Category Archives: Photography

The Great Horned Owl Next Door

Steve and Lisa call him “Dumptruck,” due to the prodigious loads of waste he crafts from various bits of local mice, rabbits, other birds and, sometimes, even skunks. He then personally transports said waste to the floor of the open roofed shed where they store their trash cans.

Great Horned Owl

Dumptruck is a huge great horned owl.

He’s an altogether impressive and fierce transporter of monster owl poopage, sitting at close to two feet tall with a wingspan of almost five feet.

According to the evidence, Dumptruck most be a fierce and successful hunter with a mighty appetite. We’re keeping a close eye on Winston.

Great Horned Owl

We are delighted to have made his acquaintance, glorious slayer of skunks that he is, although he did scare the schmidt out of Rick who was loading some trash into a can the first time Dumptruck emerged from the shadows of the shed and soared three feet over his head. Rick doesn’t startle easily, but… I heard the yelp from next door.

Sometimes the distance made possible by a good pair of binoculars is better. We’ve been known to extend a lunch hour or two hanging out on our north porch watching the red tail hawks hunting with our cheapo little [easyazon-link asin=”B000051ZOA” locale=”us”]Bushnell “Falcon” binoculars[/easyazon-link]. (Really… that’s what they’re called, but they work just fine for hawks. And the night sky. And owls.)

Great Horned Owl in Flight

It’s really something to watch Dumptruck enter his final landing approach.

Great Horned Owl

Rotate flaps…

Great Horned Owl

… engage landing gear…

Great Horned Owl

… touchdown!

Great Horned Owl

Steve and Lisa inform us that Dumptruck has a lady friend, one “Mrs. Jones.”
They are building a nest for the couple, since apparently great horned owls don’t build their own: they only steal them.

It’s more fun that way.

Great Horned Owl

Oh, don’t be shy, Dumpie… Even the bees do it, I’m told, although I’m not sure that’s technically accurate.

I just researched this. Bees do actually do it, although the nitty-gritty specifics are still a bit hazy for me. It’s probably best that way.

I love how writing this blog keeps me on my scientific toes.

Great Horned Owl

I keep waiting for Dumptruck to bring me a letter.

Great Horned Owl

Seriously? Do I look like a friggin’ mail man to you?
I am Bubo Virginianus, and don’t you forget it!


Yes, sir.

A Balanced Perspective

In the interest of maintaining a balanced perspective, I’m switching it up today and taking a break from our series of the Cook’s Illustrated list of essential kitchen equipment.

(Translation: I found this series of fun photos and couldn’t wait to use them.)

Rick, the gentleman that he is, carries the Nikon on our walks, which means he’s always on the ready for the more mundane moments that arise, like pebbles.

Walk Rule #1: Pebbles happen.

Walk Rule #2: If you don’t find the offender in your boot, you need to go down to the sock level.

Standing on one foot.

On a gravel road.

The sucky thing is, you sometimes don’t even find an offender… like, maybe it was just your imagination.

In either case, it’s an opportunity to work on one’s balance and stretch a bit. Who needs yoga?!

I’ve got the Winston-in-the-background-ready-to-play moves, baby….

Bring it.


Ha!ppy lady.


This is where we live.

This photo was taken last summer. Since then, Rick has removed the ugly fence posts, so it finally feels like we now have a bit of room to breathe.

I know… You’re thinking, “But… where are the malls? Not even a Safeway? Target? Nothing…?”

Nope. And this is why we buy almost everything from kitchen counter cleaner to dehydrated fish flakes to [easyazon-link asin=”B005GBWY5W” locale=”us”]my fabulous new ECCO Biom trail shoes[/easyazon-link] online.

Don’t get me wrong: we’re ALL for shopping local and do whenever we can find what we’re looking for locally.

Big, big fans of local.

However, when the only full-service grocery store in Teton Valley, closed on Sundays, has an aisle labelled “pop tarts” and the closest city-style department store is a 75-minute drive away across a steep and windy mountain pass, you come to depend on and totally appreciate three things:

  1. Your Amazon Prime membership.
  3. The UPS guy. offers, in addition to just about everything you could think of to spend money on, an amazing customer program called “Amazon Prime.”

For $79 a year, you can get unlimited free two-day shipping on almost everything they offer, plus free streaming of thousands of movies and television shows, some of which you’d actually want to watch.

Load on top free access to the Kindle Lending Library, a specially-priced program for students, a separate one for new moms offering discounts on diapers and wipes, and the environmentally-sound convenience of having it all delivered within two days to your front door in the middle of nowhere by a nice man in a spiffy brown shorts outfit… What’s not to love?!

