Saturday, February 24, 2018

Not Sad, let's smile today.

I have some long time fellow bloggers out there.

Lori Skoog is one of them and this is for her.
No sadness in this post Lori!

It is safe to read without a Kleenex at your side.

These are some shots from the amazing run off from the 20th.

The last 3 shots are from what we call 'dry runs' in our area. These areas are deep crevasses in the landscape. They are filled with mossy boulders and are normally dry. During heavy rains the water rushes down from the ridge top above and creates a Run of Water that empties into the creek below.
The sound is thunderous as the water navigates over the boulders. The leaves from the fall, sticks, rocks, broken branches, all move with the water. By early spring the Dry Runs are clean again and ready to explore.

It is indeed awe inspiring to watch from a safe distance.

While it is raining or sleeting, I retreat to "The Creative Room" and mess around with some Still Life.

My Granddaughter Ariel gave me a few trolls on her last visit. I used to collect them when I was a girl.

Here are some marbles on an old table cloth along with a carnation. I used some Christmas lights behind marbles in the back round to create the 'bokeh'.

Driftwood and Pearls...
I added the cracks afterwards. It just seemed fun to do. The driftwood came from an adventure with my friends from the Kenosha area last year. I think we visited Lion's Den along Lake Michigan. I found this and brought it home. It was part of my flower garden last summer. This winter, it made for an interesting back drop.

For this shot I used some old black material and draped it on top of a plastic container. I put a painted branch I'd kept from my winter decorations on the material. I added some flat marbles to reflect the little lights and stuck my favorite blue cup in the middle.

I rarely get these things right the first time and I have to constantly rearrange the items. But it is good to practice and enjoy the challenges of something completely different.

Here is what everything looked like before the shot.

The magic ends up being what you don't see and what the camera allows you to see.

And last but not least. Hank and Stella.
This is their out door pen. It faces south. Hank gets to learn about hot wires and runs circles around mom.

...and now to go off and start my day....

Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, February 23, 2018


I probably shouldn't admit this, but losing Morris was extremely painful.

I've had many kind words and condolences.... I have to agree ... No matter how many years a dog lives, it is so very hard ... it never seems like it has been enough time.

My mother in law questioned me on Sunday. I had said something about Morris being ill and not doing well.

She wondered aloud ~ and she was NOT being mean at all ~ "Why would someone have a pet and like them so much to have them go and die. I mean they have such short lives!"

I jumped up and stood ready to be mean. However, her words were not inappropriate. Why on earth do we give our hearts over to pets with such intensity?
I said, "Honey, you are preaching to the wrong choir! Morris is...he is...
I ..."

I looked to my husband who shrugged. 
His mother had never had a pet. Always working farm dogs, outdoor dogs. She wasn't a pet person.
In fact, when Morris was a wee pup...he peed on her shoe.

At 87 years old, she was not going to 'get' the dog/pet/buddy thing. 

I smiled. After all, Morris was doing just fine. 

However. Morris was a typical Jack Russell Terrier. My veterinarian explained one time that JRT's will GO GO GO and suddenly stop. Worry at the stop. They normally don't let you know they have a problem...until...well. There you go.

Morris was fine. Tuesday he ran and played with Dixie in the morning. Tuesday afternoon his life stopped. 

I don't regret our time together. He made it so much richer. He was a pain. He was demanding. He was...simply put, Morris.

"...But you have Dixie!" 

Yes, I have Dixie. The big goof of a hound. Ever loving ... always willing to please.

Dixie. Right now, Dixie is just enough until I figure out what happens next.
Morris left a hole in my heart. But so did so many others. I haven't been able to move his crate. His toys are lined up on a box. I can pick the toys up and hold them close for a moment with my eyes closed.

I couldn't get rid of his red blanket. We always shared it. 

I had to put one of his larger toys on the couch so I could rest my hand on it while I read a book. As I would rest my hand on Morris's body.

Last night I heard him on the stairs.

This morning I swear he woke me up as usual at 5 AM. I found myself putting on my sweatshirt to let him out the porch door.

