Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The good ol' days

Sunday night I spent time reading some other blogs of folks who own horses. I found their blogs from reading someone I follow. So I went back in time to when I rode nearly every single day and did some reminiscing. I found a photo that reminded me of the best relationship I ever had with an equine.

There is Badger the mule and Morris the JRT. Rich bought Morris for me at the last attempt I made to show Badger at a Show. 
I recall 'getting the gate' and walking out disappointed. A man walked up to me and asked me if I was okay. Yeah, I am. Then the man asked me if I'd rather trade halters with any of the other mules in the arena...for a moment I was confused.
Then I said, "Oh hell no. this mule is my soulmate." 
He nodded and then said, "So you have the best mule for you."

I quit showing, more because Rich had issues with traveling and face it, Badger would rather wander the woods with me than go in an arena. This mule got to be so bonded with me that he absolutely knew where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. 
Once while riding on a road, a two men stopped to talk with me. One fella was aggressive and came right up to touch me. Badger pinned his ears and bared his teeth.

So nearly every day, I would ride out on Badger and do something, carrying my small pocket camera and we always had Morris along. 

I lost Badger in 2012. And for a long time I found it hard to ever give that sort of heart or trust to another animal.

Done with the backwards. On to the forwards.

Sunshine is Badger's half sister out of our Jack and my mare. She is proving to be much like Badger in temperament. I don't ride as often now especially since the 4 wheelers like to invade the woods next door. But I still yearn to be in the saddle.

Sunshine was our first foal we raised. The rest were sold of course and did well with their lives. No one wanted this little red mule.
Sunshine and Badger were the first two mules I trained. Or should I say ... they trained me?

I hope to get out a lot this spring and do some exploring during the times that the 4 wheelers are NOT around. They show up on the weekends and almost never before noon. 

Well, there it is. Reminiscing about the good ol' days.

I miss you Badger!

PS~ Please do not think I am not all for showing an equine! My experience with Badger showed me that to be a singular unit we had to appreciate each other's faults and strengths. 
Our curiosity was in the forest and not in the arena. Our trust was in each other. I've got that with Sunshine and Siera so I consider myself luckier than most equine owners.

Sunday, March 28, 2021


My Olympus M 1 Mark iii has a couple of cool features that I love. Starry Sky AF. Most Oly cameras have standard options for taking cool longer exposures called LiveComposite. 

When using the  Starry Sky AF, the camera seeks out stars and locks in focus! Amazing. I did that Friday night even with the nearly full moon and clouds moving in. I thought I'd experiment for a bit later this year when I'd like to go to the KVR ponds on a clear night and photograph star trails reflected in the water.  

Here is a crappy shot of the camera doing its thing, taken with the cell phone.

Here is the result.
For camera buffs, the settings were ISO: 1600
f stop: 2.8 
12mm lens
Livecomp settings: 15 sec exposures for a time limit of 15 minutes.
Post process, not much just DxO PhotoLab 4 PrimeNoise reduction.

So the Livecomp basically adds any light it sees to the original picture. I really don't know how it works, however it saves me from having to purchase a program and manually stack star photos taken individually. It feels like cheating, but it also is fun.

Even with the bright moonlit sky, I got a nice star trail. Nothing exciting, but now I have figured out how to do it.

I took the Full Spectrum camera an Olympus OMD EM 10 Mark iii [entry level and damn fine camera] and set it up without any filters.
I was very surprised at the amount of light the FS had!

Cell phone shot:

That was the pasture, so I took the camera and pointed it south.

Manual Focus [I'm not as good at that as I'd like to be...old eyes?]
ISO: 800
f 1.8
25mm lens
Livecomp settings: 4 second exposures for 4 minutes.

The clouds moving through left interesting streaks. I could have desaturated the ground, but just left it as is. Very little noise in this shot!

Again, it could be fun to try this summer on top of Black Hawk rock shooting the Milky Way or star trails!

I lost track of time while out in the pasture. I didn't walk back to the house until after midnight. 
Morning brought dense fog and rain. Yuck weather.

I made a huge mistake and went shopping for some things we ran out of. The local Walmart wasn't too bad when I walked in.
I got distracted in the craft and paper section. I haven't browsed crafty stuff in ages and I got sidetracked.
I looked up and saw droves of humans.
It was like a weird social experiment.

Some humans trying to avoid other humans. Some humans standing with masks on chins chatting. Some with masks on properly chatting. Others with their noses poking out and glaring at others.
And some humans just ignoring everyone around them.
I got the heck out of there but felt queasy standing in line waiting for a check out station.
I used to have a rule of Never shopping on a Saturday. Damn. I won't break that rule again for ages!

