Monday, April 30, 2012


While setting up a wine shot, I opened up a bottle of a very good wine by mistake.
2008 Old Vine Zinfandel by Ironstone.
I had kept it in the cabinet for when visitors who drank wine stopped in, since I really don't drink wine.
...I have to say, what a difference a vintage and vintner makes!
I even like it.  Poured myself a small glass, stuffed the cork back in and set out a nice plate of walnuts, grapes and cheese to nibble on.
Nibble might not be the correct word.
I inhaled it.
The Zin has body and a bold yummy taste...not just watered down vinegar like many wines seem to taste to me.
Then again, as I said, I don't really indulge.  I do like taking photos of it though.
Now one thing I do know is that Ironstone makes a great Champange / Sparkling Wine.  Champagne I've always indulged in for celebrations.

The last two days I had off, I took my share of wine set up shots.  Of course, the last set, right before the sun went away, turned out the best.
Here it goes again...have to decide which 4 I want to include in my Vintner series of cards. 
More agonizing over something I shouldn't.
Just me.
The above photo is one I rejected....for now.... still very nice.
However, I have found that not every shot translates well on paper.  Loss of luminosity in some cases.
I am yearning to get that new I Pad with that 'whatever it is' screen that makes images come alive.  Hype or reality?  Would love to download on one and see.

Still...I have a feeling I will end up with more than one set of Vintner note cards.

                                                                             Stepka copyright 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Where the Heck Were You?

Had a scare last Wednesday morning.
Woke up and started heading to go downstairs...looked to see if Fitz was in the studio on his pillow...nope.
Looked head peaking around the corner up at me.
Ok...this was weird.  Fitz always met me on the stair at least. Went down the stairs, stopped.  No Fitz.  I looked around, went to the food bowl, now that always brings him round.  Nope.
Where the heck was he?
Then a thought occurred that concerned me even more.
I always leave my upstairs window open so Fitz can step out on the pseudo balcony/flower pot holder area and gaze out on warm nights.  Could he have grabbed after some flying insect and have fallen? No way....he is a trapeze artist when it comes to balance.
I grabbed the patio door handle and looked around outside.
Now I am freaked.  No kitty to be seen.
I start going thru every room, open and peer thru every closet, under the bed, all corners and crevices, and checked the garage.  I throw on my jeans and head outside to peer under bush, corner and over the fence.
I call his name and shake his bag of kitty chow. 

Then I looked back at the open patio door...and there he is on the inside mat...looking out at the crazy woman at the fence, blinking with tired eyes from having just woken up.
Where the heck he had been...I have no idea. 
I have a feeling he was nestled somewhere right in front of me somewhere he usually is not and in my panic, I just did not see him.  He just watched the show with one eye open at me...wondering what the heck all the hub bub was about and couldn't he just get a few more winks in. 
"Humans. Yes, they do provide good food and a safe place to sleep - but really!"

The farm girl inside just shakes her head at me.  What have I become?

                                                                                                                copyright 2012 Stepka

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Imaginative Place Names

Swinging in the hammock the other day, I was just drifting off listening to the mockingbird right above me, when my brain started mumbling something about Mockingbird Hill, then switched on to what fun names the British have in the way of villages...and of course, all sorts of names started piling one after another in my brain.
I call my neighborhood, Quail Ridge...because of all the quails scooting about on the roads and fences.  This time of year it is definitely Mockingbird Hill.

Here's just a few other names my brain thought would be quite outstanding if you actually lived in a meadow, glen or manor.
Fox Hollow
Meadow Sheep / Sheep Meadow sounded too plain.
Swallow Croft
Hedgehog Row
Troublesome Goat Ridge
Goat's Glen
Hen Hill
Poppy Meadow
Quail Ridge
Chicken Run
Thrush Manor / any word in front of manor sounds solid and reputable.
Crow Narrows
Windmill Valley
Sugar Camp
Cats Crossing
Dog Barking / well, I bet it would work in England.  You have to spell it - Dogbarking.
Fencington / again - put an "ington" on the end and it works - at least in England!  Marketington, Housington, Farmington, Riverington, Castlington...hard to roll off the tongue, but works!

