Monday, November 29, 2010

Why do I write these books?

I like playing with my camera. I like making up stories.

One day Morris was just a whalin' on his toys in the living room and I wondered, what the heck do you suppose his toys thought about all that rough-housing?

So one thing led to another.

Now I've just finished the fifth book ...
Seriously, I think I had more fun writing this book and doing the set up for it than anything else.

The worst part about the whole thing?
Was pushing that little button that said 'send to Publish'.

I felt like I was letting go of a project that I didn't want to end.

I was happy while immersed in the making of the book. Now tonight I feel a bit empty and waiting for another brilliant idea to smack me up side of the head like the last two books did.

Here is the preview on Blurb's site, if you care to take a look...

I felt like I was letting go of a project that I didn't want to end.
I put the 'baby' to bed tonight. Now I await its delivery and the excitement of holding it in my hands gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This Time of Year

A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long.
E. E. Cummins

Yet during the doldrums of November, I can also find beauty all around me if I really look hard.
Being 'grounded' from the woods for 9 days has been hard [due to gun season~~I don't feel I can wander freely yet safely].

Tomorrow that ends, and I surely do hope that Morris and I get out together and have some adventure!

Until then, I am working on the fifth in a series of the Morris books...well Happy, Crazy, and Morris of course.
Much to do inside and out of the house.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Good News Badger

This recent cold spell and onset of winter has done some great things for Badger and his lung condition.
The rain and ice eliminated the dust from the air and the cooler temperatures combined with the slightly damper air has eased his breathing tremendously.
[and of course mules love to coat themselves is mud...]

Today while watering him I did a vitals check to make sure that my eyes were not decieving me.
His respiration was only 20! Amazing!
9 is his normal, but he was at dangerous levels just 3 weeks ago.

He is bright eyed and eager to ride.
Alas, I have to wait for the deer hunters to clear out of the woods.

Happy me.
Happy Badger.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I'm guessing there are a lot of people Facebooking, emailing, blogging, and what not regarding the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

Well, I'm not. I awoke this morning to a glaze of ice covering everything except of course the animals. Trees glistened, frozen droplets hung to the tree branches and grass blades. Any flat surface was glare ice.
Pretty and pretty dangerous. But the sun was out in all of its brilliant and cold glory...

It was like awaking to an enchanted forest.
I stepped carefully and lightly while doing chores. Everyone was happy for some 'unfrozen' water along with feed. My Thanks goes to be able to do these things for those critters I am so fond of.

Badger's COPD seems to have diminished in this recent weather, I was worried that the cold may make it worse. But the dust is frozen, so it cannot aggravate his lungs.

Cheyanne is with the other 'gals', she nibbles a bit at the hay. She is not showing much enthusiasm for eating ~ she mulls it around in her mouth. I spent some time with her rubbing her head and she...rubbing back. Her days are short, I'm afraid, no miracle came through, horsey dentures exist.

I worked on a photo from late May this year and did a painted effect on her. I'm collecting photos of her to make a memory book of this wonderful old lady.

So my Thanks today?
To my my friends, and to my animals that give my heart such joys and such sorrows.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Topaz InFocus Review

Yesterday Topaz introduced its new plug in called Topaz InFocus. You can get a free trial download simply by clicking on their link. Pick Windows or Mac and there you go.

The download went well. But for some reason I did not get the trial key. I posted on the Topaz Forum asking for it and received it the next morning when I opened my email. It was PM'd to me.
Topaz Customer Service is excellent and has usually been able to answer my questions rather quickly.

Anxious to try it out, I opened up a photo of a Hermit Crab I'd taken while in Hawai'i.
Original [slightly out of focus]:
Edited with Topaz Detail:
Then edited with Topaz InFocus:
Well, for my old eyes, it seems that in this instance Topaz Detail was the winner hands down.

Not to be deterred, I decided to try another sample.

Out of focus blurred dog face original:
Same photo edited with InFocus:
Not a noticeable difference at all, unless you are viewing this photo at above 70%-90%.

