Dad’s Day Drive

Happy belated Father’s Day to all the dads out there.  In our house it is referred to as Paw Paw’s Day.  No human children around here, just the furry four-legged kind, our wieners.   We decided to take a break from yard work and take a much deserved leisurely drive through the countryside.  Our travels took us from Red Wing over into Wisconsin to Elmwood, Spring Valley, Woodville and Baldwin.   We had lovely weather with bright blue skies and my favorite big poofies were aloft; floating through the sky.

I am not sure what is so fascinating about a cow, but almost every time we see some we stop and chat with them.  A big ‘ol MooOOOOoo always gets their attention and 9 time out of 10 they will come closer to the roadside.  The wieners like to check them out as well as take in all the interesting smells of the country.

We didn’t run into any abandoned properties this round.  We did  see the wonderful rolling hills, green grasses, farm fields, spring streams,  barns, wildlife and we even stumbled upon an Amish community that I didn’t know was there and this close.

It was a great Paw Paw Day.  Back roadin’ with Cyndie and the girls is my all-time favorite pastime.  Life is great.


2013: Week #21Photography

Week 21; only a few weeks away from the mid-point of 2013.  Although Spring has sprung, the weather has suffered a sprain.  The plus side is that we did receive some much-needed rain.  Quite a variety this week…from sun rays to Amish fishing, with old cars, a trailer park and a round barn in between.  I ran into the Amish returning from a work trip in Detroit Lakes.  The couple I saw were enjoying some fishing on Sauk Lake just outside of Sauk Center, MN.  I didn’t know there were any Amish settled that far up North in Minnesota.

I’d say I was looking forward to the weekend, but it is Memorial Weekend.   Where we live that usually means a wash-out-rain-storm kind of weekend.  We’ll see – it’s only a 30-50% chance of thunderstorms for the next 5 days 🙂  Enjoy the long weekend everyone.

To review or not…

…there is no question in my mind.

Revisited – January 2013

Going back and reviewing what you have done for a period of time; in this case, month to month, can be a gratifying exercise.  I fully believe that you cannot chart a future course without continually studying and reviewing from where you have come.  Isn’t that the quest we are all on with some aspect of our lives…be it a hobby, our health  or some other aspiration?

Ever since I started this blog, each month I have gone back and reviewed my shots for the month.  I call it revisited  (category/tag).  I typically pull the photos I especially like the most and often do a black & white conversion (Silver Efex Pro) on those I think would be a prime candidate.  Other times I will apply a color treatment (Color Efex Pro), dabble with faux HDR/HDR or other treatments/techniques.  Sometimes it is a simple adjustment to the composition.  Cropping an image can present it in an almost entirely different way.

It is one part fun and one part self-critique.  If you do not attempt to acquire a deeper understanding of what you are seeing/photographing and how you are presenting it to the world, as your art, what is the point then?  Just going through the motions is not enough.  Without examination and review there is no growth or betterment or your craft.

The Blair Amish Project

Ok – there really wasn’t any Blair Amish Project; it just sounded funny as we where driving around the back roads looking for Amish and anything else of interest to shoot.  Cyndie and I set aside some time to get out of the house and away from the grind for a few hours this last weekend.  We set out course for Blair, WI to check out the Amish and the Big Sand Rush.

It is Beautiful country in and around Blair, WI.  It is well within the driftless region and the hills just rolled on and on.  Up and down and all around – from valley to valley we traveled on steep hills and sandy roads.

On this wonderfully balmy afternoon, a number of Amish children were ice skating on frozen ponds or even a puddle a the pasture.  Their tidy farms were easy to spot.  Mostly with a white, blue, green or grey roof.  Nothing too flashy, as they were simple and very well maintained.

As our luck would have it and most often does, we stumbled on a few abandoned places along the way.  We didn’t spend much time exploring as we wanted to explore the Blair area.

Big Sand is very much in the area, Badger Sand to be exact.  The sand rush has been in full-swing in this area for some time now.  This Amish community is not unlike the one in Augusta.  Blair has a mammoth open-pit sand mining operation right in their back yards as well.

I spent some time on Badger’s website reading about their environmental health & Safety.  They talk a great game about reclamation & environmental commitment; they even have some examples and they look great too.  I can’t help but to feel extremely skeptical about it all.  You can fill in the hole, make some grass grow and plant some trees, but what about the water shed?  This huge open-pit mine has a lot of wet lands around it as well as a few streams.  I hope for the sake of all in the area that live there and for those that enjoy its natural resources, that Badger Sand is for real where the environment is concerned.  Hopefully those streams and wetlands don’t end up like those in Barron County at the hands of Great Northern Sand (GNS) plant in Dovre, WI.  Their website speaks of their commitment to the environment as well.  I like their community involvement link.  GNS went out in the community and donated time rather than just cutting a check to the local school like High Crush did in Augusta.  One is perhaps more tactful and the other more blatantly obvious, but all of it is an effort to win over the community.  Sand is a very curious thing.

The nice day grew short of daylight in a hurry.  The 40+ degree weather was a wonderful bonus considering the sub-zero forecast only hours out in front of us.  The warm sunlight set the valleys aglow and cast some beautiful light.  As soon as the sun set the temp plummeted 20 degrees in about half as many minutes.  It was warm no more.

Eau Claire County, WI – Amish Country

It was a beautiful day for a “Sunday Drive.” Our sights were set on Amish country; this time in Wisconsin.

Augusta is two hours nearly straight East of St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN. Amish farmsteads dot the landscape from Augusta in the North to Osseo to the Southwest and Fairchild to the Southeast. This Amish settlement was founded in 1978 and consists of six church districts. Seventy-five percent of Wisconsin’s forty Amish communities are one or two church district.

Augusta is home to the Yoder family. Wisconsin vs. Yoder was particularly significant in regards to Amish educations. The local conflict reached the U.S. Supreme Court which resulted in a landmark 1972 decision which granted Amish and other religious groups the right to remove their children from school upon finishing the eighth grade.

It wasn’t much of a mystery as to where the Amish might be. All you have to do is look for buggy tracks or horse poo on the road. I love driving through Amish country. Their farms are very well-kept along with everything else, including beautiful vegetable and flower gardens. They are a simple and hard-working people. For the most part, they just want to be left alone to live their way.

This settlement had several sawmills and timber processing and furniture making appeared to be their Forté. Their sawmills were not the only thing visible on this rural landscape. There was something else here; something I was not aware of – something that many communities, including the Amish would rather not see at all. Something that is significantly impacting their way of life already. More on that later…