Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Valley Forge Park Pre-Hurricane Sandy

I stopped by Valley Forge National Historical Park to see what preparations were evidenced before the impending super storm named Hurricane Sandy.

The sky was overcast with very little contrast.

The arrival of Hurricane Sandy was little more than 24 hours away and no preparations were in site. 

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Preparations

As much as the media has reported on Hurricane Sandy, I just need to add my two cents. Sandy was not just a category one hurricane, it was a category one hurricane combined with several other weather systems to create a super storm. Some in the media were calling Sandy, Frankenstorm, because of the timing near Halloween. (In my mind Frankenstein's monster was manmade. Is it a conscience or sub-conscience tying of this storm to man's influence on earth's weather?) Mind you, meteorologists did not call this the storm of the century. We suffered through one of them just twenty years ago. With this century just started, I think the meteorologists are waiting until later in this century to use that term again. I am somehow comforted by the fact that I will not see another storm of the century.

In any event, I spent most of Monday raising everything off the floor of my basement. (Note to self - bring a large trash can down to the basement.) My house is built on what appears to be solid rock. Rain water or melted snow runs down hill, finds the hole that is my basement and begins to fill that hole. I have a sump pump that runs with the slightest rain. When the sump pump is working correctly, I do not have a problem with water in the basement. However, twice in the last nineteen years, I have walked through the basement with water up to my ankles.

The first time, most of the family was out visiting my eldest daughter at University of Pittsburgh. My son stayed behind to mind the dog. There was rain at home, the sump pump did not work and water quickly accumulated in the basement. The next time the sump pump was working fine. The check valve, however, was not. With the super storm approaching, both the sump pump and the check valve were in good working order. However, there were predictions of power outages. Without power water will rise in the basement. That is why I spent most of Monday in the basement.

During the three days before the arrival of Sandy, I found two battery operated radios, three flashlights, both a propane camping lantern and camp stove, a dozen large candles and several boxes of matches. Friday I purchased, bread, milk, eggs, two cases of bottled water, propane cylinders and food that could be eaten without heating.

I collected all items outdoors that might become missiles in high winds and brought them into the garage. I tied down the large swing on the patio. I was fairly confident all the gutters were clear because of the gutter guards installed on them. My biggest concerns were the twenty year old shingle roof, my large windows on the ground floor and the sump pump and loss of power.

Once everything was complete, I went into the garage to build a bedside table for my youngest daughter, currently at Millersville University. It was either that or watch TV and media coverage of the advancing storm. I opted for the garage. I was prepared as I was going to get.

The power was interrupted at 21:37 on Monday.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Galatea and Aphrodite Photograph Google Ranking

The other day I noticed that if the phrase Galatea and Aphrodite were Googled and then images chosen, my photograph ranks highest and is the first returned. 

Is that an accomplishment?

Of course, there were photographs of sailboats and a handbag returned, too.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Valley Forge Radisson Hotel and Casino at Night

I was busy all day Sunday. By the time I was free, the sky was clear and dark with a quarter moon shining brightly at the peak of its trip across the sky. I immediately thought about Valley Forge Park and the National Memorial Arch and the moon. I didn't hesitate, off I went to the park.

The park closes at dusk each day. However, there are four roads through the park that are open to traffic at all times. Those roads are as follows.  PA rte 23 that runs east to west.  PA rte 252 that runs north to south. Gulph Rd that is one of only three roads into a developed housing community in the southeast corner of the above map and County Line Rd that almost bisects the park north from south.

I entered Valley Forge from the west on PA rte 23, very close to General George Washington's Headquarters. Where rte 23 bends to the left I stayed straight onto Gulph Rd. Gulph Rd passes within 100' / 30m of the arch and then continues into the developed housing community.

I slowed my speed to a crawl as I traveled past the arch. I looked for the location of the moon. It was behind the arch but high in the sky. I was also aware there was a car approaching from my rear. I thought it might be a park ranger. You've read of my ranger encounters. Not wanting to confront a ranger, I continued on Gulph Rd towards Thomas Rd and the housing community.

The car was still behind me. I couldn't discern whether it was a ranger or not, so I continues on Gulph Rd past Thomas Rd and into the community. I was probably half way to the intersection with Richards Rd when the car turned off onto a side road. It wasn't a park ranger. I quickly made a U-turn and proceeded back towards the arch.

When I was again directly in front of the arch I could see the moon wasn't in the right position for a great photograph. I drove on. At County Line Rd I turned right. I thought there might be a place along that road that would give me the correct point of view to bring the moon closer to the arch for a good image. I drove slowly down the road ducking down and looking over my right shoulder to see out of the side window towards the arch and the moon.

