The Empress

UPDATED 7/21/21: I saw a post from Katherine last night (7/20/21) as I was going to bed. After 76 days of ruling the farm and the farmer, The Empress unexpectedly passed away. We were lucky to have snuggled her on Day 11.

Only 11 days old with a name bigger than she is: The Empress Isabel Paloma Consuelo Dioge.

This was back in mid May when an Adventure Buddy who wanted to try goat yoga came along. The Empress was not yet big enough for yoga because at the time she was not even the size of a newborn goat. We got to snuggle her and hear her story after the yoga session. As Katherine Harrison the farmer and owner told it, she found the premature baby goat in the straw left for dead. Katherine also thought the baby was dead until she moved her head slightly. The Empress became a “kitchen goat” with round the clock care and bottle service as well as a Pyrenees caretaker. The Empress has continued to grow and is learning “how to goat.” The farm’s Instagram is @harrisonfarm13 ; it is worth the follow simply for goat antics.

Goat Selfie

Per usual there were plenty of regular sized baby goats and adults to assist with yoga poses. I came back from the bathroom to find a goat on my mat as a greeting. I get a pretty minimal amount of yoga done during these sessions. I try, but I’m there for the silliness, the interactions, and to hear which rooster will reliably interrupt the instructor.

This baby was yet to be named on our visit, but I believe has been dubbed Ferris Bueller.

Adventure Buddy said that she would go again so that’s a win for me.

Being an unruly baby goat is exhausting!

Yoga and…. strawberries!

I haven’t had a new “yoga and” combination in a while so I jumped at the opportunity to do yoga and pick strawberries one afternoon.

When she’s not torturing me with hot yoga,– it’s all good, I love it— my regular yoga instructor also organizes outdoor classes at different spot in the city. When she announced to our class that she had a yoga and strawberry picking event scheduled at Mitchell’s Berries, nostalgia took over.

Until roughly when I was in the 4th grade, we lived beside a strawberry field. “Beside” meaning about 10 feet across the gravel driveway. I remember the road at the end of our yard being lined with cars on summer mornings by people who came to pick their own quarts. Our proximity meant also picking berries regularly with MomBert’s warning that we had to pay for them. At one point the farmer had two big work horses– to my mind they were as huge as Clydesdales— to plow with and had the Amish come in to train them. This approach did not last long, but I remember the overhead wires shaking because the horses liked to use the utility poles as back scratchers.

I’ve not really had the opportunity or inclination to go berry picking since then unless you count throwing elbows at the grocery store for those really good berry sales. Maybe berry picking isn’t a cute look for me. I went through my photo album and only found this picture of my smelly sister and our dog circa 1981-82-ish. I texted MomBert, but she only came up with a picture of the horses!

This was a day with a lot of direct sunlight for me, and 4 p.m. exposure in Ohio is no joke; so I stuck with my gardening wear and maintained my cowboy hat for at least part of the practice. After yoga, the owners talked to us about the history of the farm and all the things that they grow.

These berries were gorgeous and sweet. Sampling while picking was encouraged. As a finishing treat, the owners served us a brownie with strawberry sauce on top to which she had added jalapenos! It had just a little warmth and I thought I was just making it up until someone else asked about the flavor. Recommend! I also left with a purchased bundle of really plump asparagus. They have certainly found ways to keep their business and farm functioning.

Sounds Like Spring

It’s no Red Winged Blackbird, but the call still says spring.

Last weekend was the first day of Spring and it’s sexy time for any number of creatures. In fact, it’s all they’re talking about. With that in mind, Adventure Buddy and I took advantage of a park program promising amorous salamanders in the vernal pools. The description said boots were suggested, but we did not realize that it was to the degree of our naturalist’s hip waders.

The naturalist started by checking her overnight traps. No salamanders, but we saw fairy shrimp, water bugs, and what turned out to be two frogs busy making more frogs.

They are Western Chorus Frogs which are different from Spring Peepers. Their song dominated all other noises. It sounded as if we should see them everywhere.

The second vernal pool was filled with cattails on the edge of a prairie area. I actually saw a large frog there, but my tiny net and poor skills were no match for it.

This area was possibly even more vociferous.

To borrow from e.e. cummings, spring is when the world is “mud-luscious” and “puddle wonderful.” I just need taller boots.

Artist Shout Outs!: Hummingbird Moths

My one big flirt with COVID disaster – aside from going into a building and being exposed to 1500 teenagers on the daily– was a new tattoo. Not the most socially distant scenario, but I love it! MomBert hates it, which was a given. I blame Adventure Buddy, but she’s not having it.

