Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Our first snow storm this year was a doozy.

First we had a nice dose of sleet and freezing rain along with winds.

Then came the snow/sleet.  At times it was blowing sideways.

It made the trees creak and moan.  It made me a bit nervous.
I helped hubby get the rest of the ice piks on his skid steer tracks and clean off some of the frozen mud.

The first order of business was to make sure everyone had lots of access to hay and heated water.  Mustang Sally and Crickett chose to stand and watch me unwrap a large round bale.
They could have gotten out of the winds but thought I was more interesting.

Then, after all animals were checked and tended too, my super Hero Hubby started to plow.

I walked up to the top of the ridge to get the mail and check on road conditions....

Not very great and the visibility was awful.  I'm glad I had my snow goggles on.

And then came the super hero with the skid steer!

I cannot say how grateful I am to have such a wonderful guy in my life!  Well, okay I am grateful to have a husband who loves to plow the driveway.  He even does it in the worst of weather.

Which it was at the time.  After we finished with chores and had BBQ for supper we sat quietly together in the living room and listened to the winds howl above us on the ridge.  The snow came down and the sleet pounded the house.

But we were content and tired.

And that was our first real snow of the season.


The day after Christmas we had some surprise visitors.  First a young man with a red truck pulled down into our driveway and stopped.  He had a GPS tracker and a hound box on the back of his truck.

We immediately recognized him as a 'Yote hunter.  His dog and some others had been hot on the trail of a Coyote for a few miles.  My husband welcomed him and he radioed his hunting partners to 'come on down'.  
The dogs had gone into my neighbor's woods and soon we were all watching the dogs' progress on the GPS units.

The dogs did come blasting out of our woods and up the creek trail.  The hunters gathered up all but one dog.  That dog belonged to the young fella that had first pulled in.
We waited and listened to his dog bay and his voice echo off the valley hills.

Tyler asked if I could take him down to the creek and off we went.  He was watching his GPS and kept calling for his dog.
We hurried through the creek bottom and Tyler said his dog was headed straight up the creek.  I told him the dog was headed for the highway and we'd never catch him on foot.

Tyler then asked if there was a quicker way back to our house.  I grinned and told him to follow me.  I took the steep 'point' trail and we started up the slippery hillside.  Half way up Tyler asked if we could catch our breath.  I stopped and started to laugh.

Tyler looked at me and grinned when I asked him how old he was.  "24," he answered.  I winked at him. "59, going to be 60 in June." I laughed and he did too.
He smiled and said, "I've gotten a bit out of shape."  He explained how he'd broken his legs in a 4 wheeler accident and how he'd lost his love of hunting when his best dog died last winter.  We talked a bit while catching our breath.

He seemed to be a good 'kid'.  We headed the rest of the way up the hill and across the pasture to his truck.
The other hunters had seen his dog was headed to the highway and had caught him up.

We all shook hands and Tyler drove off.

I looked at hubby and smiled.  "Well, seems like I got my hike in today! We really had to hoof it!"

We talked about coyotes and where the dogs had probably holed the one they were chasing up.  The old den above the creek next to the rock wall.

We had enjoyed talking with the hunters, some of them had brought their kids along and you could tell it was a good family outing for them.

Coyote hunting is a difficult sport, I think the coyote is the most difficult animal to hunt as they are so incredibly smart and wary.  I have been catching them with my trail camera lately.

I've tracked them and hunted them with very little success.  But it is a good reason to get out in the woods especially in the winter.  I love seeing the story of what the animals have done in the snow.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Back home for a bit.

Life away from home can be very hectic.  I like going on a trip but love coming home much much more.

One of the very first things I did was to hike down to my favorite spot along the creek bottom to see what the recent heavy rains had done.  There was a nice dusting of snow so the greens stood out so vividly.

It was Christmas Day so I had to wear my red and white hat that my mom had made for me ... um, well, back in the day... I think I was in Jr. High?

I love that hat it is so cheerful.

So while at the creek I took a few moments of time to toss rocks and make splashes.

