Outdoor living

Gather Ye Garlic Scapes, While Ye May.

Garlic growers, check your garlic to see if you have scapes yet!  Ours were ready to gather and we got quite the haul.

  If this is your first year growing garlic (and as such, collecting garlic scapes), you can find some recipes here:
  Snip those scapes, saute them up and thank me later.



Wild Women of Washtenaw, Take 3

Ok, you know I’ve been busy when it takes me two weeks to get my pictures from WWOW up!  As always, the wild women’s weekend was the same weekend as Mother’s Day, and as always, I had a blast.

The weather was ridiculously better this year than last year.  Where last year it was utterly freezing overnight, this year we went traipsing around in the woods, in the dark, in 50 degrees.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

This year was slightly different than the previous two in that since so many new folk signed up, they added on a fourth session (instead of the usual 3) to accommodate everybody.

I always take my photography class…I learn something every year, and archery is just a given.  This year I decided to take “instinctive” archery.  I could have gone for the intermediate, since I now have my own bow, but my bow doesn’t have a sight….or, uhm, anything but the bow and string….so I figured instinctive was more what I was doing anyhow, and I might as well get some tips and tricks for that.  Also, since I already knew I was going to be hauling my camera and gear along, I didn’t really want to bring my bow too.  Cuz I’m lazy like that.

My other two classes were survival and Smartphone GPS…which was my 4th class, that I didn’t know I’d be getting until a couple weeks before the event.

We also shot pellet guns Friday night after dinner…more my speed when it comes to guns than the shotguns I tried last year…quiet enough you can shoot them inside and not have a ringing headache by the time you’re done!

My husband asked if I was threatening him when I sent him this picture
  In my photography class, we tend to hit several of the same landmarks every year, so now that I’m photographing some of these things for the third time, it’s getting more and more challenging to find ways to make them interesting.  For example, there are always bright orange cones marking the edge of the parking lot.  The first couple years we used them as an example of line and depth of field.  I have both of those concepts pretty well under my belt (at least I think so), so I decided to try and do something that made them…a little less like traffic cones.
  First, I shot the cone from almost directly above it.  Not terrible, but still pretty obviously a traffic cone.  Then, with my instructor’s help (she held it for me while I took the picture), I shot through the hole in the cone, towards the trees.
  I sort of love the result.
  As I know I’ve mentioned, ahem, once or twice, this winter was really hard here in Michigan.  There was a lot of damage done to trees, and it made for really incredible texture shots, just waiting to be taken.
This tree’s trunk had entirely splintered, and the colors inside were astounding.  It ranged from pale, almost butter yellow, through red and almost to purple.  I had to take this shot!
  We actually wound up wandering off of the sportman’s club’s property by the time we finished the class… There were some really cool, twisty trees just outside the gate, and once we were outside, we just kept finding things that drew us further and further down the road.
  Good photography seems to require a mild disregard for trespass laws.
  This shot is actually of a powerline tower, but the lines and angles in it make me just about giddy.  I want to turn this one into a fabric, bad.
  I have many, many more pictures I could share, but I’ll call this good for the moment.
  If after 3 years, I’ve finally convinced you that WWOW is something you want to try, the link for the event is here.  I’d love to see you next May…you know I’ll be there!

Frozen- At Least It’s Pretty

  The “polar vortex” is bearing down on us here in Michigan yet again, and I got it into my head that I ought to go out and document the winter/snow while it was here.

  That was a terrible idea.

  Because we’ve had so much snow, and the weather has see-sawed back and forth between above-freezing and bitterly cold, our yard is full of knee deep snow with a layer of ice on top.  Snow pants do nothing for you when your foot breaking through the snow has to first go through a rock hard layer of ice that shoves your pant cuff up to your knee, exposing ankle and shin to the powder below.  I had planned to go exploring in the woods for shots, but only made it to the back of our yard before my legs got too cold and scraped up.  As a result, not a whole heck of a lot of pictures, but a few none the less.

  I expect that I’ll appreciate these more come August or so.

  The little herd of 6-8 deer that we occasionally saw this past summer have become regulars in our yard the last month or so.  I feel terribly for them, watching them migrate through my and my neighbors’ yards trying to stay in the pockets of sunlight without getting too close to the road or houses that have shown any signs of having anybody home.  Luckily, they all look pretty fat and healthy, if cold!

  I may attempt another shoot before the winter is over, but not until I dig out some snowshoes!

Nature’s Fireworks- Autumn in "Pure Michigan"

  So these pictures are a little late to be posted…I took them back at the start of the month right after dropping the boys off at my parents’ house for the weekend that K and I spent yoga and aerial-ing like we had something to prove.

