Sunday, July 31, 2022

Fat Bottomed Girls make the rocking world go round...

I have no idea why that came to mind. Do you ever get a song stuck in your head?

This tune did and I hummed it while getting Sunshine ready for a forest adventure.

That butt! It makes me laugh! Sunshine inherited some of her mom's body shape and most of her Dad's common sense. 

I pulled the britchen over her butt and started humming about Fat Bottomed Girls. I kept it up throughout our adventure into PeeWee's Woods. 

At one time it was a breeze to ride through my neighbor's land. There were great cow trails and the underbrush was grazed by his wild and crazy beefers. His cattle were experts and jumping barbed wire fences or ducking in between the wires.

For about 5 years after my neighbor died and they removed the cattle..., I was still able to ride the old trails. 

Then the 4 wheelers came and made some nice trails but they were not supposed to be ripping up the property. I gave up a lot of riding because their load machines were out there so often. However, I road at dawn when I knew they wouldn't be out.

Now those guys were kicked out and Mother Nature has been wicked at taking over.

I thought Sunshine and I'd take the driveway out to the snowmobile trail and head into the valley.

In the shot below there is a young doe eating in the soy bean field. She is on the curve so the photo probably won't show her. We nearly walked right up to her before she bolted.

Sunshine saw her before I did. Love those large ear signals.

I didn't take any shots going through the cropland because it was tricky enough to avoid the plants. The 'snowmobile trail' was somewhere under Parsnip plants that were as tall as we were. 

We made it to the woods 'entrance' where the cattle gate used to be. 

Sunshine is not a mule to hurry along and frankly I wasn't in a hurry. She knows this trail by heart. We've been travelling it for nearly 20 years together. 

She is watching a buck that was watching us.

We headed down the long hill.

I'll stop for a moment and take a trip back in time to 2008. My husband is riding Sunshine with 2 yr old Dennis in front and I am on Badger with Ariel behind me.

We are in PeeWee's valley.

Here is what it looks like today.

However, Sunshine knew where the trail should be so she didn't hesitate except to shoulder her way through the tall weeds. I totally had a minor freak out because I was slapping Parsnip with my shoulders.

The creek appeared to us when we stepped down into it. Well, I should say, SHE knew it was there before I did. We had an awkward moment where her front end was in the creek and the hind legs were on the bank.

She had a notion that the grass that was in her face was worthy of her attention.

Tilt! So glad for the britchen.

Once we got back into the forest, the trail was a bit clearer except for the downed trees.

This was the best part of our ride. We were in the dips and doodles section. We had two dry runs to cross and a steep climb. True to her mule-ness, she just did her thing. 

I was so tickled with her performance after her butt-headed-ness the other day.

We got into the oak/maple forest section and went hunting for mushrooms or other cool stuff. I took her to the Hugging Tree for this  cell phone shot:

We then headed back out to the gravel road to get the mail and go home.

Sorry if this sounds like I am bragging on my old gal, but she lifted my heart and made me sing.

I'd figured I'd have to give up riding, but it seems that maybe I can eek out some nice little rides to warm my soul. 

I know for sure that the valley trail along the creek is out of the question at least until there has been a killing frost.

My other Fat Bottomed Girl will be taking me out later this evening for a stroll. 

Friday, July 29, 2022

Sunshine and Changes

The end of July is here, that means I start to think only of riding. It seems that I spend the spring and part of summer tending to everything else but riding.

I had hired Molly to help me with things around the farm and sadly that only lasted two weeks. She stopped coming over and then after the lost dog incident she took off to who knows where.

[The dog was found alive 5 days later in a creek bottom about 1/2 mile from their house!]

With Rich's PT schedule which is 3 times a week, I have to rethink my whole weekly plans. 

Thankfully with the nicer weather and the yard and gardens all doing quite nicely, I turned to my other summer project. I dove into saddle and tack cleaning.

Most of our tack is kept in the horse trailer as the tack room Rich was 'gonna' build in the shed never happened. I have 3 saddles that I do use. So I keep all my gear for Siera and Sunshine in good shape.

