Wednesday, October 17, 2018

When I Retire....

I had a dream of retiring when I was in my later 60's and had worked much longer.

Hold the horses! Hubby's stroke put a quick end to my part time job that paid so so very well. However it was a double edged sword, the pay was great. The hours were awful. Midnight shifts, 12 hour shifts, shift during the day or night all within the same week. But dang, that money was good and it all went into a savings for our future.

We live lean, don't do shopping sprees, and our main costs were of course the animals on the farm.

I used to drive by the Wellness Center in our town each morning and got a glimpse of people working out early on stationary bikes, treadmills, and other equipment while I was getting fuel at the local gas station.
I told hubby that when I retired, I wanted to be able to go to the gym.

He wrinkled his nose at that and said that I was just fine. ALL that hiking I did surely kept me in tip top shape.

Well. Yesterday I stopped at the new Wellness Center. There are two other gyms in town one a franchise AnyTime Fitness, and another one that boast low prices.

The Wellness Center will cost me more, however, I've had two shoulder surgeries, and one elbow surgery and the WC is connected to the local hospital and the staff are certified Physical Therapists and Certified Trainers.
Besides, they are the only ones in a 60 mile radius that offer CrossFit.

When I went over the cost with Rich I explained that it works out to about $4 per day. His argument?
Waste of money. You are fit.

My argument?
I need a routine outside of the home with folks that I am not a CareGiver for. I need to take care of me and my body to stay mentally fit and physically fit.
I can always BE more fit.

I'm doing it because I used to be crazy about staying in shape. I ran distances for fun, I rode bicycles for long distances for fun...

My father went back to a gym when he was in his 80's to improve leg strength and balance.

CrossFit is new to me.
But now that I am retired? Or semi retired, but working at caregiving, I still need something to do for me.

The flexible hours are pretty incredible too. Sessions are held at 5, 6, 8:30, 11am, and I think at 4pm and 5pm.

Well. Thank you Ed for suggesting this. I visited with them yesterday and start today.
I won't be the oldest person in the group either. There is a woman who is 76 that has been doing this for 7 years!

I'm out of here!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Editing ~ Creative Stuff

I started doing photography and felt that every photo just had to be perfect and straight out of the camera as I saw it.

I joined Flickr and started seeing other photographers doing editing and other things to photos, I met those who did abstract computer art, and... suddenly my world started to expand.

I began to learn the basics photoshop, GIMP, and other programs. I tried most anything I could get my hands on. Yesterday I came across something in my searches called 'Paint with Light Effect'. I decided to check it out.
I'd done Painting with Light at night and had a lot of fun. However, I don't often go out late at night and do photography.

It has been fun, and so I wondered what this new Painting with Light was.

However, it was not what I expected. It was painting light within a photo to dramatically change a photo.

I happened on something called the Briscoe Lighting Effect.

Tony Kuyper covers this in his WordPress blog and has a short video regarding the method that uses CreativeSuite by Adobe. I can't afford the CS by Adobe and I don't like 'renting' a program and paying for it monthly.

I started using ON Photo, the free version after Adobe went to a pay monthly fee. I kept my version of CS2.  I eventually went for ON1 RAW and I like the program. I own it and can upgrade if I want. It is a bit easier than CS, but it is not as creative.

All that gobbledygook aside, I thought I'd take some techniques and try to use them in ON1 RAW.

Here is the original photo:

Pretty boring isn't it? This is not what I imagined it to be as my eye saw the sunlight just barely coming in from the far side of the stream.

I also wanted the photo to have a dreamlike quality to it.

After a lot of missteps and start overs, I stopped here. Yes, this is what I wanted.

I edited the specific colors in the far end of the stream. I also used a texture layer to darken the sides and one more cloud layer to put the reflection of the sky in the water.

It isn't realistic, but it was something I saw in my mind's eye when I took the shot.

Here is what the ON1 editing program looks like and why it is SO easy to work with.
No, they do not pay me to talk about their programs.

I'd met someone recently who had told me how lost she was when using CS/Adobe Elements and layers.

Here is ON1 with the same photo, but I am editing it to be a black and white photo.

The original shot was pretty unimpressive too. But I wondered how it would look transformed in Black and White. I brightened the yellows, the oranges, in the color enhancer and then shifted it to Black and White and played with the sliders.

