Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Damp Grey-and-Green Ride

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Cooling wind after a sticky climb
Sing-song chatter of a thousand birds
Black cattle under a charcoal sky

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It rained all morning long - a steady, settled, soaking rain, just the kind we need (wonderful weather for crocheting too).

By the time the roads are dry and clear, it's mid-afternoon, which means a shorter ride for me. Temps are in the 70s, and the air is extremely moist as I set out.

Down the road and around the corner, goldenrod and heliopsis are all jumbled up and growing together in a bright blaze of yellow:

Blossoming ragweed, the bane of allergy sufferers everywhere (including me), decorates ALL the roadsides right now. Below is just a lone sample - elsewhere it grows in great green swathes of misery-inducing evilness. (Do you detect a tone of bitterness? Yes, you do. My allergies have been really bad this year.)

These maple leaves look lovely, but they indicate a tree in distress:

It's much too soon for them to have turned - the drought is still wreaking havoc with growing things. (Why can't it knock out the ragweed?)

Cattails still thrive, though their brown-tipped leaves show that they too have suffered this year. Apparently living in a marsh is no protection against drought.

Since our weather has moderated, the wild phlox have bounced back. I pass a long stretch of them, blooming in delicate pink and white profusion:

Here's a cheery patch of heliopsis:

Hay bales against a background of misty hills (or a misty background of hills?):

I can't resist snapping swallows wherever I see them:

On your marks    ...  get set    ...    go!

Some miles on, I pass these large, pale-pink thistles:

Thistles seem to soak up any available light only to dispense it again like tiny suns. Another patch (these are smaller and darker) grows a bit farther down. They simply glow with intensity:

Just beyond the thistles is a favourite little tumbledown shed, more tumbledown and tipsy than ever this year:

It's lavishly adorned with wild grapevine...

...and picturesque in the extreme. I shall be very sad when it eventually falls down.

A few miles later, I pass a field of cattle. When I stop to take their photo, they look at me rather balefully.

This one in particular favours me with a long, disapproving stare...

...while all his fellows turn their backs and stalk away. Finally he turns too, and they all retreat to the far middle of the field.

Cattle around here are usually friendly and curious creatures; I've no idea why this bunch should be so stand-offish. (Perhaps they are pedigreed and therefore puffed up with bovine snobbishness.)

Their pasture is large and particularly lovely, with a rocky stream, green banks, and plenty of trees. It's time for a snack break, so I park Iris against a handy gate (stream to the right, cows to the left) while I break out the energy bars.

Large flocks of birds have been swirling around, and have all settled in the trees at the back of the pasture. They sing and chatter nonstop - there must be hundreds or even thousands of them by the sound of it.

Snack time over, it's back on the bike. A rare glimpse of blue sky as the clouds briefly break overhead:

I like this barn and shed.

No more blue sky. The clouds are now lowering darkly:

At the peak of a hill, I see white birch, red sumac, and green leaves. Rather Christmassy-looking, and very lovely.

Since time is limited this afternoon, I'm trying to keep photo breaks to a minimum (ha ha), or shoot from the saddle as much as possible.

It's a good thing barns can be snapped on the fly. On the next road, I pass three extremely photogenic ones in quick succession. The first has a wonderfully rusty roof and interesting lines:

The second is weathered, square, and rugged-looking (with a charming little lean-to on one side):

And the third is large and rather spectacular - a battered cathedral of a barn. It features a cupola, fresh red and white paint...

...and a fascinating jumble of roof lines.

My next turn takes me down a road I've never been on. It opens out into a large green rolling valley.

Under the dark cloud huddles a darker herd of Angus cattle, a velvety-black smudge against the green grass. (The road curves steeply downhill just where I pass the cattle, so I can't get any close-ups.)

I'm only about halfway through my ride - time to pick up the pace and keep the camera in my pocket. But I pull it out to take this photo of the largest farm I've seen in the area:

(Honestly, the picture doesn't do it justice. There are so many buildings all spread out that I have to shoot it from about half a mile away to get them all in the frame.) The farmhouse can just be glimpsed at the right of the picture, and at the edge of the property stands a large sign proclaiming this to be a homestead established in 1845.