Hmmm. Okay, one last effort, perhaps I'm doing this wrong?

Original [not really too badly out of focus]:
Edited with InFocus:
I pushed it a bit for the above photo, but the end result was a grainy mess. I lightened it up and you can see a slight difference in the lettering on the tire.
So I decided to try it with Topaz Detail [by the way, awesome plug in!]:
Well, I can go back to the drawing board on this one. I'm not convinced that I can live without Topaz InFocus yet.
On the Topaz Forum there has been some interesting discussion regarding this new Plug in.

InFocus Range of Adjustment

For me right now, I'm not convinced that it is worth the introductory offer of $29.99 or the full price of $69.99.

I am however convinced that this plug in will probably undergo some development and be useful in the future. Topaz does listen to its customers and I give 'nod' to the developers and the customer service people for rapidly answering questions.

I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Night Before WI Gun Season

I'm not against hunting. I have to stop sometimes 3 to 4 times a night for deer when I drive to work. Deer versus car is not a pretty sight.
They have a tendency to stand on the highway or county highway and stare at me, or casually stroll into the middle of the road and stop.

I hate the sudden surprises of the deer running madly out onto the of the very reasons that I drive slowly much to the disdain of other night drivers who fly by and shoo away [or catch the deer in their radiator grills!].
They destroy my neighbor's crops with the help of wild turkeys...but that is another issue entirely.

I'm not saying it is right or wrong. I do eat venison. I'm not a very good hunter, so I leave to those that are better than I am. I get a bigger kick out of 'shooting' them with my camera anyway.

Preparation for the BIG HUNT or opening day seems to get more and more frantic. Deer Hunting songs are played on the radio. Special sales are going on in town.
Try to find the ingredients for chili at the local store...nope. Well you know what the male hunters are making!
Wouldn't want to be downwind of their tree stands.

Our preparations included bringing the equine 'gals' out of the summer/fall pasture and into the winter lot.
Cheyanne got to do her last big duty. I lead her with a rope around her neck out of the meadow and down the driveway to the winter paddock. Her pasture-mates follow. She has done this routine for over 6 years now. And today she performed it with all the grace that an old mare can muster.
I don't know who will do this for us next year.

The donkeys are happily munching on a round bale in the donkey meadow. No hunters should be in that area unless they are trespassing.
And last but not least...sigh.
We'll probably have to put a simple gate up at the top of our driveway to keep those rude people who continuously drive down our steep and long driveway and then drive over our leech field when they realize that our driveway is NOT an access road to public hunting lands.

For the next 9 days, Morris and I hunker in the house [or me ... work].

Ya, I'm a deer hunter.
How do you do?
I got the deer huntin rapping tale for you.
I'm so excited, it's my favorite time of year.
I love to freeze my buns,
chasin trophy deer.

A Hateful Woman or Stupid Man invented Tree Stands

Mark my words.
A tree stand [for hunting] or photography should never have been designed such as they are.

Who was the retard who engineered these things?
I say a Hateful Woman may have designed these for the soul purpose of getting rid of the Husband-Hunter.
*Here Honey, look what I bought you!* she says gleefully.
Honey immediately takes it out to the woods and uses this flimsy tubular thing that attaches to a tree with little bitty nylon straps.

He is supposed to climb this flimsy piece of lightweight tubular metal and deposit his weight at the top of it with a deer rifle.

Honey explains that this contraption is perfectly safe when strapped down correctly.

So...last night I helped my husband put up one of these contraptions.

Let the record show that I prefer the solid ladder that leads to a nice wide platform built on an ancient oak that overlooks a meadow and hillside. Hell, I could bring my dog up there and sit in the swivel chair that is mounted to the 'rubberized' platform. No need to do a freaking balancing act getting up or down.
[Perhaps someone could add a nice little heater and a roof...but hmmm, that would eliminate the outdoorsy-ness of the whole experience.]

Of course the donkeys had to get involved in the process too. Alas, they were held back by the electric fence.

