Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity

farmer's market, Williamsburg, Virginia

Farmer’s Market outside the Trellis Restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia

One of my favorite places to people watch is at the farmer’s market.  There’s such a variety of people, from young families to old women using food stamps.  The farmer’s have their own stories as well.  Some farm full-time, others are helping their parents or grandparents, and some are doing it on the side to raise extra money.  For this week’s photo challenge on humanity, I thought I’d share photos and tell stories of going to the farmer’s market.

My favorite boy toy and I have lived in a number of states.  We’ve bought many of the staples no matter where we live – things like green beans, summer squash, potatoes, and beets.  Yet each region has something that’s just a little better or more abundant.

Omaha had corn.  When it came in, it was so cheap.  My boy toy and I would buy 3 dozen ears a week to eat, because the season only lasted about six weeks.  We mostly boiled it to eat with some butter and salt, but over time we also found some great recipes, like this corn, poblano & cheddar pizza or these corn custards.  Both are worth the work to make at least once each summer.  Omaha also had a woman who made beautiful pewter jewelry and I bought quite a bit of it to give as gifts.

We usually ate breakfast at the Omaha Farmer’s Market.  Upstream Brewing Company was on the edge of the farmers market and had outdoor seating for their restaurant.  There was often a crowd sitting there, enjoying grass-fed beef burgers with a pastry and some iced tea or coffee, all bought fresh just a few minutes ago.

St. Paul had one of the biggest farmer’s market I’d ever seen.  It was all grown within 50 miles of the Twin Cities.  I bought cranberries, all kinds of vintage apples and for the first time in my life, saw brussel sprouts on the stalk.  This is currently my favorite recipe for brussel sprouts, but make a big batch as the recipe takes some time to prepare.  And if you get greedy and buy too many apples, this is my favorite applesauce recipe.  It’s fast and easy, especially if you use a food mill (you don’t need to take off the apple skins before you cook them).  I cut the sugar down to 1/8 cup of brown sugar and substituted vanilla extract for the almond for taste preferences.  I freeze to enjoy later in the winter.

Omaha Farmer's Market, Nebraska

Omaha Farmer’s Market (Nebraska)

I now live in Virginia.  The peaches and blueberries are divine.  I don’t cook them as they get eaten too quickly.  The tomatoes are good here and much more abundant than in the Midwest.  I can buy so  many varieties at the farmer’s market, from heirloom to the latest fads in black tomatoes.  I love making salsa crudo when I can, especially since I have such a bumper crop of basil on my back deck.  It’s an Italian salsa and I use it on anything I can.  If you’re worried about the raw garlic, roast it first and it will be much milder.

The dogs were welcomed in Omaha (nowhere else though).  We used to take the Vizsla with us, mostly to get him out of the house and wear him out.  Kids loved to pet him and he loved it too, especially after he discovered that if you smelled cookies, check the hands and see if you can’t grab a nibble.  Oops.  We had to really watch that one.

A different time, a woman in shorts walked by.  He whipped around, planted his nose on her ankle and ran a trail of wet slime right up the back of her leg.  She yelped and turned to see what it was.  Thankfully he was cute enough that she didn’t get mad.


Empire apples at the Farmer’s Market at St. Stephen’s in Richmond, Virginia

One of the great things about humanity is how they can surprise others with their generosity, from the parents who shrugged off a cookie disappearing to a canine thief, to the many people who petted my dog and talked to him.  In the first paragraph, I mentioned the old women on food stamps.  They weren’t the only ones in Omaha.  There were also young mothers there with their food stamps.  To their credit, many of the farmer’s had a soft spot for those using food stamps and would give them a few extra things in the bag.

It was also a good place for family support.  We especially saw that in St. Paul, where young college women helped their grandparents, who didn’t speak English, to sell their vegetables.  Sometimes grandma was in the back of the truck, sitting on a chair to get the produce ready to put on the table while the parents worked the table.  We met farmers, their children and grandchildren from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds.  We heard stories from why I farm to how I took over the family land.  I enjoyed very much getting to know the people I bought from.

If you don’t go regularly to the farmer’s market, I encourage you to try it.  I’ve been to big ones and small ones.  They all have something worth going for and worth supporting your local growers.  If you stop by to read this, leave me a message what you enjoy the most about going to your own farmer’s market.

tomatos, farmers market, Snellville, Georgia

Tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market near Atlanta, Georgia

Spring Reminds Us That Life Goes On

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Just living is not enough.
One must have sunshine, freedom,
and a little flower.
Hans Christian Andersen

This week’s six word Friday uses the word “flowers” and it perfectly describes my Friday at Colonial Williamsburg:

Flowers bloom ~ bees comes ~ life continues.

I took the day off from work to chase the light.  The weather showed overcast and / or rainy for the whole next week except last Friday.  I was eager to see the gardens, so off I went, leaving the office and all the tax audits behind.