Just down the road stands a solitary tree with a sunbeam breaking through the clouds behind it:

Still at least 8 miles to go - but I stop the bike one last time for a picture of two charming ... yearlings? Steers? (I can tell a cow from a calf from a bull, but the cattle of indeterminate age and gender stump me every time.)

They seem happy to see me, and crowd up to the gate as I get off the bike.

After a friendly interlude, with well-intentioned but fruitless attempts at conversation, we part company.

The dark clouds are still lowering, though I can see a streak of light pink at the horizon:

Soon after this, it starts to rain - just enough to be refreshing without making the road slippery. As I pass a house, a man walking down the driveway calls out, "Nice shower, isn't it?" I nod and smile and buzz on by.

I'm feeling pretty strong, going at a good clip, and beginning to think complacently about my pace. Suddenly I realize that the easy speed is due to a tailwind - pop goes the vanity balloon. Then I start to sneeze. Humbled and snuffly, I finish the last few miles. (You'd think the rain would settle the allergens, but instead it seems to stir them up.)

A very satisfying ride, allergens notwithstanding.

30.0 miles

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  1. I love all the countryside shots and the shape and colour of the barns over there! Great shot of the swallows all in different positions. Perfect capture!

    1. Thanks Sandra - judicious cropping is the key. :)

  2. Loads of great photos, shame about all the allergens though, must be such a pest for you. I love all the barn shots especially the rugged one with the lean-to. Beautiful. Juliex

    1. Thank you, Julie - I often think of you when I snap the various barns. :)

  3. Beautiful photos, those barns are amazing. I love barns so much and don't get to see them where I live. But growing up in Michigan there were plenty of them when we went for a drive. Love the subtle shading the grey day made.

    Good for you finishing that 30 miles.

    1. Thanks, Meredith. Sometimes the pictures are better on cloudy days than on sunny ones! :)

  4. I don't find cows so much curious as devious, they huddle together and plot. Have had more than one unhappy encounter with them. Loved your barn pix.

    1. "They are plotting and planning together/To take me by surprise." (No idea where that came from but your comment caused it to float up out of my memory.)

      I find that if I keep to my side of the fence I avoid the unpleasant encounters. :)

  5. Hi Mrs.Micawber
    Wow, 30 miles, gosh that's amazing.Hubby and I are planning a long cycle tomorrow before we head off to our friends and I'm really hoping the weather will be kind to us,wind and all!! Beautiful photo's, I love swallows too and those barns are just how I imagine them to be in North America, simply beautiful xox Have a wonderful week ahead and thanks for your great comments xox Penelope

    1. Thanks Penelope - I hope you have a wonderful ride. :)

  6. 30 miles, I am impressed. Thanks for sharing all these photos, it made that 30 mile ride go by so quickly!

    1. I was hoping to go a bit further, but time was limited. Thanks Kay! :)

  7. No vanity at all in making the best of a tailwind! Enjoy it while you can; it may just be a headwind the next trip!

    I saw so many signs of stress in our forests last week. It almost looks like early fall, but the nights are not cool enough yet. It's the lack of water all summer...

    The bike lane near our place is nearly done, so I might get to explore my corner of the world just like you soon!

    1. Cool! (the bike lane that is)

      I do hope we all get enough snow this winter to make up for the dearth of rain.


  8. Snobby cows. Now a goat would have come right up and started a conversation. :) Sorry we are late in getting here. Blogger chose to disappear your's and Eden Hill's blogs again. Ugh.

    1. Most of the cows are very friendly (like the ones at the end of the post).

      That darn Blogger! :)

  9. I love to see cows exactly where they should be -- in a lovely green pasture. The rain sure sounds nice. Poor weeds get a bad wrap -- they manage to thrive and grow even under extreme conditions - I certainly let them grow here. I don't know how you can ride and shoot from the saddle. When I was 6 years old, I was going down a hill on a pebbled tar road and decided to do the "see mom, no hands" routine. I crashed big time and had scrapes and cuts all up and down my body. Ouch! Hope your week is a good one. Tammy

    1. Thanks Tammy - I like to see them there too (rather than chained up in a factory barn).

      Re shooting from the saddle - I hold the camera with one hand and the handlebars with the other! :)


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