Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dennis's turn on Fred!


video

Dennis is learning to ride just like the other kids have been doing this summer.

I've thought that by teaching them that they can control their mount while walking alongside them, it will help build the confidence for being on top and...being in charge later.

They learn that it is amazing how with such a light touch they can control this huge animal. This hopefully transfers to a light touch with the reins later.

Let me say that I am not a certified trainer, I've just had many opportunities over the years to work with kids and equines. Fortunately the horses and mules I've worked with have been of exceptional temperament and have had lots of experience with all types of riders.

I think a donkey would work well in this sort of situation also. However most kids wouldn't want to learn how to ride a donkey. We, in this country glorify the horse and tend to look down upon mules and donkeys.

Balance without reins is first taught. Eventually the rider learns to balance without hanging onto things and without using the stirrups.

I was taught as a kid to first ride bareback. But my training was pretty informal. 
Get on the pony, ride and try not to fall off.
I fell off a lot.

Today Dennis will wear some boots. I'd rather see all kids wear the proper footwear, but unless they are riding a lot, I don't insist on having boots.
In the future? I hope all the kids can have a pair of boots to wear!

Today dawned cold and clear. In fact it was downright chilly on the porch this morning while I was having my coffee and watching Morris do his 'thing'.



A big thanks to Dennis yesterday for helping me clean up the porch after I mowed around it and spit grass all over it.


We sat outside and had supper on the makeshift table and watched the sun go down. 

What a good day.



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shorter days make me feel like

I am ... some how running against the clock.
In my mind I know it is just Fall approaching.

Heck it isn't officially fall until September 22nd. Yet, I watch the sun go down earlier each day and the sun come up later and 



I worry.

What have I not done? Where has time run off to?

I didn't get in that hike I wanted to do. I didn't ride Siera as much as I wanted. 

Then I stop and realize all of the things that we have done this summer.

Remodeled the house. Well we are still working on that.
Ariel came and spent a week and we went canoeing and she learned to ride Fred.

Lily came and spent a few days. We shopped, she rode Fred, we went hiking and canoeing.

I was busy every day with the house remodel. No time to realize that time was slipping by.

Yet I feel anxious somehow every year around now and I don't really know why.

It can't be because winter is coming. I like winter, I like snow and the stark beauty of winter. Things seem more relaxed during the winter.

Perhaps I just need a day to go and take a nice long hike in nature and step away for a bit from the rush of things.

Trying to juggle shift work with canning garden produce, and remodeling and all at the same time may be a bit pressing.

A day to myself is what I'd like. Perhaps I can find one of those soon.


Monday, August 29, 2016

While I await

The next adventure of toys, or the next adventure with an grand child...I'll just drop a few photos in for you to enjoy before I get started for the day and headed to work.

Drive to work


4 O'Clocks

Sunrise on the ridge

Spidey Web with Dew

Sunrise and crop patterns

Cosmos

And...
Golden Rod in B&W

Off to prep tomatoes for freezing, chores, laundry, and getting ready for a visit from Grandson Dennis.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

And so it begins...

Let me start by saying I love photography and quite a few years ago I started experimenting with Toy Stories.

First it was Morris and his toys that had adventures. It was a daunting task getting Morris at times to pose with his toys in the woods and convey a story. But it was fun.  And we'll more than likely do another story this fall. Morris is getting up there in years, but that doesn't mean that he has stopped being playful.

A couple of years ago my Grand daughter Ariel and I had some fun during a Christmas get together that involved My Little Ponies and photography. That morphed into #TheDoeStory. Adventures with a toy doe.

This past winter I was introduced to Val-Barbie by my neighbor and her children.
Well I couldn't let that just go, I worked Val-Barbie into the Doe Story and then it happened.

Things got well...


Complicated.

Perhaps complicated isn't the proper term. When Allie and Carson delivered this box I have to admit, what was going on now?

Oh be still my little ornery beating heart! 

A NEW goofy story line.

Perfect.

Amazing.
Before I go any further I must say that my neighbor, Lauren has an incredible knack for this. I believe she has a great imagination. She can take a doll and actually create an eerie resemblance a character. 
And this is how it all started....

