So now we have these growing in the South Window. I know, they will get leggy. However you always plant tomatoes right up to their leaves as they are one of the few plants that will grow roots from the stem if planted deeply and that is a good thing. So they are forgiving. And John just gets desperate to start growing and he was never one for rules and dates anyway. Those little first leaves have such promise in this mornings sunrise.
Yesterday I felt like something crunchy to nibble on so I cruised about and found these Sunflower and Cheese Crackers from Food in Jars. Oh excellent, I thought to myself Low carb, crispy and healthy. Went to the pantry and only a half cup of sunflower seeds. But I did have raw almonds and my ever present flax seeds. Do visit Food in Jars to get the recipe. In the food processor I pulsed flax seeds, almonds, a few caraway seeds and sunflower seeds to make up a cup, then a cup of grated cheese and then water to make a dough. Rolled out and cooked. So here they are in a Tea Cup.
A Girl with a Teacup introduced me to this fantastic dressing which I had made the other day. It is made with chickpeas and oil and garlic and vinegar and other stuff and is very very tasty. We have been eating it with everything. So I took my crackers and dipped them in! YUM! It was a lovely taste of summer. Here is the Summer Dressing in a Jar.
Teacups and Jars. Get it!
Now it is time to look on your calender and see what your last frost date was. Count back six weeks. Some seeds will need to be sown soon. And some other seeds need to be chilled. We will talk about those tomorrow.
It is great morning, 14F here and the sun is rising into a clear sky. No wind. A perfect winter day. All the animals will be out in the cool sun today! Me too.
PS. Here are the Answers to your questions from yesterday:
Sam added a tip to the discussion about improving your photos. Using the principle of thirds applied to light: e.g. One third light or two third dark. Or the barn would be two thirds dark and the sky one third light. And vice versa.
Though of course I mean no disrespect to Grunge the long ago Fashion choice. In fact My fashion choice for a very short period. I thought we needed a wee rest after all the excitement and Our John spent some time yesterday going through his bottle collection and cleaning a few of them with this new idea. We are cleaning out an area of the basement in preparation for the building of a new cellar/storeroom/distillery/fermenting room. It does not have a name yet.
And when one begins a project of this kind it is like lighting the fire, you have to read every piece of old newspaper before screwing it up and loading on the kindling. So when Our John came across his bottle collection, wandering off onto a completely different tangent seemed appropriate. So.
And shake and shake and shake and shake until you can shake no more. Or the bottle is clean. Which ever comes first. Of course you can build a machine to do the shaking but when living sustainably Me Power is the best power. Plus if your hands are busy you cannot possibly carry rubbish bags of important stuff out to the truck destined for the dump. And Voila!
Lovely. Lots of gorgeous clean bottles for more vanilla essence, and viniagrettes, and all kinds of stuff smuggled out to the truck while he was distracted. He had forgotton he was saving this junk anyway! No. I did not throw away the good stuff. But how many pairs of old boots complete with cracks and hardened tar, jars of rusted and broken pots and worn out rugs and bug eaten car magazines and empty boxes from the fan you bought ten years ago which never worked for long anyway, and old swimming pool hoses does a man need? And a raft? What? Of course I have kept the three legged chairs, antique ice skating boots, boxes of dubious tapes with no tape player and the disco ball. Disco ball? And why is there a full sized plastic model of the Millenium Falcon, that takes up an entire ping pong table. Why is this still down here? I thought you had found another home for that? Oh yeah, That!
This dust free, purpose built storage room will be magnificent. As soon as I can clear a space so the builder can get down here.
This morning is wonderfully warm. 48F (8C.) With a little rain. I hear the sheep wandering about outside so they will be a happy, if soggy, flock this morning. They love the rain. Daisy does NOT Like the rain thank you very much!
It will be a good day on the Farmy. Good morning!
So now for something completely different. We will go back to the post I was collating when we were so RUDELY interrupted by men with guns. Yesterday in the morning there was a snow man with a TopKnot sleeping on the roof of the barn!
Hairy McLairy wants you to see his lovely hair do. He is growing a dread. As you can see he is very proud. He thinks he will look grand with dreads.
Daisy is not in the mood for a chat.
