Thursday, January 19, 2017

Weather a very strange year so far.

We've swung wildly from very cold to just freezing. From frigid to mild with rains.

Thankfully the animals seem to be taking this weather in stride. 
The mules and horses refused to go to the stock tank on Sunday until we put down barn lime and a combination of sand and hay chaff.

We've had an ice event each week. 

Who came up with the name Ice 'Event'? 
Once a week the temperatures have swung to just above or right about freezing and it has rained.

Getting anywhere safely on the country gravel roads has become an issue. Our township is running low on sand according to the patrolman Rich talked to our town only has one bin left of sand/gravel.

I hope that is enough to get us through to a real melt down!

Traveling back and forth to work has become rather unpleasant. This is a shot I took -- yes I stopped-- of 'good' weather and good roads!

There are no shots of course of the bad places, the scary twists and turns that come down off the ridge at an 8% grade into the valleys.
It is trips like these that make me dislike working period. The drive to and from work is stressful. 

This is one of the roads I take to and from town or work. This is a nice sight to see on a slick day. Fresh sand and gravel over ice.

And...this is where I park when it gets like this. I can walk up to the ridge from home and I don't have to worry about falling off the driveway into the woods and wrecking the car.

Our road is a dead end road. It doesn't rate getting more gravel/sand on it as there is only 3 homes on it.

My neighbor on the top of the hill has purchased 'chains' for his and his wife's vehicle. He found out the other day that even the 'chains' didn't help. 
This is a shot of the road from our mailbox area. This is good winter driving!

Yesterday morning I took a sled-full of hay chaff, sand, salt, and screenings up to the ridge and spread it behind the Subaru so that my neighbor could park behind me. Our driveways were still solid ice. It is surprising how this mix adds traction to an area!

In the afternoon, the temperatures rose yesterday and the sun came out. 

Rich used the skid steer to break up ice around the stock tanks and then proceeded to work on the driveway.

I was so happy that I quit doing all of my catch up work around the inside of the house and came outside to enjoy the sunlight and the mud/ice.
Mud and ice! Snow slush! 
I know it looks like a mess. But it is much better than glare ice.

It was only in the places that the sun shone, but it made us very happy.

And it made Val-Barbie happy too!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ice Cave Adventure at KVR

My good friendly neighbor and I think up adventures once in a while or neat hikes we'd like to do.

Yesterday on a whim we decided to do the "Ice Cave Trail" at Kickapoo Valley Reserve.
I'd planned on going and since our driveway is still an 'ice event', I had parked on the ridge. Simply walking up the drive to the neighbor's house required ice cleats.

We got a later than planned start. And that start was even delayed by the family van not being able to back out of its icy parking spot. Until I asked if they had any grit, sand, lime, or something to toss under the tires.

Cracked corn chicken feed worked perfectly. The chickens will also get a nice meal and clean it up!

The last time I'd done the Little Canada Trail it was a nice rough loop with some cave formations. I'd ridden it on a mule and a horse and had never walked it.
The whole trail was called Little Canada. Recently after the Reserve took over, a portion of the trail was renamed The Ice Cave Trail.

In the brochure that has trail maps on it, and on the website, this trail is described as fairly difficult and extremely difficult in the winter.
Armed with ice cleats and snow shoes and sleds to pull tired kids we set off. Lauren packed snacks and water. We were ready.

With all the rain/snow/sleet/ freezing and temperature changes, the trail was indeed very rough and icy in spots. The kids were troopers and the older two marched on like explorers.

We did find some ice formations and what looked like frozen water falls.
You can see tracks where others have climbed down into the ravine to see the ice close up and personal, however with a 5,7, and 3 year old we decided to stay safe and stay on the trail.

We came down to the end of the Ice Cave Trail and marker #5.  We stood on a snowmobile trail that lead in two directions. This trail was not on the map and after searching for a way across the Kickapoo River we decided to back track.
I will have to do some more investigation and go back as I think there is a snowmobile trail that the Kickapoo Valley Riders [snowmobile club] has that may have taken us back on a fairly nice easy walking surface.
But I can't be sure until I do it myself!