Besides ... X marks the spot.

I took this next shot and of course did some more play with it.

Sigh. It is nice but...

Black and White:

The leaves stand out in this shot, where they really didn't in the color version.

Next up?

I watched a video on how to composite a fantasy scene.

I will have to use both ON1 and CS2 for that. It is a great challenge.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Froufrou Doggy?

Thursday afternoon I gathered a few items together and stuck them in a backpack. My goal had been to get back to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve for working on some of those trails in the Trail Challenge. I'd given up hope on completing that after my MIL's hospitalization, rehab, and return to her apartment.

Between her and Rich I had nearly a full time job going on and had no real breaks other than walks around the farm with Charlie and Dixie.

Charlie started to eye me carefully as I put some trail mix into a snack bag and a few tiny dog treats. When I put on my gun belt and old coveralls he perked up his ears. I was under Charlie watch.

Even with the set back in the Trail Challenge, I didn't want to lose the strength in my legs from ... not hiking. Besides, it is so convenient to just walk out the door and go when you are surrounded by woods with little obscure trails. Hiking in cooler temperatures is just more pleasant.

"Where are you off to?" asked my husband. He was watching Netflix, sitting in the folding metal chair right next to the flat screen and the old computer that is hooked up to screen.

We'd finished up with his Telehealth appointment and he said he'd watch a show and then take his meds and a nap. He decided that it was too cold, muddy, windy, to take his walk... And.
I am not allowed to nag him, only ask once and then let it be. However I do repeat asking if he forgets his medication.

"Where are we off to?"
I looked down at Charlie.
"Adventure!" I said.
Normally I have a route planned out for one of our little walks, but this time I didn't.

"Yes, Charlie and I are going and I'm not exactly sure, but we may go the the Back Valley."  There, at least I did have an idea of a goal.

"Okay." My husband frowns and looks at Charlie. "Think he can make that hike?"

"Well," I answer, "I guess we will find out. Besides, he will let me know if he wishes to 'get a lift'."

I check my .22 pistol and decide that it really does need a good cleaning again. I check the safety and put it in the holster.

Charlie and I depart and head up the trail that the bulldozer man had made for us. Down into the creek we go, cross it and head up the other steep hillside.
Charlie is happy. His nose is working overtime and he darts back and forth, then runs ahead and stops to check on me.

I haven't brought my DSLR camera. This is a hike, not a photo journey, though often I do combine the two. I just wanted to hike. The route I sort of had in mind would be about 3 miles with several steep hills.

We come out of the woods and skirt along some cropland. There are some guys who come out and hunt this area. I find a tree stand on the fence line to our property and it annoys me as it is set up to point into my wooded area. I sigh and move on. I find another one perched on my neighbor's fenceline along the snowmobile trail along with a trail camera. I've cut across about 30 feet of this other person's land and get caught on the camera.
I stop and wave at the camera and then move on. [This is the only person in our area that has not been a very good neighbor...he doesn't live on the cropland but considers it and anything around his fence to be 'his'. I'm sure we all know folks like that.]

Charlie is happy to bounce and run along the deer trail on the snow mobile trail. He dodges the tall grass and stops to the smell scat of every critter that has passed through.

Charlie and I cross the ridge and stay alongside the woods, the wind is cold but refreshing. We dip down on an old obscure logging trail that hasn't been used in 13 years. This is one of those places that opens up into an old forest stand that is not been over run with brush.

Those spots of yellow are not leaves from the trees above, but thousands of seedling trees sprouting up.

We head down the hill towards the stream in the back valley when we hear sirens. The highway is about 3/4 of a mile below us and the way the land lies in the spot we were in...the highway sounds echo up between the hills.
Charlie stops and puts his paws on my leg. I find a log and sit down so he can sit in my lap.

He scrambles up and listens to the sirens with me.

As the sirens start to fade, another eerie sound bounces off the hillsides. This sound makes me feel a bit chilled.

Coyotes voices drift up to us from below. It sounds as though dozens of them are calling and sounding off for a hunt. Charlie shivers and looks at me. I check my pistol and it is there. The sounds of those voices chill me too.
During the coyote mating season, I don't walk with any dogs as the 'yotes tend to be territorial and I've had two dogs stalked while I've hiked with them in years past.