I like doing still life photography but got a bit bored with the choice of layouts. I picked up some paper to use as a back drop. I'd seen an ad for Replica Surfaces and I thought ... Wow great! I could use those!
Yeah. Until I saw the price tag. I searched around and in some cases other surfaces just like that were up to $69 for one foam board with a pattern on it!

So my side trip into the craft section netted me this. Craft paper with patterns on it.

Cell phone photos. The first two are lay flat and terrible lighting. I did those while cooking. The last one is a patterned paper on the bottom and one sheet taped to a board for the back.

The items have to be tiny as the paper is only 12" by 12". 
Well, $5 is better than $69 right? I have about 20 different colors and patterns to use. Now let's see if I can get creative.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Rainy Thursday and Funny Friday

Last year I signed up for the Master Naturalist Course which got cancelled. This year it isn't being held anywhere local. I'd have to drive one way for two hours to take and evening class. Um, that won't work in my situation. So. What else can I learn?

With a rainy cold day in store for us, I did a super duper [is duper a word?] closet clean out. Out with the old worn out beat up back pack[s] I had. Clothes that I wouldn't wear any more. A pair of old dress shoes, some outdated shirts. I could have saved the material for 'something' but decided to chuck it and not waste time. Frustration cleansing! 

I had a big enough load to nearly fill the back of the Outback. 

I had to wait for the electrician to show and the UPS delivery because the other half won't go outside to pick up the package or talk with the electrician. Buggers!

I decided to pull up some tutorials by Gavin Hoey a British photographer that I really enjoy watching. He is a portrait photographer by nature, but has some of the most fun and interesting tutorials. He is an Olympus Ambassador but his Live Tech stuff really applies to all types of photography. 
His videos in lock down were pretty funny. His wife kept making comments about how clumsy he was. Some of his very simple ideas were very fun. I watched High Key Still Life. Every time I watch a still life tech video, I want to buy soft box lights and a whole set up. But I don't. I just muck along with what I have. After all, I am not making money with my hobby.

Nothing inspiring here...but I had fun with it and added textures which is not very popular except with certain crowds. Just junk I had and tea towels for the white backround. 

Another inspiration. Actually this was what I was reading the other night with my head lamp.

Of course I had to have the forest dragons with me.
I used black material and felt from old sewing projects and just set things up on the table.

I watched a video regarding macro work and learned quite a bit. Now to see if I can take what I learned into the field. Some of the stuff I knew, but some of the tips were pretty good and very appropriate for using my EM-1 Mark iii. As always, I can revert to my pocket camera with the microscopic feature!

Friday was a Hang the No Trespass signs. The dude in back took down his trail camera. I plugged the purple penis with my .22 just for fun. Just as I predicted, squirrels were chewing on it.

Um. Yeah.
About the doll parts.
Why not?
This certainly would creep me out if I saw it in the woods.
Evil Grin.

I'm going to take the post pounder back there and put the fence back up. HIS trees fell on it. 
But I am a master at cobbling things back together. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Lights OUT

So just after chores the other night the power ... blam

went out.

I didn't get too excited because we have 'smart' meters. They notify the local electric company that the power is out and things get fixed. 
After about an hour, I texted my neighbor asking her if she was out. I had no internet, no land line [it sure makes a case for having a Hardwired phone and no wireless phone]. My cell phone was at almost nothing percent with no bars. 

Since I didn't hear back from the neighbor I started to walk up to the top of the hill to knock on there door. By this time ol' Grumpy was having fits. His mindset doesn't do well with things like no electric. They had power and she'd call it in for me.

I grabbed a headlamp and sat down to read a book. Grumpy started pacing and yelling. I should have called, I was wrong, why did it go out? How come? I explained the best I could that ALL technology had failed us at the moment. The Electric Company didn't get notified and we had no hard wire phone and the cell phone was useless unless I went to the ridge.

More yelling. I started reading wishing I had more battery so I could tune in Pandora. Hmmm. I could start the car and go charge up the phone, drive to the ridge and listen to music. 

"Lipstick Powder Horn Mushroom. Description: Fruiticose grayish or greenish slender, unbranched stalks arising from a finally scaled surface and topped with a blunt red tip..." I tore a scrap of paper and wrote on it:
Found March 23 in the morning midway up a hill on a mossy fallen oak log with 3 or 4 types of mosses mixed in. NW facing hillside--very shady in summer. No idea what all the different mosses are as of yet but will search the moss book.