We did get a glimpse of an incredible 'ice wall' though.  The photo is a quick snap as we were in a hurry and the sun was setting.

The sun was beginning to set...

We did some extremely hard and fast hiking to get back to the vehicle.

We got to the car after dark. My Garmin had clocked us out hiking for 3 hrs and 34 minutes with the fastest walking average at 7 mph and the medium at 3 mph.
Mileage was 4.45 miles. I will get the altitude changes after I connect up the Garmin and get that information. I'll put that graph in one of my next posts.
Once you figure in your changes in altitude it gives the hike a much truer understanding of difficulty.

Conclusion? It was well worth it. Taking children is okay if you have very tough and adventurous outdoor kids.

Next ice cave adventure? Well it is easier to get to and only 1 mile of easy hiking from my place...soon.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dislike this Ice Winter, But...

I have yet to spread our dwindeling supply of sand/rock/salt mix on this trail that I use 3 times a day to feed, water, and take care of our hounds.

I've taken to tying my Yak Traks onto my boots with laces. I could wear my snow shoes with their giant teeth that will grip and dig into the ice, but the Yaks are slightly less cumbersome.

In 3 weeks we've had 3 ice storms. There is another one scheduled for Monday some time. Well, okay the weather is snow/sleet/rain mix.
Since I have our Subaru now parked on the ridge, it will stay there.

I've used hay chaff and dirt from the shed floor on some of our worst walking paths. I've even taken it by the sledfull to the large heated stock tank so the critters could get some grip on the ice.

Amazing how the equine are dealing with it. The mules lead the way and the horses follow carefully. No one has slipped.

Under the ice crusted snow is about 3 inches of ice. Our lane for the skid steer is almost totally useless.
It is so nearly iced up that even with ice picks, the skid steer nearly has an impossible time negotiating the path.
Going up this hill is impossible.

We've decided to use another route for moving round bales for the cattle. That worked okay, but is now fast becoming nearly impossible also.
The ... ahem old skid steer with double the ice piks may have done better, but at this point? I'm not sure.

The Dexter cattle also have adjusted quite well. They have trails that they use and mostly hang out near the feeder.

However, this ice and melt and rain and ice and more melt, then freezing has created some incredible beauty in the creek area.

I finally had a little time to get down and explore. I didn't go far as chores would beckon me back home within an hour.

Many parts of the creek were frozen over completely and in other sections where springs came up kept it flowing.

With water flowing beneath it...

I could have wandered about all day.

And here is the Ice Wall. I would love to get over to the Ice Cave.

However, I can be happy just messing around not too far from home.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fractal Art, Break Time

The recent events and feeling a bit under the weather have kept me from getting out with my camera and hiking.
I swear with all this ice and poor weather it is nearly noon before we are finished with chores.

Then it begins again.
So I thought I'd do some quick edits and play with Incendia, JWildfire, and Mandelbulb 3d.

This black and white abstract is a combo of Incendia and MD3D.

I'm not as proficient as some of the folks who do this every day and work with these programs all of the time. I usually dabble in the fractal programs when I can't get out or have no inspiration to do any photography.

Sometimes I just have the need for lots of wild color which this one shows. The JWildfire flame is layered over an Incendia fractal of 'horns'. Then layered with a flood edit of reflections I did in CS2.

I used Topaz Glow to bring out some of the wild colors. 
I love wild colors!

I just printed this one to hang on my 'Art' wall. I used two formations by MD3D and a flame program called Apophysis 16 to make the wild looking thing in 'front'. 
I just loved the hues and decided to see what it would look like printed.

It did not disappoint.
I wish I had a huge wall for a lot of my creative work. Alas, such a wee house!

All I know is that it has been a nice break from the horrid weather we have been having.
It seems this winter, it is all about ice. Ice. And more ice.
Yak Traks or snow shoes are the footwear of choice.


Monday, January 09, 2017

Night Skiing

Text: Meet me at the mailbox at 8:30?

Me: Yes! Skis?

Text: Yes skis please!

