Wagonload

wagonloadbybrucestambaugh

Wagonload. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Since our home sits on land sold from an Amish farm, many opportunities to capture rural life in action present themselves. I sometimes have to act quickly, however, if I want to capture them. This image of our teenage neighbor guiding the workhorses pulling a wagonload of just cut cornstalks was one of those times. I happened to glance out the window and saw the wagon heading back to the barn. Unlike tractors, horses don’t make much noise when working. I grabbed my camera, and snapped a couple of shots before Bill and Bob, the draft horses, rushed the wagon out of sight.

If you look closely, you realize there is a lot going on in this shot. The first thing that caught my attention was the texture of the gathered cornstalks. The tan tassels, the long, dark green leaves all bending to the force exerted by Bill and Bob, and urged on by David, the driver. I thought the appearance of the chopped stalks laid and carried horizontally on the wagon boldly contrasted with those still standing in the cornfield directly behind the wagon.

More importantly, note the rhythm of working together that Bill and Bob nicely demonstrate with their almost unison strides. For the record, the cornstalks were ground up into mash, and stored in the silo for future feed for Bill and Bob and the other livestock on the farm. In addition, cutting the outside rows of corn, and a few through the middle of the stand of corn allows freer movement of air to help dry the remaining standing corn.

This photo is more than simply showing a young Amish boy leading a wagonload of harvest. It exemplifies the efficiency and purpose of Amish farming. “Wagonload” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Filed under Amish, Ohio, Photo of the Week, photography, writing

Miles apart, two locales share many marvelous traits

eveningreflectionsbybrucestambaugh

Fernandina Beach harbor at sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Amelia Island, Florida and Lakeside, Ohio might be nearly a thousand miles apart, but they have a lot in common. People would be at the top of the list.

First, though, I am grateful that I can visit each destination. Second, I’m glad my wife also loves both Amelia and Lakeside, and, well, me, too.

Personal disclaimers aside, each destination features special attractions unique to its setting. And yet, though one location is in the Sunshine State and the other in the Buckeye State, they are not that dissimilar.

Sure the vegetation and critters vary significantly, but are intriguing nevertheless. They are much more alike than you might imagine.

My wife and I discovered Amelia Island almost by accident. On our way to Sarasota, the hot spot for greater Holmes County snowbirds, we made an overnight stop on Amelia. It was love at first sight.

We stayed nearly on the inviting sands of the 13-mile long Main Beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Between the motel and the sand a family owned restaurant served delicious, fresh, locally caught seafood.

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On the trip home, we further explored Amelia Island, discovering its historic town of Fernandina Beach, founded in 1562. Its quaint shops and showy old homes sit on the Intercostal Waterway. You can’t beat sunrises on the Atlantic, and sunsets on the harbor. Need I say more?

That was four years ago. Yes, we’re heading back this winter, too.

Conversely, I knew Lakeside since I was a kid, and that’s a long time. Our parents took the family there a few times when I was young. Needing a getaway, I introduced my own family to the Chautauqua on Lake Erie 27 years ago. We haven’t missed a year since.

The lake lures you to its enticing shore where giant oak, ash, maples and cottonwoods shelter parks and steamboat-style cottages. Visitors gather on the concrete dock for luscious looks of dawn and dusk.

Since it’s a gated community in the summer, kids can run free without the normal parental fears of life beyond the gates. Lakeside is not just family friendly. It is family based, founded as a Methodist church camp in 1873.

All that said the people of both Amelia Island and Lakeside are the mortar that cements the palms, the ocean and the exotic wildlife just as they do the lake, the shuffleboard courts and the ice cream shops. Amelia Island and Lakeside both have character and characters. It’s the latter that really makes you feel at home.

Amelia Island hosts a nice mix of natives, retirees and sun seekers, permanent and temporary alike. Residents are courteous to tourists who ask too many questions, or drive like they’re lost. They might be.

Want to meet a cross section of the populous? Attend the weekly farmer’s market Saturday morning held on a section of closed street in Fernandina Beach. Or attend the farmer’s market on Tuesday and Friday mornings held on a section of closed street at Lakeside. Different states, same tasty results.

