Friday, May 29, 2020

Humming Bird Fight and other things

I'd love the live action at the feeders while cooking or eating a meal. This year the humming birds and Orioles are arguing over the red feeder.
I purchased a hummingbird feeder and an Oriole feeder last spring just for curiousity.
It ended up being an excellent choice as I find Rich watching and commenting on the birds constantly.

There was a time when the birds didn't interest him. Well now they do and he is enjoying the show.

Charlie and I took a walk to re-hide the toys for the next kid Treasure Hunt. We generally let about 4 days pass. The toys are out in the weather. Rain/dew/sunlight/heat/ and the chill of the night should take care of any lingering virus. Both my household and their household have been isolated since the schools shut down on March 11th. The kids have not gone in to town at all. They are living a life of home schooling and having to play with their own siblings.

The soccer games are not happening so mom isn't on the run all of the time. The kids come down to the little area their dad cleared for them and do play soccer. I can watch from across the field and sit on my porch.
It is pleasant to listen to children playing. Such a welcome sound.

Here Charlie sits next to the clue:

The skull points the way to the next clue. The Zombie Doll!

Yes, we have a creepy looking Zombie doll!

And so it went. Look for the Teddy Bear near an Ash Tree that is losing all of its bark.

There is a blue stegosaurus guarding the big mossy rock!

I hid the rest of the toys and turned around.

What a delightful surprise:

Charlie never smelled the fawn and it was as still as a statue. I used the zoom lens and then backed away and left it alone.
That pretty much made my whole day.

Mother Nature has a way of making a person feel better.

And once more I reminded myself as to how lucky I am to be able to live in this place.

Other hidden toys:

I got an assignment today for my workout. The WOD of the day was deadlifts. A rest and recover day before the Murphy WOD tomorrow. I don't think I will be doing that however I may do it unofficially here at home in a modified version.

My Coach asked me to go around the farm and find items that I could dead lift. He knows I don't have the proper bars so he suggested that I find the odd things a farm person has to contend with lifting and post them.

Here are some:

And how I did it...

And no, I am not crazy really. I just want to stay in shape and maintain my mobility, balance, and stamina.

I want to keep my body moving.
And that helps both my mental well being as well as my physical well being.


Yesterday Rich had a Nuclear Bone Scan scheduled by the VA at a local Hospital. We'd chosen Community Care mainly because of the distance we'd have to travel.

We'd put off the appointment once as had been scheduled during the first part of March.
The nurse that had called us the day before said we had to wear masks. This was to be the first day that they would allow a second person to accompany the patient. I was pleased about that.

So we arrived during a downpour. I helped Rich with his mask that I'd made. Rich is doing better, but this was his first time wearing a cloth mask was hard for him to breath through.

Some nurse looking people in masks were there to greet us and direct us to sanitize our hands before proceeding to the check in desk. Ok. This is where I was a bit disappointed.
I expected to be temp checked. We were not.

So that is my tiny disappointment. When we checked in other patients had trouble figuring out the red X's on the floor to keep distances. It got pretty frustrating when people wandered right up behind us to ask the check in gal something. She tried her best to keep order.
I'm going to say that in some of these patients' defense that they just don't seem to understand the 6 foot concept.

[I see that often with the much more elderly in our local Walmart so I am assuming that for some folks these Covid-19 rules are difficult and confusing?]

The poor check in gal! She kept trying to tell patients to please wait. One old fella just ignored her and kept walking up to all the windows. Another? Just came up behind us and stood.

Exasperated, the check in gal muttered: *I think masks turn off their hearing, vision, and thinking.*
She did have a point. I think one of those ladies at the door could have acted as a hallway monitor and helped out. Instead they were chatting with each other and not watching the rest of the lobby.

[This is a new era with new rules and to be honest, some people are really confused. Especially at a very rural hospital/clinc. However, I won't be going back there. I'm pretty sure that they won't even get the Community Care Billing correct.]

After updating Rich's information which still had him married to his ex wife, we got taken to a waiting room. Those waiting rooms are small and right now they only allow 2 patients at a time in it. Rich and I counted as one as we were from the same household.

