Category Archives: animals

Travel Theme: Broken – Rattlesnake Hunting No More!

2014 Broken 4R
near Success Lake outside of Portervile, CA

We didn’t travel far to experience the fastest breaking the trainer had ever seen.  The rattlesnake trainer travels all over California, and maybe the country, breaking dogs from sniffing, hunting, attacking or otherwise annoying rattlesnakes.

2014 Broken 2R

Kalev is not particularly aggressive towards rattlesnakes, but because of her size, we didn’t want to take any chances. It was time to break her of any latent tendencies towards rattlesnake hunting.

2014 Broken 1R

The process was simple, and took about 5 minutes once her number was called.  The trainer cuddled her for a second to gain her trust as he slipped a shocking collar around her neck.  She fell for him.

  • First he took her on the porch where a small dead rattle snake lay curled in a little circle.  It didn’t smell like cow pies or a dead mouse, so she avoided it.  It probably hadn’t been dead long enough.   No shocker collar action for her on step one.
  • Next the trainer led her to some big scary rocks where a fake snake sound rattled from between the boulders.  Again, she showed extreme disinterest.
  • Then the trainer had a real treat, snake smells rubbed in the grass.  He coaxed her towards it, and she took the bait.  He zapped her instantly telling her to avoid tempting snake smells at all costs.
  • To pass the test she had to run across the grass containing a live snake and come to me while avoiding the snake.  She started out to make a beeline for me, but screeched to a stop when she smelled his venomous body hidden in the tall grass.  She gingerly stepped aside, and ran towards me.

That was three years ago.  Today, she will still hardly walks on grass – even ours.  She balances on the rock wall rather than touch the manicured lawn until she gets to just the right place, then she tiptoes over to take care of business, jumping back to the safe rocks when she finishes.

2014 Broken 3R
The training area

I think she’s broken.

To see more ideas about broken click here.

WP Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialogue

Talkative Marsha struggling with dialogue?  In this case what I think the creator of this challenge wanted us to catch is a bit of fashion designing with our pictures rather than strict dialogue – odd things that sort of go together because of color or texture similarities or differences.  They just work.  I like fashion and decorating, so I wanted to pursue that angle.

First, I started with dialogue in a more literal sense.  Puppy Girl dialogued very clearly with Vince.  He worked on the computer, when clearly he could have chosen to pet her tummy.  So she grabs his hand and pulls.

PG and Pie

It’s endearing, but altogether annoying to him when he has an offer to submit.  Generally she wins.

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Next I considered animals dialoguing with each other, and establishing their pecking order.  The queen here stands alone not deigning to even look at her lowly subject.  No worries, the subject, like the jester, simply enjoys the ride, laughs at the queen behind her back, and moves on, untroubled by the queen’s weighty problems.

Mike and statue

When I took this next picture, I looked at the sculpture, then Mike walked up.  Back and forth I looked at one then the other until dizziness made me shout, “Stop Mike!  Is that statue YOU?  Let me photograph the two of you together.”   Mike obliged.   I think it was the cheeks that spoke, but maybe it was the mustache. What do you think?

Then I thought about art work I had seen in which many pictures placed together made a collage that spoke as one picture.  When I see them, I think, that would be easy.  How can you call that art?  But since I can’t draw very well, my pictures kept their mouths closed, uncommunicatively.  Then I remembered the grapes leaves I photographed last fall.  As I moused through them, they started speaking.  All at the same time, “Pick me, pick me. I want to go in the picture.” So I created a collage.

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Then another.

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Finally I remembered the Woodlake Botanical Gardens.  I missed the show this year, but last year I happened to walk around Bravo Lake on the day that all the roses decided to bloom their brightest blooms.  One of them said, “I am the beautiful one, take my picture.”  So I did.  Another  group of roses playing and giggling together attracted me.  The last rose said nothing.  She turned her face to the sun and spoke to God asking nothing more than to be a blessing to others. I thought she was the prettiest of all.

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If you enjoyed these take a gander at how other bloggers interpreted the challenge of dialogue.wordpress-20141

WP Photo Challenge: Reflections

These birds lined up on the log and posed for this picture so beautifully.  Were they preening for the morning, admiring their own reflection?  As I watched them, others pulled out their own cell phones and admired them as they reflected into the water along Bob Jones Trail on the way to Avila Beach.

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If I were a painter, I would paint this picture.  Have a beautiful day.  :)

What Kind of Animal Are You?

People love animals.  Popular picture book writers use this adoration. Children and adults alike identify with real and stuffed animals.  One of my writing groups asked the question, “If you were an animal, what kind would you be? Why?”

PG Prancing 1r

I love dogs, cats, and guinea pigs because they have been my favorite pets.

Piggles eating copy 1t

This prompt reminded me of teaching strategy called Four Corners we practiced in a teacher training seminar.  Each corner had a white piece of poster paper with the name of the animal written at the top.  Participants went to the corner that represented the animal with which they most closely identified:  gorilla/monkey, lion, snake or rabbit.

I chose rabbit because none of the others appealed to me.  As we defended our choices with other participants who had chosen the same animal, I developed an affinity with the rabbit.

Bunny 1crt

First we listed characteristics of the animal we chose, real, stuffed and pictures. Here are my random thoughts today.

