Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Visiting Memory Lane

You see, I haven't changed much. I'm pretty sure that my country summers influenced my entire life.

I became one of those people who preferred the outdoors and animals to anything city related.

I can't even recall where my father took this shot. I was 4 years old and someone in our family must have gotten some ducks or geese.

I discovered farm animals.

Lost in archives are photos of me and then years later, photos of my own children feeding calves at my Uncle Fred's dairy farm. 
Going to the dairy farm and staying with the 'girl' cousins was one adventure after another.

I thought they had it the coolest. They had no indoor plumbing. They had a real honest to goodness outhouse and other small outbuildings that were a delight to play in.

[My Outhouse]

What did I have? A small house with all the nice things like plumbing, running hot water,...and a tiny yard.

I envied them, they had woods to play in, a barn to play in.
I'm sure that I didn't know what life was really like on a small dairy farm, but I was to get an inkling of that much later in life when I actually worked for a while on one.

And...they had Santa Claus visit their house on Christmas Eve. [I didn't know at the time that Uncle Fred played Santa.] I mean, as a kid I was so envious of their life.

Of course I never had to use a chamber pot or use the outhouse in the dead of winter. I never had to help with chores in any real sense. My Aunt and Uncle would allow us to be in the barn and I recalled the wonderful smells of the silage and hay. The satisfied munching of the dairy cows and the milking machines.

I learned to use a milking machine much later in life, I helped on a dairy and would get the cows in, lock them in their stanchions and get everything ready for the morning milking. I learned to wash the bulk tank and other helpful chores.
Washing teats, dipping teats, scrapping the floor and liming the floor, cleaning the barn.... I think I enjoyed that because it reminded me of being in my cousin's dairy barn.

To me, my cousins had endless fields of corn to play in and an incredible pasture and woods. 

We girls would concoct an adventure for our summer days together. We'd play 'house' or go wandering the cow pasture. We built forts one time after a huge wind/rain storm. We had a downed tree that we decided was going to be our fort. I think we spent more time scrambling and climbing it that we did building anything.

There was a place where we would hunt rocks. And always, we'd talk and chatter. 
With a little bit of imagination we could be anyone and do anything. Our days were endless.
Well it seemed that way.

Last weekend I got to go back. We drove past my Uncle and Aunt's farm to get to my youngest cousin's Sugar Bush and see her and her husband's set up.
I wanted to pull in to their driveway and walk around seeking more fond memories and see what had changed.

Instead I got a tour of the Sugar Bush.

This was another new experience for me. My country families made maple syrup and have I think for three generations. 

At the end of summer I'd go back to the city. I'd marvel at the fact that we had hot water and flush toilets. And then I'd settle in for the school year and await June.

That is when I could go back to where I was sure I belonged.
I never could convince my mom to give me to one of my Aunts.

Now that I've been back for a short weekend, I yearn to return and visit again.

When I turned the Subaru towards home I promised myself that I would return.
After all, the 4 quarts of Maple Syrup I'd purchased would be long gone before summer was over.

And I wasn't going to let years and years pass before we all saw each other again.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Once upon a Time

My trip "North" was all about going to a wedding for one of my cousin's sons. Well the second reason I was compelled to go was to meet up with my cousins that I had not seen in 42 years. That is right, 42 years we'd been apart.

It had been ages since I'd been back to this part of the country.  I'd made a quick trip in 2000 when my Grandmother had passed away.
Before that?

Well it gets complicated a bit and I am not going to go into all of that.

But the last time I'd set foot on the place photographed above was 1980.  I'd taken my first born son to see his great grandmother who was living with my Aunt.

This was my Aunt and Uncle's place. This was a gathering place for the cousins. We usually only saw my cousins in the summer and we had to go back to the Chicago suburbs for the school year.
To me leaving this area at the end of each summer always brought me heartache.

I would sit in the back seat as a child and think of all the reasons I should be allowed to just stay with all my cousins. I didn't like the 'city'. I always longed for the end of the school year and the long trip north each summer.

Sunday morning I left my cousin Sharon's place. We'd had such a great time visit.  The boys, Aaron and John had asked if I'd gone past their mom's place.  I hadn't and wasn't sure I would.
But just north of Luck, I turned down the road I thought I recognized.