  After all the storms we’ve had recently, the leaves are off of the trees now, but I thought I’d share the pictures for those of you who live further south and don’t get the fabulous color show we here in Michigan do every year.

  All this beauty, and all of it within 10 minutes of my house.  Can’t beat that.

Lazy Summer Days (Pt 2)

  Every August my mom’s side of the family has a get together at my grandparents’ cottage.  There’s always lots of food, family and good times.  I’ve been making the trek up North for as long as I can remember, and the cottage has come to feel like a second home.  Now my boys are starting to build memories there too.
  We were just there this weekend and I’m already looking forward to going back.

Destructo-rama- Making our Yard a Little Safer

  I’ve mentioned it before, but our house is really old.  It was originally part of a huge farm and so there are quite a few outbuildings that sit on our property.  Most of them are in decent enough shape to be usable, but one of them was not.

  While I loved that old building for photos (and especially as a backdrop), G was getting far too curious about it, and the cracks and holes in it just grew bigger every winter.
  I had nightmares of it falling on someone, and it wasn’t really doing anything useful on our property anyhow, so it had to come down.
  My Mr. rented a dumpster and when it showed up early Friday morning, got to work.
  He started by prying the doors off and pulling out the windows.  There was metal sheeting over the roof, so that came off next.
  Next came the tar paper and the wooden roof.  Because there was a lot of material that was going to be coming out of the building and into the dumpster he burned as much of the wood as he could to save space.  I suggested we could keep it for our fireplace, but apparently it was the wrong type of wood and would gunk up our chimney and burn down the house, and do I want to burn down the house?!?!  

  By the end of the first day, most of the roof was gone and I teased him he wasn’t going to leave anything for his buddies (who were coming over the next day) to help with.
  Our dear friends from Pittsburgh arrived that night and bright and early the guys were out back pulling down the rest of the roof. 
  G really wanted to get out and help the guys, so rather than locking him inside the house to keep him safe, we took him (and R) to the local nature center where he could run around in the fresh air without the risk of getting a chunk of flying debris to the face.
  By the time we got back there wasn’t much left of the building.
  The guys broke for lunch, I put G & R down for their naps and the destruction continued.
  The three of them hulked over the final corner of the building and by 4pm everything was gone.  The beat up old concrete pad it was resting on is still back there, but there’s no concern that will fall on anybody, so we can take our time breaking it up.
  The guys collapsed on the lawn, we all enjoyed the remains of the fire and we played around with my bow and arrow set til G woke up.
  One big destruction finished, so now we can do more creative projects back there!

Wild Women’s Weekend and Photography Tips

  Mothers Day was this past Sunday, and, just like last year, I spent Friday and Saturday of the weekend whooping it up in the woods with a bunch of other women.

  Despite taking a more advanced photography class this time, I didn’t wind up with quite as many pretty pictures.  This class was more about the nuts and bolts of getting the shot you want than just running around going “ooh!  Flowers!!”.
  The absolute biggest thing I learned is the most embarrassing to admit.  I’ve had my DSLR since last August and until this past weekend I didn’t realize there were two different portions of it I could turn to focus.  The portion that really changes how far you zoom in and out is pretty easy to find…it’s the main part of the barrel of the lens, and on mine has indented stripes.  What I didn’t realize was that I could also adjust the smaller, front portion of the lens to fine tune the focus.  I have been struggling to figure out how to use my manual setting and actually get it to focus where I wanted for months because of this.
  Aren’t I adorable?
  Once I got past that hurdle, I was able to start working on depth of field.  Basically, choosing where in my photo to focus and what to allow to fall out of focus.
  The other concept we worked on was using sight lines to move your eye through the picture…finding naturally occurring lines and patterns and integrating them into photos in interesting ways.
  For most of these pictures I was experimenting with my telephoto lens, and so there’s some warping that I’m not terribly happy with, but now I at least have a few more techniques to experiment with!
  The weather wasn’t nearly as nice to us this year as it was last year.  It was overcast and cold most of the day and those of us who braved the night in tents went to sleep wearing every piece of clothing we had with us.
  I woke up bright and early and started my day with a class in shotgun trap shooting.
  I am not good at it.
  It was fun enough, but I’ve come to the conclusion that guns aren’t my thing.  I’ll fire a couple rounds, but I get bored quickly.  It’s noisy and I can’t help but thinking of how expensive the ammo is every time I (inevitably) miss my target.  I’m much more of an archery kind of girl.
   Good thing since that was my next class!  I enjoyed it so much last year that I took the beginning class again.  You need to have your own bow to move on to the more advanced classes and I didn’t have one, so it was the starter class for me.  I liked it enough again though that the boys got me my own bow and arrow set for Mother’s Day the next evening.  The bow we got adjusts so that any size person can use it, so once we get a couple bales of straw to set up a target I look forward to having some good natured archery competitions with my Mr., and, eventually when G & R are older, with the boys!
  My photography class was last, and by the time it was done I was missing my menfolk and ready to head home.  I learned a lot, had a lot of fun and can’t wait to go back again next year!