Ok...getting a bit "loonington" now........have to stop.
                                                                                      copyright 2012 Stepka

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bone Tired

Was doing my photography on Tuesday morning and just became bone tired by noon.  All those creative juices that flow just wear a person out.
Not that I am complaining.  I would much rather be worn out creatively than by shoveling and then shoving wheelbarrows full of cow 'excrement' to the manure pile.
Been there, done that.
No, I just had to stop finally, because I was also just getting darn frustrated looking at photos that just weren't up to the quality of what I want them to be.

So I retired to the back yard and laid in the hammock.
I love my hammock.
I really - really love my hammock.
It took me years to finally break down and buy one off of Craigslist - one with a stand that can break down into 3 pieces easily and get stashed in the garage in Winter.
I kept thinking a pair of trees would magically appear one day in my back yard, spaced perfectly apart to just tie a hammock on, but nope, no magical Fairy Sprite lives around here.

So I broke down and bought one, and my only question to myself is why the heck did I wait so long.

My bones basically fell asleep on the hammock, but my mind was a working still.  Very strange.  I balanced a sketchbook on my knees and just let the imagination flow.

I am almost done coming up with series of cards I want to sell on this site.  Like the hammock, I really was a hoping a Fairy Sprite would just pop into my studio one evening  and the next morning I would see the perfect series of photos just laid out in front of me.
Nope...I just have to wrack my brain and obsess.  Yes, this one.  No....too bright.  Not a good grouping.  Not clear enough.  Not colorful enough.  This photo just doesn't work in this group. Now, this is looking pretty good, but the cropping is wrong. and so on and so on and so on.  And I don't even want to go into my back and forth about either adding text or just having blank note cards.  Eventually there will be both.

It will come together.  It is coming together.
One of these days soon, I just have to say to myself enough is enough and get on with it.  There will always be more photos...and they will evolve.
The hardest part is just getting yourself out there....taking that leap.
Next!?  I really am trying to just take one step at a time, but...
Jewlery ideas have always been in the back of my mind and it's time to get moving in that direction now.
Just good, simple, strong pieces that will hold up to whether you are in town shopping or even herding sheep in from the pasture. 

So one of these days, you will be seeing a page that connects you to a real commerce webpage you can buy off of.  Really.  I am not saying when....but yes, I do see it a coming on the horizon. For some reason that horizon just keeps slipping further in the distance, but it is there.
I see it filled with small vintage pieces, my cards...even jewelry eventually, nature related gifts by other great people and some nice smelly stuff too.

But for is definitely time to roll back down to the hammock to rest my bones.  Maybe I will be able to convince my brain to rest too.

                                                                                                copyright 2012 Stepka

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Been having fun creating still life shots.  The simpler, the better.  Loving the intensity of the colors.

                                                                                                   copyright 2012 Stepka

Monday, April 23, 2012

Organic Weed Wackers are Back

Where has the year gone to?
I have never seen them bring in the sheep so early before, and I have not had much chance to really appreciate the wildflowers growing along the path. They are bye bye now.
Hard to even see the flock in the midst of all the wild weeds. It will be mostly bare tomorrow.
I will miss the green.
All the thistles were starting to bloom and the finches were feasting.

No is suppose to rain by the end of the week.
I will most likely see grass growing again in a couple of months.
For now, I will just appreciate the sight of the sheep outside my window.

                                                                                                                copyright Stepka 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Remnants of Easter

I did not realize that this little garden cherub next to beautiful Victorian home gets dressed up for different occasions.  He had on a great devil's mask for Halloween.
Now a little bunny is visiting.

Hard to see, but he even got his little winkie covered up by a flower down there.
  Very proper young gentleman he is.

