Fall on the Farm

Amish farm, autumn, colorful leaves
Fall on the Farm.

Fall is my favorite time of year. When you have scenes like this one around nearly every turn, you can see why I say that. Last fall, National Geographic ranked Holmes Co., Ohio as the number one location in the world to view the changing of the leaves. I don’t know exactly what criteria they used, but they’ll get no argument from me.

“Fall on the Farm” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

In search of a sunset, I found serenity, too

City sunset
View from the city.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I drove away from the city to get a country view of a Shenandoah sunset. I came away with so much more than picturesque photos.

I had taken several sunset shots near our daughter’s home in the Virginia valley that is the result of ancient geologic folding. I wanted a different backdrop. I decided to head for a friend’s childhood home.

After I had dropped off my oldest grandson at baseball practice, I drove a few miles south and west of the city that is rapidly sprawling far beyond it’s historic downtown. My friend, Ava, had moved to Ohio last year. She said she remembered people stopping to take pictures of the views opposite her home.

Veiw west
On Ava’s family farm.
Ava had given me perfect directions to her old place. I found it well before sundown, which gave me time to check out the area, and take a few photos first.

Ava was right. The panorama alone was stunning. This high spot on a gently rolling ridge opened up nicely to the west. The sun glowed above the Alleghenies miles away.

I sent her a text with a photo of the evening’s western landscape. Ava’s reply caught me by surprise.

Despite all the years she had lived there, Ava didn’t have a sunset photo from that perspective. Her family’s religion forbade owning a camera. I didn’t know that, however.

In her words, Ava said it was a precious vista that hemmed the western range of her formative years. It was the scene she saw as she walked to the school bus, gather the mail and drove the buggy to church. The foothills, valleys, and mountains served as a geographic security blanket for her.

Ava profusely thanked me for the photos that brought back so many poignant memories. Capturing and sharing that setting generated a heartwarming story that dearly warmed me far more than the fiery sunset.

Tractors whizzed in and out the long lane of the family farm. Wagonload after wagonload of chicken manure got spread on the sloping fields while the sun blazed away behind the distant foothills and aged mountains.

My senses were conflicted. What I saw thrilled me. What I smelled I just endured until dark.

Dancing sunset
Dancing rays.
As I was about to leave, a young man on one of the tractors stopped on his return trip to the barn. A young boy and younger girl flanked the ruddy driver. The farmer wanted to know if I was taking the photos for my own use.

I nodded in the affirmative. He seemed startled when I asked him if this was the old Shank place. He confirmed what I already knew.

We chatted some more, and I told him that I knew Ava. Likely cautious of a stranger, he just smiled broadly and nodded in return without saying that Ava was his aunt. She told me that later. Ava was as thrilled that I had met one of her kin as she was with the photos I had sent.

I had gone in search of a friend’s homestead and a different view of the sunset. I succeeded on both counts. But that’s not what made the evening extraordinary.

Every sunset is different of course. By making these unexpected, long distant connections between an aunt and her nephew, this sundown dazzled me with more than shimmering red and orange rays.

This serendipitous interaction brought me a personal, soothing satisfaction. It was a moving encounter no camera could ever capture.

Allegheny sunset, Shenandoah sunset
Ava’s evening view.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

One Room School

one room school, Amish school, private school
One room school.

In one way, this is a typical one room Amish school. In another, it’s not.

The school is plain white, as is the custom among the Amish. This particular one was once a public school until the school consolidation wave hit Ohio in the late 1950s and early 1960s. When the local schools were closed, the Amish often bought them and started their own schools. That way their students weren’t far from home and could walk to school.

The atypical aspect of this school, at least structurally, is that it has a metal roof. Most Amish schools have shingled roofs. A metal roof would cost substantially more than a shingled one.

Another point of interest is that this school was closed yesterday, a Wednesday, when I took the photo. Why? It’s harvest time, and the school was closed for three days so the youngsters could help husk corn at home. Apparently most of the students who attend this school live on farms. Otherwise the school board, made up of five fathers of the students, wouldn’t have closed the school in the middle of the week.

“One Room School” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Past and present meet at the strangest places

By Bruce Stambaugh

The past and present sometimes intersect in the strangest places.

I had lazily let scores of previously read email messages in my inbox pile up for much too long. Never mind how many there were. Let’s just say it was the equivalent of a very messy desk.

rainy day, Shenandoah Valley
Rainy day.
While waiting for the chilly rain to quit in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley, I took action to remedy the situation born of my procrastination. I spent several hours over parts of two days, but I finally cleared all the old emails away.

What took so long? Well, I had to read some of them of course.

The variety of clutter I discovered I had left shocked me. Messages from sales people, church folks, friends, family, businesses, and people I didn’t even remember tickled my brain cells.

