Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Moving right along

Sunshine thought it would be fun to take a little jaunt. After all it has been December since we last got out for any time together.

On the ridge things looked pretty good. It was a bit muddy but we went before the ground got too soggy.

My clever little red headed mule wasn't fazed by the icy snow mobile trail. She moved alongside the trail where the ground was good and solid.

When we go to the normal creek crossing area we just sat a bit and watched the water roar on by. Sunshine was happy to just watch and then after a bit we returned home.

My day didn't end there. I had watering to take care, Dixie to play with ... and then I couldn't resist the urge to go back to our creek bottom.
I could hear the waters tumbling and crashing from the house.

I was already muddy. I gathered up my back pack and set off. Rich was sleeping and I had supper in the crock pot.

This is a shot of my neighbor's pasture. This water comes from the area west of us and runs down towards the creek. There is a Dixie head in the right side of the photo.

This is the nice quiet little pond that marks the end of my property and the fence-line that should mark my neighbor's land.

Further downstream I stopped for a quick look around and then headed back home. I was wet and very muddy.

I had to take my pants off on the porch and leave them to dry. My sweatshirt and vest had mud splatters on them also.

I think that meant I had an awesome day.

The venison roast tasted quite wonderful. I think it is one of the best ones I've made.

Note to self though. Plant more green beans, carrots, and corn in the garden next year.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

In This Moment.....

....we felt invincible ...
Dixie and I.

Maybe it was the thundering of snow melt rushing through the dry run below us.

Maybe it was the golden sunlight at our backs.

Perhaps it was our shadows from the late winter sun on the slope in front of us.

I held on to it, the feeling of power, the sounds.
The moment.

And I felt something stir within.
And it was very powerful.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Bone Collector

I love teaching. I just love having students.

My students are not always the two legged kind. Although I love teaching them too.

Dixie is my winter student. Sundance was to begin her lessons this winter but we ended up using the round pen to store large square bales.

And she loves all kinds of weather. Her hound coat is such that it sheds water and keeps her well insulated.

She is a willing student and thrives on "Good Girl!". 
At this time of year, I like to walk the woods and look for antler sheds. It is a hobby that is really just an excuse to get out and hike during these blah months. The days can be wet and dreary or cold an windy, yet at least there is a purpose to the hike.

I thought it might be fun to try and train Dixie to help me find sheds. She is already a master at finding dead disgusting things from a long distance.

Perhaps we could find antler sheds! I've looked up how to train a shed hunting dog. Apparently it is well known that you need to use retrievers and labs are very popular for this. You need to start the pup out very young. A pup out of shed hunting parents can be purchased for a mere 2 grand. An started dog just $3,500 or a bit more depending on their field experience. A trained dog? Hold onto your seats! Just 6 to 7 grand. Of course that dog will hunt sheds.

"Dixie! Will you hunt sheds for me?"

I see the twinkle in her eyes and see her brain working. "Haaa----whuuut?" 

Oh well, we'd go have some fun together. I figured since she isn't supposed to a retriever but she will retrieve a ball with gusto we might be able to do other things that a hound like her isn't supposed to do.
I do know she has a fantastic nose. Sometimes too good.

The east wind was cold and damp so we opted to cut through the woods and climb up to the ridge. Facing the winds after warming up would be easier than just walking straight into it.

Yesterday's run off seemed to power freeze. 

We made it to the ridge and I walked along the cropland next to the woods. I've heard from guys I used to work with that were avid shed hunters that this was the prime area to look for antlers.

Dixie checked each trail that went into the woods. She would run in and look around. I'd watch to see if she was finding anything and say "Hey" if I felt she was going in out of my sight.

She'd blast back alongside me and head to the next trail.

Well, I think we were doing something sort of right. I hit my leg twice and Dixie came to sit with me while we watched this deer watch us.

It finally ran off.
Dixie ran down another trail and seemed to find something.

An interesting skull. I picked it up and put it in my back pack and told Dixie "What a Good Girl!"

Wag, wag, wag...twisty wag...

I motioned for her to go ahead of me and off we went again. We got to about where the deer was and she trotted up to something on the ground, gave it a whiff and went on.
A shed!

I stood near it and asked Dixie to come and see. "Look Dixie! Look! This is what we are looking for!"


I don't think she'll ever understand that I don't allow her to run off and grab deer bones or chase deer, but I would like her to show me an antler.