So let the story begin:
One day Val-Barbie was riding her pony called Lil' Richard.
Lil' Richard got a bit feisty and bucked Val-Barbie off.

Well now.
Val-Barbie can face down coyotes and other creatures, but it isn't often that she gets bucked off from her favorite little pony.

Val-Barbie stomps through the fields to find her errant pony.

Meanwhile Rich-Ken is out for a walk when he finds a loose pony. 
He catches it and wonders who it belongs to.



The pony is to Rich-Ken's liking.

Soon Val-Barbie comes upon her horse and a stranger.

He has caught her Lil' Richard!

Val-Barbie is a bit hesitant with this bearded long haired scraggly looking dude, but her pony seems to like him.

So they stand a while in the long grass and talk.

Val-Barbie has decided that she has sort of taken a shining to ... Rich-Ken.

She mounts up and invites Rich-Ken to become a part of her story.


And so we have another fun and nonsensical story to work with.

That is thanks to my neighbor and her kids who have wonderful imaginations also.

Half the fun was taking toys out and posing them for the photos.
I know. It seems strange, but look back, I've had a long history with toys and photos.

What can I say?
Except that I am having some grande fun. And I will need a bigger backpack to include the Rich-Ken doll and Lil' Richard.

Sigh.
Let the fun begin!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Creek Bottom after a Flash flood

I looked out the window as soon as daylight broke and used the binoculars to read the rain gauge.
3.25 inches of rain on the dot.

And water was running like crazy everywhere. My smart phone gave me an alert that flash flooding was occuring in my area. 
Be still my heart! 

Our house is not situated in an area that would be in danger from a flash flood. Our driveway suffers washouts, the creek gets cleansed of all those nasty weeds, and some places do wash in the pastures...but our house? We were not in danger of rising creeks or flash floods.

However. I love a good gully washer. Or should I say I love the aftermath of a good gully-washer/flash flood.

Alas. My poor heart. I had tomatoes to can. My feet however where itchy to go out and see what the gushing waters looked like.

I finished canning the tomatoes, and then proceeded to work on clear coating the Wainscott chair rail wood in the dining area.

Then it was time. I donned my 'woods' pants, 'woods' shirt, camera bag, rubber chore boots...and of course Morris and went to explore. I had promised Rich that it would be a short walk.

Oh what torture that was.

Earlier this year, the creek was not visible due to the amount of Jewel Weed and other weeds that choked the creek bottom.

A few flash floods and gully washers have set things back to normal. 
And I can gleefully look for cool rocks.


And I can find the odd balls rocks. The ones I believe are iron concretions and come in some very strange shapes.

The water was cold that came down the creek from above. Briefly, the sun came out and there was a thin layer of fog on top of the creek water.

It was eerie but amazing at the same time. Cold air and warm air met. Fog in a thin layer oozed across and towards myself and Morris.


Morris and I only hiked a small portion of the creek. 



We hiked enough to know that I wanted to follow the creek down the valley to where it meets up with Black Bottom Creek.

I looked at my watch. Time to get back home. I had work to do inside the house and the sun had come out. It would be a hot and sticky walk home.

I dipped my hands and my baseball cap in the 'new' pond and cooled off before heading up the ridge road towards home.

Morris trotted ahead of me, eager to get home and out of the heat also.

However I was stopped dead in my tracks by some incredible jelly fungi that glistened in the sunlight.

I sure want to get back into the woods and explore the valley.

Alas. Today is Crab Apple Jelly Making Day with the Neighbor.

I promised to show her how to make jelly. Both our households love jelly and homemade jelly.

Tomorrow looks to be promising though.
Fog in the morning and nice temperatures.

Perhaps I can convince my darling hubby to let me off clear coat duty for a couple of hours to explore the valley.

How I love to explore!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Crab Apple Preparation for Jelly

I know, I know. I am the last person to really blog about...ewww....cooking!

I don't consider canning, prepping food for the winter, and making jelly cooking.
As in the type of cooking I dislike. 
Cooking is a derivative of cook a 4 letter word just like bake is.:

Years ago I created a t-shirt. It has a mule head on it and says below:
Cook and bake
are 4 letter 
words
While 
Ride
Is Not!

