Thursday, May 31, 2018

Whirlwind Activity

I like dawn. I like it even better with a pal. In this case my pal was not just a mule or one Charlie.
I took Ariel on her first 'rough' ride in the woods. This photo was after she and Siera did a mule slide into the creek. A big deal for Siera as she is pretty sure she doesn't want to do it and a big deal for Ariel who had to convince her it was okay.
Everyone survived and Ariel got to test out her 'muleman ship'. Ariel didn't seem convinced that she did fine. I was on Sunshine who is rather ho hum about mud, muck, and sliding into streams. Siera is sure it is mule-eating mud. She will do it though.

We rode two early mornings and what can I say? It is fantastic to have a riding partner. We beat the heat, got wet from dew laced leaves and got to see the fog coming off the creek into the warm air. The trails we followed were deep in the woods and along the creek. We simply followed the 4 Wheeler's trails. [Apparently they are not allowed in there!]

I rode Mica the second morning. We took the 'tough' trail out to the valley bottom and then used an old logging trail to head back home.

On a nice open trail like this Siera is the dream ride. Mica gets bored and seems to walk in her sleep.
No matter, we made two early morning rides and enjoyed them.

When I got back, I asked Dennis if he'd like to ride and brush up on his skills. He said yes. I gave him a boost to get on Siera and let him ride in the yard area.
The kids are pretty darned good riders on well behaved mules of course. I wish I had a buddy that would come ride with me often.

Morris always used to run alongside Badger and I. Later after Badger passed over the rainbow bridge, Morris would come with Siera and I. He even rode with me on Opal.

We'd had a very busy weekend. Stepdaughter's husband had wanted some wood to cut and load so he was busy during the blistering heat on Saturday. We grilled hot dogs and had a nice supper in the air conditioned house.

of course Charlie makes for sweet moments. MIL thought he was so darned cute and Rich held him for her to pet.
then there was this other Charlie Moment with Angel, the beagle. They grew rather fond of each other.

I've been working my fingers to the bone on the little gardens I have around the house. So much great dirt to work with! I'll catch up on that later.

Our farm friend stopped by, and yesterday I had to move the Dexters we are shipping to auction. We just can't afford to feed them and take care of them as they deserve. I kept the 'good' ones as forest foragers and they are just the right number of cattle to help keep the pastures in order.
More on that later too.

This morning I will see them off. Yesterday was an all day extravaganza of me pounding posts with a heavy post pounder, stringing electric lines and testing them.
The effort was worth it even if my hands hurt like the dickens this morning along with my arthritic sternum. The cattle are ready.

As soon as they are loaded and up the drive, it looks like I have MIL duties to tend to.

Tomorrow my Kenosha Gang will be arriving for the weekend. Charlie can get over his doldrums, I can wish that my house were clean after such a whirlwind weekend with the in laws and grands...however.
So much to do and it is delightful outside.

The locust trees are in blossom and the air around the house smells delightful.

And that is that....
Until I catch up on my garden stuff, yard stuff, ... and ... well, you get the idea!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Be Still...What ifs!

It is 4 AM and I awaken. The house is Still. I am the only one awake and it is still dark outside.

Charlie wakes up when I walk into the kitchen. As is his routine I let him out of his crate and we walk out onto the porch. He stands quietly and looks around in the pre dawn dark. There is a hint of light to the woods in the northwest sky.
He does his business and we walk back into the house where I warm up some coffee from yesterday's leftovers while I feed Charlie. It is early for him but he doesn't mind and he quietly munches away.

My morning musings are not light and airy. I awakened with all sorts of jobs to do on my mind. The yard that needs mowing, the garden that needs tilling, dog food for Dixie, checking the forest fence, and the CT scan that was ordered for Rich tomorrow. Company for the weekend. Shipping the extra head of cattle, ... getting the diesel truck in for service. MIL...

I generally awaken in the middle of the night with the 'What ifs'. What if this happens, what will I do? What if ...
I hate the What ifs.

I flip open my laptop and sip coffee. No, I am not going to read the news, so I check the emails and turn my cell phone on to Airplane mode.
I click on a song I heard last night while watching an old episode on Criminal Minds. I play it and am stunned again by the song. I'd never heard of the group nor the song but for some reason it hits home.
Be Still by The Fray.