Of all the trees that could have been picked, he picks the worst one ... in my opinion. A fiasco ensues. A dead branch is IN THE WAY, will I climb the wobbly thing while he 'holds' it and saw the offending branch down?
Sure honey...3/4 of the way to the top, I experience second thoughts, third thoughts...and feel the wobbles under me.
Don't look down is my mantra.
Don't think about falling.
This effort fails wonderfully as the light fades and I give it up and ascend down the retarded thing they call a ladder.

Determined hubby [the sort who would beat his chest and howl to prove his manliness and we all know that deer hunting is all about manliness] announces that he must finish what a 'woman' could not.
Would I hold the ladder?
It is not strapped or braced, I begin to point this out to him.

He beats his chest [not really] and begins the ascent. The ladder thingy begins to bow and he has to leap for safety.
So he puts up a brace and tells me to hold it.

By now I am ready to run screaming into the night pulling off my stocking cap with chilled hands.
I think: he's going to get up there, the ladder is going to wobble, he'll lose balance and crash into the logs and nasty stuff below. My finger prints are all over this damned piece of crap they call a ladder.
I could laugh if I wasn't so frightened.

He climbs. He saws. I hold on for dear life. Even with the offending dead limb falls and hits me...
It happens as he descends. The ladder begins to sway. I hear cuss words. In the fading light I feel him jump and thump as he lands.
Curse words.
I'm still locked on to the swaying ladder thingy that is not properly attached and is bent also.

He is okay, he yells at me for not holding this thingy steady. I'm like: WHAT? I can hold 200+ lbs 30 ft in the air on a swaying bending wobbling ladder, get real.

I done in.
He affixes the ladder-tree stand thingy properly and I am amazed. It is actually solid.

When he asks if I want a ride back to the house I stomp off through the darkness. I'm sure he wonders why...

I am convinced that only a Hateful Woman or a Very Stupid Man had come up with this tree stand thingy made out of lightweight materials.
Only the truly insane shall climb these things on Opening Day dressed in Blaze Orange and freeze their asses off waiting for a trophy buck to walk past them.

My nightmare was complete.
Yet I survived.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Grand Old Lady

Anyone who has ever had an equine, recalls their 'first' horse with fondness. It wouldn't matter if the first horse [or mule] you owned was mean, ornery, or had a propensity to make you into a dirt dart.

You will always recall that first one with fond memories.
Cheyanne, or Cheyenne [my personal plates spelled her name CHYANN] was my first horse, sort of.
I owned a horse named Red first and he was a good one...I sold him to my sister and kept this half arab/half quarter red mare...with attitude.

She was green, I was green.
What a wonderful combination. The kind of combination that you are told never never to do!
Of course, I didn't know that, but plunged in blindsided with love for this feisty prancing horse.

She made me a dirt dart.
She ended up in 4H in the Horseless Horse Program and went to the State competition once. She qualified with with other riders, and she was good with novice riders [in the arena].
She carried me on more than one Wagon Train.

She carried two molly mules to term. Two beautiful bright red mollies!

She has a huge lists of accomplishments that span her 27 [???] years of life. She and I have been together for nearly 23 years.
Cheyanne is tired.
Most of her teeth are gone.
She cannot eat hay.
Senior Feed and alfalfa pellets make her sick.
She creaks when she walks.

This summer she was able to get enough grass in the meadow to keep going and look fairly healthy.
She now stands at the hay feeder and refuses to eat [well, is unable to].

I have made the only decision that a well informed horse owner can make. And that is to humanely put her down within the next couple of weeks.

This is not an easy decision to make. Should I wait until she is a walking rack of bones? That is not fair to her.
The vet's prognosis is that she will die of starvation if I don't do anything. I cannot be that cruel to a wonderful red prancing mare that has given me so much.
A very big part of me does not want to ever let this horse go...she was my first after all.
She will always have a huge part of my heart.

I love you CHYANN...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

She made my heart sing today

My husband was very aware of my mood after I came back from riding yesterday. Out of the blue he suggested we go together for a ride.

Off-handedly he mentioned that perhaps Siera could do with another difficult woods session.
Maybe I'd like to catch Opal and ride her?