The saddle shown below was a custom built saddle for me. It even has my 
name stamped on it. 
It is a nice mule saddle. The only drawback is, it is heavy.

My Mule Saddle is always ridden with a britchen as the places I ride are steep. This saddle would slide forward on those steep downhills. I use a crupper on the lighter saddles but am thinking of using a britchen on the other western Simco saddle too.

While I was cleaning and inspecting the gear, I tried to think of how old these items where. The britchens are well over 30 years old. The Simco saddle I purchased in 1991 at Midwest Horse Fair in Madison WI.

Anyway the Mule Saddle looks like this when being used:

Old photo from 2009 with me on Siera at Wildcat parking area

What britchens look like on our mule Mica who is fully retired now:

So I got off track with all the saddle stuff.

In the evening I caught up Sunshine and planned on taking her out and about on the ridge to visit some neighbors.

So, the little mule herd decided to run, buck, fart, and carry on when I came out to catch my red mule.

The turds! I caught up Sunshine and tied her to the shade tree just as I always do. As soon as I walked off to get a brush and other grooming tools, she brayed and started to paw and shake her head.

She calmed down when I groomed her and saddled her but was all wiggly and sketchy. 

Hmmm. I decided to do a bit of 'ground' work with her to check her attitude since this was so unusual. Her sister didn't help by running the fence line in another area and screaming.

Finally! After a few commands on a long line, she was ready to listen. I got on and sat. I explained to her that behaving stupidly was not in my best interests. 

We rode to the ridge to get the mail. Once we reached the mailbox, she was all mule business and eager to ride. 

I kept it short and simple. We stopped to watch deer.

She went back to her calm and chilled little self. 

When I got home I put her in what we call The Jenny Craig paddock. I put Siera in there too. Both Siera and Sunshine are super easy keepers and probably a bit on the fat side. If they are handy and not out back where it is harder to get them, it is easier for me to grab one for a ride. Be it a short one or a longer one.

I plan on evening rides and exercising them. 
At least, that is my goal.
[Separated from their buddies, even just by a mere hot wire, they both are now self exercising by walking back and forth. Rich said they are self lunging. In a few days, they will get over it.]

As I was putting gear away after our short ride, I saw my neighbor walking with a young couple that had a baby and a young one around the edge of the woods.

I guess the house at the top of the hill must be for sale. 
Eventually I will have to break in yet another set of neighbors?


At least I still have my beautiful girls, Charlie, and of course, hubby.

Our days of riding together are gone, but I still have the memories of all of our fun adventures:

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Breathtaking and terrifying!

I was able to eek out a few hours in the early morning to head to Kickapoo Valley Reserve.

My hiking pal, Bill has been busy since he became the sitter for his grandkids. In June he had them every day. This month they are in summer school and get out at noon. Then he has to get them to baseball games and whatever else their social calendar requires of him.

I do have to say, that makes him an extraordinary grandfather! I've decided not to wait to continue my Trail Challenge. I am charging ahead in case Bill's time is still tied up and we can't make all the trails together.

KVR does make a pretty good effort to designate the trails, however in some places they are rather vague. Carrying a map and a compass is a great thing to do.

This marker reminds equines to stay on the trail. In the 1990's we used to ride up and over this rock formation and skinny down the other side. We loved it, however it was deemed dangerous and it created issues with sensitive soil and plants.

Charlie and I marched on like we were on a mission for the first two miles. Most of this part of the trail is uphill. We started at Pott's Corners and headed up the West Ridge Trail past Ma & Pa's Trail to the Hanson Rock trail. 

The Hanson Rock trail traverses a mature oak and maple forest and goes along the top of a rock ridge. You can't really see it in the summer, but fall, spring, and winter, it is more obvious. The trail is serpentine and heavily shaded which was perfect for us.

This is from the first leg from Pott's Corners or Weister Creek parking area in Infrared. The green is almost overwhelming so I thought it would be fun to see it this way.

