Making hay June 2020

This cathartic video from above shows 5 minutes of the process of making hay on our farm. There is no music or narrative. Just make it the size of your screen and enjoy the process.

We gathered 34 round bales of hay in this first cut of 2020.

Things generally slow down this time a year. With the virus things are REALLY slow right now. Everything I’d normally do in the spring, summer and fall is cancelled. There are no vacations planned or other distractions that would normally happen in a summer. This doesn’t look to change before the end of the year.

Health, Family, work and hobbies; I’m blessed to have all these near me.

After the hay bales are wrapped they have to be moved to a place they can be placed on a trailer and placed under a barn roof. This hay is for horses so it must be kept dry.

For some reason I am drawn to the engineering of making hay. There was a time when it would take 5-6 people to do this work and it would take 2-4 times to get the same amount of hay off the ground. Now 1-2 people can do it in a day.

Hopefully we’ll get 1-2 more cuttings this year. The air is cool and we are getting plenty of rain. The grasses love this grow environment. So if the trends of cooler summer and consistent rain continues the hay yield will be high this year.

Sunset surprise

After work yesterday I took my drone out for some practice run. It was foggy overcast and I thought the sun had already gone down because there were no sun rays on the ground. As I took off and got some altitude it was clear the sun had not set yet.

I’m always amazed at the photos that I can stitch together using the shitty little camera onboard a Mavic drone. I shoot them in raw so I can manipulate them on my computer to bring out the colors better. From the ground it was overcast and dark already. So it was fun to capture some of the last color and rays of the day.

You can create a ton of media very quickly. Over the last 10 or so years I’ve learned how to take that media, rename it, organize it into folders by date so it can all be cataloged properly. I don’t do that to make my life easier today. I do it so that when I go back and look at this 5-10 years later I know everything about the situation; where I was, what I was doing, notes about the day, my mood, etc. That takes a ton of practice and disipline.

Then as I was going to bed I looked out and the strawberry moon was hanging out in the fog. So I got a telescope out to peer at that for a while. It’s always amazing to see the moon through a nice telescope with all it’s mountains and other features. My iphone can take a decent picture thorough the same lens as I look with my eyes. It’s not the best, but it’s OK.

As seen from my iPhone looking through a telescope and some fog.

It’s incredibly bright even through the fog. It’s best to use a filter to tone down the brightness but I didn’t have that available to me when I took this. You get the idea.

Sheltering in place is still the norm around here. Working from home has been my modis operandi lately. It’s been that way for the better part of the last 25 years so not much has changed. I just don’t see many people I work with anymore except through the computer lens. That doesn’t look like it will change for the rest of 2020.

As of yesterday the remaining events that I would attend this year have been cancelled. That leaves my summer 100% available back to me to do with what I want. That hasn’t happened in so long I can’t remember. So I’ll spend it working around the farm, learning new things, working and hopefully a vacation or two if that is even possible.

I hope your skies are as pretty as mine.

Strap on a GoPro? Will it fly?

Today I was out flying my glider with air so laminar that it appeared from the ground that there was no turbulence. I though, “Hey, I should record this!”

So I land, go inside and get this GoPro Hero 3 sitting on my desk and put some Velcro on the bottom then attached it to my glider as near the CG as I could get it. I had no idea if it would fly well with the camera attached which will no doubt introduce a ton of drag because it is not small at all. Or light.

I was surprised how well it actually flew and even more surprised to see the footage from the GoPro when I got on the ground.

This plane has no FPV (First Person View) optics on it so I fly it 100% by hand and with only visual cues from the ground. From the ground you do not get a sense of how things are going on board the aircraft except from what you can see from the ground. I’ve always wondered what it was like up in the sky with this lumbering old bird.

I call it the pterodactyl because it looks like an old dinosaur. I recovered it from a box that was destined for the trash at the hands of others. I thought that I’d put it back together but it was low on my list of plane priorities. But one day I did put it back together, added a motor, motor controller, radios, servos and the like and got it back in the air. It’s one of my favorites now.

It’s a circa 1970 balsa glider that was designed to be launched with a rubber band from the ground then flown into the thermals from there. It was only designed to be turned with rudder and elevator. I added ailerons to the wings as well which gives me much more control of the large wing it has.

Will I crash?

This video is pieces of a 10 minute flight. I cut out a ton of it so it wasn’t so boring.

I hope you’re having a nice day!

Take care.

Gathering firewood.

There’s nothing nicer in the winter than sitting in front of a fireplace with a large supply of wood fuel.

A while back during a wind storm we had a locust tree blow down. It was a tall one at about 70 feet. When it came down it took down a bunch of other trees with it. These things are heavy!

Yesterday I went out to cut it in 6-10 foot sections where I can use my grapple to get them in a clearing where I can cut them into firewood sized chunks that can be split and stacked for the rest of the winter.

We use this firewood every day in the winter to keep our home warm. It is a nice source of renewable stored energy. When we use the fireplace it can be 10º outside and still be 75º inside.

