Wednesday, October 7, 2015

So Very Much Not A Farm Girl.... Part 4....

Ok. Yes.  
There has been another incident of my non-farminess.... 

If you need to catch up here is a link>>>Farm Girl Part 3<<< 
You will also find links to the other stories there..... I'm afraid I will never be a "Farm Girl".

On to this story....
I am not what you would call a snake hater!!!! Quite the opposite!! I think they are beautiful and have a very specific purpose. As long as I don't have to see them, hear them, or whatever, they can live their happy life however they choose! 

Where I begin to digress from my lofty opinion of them is when I see them in places I frequent…
Namely, my yard!

As a “city girl livin’ the country life” I am not accustom to seeing snakes so my first reaction to a sighting is “GET THE SHOVEL!!!!”  or  “GET THE GUN!!!!!”  It really doesn’t matter what size the snake is…. At some point they will be bigger, possibly venomous, and/or eat my chicken’s eggs so all snakes must go!!!  I am assuming that most "farm girls" are capable of taking care of this themselves.... well, good on them!!! 

Yesterday I had some extra energy (a rare thing it seems these days!!) so I decided to go on a walkabout around our property. My Army Man had told me of thousands of flowers growing in the bee field so I wanted to check that out for sure! And the bees!!!! Of course, I wanted to check on the bees too!!! It’s always so wonderful to see lots of bees flying around and being active around their hive!!
See those spots on the right side?? Those are bees!!!

I started out in our front yard which is actually very large. Earlier, I had spotted some mushrooms I wanted to shoot (photograph) so I headed that way first! I got a few shots and let me just say…. mushrooms can be a bit tricky to shoot. I was lying prostrate on the ground to get a good angle and could feel a bit of the dampness from recent rains coming through my clothes, but it had to be done. It doesn’t help that my oldest son, who was getting logs for a future bonfire, drove by on the lawnmower and gave me a weird look. You’d think he’d be used to seeing his mom down the ground with a camera by now!! Maybe it was the dampness….. pretty sure I saw an eye roll in there somewhere!!! 
But a photographer does what a photographer needs to do to get the shot....

I think it tuned out quite lovely!!!! I have a few (read, several) more, but they didn't strike me quite like this one did!!!

I left the area with the mushrooms and went across our ever-running creek!!! It's the little creek that could!!! It never stops flowing!! Even when there has been no rain for months!! It is a faithful little creek and when it has rained it gets bigger and louder!!  Anyway.... I crossed the creek and found a few wild flowers growing over by the pond!!! (and here I was thinking the flowers were almost done!!!) 

Well, technically the last (yellow) one is ragweed!! At least that's what we call it around these parts and it causes many folks plenty of misery this time of year!!!   But I found it's tiny blossoms quite enchanting (after I sneezed about four times!)!!

As  I was making my way back to the bee field I came across a bit of wetness that I can only describe as extremely gross!!! It is a place where runoff water flows from properties higher than ours and the place it ends up is stagnant for the most part!!! There must be movement somewhere, somehow, because of the shapes within the depths, but it seems very few and far between!!!

From here I walked the path through our enchanted forest (at least that's what I tell myself as I am anxiously dodging huge spiders, countless spots of poison ivy, possibly snakes--that I cannot see, thankfully! and moss!!). I love moss!! =) 
The bee field is through this path and it really is covered in little yellow flowers!!! It is quite a sight, but the camera does not see the beauty as I see it. The camera only sees the chaos so I decided not to share photos of that part!! 

I crossed back over the creek (in a different area)(we have like three creek crossings on our property!) and decided to go see the chickens!!! They are always good for a photo or two!! I noticed that the volunteer tomato (by the coop yard) had a few orange tomatoes so I decided to give them to the chickens as I have done all summer!!! 
No big deal!!! 


The wooden gate that the tomato vine has clung to all summer has on opening on the support bar that until now held a spider. The kind of spider that sort of buries itself and puts it's web around the opening....I think it's a trapdoor spider or something  like that!!! Anyway..... I noticed that it's web was hanging down so I looked closer and freaked out a little!!!

I KNOW!!!! It's really hard to tell from this photo!! (believe me I saw the giggles the men were suppressing while I was showing them this photo in the camera!!!) 
BUT...there is a SNAKE in there where the spider used to be!!!! 
First of all.... All I saw was a tan body, dark spots. Tan body, dark spots....tan body dark spots...
Gaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!! It could be a rattle snake OR a copperhead!!! Both of which live in our area of the world AND both of which are venomous!!!!

So I did the only logical thing I could think of.... I called my Army Man!!!!

