Sunday, March 31, 2019

My Favorite Photos from March 2019

These are some of my favorite photos from March. The month started out with a big snowfall on the 2nd. The sky was so blue and provided a great contrast to the snow. This is a tree in the backyard.

The snow covered the berries on one of the plants in the front yard. The cedar waxwings and robins like to eat these in the Spring.

This is the front of our home. You can't even see it when the heavy snow weighs down the pine boughs.

As I was taking photos around the yard, this beautiful eagle soared overhead.

The snow is so high now that it almost is reaching the top of this four-foot tall fence.

I liked how the sun was shining through this oak tree. This is in the East pasture. We had all the pine trees transplanted about ten years after we moved here. They were in another pasture where the previous owners had started a little nursery of trees. We moved them before they got too big and their roots tangled. They provide a good visual block as well as a home for the wildlife.

The horses don't mind this weather too much. Bailey is wearing her penguin horse blanket. She wears it when the weather gets cold in the late-Fall/early-Winter until it gets to be above 30 degrees at night regularly in the Spring.

Hoss doesn't need a blanket. He seems to do really well without one. His fur is much thicker than Bailey's fur.

On March 8th, Sophia and I went to the humane society so she could play the harp while I pet some dogs. There were several who needed extra attention. LuLu loved listening to the harp music. She was very attentive.

On the 16th, I noticed the dogs were resting together. Aspen is using Cooper's hip and back for a pillow.

On March 16th, I made a SAORI woven scarf. This one is different from other weavings I've done in the past. This time I use a color theme and no roving (to add bumpy texture). I'm happy with how it turned out.

I learned some new skills and techniques this time which was fun. I ended up with a close-to five foot scarf during the three hours I was weaving. If you look close in the photo below, Eenie (the cat) is sitting to the right of the scarf under the blanket.

On St. Patrick's Day we had "shamrock shakes" with vanilla ice cream, milk, mint flavoring, and green food color. The girls topped their shakes with whipped cream.

On March 30, my sister, Sophia, Olivia, and I participated in a puzzle competition at the library. In 44 minutes we put together a 550-piece puzzle.

We were in second place. The team that won finished the puzzle in 41 minutes and 21 seconds. So close! Last year we were in first place, but it took us longer (about 56 minutes). We improved our time this year by quite a bit...and this year's puzzle was much harder than last year's puzzle!

Today I worked on doing the March clue for the Minnesota Quilters' Mystery Quilt. Each month we get clues to create quilt blocks based on fabric that was cut back in January. On April 1st, the next clue will be sent out.

A final picture for the month was taken today as well. It is of the front yard of our home taken from across the street standing in the ditch. I had to do that so I could angle the camera up to get the tops of the trees.

This is quite a contrast from the third photo in this post. It's the same grove of pine trees...except with no snow on them. What a difference a month makes!

A View of Where I Live

On the last day of March, it is rather bleak outside. There's not much color since the snow just melted about a week ago (though there are still patches of snow in spots). Within a month or so, though, there will be more color as the early-Spring flowers emerge and the trees start budding. It will look quite different. Until then, this is gives an idea what early-Spring in Minnesota looks like.

The east pasture is flooded from heavy snowfalls and then rain before the ground has thawed. This is the first time we have had a rather substantial-size pond in this pasture. This is one of two pastures for the horses, so there area is rather limited now.

The West pasture is having its own challenges too. These pictures show the Southwest (left side) and Northwest (right side) of the pasture. Never has this pasture been this flooded. We have a small lake (this is about half of the area - the other half is in the Southwest pasture (which we don't use) and in the neighbor's field. 

The horses are unable to access this pasture (what there is of it) since the water goes into their run that leads to this area. I can only hope this dries out soon. The frogs, though, came out this past week so I've been enjoying hearing them singing throughout the day and into the evening. The red-winged blackbirds, too, are singing. 

Onto drier land now. I'm standing across the street in the ditch to take this photo so I could get the full height of the trees. They have easily doubled in size since we moved here in 1995. They tower over our home and provide a great wind barrier when the wind is coming from the North.

Walking down the driveway and back to our home, this is the side that faces west. So the window on the first floor where the shutters are is the dining room. Many evenings when we eat dinner, we can see beautiful sunsets from there.

The little section that juts out is the mudroom. It was added on before we moved in, but after the original house was built in 1890. On top of the roof is a birdfeeder. We get such a variety of birds visiting the feeder, and many of my close-up photos of birds are taken from this window while the birds at the feeder.