I picked nearly 4 gallons of crabapples from a tree near work. I had permission and every other year or ... whenever I can get to the tree, I pick crabapples for making jelly. The process itself is very labor intensive, but the beautiful pink jelly that is created is worth the effort.



First I picked. Then I picked over and removed stems while washing them.

I went over this batch pretty carefully. We'd had a bad storm the day before with high winds and some hail, I picked through and tossed the bruised apples.


I'd gone to the garden early to grab any more tomatoes and veggies I could find. The NOAA had predicted storms again for the evening hours so I wanted to make sure I got anything that might get damaged.

I had a huge amount of 'grape' tomatoes along with several romas and beefy tomatoes. Not sure what name those big tomatoes were called, but I washed and sorted out the little ones, the big ones, and the ones that were ripe...and the ones that needed to ripen.

I had Kale and Parsley bunches washed and set aside.
I decided that since I'd be spending the day in the kitchen with the crab apples, I may as well do as much as I could.


I don't like to do all of the apples at once. So I started a batch. I put about a cup and a half of water in with the little red beauties and started them. I get them to simmer until they are mushy and I can crush them with a hand held potato masher.

I looked up different ways to do this and many websites suggested a juicer, or to use a blender to chop up the apples and then squeeze out the juice.

I decided to do it the OLD fashioned way. The way my Grandmother and Mom did it. Besides, I'd always had good results doing it the way I knew best. 

It was going to be an all day project and nothing was going to change that. 
I had all day.

While the crabapples were started, I got busy and put the parsley and kale on the drying trays. I also cut up and onion and sliced grape tomatoes.

I decided to try out a dehydrator. Apparently you can dry tomatoes and the grape or cherry tomatoes were good candidates for drying. I sliced everything up and put it together.



The kale and parsely came out great. I crushed the leaves and put them in containers for soup flavorings this winter.

Now that I know it works well, I'll go out and get more. I may even visit the Farmers Market and find some more spices. 
It is fun to provide for yourself.


Meanwhile the first batch of crabapples were ready. 


The smells in the kitchen were a bit wild. Imagine, onion, kale, parsley, and an overpowering smell of tart apples!

I used Grandma's method of straining the pulp from the juice for the first batch.

Hands down, you can't get more beautiful clear juice doing this any other way. I know folks use cheesecloth, but for pure juice, this is the best.

However I had a time limit and had another batch to do, so I used method number two which also is labor intensive in a way, but allows a bit more pulp to get into the juice.


I took this shot after I'd measured out at least 2 cups. This was towards the end of the 'juicing'. 
Viola!

I ended up with 7 cups of beautiful pink/red tart juice all ready for jelly making!


During my wait time for things to drain and dry, I continued to clear coat the Wainscott wood in the dining area and caught up on laundry.

Busy day, but when it was done, I marveled at the beautiful crabapple juice.

What amazes me is that people rarely plant these trees any more and most folks don't even know that you can create wonderful jellies from this fruit.

I guess it is easier to just go to the super market and buy jelly.

Well I haven't done that since...well...
forever. Once you get a taste for homemade, nothing compares.

Well. Next adventure is to hunt down some wild apple trees and perhaps get some grapes from either the Farmers Market or find someone I can trade some jelly for ... grapes.

Today? 
More food prep.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tomatoes.

I used to hate to cook and try to prepare anything in the tiniest Kitchen in the world.
Since I no longer have THE world's smallest kitchen any longer....

....I managed to buckle down and make some spaghetti sauce.

I went out to the garden to find more tomatoes. The bird nest I had found a few days ago now had eggs in it!
I picked the tomatoes as well as I could without disturbing the nest.



I peeled the tomatoes and prepped them in an olive oil mix of spices that I pre-sauteed. I was following a recipe I'd found on the internet and thought it sounded interesting.

Since I used olive oil in the base, the sauce would not be a candidate for canning.

The recipe said to squeeze the tomatoes after peeling them. 
I thought that was odd, but decided to try it.


I did this with two small batches of tomatoes. 


As I cooked the sauce, I poured the tomato juice into containers. I asked my husband if he liked tomato juice. I surely didn't want to dump it out. 
I don't like waste.

He said yes, but this tasted bland. Back to my Kindle to look up how to spice up plain old tomato juice.
I found a lot of recipes, but in the end used a touch of Worcestershire Sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Viola! It was tasty!

