Sunday, April 30, 2006


Click on photo to enlarge

The Spotted Owl Survey is in progress again this year and Peggy, Dallas, and I have been helping out a bit.

I discovered just how out of shape I am on Thursday night when Doug (the ‘Mountain Goat’ biologist) led the way up a trail that gained 2,000 ft. elevation in about a mile or so. Fortunately it was dark, cool, and drizzly or I might have dropped dead right there. I can walk for miles on relatively flat ground, even at 7,000 feet, but the steep stuff is a real challenge at the end of my winter atrophy and fat accumulation.

Doug and I visited five owl territories between 6:00 P.M. and 2:30 A.M. Thursday, and five more on Friday, between 6:30 P.M. and 2:15 A.M. Thursday we found owls in three of the five territories, but Friday, in the badly burned territories near Lake Arrowhead, we found none.

By Saturday night my bones & muscles were begging for mercy, and Peggy wanted her turn in the barrel, so she, Doug, and Dallas went out and got more than they bargained for.

They visited seven territories between 6:30 P.M. and 12:45 A.M. and got skunked, literally skunked, and no birds!

I woke up when Peggy came in, hearing the shower going, and smelling this weird stench in the house that I thought was some bizarre herbal concoction Peg was brewing up. I heard Dallas whimpering outside the door so I stumbled downstairs, let him in, gave him a pat ot two, and crawled back up to bed.

But the stench was growing stronger, and now my left hand (the one I patted Dallas with) was reeking with the same odor. That’s when I realized what was going on. I went back down, put Dallas outside again, and by then, found Peg getting out of the shower to tell me of the nights adventures.

At the fourth territory, Dallas took off chasing some critter, when, at the last minute, Doug saw it was a skunk and yelled at Dallas to stop, but it was too late.

The skunk let Dallas have it full-force right in the snout, which stopped the misfortunate dog in his tracks, sending him wallowing and rolling his nose in the dirt to try and rid himself of the stench.

What I can hardly believe is that Doug and Peggy visited three more territories with that reeking dog in the back seat of the car before they headed home. That’s real dedication if you ask me.

Anyhow, Dallas is an outside dog now, for the foreseeable future, and he is obviously not happy with his new fragrance. We can’t pet him, we can’t even put his leash on to take him for a walk until the stench subsides a bit, so I’m going to check the internet to see if there’s a way to get some of the smell off of him.

As you can see in the picture, the poor fellow looks very regretful, and I guess I’ll try and leash him with my gloves on, so I can take him to the lake for a swim. At the moment we can’t even keep the windows open because of the skunky aroma blowing in from Dallas.

I must admit, that's a quite clever defense mechanism those skunks have come up with!



For the remedy see post below...

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Taking the Cure...

Click on photo to enlarge

Madcapmum (Maison Madcap blog) sent us an e-mail with two links to veterinary websites that recommended wetting the skunked dog down with water and then spraying him with a solution of 1 quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and a teaspoon of liquid soap or shampoo (we used Doctor Bronner's Pure Castile Hemp Eucalyptus Soap). So before running out and buying 4 or 5 gallons of tomato juice for a bath in the long accepted folk remedy tradition, we tried this newer method with supplies we had on hand. I can still detect a very slight skunky odor to Dallas but it's at least 99% improved. We're going to take him for a walk now, and a swim in the lake, but we'll need to stop by the store and pick up some more hydrogen peroxide because now Peggy and I smell skunky! I guess that means we get to take a bath together tonight!


Well, after Dallas dried off and swam in the lake, I regret to inform you that 99% improved has now been reduced to 50% improved. Dallas is a big and extremely hairy dog thus I suspect we need a gallon of solution instead of a quart, so maybe we'll try that tomorrow, and if that doesn't do it, maybe I'll buy a bike trailer full of tomato juice and see what that can do!

You'd think that after 40 years of living in mountains with dogs I'd have more experience with this sort of thing, but oddly enough this is the first time any of my dogs has ever been sprayed by a skunk.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lupinus excubitus

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Grape Soda Lupine (Lupinus excubitus), a legume and member of the Pea family, basks in the native plant garden yesterday morning after the light showers we had Thursday night.
In another 6 weeks or so these local wildflowers will be treating us to a stunning exhibition of violet flower stalks, accented with bits of yellow, as their pronounced grape soda fragrance floats upon the breeze.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Solar Waterfall

Click on photo to enlarge

A few blogfriends have asked about our little solar powered waterfall so here's a photo of it and below is a picture of the photovoltaic panel that powers it.