Rabbits:

  • reproduce prolifically, so it is doubtful they will be endangered.
  • are soft and fuzzy
  • are cute
  • usually make good pets (I hated mine.  He was “wrascally.”)
  • make good stuffed animals
  • make good stories – The Velveteen Rabbit as an example
  • kick hard
  • Bugs Bunny
  • have good luck feet
  • are not dangerous to humans compared to a venomous snake, gorilla, or lion
  • have their own year  I was born in the year of the rabbit.
  • are in the moon
  • are sensitive to the underworld, to vibrations and sensations humans can not detect
  • don’t need light to guide their way
  • are symbols of the earth, and are close to it
  • easily camouflaged, and therefore safe
  • are “wrascally,” and therefore intelligent.
  • travel in complicated zigzag patterns  Don’t try to catch one!
  • always know an escape route
  • defend their territory against other pets
  • are tucked in and self-composed

In the next part of this exercise we determined which of the other three animals would be OUR most fearsome enemy and why. Our group determined that lions were probably most dangerous to the rabbits since they are avid carnivores.

Finally we decided which animal would make the best ally.  I can’t remember which we chose, but personally I would prefer an alliance with a monkey or gorilla and not a snake.  Snakes can travel on and under the ground as well as hang from trees.  If I am enjoying my underground home, I don’t want a snake slithering in on me in the middle of my private family moments.  I’m not sure that I would trust a large hungry snake not to mistake me for a mouse, and try to eat me for dinner.

I hate to admit it, but I am prejudiced against reptiles because they don’t have fur.  Mammals are more my type.  I identify better with critters with feet, since mine are so lucky.

A monkey, however, is crafty and smart, like me, but has the agility of swinging from trees.  The monkey could help me watch out for dangers from above, while I protect him or her from things on the ground.

As a girl with a harelip, I couldn’t help but choose the rabbit group.  As a child, I never felt ugly because of my mouth unless some rude stranger pointed it out.  I had far more serious physical failings that caused me great pain as a young teen.  I wore a triple A padded bra.  :)  I didn’t need my harelip to feel insecure.

So if you too have had physical failings, I’ll leave you with a famous quote from the Velveteen Rabbit, that I find heartening.

“Once you are real, you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams

Which animal would you be, or would you choose a different one altogether?

Introducing the Three Guinea Pigs

I’ve been working on this story for years.  Since I started the Australian Writer’s Centre class on picture books, I’ve rewritten it 5 times and gone from 1700 words to 686.  This is my 5th draft. See what you think.

BJ and Piggles

Three guinea pigs, Piggles, Tedlet and Buster, loved their human, Sandi.  Every day she fed them carrot curls and lettuce on a paper plate in the back lawn.  They chortled and squeaked gleefully when they heard her walk outside.

One day when she brought treats, a puppy, named Bud, lumbered out of the house.  After Sandi went inside, Bud raced around the corner of the house, ate their treats and went in the house.  The guineas ate grass near the bushes.

They hid under the bushes and squealed their high-pitched guinea pig squeal.   The grass around the bushes was getting brown. Sandi heard them and came out to check.  Their food had disappeared.

“You’re hungry, poor babies.  I’ll bring you more food.”

Sandi set a fresh plate of lettuce and carrot curls near the bushes.  Buster, Piggles and Tedlet began pulling the plate into the bushes.  Bud sneaked around the corner and grabbed the plate.

Three guinea pigs tugged against Bud.  The plate ripped.  Lettuce flew one way and the carrot curls flew another.  Bud ate the carrot curls.  Piggles ate one lettuce leaf.  Tedlet ate one lettuce leaf.  Buster ate three lettuce leaves.  Bud ate the rest of the lettuce after he finished the carrot curls, and went in the house.

The guineas ate the grass a little farther from the bushes.  They hid under the bushes and squealed their high-pitched guinea pig squeal.   Sandi heard them and came out to check.  The food had disappeared.  The grass farther from the bushes looked like Sandi had mowed it extra short.

“You’re hungry, poor babies.  I’ll bring you more food.”

Sandi set a fresh plate of lettuce and carrot curls near the bushes.  Bud appeared around the corner.

“Brrrr,” rumbled Piggles.

“Drrrrr,” rumbled Tedlet.

“CH CH CH CH,” chattered Buster rubbing his teeth together side to side.

Bud ignored them and ate their treats.  He rolled over and over in the grass, and fell asleep.

The guineas waddled over Bud.  They nibbled grass by his feet.  Bud didn’t wake.  They nibbled grass by his stomach.  Bud didn’t wake.  They nibbled grass by his nose.  Bud snorted, and rolled over.  The guineas hurried back to their bushes and hid.  Bud slept a long time, and awoke hot.  He wanted some water.

He tried to find his bowl.  It wasn’t on the porch, or the grass, or under the lawn chair.

Bud was thirsty after his nap.

“Rarrf,” said Bud at the door.

Sandi opened the door.

Your tongue is hanging out, Bud.  Where’s your water bowl?”

“Rarrf,” said Bud.

“Let’s look.”

Sandi looked on the patio.  The bowl was gone.

She looked in the grass.  She found an outline of Bud.

“This is odd.  How did this outline of you get on the grass, Bud?”

“Grrrr,” said Bud.  He walked over to the bushes.

Sandi walked to the bushes, too.   Bud stuck his nose under the bushes.

“Brrrr,” rumbled Piggles.

“Drrrrr,” rumbled Tedlet.

“CH CH CH CH,” chattered Buster rubbing his teeth together side to side, and bit Bud on the nose.

“Raaaaaaaaarf!  Raaaaaaaarf!” cried Bud.

Sandi laughed, gathering Bud’s upside down bowl from under the bushes.

“Buster, did you take Bud’s bowl?  Piggles, did you guineas eat the grass around Bud?

“Brrrr,” rumbled Piggles.

“Drrrrr,” rumbled Tedlet.

“CH CH CH CH,” chattered Buster rubbing his teeth together side to side.

“I think I see the problem,” said Sandi.

