Thursday, March 30, 2023


Me to Hubby: I'm going outside to play in the mud.

Him: Oh. Um isn't it too cold?

Me: Sort of, but the puddle is getting smaller in the driveway.

Him: Isn't it mostly mud?

Me: Yes. I am going to play in the mud.

Him: Ok. Well I knew you weren't ever going to grow up.

My driveway has a low spot that needs to be fixed. In the spring it is like a small pond at first. It holds water at every rain and at every snow melt. In the evening the light is just right for some play time.

Yep, I was that kid that played with my cousins and made mud pies. 

I grew up in a time when dirt was okay to play with. We could use it as a compliment to our little plastic soldiers or move it with one of the Tonka trucks we had. We could toss it, wet it, mold it, shape it.

I put my coveralls on. It was cold outside, but I had a plan and a story line running in my head. 

The Misadventures of Frank and His Troopers.

Frank is always trying to find a way out of marching with his troopers....
the horse threw him so he decided to try...well....a

I see one of his other 
troopers did a face plant in the water.

and then...
it was Frank's turn...

That dinosaur was not a good choice, it wouldn't even behave for me and I was supposed to be in control!

My fingers got full of mud from throwing chunks of dirt into the puddle behind the figures. I also swept up the cold water to splash behind them. 
My hands were numb by the time I finished. 
I abused my camera by getting the strap dirty and some of the buttons on the back dirty.


I also experienced the power of imagination and concentration to 'make' something. And it distracted my brain from dealing with the everyday stresses of being a Caregiver.

So, in my book. Puddles can be great things.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Wild things

 My pal couldn't make it on Sunday morning, so I packed up my long lens and headed out to the ponds at the Reserve.

I know. I go there a LOT. It is 20 minutes or so by car and has nice trails along with nice access to a river.

The serious bird photographers this time of year are wandering up and down Highway 35 along the Mississippi or taking trips along the Wisconsin River where the wildlife is truly amazing and abundant.

I have to stay closer to home on my excursions. Hubby gets uncomfortable if I head out too.

When I got to the Reserve there was one vehicle parked in the Visitor's Center Parking lot. Usually people don't show up early to explore the Reserve. I could hear Sandhill Cranes, Redwing Blackbirds, and Canada Geese from the lot.

But motion in the tree ahead of me captured my attention.

Hubby says it was a pine squirrel. Around our home and in the forest we have quite a few grey squirrels but I rarely see the ones colored like this.

I stood for a long time and watched him/her, then moved on quietly. It was such a pretty and cute squirrel.

I went down the railroad tie stairs and along the Visitor Trail to another muddy trail that went between the two ponds. 

March 17th last year I spotted a pair of Trumpeter swans in the western pond. To my great surprise and delight, I found Swans again.

March 26th and I found the swans again!

I sat still and watched them for a while. I was able to observe a bunch of ducks too. I could see a wood duck paddling around the swans and I didn't want to spook any of them.

A gent with a dog came up the trail and he was trying to be quiet, but the movement of them set the whole pond off and birds started to take off.

Of course the Sandhill Cranes couldn't let just the geese make all the noise so they joined in too. But they didn't leave. They were on the far side of the ponds.

I decided to walk down another muddy trail on my way back to the parking lot when I heard a bird and saw a flash of blue across another pond.

It was far away, but I tried to catch a shot or two anyway.

A Belted Kingfisher.

I sure was pleased.

On the way back to the car I thought how nice it would be to arrive predawn and sit quietly by the ponds in a more remote spot and just watch all of the water fowl. 

It doesn't look like the weather will be good enough during this week though. Another Thursday sleet and snowish event. Yuck.

However a beautiful Bluebird stopped by as we were eating supper. So Spring is coming, right?

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Just go for it

I had to get out and I knew that it was windy and chilly. However I know that I could avoid most of the harsh cold winds while hiking on the Reserve. Most of the trails go up through forests and down through valleys as that is the lay of the land around here.

I learned my lesson a few years ago while trying the first attempt at completing the Trail Challenge.

Don't wait for perfect weather. That doesn't exist. 

Don't wait for perfect conditions. --> See above.

Don't wait for others to arrange their schedules. That sounds harsh, however I have a bit more time and chances to go than other folks. I don't have family obligations since there are no family members left living in my geographical area. I have no children's schedules to work around.

Hubby is comfortable with taking a nap and binge watching TV as long as he has snacks available.

I announce my intentions and go for a couple of hours to refresh my brain.

I knew the trails would alternate between soft muddy spots, water covered areas from snow melt, icy, and snowy. But we were out of the wind and 40 degrees felt warm.

West Ridge Trail Section 22

To my surprise the first leg of the trail up the steep hill from Camp P didn't take very long. We arrived at Ma & Pa's trail faster than I expected. Charlie likes to set a fast pace and I get to keep up.

West Ridge and Ma & Pa's Trail

Ma & Pa's Trail, snowy and icy section 29:

Ma and Pa's Trail sunny and warm section!
Charlie and I stop for a snack.

We left Ma & Pa's Trail and travelled near Weister Creek along the old mule and equine trails from 30 years ago. The indentions are still there if you can spot them. The rock mini bluffs are incredible. The terrain can be demanding.

We found no Skunk Cabbage plants as the shaded areas below the bluff were still incased in ice and layers of snow.

We made to the end of the Ice Cave Loop which is now Section 26. 

This is the ice formation at the end of the loop or what is left of it now.