I disable it in below freezing weather but other than that the panel and pump have worked flawlessly for over a year.

The trickling water is a great bird attractor.

I posted info on this before but it was quite awhile back.

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Photovoltaic Solar Panel

Click on photo to enlarge

This is the Kyocera solar panel that powers the pump in our waterfall.
It came paired with a pump that matches the output of the panel and included a 50 foot cord.

We bought the system online from

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Maybe You Just Need Glasses?

Nevermind clicking on photo to enlarge, it won't help...

OK, so maybe the problem isn't your eyesight.

I get a lot of compliments about my photographs here, but, as you can see, they don’t always turn out so good!

Yesterday a pair of Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) landed in the young Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi) next to the solar waterfall.

I’ve seen Cedar Waxwings over by the lake but never in the yard before, so I believe they were attracted by the sound of the trickling water, as we have no ripe fruit or berries currently.

From the deck, I saw them land out of the corner of my eye, glanced over while picking up the camera, pointed, and pressed the shutter button in too big a hurry (before the camera focused), and bam, the birds were gone.


Well maybe they’ll come back, but for now, there you have them, blurry Cedar Waxwings visiting Earth Home Garden.

Nice photo huh?


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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Adam & Jamie - Happy Easter!

Click on photo to enlarge - photo by Jamie Otterstrom

Our 21 year-old daughter Jamie lives near the shore of Lake Tahoe with her boyfriend Adam, where every spare winter moment is spent snowboarding.

Jamie and Adam are both outdoorsy nature-lovers who also enjoy hiking and camping, and Adam is an avid fly-fisherman.

They finally got an internet hook-up and sent us an e-mail today with photos for an Easter Sunday.

This is my favorite, Adam and Jamie at Donner Pass.

If you go into the Earth Home Garden archives, back to the 21st of October, 2005 (and scroll down from there), you'll find a brief photo-essay of Jamie's life.


Now maybe they'll even comment at the blog once in awhile...

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sunrise On A Pine Needle

Click on photo to enlarge

It rained most of the afternoon yesterday, continuing into the early hours of this morning, and, as you can see, I was out early today playing with my camera among the magical beauty of residual raindrops.

This image and the others below were all shot in the yard today just before and after sunrise.

They were taken with the Canon Powershot S2 IS on the manual (M) setting in SuperMacro mode at various shutter speeds, from 1/100th to 1/500th of a second, while bracketing exposures between f/3.5 and f/8.

It's interesting to me how the sun flare looks as if it were added later with chalk or crayon, but it's just the way the lens captured the light. I took two or three of these and in each one the flare is a different color, one flare was all blue.

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Pine Drop

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A single drop of water, so common, yet so precious...

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Eye Of The Aspen

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I just like the chocolate and blue color of this one, and the way the droplet resembles an eye, complete with upper and lower lids.

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Blues Before Sunrise

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Treetops refracted in the lens of a raindrop hanging from a Quaking Aspen twig just before sunrise.

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Snow Globe?

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This image is from another photo in the same series as the one above.
I enlarged it, cropped it, and flipped it upside down because it reminds me of one of those Snow Globes you see at Christmas time. Just shake it up to see the blizzard inside.

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Alien Sequoiadendron Gigantium Invaders!

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Raindrops at sunrise on one of our non-native Giant Sequoia trees.

This image looks to me like an alien ship in some far away galaxy of the sci-fi movie world.

Just a straight shot, toward the sun, Manual setting, SuperMacro mode, 1/500th at f/8.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ancient Juniper...

Click on photo to enlarge

I wanted to get a picture of this ancient Western Juniper before it falls in the lake. Fully two-thirds of the root system has been undermined by the lapping waves and a somewhat smaller juniper nearby fell into the water since my last walk here a few days ago.

Gotta go, more later...

OK, where was I? Oh yeah!

A dredging project was just completed in this part of the lake and here where the lakebed used to slope very gradually away from the shore there is now and abrupt drop into deep water.

About half of the roots of this juniper have been exposed for many years as high water from an occasionally full lake would lap at the shoreline in front of it.

The lake is brim full again and now the strong westerly winds that prevail here drive the waves full force into the shore, deeply undercutting the soil which then tumbles into the water.

In the past few weeks the shoreline has receded several feet taking one good sized young juniper with it and another next to the one above is now leaning over toward the water.

When that one falls the juniper above will be left standing on a small promintory directly exposed to the west, where waves will then begin to eat at the earth behind the tree, and I doubt if it will be standing much longer, it all depends how much wind we get now.

