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Posts from the ‘Travel & Places I’ve been’ Category

Odd Machinery

sheep20shearing20machine-mAs an avid fan of all those nature shows, I always pictured sheep-shearing as something akin to calf roping. Apparently my grand-dad did sheep shearing along with a lot of other farming tasks. My dad planned to make a chicken feather plucker so as to avoid the defeathering of butchered chickens task. Butchering chickens was an all day project, started after morning chores and lasting through the afternoon. Plucking all those feathers was a messy task; burning the pinfeathers a smelly project, then cleaning and cutting them up for freezing. Dad loved fried chicken but hated all the preceding tasks. Thus the feather plucker.

I have never actually sheared a sheep, although I’ve had a go at reducing fur load on first a poodle mix and now an Aussie Shepherd mix. At one time I bought raw wool–unprocessed–a smelly oily product that I quickly passed on to someone else.

I don’t know exactly how this sheep shearing machine worked or how it was adjusted to accommodate different sized sheep or different thickness of coats. But someone disliked the task enough to make this machine.

On display at the Whitehead Memorial Museum in Del Rio Texas along with some other oddities.



Why Fly when you can Ride?


A routine followup visit to a specialist in Galveston means a ferry ride from Bolivar Peninsula to Galveston. I’m sure the many people who make this a daily trip for work don’t find it as intriguing as those of us who do it on rare occasions.

The ferry line was quite long and I was in the line for over an hour before boarding. Once aboard, nearly everyone gets out and stands at the sides to watch for dolphins–I spied four dorsal fins–it would be fun to capture them as they play but I  always manage to get a wonderful photo of just the water. It is too hot this time of year to wait in your vehicle and the engines==therefore air conditioning –must be turned off.

Gulls follow the ferries hoping for bread to be thrown to them; large swooping bands of them but a few prefer to ride along. Some are quite careful and choose the lifeboat boom.gulls20on20the20lifeboat-m


Grandfather of Waters

img_8324-mI grew up just a few miles–as the crow–or now as the eagle flies–from the mighty Mississippi River. Early mornings were marked by the view of the mists rising from surrounding rivers–the Mississippi to the west, the Wisconsin to the South, and the Kickapoo to the east. The Kickapoo was also north of us but too many ridges between us to see mists.

The sun might shine brightly on the ridge but the valleys were frequently foggy.

I cross the Mississippi three times on my route from Texas to Wisconsin–St. Louis, the Quad Cities, and then in either Dubuque or Marquette. There are always fabulous vistas to view and enjoy.

There are two channels–the East and West–both quite wide and in the spring time those channels swell and expand with melting snow from further upstream. The locks for the barges close sometime in the fall and re-open in the spring with ice blocking traffic. Eagles nest near the dams/locks. Sometimes the bridge access is under water and those people living in Iowa but working in Wisconsin use boats to cross.

At one time the crossing was a toll bridge. The Locals were not appreciative of this inconvenience since they had paid for the bridge–and so one night, the toll-taker’s little shed was taken apart. Imagine my surprise one year when the bridge was moved about half a mile south–no longer entering Wisconsin on Blackhawk Avenue.

Blackhawk and his tribe named this river many years ago. At its origins in Minnesota, this river can be easily stepped across—here you need a canoe or water craft of some sort. I always thought it curious that they called it Grandfather rather than Grandmother or Mother.

In the past there was a brisk business in fishing for clams for the pearl button factory. I have some of those buttons–my grandmother bought them–as they would have been inexpensive at the time. I have a few postcards of the fishing rafts used to collect the clams somewhere in my post-card collection.

French fur traders used this area as a jumping off spot for the west and north–collecting supplies; French and Indian wars meant several forts and a battle or two–including George Washington.  Geronimo supposedly hid out in a local cave. And then there was William S. Beaumont who studied the stomach and its workings in one of his patients he had patched up.

Each trip to Wisconsin means a mandatory stop to see the Mississippi from a high point, a drive along the Kickapoo and Plum Creek, a view of the mist rising from the Wisconsin, and the farm.img_8328-m


Get Bees, Will Travel

bees20are20home-mWe really wanted to set up a hive or two or more on the farm. I had four hives in Texas but they would have been a real challenge to move—much easier to get a nuc (small hive of 5 frames instead of the usual 8 or 10) and move it to Wisconsin. Some beekeepers move their bees all around the U.S. to pollinate various crops—it should not be a big deal. Right?  So maybe not!

I had previously baked a nuc of bees in our hot Texas sun and worried about traveling with a nuc in the bed of my truck—no-way were they going to ride in the cab with me. Although I did have some friends who took home a hive in their car and had to wear their bee suits all the way home—all 30 miles or so. I had no intention of wearing a bee suit for 18 hours of driving.

