Your Favorite Season?

Which season of the year do you like best? Here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, we have all four. Pictures of the Valley will prove it a hard thing to choose the favorite one. At least it is for this blogger.

The end of one season brings a happy au revior with much anticipation for the next one. Plans are always hatching with each new seasons’ arrival. Spring flowers, vegetable gardens, pumpkins and apples, and long winter nights. Each has it’s own unique, wonderful quality. I must admit, the Spring frost date has a way of waiting far too long before coming here in the Northern end of the Valley. New folks to the Valley do not believe me when I say it is mid-to-end of April. We can have snow in October, have slept with windows open in November, and been under a blanket on a summer July night! Makes it all the more interesting, don’t you think? We shun the hot sun in the summer in any cool spot available, and bask in it in fall and winter. Fickle aren’t we? Seasons have their ways, and we adjust.

This winter has seen very little snowfall. A pretty snow fell around mid-December, and that is it. Most folks do not miss it much, nor the work that comes with it. But I enjoy being out in it walking the dog (and cats, they come too), feeding the horses and watching their foggy breath float all around their heads and muzzles. Snow quietly falling on their shaggy winter coats. Do you know a horses’ coat can grow 1/4 on cold winter nights? Cool huh?

The earth is the Lords, and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell in it.

Surprise this early morning though, as a blowing snow suddenly filled the view from the window with white. It was gone as fast as it came. A real hit and run. I have only a few photographs to share of the only snow so far this year, and one bad one from this morning.

Which season is your favorite? I cannot answer that question, for I throughly enjoy each and every one of them. Happy winter to you!

Only one from this early morning.

Conclude—Last FMF Prompt for 2020

Words are fascinating.

After all “In the beginning was The Word”. The meaning of the verb conclude is wonderful. It has two related meanings; one is to come to a decision, the other is to bring to a close.

This year is nearly ready to come to a close, and I have surely made a decision about it. God is in control. He always has been. He always will be. Nothing catches Him by surprise. He has mapped out this coming New Year already and I am sure looking forward to it. For He goes before us.

The Lord is my Shepherd.

Poetry in Motion

“I like his action”.

This is a common phrase used by horse folks. It refers to the way a horse moves in his gaits. Every horses’ action is different, not only because of their breed but many other factors add into the way they move. Size of the horse, length of the pastern, slope of the shoulder, breed of the animal, weight of their shoes, and I am sure much more than I even know about have an influence on the way a horse moves.

One interesting thing I have noticed over all my time spent with other horse folks is that we also watch and appreciate the way a dog moves, even though the gaits are different. Dogs leap in their running gaits. Horses do not. Dogs have also been in my life for as long as my memory will go, but I have not considered myself a dog person as much as horse.

They are both social critters that enjoy human interaction. In many ways they train similarly too: Praise and Reward; Consistency and Persistency; the human touch, and pleasant voices. The words do not necessarily need to be pleasant, just the tone of voice. So, the next time you get mad at your dog or horse, call them anything you feel like at the time, just use a pleasant tone of voice. This is sure to make you laugh and ease the tension! Then it would probably be wise to stop for the day, or at least for that training session time. Never call your dog or horse ugly, derogatory names in an ugly tone of voice. That is downright rude!

Anyway, back to ‘action’. Here on our farm we have two different breeds of horses. One has Quarter horse in her, the other is a Tennessee Walking Horse. They have very distinct and beautiful gaits between the two of them. High Hope, our part Quarter horse, is a three-gaited horse. Which means she walks, trots, and gallops.

Duke, our Tennessee Walking horse, is what is called ‘a gaited-horse’. This means he has five gaits. He walks, flat walks, trots, paces, and gallops. Gaited horses are known though for their smooth flat walk (it has several other names). This means his ‘action’ looks much different to the observer than High Hope.

Do not worry, I am not giving you a quiz on the gaits of horses. Though I do teach my riding students the differences. But, of course, they can tell the difference the moment they ride. The reason for this blog was to post some nice action shots I have taken of the horses and dogs. It is like poetry in motion watching a four-legged animal move. I try to catch the cats on film too. Now that is a challenge for me.

