Tag: Thoughts

The Great Blizzard of 2018

Suzuki GS550L
Suzuki GS550L

Last night the weathermen were very excited about another Nor’easter heading towards Lancaster overnight and continuing into today bringing up to nine inches of snow and probably a complete apocalypse. School closings were flashing on the screen and then a special notice about vehicles prohibited from major roads, including motorcycles.

I thought that was strange because most motorcycle owners know that bikes don’t handle well in heavy wet snow. Its hard enough on a warm summer day to do 80mph on back roads here without hitting a deer or getting a speeding ticket (with a lawyer and a little luck that ticket can be reduced to 45 in a 40 with no points).

When I woke up it was snowing pretty heavily and I was about to head to my survival shelter but after checking my email and the weather channel I saw that the forecast had changed to an inch or less. This is not the reason I dropped out of my meteorology class in college but if anyone ever asks I’ll say it was.

George Carlin as the Hippy Dippy Weatherman knew how to keep things simple and accurate. He used to say: “Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.” He also said: “Some people have no idea what they’re doing, and a lot of them are really good at it.” Touché.

Nothing Is Free

Free for the taking
Free for the taking

Toba Beta, author of Master of Stupidity wrote: “Nothing is for free, even in heaven.” But driving around the back roads of Lancaster, Pennsylvania today I proved him wrong. I was thinking about nothing in particular when I saw them, not one, not two but three FREE gently used tractor tires.

I stopped to take a look, wondering what I could do with such a generous gift from a simple Amish farmer. My first thought was to buy a tractor, but I don’t have a garage. Then I considered making tire swings for the kids, but I live in an apartment and don’t have any kids.

After what seemed like hours but was probably minutes of racking my brain I realized that I had no need for them at all. But it bothered me, after all they were free. As free as a fly, as free as light, as free as a mountain bird, but to me they were useless unless I become a hoarder (briefly considered).

Robert A. Heinlein once said: “Nothing of value is free. Even the breath of life is purchased at birth only through gasping effort and pain.” Dammit.

Thoughts on a cloudy day


“There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. Keep to this truth. You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?” Dalai Lama

Before the fall


So I’m driving around early this morning thinking about the big questions in life: Is a pumpkin a gourd, and just how do you spell gourd? Between that and the meaning of the new Taylor Swift song my mind was reeling.

Then I saw two Amish kids setting up a farm stand. They had some big Turk’s Turbans which look like pumpkins but are actually squash, and all kinds of gourds for sale. I stopped to take a quick photo while these kids talked my ear off about everything from corn to camel’s milk.

It turns out that pumpkins, squash and gourds are members of the same family but they are actually all squash. As for the correct spelling, the Amish seem to think that gourds are spelled ghourds, unless this only applies to mini ghourds.

Later I read more about Taylor’s new song and decided I couldn’t care less, but the important thing is that fall is coming and these mini gourds (ghourds) are only five for a dollar. The turbans were $3 each so I passed, but I may go back because I could be the first kid on my block to have one.

Big Stereotypes

Big Amos
Big Amos

This is Big Amos, the Barefoot Amish Giant and he stands at the Hershey Farm Restaurant in Strasburg, Pennsylvania misleading tourists and locals that know nothing about the Amish culture.

The definition of a stereotype is a widely held and oversimplified idea of a particular type of person or thing, and like all stereotypes this is as wrong as wearing a straw hat backwards.

First of all Amos is fifteen feet tall, very few Amish men are that size except for a few on the big, big farms where they spend most of their time making giant chairs and scaring the cows.

Amos also stands there and smiles while you take his photo, which does not happen in real life. Some Amish men will let you photograph them but they look at you like they know you stole their chickens but can’t prove it.

This kind of misinformation only confuses tourists who expect all Amish men to look like this and leads to disappointment when they discover that the average farmer is normal sized and wears shoes or boots (very important around well fed horses).

It’s been said that ignorance is bliss, which brings to mind the story of the Amish farmer and the tourist. Pay attention because there’s a moral in there somewhere.

A tourist stopped in at the farm where old Elmer Yoder was busy pumping water with his hand pump. “Where’s route forty?” the tourist asked. Elmer ignored him, continuing to draw water. “Where’s route forty?” the tourist now shouted. Old Elmer continued filling his bucket. “Are you ignorant or deaf?” the tourist shouted next. “Both,” Elmer said, finally turning around. “But at least I’m not lost.”

Signs That Horses are Intelligent

Give them a sign
Give them a sign

Back in 1966 Mister Ed went to college to become a veterinarian so he could help his friends beat the high cost of medical care. 50 years later here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania most horses are home schooled, which is more convenient and much less expensive.

Although not all horses are taught to read at a college level, the ones that pull the buggies are encouraged to develop basic skills including the ability to read signs. This is almost a necessity these days with all the confusing traffic rules like turning right on red.

You can lead a horse to water but if he finds it himself he has a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance. Note: we don’t know if horses are color blind but for the ones reading this I felt it was better in black and white.

Buying the Farm

The Farm
The Farm

As I get older I find myself thinking a lot about buying the farm. There are two ways to do it: one is to quit your job (if you have one) and literally buy a farm in the middle of nowhere, the other way is to stop breathing.

I know that everyone will buy the farm sooner or later and to deny it is futile, but I have to wonder what it will be like. Will it be an endless succession of meaningless working days like Sisyphus rolling a rock uphill for eternity, or will it be more like Green Acres?

I like to imagine that being on the farm with my wife Lisa will be frustrating but there will still be good times. Mr. Haney will finally sell me a washing machine that works. Sam Drucker will eventually get those seeds I ordered, and the girls from Petticoat Junction will move into the guest house (Lisa is fine with it).

And one stormy day while sitting around the general store, Eb will ask me if I think the rain will hurt the rhubarb. And I’ll smile because I learned the answer to that question long ago working with a Polish house painter. Not if it’s in the can Eb, not if it’s in the can.

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour?
The Golden Hour?

The golden hour, also known as the magic hour, refers to the period just after sunrise or just before sunset, and its length depends on where you are and what time of year it is.

Some say that the golden hour is an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. It seems as easy as falling off a log, just show up at the right time and your photos will be amazing right? No.

The afternoon is a lot easier for several reasons. You can see where the sun is and decide where you want to be. You can also decide if it’s worth waiting around or if the clouds will block out all that beautiful light. Also there’s a good chance you’re already awake.

I prefer the morning because I’m a masochist, and because it’s usually much calmer. But instead of finishing dinner and heading out late afternoon I have to set my alarm, fortunately I have insomnia so I’m already up.

If you’re taking photos in your backyard you can wake up at first light or slightly earlier, otherwise you need to give yourself a few hours. Consider the drive, stopping for coffee, reflecting on the meaning of life (should be done while it’s still dark) and time to set everything up.

So today I got up at 3:30, decided to go out at 4 and was in place with coffee reflecting by 5:00. I watched the sky get light, the clouds open up then close again before it got darker and a few minutes later it rained.

Of course you can take photos anytime, especially if you’re not shooting landscapes, you just won’t have that warm, magic light that photographers crave, you also won’t have to get up knowing it might rain on your parade.

Walt Whitman once said: “To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.” It may help to tell yourself that while waiting for the storm to pass and realizing that you could easily be in bed dreaming of rainbows and unicorns.

Note: rainbows only happen near the golden hour when the sun is low in the sky and unicorns are rarely found in the daytime, plus you need a virgin to lure them in close enough for a good shot.