Saturday, December 31, 2016

A perfect day.

It started with a snow shoe trek with my Grand daughter and Morris.

She built a little snow house made of sticks, rocks, leaves and snow in the creek for Doe, Fawn, and Deer.
Morris kept watch over her.

The wind howled above us.

My neighbor who lives at the top of the driveway, in what we fondly now call 'upstairs' and I got together for her first experience with snowshoes.

We find that arranging an adventure at night is convenient as her kids are tucked safely into bed and hubby can keep an eye on things. It actually works out well.
My hubby is ready for bed by the time we go on a night jaunt in the snow and the wilds.

So last night I introduced her to snowshoeing. We walked across the Merry Meadow and I pointed to a dark space in the woods and mentioned that there was this deer trail that went off a point and dropped steeply into the creek.
She was all over that.
"Let's go check it out"!

The winds were gusting up to 20 miles an hour, we both had headlamps, so I thought why not? And then I thought, this is insane? And then I thought this will be fun!
It turned out to be a great decision as it got us out of the winds.
I was sure that the trail would be impossible to find but was amazed at how easy it actually was.
After all, I've been hiking this trail for 20 years and I watched for my machete marks on the trees that marked the trail.
I may add that the deer and all other wood creatures used this same path as the steep hillside is choked with underbrush, except on this trail.

I felt pretty pleased to seemingly navigate myself and Lauren through the maze in the dark. She seemed pretty impressed also. However I had to tell her that it hadn't been really that hard. I pointed out the markings on some of the trees.

We climbed over logs, ducked under branches and dropped down into the valley. When we came around the willow trees I pointed my light down. We were at the creek.

There it was softly making beautiful creek noises as it the water tumbled over the rocks.
We turned out lights out and looked up at the stars. Wisps of clouds scurried over the night sky. The sky display was amazing.

So was the peaceful quiet. We both just stood quietly for a bit and drank in the night sky above us.

Then it was time to show Lauren how to 'Creek Leap' with snow shoes on. We had a narrow stream that was not too deep to cross. Creek Leaping is an art I've perfected over the past 20 years of hiking this valley.

This is a shot of one of the crossings we did in the dark. It is an archived photo of course.
We headed upstream towards our property and I stopped to show her an ice formation that was starting along the sandstone wall.

Lauren was able to get this shot with her cell phone camera.

And then she took this of my backside.

In years past this little ice formation becomes incredible. It of course depends on the weather.
But here is a sample.
I've often wondered what hiking through the valley would be like at night.
Now I have an adventerous person to do that with.

However I'm sure our husbands are nodding and scratching their heads...positive that they will have to commit their wives for being so eager to cross country ski and snowshoe at Night in the Wild Woods in the Winter.

I disagree. If you haven't done winter sports at night, you are missing out on some incredible views and fun.

We returned from our first big adventure in the woods on snowshoes and I think both Lauren and I were determined to do it again soon.

What a great end to a nearly perfect day.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Diggin it

Well with temperatures rising overnight we had the deluge of snow slides off from the roof tops of our buildings. So Christmas morning I saw the forecast was for heavy rain and more melt...then freezing.

So it was time to get out the shovels and start digging out gates to different pens and paddocks. If I didn't, we'd have to use ice picks to get Mica's gate open in the next 24 hrs.

Next it was onto the young Dexter's gate. The skid steer got stuck in a real soft spot and we had to dig it out. The cows and this year's calves looked on.

We got fresh large bales to those who needed it and today we'll probably put out a corn fodder bale for them also.

The rain and winds swept in yesterday afternoon with thunder and lightening.

As hubby and I sat and watched a really odd movie called The Lobster, we heard the rest of the snow come storming off from our roof valleys.
Morris jumped off from the couch and ran around the house stiff legged and growling.

I have to admit, it was an unnerving sound.

Christmas is over and I'm ready to take on the rest of winter.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Some things you cannot wrap

Yesterday we had a beautiful snow fall. However it was not very nice for anyone that was travelling.
Our brother and sister in law took 4 hrs for a two hour trip. They arrived safely at my mom in laws but are heading back before the ice storm comes tomorrow.

In the photo above are my cross country ski tracks. I went during the heaviest part of the snowfall and 'broke' a trail across the 60 acres of cropland on top of the ridge.

The views during the snow storm was amazing. It seemed as though the sky and the ground disappeared into each other.
It was mesmerizing.

Even when I went through a section of woods to short cut, the views were amazing.
I hate driving in this stuff.
I love, love, love walking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing in it though.