Adventure Buddy’s precocious daughter decided that she and Adventure Buddy both needed tattoos for their birthdays of soon to be 18 and 50 respectively. Somehow I was invited to the party. However when the dust settled, the kid and I had new tattoos and Adventure Buddy had remodeled her kitchen. AB has zero tattoo intentions.

I decided that the space between my two bird and flower based tattoos needed filled in a bit with some lovely pollinators. Lacey Rawson at Evolved took on the task after a discussion of the word “proboscis“– I totally said it wrong— and what a hummingbird moth is. Lacey is also the artist responsible for my chickadee and flowers.

Taking bicep selfies is oddly difficult.

I am much enamored of the bee crawling up my shoulder, and Lacey seemed particularly excited about her bee creations. However the colors of the hummingbird moth are my favorite and I got to help choose them!

My wonderful little hummingbird moth and its proboscis became the inspiration for another piece of art. The OG Adventure Buddy sent pictures of my tattoo to Dragonfly Stained Glass Design, told the artist that I wasn’t afraid of color and let her get to work on my birthday present! (If you go to her website, she does lots of commission work!)

It’s meant to go in the garden--I do love some yard art–, but it’s so lovely that I want to wear it! It even has a proboscis!

Bird Nerd: Big Game!

Much as I would love to get rid of Facebook most days, I can’t abandon the bird photography group where I’m a lurking member. I lurk because I have little to contribute aside from “loves” and questions. These people have giant cameras and a penchant for being in the woods at the crack of dawn. Their pictures are detailed, up close, and dramatic. I love them. I also love that this group gives me guidance on spots to visit.

Thanks to the group’s posts, I got to witness two major- major to me- birds in December: Sandhill cranes and a Snowy Owl. When I woke up to a post naming a specific pond in a specific metro park as a gathering point for a large group of Sandhill Cranes, I got Adventure Buddy on the road and headed out.

We had a short hike out to the site, but we got to observe the eagles’ nest on the way. The male was hanging out in a dead tree and the female was poised on the nest. A birder with a bigger camera said that they had just added another branch to the nest.

Of course, common songbirds are just as exciting and capable of dramatic poses, and far away swans are lovely too.

When we cleared the woods at the edge of the pond, it took a moment to spot the cranes. The largest portion were blending into the water’s edge and more were wandering through the grasses. We counted over twenty. At one point, a crane sounded the alarm or yelled, “everybody into the pool!” and the group in the grasses formed a conga line back to the pond.

Walking back to the car, we heard a crane call from another part of the park. Two rebels had broken off from the larger group and were conveniently hanging out by the duck blinds, but calling back to the large group.

Sound up!

I’d love to make it to one of the spots where hundreds of Sandhill Cranes land together during migrations.

However I have mixed feelings about the Snowy Owl.

Much of what I know about Snowy Owls comes from a series of posts by Julie Zickefoose an artist and naturalist from my home town area. Julie covered the story of a Snowy Owl that landed in a busy urban area, was injured, starving, and eventually captured for rehabilitation. Her photographs and first hand knowledge make a trip to her site worthwhile.

Snowy Owls show up in Ohio because they are juveniles who have been pushed out of their territory, oddly enough, due to an overabundance of food when they were hatched. They show up here, people swarm to experience the magic, and the owl potentially starves or encounters things like cars and electrical wires that are not a part of their habitat.

(My pictures are as zoomed in as possible with my camera and then extremely cropped during editing. With the naked eye, we basically were looking at a white blob against the rocks while visiting to maintain distance.)

The group posted and the local paper wrote articles about the owl’s location. Selfishly, I could not resist the opportunity to see it: Harry Potter’s Hedwig. While we were there, photographers came and went, staying back. Others had reported seeing the owl hunt in a nearby field. Of all the possible spots, it ended up at a large lake and wooded park so maybe there is hope for it.

Fluffy, feathery hope after cleaning its talons.

Little Adventures: A Lino-Cut Christmas and a Happy New Year

Back in July…remember July? During a brief moment when businesses attempted a nod at normalcy, I dragged Adventure Buddy to a workshop at 400 West to learn how to lino-cut and make prints with Angela of Midwest Mermaid. Her artwork is amazing and her mermaid logo would make a sweet little tattoo.

The workshop was small and set up for social distancing with tables as pods of the people attending together. Angela provided everyone with tools, a practice block, a choice of two of her preprinted designs, and much tutelage.