I listen to it again.
I finish my coffee and close the laptop.

Charlie looks up and in the semi dark I attach his cord and grab my camera case. We walk up the long hill. The sky is now giving us a private showing of pinks and purples breaking away the night into a new day.
I pick up Charlie and show him the sky. I want him to be as awestruck as I am.
Well, he isn't. He is more interested in deer poop. I let him down and he walks with me to the ridge.

And I stand still. I am still.

I walk a bit further down the road towards the south.

And then I just stand. I watch the fog and the colors change. The fog creeps up and the trees in the distance disappear.

The song is repeating in my head now, echoes of the words... Be Still, over and over...and the lyrics...
I sigh and watch the day break.

Charlie and I head home. I have to make fresh coffee.
Daybreak was amazing and I feel sorry for those people who never make the time to experience the special show that is put on for them each day.

Be Still ~ The Fray
Be still and know that I'm with you
Be still and know I am here
Be still and know that I'm with you
Be still, be still, and know

When the darkness comes upon you
And colors you with fear and shame
Be still and know that I'm with you
And I will say your name

If terror falls upon your bed
And sleep no longer comes
Remember all the words I said
Be still, be still, and know

And when you go through the valley
And the shadow comes down from the hill
If morning never comes to be
Be still, be still, be still

If you forget the way to go
And lose where you came from
If no one is standing beside you
Be still and know I am

Be still and know that I'm with you
Be still and know I am

Be Still

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Silent Sports

I dislike noisy motorboats, 4 Wheelers, noisy motorcycles, snowmobiles, and other noisy sports.
Perhaps that is because my Grandmother influenced me so much as a kid. She had an old leaky wooden row boat we'd fish with and she'd grimace any time a motorboat went by.
The waves would rock us. She told me they scared away the fish.

We do have a 4 Wheeler as do most of the neighbors. It is a nice way to get extra tools to different areas to fix fence, or if you can't inspect fencelines and carry things like a chainsaw.
I have no use for motorboats unless of course I was on the Mississippi River. I like canoeing on the Kickapoo. I hope to try out a kayak this year...but there I go, off track.

I guess I really don't mind snow mobiles that much, they do stay on trail and rarely do damage to the surrounding area.

I just found out that the 4 Wheelers that abruptly make a horrible racket on my 'absent' neighbor's land don't have permission from 'him' to be there. I suspect that the drunken brother who is allowed to live out on the old cabin is allowing it. This the same brother who said his dog 'shot' him. That is a whole story in itself!

Their machines are not quiet, they are loud. They seem to delight in finding wet spots and shooting rooster tails of mud high into the air while their tires dig big holes. First they just showed up on Saturdays. Then it was all weekend, and now they are coming out after a large rainfall and 'muddin'.

I've always kept an eye out on the neighbor's land since his brother died and it became Paul's land...or his land in trust. The year they let guys 'hike' out there was the year the I walked into large plots of pot growing. That was a bad time.
Well, apparently NO ONE is supposed to be running around out there at all.
I am allowed to walk, hike, snowshoe, and explore as I have done for over 20 years.

During deer hunting season the Peterson Clan takes over and the place is mobbed by orange clad hunters.

I digress.
I went to get the mail with Charlie in the rain yesterday and we hadn't used our north hill route in a while. It used to be a mere deer path. And after the 4 Wheelers started showing was just a trail of bent down foliage.

I was shocked yesterday.
I don't think I'd mind it so much except that the soil here is very fragile. When it rains, it washes away the rich black topsoil. In some spots on this trail, the tree roots were showing. But since it wasn't my land and I had a MIL and husband to contend with [think health issues and LOTS of doctor appointments] I tried my best to ignore the comings and goings.

In some places the trail bites down nearly 12 inches. I guess I wouldn't mind having the trails if they weren't destroying the soil. I actually was a bit grateful at first to not have to 'brush bust' to walk through.

However. After heavy rains again, the 4 Wheelers showed up again last evening and I could hear them roaring. This trail pictured is annoyingly close to our house.

Since the owner lives across the state, I took photos of the vehicles plates and where they were parked with my cell phone and sent them to the owner this morning. I sort of feel rotten doing that, but perhaps the owner should know since he rarely comes to this gigantic section of land.
He does visit his family farm which is about a mile from here on most weekends.

