Friday, March 3, 2023

My Favorite Photos - February 2023

This month I have a very small number of photos compared to past months. I'm working about 50+ hours a week between three jobs now that the girls are both in college, so my free time is limited as is my time to take photos. 

Honestly, this is kind of depressing for me because I love taking photos and documenting life. I guess when time is spent working, things change. Perhaps going forward this year I need to make a conscious effort to prioritize using my camera and creating images that I can be proud of and enjoy looking at. 

The ones below are just quick shots. Nothing fancy. They do bring back good thoughts of having Sophia at home one weekend from college. We went to the Lions breakfast for Vinterfest.

This is one of the Lions. He's a vet who served in Vietnam. He has interesting stories to tell and is into nature and wildlife. 

These two women also are Lions and have been so supportive of me. They are both in their 80s, but you would never guess it by how active they are. They do a tremendous amount of volunteering not only for the Lions, but for other organizations around town. 

There were fires outside around the community center for everyone to enjoy.

There was a mini donut food truck, so Sophia treated me to mini donuts which was nice. The donuts were piping hot and the air was so cold. She's showing me the steam in the air from the donut...though my camera isn't picking it up.

We watched some hockey. Neither of us is a hockey fan, so we didn't stay long.

I dropped her off with a friend in Stillwater and then headed back to Vinterfest. This time I went across the street to Gammelgarden Museum and saw the exhibit that the Scandia Heritage Alliance put on. There were antique sleds like this little one. I could imagine myself pulling the girls in something like this when they were smaller. 

There was a big wooden toboggan. I remember having a wood sled growing up with metal runners. You had to be careful where you placed your hands on the sled.

These are snowshoes. I remember trying to use snowshoes when I was in fourth grade. It didn't go so well. Never tried again. Wonder if I would have better luck as an adult. 

The Wildlife Science Center was at Gammelgarden with a couple of owls. This was one of them.

They let me get pretty close to the owl. It was so calm. I wish I could have touched looked so soft. 

This little owl is missing an eye. When it was born, it was missing an eye. It would have very little success in the wild - both in terms of catching prey as well as potentially being eaten by a larger predator - like a Great Horned Owl which we have around here. 

The coloring on the owl is similar to a birch tree and it blends in beautifully with its surroundings. 

At the end of the month, we got another ten inches of snow. We really don't need it. At this point, the front doors of the barn are inaccessible. What is not apparent in this photo is that there are sections in the backyard that have at least 2-3 feet of snow. 

Near the fence line leading to the east pasture, the snow is as high as the top of the fence. Cooper can literally walk over the top of the fence. This is not good because if any wildlife - like deer, fox, or coyote - wanders into the pasture, they could just as likely walk over the fence and into our backyard. It would not fare well for any of the animals - dogs or wildlife. Hopefully, the temperature will warm up and melt all this snow.

Speaking of dogs going over the fence, this is Cooper who is pretty proud of himself that he got into the pasture and could run at full speed through the snow. He was having fun.

Interestingly, the snow reveals tracks that sometimes are easily recognizable. Other times, I have no idea what they are. For example, in the photo below, there's a big blob of tracks to the left of the photo. That's Cooper as he is running through the pasture. What I found strange was the rectangular shape made of small tracks. I have never seen anything like that before.

I posted the photo on Minnesota Naturalists (a Facebook group) and one person identified the tracks as those belonging to a deer mouse. Apparently, this type of mouse walks on top of the snow - rather than under it. I would think that would make it quite vulnerable to predators. 

At any rate, I was surprised at how the mouse made abrupt turns and made a rectangle.

These are two trees in the far back part of our property. In front is some sort of pine tree. In the back is a Weeping Willow. We planted these trees (at the time - about 5-6 feet tall) - a good 20 feet apart from one another. We thought it was far enough. It isn't. These two trees are right next to one another and both could use more space. 

There are two sets of tracks leading up to the pine tree. I wonder if both are used by the same animal or if there are multiple ones living under the tree.

When the girls were little, we would sit under those trees - sometimes just us and sometimes with the dogs. We had picnics under them...and we'd just enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of being in the country. 

