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.

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.

Let’s Talk Turkey

“What did you do this weekend?”

“Oh, my friend and I toyed with the fragile emotions of a wild turkey. You?”

Adventure Buddy and I tried a new park this weekend. It basically does a 2 mile loop over meadow lands and a ridge. We were on the wooded ridge when Adventure Buddy gasped, “TURKEYS!”

I was in mid rant about something, so I thought it was someone yelling. That’s how loud it was. We stood and waited. He called again, and again. Tromping through what was probably poison ivy, we went over a little mound and spotted him in the trees just below us.

He was standing on a log, all alone; we assumed he was looking for love. So, of course, we catfished him.

From previous adventures, Adventure Buddy has a turkey call app. She found some hen clucks and sent him a few, “Hey sexy boyfriend” calls.

You can hear her giggling in the background.

He was very responsive and started to walk a little closer while puffing up a bit.

We did not get a full display until she played what we think is a fighting purr. We left this poor turkey not knowing if someone was going to fuck him or fight him. Sorry, Tom.

We could still hear him calling as we made it down the ridge.

Turkey hunters, please don’t yell at me if we got the calls and the body language wrong. I don’t hunt and really only eat these guys once a year!

A Moment in Narnia

Walking in the woods when it’s snowing always makes me think of the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The woods are especially quiet and it brings to mind the initial emergence into Narnia as snow falls onto pines surrounding a very out of place lamppost.

The winter hikes are not always quiet, hundreds of people participate. However on this one, we got moments of magical quiet.

Quiet perfect for getting distracted by shiny decorated bird nests. (Ignoring the fact that the bird is decorating with sucky people’s trash. It ruins the magic.)

“Winter” Hikes

We’re well into the winter hike series. However we still seem to be waiting for winter to make an appearance.

It has rained, moisted, and mudded.

This day there was ice, but only on the plants.

At least this year, I didn’t stress cry after sliding in my car to this hike. We actually got to try the soup: white bean soup topped with onions and cornbread. It was a very Gpa lunch.

If Ralph says, “Earth laughs in flowers.” It must send mixed messages in drizzle and low 40s. I haven’t even worn my hiking snuggie.

Art Where Weird is Normal: Asheville

This is another double dip from my Instagram takeover.

If you’ve never been to Asheville, North Carolina, go now! Given things may have changed, but at least in 2007 the motto I kept coming across on t-shirts was “Asheville, where weird is normal.” Hello, Mothership!

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Just trying to follow the motto. 2007

Asheville was a stop on a tour that started at Graceland to visit Elvis (I need a vintage velvet Elvis),

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Leopard print and gold lame seemed like a Graceland requirement.

headed for the Smoky Mountains and ended at the beach. Back before my BFF and eternal Adventure Buddy had kids, we did a lot of extended road trips.

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Downtown Asheville features a two story Woolworth converted into a collective of local artists. I picked up prints by Sarah Faulkner, and photographs on barn wood by Rebecca Tolk  at Woolworth Walk. However my bank breaking , original piece that I picked up was at the Southern Highland Craft Guild on the outskirts of town. I splurged on Greg Magruder’s stained glass piece, feeling a little broke after buying it.

IMG_E7017It’s okay to buy big every once in a while. I feel like so much of my collecting reflects where I was financially in life. I have a lot of “it was affordable” pieces; they are small but mighty and still bring joy.

  • Artist: Greg Magruder
  • Title/year: untitled (Because I can’t remember it!) 2007
  • Materials/size: stained glass and metal,  9 -1/2 x 18

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I believe the title – if I could unearth it- had something to do with sunrise, but when I look at this window,  I see a reflective orange moon rising through the trees. Those tree silhouettes remind me that I’d rather be hiking and breathing in the smell of pine. The blue glass makes an amazing dark stripe across the room in the early afternoons which, of course, my super model felines position themselves in.

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