Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Mules and Veggies

Eddie and Megan brought me veggies from their garden! How lucky can a mom get? I got these wild colored carrots along with Swiss Chard and garlic! Oh...YUM!

Today I blanched the carrots and froze some and put a variety of them in the little dehydrator along with another tomato and an apple. 

My thought is...I won't run the little dehydrator with just one tray of anything. I like dried apples while hiking so I chopped one up and tossed it in along with the tomato that needed to be processed. The carrots will become strange twisted colorful shapes as they dry.

I'll put some onions, carrots, tomatoes, and green beans together in a packet for dumping in a stew or soup later this fall or winter.

My morning was fun. I did the grocery thing at 7AM then chores, and this afternoon I'll be introducing my neighbor Olive to our mules. She is a master Chef and also a mom who works for MOSA with is an acronym for Midwest Organic Services Association. I think she can work from home. 

She and my ex neighbor Terri work together. 


Olive spent time cooking and doing the Master Chef thing all over Europe and I imagine .... everywhere? I don't know much as we haven't had time to talk about all of that. However, she used to be a groom and rode/exercised horses in Europe. 
I'm thinking this could be a really great friendship in the making.

She is my neighbor on the ridge. She likes foraging, hiking [night hiking or day hiking], riding, and cooking. 

Could I learn something from her? Oh yeah.

Face it. Being a Caregiver for a very difficult spouse is tough. So I'll forge friendships. Those friendships KEEP me sane.

2pm rolled around and Olive came trotting into the yard. I had gotten my two gals, Sunshine and Siera out and had saddled them. 

It is that time of the year that they somehow find burdock and manage to get it in their tails. So I was finishing that.

Olive fit in my Simco saddle just fine and we went over the 'how' to operate Siera. She's easy. She is very lazy, so a whoa works well.

I got up on my little red mule and we headed towards the hay and oat fields to ride in between the strips of corn. 

Siera did her normal thing like turning towards home when she thought Olive wasn't paying attention. I let the two of them work it out. Siera won't bolt or run off, it isn't in her nature. She'd rather stay with the other mule.

Anyway we circled the fields and then I asked if Olive would like to try some hill work. We went down into the neighbor's woods and rode down the steep trail and into a dry run. We sat on the girls and chatted down in the deep woods for a bit, then returned home.

We were so busy chatting and talking Mule/Horse Talk and getting to know each other...that I only took one photo.

I think this sums up everything.

Olive asked if we can do this every Tuesday. I'm, yeah! Of course, with weather and schedules permitting.

It will be nice to exercise The Fat Bottom Girls together with another enthusiastic person.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Visit

Man ohhhh Man, the storms rolled in Saturday with heavy rain to the tune of 3/4 of an inch before Eddie and Megan arrived.

We visited and watched the weather.  I'd planned a point to point hike at KVR with them before but it looked like an alternate plan needed to be considered.

After I made lunch for Rich, we gathered our stuff together. 

There seemed to be a break in the storms for part of the afternoon and we decided to take advantage of it. We grabbed rain coats and headed out.

I decided on the Black Hawk Rock loop as it would knock off section #33 and a portion of section #31 which ran alongside the county road.

I decided that a shorter hike would be the best thing to do, we just didn't have the time to do the longer hike.

Charlie was tickled to ride in my son's Orange Whip Subaru. He was immediately enchanted by Eddie and Megan and was determined to demand as much of their attention as possible.

We hiked up old 131 as it is paved and led us to the meadows just past the covered bridge at Indian Creek.

We had fun looking at the different shrubs along the way:

Grey Dogwood:

Prickly Ash:
Silky Dogwood:

I found out that Megan was as curious as I was. Awesome!

And...she loves foraging in the woods!

The skies were heavily overcast and everything was wet. When we hit the trails, the compacted dirt was slippery in spots and muddy in others, not bad for hikers. The trails had been closed to bicycles and equine.

Everywhere in the forest we started to find fungi. It was a fungi fest!

Here is a small sample:

The light was so poor that my little camera took a lot of blurry shots that are not worth looking at. But the forest floor had surprises at every turn.

Then I learned that Megan loves cool trees. Trees with 'faces' or shapes fascinate her. I do too. Hmmm.....sounds like someone else I know [Miss Aurora!].

