Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Praise God from whom all blessings flow ...

The singing of the Doxology, at the 37th Rocky Mountain Mennonite Relief Sale, 10.20.2012:

and a gallery of images from the sale:

37th RMMS 10.20.2012


Leece got this one in last evening's 8th grade basketball game, Swink Lions v. Fowler Grizzlies, at Swink:

She was shooting the players, who went down just as she shot. The young ladies in the background stole the focus - almost; it's little soft - making for a pretty good shot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Indifferent ...

And in the meanwhile, there are some in this world who are completely indifferent to the foolishness around them ... such as this honeybee, busy at the sage by the front door, stocking up for the winter.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Picket Wire guided tours

The U.S. Forest Service will offer guided auto tours of Picket Wire Canyonlands south of La Junta on the Comanche National Grassland.

These primitive canyons are home to the largest dinosaur track site in North America and many historic and archaeological features.

Fall tours are scheduled every Saturday beginning this weekend through Oct. 20. Tours run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Due to rough roads, visitors will need their own four-wheel drive vehicle and any supplies such as water and food.

For more information or to make reservations, call 719-384-2181 or visit the USFS website.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pike National Forest and Pikes Peak

This past Sunday we took a day trip up to Pike National Forest, where we did a bit of hiking, and then took the toll road up to the peak of Pikes Peak.

We have a gallery of 147 shots up on's galleries page,  under RoadTrips 2012.

The road is paved all the way now, and has been for some  years now. That was the result of a suit by the Sierra Club, who protested all that gravel - thousands and thousands of tons of it - washing down the slopes and into the forest and watercourses below. Every year. Hats off to the Sierra Club on that one.

There are even some guard rails now, and from the look of a few of them, not a moment too soon.

We packed a picnic lunch, which we enjoyed at the Halfway picnic grounds. We aren't sure if those are maintained by the Forest Service - it isn't shown in the listing of Pike National Forest picnic areas - or by the City of Colorado Springs. Whoever does it, is doing a pretty good job of it.

However ... avoid the commercial 'gift' shops, which are well-stocked with Hechoed in China junk, including the establishment at the summit. Also be prepared for some pretty grungy bathrooms in all of the commercial establishments. You would think with the money they rake in they'd keep the places from looking like something from the Third World.

OTOH, the Pikes Peak donuts were reportedly pretty good. SteveO woofed one down in short order.

Other than the disappointing commercial establishments, the trip was a most outstanding experience. And we didn't go for the junk shops anyway.

We thought about a weekender to New York City, but decided to skip it. We don't think we could pass their health attitude requirements.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cheyenne Mountain State Park 07.07.2012

We took a trip to Colorado Springs yesterday, to pick up Michael and Froggy at the airport, on their return from 'Zarona.

Then we went to CheyenneMountain State Park for a picnic lunch and a short hike on one of the many trails throughout the park. It was mid afternoon. Leece and I saw plenty of dragonflies and lizards, but no larger critters. The kids had walked ahead and saw a couple of deer - a doe and a half-grown fawn - on the trail ahead.

Though there were a few cyclists on the trail, and fewer hikers, the park was not crowded. Some of the hikers were quite noisy and could heard several hundred yards up and down the trail. Otherwise, it was quiet enough to hear your heart pound.

A good time was had by all.

We have a gallery on under "Road Trips 2012".

Friday, July 6, 2012

Backyard Democrats

We have a new wireless shutter release with which we are dabbling. We took some shots of some of our 'backyard Democrats' this morning. As you can see, the angle wasn't optimum; we're shooting almost directly into the sun from under a cottonwood. Our shutterspeed was really too low; our ISO was at 800; and the depth of field was as shallow as a politician's promise. So tomorrow, we're shifting the seed plate to where we'll have direct sunlight, and the camera will be between sun and birds. This should give us a much better set of parameters.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Knapps is open

Knapps Market on the west side of Rocky Ford is open. We got some nice corn, as well as some very nice Rocky Ford Sweets, and a seedless watermelon.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Swansboro, NC 06.11.2012

After our photo expedition to Tryon Palace's kitchen garden we pressed on down US 17 to Maysville. Maysville is a little larger than Swink. It's where US 17 intersects with NC 58, which runs south from Maysville along the east bank of the White Oak River. At Cape Carteret, NC 58 intersects with NC 24. Turning west on 24 took us over the White Oak into Swansboro.