Daisy will allow a shot of the curve of her beautiful pregnant belly and that is all. She is feeling antisocial after being driven indoors by mean men with guns shooting along the creek.
There now everything is alright. It is just above freezing this morning and windy. But the sky is clear so far. So this will be the last of the snow for the meantime.
Is this what I think it is? I took this photo tonight. And I swear I have never seen this hole in the glass before! Is this from a gun? A rifle?.
Hmm. It is pheasant shooting season.
TonTon and I had words with hunters coming too close to my house today in their camouflage gear and their fluorescent vests. I ran down to the creek and intercepted them. There were two of them, armed with rifles and two dogs. I say please do not shoot so close to my barn, I have pregnant animals. You are shooting at My birds. Startling my sheep. This is My home. I would be grateful if you would take your guns elsewhere. This is private property.
I am angry. They scare me. I lick my lips and the moisture freezes. I resist the need to wipe my mouth with my fingers.
They are stolid and playing stupid with sly looks. They look bemused. What did she say? A foreigner! Did you get that? Did you know one of Them lived out here? They look at each other and back at me. My heart is beating so loudly I am surprised my chest is not moving in and out with the rhythm. The Big One spits tobacco to the side, missing my boot. I do not move. He shifts his rifle. I leave my sunglasses on but wish I was not wearing my silly hat with the Pom Poms. I am furious and these Pom Poms sway with the whip of my head. But I will not take the Pom Pom hat off either. I will not shift. I forget to breathe. I stand, motioning TonTon: In. He looks back. He would rather stand in front of me. GET IN. I say. He sits. Still in front of me. He will only go that far.
The men look at each other and shrug their shoulders. Their faces are florid and blinky. They look back at me. I am suddenly aware that I am out here in the middle of nowhere, alone, except for a small sheepdog in a fury. These men have guns. Loaded. I wait. My shoulders back, feet in grubby green gumboots solid. I will not swallow. Ton growls. Low. Daisy calls from the barn. I am glad my hands are in my pockets.
Then they nod, grunt, turn and move on, guns on their shoulders, barrels pointing back at me. Their dogs range, barrel chested, hungry. TonTon hates them all with an unusual passion. He quivers at Sit unable to control his bark. Desperate to race after them and have his say. I say Down and he hurls himself furiously at my feet and glares still, visually spitting, growling up at the men as they leave, his head down and sideways. The BigDog is so scared he has hidden. The men with Guns terrify him. I watch them walk.
Get In. I say to TonTon as I turn my back on their barrels. He is reluctant . Get in Behind! I growl louder. I am angry. I bite my thumb at them. I swear quite nastily. Dog leaps to my heel. He is Looking back as he walks forward. Lets put the sheep in. I say.
A wee while ago a very beautiful and generous blogger passed the Leibster Award across to me. Aimee at Soul Dipper is a gentle and kind, compassionate woman who genuinely loves mankind and is a lovely writer. A rare gift. She is indeed one of a kind. And I thank her for her gentle sure words both for me and the others she mentions.
I have chosen a few bloggers to pass the Leibster award to who love the land. They are at the end of this post waiting for you. Some are very new to me and a few not so new. One I have been following since July 4th when I started this blog. That is old!! I will tell them that the nomination is not a chain letter. I only want to highlight them as memorable and worth visiting. I do not want to add to their workload!! So they may pass it on if they choose and when they choose. Life is all about choices. I think that if you have time to pop in they will stretch our wee blogging bubble a bit. A bonny blogging bubble. Hmm.. That is an Alliteration. I love the word Alliteration. Alliteration reminds me of a moment many years ago.
The day I learnt the word alliteration it was summer. School had just resumed after the New Zealand summer holidays and I was 11. In class that day hearing and understanding that word was like a light bulb going on above my head. Suddenly I knew this word, I could say it and spell it and I knew what it meant. I owned it. I could have it and keep it. It made sense to me. I was thrilled to bits at this massive discovery.
