husband's cancer treatment to pay much attention.
That is until suddenly Siera was standing on three legs and barely making it to the hay pile.

I immediately realized there was a problem.  As far as we could tell it could have been an abscess and thrush.  Although that was confusing as it had been so incredibly dry.
When I cleaned her feet the frogs were a mess.  Old farrier rarely trimmed off the rough pieces saying they'd just wear off.  Deep in her frog there was a putrid grey nasty goo.
Infection of some sort.  Her frogs were disappearing on her left side.  I packed antibiotic cream into her affected areas and made duct tape shoes.  I did this off and on for two weeks.

The old farrier came by and did a trim.  I was perplexed, wasn't her frog supposed to impact the ground as well as the heel?  "Well," said old farrier, "it is the best I can do right now."

Let's just say old farrier ended up leaving us.

We were so happy to accidentally run across this farrier who is a Certified Farrier, not a fellow who picked it up so he could make some money.

Dan and his son Danny both work as a team.  They make their own shoes and other products.  Dan knows his stuff.
I was impressed at the amount of time he took to explain Siera's plan of recovery.  
He also told me to ride her lightly in the snowy pasture to promote growth, which exercise would do. Yippee!


Dan was not looking for new clients but when Rich told him it was "The Wife's Mule." Dan exclaimed that he would proclaim that as an "Emergency!" and he and his son came over as soon as they were done at the neighbor's place.

He can now safely schedule a whole day on our ridge.  My neighbor, us, and another lady I know about 1.5 miles from our place.

I plan on being here when we returns and I will ask if I can take a lot more photos.  He actually likes it when clients do that.
The man certainly knows his hooves.

Color me happy.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Still Life on the Cheap

I just started a class in Still Life and this is week two.  At first I thought I was an idiot for trying something out of my comfort zone.

I like hiking, I like nature, I like outdoors so that is usually what my subjects are. I learned something from my father, as long as you had some light coming in from the outside, you could take photos on the inside of the house.

So I decided I'd go ahead and try 'Still Life'.  What could it hurt?  I could learn something and it is never bad to learn something new.

First here is my really expensive set up for my 'table top' shot I wanted to do last week.

Please note the helper in the photo.  Hedgehogs are common missiles when I am sometimes working this close to the floor.

However it was an overcast day and I was trying to make the best use of the light. I set up a white foam board behind the basket, which Morris promptly nosed down.
But eventually we worked it out and I came up with this.


I used an old lace curtain on top of a box.  I tossed in some carnations along with a card someone had given me. I put some coffee in the coffee cup and gave Morris a very stern look.  I set the camera to manual and used a tripod and remote to get the shot.  
I did use Topaz Glow to pretty it up a bit.

Not satisfied with just that as a shot, I set some other things up.  Barbed wire, a rusted clip and some brass bells on a ribbon.

I used more of a limited color in this shot and a narrow depth of focus.

Week two asks that we shoot a photo with negative space and the rule of thirds.

Here is how I set this week's shots up.  

Yes, a dresser, a white sheet, and a white board next to a window.

And I decided to go with a Valentine's Day theme so I added candy.

Oh darn.  That funny stuffed donkey just wouldn't leave my thoughts.  So I decided to photograph it too.

However the donkey turned out okay but the photo really seemed quite lacking. I wasn't that impressed at all, even if the idea was fun.
Well, simply put.  It had too much empty space!

Exactly what it was supposed to have.
So I changed it like this:

It sort of has a vintage feel to it yet doesn't feel so empty.

I stopped right here.  Too much messing around would probably ruin this.

So you can do some pretty impressive Still Life work without a whole lot of investment.
I just did and found out that I really enjoyed it.

Just make sure your photography assistant isn't going to grab your toy Donkey and run off with it.  Or decide that tossing a hedgehog into the works would make it look so much better.


I used AfterShotPro by Corel for the RAW files, I used Topaz Adjust for making the donkey look 'vintage', and PSPX7 [PaintShopPro] for the editing. CS2 for any additional work.

Texture added to the first shot from mercurycode at deviantart.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Day Spent Tracking and Wandering

Small coyote track, my small hand for comparison.

On Wednesday I heard a lone howl of a coyote that would have sent shivers up my spine had I not been seeing this 'yote for a few months.  He/She has a trail that runs through my neighbor's cattle pasture and up into the woods.

I was hanging out laundry and caught sight of him trotting away.  I am assuming that it is a He because he is quite large and we watched him chase another coyote away just before deer hunting season.

I thought since we'd had a nice snowfall on Monday night, it would be fun to go out and see if I could track some coyotes and perhaps see what story the snow tracks would tell me.


I picked up the large coyote's tracks fairly close to our fence line and began to follow them.  Mr. Yote had a meandering track and it appeared that he was a lot more interested in rabbits than in any of my stock.

No, Morris did not go on this hike with me.  He gets pretty nervous when he smells coyote [smart dog] and he would run around and mess up the tracks I was looking at.

I followed several sets of tracks of 'yotes.  Most were smaller than this fellas tracks.


In some places the tracks were mingled with deer and rabbit tracks.  I lost the tracks in some of the heavier trafficked areas, but was able to pick them up again by carefully studying the snow.


