In Focus? #3 – Negative Space

Negative space is an element I enjoy incorporating in my photographs. I have discovered some folks enjoy negative space, while others do not. They want the area filled in with something. Anything! Just do not leave all that empty space. Sort of like putting one beautiful slice of a garden tomato on a huge dinner plate. Fill that plate up for goodness sake!

I can understand this philosophy. Being wasteful is not a bragging point. However, I appreciate the way the negative space emphasizes the beauty of the one or two objects in the photo. Or for that matter also in a flower arrangement, and even sculptures. It leaves a space for the viewers imagination to fill in with their own experiences and ideas.

So take a stroll through this gallery. Fill in your own stories, and share your thoughts. Have fun!

Use a Nightlight—Please!

Today is an official “feel sorry for myself” kind of day. I shall be brief. However, I do implore you to take the small, important pieces of advice I offer this pretty summer morning here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

I have had three mishaps in the past three weeks. July 7th, I slipped in a hotel tub while getting out. Took a stiff hit to my head and backside. Know the worst of it all? I even looked at that rubber bath mat that I should have put down before getting in. Use it!

Last week my sweet bike decided to buck me off right onto the pavement. Good grief, and they say a horse has a mind of its’ own! Yeah? Well, so does a bike.

However, the mishap this early morning at 2 a.m. was the straw that broke the camels’ back. I tripped hard over our dog at that dark hour. I never have seen her sleeping in that spot. The right side of my face slammed firmly with the edge of the door jam, and I landed with a hard thump on the tile flooring. This one really hurt.

With a grateful heart and needed help, my husband and daughter took excellent care of me. I do not look too bad this morning, though the both of them are calling me Scarface! A merry heart does good like medicine. Hey! They are trying to make me feel better. It worked.

So the painful lesson learned? Use a nightlight! Here is a photo of one I purchased long ago while visiting my twinster in Colorado. It has a new home here in our bedroom area. Now we will be able to see where the dogs and cats are peacefully sleeping. Or at least trying to sans the crazy humans that have to get up in wee hours of the morning.

Sweet dreams.

This fun nightlight will surely help avert those painful trip-ups over our pets that are sleeping in their ‘never do sleep here’ spots.

Beef comes from Where??

What a silly question you may be thinking. However, it may not be so silly after all. Years ago, while at a homeschooling convention in Richmond, VA, my friend and I noticed an excited bunch of folks gathering outside the mall in the courtyard. We asked the food service fella what it was all about. He said there was a milk cow out there for folks to see! Really? All that excitement over a milk cow? How odd we thought. Everyone knows what a milk cow looks like, right? Actually, no.

A lot of years have gone by since that day. It seems a milk cow is not the only thing folks think comes from Costco, the local grocery store, or farmer’s markets. So here is another insight into our lack of food source knowledge:

Beef does not come from food markets either. Neither does chicken, pork, lamb, duck, or fish. Or anything for that matter.

This seems like a no-brainer to the majority of us. But please do not ask a youngster if chocolate milk comes from a cow!

This is not to say we all should have our own milk cows or grow our own beef. However, we would do well to remember that all these grocery store items and meats are grown with care (mostly) by many farmers. However, growing a few vegetables regardless of home location is rewarding, not to mention delicious.

All this comes to my mind today because our Herefords went to the slaughter house two days to be processed. It is one of the hardest times on the farm for me. Death is hard but it is a part of life.

Why not visit your local farms? Many farms are open to visitors. It is fascinating to experience a working dairy, or cattle farm. Have your child help gather eggs with the local egg lady. A summer spent working on one of the farms would have a lasting impression on anyone. Donning a pair of muck boots and getting down and dirty on the farm gives everyone an appreciation for the farmer that works to bring us all this good food.

Our children need to know where our food comes from. It helps us understand the hardships of growing food and feeding this big country of ours. Perhaps, just perhaps, we would cease being so wasteful and careless with our sustenance.

You are welcome to stop by our little farm and meet these critters that live here. Hold a chicken, pick a bean from the garden, toss some hay out to the animals, take a tractor ride, sit on some sweet smelling hay. You and your kids will be glad you did!

This is where beef comes from.

