Monday, August 31, 2020

Wintergreen Trail and Tail Tales


I decided to go to the Reserve early and avoid the 'crowd'. The Wintergreen trail is short and easy with some nice views of the Kickapoo River. Charlie has made this trip with me several times and I'm pretty confident now that he has no desire to take a leap off from the bluff into the river below.

He is wearing his harness and does have a cord attached that I step on in case he gets some stupid ideas.

Our trip was mainly uneventful and we ran into two other folks with dogs. One person was obeying the leash requirement that KVR management has put into place because of the popularity of the trails right now during the Pandemic. There has been some problems with people and their dogs not being leashed.

During a normal year a person can walk with their dog unleashed except when the ground nesting birds are active. The Reserve is popular for those who hunt pheasants and use their dogs for retrieving. Hunting is allowed during turkey, pheasant, and deer seasons. Everyone local knows this and it is on their website.

Ok. So I digress again.
Charlie generally never gets more than 6 ft from me as I will just step on his cord. And when I hear other people on the trail, I just pick up the end of the cord and we are leashed. I've had to pick Charlie up on more than one occasion as we've run into some rather aggressive dogs.

I'd brought the Kurgo dog pack and snacks. Charlie and I hiked out to the end of the last bluff and had a picnic and practice session with the backpack. 

Here is a view of the last leg of the trail through the pines. The smell is wonderful in any season. I had forgotten to put a battery in my little red camera so I only had my infrared pocket camera to take photos. It ended up working fairly well I think. I had to really look at the light, dark, green, and sunlight to compose photos.

On our way back we ran into a small group of people with a little old dog that had no collar and no leash. The dog was very obedient and the owner asked if Charlie and her dog could say hello. I said fine and the two dogs looked each other over, then Charlie simply walked away as did the other dog.

In the shot below you can see Charlie's long line that he drags behind him. When he wears his harness and line ~ and we are walking the reserve trails, he has always stayed close. He must really know the difference, right?

Tall Tale from the Trail....

Not a great shot, but doesn't it look like this tree is pouting??

Do you see the face? I actually had to stop and look at it twice. I plan on going back with a camera that can shoot at a higher speed than the little Canon Infrared can and get a clearer shot. I now have two grumpy faced trees that I enjoy photographing!

Be well.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

How things change

When one becomes a 'CareGiver' life changes. I used to work 30 hours a week and do odd shifts as a security officer.

When Rich had Throat Cancer I had to drive him 180 miles a day for his radiation treatment. My bosses re-arranged my schedule to work on the weekends. I did that until the day he had an Anaphylatic shock to the chemo treatment. 

Two days after getting out of the hospital I was getting ready for work. It was the weekend and I had an early shift.
He got up to go to the bathroom and had a TIA. 

The hits just kept coming. He had another very serious stroke in 2017 that the doctors were not sure he'd recover from.
The social worker came into the room and said that they were searching for a room at the VA hospital or the VA nursing home as he could not go home and be left alone. I made the decision to give up a job I'd had for 9 going on 10 years to stay and take care of Rich. Any career choices were now eliminated.

The Pulmonary Emboli that should have killed him the next year didn't. And my new career which had been ongoing since his cancer diagnosis was now in full throttle.
I had to care for a man who was diagnosed with dementia [not severe at this point] and a long list of other health issues. The most difficult issue to deal with was the severe depression. 

So what did I do for myself during that time? In October of  2018 pre PE, I joined CrossFit to get out of the house for an hour a day during the week and to get some social and physical time. I was falling into a trap of sitting at home and watching Rich's every move. 

My care responsibilities had increased.

Of course this was about the same time that Rich's mom had been diagnosed with dementia and that huge mess. I'll skip all of that. The end result is that for a while I was the CareGiver for two people and eventually the court appointed a guardian for his mother.


When I look back and wonder how can 5 short years have so much change in our lives?

So what have I done for me? I eventually decided I needed an out more than just hiking. I joined a gym and began to enjoy the physical and social aspect of creating friendships that were not dependent on CareGiving. 

My doctor had been concerned on my last physical about my blood pressure. Sure, it was going up and up. Now? I average a very good reading.

Maybe I am taking the right steps to self care. But perhaps I can learn more about Care...Giving...and Self Care. That's why I signed up for the Virtual Class.

One of the more interesting things about this progression of events is that I have not become hateful or bitter or even resentful.

Sure there are days that I feel frustrated and short tempered when dealing with my loved one's apathy and disinterest or his forgetfulness. I am only human.

I still find moments with him that cause me joy and laughter. That is the important part. I don't regret leaving the workforce [well, I sort of do, I loved the job, but not the stress of all the strange hours].