I deleted most of the emails. A few were rather important, and I was surprised that I had just left them hanging there like those infamous Florida chads. Rereading several of the messages reawakened good and bad emotions long.

newborn baby
At the hospital.
When I reached the ones from early October 2009, I was pleasantly transported back in time. Long forgotten electronic correspondence between family members and myself got my old heart racing.

The birth of our granddaughter, Maren, was the main topic. How timely I thought. We were in the midst of preparing for her sixth birthday party. Reading those notes from friends and family brought back fond memories.

I found updates from my wife about how our daughter felt as she approached delivery, and what Nana was doing to entertain the grandsons in Texas, where they lived then. I was still in Ohio.

Now our daughter and her family live in this sprawling valley cradled between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Alleghenies to the west. They have settled in nicely. Texas is but a memory, much like my uncovering the orphaned emails.

Occasionally it’s good to look back, to remember, to recollect the past, to resurrect old feelings of joy. The birth of a baby is always a celebration, especially if it’s your granddaughter.

I was glad Nana was there to help with the grandsons, Evan and Davis. They were only five and three at the time. They needed her.

newborn baby
One week old.
I arrived a few days later to hold my newborn granddaughter. Maren was as beautiful as her name, a derivative of Marian, which was my mother’s name.

As I revisited those old emails, Maren’s birth seemed like yesterday. Here we were celebrating her sixth birthday. Where in the world had the time gone?

One day she is swaddled in diapers surrounded by stuffed animals and curious brothers. Today she is an active, self-assured kindergartner learning to speak Spanish.

I chuckle at her impressive English vocabulary alone. Maren rattles off words like “actually,” “random,” “responsibility,” and “unrecognizable” in the proper contexts. The days of cooing are long over.

Next thing you know, she’ll be going out on her first date. But let’s not rush it.

Nana and I enjoyed Maren’s little birthday party. She just reminds us of her mother when she was six, only Maren persists with all things pink.

For now, Nana and I enjoy watching our three grandchildren grow, mature, fight, play ball, do gymnastics, and interact with their peers, parents and friends.

I’ll cherish these moments as best I can. Keeping a clean inbox is a good way to start.

birthday presents
Ready for presents.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Buggies at Rest

Amish buggies, Holmes Co. OH
Buggies at Rest.

I was out taking shots of the changing leaves when these Amish buggies caught my eye. I liked the randomness of how they were parked, creating marvelous angles that nicely contrasted with the striations of the barn’s siding and roof.

“Buggies at Rest” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Baseball’s playoffs have begun, minus Cleveland of course

former Cleveland Indians
The glory days.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Another Major League Baseball regular season is over. The playoffs have begun.

My favorite team won’t be playing in the postseason again this year, despite the extended playoff schedule. The Cleveland Indians have packed it in once again. Even the most casual baseball fan knows it’s not the first time.

The Indians have been in this position for most of their existence. The Cleveland club has only won the World Series twice. They came close in 1997. But 18 years later, it’s still too painful to recall.

Yes, I am a diehard Cleveland Indians fan, though I do wish they would change their mascot. We have the Cincinnati Reds. How about the Cleveland Blues? That name would appropriately represent the feelings of Cleveland’s fans this time every year.

Terry Francona, Rocky Colavito
Terry Francona and Rocky Colavito.

I would love to see the Indians win the World Series just once. To be fair, I was alive the last time the Indians won it all. Not that I remember it. I was a year old.

Like most other kids, I collected baseball cards growing up. In those days, we had to buy them one pack at a time and hope the flattened stick of bubblegum wasn’t too stale. I spent a lot of nickels saving those cards.

I wish I still had them. The cards accidentally got pitched while I attended college.

My favorite Cleveland Indians were Rocky Colavito, Minnie Minoso, Herb Score, Bubba Phillips, and of course Lou Klimchock. He led the Indians in hitting in 1969 with a whopping .287 average.

I’d stay up late at night listening to Jimmy Dudley call the games on the radio. For some strange reason, he always seemed more excited at the beginning of the season than at the end. I think I know why.

I remember going to a doubleheader game on Father’s Day against the dreaded and perennial powerhouse New York Yankees. The Indians had won the first two games of the series. We sat out in the left field stands in old Municipal Stadium. A standing room only crowd packed the cavernous place.

Hall of Famers like Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and the late Yogi Berra filled the Yankee roster. Cleveland won both games and swept the series. Our spirits were high.

baseball fan, Cleveland Indians
Typical fan?

It seemed like every year the Tribe played their hearts out and built hope against hope that this might finally be the year. But once the Fourth of July rolled around, the Tribe did their annual swan song. By season’s end, the Yankees were the American League champions. The Indians? Well, take a guess.

Keep in mind those were the days when the team that won the pennant in each league went to the World Series. It was all or nothing. It’s been zip for Cleveland for too long.