Luckily for me (and ultimately the snake) he was very close by with a coworker!!!
That's right!!! I called the Alabama National Guard!!! 

And what do you think they did??? They came right over and started looking for that snake!! 

I am the luckiest girl in the world right here!!!! Two very capable Army Men came to my house to remove the threat (that I was feeling!!)!! They had to remove the planks on the gate because the snake would NOT budge out of his hiding place! He had gotten himself curled up around a screw or something....I don't know. All I know is, there was a snake in the gate, he did not come out of the gate and I don't want him near me, my kids or the chickens!!! 
They worked on this thing manually removing the screws so they could get to the snake! 
=) =) =)
Meanwhile, I got a photo of a wasp butt..... This is no ordinary wasp (butt)!! The size of this thing (the wasp,not necessarily the butt!) is about the size of my pinky!!! It is the largest, reddest wasp I think I have ever seen!!!!  EEEeeeeekkk!!!! We stayed well away from this thing!!! 

Seriously, there are days, beautiful days, that I wished I'd have just stayed inside!!!! 

Back to the drama of the snake.....
The Army Men finally got the snake out! It was all of about 9 inches long. (shivers!) Jere said it was a "rat snake". Non-venomous. Non-threatening. had to go!!!
Never fear though you (crazy) snake lovers!!!! It was a catch and release!!! The guys took it with them and released it in the woods far away from our home!!! =) 

See those dirty hands?!?!?!  
THAT is what the Alabama National Guard did for me 
(and this little snake!)!!!! 
It really helps that I'm married to one of them!!!!! 
=) =)  

 Then my son, traitor lover of reptiles that he is, got to hold the snake while the Army Men were cleaning up!!! He was thrilled and begged asked several times if he could keep it!!!
Ummmmm NOOOOO!!!!! I need my sanity!!!!


To help and prevent nightmares (my own included!) I will leave you with these last few photos I took while waiting to be rescued by my Army Man!!! 

Find a happy place. Think happy thoughts. Find a happy place. Sunshine and rainbows. Find a happy place.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Waiting Game.....

I have now completed my requirements for Sphere 1 in the Arcanum!!!


At least my Army Man is happy!! My work/study has used up several of my evenings and he misses me!!!
Some of you may have no idea what I am talking about when I say, "Arcanum"!! Let me encourage you to check it out!!! It is a new way of online learning based on an "Master/Apprentice" technique!!! It has been invaluable to me!!! The time spent in  my Cohort has increased my skill and knowledge to a level I never thought possible and the friendships I have made will last a lifetime!!

Here is the link to their website >>>Information that can change your life!!<<<

If you have any desire to learn more, increase your skills or become a Master and teach others this is a great way to do these things!!!

Trey Ratcliff is a co-founder of the Arcanum and has wonderful information on his own website >>>stuckincustoms<<< He is an avid supporter of the art of photography and finding your niche and sticking with it!!!

I am still finding my niche.....

I think I shall have to refer to myself as a "Fine Art Photographer".

Here is my Level 19 Critique session with my Master Bob Young...>>>Bretta's Critique<<<

It will give you a taste of what I like to do as a photographer.
Sometimes I like to make a photo look like a painting. It is a fun process in Photoshop!!
I do not like to photograph people in a posed position.... I do not mind candid shots, but mostly I only do that of my children and believe me it's all I can do to get those done!!!
Portrait photographers have my complete sympathy and respect!!!
I could never do what they do!!!

These are the photos I had in my Level 19 Critique....

Well, that's that!!
What's next??

I'm so glad you asked, because I'd like to know too!!! ;-)

When you complete Sphere 1 in the Arcanum you are placed in a "Lounge" where you wait for a Sphere 2 Master to find you and pick you to go into the Sphere 2 experience of their making!!! 
That's where I am for the time being!!! =)   
Waiting to be found!!   
One of the concerns I have about Sphere 2 is there doesn't seem to be too many Fine Art type of Cohorts... There are several landscape and portrait Masters....
My Master (Bob) has assured me that I will be chosen and have a lot to offer.... for now I will continue to wait, take more photos, keep learning more about Lightroom and Photoshop, and enjoy evenings with my Army Man with no looming work due!!!!! 

Thanks for stopping by!!


Friday, September 11, 2015

Farm Girl??? Part 3

Yes....this is the third in a series.... 
Here are the first two if you want to "catch up"... hahahahahahha
>>Part 1<<
>>Part 2<<
I am trying to be as open and honest as I can. I sometimes feel I am really not cut out for the life that I live!!!
I am a city girl.... I now live in the boonies. By choice, but not necessarily fitting in with my surroundings!!!!
But the sound of bugs and birds beat the sounds of traffic and sirens any day of the week!!!! This is my sky view from my porch nearly every day (unless it is raining and dreary!!)