Sandi fixed more lettuce and carrot curls and put them in Bud’s water bowl.  She set the bowl in the grass near the bushes.  Bud came out to eat the lettuce, but Sandi sat down on the big lawn chair.

“No Bud.”

Bud whined.

Sandi turned Bud’s bowl upside down. Lettuce and carrots dropped on the paper plate.  She filled Bud’s bowl with fresh water.

Bud drank the water, and then licked Sandi’s hand.  The guineas purred as they ate their treats.

“Apologize to the guineas, Bud.”

Bud licked each guinea pig on the head, and lay down beside them to watch them eat.  The three guineas kept eating.  They didn’t hide in the bushes.

header flower & piggles

Bluejay egg 013

WP Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

We live in a natural aviary.  I learned Wednesday night that Bravo Lake, which I have featured several times on this blog, is one of the best places in CA to bird watch.  One morning last May I went out in our front yard and found a blue jay egg in the planter area lying on the bark.  Blue jays lay blue eggs – of course!

Bluejay egg 001
“Pardon my dirty spot. My parents sit on me.”

The last time I found eggs in a hazardous place for them, I called the Wild Life Protective Services, and found out that birds have no sense of smell in their beaks, so don’t know that you have handled their eggs.  So I didn’t feel badly about experimenting with this one.   As I turned it, I noticed that it already had a chip off its shoulder.

Bluejay egg 010

It rolled around for a while as I watched hands-free.  After that, I put it back in the bark where I found it because I had to leave.  By then it had another chip out and several cracks.

Bluejay egg 013

It was gone when I came back.  Maybe it hatched.  We have a lot of birds at our house.

For more interesting objects click here.

What wildlife do you enjoy right in your front yard? Yes, even insects count if they bother or interest you enough to notice them!

Other Bravo Lake posts.

 

 

Book Review: Off the Leash by Rupert Fawcett

Hi everyone,

Manny here, again.  Mom’s still busy.

Manny at home

Mom asked me to write a book report for you today on the book Off the Leash:  The Secret Life of Dogs by Rupert Fawcett.  First of all I have to say thanks to Ute because she sent us this book for Christmas.   I have never seen Mom and Dad laugh so hard in my life.  Here is why they were laughing.  It’s a comic book.  Yeah, my parents read comic books.

Manny reads to friends

My favorite page is p. 26.  This page is so Kalev.  I watch her do this every day.   She lies on the couch on her blue blanket where she is supposed to be.  Then she nuzzles her nose under whatever Mom or Dad is holding.  The next thing you know she is sitting on their lap.

My friends and I loved this book because it was so funny, and it was about dogs.  I love dogs, even Kalev.  She thought Roo was a toy when we were sitting on the floor.  Mom had to take Roo away from her and put all of us up here on the mantle.  This is where we live.  When Mom took Roo away, Kalev actually came after me, and messed up my Hawaiian necklace.  I was scared for just a minute, but Kalev knows better than to mess with me.  I won’t tell you what I did.

Anyway, this is an awesome book.  It makes a great gift for a friend like Mom and Dad and me, and it would probably make a great gift for your friends who like dogs.  Click here to see other books by Rupert Fawcett.

Please respond to my survey below.

One more thing I have to ask you.  I’ve been thinking about doing a blog just like Justin Beaver does.  You are all grown ups, and Mom is a grown up (most of the time).  Would you read my blog?  Would you follow it?  I’ll put another survey up.

Manny relaxing at home

Thanks everyone.

Here is the link to my new blog.  Invite your kids to read and comment on it, too!  :)

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Two

Many things come in twos.  I find it hard to be original here.  I’m using two hands to type these words, two ears to hear the dishwasher churn away, and two legs waiting to carry me on a walk with Sally at 3:00.  So I looked in my photo collection to find pictures of two.  You guessed it – there wasn’t much to choose from.  Here are a few.

2 Dogs

This pair of opposites posed at a craft fair in Palm Springs with their owners.

2 windows

For these two windows life is a bed of roses looking out at the picturesque town of Solvang.

2 birds

These two fellows fought for prime real estate on Santa Monica Pier.

two rows of fruits

Seattle, Washington’s Pike Place Market merchants added brightness to the gray November weather at last year’s NCSS Conference.

For more ideas see Cee.

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Wordless Wednesday: Family Friendly Notre Dame

In the heart of South Bend, Indiana lies the famed University of Notre Dame, home of the fighting Irish.

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Two days ago on the tour my brother and I stood wordlessly in the Grotto.

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We stood respectfully off the grass in the God Quad.

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Unlike the disrespectful chipmunk.

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We silently admired the largest collection of French stained glass anywhere in the world, including France.

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It was a relatively quiet tour of respect and admiration.

Randy sat wordlessly tired out after three hours of touring – some before the tour began.

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I ended up being late for Wednesday, but if you’d enjoy other Wordless Wednesday posts click here.

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Accidental Vacation: Chapter Five

Chapter Five Has The Transmission Come Yet?

unretouched sky, bright blue
bright blue sky not retouched by Photoshop,  new red rental car

Vince remained in his Twilight Zone of Optimism for several more days after the truck’s transmission lost everything but first gear and reverse.  The sun shone into their little palace on wheels early on Sunday morning.  Vince was ready with activities before Marsha awoke.  He scoped out Crescent City the night before when he went there to get the rental car.  Only sixteen miles north of Klamath, it bustled with history, restaurants, and best of all, internet and cellular service.  He knew Marsha would appreciate that.

The smell of fresh coffee and rays of sunlight drove Marsha from her warm bed.  “Let’s go to Crescent City today,” Vince announced still in his cheery mode.  There are lots of things to do, and I want to take you to breakfast.”