Your world is wrapped in a blanket of snow fallen silence.
I took my little pink pocket camera and dared to bring it out a few times to try and capture the essence of the silence. It was beautiful and overwhelming at the same time.

After dark I met up with my neighbor for cross country skiing.
We skied and made our way in the dark with my little headlamp shining the way with a red glow.
We laughed when we hit drifts that tripped us up.
No one was there to see us fall over in the snow.
At one point we both 'crashed' and just lay back and laughed into the night sky.

Eventually we made it around the huge field and ended back up the mailboxes where we had met.
We marveled in the night and wished we could have seen stars. We felt a light mist coming down on our faces.

We talked, we chatted, we laughed. We didn't solve the world's problems but we did enjoy each other's company.

And this simple thing was a gift that cannot be wrapped.
Merry Christmas to me I thought as I walked back down the driveway towards our house parting company with my neighbor.

What a magical night.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Christmas that Sort of Wasn't

Once upon a time I was previously married and had two very young kids. Christmas was always a very stressful time of year because we generally didn't have the money to spend on anything let alone presents.

A few days before Christmas we went and got a real tree. Well, it was more like a Charlie Brown Tree. It was ugly and crooked. But we had lights that my in laws had given us and the kids had made ornaments in school, plus we had some of our own.
Off to home we went to take our prize pine and set it up.

Husband cut the twine holding the tree on the roof of the Isuzu Trooper. His knife was very sharp. He cut the twine and his ring finger down to the bone.

We dumped the tree in the house, I called the neighbor and herded the boys to their house. At the ER I watched them sew the finger up. 

The tree was set up and decorated. If one squinted, it even looked beautiful. If one turned the lights out and looked at it, it looked even better.

Christmas Eve we went shopping. I didn't want to go. Our account was pretty empty and the rent was due in just 5 days. I watched the credit card burn and the checks being written. Toy's R Us got our rent money.
With the kids in bed, I wrapped the gifts.
Husband went to bed.

I put things under the tree and then crept into bed very late. I lay awake most of the night worried about how we were going to pay bills. I wasn't impressed with the toys we'd gotten either. It seemed as if our shopping had been a frantic 'snatch and grab'.

The boys got us up early and I put on my robe and watched them with my husband. They marveled at their packages and toys. I didn't get any warm fuzzy feeling inside. Just the lump of dread knowing that there were bills to pay.
And who the heck decided Christmas was about gifts anyway?

Pretty soon my husband came into the living room pushing a red 10 speed bicycle. I had to admit, I had been wanting one desperately. 

Still that horrid feeling of something is wrong kept nagging at me.

Husband asked me what I planned for Christmas Supper. 

Whoops. I hadn't gone shopping because there was now money in the account. No my feeling of unease went to a feeling of being sick. 

I didn't plan on anything really, just something ordinary and simple.

The bike, the toys, all things we couldn't afford and now no special supper? Husband was angry in the 10th degree. He pointed at me with his splinted bandaged finger and called me names. I walked into the kitchen for his tirade while he carried on.
I was a terrible mother, I was no good, I was stupid, I'd better get my ass out there right away and find a ham.

Gratefully, I left the house to look for groceries. Husband assured me that the check wouldn't bounce for at least 4 days. And he'd be paid by then. 

I drove around with a sinking feeling. All the parking lots were empty. Nothing was open. The retail world had stopped.
You see it wasn't often that we actually did Christmas on Christmas Day. Normally my husband would have been on duty. But he was off with the injured finger.

I returned home empty handed. The boys were blissfully playing. Angry husband stomped out of the house to look himself.
He returned empty handed.

I cooked oatmeal cereal that night while husband fumed. The boys were happy as a couple of clams. Apparently they did not care what they had for Christmas Supper, as long as they could get back to the new shiny toys.

Me? I'm no longer married to that husband. I don't get into buying a ton of gifts and I'm sort of a tight wad in that department. Christmas Diner/Supper is still not a big deal for me. I hate to cook anyway.
But Christmas Eve is still special for me.

And it is not about the gifts either. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Morris Wears Silk

Well the temperature climbed up to 28 this morning and as I put on my coveralls to go back outside Morris started his spinning and jumping routine.

"Morris, you got cold the other day and I don't want your frail old body going out today. I'm going to the creek to look around."

Morris stared at me with an ear flopped over.
I am not an old codger you know. I'm as old as you in doggy-human years. Well maybe a bit older. I'm fit as a fiddle and I will nag nag nag. 