I've branched out to learning new things to keep myself occupied.

Covid-19 has really managed to change the whole playing field. No more gym, no visits, and isolation from others. No long day trips. Getting groceries is an adventure in masking and avoidance of others.

I'm looking now for things to do to keep my mind occupied for the winter. [The reason I decided to do a toy story book and a photo book about 2020].

I may even start sewing stuffed toys again. 

So ... Things Change, yet they stay the Same don't they?

Friday, August 28, 2020

2020 The year to remember?

First, you all need a photo of Charlie who was happy to sit under the Hickory Tree on a chair with his rug on it...
for the sole purpose of watching for The Squirrel!

I am not going to comment on the politics and craziness that is happening right now in our country.

I'm going to go back and do a project that has been on my mind but every time I start thinking about a project, I get sidetracked. 

January will be the starting point.  I am going to do a photography book. I want to go back and visually enjoy this year.

I need a distraction. I've also signed up for a 6 week course in Care-giving and Self-care offered by the Veteran's Administration. The course will start next Monday and go for 6 weeks. Since I am an Official Care-Giver to my husband, I may learn something new from the class and besides, it is Virtual and online. I've been caring for Rich since 2015 but had to leave the workforce to stay home with him in 2017.

Hmmm, there I go sidetracked again!

I'm going to feature things over the year that were meaningful to me. That helps me figure out who I am and how I cope with our interesting life here on our little farm. I don't mean to say that I have it so hard. I don't. It might be something fun to look back and enjoy this year in photos.

January 2020 started out with a bang.... or well not so much of anything. But we did have some very warm weather and then some snow and frost.

For some odd reason I feel compelled to document this year in some way. I have kept a written journal that started out with my Master's Naturalist class, but that devolved into a private journal.

Maybe I just want to go back and pick out my favorite visuals from this year.

Who knows?

I've had ideas like this before. I did a book called The Sleeping Forest and another called The Enchanted Forest. That was in 2009 when I eagerly searched out plants and wildflowers and photographed them as a project.

I still go back and look at that book once in a while. Perhaps it will help motivate me once more.


What might you do to recall this tumultuous year in the future?

I do know that in the past 11 years that my photography methods have changed. So that in itself may be interesting.


Back to canning tomatoes. Sure makes things steamy!


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Backpack for Charlie???

8/26 Sunrise with 
smoke and haze
high in the atmosphere.
Hot Summer Sunrise.

Hot, HOT!

I'm looking for a doggy backpack for this fall. I intend on taking some nice long hikes and he is such good company. I found a backpack that when not being used as a pet transport can be used as a regular backpack with shoulder stays, a sternum and waist strap. I'm pretty sure I can use it as they advertise and wear it in front until he is more comfortable and I can wear it on my back?

After all. What is 12 extra pounds right?

Charlie does very well on hikes, however he has one severely bowed leg and a foot that is sort of a bit angled funny. Sure it is the result of cross breeding and we are pretty sure that eventually it will be a problem. That said, his little imperfections are nothing but a delight to us.

I've been looking for a way to safely take him bicycling with me and a way to carry him effectively when he gets tired. He is an amazing little trooper and I've wracked my brains on how to take him along in the winter when I snow shoe.

I've been thinking about a sling to carry him or a little bike pull along stroller type thing. Those work fine for most people, but Charlie and I like the rough trails so a pack seems to be reasonable. When Charlie isn't with me, I can use it for my gear.

I almost never hike without a backpack as it carries extra water and important items like a space blanket, emergency poncho, lighter, a firestick in case I have to make an emergency campfire, and a small first aid kit.

Charlie can handle about 2 hours of steady hiking on rough trails before he asks for a rest. I usually carry him then for a while. He is really quite the little tough guy. 

I thought of a front carrier but I the reviews on this pack said I could switch it around to front to help get the dog used to it.



I ordered it.

So watch for reviews and how Charlie and I get along with a backpack. The super nice thing about this is that it has a very sturdy waterproof bottom that would fit my camera gear nicely. I have a padded insert for putting camera 'stuff' inside a regular backpack.

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

I had NO idea!

When Morris died and a few days later I brought home Charlie, my husband was furious with me for about 5 minutes. He ranted, he raved and he kept on and on until I stuck Charlie in his hands.

"He's too little, his legs are bowed, his legs are short...what good is he?"

Against his better judgement, this tiny dog started to worm his way into the gruff old fart's heart. Xena my crazy terrier was never a fan of Rich's and that went both ways. Morris was ambivalent about Rich but tolerated Rich's presence and listened to him most of the time.