The recipe for the spaghetti sauce called for simmering it for an hour and a half.

It smelled divine and tasted even better. I'd followed the directions on the cooking site, but didn't have the spices and cloves of garlic, so I made up my own concoction.

I plan on adding some Italian Sausage to it and we'll probably have it for supper one of these next days. Well, when I am off my noon to midnight shifts, that is.

I will probably can plain tomatoes as the season gets ramped up. I always seem to find a way to use them in soups and sauces in the winter.

And now I have a nice basement once we get some shelving put up to line up beautiful canned goods!

I'll be getting crab apples next in preparation for making pink beautiful crab apple jelly.


And now that it has cooled off, I'm thinking that Siera would really like to saddle up and go for some evening rides.

Oh, she really had nothing to do with this post about tomatoes, but heck I threw a photo in here just...because.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Miss Lily and The Purse.

While Lily was here for her short visit, we were busy as all get out. We tried cramming a full weeks worth of activities plus school shopping in just a few days.

Lily wanted to visit the second hand stores in our local town of Viroqua. Last year we both got lucky with some really nice finds.

When we got into the store Lily moved down to the childrens section and started to browse. 

I stopped at the adult section that had some interesting looking pants and found some nice shorts from Patagonia and North Face. They were super soft and pre-worn.

Lily came back with a handful of clothing. She hadn't found anything in her size that she liked, but had found some very nice outfits for Elena and Sterling. What a good older sister she is. Plus she knows clothes.

She held up my items of interest and looked at them. She shook her head at one pair of pants I had and stuck them back in the rack. "Not for you, Grandma," she said.  She grabbed another pair and held them up, nodding. "More like it!"
She handed them to me and told me to go try them on.

Oh yeah. Lily will be 12 years old late December.

We put the purchases in the back of the Subaru and walked to the next store. Immediately Lily walked over to where they had purses on racks.

"You need a purse Grandma," she stated, her eyes on the items. She fingered one or two purses and looked inside of them.
I wrinkled my nose.

"I haven't had a purse since..." I shrugged. I couldn't remember the last time I'd used a purse. 

"Well you need to get organized," said Lily. "You have a smart phone that needs to be carried in a purse, you have keys and you are always forgetting which pocket you put them in." 
Lily wrinkled her nose.

"And that wallet. Ewww." She shook her head.
"I'll think about it." I replied.

We shopped and browsed, Lily found a few shirts and suggested a pink shirt for me. I liked its weight and softness so I took it.

We ended back at the purse rack. Lily handed me a purse. It was pretty but...
I shrugged and sort of acted interested.
Then after a few false starts, Lily handed me a red canvas purse. She adjusted the strap and hung it on my shoulder, then proceeded to hang it crosswise like she'd seen me wear my sling camera bag.

"This is it, Grandma. This is your purse. See? Not complicated at all. Not large and it looks enough like a camera bag to suit you." She nodded in satisfaction.
I stood mute with a red purse slung over my shoulder.

Then she turned and started to dig through the ladies wallets. 
"You have to get rid of that thing you have now. It is so ..., " Lily shuddered and made a face.

We settled on a lady's wallet and went to the cashier to check out.

I'd just bought a purse and a lady bug wallet. I wasn't exactly sure how that all just happened.

When we got home, we showed Grandpa Rich the purchases. His eyebrows rose when he saw the purse.

Lily cleaned off the table and asked for my ugly old wallet, cell phone, and keys. She motioned me to go tend to the sweet corn while she put things together.

I was cooling the sweet corn when she walked up holding my old tattered wallet. She was holding it as if it were a dead mouse.
She motioned for me to open the cabinet door under the sink.

With huge fanfare, she dumped the wallet in the trash.
She then presented me with the new purse and showed me how she organized everything.

I now have a nice red purse that is well organized.
I have no idea how I got along all these years without it.




Thursday, August 18, 2016

Checkin' Fences on a hot afternoon


Bunny was in the 'wrong' pasture the other evening, so I decided I'd better get back to walking the fences every other day and making sure all is right.

I found a place where the deer must have gone through and knocked off insulators and twisted the hot wire over the top of some posts.