I sighed and decided he should at least wear something. Right? A scarf. Hmm, he hates kerchiefs and they are too big on him.
I went upstairs to my 'Room of Creativity' and rummaged around the top drawer of an old dresser. I came up with a silk handkerchief that must have been a pocket one my dad wore years ago. I remember him giving them to me.

I looked down at Morris and then squatted next to him.
"How's this?" I tied it around his neck and he shook once then pranced happily about and stuck his nose in my camera bag.
"All right, you can go."

Of course I can you ding dong. Someone has to keep track of you! 
This new collar is kind of nice. Don't I look great in it?

"I will carry you if you get cold or tired." I patted Morris on the head and we left the house.

I will run around in the snow and 'water' things.
And he did.
And he ran and ran and ran.

He checked out as many places as possible and stuck his head under the snow to look for voles and mice.

Morris was feeling great.
I was happy.

We went to the creek looking for ice formations. That was our group theme this week. That may be easier after this weekend. An ice storm is predicted for the Holiday.
The sudden swap of temperatures has changed things drastically. -15 for the lows two days ago and 21 for the low tonight. It was nearly 34 today.
Sunday may be 40 or 50?
That will be great for a quick snow melt unless it freezes and becomes ice.

Anyway none of that bothered the two of us as we meandered around the creek.

Look at my scarf! I am incredibly handsome. But I always am!

When we got down to the 'ice wall' I was rather disappointed. Yesterday's warm temperatures had melted the formations. I'd worked from midnight to 10am so I was too tired to talk a hike yesterday.

However we enjoyed the hike anyway.
We did find frosty roots.

And we did find a coyote trail.

Then Morris did start to shake and shiver.

I reached down and tucked him under my armpit and walked with him for a while.

Embarrassing. I shake and quiver so she knows that I smell coyotes and what happens? She picks me up like I'm an old decrepit dog. I am not decrepit. Put me down woman!

He squirmed after a bit and leapt from my arm. Poof. Right into a pile of snow. He came up shaking his head and ran ahead of me.

Morris, Morris, I think. One day you worry me so much and the next day you are like a pup.

Last week I did find some great ice formations. But this week, it will be a difficult task.
Perhaps I'll make some ice cubes and 'shoot' them in an interesting way.
There is always that.

Morris and I turned around and started up the long hill towards the summer pasture. He ran ahead of me looking over his shoulder as if to say.

"Come on old lady, keep up!"

I think he is a smarty pants when he wears silk. Although I must say he does look dapper with it on.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

MugWumps and Knobbin' Knockers.

Just before the snows started I decided to go out and take a walk to find some 'knobbin' knockers.

What on earth are knobbin' knockers? Well they are those beautiful dried stems of golden rod that have a bump in them from some worm that the stem grows around in the summer.

My Grandmother used to gather these along with milkweed pods and other dried 'weeds' to make a winter bouquet.

They may not look like much, but put them together in a bouquet and add a bit of glitter and it looks quite nice.
I added a them to my old wash pitcher with some fox tail and got a nice 'free' natural bouquet.

Grandma used to paint her knobbin' knockers and milkweed pods in silver and gold if I recall correctly. I think her wild bouquets were her Christmas decorations.

I think mine turned out beautiful and I was ready to go collect some more wild things when the first snow storm hit.

I think still may make good use of my cross country skis and go find some more on the ridge this week.

I mentioned Knobbin' Knockers on FB and one of my cousins replied that she recalled them also.
Then she told me not to forget about the MugWumps.

Indeed I had forgotten that term. MugWumps!
She reminded me...
Those were those things that sat on phone lines with their Mugs on one side and their Wumps on the other. One should not walk under MugWumps back side.

It brought back such fond memories of being a kid in a time and place where we had our own language.
Knobbin' Knockers?

We used to grab them and knock each other on the noggin' with them as kids.
Thus that name.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bitter Cold and old dogs

If you want to call it that. I know that when the air temperature outside is -15 at sunrise and it was only get to something like -2 for the high, it was going to take chores time twice as long.

Of course you have to dress very stylishly when it is frigid.
You would not believe how much these goggles save my eyes from feeling windburned.

Morris used to love going out in the snow and yesterday afternoon he jumped and twirled as I pulled on my 'gear' for running water to the stock tanks. I made him stay in the house.
Watering is simple right? 

Nope 150 feet of hose goes to the large heated stock tank. Each section must be taken apart in frigid weather and drained. The hoses are stretched out on the hillsides after they have been drained and ready for the next time.
Which means to prepare one has to drag the hoses into the proper positions and then connect them, melting the leftover ice on the connections with their hands.