                                                                                   copyright 2012 Stepka 

Thursday, April 19, 2012


California Oaks just keep on, keeping on.
This one split right down the middle last winter and it is leafing out like everything is normal.
The oaks are magnificient with their knarled old limbs.
This one just got a bit more artsy.
People have already made a path to its truncated middle.  A nice place for kids to climb.
Open House
If I were a tree
I'd want to see
a bird with a song
on a branch of me.
I'd want a quick
little squirrel to run
up and down
and around, for fun.
I'd want the cub
of a bear to call,
and a porcupine, big,
and a tree toad, small.
I'd want a katydid
out of sight
on one of my leaves
to sing at night.
And down by my roots
I'd want a mouse
with six little mouselings
in her house.--
Aileen Fisher

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring Butterfly

Taken on Sunday on top of the hill.
He kept flirting around, landing for a bit, then taking off, then coming back around again.
What a beauty.
                                                                                                          copyright 2012 Stepka

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Favorite Spot

A cool breeze rustling the grasses. Birds chirping.  Butterflies flirting. An occasional trio of vultures suspended in the wind stream. Heat of the sun soaking into my bones.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Slime in the Morning - Ode to the Snail

Oh, you slimy little bastard, chewer of all things green and flowering.
What menace you greet upon my few lovely things.

Upon stepping into my morning oasis, I see your slime trails and fresh, harsh bites -
chewed upon fresh greenery - and from what magnificient heights!

How did you manage to speed your way out over the open on the previous starlit night,
to greasily climb up, up, up to the freshest, greenest shoots, 3 feet from the floor
just to take a bite?

Do you have little wings that sprout out of your shell,
or long, spindly legs that you manage to grow
in that slimy gooey thing you call your home?

Magically, you disappear with the first rays of light,
like a meteor that melts into the warm summer night.

Enough of this weird little narrative
that is going on and on,
for within this box of nasty granules,
your nightly visits will come to an end.

Empty shells will appear, where once they housed your slime,
and I will not bat an eye,
for there is greenery everywhere and you just had to choose mine.

So here's to your bad choices...
and to all my bad rhymes.

I will not be greeted by slime in the morning

For Quite

                                                                                                          copyright 2012 Stepka

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mindfulness and Contentment

Reading a book on Mindfulness from the library.
Lately my mind has been a blur of what I need to get done, should get done, have to get done. And nothing gets done.
No stopping that buzz.

Then I went out and sat on the steps on the patio and all of a sudden I saw how the light was coming thru the fence, making a wonderful pattern on the concrete. I am sure I have seen, yet not seen, that sight many a day.
My breath released and my mind refocused.
Contentment....all what one can ask for in life.

                                                                                                          copyright 2012 Stepka

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dairy Farming - 2nd Worst Job in the U.S.

Yup, Dairy Farmers have the second worst job in the U.S. according to Hoda and Kathie Lee on NBC yesterday.

But considering that dental hygienist was the 4th best job in America listed, well, let's say I can handle scooping cow crap out of the gutter better cleaning a human's teeth. I am gagging just thinking about it. Haven't they always said that dentists have the highest suicide rate in America?  Considering the hygienist does all the dirty work now a days, you would think it would cross over.

But dental hygienists have great pay and vacation days, and yes, don't have themselves sprayed with hot steaming pee while trying to work on a patient.  They don't get kicked in the groin or the face by a 2000 pound creature, though sometimes I have really felt like doing it when they take that damn hooked instrument to my gum line and paw underneath. 

Guess you do have to be a bit crazy to be a farmer.

You also have to have a great love of the outdoors, a great respect and compassion towards animals, be absolutely realistic as to what the animals on the farm are there for - be a great, think on your feet business person, realize that money will always be scarce, be strong in mind and body - and be very respectful and loving of the family you are working along side with...because it is just damn hard work all the way around.

Maybe you can't go off on vacations - but you can  ( if you choose to and remember that it is there) go on top of the hill on your farm after milking and listen to the birds sing, see the cows laying down for the night and watch an absolute gorgeous sunset and then watch as the Milky Way slowly spreads out above you as the sky darkens to pitch black.

                                                                                           copyright 2012 Stepka

Oh...the number one worst job - Lumberjack.                                