“That sounds good.  Do you want to go check on your truck?”

Vince was the kind of guy that checked and double-checked everything.  He checked the bank account balance several times a day to make sure it hadn’t been hacked.  He asked Marsha about every check.  Then he checked the credit card account, and asked Marsha about each charge.  Every day he checked the pool, swept it, skimmed it, put chemicals in it.  Before every swim, or just when he happened to go out and see a flower bud floating across the surface, he cleaned it again.  Marsha knew he would want to go up to Crescent City to see if his truck was still sitting safely in the lot at the GMC dealer.  He did.

20130915_0613166R “There’s a famous lighthouse here,” he told her after they finished a delicious breakfast.  “How is it that she doesn’t weigh 600 pounds?” Vince thought to himself as he watched her clean her plate making sure to wipe away every trace of cream cheese frosting drizzled on the blueberry pancakes.  “Good thing.  A woman can never be too skinny or too rich.  She’s pretty well maintained for 61,” he continued musing.

“You look so pretty,” he voiced his thoughts a little more flatteringly.  “My beautiful wife.  I love you sweetie.”

“I love you too,” she answered as she always did.  They had their rituals.  Just like when Vince’s son called and they were ready to hang up, Vince never hung up without saying, “Here’s a hug,” and making a little hug sound over the phone.

"That dog looks like PG."
“That dog looks like PG.”

Battery Park was huge, but not nearly as interesting as the jetty, pier and the lighthouse.  Both camera bugs took pictures of the lighthouse on top of the hill.  To reach it people crossed over the rocks, a stepping bridge across the mouth of a stream flowing into the ocean.

I won't let you fall, Puppy.  Hold on tight to my arm.
“I won’t let you fall, Puppy. Hold on tight to my arm,”  the wind blew her words out to sea past PG’s outstretched, listening ear.

“Do you want to go across?”  she asked, not feeling overly adventurous.

“No, you need high boots unless you are prepared to get wet.  Do you want to get wet?”

"Looks like high tide," Marsha thought to herself.
“Looks like high tide,” Marsha thought to herself.

Marsha knew he had her there.  It wasn’t that she minded getting wet.  In fact, she loved it.  But what other activities did Vince have planned? This was a rare occasion, and she didn’t want to ruin it by getting wet and wanting to go change.

Remembering one time she had gone kayaking in Monterey Bay with friends from work, Marsha hesitated.  Even though they wore wetsuits, she experienced soaking wet shoes.  Not realizing that the boat would let in water, she wore her only pair of shoes into the boat.  Bare feet, being more comfortable than sloshy shoes, Marsha removed her shoes after she gracefully landed the boat and literally rolled over in the surf a few times getting out of it.  The group wanted to go eat after their strenuous excursion.  She had put her wet shoes in the car, but the eatery clearly stated, “No shoes, no shirt, no service.”  Her boss shielded her as she scooted through the door shoeless.  That memory cautioned her.

“No, thanks,” she answered after giving the idea some thought.  Although the hill and house called her, she resisted.  Let’s walk out on the jetty.”

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“DANGER: Deadly waves at any time. Jetty unsafe for walking.”

“It says it’s dangerous at all times.  Do you want PG to be swept away by an ocean wave?”

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“Don’t let go, Mom. That looks like water down there.” PG’s thoughts were a clear as if she actually uttered them.

Visions of whether she would let go of the leash and lose PG or be swept out to sea with her aquaphobic doggie kept her moving away from the jetty towards the safer boardwalk.  A young couple with their two dogs joined them on the boardwalk.  One dog was a huge pit bull, the other a terrier, smaller than PG’s slight 9 pounds, pranced side-by-side looking like Mutt and Jeff.

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Fisher people with their empty poles dotted the boardwalk.  A couple from Medford, Oregon escaped the 100 degree heat to catch crabs in the bay.  Several huge crustaceans lounged unsuspectingly in their blue plastic bucket.

20130915_0620173R Soon it was time to leave.  There was lots to do, and they still wanted to see the Trees of Mystery.  They wound their way through the Redwood Highway back towards Klamath towards the mysterious trees where yet another adventure awaited them.

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Work would start on the truck tomorrow.  Or would it?  Stay tuned.

Does your dog or pet have any phobias?  How about you?

Monk Seal at Poipu Beach

We spent only a week in Kauai, HI, but I have way more than a week’s worth of posts – even though they are not written yet.  I’ll post this one, the I’ll take a break from HI so I don’t bore you too much.  This was our first visit to the local beach.  We didn’t have a sandy beach outside our resort, and the one within walking distance wasn’t guarded.  So each day we drove five minutes to Poipu Beach where there was a life guard, picnic tables, and a guarded section of the beach that was like a wading pool.  This was Day #1  Before we could even hop in the ocean, the lifeguard tower blasted out a warning.  “Get out of the water.  A monk seal is approaching.  Get out of the water!”

Rumor is that she’s dangerous.  I think she’s just hormonal.  Anyway she cleared the protected beach at Poipu, Kauai, HI.  She approached lazily, and no one moved very quickly to get out of the water in response to the lifeguard’s microphone’s voice warning swimmers of her approach.  There are only 1,500 left and they live here in Kauai, so they get their way.

Everyone out of the water!  Give her room!  She is dangerous.
Everyone out of the water! Give her room! She is dangerous.

My pictures of her turned out blurry.  Soon she sped up and swam to the protected shallow waters where kids played protected from the surf by a ledge of unapproachable lava rocks.  She lounged on her back soaking up some rays, then dipped under to get cool while the multitudes warmed their heels in the sand.