It was kind of fun.  I set my camera on a 2 second delay [on a tripod] and then tossed the rock when I thought the splash would show up.

I got a couple of good ones!

I hurried home after that, I had to get the Christmas Lasagna ready.  We were going to my mom in law's apartment for dinner.  I provided the lasagna, she was making homemade ice cream.

After we got home I went to take care of our neighbor's dog, Dexter.  He was spending the night alone while his 'family' went for a family Christmas.

I think I made a new buddy.

This morning we went for a walk and Dexter did some posing for me.
He is a very photogenic dog.

Don't you think so?

He is a pug-something.  He is also very lovable and well mannered.

I'd like to take him out for a few more 'shoots'.  Ideally, it would be nice to have him and Morris meet so we could all go hiking together [of course I'd love to take his human mom with!].

I mean really, look at that face.
Isn't it handsome?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

I hope to have some good stories later on from my past week of the whirlwind tours.

My Garmin is a riot especially if you have the squirrel voice navigate.

He asked me to find a gas station to get 'him' some nuts!

It was nice to finally pull up and look over the ridge top before driving the last mile home.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Well, just a quick note...

I am looking forward to the next week or so.  It looks like I will be doing a lot of driving and traveling.

I'll be giving the very nice Garmin Nuvi that hubby has gotten me for Christmas to find my way around Wausau this time!

I'll be back home for Christmas Eve and Christmas day, then back to work for a shift or two then....off again to Kenosha to visit my older son and my mom.

I will be very happy to visit and happier yet to return to the farm and enjoy the hills and valleys.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tell me should it be color or black and white?

Today I had a few hours to myself so I decided to take a detour to Tainter Hollow after dropping off my recyclables at the Town Shop.

I didn't even make it a mile from home and it began to rain.  I wasn't really worried, I had gone photo hunting before during weather that would alternate between down pours and sunshine.

I looked ahead on the gravel road, a tractor had recently come out of a field and left a mud trail.  I slowed and then stopped.  
The sun broke out in a warm color.  And I saw this:

The first shot was taken with my elderly Olympus E-420 and a long lens.
The second was taken with my Nikon with the 18-55mm kit lens.

I envisioned both of these shots in black and white.
And so...

Just as I came around the corner I looked up at the clouds again and realized that this was going to be one of those days, when the weather changed rapidly.

I don't normally like telephone poles or electric lines in my photos but again Serendipity hit.  They would lead nicely from my perspective.
And again, I thought this sky would look fantastic in black and white.

The difference here is incredible.  I was able to add a filter that turned the blues to nearly black.
Now the poles had a reason to pull the earth and sky together.

I finally pulled into the small parking area at Tainter Hollow and did some exploring.

Tainter Creek is a rather nice little trout stream and I enjoy seeing the trout flit back and forth and then hide in the shadowed places.

Oh yes, I tried this out in black and white also.

I think it is amazing the difference in tonal value that black and white processing can make in a photo.

I found many more things while exploring today, but I'll just leave with with a parting color shot of one of my favorite spots to park and go walking with my camera.

I had more adventures when I explored Tainter Hollow, Tainter East, Tainter West, and Tainter Rd.
You could say that all those roads named Tainter are confusing.

Not to me, I've been exploring them for years.

Photo processing used, Topaz Detail and Topaz BW Effects 2.  Photos shot in RAW format and processed in AfterShotPro2 by Corel.
Just as a side note, I like the products and dislike renting from Adobe.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rain, Lil' Richard, and warm fuzzies...

First a funny little video of Lil' Richard.  I took this after getting him out of the muddy paddock and thought I'd give him a few minutes to get the kinks out before we settled in to work on our 4th session.

The quality is pretty poor and the lighting in our shed was pretty poor also.  But I think you can get the jist of things.
He was so estatic about getting out of his paddock and all of that wonderful dry sand that he just couldn't contain himself.

It is now routine.  I let him in the round pen and whisper "Go!" and he turns and does his rock and roll routine.
Afterwards he walks up to me and stands.

