Monday, January 30, 2023

Snow, blowing snow, weather, play

We had some rather interesting wild weather on Friday with the winds. I walked to the ridge to see if the snowfall was drifting across the ridge roads.

It was.
I cancelled my CrossFit work out because. Well, because I could. I don't have to drive in poor weather anymore so I can relax and just watch the snow pile up and the winds create beautiful drifts.

Our road looked like this:

The winds were picking up the snow and blowing it into fantastic shapes in the roadside ditches.

I talked to a friend of mine who had said they'd gone to town and the roads on the ridges were drifting and visibility was not good.
I figured that because I could barely see across the cropland on top of the ridge.

The winds were whipping the snow like crazy. Video length about 20 seconds of snow-nadoes!

I walked off the ridge and just into the woods. 

It got quiet and peaceful without the roaring winds. Charlie and I walked down into the wild meadow where I picked up sticks, mosses, pieces of bark, and some grass. I felt that I'd probably be spending most of the rest of the day indoors and I felt like making something creative.

It sure looks like a mess, but I had ideas for a diorama of sorts.

I had some quiet time to myself so I got to work with my free materials from the woods.
Sorry, my cell phone takes awful photos in dim light. But I used and old cookie sheet to create a scene just for the camera.

 I thought it would be funny to have a Lego Robot and a Squirrel working in a garden together. 

Hey, IT could happen right???

And after all of their hard work, they decided to have a picnic.

An Acorn for the squirrel and a pizza for the robot. The Robot is the Nanny Droid, IG 11. He stars in Disney's Mandalorian episodes. I thought he was just weird enough to use in this scene.

The fork he is holding actually is an extra piece that was included in the Orchid build. 

It looks like the pair is happy with their work of planting and watering.

After I cleaned that up I wondered what to do with all the extra material I had from the woods.

I had clay, a glue gun, sticks, and moss...

And I heard that Acorn Guy was looking for a little place to live. He didn't like Lego Brick homes, he preferred more wild-like things....

...stay tuned....

We don't stop playing because we grow
We grow old because we stop 

George Bernard Shaw.

Play on!

Sunday, January 29, 2023

International Lego Day

The Birth of the Lego Brick happened on January 28th, 1958. The red Lego brick was born.

We all are fairly familiar with those first red bricks...or maybe not! 

As kids we had red and white bricks that we used to create forts for our little soldiers. We had epic battles in and around our forts.

Legos has come a long way since then.

In 1978 they started producing Minifigures with faces. They soon moved onto expressions and different outfits. Of course there are so many licensed minifigs that are popular like Star Wars and Disney for example.

Lego has created sets just for adults.
I got this from my CrossFit Coach. Finally, an orchid I won't kill!

There is even a VIP lounge on the Lego site. I guess there is a TV show called Lego Masters. I've never seen it, but I might just do a search for it on one of these cold nights.

What can I say? I've found Legos again in my adulthood, or perhaps second childhood. I carry some Legos minifigs around with me in a pocket or my camera bag because you never know when some opportunity will show up. 

So Happy Lego International Day one day late.

Enjoy imagination because it sure can make the world a little bit kinder.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

My Little Rock Star!

 My little dog, Charlie can be either very active or totally the cuddler. Here he is negotiating a deer trail in deep snow. The snow is about 6 inches or so deep so he keeps to the trails that are already trampled.

He is wearing his Hi-Vis Vest which he absolutely hates but tolerates. When we were done with our morning walk I had to shake snowballs out of the vest from under his chest.

Being a low rider, he gathers snow easily in his vest. [10 seconds]

We went out a little later to enjoy a glimpse of sunlight and I didn't use the vest, it was still drying on a rack.

Charlie had his mind on hunting mice and voles.

Mice and voles make little tunnels in the snow and Charlie watches the tunnels to see if they are moving then dives in.

Tunnels in the snow:

Charlie in the snow, enjoying it.

And then he was too busy to pay attention to me, all of his attention was in finding the mice.

Charlie rarely gets cold, he has a very thick hound dog coat from his parents.

He does get cold on those below zero days, his feet get cold so of course we don't hike together on those days. He assists my husband in taking naps by burrowing into the blankets next to him when the weather is bad.

He is also a most excellent cuddler. He gets that from his mom who was a Pekinese.

No mice or voles were harmed in these photos. 😀

Friday, January 27, 2023

Wild life...