After the upper tanks are done, those hoses too are taken apart and laid out after draining.

Late yesterday afternoon when I came in to swap to some dry gloves Morris jumped and whined. Well, it seemed nicer out, so I went back outside with him.

Morris bolted out the door and ran up and down the plowed driveway. I joined him and then hiked over towards the meadow. The strong hearted little dog joined me, leaping into each of my tracks.

Until, when I turned and saw that he had stopped. He was overcome by a fit of shaking and lifted his paw. He turned and started to walk back.

He was having trouble so I scooped him up and unzipped my flannel jacket and stuck him inside. I took my hands out of their gloves and put them on his feet.
He licked my face. Well yuck. He does have some nasty breath.

We sat in the snow for a bit.

And looked back at our trail.

Morris the adventure dog who used to brave all of the elements no matter what, was not as adventurous any more. I had to face that fact.
No longer was he the young jack russell who flew in the face of cold weather and deep snow.

Photo from 4 yrs ago

Maybe he knew more than me. I didn't want him to age. I don't want him to age. 
But I know he spends more and more time on his 'spot' on the couch taking nice long dog naps.

He can hike in good weather, but cold? Not much any more.

He probably has better sense than I do to stay in from the cold.

I know he won't tolerate booties or a coat. So I'm going to let him be the boss of the couch as much as he wants to be.

Mr. Morris, you deserve your spot on the couch. 

And I promise not to try and take you on any cold hikes, but if you insist on coming, I will most certainly make sure that I can carry you inside my coveralls.

I know even old dogs like adventures.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

How the Grinch was stopped by Morris the guard dog.

The Terrible Grinch was Grouchy. She hadn't had a good night's sleep because of the big snow storm.
Oh the snow wasn't bad, finding out that one of her co workers had started her car and then left with her keys in his pocket probably made the bad night much worse.

After only a few hours of sleep Miss Grinch woke up and discovered that the beautiful white snow was still coming down and by night fall it was supposed to be super frigid. Like -12 frigid.

Miss Grinch decided that instead of placing all of the nice gifts under the Christmas Chair she'd get them ready for the Christmas visit next week.

However she had an evil thought.

Perhaps she should just hide them.

If she stuffed them in a paper bag and hid them well, no one would get their Christmas gifts.

She chortled and chuckled.

Naughty Miss Grinch.
She thought she should be ashamed of herself but she was oddly pleased.

Hide the gifts!
Whoops, she forgot her boots. So off ran Miss Grinch to grab her chore boots and think of where to cleverly hide gifts.

And as she took off...

...thinking she was being wicked and wise...

...she was stopped by Morris.

Morris even made her put everything back.

Morris, the dog who saved Christmas from the Grouchy Miss Grinch.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Make My Day!

All things were calm and quiet. I was in my PJ bottoms sipping coffee and thinking about how cold it was outside for chores.
The phone rang.

My neighbor's car wouldn't start even though she had put it on the charger. "Could I give the beasties a ride to school?"
Why sure. I grabbed the remote to the Subaru and piled into my heavy coveralls and boots. I wrapped up and headed out to scrape off the windshield.

The kids were really quite good and we got them to school only about 4 minutes late. Since I needed a couple of things we ran into Walmart and grabbed them. Then my nice neighbor took me out to breakfast!

We enjoyed chit chatting and having some friend time.

I laughed when she took off her 3 year old's jacket  and he had a PJ top on.
"What can be better than going out to eat in your PJ's!" I laughed.

Rich had plugged in both his truck and skid steer, he was going to go and get some large bales of hay. While he took a short nap, I decided to go fetch the trail camera from the woods and make a small cross country ski trip out of it.

The sky was bright blue with trails from airplanes overhead. The snow glistened and I had to get a shot of the 'snow diamonds'. Every time I see them I think of my dad.
We called them snow diamonds when we would ski together. And it makes for a fond memory.

I like my skis that I now have. The boots are well insulated and the skis are slightly wider to break trail easier. It only took me about 20 minutes to ski around the meadow and break trail at the same time.

It was much more effortless than snow shoeing. However I can't ski in the woods and snow shoes shine there!

Now another Winter Storm is headed our way. No one is sure what the amount of snow will be.
However since I work the third shift, I decided to pack an overnight bag in case the roads were too wicked to travel on.

