Thursday, April 30, 2009

Barney the guard dog....

When it rains, Barney can't go out into the backyard as he gets his feet coated with mud. While barking at a neighbors cat he can compress mud into his paws and it takes a long time with a garden hose to clean it out. So I walk him on those days. But even though he is stuck inside, he is still on duty. The bay window in the living room is his main spot to direct the traffic that goes by our house. He usually can depend on his ears to hear invaders so he doesn't have to sit there all day. Just when he hears something does he then jump into action. He is not afraid of most things while doing window duty. The twin four year olds on bikes are especially needy of being barked at and warned that he is guarding this house.
The bay window has always caused me trouble in photographing as the east light is so strong. The bottom photo shows Barney's true handsome colors.

Flowering bush.....

I was given this start of this bush from a teacher friend at school. I had just been hired and I believe it was the next year, spring 1977. He gave me a bunch of names and a bucket with all of these different bushes. I still have a Russian olive bush from that batch and this flowering bush. He mentioned flowering almond, but I don't think that this is it. I have planted it in various places on my property and it really has been a good specimen for my property. He has passes away a few years back and I am certain that it is still growing on his old property. It has such a pure white color to it.

Chokecherry tree....

I planted this tree about five years ago. It has bloomed some in the past years but not as great as it has this year. We had such a wet summer last year that it must have nourished it. The berries have never survived before so it will be interesting to see if they do this year. I think the birds ate them so early that they never were able to mature. It is one of the reasons why I wanted the tree so that is fine.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Des Moines Botanical Center...

I am subbing today and the students are viewing "School House Rocks." Lollie, lollie get your adverbs here. I think I would rather be at the Botanical center. I did learn today that when I yell loud to get the students attention, like Hey!! that it is an interjection.. I used a lot of those in thirty three years of teaching, Wow!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tough trees....

This is a photo of my two silver maples looking south on Cedar Street. The sidewalks have a brass plaque fixed into the concrete that show the WPA built them in 1940. My house was built in 1903, so I can't imagine how old the two trees can be. I have lost two major trees like this the past ten years. I have one more still living on the other side of my house. One of the trees the city took out and in 1997 extremely strong winds took another down into my yard with the neighbors walnut tree laying on top of it. The tree behind this front one is where a raccoon mother comes into town every spring and has her babies. Once they get a certain age, off they go back to the woods.
Three years ago a tornado was coming this way up this street. It is Cedar street and all that we could hear was this freight train sound. You can see where the tornado took a left, right where the new house was built. That whole end of the street has mostly new houses. The tornado took a left there and followed up behind the row of houses on the left of the street going out into a farm field. There were three large trusses that people buy to build the roofs of their houses. and garages. One was laying on the ground just down the way, another to the right on my neighbors garage and the other one was hanging in one of the trees you see on the left of the picture. They were very large trusses from some destroyed garage and they were big. They were dropped from the sky. No tree that was the size of our silver maples withstood the tornado, so we were fortunate. Both our silver maples and our house survived. We did have two pine trees on the other side of this block that were snapped off at the base but everything else was untouched.
The big silver maples have been around through a lot of history. These two need a trim job and some of these days they will get it. We have a lot of birds, owls and squirrels that frequent these trees. I will hate to see them go as they give so much shade, but someday they will probably just fall down.

Monday, April 27, 2009


This is my neighbor's magnolia tree. We have a few in town. There is only one variety that survives in Iowa. The tree was planted many years ago by a former owner who worked as a landscaper and grounds keeper for our State Resource Facility north of town. He planted many things and the new owner has slowly removed a lot of his plantings. The magnolia was my personal favorite joke about Denny the owner. He is a nice guy but he just loves to trim stuff. This magnolia was a third bigger and had this wonderful bonsai shape which I think was it's natural shape. Last fall I drove by and there were piles of branches everywhere. He had turned it into a lollipop tree. It is still beautiful and I will try to get closeups when it stops raining around here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

After the rain.....

We actually had a concert in our back yard last night. The football field is a block away and they are doing fund raisers to raise a three quarter of a million dollars to build a new complex. So we had a rainy day all day and then with a mist most of the evening we had mostly contemporary and western music blaring at our house. It is quiet today and we are home from church and it has been raining again. I ran out and snapped shots of what it looks like after the rain. I can't believe how the colors are so enhanced with the moisture. I have many shots but I am going to only share a few at a time. The pressure of keeping up pictures isn't bad, but I can take it easy for a few days and share my collection. The top photo was shot with a portrait setting and with enough light it worked. The red sprouts are the peony bushes coming up. The daffodil group is the only place where I have multiple blooms. For some reason, my different plantings have lots of foliage and only one bloom.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The rose....

