Nature Photographer

You should call yourself a nature photographer, my son recently told me.

This was a compliment, and it prompted me to study the content of my photographs more carefully. He and his wife are professional wedding photographers, and he owns a camera shop. In other words they know a great deal about photography.

Photos have been a part of my life for many years. I have always said I take photos because I cannot paint! There is something magic about capturing a moment in time. I started when I was 10 years old.

My first camera was a Kodak camera. It had a cartridge that dropped in the back of it. It would take twelve photos. Later one could purchase a twenty-four picture cartridge. The flash was a four-use cube. It would turn with every photo taken. The directions included in this fancy camera box told users to always put the sun behind you ( the photographer) so it could shine directly onto the subjects.

It was great fun. Developing photos could be done via mail, or the local photography store. Going through the mail was cheaper, but slower. I sent mine off through the mail. It would take up to a week or more to get them back. How exciting it was to see just how they turned out!

On the back of each photo I would write it’s own description with the date, names of people (or animals), and the place it was taken. Finding old, family pictures with no details were frustrating and not of much meaning to me. So I spent much time getting the details correct. So much time, that I quite saving every photo I took and kept only the ones I liked best. I think this did as much as anything to develop my eye.

The most exciting camera I owned, and wish I still had, was a used Canon AE1 purchased at a camera shop. It was a great camera that taught me a lot about film, lighting, settings. It took my skill to a new, fun level. I started then having film developed at camera shops. Talking to the owners taught me much about film, light, and settings. All the photos of our five children were taken with that wonderful camera. It captured a large portion of life for me. I began entering my photos in local county fairs. Seeing a ribbon hanging beside a photo was very exciting! The back closure finally gave out so I set it aside, and left the joy of photography for a while (having a house full of teenagers took every moment of time). I am sorry to say I think lost it in the shuffle of our last move for I have not been able to find it. I may yet!

Later, family and business trips required a working camera. The Minolta Freedom Zoom 140EX was the one of choice to record these fun times. It was the first digital camera I owned. It came with us on our big six-week family outing out west years ago, where it fell from the roof of our truck and that ended that. However, I do still have that camera. Think I’ll take it to our son’s shop for repair.

Then came the Iphone. Photography has never been the same. I used it for years. Compact, easy to carry, nothing but keeping the battery charged was required. It did set me back on the path of picture taking again, and I am grateful.

The days of buying cameras are over now, as our son has helped get me outfitted with a wonderful camera and accessories to keep me busy for a long time. The Olympus OM-D camera works well for me. I use mostly the 12-100mm lens, and a fixed 300mm lens with a monopod. This camera can do more than I will ever be able to do, but it is fun learning. I have also taken several photography classes to improve my skill. I recall one teacher saying that photography is not complete until it is printed and shared with someone you love. My family gets a good many photos in the mail of times we have shared together!

So, as I have studied my photographs, I realize my son is right. I do take many nature shots. We live in the country. I see a lot of nature everyday. He is right, I am a nature photographer.

These photos tell a story (don’t all photos?), of the deer as I interacted with them through the lens of the camera. What story do they tell you?

In Focus #10—Handwork

Two years in the making to complete this handworked project.

The joy of picking up the final stage of it, i.e. framed and ready to hang on the wall was quite exciting. When I look at it all finished, I feel as if it took hardly any time at all. I guess in the course of a lifetime, it did not take that long. At the time it seemed like a never-ending project. But so did parenting, and now our youngest is twenty-eight years old! How strange a thing time is.

Speaking of our youngest. This cross-stitch is for her. She was the one who talked me into purchasing it while on a trip visiting Williamsburg several years ago on a bus tour. I tried for years to get her interested in cross-stitch, to no avail. She wanted me to do it. Ha! That is going to cost her.

Indeed, after I picked it up from the framing shop, I wrapped it and gave it to her with some very strict instructions. These are my exact words to her:

“I did this project for you. I hope you like it because I expect to see it hanging in a most prominent place in your home for the rest of my life. I shall look for it every time I come into you home. You must leave it on your walls until the day you put me six feet under. Then you can burn it, sell it, or give it away, whatever you like.