This is from the Hanson Rock Trail through the oak/maple tree forest.

As Charlie and I ventured into nearly the second mile, we came to an area where numerous trees had been blown down. There was a huge oak leaning into another tree and we could hear creaking. I couldn't tell where it was coming from but I suspected it was the huge oak. There was no wind to speak of. 

I decided to go around.

Just as we got to the other side we heard -- snap, crackle, pop and watched as the huge oak came slamming down with a thunderous boom. 

Charlie was unnerved. I got my answer to the age old question. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it? You bet, it makes noise!
Fallen Oak

We went on.

After many twists and turns we finally came to the marker that designated Hanson Rock Loop. The loop on the ridge is .67 miles long and ends at a pretty neat lookout of sorts.

Charlie and I had a well deserved break at that time and enjoyed sharing a PB&J sandwich along with an apple. He had his water in a peanut butter jar lid and I had mine from my bottle.

I took some time to photograph the lookout in Infrared. Where the sky doesn't appear very interesting in normal color, it sure looked neat with the IR. The shot below is a 3 shot panoramic hand held.

These oaks are rooted to the edge of the bluff.

We headed back a bit more swiftly than our hike out. I was amazed that Charlie was doing so well. His pace was slow at times. The closer we got to getting back to the car, the faster he went.

We ran into a woman and her dog at the head of the trail that said she was headed for Hanson's Rock to see the Petroglyphs she heard were there. 

I heard that they existed but I couldn't say where they were in that 5 mile loop. Exploring around the bluffs would mean going off trail and she'd never been to the area before. The bluffs and areas around the rocks are choked with weeds and wonderful plants like poison ivy. 

I wished her luck. She asked how far it was to the Lookout. I told her that it would be a 5 mile out and back. Her face was priceless. 

I told her to enjoy her hike.

We headed towards the car....

Charlie in the lead

Our trip had been exhilarating and peaceful. 

Time to head home.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022


I so often hear tales about lousy customer service. This morning I can say that I will brag about customer service! 

I called regarding the skid steer. 

I called the place we purchased skid steers over the years and talked to the Service Manager. He aske me some questions.
Did I check connections?
Was I sure it was just the battery?
What did we use the skid steer for?

I finally understood what he was getting at and I just got honest with him. I said I'd tried charging the battery and it wouldn't take a charge.
I don't know enough about wiring and told him so.
I said we use it every few weeks but needed it now to help fix the washouts on the driveway and to dig a hole.

I told him we didn't use it daily like other farmers who were feeding stock or cleaning feed yards. We used to, but not any more.

He said he'd call back with something regarding a schedule.

I decided it wasn't worth my time and headed out the door to take care of a few things. I felt dumb and stupid for not knowing the technical answers to the questions this guy asked of me. I suppose he thought I was a dumb woman. Of course I had told him this:

If it has an engine and doesn't start? I call a mechanic.
If it is a mule, horse, donkey, or dog, I can train it and handle it. Machines and I don't get along.

When I got back to the house, Rich said somebody called Seth was going to come out after work with a battery. He'd stop in on his way home.

I was flabbergasted.

So the Service Manager that had taken my call showed up around 7pm in his personal vehicle and toted a battery out of the back. He installed it and fired up the skid steer while chatting casually with us.

He explained that his service department has 9 techs and work for 25 techs. Our service call would have been extended to 3 to 4 weeks. He thought if it was a simple fix, he'd drop by with a new battery and we'd go from there.

He wasn't charging us for his time and he agreed that our driveway was rather 'rough'.

He spent another hour with us when I asked him about Rich's desire to have a brush hog attachment to mow pastures with. He brought in his work laptop and explained what would work for mowing a 72" swath across our rather weedy pastures. Rich thought he'd rather have a finishing mower than one that handled heavy brush. 

Seth instructed me to get a Battery Tender for the times we are not using the skid steer. This sounds like a win-win situation.

So Seth, went above and beyond to help out a customer. Amazing, right?

