Sunday, 30 January 2011

Stuck in the Middle of Winter

 186/365  This is what JG has been busy doing for the last week or so.  We don't have deep snow yet and this has given him the opportunity to start on the stove wood for 2012 ... or, maybe, 2013.

We went to Wheelers' Pancake House and Sugar Camp for lunch today.  There was a soft snow fall but the cloud was breaking up and giving some definition to the snow.  This is the old sugar camp that they keep as decoration.

 187/365.  I was trying to catch the differences in light as the sun tried to break through.  Not too successfully, but this is the best of a bad lot.

And the second best.  These two photos show the multitude of main lines used to pump the sap from the trees to the big gathering tanks at the main camp.  Wheelers' is a big, big operation.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Playing In the Middle

This is one of the shots I took for the 365 project a while back.  it was bland and uninteresting but has become a lot more fun with the contrast enhanced and the gamma twiddled.  (How professional I do sound, I don't think.)  It was, though, supposed to be shot right down the gap between the red wine glasses and I blew that.  So, 'not in the middle' might be the better title.

I use Corel's PhotoPaint to edit photographs.  It is an immensely complicated program and I have never mastered all of its features, but it is a lot of fun.  The rose I have just put in as the blog title photo has been altered with one of the 'Effect' choices in PP.... it's called 'ZigZag', for obvious reasons.  You can also choose to apply the effect of a conté crayon or watercolour or many other artistic choices, or make the surface look like bubbles or stained glass, and on and on. I can play for hours, alas.

A while back I was whinging about organizing my photos.  I picked up a copy of Corel PaintShop Photo 2010, but I'm not impressed with it.  Too complicated and some of the features are not obvious (like applying tags.  Ggggrrrrr).  A couple of days later I was poking around in Blogger where I was offered a free download of Version 3.8.0 of Picassa 3.  The download only took a few minutes and when I activated it I found the best picture sorter I have ever seen - at least, for my purposes.  Unlike PaintShop Photo, you are not stuck with using trays (although you can), the red eye fixer is stellar and, best of all, the program organizes photo folders by date taken but also retaining the label I gave to the folder when I created it.  This mirrors the way I think, unlike the Adobe organization tree that doesn't, and I find it fantastically easy to use. 

It also cranked up all on its own (a bit disconcerting) and did face recognition on all my photos, with an easy to use labelling system for the faces.  Excellent quality recognition, best I have ever seen.  Once this was finished, the result gave me a good indication of how many doubles (and triples and quadruples) I have among my picture folders.  And what a lot of photos of my grand daughter's smiling face I do have.  Best of all, if you double click on any thumbnail, an option comes up that allows you to identify the exact folder where the thumbnail originated.

This software is so easy to use that I am now gearing up and sorting and cleaning up all (almost 1000) photos I took on our trip out west last spring.  I am doing the flowers first, and am going to use some of the edited shots as 365 material, since editing and labelling can be a big part of photography.

185/365  This is a shot of a bunch of California poppies taken last May not in California (although we were there) but in a park along the Columbia River in Oregon.  The flowers were ubiquious throughout our drive along the coast and they are spectacular.  This one was in the middle of an island in the road into the park.  The rest of the grass had not greened up around them but there they were and aren't they glorious.  Contrast enhanced and cropped.

Thursday, 27 January 2011


 140/365  This is a cropped longshot of my family putting out deer feed.  And of the dog, being sternly reprimanded for eating same.

 141/365  This is a shot of the feeding station and the house the way the deer see it.  In the right foreground is an apple tree that is pruned absolutely clean as far up as a deer can reach standing on its hind legs.  Deer love apple leaves.

142/365  This is the deer feed.  The Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario, has developed a recipe for winter feeding.  There are oats, bran and other grains, as well as pellets of something or other, and the whole mess is mixed with a bit of molasses.

I took my new camera out around 4:00 pm today to play with aperture and shutter priority and with white balance in the long afternoon light.  The sun was shining as I got dressed and ready to go out but just a few minutes after I stepped out the door, a nasty black band of cloud came up and obscured the sun.  A lot of my shots have turned out blue, therefore, and I will have to play again later.  Here are some of the gleanings from today and a few other similar tries.