We have been experiencing an oddly-cold kitchen this year. I'm not sure what is going on with it. We did have a fire at our farm this past May (May 5, 2018). Even though the siding was removed and replaced since it melted, the insulation was not removed. I'm wondering if it became somehow damaged during the fire. There is a distinct temperature difference between the rest of the house and the kitchen as well as master bedroom.

So, while making dinner tonight, the girls brought in the portable electric heater so the little dogs could stay warm. Danny and Scooby, especially, liked sitting in front of it while I made dinner.

One of Cooper's favorite spots is looking out the window in the living room. The chair is covered with a blanket so his paws don't get it dirty. Often times he comes in with mud on his paws since the backyard isn't yet finished from last year's repairs. (Once the ground is thawed and it is dry, it will be regraded and sodded.)

At any rate, he loves watching the birds at the feeder and is very protective of it. He doesn't like when the squirrels eat out of it. Cooper also has an issue with the pheasants for some reason. They are rather big as they walk by the window. Maybe he thinks they are some type of threat to the other littler birds and wildlife.

While I'm at it, I might as well take photos of all the dogs. This is Aspen sitting on her favorite couch. The blanket should be covering the cushions. However, she moves it. She likes to sit on the cushion itself and not blankets. The other little gray mattress is for Danny. Sometimes he likes to sit up high on the couch and watch what is happening.

This is a lighted cabinet that belonged to my parents. It has many of their items in it that I inherited when both passed away in 2012 and 2015. I've added some of my own items to it that I don't want the pets to break.

Each item has a memory and story. The black pitchers in the back are from England in 1988 when my parents and I visited my sister when she was studying abroad during college. The two teapots are from China when we adopted Sophia and Olivia in 2001 and 2003.

The green glass bird belonged to my parents. My grandma had similar glass birds - a blue one (that my sister has) and a purple one (that I have). The silver salt and pepper shakers belonged to my grandma on my mom's side.

Last, the textured bowl with grapes on the outside and copper/gold on the inside is from my parents. They would put homemade cranberry sauce in on Thanksgiving each year.

This was kind of a hodge-podge of photos showing some of our home from the outside; our dogs in different rooms of our home; and a piece of furniture holding special memories.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

March 2019 Scavenger Hunt - Photography

This is a swap on Swap-Bot in you find five things to photograph and send the images to three partners. Below are my photos for the five items:

 A pretty sky photo 

Although this isn't a sunrise or sunset photo, I like this photo of the sky because it isn't snowing or raining. February and most of March have been filled with both which has created some challenges here with flooding. Our pond, which is normally half this size, continues to grow each day as the snow melts.

The photo was taken on the first day of Spring before I took all four dogs for a walk. I have to do two walks (two dogs at a time). They liked the warmer weather, no ice on the road, and seeing the cows down the block from us.

Something smooth

There are a couple of things that are smooth that I found. One is a figure of a camel that is carved from wood. I think, if I am recalling correctly, it is from an olive tree. My dad brought it back from a trip he took to Israel many years ago (probably two decades ago).

The other photo is of bowls I made in pottery class. I did the four on the right-hand side (the two in front and two in back); and my teacher did the bowl on the left side.

These are trimmed bowls, so the goal in the process was to create smooth sides by trimming and then using a wet sponge. Obviously, I am unable to make bowls that look like one another. I guess each will have a different purpose.

Something with the words "Have a Nice Day" on it

This was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be. Apparently there are no signs, posters, or anything that has the words "Have a Nice Day" on it.

So, I printed out an image I found online of the phrase. I only have a black-and-white printer, so the colorful letters aren't shown in the image. As I looked at the image, I thought it would be fun to do as a papercutting and then fill in the letters with different colorful papers.

The image above is of Aspen, one of our dogs, laying on her back under the bed covers. She likes to burrow under them for some reason. She wasn't ready to get out of bed quite yet. I guess she's taking it easy on a Saturday morning.

Something tucked inside something else

The girls and I received an invitation to attend a volunteer appreciation lunch at the nursing home where we volunteer.

On Wednesday (the first day of Spring), we did an activity with some of the seniors at the nursing home to celebrate Spring. We had a nice time talking and spending time with them. Next month, we will go back and Olivia will be doing a presentation about the nature photos she took while Sophia plays harp music.