At the Fernandina Beach marina, a dockworker awaiting a yacht to refuel spins stories aplenty. You’ll learn a lot.

At Lakeside, if you admire someone’s cottage, their flower garden, or wonder what game they are playing on the front porch, just ask. They’ll be glad to share.

Destination locations like Amelia Island and Lakeside have lots of attractive charm. It’s their genuine hospitality that keeps people coming back, including us.

lakesidefountainbybrucestambaugh

Fountain at Hotel Lakeside. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Filed under column, Lakeside, Ohio, photography, travel, writing

Bird on a wire

birdonawirebybrucestambaugh Bird on a wire. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I was creeping along in my vehicle watching for shorebirds along Wilderness Rd. in Wayne, Co., Ohio when I spotted this young Red-tailed Hawk hanging out on the power lines on the opposite side of the rural road. I loved the silhouette of both the hawk and the wires. Also, the afternoon sun highlighted the bird’s head and tail feathers.

“Bird on a wire” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Hold on to the little things in life

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Corn crib sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Every now and then, my friend, Alice, likes to remind me to hold on tight to the little things in life. She sure does.

Alice, who is in her 90s, delights in periodically showing me a photograph that my wife and I gave her several years ago. The picture is simple enough. But it means the world to my friend.

It’s a shot of our oldest grandson, Evan, when he was a toddler. He’s 10 now. In the photograph, Evan is holding his baby brother, who was just a couple of months old. Alice always points to that photo, and giggles. She remembers an innocent moment, one that most of us would likely overlook. What happened was pure magic for Alice.

alleyesbybrucestambaugh

All eyes. © Bruce Stambaugh

When Evan was a baby, he spontaneously grabbed Alice’s finger and held on tight. A decade later, Alice still won’t let go of that golden moment. She laughs about it every time she shows me the photo, and points to Evan and says, “That’s the little guy that hung on to my finger.”

Alice, who never had any children or grandchildren of her own, replays little Evan wrapping his warm, pink hand around her index finger, and hanging on for dear life. She felt loved.

It was just a brief moment in time. But it also was a gift that personally and literally touched Alice so deeply that she keeps the photo in a special scrapbook.

Isn’t that the way life should be? To remember some insignificant, spontaneous time or instantaneous incident that meant the world to you.

William Wordsworth’s classic poem, “The World is too much With Us,” perfectly sums up the current chaos of today’s world. Because of technology, we are inundated with tragic, shattering news 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Such negative deluges swamp us, dulling our sensitivity to everyday goodness.

Alice’s persistent reference to our young grandson’s firm grip all those years ago is a reminder to me, to us all really, to cherish the little things in life. We need to enjoy each moment.

A breath-taking sunset, a songbird’s call, the smile of a stranger, a fragrant flower, an inspiring poem, a few moments of absolute silence, finding a Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed leaf, the sound of our own rhythmical breathing are all examples equivalent to Alice’s joy.

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There are many others to be sure. A boldly colored American Goldfinch enjoying the seeds of blue salvia; a coyote howling from a distant hill at dusk; a large mouth bass breaking the surface as you reel it in; the warm handshake of a friend; an unexpected note of appreciation from a stranger, a hummingbird working holly hock blooms all offer relief from the stresses of life’s routines.

The list is endless really. The only cost to enjoy these life pleasures is to simply notice them, no assembly required.

Too often I’m caught up in merely trying to survive. In so doing, I forget to live. Sound familiar?

When I recognize those times, I try to step back, take a deep breath, note my surroundings, and focus my all on that very moment that brings light into my life.

I’m glad Alice keeps reminding me about Evan’s firm clasp. Maybe that’s the real point. An unknowing innocent child brought a lifetime of love to a woman ready and willing to embrace and be embraced by a seemingly insignificant action.

Like a child’s tender grasp, hold tight to the little things in life. Those memories are the one’s that really count. Just ask Alice.

colorfulcontrastsbybrucestambaugh Colorful contrasts. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Rest stop

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Rest stop. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

My wife called me to the large flowerbed in the front yard. She wanted me to see a funny looking bird, which turned out to be a fledgling American Goldfinch. As I was trying to capture just the right shot of this youngster, another bird caught my attention. A juvenile Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird was working the flowers directly behind the young Goldfinch. I tried without success to get both birds in the same frame. Instead, I had to settle for different photos of each young bird.

