Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bizzare to Behold in Baltimore

On Saturday, Jeff, Emily and I drove up to Baltimore to scout around and find interesting things to photograph. We hadn't been in the city long before some huge, intimidating clown faces caught our eye. We swung back for a closer look.
They were in the windows of A.T. Jones and Sons, a theatrical costume company who produce outfits for local shows and they also rent them out.
These fibreglass masks certainly do a great job of drawing attention to the company, They were pretty scary from across the street and downright sinister up close. I've never understood the 'scary clown' concept before but today that changed. I was glad they were behind glass.
We strolled around some streets peering into the backs of derelict and tumbling down row houses, scraps of tattered curtains drawing me in for a photo.
We then drove through the Baltimore Cemetery. Emily and I had pulled up to these gates on other occasions but always failed to find it open. Today we drove right in and parked on top of the hill, looking down upon the bleached stones jutting from the ground.
Of all the grave stones I walked past, this small figure sleeping on top of a marker was my favorite. Weathered and eroded, she's been sleeping there for years, yet despite the stone having been smoothed out, it was still easy to see her face and pose, and I found her calming.
We left the cemetery, empty of living souls, apart from us, and carried on driving.
We came across yet another neigborhood filled with row houses that were mostly boarded up. Many had posters taped to doors and windows advertising auctions. A local lady, seeing we were interested, approached us and said that they were selling for about $3-4K. She had 3 which she was renovating. They certainly needed a lot of work, most of them were simply a shell.
We then checked another building which we'd explored before. We weren't able to get in, it was locked up tight and all windows boarded, which I was happy to see. The stained glass in here wasn't broken, and hopefully someone will purchase the building to restore, or at least save the windows. Of course, as long as that's before the place blows sky high; there was a terrible odor of gas surrounding the whole building, and I could only assume it would be worse inside.
The sun was dropping lower in the sky when we came across our last port of call. We had been here many years before and the place had been guarded quite heavily, preventing any further explorations.
But today it was overgrown, empty and heavily damaged by vandals.
The old labs were carpeted with thick vines that reached out to all walls and crept towards the ceilings. All the furniture had been destroyed, leaving no trace of the beautiful colors that had once filled these rooms. Nearly 100 years ago Pemco started here, creating porcelain enamel coatings for kitchen and bathroom appliances and floor tiles. When we had first come here, 5 years ago, there had been plenty of evidence of the industry, tiles on the walls, small pots filled with a spectrum of colored powders, and lab equipment. Now all that was gone, just soggy ceiling tiles on the floors with emerald green moss and vines.
Down in the storage warehouses though, glints of color shone in the dying sunlight. There were huge sacks of glass pieces in greens, browns and a beautiful royal blue, as well as heavy white balls that had apparently been used for polishing or grinding.
It was great light for photography, with glints and shadows, golden light everywhere. But it soon passed and we decided to head off to a brewery to finish the day.
The Pemco factory will all shortly be cleared out as the land has been purchased by local developers for a residential and retail complex. The company has moved to Alabama because of the dwindling business in north America, due to the shift towards stainless steel. Those disappearing orange Howard Johnson roofs won't be made by Pemco anymore...

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Museum of the Shenadoah Valley