Our Twinster Vacation

We are twins, and there are two sets of us in our family. Actually, counting our momma and her twin, there are three sets of twins. There is a whole lot of ‘look-alikes’ around our homes. Our Momma and her twin were both quite adventurous gals. I wrote a series of ten blogs on our momma from January 26, 2015-April 28, 2016, entitled “The Legacy our Mother Left”. You are invited to ‘meet’ our most outgoing mother through those posts.

Plans began last year for a twinster vacation for the four of us. A year of mapping out, and planning the areas we wanted to see. The NorthEast was our choice for this exciting, first-ever twinster road trip.

We departed from my farm on the early morning of May 13, 2019, after a hearty breakfast thanks to Bill, my husband. Bill, or Father Harry, as our children lovingly call him, is a great cook. It was a ‘day made to order’!

Since a painting (photo) paints a thousand pictures, I will tell our story through our photographs. However, because we shared so many special ‘firsts’ for all of us, allow me to offer a few:

Walkway over The Hudson; Toured Hyde Park, NY; Visited Rhode Island and a “Guilded Age Mansion”; Had a schooner ride; Ate fiddleheads; Visited an oyster farm; Ate quahogs (YUMMY!); First time we have ever traveled together; Ate a real Maine Blueberry Pie (oh, so good!); Ever had such a long vacation; Drove through twelve states; Put over 2,400 miles on our rented van, aka ‘Turtle House’; First also for visiting Maine (WOW!, gorgeous!).

That “mess” in the background are the oyster cages used on the farm at Island Creek Oysters, Duxbury, MA.

And the BEST part of this adventure is we all came home happy and full of sweet memories. This last photo is the one my twinsters says it all about our trip. I think they are right.

Until next time twinsters!

Virginia Garden Tours—Winchester, VA

One of our favorite times of the year for my daughter and me is the Virginia Garden Tours every April. Gorgeous homes all over Virginia are open for these tours. Waiting to see which ones will be on tour are an exciting part of the Spring season for us. Though it would be great fun to visit all the homes around Virginia, we visit our town, Winchester, VA.

Area garden clubs choose homes, and should the owners agree, a fabulous showcase is put on for we guests. These tours are never disappointing. The homes are historic, beautifully appointed, and have amazing history attached to them. The flowers the ladies put all around each room are absolutely stunning. The garden club ladies give the tours of the homes. Owners are found sometimes out in their gardens. A chat with them adds all the more to the tours.

Photographs are not allowed inside the homes, only the grounds and gardens. You are invited to take a stroll with us around these lovely homes of our town.

These are privately owned homes, not opened to the public. As one of my friends said about one of the them on this particular tour, “I have been waiting thirty years to see the inside of this home!” It was well worth the wait. She told me of one of the homeowners who began last year in preparing her gardens for this tour!

Seeing the gardens and homes give fun, fresh ideas for decorating our own spaces. Visiting these historic places adds to our appreciation of our town and folks that live and work here, past and present.

The slate roof is beautiful.
The elegant dogwood (our State tree) adds extra beauty to this stately Winchester home.

Who is going to Feed the Pigs?

Our discussion revolved around pigs. A family member that is vegetarian expressed an interest in ‘saving’ all animals from slaughter. It sounds very noble to not want to kill farm animals for food. It is a hard, dirty business to be sure. The problem is it is not practical.

Twice a day, everyday of the year regardless of weather or personal inclination, livestock needs tending to. These are the realities of having animals be them house pets or farm animals.

But consider these ideas. Our society is transient. How many of us live in the same home our parents lived in, or even the one we grew up in ourselves? How many hours are you away from home everyday? How often do you travel? How long are you gone when you do travel? Do you have a summer home separate from your winter home? How about a summer cabin? Summer vacation?

So, who is going to feed the pigs? Day after day, year after year for all their long lives? And that is just pigs.

Yes, it is hard sending our cattle off to slaughter. I was thanked by a man recently for raising cattle for beef. He said that because he recognizes the fact that if cattle are not used for beef, they would be extinct! Because—who is going to feed the ‘pigs’?