May I tell you she loves it? After laughing at me and telling me she knows exactly where it will go. It reminds us both of a very special time we shared together with a lovely group of folks. Blessings upon blessings.

Oh yes, in case you are wondering, it is the Palace at Williamsburg. The cross-stitch was purchased in one of the beautiful gift shops there in Williamsburg.

TGS?

What in the world is TGS?

Tele-Granny School! What is that? It is the name I gave to the school our grandchildren and I have been having for over a year via the phone. So far we have had one hundred, twenty-one tele-granny classes!

I am often asked if we do our schooling over ‘face-time’. No. Just over the phone. We live out in the country and face-time is not always reliable (the regular phone is bad enough at times). Besides that, the phone is also challenging enough. I expect we would get very little school done if we could see each other. The boys would be ‘showing’ me all sorts of things—like planes flying overhead, bugs on the porch, hawks sitting in the trees, or funny things their little brother is doing! We have enough distractions as it is.

“Hey, Granny, WAIT! I want to tell you something!”. I hear this often just as we are getting started in a lesson!

“Ok, what is it? Don’t forget we have to do our lesson!”

“Wellllllll, Daddy took us fishing yesterday, wanna know what I caught?”

“Sure!”

Or

“Granny! Dad took me turkey hunting yesterday. You just wouldn’t believe the turkeys we saw! Let me tell you about them!”

And so the narratives begin. They are sweet, fun-filled stories of the joy of spending time with their daddy (our son). I am happy to hear all about it, but must watch the clock, as usually we plan an hour for lessons, with each boy getting half-an-hour. This is plenty time for all of us.

How did this begin? Welllll….two of my riding students are teenagers. They talk all the time about their grandma, and the times they spend with her. They are devoted to her! These teenagers love her, and find her interesting and fun! Unlike much of what I have heard since becoming a grandmother myself.

“My grandkids don’t like coming to see Grandpa and me anymore. They think we are boring,” or “It’s too quiet for them around here.”

I have heard these remarks for a long time. So, I asked these young people what they liked so much about their grandma: She is fun! She listens! She is interested in us! She plays games with us! She stays up late with us when we spend our ‘Granny summer camp week’ with her, and she buys all chocolate milk we can drink!

Their mom told me that their Grandma talks everyday with her grandkids. By-the-way, this is a home schooling family.

“Everyday?”, I asked.

“Yes!”, was her happy reply, “They do school together over the phone!”

“What? What do you mean?” this was so interesting to me. So, she proceeded to tell me about their phone school, the subjects they go over everyday of the week. This Grandma stays closely connected to her dear grandchildren via the phone. It is quite obvious how much they care for one another, and this school-over-the-phone has kept their relationship vibrant and strong. She lives hours away from them, in fact, in another state. So this is their means of staying tied together.

Our grandchildren do not live as far away. However, they live far enough away where going to see them everyday (and even once-a-week) can be difficult to manage. As it takes over an hour just to get to their house, this setup is a great solution to the ‘time’ problem.

When I approached my home-schooling daughter-in-law, she was more than happy to get started. What home schooling mom isn’t happy for help? I asked her how I could help her, she asked me what I would like to do, we came up with a plan and began the following week! She sends me her spelling lists for the boys. We pick the books out together, and make sure we have the exact same copies. This makes it easier when discussing them over the phone.

What subjects do I teach? My favorites! Bible, reading, memorization, poetry (they often write their own), and spelling. Every so often I do make a visit to their house, and the fun and laughter we have together is priceless. For we know one another and are friends.

Keeping on task can be a challenge sometimes, and some classes become more than an hour. I figure those are the bonding times between us, and I enjoy their wanting me to be a part of their lives! We have our classes two to three times a week. Everyday is not possible.

When listening to our grandchildren recite The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and to the Bible, or read out loud from the books we are reading I close my eyes and listen to those dear sweet voices, and thank God for this wonderful time.