There was a fellow in there that was rather chatty. He told us about all of his aches and pains. He then asked where we were from, Rich told him. He then complained about the LaFarge Dam project never being completed. He said it was stopped because of some stupid animal or something. 
Rich chimed in and repeated that agreeing with him in a way.

I had enough. "It was not an animal. It is a plant," I informed him. Before I could explain the fellow jumped on that.

"Well what kind of stupid plant stops progress?"

I took a deep breath. This guy was a large CAFO operator. Confined Animal Feeding Operation. And I thought ~~ Progress MY foot! I knew that further discussion with either man was going to fall on deaf ears.

The LaFarge Dam project was stopped just before completion because an extremely rare plant had been found. The rare plant and rare environment would have been destroyed by the Dam and resulting lake.

It has always been a source of local disdain as farmers lost their land due to the project. You could read about it here: The Dam That Never Was.

Suffice to say many older people are still angry about how the project turned out and how the land became a place for out door activities. In my opinion, I am sad about its history, but so happy that it is there!

"The stupid plant is so rare that it is on the Wiscosin Threatened and  Federal Threatened List," I said, knowing that the men wouldn't understand. "There are only a few places in our country that it grows. The environment that it grows in is very rare too."

As I thought.
The men both asked, "And what good is this plant for?"

I shrugged. They would NOT understand. A CAFO farmer who felt the land was merely his. And all land was here to serve him?
Okay so I made a snap judgement.

I guess knowing that I am a un-certified Naturalist, I'd see things differently. I've always appreciated the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, however I am not a native to this land so I don't have the painful history with it that some folks do.

Mr. CAFO farmer then dumped another bombshell that we didn't need to hear. He said, "Hey you a Veteran? My brother in law was a Veteran and he went for a test and caught the Corona and no one would do anything about it. He died."

Ever want to get up and slap someone?

And last but not least, a photo from the Kickapoo Valley Reserve that is a memorial to what used to be there.

Some days I am just disappointed in humanity.
And others?
I am amazed at their ability for kindness and empathy. We need more kindness right now.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Why would you use Infrared in Photography?

I have to admit. I am drawn to experimenting with photography. I can't really help it.

Infrared Photography to be super simple about it, is viewing the world in a different light spectrum.

Our human eyes can only see a certain spectrum of light and having the ability to use the camera to shoot what the eye cannot see is intriguing.
There is a great article on it by Kolari Vision. They are the folks that converted my ancient camera to Infrared Full Spectrum. This only means that I can add a filter to the lens of different wave lengths to achieve different looks from light spectrums.

I really wasn't sure I wanted to do this at all. So the first thing I did was order a small converted point and shoot camera. I used it for about a month and then immediately decided that I need to convert that old camera of mine. 

First ever shots with the point and shoot camera:

665nm Filter

So instantly I was hooked, the world looked so incredibly different!

I got to see a world that was so remarkably different. However, getting the proper color swap or false color was and still remains fairly difficult. Processing IR photography isn't as easy as regular photography. Well, that is my opinion. I don't have Adobe Photoshop and haven't purchased the specific software just for Infrared.
After all, I am one of those that likes to find a work around.

Each light filter needs a specific white balance. So each time a person changes their filter, they need to reset it. One should even reset the white balance when the light changes.
Sounds like a pain right? Sounds complicated?
I won't go into all the technical details, but it takes a bit of getting used to.

My idea of learning is to just go out there and learn by doing.

550nm Filter

Morning fog 665nm Filter
Light flare 665nm

Not all of my Infrared images turn out like I expect them to. Sometimes I get a complete dud and other times I take a sow's ear and change it into something more fun.

The sky doesn't have to be blue. The grass doesn't have to be green. I feel like I have the creative license to be the kid I always loved to be. If my grass is red, so be it! If the sky is orange? Why not?

None of these shots were edited in Adobe products. I use ON1, CorelPaintShopPro, and Topaz plug ins. ON1 has a channel swap which gets me close to what I want.
AND...when the colors just don't please me, I can always convert to black and white. This is where Infrared shines anyway.

