Friday, October 10, 2014

A Morning on the Elk Range

Our son Chad and his wife Sandy spent a week with my wife and I during mid-September.  Now living in the Orlando Florida area, this was the first Chad had been able to get back home in seven years and was Sandy's first visit ever.  Each day of their vacation was planned with Chad wanting to visit family and old friends.  While most of their time was spent together, Tuesday was a guys and gals day; a day where the guys went their own way to do their thing and the gals did likewise.  For Chad and I the plans called for a day trip to Benezette, the heart of the Pennsylvania elk range while the gals headed for a beauty shop. 
Chad and I were on the road by 3:30 am and arrived at our destination around 6:00.  As we climbed the hill, among the elk bugles ringing from the ridges I could hear the deep roar of Limpy, the icon of Winslow Hill.  Heading toward the roar, we soon encountered Limpy with a small harem of cows and a couple of satellite bulls nearby. 

 Limpy Roaring

 Limpy, named for a limp he developed after becoming injured in a fight during the 2010 rut, is a dominate mature bull.  I have been photographing him each year beginning in 2009.  His photographs have graced a number of Pa Game Commission publications including the current calendar and the Game News.

Chad photographing Limpy

Limpy is a completely trusting animal as shown here while passing between myself and a group of elk viewers.

The old boy paused to bugle with the onlookers in the background

This was Chad's first time on the Elk Range and it wasn't difficult to see that he was enjoying the shoot.

During the course of the morning we spotted a number of other bulls, however the overcast skies and the short mowed grass just didn't provide the conditions for outstanding elk photography that I was hoping for.
After the elk had retired to the woodland the leaden skies finally opened up with beautiful white clouds scuttling across the sky and their accompanying shadows dancing across the landscape painting in an ever-changing pattern of sun and shadow.

After stopping in at the visitor's center and another stop at the Benezette Store Restaurant for a Big Ben's Burger, it was time to head for home.

While in past years I have been spending the best part of a week on the elk range during the rut; this day-trip would be my only opportunity to photograph the rutting bulls this year.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Barn Wrap-up and Moving On

While the barn restoration will be an ongoing project for quite some time to come, we finally reached my goal for this year of returning the barn to a usable condition.
In early September I got some much needed help when Willard and his son-in-law Justin joined me for a barn work day.  Our work that day consisted of laying plywood over the barn floor.  Some of the barn floor was double layer boards while most of the mows were single layer.  Adding the plywood over the single layer areas gave it strong smooth floor.
Willard and Justin working up a sweat

A finished section

With the stable finished, the cattle was able to return.

A group of young animals penned, ready to be shipped to market.
I must admit that while caring for the small herd I became attached to these animal and it was with a heavy heart that I watched them go.
The year's barn restoration wrapped up just in time for me to enjoy the fall colors.  What is more beautiful on a foggy fall morning than some brightly colored leaves and a derelict country farm house.

Driving back to the site of still empty Meadow Grounds Lake I was pleased to see the above sign.  The Friends of the Meadow Grounds Lake continue to work towards the restoration and currently are in the midst of the fundraising campaign. 

The small pool remaining at the dam made the perfect background for a dew laden spider's web.
Thank you for visiting and stop back soon

Saturday, September 20, 2014

My Summer Barn Project: Part 6

As the summer passed the barn repairs slowly came together.  The photos in this post encompass a month's work.



Tuesday, September 09, 2014

My Summer Barn Project: Part 5

With the broken floor joist replaced, my attention turned to rebuilding the supporting wall that had previously rotted away and rebuilding or reinforcing the two end walls.  As the barn was originally built the joist beam's longest unsupported span was twelve feet, however when the supporting wall had rotted away the beams then spanned nineteen feet, much too far to safely support the floor load normally associated with a working barn.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

My Summer Barn Project: Part 4

Frank and Elaine posted questions on Part 3 that I will answer here.  I do not know when the barn was originally built but from the stories related to me by my grandfather I would assume that it was somewhere around 1920.  My grandfather and grandmother purchased the farm in 1927 and the buildings were relatively new.  According to Granddad's stories there was an earlier house and barn sitting to the east of the current buildings.  The original buildings were razed with parts of them used in the construction of the current buildings.  Granddad noted on occasion that some of the log beams from the old barn had been reused in the current barn.  If that was the case some of the logs would be well over a century old.

I began the barn project the first week of June.  The photos in part one were taken at that time.  The photos for part two and three were taken over the next three weeks.  The photos in part four were all taken on June 28.  This was a day when some family and a friend gathered to give me a hand with building and hanging the replacement beams.  Thanks to Willard, Justin, Paul, and the occasional inspection by my lovely niece Amy, the day ended with all of the new beams built and secured in place.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Summer Barn Project: Part 3

With the broken beams under the floor of the west hay mow, the double layer floor needed to be removed to give access.  This photo was taken before I began removal.  Note the sway in the floor.  My wife shot the photos of me pulling up the floor.


With the flooring removed, the broken logs beams were exposed for removal.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Summer Barn Project: Part 2

As with all renovation projects, this project began with demolition and clean-up.  My goal was to keep as much of the original barn as possible, doing only a limited renovation.  The photos below were taken over the course of a few evenings.  Keeping up with other chores about the farm and holding full time employment limited my work to evening and a few Saturdays. 
Demolition began with the removal of the mangers.

Barn with girder removed

View from opposite end

The last photo shows the temporary supporting structure used to hold the broken beams in place while the floor above was removed.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Summer Barn Project: Part 1

For those of you who have faithfully followed Country Captures over the years have noticed I have not updated the blog much over the past few months.  With the passing of my father many decisions needed to be made.  Some of those decisions had to do with the future of our farm, the cattle and the building.  Having decided to continue raising cattle my attention turned to the buildings.  As dad had grown old and infirm the farm buildings had been allowed to fall into disrepair as well.  Willard and I closely examined each building to determine what was worth saving and what needed raised while keeping in mind the building needs consistent with our vision of the farm's future.  The barn, the cornerstone of farm, was of major concern.
The following photos were taken following manure removal.

While it showed major signs of disrepair and some structure issues with seven floor beams being broken, all in all it was deemed structurally sound and worthy of repair.  In future post I will walk you through my summer project of whipping the old barn back into a usable piece of farm infrastructure.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Cedar Waxwings and a Lens Fail

While my wildlife photography time has been greatly limited this year I also experience the sickening feeling of aligning the 600mm rig on a Red-headed Woodpecker only to hear a rapid ratcheting sound as the lens attempted to find focus but could not.  After trying the lens on another camera and finding it to perform the same there was only one thing to do; return it to Canon for repair.  I expected the lens back within ten days but this time it took a full two weeks.  Unlike the time when I dropped and broke it two years ago and it took two trips back to Canon to get it right; this time when it came back it worked properly.  With the 600 back I was ready to exploit a flock of Cedar Waxwings that have taken to catching insects on the wing at a nearby creek crossing.  Setting up the camera rig it was only a short time before the colorful little masked bandit birds were perching nearby.

These little birds must be observed closely to see the beautiful earth colors of their plumage highlighted by the tiny but brilliant splashes of red and yellow.  So now with the big lens back in business and summer winding down I hope to eek out a little more time for wildlife photography before the autumn elk and whitetail ruts begin.