When Cooks Illustrated recommends Method All Purpose Cleaner as its top-rated kitchen cleaner-upper or De Cecco spaghetti as its taste-test winner in the store-bought pasta boil off, that’s what kind of kitchen cleaner and spaghetti we want.

The  fact that I couldn’t find them locally wasn’t a show stopper. One quick check at the computer, a one-click buy with my index finger on the mouse, and two days later, we’re eating truly tasty pasta and cleaning up in a sparkle. I love that. (And honestly, that Method cleaner got dirt out of our wood dining room table that was borderline disgusting to behold. It’s amazing stuff.)

Seriously, this is one reason why we have decided to become Amazon Associates on this blog.

It’s just a great shopping model for busy, picky non-pop tart eaters who would rather read a blog, write one, paint a masterpiece, or do almost anything other than schlep around in a gas-sucking SUV through icy mountain passes for three hours every couple of weeks to stand in long check out lines for products that weren’t quite what they were looking for in the first place.

Also, the UPS truck drives past our house six days a week anyway, so it’s just one quick zip up our driveway’s worth of pollution and gas consumption if we get him to drop something off.

We thought our readers, known for their high IQs and well-developed environmental consciousness, might agree that this way of shopping makes sense.

Plus, if you click on a link here that takes you to Amazon and you buy something–anything, in fact–we earn a tiny bit of money in a commission. This can be, as anyone who needs to eat to stay alive knows, a real shot in the arm. is my favorite clothing store, and maybe even my favorite store, period.

There have been entire books written about their legendary customer service and wonderfully human and humane culture, but for me, what puts this company over the top is that they carry great brands at good prices that they are willing to NEXT BUSINESS DAY SHIP, FREE, BOTH WAYS.

The thing is, it’s not just about the speed of delivery or savings on shipping me stuff. The fact is that their business model has completely revolutionized the shopping experience that women dread the most: the bathing suit.

I know women who are wearing thread-bare 20-year bathing suits because their Valium prescription expired in 1992, and they haven’t been able to face a little cellulite in a harshly-lit three-way mirror since.

But with Zappos no-risk refund policy, this summer when I needed a new bathing suit, I took an hour online, and based on a wonderfully honest reviewing community of shoppers, chose 14 potential candidates (seriously) and had them delivered the next day.

I waited until dark, lit a few candles, and with a glass of wine in hand and Diana Krall on my iPod (and BTW, her new CD is different and wonderful) , I tried them all on, in leisure, in privacy, and in increasing levels of gentle loopiness.

It was lovely, and when it was all done and the suit of choice was chosen, I put the other 13 back into their little plastic baggies, put the baggies in the box they had sent them in, printed the return label that is always easily available on their website, stuck the label on the box, and dropped it off at the post office the next day.

Shoes, jeans, accessories, and even lingerie… Same shop-at-home convenience, great prices and frequent sales, and a simply fabulous group of people to interact with when interacting is called for.

So, I’ll bet you’re wondering why a UPS guy is doing the Happy Dance in our driveway with my mom (above) cheering him on?

This shot was taken at 2:40 p.m. on September 9th, 2009, just twenty minutes before our wedding ceremony on our front lawn under the cherry tree. He had just delivered an important part of my wedding outfit: a cinnamon-colored suede bolero jacket to match my new cowboy boots.

He had become the surprise hero of the hour at a most important hour in our new life together.

What’s not to dance about?


Thanks for coming along while iRode this wave.

Between your most valuable feedback in the form of comments here, personal notes, and the statistics that show us that people continued to come to the blog in spite of the sudden uptick in the frequency of posts (“Again?!”), the reduced number of images offered per posts, and the quality of cell phone snaps versus high-end camera “art,” I’ve learned some valuable lessons this week.

My iPhone 4 takes a good enough shot for a decent post.

This is a critical factor in thinking about the whole blogging schtick for me as it completely negates the rationale that I need to have brilliant images from a highish-end Nikon in order to have fodder around which to think and write.

Of course, everyone loves a nice piece of eye candy, but it turns out that what I actually need in order to write is brain candy. If I can get a post and new national holiday out of a bag of dried bonito, there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

This means that no matter where I am in the world, or what I’m doing, or whether or not I have the honkin’ black camera bag along, I always my phone camera handy.

I can take pictures.

And since I’m a blogger who usually starts with the images and builds a story around them, I’ll just have to suck it up and write with the discipline I would love to think comes with the job… except it doesn’t. Neither does knowing what time to post, or when most people check Facebook, or what day is best to catch people at their computer, or how all those things line up best so when you put your life blood out in the public, people read it. (Not you… other people.)

I took a lovely iPhoto of the tiniest moth I’ve ever seen, sunning itself during its 20 minutes of life on our bathroom wall today, just to prove my point. I’ll blog about it later this week.