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I love April – on the days the weather is nice.  So much of April seems to be rainy, windy, overcast, hot, cold or humid.  Each day is a guessing game – do we run the furnace or the air conditioning today?  And there are only a few days to leave the windows open.  Once the pollen comes, everything stays closed up.

The carpenter bees were having a good old time in this esplanade from a camellia tree.  They weren’t just rolling around in the pollen – they were head butting it, doing fast and furious circles in it, and greedily capturing as much as they.  Then they flew off, their rear legs looking like fat orange pantaloons.  I was surprised they could fly with as heavily laden as they’d become!

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The artist is the confidant of nature,
flowers carry on dialogues with him through
the graceful bending of their stems
and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms.
Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him.
Auguste Rodin

I’m doing better at taking red flowers and it’s a good thing – there were red and pink tulips all over!  I don’t know if that’s normal or if that was this year’s color.  I didn’t visit Colonial Williamsburg last April and by the time I went in May, the tulips were done.  Here’s how the tulips and flowers looked at the botanical gardens last April.

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October is my favorite month, but each month brings its own beauty and April is no exception.  The days are finally warming up, everything is getting green and leafy, and the flowers have come back for another year.  Each month has different flowers, of course, and April’s seem to be rather delicate, showing for a few weeks and then dying back.

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I know it’s a bit of a jumbled mess, but I like these as well as the more formal and polished gardens.  It’s an apt metaphor for my own life.  I admire people whose lives are organized and orderly.  They know what they’re doing and when, things are planned out and thought out.

That is SO not me.  My life isn’t a total mess – we can find important receipts and instruction manuals.  Our vacation planning tends to be only a week or so in advance, although chasing the light influences that.  I have no intentions of planning a photo trip just to sit in a hotel room and wait for the rain to stop.  Likewise, I’d have been really unhappy to skip Williamsburg, then have crummy skies for photography on Saturday & Sunday.  This worked out much better to take a vacation day and have a great time.

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The Capital Building

Instead, our weekend (with the overcast skies) was spent in cleaning out the garden and planting it.  I’ve given up on vegetables so we’ve turned it over to flowers.  We’ll see if that grows better.  I already know I can attract bees, butterflies, and birds to it.  So with flowers, there should be more.  In fact, after I cleaned out and raked the garden, I was visited by a robin who enjoyed scratching around the dirt and finding some food.

Later this week, I’m leaving on a road trip.  I’ll be visiting my daughter the next two weekends, and off on a business trip in-between (a several hour drive from where she lives).  I’ll be visiting one of our manufacturing plants, seeing legislators, and in meetings with our tax counsel.  My favorite boy toy will stay home with da’ boyz.  I have no doubts he will enjoy having the house to himself and not having any regular meal times.

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Have a good week!  Pet a dog if you can, kiss a sweetie (two legged or four – but not on the mouth!), and enjoy the flowers.  It’s a good day every day, even if some days you have to look harder for it.

I believe in pink.
I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner.
I believe in kissing, kissing a lot.
I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.
I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.
I believe that tomorrow is another day and
I believe in miracles.
Audrey Hepburn

Best 2012 Nature Photographs

Alex West, over at a Scientific American Magazine blog called Compound Eye, has invited photographers to share their favorite 2012 nature photographs (a big thank you to Chris Goforth who mentioned this in her blog, The Dragonfly Woman).

How could I resist the opportunity to go back through last year’s photos and pick my favorites?  Although there a few repeats, most of these are new.

Remember to roll over the photo for any identification that I might have put onto it.

Counting Down to Christmas

It’s hard to believe Christmas is just a few short days away!  My year end responsibilities at work finished late yesterday and was turned over to the outside auditors today.  I got things done the rest of today, but not at a very fast speed.  I’m off on vacation now until January 2.  Yippee!!

As these next few days speed by – can you believe today was the shortest day of the year? – you might want to consider a devotion for those celebrating Christmas.  I’ve been using a reading plan on YouVersion called “Carols, A Christmas Devotional”.  It matches Bible verses to Christmas songs with a short devotion and a couple of questions for contemplation and prayer.

They also have several short devotions, perfect for these next few days. including the Sounds of Christmas (4 days long) and the Rhythms of Christmas (5 days).  What I like about YouVersion is that I can do it on the computer or my mobile device.  As I browse through their plans and find something I like, I add it to my list for later.  The next one I plan to use is “100 Descriptions of God”.  Surprisingly, it’s only a 31 day plan.

Remember to eat healthy and get enough exercise and sleep.  It makes a big difference in enjoying yourself and staying serene.

Here’s some more wreaths from Colonial Williamsburg – enjoy!  Go here to see more wreaths from Colonial Williamsburg.  If you go to my blog (instead of reading this via an e-mail), you can roll your mouse over each wreath to see some of the materials used in making them. Remember they are all native to the area.

