Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Icy Weekend

Very early Saturday morning I hopped out of bed and looked out of the window to discover that we'd had some snow silently delivered overnight. Not much but more than a dusting and enough to make a pretty winter wonderland.
I donned a jacket over my PJ's and carefully walked outside to fed the crows, scattering seed in front of the house, then rushed back indoors to make a cup of tea and snuggle back under the covers.
Kota was in heaven sitting on his fleecy hammock with warm air drifting up from the heater below and watching the crows strut and caw right under his nose thanks to the reflective film on the windows.
Later I went out to take a few photos and then rushed to the post office before it closed. I wasn't prepared for ice under the snow and lost control of Stuart at the bottom of hill. We slowly glided out into the main road but thankfully the car approaching from my left had plenty of time to slow down and swerve around me. On the way back up after my trip to Marshall it took me three attempts to get back up the hill.
I was glad to get back to the house and wondered how Brandon would get up the hill later to deliver my fire wood. But his truck had big chunky tires and he didn't slip once. We stacked the wood and then as we chatted over a beer he told me to stock up well for when the snow comes. Apparently when the last snow fell it was 4 or 5 days before anyone touched the bottom road and then it was just a bulldozer creating a one lane escape route. The army and coast guards followed after that to dig out Marshall. Brandon invited me into town for a drink later that evening to meet some of the locals but I was staying put, that icy hill was too intimidating.
On Sunday I had no intention of driving anywhere so I spent the day reading in front of the fire and just took a couple of photos of things Mum sent me.
This is the old family Monopoly set, a little battered but complete. It was nice to see the old pieces again and I always thought this was the best set ever. When I was younger I never understood why some Monopoly sets had an iron or a top hat as the game pieces. The idea of the game is to travel around the board along the streets and through the stations. How does one travel on an iron? You need proper transport for that, like our game pieces, a tank, a ship, a car, a motorbike and a train. My young literal mind sometimes had issues with the ship since there was no water for it to float on but at least it was a mode of transport. Not a silly top hat.
Mum had also found this old Art Deco style kettle which had spent years in a box and wasn't something I remembered having seen during my childhood. But I love its unique shape with the original little oil heater underneath.
I noticed Kota paying rapt attention to something outside and crept over to see what was so alluring. He didn't even acknowledge me, just stared into the trees, and as I followed his gaze I spied a beautiful red tailed hawk sitting on a branch.
I quickly grabbed my camera and clicked the shutter. Luckily I was just in time as he immediately took off and flew over the meadow.
On Monday morning a little more snow had fallen so I waited until about 9:30 to leave for work. The ground around the car was a little slushy so I hoped I'd be able to get out OK. I drove slowly down the hill and took the bends even slower but as the decline became a little steeper the brakes locked and I started picking up speed. It was terrifying not being able to stop but I reacted quickly and steered over to the side of the road that looked more snowy. I put a wheel onto the grass and Stuart stopped, thank God. But I couldn't back up and had to leave him there. The road was a sheet of ice and I had a problem just getting out of the car and standing upright. I managed to let Kit, a neighbor, know that I'd abandoned Stuart and then I plodded up through the snowy meadow back to the house. I was still clutching my coffee and as soon as I got indoors I threw a large slug of brandy into it.
Around 2pm I spotted Matt, another neighbor, walking down the hill. I rushed to join him and together we salted the lower and steeper part of the hill since that area is constantly shaded.
Abandoned Stuart. The dark areas on the road which I thought were safe were actually black ice. It looks like the road ends in the distance but that is actually where it drops down to the steeper hill shown below.
 Poor Stuart stayed on the hill until about 4pm when the UPS van came beetling up the hill. Since he'd managed OK, I walked back down again and this time managed to get Stuart back up to the house. The salt had done its work and the whole hill was now just slush. The temperatures were staying above freezing for the night so I decided to drive again, this time to pick up a piece of furniture with Jim. It wouldn't fit in Stuart but went in the back of Jim's Tahoe easily.
I'm really pleased with this $50 cabinet. It's unusual, maybe from the 70's but is in perfect condition and a perfect home for my cameras which have been in boxes since I moved to Marshall. Now I just need bookcases, a sofabed and wardrobes. One piece at a time...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Windy & Smokey Weekend