I hate it when a cherished excuse to procrastinate gets shot to pieces, don’t you?

I took these iPhotos on our walk yesterday on another favorite route: the path that runs behind Teton Springs Resort, a beautiful golf and fly fishing resort less than a mile from our house.

I had no idea there could be so much new growth so late in a season, did you?

Rick is a HUGE supporter of the writer who is me.

When I’m wailing and gnashing my teeth in the midst of a creative crisis, he brings me fermented fruit and murmurings of comfort. (I don’t really wail and gnash. I mostly just weep quietly into my keyboard when I can’t think of the word that means how an image is composed and begins with a “c”and ends in “omposition.” Still, the pain is real.)

Can we all collectively be a HUGE supporter of the cartoonist who is Rick? I think his cartoons deserve space in the New York Times, and he’s actually won awards for them. I don’t mean to bludgeon the poor man, but we have had repeated conversations of late that start with me saying, “That was so funny! Will you cartoon it?” and him saying, “Yes, yes… I will cartoon on that, honey punkin dimples,” but when was the last time you’ve seen a cartoon around here? Just dog pile him in the comments section, ‘kay?

If I have to give up my procrastination blankie, so does he. This is what makes for a good marriage.

Having a good doggie makes life pretty sweet, too.

iAte Fake Food

In our defense, when a truck stop in northern Oregon is your only option for a nineth* seventh-inning stretch on a stinkin’ hot afternoon after already spending eight hours in the car with another two ahead, your brain craves pleasure and/or distraction, preferably on the chilly side.

While momentarily distracting, there was very little pleasure involved here, other than the booby-prize of noticing what a deliciously ridiculous example this was of the “food product” industry that currently crowds out the actual food from our shopping aisles and truck stops.

And notice, dear reader, that this “snap” was taken before Rick and I polished off the whole damn thing, fully aware that we were chowing down on an artificially flavored vanilla frozen dairy dessert bar with chocolatey coating… and yes, king size me baby!

I’m not proud of this. Does it help that we shared it?

We resolved to do better when we got back to our own beloved pots and pantry. We would embrace kale and quinoa and bean dishes made from scratch. And we did, learning many wonderful new things about previously unexplored regions in the world of real food.

For instance, there’s a good reason why you want to soak and then boil the bejeepers out of beans before you add them to a dish.

My theory is that the white stuff is a “pre-flatulence product,” conveniently shaped to slide neatly into your colon, from whence it wages a vigorous battle with your social life. In terms of flavor, appearance, and nutrition, it’s roughly on par with the previously mentioned “food product.” My advice: don’t eat “products.”

Mindful that we have some sensitive souls and night owls among our readership, or maybe some of you haven’t had breakfast yet, let me leave you with a more comforting and appetizing image.

Witness this morning’s sourdough spelt loaf, although I’m pretty sure at least a few of you will scroll back up for a second look at The Stuff.

*Update, Nov. 30, 2012.
I’m a little disappointed that none of my baseball-loving readers alerted me to my error in thinking that the seventh-inning stretch was a ninth-inning stretch. Seriously, I can’t do this alone, people.


Rick and iTraveled

… a lot this past summer, putting over 3400 miles on the car, the dog, and our new rPod trailer.

There will be many posts to come over the next couple of months about some of our adventures, but those will all feature shots taken with one of our Big Girl cameras. With the exception of yesterday’s spoon, this week features shots taken with my iPhone.

We rumbled through some spectacular scenery.

This wasn’t it.

However, one of the cool things about a loooong road trip with Rick is that even when the vista itself is underwhelming, there is always something interesting to note and puzzle over.

For instance, this view wasn’t enough to make me climb into the back seat and rescue the camera bag from under a snoring 75-pound puppy: the “You wake him, you take him!” rule was in full effect. However, I wanted to snap the image of that weirdo purpley-pink pavement. We both recognized it from somewhere in our youths but couldn’t figure out where: Virginia? Ontario? Tanzania? What makes it that distinctive color? This opened a discussion about how it was sort of the same color as the original Dentyne gum, leading naturally to the topic of favorite candy from our childhood and the marked difference in liberality with which it was dispensed in our respective homes growing up, and we each learned something new about the other.

Writing is so cathartic and helpful for me. For example, just now three important lessons snapped into place:

1. When I catch an image with my iPhone, it is almost always because a) I can’t gain access to my Nikon either quickly enough or at all, or b) there is something besides photogenic merit that compels me to want to retain the scene. When I do take a photo with my cell phone, I think of it as a memory aid called a “snap.”

2. The amount of stuff about the world that Rick and I don’t know is truly impressive. We should get “I don’t know” t-shirts made.