Oh, when Rich went to start the truck, it ran just fine. But it won't go anywhere. No hay hauling. It was a very bad time for the truck to break down.
But there we go. Bad things happen, but going out to a PJ breakfast and skiing sure made my day!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Cool backdrop and cold weather fun.

As the temperatures dropped and the winds picked up I decided to work on my Christmas Cards.
I found out that I was short some.

What to do? What to do? I don't like most choices in the boxed items they sell in the stores and ever since I found out I could print them out myself, I've done it that way.

Well I had an hour or so to kill before going to get and delivering groceries chores to my mother in law, so why not 'make' some?
I had read somewhere how aluminum foil on cardboard pieces made good reflectors and interesting back drops. Even more fun was to add glitter via glue to the aluminum.

So I found a box. I cut the flap off from it and made a 'reflector'.

I even covered one in pink, red, and silver glitter glue.

Then I went to the 'magic creative room' and set some things up. An old box, some parts of cards from years passed, and the foil backdrop.
This shot shows the pinkish glitter glue on the foil. A white board leaned up against my chair. The table is a plastic tub with a white piece of board on it.
Over that is an old lace table cloth.

Well I had a bit of fun with it.

I 'developed' it with an Antique look in ON1RAW2017. I even liked it enough to send it to print.

Then I tried this one.

This one is my favorite. The yellowish golden glow is from an old lamp with those now extinct bulbs in it...for light.

The items that are poinsettias and Merry Christmas are things I pulled off from old cards that my Aunt and Cousin had sent me a few years ago.
The old paint cracked box makes for a wonderful texture and the foil added a bit of zip.

I sent this one to print too. Walgreens and Walmart offer easy 1 hour pickup and you cannot beat the prices.

Then it was time to go to town. The winds were howling and the snow was blowing across the open areas.

I got strange looks when walking around the stores. I don't care, I wore my heavy coveralls and was nice and toasty warm. I don't get the ladies who dress with skinny jeans or those who wear capris and a light top with no hat or gloves in very cold temperatures with extreme wind chills.
They must live in town and not have to negotiate snow blown drifts.

I know if I get stuck in the drifts I can still safely walk somewhere or sit in my car and be very comfortable.
I carry a sleeping bag and a space blanket along with tea lights and extra clothes.

Friday afternoon until midnight I am working. If the roads and the snow and drifting are bad at midnight, I'll pull all the sleeping blanket and take a nap until the roads are clear.

No use risking my neck to drive 30 miles of twisted roads that go in and out of steep valleys and windblown ridge tops to get home until it is safe to do so.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pictures of self.

I dislike taking a shot of myself and I dislike the camera aimed at me.

My father loved the camera lens from both sides. But dad always took a great photo.

I however see age creeping up on my face in harsh lines and freckles. I guess that is what surprised me the most. Those lines.

Friends of mine that are interested in having some fun in photography and I have formed a group where we share photos each week. Each week one person picks a theme and we eagerly try that theme out.

While working on some methods of light reflection today I thought I'd try out our new theme.
Self Portrait.
Not a selfie.

Ohhhhh nooo! Eeek gads! Cover my head up! Can I use Val-Barbie as my body double?

She is much better looking and she even has a Morris just her size! She never minds the camera pointed in her direction!

Me? Not so much. I did this one against the new bright white wall in the kitchen. But my ugly t-shirt was hanging out.

A bit more glamorous I think. Yes the hat suits me, and I wear it as often as I can.

Even if I get strange looks while shopping.

I'm not going to hide the fact that I have ... wrinkles and lines. I look in the mirror and can't deny it any more.

Probably all those years of abusing my face by not putting on creams, yet hiking in the extreme cold, gardening with a baseball cap and no sun screen. Being out doors and mistreating my face.
Well I didn't worry much about it to tell you the truth.

And now I am stuck with this face.

I am finding that it does make for an interesting 'self' study though.

Moody. No glasses and bounced lights off the ceiling in the spare room.
Cracked textures added to make it look a bit abandoned.

Harsh black and white.

Then I got very creative. How far could I go with my own 'self portrait'?
How far do I dare go?

So I went very far....

The photo is interesting and I took a lot of liberty with my edits.


All of these photos were taken in RAW Nikon files and processed in ON1RAW2017 pre-release.

I'm pretty impressed with this program and love it...hands down it is easy to just do a straight forward process, or you can get as complicated as you want.

After today I don't think I'll be as uncomfortable in front of the lens.
I think as long as I am taking the shot!

My Still Life for today:

I'll be selecting this one for some cards I'll send out.
Backround glitter was provided by cardboard covered in tin foil ... slightly crumpled.