Well, I think the above photo says it pretty good. 
Charlie waits for Rich to awaken most mornings. He rarely gets up until Rich gets up. 

In the evening after supper, Charlie goes and finds a bone or his ball to bring to Rich to play fetch. When Rich reaches for it, Charlie turns his back on it as if to play Keep Away.

He laughs at Charlie and calls him a stinker. Charlie let's me take the bone/ball and give it to Rich. The old fart tosses it, Charlie retrieves it. After several fetches Charlie marches to the couch and does this grunt/groan thing.

It signals Rich to come in and sit with him. Of course! It is time to sit and watch something together. They both wait for me to finish the dishes.

At night before bed, Charlie has to walk into the bedroom to watch Rich get ready. Then he waits until I motion towards the couch where he lets me tuck him 'in' for the night. 

It is down to a routine. If I forget to tuck him in, he walks into the bedroom and grunts.

I had no idea Charlie could control our life like this.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Lucky me

I am pretty grateful for having such an interesting upbringing. All summer we stayed at a  small cottage. No TV, no hot water, we did have a toilet that flushed but weren't allowed to use it during the day.

Grandpa wanted to conserve electricity and not burden the pump. I think he was under the impression that we kids would flush for fun? I have no idea. 

My Grandparents had a tiny house not far from where we stayed. Our tiny house had two halves. One half was a room that was the kitchen and everything else room. The other part of the tiny house had 2 sets of bunk beds shoved together to sleep in. And the toilet with a curtain for privacy. It was built for Grandmother's parents to live out their lives in. The floor was wavy, uneven, and fun to play marbles on. 

We spent the summer surrounded by my Grandparents' huge garden. Only now am I coming to realize that they didn't just raise items for themselves and to sell, but they also raised enough food for to always have extra. I can recall their cellar be lined with home canned goods. The floor was dirt and there was a 'cold' room.

My own family had rows upon rows of home canned goods also. I never ate any jelly or jam that was factory made unless it was at a restaurant. I actually still don't as I've only once purchased grape jelly for grandkids when they all visited for a week during the summer and they all wanted grape jelly and peanut butter for snacks.

So why am I so lucky? I learned how to preserve and garden as a kid. A skill I was sure I would never use, ever. After all, we are the land of plenty right? I mean I can go to the store and pick up whatever I want when I want.

After swearing off vegetable gardening for many years, but growing flowers, I decided to experiment and mix it up. Flowers and green beans along with leaf lettuce.

Soon the garden grew larger and included all the basic veggies that Rich and I both loved. I had continued all along to make jellies and jams from foraging in the woods and picking blackberries, raspberries, and seeking out the wild apple trees to make apple jelly.

I went to the store after the Covid-19 #SafeAtHome order came to our state. Imagine my surprise in March when the land of plenty became the land of empty shelves. 

I dug back into my childhood and decided the prepare for this coming fall and winter. I planted another vegetable garden with the foods I knew that we would use all year to make stews, soups, and meals.

This is the third batch of tomatoes. The other two batches yielded 8 pints of Pasta Sauce to use for Lasagna and of course spaghetti this winter. I used to hate canning tomatoes, especially the peeling part.

Not so much any more. I use a food mill that separates the skins and most of the cores from the tomato. Easy Peasy.

It all comes somewhat naturally to me as I reach back in the memory banks to kid-hood. Grandpa's habit of saving things that could be useful in case of a shortage must have stemmed from living through WWI, the pandemic, the depression, and the rationing of WWII. Now I get it.

My Grandparents weren't idiots, they'd seen a world they hoped I would never see.

Yes I am Lucky.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Not going there...and other stuff

I got baited yesterday while working on tomatoes and stirring things and waiting for a medication delivery.

I noticed that someone I knew stated that our state was like living under martial law because we had to wear masks and that South Dakota never had any issues with Covid-19. I simply noted to them that SD had a 10.7 person density per square mile and our state had 107 per square mile and in the cities it was something like 6,000 per square mile. 

Uff. I should have ignored it. I was ashamed that I even tried to point out to someone the difference between states. Oh well. I will smack myself on the head a few times and repeat my mantra [scroll past, do NOT comment]. Conclusion: Don't comment on Meme's that so many people post thinking they are real info.

In other great news! I got the Firestick working well for hubby. He is now getting used to asking Alexa or as he calls her Hey find programs for him to watch.

It has been dry dry dry here. The humidity is way down so that is a bonus. It gets warm in the afternoon however the slight breeze is nice.

So with the new Firestick, I finally got rid of the ancient computer we were streaming with. Years ago one of the grands slipped an SD card into the CD/DVD drive.