You wouldn’t believe those turkeys Dad & I saw when we were out hunting, Granny! Let me tell you about them!

Molly

I am interested in trying out a slideshow feature on this blog for fun, and decided to use Molly as my experiment.

Molly belongs to our second son and his family. We kept her last week while they vacationed at the beach.

She is a sixteen-year-old Maltise. She has never stayed with us before, so it took her a couple days to feel comfortable. Age can be a wonderful thing. She had little concern for our dog, or two cats, which was a relief. She has a little trouble seeing well, and a bit more trouble hearing. It sure did not stop her from being all around the farm. Those little, old legs carried her around in a hurry. One second she was in sight, next second we had to go in search of her.

Good thing she is snow white, made it far easier to find her. We enjoyed her company for the week, and hope you enjoy these photos of her.

Hmmm…do not think slideshow turned out?

In Focus #9— That Old Country Flower?

“That is just an old country flower!”

Thus was the description of the humble little zinnia years ago. In fact, one could not even find them available in nurseries. It was one of those silly little flowers old country women planted in their gardens because they were cheap.

Well, every dog has it’s day, as my Momma used to say, and the day has come for this hardy, colorful flower. Zinnia belong to the sunflower family on the daisy side. They are a native in Southwestern United States. They are easy, easy to grow, and will self-seed if left in the garden over winter, though the next season flowers may not be the same as those first planted. They come in many different shapes in a huge variety of colors. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Every house is made more cheerful with a vase full of happy, colorful zinnias in it. Cut the spent blooms and these cheerful flowers just keep on blooming. In all colors and sizes. It is possible to purchase a specific type now-a-days.

I will let mine reseed next spring, and will also purchase a new package to mix in with them. The show next season will be splendid for sure. I have seen some blooms as big as a softball! These zinnias in my photos are a couple seasons old. I have noticed they are turning mostly red and orange. I am going to save seeds from the yellow, and white ones to see how that goes next year. In addition I will be purchasing a fresh package from the nursery.

Spent flowers, if one prefers, can be left out in the garden for the birds, most especially Goldfinches, to enjoy all through the fall and winter. They also make for pretty container plants. I have found full-sun to be their favorite choice, and moist soil. A huge bonus for us out here on the farm is they are also deer resistant, and may even help protect other plants from the deer.

For all these terrific reasons there is little wonder they were one of the favorites of—

‘we old country woman!’ Oh yeah!

Our chickens follow us all around the farm.

In Focus #8—Birds in the Hood

Catching photos of birds has always been a joy and pain at the same time. It seems my camera is always not on me when I see a great photo. Forget about running into the house to fetch it!

Bird watching has been a wonderful pastime for years, learned from my dear Aunt from many a walks in the woods. I started keeping a ‘life list’ of the species in my 30’s. I only have about 130 species checked off so far. The last, very exciting species I saw (and have only once) was the Bobolink!

Our feeder is filled daily with sunflower seeds. The bird bath is next to the feeder. Watching a bird take a bath will make one laugh! One day I’ll catch a photo of it. BTW, sunflower seeds attract Goldfinches as well (some folks insist thistle seed is the only feed to attract goldfinches). Truly, life is not the same without the beautiful, cheerful Goldfinch in it.

Another fun discovery for us with sunflower seed is how easily they grow all around the house and garden! We have beautiful sunflowers from the seeds the birds drop all around the house. We leave them on the stem and enjoy watching the birds, especially the Goldfinches, eat on them all through the fall and winter. Bonus! If your zinnias are left to dry out in your garden, you will see the birds eating them as well, plus they will re-seed themselves next spring. Double bonus!

There are many other birds around here on the farm than posted on this blog. These are the few that just happened to turn out rather nicely. Thought it would brighten the day to share a few of these lovely, happy neighbors that are all around us.

Thank God for birds. A friend of mine recently told me where she read “of another service rendered as the birds sing their praises in the morning…that somehow the vibrations of their voices actually affect and aid in the awakening of God’s creation for the day.”