This photo is on my Larry's Creative Zone. I really have the goal to have a good photo on my photo blog as an artistic expression and sometimes that hasn't happened. I have to get back on my goal.
I had a hard time getting this photo, as I needed to do a close-up, the rose is small. It is an automatic camera so I can't really control the focus. I find myself moving the camera back and forth from the object. I am still learning how to use this camera and it takes ten or more shots to really get a good, focused close-up. I think composition is very important too and this turned out great after I cropped it. As another note of honesty, I had it on Photoshop and had to darken it so the contrast would be greater between the roses and the white background. I never did get a good shot of the rose bud. As a life long learner, it is a good feeling to get a good result even if it doesn't come easy.

My blog about the rose itself and the gardening stuff.

What is this??????

The question for the day. I keep showing my ignorance by calling something the wrong name. I brought this home from my mom's yard and it survived. It is a form of a peony, I think, but it's foliage is not peony foliage. It is a very early grower compared to a regular peony. My mom had taken a start of it from the neighbors property. Her plant was huge and I took most of it and planted it everywhere on my property. I left enough for the new future owner to enjoy. I want to call it a Japanese Peony, but after a lot of searching I see nothing about it on the net. I don't have a catalog to look it up but I know I have seen it in the seed catalog. So I will await an answer from someone out there. I will be glad to show it flowering as there are three buds on it already.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wild violets 2.....

I wrote about these in my creative zone and this mound of white and blue is such a better picture. These grow wild among my yard grass in the ditch to the street along with the blue-purple solid color ones. We had 80 degree weather yesterday and it really sent things shooting up and this plant really put out a lot more blooms. I uncovered officially 4 different flower beds yesterday. I will talk about peonies on another day. But is was good to get things opened up. Of course we could have one more ice storm but the weather patterns this year are in my favor.
As a footnote, I was reminded by a cousin from Minburn that there are also reddish colored wild violets and speckled ones too. I had forgotten about the reddish one and I don't even remember where I have seen them. She said she had transplanted them when she was a kid to her pets grave sites and they grew very readily.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


This is one blurry Furbie photo. When we were clearing my mom's house this little guy's expression just doesn't allow you to throw him away. He is sitting in one of my pieces of pottery that I made on the potter's wheel with red and white clay. It has a clear glaze on it so you can see the natural blends of the clays.
Focused picture number two of Furbie shows his full leaning body.This little guy was bought back when they were popular and he drove my mom and dad crazy. But he is now sick. I put fresh batteries in him and all he can tell me is that he wants to sleeeeeep, sleeeeep. When I found him he was orphaned up on a closet shelf in the dark and that may have made him ill. I know there are probably repair persons out there but for now we will just appreciate his big brown eyes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Opened and closed....

We finally had warm weather and the tulips opened for me to shoot. It is always amazing how the outside color and inside color are different.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cherry blossoms....

I was out looking for something to shoot and I glanced over and saw the white cloud of cherry blossoms. This is a bush variety and I do not recommend it. I bought it on a whim and found out the cherries are more seed than pulp. The first year I was very frustrated but the second year we got out the sieve and smashed all of the juice out of them and made wonderful cherry jelly. I have to pick fast as the birds love them too. They have just started blooming and they are the first of my fruit trees to show color.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Salt and pepper world.....

Not a great photo but sometimes I just don't have the time to make it right. When we traveled out west to Colorado and Wyoming in my younger years, my mom bought salt and pepper shakers. What a deal as I think everyone had a few and did that and some were really out of control with very large collections. My mom was thrifty so one set per year or two if she felt to be daring. The quail came from a Colorado tourist trap. The couple in the middle is a set that was always in our house. She must have had it from when she was married as it has alway been around. Again I was surprised that one of my two older brothers didn't walk off with this when we were dividing mom's things but maybe they weren't paying attention.
The two little fairies are flanking a small cabbage that has a lid on it with a butterfly on it. What would they have put in the cabbage? There is a small spoon that I need to glue back together and the poor little guy needs to have his one wing repaired. I do have the piece. I have seen this set only once in my life at a mall antique show. It was priced at twenty dollars or more and was hand painted exactly as this one. It has a Japan stamp on it which doesn't make it older than the 1940's as a lot of stuff older was marked Nipon before that. It also has written by hand 68 on it which I assume was a price that was hand marked on it.
My mom kept special dimes in the cabbage and displayed it all the while we lived on the farm, both old house and new house. But I had not seen this out on display in her house in town for some twenty years,and then one day a few years back it showed up sitting on top of her microwave with a few other small ceramic knick knacks.
Well, I will be watching for another some day, just because of the fun of the hunt. Maybe the person selling it could give to me a specific history of who sold them. It was and still is a silly fascination from my childhood.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Birch bark textures....

