Thursday, June 23, 2016

Beer, Beautiful Beer!

On Sunday, I met with Emily, Richard, Walter and Margie to work the morning shift at the NOVA Brewfest. It was yet another blastingly hot and sticky day, even by 10:30 in the morning, when the temperatures were only supposed to be in the upper 70's but were already in the mid 80's before we started our shift. We changed from our lightweight t-shirts into the heavy cotton ones we were issued, and I silently wished that the organizers would change to the lovely light and trendier shirts that folks wear more of these days, and in fact are also issued by the Snallygaster Brew Fest in DC. A shirt I adore and am actually wearing as I write this. And we've all signed up to work this year's event so hoping we'll be selected so we get another awesome shirt.
Our team leader asked us which brewery we wanted to work for and hoping for one with a particularly memorable name, and assuming equally memorable beer, Richard and I managed to get The Rusty Beaver Brewery.
 We had hoped for Lickinghole Creek, a woman owned brewery, but that was taken, and actually we fared better as we were pouring two beers compared to their one, and ours was tastier.
We really loved the artwork too on these labels. All the beavers were sporting incredibly large gnashers, and had bolt eyes which we found highly comical. Today, we were pouring our customers a 'Top Down' summer ale and a 'Big Bite' IPA, both of which were delicious. The brewery isn't yet selling at any retail outlets, the beers can only be bought at their farm brewery, but it sounded so wonderfully welcoming and uncommercialized that I would love to take a trip down to Ladysmith to visit them, only a couple of hours away.
Another brewery I was impressed with was Caboose, a fairly new venture in Vienna.
I loved their set up, the metal railroad track, and hops with barley on the table, and actually thought they had the best IPA in the park.
We were surprised at the lack of people here during the day. Being Father's Day I'd thought the place would be packed and I'm sure the organizers had assumed so also, but we'd been told the Saturday had been quiet too, so I'm quite confident that the festival won't be held on Father's Day in future. But as volunteers we were happy. We had time to chat to the customers and our brewery staff. We could sample the beers along each side of us, holding the fort if someone wanted a tasting break. The hours passed very quickly and we were grateful to be under out tents as the sun blazed hotter through the afternoon.
Others who weren't faring well this weekend were the vendors. I've always wondered why people would try to sell jewelry or dog food at a beer festival, but they were here, and doing badly. One guy had sold nothing over the whole weekend.
This tent, even with his shirts decorated with the names of local breweries had few people stopping to look. Emblemax actually printed all these shirts for him so I took in interest in his plight and felt badly for him. Especially when on Monday he placed a new order since he'd spelled a brewery's name incorrectly on one of his designs and had to reprint the shirts.
But of course there were some superb t-shirts to be seen, and once again I took photos of the best, their owners very happy to stand and show off their chests. And it was all men who were sporting the wittiest and funniest, I didn't spot a single female wearing an amusing slogan.
We even saw a pair of beer socks, and although not related to beer, I did have to snap a shot of a dude proudly wearing his Shark Week fin hat, because we print so many shirts for Discovery during this time, so this caught my eye.
After taking a photo of this superb sour beer I wished I'd noted more of the amazing and clever names that the brewers are pinning to their concoctions. I went to a pub that had over 60 beers on tap a few days later with a buddy, and gleefully chuckled as I read fabulous names such as Epic Son of a Baptist, New Holland Incorrigible, Lagunitas Aunt Sally Sweet Tart Sour Mash and Avery the Maharaja. Sometimes the names draw you in more than the description.
These cute little piggies made from logs were almost irresistible, but not enough, and evidently others agreed. Few, if any, were selling.
We did have to laugh at this poor lady's attempt to fill up her water bottle. As she turned on the tap, the water gushed out as though from a high pressure hydrant, and her bottle was blasted out of her hand at her first go. She didn't give up though and eventually mastered it.
We couldn't stay out in the sun too long, and managed to find a few spare chairs under a tree, grateful that there weren't many people here, or we likely wouldn't have had this success.
Emily and Richard checking out their badges on the phone app, Untapped. I won't do this as there's no end, and no prize to be gained by supping every beer on the planet. But these two enjoy it, and managed to acquire new badges at the event. We sat and soaked up the humidity, feeling languid and lazy in the heat, but we couldn't sit around for too long, there was beer to drink. So we ventured from the sanctuary of the shade to chugg down one last beer before leaving.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Place of the Ptickly Pear