Isn’t that a beautiful thought?

Now What do we Do?

That was the question Shirley asked Snoot when they got home from the hospital over thirty-nine years ago with their newborn baby.

She set that bundle of baby down on the couch, looked at Snoot and asked him, “Now what do we do?”

It seemed so odd having another human in their lives. Having been married a little over two years they had gotten used to just the two of them. To make it all the more confusing, this human could not do anything! Just lie there and make funny little noises. How was she supposed to manage that?

Shirley recalls that huge moment well in her life so long ago. She says Snoot held her closely while she cried a bit, she wiped her tears, picked up that bundle of baby, and life began in earnest for that little family. That little family that grew to become five wonderful children altogether over the next ten years.

The subsequent children were far easier for Shirley. She was in her groove. Life was truly in full swing for her busy family, and she was with it every step of the way. The house was full and very busy. “Is this house ever quiet?” someone once asked Shirley. It made her laugh. “Yes! At 2 a.m. in the morning it is nice and quiet!”, she would reply.

“Are all these yours?”

“Don’t you know what causes this?”

“You do not have TV?? No wonder you have so many!”

Shirley grew used to the unsolicited remarks she would get from folks. It did not matter to her. It was her’s and Snoot’s family, not theirs. Her momma used to tell her to not mind what folks say. “Opinions are like noses, everybody has one,” she would say.

Once a lady from another country told Shirley she was a “blessed woman to have five children.” Shirley smiled and thanked her.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, and years into decades. This past August Shirley and Snoot gave hugs and good-byes to their just married daughter. Their last child, all grown up and now married to a fine young man.

Coming into their empty, quiet house recently, Shirley looked at Snoot. “We have come full circle. It is just you and me—

Now what do we do?”

Snoot held his teary-eyed Shirley a bit and said,”We will spend time together and have fun.”

Shirley is looking forward to that.

How to Love as Taught by Whoopie

I did not want this dog. I already had one, and we lived on a busy road. Busy to the point that over the past 15 years, we had lost two dogs to vehicles on it. The dog we now owned I had trained tirelessly over his puppy year to learn to stay away from it. He learned well. I was very pleased. This dog however was a couple years old. How would I ever teach her?

My sisters wanted me to take her though. Our dear mom had passed away and the dog I had picked out for her from the local pound a couple years prior to her death needed a new home. All my sisters wanted me to take her. The stack was clearly packed against me. It was pretty clear. The dog was going home with me, and becoming a part of my family.

Her name was Whoopie.

The gals at the shelter liked her so much she stayed out with them in the office area. I noticed her only after I had looked at 145 other homeless, big-eyed dogs. “What about this one?”, they sweetly asked after I had emerged from the kennels. “We call her Whoopie, she has just been spayed.”

She was blond with a sweet german-shepherd face. I told them I needed an old-lady dog. One that was not too young, needed too much exercise, or jumped up on people. Our mother was suffering from moderate dementia and not as strong as she used to be. She loved dogs, and we knew she needed another.

I looked at Whoopie, she looked at me with very sweet eyes. I told the gals I’d be back tomorrow for them to meet one another and see how it goes.

“I am NOT going inside that building and seeing all those sad dogs!”, Mom soundly declared upon arriving at the shelter.

“Ok. I’ll bring her out to you.”

Whoopie came out on her leash most politely, sat down at Mom’s feet and looked up at Mom.

“I do declare that dog just smiled at me,” Mom said as she bent down to pet her.

…and that is how Whoopie came happily into our lives. All our lives, as we four sisters took turns caring for our dear mother in her last years on her beloved farm, while Whoopie took care of us all.

When we told the farm good-bye for the last time, I climbed into my truck and looked at Whoopie sitting quietly on the passenger seat. I wondered if she felt as lonely and sad and we sisters did that morning. She was quiet the whole way home. It was the beginning of a wonderful life with two dogs. Both of whom came from the same shelter (we got them at the same time).