I have a Minnesota birch tree in the front yard and it never looks like this.This was a clump birch that I bought at a Pamida store. I gave one to my neighbor and it grew tall and is thin. Mine is thick and the pealing bark is so colorful. Now that I have had this tree for a while I am thinking that I should have planted a couple of them together to get the clump look as this tree never put out any other sprouts.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Maine in winter...

I just have to share this photo even though it is out of season. My son took this and I really appreciate it's composition. I really need the weather to get better here so more things will be blooming and I can share a photo from outside, so I guess I am just stalling.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring tokens....

We have meager starts to our spring. This daffodil was a novelty one in which it had originally had multiple small heads of flowers on them. As you can see they genetically didn't hold and now they look like this. The are great looking but were a surprise. The tulips were from a cheap set of fifty that I planted a few years back. When I went out to photograph it they had shut up for the evening. It still is nice color. I raked the debris off of my vegetable garden today. I am doing physical battle with my tiller and will get it started soon. I am very sad as to what the rainy weather of last summer did to my Iris. It killed a lot of my Iris. They just rot when we have continuous rain and the ground just doesn't dry out. I am going to find some place on my two lots that will drain better. I may try to make a mound and put them in that. So sad to loose so many. It gives me time to dream of starting over and collecting new varieties. There should be an Iris club out there where we exchange tubers. That would make a great blog. Got to go for now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I found a photo...

I know that I have blogged about our cat Nala for so many times. Since we have lost her I was sad that I could never get a good shot of her playing with our dog. Well today I was surprised to find one of my attempts to photograph them together. They always played hard and were always moving and one of them was always out of focus. Barney being the border collie is either too threatened for me to take his picture or moving around too much. I know that I probably don't have the right setting set on the camera, or I should have taken a movie of them then pulled one frame off of the movie. I think of those things too late.
The thing that was unusual is that Barney chases the neighbors hundreds of cats all the time. I know he wouldn't hurt them but he certainly enjoys being very gruff with them and sends then hiking over the fence very quickly. When he played with Nala, he would let her play with his nose, he was so patient with her. She also liked to lay on her back and let him put his nose on her stomach. She just loved Barney. They actually were exactly the same color. Even though the picture is not perfect I still like the picture. We still miss our cat.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Seeing red.....

Red trucks, red shoes, red devil's food cake, red crayons, candy apple red mustang cars, red Cardinals,red m and m's, red roses, red tulips, red cherries, red radishes and my favorite red coffee cup. Red has always been my favorite color. My list could go on and on but I needed to stop. This red azalea was from the funeral and I almost got it in focus. I was too lazy to take it outside and get better light but I still like the picture. It is almost back lit from the window that made the petals a little more transparent.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Waiting for the Light...

My wife and I escaped to the bookstore today for some rest and relaxation. I am excited when I find books that help me be a better photographer. I have the skills to see good photos but sometimes it takes more than that to get a good shot. Sure, I know that sometimes it is just plain accidental art. I found a book today by David Noton that was very interesting to read and to view his photos. He has lived in many places but England is his base home place. What I liked was his philosophy about taking pictures. The title itself explains that the waiting for the light to be perfect is the solution to get the best shot. Working for the mood, atmosphere, the special effect takes time and patience. I believe he has the experience to know that the best shot is always many moments later to just around the corner. He has lens sizes that I could only dream of owning, but it is fun to see his results.
The above photo is from my garden and it took patience to find the just right composition. It was difficult to get the two colors of coneflowers and the black-eyed susan to be perfectly aligned. There really was only one place in the entire mound of flowers that allowed me to get that picture. I am anxious to see the flowers blooming again. If you want to check the web about Noton's book I left you a web site connection.

David Noton-Waiting for the Light

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Just gonna have to wait.......

