Saturday, April 28, 2012

Just a bit o' wandering...


So I needed to wander...wander...

back in the woods far away from phones, far away from traffic, and far away from things that may bother me...I hiked.  

My mind had gone blank except for thinking about the beautiful patterns that the plants were making in the forest floor.

I followed Morris around wandering aimlessly and breathing in the wonderful scent of the earth, the dirt, and the new plants.
I was 'supposed' to be hunting morel mushrooms.  Really, was I supposed to be doing something?  

When I got deep into the woods I'd forgotten exactly WHY I was there.  Other than the fact that I was here, in the time and in the moment and no where else.

A cardinal landed on an elm branch and sang, then flitted away.  I heard a wren scold me and it made me smile.  Off in the distance a warbler sang its mesmerizing song.

And I followed Morris who seemed to have a purpose in mind.  And I thought, Why Not?  Why not let the dog lead me where ever?
It was a good choice too, as he led me to some extremely rare and beautiful plants.

I found wild ginger.  I found another plant near it and took note of how plain it was, but recalled seeing it before and ignoring it.


Wild Ginseng.  [Sorry, I didn't photograph it!]

Lordy, I hit the mother lode of cool plants.  Because I chose to wander and not care where I went.  I followed a dog who may or may not have had a purpose.  And I found cool stuff.
And then I found my new office!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dog Obediance Thelma & Louise update

I do have to say that these hound dogs are simply quite intelligent.  They are so eager to please.
Their eagerness is what makes them easier to train.

We are working on a couple of things simultaneously as they fit so well together.
The 'come' command. I began to use a different command for each dog, but quickly learned that 'come' will work just fine.  [I don't want to confuse my husband who will work with the dogs eventually.]

The 'sit' command; it is useful for them to do this each and every time they come to me.
And the 'pay attention' to my is not a command, but it is crucial to everything an obedient dog must learn.

We are working on the long line.  Louise has now figured out that a long line does not mean run like heck to the end of it.  She has figured out that she can keep within 15 feet of me and watch me out of the corner of her eye.

When I change directions, she comes at a lope.  When I stand still and quietly say 'come', she comes on a run and sits close to me.
She has figured out that the sit will get her a nice long hand stroke down her back each and every time she does it.  Since she craves that, she is becoming an expert at sitting after I call her...and holding still.

This is pretty important for a dog that already weighs about 40 pounds.  Louise is also learning that it is not a good idea to try and get under my feet or stop in front of me while I am walking.
I knee right into her.
This may sound cruel, but it saves me from injury from tripping over her.  Twice I kneed her in the past few sessions.  She now avoids getting under foot.
She has learned that her job is to watch ME and not for me to watch HER.

Thelma walks on one side of me or the other.  She keeps within 8-10 feet and reacts quickly when I turn left or right.  These are the precursor steps to learning how to heel on leash.  
She has a habit of trying to go between my legs when I stop or she is unsure.  She doesn't want to sit and we worked more on that today with the long quiet stroking while she remained at sit.

Her 'come' is very good too.  Another month of doing it on line and the both of them will be ready for off line 'comes' in a field.  
Today's work was done with distractions and both dogs did very well. 

The workout for each dog was short, about 15 minutes.

So the work for today was for the girls to keep an eye on me, not to tighten the rope, 'come', and sit.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Making a dramatic sky

First you need to start out with a sky shot that has potential.  I shot this photo with my old point and shoot camera on the way home from work.  The sky opened up and let rays of light through.  Unfortunately this did not show up on the photo I'd taken.

So these are the steps I used to create this:

Step one:

I loaded this into Adobe Elements 5 and made 3 layers of the same photo after I used Topaz BW Effects to get the color and adjustments I wanted.

 I chose the middle layer to adjust for the 'faked in rays'.  Here it is already done.  Below are the steps.
Choose the layer and change your levels to one end of the spectrum or another.  It takes experimentation to figure out which will work best for the photo you are using.  I chose to go very dark and use the light colors for the rays.
After choosing my levels, I next went to Filters>Blur>Radial Blur and did the following:

I used Ctrl F about three times to get the proper 'whisps' of light.  I also made sure that the 'whisps' flowed downwards instead of from the center of the photo.

Since this was the middle layer, I had to adjust the top layer's opacity and a bit of adjustment on the middle layer to get the effect I wanted.  

Did I want to go realistic?  Or did I want to go a bit more dramatic?