[Photo taken but obviously not posted with no power]

Another note to self:
Look up a bit more info on macro and in camera stacking along with Helicon stacking. 

I got up to get a drink of water and there was more yelling. I was wasting water. I reminded Grumpy that we were on a shared well and the pump was up on the ridge and it had power so we did have water. 
Long ago I'd talked to a counselor regarding this sort of behavior. The best advice I ever got was to not think of him as the rational person I usually knew. But to call him in my mind Irrational Man. Really nothing I said or did would change Irrational Man's mind. 

I opened up a notebook and started to make a list of things I'd like to explore with photography this summer. Small things in particular. The nasty icky ugly weeds that grow. Fungi? Lichen? Mosses and Liverworts. Things close to the ground. Poison Ivy? Tick weed, wild parsnip, and hawkweed. 

Eventually two trucks slowly came down the hill. Vernon Electric. I walked out to talk with them. I kept my distance and the first guy checked the meter and then quizzically looked at me and opened up the box on the post next to the meter. 

"Here is the problem," he said and pointed his light at a switch. He pulled it down and then pushed it to ON. 
Apparently it is the original on off thingy that controls all the other thingies. 

"You might want to call an electrician and have him fix this. It is odd that its a 100 amp. It is old. Update it to a 200 amp." 
I shrugged and pointed out that I had no idea that box was something that was ours so I never touched it. I apologized for not knowing that but also was very relieved that this incident happened as we needed that box to be upgraded.

I suppose it was missed when we upgraded the house in 2016.

Grumpy was hovering when I came in. I explained to him about the box and that I'd call our electrician in the morning. 
He was calm and wanted to watch some TV. 

I marveled at how his mind worked. Crisis over and all was forgotten. I wanted to really get back at him in some way and remind him that he'd hurt my feelings. 

Irrational Man. It just works that way. 
Jake will be showing up in a few moments and I'll need to go back out. 

I asked Grumpy if he would be okay without power while Jake worked on the box.

Whaddya mean? 

He'd forgotten. 

Update sort of....
Don't feel bad for me, I'm used to this. Yes I was really upset at his inability to understand reasoning. I had to walk outside and stand for a while and take a few deep breaths. This is what a CareGiver does. Screaming back at him would not have made anything better.
I kept telling myself I was better than that. The worst part is not having a way to release the pressure. 

I so need to get back to CrossFit! Be well.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Colorful Nature in March

I generally think of March and November as very dull months. I call them the brown months, months without color and excitement. Dull so darned dull.

Winter brown. This is the neighbor's road up on the ridge surrounded by cropland.


A few weeks ago I was browsing some new books to read. A friend had recommended Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer. So I was just looking through the titles and came upon the moss and lichen books. A comment was made that even in the dead of winter, one can find moss and lichen.

That was a bit of an Ah-Hah! moment. Just as finding fungi are incredibly fun and interesting, I thought Why not Lichen and Moss? Boy was I in for it. Moss is so hard to ID without a microscope. However I am beginning to see the tiny differences in the plants and learn where different mosses do grow, as well as Lichen.

And best of all? I have found color in March!

Sunday morning Charlie and I went to the cropland on the ridge to watch the sun arrive. Bringing along coffee to sip on was a great idea!

The day was supposed to get very windy with wind gusts up to 40 mph. So after morning chores and breakfast, I set out to catch some morning light in the woods below the house.

I couldn't get over the beautiful colors highlighted by the morning sun.

Then there was the pretty blue-green colors of the Lichen I found...

I think I can safely say that I think I recognized a moss called ... Common name: American Tree Moss. Scientific name [generalized]: Climacium americanum.
Of course there are multiple kinds of this moss.

I find it easily this time of year because it is so brilliantly green when everything surrounding it is brown. I found a several patches of it above the spring on a north facing hillside. The morning sun lit up the green like a beacon.

And then I doubt myself of course when I find two similar but different mosses.

It sure looks like I need to really learn quite a bit more. No one said this was going to be easy. But it sure is fun.

For those who like Fungi, I was sent a fascinating video on Fungi by a fungi friend on Flickr --- say that 3 times fast!

Stephen Axford: How fungi changed my life

It is a 30 minute video with time lapse photography and some of Stephen's most incredible photos of fungi all over the tropical world. It was interesting enough that even my husband watched it with me.