With Bill being on vacation I've been having to run to our allotment almost daily to try and keep down the weeds and water the veggies. Saturday was an intensely hot day but thankfully there was a cool breeze that would suddenly buffet me as I stood in the glaring sun with feet getting increasingly wetter due to a leaking hose nozzle. The weeds were definitely getting the upper hand, obviously doing very nicely with the constant watering from me. I soaked everything on our plot and also sprayed our neighbor's patch as we'd agreed to look out for each other's plants when the rain refused to water them.
Once the veggies and my feet were completely saturated, I walked back to the car and unstrapped my bike. I had my camera with me and thought I'd take a cycle ride around the arboretum to take in a different perspective.
One thing I've always loved about this place is the bird song. I've never heard so many different calls as when I'm at Blandy. Today was no different, the red wing blackbirds and mockingbirds were all extremely vocal, especially the blackbirds as I think they're all busy guarding nests at the moment. I got shooed out of a field of very pretty orange flowers and then while riding around by the water areas they flew back and forth over my head.
I tried to sit by one of the small ponds, hoping to catch a shot of the dragon flies but after about 10 minutes I'd had enough. The sun was too powerful and I felt too vulnerable. The heat was beating down on my skull and the back of my neck, it was just too uncomfortable.
I got back on the bike and pedaled towards the trees. It was a great workout, lots of bumps and hillocks covered in thick grass. I pushed through trying to stay in the shade as much as possible, following stone walls and fences rather than the roads.
I hadn't really seen anything that had warranted a great photo until I cycled down a hill with a squirrel scampering alongside me until the treeline disappeared and there in the grass were some stony outcrops with cacti blooming. The flowers were gorgeous! I discovered later that they were prickly pear cacti. I'd seen the leaves many times in the couple of years I've been coming here, but I'd never been lucky enough to see them bloom, or actually even considered that there would be flowers.
The plants are also edible, the pads, or leaves, can be cooked and treated as a vegetable, and the flower petals can be added to salads. I didn't have the heart to pull these beautiful creations apart, I only wanted photos. Once the flowering finishes, the fruits form and these are apparently best if made into a candy or jelly. I'll have to keep an eye out for those September through November.
The cactus is supposed to be high in amino acids and fiber, magnesium, iron and vitamin B. It can also be used to treat diabetes, sunburn, bruises and stomach issues.
Farmers in Mexico used the plants as a border around their property while in central Africa the juice from the pads is used as an effective mosquito repellent. I might have to actually try that one.
But although this is a beautiful and evidently very useful plant, some have suffered from side effects after consuming the nopal, as it's also referred to. Diarrhea, headache and nausea have been experienced while there are also some who are allergic to it. Still, I may have a go at trying it as a mosquito repellent. And there's even an old fable featuring the plant.
I was so pleased that I'd come across these cacti, not likely if I'd just been walking, so I've decided to bring my bike here more often to explore further. It seemed that I had achieved something worthwhile this day, so to celebrate I went back to the allotment and gave all of our plants, and my feet, another soaking!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Country Lanes and a Hidden Home