In Focus? #2- Mirror Images

There are three sets of twins in my family. No, this is not an April 1st joke. My mother and Auntie Bliss were twins, an older set of twins are ahead of myself and my twin. One dear older brother was our only male sibling.

I am asked all the time what is it like to be a twin. Not trying to be a smart aleck about it, I ask them what is it like to be a single! Truth is, we all have a lot of fun confusing folks!

Twins, what does that have to do with photography? I am especially drawn to mirror images. So I humbly offer to you some identical images that nature has shown me through my lens. I hope you enjoy them, comment on them, and share some of your own.

A Soup a Man would Like (as long as it is served with a Hamburger)

It seems to be a basic fact: woman like soups far more than men. Unless there are loads of beef, sausage, or ham in it. Does that sound pretty accurate?

Carrots and sweet potatoes make this a pretty orange soup.

This soup has our beef stock added to the it. Thus giving it a heartier taste, sure to please the men at the table. Though I would still serve a juicy hamburger with it too.

Beef stock is easy to make. Another good reason to purchase 1/4 or 1/2 of well-raised beef (like ours!) as bags of great beef bones are part of the order. This post though is for the soup recipe. So here it goes!

Our homemade beef broth from our beef makes excellent, hearty stock.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

1 lb carrots, peeled and cut in chunks

2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks

2 medium onion thin sliced

1 T olive oil

2 T butter

1 tsp dried thyme

1 t salt

1/2 t pepper

4 c water

2 c beef broth

1 T apple cider vinegar with ‘the mother’

4 T chopped fresh parsley (2 T for soup, 2 T for garnish)

In iron skillet heat oil and butter, sauté onions. When nicely caramelized add to soup pot. Add water and beef broth (they should both be room temperature). Add carrots and sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Simmer gently for about 1 hour, or until potatoes and carrots are tender. If you have time after that, turn soup off and let it just ‘rest’ for awhile. Heat back up just before serving. If you prefer ‘lumpy’ soup, mash it with a potato masher. If you prefer a puréed soup, use your immersion blender. Season again with salt and pepper if needed. Garnish: Fresh chopped parsley and a big spoonful of yogurt or sour cream. Enjoy!

Tip Dry roasted pecans additionally make a nice garnish. Also, be overly generous with the chopped fresh parsley. It is full of Vitamin C, and is great for the tummy. 🙂

Chopped parsley, yogurt, and dry roasted pecans are a lovely garnish. ~Enjoy~

In Focus?

Sometimes it is hard to tell. Most especially through the tiny viewfinder on the camera. I have taken photographs all my life. Which is now turning into a long time. I thought getting old would take longer.

The camera has no opinion of my age, though it does have a way of telling me my eyes are not what they used to be. Lighting can be manipulated, color, tone, etc as well. But not focus. On days I am feeling especially smarty, I tell folks I meant for that photo to be out of focus!

I took a photography class not long ago. The instructor said if our photos are not shared, but most especially not printed, our photography is incomplete. So I have decided to regularly post some of the photos that folks seem to like.

It would be a great joy if you would comment and share some of your photos as well. Include stories associated with photograph, if you like. Which one do you like, and why? I appreciate the feedback.

This one was meant to be out-of-focus. Seriously.

A Good Old Senior who turned 30 Today

This post is from last year when BR turned 30. Now he has turned 31! I thought I’d repost this blog as not too much has changed since last year, except perhaps, a little more white in his coat.

Primary Farm Operator

He was a keeper. That was easy to see from the first. He was the right color, good temperament, but best of all he showed signs of being the perfect height and build. Yes, indeed, he was a keeper.

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He was put together very well.

Foaled February 12, 1988 at Mom’s Tag-Along Farm located, at that time, in Gaithersburg, MD. She had big plans from the start for him. She, and my step-father, Carl, bred, raised and showed Miniature horses for 20 years. It was their retirement ‘fun’. And fun they had. His registered name is Tag-Alongs Boomerang, which was quickly shortened to BR. It has held ever-since.

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Mom and BR had many fun outings at miniature horse shows.

He was just a baby when Tag-Along Farm moved to Clifton Forge, Va. Days were full for this miniature horse who was sure he stood 16 hands tall! He was one…

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