So I decided to see if I could retrieve the SD card.  Have you ever taken a laptop apart? Well it isn't exactly easy, but I didn't have to take care doing it.
And I had help.

I think they were looking for 'intel' and they found it!

I went for a walk to look at the back fence, the forest ground in that area is so barren and dry. Whew.

However the moisture near the creek keeps things green and growing. I did stop and stand in the creek to admire some filtered light.

I cooked up pasta sauce and canned it yesterday. Today I am cooking up a fresh ham with instructions on how to make pulled pork.

Here is hoping for some rain and a few days break from processing tomatoes. Huh. I don't think that is going to happen!

And I did retrieve the SD card and it wouldn't work. The photos were from October 2013.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020


I may be in one of those moods. What kind of mood? 

Gosh I really don't know. I walked out yesterday morning and watched the sun rise over what used to be the Merry Meadow. It belongs to the neighbor and we no longer brush hog it or fence it for pasture. At one time it was nice to walk through that well groomed pasture. I think there were about 10 acres of it. Now it is a nightmare to walk through unless the snow has pressed down the weeds and grasses.
Still, the morning sunrise is still beautiful to watch.

The Teddy and his lonely tea party. 
I spray painted the cups and sauces.
They were purple.

My husband's Aunt sent us this huge decoration for our house. I don't have the heart to tell her that it is way too large for my tiny house. I chuckled at the word 'Family' on it. 

Let's just say that I don't get the Warm Fuzzies with the word Family.

I get what it is supposed to mean though.
I was sorting through my mini boney dinosaurs to figure out which ones I'd keep and which ones I'd send to my youngest grandson. I set the ones I wanted to keep for photos on the mini bench in front of the place I stashed the Family sign for the time being.

[I have no idea where I would actually put it. Really...I don't! 
I'm thinking though it would 
make a nice frame without the letters to use for a 
flat layout and still life photography... hmmm....]

Other meandering thoughts. My flower garden is going great guns and it will be time to start collecting seeds for next year's gardens. The barrel I had in the middle of the plantings is now surrounded and one has to peek through the towering plants to see what is on the spool top I set on the barrel.

The Tree Ent looks
Think so?

The tiny brass car with the hen and chick in it looks like it is doing well. I have to remember to reach in and water that and the ones in the tea cups....

Maybe I'm feeling the ... well, I don't want to call it stress... but perhaps it is stress...
The stress of worrying about something I can't really do much about. The worry about the coming winter. The worry about world events. 

Perhaps what causes my feelings of unrest come from something deeper. The cost of Isolation and being careful. 
The feeling of waiting for that Other Shoe to Drop.

Sometimes I go to do something and I just stop. I look around and feel as if I've lost my way a little bit. I stand and wait. Then I think of something I should be doing. And of course then I do something else.

Distracted and disjointed.

I sure hope this oddness passes.

I think I'll take Charlie for a stroll now. Unless I should be doing something else.

[Oh...and if my kids read this they'll get the reference to Family. It isn't about them, they will fully understand why I chuckle at the word.]

Monday, August 17, 2020

And there it is...


This morning I read some of the blogs I follow. My take away from The Brownstone Birding Blog is something I had been thinking about most of the day on Sunday. Larry in his blog asks if we have become too impatient these days? 

Has the internet, smart phones, instant everything ruined us? 

Yes. I think so. The last two days, I've taken an afternoon break and strung the hammock up between the pine tree and the hickory tree. I thought I'd get bored right away and fall asleep. I had my Smarty Phone with me and was going to play some music. 

Charlie wanted up and I tipped the hammock and dropped the phone on the ground. It stayed there while Charlie and I got comfortable.

After a bit, I noticed the Robin's nest above us. It was empty now whereas a few days ago the Robin had chirped at me when I was picking up sticks below it. Had her fledglings already left the nest?

A bit later I heard raindrops coming down through the leaves. Well, it wasn't raining, we are in a very dry spell. I listened a bit more carefully and I could hear something gnawing on...??? 

Pretty soon, pieces of a hickory nut shell started falling down on us. Charlie woke up and sat up. He could hear the noises too.

By golly, we had been so quiet that a squirrel had settled in above us and was eating a nut. 

For a couple of hours we did nothing. My phone laid on the ground. I listened to the squirrel and listened for birds [most are migrating away]. 

When I walked back to check on the mules before supper, I saw dozens of bluebirds launching from the barbed wire fence and flying into the forest.

When I got back, I checked the dehydrator. The sweet corn was coming along well. 

I walked through my east flower garden and took some time just to enjoy it. The dull area I had started with was now full of a riot of colors. I could stand in the path I'd made and not be seen from the driveway!