There are several tall trees planted close to the arch that blocked a clear view of the arch as I drove. I thought I came upon the spot.  I stopped the car, opened my door and stepped out to get a good look back at the arch. I leaned on the roof of the car and took a long discerning look at the arch. I and the moon were too far from the arch to get a good photograph. I was disappointed. I got back into the car and continued towards rte 23. Keeping a sharp eye to the road not wanting to hit any deer.

So there I was, driving through Valley Forge Park at night. The park was closed. I was avoiding whitetail deer on a dark unlit curvy road. My mind was racing. I didn't want to waste my time or the trip. So I changed my goal.

Sometime within the last week, I decided I wanted to get on the rooftop of either the Valley Forge Casino or the nearby Radisson Hotel. I thought there might be some great images of the park from up there. Especially near sunset with the sky all red and orange and the park spread out between the casino and the fiery sky. In order to get to the rooftop, though, I needed to speak with someone at the hotel or casino. Someone with authority.

It was getting late in the evening. It was 20:30. I didn't think the person with authority would be working on a Sunday at that hour. I hoped, however, there would be someone at the hotel desk that could give me the name of the PR/marketing person and their phone number. So I headed to the Radisson Hotel. The taller of the two buildings.

I entered the hotel without my camera. I introduced myself as a local blogger writing about the park and explained how and why I desired to get onto the roof. After rejecting the suggestion I talk to someone in security, I requested the name and phone number of the PR/marketing person at the hotel. Without any further questioning I was given a name, phone number and hours of the day when I should call. Goal accomplished.

As I walked away from the hotel, my mind and eye turned to photography. I began to see possible images. I returned to my car, grabbed my camera and walked back to the hotel. I began to  

create some photographic images of the hotel

and casino.

Trip not wasted!

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Taste of Garden Harvest

The best producers measured by weight have been reported. Now it's time to talk about taste.

Since the majority of plants in the square foot garden were tomatoes, that is where I will start. Here is my list, starting with the best taste.
  1. Black Krim
  2. Mr. Stripey
  3. German Johnson
  4. Super Sweet 100
  5. Husky Cherry
  6. Big Boy
  7. Early Girl
  8. Chocolate Cherry
The first three tomatoes are heirloom varieties. The taste of all the heirloom tomatoes far exceeded the taste of the hybrids, except for the Super Sweet. The Super Sweet were just delightful, small, sweet with just enough acid to say tomato. The taste of the Husky Cherry was good but the thick skin detracted a great deal from the eating experience. The Big Boy and Early Girl were just pedestrian compared to the heirlooms. Compared to tomatoes available in supermarkets these two were much better as was their texture. Probably because they were vine ripened. I had great expectations for the Chocolate Cherry. Thinking that they would taste somewhat like the Black Krim because of their similar color, they fell short of my target.

The cucumbers had good taste and very few seeds. There was quite a bit of flesh compared to seeds. The cucumbers were firm and great raw in salads.

The bell peppers were crisp with good taste but there just weren't many of them. The cayenne peppers were productive for one plant but they were not spicy. At least not as spicy as I thought they would be.

The green beans had a strong taste. Especially when eaten raw in a tossed salad. They were good when boiled or steamed.

The potatoes, as small as they were, tasted quit good and very fresh. I will adjust the method of growing them next year with hope that they will grow larger.
In the early growing season the snow peas were very sweet and much fresher and smaller than if bought in the supermarket.

Even though the lettuce had a slow start the taste was delightful.

After evaluating the fruits and vegetables from the garden in 2012, I have decided which will return in 2013. And the winners are, in order of priority -

  1. Super Sweet 100
  2. Black Krim
  3. Mr. Stripey
  4. German Johnson
  5. Snow Peas
  6. Loose Leaf Lettuce
  7. Burpee Burpless Beauty Cucumber
  8. Russett Potato
  9. Yukon Gold Potato
  10. Red Norland Potato
Planning of the square foot garden for 2013 has begun.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Square Foot Garden - Season Yield Totals

From the very start of the gardening season 2012, I weighed and recorded the yield from my square foot garden. All the entries are below on the spreadsheet.

The top three producing vegetables in the garden by weight were:

  1. Cucumber - 3835g / 7.85lbs.
  2. Super Sweet 100 Tomato - 30g / 6.85lbs.
  3. Husky Cherry Tomato - 3099g / 6.34lbs.
The two patio type tomatoes were planted in mid-May and produced fruit steadily from mid-June through late September. The cucumbers were planted in early June and harvesting started in the third week of August. Once they started to produce, it was like a cucumber explosion.

The total weight for the full size tomatoes was 9022g /19.89lbs. The full size tomatoes were, as usual, late to harvest. There were a few that ripened in mid-July but most were harvested in mid-August.

There were a few bell peppers of orange and red and dozens of cayenne peppers harvested. All the peppers weighed in at 1371g / 3.2lbs.

Lettuce amounted to 805g / 1.77lbs.
Snow Peas totaled 321g / 0.71lbs.

Although two squares were planted with four melon plants, no fruit materialized.

