Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gardening and Dehydrating

Oh no! I didn't get dehydrated while gardening!

I got a new food dehydrator and went at it the past few days.

I tried drying herbs last year and some of those grape tomatoes. I still have some excellent dried Kale, Parsley, and onion bits from last year.
However, I used up all of the dried green peppers and basil I had.

My first experiments in dehydrating food were pretty straight forward. I didn't want to use the oven as a dryer so I'd bought a cheap dehydrator last fall. I was looking for an alternate way of preserving foods and not taking up freezer space this year as we have big ol' Black Bart just about ready for 'market'.

Here is the new dehydrator just after I filled up two trays with green beans and two trays with green peppers.

Here is the one tray of green beans after dehydrating.

I vacuum sealed the green beans and stored them away. Even I was amazed at how small these whole meals of beans were reduced to. However, I will more than likely use the frozen ones to go with a regular meal and the dried ones in soups and stews this winter.

Rich and I picked some of the 'wild' apples from the meadow. I found a recipe on line for cinnamon and sugar dried apples. I sliced the apples thinly and didn't bother with peeling them. I dipped them in some vinegar water [which works just like lemon juice to preserve the apple's color] sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar, and then placed them in the dehydrator.

OHH how delicious! It is like having apple pie in your hand!

Shown also are the green peppers and onions. I will grind the onions into onion powder for a spice after I am done drying the rest of the onions.

So while I was letting the dehydrator work its magic, I went out to work on my east flower garden.
Last year it looked like this...

And now?

It is coming along!
[ I may change the shape to make it easier to mow around in the future. ]

Compared to how it looked when I started. Whew...

I put the finishing touches on it and stood back recalling what the pile of bricks, drywall, and nails looked like. The ugly eyesore on the east side of the house. Then I smiled and did a little happy dance.

I have the rest of this side of the house to finish, but that will wait until next year. I have some plants to transplant from a few friend's gardens that will go well with what I have now.
I do love my marigolds in containers, especially the ones in old maple sap buckets.
They are easy to move around. Just pick up the handle and go!
Instant rearranging is so much fun.

I heard my husband tell his daughter "She is out there playing with her buckets again, moving stuff around!"

Saturday was another busy day. We went to a farm in Genoa to get a truckload of hay and spent quite a while visiting. I went with the farmer's wife to admire her gorgeous vegetable garden. We talked plants, gardens, flowers, freezing veggies, and safflower.
I told her about my experimenting with dehydrating and had brought some samples of my dried apples. They all loved them.

We left with our load of hay, a huge bag of sweet corn and safflower petals to dry.

Safflower is the poor person's saffron. I spread this out on the counter overnight.

Then I went to work on processing the corn. I blanched and vaccum sealed about 8 bags for the freezer.

Farmer's wife wanted some lemon basil.
So...instead of running the dehydrator for just two trays of herbs, I decided to see how corn dehydrated.

Well? I bet you are wondering how this all turned out?

I'd call it a success!
My next step is to put a portion of green beans in with the corn and some peppers along with some spices in a vaccum sealed bag and label it 'soup stuff'. I could just grab a package and toss it in a beef broth.

Next up. Apples. More apples!
The cheapskate in me doesn't want to waste all of those superb wild apples growing in the meadow.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What should we do today?

"What do you want to do?" I asked hubby as he sat at the kitchen window and stared out at the cloudy dismal looking day.

"Is it going to clear up?" he asked. I checked the weather. 40% chance of showers on and off during he day. I told him that.

"Is it going to clear up?" he asked again.

I shrugged and then replied, "Well what are you thinking?"

"Well, if it is going to clear up, then we could try Runge Hollow and go fishing." He stated.
Rich had fishing on his mind. Funny how when a thought these days comes into his head, it gets stuck and rumbles around repeatedly over and over. No fault of his though, the though rattles about until we address it in one way or another.

"We have rain gear," I reminded him, "some pretty good rain gear. Why don't we just grab it and go? We can pick up worms on the way through town."

He stared out the window for a bit without seeing anything. Once that look concerned me as he would be having obtrusive PTSD thoughts of combat long ago.
Now after the stroke he had told me, things are just blank. Nothing is there.
He seems more soft and not as harsh around the emotional edges.