I recognized the train bridge that we used to go under. As a kid I can recall my Grandfather sitting in the the front seat and hollering out "Duck!" as we passed underneath.
His ball cap would flip off and land in the back seat. He'd exclaim, "I didn't duck in time!"
It would never fail and we would always laugh.

When I got close to the Larson place. I slowed down. The roads were no longer gravel like they used to be. I pulled over and tried to peer up the driveway.
The large hill behind the house was now grown up in magnificent pine trees.

The urge to pull in and wander around was very strong. However I knew that the boys had a tenant and I couldn't see myself just pulling in on a Sunday morning and saying..."Hey I used to play here as a kid."

Memories however did flood over me in huge waves. It was like seeing a movie reel in my mind. Here is where I learned to shoot .BB guns, .22's, slingshots, we climbed trees, rode horses, fell off from the pony called Thunder, did garden work,...and spent countless hours doing kid stuff. I wanted to see if the 'Tarzan Rope' was still there.
In my mind I could hear the laughter and snippets of words just beyond my reach. I could hear our mothers calling to us. I could remember the guinea hens and the chickens, the swamp muck, frogs, snakes, and our hands getting sticky from climbing pine trees with sap.
There were nights were we would try and watch TV with our Uncle and we watched static.

As cousins we plotted out our lives and dreams.
And each summer I'd loath returning to the suburbs and school.

This was one of the places that shaped my love for the outdoors and adventure. My other Aunt and Uncle had a farm which played another part in my love of the outdoors.

But both my Uncle Lyle and now Aunt Myrtle were gone. But the memories of them and our childhood still lingered now even stronger than it had in a very long time.

I felt such strong raw emotion as I peered at the pond and the barn off in the distance.

I longed to relive just for a few moments those days long ago ... and Once Upon a Time.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Polarized Filter or Not?

I watched a tutorial video by ON1 the other day and the photographer Scott Davenport.

The link goes to his website and some of the books, so it sort of is a shameless plug for him. His tutorials on the ON1 website are pretty darned good.
His photography is pretty amazing.

Well, let's just say, I don't think I will travel to all of the areas he does to get those incredible shots.
I have to stick around here for the time being. Farming, caretaking, and work all make it difficult to travel.
[However, I am looking forward to soon being able to explore as many State Natural Areas and State Parks as possible!...That is my dream goal.]

So I went down to the creek. The Awesome Creek. The sun was too bright for getting good 'water' shots, but I thought I'd not waste the opportunity and see what I could do.

I brought my Nikon D3100 with me along with that...Nifty 50mm lens. Of all lenses I could have, I think I like this one the best. It never disappoints me.

I had a rather inexpensive Circular Polarizer filter and a .6 ND [neutral density filter].

Here is a shot with the ND filter only. f16/ISO 200/1/5 second.
Same settings with a polarized filter and ND filter
The big difference is the ability to see the rocks through the water. I like both. The top shot shows more movement and the second shot clarifies the water.

So I tried another experiment.
I left the polarizer on and went to see how much reflection I could get off the water that was flowing.

And then I turned the polarizer filter and got this....

Encouraged by what I saw I thought I'd try some more.

However I learned that certain kinds of light and angles don't really have that much effect. I think I need to go out and do some more experiments.

However, let me say the filter did help me get a shot of the Trout on Sunday when I was in the Back Valley.

I hope to get out and try some more experiments.

Today I plan on using some things I learned regarding lighting and DIY lighting with flashlights to accent exactly what I want lit up in Still Life.

Low perspectives

The woods look pretty dreary and uninteresting right at the moment, but I still believe there can be interesting things found.

I grabbed my Nikon with the Nifty 50mm lens and decided to explore. The challenge is to not have a zoom focus but a fixed lens where you have to really think about getting the shot you want.

The shot of the creek bottom shows exactly how 'uninteresting' the woods appear to be. The shot of the Skunk Cabbage shows exactly how interesting the woods actually are!