I'd ridden her 2 times in her tenure on our farm. When she came to us 12 [?] yrs ago, she was only to be Rich's mule. A speed mule. Opal hates people she doesn't know, is hard to catch, and has a terrible ear shyness. Yet she can sit down and spin ... and 'walk a hole in a Tornado'. That is mule-speak for the fact she can do a ground covering old fashioned running-walk.

I'd ridden her once in the snow a few years ago because the conditions were bad and Rich had insisted on me taking her. Another time, I took some extra energy off her before we turned her over to my son in law to ride. [She will do nicely with novice riders! Huh?]

I went out to catch the difficult to catch mule. She walked right into the pen when I opened the gate and never turned her head when I haltered her and put on a lead rope.
I take my time and work quietly around mules, Opal is no exception. [My husband can get a bit loud...]
Opal stood like a statue for me to curry, brush, and saddle her. I hummed softly as I grabbed her bridle and slid it up over her ears and into her mouth.
OH, that is right, she is ear shy. I rubbed her ears and slid my arm around her neck and gave her a 'mule hug'.
Badger watched from the grassy patch near the shed. He brayed in protest, I think.

I mounted up and we rode. Opal responded sweetly to everything I asked her too. Her ears flapping as she walked comfortably. She assisted with Siera in a couple spots. She stood quietly while I took some photos.

I'd never ridden Opal with Rich around. As we sat in the creek bottom giving Siera a lesson in water-walking, I reached over and rubbed Opal between the ears without thinking. I leaned down and gave her another soft pat and my version of a 'mounted mule hug'.
Rich watched.

*You know,* he said, *when she was sold to me, John told me that he thought Opal got along with ladies better then men.* He thought a moment. *Of course, I get along with her okay.*

I had to hide a smirk.
When he rode Opal, it always seemed a test of wills. In fact, I'm sure this is one of those times when Opal didn't hear her name as *Dammit Opal*.

On our ride back I brush busted with an eager to please mule under me. She dug into hillsides, crossed downed trees, and walked with an easy speed that only she could do in the rough stuff.
Back home after I unsaddled her, she did something I've never seen her do [aside from me sliding the bridle over her ears without issue]. I stood next to her and ran my hand down her neck and gave her gentle rubs. This is the way I thank my mules for a good ride.

Opal dropped her head and pressed into me just slightly.
My heart fluttered. My heart sang.
I had happiness inside.
I hugged Opal and released her into her pasture. She trotted away without a backward glance.

At 26 years old, I wasn't going to change her. But I now knew that I could use her as a solid back up mount.

I stood with Badger, my arm around his neck and watched the sun sink slowly into the west.

A Sad Ride

He started out okay...higher than normal respirations and a slightly elevated heart rate. But as soon as we got half way out to the back valley, he began 'heaving' and coughing.

I could feel his ribs bellow out.
I dismounted and walked feeling like a complete shit for taking him out.
We walked down the 'hazard' trail, where he gamely jumped a downed tree and followed me to the creek bottom where I sat on a rock and let him eat grass.

The creek noises helped sooth my thoughts, but they kept straying back to Badger and his COPD.
It has been dry and dusty...this may have added to his difficulty in breathing. He hasn't been exercised much, this could keep him from being in good muscular shape. Hard to exercise a mule with lung problems.
Although, looking at him, he has not being losing body condition. His hair is glossy, he is not *ribby* or 'flat eyed'.
His eyes are bright and he seems eager to go with me.
Ever the faithful mule.

And somehow this thought even hurts more.

Eventually I get up and lead him up through the brush to the valley road. We rest often and I finally mount up as we get to the top of the ridge. It is downhill most of the way home now...

As we stop once more for a 'breather', we see a magnificent buck.

But I end the ride on a sour note.
I take Badger's heart rate and respiration.

...and I wonder if this is once of our last rides together or will some cooler damp air relieve him.
I know this disease is a slow progressing disease. I am not ready to let my friend go...but I cannot let him get to the point where he will suffer ~~ read here: His disease will eventually cause him to suffocate.
Yes, not a pretty thought is it.
For the first time in over 20+ years of riding, I felt tired and sad.