If we get the brush mower thingy, it will be something Rich can do and help me out immensely. Will he be able to do it forever? Probably not, but he can teach me and that makes that machine a bit more useful and solves most of my icky weed problem.

Hey, better than using the old fashioned 6 foot scythe I'd been using!

Here is a photo of one the pastures that is more open and level out back. This was in May before the weeds took over. My whacking with a weed whacker or scythe has been like putting tape on a hole on a ship on the ocean.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Rules are meant to be....


Well, not really. 

My husband suffers from memory problems along with other issues. But he inquired about a game we used to play the other night. After a bit, I realized he was talking about Backgammon.

I'd put that game away as we tried it a couple of years ago and he couldn't figure out what to do and was always frustrated with trying to count and move his pieces.

I decided to use another tactic. I set up the pieces and we started. 

As we played I did not correct the miscounts or mistakes made in moving the pieces. It didn't happen a lot but I didn't see the point of making comments on it.

There was a few times when I could have bumped his pieces out and won the game, however I played carefully and decided not to take that advantage. When he was stumped on where to move pieces, I pointed out advantageous moves and he was pleased.

The interaction during the game was more important than the game itself. He was cracking jokes, smiling, and teasing me all along the way. I loved it.

This was better than time spent staring out the window.

We did this two nights in a row with the same effect. Laughter, joking, smiling, and engaging conversation. I'm hoping this will be sort of a thing we can do more often after supper.

We used to play the game quite a bit. We'd play 3 games with winner's choice of whatever we had decided on before hand. Sometimes it was who would do chores, or what we'd do for the day. The games were intense back then.

Now? Who cares if the dice are miscounted and the other half wins? 

The laughter is so much more valuable than a win.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Books and Beans

I heard about this book on a radio broadcast and since the name of Luck is not a common one, I turned up the volume and listened.

The story takes place between Luck and Milltown Wisconsin during 1945. I read some excerpts on line and decided to give the book a go. I am half way through it and I can say I am pleased. 

I recall so many of the places described by the author. The Stokely's plant, the train stations and the trains which disappeared sometime in my childhood.
We spent the summers just southeast of Milltown.

I recall picking cucumbers and taking them to town with Grandpa. We watched as the cukes were dumped into a sorter and your batch was weighed. 

There was more money for the cukes that would make good pickles if I recall properly. 
I picked a lot of cucumbers with big adult rubber gloves on. Our reward was generally a trip to the lake to go swimming. Sometimes Grandpa would give us a dime to go spend at Ben Franklins in Milltown.

Grandpa would tell us over and over the story of him working on the concrete steps to the new Milltown Bank when the bank was robbed. I don't recall much else of the story and don't even know if it was real. But as a little kid, I was impressed.

I imagine the farm that Milo ends up at is one dairy farm I know. It isn't, but in my mind, it seems similar.

I didn't spend summers there until the 1960's. It is bringing back so many fond memories. Truth is, I never wanted summers to end and I never wanted to go back to the Chicago Suburbs. 

In short, I am enjoying it.

I found a wonderful source for my veggies at the Farmer's Market. My Grandmother would be horrified that I purchased my green beans instead of growing them myself. However, at the price I paid for picked and cleaned green beans? 
I purchase what I want and process the beans for freezing or dehydrating. It is so much easier! 

The Farmer's Market gives me time off the farm where I can visit with friends at the same time. Last week I took Charlie to the Market. He had a blast and was so well behaved. Of course, he was a conversation piece too.

The produce is fantastic and delicious.

This week I purchased 4 pounds of yellow and green beans along with Swiss Chard, lettuce, new potatoes, onions, and cucumbers ... all to the tune of $12. 
My Lego friends helped me cut up the green beans. I saved out a fresh meal for us and processed the rest. I'll have about 14 meals of green beans put away for winter.

 I couldn't pass up the strawberry pie that the Mennonite Bakery had for sale. Her pies are not sickly sweet like most pies. This year I am getting smarter. I am purchasing two pies each time I go and sticking one in the freezer for special occasions over the winter. What could be more refreshing in December than to have a Rhubarb Strawberry pie?