This is not hard to do and can add quite a bit of interest to any sky shot.  I've done this with sunrise and sunsets.
It is pretty fun and sometimes can save a rather BLAH photo.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mandelbulb 3D Parameter Sharing

Most folks who are into Mandelbulb 3D creations are usually pretty happy to share their parameters for some of the creations they have made.  A great site to explore parameters is The Design Space.  Ellen explores a parameter usually in more than one way.  She will take a parameter and re-work it many times, experimenting with it. 
You can also see her work on Flickr at:

The above fractal was created from a parameter of Ellen's called The Sentinels.  I changed the formulas and colors along with the shading until I came up with something that satisfied me.

There are other artists at places like deviantArt that will share also.  These are great places to go and search or explore what others are doing.

How do you use a parameter? 

If you see one posted it will look similar to this:


This is the parameter that should get you close to the Mandelbulb I made from The Design Space site called 'Sentinals'.

You highlight the text and copy it from the first line where it says Mandelbulb3Dv17{ ... all the way the end bracket ...}
Next you take it to your open Mandelbulb program.
And...use Control V to put in in the box as shown below.
Then you will see this upon Calculate 3D.

When you get a cool parameter it is fun to share with someone else and see what they can make out of your version as we all like different effects in our Mandelbulb 3D 'Art'.

Here is another one I made out of the Sentinals Parameter.

Go out and seek some parameters yourself and experiment with the formulas and colors.  
Then share what you have made.

It is more fun that way!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Happiness ~ Are you naturally Happy?

A recent study by Harvard Public Health Review says that if you have a positive and Happy Outlook, chances are you may live longer and lower your risk of heart disease and colds!
Okay, I like that!

I've been told repeatedly at work that I have a 'sunny' and 'positive' disposition.  I do try and maintain a positive attitude with my co-workers and at my place of employment.  I can usually transfer that to my home life too.

But I must say that after hours of being a nice, smiling, pleasant, co-operative person...I am tired can be a bit grumpy when I get home.  I sometimes need a bit of time to relax and readjust.
A big smile comes to my face when I start down the long gravel driveway to my place and see Thelma and Louise standing at attention in their kennel tails wagging furiously.
My husband greets me with a smile.  My Jack Russell is so beside himself that he whirls around and whines.
It is good to know that I am welcomed at home.

To find my true happy place and to replenish my happy attitude ... I generally need a hike in the woods to decompress or a ride with one of my mules.  When those things happen, all the troubles and worries of the world seem to float away suspended somewhere else until I am ready to face them again.

Try a positive outlook on things.  A simple smile can change someone else's day and make your heart healthier too.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Siera goes mushroom hunting

 [Ear flapping!]

Well the time finally came to see how Siera would do with mushroom hunting.  This is generally good training to do with a mule.
They need to understand that they have to stop and stand anywhere you ask them while you look over the ground.
They need to understand that you will be dismounting and re-mounting often during the ride. These attributes should have been instilled in the equine before testing it out in the field.

Real life is different.  Siera will stop and stand perfectly in areas that she is comfortable.  She likes to have company or be within sight of her pasture-mates. 
I've had her out solo on many rides and most of the time, she wants to rush through everything in order to get back home faster.

Yesterday was different.  I was confident that Siera could do this away from home and in the thick woods.  A little nag at the back of my brain questioned my confidence.

During our ride, Siera was upset.  She was not a happy camper.  She refused to go forward and began to back up.  I was asking her to leave home for the third time.  I gently touched her sides with my heels and 'kissed' to her.
Her ears flicked.  Her head bobbed.  She looked right and left.  Then put one foot out ... and we were going forward again.  We did this on a loose rein.
I was impressed.  A year ago we would have spent up to 10 minutes trying to go forward.  Siera was maturing.

We worked on standing and the dismounts and re-mounts.  She did better than I had expected.  She even stood quietly while I took pictures of the False Morel and Dutchman Breeches.

I rode her to the mailbox at the end of our ride.
The neighbors came to chat with me.
I made Siera stand at a respectful distance from me and not crowd me while I talked with them.
She behaved very well.
In fact I was rather impressed.

We didn't find any morels...but in truth, I wasn't in an area where they actually should be right now.

On a side note.
Badger is not doing well right now.  He is hanging in there, but he is no longer rideable.  He gives me a dirty look each time I take Siera or another mule out for a ride.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I love dogs!