We have a nice wood burning stove in our fireplace as an insert. Its a “reburner” which means it burns extra clean and put out almost no smoke from the chimney. And gets wicked hot.

The first step in getting a bunch of firewood is gathering all the wood into one location. The next step, which I’ll be doing today, is cutting, splitting and stacking it so we can have it dried out for the rest of the winter by the time we run out of what we already have.

Years ago I stopped buying pre-cut timber to burn in our fireplace and replace that wood with wood from our own property. We have plenty of wood here that falls on it’s own or a tree that dies that needs to be cut down. This also gives me an opportunity to clean out the underbrush as much as I can, trim the smaller trees, cut down all the vine that is so ugly and allow us to walk and enjoy the trees and wildlife that hangs around in them.

These days a truck load of timber can cost $600. That’s about a cord of wood. Its not much. Its a little work and time but I enjoy doing this.

I especially enjoy sitting in front of a blazing hot fireplace in the middle of winter around here.

Sunsets after a storm.

Lately it hasn’t rained much around here except for the occasional thunderstorm that rolls by. It has, however, been very humid especially in the evenings after the sun goes down.

We do get these crazy sunsets at night after a storm rolls through. The air is thick but calm. The cicada and other noise makers are out in earnest. We have two new hoot owls that make their noises right as the sun is going down.

When all this is going on it looks like this:

Sunset August 16, 2019.

This photo was taken by my DJI drone about 40 feet above my driveway just as the sun was setting behind the Appalachian trail.

I would say that a good 80% of the sunsets look like this when the sun is actually out. It’s either like this or completely clear.

This is my favorite time of the day. My work is done, the pressure is off, I can sit and relax and just enjoy where I am.

I love where I live. It’s been a long and winding road to enjoy these sunsets.

One last snow storm.

It’s February 21.

I woke this morning with ice covered snow. Snow is not unusual for this time of the year. It feels strange only because I think I’m done with the winter of 2018/2019. I am ready for spring.

Like last year, I’ve not had to use my snow thrower to move large amounts of snow as in years past. It sits quiet, thankfully, in the barn. I don’t have to work in the weather now so I let the snow do what the snow is gonna do.

Today it’s been warmer than it’s been since I’ve been physically here this winter. The current temperature in the front yard is 55ºF so the snow is quickly melting. Because of the temperature difference between the ground and the air we get the low fog and cloud layers in the morning.

Sunrise after a snow storm.

I missed the 65º “Indian Summer” when I was gone for work a few weeks ago. So the 55º was as warm as I’ve seen it this winter. We normally get a few days like this each year in between the really cold weather we otherwise have.

It’s fun to take the drone up through the fog in the clear above. Things look so different up there where the birds fly.

I don’t know how to get a shot like this without the use of a drone (or helicopter).

The lonely tree; It now has a large broken branch from all the ice and wind.

This winter has been nice. At night when there is no wind Its super quiet around here above a layer of ice. I’m glad we have four seasons here.

I’m glad spring is just around the corner.

More snow; More cold.

Yesterday we had another snow storm roll through this area. The snow didn’t amount to much. We did get more than was predicted which left quite the wintery landscape behind.

The above was video taken from my drone while the following is from my Nikon camera using an intervalometer:

I’m almost never in a position to use my nicer cameras to do time lapse photography like this. It’s not hard but quite time consuming so if you have to baby sit the camera you can’t be working like I have been lately. But stuck in my home and working at my desk allowed me the time to monitor the camera while it took 1000 images through the day.

Ironically, the above uploaded on to YouTube is about half the actual resolution of the images. You tube and other services take out so much of the quality to save storage space and not use so much bandwidth.

The camera was set up for manual images with fixed focus, fixed aperture and fixed f-stop. All of the rest was done with software. I use Adobe Lightroom to do the heavy image edits, crops and the like. And then LRTimelapse (Version 4) to put together the time lapse. LRT is very cool and powerful software.

And the drone also takes some very unique images in raw image format so that the image can be manipulated very easily post production.

The Lonely Tree in undisturbed snow after a storm.

I like the high contrast photography I learned when I was 16/17 years of age. Back then I would look through all the Ansel Adams photographs in awe of how he accomplished such unique high-contrast black and white photography.

He’s gone now but I can’t wait to tell him about drones.  He would carry his camera gear on his back, spend days/weeks in the wilderness to get the perfect image.

I flew my drone from my front porch in between work meetings to get this one. Things have changed. Photography has really changed even in my lifetime.

Stay warm!

Lovettsville Oktoberfest 2018

This past weekend we celebrated fall in our small community of Lovettsville at the 9th annual Lovettsville Oktoberfest. It’s grown from a small event taking essentially one city block, a few vendors, beer truck and such to the event it is today supporting tens of thousands of visitors to the small town.

I flew the drone over the event and visited the main tent with the music and merged the two together.

I’m there primarily to help the Loudoun Amateur Radio Group (LARG) support the communications for the event. We play a critical role in helping coordinate public safety of the event each year. Our time is purely voluntary but the effort is very professional. This is our 9th consecutive year of supporting Oktoberfest at Lovettsville.