I'm including this photo of Charlie. It is shot through the little path in my east flower garden that is glowing with beautiful little zinnias and Blazing Stars. He was annoyed at the bugs that were dive bombing him.

The little path he was on.

Not such a great cell phone photo, but here is the patch of zinnias and 4 o'clocks.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

HOT Afternoon

After mowing the hill and sweating out buckets [yeah, the little mower is self propelled but it doesn't propel well UP a steep hill], I decided to chill out and sit on the back step in the shade.

I could have gone inside and cooled off in the AC but I don't like spending summer days in the house.

I reserve days indoors for rainy days and frigid frightful snow days.

I noticed a lot of activity near the old outhouse. The Bumbles were very active along with tiny bees.

I decided to go grab my mega zoom lens and set it on a tripod. I pointed it at the plants and simply watched. 

I don't know what this butterfly is. Maybe someone will recognize it. I noticed that it seemed quite battered. 

I'd heard a segment on the radio regarding hot weather and insects. Apparently Hot Weather makes the insects' metabolism speed up and thus they are very active during hot spells.

This butterfly is caught with a downward wing stroke which I thought was pretty cool. I used what is called a High speed setting which takes 11 shots per second. Wow! Imagine that!
Usually I toss all but one of the shots taken that way. 
It is cool to get an unusual shot like this. I always imagined butterflies with their wings up.

I've been lucky enough more than once to catch a Bumble coming in for a landing. 

Let's play Where's Waldo with the Hummingbird!
This bird kept resting inside the plants. It was hard to spot him/her.

Learning to be patient is paying off.  

Here is a Ruby Throated Hummer tasting the bee balm. 
I think I will let the Bee Balm take over this section around the outhouse and move other plants this fall.
I grabbed two plants last year from my neighbor who has a huge disdain for flower beds and gardens.

Lucky for me, the former neighbor had planted so many beautiful plants around the house. I have been able to dig some up and add to my collection.

Here is the Hummer playing hide 'n go seek again!

Some Tweety Birds I caught while watching the patch of Bee Balm:


House Finch?
Purple Finch?
Not sure!

A huge surprise! The Orioles
have not left yet!
Fledgling and Parent?

C130 skimming the tree tops. 
Not a bird in the wild sense!

The C130's from Fort McCoy fly low over head just skimming the tree tops. 

I bet you are wondering about what the mules think of it.
Not much. They rarely even lift their heads. They will look up when choppers come through doing the same thing. 

Charlie is not so calm about it. He thinks we are being invaded by 100's of UPS trucks or perhaps the world is ending.

Today looks like another muggy and hot day. That means I get my outdoor work done early and do more very late. 
Looks like we will have rounds of heavy and possibly dangerous storms tonight. Oh goody! Not.

Stay cool and comfortable.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Scary Stuff

I watched the January 6th Committee broadcast last night and was slightly shocked at how the 'tRump' acted. I say slightly because it is no surprise that such a narcissists would care about anything than himself.

IF he did nothing and the rioters overtook the nation's capitol and took out Mike Pence along with other members of the Senate, his bidding would have been done. He would have stopped the count of the electoral votes.

What came to mind was the following. 
Why did no one stop him? Does the President of the US have so much power that no one can 'check' him/her? 

Did the man want to be Dictator and King? I think so. He wanted to stay in a position of power where he could increase his wealth and power without any fear of retribution. He surrounded himself with like minded people who were out to destroy everything our nation stood for.

This morning I read a post by 'friend' that was outraged that anyone was investigating the events from J6. His quote: Why are we still fighting over President Trump's non action on January 6th?

It goes on to complain about the current president. I am not going to go there because J6 was about lies, deception, insurrection, and a danger to our democracy and not about inflation and current events.

How is history going to see this 45th President? What will be written in the text books? 

What will be the Hollywood version of this in years to come?

Will we ever know how close we came to losing our rights as Americans?