I got up from the table and grabbed his rain gear and then directed him step by step on items we needed. On days like this, he needed more than the usual guidance.
In no time at all we were headed towards Runge Hollow.

And it did rain off and on.
You can't see it in these shots, but when we had 6 or more inches in a 24 hour period in July the water rose in this man made lake up at least 5 feet, the leaves on the trees on the opposite edge of the lake had mud on them.

Runge Hollow Dam holds back some of the Bad Axe River and keeps it from flooding out those downstream from it. Our county has a series of man made lakes and dams that are flood control projects.

We fished the rest of the day and enjoyed the peace and quiet of having the place all to ourselves. And yes, we got enough to have a nice supper on Friday night.

The other side of the Dam...

Our fishing spot for most of the afternoon.

If you look hard you can see Rich down next to the intake. There is a vehicle in the upper left driving up County Road Y which is on top of the dam.

A view across from the dam where the boat dock used to be along with the wheel chair access. I believe they were washed away in the flood last September of 2016.

I learned that just because it is raining, it doesn't mean you can't go fishing.
I recall something my Grandfather Fred used to say.

"It's raining outside, let's have a picnic!"

It never really made sense. But now I can say..."It's raining outside! Let's Go Fishing!"

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A bit of Infrared Fun ~ Sunny Days vs. Cloudy Days in the Creek

Shooting with an infrared filter opens up some wonderful possibilites on a bright sunny day. The shadows are more intense, the greens are 'white' and true IR photography is sometimes a lot more interesting that what I've taken here. 

[By truer, I mean cameras that have been converted to Infared.]

However, I am just dabbling in it.

The end result of this shot wasn't that fantastic. But it was a good experiment.

I wondered what the bright sunlight on the rocks would do with the cold water of the creek running through it.
The unedited version looks rather strange.

However I think I got lucky with this one. It turned out pretty cool.
In my opinion of course.
I can see the rocks just below the surface of the water and reflections of the rocks also.

I should have taken another shot without the filter and seen what difference it made, but I didn't. I was pressed for time that day.

I used a bit of extra editing in this next shot, I wanted to accentuate the rays of light.

This is more in line of how I 'see' parts of the creek bottom. It is beautiful and mysterious all at once.

The next day was heavily overcast which is perfect for normal water photography.

This shot is from further away and I used a polarizing filter to cut some of the water reflections so I could catch the rocks. I like this shot but feel that I actually enhanced it a bit too much. In retrospect, it should be toned down a bit.

This is more what I was going for. A nice long exposure which softens the water but allows the mind to imagine the motion. The rocks below are just visible enough so that we know there is a rocky bottom.

And then just for fun...

One must add something that doesn't belong.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Flurry is Over

When a grand child spends a week here, it feels as though the house is lacking something when they leave. 

Morris takes it to heart.
He wanders the house and makes frequent trips up the stairs to see if his pal is really gone or perhaps he can find a sniff of them somewhere.
Eventually he ends up curled up on the couch and will spend most of the day there.

On Saturday afternoon I went for a walk and he started out with me and then turned around and went to the house. He sat in front of the door and looked at me. This had me worried. Morris refuse to go for a hike? Impossible!
Yet he did.

Sunday I took advantage of the free day and picked produce from the garden.

I had a bounty of food. A garden cart full of beets and turnips along with two buckets of green beans and a sinkful of red lettuce [thanks to the cooler temperatures ~ it didn't bolt!]

I spent all day Sunday blanching and freezing the green beans and the beets. I used my vacuum sealer. I also dried lemon basil herbs with my old dehydrator. I finished one jar for the neighbor and am working on another jar for my step daughter.

Monday I decided to do some wandering in the woods. I gathered some items in my back pack and grabbed the Nikon with the Nifty Fifty [50mm prime lens]. 
Morris perked up. He bounced in his usual manner and came with me. 
Apparently it takes him about two days to get over missing kids.
Though he still checks a few times a day by going upstairs to look in the bedrooms.

I let him hike with me without his bell on at first.

He keeps getting 'lost' in the thick undergrowth, so I eventually put his bell on so I could hear where he was.

For fun, I'd brought my Flea Market tea cup and saucer. I found shelf fungus on a dying tree and thought it would be fun for 'outdoor' Still Life. 

Faerie Tea Time

In the creek I thought it would be fun to try out the tea cup and saucer in a long exposure with water running past it.