 143/365 Squirrel at the base of the bird feeder, with handy escape hole.  There are all sorts of tunnels and holes around the feeders and will be more as the snow gets deeper.

 144/365.  Just after the sun ran off and left me.

 145/365  Depth shot all to hell.  If you squint you can see the deer trails.

 146/365.  Upped the aperture to F8.  Still not good depth, but better.

 147/365  Milkweed pods.  Luckily close up not so much affected by the lighting.

148/365.  My beloved wood stove.  Late afternoon light is reflecting on the chimney wall.  Needs more contrast.


I am skipping a few more than 30 days here and putting myself back on the correct day.  Some frantic fill in will happen.  Sometime. 

 183/365.   Half Way Open. 
Himself brought me rosebuds a week ago today.  This is as far as they have opened.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Making tracks - a somewhat confusing description of where I live.

There was a youngish buck at the feeding station this morning before we had put any feed out - a four or six pointer at most. This afternoon it has all been does and I think they've pretty well finished the batch of feed that JG put out after lunch. We don't have a lot of snow yet - the skiers are complaining - and it is easy for the deer to get around. There are deer tracks everwhere around the field. The low snow load also means that they're out and about on the roads and I am driving very, very carefully these days. A cautious speed won't help with the crazies that leap out of nowhere directly in front of you, but it does mean that you can miss the youngsters who wander onto the road and stand, knock-kneed in that peculiar puzzled deer stance, to stare at your oncoming headlights.

I drive a lot. The price of gasoline is giving me acute snarling spells every time I have to fill up, and I have a vehicle that gives pretty good mileage (kilometerage?) for a utility vehicle. But we live far from anything else at all and if I need groceries, or have to go to a meeting or even want to visit with friends, I drive, at the least, eight kilometres to my nearest Scrabble partner and fifty-four to the nearest comprehensive grocery store. Over 100 km to the city. I have walked to my friend's place in spring or fall but between the snow and the industrial strength local biting bugs, I don't do it very often.

I do love it here, though. I love the deer and the cheerful chickadees on the suet ball in the kitchen window, and tracing the tracks of coyotes and other small animals through our back trails. And the wolves. Big pawprints. The wolf  tracks usually go pretty straight, but the coyotes wander from side to side, probably trail marking and sniffing at other coyotes' liquid responses. I love the silence and equally love it when the stillness is broken by the chuckly of an owl or the yelping of the coyotes on a hunting trail. I love the sound of the wind in barren tree branches, the tick of ice pellets on the skylight, the scrunch of cold, cold snow as I treck down the laneway to get the papers in the morning.

 133/365.  An arial view of our land taken a couple of years ago.  The green patch in the centre of the photo is our field.  The house is at the lower, left side almost hidden by trees and you can see the roof of the garage to the right and of the barn and drive shed in the trees to the right.  Our nearest house is a hunt camp that is only occupied a few weeks a year.  You can see it as a whitish blob at the very bottom of this photo, left hand side.

We live on what was, a century ago, a subsistance farm, complete with orchard, barns and a stone fence along the roadway. This land is at the end of three kilometres of dirt road that twists and turns around the rock outcroppings and precariously crosses a big marsh on a causeway. Our house is set where the homestead orchard once stood, at the edge of the only field still open when we bought the land in the mid seventies. We have labouriously cleaned and opened out this field and the deer are fed on a rock by a gap in what was once a fencerow. There is a big outcropping of bedrock in the middle of the field, and huge rockpiles all around the edges and off along our trails through the scrub bush that has grown up where one the farm fields lay.

134/365  This is a composite photo of the whole field area in the spring.  The rock pile shows just to the right of the satellite dish.  The big dish provides television: the small dish is a satellite receiver for the internet.

A few years after we bought the first one hundred acre piece we were fortunate to be able to acquire two more lots of the same size, one to the west of the original and one to the south. The western one has the maple trees we tapped for many years and the southern one has two huge beaver ponds at the back and on the west opens out onto a big marsh with a small river running through it. (see top of aerial photo.)

135/365  This is a view facing north west across the large back beaver pond, looking southwest.