 It is very pretty where I live and I have no complaints....

ok....maybe I have a few complaints!!!

My sweet daughter….  My almost 13 year old beautiful little girl…. 
My tenderhearted chicken keeper…. My most capable kitchen helper…..
My mini-me (at least in looks and attitude!!)......  My Truly....

Somehow, in a sense of humor only God could have, I have a daughter that thrills in the hunting of squirrels.  We have always taught her (and her brothers) that if she kills it, she has to eat it.
Not that I have ever, ever (Nope, NEVER!!!!) shot anything for food!!!
Nor do I ever intend to!
As a child and teenager, my Army Man was a hunter.
He no longer enjoys it as he did...
Every single day my daughter asks me if she can go hunting. 


I had an “excuse” through the summer because it was not “hunting season”, but now that we are in September I no longer have a valid excuse for denying her this. 
She LOVES to go out hunting. 
I have no idea where this desire comes from!!! 
Is it her competitive nature?? Nope!! Don’t think so….Neither of her brothers want to hunt. So she wins every time... 
Is it her need for food?? I should think not…. There is plenty of food in this house!!!  I have to feed 3 kids that are 11, 13 (in Oct.), 15 (in Nov.)!!!!!  

I just do not understand….. 

It is something I have come to accept as a part of her.  She is not like me at all when I was her age. I wanted earrings, new shoes, dresses and makeup for my birthdays, not a new gun, arrows with real tips (for future deer hunting!!) and a large knife!!!!  It’s kinda freaky, but she is who she is and I love her for it!!! She is pretty awesome!!! 

After she has shot and cleaned it she then prepares and cooks it herself.

Like I said, she is petty awesome!!!

 My oldest son, McCoy,  has always been fascinated with all things lizard….. he is constantly bringing me creepy, scaly things to look at. It seems to me as we have been out on this property  that the things are getting bigger and creepier…..this is an older photo (from Spring 2015), but gives you an idea of things that are thrust into my face almost daily (ok, so he has learned his lesson and no longer thrust them toward me, but it still FEELS like they are thrusted and I shrink back. Every time!!!)... It's no wonder that my hair is turning grey!!! Look at what I have to see!!!!

My barefoot boy…..
My youngest son is by far the least adventurous….
He is always concerned about safety and making people aware of the dangers of our property by telling them about all of the snakes he has seen, the spiders that lurk in the trees, and the many, many thorns he has pulled out of his feet!!! 
However, all that caution does not apply to him. Obviously.  
He runs about the place bare-footed. All. Year. Long.   
So much so, that his running around barefoot combined with an abnormally quick growth spurt when he was nine has caused him to have a condition known as Sever’s Disease. It’s not a disease in the exact definition, but that is the layman’s term for it…. 
It is called “Calcaneal Apophysitis”. Yeah, that’s why it’s also called Sever’s disease….. 
Here is a bit of info on that... >>Heal Pain<<
Over the last year and a half this barefoot lovin’ boy has been in double casts on his feet five times (3 to 6 weeks each time!!)!!!! Five times!!! Can you even imagine how difficult that is for a boy?!?! We went from carefree to be careful overnight!! Because of this issue (which he will have until his heel bones fuse)(somewhere between 12 and 14 years old!) he is forced to wear shoes all the time!!!! Not a big deal if you’re in the city and have to walk on concrete and roads often, but out here in the boonies we have 6.5 acres of grass, woods, creeks and ponds to explore. It has been a very difficult time for my boy….. but he is a fighter!!! He hardly complains unless the pain has become unbearable and still, he tries to run around barefoot!!!  

Speaking of spiders..... I have found at least 3 different (I said THREE DIFFERENT!!!!) types of humongous spiders that enjoy our property along with us!!!! =/
I don't think I have ever been so creeped out by spiders before!!! I'll admit, ALL spiders are somewhat creepy, but these things?!?!  Yikes!!!!  We're talking as big as my hand here!!!

Along with a few other critters.... this "little" guy was about 3 inches long!!!! 