Me: Okay!

I hustled around the house, made supper and then gathered my gear together. GG gave me that funny look, as though I had two heads.

"Are you going on the ridge and skiing in that ice and blowing snow? You guys nuts?"

Me: "Ahhh yup."

At the top of the ridge is 65 acres of cropland with gentle dips and dipsy doodles of strip crop planting. We've had snow, then rain, then melt, then snow, then sleet-rain, and then freezing and tonight it was snowing and blowing hard.

As I walked up from our house I could hear the wind in the trees. It sounded like an ocean above me! 

I met up with Lauren and we headed right into the brunt of the wind and snow. We laughed behind our scarves. 

We wobbled across ice crust patches and soft gushy snow drifts and several times we both had great 'runs' of pushing and gliding. 

I went down a hill and hit a soft spot. Poof. Nearly a face plant. Lauren started laughing and lost her footing and we both lay in the snow just laughing at ourselves. 

Our skis made horrid sounds as they went over glare ice and the poles came in very handy. Balance on ice was a bit interesting especially when one ski would go straight and the other one sideways.
Corn stalks were just another added obstacle, especially while going down a grade.
Take my word for it the tall alfalfa was easier to get through than some of the stalks.

By our second round we were flying in the good places and pacing ourselves.

If we ever get on a groomed trail we might even be awesome. We both would like to or snowshoe at least two times a week [at night of course]. 

There is something wildly free and liberating about skiing at night on ice/snow in a snow squall.

I can sleep well tonight.

Can't go out to play so...

So I thought I'd get out the bathroom mirror that I saved for whatever reason when the guys gutted the bathroom.

I thought it would be fun to use them this winter in some of my Still Life work.
Again, this was an easy set up. I put the mirror down on top of a plastic tote and then simply began to arrange things around.

The egg was a wild idea. Yes, it is a raw egg and no, there was nothing holding it in place. It looks like the egg-s are suspended.
Rich wasn't feeling good so instead of taking the hike at the Kickapoo Reserve to see the unfinished dam, I decided to stick around the house.

I got out some of my cups, rings, and baubles and arranged them in different manners. I didn't use any other light than that which came in from the window behind me.

I would love to do some light experiments soon though.

I used old necklaces and other items I have in my 'junk' box. I used a doily I found at the flea market as a backdrop along with an old white table cloth.
The silver rings and ribbon came from a wedding invitation that my daughter in law made. Yes I sometimes keep odd things.

And not all are keepers. The photos were okay, but didn't really have any zip or WOW factor.

And then I did this.
And it made it worth it.

I was happy that I stayed inside and didn't go out ... to play.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Winterfest at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve

I have never been to the Winterfest at KVR but when my neighbor asked if I'd like to to with her and the kids, I said sure!

There were a lot of activities to do. I would have liked to see the dog sledding but we were pressed for time and went to the main building where most of the other activities were.

We caught a sleigh ride with some magnificent Belgians.

Yes there was a slight breeze that brought the wind chill down, but there were several warming areas and some small campfires dotted around for those who would like to warm up.
There was a tent structure with a story teller inside. And inside the structure there was a wood stove. We sat on bales of straw, warmed up and listened to stories.

Frozen Turkey bowling was a hit with the kids for a little while.
There was Snow Painting which I think ... at least on my opinion was the neatest thing!

I immediately saw that this could be done at home with a spray bottle and food coloring in the water!

And of course there was the llamas...

And ...
I also got distracted by hats. I love hats. I love love hats.
And I found a fur hat with ear flaps and ... a tail on sale from Wild Things Fur. I couldn't resist.

I wore this hat the rest of the day. It kept my neck and face warm and toasty even with wind chills in the subzero range.

No more trying to figure out what to wear on my head during those winter snow shoe adventures with the cameras. Nope. I like this red head! Oh and the tail constantly wags.
Just call me a kid.

And I'll do chores in extreme weather with a smile on my face.

I'll definitely go back for Winterfest next year. I think the best part for me was watching the kids enjoy themselves so much.

And that was that.
A great day!