I'd never seen anything quite like that before. But I went to work. I'd already taken the Weed Chomper to the other section of fence line and this line was nice and clean.
The Dexters do a great job of keeping the fence line spic and span.

I really do enjoy going out and wandering around looking at the fences, it is a great excuse to get outside and take a few farm shots.
Yesterday however, I only had my new Smartie-Phone to use.

It surprised me!

You can see the Dexter pasture, a round bale, and in the distance two red molly mules in the Merry Meadow.

The sky was incredible. I just loved the greens, blues, and the sky of course!

Thor agreed with me and had something to say when I walked past him back towards the house.

I swear he was saying, "Hot enuff for yah?"



And yes, it was HOT and sticky and very humid.

But the fences are cleared, and all are nice and 'hot' again. I think I'll make sure I go more often.
Remodeling has sidetracked us to some extent and ... well, who can resist going to check a fence when the view is like this?



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Memories of back ... then.






I went to the garden to pick some Zinnias for my in house bouquets the other night. I stopped to look over my 4 o'clocks which were opening because it was evening.

I glanced down at the bright happy flowers of the 4 o'clocks and then noticed that they were beginning to produce seeds.

I knelt down next to them and began to search for the little black seeds that I told my sons were flower 'hand-grenades'.  Well, that is what they look like.

As I started to pick and search in between the flowers I was reminded of doing this with my boys while waiting for their school bus to arrive to pick them up in the morning.
And how I sat near the flowers and waited for them to depart from the bus on the corner down the street.
The memories of them being so young washed over me.

It really hadn't felt as if it were so long ago. Yet it was.
I held in my hands the seeds of memories.

I don't think I can ever gather 4 o'clock seeds without thinking of my sons, the first days of school, and school buses.

Indeed it was a very pleasant memory.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Weed Eater Adventure

I have always shied away from the Weed Eater Machine. It is noisy, it flings grass bits everywhere, and it just is plain intimidating! Plus it uses gas, is smelly, and works with this string thingy that hits weeds and flings them everywhere.

That is...

Until I watched my son Ed use one last year. I was amazed at how quickly he cleared areas under the electric fence. 

Grass and weeds flew. And he made it look easy. 
[Oh yes, he did sweat profusely and get green bits of 'stuff' all over himself.]
Here is a shot of him working last year when he helped me replace and re-fence an area.



However I decided then and there that I would conquer the fear of the WEED Eater!

Well, I would figure out how to get my hands on one and use it anyway. Certainly it was easier at cutting weeds than using the corn knife as I'd done for so many years. 

I could get weeds blasted into oblivion in minutes versus hours, right?

Modern technology is good right?

Normally we don't have many weeds or grass impeding the fence, except when that pasture is out of rotation for a while. This summer we've had an abundant weed/grass issue. June, July, and August have been rainy months.

Normally we have a very dry July or August, but not this year. We can mow the yard and it seems we have to do it again only a few days later or suffer the shaggy yard syndrome.

[Well, we have suffered that, seems this year it has been especially hard to keep up with the yard work while all of the remodeling has been going on.]

I asked my husband this spring for a Weed Eater for my birthday. He was surprised and picked out a Weed Eating thing that he liked. He said he could use it if I didn't. 
I also got a face shield and ear protection. I cannot stand the thought of weed and grass bits hitting my face.

I've used the Machine a few times, but tonight I got after a rather large area that is impossible to mow. And dang it all, it just looked shabby near our nice new looking house.
I'm really not that great at using the weed whacker, but practice makes perfect. 

Hubby stopped me and took the machine away then proceeded to demonstrate the proper method of weed whacking. 

The perfect angle, the perfect pitch, how to angle the head and slowly sweep back and forth while watching the grass and stuff...get chopped up.

I tapped my boot and put my hands on my hips.

I flipped my mesh face shield down and made a 'Gimme' sign with my gloved hands. 

I explained that I needed to practice. I needed to use it to get comfortable with it. 

He demonstrated a bit more and when I started jumping up and down and flapping my arms...he finally got the idea.

...and let me loose with the grass/weed munching machine.
I didn't do a perfect job but I annihilated the weeds near the big shed and around Lil' Richard's Winter paddock. I was happy for the face shield as I even found smeared slimy slug parts on it.