It's story time again! What has Hobby the Photographer been up to lately?

She is still on a mission to photograph wildlife.

I'm not too sure she is going about it the proper way though.

Really? Pizza for
a Saber Tooth Tiger?

Funny how she seems to work things out.

One thing for sure, is she needs warmer clothing. I convinced her to put on a hooded snowsuit for her adventures in the snow .... finally.

And of course, what does she find?
Penguins! Penguins!
Who would have thought she could find them?

[This idea came from fellow blogger Aurora. Hobby will blame her for that.]

OH and see that light? We had sunshine for a whole hour yesterday!!!

Hobby asks the penguins to take her to their friends.

No Hobby, I don't think Penguins eat hotdogs!

Whoops. Perhaps I am mistaken!

 After finding penguins, she asked them to show her where she could find some Polar Bears.

I think she should be more careful around wild animals. Don't you?

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Lost Valley

This valley has several names but the absentee owner likes to refer to it as the Lost Valley. In a way it is. The Valley is cannot be accessed by any road. The only way to get there is by foot or 4 wheeler. A snowmobile trail does run through the area above the valley. There is an old logging road that can be walked down.

In 2005 the cattle that grazed the woods and grasslands were shipped off and the land was basically abandoned to the wild. Over the years the owners have leased out to the land to a few people for hunting purposes. One year a fellow planted 1/2 million dollars worth of marijuana in different areas. Other folks decided that since no one oversaw the land, they'd make trails with their 4 wheelers.

The whole land encompasses two valleys with two streams that flow into what is locally called the Black Bottom. That flows into the Kickapoo River. In those times of flooding, the narrow valleys become rather dangerous.

All that aside, I've hiked the 600+ acres of woods since 1996. Someone once quipped that I must know every tree by now. I almost do.

I have permission from the estate to wander at will on their land. I'm afraid that I know their land more intimately than they do. But that is the wonder of it all.

To get to the Back Valley/Lost Valley/Forgotten Valley -- all names for it -- requires a 1 mile walk through some steep terrain.

Here is a shot looking back towards where I came from on the day I snowshoed this trek. Up until a few years ago, where I am standing was grassland. The estate decided to rent it out as cropland. I have yet to see a good crop come off this land so I can't see how the renter is making any money.

However, the deer love the left over corn. This spring it should be rotated to soy beans. Whoever rented it the last two years put field corn in. The land won't yield much if they farm like that.

In many places the briars, noxious weeds, and thick underbrush has taken over. By midsummer, the land is difficult to walk through. I enjoy winter and spring walks here. 

Here is a nearly 3 minute video of how the riding was in 2010. It is longish, but sort of interesting to see how calm Badger was and how he dealt with obstacles. We did ride to the Back Valley and explore this 3 mile trek that I now take often on foot. I can still ride this with Siera and Sundance, but I rarely do so any more. I stay closer to home now. 

The video is pretty crappy, but in 2010 I only had my little Pink Fugly camera and it did do video. The dog is Morris, my Jack Russel that never missed a ride. When he tired, he jumped on Badger's legs and we'd heft him to ride in the saddle with me.

The valley has changed so much now. But it is still interesting to walk through. I made the trip this weekend back to see the stream and the ice cave.

I probably won't go back until spring arrives because snowshoeing and crossing the stream is just too difficult. I did find evidence of beavers, coyotes, and a lot of deer.

Here is the 30 second video of this snowshoe hike.

That's it. Enjoy getting lost.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Other side...

Last week I hiked along the east side of the river bluffs in a section of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. 

View of last week's hike from the other side 
of the river.

I wanted to see just how far down the river I could get before I ran out of shoreline. Charlie and I made it about 3/4 of a mile and it was there that I noticed the large chunk of bluff that had broken away from the original bluff.

Now this could have happened a thousand years ago or whenever. I'm not a geologist, so I haven't a clue.
I wanted to compare it to the term 'calving' like when a large chunk of ice comes off a glacier.
I decided to walk along the western bank which has no bluffs, however that is where all the logs, trees, and debris from floods end up. 
It is a definite maze of downed trees, logs, roots, and weeds.

I didn't wear snowshoes so I had to fight the deep snow. Wearing the snowshoes would have made the climbing roots and logs much more complicated. 

I saw coyote tracks, I saw a beaver in the partially frozen pond to the south, but what really surprised me were some odd tracks on top of the snow.
It looked like something had been sliding in and out of the river.