Nobody minded getting out of the water, and everyone ran to grab their cameras.
Nobody minded getting out of the water, and everyone ran to grab their cameras.

Day #2  I should have known to take my camera today when we went out for a cup of coffee.  I mean we were only going to grab a cup and bring it back to our Diamond Resort home away from home.  Right?  Of course, WRONG!

After we grabbed our coffee, the car turned towards the beach at Poipu Point again, and there she was.  Charming the tourists she flapped her way over to give them a little kiss and a playful tap with her flippers.  The life guards ran frantically out of their tower like ants swarming a piece of peanut brittle on the cement.  They shooed back the squatting onlookers trying to get a good picture and a chance to rub her tummy.  They spent a bit of time penning her in because she moved, then flopped, moved, flopped.  They gave her a large playpen with multiple warning stakes with “keep out” ropes marking a perimeter all around her.

Day #3 The next day she was sunning herself when we got to the beach.  After enjoying a brief float, I joined the large group of onlookers, and clicked pictures at every angle.

Our Monk Sea Lion is pregnant.

Day #4  By our last visit to Poipu Beach Monk Seals were old news, so I didn’t take any more pictures.  She was just sleeping.  She did move her flippers much like fingers, and sort of scratch herself.  She was laying on her back this time, so I don’t thing that her tracking device bothered her too much.

If you can read and remember all this, you get a gold star!  :)
If you can read and remember all this, you get a gold star! :)

I hope you enjoyed this brief vacation to Hawaii.  I know we did.  But it is good to be home, too.  Our puppy girl, Kalev, was very glad that finally got back.  She was jealous that Manny got to go and she didn’t.  I hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend.  :)

Speaking of Bird Eggs

Today I am my own guest bloggers.  I got the idea from Cathy, better known as ShareChair, who reposted some of her earliest posts.  I posted this one year ago, one of my first posts.  Since very few people have ever seen it I thought it was appropriate to republish it to show you another variety of bird we have in Tulare County.

We can’t believe that they are not extinct, but the sites I found on Google insist that they are common.

This mama or dad, they look alike, has been sitting in 100 degree heat all day to cool these four future killdeer.  Her choice of nesting site is the reason we question the statistics on their abundance.  Those rocks are our driveway.

She/he did the Killdeer feigning dance for me until the cat came over to investigate.  I carted the cat safely away, and snapped these pictures one-handed as I left the poor stressed mother/father to get back to work sitting on the now-shaded eggs.

Sorry to say these pretty eggs didn’t make it either, in spite of their mother’s constantly chasing off predators.  Most likely our cats were the culprits as they had their eyes all over those eggs.  Vince and I felt very sad when the nest was empty.

And speaking of eggs did you all get a chance to name the new flamingo chick?  You have until June 3.

A Word A Week Challenge: Angle

I was inspired by a new blogger friend, Bambang (Bams) Triwoko, to create a post for this Word a Week Challenge:  Angle.  I don’t know whether I can put a new angle on it, but I will come at it from my perspective.  Angle makes all the difference in photography.   When I’m just looking at something, I don’t necessarily walk around checking all the angles like I do now when I want to take a photograph.

Last week my husband brought me a present – a bluejay egg that had fallen out of its nest in our trellis.  It felt surprisingly heavy for such a tiny egg.  I decided I should take pictures of it, so I took it outside and began my search for just the right angle.

Looking down - the shadow tells my angle, or is it the angle tells the time of day?
Looking down – the shadow tells my angle, or is it the angle tells the time of day?

The first angle I always resort to is whatever hits my eye level without having to climb up onto a rickety ladder or lay down on the ground, or sit in a cow pie.  Then I do the lazy thing, and adjust the zoom lens.

This gives you more of an idea of size of the egg.  It was tiny.
This gives you more of an idea of size of the egg. This is about how big it really was.  It was tiny.

However, there next thing I think of is shooting up at an object, preferably getting an angle with something else interesting in the process.  In this case the little bistro table on our porch made the perfect angles you see in this picture, but it wasn’t particularly interesting as far as the bird was concerned.  Then as I was looking up at the egg from underneath the table, it seemed like the egg moved.

Next, I started walking from one side to another, and in this case I could also manipulate the egg.  When I started doing all that I noticed the holes in the egg that I had not noticed when Vince gave me the egg.  That, along with the rocking motion, made me look at the egg from an entirely new angle.  What if this bird hatched?  What would happen to it?  Would the parents take care of it after I had touched it?  What do baby birds eat?  I moved the potential baby to the bark chips under the trellis.  From this angle you can really see the size of the egg compared to a small bark chip.

Practice time with my tripod - a new angle on this egg.
Practice time with my tripod – a new angle on this egg.

With the knowledge that “this egg was alive” angle in mind, I raced to the computer and googled baby blue jays and found out that you can soak cat food and hand feet it to newly hatched blue jays (and other birds).  Someone else fed oatmeal to baby birds.  One comment gave the number for  Southern Calif. wildlife hotline: 866-945-3911.  When I called that number I got three numbers for the Fresno area, and I called the first two and they were off for the weekend.  The third number was a Click and Clack kind of wildlife guy.  He should have his own radio broadcast.  He was so helpful, AND funny.  I laughed out loud as we talked about this poor bird’s possible fates – sorry Autty, some of them were not too positive.  Actually from almost any angle, this baby’s prospects were not good.

See the new hole on the top?
See the new hole on the top?

What I did learn from Click was that blue jays have no sense of smell.  They aren’t going to ignore their baby bird because I touched it.  Birds won’t know the difference.  His advice to me was to put it back in the nest.  So I did.  Inside the nest was hair, lots of it – probably mine!  It was soft inside the nest.  I felt good about the angle I had taken on blue jay restoration.