136/365  Standing at the deer feeding station rocks looking toward the back of the house.  My screen porch haven is at the far right hand end of the house and the start of the bed rock outcroping at the far left where the ground rises.

137/365  A summer close up of the rocks where the feed goes.  It took us days of labour to haul rocks out of this back piece of land and get grass to grow on it.  The feed goes on the bed rock so that if turkeys find it they will not rip up the grass scratching for the seeds.

138/365  This is the one apple tree left in what was the orchard.  It is over 100 years old and the trunk is quite hollow but it still bears.  And attracts bears.

139/365  Another view of the big back beaver pond looking due south.  This is where Grandpa rows Little Stuff around in the punt.  The blob on the tree just right of centre is a heron's nest.

It's a long way from anywhere else but our neighbours although not close are wonderful and the community is one I love. A grand place to retire. JG does his woodlot things and I do ... what I do.

It's peaceful here, howling canids and all. It's home.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Feeding the Deer

 We put out MNR deer ration and corn on some rocks near the back of our field behind the house, hoping to see deer and turkeys.  We've had no turkeys lately, but we have a lot of deer. These photos are all taken from one angle because the deer can't see me there.  Sometimes they won't spook if I go out on the deck, but mostly they run.    This is at the outer limit of my telephoto and ability to hand-hold.  Lots of fun! 

129/365  Taken on January 9th.  I increased the contrast a bit because it was a misty afternoon.  Taken about 3:30 pm.  They will turn their rumps to the camera, drat them.

130/365  Taken Monday morning, January 17th.  The doe on the left does not belong to this group and is being driven back if she approaches any closer.  There's also one big doe (doing the chasing) a mid sized doe and two fawns, tails to camera.

131/365.  This is Mr One Horn.  He dropped the other antler right beside the feeding rocks and we have it stored in the barn.  I have seen what I think is this deer, hornless, but we had a snowfall.  I will do an antler search in the spring.  Taken very late afternoon, cloudy day.

132/365  This is the biggest group we have had.  I took this one on Sunday.  There
were actually nine deer but only eight show in this shot - they were two different groups that did not co-exist well.  Number one is tail to the camera left of the cedar, two is looking over three's back, four and five are trying to sneak up on the corn, six and seven are guzzling and eight is the fawn at far right.  Often the fawns get chased off, but this one belongs, I think, to the biggest doe.  

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Old Movies

JG got a set of old war movies as a Christmas gift and last night we watched one of them - Twelve O’Clock High. To refresh your memory - this is a story about the first group of American daylight bombers (1942) to attack Europe. Starring Gregory Peck, it tells of his efforts to turn around a squadron of these bombers plagued by 'bad luck' and shows how they became an effective unit. Peck's character challenges the air crews to 'do their duty' to 'become adult and take responsibility', and in so doing he leads them until he is overcome by the weight of his responsibility and cannot function. He becomes catatonic but when the squadron comes back successfully from the mission he could not lead, conducted instead by the worst of the 'slackers', he recovers.

It got me thinking, this portrayal of dedication and duty. For one thing, we don't see a lot of this type of film any more. The Vietnam war produced a genre about how the men in uniform were broken (Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter) and how they healed (I've forgotten the title of the film I want to cite here - it had Jane Fonda as a soldier's wife who encounters a maimed vet in an army hospital). Later we had 'operations' films from places like Afghanistan that are mainly concerned with the futility of heroic belief and action. The closest modern film to this 'dedicated hero' type that I can remember is not a war film but rather The Lord of the Rings trilogy that was, in the main, written during WWII.

This line of thought intersected another one, the product of several articles this weekend about a Yale professor's take on mothering - she describes her attempts to make her daughters excel in all they undertake. One response to her book has been a heartfelt howl from the proponents of nurturing (Western style?) parenting. The 'Dragon mother' has been accused of child abuse by several voices.

At close to seventy I obviously belong to the 'duty and rigour' side of the argument. I am not even a baby boomer, born as I was in 1942 while my father bobbed around in the North Atlantic in a corvette fighting submarines. I was brought up to believe that you keep your promises regardless of the cost to yourself, you do your duty no matter how unpalatable, you put the welfare of your community ahead of your own. I do not see much evidence that public figures  follow these values much of the time these days. Sarah Palin, for example, lost all credibility for me when she quit as Governor of Alaska part way through her term. The parenting style of the aptly christened 'helicopter parents' is practically incomprehensible from my cobweb draped seat in the bleachers.

