sunday stills ~ leading lines

I did not take new photos for the challenge this week. Here are a couple different leading lines from my photo archives:

moon set
 (taken from our deck 10.18.19)

moon set
 (farm art tour 10.4.20)

Apparently I prefer moon set over moon rise, and like to place the moon on things. 

Follow this leading line ___________and click to view more Sunday Stills.


bluebird help needed

This is our first full season with bluebird boxes. You may recall, last year Brad built me a couple nesting boxes for Mothers Day from him & Tank. I tracked activity and checked the boxes often. I was so thrilled to find a bluebird nest in Box One on April 18!! 

five eggs on May 6

first couple hatchlings on May 11

Box Two

On May 11 the nice Chickadee nest in Box Two was replaced with a house wrens nest (started above, if left they fill the box). After emptying it multiple times, we relocated the box. I got repeat nesting action, so Box Two is currently being left open. I may put a wren guard on the box (s).

I kept monitoring Box One, more frequently than I probably should have.

hatchlings on May 12

I couldn't tell if they were dead or alive.

nestlings are alive and hungry on May 13

more hungry nestlings visible on May 14

looking snug on May 16

noticeable change on May 18

hmmm...they sure are quiet on May 20

large goop found inside entrance on May 21

On day 9-10, I removed what looked like bird (?) poop. The yucky goop looked way too large for a blue bird size dropping. I found it odd that the babies were not active. I didn't touch them, although online sources say you can handle baby birds without effecting wellbeing. Google says the goop is likely a Fecal Sac.

We had unseasonable hot and humid weather for several days. Maybe that had something to do with lack of activity?

Incase you are wondering, our boxes face East. There are various opinions on preferred box opening direction and even location.

I found the box opening blocked on May 24

Day 13 since the first two eggs hatched, or day 12 for the others.

the opening was blocked with pine needles and grass, same as the nest

Empty Nest

Instead of bluebird happiness, we now have bluebird sadness. I looked everywhere for little bodies, or a sign of whatever went wrong. I never saw the baby birds open their eyes. Sadly it appears the baby blue birds never fledged. Maybe they died and the parents removed their babies, then blocked the box?

I learned baby birds go through three stages: Hatchlings (usually 0-3 days)  Nestlings (usually 3-13 days) and Fledgling (13-14 days or older). Baby birds fledge 18-21 days. Some resources say you are not suppose to open the box after 12 days. 

I have searched online, and am not finding answers that match. I have several good bluebird ref sites bookmarked. Definitely planning to ask the knowledgeable folks for advice at my fav bird store in the big city, next time I head that direction.

Any thoughts on what happened and/or suggestions on how to prevent whatever happened, from happening again?


sunday stills ~ streets and roads

Our road

 Where troubles are left behind, and dreams lie ahead.

It is much longer than appears in the photo's.
Our road is really just our driveway, but feels like much more than that.

Our curve

I always wonder what I will find when I take this curve.

It leads towards everything that is us.
Our home, and then continues towards our barn.

Our temporary field road

We have come so far, and yet so far away.

The field road is well traveled, by trucks large and small.
It leads to the back of our arena construction site.

See more Sunday Stills ~ Streets and Roads


first ride on Padame

I finally made it to one of Brad's lessons on Padame!! I did take a few photos, but haven't processed them yet. I've got another set of (horse!) photos to complete before I go through the lesson photos. I will share my thoughts with my photos in an upcoming post. In the interim, enjoy these video clips!

Groundwork (4 sec)

Groundwork (8 sec)

Outside groundwork (11 sec)

Brad's first ride on Padame (26 sec)


sounds promising

Cierra was rebred yesterday. The phrase "three times the charm" was mentioned more than once, and it just might prove true. This AI sounds very promising. We will know in about 15 days. Our vet said, and I quote "this is perfect timing". He said she had just ovulated, and it was very fresh.

What we learned about Cierra is that she doesn't follow the typical 21 day cycle. This time she ovulated another day earlier, at 19 days. If you missed earlier AI posts the links to the first and two second AI posts are 
here and here.

A person might wonder why a vet that specializes in AI didn't get the perfect timing right on the first attempt. Not for the lack of trying. Besides the natural variables out of their control, the timing needs to mesh with the collecting facility. In our case, c
ooled semen can only be ordered M/W/F by 9am, so breeding can only happen Tu/Th/Sa.

We aren't the only clients, they are a very busy vet clinic that services a wide area. I can only imagine the appointment juggling that needs to happen. Our vet said breeding is up significantly this year. He also said with the cool Spring we had, mares just didn't get cycling.

ou never know what you are getting with sperm potency, and it decreases with time. The first AI semen motility (aka sperm swimability) was around 70, the second 40 and this time it tested here at 60 (shipped at 65). I asked if there wasn't some type of potency benchmark, and he said no - you get what you get.