 "Best and Worst jobs in the US"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Through the Fence

I love watching Fitz peeking through the fence to safely see what's up out there.  He will go to a little knot hole in the fence separating me from my neighbor to spy on his nemesis, the Siamese.  Or he will peer through this space to see if any wayward off lease dogs, deer, stray cats - or finches - are out in the pasture, before taking a grand leap up to the top of the fence and out into the real world.
Makes you feel like a child again peering into the cracks between a fence.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Geraniums in the Rain

Woke up to a fine mist this morning.  Refreshing.
Flowers like it too.

What is it about the scent of the leaves of a geranium? 
I feel like I am stepping into a hothouse full of flowers by just brushing my hand up against the moist leaves.
A beautiful green and dark soil scent.
I love it.  I know that some can't stand the scent. 
Maybe it evokes certain memories.  If the memories are bad, so is the scent?

I have a home fragrance room spray I love that smells just like going into a greenhouse or florist shop full of flowers - Seda France, French Tulip scent.  Lovely.

                                                                                                           copyright 2012 Stepka

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Morning Sunlight

Came down the stairs this morning and met the prettiest site of a shaft of morning sunlight on my sheep painting.  No other sunlight in the room. Stopped me in my tracks.
Then I grabbed my camera.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 6, 2012

When Dogs were Dogs - "All the Dogs of My Life" by Elizabeth

Picked up a wonderful book from a library thrift bookstore the other day, mainly because I just loved the photos of a dog inside.  This was back in 1936 when dogs were dogs!  The book itself is wonderfully written also.
The images are taken from the book - All the Dogs of my Life by Elizabeth, whom after a bit of research turns out to be Elizabeth von Arnim who wrote Enchanted April - most of you romantics out there must have seen the movie version - a couple of English women rent a villa in Italy?  Pouring rain when they arrive and the next morning they open the shutters to a magnificent sunny view that just takes your breath away.
My scans of the photos are not the best, but just look at the size of her pooch, Coco.

Now that is a DOG.  She must have been a tiny woman - still - wow...

This is just a wonderful photo. 
In her book Elizabeth says, " and here he is in the position which by that time had become a habit, of lying at my feet whenever I sat down, and putting a protective paw over my ankle..."

It turns out this is a working dog breed from Switzerland. She does not specify the breed in the book.  They would carry parcels on their backs and even draw little carts to haul things up steep mountain paths.  She bought a pretty isolated home in the mountains of Switzerland and her first morning there, she met Coco and fell in love.

What a dog!  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lovely in Black and White


                                                                                              copyright 2012 Stepka

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Lone Lilac

Down at the end of the first ravine in the wood grew a lone lilac tree.
It was a remnant of a past life, the only survivor of someone’s hopes and dreams for a farmstead.  At one time a small cabin stood beside that tree and someone else looked out of a window at the expanse of valley laid out below.

I was surprised at how many places on our acreage; physical reminiscences remained of someone else’s life. A lone lilac or apple tree grew in the middle of nowhere.  My father would point out in the corner of a field where he remembered a well had been filled in.  An old root cellar was supposedly under another mound of earth at the opposite side of our property, a slight concave shape in the soil showing where it collapsed upon itself long ago. 

I never dwelled on these findings much when I was young, although the idea of an archeological dig did cross my mind more than once.  Old tools, glass jars - who knows was under the soil in some places.  My father did tell me about an old school bell that was, he said, buried under a collapsed storage shack next to the outhouse.  When my father passed, I went out there and dug.  Sure enough, I found the 2 foot tall bell. 

A sadness comes over me now when I recall, in a rare moment of personal conversation, my father had stated matter of factually, that many of those homesteaders left after the flu epidemic of 1911, which snatched the young, able bodied and healthy  from their families’ grasp, their hope for the future of a farm dashed within a few hours. 

They had most likely spent years building a farmstead, two generations, if not more, living in a small cabin, struggling to survive the harshness of the Midwest winters and hot, humid summers, only for their family to be decimated within a few hours.  Many just left outright, leaving possessions they could not carry behind. 

The sole reminder of their existence now – a blooming lilac tree.

                                                                                              copyright 2012 Stepka