Hopes rose again when Cleveland built a new stadium, affectionately called The Jake, now corporately named Progressive Field. Unfortunately, the Tribe still hasn’t made much progress toward winning it all.

The Indians have gone to the playoffs a few times in the last two decades. But some of those winning teams were filled with shining stars bloated with egos and steroids. No names mentioned, however.

Since that era, the season has usually ended right on schedule for the Tribe. When that happens, just like this year, all faithful Cleveland Indians fans know what to say.

“Wait until next year!” We always do.

Slider, grandsons
Better than a World Series win.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Delicate Delicata

delicata squash, squash, farmers produce auction
Delicate Delicata.

Living in the country all of my adult life, I like to think that I know vegetables. When I came upon these beauties, I had to ask what they were. The Amish woman said they were Delicate Squash. Given their intricate and varied variegated coloration, I could see why they got that name. However, when I saw the same squash being sold at the Farmers Produce Auction near Mt. Hope, Ohio, I checked the tag for the name. It read, “Delicata Squash.”

Of course, I Googled it when I returned home and discovered some tasty recipes. Next time, I won’t just photograph these artsy veggies. I’ll buy some, too.

“Delicate Delicata” is my photo of the week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Finding peace and joy

Farmers Produce Auction, Mt. Hope OH
Auction in action.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Most folks go there to either buy or sell. I go for peace and joy.

The Farmers Produce Auction west of Mt. Hope, Ohio is heaven on earth for me. Given the size of the crowds and the non-stop activity, I have a feeling I’m not alone in that sentiment.

This little spot of paradise, located dead-center in the prettiest township in Ohio, bustles with business. That’s especially true in fall, the summit of the harvest season.

That it is so raucous this time of year should come as no surprise. The skid loaders, the bins, the baskets, the boxes, the trucks, the wagons, the carts, the pallets overflow with all of Creation’s botanical creativity.

Though they may not look like it, the auction grounds and buildings are the Garden of Eden April to November. Fall is its horn of plenty.

Growers of all delicious fruits and vegetables and eye candy fall flowers gather their goods and come to the auction. As diverse as the produce varieties, attendees represent a microcosm of society. Men, women, children, black, brown, white, young, old and in between, workers, buyers, sellers and admirers harmoniously intermingle.

Once the auctioneers’ voices begin to resound, all eyes and ears swivel to attention. Buyers from small urban markets, major grocery stores, and mom and pop stands along country roads stay glued to the rhythmical cadence of the hucksters.

They want to make sure they’re going to get the best produce for the best possible price. They know what their customers want and what they’ll pay for quality fresh food and flowers. It’s entrepreneurship at its finest.

Finer still is the paint pallet of colors of the gourds, squash, pumpkins, mums, watermelon, tomatoes, plums, apples and cucumbers. Together they create a biological masterpiece.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

I wander through the grounds absorbing this end of the rainbow experience. The raw aromas of the fruits and veggies mingle with those of the resting horses and the scrumptious offerings of the beckoning lunch stand.

As if this ever-changing live landscape painting weren’t enough, the singsong crackle of the auctioneers’ voices over the loudspeakers lead the melody of the moment. The hum of the electric loaders, the dozens of sidebar conversations, and the hailing of one person to another across the way sing in harmony.

I glide through as those around me keep to their appointed tasks of loading and unloading, of buying and selling. I am unhindered as I zigzag my way up and down the aisles careful not to interfere or offend.

When I stop and admire the artistry in the earthiness of the individual brush strokes of this organic collage, I come alive. I am at peace. I find joy in the natural patterns of the speckled, striped, plump, oblong, elongated brightness nestled in this temporary harvest home.

The scene could be a Monet or a Rockwell with one exception. It’s real, and it’s all around me, intoxicating all who partake.

Once the bidding ends, a patented rush begins in two directions. One is to quickly but carefully load the delivery trucks to ensure freshness to the awaiting customers miles away. The other is to the food stand, where the chefs are generous with their portions and their geniality.

From still life to landscape to abstract renderings, this produce market offers much more than edibles. In the course of the procurement, peace and joy surreptitiously enrich the colorful treats.

Farmers Produce Auction, Mt. Hope OH
Full view.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Misty Sunrise

mist, sunrise
Misty Sunrise.

When I awoke just before dawn a few days ago, I thought there would be no chance whatsoever for a lovely sunrise. Fog surrounded us. Nevertheless, I kept my eye on the east as I prepared for the day. I wasn’t disappointed. In a matter of minutes, a breeze stirred, the atmosphere warmed, and the fog rapidly dissipated.

I could see the sun about to break through. I hustled across the road to the neighbors to catch a glimpse of another inspiring sunrise in Ohio’s Amish country.

“Misty Sunrise” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015