He has decided that lunging is for the birds.  He sees no point in doing any extra work at all.  So Sunday I tried to use my lunge whip with the plastic bag on the end to see if he'd get excited.
He was so interested in the plastic bag that he trotted right up to it.
I did get him to lunge and whoa properly, and he came right to the bag and played with it.

Funny pony.  I never knew this.  So many years he has been a yard ornament and an organic weed whacker.

In fact he was known in our farming community as the little pony who would go on visits to our neighbor's farm about 1/2 mile away.  He'd get loose [fences, even electric ones don't hold him, that is why we stake him out in the summer and have a corral for him in the winter]...and we'd have to go get him and bring him home.  Archived video....

So he's always been the little stinker and I have never really given him a second thought until I said to hubby that I'd like a nice paint pony one day.  Of course he said, "You have one in the yard!"  

Okay so back to Sunday.  On Saturday I saddled him.  He stood like a statue.  He looked over the saddle and smelled it.  I was careful not to cinch him up tight, but just enough for the weight and feel of it.
[I probably will not use a saddle after we are done with training, I love bareback.]

My small saddle does fit him and with a pony cinch, it fits properly.

So I saddled him again on Sunday, then did some 'spooky' stuff with him.  I tossed down a small tarp and asked him to lunge at a walk over it.  He smelled it then stood on it and then he pushed it with his nose.  
Ohhhkay, that was not scary.  So I tied a milk jug with rocks in it to the stirrup and asked him to walk.

He turned and looked at the jug.  He walked and then cocked an ear towards it and then walked some more.  I tossed a sack of cans up on the saddle and attached it to the saddle horn.

He walked and the sack rattled, the jug made noise.  I rolled a ball across in front of him.  He watched it go by.

I grabbed a snow sled and pulled it in the sand.  He eagerly followed it around and stuck his nose into it.  

Well smack me in the forehead.  This is the little sled I use in the winter to haul hay.  This is not a stupid pony.

I clapped my hands and danced around in a circle.  He watched.  I'm sure he has a journal someplace documenting all the stupid things this human does.

Okay.  I was bored, he was bored.  I took the rope and tied it to the halter in such a manner as to make a makeshift bitless bridle.
I eased my leg over his back and sat in the saddle.

I used the Tai Chi method of breathing and relaxing all of the tension out of my neck and shoulders.
Lil' Richard stood and sighed.  He then turned his head and sniffed my coveralls.

I gently turned his head to the right, he walked three steps and stopped.  I tried the other direction, same reaction.  I kissed lightly and he walked forward.

At this point I was just looking for some movement without excitement.  I slid off him and got on from the opposite side.  Repeat.  I praised him and gently ran my hand up and down his shoulder and then slid my hand to his rump.
He sighed.

Lesson done.  I praised him as I unsaddled him.  I picked his feet and then cleaned the rest of the burdock out of his forelock.  

Rich walked in about then and asked what I was doing.  I retied the rope and slid back onto Lil' Richard bareback.  We did a little bit of walking and then I slid off and got on his opposite side.  
I got off and said, "Well?"

"Well looks like you need a bridle," he answered.  "Not a buck at all?"
I patted my new best little buddy.  "Not at all."

I felt all warm and fuzzy inside.  I don't think I realized how much I enjoyed and missed training.

With the rain we've been having, I've had to do something.  And heck Lil' Richard just seemed like a fun project to try.

I hope to have him doing a bit more for Christmas Day.  I'd like to decorate him up and take him for a small ride.
If he is not ready for a ride, then I will just decorate him up and take him for a walk down the gravel road just for fun.
A Christmas Parade...A one pony parade?

That is, if it ever stops raining!

So my Guard/Yard Pony may eventually have a new career!  

Just color me happy.

I think Princess is next on my list, I've started with her, just never finished.

Thanks to El Nino and the rains I'm doing something better and different with my time.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Tai Chi with Lil' Richard

While I was working with Lil' Richard I thought I'd try out some Tai Chi breathing techniques that I'd learned with hubby last week.
One of the exercises is called the "Horse Stance", it is a way of being in the 'now' and present and controlling your breathing and becoming totally tension free.