Now on to mundane things. Chores and pasture cleaning for today.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Weister Creek Ma & Pa's Trail

I had an idea how to do Ma & Pa's Trail and pass by the remnants of the ice caves. I dislike straight out and back hiking.
So I dove deep into my memories of riding this area pre KVR. There now are 50 miles of hiking trails.
30 years ago it was more like 100 miles of back and forth trails.

When KVR took over, they eliminated many of the equine trails due to erosion and safety concerns for the people and their equine.

I knew from ancient memories that it was possible to make a loop from Pott's Corners to Ma & Pa's and back to Pott's corners. It is recommended for hikers to stay on the trails so they don't get lost.
Those old trails still exist and I wouldn't take a horse on them. 

My fellow explorer, Bill, came with me. Bill is an amazing hiking partner. He doesn't mind me pointing out little things. He doesn't mind it when I stop to investigate something I see.
He doesn't mind following me into the unknown.
Bill has no sense of direction, he tells me. But he has a sense of wonder. He is retired from being an IT guy. He can whip up a spread sheet and do financials in two seconds flat. 
He can fix just about anything and rebuild a mower or bicycle. He is curious and loves to fix things.
I find it amusing that he puts his trust in me not to GET lost.

Charlie is my other great partner. He has a knack for finding deer trails which are often old equine trails.
Here we are on the Ma & Pa Trail which eventually crosses Weister Creek.

If memory served me correctly, the bluffs along the creek had an old trail. I can recall riding along the bluffs both above and below. I remember our group stopping so they could point out The Hole in the Rocks. Bill and I found the hole and the early spring sunshine shone right through it. [Can you believe I did NOT take a photo?]

I was more concerned with finding the faint indentations of the old trail.

With cries of delight I climbed a bluff when I spotted some very cool Lichen.
Dragon Horn Lichen. See the pine needle on the left? It is tiny but bluish. Some cool things about this lichen, apparently is glows under UV light. I think the name is just cool. [Taken with my TG6 pocket camera]

Charlie led and we followed the faint trail. Bill asked me if I knew where I was and I said I sure did. I stopped so he could get his bearings. We listened for the road traffic and then I pointed out that if we followed the Creek we'd end up at the Ice Caves.

He gave me a look.

Soon enough, we climbed a steep old trail and crossed an icy ravine. I asked Bill to take the lead up and over. 

And then there we were. He recognized the ice formation from earlier this winter.

We took a break and then headed back to our vehicles.

The icing was probably going to be gone after this weekend of warm weather.

Mission accomplished.
We did a neat hike without backtracking and covered 2.8 miles according to the Map My Hike App.


no one got lost.

However. I need to go back and 'shoot' a picture of the Hole in the Rock.

Another time!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Curiosity overrides...

I listened to a doctor on the radio expressing his ideas regarding anxiety and depression in our world today. I sort of half assed listened as I was driving to go get my new glasses.

But a few points that he did talk about in the interview was how the curious mind beats down anxiety and depression. I thought Peeshaw...Pfft, he doesn't know what he is talking about. 

But then I thought about the general idea of Curiosity. Why in the middle of a Pandemic while living with my significant other did I constantly fight the blues? Sure I know it is the result of being a CareGiver. But some days the Blues were simply an unforgiving weight. Should I give in or fight it? 


I needed a new purpose. 

I needed to do some wandering with a purpose. 

Like...what is this called? 

I know it is moss, but what about moss? What about Moss Life cycles?
I began a search and decided to order a book on moss and a book on lichen.

Suddenly, I found myself very Curious. I'd spent so much time in the woods hunting Fungi, wild plants, and insects, but never really paid any attention to things like Lichen. As far as I was concerned they were fungi. I was SO wrong!

Why did I get the feeling of calm and satisfaction while wandering the woodlands looking for interesting tiny things to photograph and go home to identify and take notes on? Why did using the skills of a Naturalist keep me sane?

[By the way, the new glasses are incredible! I can see things clearly for the first time in months in the distance again! Wow!]

Powdery Sunburst Lichen
Such a pretty name for such a tiny thing. This was found on the trunk of an oak tree.

Common Antler Lichen on top of 
Sinewy Bushy Lichen.
All found on a twig in the forest.
I laid the twig on a log of moss for the photo. 

Researchers don't know why we get such a high over learning. I do. My mind is taking a break from the problems I face every day at home. It is directing all of its energy into trying to figure out how to recognize different plants. 

It is true. My anxiety and blahs, disappear when hunting interesting things in the forest. 

I knew that by setting out to examine another aspect of the forest around me, it would lead to calm days and clear thinking. 

I think I knew this before and that is why I wander about so much in the forest. It gives my brain time to chill out and relax.