This morning Dixie helped me with chores. We went to the creek and watched the run off together. She filled an ache and I hugged her hard. I pulled her to me in the snow/icy/slush and buried my face into her shoulders.
She wiggled and then for a few moments, she stood utterly still.

Dixie is helping my.....our...
hearts recover.

And that is all one can ask.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

It's Time ~by Morris

I looked up at her as she came in from her last 'exploration'. She put away her camera bag and strode over to the couch where I was laying to check on me.

"How are you doing buddy?"

I am always her buddy. I am always her pal.

Her hands gently caressed my fur.
I tried to tell her that I really didn't feel good. She stood up and walked to my feed bowl. It was still full.
I admit it. The new food she got was awesome and I am a glutton. I loved the soft food, special diet food she had told me. Just for me!

Special indeed. However. I had no interest in food. I barely even wanted water. I had this thing that took over me and made me shake. SHE called it pain. I called it 'nasty'. I shut my eyes and went back to sleep.
How awful. I used to spin, bark, and jump, at the mere idea of going on a hike with her.
Who would watch over her now?
I guess.
I can at least say that Dixie does pay such close attention to her every move.

My ears are quiet. Seems I can't hear much. My eyes seem dim. I'm afraid to get off the couch.
My...something hurts. I shake.

She picks me up. How did it get to be so dark outside? What did time do?
She takes me outside. She doesn't yell at me for trying to pee on the porch post.

I sense she is sad.
I walk slowly past her into the house.

I unable to drink. I can't find the water. She shows me, even puts some in a syringe and puts it down my throat.
I urp on her.
I'm so tired. Just let me go to sleep.

She must figure it out. She says something about it being the middle of the night and she picks me gently up and sets me on the couch. She covers me with warm blankets and holds me until I sleep.

In my dreams, I run and jump. Badger is there. I want to ride on Badger with her! We ride together through the woods. I am in the passenger seat in a snow storm. I MUST guide her through the storm. Okay, I had no idea how to do that so I took a nap. I eat frozen mule poop. She yells ICKY! I run.
There are kids. Lots of kids. They pass through my dreams and I follow them on adventures. Always adventures. So many adventures. Floods, storms, fireflies, barking at dangerous things, walking with kids, sledding, the creek, always to the beautiful creek.

There is light and She and He are looking at me. I can't raise my head, I squint my eyes. She lifts my foot and holds it. I don't have the strength to pull it away. I normally pull it away and jump up. 

"I am tired" I tell Her. So tired, so much pain. I just want to sleep. 
It is time.

RIP, Mr. Morris. We had fourteen years of adventures together. My life will always be better and more enriched because of you.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Oh to love the creek

I like snow melts or winter thaws. It makes my little heart sing and my husband shake his head.
He often wonders if I am just crazy. No, I think he knows I am crazy.

I am nuts about our little creek. Any time we have a huge rain or a snow melt event I am scurrying to go watch it and take photos.

On the 15th we had our second day of extremely warm temperatures. I was sure that we'd had a 'run-off' on the 14th, but I had to wait for a phone call from the clinic. I was really quite put out that I could have been missing an adventure in Awesome Creek.

This photo is from March 2014. We'd had a lot of snow then.

February 15th this year...

I do love the sound the water makes as it makes its way through these boulders. The water is a coffee color with streaks of foam from the melting snow and ice. I believe the water color is from erosion from the cropland above and a mix of the clay and soils that line this 'dry' run.

I'd worn knee high waterproof boots for this.

After so many years of running down to the melt off, you'd think it would be boring or ho hum.
It isn't.
Each time it is different.

The path of the creek changes ever so slightly with each 'event'. Sometimes it changes drastically.

During such melt downs or heavy rains, I'd like to be everywhere at once along the creek. But that isn't possible.
This is the run off from the heavy rains we had on January 26th.

This is from the snow melt of February 14th and 15th.

Try as I might, I never do seem to get in the same exact place for these shots.
I gave up trying to be exact a long time ago.

But that is the charm of snow melts and heavy rains. I get to set up and practice some long exposure shots of the water.

Time was a factor also. I rush down to shoot the creek and explore as the daylight is beginning to fade.
I hurry instead of taking my time.