Since we do live out in the Boonies now we had to consider getting a larger dog!! 
Our Bella, a cute and cuddly Australian Shepherd mix is a great companion, but when it comes to watchdog she is more annoying than scary. We ended up with Aries… you can read the story of how we came to have him here >>Aries' Story<<  and some of his antics here >>Crazy Dog!!<<  but most recently he has been diagnosed with Radial nerve damage in his right shoulder.
This is what I have discovered about it so far....>>Link<<
He had been limping for a few weeks and his right leg muscles have begun to atrophy!!! This is the result of three males fighting an epic battle for dominance with Aries being the smallest and youngest of the three!!!  He is a scrapper and does not know when to cry uncle!!!!   The good news is no bones were broken in battle and there is no infection!!! We took him to the vet because he lost control of his right leg/foot. He was dragging it….. 
But he seems to have regained some use of his leg/foot and we continue to give him cortisone tablets (anti-inflammatory) . The bad news is, when we have him rechecked in 4 weeks he needs to show marked improvement. If he does not we have to face a possible amputation to the shoulder. I was in tears at the vet’s office just thinking of our happy-go-lucky boy with only three legs!!!! But the vet assured us that dogs get along just fine with three limbs and should the worst happen he would go on to live a happy healthy life.  

I do love where we live!!! 
We have much freedom here that we would not have in the city. 
I have a beautiful home with a wonderful view, a completely failed garden, and lots of love and laughter. 

I couldn't ask for more!!!


P.S.   My youngest just turned 11 years old!!!!! (11. Years. Old.)   
I am feeling old and crippled.... 
Well, not really, but I do feel like time is flying by!!!! 
I don't have many years left with my children here at home so we try to make the most of every day!!!

Here is my baby, Thoene, on his 11th Birthday and his choice in cake.... cheesecake of course!!!

My "Little" Loves

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Little Help Never Hurts...Part 2

Same kind of post as yesterday.... going to show you a progression of a photo from the Straight out of camera version to the final edit...

I am learning so much in the Arcanum and I cannot sing it's praises enough!!
Seriously, if you are interested in increasing knowledge and skill in your photogrphy, give some serious thought to joining. You can cancel at any time if you feel it's not a good fit!!

>>> The Arcanum Website <<< here is the flower of today....

This is the photo straight out of my camera..... I really do enjoy getting down in the nitty gritty of flowers and showing the layers and textures!!! God is an amazing designer!! He perfected beauty way before man felt a need to have perfection!!!
I like this photo pretty well here, there are obvious issues. One being the petals on the bottom are cut off.... that is not a problem though!!!


This is what I presented to my Cohort (July 2015) for Level 8 (where I had to narrow down a selection of my photos from 10 to 3 for a critique!)...  I simply cropped it so all of the sides are evenly proportioned. No biggie... All of the post-processing adjustments for this version were made with Picasa. A FREE editing software offered (and supported) by Google!! It's all I had at the time and I really enjoyed working with it. It is a great way to "get your feet wet" in the world of post processing!!!

Here is the link if your interested  >>> Picasa Website <<<

After I cropped the image, I did a few color adjustments. In Picasa the first thing I always did is darken the shadows... it's a slider bar adjustment that really makes the photo begin to pop a bit.
I did a soft focus on this one too!! =)  I thought it made it look kind of dreamy.... I also added a vignette. Usually vignettes are black. I chose to go lighter on this one and use a grey tone. One of the things I LOVE about Picasa is there is a rainbow selection for vignettes which mean the option of vignette color are pretty much limitless!!!! =) =)   I thought the grey vignette added to the dreaminess of this photo and I really liked it!!!

For my Level 16 work in the Arcanum I had to reprocess photos presented to my Cohort in any of the Levels of 1 - 8. Just like the first flower I showed you yesterday.... here is the link in case you missed it!! (gasp!!)
(just kidding!!)
>>> A Little Help Never Hurts (Part 1) <<<

I probably should mention here that for almost a month now, I have been using the Free trial of the Creative Cloud Photography plan!!! Here is a link to that....
>>> CC-Lightroom & Photoshop <<<
I will be starting my subscription in September as I don't think I can do without them now!!! Lightroom and Photoshop can do so much more than Picasa, although, I will keep Picasa because it does a few things better!!! =)

Now for the reprocessed ones!!

This version I processed only in Lightroom. Started by cropping (again! because I started back with the original photo!). Did some spot removal because there were a few white spots on the petals (I may have forgotten to mention that previously...) Did a "Vibrance" adjustment. Also adjusted Shadows and Contrast. The photo at that point seemed to have some "noise" going on so I did a "Luminace Smoothing"... it helped!!

Then I went even further.....

I took the photo from Lightroom into Perfect Effects (I have Perfect Effects because my generous Master in the Arcanum saw something in me that would respond to this program!!)
As a military wife, stay-at-home mom I do not have much any extra income. FREE is ALWAYS better for me. I do pay my Arcanum dues ($79 per month)  myself (as to not burden my family with that cost!) with the small amount I get paid to keep the books for my church...

