Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Again, Hummingbirds

I haven't been writing much about our hummingbirds, but that doesn't mean they haven't been around.

My fascination with these little guys continues, I guess it will be with me forever.

It helps that my camera will actually take pictures of these guys. This allows me to study them in closeup, and every time I see a new close up shot, I'm amazed all over again.

I know I always say this, but these shots really do need to be viewed in a larger size, so make sure to click on any one you like to see more detail. Please note these were all taken through the less than sparkling windows of the motorhome, so they really aren't as sharp as they could be.

But they're the best I could do.

Hummingbird tongues,
thin as a needle
always busy.

They don't seem to mind sharing.

Waiting in line.

I had to enlarge this face,
this fabulous face.

The little feathers
in such gorgeous patterns

A Rufous

The next two shots
are sort of strange,
but I loved
the color and the movement

excuse my dirty windows

We're leaving Ghost Ranch for a month on Sunday, and I will certainly miss these guys.

All I can hope for is that a few of them will hang around for our return in September,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Do You Read This Blog?

OK, here's my plea.

Do you read this blog on a regular basis?

I've tried many times to figure out who and what my readership is. I see how many people look at the blog, and I occasionally have people comment on a specific entry.

But I really don't know who or what my core readership is. I can see that I average about 100 hits a day, but who are these people? Some of them are faceless hits lasting less than five seconds, but many seem to be returning readers.

When I last asked this question, I received some comments, which were greatly appreciated, but I have to admit, I'd really like to know who you are.

If you are a regular reader, would you mind signing up as a follower of this blog? That way, I would get a chance to see who you are. And if you have some sort of web presence, it would give me a chance to get to know you a bit better.

All you have to do is look to the right of the content, and you'll see the Followers link. Click on it and you're following this blog and I will get a chance to know who you are!

Also, if anyone would like to comment, do you read this blog for RV info? I realize that has been a bit short lately, but I have to admit, I'm clueless as to what people are looking for when they come here.

Is it cooking and recipes (something that has been woefully short of late, since they feed us here at Ghost Ranch)? Campsite information? Solar info? Photography? My mindless blathering (most doubtful)?

I'm really curious.

While you're at it, if you shop on Amazon, I'd appreciate it if you'd order through my link (at the top right hand side of the page). By clicking on the "click here" button, I get a small percentage (4%) of your purchase and it adds nothing to your cost. And if you'd rather not, that's fine also.

In closing, here's the picture of the day, taken right from my front door here at Ghost Ranch.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Camera

I'm still reeling from yesterdays news, but I wanted to do a quick post on my camera.

I get lots of inquiries about my camera and what I'm shooting all these pictures with.

For the record, it is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28, and it has recently been announced as out of production. With that news, the price has shot up and now, it's selling for hundreds more than I paid for mine.

Let me say that this is THE finest camera I have ever used, though I'm not a professional by any means. It's not a DSLR, but it's darn close. It has a sharp Zeiss lens, an 18 times Optical Zoom (incredible), wonderful image stabilization software and it weighs hardly anything at all.

Since I've been selling photos here at Ghost Ranch, everyone assumes I'm shooting with film or at least a $1000 plus DSLR, but it's just this little beauty that I use.

One day I was out shooting, not really paying attention, and my battery died. I had a moment of extreme panic, thinking I would lose the use of this camera.

It was then that I put the link you see on the far bottom right of this blog that says "Since December '08 I've Been Shooting With This Camera". The link is to Amazon, and it always shows the current price for the camera.

Lately, there's been talk on the Panasonic boards of the price, how it has risen and why this was happening. We all assume it is the news that it will no longer be made, added to the huge fan base of this camera.

So in looking at the price on my blog the other day, I noticed that the cost was listed as 237.00 a fantastic deal. Terry and I had been discussing getting him an FZ-28, so I just jumped on it. It was a new, but open box unit. We received it today, it is complete and has just been registered with Panasonic, so we have a full warranty!

I just mention this is case any of you are interested in this great little camera, you might want to keep an eye on the price and grab one when it becomes available.

It really is a keeper.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cherish Those You Hold Dear

What a crappy day.

We woke up this morning to a knock on the door telling us that a good friend of ours was missing. An avid hiker, he took off yesterday morning.

At 7:00 last night, he called his wife and left a message saying that he had made a wrong turn, but he was now back on track and should be home in an hour.

By the time we realized he was not coming back it was too late for Search and Rescue, but they were here this morning at 4:30am.

Later in the morning, we heard the news that he had been found, sadly down in a ravine.