I also learned that about 60-70% of the mares do not take on the first AI. He said there wasn't really an average number of AI attempts. 

tools of the trade
Breeder sleeve, lube, sedation shot and the AI tube and syringe

(sorry for the wonky photo, I snapped it on the fly)

After learning more about the process and Cierra, I sure hope all the stars align. For all of our sake, but especially Cierra's.


sunday stills ~ your favorite color

I truly love all colors, but my fav is purple. It used to be blue when I was a kid. If you combine the two, you get blurple.

Somewhere along the line, my fav color changed to purple. At my last full time job I wrote with purple ink pens for 10.5 years. Among other things, I signed a gazillion PO's. In purple. No one looked at my signature, they saw purple and knew it was me. True story.

one of many mid height iris
transplanted to our homestead
(iphone photo)

I've been growing these purple bulbs for over 20 years. They grew large globes made up of tiny florets, in clay soil at our previous home. Not so much now that we live in sand country.

I still enjoy their royal purpleness. 

allium globemaster

a purple study in allium portraiture ;)

see more colors at Sunday Stills


maybe three times is the charm?

As you know, we brought Cierra home after a first failed AI attempt. We found out she was back in heat, and not bred. Her ovary measurements were calculated for ideal timing to rebreed a second time at our barn. Semen was ordered, and overnighted.

Our vet came out to our place to do the second AI, annnnd we got more bad news. Cierra had ovulated early. Sigh. Our vet felt bad, and was very surprised. We are dealing with nature, which is unpredictable. Pretty sure he doesn't decide her cycle timing. There was instantly little hope.

He did the AI anyways, because we had the semen. There was a slim chance she could still be bred IF Cierra had ovulated the night before.

frozen semen container
that gets sent back and forth

I learned they calculate 21 days between mare's ovulation cycle during peak season. He said Cierra ovulated at 20 days, which they wouldn't expect to happen until around August. Ovaries measure on average 40mm at ovulation, so ideal AI breeding is done with ovaries measuring around 38mm. That is a small window of guestimation.

At Cierra's recheck appointment, we didn't have our hopes up. As expected, she was not pregnant. Our vet checked her and estimated she was around 60% of the way into her cycle. We have another appointment bright and early on Monday to see if she is in productive heat and figure out when to reorder semen. Again. He is planning to do a third AI at the 20 day mark.

Maybe three times will be the charm? 


let's face it

I recently met a new Blogger friend in person for the first time at Kickapoo Valley Reserve (KVR). My favorite local-ish place to trail ride. I had never explored it on foot, until I met Val. She has been trail riding her mules and hiking that magical area for over 30 years. 

This was my first time meeting an online friend in person. Those of us still on Blogger after more than a decade, have stuck around because we know this platform is different than other social media. Much more real, with deeper connection. You really get to know those that interact with you, and become friends. Val and I have been at the same past events, without knowing each other. Our paths had not crossed yet. I remember our saddle maker asking me if I knew her. You can't make that stuff up. I had zero concerns. I am happy to report that Val not only turned out to be a good egg, she has an amazing wealth of nature knowledge - especially at KVR.

We both love nature, photography and animals.

Our remote hike took us through 
a super secret hidden area. I can't tell you about it, because - well, it's a secret. We meandered on a long lost horse trail, with a winding creek beside us and a ridge above us. We saw super cool rock formations that KVR is known for, as we followed Charlie on deer trails, climbed under and over and walked through everything in between. All the while, surrounded by magical woods.

Our trail boss was this little guy, with a big personality:


He took his job seriously and was very patient while he waited for not one, but two wondering minds.

There were 
so many different varieties of wildflowers growing in different stages, in every single direction. As far as the eye can see. They changed as we walked through different areas. I have never seen or been surrounded by SO many different wildflowers!! We saw dozens of different varieties of wild growing things. I couldn't begin to name or list what we saw. I was so busy being in awe, that I didn't take many photos. My senses were soaking it all in real time. After I got home, I discovered a check off list of the 283 official wildflowers that grow at KVR. 283!! Wow!

One of my favorite finds had nothing to do with wildflowers. It was a bird, just a'singing away to us. My first photo had a branch across the face, and I had to move to get a clear shot. I am including it because it shows some key ID characteristics. 
I was so surprised it didn't fly off. After doing some research, I am confident we saw a Towhee. Most likely an Eastern Towhee, because it has a reddish eye. Please correct me if I am wrong.

We scaled mountain sides 'er hill sides and discovered many things along the way that stopped us in our tracks. Hiking at it's finest.