There are chores waiting for me at home. And a hungry husband.

I put the Olympus camera in my mini back pack and grabbed the tripod. I walked upstream to take the easier way out of the creek.
As I got above the water, I could hear a roaring coming from my neighbor's dry run.

I stepped through the barbed wire and walked over to where I could look. The water had started coming down here too. I couldn't help myself. I had to take a shot of the run off winding its way through the boulders and rocks.

I think I am going to find an old plastic chair to drag down to Awesome Creek and put it in a place so I can just sit and watch.

Morris doesn't come along with me any more. His eyesight is not very good any more and his hearing is pretty questionable.

I do miss his company and the looks that questioned my sanity....

Morris in 2014 giving me the look:

Weather alert.
Melting today.
Rain and ice event from tonight through Tuesday night.

I'm going to polish my cleats.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Just add imagination

"Do you want to go for a walk with the kids? We can go to the Reserve and do an nice easy trail...bring snacks?" I sent the question in an email to my neighbor.

We often went to my little creek for adventures, but the weather was supposed to be chilly. I wanted an excuse to get out of the house and visit with another female. And I wanted to go to my new favorite place. The Kickapoo Valley Reserve.

Off we went.

We took Harris Road Trail to the ponds. We detoured around the ponds which was good. 
That meant that I was knocking off one more trail that I had to complete for that Dam Trail Challenge. 
It is actually just called The Trail Challenge, I just like including the 'Dam' in it. 
This was one of those small intersecting trails that I'd missed the other times while hiking the south part of KVR.

The kids ran ahead while 'we' adults walked along behind just enjoying each other's company and conversation. 

The trail led around more than one frozen pond and of course the kids wanted to explore the ice. 

However with the recent warm days and melt downs I was super cautious and said emphatically NO! Lauren and I discussed our fears of falling through the ice and being trapped under it. 

Of course, I did something silly on the walk as we negotiated the path around the one pond. 
I blathered on to the kids about how in another month or so they could see Canada Geese, Mallards, a variety of ducks, and other birds. Did they want to keep an eye out for eagles?

I realized as I chattered on that Lauren was probably the only one hearing me. The kids were concentrated on the ice chunks in their path, the rocks, the stumps, and the pure adventure of the hike...and not the coming spring or birds.

I laughed to myself then. I thought, just enjoy the chatter of the children and the fresh but chilly air.

We came around a bend and there was a corn crib type structure. 
It was a blind set up with boards that you could open to watch those birds who would be coming to nest.
The kids ate snacks and enjoyed opening the little windows.

Sure, I tried to explain that this was a bird blind. That really did't impress my audience. Then I may have said that it was a way to spy on birds. Now that peaked their interest!

The only Eagle we saw at KVR was the finger puppet I added to my collection. 

I generally have a toy in my pocket of some kind even when I am hiking without children. 

Off we went again along the Old 131 Trail. The trail is flat and fairly straight. I think it was pretty boring to the kids. Up ahead near Star Valley there is a magnificent old pine that had been damaged by a storm. This pine became the place for the kids.

First we went to the benches and markers on Star Valley Trail. I wanted to show the kids the memorial. They were interested in the small pond created by the melt down. 
They were not being rude, they were exploring. A small pond with a mostly frozen surface is far more exciting than the little memorial. They could break ice up and throw it onto the surface of the flooded area and watch the ice splinter.

We had snacks and before the kids got wet, we moved away from the alluring little pond of ice and water.
The kids saw a trail that led across the field.

"Can we go this way?"
Of course! 
Off they ran, pausing at every area that had ice. 

Surely Mother Nature had put those little frozen places there just for them.

How can you compete with Mother Nature?

We went off trail as the kids wanted to see the river. They liked the huge chunks of ice that seemed stuck in it. I called them ice shoves, but they are actually ice floes. 

That did get some "cools!" from the kids.

I told them to lead on!
And they did.

I felt that the little trail would lead us back to the old damaged pine tree.
And it did.

However now the kids were busy. 
The adults merely stood back and let them play.