Oktoberfest 2009 to 2018

One of the more compelling events of Oktoberfest is the Wiener Dog Race. The dogs and training staff work on their skill set all year long to pull off this compelling event. Here is a very brief video of one of the races of this day.

We set up in two locations each year and then many of the members “roam” the event and provide another channel to help with anyone who many need it. It’s proven critically important the last few years.

2018 Lovettsville Oktoberfest – Radio Crew at the small tent

The crew above was just who was there when this picture was taken. There were many others who helped this weekend. Hats off to everyone who helped us!

The venue has changed in a very big way from when we started years ago. There are so many more people there now! The first event was likely less than 1000 people. This year it was tens of thousands but I have no idea how many were actually there.

If you come next  year and want an easier parking experience come on your motorcycle! That’ll shorten every bit of your time fiddling with traffic at this crazy intersection we call the “Squirkle”. It’s not quite a square; not quite a circle and takes 119 signs to help people navigate it properly. When it was first put in and operational it was quiet a fiasco. Lovettsville is different. I’ll leave it at that.

The food was great, the crowd was well behaved and seemed to have a good time. Lots of people were in the tents listening to the music, dancing and mingling with their friends.

After helping here I picked up my wife and we went for a motorcycle ride. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

We’ve past the Solar Equinox.

It’s inevitable that the days will get much shorter now that the sun has past the equator as a highest point in the sky. We’re into fall now and headed to winter. The trees have started to change color once again.

Sunset past the solar equinox

For me the mood can be a bit melancholy in the winter months. We seem to have more cloudy days than sunny and even the sunny days will be uber short in the coming months. I prefer the longer and hotter days of summer. Its 59º outside as I write this on September 23, 2018. It’s as hot as it’s going to be today. And, of course, it’s raining all day today.  Since I can’t really work outside I’ve decided to hang out inside all day.

Looking north towards Harpers Ferry and the Potomac River

We live at 39º north latitude which enjoys a pretty wide swing of all of the seasons. Here’a 10 second video of two sunsets. One is on the longest day of the year around June 21 and the other right at the equinox three months later on September 21.

The taile of Two Sunrises

The sun will continue south until around December 22 when it’ll turn back north and signal the start of winter. That’s when it gets really cold around here.

Since we go on walks every day together we’re going to have to get used to the colder weather coming. The seasons change just slow enough that we figure out how to tolerate the cold before it’s thrust upon us. All of the cats do the same thing when they go out in the cold; they shake their front paws and whence before they jump outside. They would never wear a boot/sock or “clothes” to keep warm preferring instead to just be outside. Well, Mongrel anyway. The girl cats prefer to be inside all the time. Still their coats will become very thick soon as a part of the changing seasons.

Tolerating my shenanigans before going on a walk

Neither of us are totally happy to be stuck inside while it rains. Mongrel meows at me as if I can turn it all off and we can go for a walk together. You see, he doesn’t like his paws wet either. And I can’t turn off the rain. It’s interesting he thinks I can. It’s an elevated view of this clowder leader.

He doesn’t like me at my computer. His reminders to go on walks help me get out of this office and outside when we can. Today just won’t be one of those days where we take our three walks a day. Or tomorrow, Tuesday and likely most of Wednesday. But later in the week looks super. We need 4-5 days of sunshine and no rain to finish some projects around here.

The calm before the rain storm.

In another few hours it will start raining. I’m writing this after the fact not knowing exactly when it’ll start and how much it rains but what I did know is that we needed the rain.

When we go from dry to wet the sunsets before are pretty spectacular.

Sunset July 20, 2017

I do my best to capture what it looks like around here when the sky changes during the golden hour of dusk. The photo is nothing like standing around here watching the hues change from harsh light to pastel. Then the light fades into infrared glow and then, around here at least, total darkness.

Surface of Jupiter? Or hay field?

No, just some hay bales from 400 feet above.

20 years ago I wracked my brain trying to figure out how to get a camera elevated to take some photos. I figured that the view up there with a still camera that could be somehow controlled would make for interesting photography.

My process was a complicated and unscientific process involving a big kite and a windy day; the polar opposite of what I do today. But I kept trying because I just knew there would be interesting photography up there. I knew this because I flew an airplane and wanted a way to capture the beauty of what I saw when I flew.

My ideas didn’t amount to much. Most of the photography I have is from a camera in my hand while at the controls of an aircraft flying over 100 miles an hour. Hardly stationary but with some work I could get the photos I was looking for. But boy was it expensive and time consuming.

I’m glad I was able to see this process unfold in my lifetime. This is a view you can only get from a stationary platform relatively close to earth but high enough to see the contrast that will tell a story.

The photo above is a story of mid-summer harvest. The fruit of someone’s planning. Some of the bales are new and some are from the last harvest. Still, there must be a need for this stored energy.

They made hay while it was dry and made some interesting etching on the earth in the process.

It would rain the next day. Four inches of rain fell from the sky and turned everything deep green again around here.