Another highlight was discovering faces in the old rock formations. Let's face it, I knew we were kindred souls when Val found a face of her own (pictured here). We looked intently at the rock formations, while wondering about both of them. This was the face I saw: 

Do you see it??

So interesting!! It even has hair.
Looks kinda like a Groot, or someone from an ancient tribe.

If you couldn't see the face, how about now?

Val was tasked
 with finding "the hole in the rock" by her hubby. A feature that no doubt brings back memories to those who discover it.

hole in the rocks 

We shared stories of our past KVR trail rides and other experiences along the way.

so cute how Charlie checks on his mom (and then poses)
while she works her toy photography magic

there are many old unique formations

Weister Creek

this view was simply magical

something out of a mythical woodland storybook
when the sun came out, it lit up pockets of glowing green

I could have stayed right here, all day
photos just can't capture the beauty, you'll have to imagine it

Eventually we reached the established horse trails. As we got near, Val mentioned we were headed to the less exciting (or something similar) part of the hike. They were clearly more traveled, but I thought they were amazing!!

We joked about being surrounded by trillions of Trilliums.
They were on both sides of the horse trail for a long section, allll the way up both steep hillsides. Absolutely stunning!

All this and SO much more to this memorable hike!! My mind wanders back often. Thank you Val for sharing the wonder of the KVR with me! 


sunday stills ~ new beginnings


new beginnings

this bracketed growth with funky textured cone tops
is beginning to emerge into little tree lookalikes
(click to enlarge)

See more new beginnings at Sunday Stills


here's your sign ~ build an arena

Time keeps flying, weeks have passed since my last arena update. Brad has been making good progress on the interior, and I have learned a thing or two.

Who learns to operate a fork lift with their husband waaay up in the air?
Apparently me. 

I have never operated a forklift or given a second thought to watching how they are operated, as they all but run into you at the lumberyard type stores. I agreed to lift Brad up to the ceiling so he could install the fans. Using one lever. He told me I didn't have to worry about anything else. I can handle that. Sounds easy. Well it was, until Brad was up by the ceiling. After mounting the fan, he realized the basket he was standing in wouldn't clear the end of the metal spokes when lowering him. Rut Row. Ummm, now I had to move the forklift in order for him to get down and had no idea how. Have you seen how many levers forklifts have? 

Brad had to teach me how to operate the machine verbally from up in the air. I had to move the machine a very very small move or I could damage the fan (gasp!!). Not to mention the love of my life is 200 feet up in the air with fan spikes sticking out, as visions of dumping him onto the ground swirled around my head. Okay, so that height is an exaggeration - but it is what it felt like. Every machine reacts differently, one wrong move and...no pressure!!

I passed the test, one fan mounted. Whew!

two fans mounted
Brad is still alive, and I didn't even hit anything!

exterior drainage work continues off/on

some of the interior lumber arrived

As you all know, the pandemic has created shortages and price increases everywhere. The building industry is struggling big time to get product and catch up as the world reopens. Brad stayed ahead of the waiting game and placed orders early, with prices locked in.

it was time for more fill

I found this subtle message behind the arena
(because apparently the fill pile right next to it isn't enough)

I think Brad was tired of telling companies & drivers over and over (and over) where to turn to get to the arena etc. They are still hesitant and some can't figure it out. The dirt tracks and temporary field road is obvious. It makes me wonder how some of these drivers make it through the day.

here's your sign

Brad works on the arena every chance he gets. He let me help with a few boards, otherwise we are all banned from helping him. The dogs, cats and I bug him check on him periodically. I find him peacefully working away on building his dream, singing along to his tunes. Brad is in his happy place. 

interior arena walls are going up
(mounted boards on left side)

The wood order count got flipped flopped. There is one less row of treated lumber along the bottom than planned. Brad is good with it, and the lumber count we received still works. As the arena interior goes up, we continually make adjustments. Troubleshooting and making changes are just part of the building process.

For example, see the south windows at the end (above). They were not planned. After seeing all the beautiful window light in Grey Horse Matters arena and asking questions (I am always good for that!) at the last minute, we decided to add more windows. By sharing her barn/arena info (and shed, update to come) there were some things we had not thought of. Huge thank you!! It helps to know what others do, to figure out what works for us. Although everyone's structures and elements are different, it is still helpful. By documenting our builds, my hope is it will give those facing similar decisions things to consider.

First we decided to put in three extra windows, then switched to two. Just in time, before the builders framed that wall. We are both glad we went with two windows. A third window in the far right corner is unnecessary and visually would have looked weird. Now we have some southern windows that open and let more light in! They will really make a difference.

curved half wall posts are in

wall mounted laser
when you forget the laser stand, you improvise

curved boards start to go up

different view

facing barn

sooo much fill

standing in barn
(perspective is very skewed)

arena progress up to April 26 
(16 sec)