It did not take long to realize that Whoopie loved people more than she loved to wander off. She was ‘the perfect hostess’. The first to say hello, the first to say good-bye. She wanted to be sure everyone was ok. So to do that, she was nearly always underfoot! She look straight into our eyes as if she understood everything, and stood quietly while petting her soft, floppy ears. She lived to please, to love, and to be scratched on her belly.

She died suddenly just this past July 23, 2020. Without warning.

I never thought she would be the first of ‘Mom’s pets’ to go. The miniature horses are much older than she. She was one good dog. The dog that taught us the selflessness of love.

Not long after we brought her home, we moved from that place on the busy road to our current farm on a private, quiet road to accommodate both Whoopie and the four miniature horses that were also Mom’s. We also have two big horses, chickens, and miniature cows. It has been a grand five years here.

To love without complaint, to give without strings, to be faithful and true, to care beyond self, to be generous, and to make folks happy. I do not know how God in His wisdom has put that in His creations, but He surely did with our Whoopie. She lived out the Words of Scripture better than I have. She was a great teacher. Rest well you good, good dog…

What Time I am Afraid

What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.

Independence Day has passed. Summer is in full swing. Though not really. Few folks are traveling, and if they are, it is mostly locally. This is good for the museum where I work. Problem is, not many folks are out and about.

Our museum just opened July 1st. We usually open the first of April. It is going to be a short season for us. Short and quiet it seems. Some of the docents are not returning for fear of the virus. I am sorry for their fear, but I understand. I especially understand when one does not know Jesus.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. I Corinthians 1:18.

The worries and concerns are real for our little museum. The virus is not the only thing that frets our administrator. The rise in minimum wage is another huge factor for us. This is a concern for every small business trying to get by. It is easy to feel like the cards are stacked against us.

So, what do we do? What can we do?

We re-evaluate, re-arrange, re-schedule, and for believers, most important we pray. That sounds so useless in today’s world of unbelievers. But for the believer it is the power of God. For the believer it is our strength, our fortitude, our rest. The believer knows Who has the power, and Who is in control, and we are not ashamed. Conversely, we are strengthened. Our hope rises far beyond what little man can do, and rises to the Throne of all hope and glory. Therefore, come what may, we shall not be moved.

Does that mean we are not frightened? What a joke, of course not. But we believe God’s promises to His people. So we pray (and believe) first, then carry on.

It has been said that ‘believing’ is one of the hardest things about Christianity. Consider this, every time we get in the car we believe we will arrive at our destination. Every time we sit in a chair, we believe it will support us. We believe we will receive our pay for our jobs. We trust our feet will carry us through the day. We trust our home will be safe while we are away from it during the day.

We practice belief and trust much more than we think in the course of a normal day. So why is it so hard to trust and believe God? That is a question you must ask yourself. Ask Jesus to help you. He is ready to hear your plea. We have not because we ask not. Once trust and belief has been placed in Him, the ‘foolishness’ of trusting in man becomes very clear.

Billy Graham said it very well many years ago, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.”

So as we go forward in this summer season, I pray you would look to Jesus for strength, comfort, and guidance. Even if you do not believe, talk to Him. Taste and see that He is there. The fear I see and hear in my friends and neighbors is real. These times as of late are frightful. Jesus is real too, and larger than any of our fears. Ask Him for help and strength, and tell your heart over and over:

Image

An Evening Fire

What images do you ‘see’ in your mind when you hear the word fire?

It is a love/scary word for me. A controlled fire is intriguing and beautiful. Of course, the out-of-control one is frightening and destructive. The smell of smoke took on a whole new meaning for me when years ago our farm house caught fire due to an electrical issue. It was a horribly frightful thing.

A destructive fire puts us in our place as we realize how little control we really have in this world we live in. Respect. That is what a fire always demands. Handle it with great care.

This particular evening fire we had outside in the designated fire pit was of the beautiful kind. Sitting beside it quietly watching the sparks fly to Heaven, I often wonder what everyone is thinking about while gazing into it. What do you think about?

This evening fire was a lovely end to a fine day, by God’s good grace.

As sparks fly to Heaven.