I was a bit jealous of the skill level a table over. They were able to carve really smooth outlines whereas my bee looks a little frazzled around the edges. Overall the process of carving the blocks was extremely soothing, and making the prints had an instant gratification quality. Adventure Buddy immediately bought supplies to enjoy the meditative carving. She digs a pile of shavings.

I knew I wanted to play with this more, but held off on purchasing supplies until I had an idea which, of course, had to marinate procrastination style. Instead of tormenting the cats– sadly, I don’t think they’ve donned costumes in ages– I decided to create my Christmas cards with lino-cutting. Once I got going though, it was the work of an evening or two.

Attempt 1: Miles & Sookie. I don’t have a functioning printer to print designs so I had to draw on the blocks. There is a way to print your design and iron transfer it onto the blocks. I enjoyed the problem solving challenge here of considering how the negative space would work and where would the design best be served to have the ink printed. I also figured out that after making an initial print, I could use that as a guide to clean up spots in the carving. For example, Sookie’s nose needed to not be a blob, but unfortunately I appear to have TNR ear tipped Miles.

Attempt 2: Christmas tree with all four cats. Look closely for Birdie’s calico butt. After the ink dried, I went in with Sharpies and colored in some spots like the bulbs and berries in all the designs. Survey says it is time for bifocals. The glasses are in the pile of shavings because I had to take them off to see the little lines.

Attempt 3: Olivia Wigglebothum and holly. My cleanest one. Fortunately I had a photo to work from with this one.

…and then I had an army of cards! A day later, I discovered that Blick Arts had a whole section of supplies and added a magenta ink to my collection. It worked well with metallic Sharpie accents.

As always, Sookie is my toughest critic. I probably should not have shown her the print that smeared and needed lots of Sharpie scribbles. She says it looks nothing like her. I told her it’s just symbolic of her in 2020.

Happy Holidays to all and a Happy New Year!

Stressful Fun: Little adventures

Sometimes my Adventure Buddies overestimate my abilities and level of adventurousness. I feel like my adventures are often food or festival based with some sightseeing and light exercise thrown in. There are definitely adventure ideas that make me wary.

Like kayaking.

My paranoid kayaking concerns in no particular order of paranoia:

  • Fitting into the kayak
  • Getting wet.
  • Getting wet in murky pond, lake, and/or river water
  • Rolling over into the above mentioned murky water and being trapped …
  • ….because my fat butt and legs are now firmly encased in a weird, unnatural L configuration called a kayak
  • Being at water level with things that live in the above mentioned murky water.
  • Example 1: snakes
  • Example 2: additional snake friends of the snake from example 1
  • Example 3: Giant water spiders. I am certain that these are a possibility.

As demonstrated by my list of concerns, it was with great hesitation and reluctance that I agreed to go to a short kayaking class with my Adventure Buddy who is very fit, already knows how to kayak, and does nutty things like eating vegetables, or going to two work outs in one day.

Later that day as I was working with students in the library, Adventure Buddy made a slow approach with an outstretched hand presumably so I could sniff it to know she was friendly.

I know I’m in trouble when people have news that they think I won’t like, and approach me like I’m a feral cat. Apparently my response looks something like this:

Adventure Buddy in low soothing voice: “So you know how you like nature?”

Me, fur starting to stand up: “Yesssssssssss?

Adventure Buddy in low soothing voice : “So you know how you like birdwatching?”

Me, claws extending slightly: “Yesssssssssss?”

Adventure Buddy in low soothing voice: “So wouldn’t it be really calming to float down a river with all the birds and nature to see?”

Me, low back of the throat whiny growl: “Nooooooooo.”

Adventure Buddy making calming gestures: “So the class was booked, so I signed us up for the 90 minute river kayaking.”

Me, whiny growl spiraling up to potential shriek: “But I agreed to a 45 minute ‘you’ve never been in a kayak before’ class on a POND!”

All of my students have now locked in on this interaction as they would with any good cat video. One pipes up with, “It will be fine. I went kayaking; it was great!” She weighs 10 pounds and probably never wondered whether or not her body would actually fit in to a kayak.

Me, hissing: “What. If. It. Tips. Over?”

Adventure Buddy patting her pockets for treats she can offer me: “These are ocean kayaks so they are wider and less likely to tip.”

Me, low growl: “So my butt will fit?”

Helpful Student: “Your butt will be fine. My dad fit in a kayak!” I have no idea what her dad’s body type is. Absolutely no reference point.

Adventure Buddy backing away slowly, making eye contact with slow blinks : “It will be fine. I’ll see you at the boat ramp.”

Me, yowling at students: “Well, if I’m not in class tomorrow, you know where to start looking for my body.”