Eventually they quiet down and I set off with Charlie again, though I've changed our route. We won't go into the back valley we will stay above it. I walk with Charlie's cord in my hand and he goes back to smelling everything he can.

[It dawns on me a bit later that the coyote howling was probably in response to the sirens from the emergency vehicles.]

I finally stop at the place I refer to as the Overlook. It is a point of land that overlooks the valley. It is a rock outcropping high above the valley. I sit on a log and we have our snacks. Charlie has forgotten the eerie noises and is enchanted by having a dog treat way out in the woods.

The drop off is just beyond those ferns. The trees to the left hang on rocks.

We spend a bit of time just sitting there and enjoying the sounds of the woods around us.

I keep a hand on Charlie's cord as we negotiate the deer trails and climb past The Ice Cave. I can see that something has used the structure to eat small animals. Little piles of fur are matted against the sandstone bottom.

We climb out of the woods and hike through the tall grasses. Charlie leaps and jumps and I finally drop the cord and follow him. I decide to take a different way home and we go through another steep rocky dry run.

We get to the creek that leads back to our property but I decide to cross it instead of following it back to our bulldozed trail.

The water is up with all the rain we've had. The ground is so saturated that any amount of rain is cause for a flash flood.
Charlie charges through the cold water.

I want to see how the snowshoe trail I have used over the years faired over the summer and all of the wind storms...

The trail is still there but several trees have come down and I have to reroute through berry briers and multiflora rose.
I'll have to use the machete to clear a few areas or just use the trail that the 4 wheelers had left.

We come to the Merry Meadow where our 'herd' used to graze until November. It is overgrown now but we use an old cow/horse/mule/donkey/deer trail to hike back to our gate.

Charlie runs willy nilly, bouncing along in only a way he can do it.

When we get to the house he greets Rich with enthusiasm after I towel him off and remove his cord.
He promptly jumps on the couch and falls asleep.

Someone told me I had a Froufrou doggy.
I don't think so. I think he believes he is just a tough little hound.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Best Morning ... Ever!

I received a text that asked if I could watch Logan for a couple of hours while mom took a nap. 

Let me explain something. Mom works from her home office teaching English to Chinese students via the internet. She works up lesson plans and works with so many students
She had an overnight presentation [I'm sure that I am not getting the details right] and was wondering if I could spend a bit of time with Logan while she took a power nap to compensate.

I jumped at the chance and texted back "YES!"
Logan is 5 and full of surprises. I had some pumpkin projects to do and said that we could paint pumpkins and decorate them.

I went downstairs and retrieved the wooden blocks I'd saved from the house remodel. I'd sanded and painted them just for the purpose of having little people come to the house and building with them. I've got very fond memories of my children playing with blocks from my mother's house that she and dad built....and memories of playing with a box of odd wooden pieces that my Grandparents put together from the building of their house.

I dug out some acrylic paints and a few tiny pumpkins.
As a second thought, I gathered all of my acquired toys in a basket and brought them downstairs too. Many of the toys were those that Logan had given me over the past two years to 'play' with and take home when I'd watched him at his house.

I was ready when I got the text: "We are on our way."

Pumpkin painting is serious stuff when your pumpkin needs to be black.

While the black pumpkin dried enough to tip over and get painted on the bottom, Logan decided to use some red paint and then red glitter glue to decorate the second pumpkin.

While the projects did some more drying we decided to explore the blocks and toys.

And I learned how to build a proper castle.

And we filled it with Dinosaurs, donkeys, skunks, My Little Ponies and trolls. However the Soldiers were the favorites.

Charlie inspects the toy basket and then sits on the couch to watch...

And a huge battle ensued.

Toys got waylaid all over the living room floor. The castle seemed to get blown up from the sound effects...

And we went back to the kitchen to check on the pumpkins while the toys recovered...

This is a proper 'scarey' pumpkin with red diamond eyes, nose and mouth.

After Logan returned home and I came back from walking with him, my husband quipped:

It is a good thing you have someone your OWN age to play with.

I grinned. I had such a good morning with Logan! Rich enjoyed watching and talking with Logan.


I hope we get to play again. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Floods, Fall, Charlie

Of course it is all about the weather. This past week has been rain, rain, heavy rain, and then some more rain. If it rains an inch the creek is up. If it rains 1/2 inch, the creek rises.