These lakefront junipers are not only inspiring to look at, they're critical habitat for birds.

Last winter Peggy and watched four Bald Eagles fishing from, and around, this very tree.

gotta go again...
more later

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Jimmy Update - April 2006 - Life Goes On

Click on photo to enlarge

Considering that our son Jimmy has been declared permanently legally blind at 24, he's doing pretty damned good.

On March 13th he moved to the City of Avalon*, on Catalina Island. He's the last one in line in the photo above (blonde hair, red jacket and sunglasses), waiting to board the catamaran for the 26 mile trip from Long Beach.

Jim phoned me after the trip, excited to tell me about the four-hundred plus dolphins that played alongside the boat all the way over. Apparently he can see well enough to make out their shapes and get an idea of their antics. Jimmy's been on several ocean-going trips, and dolphins are a familiar sight to him, so maybe some of it is from memory.

He's living with his long-time buddy Gregor, who grew up alternately between Catalina and Big Bear. Jimmy spent a lot of time over there prior to his car accident and really loves the place. Avalon is so tiny that it's not practical to have a car, which is good for Jim because he can't drive anymore, and he doesn't feel so conspicuous in a town where, essentially, nobody drives.

Jimmy's been doing a lot of ocean kayaking, hiking and playing his guitar. His room-mates all play guitar too so he has some like-minded companions. Another uplifting development is that Gregor has a sister who's taken a liking to Jim. She's a captain on tour boats there, so it seems that Jimmy has a new girlfriend who is including him in her adventures as well.

Jimmy can see shapes and colors, can differentiate between a $10, $20, or $100 bill by looking at it up close with his peripheral vision. He goes kayaking by himself and can make out the horizon, the shoreline, and the scenery to some extent, but says he has to be careful of approaching boats because he can't accurately perceive objects moving toward him at speed.

His plans for the immediate future are to take a massage therapy course this June in San Diego, and he says that a woman in Avalon has already promised him work once he completes the class. He's determined to find new ways to make a living and get off Social Security Disability.

But I think the most positive and encouraging thing right now is that he's finding ways to enjoy himself, and I really admire the bravery he's shown us through this past 7 1/2 months.

And for those of you who are curious, his previous girlfriend, Lindsay, has moved back to Colorado with her parents. Obviously, this was a very tough experience for a 21 year-old girl to come to terms with, but we will always be grateful for the courage and clear-thinking she demonstrated during the immediate aftermath of the accident. Her actions undeniably saved Jimmy's life (see post from Sept. 02, 2005).


Jimmy has asked me not to talk about his situation on the blog, but what he possibly doesn't understand is that he's not in this alone.

Thus, I've decided that I need to be able to talk about this now & then as part of my own grieving and healing.

This has been a major life-changing event for our family, a tragic occurrence that affected all of us very deeply. The unavoidable reality is that these have been difficult and stressful months for us, and for me to simply take pictures of birds and scenery, or discuss gardening, crafts, the environment, or current world events during this time, has often left me feeling frustratingly isolated, because there were much more immediate and personal things on my mind.

Another aspect is, that there are many of you out there who are also concerned, and I've felt I should have been able to let you know what's going on too!

So now you have an update, and I've been able to share a bit of what's going on with Jimmy, and I feel better for it.

With love,


* The 'Avalon Bay' photo at the above 'City Of Avalon' link is by Aaron Logan and was downloaded from Wikipedia.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Planting Greens

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Actual gardening took place today, compost was turned, greens were planted and weeds were pulled. More weather on the way tomorrow evening though.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Two Days Later...

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This is the same view of the garden path as below, except this is how it looks about 55 hours later, on Saturday evening.

We could have a couple of more storms like that between now and June, so another nice thing about spring snow, aside from its beauty and moisture content, is that it doesn't stay around long.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Garden Path In Spring...

Click on photo to enlarge

Yes, it is Spring!

This is what spring looks like at 6,750 feet above sea level, even in California.

And there is a path, and a garden, somewhere under that blanket of white.

I know this because I see the outline of the garden bench at the turn in the path, and the lacy limbs of the bare-naked Quaking Aspen just behind it.

To the left of the aspen is the Giant Sequoia I planted twenty-some years ago, a similar-aged Colorado Blue Spruce in the left foreground, and the much younger White Fir between them.