The scientists say that when the brain is engaged in curious learning the pleasure part of the brain is LIT up. 
Maybe that is why I am so reluctant to step through the door after being outside.

This is one of my favorite photos of moss. The white specs are grains of sand. I used the microscopic mode on my Tough TG6 camera to capture this.
I have no idea what these are called. From what I understand there are 12 thousand species of moss. Most moss ID depends on a microscope.

So I will be happy to continue to find beautiful mosses and lichen because I am curious and little things like this make me happy.

I may even figure out what kind or species of moss this is one day.

Let's stand up and applaud curiosity. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Quiet day

The Supervisor decided he needed to sit on hubby's lap and oversee his 'couch realm' today. He is definitely shows a preference to hubby.
I am just the slave to Charlie. I feed him, potty him, walk him, and tend to all non couch needs.

Charlie waits most mornings until Rich gets up before he gets up. 
During morning Imbd TV, Charlie rests with his head on Rich's leg.

Don't get me wrong, the dog loves his long walks. Yesterday we got a nice one in and Charlie got to chase two squirrels and one rabbit. 

He spent the afternoon snoozing next to The Boss. Rich has even allowed Charlie to occasionally take naps with him on the bed!

The afternoon...while the guys snoozed, I washed the stairs and peeled off the old butterfly stickers. I was ready for something different. I was going to leave them plain, but I like something on the stairs so it isn't all one color and to give the steps definition while running up and down them.

I'm a dork.

It was fun adding some cheer to the stairs. 
I think this summer I may repaint every other stair white. The paint I use is porch paint and it really holds up well to foot traffic and washes up nicely. 

IF I had my way, the walls in the house would not stay pure white. I would add color here and there. 

I brought in the rocking chair I have on the porch. I'd purchased it two years ago for about $5 dollars. I painted this chair last year with a few different bright cheery colors.

I was going to hand paint a design on it, but then decided to go with some of the leftover stickers I had.

It sits on the porch to greet folks as they walk up to the house.

I sit in the rocker often during the summer. Lazy afternoons are spent there reading or just day dreaming. Charlie has a rug I put on the bench and he sits on that so he can observe the yard from a higher perch.

My last thing of the day was to order fencing supplies to re do some of the mules' gates and add a third electric line for Mr. Pony Baloney and Goatie Goat to graze some problem areas. They cleaned up a hillside for me last summer so I have an area for the two of them to work on this year too. I have to replace some insulators in the woods where deer have gone through the lines and busted them.

Today? I pick up my new glasses! It will be nice to be able to see the distance again. Poor glasses may have been a big part of my continuous headaches over the past year.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Snow- Skulls- Paint

Yesterday was one of those totally yuck days. Overcast, cold, dreary, and snowy. I woke up with a killer headache and that sums up my morning after trudging through the weather to feed the critters.

Mules and horse hanging out in the woods.

I finally decided to disconnect and just listen to music which got me in the mood to mess around with two coyote skulls I'd prepared a while ago. All three skulls are in excellent shape and the 'yotes have most of their teeth. I let mother nature do most of the work and then cleaned the bones with hydrogen peroxide. To keep the bones from cracking and separating I use an Elmer's glue mix and apply it to the areas that will crack with age. 
With age the skull will crack and fall apart unless 'treated' properly.

I felt a 'creative' streak hit me after I got up from the headache. So I gathered some of my craft paints and started to work. I had no plan of what I was going to do. That is the way I do things. 

Once painted I seal them with Polycyrlic by Minwax. It cleans up with water. I can also coat them with some spray when the weather warms up a bit.

I'd heard of something called an Acrylic Pour and thought I'd try it.  I learned of another method later called HydroPainting for skulls which is really cool. I may try that when the weather warms up.

It takes about 24 hours or so to dry, but it was pretty neat looking. I like how it looks almost like a swirled marble! The coverage wasn't complete so I have to think about how I want to do the parts that didn't get covered. I even may just leave it as is and seal it.

The other two?

I've had an offer on the blue coyote skull and a message on the green drippy one already. I don't know if I want to sell them, there was a lot of work involved in getting those 'yote skulls. 

Uffdah. It is snowing and sleeting again. I guess I'll be doing some cleaning indoors again.

Another dull day? 
Maybe I'll bring in the little rocking chair from the porch and work on the doodle design for the seat.

Here is a doodle I did for the stairs landing because Rich still cannot decide what to put on it. I thought the plywood was rather ugly. 

Looks like I lean towards the blue green colors and variations. Hmmm.