Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Meadows of Muker, UK (Showing Off "a Small Island" - Part 3)

If you have been following my blog, you know that this summer we hosted one of my sisters and her husband in the UK.  This is the third in my series on our trip, and only God can get the credit for the glorious weather that blessed us while hiking this idyllic slice of the world - truly the epitome of the English countryside!!!
Like many of the settlements in Upper Swaledale, Muker's name betrays its Viking origins.  It comes from the Norse word "Mjor-aker", meaning a small piece of farmed land.  Today, the unspoilt beauty of the area brings visitors from far and wide.
The flower-rich hay meadows around Muker are of international importance and are carefully protected.
Farmers receive grants which allow them to farm the land traditionally without using artificial fertilizers.
In 1998 the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, working with local farmers and with funding from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, completed an important project laying stone flags on footpaths through these meadows.  The flags help to protect the plants from being trampled as well as allowing access for wheelchair users.
River Swale

(At this point, we were only a couple of miles into the hike.  My sister and her husband were gob-smacked (read: amazed) with the simple grandeur of the landscape and the precipitation-free weather.  It was refreshing for me and Spousal Unit - we have renewed appreciation for the beauty we had started to take for granted.)

The traditional late 18th and early 19th century barns and dry stone walls of Swaledale are the most characteristic feature of its landscape.  Both played a key part in a farmer's year.
Leaving Keld and heading back to Muker
The walls enclosed grazing land and the field barns housed cattle and the hay to feed them over the winter.  The muck collected inside was spread on the surrounding meadows in the spring to feed the next hay crop.

Maintaining the miles of walls and hundreds of stone-built barns is expensive.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority in partnership with English Heritage, MAFF, and the European Union, helps local farmers to repair barns and walls with repair grants.
We wrapped this spectacular day with another fine English walking tradition - a drink in the pub at the end of the hike.  The Farmers Arms in Muker was stowed out (read: very full) with fellow walkers, adding to the spirit and camaraderie of a day in the summer sun, surrounded by nature's splendid gifts.  It's easy to see how people can get addicted to this pastime.  Walk on!

Linking to Nature Notes

Linking to Our World Tuesday
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

September Smorgasbord

Precipitation and cooler temperatures have returned to Montana, and somehow it fires my desire to blog.  It's like curling up in front of the fire with a good read, but in reverse - my keyboard is here, waiting for me to create a captivating post.  So, if it's chilly where you are, grab a blanket and settle in your comfy chair.  For those of you in warmer climes, go out on the porch with an iced beverage.  Are we ready?  Then let's begin:

Chair One Artists: Ruth Lane, Louise Barker, Paula Rindal 
& Sally Glutting
ONE: Would you like to own a chair from a ski lift?  Ten chairlifts from Whitefish Mountain Resort were recently donated to the Big Mountain Commercial Association. The chairs were given to local artists to decorate and the resulting works of art have been set up in front of ten local businesses around Whitefish to show off before they are auctioned this month. The proceeds will benefit the local snow bus that shuttles people from downtown to Whitefish Mountain Resort and the new Glacier Park Express that transports people in and out of the park.  Here are nine of the ten chairs with some detail for each.  Which one is your favorite?

Chair Two Artist: Lorinda Smith

Chair Three Artists: Deb Stika & Susan Miller

Chair Four Artists: Students of Summit Prep School

Chair Five Artist: Dee Dee Cooper

Chair Six Artist: Shelby Powell

Chair Seven Artist: Steven Miller

Chair Eight Artists: Paula Greenstein &
Chris Marie Campbell

Chair Nine Artists: Michelle Saurey, Mark Baumbach
& Terence Gill

(Chair Ten was not available for a picture.)

TWO: Autumn gets me in a baking mood, but I've had in mind a Watermelon Cake I saw on Pinterest - never mind it is probably better suited to summer!  I felt like a kid again, painting by the numbers and trying to get the pink and green just the right shade.  Of course, it never looks as beautiful as the original ... which certainly did not keep me and Spousal Unit from eating it ALL!

THREE: Speaking of Spousal Unit, I can't tell you how grateful I am for his culinary skills.  He says "Would you like some breakfast?" and the next thing I know I have this marvelous meal catching my eye and dancing across my taste buds.

He'll take anything that's at hand, throw it in a pot and produce a gourmet dish - behold his latest creation - Meatballs with mushrooms, Napa cabbage and carrots.  Ummmmm ....
FOUR: If you been following my blog for a bit, you know that we are building a log home.  Many days, we are bopping around various stores to make selections for the house.  Most recently, we have invested untold hours choosing a railing system (you can be sure there will be a post on this in the future!!!)  Occasionally, all this decision-making causes our tummies to growl, and we simply MUST stop at an interesting-looking café along the way.
The Somers Bay Café is located in the old Somers State Building, built in 1905.  In its heyday, Somers was a major port, milltown and tie yard.  The café is a mini-museum of old Somers, displaying historical photos and artifacts on the walls - donated by local residents who lived those early days and frequent the café today.
FIVE: The sun is now down, and yet it seems appropriate to re-wind to the start of my post: puddles!
I am not a duck, but I might as well be with the delight I feel over these small collections of water outside our house.  This is the first real precipitation we have had for over three months.  Already the sky is clearing and the fires are getting under control.  I captured the following series Tuesday morning (without ANY coffee) because I was SO excited by the snow and the sky.  Another serving of blessings for the September Smorgasbord.