This little guy is on duty full time to let me know when it is time for me to come out and get to work. He really has a genuine expression of concern for the weather. I think he will cheer up pretty soon with sunny, warm weather. The little guy is a rescued sculpture from a bargain bin. I don't discriminate against people have lost a finger and asked him to join my garden. The light for this photo was actually overcast but it really gave the statue a deeper, richer color showing good shadow lines.
My little furry friends and elf are looking for something serious. I didn't set this up as I had moved them all over out of the way of something I was doing and they have been looking the same direction by accident. You can see the leaves covering my flower beds have been shifted from our 50 mile an hour winds. I am ready to be renewed with warm spring days and start to see green life everywhere.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The true color purple....

My wife and I received this as a flower arrangement at the funeral of Della's Dad. The three violet plants are sitting in a basket. It is a beautiful set up and so interesting how true color of a very simple violet plant can be so powerful visually.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Joy, life goes on....

Our son from Maine called last evening about the lost of Grandpa. He was a breath of fresh of air to our spirits. He can't come to Iowa for the funeral but he told of his plans about their wedding at sunrise on a hill in Acadia National Park this summer. I could see my wife smiling and I thought yea, I am smiling, as the plans of the two young people getting married is joyful. He was describing that a maximum of ten people can be there and we will be overlooking the ocean with the sunrise and we just are so looking forward to that. After losses of family members it makes you aware of life patterns. I start to notice that new babies are born, people getting married, children playing and it shows the cycle of life continues. The funeral for Della's dad is Friday and then some of the healing and rest will begin.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Clarence and Mildred...

My father-in-law passed away on Tuesday. He was 98 soon to be 99. Here he is standing with his sister at his 98th birthday party. She is his only living sibling. The giant corn was carved by a chainsaw artist and it makes a great background for a photo.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My son's photos..

Our son just sent this to us from Maine. He lives in Acadia National Park and this is his dog Hannah. I know that my blog should have my photos but these just have to be shared. The photo at the top is pretty amazing, even if I am just very tired of snow.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Snowing in April....

It isn't unusual for Iowa to get snow in April. We sure like to grumble about it but it isn't going to hang around for very long. My neighbors house really makes the birdhouse standout and one can really see that it is snowing. I have never tried to catch snow in a picture before but it is tricky to keep the lens dry.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Red and green color study.....

My dad had one of the Farmall tractors that had the seat to the side. He had bought it at a neighbors sale of a man named Link Fischer. When Link died my parents found out his first name was Lincoln. The tractor model was an F and we used it to run the elevator and pull light loads. The block had been cracked and dad used some kind of glue to seal it up.
This tractor in the photo is an older model. I took this at a local radio station's great tractor ride across Iowa in a park in Minburn, Iowa. This photo seems to be more of a study of color and many mixed shapes like sculptures rather than just tractors.

Friday, April 3, 2009

William Baffin rose.....

This is a wonderful rose that grows on the south side of my garden shed. I found it at a nursery called the Blue Moose, up in Grand Marais, Minnesota. I had watched a lot of garden shows where this was mentioned as being a tough rose, so was glad to pick it up. You can also do a search on it at garden sites and it will pull up. My rose is probably six years old now and it is almost as big as the shed. I highly recommend it for those of you who have difficulty getting roses to survive 15 below temperatures in the winter. We are borderline zone 4 or 5.
I also recommend seeing the flowers in Grand Marais in the summer time. They live in this ideal micro climate that makes their flowers grow well and also the light makes the colors of their flowers to be very bright and clear. The town sits on Lake Superior and has a large protected bay. They always have hanging planters of red, white and blue. The blue is such a strong blue that glows against the red and white flowers.
I chopped on the rose last fall as the canes do get very large and are very thorny, but the rose will bloom off and on throughout the summer. You can tell my the multiple flowers that it is a real showy plant.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Old stuff....

I had an earlier blog about my collection of ceramic planters. The duck is a hanging one as there are holes on the back to hang it from the wall. The white poodle is one that I picked up at an antique store. Della was given the small doll plate of blue willow and the plate with the ducks was my mom's. I never expected to get that plate but my remaining two older brothers went through things and they apparently didn't want it. I always liked it as a kid and I guess the guys think it is just another old plate. I don't know it's history, but I believe it probably was great grandmas on mom's side. It will be fun to find something out about it in antique books but I haven't had the time.