Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sapidity at Snally

On Saturday, I drove down to Emily's house in DC to leave my car, and an overnight bag in case I stayed the night. We were volunteering at the Snallygaster Beer Festival and it was a long 8 hour shift. I wasn't quite sure how we would get much beer drunk if we were working all that time but we'd obviously work something out.
Emily and I walked the 3 miles down to the Navy Yards where the festival was being held and by the time I'd walked one mile I cursed my stupidity at not choosing better footwear. I had on my 'trustworthy' Tractor Supply shit kicker boots that I usually live and die in, but these were an extremely poor choice to spend a good 11 hours in. Plus I hadn't checked them before I slipped them on and for some reason there was some fine gravel in the bottoms, which I did empty out after a while, but the bottoms of my feet were sore before I even got to the gates.
Snallygaster is named after a mythical beast and hosts around 300 beers and ciders, plus some great food trucks. The weather was miserable but nobody's spirits were dampened. We were a little soggy by the time we arrived but the line to collect shirts moved quickly and before long we were sporting very cool festival worker t-shirts. Unlike NOVA Brewfest, you don't get to choose where you work and I was given Alewerks, along with another lady.
 Alewerks is from Williamsburg and we had 4 of their beers to pour today. Their representative was a crusty old git who never bothered to introduce himself to us, and when he was laying out coasters and koozies, I asked if we would be allowed to have one, to which he grunted, 'if there's any left at the end'. He really was a horrible unsociable person, and my partner and I looked at each other sideways with big grins. We'd just ignore him.
 The VIP's started lining up ready for the festival to officially open, and then suddenly it was! Having worked a couple of NOVA brew fests, I wasn't daunted and got stuck in. The crowd was great, everyone excited and happy to be drinking beer this morning. The heavy dark clouds and fine rain didn't put anyone off and I was impressed with the turn out, the crowds just kept getting bigger.
There were some awesome t-shirts and the owners were all happy to pose for a photo. I just kept smiling, it was wonderfully to be among such great upbeat people. Except for Crusty Crab, who kept hovering behind us. I noticed the other beer companies left their staff to pour, trusting them to their task, but our old geyser wasn't having any of that.
 Emily was lucky to be in a group so had time to sample more than me, entering every sip and gulp on her Untapped app.
We weren't given an actual lunch break per se, it seemed we just had to grab an opportunity when we could, so it was after 1pm when I ran, or rather hobbled, off to find something to eat. We'd been given a $10 voucher and I added some cash to mine and ordered a sumptuous lobster and apple smoked bacon roll.
It was delicious and I munched happily under the truck's awning while watching the guests walk about. I still didn't hear one word against the weather and it really was chucking it down while I was eating my lunch.
Taking on board the crowd's great attitude I sauntered back towards my area, stopping off on the way to photograph some folks and sip a few beers.
My English friend Brian turned up, he had a VIP ticket so had sampled quite a selection of ales by the time I saw him. I suggested a fabulous pumpkin sour from the brewery next to us, and Crusty glowered at me.
Despite my poor tootsies and the ominous dark clouds that dumped rain on us frequently, I had a whale of a time, and it really was the punters that made it so. Whether the lines were long or whether they had to wait with raindrops running down the backs of their necks, everyone was smiling and happy. Isn't beer wonderful?
I had no idea why he was carrying a blow up bear with him, and I asked no questions...
Our crusty old codger couldn't handle the pace, and was finally tuckered out by about 5pm, having to take a snooze, sleeping, propped up on a cart for a good hour or more. We didn't mind, we relished the freedom. But when he awoke, he announced that he was packing up and needed the tablecloth. I helped him take it off, lifting the heavy kegs, and he snatched it with no word of thanks or even a goodbye. We waved him off ecstatically and enjoyed the last half hour or so until the festival closed.
Absolutely loved this girl's skirt.
Richard had manged to snaffle some leftover glasses for us, since they weren't given to volunteers, so I got them to strike a quick pose with our trophies before we headed off to find a bar where we could enjoy one more beer and where I could rest my weary feet. It had been an awesome day!
Click here to see the fine beers and fodder that was available at the festival.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Vast Venue of Vultures