It was a big old school. All varnished wood or clean cream and blue paint. It had one long L shaped building, with one wide indoor corridor that ran the length of the building turned the corner and ran down that side as well. It was very wide, about four kids laid head to toe with their shoes on wide. The corridor was light, as the top half of the exterior wall was entirely made up of generous windows stretched right to the ceiling. The highest windows were open to the pine trees laden with summer scent. It had hundreds of brass pegs under the window sill- dark with age, maybe they had been brass once. Their tips shone brassy. These pegs were to hang our schoolbags (mine was brown leather and I hated it as it was a hand-me down of my brothers and I hated him too because I also had to ride his hand-me down bike from the beach to the town school. Secretly I did not mind about the boys bike but appearances had to be maintained even when eleven years old).
Hey out of the bike shed with you and back to this corridor. The pegs also ran the entire length of the corridor. Hung with the motley collection of dark bags. Now, way below the hanging bags and also stretching as far as I could see and further (they still had not realised I needed glasses at this point), was a shiny wooden boxy bench. So a child could sit on this bench under his hook to do up his shoe maybe. Or drop her bag there when she was lazy until she was told to hang it up on the hook – that is what they are there for. The bench had to stay clear. This was a rule.
On the interior side of the corridor facing these huge light windows were the classrooms, they had high windows along the wall too, also open today to catch the breezes delivered from the corridor windows. Spaced evenly down this side were the classroom doors. Each door had a number on it and a classroom stuffed full of children and a teacher behind it. So the corridor with its gorgeous hardwood floor was long, wide, full of sunlight and delicious fresh early summer air, the scent of pines and leather and waxy floor polish.
For some reason on the morning that I learnt this word alliteration, I was walking this corridor alone. Everyone else was still in class. Maybe I was delivering a message or coming back from the loo. I cannot remember. I DO remember that I began to walk smartly, swinging my arms and legs, saying the new word softly to myself. Alliteration. Then I broke into a kind of shuffly dance jog, my roman sandals catching on the floor, tripping down the glowing corridor, letting the word gain volume and speed. Then I began to leap up and down, up and down, on and off this bench as I took off and raced and flew down the corridor, jumping over the puddles of sun, singing alliteration, up onto the bench turn and weee off the bench. A rhythm developed , a dance gallop, a leap. Alliteration I called out with each jump! Then shouting it at the top of my voice. ALLITERATION! The sound rung wonderfully. The acoustics were gorgeous in this big wide light empty sun filled corridor. Alliteration took form and that form was me and we leapt and shouted and flew down the corridor together. Then bang, bang, bang. Doors sprung open and out popped teacher after teacher, growling like awoken bears, cuckoo clock rumbles. What is this commotion. No running in the corridors. Who shouted. Then doors gently shutting. One tall teacher had sent all the others back in with a flick of her imperious finger. She remained in the open doorway of her classroom. She beckoned me with her one long finger.
Caught mid leap, I stumbled across. You are a noisy child. What do you think you are doing? Her words precise. Her diction perfect, her back ramrod straight. Did she strap the rod on every morning. That ram rod. She was the scariest of them all, her hair absolutely white, in a tight white french roll. She was a Miss somebody and taught French to the Clever Kids. Her glasses were on a chain. Her cardigan buttoned and matching. Pearls. Have you anything to say for yourself? She peered down at me. Oh the contrast – me with shirt hanging out, skirt askew, socks fallen, all elbows and knees, curls wild and I do mean wild. I had pale blue eyes and freckles and a nose that was always sunburnt. Panting. You can see it now can’t you. I looked back up at her, grinning like an idiot. Heaving with delight. Not even Miss Whatever Her Name Was could subdue me that day. I had a Word. Well? she said. Have you anything to say for yourself? Silence, she looking down the perfect line of her nose. My head bent backwards a bit further, trying not see up her nose.
Alliteration, I said very quietly. Letting the T sound tickle. She raised her eyebrow at me. She could raise one eyebrow, it was very impressive. She pulled her lips together, and twisted them hard to the side. What is your name? Cecilia, Miss, I said. Another pause as I was accessed. Back to class, Cecilia. No running. Then much to my surprise she turned back in to her room and there was the sigh of an obedient door closing behind her.
I ran as slowly as I could back to class and to my complete delight My teacher was discussing onomatopoeia. She nodded to me to sit at my desk. Wow. I whooshed back to my seat. Onomatopoeia. I wanted that word too! The delight.
These bloggers are great teachers. So many great teachers in the Blog World.