He was here, but now he's not.

He and his wife were new friends of just a few months, but we knew they were going to be keepers. A wonderful couple, happy and loving, the kind you treasure in your life.

I've spent much of the day with her and I feel so helpless, I really don't know what to say or do.

My heart has a giant hole.

Go right now and give those you love and care for a giant hug. Be kind to them and yourself. We are all irreplaceable and sometimes it takes a loss like this to remind us.

Life may be good, but death really sucks.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

We're Going to be Weavers!

Regular readers may remember that a while ago, we visited Tierra Wools in Los Ojos.

The Village of Los Ojos

Some friends of ours are restoring an adobe wall on this amazing building (circa 1860) and we've been going up every week or so to monitor their progress. If I can get my act together, I may be doing a blog on the adobe restoration once it's finished.


In our several trips to the facility, both Terry and I have become fascinated with the gorgeous weavings we've been seeing.

Terry was the first one to mention that he might be interested in taking a weaving class. Today, we gathered a bit more information. In looking at our schedules (we are taking the month of August off from Ghost Ranch, returning in September), we realized that there is a weaving class starting August 3. Is that a sign or what?

Los Ojos is a charming, very tiny village, so we were a bit concerned about lodging. Then, when we talked to the kind folks at Tiera Wools, we were assured that they had a place for us to park the motorhome while we were taking classes.

So the good news is that we are both enrolled in weaving classes for a week in early August. Not only will we learn about wool and the different kinds of weaving, but each of us will create a three by five blanket of our very own.

New covers for the beds in Cholula Red!

Is that to cool?

Below are some pictures (not so great, my apologies) of some of the many beautiful weavings that inspired us.

Our blankets will be
the Rio Grand Pattern.
Like this one,
striped with many colors

We both like this one,
but this is called a tapestry design,
not a Rio Grande.
And definitely not for beginners!
See, we're learning things already!

We both like this
monochromatic color scheme.

And while this is beautiful,
it's way too advanced
for our first ventures.

We both love this color scheme
and will most likely use
these colors for our blankets,
but each with different designs.

That's the news for today.
We're excited!

Monday, July 20, 2009

the Saturday Night Art Show

Ghost Ranch is a number of things to many people, but one of it's main functions is as a learning facility.

There are any number of classes offered at different times of the year. Right now, the art classes are in full swing. After having observed the results for several weeks, I've come to the conclusion that the teachers here at Ghost Ranch are of a superior caliber.

Classes start on Tuesday mornings and run through Fridays or Saturdays (teachers choice). Some classes run six hours a day, some longer, but people are free to continue working on their projects right up till Saturday afternoon.

Then they have to stop, because on Saturday night we have an Art Show.

I have to say, every week I'm more amazed than the week before. To see what dedicated people can achieve in five days or less, under the tutelage of a superb teacher, is a constant amazement.

For most folks, this is their first attempt at their chosen pursuit. Since I believe that pictures speak louder than words, I'll show you some examples from last weeks show.

These were my two favorite
stained glass pieces.
By now, you might be
familiar with Pedernal,
the peak that dominates the local landscape.
I thought the small piece on the left
was a perfect representation.
Simple, yet commanding,
just like the mountain itself.

The colors and shapes
of the Sun piece were perfection

There's a class called Art Welding.
When I first heard of it,
I had no idea,
but these folks turn out
the most amazing pieces.

Who could imagine
that basket weaving
could be taught on such a level
in such a short time?

they speak to me in a special way.
I love the color and texture.
Black and white film photography.
Definitely interesting,
but I don't think I can be tempted
away from the digital world.

The beading,
Can you believe
a person can go
from beginner to this
in just five days?

Silk painting.
These were my very favorite pieces
of the whole show.
Make sure to click to enlarge
to really enjoy the details.
I can't be in the Art Show,
so I'll include just one of my shots

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Tale of Five Loaves-WARNING! Long and Potentially Boring

I thought I'd start this post
with a happy picture

Now, on to notes on a day I want to remember.

Let's start with Ruby.

Ruby is an amazing woman, a volunteer who lends her talents to the kitchen here at the ranch. Originally from Guatemala, she has a way about her. You know what I'm talking about, that aura that natural born cooks seem to possess.

I'm repeatedly amazed at the dishes she turns out, sometimes for as many as four hundred people. We eat well here at Ghost Ranch, especially when Ruby is in the kitchen.

Since I love cooking, I've sought her out to possibly learn a few of her secrets.