I also know that beneath all this rests lovely native Mariposa Lilies, Scarlet Penstemon, Indian Paintbrush, Rose Sage, Humboldt Lilies, Crimson Columbine, California Fuschia, Wild Blue Iris, Antelope Bush, Western Wallflower, Bumble-Bee Penstemon, Desert Blue Bells, Snowberry, Grape-Soda Lupine, Wright's Buckwheat, Hedgehog Cactus, Wild Onion, Green-Leaf Manzanita, Prickly Poppy, Prickly Pear Cactus, Sulfur-Colored Buckwheat, Coyote Mint, Firecracker Penstemon, Blue Flax, Mountain Phacelia, Evening Primrose, California Poppies and so many other old friends.

They're cozy now in their frozen beds, it's where they belong, how they came to be what they are, and when the snow melts they'll come out to dazzle us, and our little part of heaven, with an astounding display of fecundity.

There will be thousands of shameless plants exposing their gorgeously colorful flowering sexuality to the world, inviting bees to wallow drunkenly in their pollen, as butterflies and hummingbirds drink of their sweet nectar, and all share in fertilizing the seeds of the future within the prolific womb of mother nature.

Birds of dizzying variety and plumage will soon frolic here too, repeating once again their own rituals and celebrations, in seeking sustenance for their lives, in finding shelter, and hopefully, a safe haven in which to rear their offspring.

That all this can happen on one tiny patch of earth is evidence enough of the miracle that is life, and proof-positive for me, as to the contemptable tragedy of even a single parking lot of equal size.

What has been squandered by humans, rendered barren and lifeless, is immeasurable. What remains is precious, sensual and sacred, every last piece of it.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

...and this is Sunny Southern California!

Click on photo to enlarge

So, it snowed all day and this is how it looks at 5:10 P.M. in Big Bear City on April 5th. The photo below was taken at 5:56 A.M. which will give you an idea of what our day was like. I'd say we got 1 to 1 1/2 feet today but it's a bit hard to tell because the wind was blowing it around so much.
This is the way mountain living should be, unpredictable!
I so love mountains...

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Sometimes An April Day...

Click on photo to enlarge

It's snowing again today with about 5 inches piled up on the deck so far and more expected throughout the day.

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Part Of The Food Chain?

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It's been a hard winter for Grandmother, Spirit Of The Garden, as she has had to accept what most of us deny, that she too is part of the food chain.

But it was no large carnivorous predator chomping on her face, it was one of the local Gray Squirrels. They regularly come into the garden to scrape needed calcium from the various animal skulls we have laying around but this one decided to try out grandmother.

I'm more concerned about the squirrel than I am about grandmother's disfigurement. I assumed she was made of plaster, but the gash on her face reveals what looks to be some sort of resin composite, and I doubt that would be real nourishing for any critter.

I made this photo yesterday afternoon, and, as you can see from the entry above it, today is a different kind of day.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

American White Pelican

Click on photo to enlarge

Peggy and I went for an afternoon walk by the marsh today where I finally got a decent shot of an American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos).
There were about twenty pelicans in the marsh and three of them actually flew over and landed in the water near the shore where we were walking. It's the closest I've seen them come to people, this one was about 30 feet from me. This is an adult in breeding plumage as indicated by the bumps on the bill known as centerboards. These huge birds have wingspans of 8 to 9 feet and eat about 4 pounds of fish each day.

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Petroglyph Bowl

Click on photo to enlarge

The bowl was made about 5 years ago and combines a gourd with pine-needle basketry.

There's a remote early-man site in the Mojave Desert about 35 miles from here with ancient petroglyphs adorning the rock walls of a short narrow canyon. We spent a lot of time there when the kids were younger and I took close-up photos of most of the symbols.

I copied the petroglyph designs as closely as possible onto the gourd with a large red indelible marker and then colored the rest of the gourd blue, also with indelible marker. Then I hand-rubbed the bowl to wear away some of the indelible ink which gave the bowl a sort of weathered batik-like patina. After the pine-needles were stitched on, the entire bowl was finished with a coat of beeswax.

For the baskets & bowls I usually stay with earthy tones, but I had some turquoise colored hemp twine and wanted to experiment with color. I like the way it came out and I may make a couple more Petroglyph Bowls in different colors, but the above photo doesn't really do this one justice (see the photo I added below).

The Petroglyph Bowl was given to our friend Bob Varga in appreciation for the 30,000 pound boulder birdbath he brought us.

And with this more current work I think I'll bring my little art retrospective to a close, I want to go out and play. But it's been fun going through this old stuff and sharing it with you.

