Monday, November 23, 2015

Diva's Challenge: Hollibaugh

Thanksgiving for The Turkeys 2015

I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer at this year's 'Heartland Thanksgiving For The Turkeys' on Sunday. It snowed on Saturday and when I got to the farm it was a balmy 15° but gorgeous at the farm!

These three little pigs were not interested in leaving their snuggly bed!

The goats were in coats.

But the turkeys were all excited about their Thanksgiving feast. 

They even invited some of their chicken friends. I wish I had gotten a picture of Reggie (the larger chicken in this pic) when he was standing dead center in that 'pie' looking all proud of himself!

After Thanksgiving was over and the mess cleaned up, I fixed a Thanksgiving feast of cranberries, stuffing and sweet potatoes for the new mini pig, Percy. He is the dearest, furriest little thing. He tucked into his dinner like it was his job; making the cutest little grunting and chomping sounds!

Since it was so cold, I dug out my box of woolies for the first time this season and rooted through it for appropriate barn wear. Of course I had help.

 Seriously, he doesn't LOOK like the essence of pure evil does he?

So it was a wonderful morning. The visitors were super generous and everyone had a great time. I froze my nose, fingers, and toes, but the Heartland Farm gang always leaves me with a warm and happy heart! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Diva Challenge #244: "Tripoli Triptastic"

Two weeks in a row! Now that summer and autumn are winding down, I have a little more tangle time on my hands. This week's Diva Challenge was to use the tangle pattern : Tripoli.  This isn't one of my fav tangles. I want to make it way more perfect than I have the ability to draw it. It's a simple concept-a grid of triangles, but I lose control of it very quickly-especially if I draw it small, so I thought I'd make it big for this one, Didn't make a difference-still got wonkey triangles.  But I had fun anyway-doing something different with it that using it as a filler.

Thanks for another great challenge, Diva!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hornet's Nest

I've been watching this beautiful wasp's next all summer. It was in a tree outside my office window,

As soon as we had had a few cold nights, I checked to make sure it was empty.  Yup! Nobody home.
[As a side note, I KNEW it was empty, but when I was cutting it down, the tree showered down all these little leaves and when the first one hit me, I admit I did the light fantastic, flailing and slapping, for a minute.]

So I went out with my pruning shears, a trash bag, and an elastic, I put the bag over the nest, clipped the branch , and wrapped the elastic around the top...just as added insurance that there weren't a few sleepy stragglers in there.  Oddly enough, when I unwrapped it later, there were no hornets, but there were numerous Asian Ladybugs. Kinda felt bad about commandeering their winter lodge. 

I find nests like these miraculous. Hornets and wasps just have an overall bad attitude, and yet they create this delicate paper structure, in beautiful blues and browns. And I love that this leaf fell onto the nest in a rainstorm and was absorbed into the paper. 

I never thought about it before but obviously the nests must eventually dissolve in the rain with no one around to repair them. That's why you don't see billions of them around everywhere I guess. Although this year, I've spotted three in my immediate vicinity. I can't remember ever seeing that before. Is Waspmageddon upon us?

Anyway, I thought I would share some of  Mother Nature's art since she is far superior to anything I could do.  What has she created around where YOU are?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Northern California

I was fortunate to be able to visit with family in Northern California recently. I've been to central and southern parts of the state, but the northern part was an a wonderful adventure in new flora and scenery

You know you're not in Wisconsin any more when the palm trees start showing up...


And the prickly pear cacti are more than a foot high and bear huge fruit...

This looks like desert, and it is I suppose. Because of the drought, this part of the American River Parkway biking and walking  system, which is usually under water, is dry.  The river's levy is more than a mile away from the river's edge right now. 

And the next two photos are of Folsom Lake. This is usually a huge thriving lake with boaters and swimmers.  Now it looks like a big puddle. The water normally comes up to where you can see the earth tone change in the bottom third of the photo.

If we had had more time, I would have loved to go stomping around on the lake bed. The DNR out there has posted signs not to pick up artifacts from the old towns that were flooded when the dam was put in. The water is so low they are showing up again.

And this is a pic from the Oroville Dam about 1.5 hours north of Sacramento. It normally processes megatons of water and has a huge deep lake on one side. Not today it doesn't. Californians are praying for El Nino to make good on his wet winter promise to them. It's been a 5 year drought! 

This is North of Sacramento as well. It was taken from a moving car, but if you look closely on the left half of the photo you can see some awesome mountains called 'The Buttes'.

This is my quintessential Northern California photo...Sunshine   through the branches of a walnut tree along the parkway.

A a great visit and saw so much more but decided to live it instead of photograph it. We also went to Folsom Prison (where my family slowed the car down really slow and looked at me ominously), Old Sacramento, (the original old west frontier buildings from when the city was formed), the Sierra Mountains to the apple orchards, and through miles and miles of every fruit and nut tree you can imagine-even Kiwi which blew my mind.  It was beautiful as it was but hard to see so much splendor struggling for water just to survive. I'm keeping my eye on you, El Nino. You better keep your end of the deal!