Something that gives you hope

This past week, Sophia and I worked on scholarship applications. From the 20th-22nd, we were able to write, print, and assemble 14 packets that went to various organizations, foundations, and businesses. We are hoping that some of these materialize into scholarships so that the costs for college are reduced and student loans don't have to be taken out during the first year (at least).

The other thing that gives me hope is when I see the little "whiskers" at the end of the Christmas Cactus leaves. This means that there will be new leaves that will grow from them.

I'm also hopeful that this plant will bloom this Easter. It usually blooms twice a year. However, this past Christmas it didn't bloom as much. There was only one bloom which is unusual. This is the plant that my Dad grew for decades. I have been able to take cuttings from it and create another plant.

It would be wonderful if both plants bloomed next month. I can only hope that these little whiskers are a good sign.

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Elephant Whisperer - Book Review

One of the books that I wanted to read this year was The Elephant Whisperer - My Life with the Herd in the African Wild. Lawrence Anthony, the author, was asked to accept a rogue herd of elephants on Thula Thula, his reserve in South Africa.

If he did not take the elephants, they would be shot. Yet, he didn't have experience with elephants - much less with ones with behavior problems.

He ended up taking the elephants, and dealing with a variety of experiences - from challenges; triumphs and progress; new life; and death.

This books gave me a lot of insight into the minds and personalities of elephants; their sheer strength and determination; and the bond they have as a family and with humans they trust.

The start of the book started a bit slowly. However, as the story progressed and the elephants were beginning to trust Lawrence, it was interesting to learn about their personalities, interactions with one another, and how they accept (or don't accept) humans based on their intentions.

One of the many interesting chapters dealt with how the elephant herd dealt with a fire at the reserve. The matriarch of the herd led them all to a watering pool which they waded in to stay cool and safe as the fire approached them. They would take up water in their trunks and spray their bodies to stay cool. The author was checking on them and followed the matriarch's lead. By following her behaviors, he and his dog also were able to make it through the fire.

Like people, elephants have a certain "personal boundary space" around them. Each elephant's space is different. The smaller the elephant, the less confident they are and, therefore, they demand more space around them. A mother and a newborn baby need the most space of all.

When they each, they pluck up grass in clumps and then tap it on their knees to dislodge soil from the roots. They are fussy about what they eat; and will check the scent of each plant before deciding if they want to eat it.

Elephants communicate with their eyes, trunk, rumblings, subtle body movements, and attitude. As the author said, "Whether it is a pet dog or a wild elephant, communication is not so much about the reach as it is about the acknowledgment....If you are not letting them know that their communication has reached you, if you don't acknowledge it somehow there can be no communication."

An elephant's trunk pulses with about fifty thousand muscles. I had no idea there were that many in the trunk!

There were two especially sad parts in the book. One was when a baby elephant's feet had been deformed when it was born. Despite the encouragement and persistence of the herd, there was nothing they could do to help it. The staff was able to intervene and progress looked promising. However, it was not meant to be. The baby elephant died. The author said, "The elephant's cheerful ways and her refusal to surrender until the end had inspired everyone. She had shown us how life could be joyous, despite pain. How it could be meaningful even if it was short. Thula had shown us how life should be lived for the moment."

The author died in 2012 and the elephants continue to bring their babies to an area near where he lived even though he no longer is alive.

His legacy is that  he changed people's perception of elephants outside the perimeters of conservation. He encouraged people who said, "I can't" that they can. He believed that people should get involved, join conservation movements that actually do something rather than relying on media gimmickry; lobby local government officials; and plant trees. Most important, just go outside and look and breathe.

As Graham Spence, who wrote the postscript in the book said, "Wilderness is not somewhere out there. It's in your soul."

Thursday, March 7, 2019

My Favorite Photos - February 2019

As I look back on February, these photos and memories stand out for me:

Sophia, Olivia, and I took a hand-sewing leather course at the art center. The girls each made a purse.

I made a tote bag.

I visited my sister at the end of February and took some photos of her cat. This is Juliette. She's a Flamepoint Siamese cat.

This is Buttercup. Check out those blue eyes!

I saw the first robin of the year during February. The birds like the apples that have been on the tree all winter.

There's a White-Crowned Sparrow that's been hanging around our farm this winter. Normally we don't see them in the winter. So, this is a real treat!