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.
To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy,
is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
Calvin Coolidge

Wreaths at Colonial Williamsburg

Although I’ve visited Colonial Williamsburg many times, I’ve not gone in December to see the Christmas decorations.  There’s no particular reason for that, but this year I decided that I really wanted to see them.  When Ailsa over at Where’s My Backpack announced this week’s travel theme to be circles, I thought it was a perfect way to show some photos from last weekend.

I found the wreaths fascinating, which is why I’m sharing them here.  They aren’t pictures I’d blow up to put over the fireplace, but they’re definitely worth looking at.  If you received this in an e-mail, I suggest clicking on the title and going to the actual blog to see the gallery.  When you roll your mouse over the photo, you’ll see a pop-up that describes some of the materials used.

The wreaths contain only materials local to Williamsburg, Virginia.  This is why the one wreath uses dried flower centers and moss to create a pineapple shape – pineapples are not local to Virginia.  It was a symbol of hospitality and status, which is why it is seen so frequently in decorations and motifs.

One of the cast members was talking about the wreaths to a bunch of us and made the observation that the south-facing side of the Duke of Gloucester Street used mostly dried materials because it faced the sun all day.  The north-facing side used a lot of fresh materials.  I paid much closer attention to the differences of the sides of the street after that!

Christmas decorations were simple in Colonial America.  Times were hard and food was not usually used in as something frivolous as a decoration nor was there was much celebration, such as you might see today.  My fellow blogger at Belle Grove Plantation wrote up a great post on Christmas in Colonial America and I invite you to look over her excellent summary.  The website for Colonial Williamsburg also discusses Christmas in Williamsburg, here and here.

I do have a lot more pictures of my visit and over the next few weeks, will share more decorations with you!

Special Photo Challenge: Inspiration

WordPress has a special photo challenge this week, in which they pose the question:

What inspires you to blog?

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post here in which I explored the reasons why I blog.  But what is it that inspires me to keep blogging and photographing?

Self-portrait in sepia tones

Capturing Beauty

I find beauty everywhere I look, whether downtown during my lunchtime walks or when I take a field trip to seek out photographs.  Not only am I enthused about recording the beauty that I see, but my readers have been enthused about it as well.

Because of the comments I’ve gotten about how pretty my pictures are, the joy they’ve brought for a few minutes, and how much ya’all love them, I’ve been switching my blog over to more photos.  I’m still writing commentary, but keeping it shorter.

Hummingbird moth taken at Colonial Williamsburg

Bringing Laughter

Along with capturing beauty, I also find laughter worth sharing.  Much of it involves the dogs and my favorite boy toy, but then again, that’s where my life is lived outside the workplace.

The great thing about laughter is that it relaxes me to edit my photos for sharing and my readers get a smile for starting their day.  Finding something we can all laugh at inspires my blogging.

To understand this picture better, click here to see the sequence of playing ball that leads to the beagle howling at the other dog.

No no no! That was MY ball!

Staying In Touch

My photographs and blog are a place where I can stay in touch with family and friends.  My Mother enjoys seeing my posts and what’s happening in my life, particularly since she lives so far away and neither of us travel by air anymore.

Photo of my Mother taken last Christmas by my sister (used with permission)

My blog also helps me stay in touch with old friends and make new ones.  It’s like a penpal letter, but written more frequently.  Like my Mother, my friends enjoy seeing my news and hearing what’s going on in my life.  It’s a way for me to maintain that connection with important people whom I no longer see due to distance.

My friend’s youngest daughter – she especially loves seeing the dogs and photos that have movement in them. The photo was taken by her mother and is used with permission

Recording My Life

A year ago in August, I was lamenting how fast the year was going.  In it, I wrote:

My diaries and photos give me some control over time passing so swifly.  I reread the events that happened, look at the photos, and savor it again.  Being able to remember helps slow the time down for me.  My diaries also help me prioritize my time, solve problems, and make lists of what needs to be done, remembered, or appreciated.  They help me focus on living in the present of what happened today or happened this week.

My blog has replaced much of my personal journals and I use it for the same things mentioned above.  It’s not particularly sexy to write about decluttering the house, but recording it up helps me remember that yes, I am accomplishing things that need to be done.

It’s much more fun though to go read on the deck and watch a dog chasing bees

Outlet for My Creativity

Editing and processing my photographs and writing up a blog post are all outlets for my creativity.  They take my mind off work, relax me (most days!), get me outside, and encourage me to notice more than the latest tax law changes that I need for my job.

I’ve enjoyed my day trips to take photos and then sharing it with everyone.  It gives me satisfaction and encourages me to keep on blogging.

The greenhouse at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens;
I love visiting here and it’s only minutes from my house

What reasons are important change from day to day, but at the end of it, I have plenty of inspiration to blog and share my life.  Thanks to all of you who have subscribed, left comments, and created friendships through our blogs.  I appreciate you all!