Rome was not built in a day. I'm sure we can figure this out.
She did take me to bones though. She found them and then ignored them as if to say. I know they are there and I know you don't want me to dig them out of the ice.

Good dog.

I turned and headed up the valley along the creek. Yesterday the waters were raging. Today the creek had retreated to its quiet self. 

When I got to my part of the creek I discovered something very interesting.

The ice flow that had built up during our cold spells was still there but the creek flowed under the ice. Okay, not that strange, but look at this photo that I took by sticking my hand under the ice.

We came home with a skull and an antler shed. We'd hiked nearly 3 miles on rough terrain and we felt good.

The Bone Collectors can't wait to go out again.

Not Sad, let's smile today.

I have some long time fellow bloggers out there.

Lori Skoog is one of them and this is for her.
No sadness in this post Lori!

It is safe to read without a Kleenex at your side.

These are some shots from the amazing run off from the 20th.

The last 3 shots are from what we call 'dry runs' in our area. These areas are deep crevasses in the landscape. They are filled with mossy boulders and are normally dry. During heavy rains the water rushes down from the ridge top above and creates a Run of Water that empties into the creek below.
The sound is thunderous as the water navigates over the boulders. The leaves from the fall, sticks, rocks, broken branches, all move with the water. By early spring the Dry Runs are clean again and ready to explore.

It is indeed awe inspiring to watch from a safe distance.

While it is raining or sleeting, I retreat to "The Creative Room" and mess around with some Still Life.

My Granddaughter Ariel gave me a few trolls on her last visit. I used to collect them when I was a girl.

Here are some marbles on an old table cloth along with a carnation. I used some Christmas lights behind marbles in the back round to create the 'bokeh'.

Driftwood and Pearls...
I added the cracks afterwards. It just seemed fun to do. The driftwood came from an adventure with my friends from the Kenosha area last year. I think we visited Lion's Den along Lake Michigan. I found this and brought it home. It was part of my flower garden last summer. This winter, it made for an interesting back drop.

For this shot I used some old black material and draped it on top of a plastic container. I put a painted branch I'd kept from my winter decorations on the material. I added some flat marbles to reflect the little lights and stuck my favorite blue cup in the middle.

I rarely get these things right the first time and I have to constantly rearrange the items. But it is good to practice and enjoy the challenges of something completely different.

Here is what everything looked like before the shot.

The magic ends up being what you don't see and what the camera allows you to see.

And last but not least. Hank and Stella.
This is their out door pen. It faces south. Hank gets to learn about hot wires and runs circles around mom.

...and now to go off and start my day....

Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, February 23, 2018


I probably shouldn't admit this, but losing Morris was extremely painful.

I've had many kind words and condolences.... I have to agree ... No matter how many years a dog lives, it is so very hard ... it never seems like it has been enough time.

My mother in law questioned me on Sunday. I had said something about Morris being ill and not doing well.

She wondered aloud ~ and she was NOT being mean at all ~ "Why would someone have a pet and like them so much to have them go and die. I mean they have such short lives!"

I jumped up and stood ready to be mean. However, her words were not inappropriate. Why on earth do we give our hearts over to pets with such intensity?
I said, "Honey, you are preaching to the wrong choir! Morris is...he is...
I ..."

I looked to my husband who shrugged. 
His mother had never had a pet. Always working farm dogs, outdoor dogs. She wasn't a pet person.
In fact, when Morris was a wee pup...he peed on her shoe.

At 87 years old, she was not going to 'get' the dog/pet/buddy thing. 

I smiled. After all, Morris was doing just fine. 

However. Morris was a typical Jack Russell Terrier. My veterinarian explained one time that JRT's will GO GO GO and suddenly stop. Worry at the stop. They normally don't let you know they have a problem...until...well. There you go.

Morris was fine. Tuesday he ran and played with Dixie in the morning. Tuesday afternoon his life stopped. 

I don't regret our time together. He made it so much richer. He was a pain. He was demanding. He was...simply put, Morris.

"...But you have Dixie!" 

Yes, I have Dixie. The big goof of a hound. Ever loving ... always willing to please.

Dixie. Right now, Dixie is just enough until I figure out what happens next.
Morris left a hole in my heart. But so did so many others. I haven't been able to move his crate. His toys are lined up on a box. I can pick the toys up and hold them close for a moment with my eyes closed.

I couldn't get rid of his red blanket. We always shared it. 

I had to put one of his larger toys on the couch so I could rest my hand on it while I read a book. As I would rest my hand on Morris's body.