We headed up the steep trail to Black Hawk Rock and the fog from the valleys started to roll up through the trees. It was eerie and cool at the same time.

I had them go in front of me once we got closer. I wanted to hear their reaction when they stepped out of the woods and onto the Rock.

There were ... Ohs and wows... 

Just as I hoped there would be. 

We stayed on the rock for a while and then climbed down to explore the base of the rock.

We got back to the car. I think the consensus was that it was a good hike with so many wonderful things to see.
Of course, I LOVE taking others out to explore the Reserve. 

I told Eddie and Megan about the ice caves and the other neat bluffs that I'd explored and found.

After we had pizza, the rain and thunderstorms moved in briefly again and we all went to bed.

We woke up to more rain and sat around the table chatting and having some delicious coffee that Megan had brought with them.

We took one more walk in the mud and wet woods down to the creek and back. We found slugs and fungi. Apparently Megan likes slugs. Slugs and toads!

I was delighted that she loved nature as much as she obviously loved my son.

As they left to go home Rich asked them to not stay away and come back to visit again! 
Megan nodded and said they would FOR sure be coming back. 

I smiled. I enjoyed their visit so much. I will look forward to showing them more wonders of our area in other seasons. 

However, I am realistic. They both have careers and are hard working. 

We were so pleased to finally meet Megan. Oh, we loved seeing Eddie, don't get me wrong! 

But there are awesome ice falls and caves to see yet...
and winter is coming!

As August ends and we head towards September, we enter yet another interesting season in the Driftless Area.

Saturday, August 27, 2022



My son and his fiancĂ© are coming this weekend to visit and so I made a hair appointment with the lady that cuts my hair. 

I begged her to do something! I wanted to look 'nice' or nic-er. Or 

She styled it a few weeks ago after we did the funky color adventure. Sadly, by morning my hair had lost all the nice styling she'd applied. However, I loved it since I'd never had my hair 'styled' before. It DID look really nice! 

So this time I asked for a braid or something. A French braid looks pitiful and painfully thin. So she said...

What about pigtail braids?

Why not? It would be sporty even if it turned out thin and ugly. 

I told her that I'd be hiking on Saturday so a flouncy style wouldn't really suit me as I'd ponytail it up and stick it under my baseball cap.

She started as another stylist watched and we all laughed and giggled at the result. I loved it!
I told Andrea that the only thing left to do was to get some floral wire and make the pigtails stick out sideways and



Pippy Longstocking!
Who was by the way, one of my childhood heroes.

Pippi was adventurous, kind hearted, and always so free and independent. She was my heroine.

When she finished I laughed and giggled which in turn made the other hairstylist laugh and giggle. I got up and twirled around like a kid.

The one lady said that she thought this was much more adventuresome than...
dying hair 'blue' and doing the weekly curl. 

I concurred. I felt joyous and fun.

No. I cannot braid my own hair this well. I like fun stuff. Normally I tire of long hair quickly and cut it all off.

But I may just keep the longer thinner hair that has beautiful silver streaks in it for fun. 

After all, I don't think I've changed that much since I was a kid.

I'm still that adventurer...

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Fungus Among Us!

I went back to the 'Billings Creek' trail Monday afternoon. I had a hunch that there would be a lot of fungi to see.

I was also curious as to whether or not the KVR folks had removed the trail marker on the south end of the trail. They had.

I just wanted to hike out to the spot where the bluffs were and watch the river below. That particular area is perfect for all sorts of fungi.

The climate of the bluffs and the river make for a perfect 'fungi' wonderland.

The panoramic photo really doesn't do this justice, as it makes a rather curvy area take on a flat look. The little bluffs stuck out at angles not shown in the shot below.
However, Charlie and I dumped our stuff there and then took an hour or so to wander around under the trees and explore.

We also sat on the bluff and watched kayakers and canoers on the river below.

Everywhere under the pines there was fungi of all different kinds. The yellow ones stood out on this one bluff.

The new ones emerging looked like this...

I think they are Yellow Fly Agaric Mushrooms. Deadly or hallucinogenic? Well, there are all sorts of opinions about that. These little buggers are notorious for people trying them and ending up in the ER.