Several varieties of potatoes were planted in two towers. Only three varieties produced potatoes.
Yukon Gold - 237g /0.48lbs
Russet - 418g / 0.88lbs
Red Norland - 376g 0.77lbs
Potato total - 1037g / 2.27lbs.
Not a great total and no where near my expectation.

Now can I get a drum roll, please?

The 2012 fruit and vegetable total weight harvested from the 4' /1.2m x 4' /1.2m plot, two potato towers and one pot containing the Chocolate Cherry tomatoes was 23.323 kilosgrams / 48.39lbs. (Crash a cymbal, here, please!) Not a bad amount for the small space.

However, the plot could have produced much more. If I had used the plot to its fullest potential. For there were several 1' squares that went unplanted the whole season and several other squares that were fallow for some of the season. Plus the melons needed something I wasn't giving them.

One of the reasons for not utilizing the plot to its fullest was the heat. I just didn't want to go out into the high temperatures this summer. Maybe its because I am old. Maybe its because I am lazy or disorganized. For what ever reason I just didn't get it done in the garden this year.

I did, however, enjoy beautiful home grown organic tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, snow peas, cucumbers and potatoes. As for the garden's potential? 

Just wait until next year! There is always next year.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Monday, October 15, 2012

East Inner Line Drive - Artillery Park

I drove to Port Kennedy a few days ago, primarily, to get a few images to add to the blog showing how US 422 cuts through the old village of Port Kennedy, separating Kennedy-Supplee Mansion from First Presbyterian Church of Port Kennedy.

While I was there I figured I would get a few more images in Valley Forge Park.
I decided to go to site of the old Valley Forge Observation Tower built on Mount Joy in 1906. The tower was disassemble soon after 1976 because the trees had grown taller than the tower and people found looking down was just not interesting. It was shipped to Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, near Wellsboro, PA, where it was reassembled and stands today.

I remembered that there was a parking lot near a trail that led to the site. I didn't have the official park map, or any map for that matter. I was left to my own devices to find that parking lot - memory and Mt. Joy rising in the west.

My route started at the entrance to the park near the Visitor Center. I drove over North Outer Line Drive past the log huts to Gulph Rd. I turned right onto Gulph Rd. and then left at the next intersection onto East Inner Line Drive.

I traveled a few hundred feet on East Inner Line Drive, when I noticed two cars parked on the right side of the drive heading in the same direction as I. I turned my head to the right and saw five people near a log hut. Two of the five had professional sized cameras and lenses, one looked like a bride, in her wedding gown with no jacket, one a groom and the fifth was a sensibly dressed women in a long skirt and red wool jacket. The high temperature for that day was 62ºF / 17ºC and they were outdoors two hours before sunset. It was getting chilly for not having on a jacket. Ah, what price fashion! 

Traveling on, the two-way road soon came to an end at a stop sign. The road before me was a one-way road in the opposite direction. The only legal thing I could do was turn into the parking area for which I was searching. I had arrived.

I saw several cannon near the far end of the lot.  I drove to that end of the lot and parked. I threw my camera bag strap over my head with the bag on my left hip. Down towards the cannon I strode.

This collection of cannon is called Artillery Park. There were quite a few cannon, sixteen, if I remember right. All painted blue and yellow.

It was about two hours before sunset. As I photographed the cannon, the sun was soon to drop behind the fully leaved trees on Mt. Joy. Only small pools of sunlight played peek-a-boo from behind the scattered clouds. That kind of light could be really dramatic. Patience is needed waiting for the right opportunity. An opportunity that may not materialize on any given day.

As I turned to return to my car, who should be walking in my direction but the wedding party. I had to stay in the area just to capture a few images of the photographers creating wedding photos of their party. I am interested in photographing photographers in the act of photographing. I am not sure it is something psychological or it is revealing behind the scenes magical secrets. I am neither a psychologist or magician. Why do you think I do it?

I was loosing the sun quickly behind Mt. Joy and all of its trees. As I had a pressing appointment, I packed my camera into my car and headed out of the park. I never did find the old observation tower site that day.

The park is 3,500 acres / 1,400 ha in area. There will be many days spent photographing the park in the future. I will get to the old observation tower site at some point in time.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Goldfinch Feeding on Nyjer Seeds October 2012

Early in October, goldfinch amassed at the two nyjer seed socks I have hanging near my breakfast room window. In the spring and summer, the goldfinch came to the same sock feeders. Then, they were very territorial and chased away other goldfinch as they landed on the feeders. In October, however, they all seemed to get along with very little signs of aggression.

The above video was taken with a Brinno TLC at one frame every 7 secs.

At 3:47 into the video, you can see as many as 12 finches on both socks at one time. All of them getting along, sharing.

Watching the finches feed on these sock feeders is very entertaining. I recommend everyone purchases at least one of these and enjoy watching.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved