country life, family, Uncategorized, writing

Lifetime Dogs

Emily and Roxy-3I’m reading A Good Dog by Jon Katz.  It’s a sweet story about a middle-aged New Jersey writer and his adventures with his border collie, Orson, and the other dogs in his life.

Katz says he’s owned several dogs, but Orson was his lifetime dog…that one special dog that you connect to more than any other in your lifetime.  Your canine soulmate, if you will.

I spread the ashes of my sweet lifetime dog, Hoops, yesterday.  Hoops died over a year ago, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it until yesterday.  So on a perfect Wyoming fall morning, the Roxy dog and I went for a walk and I said a final farewell to my big, fluffy buddy.  I scattered them under the big cottonwood tree in our yard.  It was his favorite place to bask in all seasons.  And the sentimental side of me likes the idea part of him watching over us from his familiar post.

We have other dogs, dogs that I love and adore.  I love the patience and sweetness of our lab mix, Roxy.  And I love watching Ziggy the border collie herd birds and chase a frisbee.  But I agree with Katz.  There are lifetime dogs, and Hoops was mine.  I miss that big fluffy bugger every day.

Wyokiddo is following in the footsteps of her parents and is already a dog person.  She especially loves Roxy.  They play dress-up and chase.  She reads Roxy stories and likes the white dog to be near when she’s sick or upset.

My daughter will likely know many more dogs over the course of her lifetime.  I hope that one day, she’ll also know her lifetime dog.

Teresa

 

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family, nature, photography, Uncategorized

Camera-less Camping

Camping-15Outdoor Guy, Wyokiddo and I traded the heat and deer flies of Goshen County for the high country this week.  We spent two and a half days in the Big Horn Mountains in northern Wyoming.  Two days of fishing, eating s’mores, enjoying each other, hiking and watching wildlife.

What I didn’t do much of was pick up my camera.

It was a promise I made to myself, for me and my family, to stop taking photos and just enjoy the moment.  When I’ve got my camera in my hand, my mind is constantly thinking about photography.  Where’s the best light?  What’s in the background?  Can I frame this better?  Is this sharp enough?  Ugh, that’s too dark, better open up my aperture.  

I decided on this trip, I wanted to focus on being a mom and a wife, not a photographer.  And I’m so glad I did.  I got to spend the lazy mountain mornings with my daughter cuddled in my lap, warming up by the fire.  I got to watch my husband and daughter make s’mores and marvel at how many of their mannerisms are the same.  I enjoyed the calm and quiet of our camp, the heady scent of pine and the spongy feel of the wild earth beneath our feet.

I took a few quick shots so Wyokiddo will have something for her scrapbook, and I couldn’t resist a few snaps of the mule deer doe and her two fawns moving through our camp.  But mostly my camera stayed in it’s case, forgotten.

As I laid in our tent our last night in camp listening to the soft snores from Wyokiddo and Outdoor Guy, I promised myself that I would do this more often…put down the camera and pick up my life.

In twenty years, Wyokiddo isn’t going to flip through photos of our time together and go “Uh oh.  Mom blew the focus on this one.  See how my hat’s not sharp?”

She’ll pick up the stack of these images and say “My first camping trip!  I remember how tired my legs were after that two-mile hike we went on and how mom complained about how hard the ground was.”

Photos should document our lives.  Not consume them.

Happy not-clicking!

Teresa

country life, insects, nature, photography, Uncategorized

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Caterpillar.jpg

A few nights ago, we found this fat and sassy caterpillar happily munching on our tomatoes.  It was quickly apprehended and now lives in Wyokiddo’s bug jar.  At least for another day or two.

After some research, I discovered it is a tomato hornworm, so named because of it’s penchant for devouring tomatoes and the little horn-like appendage on it’s tail.  After it pupates, this caterpillar will turn into a Sphinx moth.  Google also told me this probably wasn’t the only caterpillar we had in our garden…where there’s one there’s probably 10 or 20.  Sure enough, on subsequent trips to the garden, we another 15 or so of the chubby green menaces.

As Wyokiddo stared at one mowing down my plants, she said “Mama, it looks just like the very hungry caterpillar in my books!”

It really did resemble the star of the Eric Carle books.  But this caterpillar won’t get a chance to eat through oranges, apples, pears, salami, cheese, pickles or an ice cream cone, and neither will his brethren.  You don’t mess with my tomatoes and live to tell the tale.

Teresa

 

photography, Uncategorized, writing, Wyoming

Dichotomy

Wildflowers1DRWI spent the last four days nestled in a little nook along Clear Creek on the eastern slope of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains.  Oh how my soul missed those mountains.

It felt like old home week for me.  The earthy smell of a dewy forest floor, the tang of pine, the crisp air stinging my cheeks, the twittering of chickadees… it was a feast for the senses.  Wildflowers carpeted the hills, the meadows afire with the likes of arnica, lupine and prairie smoke yet to bloom, set against the jaw-dropping beauty of granite peaks like Loaf Mountain and Big Horn Peak.

Just looking at this stunning, familiar landscape made my heart sing with happiness.

Most of my time was dedicated to taking photos of women learning new outdoor skills.  But when I thought no one would miss me, I would sneak away to find a mountain view to photograph or just a quiet spot in the woods to stop and be.  The soft cushion of pine needles under my feet and the occasional chattering of a red squirrel provided a quiet musical accompaniment to my thoughts and musings.

I never realized how much I truly missed living and playing here until now.  Outdoor Guy and I started our lives together on the western slope of these mountains.  Together, we fished the high country and hunted the lowlands.  We talked about our present and dreamed of our future.

When it was time to pack up camp, I drug my feet coming home.  I didn’t want to break the spell this place had woven around me once again.  But I had made my choice long ago, and it was time to leave this place behind me.