I put Badger away.
Was it me and my mind playing tricks, or did he seem to know that he had disappointed?
Must of been my mind.
He brayed for supper, then coughed.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Letting Children Learn

What happens when you offer kids some fresh air and adventure?
Why they dive into it with their whole hearts. They just need a place to have adventures safely and to let themselves discover their limits both physically and mentally.

Okay. Well let me say, that today we decided to take a hike down the newly made ridge road that was made on our property.
At the creek, the kids decided that the creek on the other side of fence looked way more adventurous and inviting than hiking up a dirt trail.
After all there was water to walk in and rocks to look at.

Heck. I always choose to walk the creek bottom.

*Can we go that way Grandma?*
Of course.
And we did.

I warned them a couple of times about getting in too deep and that the walk home would be pretty squishy and cold on their feet if the got themselves wet.

One thing struck me right away that was different about taking children on a hike like this. Oh, I've been down this creek perhaps a few hundred times in the past 15 years, normally by myself or with my current dog.

I saw things with fresh 'child-like' eyes.

I noticed that Morris was the ever faithful and vigilante little dog.
The kids were never far from where he could keep an eye on them.
He kept trotting to Ariel and then to Dennis, keeping a check on their status. When Dennis accidentally fell in the creek, Morris was right there.

When Ariel sat on a log with a long face and had a 'moment', Morris was right there, trying to lick her tears. To which annoyed Ariel enough so that she forgot whatever sudden sorrow overcame her [probably tiredness and berry briers]...and she stopped.
At one point I let the kids know that we had reached a point where we should turn around or face taking a long and more difficult way home.
They opted for the long and difficult way.

Determined to let my grandchildren learn, I decided not to argue and see what would happen.

To say the least, they did learn that not only did Grandma and Morris know all the trails, but that we hiked them often and with ease.
That the trails were not like the Dozer trail at all. They were difficult yet intriguing.

As Dennis learned while jumping and taking 'air'!
Most of all I hope that this may be the first of many Grandma and Grandchild hikes...and that we don't always take the easy way and discover what we are made of.
I'm one pretty tickled Grandma.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Topaz Adjust, Detail, Simplify, & Clean

I start with a normal photo. Not too exciting is it?
So I use PS Elements 5 with the following plug ins.
Topaz Adjust
Topaz Detail
Topaz Simplify
Topaz Clean
and Edge Art [free]

I opened this image in PSE 5 and applied Topaz Detail so that I could bring out the edges of the leaves just a bit more.
I didn't bother editing the colors as they would end up a bit wild anyway.

I copied the layer and then used the the Adjust filter preset Vibrance. I brought down the detail slider as I didn't want it too detailed. The colors started getting were I wanted them.

Next drop it into Simplify and edited it ... edges and colors were played with [each photo is a bit different as to how it reacts].

Experimenting with Clean, I found that the edges did pop when I the clean slider to 5 and pushed the Threshold and Radius to the left.
The edges slider was pushed to 4 and I moved the Radius and Sharpness until I felt I had what I liked.
The Texture and Boost sliders were pushed all the way to the left also.
I slid the Size slider all the way to the right at 6.

In the dog photo, I separated him from the original layer so that he would not appear like the background and a bit more like a real dog.

Next I used the plug in Edge Art being careful not to lose the colors but increase edge definition.
This I used on both edits.
Finished edit on the leaves:

When seen in full resolution, the effect wasn't at first impressive, so I cropped both photos down to where the edges really popped.

These methods are not always fool proof and you won't get the exact same results each time.
But the exploration is fun as sometimes the result.

Happy Editing!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Oh the memories...

I'm finishing the editing of the photos from my Hawia'an trip.

I came across a couple that were 'worth mention'...

The wild horses of Wiapi'o Valley:
Standing near the river in Wiapi'o Valley looking upstream...
..and a few shots from Pololu Valley:

Would I go back and explore some more?
In a heart beat.