It finally dawned on me when I saw a hole in the bank with tracks in and out, that perhaps the river had otters?
Oh Boy!
I studied the terrain directly across from the 'den' and thought it would be fun to come back and sit quietly on the bank or bluff above the supposed den and watch.
I've never seen a wild otter.

I did a LOT of climbing over banks and logs. Here is a photo of my leg in the side of an icy bank. [No, I would not have ended up in the river if I'd fallen! I was at least 10 feet from the water. I play it safe when alone.]

Recall the hole in the rock I am searching for? Well last week I stopped at the orange arrow as there was no shore left to walk on.

Another view of the flat rock.

There is the hole, the tunnel, the cave...whatever you want to call it. 

Getting there by land is going to involve some research.

The area above the rock bluffs and the river can be hiked but it would be an experience for sure. 

Below is a topo map. The orange arrow points to the rock with a hole in it and on each side of that spot, the river is right up against the bluff.

The black triangles are camping spots and the dotted lines are trails. The solid black lines are roads. 
I may have figured out a way from one of the campsites or come in from the road through the brush and just find my way.

If nothing else, I'll first explore it coming in from the road which would involve less climbing and be able to look out from the top of those bluffs.

The trail next to the river [blue line] is about 160 feet below the top of the bluffs according to their calculations.

This is near that bluff and some straight on shots of the rock formations and ice.
I doubt too many folks see this as it is a chore to get too, but not too bad in the winter time.

My hike ended up being about 4 miles. Half of it was rough hiking and half was on trails. Getting off the trail and walking along the river was really quite beautiful.

I have more bluffs to explore before spring comes....


Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Wander-er

 I have a lot of catching up to do. 

This week we had ice on Monday, snow and sleet on Wednesday. Charlie and I headed out in the morning to visit the Forest/Rock Garden. I've finally figured out that this little place is perfect for tall shade plants, but it takes a lot of work

The old Christmas Chair. I may decide to bring that back to the house for next year. The seat is split and it is very weathered, just how I like it. Right now, it is on a tiny rock bluff that overlooks the neighbor's woods west of us.

The photo below is of the Buckthorn Woods. The trees are horrible and invasive, but have been there for nearly 20 years or so. The deer love being in there. I put my trail camera back up after having it in another spot for the last few months.
It generally picks up deer napping right in front of the camera. The trail here is used by all woodland creatures.

Our neighbor and plow guy came Thursday morning and cleaned up our place. He sent another fella out to sand our hill and in front of the house. I am grateful that he agreed to plow for us this winter. It sure took a lot of worry off my mind. 

Charlie and I headed out for a mile walk. For a little dog, he has a lot of energy that needs to be spent. I'm trying to keep track of how far I hike right now just out of curiosity.

This particular day, I only hiked one mile of hills and the creek. The snow was soft and mushy and would have clumped up in ice chunks under my snowshoes. The workout was worth the effort.

Now I'm trying something a bit different and I am not exactly sure if this is the best method. I need to know from the readers if this is interesting or not....
this ends up being something like 23 seconds. It is sort of fun and funky.
I downloaded a trial of Corel Video Studio after trying several time to get MovieMaker from Microsoft which used to be free. 
Now they want a monthly fee or yearly fee. 

I have been taking a few more videos with my Olympus camera and thought this might work for mixing panorama videos of areas with some photos. Meh. I'm not too sure about it.

I don't always want to watch a video when reading blogs, but this seems to be the new-ish trend. I can see where learning the program could be fun with more creative ideas.

I did a lot more Wandering this week. I hiked back to the Lost Valley, Hidden Valley, or The Back Valley which is a 3 mile snowshoe trek on Friday. I haven't been back there in over a year.

That was a neat discovering adventure. Saturday I wandered the west bank of the Kickapoo River and found some amazing sites.

Those updates will come later. 

I am finding my winter groove in Exploring and it brings me so much peace.

Let me know how you feel about the vid. I have a LOT to learn, but during those long cold dreary days of winter, it could be a new creative skill to learn.

Have a Great Sunday.

Friday, January 20, 2023



Mr. Charlie and I went Exploring last week on Saturday. We left early and got to the Reserve before most people are getting up and about. I like it that way especially when I take my UnCharted Trails.

Actually, they are trails from long ago and are no longer included on the maps. They are perfectly fine for walking though and equine traffic would have damaged the sensitive plants that are in certain areas of the reserve.