An update on Thelma & Louise ~~
These gals are smart.
Easter Sunday they dug their way out of the kennel while we were gone and must have had a merry time while we were gone!  Hostas chewed on, flower beds dug around, and one of Morris's yard toys chewed to bits.  Ahhhh, but they were lying next to the house asleep when we pulled up.
What great pups these gals are!  Escape artists and flower diggers.  Perhaps I can teach them to weed the garden???  :)
Smart because they did not wander off or get lost.  Smart because they stayed near the house with 500 acres of forest a stone throw away...where they could have been lost forever.
Their second, third, and fourth day of 'come' and 'here' must have sunk in because they were laying where I usually made them sit and 'loved' them up.

Tonight after supper I took them and Morris for a short hike in the woods.  They ran hard and jumped logs...Morris climbed out of their reach and they all 'gallumped' around!  What a great sight.  Two huge hounds following a 12 lb Jack Russell who still leads them on some adventures.
To tell you the truth, I haven't been able to get them out for a walk since Sunday. [Insert here ~~~ work schedule!]
Everyone needed a breath of fresh forest air and a jaunt in the woods.
Can you picture me running ahead of the small pack of dogs down the deer trail?  I did.  I was grinning ear to ear.

I brought no camera for photos...which freed me up to run and jump with the 'kids'.  One time we all ended up in a tangle on the forest floor.  No matter, there were lots of licks and loving brown eyes, mixed up with human limbs and dog legs.  I think I was laughing so hard I nearly peed my pants.
Seriously.  If you are going to live and love, have dogs to make you laugh.  Have dogs to make you run and jump like a child and...feel free.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

A Perfect Day

What can be better than nice weather and some time to yourself?

I wandered down the the creek bottom and hiked a ways.  I stopped and sat on a moss covered rock and just relaxed a bit.
I saw brook trout, listened to the birds sing.  A blue jay screeched in the distance while a hawk circled over head.

By my feet the creek made a soft song as it ran over the rocks.

I peered down towards the west and found myself rather pleased to see so much greenery for April.

After a time spent relaxing, I hiked up our hill road a bit and found a pleasant surprise.
A black morel mushroom.  Looks like it may be an early season!

Towards evening.  I took Siera out or another 'training' ride.  Her main issue is that she doesn't want to leave home, but once she does, she is...out for a hard fast walk through the woods.

She did an excellent job getting through the ditches and washout...even crossed the creek without hesitation!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Outsmarting a Mule

The last time I rode Siera it was October 29th. 
That means she was idle for nearly 5 months in the pasture, except for foot trims and worming.

She has led the life of luxury this winter, while I was too occupied with other things ... and taking Opal the experienced mule on rides that were a bit dicey in footing.

Welcome back Siera!
I took her out of the pasture and literally butchered her mane with a pair of scissors. 
Naughty me, but the clippers need new blades and I wanted to see where on earth her head was under that bushy mane!

I fitted her with my 'woods' saddle and mounted up.  At first Siera was full of refusals.  She thought a muddy tire track that my husband had left with his truck 3 weeks ago was a 'mule eatin' monster.  She didn't shy so much as decide that she didn't need to get near it.
She did a pretty good impression of Michael Jackson's Moon Walk.  That would have made me proud it that is what I had wanted.

I dismounted and walked her up to it.  She immediately began to eat grass around the monstrous track.  Okay, I was outsmarted.

I remounted and went off into the woods, Siera was fresh and feeling it.  I really wasn't afraid of a buck or a blow up.  Siera has proven time and again that though she can be silly she doesn't lose her cool.

We did fine.  She moved out with a purpose.  She even went through some of the 'lesser' ditches or ... runoffs with no hitch as she'd had last year.  Perhaps she was maturing.

Then came the Big Ravine.  I pointed her towards the trail and asked her to go forward.  She balked, she walked sideways [hard to do in soft loamy soil on a steep hill].  I finally got her to head up to the top of the steep washout.
We are talking about a 10 ft drop into a dirt and rock filled ravine here... not some little ditch.
At the top she walked through the prickly ash and berry briers and we headed down the other side of the Big Ravine.
When we got to the opposite side of the crossing I watched as a light-bulb went on in her head.  She 
knew that the way home was across that steep ravine.
Bless her boney little heart.
She slid down the steep embankment and climbed up and out as if it were a routine she'd done all along.  

I love riding and training Siera, she is a fresh mule with a fresh attitude.  She is a challenge with her intelligence, but a joy to ride with her Peruvian Paso gait.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Dog Obedience

Let's face it, if you are going to have an animal, they should be trustworthy and obedient.