When I came back from the woods, I found some crocus blossoms in the yard along with daffodils poking their brave stems out of the ground. I laid down in the yard to take some shots. There I was wiggling around trying to find the right composition, what did I see?

A little bug of some sort climbing around inside the crocus flower.  I peered at it after I took the shot and discovered that is was a very small bee and it was covered in pollen.

Imagine my surprise. If I stand up, the crocus plant is nearly impossible to spot. If one were to casually walk near the creek and not keep an eye out, they'd surely miss the Skunk Cabbage.

I'd place a skull next to the crocuses so that I could see them from further away and not step on them.
I was also surprised to see that a spider had climbed onto the skull!

And then there was the lone yellow was very hard to find.

Yesterday some new crocuses came up and I didn't get out until the evening to get a shot of them while doing chores.

The daffodills are coming up around them and soon they will be gone. The daffy's will be the next blossoms to grace the yard.

Meanwhile out in the woods, under the debris I was able to see the very tips of Leeks just breaking the soil under the leaves.

They will come out when the weather is right.

The Robins however believe it is spring. This one sang the night song to me just before the sun blinked out of our hollow.

Lucky for me he perched on the branch long enough for me to attempt a shot.
This fit in my low perspective as he was higher than I was??

Well spring is coming and I believe I can say that I am looking forward to it. It was with deep regret that I put my cross country skis away yesterday and stored my snow shoes for next year.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Bones Bones Bones & Pine Cones

My morning started out just beautifully. The sunrise was amazing. However because I was feeling rather lazy I had coffee and watched the sky turn colors.

If I'd been really full of 'gumption' as my Grandma would have said, I'd have gone to the ridge to do a proper sunrise. It was 25 degrees out and hot coffee sure sounded like the better option.

My neighbor brought down her two youngest children to get some adult conversation after I'd done chores. I was raking the yard and picking up 'sticks'. Her kids helped a bit until they decided that looking for birds nests and collecting pine cones were more interesting.
Logan called them acorns. Allie tried to pile pine cones in a Robin's Nest she'd found from last year.

We talked and dumped some sticks into a pile and then decided to walk in the *Merry Meadow* [the summer pasture for the gals]. Logan left his ice cream bucket full of acorn-pine cones near the exit gate. Allie set down her nest with her pine cones.

We got near the spot I call 'the island'. Years ago it was an island of trees and a hollowed out shape like a bowl in the middle. Now it is mostly downed trees and brush that my husband has stacked with the skid steer.

Allie let out a howl of delight when she climbed the brush pile.
She spotted bones in the bottom of the bowl. Over the pile she went and down into the bowl. Years ago cattle used to graze here and I know that there was a horse buried there too.
Allie climbed back out with her arms full of ... bones.
Her sheer joy at finding pine cones and bones reminded me of how excited kids got over hunting for Easter Eggs.
I am guessing that pine cones and bones are much cooler.

Logan watched while sitting on a pile of sticks. Logan loves sticks and was carefully checking them out. I imagine he was looking to see if he could find the right one to carry and whack things with.

With the bucket of acorn-pine cones, the bird nest, and the bones, we headed back out of the pasture and towards the driveway where we parted company.

I finished what I was doing in the yard and put the rakes away.
My afternoon hike was to go back into the valley I'd visited last week and see if I could find that deer skull that had been frozen into the mud and dirt.

I wanted to see if I could find the trout again and take a decent shot of them.

Off I went with a shovel, my camera backpack, a bottle of water, and some determination.
I found this last week frozen in the mud and I thought it would be a good day to take a shovel back and see what was under the mud.

I walked fast and warmed up quickly even though there was a cool Northwest breeze. Once I headed back into the valley, I was out of the winds.

I was fairly surprised that the ice cave still had a nice formation. I could hear the water slowly seeping down under and over the ice.
I wished I had extra time to climb down and explore.

But I was on a mission of sorts.
And I wanted to see if the little cluster of trout were still in the place I saw them in last week.

They were and I had to sit quite still for a long time to get a shot of them.

I located the deer skull and antler. With my little shovel I carefully dug around the head.

Imagine my huge surprise when I discovered that there was a whole skeleton beneath the mud.