So many good memories of this place. I am incredibly grateful we found it and chose to call it home.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Nature in Black and White

For this photography swap on Swap-Bot, I chose to focus on nature in black and white. All of the images were originally taken in color, but I felt like the color detracted from the pattern and detail of the object. So, I changed them to all black and white images.

The first image is one that I took on April 28, 2019, in Seward, Alaska, of jellyfish. Watching them float and swim was mesmerizing. Inside their bell-shaped body is their mouth. They both eat and discard waste from this opening. They digest their food very quickly because they could not float if they carried a large, undigested meal around.  

To me, the black and white image shows how delicate the jellyfish are and better illustrates their bodies.

The image below is of milkweed seeds with their fluffy floss (what looks like a tail on each seed). I took this image on October 15, 2021, when opening milkweed pods and spreading the seeds. It was a beautiful fall day, slightly overcast, with a nice breeze to carry the seeds off to their new destinations. 

In color, this image has greens, browns, and whites. It has a lot going on. However, when you remove the color from the image, the pattern of the floss and its wispiness shows better. 

Each year in March, we get rainstorms that turn to ice overnight. This image, taken on March 5, 2022, shows the layer of ice covering the woven-wire fence. Imagine this on everything - trees, buildings, the ground, and roads. It's a rather precarious drive until the sun melts the ice. I removed the color from this image because I wanted the focus to be on the icicles and the ice-wrapped wire. 

This image was one I took on April 30, 2008, of rocks at Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls. Although the rocks are slate-gray, it was better to remove the color so that the lichen (on a couple of the rocks) didn't distract from the arrangement of the rocks and the lines between them. 

On June 2, 2021, I was taking photos of the gardens and took this image of leaves with raindrops on them. When I downloaded the photos, I noticed that the leaves appeared to make an "A" - the initial of my first name. I preferred the image in black and white because there were many muted colors in the background from other flowers and plants, the green of the leaves of the "A," and the clear raindrops. The black-and-white version seemed cleaner and more focused on the image I wanted to show.  

I go either way with clouds - sometimes I like the image in color and other times I like them in black-and-white. In this case, I prefer black and white. The clouds had such dramatic shades - from the dark black to white depending on where the sun was and how big/deep the clouds were. This image was taken on August 21, 2007.

As I was taking the dogs for a walk on the afternoon of October 23, 2019, I saw this bright purple thistle with green base.  The thistle plant was huge - probably a good 4'-5' tall. This one flower stood proudly above the rest. Although I love the colors purple and green, what I wanted to focus on was all the little spikes on top and the tightly-clustered spikes below that. 

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Photo Scavenger Hunt

There's a photography swap on Swap-bot that I thought would be fun to do. There are words or phrases that are provided and participants take a photo or find an image from the photos they have taken. 

Below are the words and the images that I created.

This is a wren that was singing quite loudly on July 21, 2021. There's a house near this post where he has a home full of baby wrens. He and the female would fly continuously back and forth between the pasture and house to feed the babies. 

 Something that Starts with the Letter P 

On June 5, 2022, my family and I were in Scotland. We saw the National Monument of Scotland in Edininburgh which, according to Historic UK, the monument was "most famously called by its resident architect the ‘pride and poverty of us Scots.’" 

It is one of the iconic landmarks of Edinburgh being a facsimile of the Parthenon. However, the building of the structure was abandoned in 1829, leaving a "ruinesque Parthenon of Calton Hill."

A Wild Animal 

We had a trail cam for a while which I enjoyed using at different spots around our farm. On March 5, 2020, the trail cam caught these two rabbits in the front yard. I had no idea that rabbits could jump or leap that high! 

 A Potted Plant 

This is a potted plant that I got on December 11, 2022, for my daughter for Christmas. She liked it, but wanted to create a planter that had a variety of succulents - like this one. So, we went back to Home Depot where she bought a trio of succulents to create her own planter. This one now is sitting on my kitchen ledge by a south-facing window and doing well.


During this past December, we were having snowstorm after snowstorm. By the middle of the month, we had the amount of snow that we would typically get in an entire winter. It was too much snow in too short of period of time. This photo was taken on December 15, 2022. The birds love to eat these fruits during the winter and spring. Sometimes, if there are enough remaining on the tree in the spring, flocks of cedar waxwings will come to the tree to eat the fruit.