According to some, if 45 were successful, he would have ended elections so he could be a Dictator. 

I watched the outtakes of his video on J6 and on January 7th where he decided that despite everything, he still would not concede the election.

I will conclude with this. Our country is going through a crisis or should I say an upheaval such as we have never seen before. 

Will a madman again rise to power? We are still reeling from the damage of his years in office.

Remember that throughout history,
there have been tyrants and murderers,
and for a time they seem invincible.

But in the end they fall.

~Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Night out

Nah, not that kind of Night Out.

Instead I sat on the porch for a while after dark to watch the sky. I figured the clouds would obscure the stars and the Milky Way so I was content to sit for a bit in the warm night air and rock on the porch.

Charlie thought he'd go in after he listened to the Barred Owls hooting. 

I thought I'd spend a little time playing with light painting. I wanted to highlight the night sky and the trees in the woods to our west of the house.

My experiment with light painting with my headlamp. 

Then I walked to the driveway to look where the Milky Way should be appearing and took a 15 & 25 second shot.

I did this partially 'blind' in a way because with the naked eye and the clouds, I wasn't exactly sure of what I was getting. [I learned a little bit later to use the 'Boost' feature in the Bulb/LiveView Modes to sort of see what I was shooting at.]

I may have gotten some meteors? The upper arrow points to two downwards streaks.
The lower arrow points to where the Milky Way should be.

Then the clouds moved on!

there it was! 
Looks like a meteor particle was zooming through also.
It is hard to see those little streaks of light, however if you click on the photo you should be able to see one little streak in the upper right quadrant of the shot.

I hadn't intended on looking for the Perseids, but perhaps I did find them!
They are supposed to be starting and getting stronger until mid August.

I think this may have been my first time 'catching' a meteor!

Once the clouds moved on, I took several shots of the MW and even tried one of those fun shots where I look up with a head lamp on. The shots really didn't turn out well. But here is one. 

I am standing in our driveway not far from the house looking up towards the ridge. My Subaru even glows in the headlamp glow.

There are so many things to learn about I night photos and adding light. The headlamp actually has a nicer beam to it when the humidity in the air is higher. LED lights turn up bluish.

I wonder if I had some glow sticks twirled them around? Wouldn't that be sort of fun and crazy? 

I am practicing at home so one day in the few weeks, I can try this near the ponds at KVR, or the old dam.

These night shots are not easy. Fortunately I have a feature called Starry AutoFocus which helps quite a bit. I use a 12mm lens. For my camera the ISO is at 1600 and I often use a feature called LiveView to find where I will shoot as the camera 'boosts' what you can see through it. 

I still can't quite get the hang of the right colors for the night sky. 
Clouds are orangish from the light in the towns or farms in the distance.

I like my star skies to be more bluish and cool toned.
The photos are generally pretty noisy, but as technology improves as well as a good Denoise app, it doesn't look so bad.

For this shot of the house, I pointed the camera northwest and gave it an 8 minute LiveComp. This feature takes an initial shot and then the camera adds any light as it changes for the next 8 minutes. 

That is Olympus's work around to standard star photos which have the photographer taken 100's of shots of the stars and then put them through another program which 'stacks' them together. 

I like this feature for so many things.

I tried several times to combine star trails with a bit of light painting to show the house and trees. Most of them were just bad... and a failure, but I think I did get one decent effort.

The middle pine tree is dead and reflected the bluish color of the LED headlamp.

Still, it was fun and I learned a bit more. 
I'd like to try this at one of the covered bridges at KVR.

That is a goal I'd like to complete this summer.

One last Milky Way shot in a 
cooler tone.

I like this one best as it makes me think of galaxies and star travel. 

There certainly is something to be said for watching the stars at night. I eventually went inside reluctantly because I knew I needed sleep.

It was a great night out!

Enjoy the Perseids if you can find a dark sky. The full moon this year will blot out the peak time for the meteor showers. 

I used:
Olympus E-M1 Mark III
12mm lens 
f 2.0
ISO 1600
Different exposures for different shots.