Last night I heard him on the stairs.

This morning I swear he woke me up as usual at 5 AM. I found myself putting on my sweatshirt to let him out the porch door.

This morning Dixie helped me with chores. We went to the creek and watched the run off together. She filled an ache and I hugged her hard. I pulled her to me in the snow/icy/slush and buried my face into her shoulders.
She wiggled and then for a few moments, she stood utterly still.

Dixie is helping my.....our...
hearts recover.

And that is all one can ask.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

It's Time ~by Morris

I looked up at her as she came in from her last 'exploration'. She put away her camera bag and strode over to the couch where I was laying to check on me.

"How are you doing buddy?"

I am always her buddy. I am always her pal.

Her hands gently caressed my fur.
I tried to tell her that I really didn't feel good. She stood up and walked to my feed bowl. It was still full.
I admit it. The new food she got was awesome and I am a glutton. I loved the soft food, special diet food she had told me. Just for me!

Special indeed. However. I had no interest in food. I barely even wanted water. I had this thing that took over me and made me shake. SHE called it pain. I called it 'nasty'. I shut my eyes and went back to sleep.
How awful. I used to spin, bark, and jump, at the mere idea of going on a hike with her.
Who would watch over her now?
I guess.
I can at least say that Dixie does pay such close attention to her every move.

My ears are quiet. Seems I can't hear much. My eyes seem dim. I'm afraid to get off the couch.
My...something hurts. I shake.

She picks me up. How did it get to be so dark outside? What did time do?
She takes me outside. She doesn't yell at me for trying to pee on the porch post.

I sense she is sad.
I walk slowly past her into the house.

I unable to drink. I can't find the water. She shows me, even puts some in a syringe and puts it down my throat.
I urp on her.
I'm so tired. Just let me go to sleep.

She must figure it out. She says something about it being the middle of the night and she picks me gently up and sets me on the couch. She covers me with warm blankets and holds me until I sleep.

In my dreams, I run and jump. Badger is there. I want to ride on Badger with her! We ride together through the woods. I am in the passenger seat in a snow storm. I MUST guide her through the storm. Okay, I had no idea how to do that so I took a nap. I eat frozen mule poop. She yells ICKY! I run.
There are kids. Lots of kids. They pass through my dreams and I follow them on adventures. Always adventures. So many adventures. Floods, storms, fireflies, barking at dangerous things, walking with kids, sledding, the creek, always to the beautiful creek.

There is light and She and He are looking at me. I can't raise my head, I squint my eyes. She lifts my foot and holds it. I don't have the strength to pull it away. I normally pull it away and jump up. 

"I am tired" I tell Her. So tired, so much pain. I just want to sleep. 
It is time.

RIP, Mr. Morris. We had fourteen years of adventures together. My life will always be better and more enriched because of you.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Oh to love the creek

I like snow melts or winter thaws. It makes my little heart sing and my husband shake his head.
He often wonders if I am just crazy. No, I think he knows I am crazy.

I am nuts about our little creek. Any time we have a huge rain or a snow melt event I am scurrying to go watch it and take photos.

On the 15th we had our second day of extremely warm temperatures. I was sure that we'd had a 'run-off' on the 14th, but I had to wait for a phone call from the clinic. I was really quite put out that I could have been missing an adventure in Awesome Creek.

This photo is from March 2014. We'd had a lot of snow then.

February 15th this year...

I do love the sound the water makes as it makes its way through these boulders. The water is a coffee color with streaks of foam from the melting snow and ice. I believe the water color is from erosion from the cropland above and a mix of the clay and soils that line this 'dry' run.

I'd worn knee high waterproof boots for this.

After so many years of running down to the melt off, you'd think it would be boring or ho hum.
It isn't.
Each time it is different.

The path of the creek changes ever so slightly with each 'event'. Sometimes it changes drastically.

During such melt downs or heavy rains, I'd like to be everywhere at once along the creek. But that isn't possible.
This is the run off from the heavy rains we had on January 26th.

This is from the snow melt of February 14th and 15th.

Try as I might, I never do seem to get in the same exact place for these shots.
I gave up trying to be exact a long time ago.

But that is the charm of snow melts and heavy rains. I get to set up and practice some long exposure shots of the water.

Time was a factor also. I rush down to shoot the creek and explore as the daylight is beginning to fade.
I hurry instead of taking my time.

There are chores waiting for me at home. And a hungry husband.

