Saturday, November 26, 2011

San Francisco

San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge

This is a bit late (a few months late) but here it is at last! My first time to San Francisco I was much younger than I am now. This trip was my second time to San Francisco but this I got to wander as I pleased. However for my wife this was her first time to the bay area. We started off the day crossing the Golden Gate Bridge with higher parts of the bridge disappearing into the fog. I took these next shots from inside a moving vehicle so they are not as good as I wanted but you get the visual.
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
Though I did not go, you can go to Alcatraz Island to see the prison that was there. It is quite a tourist spot and you get a different look at the bay. Perhaps I'll go next time I'm there. Here are some shots of the island and bay and it shows some tour boats in them.
Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay with a tour boat and a sail boat

San Francisco Bay with Alcatraz Island

Tour Boat
Just off of Pier 49 you can get a look at the Sea Lions sunbathing and sleeping the day away. You can see them from the tours but you can get just as close from Pier 49.
Sea Lions by Pier 49
There is always a good amount of Street entertainers. Below is a shot from my favorite performance. It was a pair of brothers (their sister does it too but she was not there that day) who could do some amazing things. Here this one is balancing himself on an aluminum board on three cups on another aluminum board on four other cups on a wooden board, all on a metal cylinder. He put it all together while he was on it. It was quite impressive. To top it all off he juggled on the precarious pedestal.  
Street Entertainer from England near Pier 49
There is something for everyone. These boys were playing on a small beach with a grounded rowboat. They played in the sand and pretended they were actually on the water. Their mother was able to sit and rest her feet while she watched.
Boys playing on a little beach on the San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz and wharfs/piers

San Fransisco and bay from a wharf
The Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory is a fin place. You can see the Factory in the Panorama above. (look for the name Ghirardelli, it is on top of the building. You can buy chocolate to your heart's content. There is also an ice-cream parlor where you can get some fabulous desserts!
Ice-cream from Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory
There is plenty more to see like the world's windiest road, Lombard Street. We also drove through China town but that is all we could do because of time. I'm sure there is even more than what I even saw. This photo of Lombard Street is also taken from a moving vehicle. There was just so much to see and do so I had to take some photos from the car.
The windiest road in the world, Lombard Street, in San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge looking towards San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge looking towards San Francisco

My wife and me in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

Monday, November 21, 2011

Portraits Updated

I have had these photos to put up but I had just not gotten to it. Take a look at them all. The ones I had on were well over a year old (verging on two years) so I have removed them.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Work gone up in smoke

Have you ever work a long time on something just to see it go up in smoke? I am not talking about writing a paper and your computer decides to reboot. I am not referring to when you were doing something on your computer -say working on photos- when the power goes out and you lose everything. That is a big deal right?
Well, a few weeks ago my wife and I were heading out to my family’s farm and we got there right after dark. The high beams of our car stopped working while traveling. If you try and use them only the park lights will be on and that does not help you in the least when you are driving down a country highway. Let’s just say I was not happy. I have not even heard of someone ever having that kind of problem! As I was grumbling to myself and to my wife we drove into the valley where the farm is. As we entered we could faintly smell smoke. It did not trigger any alarms, we were out in the country and deer season was about to begin. There were people everywhere and many of them were camping. But the closer we got the stronger the smoke smell got. There was no doubt, something was on fire.

The fire viewed from the road.

As we got close to the house where my father grew up we saw the tell-tell glow of fire and the lights of emergency vehicles. I was thankful that is was not our house but I feared it was one of the neighbors' house. Judging by the location of the glow it could have been a house on fire. it would not have been the first house to burn down on that road. There have only been two houses on that road and when the one burned down they never built it again. Years later another house was built. So right before the fire happened there were only two houses on the road.
I dropped my wife off and I saw that none of my family was there so I went towards the flames to see if they were there and to see if any help was needed.
It turns out that it was not the house that was on fire but it was their haystack. It was a complete loss and the fire crews were just working on keeping the fire under control and away from buildings. Below are some photos from it. There were fire crews that came quite a ways to help. There were 300-400 tons of hay that were lost. That is $60,000-$80,000 dollars turned to ash and smoke! Though it is quite a blow nobody was hurt which is a blessing.

But how would you like to have all the work you did all year just go up in flame? Most people realize how much work goes into farm work. You have to prepare the ground by plowing, disking, and harrowing. You have to plant at just the right time because if there is a freeze while the alfalfa is too small it will kill the plant; then you have to plant again. After you plant you have to water constantly to get over all of the fields and keep cattle out. You may think that is tiring but that is just the start. You have to wait for the hay to get high enough and make sure you get water on it so it can grow. When it is time to cut the hay you have to make sure the ground is dry for the cutting to commence. After you cut all the hay down you have to let the hay dry. If the hay it put up too wet it will rot and be no good and it can even combust and cause your haystack to catch on fire. The only thing I have heard about this fire is it was likely a case of spontaneous combustion.
Now you may thing that the farmer should have just put it up right, but it is not just that easy. The hay has to bend just right and feel dry enough. It is an art. I have seen my father do it and I don't think I would be capable to do it. I would be afraid that I was doing it wrong, even if I was doing it right. Not only that but I know that the last crop of hay we cut got rained on for over a week after we cut it. You have to wait for that to dry out too! Not only that but you do want just the right amount of moisture in it so it will hold together.
And we are not done yet!
You have to bail the hay stack the hay and keep it from going bad so you will have food for all of your animals through all the long bitter cold months of winter. (That includes feeding the animals... I'm exhausted just thinking about it all!)

So in conclusion you will have to buy hay, beg for hay or sell your animals that you cannot afford to keep. And we all know that insurance will not be much help and they will get out of helping somehow... if you have insurance. 

Keep all of that in mind as you watch a struggling farmer’s livelihood go down the drain.... I mean up in smoke.

 Burning bails of hay behind heavy machinery.

 Flashlight light catches a stream of water as it is aimed to slow the flames till they can be moved.

 Lights from equipment light up the smoke as crew work on the blaze.

 Crews battle blaze to protect surrounding area.

 A pillar of water is illuminated by the lights of fire and heavy machinery.

 Water arks over hay and between moving machinery to cool the hottest parts of the fire.

 A firefighter is silhouetted by flames of the burning haystack.

 Close up of the last few bails of hay that are not ash. they may look ok but they are burning on the inside.

 Firefighter working hard even though it is a loss.

 Heavy equipment and tractors moving burning hay to protect buildings, fields and trees.

 Heavy equipment with claws and buckets shovel the burning bails to a confined area.

Red, yellow, white and blue lights mix as man, machine and water fight fire, heat and smoke.