Monday, November 09, 2015

Diva Challenge: Just a Tiny Taste

I haven't done a Diva Challenge in a gazillion years. Life has been moving pretty fast around here this autumn, but now, as winter approaches, maybe I'll have more time to sit a spell.

This week's challenge really intregued me. It's called Just a Tiny Taste because the goal is to leave the majority of the tile blank. This is a real challenge for me as I tend to fill up every available millimeter of space available to me. But I gave it a shot; a couple of times really. I like the concept but they just feel unfinished. Baby steps.

The first one doesn't leave enough of the tile blank and it still looks 'naked to me.

This second one is more in keeping with 'the rules' and it's killing me to not add more pizzaz somewhere! LOL!

It was a good challenge because I need to leave more space in my work for the eye to rest.  Here are some of the latest doodles from my sketchbook.  See?!?!? Every inch of space.  Way too busy!

There has to be a happy medium somewhere, no?  Back to the drawing board!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Butterflies Are Free

Always on the lookout for new experiences (and ways with potential for getting lost, hurt, looking foolish, ending up on 'Cops' or any combination of those things) I saw an ad on Facebook for 'Monarch Butterfly Taggers'. The Madison Audubon group was asking for volunteers to go to the Goose Pond Sanctuary in Arlington to capture, tag and release Monarchs for the folks at who track their migration to Mexico each year.

Goose Pond is gorgeous and the fields were blooming with goldenrod and fall asters. It was a little breezy, but warmed up quickly. Couldn't have picked a better day for capturing the Wee Beasties.

After a short how-to on how to capture, tag and release we were off!

That's 'Capture' (see the net??)...

'Tag' (that little sticker on the wing)

And 'Release'
You'd think for sure they would just fly in circles with that sticker on their wings but they don't. Experiment complete. You're welcome.

There was also the part about recording the number from the sticker, whether is was a male or female and what flower you found them on. 

The little buggers are a lot feistier and more difficult to catch than you'd think. It's almost impossible to catch them out of the air-they have to be on something and even then, if you don't get them on the first swoosh, they fly straight up out of reach.  And with the strong breeze they're a half a mile closer to Mexico before you realized they aren't in the net. And don't get me starting on the fact that they clutch the net with their little sticky fingers so you have to disentangle them leg by leg, and usually discover as you're unsticking the last little leggie that they have started reattaching the first ones you just untangled back onto the net. They have six total! Told you! Tricky! 

Once you got a proper hold of their wings, (that 'don't touch them or they can't fly thing' is an old wives's tale, by the way)  and get them out of the net, they do an alligator death roll/ toddler-throwing-a-tantrum thing that would be off putting to say the least were they a bit bigger....  and not a,...well... butterfly!

Once we were in the groove, people were tagging and releasing like crazy, I was a little slower because I had to name each one of mine, give them pep talk and a tiny kiss before I let them go. Mexico is a long ways away you know! I like to think they appreciated the encouragement!

My team adamantly refused to tag the orange and brown leaf I captured, although, in the end they  agreed that it did (somewhat) resemble a monarch. They MAY have been placating me. We can't be sure.  I lost a bit of time there because I spent 5 minutes sneaking up on the dang thing to catch it. 

We only caught one that we had tagged already which is pretty good. Last year the folks down south of the border found three that had been tagged at Goose Pond. The three were all in the same patch of trees in the same small sanctuary in central Mexico. Pretty amazing.  I will be doing this again next year, but on my own. You can order the kits and do it yourself and I have a prairie at the end of my street with lots of milkweed in it. How cool would it be to get a note from Mexico for a butterfly you tagged yourself! And own your own butterfly net! not to mention that now I can add 'Butter Fly Tagging Technician' next to 'Marsupial Relocation Technician' and 'Salamander Transportation Specialist' to my lengthy resume! Score! 

So if you're looking for fun and adventure, and you love insects, I highly recommend helping Madison Audubon and Monarch Watch out next fall. Too! Much! Fun! 

Friday, September 25, 2015

I Saw This Thing on Pinterest: Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

I saw the same ads you all did a while back; the ones for the baked donut pans and accompanying paraphernalia for making a 'healthy' alternative to the fat-laden breakfast treats. I thought it looked cool but wasn't willing to pay $19.99 for them because nothing EVER works like it does in those infomercials. My Momma's so proud she din't raise up no fool!  But then I found the whole kit and caboodle, still in the box, a couple of summers ago for $1 at a yard sale. Well now. I won't ruin $20 worth of ingredients on a $19.99 pan but for a $1..... Maybe my Momma should reconsider,

They've just been sitting in my pan cupboard since then. I KNEW they would be awful so why bother! (I know, don't try to figure out the wonky thought process. I've long since given up.) But then I poked around Pinterest. Dog help me, but some of my greatest successes AND failures have started with the phrase 'I saw this thing on Pinterest'; a phrase that's the female equivalent to 'Here, hold my beer and watch this!' Anyway, there was a recipe for 'Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts with Sea Salt Caramel Glaze'. And since nothing screams 'Healthy Alternative' like a baked doughnut slathered in a cream, butter and sugar sauce, I knew I had to try it.