Twenty-four hours later, it was back to Goshen County, where wide open spaces and endless views give my soul room to breathe.  A place where tractors and balers churn across the hillside  A land of the heady smell of fresh-cut hay and cow manure. These plains of my childhood are as comfortable as an old pair of shoes.  Antelope and hawks, “minor fauna” like Woodhouse toads, sagebrush lizards, bull frogs and opossum to encounter.  New friends that welcomed us here with open hearts and treat us like family.  This place is home, too.

“You can’t ride two horses with one ass, Sugar Bean.”

As Wyokiddo and I sped toward our house with the bright red doors, I contemplated the conflicting emotions inside me.

We live in world where we are forced to make dozens of choices daily.  We are expected to choose a course of action and stay on our side of the that line in the sand.  Paper or plastic.  Organic or conventional.  City or country.  Foreign or domestic.  Red or blue.  Society demands strict adherence to this rigid dichotomy.

I believe otherwise.  My life is richer for the diversity of experience.  We can have plains and mountains, frogs and elk, roots and wings.  It is the breadth and very dichotomy of this state itself that feeds my soul.

Teresa

nature, photography, Uncategorized, wildlife

Tiny Packages

Triop - DRW.jpgOur neighbor brought a gift for Wyokiddo today in the form of a jar full of tadpole shrimp, or “Triops.”  They are tiny little crustaceans with three eyes and up to 70 pairs of legs.  This one was no bigger than the tip of my pinky finger.

They don’t have a real long lifespan.  Most will die within 90 days, if their water source doesn’t die up first.  They must be tougher than they look, because some species of Triops are more than 300 years old.

Nature continually surprises and delights me!

Uncategorized, writing

Don’t Sell Your Saddle

Graphic.jpgEarlier this month, I went legit and officially created my own business, Dirt Road Wife Photography LLC.  I have an tax ID number, official looking paperwork from the Secretary of State and a business checking account.  Heck, I’ve even got business cards.

Except sometimes I don’t feel legit as a photographer.

I will encounter a new situation and don’t know exactly how to tackle it in the moment.  Or I get home, start editing my images and am crestfallen because what felt good in the moment and looked good on my LCD screen isn’t wowing me after the fact.

Sometimes, it’s other photographers who undermine my self-confidence.  Long-time pros who make snarky remarks about all the wannabe mom-tographers devaluing the industry and undermine their pricing.

“Is that what I’m doing?” I ask myself.  “Pretending to be a photographer?  Am I a joke?”

I compare my work to the work of the professionals I admire and it feels woefully inadequate.  Tara Bolgiano, Janelle Rose, Cassie Madden…real women, wonderful people and phenomenal photographers who seem to ooze beautiful images and confidence out their pores.  And I work and practice and study, but I still can’t quite get there…

Those are the days I think about selling my saddle.

It would be easy to quit.  Walk away.  I’ve had different offers for work, who’s to know I chose it over my secret goal of being a professional photographer?

I would.  I would know that I took the easy way out.  That I was afraid to grow, to risk.  And I would regret it.

So I’m going to tackle this new goal like the others I’ve set for myself.  I’m going to continue to work and study and practice.  I’m going to hustle.  Maybe I’ll get there, maybe I won’t.  But I do know I’ll never ride that horse to the finish line if I sell my saddle now.

 

Teresa

*”Don’t Sell Your Saddle” is a poem written by Don Bilup.  The above photo is mine, copyright Dirt Road Wife Photography LLC.

agriculture, photography, Uncategorized

Branding

Smith Branding 2017-48

As spring winds down and summer begins, ranchers in Wyoming begin the time-tested tradition of branding their cattle.  Branding predates our state, and is still the most reliable method of marking cattle for identification.

How a cattleman organizes his branding is as unique as the actual brand itself.  Some families choose the traditional route of roping calves out of a herd with horses and cowboys.  Others choose to use a chute and table, eliminating the need for horses.  Some features are a matter of necessity, others of tradition.  Some ranch branding probably don’t look all that different than they might have 100 years ago, save for a iron heated by propane instead of a wood fire.

But some things don’t change.  No matter where you go, you’ll find neighbors helping neighbors.  Kids work side-by-side with their parents, learning how to brand, rope and even castrate the bull calves.  Socializing with friends and family.  Earthy smells.  Petty squabbles.  Cussing.  Laughter.  And food.  Lots and lots of homemade, delicious food.

Joining the Smith family and their crew is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of the year.

Teresa

nature, photography, Uncategorized, Wyoming

Northern Lights

Night Photos-1 drw

For years, I’ve watched nature shows about the Northern Lights and longed to see them.  I figured it would involve a trip somewhere, well…north!  But last night, Outdoor Guy saw an anomaly in our night sky as he went to check the chick hatcher one last time before bed.

“Hey, come see this,” he called.  I slid the computer off my lap, shoved my feet in shoes and walked outside to join him.

To the northwest of the property was a weird streak of light rising from the horizon into the night sky.  My first thoughts were moon dog or someone with a bonfire and the smoke and light were playing tricks on our eyes.  But the conditions weren’t right for either of those.

“I gotta get my camera,” I said and dashed into the house.

I spent the next thirty minutes playing with long exposures and light painting.  I went to bed happy with the performance of my new camera and pretty satisfied with the image I managed to build.  I woke up to others’ photos of these same lights, folks who lived hundreds of miles from my house.  The consensus was the same.

Well I’ll be damned.

Last night, standing behind our house in south eastern Wyoming, accompanied by a background soundtrack of owls and frogs, of  I witnessed the Northern Lights.  Hats off to Mother Nature, that was quite a performance.

Teresa