Here are some IR shots done with an 850nm filter which is strictly for Black and White:

The Pasture on a bright sunny day

These last two photos were edited in a software program I am trying out called DxO PhotoLab 3. If you ever heard of the NIK plugins, these are it, combined into an editing platform. I'm impressed with some features and love how it excels with the black and white photos.

I ordered one more filter. I'm anxious to try it out. It is called the IR Chrome Filter.

I'll let that be a surprise and post photos from that when I get the filter and use it!

For now? Have a good day.
Happy Snapping.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A very busy week...

There is Morel Hunting.
It has been a tough year. The south hillsides were so dry that there were nearly none.
My mornings have been starting with Morel Hunting and Charlie hiking.

The best time for me to do CrossFit is around 8AM. Rich is generally still asleep and I am ready to do something other than read the news.

Most of the chores are pretty simple, I rotate the mules and check their water.
[I am hoping to have the 4 wheeler issue resolved before I start riding the trails again. So I am waiting.]

Below is a photo of me doing my Home Virtual CrossFit workout for Friday. I thought it would make an interesting shot. Handy to have a smart phone that puts the little camera on a timer!

Yesterda was a pretty nice cardio workout. My 800 yard run included a very steep hill! No matter, once I get back to the nice flat streets of the gym it will be easy peasy!

Still supervising most things from his perch on the bench. I can work in the veggie garden or flower garden and he always ends back up on the bench just watching over his yard and pasture.

I did get my hike in with Bill last Thursday. I took him to Black Hawk Rock.
I think Bill loved this hike the best so far, I think I can tell by the number of Wows, I kept hearing.

Bill took a photo of me leading him up the trail.

Nice of him to take these with his cell phone.

The garden is just about all set. I even planted acorn squash in one of the winter pens. Seems they like to grow there anyway even with a mule walking around them. Last year I had squash growing from an old soft squash I'd tossed out in the pasture the winter before!

Mother Nature sure is interesting.

My hair. Hmm. Guess it is in the messy stage of growing out and no one is around to look at it besides Rich and I.
Warm weather has hit and it was muggy and foggy the past two mornings when I went out to check on the mules.

Tourism has hit our town and our town is doing its best it can. It needs visitors and tourism to survive. There is a whole 'thing' going on about Social Distancing and Masking. 

Rich's concentrator quit over night and thankfully the company had someone on call who brought one out and swapped it. The fellow came from Iowa. He did NOT wear a mask entering the house. He did have gloves on. I wore a mask and sent Rich out on the porch to stay out of the 'air'. 
Am I being paranoid? 
I opened up the house and let the warm muggy breeze air things out for a bit before I let Rich back in.
Tsk tsk, I said something and the tech said that they don't have to wear masks in Iowa. 

That is where I am ending this catch up. 

I will email the company and inquire about their use of masks and protocols for visiting patients they supply oxygen supplies to. I mean, really? 
I guess I know that it is inevitable that one day this virus will knock on my door.

Today is full of phone calls and other things to sort out. Rich has an appointment this week for a Nuclear Bone Scan.

I imagine I will be left out in the parking lot for the duration.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Virtual CrossFit Viroqua

When the gym closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak I was pretty bummed.

At first I was all ready to work out at home. I even went around and found things like post drivers, an anchor, and a carriage horse weight as substitute weights and a stall mat.
Then I hit a wall. I couldn't get motivated. I'd walk past my jump rope and think, "Gosh I should work out."
Then I'd move on to something else.
Always something else.

My CrossFit shoes gave me a sad look the other day. Can shoes do that? No, I don't suppose they can. But there they were  ~~ sad shoes and a lonely jump rope.

70 days had passed since I'd been in a gym. For the first week I was frantic. How was I going to maintain everything I'd gained for the past year and a half? Gradually I stopped feeling guilty about it and tried to put it out of my mind.

I grew even more miserable as I noted my gym mates posting photos of their workouts. They were motivated, I wasn't. I.

Then I got an email notice from Josh Brown of CrossFit Viroqua. He was reaching out to see how I was doing. Our State was opening up yet I wasn't sure I could deal with being in a gym setting quite yet.