And there it is...

my thoughts for a Monday morning. 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Time Out


After hours of freezing, drying, and cooking, I thought a day 'off' would be in order.
Charlie and I headed to KVR to check out how long it would take me to get to the ponds if I parked at Star Valley or Willow Camp.

Star Valley used to be a road that joined Old 131. It is a maintenance road now and allows the KVR people to access different areas with equipment needed to mow and clear trails.

I had an idea that this next month or so that I am going to hike down to the ponds to take some photographs of a sunrise over the water.

I took the following shots with my little Infrared pocket camera.
The walk through the trees was wonderful for the light and shadows.

However, once we got on the main trail. IT was hot! 

I stopped more than once in some scarce shade to give Charlie a break from the sun and some water too.

We made it to the ponds after I had a brain fart and turned left instead of right. Well, it pays to do these things in the daylight if you plan to do the hike at predawn I suppose.
We made the ponds and I took shots with my little pocket camera in Infrared of course.

These were taken with a pocket camera. A Canon ELPH 180 that I ordered from Kolari Vision. I did have my Olympus OMD EM 5 [old and abused camera converted after I had fun with this pocket camera]...but the Oly is having major issues now. I can still get a decent photo out of it, but the LCD is green and dullish.

I take the Canon pocket camera on hikes when I don't feel like dragging along extra weight. I also use the little red pocket camera on hikes. Less equipment = less weight.
I am doing this for fun and creative distractions.
Call it art if you wish.

But it sure takes my mind off from all the world troubles.

So here I am...another photo...a self shot of me having fun with CrossFit later that day. I was following my coach's suggestion of using Charlie as an awkward item to lift.
Note the messy hair!

Here is the funny video I made for my CrossFit coach and friends....

Naughty Charlie was digging in the yard.
He has discovered voles!
Enjoy if you want and laugh aLOT. The mules did!

Last note.
I started getting the photos for the Nonnicorn and Buddysaurus Book of Adventures ready. I even did an outline for the little fun book. 
I needed a project to do while this world is raging with so much angst and upheaval.

Be well, be safe.
Enjoy life as you can.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Spam spam, who likes spam?

 Well certainly not me!

All comments from here on out will have to be 'approved'. Really, I am not interested in the size of your parts nor do I want to do the 'nasty' with you...whoever you may be.

But as gross as that is, why is it done? I mean really? 

Okay in other news.

Yipee! We finally got a Firestick and Remote! Very slick. Now Rich is totally unprepared. He doesn't like it. Just an off and on button and some symbols on the remote. And I showed him how to ask for Western Movies and Alexa showed us so many! 

If it were that easy, right? Teach an old dog new tricks?

It will be interesting.

So, yesterday was a pickin'/freezin'/cookin' day. 4 dozen ears of corn, blanched, frozen, and dehydrated.

Tomatoes cooked in a crock pot to make pasta sauce. Right now the tomatoes are coming in a few at a time. When I get enough to can, I will be doing that. 

Last but not least. Yesterday morning I walked to the neighbor's place to drop off a bucket of sweet cantelope. She had given me two plants for my garden and my garden is producing them like crazy whereas hers wasn't.

Share and share alike. I also picked a couple of zinnias to go with the drop off.

I am giving myself a one day break from canning/cooking/freezing. Well, I think I am. 

And to you spammer person! Ewwww! I'm glad I changed my comments again back to having to be approved. 

Last item, some art for you to appreciate. My Diversion Art:

I mean, who doesn't love unicorns???

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Just stuff


It is Orb Spider season! Time to take a few minutes to go out and look at the weeds in the early morning hours. The Orbs are waiting for their meals and will eat their overnight catches before eating their webs and building a new web each night.

Imagine that! Rebuilding that web each night!

The past few days have been busy. Not busy like people visiting busy, or me going places busy.

I've been dehydrating vegetables and processing sweet corn for the past few days.

Did you know that you can dehydrate tomatoes? Doesn't seem like it makes any sense but you can and if you season them ahead of time, you can drop them right into soups and stews and have delicious chunks of tomato. However, the skins do show up as little chunks too. I just consider it a bit more bulk to the stew or soup.

Mornings are quite beautiful right now. The heavy morning dew makes eachnew day seem refreshing and enchanting.

Here is a view of the meadow across the fence. We used to pasture it years ago when I had more equine that we do now. It has gone to 'seed' in a way, but the weeds do provide for quite the showing of dew dropwebs.

Today I'm headed out for a couple hours of quiet at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve.

Charlie is going with. We need the peaceful time.