Dawn and 8F (yes -that is –12.7) another 2 hattie, 2 pairs of gloves and 2 pairs of socks morning. No wind though. Clearing skies. Time to get to work.
It is 14F (–10C) this morning. Snow on the ground. Yesterday we were locked inside with a blizzard hurling itself around outside. It was about 18F all day. Snow flew in swirls through the fields past the buildings and straight out across the plains. It seemed very certain of its path that snow. We were in the way and got smacked for the privilege. The Farmy Animals were locked in the barn for the day as well. So I wrapped my old camera in a plastic bag against the nastiness, put all my clothes on at once and went to the barn, taking you guys with me. Did you know that your eyes live in an old camera.
The wind was gusting up to 40 miles an hour (a good Wellington kind of wind), TonTon, the Big Dog and I literally forced our bodies into the wind to the barn. Bent. I have heard of old fellas stretching a rope from their houses to their barns so they can pull themselves hand over hand to see to their stock, this seemed like a good idea to me yesterday. Finally we got to the door, shovelled the snow away from it and stumbled our way into the barn, the wind howled at us, furious that we had made it and we slammed the door in its face. A curious thing happens in the barn when the wind is bombarding snow at the walls. The moment you close the door against the storm, the volume drops and the barn shifts right through time into a stillness that is layered with age somehow. You see, the walls of the barn are full of cracks, shrunken old, old boards, holes, loose planks. The huge space becomes fractured and hesitant. Old. The light itself is borrowed, flickering in Tinkerbell delight from an old movie reel.
Filtered, finely sifted, talcum snow drifts into the barn through the minutest of cracks. It is caught in the light like dustmotes. But not dusty. It gently falls through the tips of light like a sunshower of the finest shards of crystal champagne glasses. There is no sound though there should be a tinkle. Just this glisten in the air. These tiniest of rejected diamonds. Like migraines flashing lights in your eyes but sweeter. The Storm is blindfolded in here. Only its breath is allowed. This immense embracing sense of otherworldliness consumes us.
It is warm from the animals, alive and shuffly. I take shots of the cows for you but it feels as though there should be more big heads turning and other tails switching. The shuffling and chewing is ancient. Timeless. Shadows are here in this light. Other doey eyes slowly blink. Other calves sigh.
And now once again it is Morning on the Farmy. The sky is still black so I have yet to see any of the damage outside. I am concerned about the hives. The storm smashed through here for most of the day and night. The snow has stopped but the wind is still ripping through. Mary’s Cat decided to sleep in the barn but was sat on his stool at the kitchen door by 4.30am as usual so he is OK. Such a worry that tough little vandal of a cat.
OK, since I started to write it has dropped to 13F. So I had better start putting on the layers and out I will go.
I am an ordinary photographer, with an ordinary old Nikon. Nothing special. No fancy pancy. People say to me “How do you do that? What kind of camera do you have?” So I thought I would jot down a few of the things I have learnt about taking photographs.
I don’t want to sound arrogant. I am still learning. Some really good photographers read these pages. So please join in. Sometimes I think it is a good thing to share ordinary information without all that techy stuff, that I don’t understand anyway. I am going to use old shots from a holiday years ago, merely to entertain your eye on the way, so we do not get distracted by the Farm Animals. Sometimes a picture helps.
Taking a good shot for your pages is very simple if you THINK as you shoot. I am not talking about Food Photography – that is not my forte. All I know about Food Photography is to have natural light, a pale background, declutter, a prop, and a TriPod. I am still learning that too. What I want to talk about today is the photos of your streets, and your flowers, your animals, your mountains, your people and your stuff. You are surrounded in some wonderful, individual, very special images that only you can see. You will interpret them in your own particular way. So don’t be afraid. Come on out of the Camera Closet. Come out and Play.
You do not need a fancy camera to create a good photograph. You don’t particularly need Photo Shop either though it is a useful tool. Even though something like Photo Shop will make a good shot better, and a fantastic shot awesome, a crap shot will still be crap. So decide your level of excellence and delete the rest. I prefer to rely on using the camera to produce a good image to begin with. So lets take a minute and look at what you are going to shoot. Ask yourself what you want me to SEE. Then think: Composition. Contrast. Clarity. Celi’s Three C’s. This will always give you one great shot per set.