We met on Tuesday via Zoom [I'm pretty sure I stink at some of the tech stuff, Josh could only hear me.]

We talked about my goals and expectations. He asked what I had around the farm that we could make into substitute items for weights.
Post drivers
Tire Rims
Hay bale spears

You get the idea.

This morning I got a message:
Beyond the Whiteboard
It was Josh explaining the WOD [workout of the day] and how I could modify it to work for my situation at home.

The first thing I did was sit there and hold onto my cup of coffee and do nothing.Then I reminded myself that I was the only person who could take myself to the Virtual Gym or in my case, my side yard.
And besides that, I heard Josh's voice telling me quietly, "You can do this Val."

Charlie was curious as I dragged out the mat and set a timer for a 5 minute jump rope warm up.

I started the clock and did the 15-12-9-6-3 reps for time:
Kettle Bell Goblet Squat
Kettle Bell Swing
400 meter run

I admit it felt weird and during the first 400 meters of running I had to chase the dog down and call him back after he took after a squirrel. But it all felt good.
I could have gone with a heavier weight, like the anchor, however I wasn't sure how my body would do after such a long leave.

[From the mat to mid hill on the driveway is about 100 meters I think. I will actually measure it out today but I didn't want to put off my first workout any longer.]

Josh's message this morning asked me to let him know how it went.

It went well. In fact doing it in an open air atmosphere was rather nice. Being held accountable was even better.

I feel invigorated, hopeful, and encouraged. I have some things to sort out. Like how to work out when it rains but I'll get there.

Most of all?
I feel inspired again. My shoes were happy. My jump rope was no longer lonely.

And I am back to working out with CrossFit thanks to a great coach.

Goat, Pony, Fence, Dew, Mules

That about sums it up.

Sven got a new lot and I put Mr. Pony Baloney...Lil Richard in with him as an experiment. Lil Richard used to be an escape artist but I've found that putting him an electric fence with a third line keeps him from going under the fence.
Likewise, I had so much trouble keeping Sven in any mule fence. He would just duck under the hot wire.

I can't mow this section because it is a hill and it is littered with huge rocks. I needed to be cautious and not cause erosion so Lil Richard will make visits and Sven will have the run of the area in the summer.
He is a grazing animal and has suddenly become infatuated with the pony.

However, he is also respecting the fence. The only time Sven got out was when he and Lil Richard were playing 'tag'. Since then it has been very peaceful. I'm happy I can have Sven earn his keep!

I fenced in this section of the 'yard'. It is a pain to mow. And it was used for hay storage for round bales for years. It also is a place for Mystical Things that Hubby keeps that are stored and forgotten. Like the Tractor he had and parked next to the fence in 2015. I didn't fence in his mom's car, the old tractor or the manure spreader [that has become part of the landscape]. There is still room to use Lil Richard to keep down the grasses around them.

But now the mules can eat the good stuff out of this area and I can run the mower over the weeds to keep it tidy.

Yesterday morning was one of those incredible misty mornings we often get in the 'Driftless' Region of Wisconsin.
The early morning is absolutely incredible.

It is time to trim up these mules and get back to riding now that all the Spring Fence work is done.

The fog and the dew was rather incredible. I do love early mornings!

Today it is overcast but it is supposed to be warm. Rich mowed yard yesterday. The first time he has felt good enough in 3 years to actually mow!

Today I'm taking a break with my Hiking Buddy, Bill. I'm going to show him Black Hawk Rock.

Even with the Covid-19 threat, our CrossFit Coach has come up with a plan that I can modify work outs and do them at home with items I have here.
I'll write about that later.
Right now I have to go work out and report back to my Coach.
Just call me happy!
I'm back at it.

The only draw back is I don't have the music they played in the gym.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


We remain in self isolation.

Our State Supreme Court tossed out the 'Stay at Home' order and most areas are not enforcing any of the rules that were imposed. Suggesting to use masks are still recommended except by those who have decided that masks are a political statement or some such thing.
Social Distancing was still being respected [with masks] at the two stores I stopped at Sunday morning.