A small group of us met on Saturday to scout around the Waldorf area in Maryland. We weren't having much luck but Penelope knew of an old abandoned farm house so we headed for there. It was freezing cold and we'd stocked up at the local Seven Eleven with coffee and snacks. I chose Twinkies as Hostess is probably going bankrupt and the thought of no more Twinkies terrifies me.
I saw these fabulously huge Reese's cups and craved them so badly but Good God, each one weighed half a pound! But I would have loved to gobble at least one of them, if I could afford them... $14.99?
We got to the farm house and loved the guard dog sign. The fields were flat and empty so the wind pummeled us as we set off up the driveway. I was glad of my hand warmers in my pockets but really didn't want to twiddle with camera knobs at all and my creativity was at a very low ebb.
We all ambled around the house and outside buildings struggling to find things to photograph, nothing was sparking my enthusiasm but Jason found a stairway up to the loft and called me up. He'd unearthed these wonderful carboys, some which had pretty embellishments on and one which was brown glass, ideal for blackberry wine. We got them outside and I was thrilled to take them home for cleaning. They now sit on a kitchen shelf sparking and pristine ready for use.
Jason and Huguette found an old TV in an outbuilding and started stripping the knobs from it for art projects. We soon tired of the farm house and the cold was creeping under our jackets so we happily plodded back to the car to warm up.Driving to downtown Waldorf we stopped at a cigar store called the Tinder Box.
Emily and I started rummaging through the empty cigar boxes for interesting storage containers and the others settled into the leather sofas with beers and nibbles. This was an impressively stocked shop with very helpful and friendly staff. Everyone was relaxing watching sport on the huge TVs and the air was hazy with fragrant cigar smoke. I started chatting to a guy sitting near us who noticed our cameras and before long we had another recruit for our urbexing group. We exchanged Flickr accounts and oohed and aahed over each others photos as we exchanged tips.
Darkness fell and we all decided to head home. We'd not really achieved much with our photography but it had still been a fun day and my car was filled with souvenirs from our visits.
Sunday was still cold and windy but not wanting to stay indoors all day, I went for a drive locally with my camera.
I trundled around narrow country lanes noting some pretty routes for cycling when the weather warms up a bit. I stopped at this pretty church near Markham.  
I got out to walk around the graveyard but being on top of a hill, the wind was cruel and biting. I didn't last long and actually ran back to the sanctuary of Stuart and turned the heater blower up.
I carried on towards Markham and stopped again. This was a beautiful little place, not really a village but more of a community around the railway line but it seemed as though time had stopped still. If it wasn't for cars parked by the railroad tracks this could have been a scene from a hundred years or more. It was enchanting and I want to live there, in one of the houses right next to the tracks.
This little video shows a 360ยบ view of where I stopped. I loved this little place and intend on coming back again to photograph it properly and visit the winery here.
I took a few more photos of Markham but then decided to get back home where I knew a nice blazing fire was waiting for me. I was done with the cold icy weather.
Someone was already having a lazy Sunday afternoon. I've moved his hammock to my bedroom window where the heater below throws up warm air. With his view over the fields and where he can watch the birds feeding Kota has the perfect set up. We were happy to be warm and cozy in our little cottage.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sun Flares at Sunset

Near Rob's house is a great gash in the countryside through which the Transco gas pipeline runs, pumping gas along a 10.000 mile system up the east side of the country. Although ugly, noisy and sometimes odorous, it does provide a useful short cut to the rail line, which on Sunday was where I wanted to go.
The sun was low in the sky and currently I have a thing about taking photos late in the day and catching star bursts, sun flares and lots of bokeh in my images. Dark photos with bright light glaring and creating kaleidoscopic patterns. Today was a superb day to do that with no breeze and a low winter sun that dazzled. We put some coins on the railway line and waited for a train.
No train came by but I got some interesting shots and so was happy with that. Rob called on Monday to let me know he'd found 3 of the 7 coins that had been flattened by a train later on Sunday evening.
During Monday afternoon and overnight we got snow in Marshall. Not a lot but enough to get out of bed early, prise open my watering eyes and set the tripod up outside briefly. I got these 2 photos as the sun came up over the horizon.
I sent the landscape one to ABC 7 news where it was shown on TV at 6:20am on Wednesday. Cool!