I’d just saved a precious life.  Way to go, Marsha!  Chalk up points!  Vince came in the next morning to inform me that he found a broken egg.  I climbed up on my rickety ladder to check the nest – empty.  Bad angle, and I didn’t photograph it.

Wildflower Photography Class

I’ve been shopping at Mike”s Quality Camera for several years, since I got my digital camera at Costco, and the original lens quit working correctly (after the warranty expired).  This was my first official photography, meaning light-writing, class.  My dad was an amateur photographer, so I osmosed a bit from him, but most the technical stuff never took.  I bought a new lens after lusting after someone else’s at the Underground Garden, and the sales lady, Pam, asked if I wanted to attend a Wildflower class.  I’m so glad I said yes.

Our teacher, Pam
Our teacher, Pam

We went to Circle J Norris Ranch in Yokohl Valley, a pristine location in the foothills east of Porterville.   Tulare County Office of Education provides use of this ranch so that students can observe and study native species, both plant and animal.  As a TCOE employee I have had the privilege of visiting it before, but on this photo shoot we got down and personal with nature.

Time flew by for my partner, Wendy, and me.
Time flew by for my partner, Wendy, and me.

After everyone arrived, Pam, another Mike’s Camera employee, and a Tamron lens salesman set up boxes of lenses that we could try with our cameras. What an opportunity, but since I had just purchased mine on Wednesday, I chose not to experiment with them.   I wanted to use the opportunity to improve my skills using what I have instead of wanting something else.

Yay, I finally got a blurry background.  Go F11.
Yay, I finally got a blurry background. Go F11, and my new understanding of manual focus.

This background should look even fuzzier because I raised the f stop clear up to F13.

Yesterday I knew all the names of these.  I think this is baby blue eyes.
Yesterday I knew all the names of these. I think this is baby blue eyes.  It seems like this one should be fuzzier than the f 11.  Again ????

I will probably bore you to death with this stuff because I’ve tried unsuccessfully to learn it since I was 10.  For you photographers its second nature.  For point and shooters, it dull as old rusty barn nails.  I fall in the barn nails category, so I’m not offended if you want to click through here at a shutter speed of 1/10,000 or more, and say “Beautiful pictures, Marsha.  I like shutter speed blah blah blah  best, and just pick the last picture!”  hahaha

This was my experimental flower.
This was my experimental flower.

I THINK I understand f stops better now.  The higher the f stop the smaller the lens opens, the less light that comes in.  This way you focus on one object and everything else becomes blurry. For shooting wildflower, this is a plus since they are so small in a field of other flowers and lots of green grass.  With the F9 setting, everything is in focus.  Notice that between this picture and the next I changed the film speed (old talk)  ISO (new talk)  I thought the shutter speed changed itself to compensate, but I may have inadvertently been changing it all along.

Now I like this color better, but the camera said it was under exposed.
Now I like this color better, but the camera said it was under exposed.

Next,  I guess I changed the shutter speed, but didn’t know it!  By the way I had my camera set at AV on the little round dial on the top of my camera – a new setting for me.

All I did on this one was change the ISO, which used to be the film speed you bought.
All I did on this one was change the ISO, which used to be the film speed you bought.

I chose this little flower because it was purple, and most of the flowers were yellow or white.  However, on my camera’s screen, it looked white.  So I kept trying things to make it more true to color.

A little brighter?
A little brighter?

Wendy tried to help me.

The leaves are sure lighter here. at 1/30
The leaves are sure lighter here. at 1/30.  There’s more light

We were moving the little knob on the top, which changed the f stops, but if you pressed another button on the top right hand side of the back of the camera – voila another little graph appeared, and it showed you light.

Shutter opened longer to let in more light.
Shutter opened a tiny bit longer to let in more light.  This one seems darker than the last one.  Maybe the sun came out.  ????  We were also adjusting buttons that said shade, etc. so we may have another change in here that isn’t recorded in Photoshop!

Then Pam came along and showed us how to read a histogram of where the pixels are located on the sensor (used to be film).  On the graph, you want a bell shaped curve to be in the middle  That shows that the exposure is just right.  Interestingly, the flower that looked white on my screen was exposed correctly, but the darker one that showed purple was underexposed.  I’m not sure which one I like best, so I’m showing you several of them.

This should be the lightest of all.
This should be the lightest of all.

Funny thing, I was also using the instructor’s very expensive tripod.  Since I really find animals more interesting  than plants, I kept getting distracted, and hampered down with the tripod.  I finally got tired of wrestling with it when there was this gorgeous squirrel posing for us in the tree.  I took my camera off, and it immediately fell into the dirt – not the tripod – my camera!!!  My camera with it’s brand new lens — kerplunk in the dirt.  I know that God loves me because the only consequence was that the back of the camera got a little scratched.  I’m still shaking inside!

Wildflower class

And remember cows, think about where you make your pies (from my story yesterday).  Don’t put them next to a pretty flower, or the cow revenger might get you.

Cow Revenger was here!
Cow Revenger was here!

So with that, I’ll leave my exciting post about photography nitty gritty, and just leave you with some of my favorites from the day.  Have a great week.  Do something fun.  :)

Travel theme: Benches

Today I went with my friend Connie to the Best of the Valley Quilt Show at the McDermont Field House in Lindsay, CA.  It was so overwhelming, I decided to use challenges and themes to tell part of the story.  I took over 200 pictures, and it will take me over a year to tell you the story, and by then it will be time for another quilt show.  I can’t believe how MANY talented quilters there are in this area – not to mention the world.