The batter was a basic pumpkin muffin one. It had copious amounts of sugar and veg oil, Trying to get the fairly thick batter around the rings in the pan was a little futzy and challenging, but not so bad. 

They smelled heavenly baking. Below is a scratch and sniff photo. (If you fell for that my Momma isn't the only one raisin' up fools!)
Even though these were for others, I just couldn't see covering them in that caramel glaze, as scrumptious as it sounds, so I just waited until the were a little warm still and shook them in a little sugar mixed with a little pumpkin pie spice.

They were delish! Were they a Krispy Kreme or a Dunkin'? No. Were they just a round muffin with a hole in the middle. No, surprisingly, not really. They were some magical combination of both. I had one and my company and neighbors scarfed the rest. I am of the opinion that they would be best served fresh but there were no leftovers on which to test that theory.  

I'm anxious to try one or two more of the 8 gigabillion recipes for different flavors on Pinterest. If they are as successful as these, I will start scouring garage sales and Goodwill for more pans. I only have the one regular sized pan so it took a couple of hours to bake the entire batch off- 6 at a time. But they would be great for brunch or to take in to work.  So bottom line, if you've wanted to try them and haven't because you think they won't be good, you're wrong!  Give them a try.  If you try the gooey sauce, let me know how they are!

Molly Bee and The Really Really Big Mushroom

While out and about last Friday, I saw this peeking out of the tall grass under a big tree over by Farm and  Fleet. I suspected it was a giant puffball.  I had seen several from afar and lots on-line, but never gotten up and personal with one, so of course I trudged across the field and picked it.  Here it is in the trunk of the car.

As I approached it in the field, I thought I had been mistaken. This is the top and it looked like a giant blog of that liquid insulation stuff...we were by Farm and Fleet, a giant hardware and farming equipment store,after all.

But the minute I touched it (and smelled it) I knew it was the real deal.  It grows on the ground so it took me a few minutes to evict the myriad of creepy-crawlies that lived on the mushroom's underside. 

I brought it home and set it on our patio table, It was significantly larger than a basketball, and a solid, fleshy 5.7#!  I knew that the scuttlebutt on my Nature group on-line has said that they were edible but I wasn't that crazy so I went on the group site and advertised it-first come first serve.  There were two folks interested but they were way Up North and I wasn't willing to drive up there or even meet them half way, so that was out. They sent me recipes and encouraged me to try it but with my luck, uh-uh.

I showed it to Neighbor Mike, who was standing in his yard with the rest of the neighborhood guys. They gather there after work to shoot the breeze and most cool evenings find them all out there in their lawn chairs around the fire pit. They were all enthused, passing it from person to person and prodding at it like a bunch of monkeys with a coconut. They badgered Mike to fire up the grill and test it out. I told them that I was only 97.4 percent sure they wouldn't die, so before they set out, they should find a more qualified person to go over their plans with.  They scattered. One went for the phone to call his sister ('She'll know what to do!), while others went for matches and knives,  When I left to go to knitting, they had an enormous slice of it on the grill and were all poking it with sticks.

Driving down the street after Knit Night I tried to prepare myself for the ambulance traffic that was sure to surround Mike's house when I got home; sure that I'd killed them all by gifting them a giant poisonous mushroom, but all was quiet, This was a good and a bad sign. Most other nights when I come home, they are around the fire pit. Tonight, Mike's house was dark and deserted.  But at least there was no Emergency Personnel. Hmmm.

The next morning, I was walking Ben and intended to ask Mike, who is ALWAYS in his yard on Saturday morning tinkering on his truck or what not, how the mushroom was,  but the house was closed up tight. Nary a sign of him or any of his friends. Uh oh.  The next several hours were tense and I cased the neighborhood, looking for any signs of life.  Finally, I saw Mike in his yard! I think he was a little surprised when I rushed up to him and yelled, 'YOU'RE ALIVE!'  

He said that they had tried it, but it was pretty anticlimactic. The boys tucked in with gusto but it didn't taste like mushroom or anything else really. Kind of rubbery and bland, like tofu. So they didn't eat that much of it. But they had fun taking pictures of it, poking, prodding and cutting it up, so there was that. And, of course, the adrenaline rush that comes with surviving eating something you're pretty certain will kill you. (Not to mention the adrenaline rush that comes with being fairly certain that you killed half the men in the neighborhood and you can't be sure that it could be ruled 'accidental' since you foisted it on them and then told them it was probably edible.)

So several things were learned. Giant puffballs, while non-poisonous and technically  'edible' are not all that yummy. They ARE wicked fun to find and to have around for a conversation piece. And last but not least Farm and Fleet really does have EVERYTHING!