Back to the Great Outdoors

  No craft post this week.  The weather has finally warmed up around here so I’ve been enjoying getting outside with the boys, cleaning up our patio furniture, picking up fallen branches and sweeping off the porches.  Instead of leaving you entirely post-less I thought I’d share some of the pictures I’ve taken while we’ve been running around the yard.

For whatever reason, our yard is kind of lumpy.  While he’s never been bothered by it before, G has been all over me to “fill in these holes” this spring.  I think he’s annoyed they work like speedbumps.
  Good eyes if you recognized the bucket hat I made him back in March.
  All over the yard winter browns and greys are giving way to bright, bright green.
  This is one place I’d hoped to not see green.  Our mint had gotten entirely out of control and developed a funky taste to it, so I tried to rip it out last year.  Experienced gardeners, I can hear you laughing from here.  This stuff will not die.
  I’m not unhappy about most of our herbs coming back though.  As you can see, we’ve already started using our chives!
  Most of the flowers are still just starting to push up through the ground, but not all of them.
  God bless your delusional little heart if you think anything short of nuclear war is gonna stop the dandelions from taking over the yard at the first sign of warm weather.
  Aren’t these little darlings gorgeous?  Too bad they’re growing through a crack in our driveway!
  This tree completely exploded on me.  It was nothing but buds one morning and was a riot of white flowers by that night.  5 days later it’s down to this comparatively sparse spattering of pink flowers and an ocean of petals underneath it.
  I don’t know what it is, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out I’m allergic to it.  My allergies have gone bonkers in the last few days…about the same time frame it has been flowering like crazy.
  …this one though…he’s not impressed.  Flower all you want plants, he’s going back to sleep.

Don’t Cage Me In

  I love fall.  The trees turn such beautiful colors and after a hot, hot summer, I’m really enjoying the crisp, sunny days that G and I are spending exploring outside.  We can ride our bike, we can go to the park, we can garden…all without breaking into a sweat in the first 5 minutes!  And even better, no mosquitoes!  

  Because the bugs are gone for the season (at least the blood sucking bugs), the project I’m about share with you actually got taken down this weekend.  The curtains are put away and the chairs and table are stored in the barn.  We’ll just have to wait til spring for our front porch to become a favorite “room” again.
It’s not quite cold enough to justify putting away the swing though…
  This spring, G and I spent just about every morning on our front porch.  Him watching the trucks drive by and me sipping my tea and enjoying the fresh air.  Problem was, as spring turned into summer, the bugs started finding their way to the front porch and sipping on us.
  Several years ago (before we bought the house) the front porch had been screened in.  You can still see bits of cement where things had been attached in places.  While I wanted the functionality of a screened porch, I definitely think that whoever the owners who took the screens back OFF were, they had the right idea.  Luckily I had seen this idea in a magazine and stuck it in my landscaping inspiration folder.
Cheap labor keeps project prices down
  I figured (correctly) that we could do it much more inexpensively than the systems I was finding, and so off to Ikea I went.  I got a bunch of these hangers, these tracks and these curtains and we were ready to go.  The woman I talked to while I was there told me I couldn’t use the curtains with these sliders that go on the track, because they weren’t adapted for them, but I knew better.
  The Mr. spent an afternoon getting the bulk of the tracks hung and I spent a good chunk of time marking the curtains to make sure we had evenly spaced gliders (because the curtains are mesh, the hooks on the gliders can be pushed right through the fabric, so you don’t need the loops the system usually uses).  We decided that having the track turn the corner would be a lot cleaner look, and it would be a lot easier having the curtains on one continuous track anyhow, so I ran back to the store and grabbed two of these corner pieces.  
  A little more work hanging, marking and attaching and we had a screen porch whenever the bugs were out, but the option for the open air porch when they weren’t.
  The mesh curtains are VERY light weight and I found that without any modification, the wind blew them all over the place.  So, over the course of the summer, I stitched the panels together in pairs in the areas where we gathered them when they were pulled back (in the corners and at the center post of the porch) and attached ties so that when they were in use, we could tie them together.  I’d still like to attach weights to the bottoms to help combat the wind even more, but, that will have to wait until next year!
  As always, let me know if you have any questions about how I did this.