So I met her at the boat ramp because it was an opportunity to try something new. Even if I was scared, the truth was it probably was not going to do me bodily harm. I also knew that Adventure Buddy would take care of me because she’s the type of person who is a helper and worries about other people.

And there really were a lot of birds.

I took this afterwards from the bank with my phone which is why they seem so tiny and far. I could not bring myself to try kayaking with my good camera or my phone. It hurt to not take pictures. There were Great Blue Herons that took off over us, cormorants, and egrets galore.

The awkwardness of getting in and out of the kayak was the most difficult part. The first 10 minutes or so of trying to find my balance and learn how to navigate were the tippiest and the scariest. I basically stopped everything and held my breath when the kayak skimmed over underwater detritus in a very shallow part just as Adventure Buddy was warning me about getting snagged on the bottom.

My most irrational moment came when we got away from the boat ramp area and out on to the river. I saw what I KNEW were the bumpy nodules of a log sticking up slightly above the water. However my Brain, which might be more likely to kill me than a kayak, screamed: “That is a crocodile and it is coming for us!” There was an actual adrenaline surge that accompanied that stupid thought. I don’t need to make this shit up. Brain then cycled into some intense visualizations of just how deep the river was. In reality, not very deep. To Brain, it was a Mariana Trench situation. I shut that down pretty quickly and focused on paddling.

I veer right even though, based on the 5 seconds of instructions at the ramp, I should be veering left. Much of my time was spent navigating in the correct directions, and trying to get to the point where I could just float along. I saw the people around me including our park ranger guide, quietly sitting back and gliding effortlessly in a straight trajectory. I experimented with leaning back in the seat like my friends, but did not feel like I could paddle from that angle. So I got 90 minutes of arm work while sitting ramrod straight and overcorrecting my every move. That was the stressful part.

The fun part was the perspective. We went from the boat ramp all the way to our downtown area. I’ve never seen the skyline from the middle of the river or passed under any of the bridges. To be able to observe the river wildlife- we watched a GBH fly over and land nearby in a tree- and banks from that angle was fascinating. Although I did learn that I can’t look directly up and maintain kayak balance at the same time when some ducks flew low overhead.

Even though we had a major highway on one side and passed under busy bridges, it was quiet and pleasant on the water. I hesitantly, begrudgingly agreed that, yes, I would probably do it again.

The park ranger was brave enough to bring her phone and document my first outing.

Artober

One Adventure Buddy encouraged me to participate in Artober with her which is a list of daily prompts that people respond to with a sketch, painting whatever… Google “Artober” or “inktober” to play. We’re using the this list.

She is far more skilled at artistic endeavors than I. Her work clearly looks like something purposeful and has some perspective and depth to it. She also has a solid grasp of how to work with different mediums. My work kind of looks like something and is pretty flat. However I have fun doing it and that’s kind of the point.

Doodling is a soothing way to end my day. My brain has tapped out by 7:30 or 8 on a week night, but still has enough power to attempt the drawing prompt.

While I am definitely critical of myself, my biggest art critic is Miles. He likes to get right up in there and tear down what little ego I have left.

“This drawing is dumb because it is not of me.”

“Cry” is probably my favorite so far. It made me think of the summer I “battled” a groundhog family over who really owned the backyard. I used Chunk the Groundhog on Instagram as my model.

Day 8: Cry

Day to day challenges and the unending news cycle of hate and stupidity lead to some pretty dark thoughts. However sketching with some light TV (I love you, Schitt’s Creek. How does Dan Levy make his face do those expressions!) surrounded on average by three of four cats really helps ease me into bedtime.

Day 9: Dark

Tapas on the Trail

I’m currently losing a virtual hiking challenge to two Adventure Buddies and some teenagers. We signed up on the My Virtual Mission app to walk The Camino de Santiago Virtual Challenge which is 480 mile pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Composteia. (We get medals mailed to us when we finish.)Both Adventure Buddies teach Spanish so this pilgrimage is a part of their curriculum. While my buddies are well on their way to virtually running with the bulls in Pamplona, I’m virtually dead on the side of the road somewhere in the Pyrenes. After looking at the street view of my location on the map, I asked them how many pilgrims get hit by cars every year. The narrow roadside did not inspire walking confidence.

To boost our mileage and earn those metro park passport stamps, one Adventure Buddy and I hit a local park for a few miles. It’s much more satisfying to encounter things in real life and to pee outside than it is to do it virtually.

Adventure Buddy is winning on mileage and also won the day because she pulled out a tapas platter (We are heading into Spain after all.) at the end of our hike, and a miniature bottles of wine. That’s the way to end a hike.