Study other peoples photographs. I personally like to study newspaper photographs, because these are very seldom taken in a studio. They use available light. They have limited time. There is very little dressing done to the location. And their images have to tell a story. So study them, get a pen and create thirds -horizontally and vertically and look at that photographers choices. Look at the focal points. Look at the light. Where was the photographer when he took the shot.
Divide your composition into those three sections vertically and horizontally. You will have four lines and nine boxes. Think about where you want your subject to sit in your grid. Your focal point needs the best light and the focus. Your viewers enjoy symmetry. I tend to compose with the subject in the left third looking into plenty of space or the right third looking back. You may prefer a central image like the one above. But make a decision.
Think about different levels. I almost never take a shot standing, unless I am standing on top of something to get height. When you are buying shoes you stand in front of a low mirror – looking down on them does not give you the best image. So crouch, or lie down, or climb a tree. Or do all three. Lean to the side. Please stay out of the gutter and try to stay clean, unless you simply must get filthy in pursuit of the perfect shot. And do not stand on the car if your husband is watching.
Look at the background. Ensure that your horizon and the lamp post are both absolutely straight. Use your grid for this. Be fastidious about this. Always give me one clear line to hang the image on. Unless you really want everything to be mis-aligned or on a diagonal. I was trained by Dad on the beach, taking shots of the sea. Out here on the prairies it is the same. Any tilt in that horizon ruins a shot. A tiny angle on a roofline kills it. The line of the ceiling, or a fence or a kitchen wall. Even a tree. So straighten that horizon before you shoot. Now look and make sure there is not some stray object in your background. Check all four corners as you go. My mother said all four corners should be different in her paintings. My father would say get all that rubbish out of the shot.
Get close to your subject. Allow your subject and his environment to fill your screen. If you are unable to crop your image later then crop with composition. Maybe only a quarter of the image is more dramatic. Get closer as long as you do not compromise your clarity. Keep thinking, take risks and make decisions.
Use foreground. Sometimes shooting a landscape with something in the foreground like long grass or a tree or the corner of a building immediately creates depth.
Allow room for the eye. My mother was an artist. In fact when we were little she set up a child’s play pen, and sat Herself in the playpen so she could paint while we played, without anyone knocking into the easel. Anyway she told me when she painted a landscape that she always gave the viewer a gap, or winding path or open gate so that their eye could walk into the scene and rest there.
It is all about the light. Back lit is dramatic. Side lit is nostalgic. Heavy white cloud adds depth to colour. Light does all kinds of fabulous stuff. So look at your light source, usually the sun and use it to your advantage. Look up, Look across and Look down!! Study your light. Remember that light reflects. How will you capture it.
You want a contrast between light and dark, soft and strong. I know this sounds simplistic but it is a major decision. Focus on the area that you want to be clear and well exposed. Allowing the rest to go darker or lighter. With a little snappy snap camera you still have choices.
Natural light is always going to be better. Avoid a flash unless you can set it on low or direct it into a reflector. A flash flattens your subject. I hate flashes. I want to see your light. You all know that I prefer late afternoon or early morning. Lovely low winter light is my favourite especially with animals and faces.
Position yourself to take advantage of your light. Once again. Look up, look across, look down. Where should you be to take advantage of the light. “You’re in my light!” was heard shouted frequently in the big house at the beach where I grew up. If you are inside in low light, secure the camera so it is rigid (tripod, pile of books, whatever)and adjust your settings for low light. But do not stand in the light! My Dad told me where there is light there is a photograph.
3. Clarity. Use a tripod or as I often do, lean your camera on the camera bag, or on a bucket, or on the side of a door, a wall, fence or the car (as long as the motor is not running) or hay bale or fence post, even a shoulder if you have a spare one lounging about. Your camera may have a stabiliser but nothing is better than tight and still.
Ensure that the subject is sharp. If it is an animal or person focus on the eyes. Wait to get your focus before you fully depress your shutter.
Release the shutter and wait for a second. Look at what you have done. Do you need to do that again? Many shots are ruined or lost by depressing the button then running or turning. Make sure your work is in focus and the best you can get before you move to the next shot. (The joys of digital). Slow down. Later, look at your shots with a tough eye and delete, delete, delete. Don’t waste your time on rubbish, go get the good stuff. Do it again.