Play is the work of children.
It is very serious stuff.
~~ Bob Keeshan [Cpt. Kangaroo]

The tree and part of the branch that had broken off became something different that could only be seen through a child's imaginative eyes.
They played.

Lauren and I stood back and watched. 

I am always amazed at how quickly children can find something to play with. They don't need toys. Sticks, pieces of bark, or even a rock can become toys. A field of grass and a stump can become a fort or house.

Just let it go and let the children play, they will bring their own imagination.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Silent Hike

I looked down at the laundry basket that needed folding. I glanced at it again as I walked by it.  I then reached out and poked it.
It didn't poke back.
It obviously did not need my immediate attention.
Morris curled up on the couch with his freshly washed blanket that I'd taken out of the dryer. It was still warm.
He looked at me and stuck his nose under the blanket.

He didn't need my attention either.
Rich laid down for his afternoon nap.

Well now, the animals were fed and watered. However there was one critter that seemed to warrant attention.
I had two hours or so before chores. Everyone was going to be napping.

I donned a coat and grabbed a bottle of water. On the way out the porch I grabbed Dixie's red rope and my walking stick that had been made by my photo pal.

Dixie wagged her whole body. I wonder if some day she may just wag herself into pieces. She walked along side of me and waited for me to open the electric gates.
We headed out. Hike time.
The sky was blue and it was probably almost 20 degrees out.

Most of the time while hiking with a dog I only see their rear ends. Same with Dixie. I get the waving tail and her backside.
I wandered down to the creek and we followed it to the snow mobile trail. I shrugged and decided to head up the trail out of the valley and across the corn field on the ridge that divided the woods.

Soon we dipped back into the forest and the steep back valley. Dixie stopped and stood like a statue. Her tail even went still. I stopped also.
I've learned to pay attention to those with better senses than I. Dixie is one of those, her nose is extremely powerful. She can spot wildlife long before I would even be able to see it.
Then on the ridge above us came 3 deer, 4 deer, 3 deer, and then 2 more. They pranced and trotted in a long line.
Dixie didn't move when I whispered "No."

We headed further down into the valley. Both of us silent. I could hear some crows in the distance somewhere and the wind sigh and rattle the oak leaves that were still clinging to branches above us.
I headed down the steep incline towards the west end of the valley. I negotiated the hill, using saplings as hand railings. Each step was carefully placed and I made sure it wouldn't slip before putting forward the next foot.

Dixie brushed past me twice. She would go ahead and then come back. Her feet padded silently.
I looked down. There it was the Lost Valley, The Back Valley, The Hidden Valley. I could hear the stream running over rocks.
I squatted and slid down a short distance.
I was there.

The wide stream.
The stream where I can sit and watch trout flit back and forth.
It didn't take me long to spot them. Dixie trotted alongside the water and I saw their ripples.
I stood still and watched them swim up stream past me.

I clucked to Dixie, not a loud noise but the sort of little noise you make to ask your equine to step up or pay attention.
Dixie turned around and came to me. She sat and waited for me to put my hand on her head.
That long tail of hers swished the snow.

Walking through the valley requires a bit of crisscrossing the stream. The stick was helpful in stabilizing me as I picked out rocks to make my crossings.
My hiking boots are supposed to be water proof. But perhaps soaking them 2 miles from home wouldn't be a good idea.

Dixie walked on the edge of the stream until an ice shelf broke and she plunged into a deep section. It was only hock high on her, but she avoided walking so close again.

Towards the east end of the valley Dixie found two partially eaten deer carcasses.They were buried deep in the snow and ice, too deep to tell if they were killed by coyotes or leftovers from hunting season.

I kept going until I found a good spot to cross again and head back up the steep hill.
Dixie wasn't convinced I'd picked a good place and I had to pat my leg.

Again, I just reached down and touched her on the head. She looked up at me and then scrambled up the hillside following some of the many tracks that were all over.

As we neared the field again on the ridge top, I realized that I really hadn't spoken a word since we began our hike. Normally I keep up a rambling dialogue with Dixie so that she will pay attention to me.
Obviously we'd gotten to the point in our partnership that we just were good with each other's company.