Quilted bench
Quilted bench

One of my favorite sections of the show was at the back, and it was a challenge.  All of the entries had to use the same fabric.  In a future post, I will show you how different those entries were.

Benches 2

Another favorite was the doll section.  This is a character from a children’s book.  I’ll show you others later.   To whet your appetite here are two entries in the show that fit this theme.

Scardy Kitty is comfortable here Prints an Greeting Cards for sale at Fine Art America
Scardy Kitty is comfortable here.   Unmarked prints and greeting cards are for sale at Fine Art America.

Benches and cats go well together.

Can I get on the bench, Mom?
Can I get on the bench, Mom?

This dog wants to get on the bench.

Benches everywhere, no matter what their composition, invite people and animals alike to sit a spell, and enjoy life.

A Glimpse of Woodlake Meandering Through Time

My friend Sally Pace commissioned me to write about the history of Woodlake for the Kiwanis Magazine, maybe 300 words or less.  Woodlake, a sleepy town born in 1910 in the foothills of the big trees, became famous for cattle ranching, and oranges.   Its history is a collection of tales about hard-working farmers, farm workers and, of course, cowboys.  Most of the life in Woodlake takes place in the hills beyond the town, but there is a town that is home to about 7,000 people.  

Writing history is so much more difficult than I had ever imagined that it would be.  I’ve never been great at making snap decisions, and that is the one thing that writers do constantly, word to word, story after story.  One story sounds good, but must not be told to save room for the story that the writer thinks is great.  The good story that was left out may have changed history, but history is forgotten, except what is written, so that piece of history remains a mystery. 

The other issue about history is that as soon as you write it you worry about offending someone.  I am so frozen in fear that I might tell the wrong story, the wrong way, that it’s hard to tell any story at all.  I never understood this dilemma of writers, which is why history books are so bland, until I started writing this.  The real story, someone else’s story, has tons of nerve endings attached to it that I may or may not touch.  People reading history also have opinions.  Even I have opinions, and they seep out ever so quietly into my words.

Cow PokingIn this case, the story revolves around a town built around ranching.  Ranching means eventually killing cattle to eat.  Former neighbors of mine are vegan, meaning they eat no meat products, even milk or eggs.  Animal rights activists might object to marking cattle, and other groups might have other grounds for opposition, but cattle ranchers are proud of their work, and their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.  If I were writing a documentary, I would tell all sides of the story, but in this post, I’ve got only the rancher’s side.

Straddling a calf getting stuck with a hot branding iron is not my idea of a safe job!
Straddling a calf getting stuck with a hot branding iron is not my idea of a safe job!

Another problem with writing history is that the beginning story is told and retold, but the middle of the story, the later years don’t seem like real history.  I started my project a couple of months ago I started interviewing a friend whose great-great-grandfather pioneered in this area.  What I really wanted to find out what life was like in the 1940s to the 1970s.  He let me borrow his photo album from the 1970s, and he had great shots of cowboys, many of whom are still not retired from ranching even though they are approaching  or into their 80s.  Ranching seems to be a healthy lifestyle, if you don’t get killed doing it!

Cow Poking
Imagine, you, a bull-calf, a sharp knife, and the knowledge that if he flinched, the knife might miss its mark…  Notice also that you don’t see obese ranchers here!  These guys can move quickly when necessary!

 

Gary spent about two hours with me helping me realize how difficult and dangerous it is to work with cattle.  That hasn’t really changed any over the years.

Branding and marking ears is still practiced on cattle today, so that the rancher can identify his cows easily.
You can see on my March, 2013 that branding and marking ears is still practiced on cattle today, so that the rancher can identify his cows easily.  I was trying to count flies!

Gary and I examined the 1895 atlas I have of Tulare County as he described where his ancestors settled, and where he took a group of people back-backing into the mountainous country.  Gary said if I wanted to hear the history of Woodlake, I should talk to his cousin, Roy Lee Davis, a cousin of his nearing 80.

Roy Lee Davis, retired farmer, back-pack guide from age 13.
Roy Lee Davis, retired farmer, back-pack guide from age 13.

I made an appointment and spent several afternoons with Roy Lee and his wife, Donna.  Roy lived in Woodlake all his life, and Donna moved to Woodlake from Porterville, 20 miles away, when they got married in the 1950s.  Our first afternoon getting acquainted we talked about the town of Woodlake itself.  After 15 minutes or so of introduction, our recorded conversation reached into the depths of Roy and Donna’s memories.  Transcribing the exact conversation is the first step to creating an oral history.  These are the first words recorded on my transcription.

D:  Grandfather started the Presbyterian church. (pause) Well she was a Davis.  (I’m not sure who “she” is at this point in the conversation.  I’m just listening.)

R:  No, she was a Pogue.

D:  She got married to a Pogue.  I’m filling you in on his background, and they started the Presbyterian church in

R:  160 years ago

D:  And his name was Jonathan Blair, and he raised Roy’s Grandmother, so  they’ve been, and then through his mother the Mussens came out and started a little store in Woodlake

R:  In 1913 because Mom and her family came out, but their grandpa was already out here.  That’s why they came out to help him in the store.

When you take an oral history, you try not to interject too much.  That was hard for me for several reasons.  First of all I didn’t always understand where the conversation was going, and as you can tell conversations jump mid-sentence sometimes.  Secondly because I AM a conversationalist, not a historian, I wanted to interject.  What they said reminded me of something in my life, and I’d wax autobiographical, which is not a great thing when you are taking an oral history.  Third, sometimes there would be a long lull in the conversation, so I would ask a question or make a comment.  As a result, the topics that emerge in the recording may be incidental to the story that the historian will eventually write.  Or it may be that the historian’s story changes.