I was talking to a jazz player once. I asked him how he learnt how to play this jazz with such accomplishment. He said he studied classical music in Paris (somewhere posh) and once he knew that he had a thorough understanding of the principles of good music (and this took years), he took some of the rules and broke them, creating his own form of jazz. But he said he could not have broken the rules in the right places without knowing the music first.
Fear is your only enemy. Sometimes you just have to walk around the corner, surprise a surprise subject and shoot the hell out of it and hope you get one good shot. See above!!
So, go and buy a newspaper, find a shot you love, draw the grid and study it using Celi’s three C’s. Then get that little old camera out of the drawer and start shooting. Then shoot some more. Every time we get something wrong, it helps us work out how to get it right next time. So take good note of the failures, they are important learning. Then do it again. Then show me.
And remember you do not need a fancy camera. You just need you, any camera and a Plan.
What do you mean you can’t read that! This is the recipe my mother wrote into my recipe book years ago, before she died. Well, obviously Before she died, I mean, if she had written it After she had died this would be a very different story!! Anyway, this was before cell phones and computers in homes and milk in cartons and granola bars in crinkly packages.
She devised this recipe to encourage us kids to eat raw foods. Hence the cornflakes (very tricky cover). And I am willing to bet that she never made it the same way twice. This is a stand out favourite for my kids. And you can stuff it full of good dried food!
Mum obviously used the first pen that came to hand. Faded green (sigh) So I shall interpret. She always wrote important stuff in capitals. So I shall too. Please excuse me if it sounds like I am shouting the recipe at you.
(In a pot)
BOIL HARD TOGETHER FOR 4 – 5 MINUTES
Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl, I took out the sesame seeds and added walnut and flax seeds. Then boil the butter and sugar mixture until it begins to pull away from the sides. Be careful or you really will have toffee. We boiled and stirred for 4 minutes. The Matriarch made the mistake of stepping through the door at this very moment and very kindly took over the stirring as it needs to be continuously stirred, and I still had the floor covered in grocery bags.
Then quickly pour the hot mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Work fast as it is setting. While it is still hot pour into a pie dish (Mum used to make this in a roasting dish, as she did with most things, after all there were quite a few of us) and pat firmly into place, keep patting and pushing firmly as it hardens, flattening with a spoon and then pop into the fridge.
Cut into small slices when co;d. This lives in the fridge until it is all gone. Which will be very soon!
Now the rule is: (this is not a silly rule!) When the children are doing the cutting and dividing – one cuts and the others choose. So the cutter makes sure that all portions are exactly the same. Getting to have the last slice does that to a person!!
A shot of The Farmy last night as we walked away from the sunset. This weather is a gift. Lovely walks. We are getting so far ahead on our winter jobs. Stalker’s Garden has new raised beds. The calves have a new fence (they are not impressed). A new guttering spout has been installed for another rainwater barrel (every garden needs one). There has been Thinking done about the pig sty, maintenance on the barn (doors that open and shut, with new Daisy safe latches)and Our John has even begun to sow a few seeds for the vege garden. I know, I know, far too early, but there is no stopping the man, he does this every year!
You see we have had such lovely crunchy frosts the last few days and I decided last night, in all my wisdom, that this morning I would get out the macro and slither across the freezing ground and shoot through the frosted garden into the glow of a rising sun.
So instead I have posted a few of yesterdays research shots, as I try to track down a more relevant and more period shade of the Old Red Barn. It is an interesting study. So far it appears to me that the romantic notion of the Red Barn is not really historically correct. Density, materials, location – there are many mitigating factors. And at what period in the aging (though I would rather say progression) of this colour should we point and say -that one. That red is correct. But I am sure so far that The Red Barn should really be a much warmer colour. Though I do not know its name. Describing a colour is a little like describing the sound of a banana. We all use different visual references.
But definitely Not the heavy, blemishfree, built to last, break your eyes Red of the modern claddings. The Old Red barn was much more organic and restful I think. More of a wash that soaked the wood, rather than covering it. It had umber in it and iron and a sunburnt orange, I don’t know. More research needed.