So Lil' Richard was doing very well, but I wondered if I couldn't make him relax and come to me easier.

Well, it couldn't hurt could it?  Besides, I needed to practice my Tai Chi before we had another session.

So I had Lil' Richard standing facing me after a 'whoa'.  I took the Horse Stance, and then began letting the tension out of my shoulders, and letting my whole body relax into my breathing.

I concentrated on watching Lil' Richards knees.  Pretty soon he began to drop his head lower and lower.  He began to lick his lips and look totally relaxed.

I took my baby finger and lifted slightly on the rope.  Lil' Richard quietly walked into me and took a deep breath.  He was totally relaxed.

I couldn't believe it.  Well really, I could, because I am well aware that a tense wired up person near a horse will make that horse -- or any animal -- tense themselves.  I've always practiced relaxed body riding.  So this made perfect sense.

I wanted to make sure that this was not a fluke so I worked him a bit more and tried a more aggressive stance.  Lil' Richard ignored my commands and picked up the pace.

I returned to the relaxed breathing and body stance.  Lil' Richard progressed rapidly and willingly.

He is a an older pony, somewhere between 17 and 19.  I figured this would be an impossible job.  But I think he is enjoying the work.

Later I brought Siera in the round pen so that the sand could dry out her feet and I could check on her frogs.  She thought that she'd just nag at the gate to get back out with her friends. After asking her to work whenever she misbehaved, she settled in.

Siera then heeled me for the next 30 minutes, while I cleaned the roundpen.

I stood in front of her and did my relaxation technique.  Siera watched me and soon dropped her head and stood quietly as if she had not a care in the world.

I'd like to call it magic.  But it isn't.  It is just body language and it shows how quickly and animal can pick up on it.

Hopefully today will be the day that Lil' Richard gets to try a bridle and we get to our first ride by the weekend.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Busy day

El Nino hasn't been kind to us.  Sure the weather is milder and wetter, but we are swimming in mud and goo.

According to our farrier most of the equine he has had to trim have been in the sticky muck.  As he then said, "Hey, I chose this job."

Before he arrived we got each of the donkeys and gave their feet a bath and then put them in the round pen picking them out so our farrier wouldn't have to.

Not all of the donks liked getting their feet washed, but we got it done anyway.

Two hours later when Dewey showed up he was pleasantly surprised and very happy that we'd taken care and time to wash and clean the feet so he wasn't handling gooey mud caked hooves.

After Dewey finished, we talked about Siera and her frog issues on her one foot. We decided to see how trimming and regular 'in hand' exercise would work before we decided to go with special shoes.

I love Siera and she is a great ride.  Everyday I get her out, clean her up and either hand walk her up the gravel road or lunge her a bit in the round pen.  She enjoys the attention and the work so much that she trots to the gate every time I am in the yard.

Lil' Richard had his second training session.  In the first one, he was full of nonsense.  I put a rope halter on him for this session and we lunged on a line.
Between the last session and this session, he must have decided that he was going to be a smart pony and work very intelligently.

His Whoa became instant.  He learned to walk to me with finger pressure on the rope.  He learned to back up with finger pressure on the rope.  In all of his years with us, he has just been led around, trimmed, and basically had no formal training.

He took to this like candy.  He even took on the ever fearful blanket.  Lil' Richard gave it the stink eye, then walked over it after only a few minutes.
I put it on him and he smelled it and stared at it and then promptly ignored it.

He is a very quick study.

At the end of his session, I spent a bit of time with grooming.  He still has burrs in his forelock and in his tail from his late summer grazing.  He stands like a statue when I work on these.
Of course I've done this for years with him, so I didn't expect anything else.

He may make a great little mount after all.  He won't be for anyone who weighs over approximately 115 lbs, but that is fine because he'll work for me to get little short rides in.

My feet will only be about 3 inches off the ground.  My inseam is 3 inches less than his height.

I'm looking at an older donkey to start under saddle and with this mild winter I may have time to do that also.

So I guess El Nino may have some good things after all.

