Sunday, March 29, 2009

Forgotten Cemetery

For years I've driven by this little non-descript cemetery along SR422 and next to the Thun trail by the Queen City Diner.

The little cemetery was quite old with some of the graves dated in the early 1800's and nothing within 50 years. The names "Fix" and "Miller" have their own fenced in section of the cemetery too.

The skies were gray, almost cliche', for visiting. Over the years, daffodils and crocus have been planted near some of the stones. They were out, but not yet flowering. I may come back to photograph the irony of spring flowers next to gray granite.

Daniel Boone

The fog and drizzle were hanging around all morning, so I went out to look for some shots. Max was along as we drove through Birdsboro along SR724 and ended up in Douglasville again.

Perhaps I could see the buildings at Daniel Boone in fog bank so drove in. The park was empty except for one car with a solo walker in the Saw Mill parking lot.

Too late for the fog, so we just decided to take a walk along the lake. A few geese floated by, but it was quiet.

Steadily brightening skies suddenly broke and turned into blue skies and clouds just as we were walking up to the old farm. The good lighting lasted maybe 15 minutes then turned gray again. A random theme for the day as a major storm front was tracking upon the area.

Max went nose-to-nose with one of the horses as it got a drink from a bucket on the ground and was a bit jittery by the huge black eyes looking back. The older docile looking horse still had her winter long hair and basically had no reaction to us.

The temps were near 70 and humid for one of the craziest weather days of the year. After coming home, the temps immediately dropped about 20 degrees, thunder clapped, and a tornado warning loomed until 6 PM.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Allegheny Aqueduct (Built to Last)

The Allegheny Aqueduct is a water bridge that was built in 1824 and operated until 1931. Part of the Schuylkill Canal system started at Mill Creek, Schuylkill County, and traveled to Philadelphia.

The 108 mile Schuylkill Canal's main activity was to transport antracite coal from the mines of Schuylkill County to the port of Philadelphia, making numerous deliveries over the five county journey.

The Beidler house is part of the little park and offers tours with a special "Colonial Candlelight Holiday Reception", scheduled for 12:00-5:00PM, Dec 12, 2009.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Berks County Photos (Early Spring)

These shots are on the commute, around the house, on the way to photo destinations.

It's a funny thing, the more pictures I take, the more I want to take. I have to give some credit to my new Panasonic Lumix FZ28 for it's a versatile and fun camera.

I spend a lot of time looking at fellow photographers' work and get ideas and motivation from their diverse styles and portfolios.

To supplement this blog site, I started added photos to my Flickr account for those who like more pictures and less writing.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mutschler's Florist and Rare Plants (Spiritual Eye Candy)

Another stop on our Birdsboro/Douglasville photo shoot was Mutschler's Florist and Rare Plants. Literally, it's located across the road from the Sheetz on SR422.

The business setting is a 200 year old home and attached barn. Outside offers a pond and garden center. Inside they have cut flowers, plants, a tropical greenhouse, gifts from around the world, and even antiques.

I've been visiting here for years and every time I walk away saying how cool this place is. When I was describing this place to John (Flickr), I said it's indescribable, but you'll love it.

Bob Mutschler, a renowned orchid expert and educator, gave us a private tour detailing so many interesting facts about the history of the building and items in it. The barn has a hidden room, only accessible from a tunnel, where the Underground Railroad once operated. Under a few loose floor boards in the house's former kitchen is still the only way into the tunnel and secret room.

The greenhouse has dozens of common and unique orchids, some intoxicatingly fragrant. It's also the home of a pair of 30+ year old coi. Bonsai and cactus plants are everywhere too. It's apparent that he loves his collection of unique inventory, both living and inanimate.

Bob offers classes about orchids, bonsai, and even ponds. I know people who attended the orchid class and really enjoyed it.

It's hard to pick a favorite, but I would say the tropical greenhouse. It's always warm, bright, humid and smells like a rain forest. The soothing new age music that's piped in creates a relaxing experience. There are literally plants/trees over 20 years old that have become fixtures.

Daniel Boone Homestead

My friend John visited Berks County for a photo subject change a scenery. The Daniel Boone Homestead was our 2nd stop of the day.

It was warming up through the 40's and the clouds parted revealing a vivid blue sky. A welcome addition to our photos relative to the gray skies I typically shoot around.

The saw mill, dam, farm, and home were a just a few of the many subjects for the day.

About an hour into our visit we heard loud musket fire which meant the shooting range was being used. The men were all dressed in Civil War Union uniforms.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Philadelphia - Northeast (Spring Arrives)

Visiting family in Northeast Philadelphia requires walking Max around the neighborhoods. Not only does he need it after patiently enduring the hour plus ride, he feels entitled.

He loves city walking. So many dogs and targets offers and endless sensory feast. We've visited all over Philly: South Street, Penns Landing, Old City, and the Art Museum.

