The Animals Are Just Chilling

While the world goes crazy around them, the animals of rural Pennsylvania seem to be doing just fine …

This cow couldn’t care less.
A horse taking Sunday off.
This looks like a great spot to relax.
Laying down on the job.
A little snack in the sunshine.

May Has Had a Split Personality

This month has certainly seen some wild changes in the weather. We recently went from sunny and low eighties to low thirties within a 24 hour period. It is a relief to get outdoors whenever one can. I took some time to go in search of a trumpeter swan on Octoraro Lake. I didn’t see the swan, but the farms around this area are some of my favorite to photograph.

On my travels, I’ve noticed a lot of fallow fields and newly plowed fields in mid-May. This seems late to me for planting. Is it the weather, or something else?

Here is a sampling of the photographs.

There seems to be one picture perfect farm after another.
A peek down an Amish driveway.
A really nice, rustic bank barn. I’m seeing barns of this style all over the place now I know what they are.
Well, hello there.
Here’s a look at the whole barn.
A vert cozy looking farm.
I love the gray grasses in the foreground.
White really seems to be the color of choice for barns around here.
A few more …
for good measure.

The Groundhog Sticks Her Head Out of the Her Hole

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, that due the corona virus lock down, I haven’t been out much doing photography. I did manage to drive around my local community getting some photos of the spring flowers and flowering trees. I also checked up on two of my local state parks, which were well attended by people glad to get out of the house while maintaining a safe distance from others.

The local; cherry trees are in bloom.
Tulips are always lovely.
This pony at Ridley Creek State Park finds things greener on the other side of the fence.
These horses aren’t bothered by Covid 19.
I love this barn at Hope Springs Farm at Marsh Creek State Park.
It has a great silo.
The horses were enjoying a day in the pasture.
Down at the West Launch a kayaker is getting ready to shove off.
Someone else has a faster way to get around.

Socially distant dispersed outdoor recreational fun was had by all.

The Harbingers of Spring

Some people identify the American robin with the coming of Spring. For me, it’s the late winter passing of hordes of snow geese through Pennsylvania that foretells of Spring right around the corner. In late February, hundreds of thousands of snow geese can be present at the same time at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties. I didn’t make it to Middle Creek this year, opting instead to view geese, along with some other rarer species, that had been reported at Woods Edge Park in Lancaster County.

You may remember Woods Edge Park as they place I went to view the black-bellied whistling duck. This time around, a pink-footed goose, Ross’s goose, cackling goose and Virginia rail had been reported at the pond in the park. These are all species I had never seen before. By the time I arrived the next Saturday, large numbers of snow geese were present. I was able to see the Ross’s goose and the cackling goose, but not the pink-footed or the rail. Still, two “lifers” in one day is pretty good.

There was a steady stream of birders through the park that day. None that I spoke to had success spotting the rare pink-footed goose. I did learn how to identify two other species of goose and something new about the snow goose.

This is a Ross’s goose. Note how it looks like a small snow goose with a shorter bill.
Here’s a cackling goose. This one looks like a smaller Canada goose with shorter neck and bill.
Some snow geese – the “blue morph” snow goose is in front. Behind is an adult white snow goose and a juvenile in the rear. I did not realize the blue morph existed.
Are you talking about me?
Lots ‘o geese.
A partial view of the throng.

A nice, short and sweet day out. This location seems pretty productive for birding despite its small size. I will probably be back again at some point.

A Festival of {Fire} and Ice

I recently discovered the Lititz Fire and Ice Festival, although it is now in its 15th year. This year’s festival was held February 14 and 15. Of course, I had to check it out. It is called the Fire and Ice festival because it features ice sculptures on downtown Lititz, Pennsylvania streets and a live pyrotechnics show. The local high school also hosts a carnival and chili cook off. There is live music as well at two locations and a variety of vendors and food trucks. The festival is mostly free, except for a $1 donation per person for the pyrotechnic show and suggested donation for parking.

There were over 70 ice sculptures this year. Once carved, the ice sculptures are at the mercy of Mother Nature. However, due to the cold weather, they held up very well. The festival is well attended, but the crowds aren’t crazy. Photographing those ice sculptures may be a challenge. Lititz is a lovely town and well worth a visit any time of year if you prefer a less crowded scene. Festival information can be found at http://lititzfireandice.com.

This dog was the most popular festival goer.
This says it all – fun, ice sculptures and chocolate.
A lot of the ice sculptures allowed you get into the action.
Yet another elf.
I really thought this bench made from the tailgate of a Chevy truck was cool.
Who loves Mexican?
Photographing this one was a challenge.
The Visitor’s Center and an historic train caboose.
The entry to Lititz Springs Park with the former Wilbur Chocolate plant in the rear.
This is just adorable.
Nearly York entertains the crowd.

A few more ice sculptures for good measure.

Amereican Flag Heart
I feel like I should recognize this character but don’t.

You will notice a lack of “fire” in this post. Due to the very long line, cold weather, and the fact that I was tired, I did not get to see the pyrotechnic show. Maybe I will next year. Basically, I am a wimp.