This is the final (and again, best, IMO) version of the image....
In Perfect Effects I did a noise reduction again. I used a filter called "Bleach Bypass" which reduced the saturation quite a bit! and I did a filter called Grunge which gave it a bit of texture and ended with a Vignette. One of the things I like about Perfect Effect's vignette is it is not just a standard dark or light fading.... there are MANY options and I chose the one called "Strong" but it uses the color of the photo, not black, which I really liked!!!! =)


Friday, August 28, 2015

A Little Help Never Hurts!!

I have been learning in the Arcanum for almost 3 months now.....
I have learned much and the way it is taught you really don't even realize you are learning!!!!

Here is a link to the website  >> The Arcanum <<
Go visit... tell them I sent you!!!

I'm going to show a progression of photos to you today and let you decide for yourself if I am learning a thing or two!!! All comments and questions welcome!!

This is a photo I took this spring of a Gladiola growing in my yard... Pretty things, these flowers!! They don't need help to be beautiful..... but I'm gonna give it a bit anyway!!!  This photo is what I began with....straight out of camera.


This is the version of the photo I presented to my Cohort (my group of people led by a single Master within the Arcanum guidelines) at Level 3.
 At the time this photo was presented (June 2015) I had a GE x500 camera (a very small dSLR) and a *free* post-processing software called Picasa which is supported and offered by Google.
 >> Picasa website <<
For the longest time I really struggled with the thought changing a photo into something different than what I saw.... post-processing was a thing to be -scorned- avoided, but as I worked on this photo in Picasa and watched the way is sort of "woke up" as I made adjustments to lighting, focus, saturation and a slight crop I really had to reevaluate my hesitation of post-processing!!!
On this version of the photo, I used what is called a "soft focus" on this where the edges get soft, but the center has an enhanced focus. I really like the effect a lot, and I use it quite often on my flower photos.

But there is more, so much more......

As part of my Level 16 work in the Arcanum my Master wanted me to select three of what I thought were my best photos from any level between 1 and 8 and rework them with my newly acquired program "skills" .....Lightroom and  PhotoShop!!! No small task, I tell you!!! I am technologically challenged, but it is good for me to stretch my abilities and grow my skills!!!  This photo is a result of that effort and I really like it!!! My new skills are coming out and making the flower come alive even more!!!
Exciting stuff here!!!!!

But then......

This is the latest (and IMO, best) version of the same photo!!! The only thing I have changed is the program I used and myself!!! =)
I have one more "toy" to play with now thanks to my Master seeing something in me and for pointing me in the right direction!! I now have a tool called "Perfect Effects" and wow!!!! What fun!!! There is so much to do and explore!!! SO many things that can make a photo more!!!!!  I used Lightroom and Perfect Effects in this version...

I am hoping you can see the progression in my skill and artistic interpretation of photography!!
The Arcanum, my Master, and my Cohort have made such a huge impact on my desire to do better!!

I recommend to you that if you in the least bit interested in improving your photography skills check out the Arcanum!!! It is definitely worth it!!!!!


If you have some free time and are so inclined.... here is the link to my Facebook page if you would like to see more of my work.  >>> Bretta's FaceBook Page <<<

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Most Epic of Mom Fails

Oh yes, I know y'all think I am a have-it-all-together, stay-at-home, home-schooling, house cleaning, clothes washing, child raising, photographing, freakishly awesome mom!!!!

Make no mistake..... I am....
....most of the time!!!


Today I had to meet my Army Man "in town" briefly, and I thought while I was there I would get the kids a movie from Red Box to have for a movie night tonight!!!


I was going through the movies on the selection screen and saw "Pixels"!!!
<<<Watch Pixels trailer here>>>

I was just SO excited!!! I just new I was going to get major Mom Bonus Points for this one, because they are at home and not even expecting a movie!!!

So I mosey on home and rock out with my mom music (because I NEVER get to listen to my CD in the's always the kid's choices playing!) (not that it's awful music or anything...)(just not mine...)

I get home and start hyping up the night we have in store for us with an awesome movie to watch!!! The kids are really getting into it and looking very excited!!

It was then, at that exact moment when I was pulling the totally awesome movie out of my purse, that I noticed what looked like bugs flying around or something on the picture on the disc.    I thought to myself, that looks odd.

On closer inspection of the disc, I realized they were pixies, not bugs.

I had, in fact,  picked up a movie called "Pixies" NOT "Pixels" at the Red Box!!!!!
<<<Watch Pixies trailer here>>>

Big, Huge, EPIC difference here!!!!!


So, yes, I had an EPIC Mom Fail today.
I am after all, only human, and being awesome ALL the time is exhausting!!!