[Same spot 2 years ago in January when Bill and his grandkids went with me.]

My Happy Place -- is on the trail just above Weister. I could hang out on this ledge all day. It is so peaceful.

I've never gone on this trail late in the afternoon with this particular light. So I noticed that below the bluff there was a rock ledge in the deep water. One of the reasons why the Reserve doesn't recommend jumping off bluffs into the rivers. 
I was really surprised to be able to see it so clearly.

There. I did it. 
Sections 26, 29, and 22 marked off.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Hunting the First Wildflower

 I am that strange person that delights busting through brush and briars to get to certain places in the spring to find that first wildflower.

It isn't a pretty wildflower and it doesn't even smell nice. It is the Skunk Cabbage.

Interesting enough, the Skunk Cabbage can push up through frozen ground and the bulb can create heat up to 70 degrees F to melt snow from around it.

Symplocarpus foetidus

While definitely not the prettiest wildflower, I find it one of the most interesting. It can create its own heat [thermogenic]. It smells bad because it attracts pollinators that like rotting meat.

Most animals avoid eating the plants as they emerge as the leaves create a burning sensation in their mouths.

The plants themselves like wet forests and stream banks. I find these near the Big Spring in PeeWee's Valley. 

The trek there is not an easy one any more. Years ago the brother that lived on the land had cattle that kept the land well grazed. 13 years ago the cattle left the land and the land has gone wild. Charlie and I explore the valleys in the late fall through late spring. In midsummer, the land is choked with tall Parsnip, brambles, and other plants. 

By June the grasses and other plants around the stream will be nearly 4 feet tall.

But for now, we will still enjoy wandering along the creek looking for cool things.

Antler shed and Iron Concretion.

Anytime it is cold but windy and sunny, I can walk in the valley and enjoy the weather without dealing with the cold winds. I took off my insulated flannel and hung it on a tree branch while walking east along the stream. I picked it up when I headed back home.

Charlie was a mud puppy. I had to rinse him off.

I'm so glad he is so easy going. When I got him out of the tub, I just laid him on his side and he let me towel him off. 

The marsh marigolds shouldn't be far behind as I saw them just emerging in the Big Spring. I'll go back towards the end of next week to see if I can find any blossoms.

I'm pretty lucky to have this land near us. There are easier trails to be found at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve or one of our many County Parks. Duck Egg has an abundance of wildflowers in the lower trail that burst with Ephemeral flowers each spring.

I can't wait.

To find more Spring Wildflowers.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Toy time

 Here is Frank. He is leading his troopers. I don't know if Frank really knows where he is going...

Frank needs more riding lessons. He crashed the Speeder Bike.

How embarrassing!

Joan of Arch!

I really like this figure. A female knight!

Joan of Arch in Film Noir

Fred the Fly

Friends out checking the last of the ice in the creek as it melts off and enjoying the sunshine.

Last but not least...HO Scale people.

What is she doing in my coffee scoop?

Hopefully, this gives you a distraction and makes you laugh.

Monday, March 20, 2023


Sunday was cold and windy. I had so much to get done in the morning which included electric fence repairs. 

My Grand Plan was to head out early to the Reserve and see if I could spot red wing black birds and maybe check out the ponds to see if any geese or swans had arrived.

All that went ka-put. After lunch I had to call my elder friend in Alabama. She was having a bad day so we talked for an hour. She is in her mid 80's and was telling me that she had not gone out to do anything in weeks. She forgets to eat, she is isolated she says, and depressed. She used to be a librarian, so I asked her where the nearest library was. Her answer was 3 blocks. I asked her if she'd go to the library and just go find a book and sit at a table and read. 
Why? She asked me. I told she could be around other humans. 

I asked her to visit her meal site once this week and text me what she had to eat. I gave her two assignments or as I called them: Challenges for Motivation. 

I had to agree to let her set a Challenge for me too. She wanted me to send her a photo of me in Mobility Class. 

So today I was at CF and did Mobility Class afterwards. My coach Angie took these photos for me.
Mobility Class:

Shoulder Rotations

After class. 
One of my little pals, 
coach's daughter.

Am I going to be successful in helping someone a long distance away get Motivated? I sure don't know, but I like my Alabama friend. It is unfortunate that she has no immediate relatives to help her look out for herself. She is also fiercely independent so it is hard for her to ask for help.
This is the woman who was Captain of an Oil Rig in the Gulf when she was in her 30's. Mind you, that was over 50 years ago!

So. After my motivational talk. I packed my camera bag and headed out the door in the late afternoon to get myself moving.
I knocked off another section of the KVR Trail Challenge and enjoyed fresh cold air. I took what I think is a boring trail. It was so far from boring!

I will let these photos speak for themselves. This is along what is called the Old Harrison Trail. It leaves the Visitor Center and heads down towards the valley. It was a road once upon a time. On one side, it is marshy and wet, on the other side there are rocks and trees.
The huge surprise was the icicles on the rocks.

With the recent alternating snows and rains water has been seeping from the rocks around pines clinging to the rocks...

I found two pairs of Canada Geese:

I saw red dogwood, the pussy willows are starting to blossom, and there were some other trees budding that I couldn't ID.

I even took a photo of myself next to the Kickapoo River and sent it to my friend to make her day a little happier?

I do wonder how I can help my friend and motivate her to go to the meal site and interact with others. 

I know motivation has to come from within and cannot be forced. 


I am a curious person who likes to explore and be social too. I cannot imagine losing something so precious as motivation. It would crush my life.