I remember Swansboro as nothing more than a small fishing village, with not much more than fishing, and possibly some more fishing ... but that was, oh, forty years or more ago. Like the rest of such places, Swansboro has apparently felt the pinch brought on by shifting economies, changing fisheries markets, and outsourcing of supplies of seafood.

We stopped at the visitor's center, which was well-stocked with information; the fellow manning the place was friendly and helpful. The Swansboro downtown area is small enough that a walking tour is quite feasible and quite enjoyable. 

Whoever is in charge of economic development for Swansboro seems to have had their heads screwed on reasonably well, for Swansboro's small downtown area has been turned into a tiny but pleasant enclave of touristy shops and reasonably decent restaurants. Sadly, at least for Swansboro, we had stuffed ourselves at the Sting Ray Cafe in New Bern, so we had to pass on lunch.

We did, however, go for the coffee at Bake, Bottle, Brew. But before that, Leece had to try the ice cream.

The ice cream was excellent, as was the coffee. We chatted briefly with the owner, Jack Harnatkiewicz, who told us that he used locally roasted beans from an outfit called Green Truck Coffee. We liked it enough that we picked up a bag of Ethiopian for Louie. Bake, Bottle, Brew is well worth a stop. You can enjoy your coffee or ice cream - or both - on the pizer overlooking the White River waterfront.

It was an overcast, rainy day. One shop we tried, a quilt shop, was disappointing, as we noted that almost everything was hechoed in China. Sorry, but we didn't travel all the way to eastern NC to buy a made in China quilt, or made in China anything else, especially after the quilters' art we are used to from our Mennonite neighbors.

There are a couple of restaurants that have pretty good reviews. One of these, YanaMama's, received a good review from Louie. Unfortunately, they were closed so we didn't get to go in even for a small sampling.

We have a small gallery up on WritingPlace's galleries page:

Swansboro, NC 06.11.2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve 06.14.2012

We visited Carrot Island, part of the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve, on June 14. We timed the visit so we'd be there during low tide, as we wanted to get some shots of marsh life, as well as Leece's primary interest, the plants and especially flowers.

We managed to get some very good photos of the horses, and some of the more common birds. We used our Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM, on a Canon 5D MkII for all the horse photos and most of the bird shots. At 500mm, the Sigma telephoto is a very good stand-off lens, especially when used not on the 5D, but on one of the cameras with an APS-C sensor. Macros were Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro or 24mm F2.8 EX DG Macro.

The gallery is up on's galleries page:

Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve 06.14.2012

We did OK for a ... dare I say it ... 'a three hour tour ...'.

Actually, we spent four hours. Can you imagine the photo ops if we could go over more frequently? It near boggles the mind.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tryon Palace, New Bern, NC

New Bern was the colonial capital of North Carolina around 1770. Tryon Palace was the governor's mansion. Built under considerable controversy, it actually was a pivotal point leading to the War of Regulation. To say that Governor William Tryon was unpopular would be something of an understatement.

The original palace was destroyed by fire in 1798. Like Bent's Old Fort, the modern site is a restoration.

The palace is renowned for its gardens, and we spent a few hours sweating like pigs, on a hot, humid day last week getting some macro shots. It was worth it, we think.

The gallery is up on the galleries page:

Tryon Palace Kitchen Garden

This gallery includes four shots of the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, which is usually the first place we stop, coming over the bridge from US Highway 70. There are also several shots of the palace, front and rear.

Cape Lookout, North Carolina 06.09.2012

We visited Core Banks and Cape Lookout on June 9. We went all the way to the point of Cape Lookout, as far as we could without having to swim to the next sand bar.

Core Banks and Cape Lookout, 06.09.2012

We got some good shots of black skimmers, royal terns, plain old terns, some of the flora, and quite a few of the lighthouse.

This year, we went over on the Cape Lookout ferry service, which is based in Davis, NC.  Susie and Louie had arranged for a fairly hefty diesel-powered ATV to use for getting around. This ferry goes over to the fish camps near Great Island, about the middle of Core Banks and about 7 miles, more or less, from the lighthouse. On other trips, we had used the Harkers Island Fishing Center's ferry service, which puts us right near the lighthouse. Previous years' galleries are on the same's galleries page, and here is a link to our visit last year.

Core Banks is part of Cape Lookout National Seashore. Cape Lookout is the central cape of the three "Carolina Capes" - Cape Hatteras being the northernmost; Cape Fear the southernmost. The capes, especially Hatteras and Lookout, have gained the reputation of being "The Graveyard of the Atlantic", because of the huge number of ships that have grounded and been lost on the shoals extending for miles out from the capes.

