Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Spring had Sprung on Sunday

After having spent Saturday morning helping to collect trash from the disgustingly filthy Anacostia River in DC, in the rain, I wasn't keen to overexert myself on Sunday. On Saturday afternoon, I'd picked up a bicycle from Jason, which he had assured me would ride better than my heavy silver Pacifica bike that I've been using for trails and rougher ground that I would prefer to not take my Bianchi on.
Sunday morning was rain free, thankfully, sunny, but chilly with a brisk wind. I decided against the bike ride I had originally planned, instead plumping for the lazier option of checking out the Leesburg Flower and Garden Show. I've been in the mood for planting now I've cleared my patio, repurposed my broken down shutters to make new screens, and thrown away my old rusty BBQ. I'm itching to start planting and adding some glorious color to my outside space, as well as putting veggies in my newly acquired plot behind the barn. But with common sense, and my wallet, telling me to hold off for a little longer until the chance of frost has surely passed, I thought, maybe looking at a show and at least getting some ideas would keep me temporarily satisfied.
My little shed was illuminated with the morning sun, teasing me with the knowledge that all my pots and garden furniture are in there, just waiting to be pulled out and filled with pretty flowers and herbs. I also have my boston ferns and geraniums in the spare room that need to go outside.
I drove towards Leesburg, taking the country route, wanting to first pass through Rectortown, or Maidstone (after my English home town) as it was once called.
I stopped at the side of the road in Maidstone, and got out to enjoy the beautiful banks of English bluebells that were in full bloom, pretty pastels of pink and blue and the odd white bell carpeted the side of the road, and the fragrance was divine. I'm assuming there must be an English resident here who planted all these, and I am grateful that they are so close to home. They have even spread across to the other side of the road and have taken root in the woodland there. And to add to the experience, which I was already enjoying immensely, the sound of classical music from a nearby house drifted across to me. For a heavenly few minutes I stood there, savoring the moment and feeling extremely fortunate that I could enjoy this little place of my home here in America. I didn't linger too long though as I likely looked a little odd, standing there with my nose in the air, sniffing audibly, with a big grin on my face, but it was a most superb way to start the day and I happily continued along on my way through country roads to Leesburg.
Emblemax has been printing the shirts for this show for many years, so it was amusing to see last year's leftover tees being used to keep kids clean as they participated in art projects. But I soon moved along, wanting, and hoping, to get some ideas for my patio, but not really wanting to buy plants as those would come from DeBaggio's. The streets were crowded and the event bigger than I'd anticipated, which I was pleased about, there was so much to look at!
I saw some great ideas for growing succulents and resolved to look over the grounds at home to see if I could find a rotting log, I'm sure there's a few about. The one shown here was $75, out of my price range, but gorgeous nonetheless. I also loved the vibrant colors of the bird houses with their copper adornments. There was another stall of flower pots wearing kids denim dungarees. Tacky and not something I'd have on my patio as they'd surely be rotted after a humid summer, but I was about to take a photo when the lady shooed me off, suggesting I was wanting to steal her idea. I looked at her incredulously, but respected her wishes and moved on.
I admired the water features, something I'd love to have at home, especially the fire and water piece. I also adored the shabby chic display, tempted to purchase a  #2 pot but wondering if it actually pertained to what I was assuming, ha ha. I ended up not buying anything from there but instead was won over with a hummingbird metal sculpture which sticks in the ground, a photo will be in my patio post at a later date. I had enjoyed looking around but was surprised that I didn't come away with many ideas or that I wanted to buy more. But I'd come back again, it was cheap to get into and parking had been easy on a nearby or was free in garages close by.
I drove to a nearby park and tested the new bike.The gears took some getting used to but overall it was comfortable and definitely lighter. But although I'm really pleased to have this new ride, I'm more excited about getting my garden started. With all the bright new leaves and flowers busting out, the landscape rapidly changing into a kaleidoscope of spring colors banishing the dull tones of winter, The temperatures are rising and I'm pretty sure that the freezes are over for the season. As I watch the birds, small woodland animals and insects begin their busy activities, I'm caught up in their enthusiasm and want to dash about too, to get everything planted and arranged just so on the patio.
As Leo Tolstoy said, "Spring is the time of plans and projects."