Some remnants of the 'duty' morality, mind you, also strike me as weird. A politician in the USA can be and is pounded into jelly for personal infidelity but can get away with huge amounts of patronage. Serial monogamy is not even questioned - Liz Taylor's seven (I think) marriages are regarded with indulgence. A person whose first question is 'what's in it for me?' is given a straight-forward answer. I have no patience, either, for people who squawk about having to pay taxes to provide community services and aids for disadvantaged kids.

I should be stuffed and placed with the other dinosaurs, perhaps.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that in the world I see now the hand has moved from the rigid morals of Twelve O’Clock High to the deep-sixing, by the 'Me' generation and those following, of many values and customs that make our society liveable. Courtesy. Courage. Responsibility for our own actions. Principles. And a little bit of putting the other guy first.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


When I need to learn or refresh my mind on how a program works, I play.  Here I am playing in Corel Photopaint.
 126/365  This is a preset effect called 'zigzag', set at normal.

 127/365  I made this into a duotone, returned the colour to it (RGB) , on one colour plane and then turned it back into a .jpg.  Not sure I could get the same effects again. She is a flaming red-head, though.

128/365  Playing with the light values in gray scale and then scrubbing the background. 

Okay, playtime is over.  Must read minutes and meeting notes now.  Snivel!

Reports from a Pack Rat

When we were down south visiting my in-laws over the holiday, I found my brother-in-law in custody of a tin box full of old and battered photographs, a range that had belonged to my sister-in-law and one or more of her aunts. I sorted some of these out, that portrayed family that I recognized, and am now in the process of trying to do some restoration on them. Some are of my SIL, some of my MIL's family, taken during WWII and shortly thereafter, some of my husband as a boy. Nice memories, since I find myself as a preserver of family history for Little Stuff, someday.


Above is a photo of JG's father taken in 1933: he would have been in his late teens or very early twenties. (Must find out for sure - can't remember his birth year off the top of my head.) The second 'cleaned' version has had the tonal balance changed and some of the creases and blots removed from the face and figure. I still have a lot to do on this one. Unfortunately the tonal values in the face and in the stains on the background are so close that playing with the colour of the stains makes the face lose definition. There are other avenues left to explore, though.

I have a lot of family data. My father's cousin is and has been an indefatigable delver into their family history. My family name is Holden, and Bob has traced the Windsor scions of that name right back to Elizabethan England, found a coat of arms, and put together a fat loose-leaf book of information. He and some of the other cousins of that generation also found the money and will to have the original Holden log house restored and moved to an historical park in Essex County.

My mother' family is one I have done a lot of work on: I did a seminar course in social anthropology a long time ago and was given the assignment of studying my family. I ended up with a huge genological table, a short write up on most of my immediate ancestors, and a lot of other neat stuff, most of it winkled out of my grandmother by my mother. I have a tape of my grandmother talking about raising her babies with sound effects from my baby interspersed. Lovely.

And, for the last seven years, I have been building this blog as a record of her grandparents for Little Stuff. As well, on the computer and now backed up to separate storage are large files of family photos, and other records. I recently read a post in which the writer described how she is archiving her child's art work on line and so I am doing some of that as well. (Because I can't store it all!) I have my two girls' work plus Little Stuffs. I have Commencement programs and University graduation programs and newspaper clippings. And once they are scanned and safely stored, I can Throw. It. Out.! Or, at least, some of it.

My grandfather Holden was a keeper, of clippings and pages from newspapers among other things. The YD has two posters made from the front page of the newspaper on the day Edward VIII abdicated and the day WWII ended. She also has my father's service medals and a fine photograph of him in uniform, all of which we intend to mount into a shadow frame.

I have a braid of my own and one from each of my daughters, mounted in a frame by my mother. I have at least one bronzed baby shoe and there used to be more. I found a nasty little envelope among my mother's things with all of my baby teeth in it. Pack rat and collecter of Stuff that I am, I hope someone knocks me on the head before I get that bad.