 Something that Reminds You of Your Childhood 

On December 31, 2022, my sister and I went through old slides that my parents had. This was one of the photos of our home being built in summer 1974. My brother and sister are sitting where the solarium or sun room would end up being. 

Below that was a patio, my bedroom, a door, my sister's bedroom, and then my brother's bedroom. We all had windows facing Bass Lake. The upper level had the family room, door, kitchenette, kitchen, and my parents' bedroom. Again - all facing the lake. The front section of our home had other rooms.  

This was truly a beautiful, well-constructed home that my parents lovingly took care of. I loved living on a lake, seeing the sunsets, taking the row boat out around the island, and making fort houses with my sister in the nearby woods. So many good memories. 

 Something in Your Garden or Backyard

The snowstorms that I was referencing earlier dumped a lot of snow in a short period of time. This photo that I took on December 22, 2022, shows how much snow we received in less than a two-week period. There is a picnic table with two attached benches under that snow.

 Light Painting

This image is of a chalk painting that was done on September 5, 2021, as part of a chalk festival. It depicts swirls of light and a hand. I was so amazed at the beautiful chalk paintings - some 2D and others 3D. 

Someone Working
I went further back in my photos to find this photo of Sophia and Olivia working in the 4-H malt booth stand on July 17, 2015. Sophia is making a strawberry milkshake. Working in the malt booth was a coveted position because it was nice and cool in the trailer. When it was 85-95 degrees outside, it was nice and chilly inside the trailer, and made the work much more enjoyable.

Something Edible

One thing that we do each year is celebrate the Chinese New Year. In 2011, it was on February 3rd. The girls were only 8 and 10 years old, and one of the things that was popular back then was the "muffin tin meal" concept. Each muffin cup was filled with different items - in this case, rice, sushi, and fruit. It encouraged the girls to sample a little from each of the muffin cups. 

Friday, February 10, 2023

My Favorite Photo - January 2023

January was perhaps the month that I have taken the fewest photos on my camera in decades. Most of the photos I took were on my iPhone. As I look back on the month, the photos I took were basically documenting what had happened. None of the photos - with the exception of perhaps the sunset and highly-textured snow - stand out as particularly good photos. However, they all are meaningful to me. 

Olivia, Paige, and I went out on January 1st at the local Chinese restaurant to have our annual Chinese meal to start off the new year. Paige and I have been doing this since we lived in San Francisco back in 1991-1993.

The snow early in the month was overwhelming. We were getting snowstorm after snowstorm. It was piled up higher than it has ever been by the back of the house.

We had to hire a guy who could snowplow our driveway. The snowbanks were as high as the fence.

The snow on the west side of the driveway was so high, making getting to the other side of the garage and the birdfeeder behind the garage impossible to get to safely.

What I liked about the snow in January was its texture.

This is one of my favorite pictures from January - with the textured snow and the sun setting one evening.

As the sun was setting, it was perfectly lined up between the branches of this tree.

A couple days after Chinese New Year, when Sophia and Olivia both had time off of classes and work, we went to a new Chinese restaurant close to their college. It was an excellent meal.

We also went out to eat at a new restaurant to celebrate Olivia's 20th birthday. It is hard to believe she's already 20 years longer a teen.

Sophia ordered a build-your-own pizza. There was plenty left over to bring back to college for meals.

Paige, Olivia, and Sophia are at the restaurant after Olivia's birthday meal.

We had a pheasant family hanging around our home during January. These birds are in the backyard. 

I worked a lot during the month at my second job. I'm doing consultancy work in marketing and public relations. This is the new logo for the museum that I worked with a designer to create. 

The pheasants were back...this time they brought more of their friends to join in the birdseed feast. 

The snow was so high that Cooper (far right in the picture) was level with the middle of the door. 

Toward the end of the month, I went to Stillwater and looked at the snow sculptures there. People from all over the world come to compete in the contest.

This is another snow sculpture. It is of Axolotl - the God of Fire. 

This is a lumberjack holding the world on his shoulders with the flags from all the snow sculpture teams. 

I was playing around with editing on Picasa for this photo of the bridge in Stillwater. One of my favorite colors is purple.