When I stopped for gas, it looked like pre - pandemic era. No masks, everyone milling around inside the gas station, no sneeze guards for the cashiers, no distancing [the place is small], and the general chaos that ensues in these places.
Since I hadn't purchased gas in nearly 4 weeks, I was surprised.

I won't go back to that store unless it is immediately after opening.

Enough of that...


I've been busy as a ... well, an ant!

Seems I am a fence builder. Yesterday I spent the entire afternoon making two more lots for Sven and Lil Richard to keep the grass and weeds in check. Last year I staked them out in those areas but I find that if the goat is in a lot with the pony he is far more content and will eat the thistles and burdock while the pony takes care of the grass.

This is an area behind the little red shed that is a tough one to hand mow. Sometimes I just resort to the weed whacker, but I hope the pony and goat can keep it under control. This isn't a good spot for a lot but it is an area that I hope to find a good use for other than growing grass. It is shady most of the day so it makes a good alternative for Lil Richard and Sven to spend hot days here in the shade!

I had half a mind the other day to just put a wire across the driveway and one around the house and let everyone loose.
We've done that before, I believe that was when gas prices were so high and for whatever the reason the yard had gotten out of hand [I'd had shoulder surgery!]

I just recall that using the equine was a great alternative.

However, having my laundry hung out with a donkey around...well....

That didn't work out so well.

Another gloomy day is in store for us and I can finish up the lot for the pony .. and then work on another section for the mules. We had such a dry early spring that the pastures need more time to recoup from where I let the mules out earlier.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Treasure Hunting

Let's face it. Being stuck at home, even in the countryside doesn't always feel very good.

I came up with an adventure for the neighbor and her kids. They have stayed at home and worked diligently on their school work along with playing in their yard and working in the garden with their folks.

I know that even a 'Social Distance' hike was not in the cards. So I devised a plan.

A treasure hunt on our wood 'ridge' road and along the creek. I devised it so they could go on their own and seek out the clues I send them via email. I'll leave all the gates they should go through open and let them have some fun.

I took a handful of toys and set them out.

1) If you find the Brown and White Pony near the green round feeder, you are on the right path!

2)  There's a Pretty Pink Pony who is stuck on an blackened old stump. She may be scared! Can you help her?

3) Watch out for the Guardian Bear who asks for the secret password to enter the woods!

[forgot a photo of him!]

4)  Don't climb the ladder. But another Bear is hiding? Can you find him?

 5)  Percy, the Flood Bear has built a shelter far from the creek so he will never get washed away again.
He built this under the Huge Maple Tree.
Can you spot him from the trail?

6) Go to the gate and help the Little Pony who is stuck in the tree next to the Elevator!

[When I had no safe way to climb into the creek after a large flood, I rigged up a rope to climb up and down the steep bank. The kids called it an Elevator when they first saw it years ago.]

Next, sign in at the desk and look for instructions for your next move!

[Yes, I have a school desk down at the creek. Inside is a notebook sealed in a bag with a pencil. Visitors can sign in and leave a note. I will bring a book to sit here and read once in a while. I can just squeeze into the chair!]

The note in the desk claims that there is Skullduggery afoot. To walk to the Orange Orb and look for the green paint on a tree. Skullduggery!

Head to the blue chair and walk upstream.

8) Walk in the creek or alongside it to find 4 large Stromatolite Fossils on a rock in the water. They have a red Christmas Ornament with them. You may take the Ornament and leave the Fossils!

9)  Find the two lost Dinosaurs. One is Orange and one is Green. They are near or around the Large Cotton Wood Tree with Big Roots. Hint, it is the largest tree in this area!

10)  Yippee! You finished! Now it is your turn!
Hide the items and write down clues when you hide them.

In three days it can be my turn!

So I ran this by the mom and she thought it was a wonderful idea. Three days in between setting out the toys and letting the air at them should be plenty of time for any 'germs' to be destroyed. We have all been staying at home and severely limiting exposures.

This could be a safe way to interact without ... interacting???

I can't wait to see what the kids come up with!