Must get back to playing with the old photos. More later. I love this stuff. And I am counting it for 365, okay?

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Running as Fast as I Can

What to do about the catch-up on the 365 project!  I am about 50 shots behind and every day that I dither about the numbering puts me farther down.  For now, I am hurling up bits of stuff that I did not have time to get to before Christmas.  I also have a project going to clean old family photos that I picked up when we went to visit JG's mother over the holiday. Rejigging battered prints is a long, slow job, however and I know I will be slow posting those.  So, for now, the pickup bits and, if my damn internet connection will just pick up some speed, throwing a whole pile onto Picassa.  Then, when I see where I'm at, maybe ask for permission to jump.

 118/365  Copper windchimes.  Again, trying to capture the light and mood.

 119/365  An icy twig where I played with the colour values.  A lot!

 120/365  Dainty pawprints on the marsh.

 121/365  The Christmas Pointsettia.  Not enough depth of field.

 122/365 Our land is pure Canadian shield, with lots of outcroppings.  I particularly like this one that gets afternoon light.

 123/365.  Christmas Tree bird with the new camera.  My living room is painted a sort of 'cloud' gray.  Very useful for this kind of shot.

And, last but not least,
124/365,  So nice to come back inside and warm the fingers and toes.  I do not have a clue why Blogger stretched this shot vertically.  Rats!

 Onward!  (Trumpets in background, drums beating a tattoo).

Sunday, 9 January 2011

A Little Order, Please

My photo storage is A Mess.  At one time I had a fairly reasonable filing system.  Then I got a new Nikon that came with all sorts of software and I started downloading using Nikon Transfer.  Then I decided to learn to use Photoshop.  All of these programs store the photos differently and when I start to look for something, reverting to my own filing system, I find things all mixed up.  Photos have been added to folders that they don't belong in, huge folders have been created by date, sitting next to folders with one or two photos in them, and I can't find anything. 

I got a lovely back-up drive for Christmas and have copied my whole 'Pictures' file onto it, in its confused and unwieldy whole.  Next, I am going to take the first file apart, throw out (shudder, sob) a lot of losers, and rationalize the wretched thing.  If I don't get this done, may the next bird I photograph shit in my eye!

While plotting out what I am going to do, I actually found three photos that I wanted to use for the 365 project some time ago -- before I lost them.

 115/365  Walking the YD's dog in a November sunset.

 116/365  Bark.  Not the dog, though.  From the same afternoon.

117/365.  Snow.  I have played with this one a lot, and it is quite pixilated, if you enlarge it any more than this.  But I like the colour contrast.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Annual Office Cleanse

If you page back a bit in this blog you will find several sets of before-and-after office cleaning posts, with photos.  I will not inflict the photos on you again; indeed, if you have seen one 'after' shot, you have seen them all.  And the 'before's are always embarrassing.  As in, 'how could you let it get to this state!?'  Let me just mention that there is some desktop showing and the 'To Be Filed' folder is bursting.  And by Monday morning I have to have the minute book for one of my organizations complete.  This means that the desktop will immediately vanish again and my floor will be covered with little white paper circles leaking from the three hole punch.

Maybe I need coffee before I tackle that.

112/365  Amaryllis

I did take a break from the frenzied hurling of paper into recycle bags to take a few photos.  I used the D90, mainly because I know it better and I wanted to try to capture the quality of the light today.  We've had snow on and off and the sky is sort of a bruised blue/gray and all the whites are flat.  I was playing around with the amaryllis when I looked out and saw our frequent visitor - a six point buck - at the feeding station. 

 113/365 One horned deer

 With one horn.  We found the other one yesterday in the snow beside the pails of feed.  But the deer seemed in no way concerned.

114/365 The third shot is my witch ball.  Untouched by any editing.  Probably the best shot to display the light.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Blue Winter World

I spent the day in the city, spending my Christmas money in our outsized bookstore and also buying myself a new iron.  I have had a cordless iron for some years but it died, choked by water deposits, just before Christmas.  I had a lot of tablecloths to prepare for festive meals and so I hastened into Canadian Tire (ah, American friends, what you are missing) and bought a cheapie, with cord.  And hated every tangled and frustrating moment of ironing 104" tablecloths with it.  Unfortunately, Santa did not notice this debacle and so I treated myself to a replacement for my cordless one today.  I shall give the offending corded one to the Reuse Centre at our local dump.