My good friend and mentor provided me with a nuc with a nice opening on top—covered with hardware cloth providing plenty of air flow. The doorway was blocked with hardware cloth—lots of air flow—no baked bees.

We put the box in the bed of my truck and I started off.

I stopped to fuel up and noted a bee flying about the bed of my truck. I thought perhaps it had hitched a ride from my friend’s apiary.

I stopped again for fuel and this time there were about a half dozen flying about trying to figure out where they were. I could not see where they were exiting the box but it was quite obvious they were not bees that lingered around the gas station just coming over to make friends with the Texas bees.

So I started throwing a tarp over the top of the box whenever I stopped—hoping they would think it was bed-time and they would stay inside—I’m sure I really messed up their internal clock and they had so many more days and nights than really passed by in ordinary time.

I stopped for the night, threw the tarp over the box and registered at the motel. Did I have any pets? I said I had a box of bees in my truck but they would not be staying in the room with me. The clerk looked surprised and noted that they welcomed pets but maybe not honey bees.

I made it to the farm and unloaded them by the garage.

I felt the box and it felt warm. Bees maintain the internal temperature of the hive at about 93 degrees year round. In the summer, they sit outside the door and on top of box flapping their wings to move air—-and in the winter they huddle together like penguins in the Antarctic.

We pulled the entrance and immediately they flew out.

Did we keep enough bees in that box to maintain or make a hive? Or did I leave a trail of bees behind me?

I worried about those bees last night when a huge thunderstorm passed through—was the covering over the top enough to keep the rain out—or did that covering get knocked off in the wind?

I put my ear to the box and could hear them buzzing—they may have been discussing their plans for the day or trying to figure out just exactly what had happened—going to bed in Texas and waking up in Wisconsin with different flowers and different birds and different landscape and no nearby neighbors.this20is20their20view-m

It seems silly to worry about a group of insects when I have no qualms about squashing cockroaches or dumping soapy water or poison in ant beds—


Governor’s Landing


img_8347-mAfter a full morning of work, I had the afternoon free to explore.

I think I have been to Del Rio four or five times; Seminole Canyon twice and Amistad Reservoir three times. The Reservoir separates Mexico from Texas. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between the two…rocky hills covered with mesquite, sage, prickly pear, and lechugilla and a few other cactus varieties… not the different colors denoting countries on maps. Today, though there was a lot of water in the reservoir.

And plenty of people! Coolers, grills, floaty cushions, canoes, jet-skis, fishing boats, speed boats, and more people. People at the picnic tables, people under the bridge on floaties, people wading,

I wandered down to test the water—and it was the perfect temperature to play in—the outside temperature hot—and I wished I had brought a swimsuit or my water shoes—I have waded through water soaking my pant-legs many times.

I took a few minutes to sit down at a picnic table and do some sketching. There was quite a bit of wind and so I faced away from the wind toward the reservoir. I have wanted to do plein air painting but my cute little water color set is somewhere at home.

But I always have a sketchbook with me. In drawing class many years ago, I got into the habit of drawing with a ball point—with practice and I had to fill a large sketchbook outside of class time for each class every semester. Shading with the side of the pen is possible.

It took a long time for me to realize I could write in them as well—not just dating and naming the place—and so now. They have become a reference to the things I see and do and the events I attend. The pile of sketchbooks has grown but I refer back to them often.

In case you were wanting to see the sketch—that sketchbook is still in my truck. It is raining too hard for me to want to run out to get it.

More photos of the Reservoir are here including the ones from the past organized by most recent to first:




Western Art in the Briscoe Museum

Saturday was bitterly cold with a wind that cut through jackets and made me wish for my motorcycle jacket. The morning was to be devoted to local gallery tours; we decided to walk the 900 feet from our hotel to the Briscoe Museum of Western Art.

We all got to claim senior status and therefore a reduced entrance fee–although if we had been service men/women our entrance would have been free.

tim20cherry20rabbit-mTwo large galleries were full of contemporary Western art —no photos were allowed–although I did get this shot of a rabbit by Tim Cherry. If I had the money or the place to showcase this piece—but I didn’t so I will content myself with this photo.

img_7938-mw20h20dunton20painting-mOf interest was a small painting by W.H. Dunton whose title for a rather small painting was quite striking—a paragraph long title for a rider on a horse galloping across the plain. Interestingly the local Stark Museum of Art in Orange Texas posesses over 200 pieces of his work. He, along with other western artists of that era, also illustrated magazine covers and books.