Linking to Willy Nilly Friday

Linking to Skywatch Friday

Saturday, September 16, 2017

If you are going to San Francisco ...

If you have children, you know the trials and joys of the family vacation - the constant search for affordable activities to keep them entertained and the lasting memories when you do.  Recently, it was 100% role reversal when we visited #1 Daughter (#1D) in San Francisco - she took complete control of the 4-day itinerary - and it was a treat in every sense.  Here are the highlights from Day 1.

San Fran is famous the world over for its vintage rail transit vehicles - cable cars and street cars.  We were just darn proud that #1D had mastered the public transit system back in April when she arrived at the San Fran airport on her lonesome to start her summer internship with California Shakespeare Theater.  During our visit, she navigated nimbly between the subway, bus system and street cars.  

On our way to Pier 33 to catch the ferry for Alcatraz, our streetcar driver provided free entertainment in the form of running commentary.  People were a little slow to get on and he said: "You all might be on vacation, but I have a schedule to keep!"  When his car was full, someone asked when the next car would come along, and he said: "When it gets here, you let me know! " 

Alcatraz evoked a plethora of reactions - some unexpected.   By its very nature, the audio tour in the cell house puts you in the sounds of a jail - doors clanging closed, jeering voices from other prisoners, barking commands from the keepers.  So well done.  You can easily imagine the solitude and depression.
The unexpected?  The flowers and especially the birds.  The Island is a bird sanctuary, and there is no attempt to keep the park clean.  In some areas, the odor was so ripe I found myself covering my nose just to keep walking.  I don't often complain about these sorts of things, but I am confident there is a way that the Park Service can maintain the sanctuary while still making it palatable to paying customers.
Next!  Pier 39 is a glorious tourist mecca with something for everyone.  Crepes made to order - even if you're not buying, you can watch (for free!) the jaw-dropping expertise of the crepe-maker - just enough batter spread perfectly evenly using a special swivel tool.  And the toppings!  Chocolate, strawberries, bananas, you name it!  Not sure how I got out of there without one!  Two-tiered carousel.  Gift shops.  Restaurants. Ice cream.  And did I mention the seals?  Laugh out loud free entertainment -  we must have braved the cool breezes for at least 30 minutes, while the seals flopped on and off the platforms.  Clearly, landing on your fellow seal is not an issue since we saw seal after seal gracefully leave the water only to plop onto another seal and then wriggle to an open spot, with nothing more than a lift of the head for a reaction.

No port is complete without ships, and San Fran is no exception.  Pier 45 is home to the USS Pampanito, a Balao-class submarine.  She completed six war patrols from 1944 to 1945 and served as a Naval Reserve Training ship from 1960 to 1971. She is now a National Historic Landmark, preserved as a memorial and museum ship.  Right next door is the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, a Liberty ship built during World War II.  She is a rare survivor of the 6,939-ship armada that stormed Normandy on D-Day, 1944.  On the wall near the ships is this mural, which is a tribute to the women who supported the war effort.  You go, ladies! 

On a slightly smaller scale, Fisherman's Wharf still bustles with fishing vessels that support the local, family-owned restaurants and an active deep-sea fishing tour trade (but you have to be willing to be at the wharf at 5.30 a.m!).  I will stick with just taking pictures!

So, as you have probably figured out by now, #1D had mostly focused on free entertainment, and I continued to be amazed at what is available if you look.  Our next stop was nothing short of amazing (and amusing).  The Musée Mécanique is one of the world's largest privately owned collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines (over 200) in their original working condition. (You can play them!)  My favorite was the Wurlitzer Style B Orchestration, circa 1912.  Only 50 to 75 of these were made in 1912!  The 13 songs on the playlist included Stars and Stripes Forever, which of course I chose to play.

A day in San Fran is not complete without sampling the restaurants - #1D had chosen Coqueta on Pier 5 for its menu and proximity to the Bay Bridge.  

As the sun left the sky, the Bay Bridge glittered.  (The Bay Lights , an iconic light sculpture on the west span of the bridge, was designed by world-renowned artist Leo Villareal with 25,000 LED white lights that stretch 500 feet high for 1.8 miles. Inspired by the Bay Bridge’s 75th Anniversary, the artist created a never repeating, dazzling display for the original period March 5, 2013 through March 2015.  Beloved by city residents, the installation came back permanently on January 30, 2016.)                

And the curtain came down on day one, with a standing ovation.
Linking to Mosaic Monday

Linking to Our World Tuesday
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