More important than ranching to Roy and Donna, was what was important to Roy’s mom, that her grandfather started the Presbyterian Church in Woodlake.  One year after Tulare County was established, a little Presbyterian Church was erected in the non-existent town of Woodlake, by Roy Lee and Gary’s ancestors.  My story shifted into another direction, from ranching to religion.  In the lives of Roy and Donna the two facets of life were inextricably intertwined.  In writing them down, the subject went outside-in, and from a male driven narrative started by Gary to a female one ended with the writing of a teacher, Grace Pogue.  It meandered in and out of years from 1860 to 1995 when I quit teaching in Woodlake.

Woodlake Presbyterian Church
Woodlake Presbyterian Church

Finally, a historian has to validate oral histories.  In this case I had a primary source document.  Roy Lee’s relative, Grace Pogue, authored Within the Magic Circle telling about the beginning years of Woodlake. She wrote, “On April 18, 1866 Rev. Jonathan Blair and Rev. S. T. Gilliam organized the Kaweah Cumberland Presbyterian Church at the Hamilton School house about three miles south of Wodlake” p. 91.  These 19 charter members met in the school-house until “1881, (when) Jon H. Blair gave a tract of land for the school, the church, and the cemetery.  The school was moved from Section 24 to the newly acquired site west of the Presbyterian Church on Narranjo Blvd” p. 66.  Interestingly, Jonathan Blair must have been well off because according to Pogue, he served without out “financial remuneration” on a regular basis until his death in 1886.  The school and the church were part of each other, moving together into new buildings, sharing property when they no longer shared buildings. Pogue described the church inside and out, listed favorite hymns, descriptions of the horse-drawn buggies that transported them to church, then later by Visalia Electric Railroad by 1913, and humorous anecdotes.

The front of the brick building
The front of the brick building

Anyone interested in church history would be interested that in 1906 the small independent Kaweah Cumberland Presbyterian Church united with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and changed its name to First Presbyterian Church. p. 97.

Many denominations were pulling together nationally for the first time at this time.  The East and West coast churches in the early 1900s were less rigid, and according to the Nazarene Church history I learned in college, they compromised many liberal beliefs in order to attract the more conservative southern church goers, and consolidate into national denominations.  So Kaweah Cumberland Presbyterian Church joined the movement of nationalizing the denominations.  In writing this brief post I also used some knowledge that I learned when attending Nazarene Bible College, and if I was truly a historian, I would document my source of knowledge here.  Before the Civil War the country was “these United States”, and after it became “the United States.  I found it interesting that forty years after the Civil War, there was a vast movement within the churches all over the country that helped the nation become “One Nation Under God.”

600 W Naranjo Blvd, Woodlake, CA 93286
600 W Naranjo Blvd, Woodlake, CA 93286  Naranjo means orange.

 

The First Presbyterian Church remained very influential in the Woodlake community and political structure until probably the mid-1990s when it split.  Some of the members broke away from the more liberal Presbyterian church and founded a non-denominational church called Foothill Bible Church.

By the end of my conversation with Roy Lee and Donna I had copious amounts of recorded information to sift through and still no linear picture of life in the 1950s to 1970s, but I had made two new friends.  It seems nearly impossible to separate the distant past from the recent past because it changed so gently.  This differs greatly from the 1850s to 70s when white Americans, seeking their fortune in gold fields and later hay and cotton fields, came in droves to Central California, where only Native Americans living for centuries. It was a time of drastic and exciting change for those pioneers and their descendants.  What followed is an established pattern, yet still different from life today.

I made more appointments, scanned more pictures, and borrowed another book or two of Grace Pogue to learn about the early history of Woodlake.

Almost sunset
Almost sunset

Later one evening, I drove into town to take pictures of the historic Presbyterian Church.  As you can see it is a quaint, very simple, yet picturesque church that still stands on Jonathan Blair’s donated property over a century later.

Mr. Parks Kitty Follows Us Home

Yesterday morning my friend Sally and I walked as usual.  When we rounded the corner we heard insistent mewing coming from a nearby tree.  We ignored it, and walked to the end of the road and back, about a mile.  When we got back to the tree, we heard it again. We stopped and discovered a scared kitty in the tree, but he was way too high for the two of us to reach him.  So we left him wailing at us.

Mr. Parks

Later another friend called and wanted to walk, so off we went again.  And again, when we rounded the corner we heard the cat.  He had moved down a bit, and we got him out of the tree.  However, he cried as we left him on the corner by the tree and walked home.

Sally and I were up early and walked in spite of a little drizzle today, and who should be crying to see us?  We petted him, and he decided he would accompany us on our walk.  We we got back to his corner, he continued with us as though he belonged to us.  All along a busy highway, he stayed right with us.  When a truck came by, he ran for cover, but stayed away from traffic.

He's home at last.
He’s home at last.

When we got to my house, he stayed as if he owned the place.  As Sally put it, “Dogs have masters.  Cats have staff.”

Mr. Parks rocks and rolls for Mama Kitty.
Mr. Parks rocks and rolls for Mama Kitty.

Mama and Scardy Kitties were not overjoyed to meet Mr. Parks.  Neither was Kalev.  She was scared to death of him, and he of her.  Most importantly, V was not pleased.  But Mr. Parks is adorable.  He is loving and healthy.  You can pick him up and cuddle, and he loves it.

Mr-Parks

So if you know who Mr. Parks really is, and want him back send me a comment or email.

Who cares?
Scardy Kitty

He looks a lot like Scardy Kitty.

Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks Kitty

And Sally thinks he looks like Rosa Parks Kitty.  We both fell in love with Mr. Parks.  How about you?