While walking out to do chores yesterday morning I could hear the ground gurgling underfoot. I don't know if it will dry out enough in the next week or so for us to do a final lawn mowing. The winds and rains have clogged the porch gutters and I can't get up to clean them as the ground is so saturated that the ladder just sinks into the ground.

We went from cold temperatures to hot and humid for the past few days which brought in so much moisture and more rain. The Asian Beetles and the Box-elder bugs have swarmed the house in those brief moments that it did not rain. The weather is supposed to turn sharply colder in a few days and fall weather should return.

I have gone out for a walk with Charlie each day that we get a break from the rain. The subdued light was pretty beautiful for taking some fall photos.

Charlie was mostly interested in finding chipmunks and squirrels. He does still try to chase them. They generally fly up a tree and he loses sight of them. I call and he comes back fairly quickly.
He still wears the collar but I haven't had to 'ring' it much. I find the bell ringing distracts him enough so he comes to my call right away.

I think come winter I will be able to leave the collar off on our hikes. He is wearing his little black cord here too. He seems to understand that the cord means "stay close".

Yesterday I went solo to the creek and walked through the neighbor's land on each side of me along the creek. I got caught in a downpour and was thankful that I'd brought a cheap emergency poncho to put on over me. It protected my camera case and kept most of me dry.

It was alarming to see how swiftly the water began to run over the trails and down the ridge road.

I got home just in time too. The thunder began to roll and the lightening began to light up the afternoon sky.

Chores had to wait until there was a pause between storms. Three different wall clouds went over us in just two hours. Odd weather for mid October.

We are in a Flood Warning again for the Kickapoo River. It hasn't really gone back to normal since the rains at the beginning of September. I drove up the west side of the river the other day when I went to check on my MIL.

The power of that river water is incredible. It moved huge round bales that had been wrapped in a tube and displaced them all along the river.

I'm so over this rain! My driveway gravel and dirt is turning green in spots!

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

An unexpected surprise

Friday was an interesting day, the mail lady pulled up to the house with her 'newer' Jeep and delivered a package. It was a large box.

I opened it and found a letter from my cousin's wife explaining what was inside.
Slides from 1962, 1964, and a vacation that my folks and grandparents went on with my brother to Yellowstone. 
Included in the package was an 8 by 10 of a family 'portrait' of sorts. I found this quite unusual as my father was always the one behind the camera and I rarely recall him being in many photos.

Also inside the box were some items that my Grandmother Pearl had made. I found a spiral notebook that she used to collect her directions on how to make doilies. Samples were included in the book. I imagine she cut the directions our of a newspaper and glued them into the pages of the notebook. 
There are some hand written notes on many of the pages. The pencil notes are nearly faded away, but there were some in pen also.

I found the items perfect for some Still Life on a very rainy day.

The pin cushion is one she made and the pins are still in it from Grandma's sewing days.

Other treasures include some hand towels that Grandma re-purposed from old beach towels. And some of her very famous patchwork potholders. One is not quite finished but now I can see how she did them and perhaps make some of my own.

I'm looking into getting some slides copied onto a DVD. There are photos of my sister and I riding Babe which was my Uncle's horse. One funny and great shot is of my brother sitting on Dusty backwards and my cousin Aaron sitting facing forward.

I've looked at pricing a slide scanner just for that purpose, but there isn't that many in this batch. My brother I believe has a huge box of slides. I'm going to use a local scanning service first and see how that works out.

I don't have the thousands of slides like my brother does, however I am curious and a bit excited to be able to see some of those old photos ... without trying to hold it up to a light bulb!

Friday, October 05, 2018

The Life of Toys

Percy to Chance.
*Who do you suppose tossed Guardy down the hill during that last rain storm?*

*Easy, Percy...look to my left. The dolls, it is always the dolls that cause trouble. You know, if a crime is committed, look to the dolls.*

*Hmmm, I thought we got rid of that really creepy one during the last flood. It was tricky and hard to make her let go of me when I got hung up on those saplings. She was just plain mean!*

*I know Percy, when we were in the Thrift Store she kept pushing me to the bottom of the pile so no one would buy me.*



The Doll stays silent but closes one eye in a wink.