This Buck had been a monster. He was a 10 point buck with and 18" spread. This would have been a trophy for most hunters.
And I figured that he died in this valley during the wicked flash flood we had in September than covered this valley floor with waters rushing over 5 feet tall across the whole valley.

I sat down and brushed some dirt away from his bones, and then brushed the dirt and mud back onto them.

I created a sling out of twine and slung him over my shoulder.
It'll go into my collection of incredible 'found' skulls and things and may end up getting beautifully painted and displayed.

Nature is art and you can find that in bones, acorns, and pine cones.

Allie brought me this piece of art last night. She painted it and we placed it on my porch table.

Here is another piece of my bone artwork.

My son painted the stick for me when he was 10 years old. See? Even sticks can be art!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Mud Season

I look at the house and see the mud covered rugs and cringe. Our weather is changing back to Mud Season in March.

He sees no trace of dirt. Mud? He suggests I wait until mud season is over.

"I see muddy dog tracks on the new beautiful kitchen floor."

"Don't look at it like that. Don't look at the tracks!"

"I see them, they are there and the rugs are grey with dirt. Look at the dog tracks!"

He squints his eyes and tips his head.
"They don't seem to bother the dog much."

I sigh. It is mud season. But I like a clean floor.

Time to break out the broom, the mop and wash the kitchen floor and the rugs.

In a day or two I can repeat the process.

However I have set up the boot bucket outside with a brush to dip and wash boots before coming into the house.

Welcome March Mud Season.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Tainter Hollow

After my haircut yesterday I decided to go to the Tainter Creek Public Hunting and Fishing area. There is a small parking area just past this sign.

For a while the area was trashed with remnants of little campfires and beer cans. After this sign was erected, I made sure to visit often and pick up trash.
Whoever was partying here has moved on and the parking area has been pretty clean for the past couple of years.

I call this area *Tainter Land*. There is a Tainter Hollow Road, a Tainter Hollow East, Tainter Hollow West, and a Tainter Road. These back country gravel roads all come in contact with Tainter Creek at some point.
Tainter Creek is fairly well known locally to trout fisher-people.

I like the area because it is so unique.
In the early spring the flowers near the parking area are amazing...
Last spring I found Trout Lilies along with the bluebells and other flowers.

Since it is early spring and the snow is gone, I decided to see how far along the creek I could walk.
There is a path that has been mowed, but it ends. I instead just made my own way along the creek.

The creek is clear and cold. Which I imagine makes it perfect for trout. In this shot you can see the tufts of debris still left on trees and brush from last September's floods.

I found a rather beat up soccer ball wedged in the roots of a toppled tree.

There was a beaver dam in this area last year, I don't know if the DNR removed it or the flood waters did.

I will let you enjoy some of the views I did.

 Oh yes...Val-Barbie shared the adventures!

I followed Tainter Creek until I came up on Tainter Hollow West at the bridge and then walked the road back to the parking area.

In the hours that I was there, I saw one vehicle. I think that must have been the mailman/woman.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New terminology

I've adopted a new set of words for common things since my 'new' neighbors moved in.

Their son Logan has some of the best little sayings. My favorite one that sticks with me is ....

"I'm Stucking!" uttered by Logan when his boots got stuck in the March mud last year.

We used to refer to the house on the ridge...well, as the house on the ridge.

No more. We've adapted the terms to seperate our households as *Upstairs* and *Downstairs*. We are the downstairs at the bottom of the hill.

I liked that.
Burdocks? Well it is okay and fun to call them *Murdocks*. I think that gives them a unique name for a unique place.
[My dad's unpublished book had Murdock as his main character. So Murdock sets well with me.]

Another new word. *Elevator*, this refers to the rope that I put on the steep bank above the creek after the ridge road was washed away in a flood.

When it is really slippery, we use it to assist us in getting up and down the bank. I called it the rope, however it was renamed, *The Elevator*.

The Creek.

I never referred to it in any other many except, the creek, our creek, the creek bottom...
However it has been renamed by the neighbor kids.

*Awesome Creek*

And yes, it is an awesome place to go and play.

The little dog loves it when he can have little people to play with. The fun never stops.