Sunday, August 26, 2012

H-m-m-m-m-m. Beep! Beep! Toot! Toot!

By James (the Long, Dark, and Handsome Buick)

Hi, I’m James and I thought you might enjoy hearing a little bit about the newest member of Joann’s family. I was hoping Joann might showcase me sooner, but she hasn’t, so I decided to do it myself.

She drove me off the dealership lot right before Christmas and she was eager to take me out for some backroads photography. However, it didn’t snow for several weeks and (I hope I don’t get in trouble for this), but rather than revel in the joy of having a new vehicle, she kept talking about how much she missed Good Car. If you want to understand why, check out all the bragging Good Car did about herself in a previous blog post.

Towards the end of January, there was finally a chance to capture some snowy scenes, so we took off early one Sunday morning and headed towards one of their favorite abandoned churches. About halfway to the church, it began to lightly sleet, so they suggested that I move them along safely, which I did. When we arrived at the church, there was no place to park because the tractor lane where they usually park was plowed in. So Joann parked me on the road and put my flashers on. If you look closely in the photo above, you will see me down the road from the church.

It was sleeting more heavily as Joann finished taking photos of the church, so they decided that they’d better start heading towards home. However, not wanting to go home with just a few photographs, they decided to make two stops on the way home. The first was a chapel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. When Joann got out to photograph it, she realized (after some flashing on my part) that the entire front of me, including my headlights, was coated in ice.

The final stop was to be Hyde’s Mill, which would be reached by traveling numerous backroads, some of which had steep embankments instead of shoulders. I could tell that Joann was getting a bit nervous, but I showed her that my big Michelin tires were pretty trustworthy and we arrived safely at the mill. Joann quickly took a few photos, hopped back in and said, “Home, James!”

In March, Joann and Ruth began talking about taking a 10-day trip to Ohio and I couldn’t wait to hit the open road. But I had to wait several weeks before we could actually leave. And, in the meantime, you wouldn’t believe all the fuss they were making about how to load me up. What was the big deal, anyway? Okay, so maybe I don’t have all the little compartments and nooks and crannies that Good Car had. But I thought that would prevent them from taking so much junk along. Alas, I thought wrong. For some reason, they think they need all that stuff. But I’m much longer than Good Car was and my cargo compartment can hold way more than she could ever have hoped to carry.

However, that meant that they couldn’t just load the compartment in the same way as they did with Good Car (you know, a place for everything and everything in its place). So, if you can believe this, they actually had a dry run of loading me up with everything the weekend before we left. I was all loaded up with nowhere to go. Sigh.

Finally, we hit the road and then the fun began. Ruth spent an awful lot of time with her nose in her research materials and saying to Joann, “Keep your eyes peeled.” It seems to work for them, but it sounds awfully painful. And speaking of research materials, Good Car was bragging about carrying a 40-lb. bag of research materials in her back seat, but that bag weighs a lot more than 40 pounds. And then, since I have so much more cargo space, Ruth brought along a large box overflowing with two additional stacks of research materials. But I knew I could handle it.

The first day we photographed our way across Illinois. The second day we photographed our way across Indiana. On the third day, we started some really serious photography in Ohio. They had me out on the road for about 14 hours each day. But I don’t mind because I get to see all sorts of great things and we stop for meals at some really nice places, like the covered bridge above.

One morning, we stopped for breakfast by an old church and cemetery. Joann asked Ruth to get breakfast ready while she “hurried” to photograph the cemetery. I now know that she can easily lose track of time in cemeteries and this was no exception. After about an hour had passed, Ruth began talking to herself, or maybe she was asking me, “Is she ever going to come back? We have so much to photograph today.” Finally, out of desperation, Ruth tooted my horn in hopes it would bring Joann running, but she didn’t come. When she eventually returned to the car, Ruth asked her if she had heard the horn and she said she hadn’t. Either she didn’t yet recognize that beautiful sound I can make or she was so engrossed in her photography that she tuned it out.

Speaking of sounds, I have a lot more I can and do make. At the start of the trip, both Joann and Ruth were annoyed by all the beeping I do. Then Ruth told Joann that it sounded like I was playing a harmonica. Joann couldn’t seem to hear it. Then Ruth said, “Well, maybe it’s more like a tuning fork or a pitch pipe.” Finally Joann said she heard it, too. So I decided to add a few more sounds, like tooting and whistling. And every time I do it, they start giggling. What’s the big deal? They never turn the radio on, so I have to entertain myself.

I’m not really an off-road vehicle, but sometimes they do take me off-road. On the sixth day of the trip, after a long and hard search, they finally found an old abandoned church they were looking for. They had even flagged down the local mail carrier to ask if she could help them. She gave them some directions, but said she wasn’t sure they were correct. They followed her directions and we did find the church. It was set way back from the road, so I took them in a ways until it got muddy and Joann was afraid to go any further.