Clever coyote walked right across this pile of downed limbs.

Interestingly enough, in some places, the tracks lead right across deer beds. I am sure they were not both there at the same time.

Nicely formed deer bed.

I didn't find any dens but I spent about two hours following tracks and I found a beautiful view of our place from the neighbor's pasture.

Our house and shed in the distance.  Coyote tracks in the middle of the photo.

I did a lot of looking and finally found The Big Boy Tracks!  He is huge, but he is not a wolf.
A wolf's tracks would be nearly as larger than my hand.

Big Boy Tracks

Wolf tracks for comparison

Later I did take Morris for his daily hike and he stuck pretty close to me in the creek bottom.
The trail we normally take was full of coyote tracks and places where the 'yotes had 'marked' their territory.


We are coming into the 'dogging' season for coyotes, so I imagine Morris will be spending less time with me in the woods and we'll do our daily walks on a leash on the gravel road.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nature ~ Spend more time in it

I was driving home the other evening through the beginnings of a snow storm and listening to NPR.  I'd hit the radio on button and came into the middle of a very interesting program.

They were talking about something I'd never heard of or dreamed of.  

Nature Deficit Disorder and the health benefits of simply being in Nature.  This applied to both adults and children.  I was interested in the conversation as they talked about how today's children don't spend time outside and spend nearly 60+ hours a week hooked up to modern electronics [think iPads, laptops, smartphones, DVD players, TV].

There has been quite a bit of research done on what is called NDD.  Over the years parents have stopped letting their children play outside more because of the 'fear' of letting their children play outside, ride their bikes, go to a playground or take a walk.  Personally I think the media has had a major role in this with fear mongering reporting regarding child abductions and other incidents.

Being outside or being in Nature relieves stress. Studies show that children and adults benefit by being more creative, happier, healthier, smarter, more cooperative, and better problem solvers.  
These are actual studies, not just theories.
Children and adults who spend little time outdoors or being in Nature have higher incidents of depression, obesity, less self discipline, low self esteem, diminished health [think of constantly being sick], reduced congnitive, creative, problem solving abilities, and in some cases ADHD.

Think of it like this.  The more a person sits at a chair, the shorter their life span is.  Studies have shown that sitting is the new silent killer.  Activity is a way to keep your mind and body sharp.

The idea of children spending most of their lives indoors floors me.  The world was not much different when I was a child.  We lived in the suburbs during the school year, and mom would shoo us outside after we'd done our after school chores.  
During the summer, we rarely spent time indoors.  We made up things to do while living at the summer cottage with no TV and a radio that seemed to only get Country and Western music.


Personally I find that no matter the weather, I feel the need to get out of the house daily and do something outside.  Yes, nature is easier for me to access because I live in the middle of forests and meadows.  However, when I lived in a city apartment I'd go for a walk every day, just to blow the cobwebs of work out of my brain and come home with a clear mind.

Sure it is easy for you, you say.  Yes it is, because I don't believe in spending my days in front of a TV or computer screen.

I need to have a daily dose of outside.

It is only Natural.

Interesting article from Education.com, Reconnecting Children with Nature.

Don't stay inside, an interesting adventure awaits near you, just go out the door.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ice Cave Trail

There is no doubt in my mind.
Winter is a wonderful time of year.  Of course there are those who dislike the cold and the snow...oh, and the ice too.

But there are no bugs, no annoying plants like stinging nettles, and the landscape is open for all to see.  No leaves block the view of beautiful vistas or interesting rock formations.

On a whim, I did something I never do.  I posted a question on Facebook, "Who would like to go on and adventure to Wildcat Mountain with me? Hiking, snowshoeing, and perhaps the Ice Cave?"

Friends replied and I even got a phone call from some friends on the other side of our state.  They couldn't make it, they wanted to.  But could we get together like last year and do a weekend in Baraboo, WI and explore some great hiking places again?  Yes! Sure! And we made arrangements.

The next morning I had a comment that asked, "We'd love to go but don't want to cramp your style, we have 3 little people."  This was from our neighbors at the top of our hill.

I was ecstatic and we made arrangements to go check out the Ice Cave Trail at Wildcat Mountain.

We did hike directly there and the scene was beautiful.

The kids took a look at it and thought it was very cool, but they were more intrigued by the little frozen run off created by the water coming over the ice cave wall.

And this started our true adventure.  What is more inviting?  A slippery frozen stream of water?
Or a nice trail?

Oh the frozen water of course!

There was hill climbing.
Ice crawling.

Adventures with Doe, Stinky, Dino, and Rex.
And, lots of adventures.

We eventually made our way back to Billings Creek and admired the formations of ice on the bluffs.
And the upside to all of this adventuring and hiking?  The little people got worn out ... as did this older person!


Where most people that come to the Ice Cave trail simply walk the 1/2 mile trail to the 'cave' and then back to the car...they miss all of the fun and beauty in between.

During the winter, there is so much more to see in my opinion.

Although this trail is unique and would be fantastic to walk on in April when the Spring Beauties, Trillium, and Blood Roots are coming to life.

I hope to go back in a week or so to check out another trail that is much longer.  I took that trail this summer and loved it.  In the winter it becomes a snow shoe trail.

Old Settler's Trail, is next on my winter list.