I put the Olympus camera in my mini back pack and grabbed the tripod. I walked upstream to take the easier way out of the creek.
As I got above the water, I could hear a roaring coming from my neighbor's dry run.

I stepped through the barbed wire and walked over to where I could look. The water had started coming down here too. I couldn't help myself. I had to take a shot of the run off winding its way through the boulders and rocks.

I think I am going to find an old plastic chair to drag down to Awesome Creek and put it in a place so I can just sit and watch.

Morris doesn't come along with me any more. His eyesight is not very good any more and his hearing is pretty questionable.

I do miss his company and the looks that questioned my sanity....

Morris in 2014 giving me the look:

Weather alert.
Melting today.
Rain and ice event from tonight through Tuesday night.

I'm going to polish my cleats.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Just add imagination

"Do you want to go for a walk with the kids? We can go to the Reserve and do an nice easy trail...bring snacks?" I sent the question in an email to my neighbor.

We often went to my little creek for adventures, but the weather was supposed to be chilly. I wanted an excuse to get out of the house and visit with another female. And I wanted to go to my new favorite place. The Kickapoo Valley Reserve.

Off we went.

We took Harris Road Trail to the ponds. We detoured around the ponds which was good. 
That meant that I was knocking off one more trail that I had to complete for that Dam Trail Challenge. 
It is actually just called The Trail Challenge, I just like including the 'Dam' in it. 
This was one of those small intersecting trails that I'd missed the other times while hiking the south part of KVR.

The kids ran ahead while 'we' adults walked along behind just enjoying each other's company and conversation. 

The trail led around more than one frozen pond and of course the kids wanted to explore the ice. 

However with the recent warm days and melt downs I was super cautious and said emphatically NO! Lauren and I discussed our fears of falling through the ice and being trapped under it. 

Of course, I did something silly on the walk as we negotiated the path around the one pond. 
I blathered on to the kids about how in another month or so they could see Canada Geese, Mallards, a variety of ducks, and other birds. Did they want to keep an eye out for eagles?

I realized as I chattered on that Lauren was probably the only one hearing me. The kids were concentrated on the ice chunks in their path, the rocks, the stumps, and the pure adventure of the hike...and not the coming spring or birds.

I laughed to myself then. I thought, just enjoy the chatter of the children and the fresh but chilly air.

We came around a bend and there was a corn crib type structure. 
It was a blind set up with boards that you could open to watch those birds who would be coming to nest.
The kids ate snacks and enjoyed opening the little windows.

Sure, I tried to explain that this was a bird blind. That really did't impress my audience. Then I may have said that it was a way to spy on birds. Now that peaked their interest!

The only Eagle we saw at KVR was the finger puppet I added to my collection. 

I generally have a toy in my pocket of some kind even when I am hiking without children. 

Off we went again along the Old 131 Trail. The trail is flat and fairly straight. I think it was pretty boring to the kids. Up ahead near Star Valley there is a magnificent old pine that had been damaged by a storm. This pine became the place for the kids.

First we went to the benches and markers on Star Valley Trail. I wanted to show the kids the memorial. They were interested in the small pond created by the melt down. 
They were not being rude, they were exploring. A small pond with a mostly frozen surface is far more exciting than the little memorial. They could break ice up and throw it onto the surface of the flooded area and watch the ice splinter.

We had snacks and before the kids got wet, we moved away from the alluring little pond of ice and water.
The kids saw a trail that led across the field.

"Can we go this way?"
Of course! 
Off they ran, pausing at every area that had ice. 

Surely Mother Nature had put those little frozen places there just for them.

How can you compete with Mother Nature?

We went off trail as the kids wanted to see the river. They liked the huge chunks of ice that seemed stuck in it. I called them ice shoves, but they are actually ice floes. 

That did get some "cools!" from the kids.

I told them to lead on!
And they did.

I felt that the little trail would lead us back to the old damaged pine tree.
And it did.

However now the kids were busy. 
The adults merely stood back and let them play.

Play is the work of children.
It is very serious stuff.
~~ Bob Keeshan [Cpt. Kangaroo]

The tree and part of the branch that had broken off became something different that could only be seen through a child's imaginative eyes.
They played.

Lauren and I stood back and watched. 

I am always amazed at how quickly children can find something to play with. They don't need toys. Sticks, pieces of bark, or even a rock can become toys. A field of grass and a stump can become a fort or house.

Just let it go and let the children play, they will bring their own imagination.