One day, Ruby and I got to talking about bread. I had made a loaf of bread just last week and shared it with some of the folks here, and Ruby asked if I'd do it in the kitchen for a Sunday dinner. Sundays are usually the slowest day at the Ghost Ranch kitchen, serving only around one hundred or so people.

You can understand my hesitation, when, at that very moment, an alien being swept in and overtook my voice box as I heard it say "Sure, I can do that!"

Now, let's look at this situation.

While I love to cook and bake, I live in a motorhome. I bake either in a small RV oven or in my solar oven. I have small bread pans that make about 2/3 of a regular loaf, just perfect for Terry and me.

So what was I thinking?

Actually, it wasn't me, it was that darned alien. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Back to the bread.

This afternoon, shortly after lunch, I go to the kitchen. I speak with Ruby a bit and ask her exactly how much bread does she figure I'll need to make for one hundred people. "Oh, about ten loaves" she says. But the good news is that the kitchen has double pans, so I only need to make five!

Not being one to shirk my duty (and still being inhabited by that alien) I set to work.

Let me explain something here. Usually, when I make bread I follow a double recipe (six cups of flour and other ingredients). I mix it up with the required liquid, then split it in half and put one half in a big baggie in the fridge to be baked later. This is always a most manageable amount of dough.

But here I am, preparing to work with six, not three cups of flour. Five times. And, because I've been my usual blabby self, everyone here is expecting fresh bread for dinner. I buckle down, find five big bowls and get to mixing. After everything is mixed, I cover them and take them to a toasty spot in the kitchen, cover them with clean towels, and hope for the best.

Did I mention that after I had them all mixed, it was brought to my attention that the kitchen's yeast had an expiration date of 2003? I had proofed the yeast so I just said c'est la vie and decided to hope for the best.

I came back some forty five minutes later to find the dough perfectly risen, so I'm starting to feel kind of sassy.

I take the first bowl and dump the contents on a work table. Damn, that's a lot of dough! Could this really only be twice the amount of dough I usually work with? Truly, it seemed like some horror movie, possibly "Kitchen Blob" or maybe "the Dough that Ate Abiquiu".

Or maybe it's that alien again.

Finally, I look at the bread pans. These are unlike any bread pans I've ever used. They're like french bread loaf pans, long and thin. When I say long, I mean maybe eighteen inches. How am I ever supposed to get the dough into any kind of loaf-ish shape and transfer it into one of these pans? Surely these weren't meant for my bread?

But, of course they were. So I thought for a while and finally figured out that if I split the dough in half and then placed two pieces in each pan, I could sort of pinch them together and maybe they'd rise into some semblance of a loaf of bread.

And that's what I did. It was back under the towel for another rise, and into the ovens. My normal 450 degrees, a pan of water to crisp the crust and it was beginning to look like this was going to work. Maybe.

I decided to use my time to take a few shots of the dining room. Usually, there are so many people I can't get any decent pictures, but this was my chance.

This is the fireplace in the dining room.
This elk skull was found
in just this condition
by hikers on the ranch.

This is my favorite
of several stained glass windows
in the dining room.

By this time, thirty minutes have gone by, so it's time to look at the bread. It smells good . . .

But upon further inspection, I see that the tops are all burnt!

"Picture of Burnt Bread"
deleted by Kate
due to extreme shame

It's only been thirty minutes. Wow, this oven is hot! Usually, I cook my bread for at least forty five minutes. Upon taking them out, the bread looks good (if you discount the black tops), so what to do?

First off, I guess I should have remembered that not all ovens are created equal. It would seem that 450 degrees in a commercial oven is a LOT hotter than 450 degrees in the motorhome oven. And why didn't I think of that?

By now, it's almost 5:30, dinner time. 100 hungry people.

I take a long look and realize it's only the top that is burnt, the sides and bottom are fine. I look at Ruby, bless her heart, and she says it looks good to her. Lets just cut off the burnt part and slice it up and serve it.

And that's exactly what we did.

And you know what? Everyone loved it. Why, many folks said it was the best bread they'd ever eaten. Of course I neglected to ask them if they'd ever had home made bread before, not wishing to push my luck.

And just as we were finishing dinner, Ruby came out and asked if I wanted to do it again next week.

And that alien piped right up and said "Sure, I can do that!".

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the Madonna and More

A wonderful day here at Ghost Ranch.

We took a short drive into Abiquiu for a visit to Bode's because I bought a great hat there last month and decided I need another one in a different color. The first is a dark salmon/red and I want a turquoise one also. Good hats are hard to find and this one fits me head perfectly (marvel of marvels). Besides that, it's soft cotton and folds flat as a pancake.