I look across the pastures and see Pedro, one of my favorite not trained mules. I'd started him quite a while ago but had that ended when I had to have multiple shoulder and elbow surgeries years ago.


The Night I Knew Santa Existed.

I was just a little kid and we'd taken the longest drive on earth to go spend Christmas with the rest of the family who lived in a place called 'up North'.  Well really, they lived in Northwestern Wisconsin and we lived in the suburbs of Chicago.

We ended up at my cousins' farm on Christmas Eve if my memory serves me correctly.
My cousins had the absolute coolest ever place.  It was an old farm house and at the time I don't think they had a bathroom in the house. 

Of course as kids we didn't really mind as they weren't my only cousins without an indoor bathroom.
I am pretty sure that I preferred their place and envied them even though we rented a nice place in the Chicago suburbs.

After all, they had woods to play in.  The had dairy cows, and they had everything in my eyes, everything a kid could want. 

Anyway we were upstairs doing something and we heard some stomping and the jingle of bells.
We stared at each other then tried to beat each other down the wooden stairs.

And there he was. Santa Claus.
Now kids at my school had been telling me there was no such thing. NO such thing.  And yet.  Here he was in the flesh with a huge red bag sitting on the floor next to him.  Snow was melting off from his boots and he clapped his hands together and gave out a huge belly laugh.

Yessir, that was Santa.  He was a living breathing person.  And he was so real.
We took turns shyly talking to him and he handed us each a gift.

I don't recall what I got that year, maybe it was the gunbelt and six shooter, or maybe it was the cowboy hat and shirt, perhaps it was all three.  It doesn't matter because I knew that the jolly red fellow was absolutely real and those kids back in school were dead wrong.

Pretty soon Santa had his snack of cookies and milk then proclaimed that he had a long night ahead of him and would we please continue to be good children.

He mentioned something that each of us had done over the past year and we knew he knew what was going on.

He left and we heard bells and him calling to us as he left.

"Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!"

About a half hour after he left my uncle Freddy came in from the barn where he'd been taking care of his dairy cattle.  He seemed perplexed and wanted to know why there were reindeer tracks leading up to the house?

We ran outside and sure enough there were tracks of the little reindeer feet.
Yep, those kids were so wrong.

When I got back to school after break I got into a discussion with some other kids on the playground.  I proclaimed my knowledge that Santa was real.  

Let's just say my 4th grade teacher had to break up a playground fight.

I knew deep in my heart for I'd met the man, seen the reindeer tracks. He truly was real.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Yard Pony

Lil' Richard has been with us I think since 2002.  That makes him somewhere around 16 to 17 years old.  Most of his life has been at leisure.

He has guarded our driveway.
He has lounged in the yard when he was supposed to be on weed and grass trimming duty and Guard Duty.
He is the farm comedian and Morris's good buddy.
He has been a frequent escape artist. He normally just goes to our neighbor's place up the road to visit with her horses.
She shuts him in the barn and feeds him breakfast, then gives us a call.
We usually just drive over and take him home like this.

We got him because his prior owners could never keep him in an electric fence.  He'd lay down and roll underneath it.  So we tie him out in the summer time and in the winter he gets a pen.

So this fall I was thinking about how he might make a nice little moped of sorts.  Instead of being of being a lazy weed whacking, grass mowing, 'guard' pony, he could 'get' a job.

I could use him to ride up to the ridge and get the mail.  Or if I wanted to go berry picking, I could take him.  He is easy to get on and off.
I put a leg over him once just to see what he'd do and he did a little buck.

Well, I took him inside to the round pen on Saturday and decided to see what we might learn together.  I wanted to see if Lil' Richard has any smarts.

His first reaction was to buck and rear then run like a ninny around the round pen as hard as he could.  It probably felt good after being cooped up in a pen.
After he started to slow down I began to work with him.  
He didn't want to look at me, he didn't want to pay any attention to me at all.

He acted as if he'd never been handled before and that was okay with me.

After about 15 more minutes of ME telling him when he should move and when he should whoa, he listened.
I stopped him then and groomed him.
He did one right thing in 15 minutes and that was good enough for me.