This is whether they are a canine or equine.  Years ago I spent more than one summer attending Obedience Classes with two of my dogs, Missy and Nike.  I learned so much about training dogs and having them walk 'nice' without pulling on a leash.
They sat, they came, they walked with or without a leash next to me.
I went so far as to teach them key words and a few hand signals.
One of the hand signals and words saved Missy's life.

My husband was never one for training his hunting hounds in this manner.  He thought that it de-tracted from their 'hunting prowess'.  Me?  I argued that it didn't and that it would benefit them.

After the fiasco of the other day when he couldn't really catch Thelma or Louise easily, he surprised me over coffee this morning.

*Would you teach Thelma and Louise some obedience?* he asked.
I was thunderstruck.  I nodded.
*Jeff's dogs are so good,* he continued [Jeff is a hound man who raises champions].

I smiled, *A well trained dog is a pleasure to hunt with, ... this dragging me around on the leash through the woods sucks.  I hate it.*

*Well you know what you are doing.  Would you do it?*

I was flabbergasted!  YES!
*Of course.*  I love training, it is a great challenge to communicate properly to an animal.  

Now to see if I can recall my old skills!

This could be fun, keeping my blog updated with training Thelma & Louise.

First session begins in 10 minutes.
A 50 ft cord and one dog in the meadow.  15 minutes of teaching the command 'come'.
Each dog will have their own command words and release words.  But for today, it is just to get them to understand that they need to keep an eye on ME and come when called.

Louise is a bit more bull headed.  She wanders and doesn't pay attention.  It took her less than 10 minutes to figure out 'Come.'  But by the end of our 20 minute walk, she was paying attention!  Good Girl!
Thelma is a pleaser.  She watches YOU and keeps her learned within minutes that unless she sits after being called, she wouldn't get a nice brush of the hand on her side for reward.

Both pups learned instantly that jumping was not allowed. 
I am very pleased with their intelligence.
Hubby added that he wouldn't mind me teaching them to heel.
...Doin' the happy dance!

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Great Escape

Thelma looked over at Louise her sister.

Let's dig!  Let's dig under the kennel!  Let's mutilate the fence!  That will teach HER that SHE should be taking us for more walks and not driving off in that stinky car of hers!

Louise thought that was a great idea, so she joined in digging at the kennel fence with her huge puppy paws.

Harder and harder they dug, stopping to bark and admire their work briefly.

Won't SHE be surprised when SHE sees us!  

Thelma agreed, the look on HER face would be wonderful.  Thelma and Louise loved going for walks with her and Morris.  So, if they could get out of the kennel, they could find HER and go for a nice long walk.

Harder they dug, until Louise discovered that she could loosen the wires by biting at them and pawing at them.  Thelma joined her and soon they had a hole.  Thelma squeezed through the hole and she was out.

Come on!  Come on!  Let's run, let's play, let's go find HER!

Louise began to squeeze out.  Uh-oh, her collar seemed to be catching on something.  She pushed and pushed and pulled with her front paws.

The icky collar thing had fallen just outside the fence, but Louise didn't mind.  The two of them were off to have fun.  They chased each other around the big yard.  They chased each other near the electric fence where the funny mules lived.  The mules ducked their heads and stomped their feet.
Thelma and Louise ran away.

Oh look, the other dogs!  They look just like us!  I'm going to go play with them!

Louise ran off towards the big red shed.  Thelma turned her nose to the ground and looked for the faint smell of HER.  Where had she gone too?  Perhaps if she followed the trail that went through the woods she could find HER.

The man came home.  As he walked up to the house he noticed the hound puppies were not in their kennel where they should be and he noticed that the green collar that belonged to Louise was laying on the ground.  He quickly found Louise playing with the adult dogs.

Two hours later, he found Thelma loping out of the woods ... in her big puppy sloppy lope ... and across the 'Merry Meadow'.

He bent down to pet her.
"Where did you go Thelma?" he asked her.  She wagged her tail hard and gave him a goofy puppy dog look.  She was telling no secrets.
Still she was happy to see The man. 

Back in their Louise turned to Thelma.
Where did you go?
Thelma turned around and around in the dog house they shared, looking for a nice spot for a nap.

She winked at Louise.
I went on an adventure!  I followed HER smells until I lost them. 

She sniffed the air and closed her eyes.
I hope SHE stays home soon and takes us for another long walk, right Louise?

But Louise was sound asleep.  No doubt dreaming of the next Great Escape.