If I ever get a slide scanner for the computer you guys are in real trouble, I've got about 2,000 old slides from my photography days packed away in closets.

Have a good Sunday everybody...

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Same Bowl, Another View...

Click on photo to enlarge

Here's the above bowl in a little better light where you can actually see what the finish is like.

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Bird On A Swing - 1974

'Bird On A Swing' by jim otterstrom
Click on drawing to enlarge

This drawing was done with ball point pens (a company called Lindy used to make them in gobs of colors) on regular 8 1/2 X 11 typing paper (as you might guess by the yellowing).

I drew the picture while lying in bed with the flu back in 1974 during my early days at the Post Office. It was completed in that one day (between trips to the bathroom) using a large book as sort of an easel while I propped myself up with pillows. I guess it was my own odd way of distracting myself from how crappy I felt.

I made quite a few drawings when I was younger giving most of the pictures away, but for some reason I kept this one.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Model A Ford

'Model A Ford' by jim otterstrom
Click on photo to enlarge

This is one of my earliest photos and it is a composite of two separate pictures combined as a double exposure with a slide copier.

The original print was made probably sometime early in 1972 and this is pretty much a straight scan of that print. I did clean up some scratches in the old print and may have tweaked the color saturation ever so slightly.

I took the photo of the derelict Model A flatbed truck out in a field in Old Topanga Canyon and combined it with a photo of cracked mud after a rainstorm in Topanga.

I intentionally used grainy 400 ASA color film (long before the change to ISO) to get the effect I was after. I did many of these double exposures with some object superimposed over a texture.

They were simply experiments where I tried to create graphic images that resonated in me for one reason or another. This one reflects the rural times when I grew up and the dirt roads where I wandered as a child.

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The Aspiring Model

'The Aspiring Model' graphic by jim otterstrom-photo credit unknown
Click on image to enlarge

When Peggy and I met in the late 70s she was an aspiring model and I was an aspiring photographer. Our first date was dinner at the old Chart House in Malibu where we each brought our portfolios and exchanged ideas. The image above is made from a photo taken by a student in a photography class Peggy modeled for around 1972, and I created this digital graphic from a closely cropped section of it maybe 6 years ago. We don't have the photographers name or I'd post it here. Peggy was about 20 and working at the Van Nuys Post Office.

That was a long time ago in an alternate reality of, comparatively speaking, very innocent and optimistic times. I thought we could change the world with images, with music, and with love. I could've been the flowerchild posterboy (and actually was a couple of times).

I no longer believe in trying to change the world because, in reality, I can only change myself. If each individual works on their own responsibilities the world will change, so I'm working on improving me, and that's plenty enough work to keep me busy.

But, even after all these years, I still enjoy capturing images of the things I love and sharing them with the world.

Peggy and I have gone through a paradigm shift during our lives together and Earth Home Garden is an ideal we strive toward, as we set our goals, enjoy our successes, and hopefully, learn from our mistakes.

Today the most profound beauty I see is in the sprouting of a seed, the hatching of an egg, the pattern in a leaf, or the design of a feather, but I must also say that beautiful women still cause my heart to pound, it's just the nature of the beast in me.

But only one takes her clothes off for me these days, and I'm sure not complaining.

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Sleep/Dream - Mirrored Realities

'Mirrored Realities' - © 2006 jim otterstrom
Click on photo to enlarge

I may be slightly biased, but I think one of the loveliest images I've ever made is this one, from a photo of Peggy sleeping.

The picture was taken about 15 years ago and I made the computer image from it maybe 8 or 9 years ago.

I wanted to frame this and hang it on the living room wall back then but Peggy was too self-conscious to allow it.

Well she's a bit older now, loves the picture too, and is more comfortable with sharing it, so she said I could post it here today.

As I've said before, I don't find nudity offensive, I wish we were all still 'Naked In
The Garden', and there's nothing posted here that I can imagine as the slightest bit offensive, but if these images do offend anyone I apologize, because we're each entitled to our own take on morality.

And pardon me if I say so, but I believe it's a sweet thing for a woman to have photos of her naked young self, and to remember her beauty when she was a flower in bloom. And I'll just bet that it's also nice to know someone appreciated that beauty enough to record it.

As today is April Fool's day, I'd like to thank you all for tolerating this old fool's self-indulgence into previous artistic endeavors from a much enjoyed, if miss-spent youth.

By the way, this is the first time this image has ever been viewed by anyone other than Peggy and I.

Life is short and unpredictable, enjoy yourselves!

Peace and Love...

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.