The YD and I went to a theatre after this retail therapy and saw The King's Speech.  Highly recommend this film.  Excellent acting, although I think the Queen Consort is somewhat miscast.  It's probably specially affecting and interesting if you know your 20th century British history, but I think it would be a good movie even if you did not have the background.

I am also posting two more pictures - taken on our beaver ponds yesterday afternoon with my nice new little camera.  Good thing I did not take the biggie as I got a lot of snow dumped on me getting to the ponds, but little guy was safe in my pocket, wrapped in a spare mitten.  I thought the sunset shots would be the best, but in truth I like the dark aftermath of sunset the best.

110/365 Sunset on the upper beaver pond.

111/365 Blue Winter World

The tiny black blob in the centre of this shot is JG out on the ice chopping holes with an axe to test the ice thickness.  It's skatable!  Whee.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

01/01/11 was a few days ago, and we are rapidly approaching 11/01/11 (or we are if we are Canadian; I think Americans are heading for 01/11/11.) Before I know it, it will be 11/11/11 in all of North America and I will be even farther behind than I am now. Why is it that I struggle with date order, Roman numerals and the Greek alphabet. It seems as if, mostly, my mind echoes with ear worms, snatches of poetry, bits of whatever I am reading and the grocery list, and no thinking is getting done at all. this is not good, and it is making my list of posts look pretty anaemic. I will try to do better in 2011. Now, is that 'twenty-eleven'? Do we all agree? And is there a name for this decade?

I just finished mopping down the hardwood floors after the Festive Season incursions had covered them with shrimp juice, bits of icing and drippings from the YD's dog's chin. There were a few miniature foot prints as well. It would not have surprised me to find reindeer tracks. I have the downstairs room where I do laundry and crafts restored to an unusual cleansiness since it was the Christmas present wrapping station for two weeks and the floor there was a morass of bits of tape, ribbon and plastic. I have all the Christmas gift bags sorted by size and stored (yeah, I'm a bit strange.) JG's Christmas gifts are all still stacked on the bedroom bureau top, but I have a plan for that, too.

You would think that a glow of virtue would be illuminating my leisurely post-cleaning rest. Ha. I still have to tackle the office (where the boxes from some of my gifts are still stacked, blush). And all of the secretary and board stuff that I have been either bookmarking or printing and stacking since mid December. There is one review due tomorrow. There is a big pile of loose minutes, some of which are signed final copies, to get into the minute book. Meanwhile I am losing at Scrabble, as is my usual fate. Does anyone know a word that has 'toy' in the middle and with either two more letters following or three preceding? I need that triple very badly. And Spell-Checker does not like 'cleansiness'. Too bad, you boring, anal retentive program, it's staying.

Oh, yea, the procrastination queen is at her best this afternoon. It's been a nice day for a change with the sun popping out of the clouds and the wind whooshing the loose snow off all the tree branches and making our wind chime sing. (The sun does show up the mess on the floors!) I may get around to making the odd New Year's resolution in February. (Hmm, not to let the minutes pile up again? Wash the damn windows before the winter sun shows every bug spot and smear? Do things on time? I've broken that one lots of times.) How about - stop using so many parentheses. Can I actually keep that one?

Speaking of putting it off, I'm about two months behind on the 365 project. I have a ream of stuff to put up on Flicker, but there it sits in a nasty, sneering folder on my desktop. What I have to post here are two from 'memory' - if I recall the prompt correctly - and one from the new camera. Extreme telephoto on this one and I overcompensated on the white dial, a bit. But I love it, and what is more, so does the YD. That's her new coat, chosen to make her visible when she walks the dog. I think that last week's prompt was 'resolution', and that is what the new camera and I are discussing at the moment.

107/365 - someone's baby shoe, bronzed.  Might be mine, might be one of my girls'.

108/365 - the YD with the colour balance uncorrected.

109/365.  My mother's cherished pickle dish.

I hate manuals. Maybe I will book myself into a digital camera course. It can't be worse.