I think I will pass.

Here is one I have not seen before. I think it is a Flat topped Coral Mushroom/Fungi.

They were so abundant in one small area that I had to watch my step.

I found beautiful coral fungi in all sorts of stages. The old ones were withered and littered another area, while there were tiny fresh ones popping up all over.

I found Boletes? 

They literally lined areas of the old trail. And in other places they stood out with their brilliant colors. There were older ones all over the forest floor, but I was attracted to the colorful ones.

We took our time. I just had wanted to explore the bluffs and search for cool fungi and I hit the motherload.

It was a fun little jaunt.

Monday, August 22, 2022

I can cook, sorta

This is a photo of one of the few wild apples trees that have grown on the other side of the line fence in a large meadow.  Every other year or so we get lucky and have great crops of apples.

This year is one of those years. The last two years were flops as either we had late frosts or terribly dry weather.

The apples are super tart and of slightly different sizes.

Over the years I've become quite good at making apple sauce, apple butter, and apple jelly from picking these wild things. 

Yesterday I picked several apples to see if they would be ready. I chopped some up and dumped them in a sauce pan and the others I dipped in cinnamon and sugar and stuck them in my dehydrator.

I ended up with fresh applesauce and sweet apple chips to take with me hiking for snacks.

See? I can cook!

Since I was doing apples and it was pouring cats and dogs outside on Saturday, I decided to get with the program and dehydrated tomatoes with seasoning along with onions, broccolli and seasonings from the flower gardens.

I packaged everything in small sealed bags that are a bit of each veggie and seasonings for winter use. I'll drop each prepped packet into a stew or soup. I only had 4 tomatoes that needed processing and cooking and canning them was not an option.

I bought a couple of pounds of onions at the farmers market, but we don't use a LOT of onions on a daily basis, so I dehydrated those also.

As I was cutting up the wild tart apples and sorting some for applesauce and the other slices for drying, I kept hearing my grandmother's voice saying things like:

'Waste not, want not.' 

The tomato soup mix stuff went into the freezer next to the little packets of nettles and lamb's quarters for winter eating when fresh veggies were not readily available.

It looks like I may get more veggies this coming week! My son and his fiancé are coming to visit and he is bringing some produce from his garden.

I'm looking forward to the visit. However, Megan is a cook and she can whip up delicious meals from thin air I think. 

That is intimidating! So do I offer them a take out pizza? Or horrify them with an attempt to make 

Meat and Tators?

Decisions, decisions.

Friday, August 19, 2022

When I am among Trees

I know I want to create a photo book of some of the artistic images of trees that I've done this past year. 

I've gathered most of the shots and artistic renderings I've made by different methods and have been getting ready to put them together.

I had no coherent plan in mind, but like most things. Generally the mood of creativity has to smack me upside the head [mentally, that is]. 

I was still conflicted. Is it appropriate to put nice plain photos and mix in different methods of editing? I am stymied.

I was also stuck because I had nothing I wanted to put on the cover of the book.

I'd tried a few different shots and artistic designs with no luck.

I wasn't even thinking about the project when I took a photo of one of my favorite trees and ran it through Wombo Art AI and then Deep Dream AI. I was simply curious to see what would happen if I used AI to mix up two forest shots.

I merged the photos in ON1 [Photoshop is too pricey for me] and messed around.

Little did I know that this was exactly what I'd been searching for.

It looks like some sort of painting that I could imagine walking through.

I even tested it out with a title.

I was inspired by the piece of artwork enough to think about working on the project again.

When I am Among Trees is a poem by my favorite poet, Mary Oliver.

She says what I feel in one small beautiful poem.

I think now that I have this in mind, I can work on the rest of the book.
My executive decision is this. I'll mix and match photos with some of my art. After all, it isn't a 'book' per se that is going out on the NY Best Seller list. 
It will be a self published book for me to pick up and browse through and enjoy what I'd done.

We will see how the project progresses.

Some photos will be artsy and some not so artsy.
I just wanted to collect them in one place to enjoy them.

After all, trees are constantly on my mind.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

in which I have goodness, and discernment,

and never hurry through the world

but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.” Mary Oliver