Just a Little Snow

I took a drive through Berks County recently after a recent snowstorm. The snowfall turned out to be lighter than expected, so by the time I arrived the next day, not much was left. This is a pretty part of Pennsylvania, and I will have to return sometime this year to take some more photos.

A farm near Plowville.
I really loved the look of this red barn.
The obsession with Christmas tree farms continues at Plow Farms.

We’ve been a little light on snow this Winter. I count this as mostly a good thing. Snow does make for pretty photographs, though.

Good News about Milk

It is well recognized that milk is a great source of protein, calcium, and Vitamin D, potassium and other essential nutrients that can aid in bone growth, heart health, building muscle and warding off cancer. Recent research highlights some additional benefits of milk you may not be aware of.

In a recent paper published by researchers at Scotland’s Saint Andrews University, skim milk topped a list of common beverages when it came to providing oral hydration. Milk beat out water, sports drinks and oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte. Electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, contribute to better hydration. Calories in beverages result in slower gastric emptying and, therefore, slower release of urination, resulting in better hydration. The thirteen beverages tested, listed in order of hydration, were skim milk, oral rehydration solutions (like Pedialyte), full fat milk, orange juice, cola, diet cola, cold tea, tea, sports drinks, still water, sparkling water, lager and coffee.  While coffee ranks lowest for hydration, adding milk to the coffee may counter some of coffee’s diuretic effects.

The reason why milk is so effective compared to water is because of its combination of sugar lactose, protein, and tiny fat percentage. These substances slow down the rate at which fluids are emptied from the stomach which provides longer-lasting hydration. Moreover, milk contains electrolytes like sodium and potassium which helps your body retain the fluids in your bloodstream for a longer period of time rather than quickly processing it into urine.

This information may be especially important for individuals who dehydrate rapidly, such as athletes and those doing strenuous labor. The body relies on hydration to fight infections, carry nutrients throughout the body and lubricate joints. It appears hydration should be added to the list of the superpowers of milk.

Chocolate milk also received a special notice for its role in helping high school athletes outperform peers who did not drink chocolate milk in a study done by the University of Texas at Austin. Researchers in that study highlighted chocolate milk’s carbohydrate to protein ratio compared to beverages such as sports drinks. The research was conducted in 2018 and published in the 2019 Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. It showed that, in strength tests, high school athletes drinking chocolate milk lifted 3.5% more than before the study while the adolescents drinking a commercial sports drink lifted 3.2% less than before.

Drinking chocolate milk within 30 minutes after a workout rehydrates, repairs and replenishes the body. The naturally occurring electrolytes and 90% water content rehydrate, while the 8 grams of protein helps repair muscles. The carbohydrate to protein ratio in chocolate milk was shown to be more beneficial than carbohydrate only sports drinks in improving athlete performance as part of a strength and speed training at a high school level. Previous studies all looked at adults, but never at before at high school athlete for whom nutrition is especially critical.

Chocolate milk contains carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, as well as water and electrolytes, which may be ideal for post-exercise recovery. The evidence regarding the efficacy of chocolate milk compared to either water or other “sport drinks” on post-exercise recovery markers was also reviewed by researchers in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition who conducted an analysis of twelve different studies on it effects. They concluded that “chocolate milk provides either similar or superior results when compared to placebo or other recovery drinks. Overall, the evidence is limited and high-quality clinical trials with more well-controlled methodology and larger sample sizes are warranted.”

So it seems we have even more reason to drink up.

The Historic Pawling Farm

The Pawling Farm is part of Valley Forge National Historical Park and sits on the Perkiomen Peninsula, which is created by a bend in the Schuylkill River near its confluence with the Perkiomen Creek. This area played a critical role in the winter encampment of George Washington’s troops in 1777-78. It was a strategically important avenue of approach from the north to the encampment on the south side of the river and also served as the site of a commissary function that saved the troops from starvation. The National Park Service brochure on the area can be found here.

Currently the property’s main buildings include an old barn, a small home (which currently appears to be in use), a privy building, and the remains of the old mansion. The mansion was lost to fire in 1967 and is now a ruin. There are hiking trails which connect to the rest of the Valley Forge system and a mix of habitats including meadow, forest, wetlands, and vernal ponds.

The old barn is an impressive structure.
A view of the house and barn. You can see here that the barn is a bank barn like the one in Sugartown in my previous post.
The house that remains on the property, apparently the only building still in use.
The area immediately around the buildings is meadow which is cut for hay.
More hay bales, just because I like hay bales.
According to my research, this building was used as a privy.
The privy with the remains of another building behind it.

Here are some overview shots and other views of the farm.

Have a Happy New Year

I hope everyone is having a happy holiday season. Christmas season for me lasts until Epiphany, so I thought I’d throw in some additional holiday cheer from a local office building. I love the open, sunny interior of this building and all the plants.

A Little Lancaster County Christmas Closer to Home

Here is a look around the Lancaster County Farmers Market in Strafford. It’s not in Lancaster County, so I suspect the name has more to do with the origin of some of the vendors. This is a great place no matter.

At the produce stand.
A little holiday decor with your produce.
Now, this is my kind of holiday display.
A little coffee to go with those sweets.
Decisions, decisions …
A little assistance for a boy at the candy counter.