Friday, April 21, 2017

Scouting on a Sunday

On Sunday it was scouting time for me with Emily and Jason. We trundled off from the Culpeper area, choosing country roads to explore, rather than sticking to the highways. We rumbled along small lanes, stopping at small churches, houses or anything that caught our interest.
We stopped for a picnic lunch by the side of the River James, a joy to sit on the grass, feel the warm sun, and not be bitten by bugs or feel the discomfort of humidity, these will be hitting us soon when summer explodes upon us, as it did last year. Back in the car we continued our scouting. We'd done a lot of stopping and starting but then spotted a small house tucked away in a wood. It looked so pretty that we pulled over for a closer look. Set in a quiet woodland with a creek down below, In a spot that would likely never be developed, it was peacefully beautiful here. We roamed around the abandoned structure and walked inside.
I fell in love with this house, and we all agreed it felt welcoming, unlike many abandoned places we've previously entered. I could have sat there all afternoon. It wasn't beyond saving and I wished I could afford to buy it and leave my job. Even the kitchen was still cute and could be restored, keeping parts with character intact. There were pretty covers over the flues which I'd never seen before, and a cool screened porch with a brick floor. I would even have the beaten lino recreated, a pretty design I'd never seen before. There were even English bluebells in the garden. There was a good aura about the place, it felt like it had been a happy home, I could imagine the smells of home baking in the bustling kitchen, pies cooling on the cute window ledges and an early morning cup of tea enjoyed in the screened porch while mist weaved through the trees. It was a delightful haven, and hard to leave behind.
We wandered around other buildings, one with sagging upper floors that were held up with stacks of bricks or cinder blocks,and wonderfully weathered wood on ancient structures, An unusual sculpture outside a church caught our eye, intricately carved of St Mary Katharine Drexel. It looked like bronze but when I touched it, my fingers were coated in oil, which was actually protecting wood. A few taps on her arm confirmed it was wooden.
We stopped off at Lickinghole Creek Brewery to sample their beers but I was disappointed. Reminding me of Adroit Theory with heavily flavored and sickly sweet brews, I wasn't impressed. Jason was dropping off under the blazing sun so we didn't linger. Heading north we stopped at a mansion I'd been looking at for years but never wanted to explore on my own.
The sun was slowly dropping down towards the horizon, the Golden Hour, throwing a warm glow over the grounds. We managed to find an entry point and climbed inside. The house had once been quite grand but vandals had been in and trashed much of it. Thankfully spray paint hadn't been used, yet, and most of the fixtures were mostly intact.
I loved the windows, with deep windowsills, which had once looked out on to peaceful fields. The back of the house still did but the front now had an ugly strip mall across the road, and the traffic was noisy.
I loved the old bathrooms. Usually I have zero interest in photographing these rooms in abandonments, but I would love a bathroom like one of these. The retro fixtures and fittings must have been top of the range in their day and even the tiling appealed to me.
We walked around the outside, discovering huge wrought iron gates which the residents had once driven through at the bottom of the driveway. The paint was peeling off the exterior, plasterwork beginning to crumble, the house's decline had accelerated in the past couple of years. Jason imagined the house restored as a bed and breakfast with a restaurant offering dinners and drinks on a patio at the back. I hope someone saves it before it's too late, especially before it's razed to the ground to make way for McMansions. We got back into the car for the last time and continued driving as darkness fell, leaving the old houses to stand silently once again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Holland in Haymarket

With spring having sprung quite rapidly, I was anxious to partake in some fresh air and sunshine, so took off an afternoon to go photograph the tulips at Burnside Farms in Haymarket. I had to pay $6 just to enter the field but if you want to pick the flowers or keep the bulbs, they also charge by the stem or per bulb collected in your basket. The place is really set up for families, with play areas for kids and huge garish plastic clogs amid the tulips for kids to pose in while doting parents took their photos. There was even a collection of wooden clogs which could be worn for the occasion if desired. I tried to ignore all this and focused on a quieter area further down the field where hopefully I wouldn't get too many people in my shots.
The best way to achieve this was, after much wriggling and stretching, bending and crouching, squatting and kneeling, was to simply lie on my back and point my camera upwards. I got an interesting perspective of the flowers and definitely no people. I did get very grubby though and cursed having worn yellow jeans.
There were some parents there who were very serious about their child portraits, the subjects wearing frilly dresses or shirts to match the fields, carrying baskets or favorite cuddly toys, and posing in the many props provided by the farm. There was even one mother who had hired a professional photographer, who, loaded heavily with video equipment, lenses hanging from his belt and lighting attached to his torso which was pointing out in all directions, was trying to coax a small girl to skip between the rows of flowers. This did capture my attention for a short while, but I soon turned away and continued my wriggling on the ground, pointing to the sky, and likely looked like an upturned beetle, with my arms and legs waving as I struggled to get the best angle without damaging any of the leaves or blooms.
I did eventually return to a more vertical stance, capturing the flowers from a more traditional vantage point, also taking a few close ups. There were some beautiful varieties here, some of which I'd never seen before, and I could understand the draw of this place. A great option for choosing your spring blooms for the following year by simply selecting the flowers from here, then pulling up the bulb. It was a riot of color, looking very much like the photos of the bulb fields in Holland that I'd seen and remember my grandmother visiting, then talking about for years. This was the best that I'd see this in this part of the world, I'm sure, and it was indeed spectacular. Everybody, kids included, seemed to respect the blooms, I didn't see one downtrodden flower or leaf.
I eventually stood up and was surprised to look about and see that the crowds had considerably diminished, with only a few of us remaining. I sincerely hoped I hadn't scared anyone off with my cavorting between the rows, but at least it gave me the opportunity to grab one quick shot of the field sans a human population. Then, off home for a shower and clean clothes!