The overcast day was perfect for some flowing water photos. I added a polarized lens to get rid of water reflections. I took quite a few shots to get the one I was happy with.
Personally though, I sort of like the tea cup on the shelf fungi best. I think it is odd enough and unique enough to satisfy my tastes.

I spent yesterday working on my flower garden and the vegetable garden. I purchased some black bark mulch and I really like how it looks. Seems I will need to go back and get some more to properly cover the area I want.

Last but not least, I took an afternoon break and sat on a stool in the garden between my malva flowers and zinnias to watch bees and butterflies. Of course, I had my camera.

The grand kid flurry is over, only to start up again in another week or so. 
The Kenosha gang will be coming at the end of the month with their dog Scout. 
My Flurry of Fun Summer has not ended!

I can say I am certainly enjoying this beautiful summer.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Love Affair of Sorts

What happens when you introduce a young lady to equine? What happens when this young lady learns the feeling of self confidence and awe when she learns to ride?

I've always felt Siera had some potential in some sort of fashion.

I recall the power of attraction when I was Ariel's age. I recall the how my heart soared each time my uncle would let us go riding. I recall staying at his place and him telling me that a horse he was keeping called 'Buddy' was mine to ride and care for during my week long stay.

At the begining of the week, I told Ariel that Siera was her mule for the week. Hers to groom, to ride, to hand walk if she felt like it. Hers to handle for her stay.

Imagine suddenly having the confidence to walk into a pasture and gather up the mule you are to take care of.

You can catch her at any time and take her out. You've learned to properly saddle her by yourself.

These are the things Ariel learned this week. She also learned so much more about riding.
Siera has been an excellent mount for Ariel. The mule is calm, relaxed, easy going, and quite attached to her handler.

Experience ... Experience ... Experience. Practice and practice. Riding is a long and gradual learning curve. Each experience builds on another.

But the experience becomes more real and more incredible with each ride. Slowly, each piece of the puzzle that comes together.
Catching Siera,
grooming her,
and then saddling her properly by herself.

These are things Ariel has learned and can now do with confidence.

We took our first extended long ride. I rode Sunshine my little redhead.

We passed along the ridge top and then headed into the valley where the creek is. The snow mobile/camp road has not been used at all this year so we had to make our way slowly. It involved a bit of 'ditch diving' which is mule-speak for dropping off or climbing up ditches that are about 5 feet tall.

I led with Sunshine and for a moment Ariel sat on Siera and said, "Um, that is steep! I don't know."

I smiled and said, "Trust your mule, Siera won't let you get hurt. She likes you."
Actually, mules are self preservationists and normally refuse to do anything dangerous.

Ariel asked Siera to drop down the harsh steep bank. Siera balked and then calmly made her way down.
The realization and the smile of wonder that lit up Ariel's face was worth all the hard work we've done for the past three summers.

We rode down into the forest where I stopped to check saddle girths before we rode down the steep hill.

The trail had suffered some fallen trees so we did a bit of brush busting. We rode into the valley and Ariel was surprised at how different yet same things looked and how much more fun it was to ride to the creek than walk!

We explored for a while and I told her that in the future we'd cross the creek and explore some more amazing places. I lamented too that now that I had a fun riding partner ... she had to go back home.

We rode quietly back towards home as the sun was setting. Our very first sunset ride.

And I leave you with this....a Quote I found while browsing Horse Quotes. I changed the one word to Mule.

Why do I ride mules?
Because I look at my mule and I see
My Hopes and Dreams.
I see my Happiness.
I see my Hopes and Dreams.
I see my Pride and Soul.
I look in a mirror and I see a
I look at my mule and I see

And that I think, says it all.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Healing Powers of Equine

For those who own horses, donkeys, or mules I guess I don't have to really say much as an introduction.

There is something wonderfully healing about being around an equine.

When Rich had his stroke and we were looking at downsizing, he thought we should sell Mica and Sundance. Sundance is in training and Mica hasn't been ridden in quite a while.
His reasoning was that "I'll never be able to ride again."
I told him that was not so. Never say never.

At that moment however I did have doubts but held out because without hope there seems to be nothing, right?

I asked him to help me out with Mica and see how much re-training she would need to get her riding again.
She was a roping mule when we got her, trained by Chris French of Rafter CF Training Mule Company.