I finished up after about 45 minutes. My arms are not used to holding a weed monster.
And then I looked down at myself.



I was covered head to toe with grass/weed parts. I even had green stuff in my hair. My neck and shirt were plastered with it.

Note to self. Keep the same old crummy pants and shirt for weed eating. Also swap the newer glasses for the older glasses.

I am less concerned about the flying bug smeary parts that get through the mesh with my old glasses.

I looked over the job I had done after putting the Wonderful Birthday Gift away in the shed. 

Hubby looked at the job. He didn't say anything negative so I take that as evidence that I did 'okay'.

He mentioned that he'd have to get out his commercial weed eater to get the really tough stuff. He could put a blade on it and it would cut through small woody weeds.

He did mention at the time we were getting this machine for me that he would not get me a blade. I was simply too dangerous. The string trimming would have to suit me.

Tomorrow? That pasture fence line that has been annoying me with a growth spurt of weeds. 

The Wander-er has returned.


I had to take Lily back home to Wausau, she had to go to Middle School Orientation.

Whoa, does that ever make me feel old!

When we got to her town early we decided to go check out a place that I'd been wanting to visit since last year when Lily and I took our October adventure on Rib Mountain.
I am drawn to water, and love rocks and water. Give me a stream and rocks and some rapids and I can be happy for hours.

Lily and I only stayed a short time, but what we saw made us determined to return.

And we did so on Saturday afternoon.

Welcome to the Dells of Eau Claire

The scenery was fantastic. The kids were fascinated by things they found along the river.


This was just below the dam and foot bridge. The kids stopped to look at crayfish and frogs, along with snails and other creepie crawly things.



We eventually made our way down the North trail and I kept getting side tracked by the amazing fungi I kept finding.


I found a lot of Coral Fungi growing next to the path. The hardest part about photographing it was finding intact fungi. The folks who were hiking the trail must not have looked at what they were stepping on. 

A few times Sterling would be curious as to what I was doing crouched so low to the ground and he would come running. He is not yet two years old, so I didn't expect him to understand that I didn't want him to step on the fungi either.

It was a challenge to get a shot of the fungi before he stepped on it trying to look into the camera lens.


Elena had just turned 3 and she had an idea that this 'stuff' was pretty special. She'd ask, "What is that Mamma?"
I'd tell her "Fungi!" and she'd wrinkle her nose. Of course she wanted to touch everything.

Elena helped me set up The Doe and Fox near some Coral Fungi. She enjoyed playing with grandma's toys.

Her favorite toy ended up being the green iguana. She carried that on the rest of the hike. I was afraid she'd lose it, but never fear, when Elena has something she wants, ...she doesn't let go of it.
I was surprised that she actually gave it back to me when I asked.




Both of the little ones loved the trail we walked on. It actually was not a difficult trail at all. Sterling kept taking off like a rocket. His new found freedom of running without a parent yelling at him to stop was probably in the back of his mind.


We found spots along the river to explore and even a spot to just stop and enjoy the rushing water.

It was relaxing. My son Jer loved the place. I hope he decides to come back often as it is only about 20 or so minutes from his apartment.


Before we realized it, ... it was 5pm and we had only gone perhaps a half mile along the trail. We headed back towards the parking lot amidst the little ones' protests.

I decided that a potty break would be a good thing before the trip back.
Elena turned 3 just a couple of weeks ago and is potty trained. So I asked if she wanted to go.
We went in to a stall.

Elena took one look at the pit toilet and let out a yowl! "NO NO NO, I don't have to go! I want out, I want out!"

If you've ever been to a pit toilet in the summer, well, you know they stink and the drop from the seat looks terrifying.

Note to self. Elena would rather squat in the woods than use a pit toilet. And I don't blame her one bit.

I found out that these little ones will be like Lily. Good little adventure-ers. [I'm not sure that is a real word, but I'm going to use it anyway.]

Sunday morning came along and I had to head home. I had to work on Monday morning. My time with the kids and my wandering had come to an end.

However, I'm going to keep the Dells of Eau Claire on my list. I'd like to see it again in the winter.
Perhaps I will go if I wander north again to visit the little ones this fall or near Christmas time.