I discovered a museum on line that I hadn't visited before, and which interested me because it had a formal garden area featuring statues and covered walkways, the whole sounding tremendously appealing in a photographic sense.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley also has a large building that only opened in 2005, housing collections of art and antique displays, everything about the Shenandoah Valley area. There is a house in the gardens,open to view the ground floor, and this was owned by Julian Glass, who donated the buildings and land to be opened to the public. It took Glass and his partner, R. Lee Taylor over 35 years to complete the gardens.
I started off  walking around the museum, wanting to save the best part, the gardens, until last. It was lovely and cool inside, outside was humid and in the upper 80's, and to be honest, the coolness was the main focal point for me. I was aware of paintings and objects, but really, the only items that pulled me out of my trance as I wallowed in the A.C. were a huge copper still and a bag of Route 11 chips, which was part of a display featuring products made in the Shenandoah valley.
 So before long, I was back outside in the oppressive heat and walking down towards the gardens. I was lucky to almost have the place to myself, guessing that other folks didn't really want to be walking around gardens in this high humidity and under a blazing sun. But I looked at the map and was soon entranced at the wonderful names given to various parts, the Parterre Garden and the Grand AllĂ©e.
There are a lot of beautiful statues here, tucked in nooks of walls or in hidden areas, and I nearly missed the beauty of this walkway until I turned around at the end and looked back.
There was a formal vegetable garden too, which I was delighted to see had a huge crop of tobacco plants, albeit covered in green fly, but I took the name down, Berley 21. The seeds can be purchased here, so I think I'll plant some next year. They have a very rapid growth stage and can grow 2-3" a day!
The statues and busts here were were gorgeous, I took photos of so many.
I was extremely fortunate at not having to share this little wonderland with crowds. There was one guy with a very loud voice, trailing behind his wife, and lamenting about the heat. His whining tones were quite pathetic and her face portrayed quite obviously how she felt about him. I managed to lose them by ducking into a courtyard and eventually his voice faded away, leaving me once again to the soft hum of insects accompanying the bird songs.
I was amazed at the size of these flowers, hibiscus I think, The flower heads were bigger than my head!
There was also an Asian themed garden, mostly shaded, with a brook trickling through, and dark emerald mosses and leaves on the rocky banks.
A small group were enjoying the shade here, with a couple who I assumed were engaged, and having their portraits taken. I hung back, not wanting to spoil their shots, and watched huge koi carp that were swimming in lazy circles in the pond.
I covered all the grounds then started walking back to the car. I'll have to come back in the fall or when there's snow on the ground; these were pretty and interesting gardens. I spotted a glint of yellow in the grass and bending down found a goldfinch feather. Another beauty to put in my feather glass at home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Day of Heat and a Night of Light

After an industrious day on Saturday of running errands and then pickling the last of my hot peppers with some sweet pepper, I also made a jar of horseradish sauce. I've been wanting to make this for years but knew it would be an arduous task so kept putting it off. But I finally pulled on the latex gloves and went out to dig up a root. I have plenty of horseradish plants growing around the house.
It took a while but this was my root after washing it. I hacked off the small tubers but chopped up the thicker ones along with the rest of the root after peeling off the skin. I followed these instructions because I liked the photos, it just helped to make it all seem so easy. But it wasn't! I also didn't have any white vinegar at the end so I used apple cider vinegar instead and it was fine.
Once I had my pureed horseradish, along with sore eyes, because I couldn't stop looking inside the blender to see how it was doing, I simply mixed the puree with a 8oz dollop of Daisy sour cream, 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard, half a tsp of sea salt and a few twists of the black pepper grinder. I filled one jar with the mixture and a spoonful or so in another so I could taste the next day. Both jars were popped into the fridge.
 My finished products. The pepper plant, since I relieved it of its final fruits, promptly starting popping out new purple fruits, so I guess I'll be picking more in a couple of weeks. The horseradish sauce was delicious, just the right amount of hotness, although a couple of times my eyes did water up, but that was purely down to my greed in having too much of it in one mouthful. And I've already opened the big jar so I guess I'll be making more in a few weeks...
Once I'd cleaned up the alarming mess in my kitchen, I really didn't want to come home to that, I grabbed the camera and drove to Berryville for the Clarke County Fair. I was only interested in photographing the carnival. I'd been very disappointed with my shots last year because of my wobbly tripod so I was itching to do better this time. I only planned on staying for about an hour and a half, and soon had my camera set up once I was inside the gates.
A 'slo-mo' video of one of the rides.
It was some time later when I realized how tired I was. I had been there for over 3 hours! I really wanted to stay longer as I had more ideas but my bed was calling and with a 45 minute drive ahead of me, I decided to pack up for the night. Shenandoah County Fair is on in a couple of weeks so I'll try to get to that one too.