This was long before Chris was a well known trainer.
Anyway Mica was herd sour and wanted to be with the other mules, but she quickly started thinking like a trained mule would. She knew her manners and what she should do, she just didn't quite want to do it.

Yesterday morning as we were eating breakfast and planning our day, I casually slipped in "We will catch Fred and saddle him up for you so you can ride with Ariel and I."

Rich barely blinked. I thought he didn't hear me. He smiled and nodded but didn't react. I pulled Ariel aside.

"We have to get Grandpa on Fred and take him for a ride. It will be good for him. I need your help to convince him."
Ariel agreed and said she'd help me clean up Fred and saddle him too.

We saddled the mules and got things ready. Ariel was going to ride the now very much loved Siera, I'd ride the little redhead, Sunshine...and Rich had his old stand by, Fred.

Next thing I knew Rich was mounted and wanted to know why we were still on the ground.

We were soon on our way. Ariel and Rich were in the lead and I of course was bringing up the rear.

We rode out on PeeWee's driveway towards the old cabin and then cut alongside the soybean field.

Fred walked with purpose and Siera just did her thing with Ariel. I enjoyed the view from behind.
I then realized that this was the absolute first time that Grandfather and Grand daughter had ridden together.

Two years ago Rich was ready to give up on riding when he went through throat cancer treatments and his TIA that affected his balance. This year he had the stroke, again he was ready to give up.

None of that was on his mind as he rode with Ariel. They didn't have to talk, they just rode quietly mostly side by side. Rich would give Ariel a direction or two, or maybe say something.
But mostly the ride was in peaceful silence. The sort of comfortable silence that riders get when they are concentrating and just enjoying the view from the saddle.

When we got closer to home Rich started talking about riding the cropland on the ridge. He thought that we should ride through the oat fields that had been harvested and baled.
I thought that was a good idea.

He agreed.
I then had the two of them stop and turn their mules towards me.

My guess is that I won't have to urge the two of these guys to go riding again.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Siera shines through

When we got Siera I never imagined that she would be good for novice riders. However, I've been working with her for quite a while now. I love the fact that when something confuses her she stops.
When something startles her, she ... stops.
When she is upset, she'll back up and she stops.

She can't really buck. I've seen her try. She can't really rear up. She is a gaited mule with different hindquarters than those of her quarter mule pals.
She is calm and quiet 95% of the time.
She will get excited if she is left behind in the pasture. She is calm when she is with a human.
She is even calmer if she is with another mule. Even with the redhead Sunshine.
The redheaded mule sisters tend to stick together. The bay mules tend to stick together out in the pasture.

Still, Siera can be a challenge. I told Ariel that Siera would give her grief in the Merry Meadow because that has been her summer home for many years and...Siera could hear Fred braying his mournful sounds of love for her.

I figured Sunshine would be the problem mule. However she really wasn't. She did exactly what I asked of her and I rode her as if she were her 'mother'. The ditsy Cheyanne.

What the Ariel and Siera learn?
Siera learned that indeed Ariel can be the boss. And that Siera was not in charge of the direction we were going. If Ariel wanted to go around an apple tree, then they would go around it.

After riding the meadow, we tied Sunshine and Siera up to the trailer so they could stand and think about things. We moved to the porch and had a snack.

I decided that Ariel and Siera were ready for another challenge.

We decided to go explore the fields on the ridge. I texted my 'upstairs' neighbor and she was kind enough to take a few shots of us riding together since I never really get the chance to do so.

We rode out towards PeeWee's and simply enjoyed the view from the saddle.

As we rounded the edge of the soybean field and stopped to look over the ridge...Siera did her thing.

It generally surprises the rider. I always joke: "Hey your broke my mule!"
It gets a good laugh.

Sunshine was outstanding. I like to compliment my girls each time we go out and they do the expected good job. We sat on the mules and watched deer graze in a field close to the woods below us.
That is our next riding goal is to do a ride down the old 'camp' road to the creek and explore.
Since no one has cattle on the land anymore the woods have gotten overgrown and choked with nasty weeds. The creek crossing has been washed out again, but I am sure I could get Sunshine through it and Siera too.
We probably won't challenge the creek quite yet with Siera.

After enjoying the view, we headed back along the driveway towards home. The girls were absolutely amazing.

I think I 'll keep these two!!