In addition to 'natural' losses, the waters off the capes were a shooting gallery for German U-boats during the opening days of World War II. A quick read of's summary of Operation Drumbeat will give you some idea of the terror wrought within sight of our coastal towns and cities.

Leece loves Core Banks and Shackleford Banks not only for the scenery, the pristine beaches and water, but also the shelling. She can't seem to take more than a few steps along the beach without stopping to root for shells. The first three shots below are actually on Shackleford Banks, which extends west of Core Banks, and is still part of Cape Lookout National Seashore.

While these are on Core Banks, near the lighthouse at the south end of the island.

Question: How many pictures can you take of one lighthouse?
Answer: As many as there are sides to the lighthouse.

And the fishing is magnificent.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Budsin Boats

Hand-crafted electric-powered boats, built in Marshallberg, NC.

Leece examines two boats being custom-built for the Broadmoor up in Colorado Springs.

Budsin Wood Craft

Monday, May 28, 2012

On Ryan's Pond

We did some macro shots over at Ryan's Pond this weekend.

Here's the gallery:

On Ryan's Pond

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Karidopeta Nistisimi

Or ... Lenten Nutcake:

Lenten Nut Cake
Karidopeta Nistisimi

Prepared during the Lenten season because there is no butter or other dairy products in the recipe.

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 cup raisins (we like craisins)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup sugar (we're thinking of subbing brown sugar on the next bakefest)
2 cups water
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup cognac (a decent rum or brandy are also good)
1 tablespoon grated lemon or orange peel
1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
confectioner's sugar for topping
ground cinnamon for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour into a bowl with the cloves and baking powder. Sprinkle a little of the flour mixture over the raisins/craisins.. Add oil to flour and blend well. Make a well in the center of the flour/oil mixture. Add sugar, two cups of water, and baking soda dissolved in cognac/rum/brandy. Mix lightly. Add citrus peel, raisins, and nuts. Mix well. Grease a 9x12 inch pan and pour in batter. Bake for about 1 hour, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan, remove, and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and cinnamon. Cut into squares and serve cold.

From The Complete Book of Greek Cooking, by St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Cathedral Recipe Club.

St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Cathedral is in Hempstead, NY.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Benet Hill Monastery

We spent last weekend up at the Benet Hill Monastery, at the retreat center run by the Benedictine nuns.

Friday evening we sat Vespers with the nuns. Leece thoroughly enjoyed this, as she joined the nuns in singing the psalmody. Friday was also the feast day of Saint Scholastica, making the day all the more significant to the nuns.

We browsed the bookstore, and the library, which is a small but magnificent collection illustrating the wide range of interests of the nuns. Leece was able to find a very nice translation from the German of a book examining the Psalms.

The halls of the monastery, from the entrance to the chapel, have details of illustrations from the Saint John's Bible. You can see some examples of the artwork contained in the bible here.

We had hoped to experience the prayer labyrinth and the Zen gardens, but the recent fall of more than two feet of snow buried everything. So we enjoyed some walks in the frozen forest. While Friday was a bright, sunny bluebird day, Saturday turned downright frigid, with frost coating the trees, and a light snow whispering down through the trees. It was quiet enough to hear the snow falling.

Critters abound in these woods. We saw all manner of tracks in the snow, but during the day, we saw not so much as a mouse's whiskers.

It was a quiet and refreshing weekend.

You can find a gallery of some of the photos we took over on's Galleries page, under Road Trips 2012.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Homemade pizza 02.04.2012

Leece is a pretty good baker. Her breads are first rate. So's her pizza crust.

The kids have been nagging about having some homemade pizza, so yesterday we had a group effort pizza-making.

Leece used bread flour rather than all-purpose flour, which worked very well indeed, as the pizza crust was probably the best ever. Smeared generously with a well-seasoned tomato paste - paste, not sauce - and then slathered with pepperoni, sweet Italian sausage, Texas 1015 onion chunks, bell pepper, and mushrooms. A few handfuls of mozzarella and Parmesan topped it off. In fact, this was probably the best pizza we've ever made. It all just seemed to come together so well.

All participated. Kneaders, vegetable choppers, mixers, scullery maids. You can see the gallery over on the Galleries page of Homemade Pizza in The Holy Land 02.04.2012, under Events.