The weekend was relatively relaxed for me, the way I wanted it after the previous weekend spent in drug induced oblivion. I canceled plans to trundle around Maryland with thousands of others to photograph barns. I didn't want to be wrestling for the best vantage points with hoards of people so I decided to stay closer to home and explore some of the unpaved roads in my area. It was lovely, just pottering along the silent roads, smelling the sweet air and feeling the hot sun on my arms,
I found myself down near Front Royal so decided to check out the low lying bridge that would soon be replaced by a more boring, conventional and of course, safer version. The road had been closed with the heavy machinery in place, ready to start its task of destruction. There was a 'no trespassing' sign but I walked just past it so I could snap my last photo of the one vehicle wide stretch that was inches above the river.  I'm very glad that I took this video of my last drive over it in March, it seems so long ago now and part of another era.
Driving through the town, I chuckled when I spotted this wonderfully quirky house. I had been so fixated on the statue of liberty standing proudly and the canopies over the windows that it wasn't until I was editing the photo later that I spotted the clever fountain under the tree on the left.
Back into the countryside again I suddenly remembered an old abandoned house I'd spotted on a freezing cold winter's day. Not wanting to leave the warm car then I had made a mental note to revisit it when the temperatures were a little warmer. Today as I approached it, I hoped that the interior would be cool, the heat was stifling outside. But as I pushed the door open I forgot about hot or cold, my eyes not knowing where to look first as I gazed around a home that had been left and not likely walked in for a few decades.
Although there had been some vandalism,it seemed that this had been done some time ago as the house had obviously not been visited for some time. Paint was peeling from the walls and dust had collected on every surface. Belongings were strewn across the floor but some places had been left intact, and not touched, for a good 25 years or more.
A beautiful wooden cabinet stood, somehow having been dragged away from the wall yet with its contents unbroken. A few ornaments lay shattered on the ground but a glorious cruet set stood on a dresser, dusty and cloudy, likely untouched since the last time it was used.
In one of the lounge areas, beautiful rockers were still next to a fireplace, a small wooden dresser in the corner had a drawer pulled open, filled with old cards and Christmas tags, Christmas ornaments, some of which were still wrapped up.  Old books, VHS tapes and 8 speed cassettes had sat for years on shelves alongside old photos of the folks who had once laughed and enjoyed life within these walls.
I couldn't believe that nobody had wanted to collect up these sentimental items, and it was apparent that nobody would now. I stood looking around feeling sad that a home which appeared to have been so vibrant and bursting with life now stood so silent and still.
With the knicknacks, old toys, photos, slides, games, tapes and so many books, this had obviously housed an active family yet now this had all been abandoned, sitting with its contents, stories and memories, just slowly disintegrating because nobody had claimed it. Upstairs surprised me. Two of the bedrooms were practically impenetrable because they were completely stuffed with clothes and linens. Folded in piles, stacked up on the bed and filling every open space, the floor could barely be seen. I could only assume that towards the end of the house's life, an elderly person or couple lived here who became hoarders, and possibly after their demise, the home had just been left behind, existing relatives not bothered about the contents left within its walls.
In the kitchen, I found these two old gadgets by the sink. I recognized the can opener but had to look up the one in front, discovering that it was an old Dazey ice crusher, likely from the 40's or 50's.
I spent quite a while walking about taking photos, and trying not to disturb the contents. As I later stepped back out into the hot, bright day, it felt like I was leaving another world, and with one last look back over my shoulder I gently tugged the old door shut.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Stormy Skies at Blandy

After work on Tuesday our camera club met at Blandy and we took our cameras to shoot outside. The weather was unsettled, a bright sun blazing down, but a fierce wind was blowing and darker clouds were visible on the horizon. Most of the others in our group that had walked outside to take photos were staying near the building but I decided to walk out further and catch the amazing sky that was developing above me.
I had to hold these flowers in place while I snapped a photo as the wind had gotten strong, buffeting branches and blades vigorously. I was amazed when I processed my shots later to see the beetles inside the magnolia blossom, feasting on the fallen stamens from the 'pineapple' as it's referred to in the center. I think they were flea beetles.
The clouds really were ominous now and visiting folks were scattering, heading back to cars and buildings. I was quite a way from the club so just stayed near the bigger trees in case I needed to run for shelter.
Immediately after having taken these the rain fell and so I trotted back to the club room. We chatted for a while but as the rain passed over and a faint rainbow climbed halfway up the sky, the fading sun bathed the gardens in golden light, encouraging us to venture back out again. We strolled around but the light was starting to fade and I was content with the sky images I'd captured earlier, and not bothered about shooting more flowers.
I took some of the dogwoods as I love these state flowers so much, and had been sorely disappointed to miss the ones at home while I'd been in England, but after a few shutter clicks, I gave up and we all left the gardens to rest for the night as we headed back into the club room.