On the way there, I asked Terry to pull over because I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

I got out of the car,
took a short hike down the road
and saw this.

I zoomed in a bit and thought,
"Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?"

And there she was

A serene Madonna
looking out over the red rocks.

Can you see her?
I've asked several people,
some see her,
some don't . . .
I think she's beautiful.

The wonders of Ghost Ranch never cease to amaze me. There are hidden gems like this all over the ranch, it's like a constant scavenger hunt to find what around the next corner.

As a matter of fact,
this is what was around
the next corner

Then there's
the ever changing clouds
that paint the landscape

And I thought I'd include
one shot
that shows some of the different
geological layers
that make up the ranch.

Is this
one of the most
gorgeous places on earth
or what?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Catching Up on Old News


First off, here's the picture of the day. This small tree juts out of the side of Kitchen Mesa, which we see every day. It's a huge striated block of rock that pretty much dominates its' surroundings.

Now on to catching up on old news . . .

Remember a while back when we were in San Antonio, New Mexico and we spent two days at Manny's Buckhorn Tavern?

The first day the Food Network was shooting at the restaurant (you can read about it here), and the next day was a Throwdown with Bobby Flay?

We've just learned that it is going to be aired on July 22nd (and again on July 23rd and again on August 2nd). We're really excited and just wanted to let all of you know, in case you might want to watch.

On to other things . . .

Regular readers may remember the wonderful female figure I bought when we visited the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo for their Feast Day. If not, you can read abut it here.

I promised to tell you the story of the figure. I've since heard from Dinah (the sculptor) and, with her permission, here's the story of the Wood Gatherer.

"The wood gatherer story is our fire story. It was my favorite bed time story and my inspiration behind the making of this piece.

The story goes that when man and woman were created, they were sitting talking together and the woman heard an animal noise. She stated that she wished she had something to protect them from the wild animals. The man in the meantime was saying he was cold and hungry. He wished for something to get rid of these feelings.

The Great Spirit overheard their conversation and told the man and woman that both their wishes would be granted if they would follow the instructions given to them.

The woman was told to go the river and gather dry grass and twiggs and return to the place she started. The man was told to go to a place in the Jemez mountains (which we now call Obisidian Ridge), and gather four stones the size of his fist and return to the place he started from.

When they both got there the woman was told to make a pile of the wood with the dry grass and the man was told to sit across from the woman and strike the stones together.

Thus a spark started and fire was created.

Both were told that their wishes had been granted. Now they could keep warm, cook food and protect themselves with the fire.

Enjoy the story.

Dinah Baca

I thought you might want to see a picture of how I've chosen to display this little beauty, so here she is (including the dust on all the surrounding figures).

I see her and enjoy her every day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Some Thoughts on Photography


Regular followers of this blog know that I have an interest in photography.

That said, Ghost Ranch has been quite an experience. As a photographer, I am completely self taught. I do read online "lessons" and do my best to absorb as much as I can, but the truth is I just cannot seem to wrap my head around things like F-stops, focal lengths and white balance.

I sort of understand the concepts, but when it comes to actually applying them while I'm shooting, it all seems to go out the window and I just put my camera to my eye and shoot what I like.

Ghost Ranch is a learning facility and this has been my first chance to interact with "real" photographers. It's been an interesting experience. Over all, my photography has been well received. Folks, regular and professional seem to like it, and I've even sold a few prints. I also donated some prints to the Ghost Ranch auction and am proud to say that they brought over eight times the amount I sell them for (which isn't a whole lot, but it makes me feel good about my photography).

But what I really want to talk about is the feedback I've received from several critics.

I hear about the rule of thirds, of which I'm aware. I know that it is a "rule" that if you break an image into thirds, horizontally and/or vertically, it is supposed to be more pleasing to the eye. I also understand perspective and I know it is bad form to place your subject smack dab in the center of a picture.

But sometimes I like it when my pictures aren't in thirds.

And I often like my subject to be right in the middle of the shot.

Not always, but sometimes.

I guess it's sort of like F-stops and depth of field.

I understand the concepts, but sometimes the rules seem to get in my way. . .

So should I pay attention and follow the rules, or just continue to do as I please.


What to do?


Now that that's off my chest, I guess I'll post a couple of pictures.

This Evenings Sunset

I never seem to tire of the Burros.
This fellow in particular is a born clown.

And that's it for tonight!