The neighborhood park had a bunch of cherry trees in pre-prime bloom and color, while Crocus had popped up in the little front gardens of the duplexes.

The sunny 60 degree day had the kids out. The playgrounds were full of basketball players, little swingers, and monkey bar climbers.

The highlight of the day is the "Early Bird Special" at the Green Papaya restaurant. Located in a little strip mall at 7933 Bustleton Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19152 offers a variety of Vietnamese, Cajun and American fusion cooking.

A faded sign over the front is all that identifies this modest local favorite. We usually arrive right after opening so we get exclusive attention and the freshest and hottest possible meals. I typically get a great steak, with "real" mashed potatoes and slightly stir-fried vegetables. Soups and salads are exceptional too. Pecan Pie and Chocolate Cake desserts are amazing and perfect endings.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kernsville Dam (First Visit)

I wanted to start exploring Northern Berks County's vast natural offerings and a good place to start was Kernsville Dam. The Blue Mountain Wildlife organization manages the area and their website has a photo gallery and information about upcoming events.

I drove Max to the parking area adjacent to the dam. From there we walked along the road to the final parking lot. Then we walked along the river for another mile. At the end, an outcropping of graffiti-covered rocks offered views of the SR61 overpass plus impressive river views.

In Northern Berks, Hawk Mountain is probably the most obvious venue. Surrounding Hawk Mountain are massive State Game Lands 106 & 110 to research. The Blue Mountains and Kittatinny Ridge are on my radar too. The Schuylkill River Trail system is becoming a good resource for hikes along the river.

Consistent with my other research on Berks County, it was a time consuming and fragmented process. If information can be found, it tends to be localized. The lack of a clearinghouse of nature information reinforces one of the premises for this site.

One of my favorite new online map tools is the ACME Mapper for it adds topo to the usual tools. Topo and Googles Terrain maps are useful for finding vista's, lakes, streams and you can even estimate sun angles.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Goggleworks (Open House)

Goggleworks hosts open houses on the 2nd Sunday of the month. It's a great time to visit with artists, listen to live music, eat, shop or just hang out.

I met a talented watercolor artist, Steven White, a Birdsboro resident, whose subjects include many of the locales that Max & I visit and write about in Berks Awhile.

The Goggleworks' diverse and highly creative artists supply inspiration and motivation to all who visit.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

French Creek State Park (Hot Winter Day!)

The mini-heat wave (Fri & Sat) had everyone in a good mood and ready to break out of their winter hibernation.

My new camera arrived Friday afternoon, so I was excited to put it through it's paces. The Panasonic Lumix FZ-28 is regarded as one of the better ultra zooms introduced in 2008. French Creek State Park was the obvious choice for the I know the subject and lighting conditions well.

The Hopewell Lake parking area was nearly full with all outdoor recreations represented. The 70 degree afternoon brought out fishermen, kayakers, bikers, hikers, dog walkers, Frisbee gamers, birders, horse riders, picnickers and little playgrouders.

In spite of the temps, it was yet another Pennsylvania gray winter day so great photo ops were a challenge. I haven't yet read the camera manual so I was literally experimenting to find and adjust the settings for best shots.

We lapped Hopewell Lake on the muddy trail and I mean muddy! The wet lands east of where Scotts Run creek feeds Hopewell are like mud fields. On a good day, you can rock and log hop to keep the feet dry, but in early spring and after rainy weather water and mud are inches deep.

Max and I drove to Scotts Run Lake just as the sun came out for some "magic hour" photography. It was unprecedentedly uncrowded then I saw the signs, "No Fishing". The lake was recently stocked with trout, but the season doesn't start until April 4, 2009.

Beware of the Ticks!
Ever present once the temps warm up over 40 are the ticks. I cannot emphasize enough to take precautions for people and pets against these potential disease carrying insects. Lyme disease is a devastating and disabling bacterial infection which is hard to diagnose. Rashes occur only 5o% and the "common" blood tests are only about 50% accurate.

Max is treated with Frontline every 3-4 weeks, which deters and/or kills the ticks once they bite into the skin. I spray head-to-toe with "Buzz Away" which is an organic, pleasant smelling and effective repellent. A couple other equally good "DEET free" brands are "Bite Blocker" and Mercola's "Bug Off".

Bug spray alone is not a sure thing though, so a thorough clothes and body search is prudent post-hike behavior. I literally dump my clothes in the washing machine and shower within minutes after coming home. Max is flipped and rubbed down carefully too in search of ticks.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Berks County Photos (Last Winter Snow?)

A big snow storm rolled through Sunday and Monday. While most of Berks was spared a major accumulation, it still blanketed us with a few inches of white powder.

While capturing these shots, I had a bitter sweet thought that this may be the last snow of the winter.