I enjoy the silent sports. Hiking, x-country skiing, snowshoeing, riding mules, and fishing quietly along the banks of the Great River.

I'd much rather see the land preserved and not mangled.

But I guess I have been spoiled by having access to the neighbor's land for so many years.

I will ride the trails made by these 4 Wheelers and check it out. At least I know I am allowed on the land and my mule's hooves do not cause that kind of damage.

Monday, May 21, 2018


Here is what the 'porch' sort of looked like just before they put the concrete in. After the remodel, we had to add dirt around the fresh concrete.
It has settled down after two years and I've been nagging my husband to please get dirt with the skid steer.

So I did what any good nagging wife would do. I dropped it.
And I started to go get dirt by myself.

It was very hard work, but yesterday was nice and cool. I figured it would be a good day to move dirt.

Nagged Husband noticed the wheelbarrow and Wife hauling small loads of dirt back and forth while he and Neighbor Guy visited and discussed the garden tiller.
Neighbor Guy said he'd tune up the tiller for Nagged Husband if he could use it on his own garden as Neighbor Guys' Wife was Nagging him about...the Garden.

Well it worked! Nagged Husband went out into the winter pasture and started to bring in dirt and dump it.

Well many loads later, the nagging Wife had her work cut out for her. Nagged Husband helped for a bit and then went inside.

The nagging Wife worked and worked and worked with a shovel and a rake. And she got most of the work done and some seeds planted. After all, why waste all of that dirt to grass at least for the first summer???

By late evening the nagging Wife finished everything but the west side of the house.

If it doesn't pour rain today, nagging Wife will put some grass seed around on the dirt and some flower seed on the west side.

Neighbor Guy returned the tuned up Tiller. Neighbor Guy's Wife was now happy. Nagging Wife was happy. Nagged Husband and Neighbor Guy smiled because they knew they did the mechanical work...however.
Now the Nagging Women would do the dirt work!

And so it goes.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

One Photo, Many Edits

Here is the original. The morning had ground fog and sunlight filtering through the woods.

I took the shot and was so-so about how it looked.

In my mind's eye it was much warmer...
in my mind's eye it was more mystical looking.
But I decided to take it a step further after adding some 'warmth' to it.

This is the uncropped photo.
It satisfied me and I left it be.

Then this morning I wanted something to mess with while I was waiting for the rain to end.

So I opened up the first shot again and dropped it into Topaz Studio. I used 2 layers of Impression, Monet, and another one.

I added the mists that I'd seen with the naked eye and the vision I'd seen while squinting at the photo.

Then I took it another step further and opened up HDR Efex Pro HDR.

I settled on this look. The fog was incredible and moved along the tops of the berry briers, the meadow had an ethereal look to it that did not show up in the photo.

However, it had been a long time since I'd manipulated a photo so much.

I like it.

Programs used. PaintShopProX7, Topaz Studio~free version, Topaz plug ins Simplify, and  Efex Pro HDR. In PSPX7 I was able to add the mists with a brush.

So there you have it. One photo with many edits.
Some mornings it is just plain fun to be creative.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


It has been three days since I could go wandering. I couldn't mow any more yard and I was caught up on the housework.

Besides, out there somewhere...could be a morel mushroom just waiting to be picked.

So I wandered.

And found ...

I like wandering!
I got home just in time to do chores and make supper.

Friday, May 18, 2018

6th Graders

Once upon a time I considered becoming a teacher for a living. I got through two years of college and went on to doing a month as a Pre-Student Teacher.
It was a smart move by the college program to see if young students really had the calling to become a full fledged teacher.

I walked into the classroom to meet the students on that first day. 20 sets of eyes turned to look at me curiously. I felt fear trickle down my spine. I observed the class for one day and suddenly was sure that I would never survive a day in front of students. They would eat me alive.

I changed my major then next day to something completely safe and boring. Those 2nd Graders had terrified me. I was about 20 when that happened. I was positive that if I stuck with Teaching, kids would literally eat me alive.

The second thing that used to bother me to no end was public speaking. I had to give a speech while in college and I recall it was one of the worst moments of my life. My hands got slick and sweaty, my breath kept escaping me, and I knew I'd die of a heart attack any moment. Somehow I got through that experience without expiring and vowed never to speak again in front of more than two or three people.