We trucked across the ridge top and followed the snowmobile trail until we could duck back into our woods and down to Awesome Creek.

I wanted to take a photo of the creek with the pretty reflections in it.
Dixie photo-bombed it.
And I think it turned out much better that way.

Dixie led the way. Just as Morris always does.
She waited for me at the electric gate.

And then our hike ended.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sneaky Doodle Gang

Once upon a time long ago and far away...well. Hmm.
About 20 years ago I lived in Kenosha County and my older 4H horseback riders and I used to ride the side roads and we'd 'sneak' through the farm fields on the paths left for huge tractors. We'd sometimes ride at night through the fields.

At that time we dubbed ourselves The Sneaky Doodle Gang.
I know, how stupid sounding is that?

Well this past weekend we wanted to get back to a place we'd been to before. It is a State Natural Area. It has no real access points that are trails. If you look the area up on a site, apparently you can park on a road and look around for bent over grasses and follow that until you come to the 'trail head' which may be a pebble or a thicket of thorns.

We knew where we wanted to go. One of the options is to climb directly down a steep dip between bluffs. Good luck with that on a snowy day. That area is strewn with a boulder field and dead falls. We have done it once before but it takes good balance, two functional arms and two very functional legs.

One member of our gang had just had shoulder surgery 10 days ago. That meant she had one functioning arm. Since I've had a similar shoulder surgery about 10 years ago, I fully understand how painful and awkward one feels after the surgery.

We opted to find an easier way in. We found a fairly wide open looking trail and headed down it. It was much further from our destination than we planned, but it looked much easier to negotiate than a slippery boulder field that was strewn with hidden danger under the snow.

As we walked in we looked up and saw a private residence above us. Dang! Were we on private property? We we trespassing? We saw no signs but that doesn't mean that is an excuse.

Time to pass on the old school skills of The Sneaky Doodle Gang. The two adults I were with are a part of the old Sneaky Doodle Gang. SDG from here on out.
We told the kids to be quiet. Our goal as ahead of us and we didn't want to waste time going all the way around and then back down the boulder field. So we split up quietly and continued to hike.

Can you see the SDG member in the middle of this shot?
Aren't we just awesome?
So eventually we followed the trail and came out in an area where there was a picnic table and some chairs.

All right. Let me stop the presses right here.
This morning I looked up the State Natural Area through the DNR website and looked for access points for future use. I found photo of the picnic table claiming that it was part of the SNA we were looking for.
Devil's Lake State Park Visitor's Guide

Guess what.
We had not been trespassing.
The trail we were on and the one described on the website were the same. They went directly to the picnic table.

Photo by Daryl Clausen

And we found the chairs too. However, we found a surprise in them.

I always carry some toys that are given to me by kids. One of our favorite toys has been dubbed "Creepy Baby" and here is a shot of him with the sort of creepy raggedy Teddy Bears.

Oh yeah. That was just too darned Creepy!

Once we made it past the Sentinel Teddy Bears we found....


Magnificent ice, multi colored ice. The hues ran from yellow, blue, green, white, to an almost reddish color.

This is what we had come for and had hoped to find. 

I was stunned as were my fellow SDG friends. The kids were ecstatic and slide on the creek ice that was as smooth as a skating rink. We took photos and stared at it in wonder. 
It was worth the difficult hike in.

However, we made a pact to not reveal the exact location of this place.  We'd been to Pewitt's Nest three winters ago and had admired its beauty. It became an internet sensation and by early spring of 2017 it was closed to the public because of the senseless destruction that occurred from the people. There will be viewing platforms built but I still see posts from people who sneak in past the NO Trespassing signs to take photos of the place.

I shouldn't worry too much though. This place is difficult to find, hard to hike to and even harder to climb out of.

A view from behind the ice.

I would love to go back in the early spring and in the fall to see the rock bluffs and the plants. 

Sadly, the weak sunlight began to fade quickly and we started to seek a way out of the gorge.
There is no specific trail. 

Just before dark we reached the Subaru and climbed in. 
The Sneaky Doodle Gang had done it again.

And we were happy.