Thursday, March 27, 2014

Incidental Scenery.

I had mentioned my search for skunk cabbage in bloom to a man who surveys the local butterfly populations (and therefore knows the nooks and crannies of the county very well) who sent me off to some wet woods I had not visited for years. I missed finding any flowers until, just before leaving the place, I used my binoculars to take a second, closer look at a spot right where I had entered the property. I did find the skunk cabbage but it wasn’t as nice as the first batch I had found.

But I was glad I had taken the time to stop because I had forgotten how pretty a particular little stretch of the acreage was. I had the “wrong” lens for shooting landscapes (and was too lazy to go all the way back to the truck) but I managed a handful of shots that didn’t turn out too badly. (Hooray for really good equipment, even if the lens is primarily for macro photography.)

One reason I tend to shoot wide: I knew there was something to be found in taking few shots of the iced-in leaves without the sweet gum ball, but what the camera grabbed was not quite what I had in mind. Hefty cropping and exposure adjustment and BAM! That’s more like it.

The light was lovely, too... (That lichen should be attached to a twig of a tree by the little pale dot lower right; the twig that looks to be extending from it is not part of the lichen. There is a lot of such lichen on the ground after this winter.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happiness is...

A blooming (vibrant red, even) hibiscus. Indoors. On a cold, damp, overcast, icky, I-don't-care-what-the-calendar-says-Spring-will-never-actually-get-here-this-year, late-March day.

Happiness is also noticing that the bush was in bloom. (Missed the first flower and with these plants you only get about a day for full glory.)

Happiness is the plant being in a north-facing window on an overcast day (best lighting ever--artists have known this for centuries).

Happiness is having a cable shutter release for the really sloooooooow shutter speed necessary for the low light and depth of field. (And knowing how to compensate a bit for exposure. Oh, ok, so I tweaked a few back to where they "should" have been, but I still like the saturated, blown-out look too…)

Made my day, that's for sure. Until it started to snow. Again.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


I am trying so hard not to "think Spring" because I don't believe we will see it any time soon and I don't want to get my hopes up, but thoughts of it will intrude. Especially when I notice increasing light in the early evening, and especially as I'm driving by the one spot I know has skunk cabbage and the little thought pops into my head "I wonder if it's blooming yet?"… I had never stopped to see it actually blooming and I knew it was due up soon. Sure enough, my botanist buddy Jim in Ohio posted a photo to his Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, which had me looking next time I drove by The Spot. Which happens to be a small little stream (two! I recently noticed a second one) running right between a bunch of businesses and residences right smack in the middle of town…

I stared hard (luckily the posted speed limit is only 35mph) and I decided I may have spotted some spathes. So I took advantage of a nice day before we were due for yet more ice/rain/snow (See? All those singing birds and daffodil buds are a tease, I tell you!) to get a little closer...

Jim has a great blog post about these strange plants. Yes, they bloom this time of year, even this year (but they may be a bit late for us?) and yes, they can do so even with snow cover. They simply create their own heat! Not sure how many pollinators are out and about in February (actually, anytime the mercury hovers over about 40°F I often notice wee flying things), but obviously enough to keep the peculiar plant species alive.

Just across the street from the flowers-only above, the cabbage was already leafing up. Only reason I can figure is that the first side is easterly and gets more shade, and the leafing-up plants on the west side of the street get more sun--therefore the microclimate might be just that little bit warmer...

Must remember to stop for a "field-full of cabbage" photo... Later. Assuming Spring ever arrives. (I'm ignoring the near-60°F temps as I upload these photos and finally post this.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fabulous fibers...

Like sheep, alpacas are sheared once a year to obtain the fleece, which is then spun into yarn. But the yarn that results from the little camel cousins is worlds better than wool... Visually as lovely as most yarns are to anyone who knits, weaves or crochets but to touch it is to fall in love with it.

(Alpaca felt wrapped soaps.)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

More warm fuzzies...

Just a sampling of the herd. All different sizes, shapes and colors. (And personalities.)

(Is she a cutie or what?)

(The white one is standing on his back legs to peer over the fence.
There's an open gate just off to the left but it seems this way was is more fun.)

Leonardo! (They all have names but I only remember his.)

(The herd in the front of the farm are apparently not
visited as frequently as those behind the shop.
I was met with great suspicion when I went to take their photos...)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Warm Fuzzies.

I happen to know the owner of an alpaca farm located right around the corner from a reported skunk cabbage spot I went to check out last weekend, so I added the little llamas/mini-camels to my errands for the day. Alas, I remembered my shopping list but not the extra bag of carrots I happened to have and figured would make suitable rewards for beasties one hopes to cajole into being good models. Luckily the owner was well-supplied with crunchy munchies. Too bad the beasties weren't happy unless I was stuffing carrots into their mouths. Fair dues, most animals don't like to be petted by strangers and really don't like a great big eye being pointed at them, and herbivores tend to be jumpier than most. But other than twitching just as I got the camera aimed and focused, we managed.

And yes, they spit.

(Teeth of a grazer: serious teeth on the bottom, none to speak of on top. And just like some pet bunnies, one might even need a little Dremel-ing to help with an underbite every now and then.)

Interesting animals. Lots of body language and surprisingly verbal, as well. They look a bit like a cross between a camel and a sheep. And those eyes! Must be a grazer thing, those big brown orbs: Horses, cattle, deer, alpacas all have them…

Cloven hooves for nimble dancing. (Of course she stopped when I turned on the video!) And those long necks are great for wrestling.

Went back the next day because I realized I hadn't taken photos of the end product! While lovely in the natural colors and able to be dyed just about any shade, the real beauty of alpaca fiber is the feel--like silk...