Poetry has a beat to it. Four legged animals do too. It is lovely to hear and exciting to watch. If you are quiet enough you may even hear the beats in some of these photos…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

FMF Writing Prompt—Beyond

Sometimes I get beyond myself.

Life is busy. It has never seemed to slow down. When I was young it seemed so full and busy, and now that I am older with children all grown and gone, I feel even more busy! I am very aware of being on the short end of a good long life and I want to keep it full for as long as I am able. But sometimes I do get beyond myself.

Early morning time with Jesus saves my heart and soul. I would be done for without His comfort and presence in my life. He gives me hope and strength as I pour my heart out to Him.

“Put your trust in Him always, O people,

Pour out your hearts before Him, for

God is our refugee…” Ps 62:9

He saves me from myself. Glory to God.

Five Minute Friday—Present

Where ever you are, be there.

I heard that phrase a long time ago. It took a while for me to figure it out. However with the advent of I phones it suddenly became very clear. Probably because we always have the device on us. It seems now we are always talking to at least two people at the same time. One is in person, the other on the device. It rather feels unfair to both parties.

Is that one reason we as folks feel more lonely than ever before? It is a personal challenge to not do it, and give the person I am with in person my full attention.

Note: This is my first attempt to participate in this challenge of Five Minute Friday, please be patient.

In Focus #11—Still Life

I may be stretching the idea of still life. My mind tells me it consists mostly of fruits, flowers, and glass usually set on a table. I recall drawing still life objects in art class in school set up in this way.

However, my favorite old dictionary defines still life as any inanimate object, in addition to fruits, flowers and glass. So the subjects for this little In Focus blog are inanimate photos I have taken. Do you have any you would like to share? Please do! If you would add this blog title in your post, it will allow others to connect to this one (I think?).

Anyway, have fun, and share your still life photos as well.

The Dog and the Emu

They would not be called the best of friends.

Really, they would not even be called friends. Familiar, tolerant neighbors is probably the best way to describe these two. Edward, the Emu, is our neighbors’ bird. Dandy is our dog.

I met Edward a couple years back. His owner and I are horseback riders and have ridden together. He stays in the barn and fields with her horses. They all get along very well. Even her sweet dog has no problem with Edward. I have to say at our first meeting having the sense of something big coming up behind you is a little unnerving. Then out of side vision, a big bird face is looking straight into your eyes! I must admit, it rather sent a chill down my spine. He disappeared then reappeared around the other side of my face. I was assured he was fine. He has been at her barn for over fifteen years. Everyone there still had their eyes, so I figured all was well.

Dandy on the other hand does not necessarily agree. The first time he saw Edward out in the field, he would not even continue our walk. Instead, he turned straight around and high-tailed it home! It took a lot of encouragement and several walks later before he would stay with me. Once he realized Edward was in only part of the fields facing the roads, he decided it was safe to pass. Only he would cut way out of the way through the field opposite of Edwards. Then join me farther down the road. It was funny to watch. Edward walking slowly up and down the fence row, Dandy barking at him from way out in the opposite field.

Emus are a native of Australia. Second only in size the the Ostrich, the worlds largest bird. Small wings are hidden in its feathers, it cannot fly. It stands about 5.5 feet tall and weighs around 100 lbs. Female emus lay between 8 and 10 eggs in a flat nest on the ground. The males then sit on the eggs until hatched. Baby emus are striped, but lose these markings as they grow older.

Months have gone by now since their first meeting. Now Dandy runs to the fence barking at Edward. He knows Edward cannot get out. Many times he sits on our porch looking for Edward out in the field and barks at him, “I see you from here!” Now, they look at each other, Edward looking over the fence, Dandy looking through the fence.

I think they may be friends yet.

Edward, the Emu.
Dandy, the dog.
Watching each other.
Dandy now goes to the fence and barks at Edward.
Edward coming to see Dandy.
I see you from here! I’m watching you!

Thank you for spending time with us!

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!