I decided to walk along the base of some bluffs alongside the river. I'd gone this way in the late fall and thought it would be nice to see if any ice was forming along the NW facing bluffs.

Charlie and I saw some Coyote Hunters getting a lecture on something from the game warden otherwise, we saw no one. We turned off the main trail and found our way to the bluffs.

The bluffs sometimes have some incredible ice formations on them and in other spots they have some of the most interesting looking roots and fern growth.

This tree stops me in my tracks every time I walk by it. The twisted roots cling to the bluff and variations of cooler weather ferns hang out with it. Behind it on the rock are various colors of lichen.

To me, it is a wonder.

The edges of some of the bluff tops did have ice forming on them.

This one below is spectacular depending on the year. In past years I've observed these bluffs from the other side of the river. I wanted to see it up close. As melts and freezes continue, it becomes a river of frozen little waterfalls. 

More ice shot with the infrared camera:

When I got past these bluffs, I came to a spot where I'd have to climb rock or go up a valley to head further north. I decided to just end the hike here.
I peered at the huge chunk of rock upstream and noticed it had a gap in it that cannot be seen from the other side of the river.

If I am correct in my thinking, this is the same rock seen from the other in 2017.
And...I think I know how to get to it. Looking at the topo map, it will involve some rather difficult hiking.

That is one of my goals this winter or spring is to check out that 'hole'. It may not be possible, but how will I know unless I try?

The view from bridge 16 with my infrared camera. I was shooting for the black and white effect and was pleased.

I'll be returning to this bridge in the next few days to check out some more ice features and study that bluff from the west side of the river.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

It's complicated!

My neighbor friend, Olive, thought Rich would like a fun puzzle to do this winter. She purchased this not Lego set from Amazon.

It has over 3,000 pieces. When we opened it we were surprised at how tiny the pieces were!
The big surprise is that these pieces are 'micro mini blocks'.

How many pie tins and little containers does it take for sorting? More than we had. But the continued sorting has kept someone very engaged. The miniature pieces are terrible to handle when you have shaky hands, but he keeps at it until it frustrates him and he has to quit for a bit.

Even a regular sized Lego person is surprised by how tiny the pieces are.

The instructions are interesting. Each layer that is already built gets greyed out which is terribly difficult when dealing with grey pieces or figuring out what goes where.

I've had to use a flashlight to see details. I finally got my light assisted magnifying glass out so I could count how many bumps are on pieces for construction. 

We keep at it until my eyes get worn out and then set it aside.

But we are making progress.

Below is a dime stuck in with the pieces and a view of the instructions.

This is where we left off last night. It is starting to look like something cool!
I sent this photo to Olive and she wanted to know how the instructions were. Hmmm, bad...but IF we can get this mini build actually finished, WE could build anything!

I went into our old stash of plastic containers handed down from my Mother in Law and we sorted more bricks. We have 14 containers of pieces.

The box says ages 6 and up. Hmmm. I think they should have noted 60 and up because you need a ton of patience to figure this one out.

After building in fits and starts for a week, Rich was still interested by was frustrated with the fact that he couldn't handle the tiny pieces to put them together.

The clear pieces are driving me absolutely nuts, but I like a challenge anyway.

The instructions are diabolical. They include two steps at once and require intense concentration.

So when I went out to pick up groceries for the week, I searched for a more suitable project for hubby.
I found a Lego Lotus in the 'cheaper' section.

After the box inspection and lunch from DQ....

Somebody started to work on it. The only help he asked for is putting on the stickers.

This may seem odd to some folks. Legos are not cheap, but this is better than taking him to therapy for activities to stimulate conversation, thinking, and small motor skills.

When he has something to figure out, he is not sitting still blankly staring out the window at nothing and being nowhere. These simple bricks and booklets, give him a sense of building and doing something.

Both his mental health providers and PCP think this is an amazing activity for him. The sorting of the bricks appeals to his sense of order of things. Building these projects is similar in a way to what he used to do as the owner of a Welding Shop. He can create and use his rusty thinking skills.

I find it a relaxing to be with him while we both work on the projects. 
What will I do with the vehicles he builds? Eventually I'll take them apart and put them in their boxes. Somewhere down the line I will gift them to some kids I know or sell them as used.
They are serving a great purpose.

Forgive the photos, they were taken with my crappy old cell phone.