Our most recent trip was just a week ago, and we left Joann’s house at 4 a.m. Joann said that she wanted to photograph Bethel Chapel in the one season they hadn’t – summer. Around 5:30, we arrived at the church and I carefully backed into the tractor lane. Joann then set up her tripod in the dark and waited for first light. When it got light enough to see my beautiful black body, she took my picture with the church in the background. Don’t I look awesome?! Okay, so it’s a picture of my rear end, but still, don’t I look great?!

They really tired me out that day. We were out for 16 hours, returning to Joann’s house at 8 p.m. They really know how to work a guy! But it was great fun and I can’t wait to hit the road again.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Great Blue Heron

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Three years ago in August, as we were wrapping up a day of photographing in the Stoughton area, we came by a pond where a Great Blue Heron was standing in the water fairly close to the gravel road on which we were traveling. As is usually the case, my camera was in the back seat and it didn’t have my wildlife lens on it.

Since the heron appeared to be busy stalking fish, I slowly backed the car up quite a distance so that I could get out of the car and rummage in the back seat without disturbing him. After getting my camera ready and putting the window down, I pulled forward again until I could get a good shot of the heron.

After a couple of shots, a noisy car came past, causing the heron to take flight. I thought that was all I was going to get, but then realized he had landed in a much better spot and was again stalking fish. So, again, I pulled the car forward and fired away as he fished for lunch. And then we saw him pull a small fish out of the water.

You will often see Great Blue Herons foraging for fish in shallow waters and they are usually alone. They are the largest of the North American herons, standing about four feet tall and with a wingspan in flight of around six feet.

Next time you pass a small body of water, look closely and you just might see a Great Blue Heron standing or stalking in the water.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Golden Summer Harvest

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

For the most part, Joann and I are not summer people unless the summer is cooler than normal. One thing we do try to catch in the summer is the harvest of wheat.

Every day driving to and from work, I would check out the wheat fields waiting for the harvest to start. When the harvest started in July of 2007, we headed out early one morning to see if we could capture some wheat fields before the harvest was finished.

As we started down the highway, I told Joann to take the first right turn. Somehow, we both missed it, and as Joann was trying to find a spot to turn around, I looked at the map and said we could just take the next road.

What a wonderful mistake! Driving down this road, we found a lot of wheat fields and, in one spot, both sides of the road were golden with the ripe wheat. We had to stop and take quite a few photos of the wheat fields and some close-up photos of the wheat.

Then we continued on to look for more wheat fields and anything else we found worth a photograph.

Heading home in the afternoon, we decided to take the same road back. To our surprise, the field that was untouched in the morning was now in the process of being harvested.

Of course, we couldn’t help but stop to take more photos. The combine moved quickly across the field, and the colors of the bright green combine, golden wheat fields, bright blue sky, and white clouds was unbelievable.

Winter wheat has a long history in Wisconsin. In the mid-1800’s, Wisconsin was the lead state for growing wheat. Since crops were not rotated, the soil was soon depleted of nutrients and the yield fell sharply.

Around 1870, settlers coming from New York decided that the land would suit dairy farming, with which they had experience. This helped make Wisconsin the dairy state but, thankfully, wheat didn’t disappear totally from the Wisconsin landscape.

For many years, Joann and I did not notice wheat in the south central and southwest portions of Wisconsin. In recent years, we have noticed more and more wheat fields, which are rotated with corn and soybeans.

In 2008, we made another trip for the wheat harvest and found a field in the process of being harvested. It was early Sunday morning and the combine had been parked in the partially harvested field waiting for the harvest to continue.

We took the opportunity to take photos of the field and the combine. It was nice to be able to get so close to the machine. We didn’t have a combine on the farm growing up; we hired someone to come with their combine to harvest our oats.

The last several years we have missed the wheat harvest. Looking back at the pictures we captured in other years makes us want to be sure to not miss it next year.

This hasn’t been a good year for farmers in so many areas of the country, and our hearts go out to them. We so enjoy watching the farm fields from planting to harvest and hope they manage to pull through somehow to plant again next year.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I Thought I Saw

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

The desk in my home office is right in front of the window facing the back yard. Often, I’ll see a large yellow lab leading its owner towards the park next door.

This past Monday morning as I worked, I caught a glimpse of something big and black out of the corner of my eye. I thought I saw….no, it couldn’t have been.

Maybe a black lab had moved into the neighborhood so I looked up to watch it pass. However, this was no dog. Before I go further with this story, you must understand that I live in town, not in the country.

What I saw running past was a young black cow, followed shortly by a teenage girl. After a minute or two several more young girls ran past.

They ended up in the parking lot of a building in the business park, and I could hear the cow bellowing as it tried to outrun the girls.

About 20 minutes later, the cow passed the window again, running back in the direction it had originally come from, this time followed by a different running girl.

And, after a couple of minutes, the first girl that had passed by came walking past, looking obviously hot and tired.

That was the last I saw of the cow and the girls. As Joann mentioned last week, it’s fair time in Wisconsin, and I don’t know if the girls were loading or unloading the cow from showing at a fair or what was happening.

Growing up on a dairy farm, we were usually chasing more than one cow when they got out, but it brought back memories of those “good old days.”

Happy Shunpiking!