We have a flock of pheasants that have been hanging around as well. There is a group of six of them. The one below is a male - he is more colorful and has a white ring of feathers around his neck. He also has some interesting eyebrows. It's always fun to find one of the long tail feathers in the Spring.

This is four of the six pheasants in the driveway. They use their feet to scratch up the snow and uncover seeds and grain. They are looking for corn that I put in the driveway for them.

This is a blue jay that's approaching the feeder. I wish it were a better photo. However, I like the wing span on the bird and its target: the seeds.

We've had so much snow in February this excessive amount. It was the snowiest February ever recorded in the Twin Cities - in all of history!

Indoors, the pets are being patient until there is more area for them to run around outside. This is Aspen.

This is Scooby. He's getting bored with being inside so much.

Another class I took at the art center this month was papercutting. This is an example of Notan - a Japanese form of papercutting that explores negative and positive space. You start with a square piece of black paper and do free-form cutting from there. 

After doing that exercise, we worked on another papercutting project. All the parts have to touch one another (including the border), otherwise it is considered collage. The size is about 8 1/2" x 11" to give a size perspective.

During the month, Cooper has enjoyed watching the birds at the feeder. He likes the small ones, but - for whatever reason - does not like the big birds at the feeders, like the mourning doves, pheasants, and pileated woodpecker - all of whom have visited the feeder he's looking at in the photo below.

We've enjoyed visits by a large number of cardinals this year. We have multiple families here which is great!

This is a female. Her feathers on her head are standing tall meaning she is on alert.

This is a black-capped chickadee who chose a peanut to eat. She (or he) will fly off with whatever nut or seed is chosen and eat it in a tree.

We had a lot of challenges with icicles this month. This is not a good sign when they are this big since it shows that we have poor insulation between the ceiling and roof. These all were removed and the roof raked in mid-February. We have to do this again in early-March before it melts otherwise we could look at water damage in our home again, like we had a few years ago in three rooms.

Olivia and I drove out to Paynesville, Minnesota, in mid-February so she could do a 4-H retreat. It's for teens who are interested in nature, photography, and leadership. On our way back on Sunday morning, we stopped in Monticello, Minnesota, at Swan Park. There are thousands of trumpeter swans, Canada geese, and mallards on the Mississippi River. They are fed each day around 10:30 a.m., so we were able to see the tail-end of the feeding session.

We drove through a small blizzard to get to St. Kate's where Sophia was invited to attend a special reception and program for scholarship finalists. We found out later in the month that she won one of the top three awards!

For Valentine's Day this year, we celebrated it twice. Once was on the 14th when the girls and I had heart-shaped pizza and garlic bread plus red pop. Not terribly healthy, but it was a tasty treat.

I decorated the windows with some stars and heart-shaped cut-outs I had made.

We also celebrated it on the 15th when Paige was back in town from a business trip. I made a recipe I saw on Pinterest that I adapted. It used two types of tortellini/ravioli (cheese filled as well as meat filled), spinach, mozzarella cheese, and spaghetti sauce.

Another class that Olivia and I took at the art center was how to do peg loom weaving. The loom is small, yet you can weave rugs on it which is interesting. It took a bit to learn, but once I got the hang of it, weaving went quickly. This is Olivia's rug:

I'm participating in a Mystery Quilt project through Minnesota Quilters. Each month, you get a clue about how to sew together some pieces that you cut in January. These are the squares I made in February. I should have waited to see how people cut them because for the square on the left, the yellow should be half of the square; and the pink and purple the other half.

My only complaint about the directions are that they assume that people have a lot of experience with quilting and cutting squares. I don't, so it's a bit of a challenge.

Another sewing project that I coordinated was sewing diapers for newborns from t-shirts for Global Health Ministries. The diapers are used for incentives for women in developing countries to get prenatal care.

It was part of a larger service event that I coordinated on February 12th for our local Lions club. We had 21 people there - despite the snowy and icy roads.

We visited the girls' step-grandfather (Paige's step-father) in a transitional care unit. He is getting stronger now that he is getting 24/7 care. He will be moving to the nursing unit now that is part of the graduated-living community where he lives. It is an exceptional facility; and he is getting very good care.

One last photo that summarizes how the month felt.

Literally we feel buried in snow, it's so high we literally have to trudge through parts of non-shoveled parts. Cooper was looking for something in the snow...thus, his face is covered in snow. 

We are looking for Spring. Hopefully it comes soon.