Monday, May 29, 2017

Some Bunny To Love

Todd and I went on a quick jaunt to Indianapolis for a weekend wedding.  The day before the wedding, though, we stayed in Bloomington, Indiana.  Todd lived, worked, and studied in Bloomington for almost a decade.  He moved to Indianapolis after we got married, and we just didn't take the time to visit Bloomington very much after that.  We have missed it greatly, and on this trip Todd kept saying, "I just didn't appreciate Bloomington enough when I lived here."

(Note:  because I hate juggling multiple lenses on short trips, I brought Todd's junky camera.  Junky camera + low late afternoon light = less-than-crisp photos.  You have been warned!)

After driving around town and through the surrounding countryside, we visited Griffy Lake, just minutes from the IU campus.  No motorboats allowed, and lots of wildlife, so it was a favorite place for us to kayak.


It's a wildlife preserve, so lots of birds.

A male red-wing blackbird peeked out of the foliage at shoreline.

Frogs croaked contentedly.

A great blue heron stalked, then caught, a blue gill.

I've always loved the IU campus.  So many beautiful buildings, flowers, walking trails, and green space!

...and, a surprising amount of wildlife!  Besides plenty of birds and squirrels, Todd spotted a chipmunk eating berries.

We saw at least 4 rabbits, including a baby.

I think I'm going to have to add a few rabbits to our eventual farm.  I love them!  Speaking of rabbits, I just ordered 2 rabbit art prints from a textile artist in the UK.  I can't afford her actual embroidered scenes, which cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars, but the prints of her work are very high-quality and detailed.  This is the same rabbit, one with summer and one with winter coat.  The embroidery work is amazing, but I couldn't seem to pick up the detail with my camera after I'd framed them.

They measure 8" x 8" and make me so happy!

After our lengthy car trip, we were happy to discover that all the gardenia bushes are in full bloom. We have tons of them and the air is so fragrant.

Our hydrangeas, too, are showing signs of life.  After years of nothing, I think we may actually get some blossoms!

In other news, I ordered a quilt kit from Craftsy called WALLFLOWER QUILT.  I love the super cheerful fabric, which includes a knitted print (stockinette), and one with sprinkles!

The finished quilt will look like this:

I'm still slowly working away at my Colorado quilt, but I'm not in any hurry.

Have a great week!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Strawberry jams and goslings "hams"

90 degree + heat and humidity notwithstanding, we've been spending a little time down by the water.

Todd has been working on cutting up the tree that fell a few weeks ago.

Thankfully a local resident is cutting up/taking most of it!  Down by the pond, I have to make loud, sliding steps, because the ground is covered by teeny tiny southern toads, no bigger than my thumb nail.

I've seen "the goz" down there several times, too.  Oh, they're getting so big!

Borga hangs out on her chain...

...or staring with adoration at "Daddy" when he takes a break from work.

I saw a single magnolia in bloom here last week...

...but we have lots of gardenias blooming now.  Especially in this heat, the fragrance is intense!

A friend gave me 3 pounds of fresh strawberries recently.  Aren't they gorgeous?

I made sorbet with 1 pound, but decided to make jam with the other 2 pounds.  All the recipes I found, though, called for FOUR CUPS of sugar per 2 pounds (or 4 cups) of strawberries.  Although I understood that sugar affected not only the taste, but the texture as well, I only added 1 1/2 cups.  I threw in some lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and 2 TB unflavored gelatin to help with the structure. Thirty minutes later - perfectly sweet, perfectly "jellied" jam!

I also (re)discovered the wonders of coconut milk ice cream.  Todd doesn't eat dairy, so when I read you could throw chilled coconut milk, raw honey, salt, and vanilla into your ice cream machine and get actual ice cream, I was thrilled.  I pulverized some chocolate chips to throw in at the end and got the most amazing chocolate coconut ice cream ever.

It is just as caloric as dairy ice cream, but much healthier.  And supposedly your body metabolizes the coconut fat in a different way than animal fat, so win-win!

If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can freeze the mixture in ice cube trays and toss the frozen cubes into your blender for a similar effect.  The recipe is here if you want to give it a try.

Have a great week!

Monday, May 15, 2017

(G)Oz Fest

It's been quite a week for our feathered friends.  Finally, birds have found our clear trough feeder!  I love to watch them.  So far we've had house finches, cardinals, sparrows, and titmouses (titmice, apparently, is frowned upon in the avian community).

Not to be outdone, squirrels have finally cracked the code, too.  First, a cautious look from a safe distance.

Then, the eyeball.

Finally, the leap of glory and ultimate reward for daring.

But alas, the stinkeye, given after he'd been rousted from the feeder.

In other "feather" news, I found these cool red-tipped ones outside while working in the yard last week.

Aren't they pretty?  They're secondary feathers from a cedar waxwing.  It's not known exactly what they're for, but apparently they're likely used by males to attract females.  They're the most beautiful birds and I'm so glad to find evidence of them around the yard!

Finally, second-generation "goz" have just entered the picture!

Sadly, the parents have nested at the far end of the pond, so I've only seen them once - with the wrong camera lens on hand.  Still, we hear the geese calling daily and I'm hoping that they'll start making the trip down to our end of the pond soon!

I almost walked past this mating pair of anoles on our porch this week.  So much of their activity takes place in the shadows, so this was an amazing treat.

There's always a bit of tension when it comes to nature photography.  I want to get the close shot, but I don't want to disturb my subject.  I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, but once the female started dragging the male away, I had to back off and forfeit the great close-up.

Later, I found a sole anole in one of my ferns.

I love their tiny scales, beautiful coloring, and strangely intelligent eyes, but I know that when I get close, they get anxious.  I can see their sides expand and shrink like tiny bellows, and I try to get a shot quickly, sometimes sacrificing a really great and crisp shot, so that their stress is minimal.

Another example is our turtles.  There are a seemingly endless number of them, sunning on fallen trees.  I love to photograph them...

...but when I get close (and not really even that close), they do perfectly synchronized dives into the water.

I am constantly refining my technique, but ultimately my goal is to get a great shot, but not at the expense of my subjects' safety or comfort.  Hopefully I'll get better with time!

Our last little bit of wildlife from this week:  Todd called me from the driveway yesterday, muttering something about "hounds from Hades."  I went outside and found this little fellow:

It's just a black rat snake, totally harmless.  This one was about four feet long ("Six! Eight!" Todd insists), and moving slowly into the woods when he was spotted.

I love their skin.

Real beauties, and great to have around.

Looking forward to many more months of wildlife around here, now that we've got hot weather (low 90s all week, ugh) and the sun is officially OUT for months.

Have a great week!