I've had 40 years since that happened. I've done a lot of things since then. Maybe I'm just comfortable with who I am now.
I received a text from a teacher at the local school wondering if I'd like to come and do a presentation at Camp for the 6th grade. She was looking for something involving nature, something different.

I didn't really think too hard about it. I didn't even think about that day that those 2nd Graders shook my soul. I texted back yes. We made the arrangements and my presentation was going to be billed as "Nature Hike and Wild Food."

When I arrived at 'Camp', I spoke with the teacher and told her that I was going to have to 'Wing' it as I'd never been in this valley before and didn't know what plants were growing along our proposed hike route. She was fine with that.

I went to the meet up spot and watched curiously as a mixed bag of 11 and 12 year old girls and boys showed up. They pretty much ignored my presence under the tree and talked about their cabins and whatnot.

We started the hike in a well groomed area. I asked the kids if they'd ever hunted Morel Mushrooms, many hands went up. I asked about Wild Ramps or Leeks, less hands but still a few.
I asked if they knew what Garlic Mustard was. They knew. Did they know what it looked like? Curious faces. No not many did.
I found a plant and held it up.
There was a bit of curiosity in their eyes but not much.

I explained that this was a plant brought overseas by Europeans years ago. They used it apparently to spice things up and it may have had some medicinal purposes also.
There was sort of a shrug with the attention. I could hear their minds working. Big Deal.

So I grabbed a leaf and chewed on it. There was the hint of taste of garlic with another flavor. I made a face and said, "Oh this does indeed taste like garlic a bit!" Suddenly I had their attention. I picked another plant and held it up.

Hands reached out and they asked, "Can be try it?" Suddenly the group was passing the plants around, sniffing it, some grabbing a leaf and cautiously tasting it.
I spit mine out and took a drink of water.
"I could use that to flavor a salad or piece of chicken, but I won't be eating it plain!"

The kids started looking for Garlic Mustard as we walked. They would point to it and ask to pick it.

I found some Wild Parsnip and pulled out my gardening blade. I pulled it up and explained that this too was a plant that was brought over from Europe and was closely related to the Parsnip that was planted in normal gardens. However, one could safely dig them up in the spring and eat the roots. I cautioned that it takes a lot of work to make a meal, but I thought it was delicious as a treat.

Old photo of gathering wild parsnips

I asked them if they knew how nasty this plant was in the summer. They did and they told me how the plant could burn you and hurt you. I spoke about foraging and the best way to do it would be with someone who had a lot of experience so they wouldn't get the wrong plant.

We moved on after everyone got to smell the parsnip roots. They told me it smelled like carrots or parsnips or turnips.

The hit of the day was golden rod. We were looking at Jack in the Pulpits when one youngster brought me a dried out stem with a gall in it. They asked me what made it.
I pointed to the new golden rod coming up on the ground and then took the stem with the 'gall' in it.
I told them that insects burrow into the golden rod and then there is an egg laid. I thought a 'bug' should be inside the 'gall'.

I related a story of how my Grandmother and us kids would walk the fields in the fall to find these along with milk weed pods for a dried 'flower' bouquet. My Grandmother would sometimes paint the golden rod stems and the milk weed pods.

I asked if anyone knew the real technical name of these 'galls'.

I received blank looks and shaking heads.
I reached over and boinked the nearest student on the head gently. "There's your nobbin...there's your Nobbin' Knocker!"

There was lots of laughter and suddenly everyone was looking for Nobbin' Knockers. Some were going to keep them and some were going to take the gall apart to find the bug inside.

One of the girls had come up to me at the start of the hike and asked how long was the hike? I'd answered about 45 minutes. The look on her face was horrified.
On the way back to camp she was disappointed that the hike was so short. She had been having fun.

It struck me on the drive home that I'd been with groups of students all day long and had not once been struck by fear, dread, sweaty hands, or anguish. I hadn't worried about what I'd say or do. By the third hike out I'd figured out what might peak the students' interests.

And believe me. Holding a 11-12 yr old group of kids' interest is not an easy thing to do.