A birder more expert than me helped me to identify this bird as a first year male. The streaks and dark patch on its chin marked it as a young male. He only rested briefly on the Japanese Anemone stalk. But it was just long enough for me to snap his portrait.

“Rest stop” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Filed under birding, Ohio, Photo of the Week, photography

What Dog Days of summer?

waitingforharvestbybrucestambaugh

Waiting for harvest. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The summer of 2014 was so cool and quiet that the Dog Days hardly even growled, until recently. Even then, it wasn’t much more than a whimper.

Of course, there are scientific theorems and meteorological terms that offer up logical reasons for the unseasonably cool summertime weather we have experienced here in northeast Ohio. I won’t pretend to describe or pronounce them. To do that, I’d actually have to understand them first.

I did hear a meteorologist say that the weather system in place over us was akin to the polar vortex that vexed us all winter and spring. With these late summer steamy days, I think I finally thawed out from that inhospitable experience.

I never imagined that that strong system would continue to influence our weather well into the summer. But it did, and I’m glad. Hot, humid weather and I aren’t best buddies.

After all you could always put more clothes on if you’re too cold. But you can only take so much off when summer throws a temperature tantrum.

summeroasisbybrucestambaugh

This has been a recurring scene in Holmes County, Ohio this summer, with saturated lowlands, and verdant hillsides. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

After the long, cold, snowy winter followed by the extended, chilly, wet spring, I feared a mostly hot, dry summer. That happened at too many other places around the country and the globe, but not here. The greater Holmes County area has been transfixed in its own little verdant oasis.

Despite the last minute warm up, this summer may turn out to be one of the coolest and wettest on record. If it is, I won’t complain. Then, again, my basement didn’t flood either.

Anecdotal evidence supports my assertions. Even horse drawn reapers couldn’t get through their hayfields to make the first cutting. The extra tall and thick legumes they attempted to mow bound up the machines.

The number of days the high temperature hit 90 could be counted on one hand. No 100 days were recorded. I was awakened at night more by cool breeze blowing through the screens than the air conditioner winding up beneath our bedroom windows.

I packed clothes for all four seasons for our weeklong family vacation on Lake Erie’s southern shore. My layered attire proved most practical.

flowergardenbybrucestambaugh

Flower garden. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

My wife’s flower gardens were gorgeous, the blossoms bright, big and beautiful. Our heirloom tomatoes seem to love this weather as well. They are the largest and most plentiful we have ever grown. The load of manure our Amish neighbor delivered probably helped, too.

Lawn care professionals, excavators, painters and construction workers struggled to keep up with their promised jobs. The grass grew so fast even the earthworms had to get out of the way.

It was so cool driving along the interstate in New York, I was certain snow was drifting on Lake Erie’s ice pack. My passengers assured me the drifts were huge whitecaps breaking. Nevertheless, I still wore my hoodie when we stopped for a much needed break.

I realize that summer isn’t officially over yet, and additional heat and humidity is still possible. But with both the bird migration and the new school year in full swing, the time has long passed for summer’s warmest days.

Besides, if you’re sharp, you’ll notice that the leaves on some luscious deciduous trees have already begun to blush their warm fall colors. Minute by minute, sunrise is later each day, and sunset sooner.

With that in mind, the Dog Days of summer, as tardy as they were, should stop barking any day now. For me, it can’t be too soon.

dogdayssunsetbybrucestambaugh

Dog Days sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Laundered rainbow

launderedrainbowbybrucestambaugh

Laundered rainbow. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I shot this photo rather quickly. I was on an errand when these colors caught my eye. I stopped my vehicle, and took the photo out the window, zooming in between several trees.

Though mostly pastel, the colors appeared bright hanging on the laundry line in the late evening sun. It wasn’t until I downloaded the picture to my computer that I realized the personal aspect of the colors. They told a story all their own about the style preferences of the woman or women in this Amish family.

“Laundered rainbow” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Filed under Amish, Ohio, Photo of the Week, photography