In the afternoon we settled down to an entertaining critique session with Judith Trager. Creative people that we are, one attendee removed her belt as a splash of color on a monochromatic piece.

An evening banquet followed with a lively auction of the small pieces contributed by the members. There was much rivalry and last minute bidding–all to fund future events.

Viewing the Alamo

alamo-mThere was a very long line waiting to get in to see the Alamo; the line looped back through a covered area and was halted by a photographer at the entrance.

Inside, people chattered and pointed–and if you stood in one place, you heard the same comments repeated but by different people and in different languages. They marveled at the number of places the defenders claimed as home—Ireland, Wales, Scotland, North Carolina, Kentucky–and more. Flags of each state and country were displayed around the periphery of the building and we all took turns peering into the rooms cordoned off.

alamo201-malamo2011-mOutside were lovely old live oak trees, a small rivulet with giant carp all hoping for a tidbit of bread, benches, and blooming prickly pear. alamo208-malamo205-m

Outside on the plaza were stands with soft drinks and ice cream. The Menger and the Crockett Hotels were nearby as well as the Wax Museum.

No matter the details of those final hours in whatever version people care to claim as factual, it is an awe=inspiring place—so lush and green–and the entire complex quite large–not the dusty single building in a vast plain with nary a tree to be seen.



Blue Bonnets and More

field20of20flower-mLast weekend was the annual conference hosted by Studio Art Quilt Associates in San Antonio Texas.

For those who have not been in San Antonio recently, the city will be celebrating a 300 year history. Not that you would even guess with all the ‘300’s  in shrub plantings, street signage, and mentioned at least twice in any conversation with a local resident.

This conference moves about the country; I’ve been to ones in Ohio, Philadelphia, and Denver with each one progressively more polished and informative.

For me, driving to San Antonio meant a lovely day driving in the Hill country outskirts and stopping for the requisite spring time photo of bluebonnets. I didn’t find the large masses but at a truck stop in Luling I managed to get a nice photo or two. And of course, there are more wildflowers than just the bluebonnets.another20field-mcloseup20of20that20bluebonnet-m

San Antonio is not my favorite city to drive around in but I timed my arrival to early afternoon on a week day. Traffic was minimal but parking spaces were at a premium. The hotel offered valet parking only and the attendant claimed he was expert in standards but I only allow a very small number of people the privilege of driving my truck.

It is easy to hear me coming with that diesel reverberating  in all that concrete but I managed to find a nice spot, hauled my belongings to the hotel lobby and checked in. I admired the lobby–a bank in earlier years—with art deco motifs on the elevator doors, the cornices, and a fabulous stained glass window featuring the Alamo.

A RiverWalk cruise was the adventure of the evening–I took a few photos but then decided I would just enjoy the view.



Galveston Oh Galveston

img_7702-mSomehow for this formerly land-locked Midwesterner there is just something about taking the ferry from Bolivar Peninsula to Galveston.

Never mind that I was on my way to a Neurology appointment and expected to answer the same questions repeatedly as I faced medical student and resident and finally attending to maybe give me some answers about my recent bout of craziness associated with hypercalcemia—as a side note–passed all those silly questions including remembering three items from the beginning–pen, table, and penny–and told I was totally normal–well maybe just oriented properly.

Once again I digress.




Here are a few photos from that ferry ride. NO, I was not alone–there were several dozens of other vehicles– work trucks, school buses, ambulance–they got off first–and assorted cars and people tossing bread to the seagulls that followed us along. I spied a few dolphins racing along side us. But mostly I just listened to the waves and the shriek of the birds. Sorry I didn’t record it so you could hear it too–and on the radio was Glen Campbell singing away.


Lets Do This


What is it about nice large orange five gallon buckets that is so inspirational?

I have more than a few of them–but I use three of them to accomplish dyeing.

Holus Bolus decided to make Swing Coats from some Bamboo fleece fabric. Bamboo is incredibly soft—and incredibly heavy when wet. We employed my mixed dye with play sand technique. The dye particles tend to cling to the sand until it is released by the washing soda on the fabric. I have several drop sheets that have seen many episodes of dye/screen printing/shibori/painting–in general art messiness.img_7674-m

We decided to make the coats first so we could tell where the dye would go–including the hats and then dipped into washing soda, spread them out on the dropcloths and sprinkled dye. They had to set for about two hours or so–then they were rinsed, the sand shaken off, and into the washing machine.img_7673-m

The results were quite colorful–I don’t have photos of the end product but we will be wearing them at Houston Quilt festival this November.img_7672-m

and just so you know–I did spend quite a bit of time sewing while there—sewed up all these double 9 patches while I was there and that swing coat and then maybe one or two other projects as well. This was my work station.img_7671-m