3. One trick to making a 3400-mile road trip a wonderful experience is to travel with someone who enjoys conversational bunny trails as much as you do.

Sometimes the scenery wasn’t so much about the landscape as it was about the airscape.

I think the dog was still sleeping on the camera bag at this point, because that weather was pretty amazing and would have been worthy of a “photo” as opposed to a “snap” except for reason 1a above.

Sometimes a cold and windy waterscape at twilight can be interesting, too.

I think I’ve worked out the Pictage possibilities mentioned yesterday, but there is a 24-hour uploading lag that is going to make the timing tricky. I’ll still work on it, but meanwhile, I’ve decided to remove the copyright watermarks from the images I post here. They were bugging me.


iTurn Sourdough Spelt Into Silver

It’s true: my current bread baking frenzy, coupled with Rick’s keen eye for a bargain, indirectly scored us $68 in sterling silver today.

As you can imagine, there are many serendipitous twists and turns involved in today’s post, plus yesterday I promised to reveal our secret retirement funding idea today, so I will do my best to keep things as simple as possible.

Point #1: The follow-up to yesterday’s promise to reveal how we will use this blog to fund our retirement, which is only tangentially related to spelt and silver, but a promise is a promise.

We recently stumbled on a website called “” which allows photographers to display their work to potential clients without putting their images at risk of being swiped and used without artist attribution or (gasp!) compensation. Also, people have sometimes (not always, but sometimes) commented sweetly, “Hey! That’s a nice shot! It would make a great print / greeting card set / calendar / coffee table book / etc!” Based on all the above, we decided to open an account and, going forward, post all the photos we share here, there.

We’ll also go backward upon request. If there’s a photo in past posts that you’d really like to cardify, let us know. Also, if the winter proves particularly long, and we run out of things to do (HA!), I’ll spend some time digging through the archives and put together a “best of” collection.

This will add an additional couple of steps to the whole blogging thing, and, okay, it might not totally fund our retirement, but if Rick and I can afford a six-pack of wheat-free Sapporo beer once a quarter in our waning years, and you harvest a unique Christmas gift for your dear ancient Auntie or the kids’ teachers out of the deal, who gets hurt? No ads, no pop-up dancing Santas, no drama… Just the quiet link, active for three months, at the bottom of each post.

By the way, research (aka talking to my Mom) shows that older people really don’t want more “stuff.” What they DO appreciate are consumable items they can actually use/eat/enjoy that don’t further stress their already straining china closets or technology tolerances. Plus, they are the possibly the last generation to participate in that most wonderful institution known as “the hand-written thank-you note,” and you would be doing mankind a wonderful service by promoting this quietly fading art.

Waddya think?

Point #2: These are hand-made spelt burger buns, cooling in the the 3 p.m. patch of sunlight in our kitchen, shot with my iPhone because they were beautiful and if I had hesitated to race for The Big Nikon from upstairs, the light would have shifted and the moment lost.

This image is the catalyst that began this series.

Last January I resurrected an old bread machine and started baking bread again. I soon shifted to sourdough, then whole wheat, then hand ground, then away from wheat to spelt…

I don’t know if you’ve looked lately, but you can trust me on this: there are very few recipes out there for bread-machine produced sourdough spelt sesame-seed encrusted potato burger buns.

Somewhere along the way, the bread machine got mothballed as irrelevant.

Have I mentioned that Rick and I live in a small, renovated farmhouse with adequate but limited storage space? Do you have any idea how big an irrelevant bread machine is in such a space?

We make frequent trips to our local thrift store.

While we were there dropping off the bread machine today, Rick browsed the housewares shelf and found this (photographed with the Big Nikon in the same sliver of kitchen light as the previously mentioned buns… oooooh….).

It was dirty and tarnished, at first glance hardly worth the asking price of 10 cents. But Rick and I have a high tolerance for risk, plus we’re going to have a lovely full house for Christmas, and we’re going to need another large serving spoon.

Also, I had unearthed some silver polish from under the kitchen sink just this morning, so we thought, “What the heck?! It’s Election Day, and if you weren’t already born with a silver spoon in your mouth, today’s as good a day as any to buy a nice big one!”

We brought it home, polished it up, and finally saw the marks of the manufacturer, “Holmes & Edwards.” Five minutes of Google-powered research later, and we are now the proud owners of a 1938 “Danish Princess” berry spoon, currently worth about $68.

“See N’ Save,” indeed!

And if you are into such things, that photo might make a nice greeting card, right?

P.S. I haven’t totally worked out the whole Pictage interface yet, plus the election results are coming in, so if you’re just dying to purchase the silver spoon greeting card set, it appears you’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Or next Saturday. Or whenever I get it figured out.