I didn't want to over work him as he is out of condition.
He did however enjoy his grooming session and stood like a statue.
He has always been good while being groomed.  At least we have that as a good starting point!

With the mild weather I'll be able to do more work with him.  I hope to get him to moped status in a month or so.

If nothing else, it will be an exercise in seeing if I can train an old horse/pony to do new tricks.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Morris and me

This year has been a bit bizarre to say the least.  It seems that there has been very little time for the two of us to explore the woods like we are used to.

Well, things are coming along a bit better now and the December weather is also pretty mild.

So Morris and I got out for another hike this week.  He about turned himself inside out when I started to put my gun belt on and packed the camera case and zipped it up.

He started to bump me with his nose and run in circles whining.
He certainly wasn't going to let me get out of the house this time without him.

I sighed, it was going to be muddy and sloppy and I would have a very dirty little Jack Russell, but those eyes were pleading with me.  I could not say "No".

Off we went.

We got into PeeWee's valley and found a sunny spot along the creek.  
It was much cooler along the creek and in the valley.  It was downright cold when we walked in the shaded parts.

Of course the sun doesn't shine along the whole north facing section of the creek during the winter. Lucky for me! 
Even when the temperatures on the ridge are in the 40's, I was able to find some spots along the creek where ice had formed on the grass just above the flowing water.

Morris sat patiently on the bank above me when I climbed down into the creek to take this shot.

He bounded off as soon as I turned back and climbed back up the bank.

We got to an open area that is called PeeWee's Camp Ground.  This area is mowed each summer so that PeeWee's nephews can come and camp out for a week. The rest of the land has been let go.

There hasn't been cattle on it for the past 10 yrs and some areas have grown so wild that it is hard to get through.

We turned around to head back home as the sun was dropping below the ridge tree tops and the shade was creeping into the valley quickly.

By the time we had gotten to our fence line, I could see my breath and frost was already gathering on the ground.

I stopped to look at the ice forming on the creek rock wall when I turned around to see this...

Lots of reflections in the water including Morris himself.

The late sun was reflecting off the water also, double bonus!

We hiked up the hill trail and things got much warmer. Plus we entered sunshine again.

As predicted, Morris was happy and mud coated.  I was content and smiling.

Morris and me.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Lost in the Woods

Well, not really.  I don't get lost in the woods, it is more like I lose myself in the woods.

I lose sense of time in a way.  I leave the outside world and all of its problems far away.  Instead I see tracks in the mud, I see fungi, I see the land and the forest...the shape of the trees now that they have no leaves...and I am happy.

When I started my walk the skies were overcast.  I was searching for a buck that may have been wounded on the last day of deer season.  Hubby lost the blood trail and so I decided to scour one of the sections of hillsides above the creek.

I took only my pink pocket camera and my varmit rifle.  I crisscrossed the hillside above the creek.  I followed deer trails, found deer beds, and even jumped up a fawn.

I didn't find the missing buck, but I can say that it is a darned good excuse to go back out and hike as many little trails as I can find.

I got back and did some things with hubby.  We put the side covers on his skid steer and I watered the large stock tank.

Then it began to lightly snow.  I went in the house and let Morris out.  He had been 'trapped' in the house for gun deer season also.
It was time he was able to get out and enjoy some fun.

I told hubby that I was going to take Morris for a walk and do the round about thing to get the mail.  Hubby knows that this means another hike through the woods.
After all, I can hardly stand to just walk straight up the driveway to get the mail!

It began to snow. 

I know Morris didn't mind at all.  He enjoyed every moment of it.

He is the most excellent trail companion as he can find even the most difficult deer trails.  Plus he always knows a short cut to home.

It was enchanting, the snow fell and slowly turned began to turn the ground white.  The forecast 'said' we'd only get about 1/2" of the stuff.

None the less, it made for a beautiful landscape.

We did eventually get to the road and get the mail.  The neighbors were out so Morris and I stopped to say hello.

We headed home just in time to do chores and eat supper.

After all, we were not lost, we were just side tracked for a while.