I had a blast.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Some Trees and Stuff

I don't know enough about trees. I bought a guide book but still, I sorely lack the expertise in identifying trees. I can ID the simple ones.
Box Elder
and the much disliked tree
the Buckthorn.
I am currently working on trying to figure out how to kill some of them off without nasty sprays. Chopping them makes them branch out. I am wondering if 'girding' them will work.

I do however adore the not much loved Hawthorne Tree:

I adore the shape of the leaves and the flowers that appear in spring.

The color and shape are very pretty. The thorns? Probably not so much.

I like the wild apple trees that grow in the Meadow next to us.

In the fall I do pick as many apples as I can and make juice, jelly, and dehydrate them in slices covered with cinnamon and sugar. They make a great treat while hiking in the winter.

In the spring I do like to go around and take photos of the trees when they 'flower'. After that, I lose interest in them again until fall when they show me their colors again.

Each year I am encouraged and try to wander around to figure out what the trees are by their bark, or their shape. However in a thick forest, ... the shapes get lost.
And then I get caught up by more interesting things.

Like rocks.
Or Fungi.
Or picking berries.

I don't seem as if I can ever stick with it.

Perhaps this year I can do better.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


I pop awake around 4 am when it starts to get a bit light outside. By 5 am I am wide awake and it is Charlie time. We run through our morning routine, but this week it has been different.

I realize that mornings are all mine for a bit. If there is left over coffee I heat that up and have some while I feed Charlie and have him do his morning business.

Then I make a pot. I look at Charlie and he looks at me. I pick up his little cord and glance out the window. The temperatures are decent, the grass is soaking wet...
we seem to decide together that we should take a morning walk through the meadow and enjoy some quiet moments.

This morning was quite different. We had the fog, but the sun shone through it turning it a brilliant orange/yellow color for a bit.

I even found some spider webs!

I didn't have a proper lens or set up for a 'great' shot, but there it was! A magical web glistening in the morning fog and dew!

There it is, the Meadow in its morning glory with fog moving over the ground and the heavy dew reflecting light.
The wild apple trees are coming into blossom and soon the meadow will be buzzing with bees and full of sweet smells.

We spent about 20 minutes just wandering around looking at the leaves, the trees, the grasses and the dew.

And Charlie came on the first 'whistle' I gave him.

On the run he came, the dew drops flying and his little bells jingling.

We walked back to the house in the morning sunlight together and ... well.
It was awesome.

The coffee was done brewing when we came in the house.
Charlie needed a towel to get him partially dried off.

But our early morning had been like a secret that we shared together as best friends.

Dogs, Sunrise, Fog, and Dew.
Birdsong and Sunlight.
What better things can their be in life?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Well maybe... by Charlie

I don't have a problem coming to Her when called at all.

She just has to learn how to do it properly.

This morning She had to go out at the beginning of the day and she decided to take me along as I was getting into trouble.
She was upset because I had just killed the Hedgehog with the cap by ripping its back end out, and then I put a hole in my little bed and started to eat the stuffing.

And She said I'd been dragging the Limey Hedgehog into the boot tray and got it full of mud. 
Big Sighs. I think She was ex-has-er-parated with me.

The Dexter Cattle were mooing like crazy. She had moved them from the winter pasture to the mule winter pasture. She said something about moving them to the Forest Pasture in a day after they settled down.

So out we went. She couldn't find my cord but thought it would be just fine.

It was foggy and rainy and the yard was wet.  But She said it was very pretty and she had that camera thing out.

I wasn't impressed, I had trails to find and deer pellets to look out for.

She was looking at tree stuff.

I don't care for tree stuff because I am interested in Ground Stuff.

Like deer poop.
And She thinks it is gross. Dixie says She used to yell at The Morris Dog and holler 'Icky Icky'. Well, She still does. I'm getting the idea that She doesn't think I should nibble on deer poop.

So we are working on something where I am supposed to go to Her when She calls my name.

"Charlie! Come" 
My response is, "Let me think about it."

"Charlie! Come Here!" 
Much more serious sounding. 
My response is, "Well, maybe."

Ohhh, just my name. 
My response. "Maybe later!"

And then I hear, "Charl---lie. Come. Now."
And I also hear the rustle of the treat bag.
Finally! She is understanding motivation!

I only get a tiny bit of treat and the rest of the walk I do actually come when called. Mostly.

Well, maybe She will eventually learn.
One can hope, right?