For some strange reason Marshall has attracted a huge population of black vultures.They're often seen perched on a chimney of an abandoned house, hovering over Main Street and even atop the roof of Meadow House. I first took a real interest in them last autumn when I noticed that they were meeting regularly on the town cell phone tower. They start grouping here to roost around the beginning of August and are usually mostly gone by October. It was then I discovered through researching that they can migrate to the lower warmer states or even Mexico but most prefer to stay in one area. But it seems that our Marshall flock do actually leave us for a while. I'll keep an eye on them in the next couple of months, they may be an indicator of a harsh or temperate winter, depending if they leave or stay.
They are one of the few animals that mate for life, even attacking the adulterers in their flock. They live for about 10 years in the wild and follow the turkey vultures to animal carcasses because they have a poor sense of smell unlike their red headed compatriots who can sniff out rotting flesh more easily.
It was a heavily overcast evening as I approached Marshall yesterday from work and the flock were all there, sitting peacefully on their metal perch. I quietly and slowly approached them, camera ready, but had barely advanced before a large number of them silently took off and started circling. They actually lack a voice box and so only grunt or hiss, and it was a little eerie and intimidating as their huge wingspans slowly flapped above me with no screeches to ward me off.
 I walked closer to the fence noticing the multitude of feathers on the ground. This spot has definitely home for these guys for quite a while. As I walked around the tower, following the fence line, I was suddenly hit by an overpowering stench of rotting flesh. As I'd walked to the back a breeze was blowing across the compound right at me, and the fetid fumes were blowing straight into my face.It was horrible and I moved a little quicker so I could move away from being downwind.
 I looked up and the remaining birds were all looking down at me, still silent. Even though I love these birds, at this moment the situation was a little daunting and I really felt like I was trespassing on their space. Their silence was coming across as formidable and I felt it was time to leave.
I walked back to the car and drove home. A large number of them were still flying over the town and I felt guilty at having invaded their personal space. It was a little unnerving when I left the town and driving down the country lane towards Meadow House, four of them flew low across the road, just skimming over the tree tops, and I could have sworn one of them looked straight down at me as I peered up through my wind screen. It seemed as though they were saying to each other, "There she goes, follow her!" I'll be looking upwards whenever I leave the house for the next few days!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Lazing on a Labor Day Weekend

Overall I had a relatively lazy Labor Day weekend. I just took each day as it came and made no plans. It was bliss and actually felt like a holiday weekend, in fact, so nice and relaxed that I had a real problem getting back into work mode on Tuesday.
 We have a huge colony of black vultures living in Marshall, which l'm pleased about as these birds fascinate me, and on Saturday a group of them were lined up along a fence near a dead deer just outside of the town. I managed to stop the car without disturbing them. Unfortunately they wouldn't allow me to get too close and started flying off as I walked slowly closer. I felt a little guilty at disturbing their lunch so didn't hang about.
I drove out to Flint Hill to revisit some old barns I'd taken photos of previously. but wanted to capture again since I hadn't been too pleased with the quality of my earlier images. I'll come out and capture these at each season as I worry about their deterioration. As least with photography they can be immortalized.
 My favorite barn. It always looks like it belongs in a fairy tale. These still aren't quite right so I'll be back next Sunday.
On Sunday I attempted to hike England Mountain with my camera but was stopped halfway up the hill by two factors. One was a group of dogs who were on the trail, despite not being allowed, and then, after one photo, my camera battery died, and I didn't have a replacement. Thoroughly miffed by these events I sulkily turned around and returned home,  to immediately place one battery on charge and then find another that still had some power left. I tried out a macro lens that I'd purchased cheaply on Amazon. I currently can't afford to spend $1100 on a Sony lens so I'd bought a lens that was essentially a magnifying lens that snapped on to the front of my camera.
 The effects aren't as good as I'd hoped for, and I have to crop the outside of the image as there was a heavy vignetting effect on each image, but it was fun for a while. The photo above was a spider web moving and glinting in the sun.
Later that day I had a surprise invitation to join Tom and Laurie across the hill for cocktails on the patio and dinner with her brother and niece, whom I'd met last year. It was a wonderful evening; I have no photos as my phone stayed firmly in my pocket, it was lovely just to enjoy the company, finishing the evening on our backs by the pool exploring the Milky Way. I have great neighbors.
On Monday I went back to the mountain, this time with 2 spare charged batteries, and resumed my hike.
No, I wasn't quick enough to catch a falling leaf as this photo implies. It was hanging by a silken thread and fluttering above the path.
The old house was looking worse for wear, the weather hasn't been kind, and I suspect in a couple of years it will be cordoned off completely. The first signs of fall could be seen along the trail, small brightly colors leaves caught my eye from the edge of the path or the occasional stone walls that I walked past. Tiny flies buzzed loudly in front of my face and despite having covered myself with so much Deet that my eyes watered, the mosquitoes still had a feast, biting my arms and even my back, huge welts that I cursed later because I couldn't quite reach them to scratch. But I'm resourceful and an emery board does the trick quite nicely.
And so the weekend finished with me and the moggies jostling each other again for space on the sofa. I think that they enjoyed me being around more than usual since they never left my side. We spent the last few hours watching the hummingbirds and old black and white movies, or reading. A restful relaxing respite indeed.