*Hey guys?* Guardy sits up slowly. *Some help here?*

Percy and Chance:
*Shhhh! We hear footsteps! It is her and that dog! She'll pick you up!*


*She did indeed! That's much better! I can watch over the creek again. But keep that Doll away from me!*

*We're going to hang out in the creek for a bit and wash off some mud. You keep an eye on her.*

The Doll remains silent but keeps one eye on the Bears.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Mini dogs

I've always loved BIG dogs. Nike was a cross between a Belgian Shephard and a Golden Retriever. Missy was a Samoyed/Lab. Nice and big.

I raised a litter of orphan hound dogs in our tiny kitchen of our tiny house and they did move outside and left our place to become working dogs. This was over 20 years ago.

However I yearned for a house dog after meeting Rich.
He found a tiny terrier mix dog and we had Xena. And she was a warrior. She was a Fiest Terrier and was very aggressive.

She only lived for 4 yrs. In the end it was her aggressive hunting and attitude that did her in.
I mourned her. She had been tough as nails and had more attitude than most any dog I'd ever known.

Sometimes she'd take off and come back exhausted.

Well no explaining there. 14 years of an incredible friendship.
And he had a great job.

He helped train any hound dog puppies that came to our farm.

Dixie who was 'trained' by Morris has helped train Charlie.

And today it was Charlie's turn to help out with a puppy!

Meet Basil.
Our neighbor's new puppy. A Bichon Frise and Shih Tzu mix!

Not such a great photo, but you can see that Basil will be taller than Charlie, however...
Charlie is a tough little guy and ...

paid Basil no mind when she tried to 'lead' him.

Mini dogs.

Are we having fun yet?

I am.

Thinking in Black and White photos

I like a challenge.

While hiking with Charlie between storms, I took this shot. It was overcast and gloomy but the yellows and greens were nearly glowing.

This is towards the back of our property almost to the fenceline. It is part of the refreshed trail that Jeff the Bulldozer man did for us.

I could have spent the day just gazing at the colors and the leaves. Charlie was following raccoon trails, and I spotted a couple of deer. Inside the forest it was nearly too dark to take a photo.

Charlie is in the lower part of the shot.

We visited the Gnarly tree with the cool roots in the dry run...

Anyway, when I got back home I opened up that first photo and decided to make it a painting.

I love the softness of the lines and bright colors. I could see this on a wall mural. I'd walk right into it...

So I decided to see what would happen to the same shot in black and white.

I posted the Before shot to my Flickr account and a pal of mine mentioned that it could be more interesting if worked with a bit.
So I looked up a tutorial for an old photoshop program and worked with it.

I think the 'masked' version has more depth.

So I went one step further and looked for tutorials for the ON1 program I use.

Black and White Tutorial

I came up with the following:

So why on earth am I taking such a colorful photo and converting it to black and white?
Well, because I want to study black and white photography.

Here is a photo from last year.

It is a nice pleasant shot of Black Hawk Park near the Mississippi River. The clouds were beautiful and the reflections quite nice.

I looked at it when I reviewed photos, but it didn't 'wow' me at all. There was nothing here to make me take a second look.

After watching the tutorial I went back and looked for photos that could be good contenders for black and white conversion. I needed good contrasts. And now I know that skies with white clouds do provide that. The color of the shore in the above photo annoyed me when I took it and cropping it out didn't really help.

So I took this shot and worked with it.

I cropped out the bottom so I wouldn't be annoyed by the shoreline. There was some mild adjustment to straighten the horizon and then I set to work.

Oh but darn those leaves look nasty in the upper left corner...
this isn't what I really wanted...
back to the drawing board...

It qualifies for the gray gradients and the lack of color actually helps accentuate the clouds in the reflections. That part of the photo worked out well.
Darn some of this black and white was harder than I thought!

Here is another example of that day of fishing that I never did anything with....
The black and white includes using some cropping and straightening ~ things I learned about while watching the judging and going to the Camera Club meeting.

Note to self, that tree across the way should be moved to the right a bit?

Like this....
Last note. This is nice, however the rules of 'judging' require that shorelines and horizons do not cut through the middle of the photo.
So I will continue my learning...

After all, Winter is coming. That is when Black and White photography is almost a no brainer. After the snows come, the world essentially is white ... and black.