Sunday, August 28, 2016

Changing Seasons

One of the things we were told when we moved here (2 years ago!) was that we would experience "proper" seasons.  And it's true - the changing seasons are much more apparent than in the UK, which seems consistently grey and damp in comparison (with an occasional day of sunshine to break the monotony).

Here, the seasons move along as you're brought up to expect, in a slightly more extreme version than we're used to in the UK.  It's always nice to be able to get out and enjoy the changing scenery.

We're currently drawing to the end of the summer, which in some ways is a bit of relief.  Early summers are lovely - not so hot that you can't get out and make the most of the day, and still warm enough to sit out on an evening and watch the fireflies dance into the dusk.

But by late summer, it can get oppressively hot and muggy - it's like stepping into an oven when you head outside, and it really makes you appreciate air-conditioning (even if it means you have to wear a hoody in the office)!  Even sitting outside in the heat isn't fun, with mosquitoes and other bitey insects causing a nuisance, and the racket of cicadas in the trees (they really are loud).  On the plus side, this is the time of year when fresh corn is harvested, and there's nothing nicer than the sweetest corn on the cob, freshly picked that morning and picked up for pennies from a road-side farmers stall.

Autumn is the relief - it's still relatively warm - meaning you can go back to sitting outside on an evening, with firepits, s'mores and star gazing to look forward to.  It's less damp and cold, more fresh air and rosy glow.  The downside is the huuuuuuuuge amounts of leaves that fall from the trees and have to be raked up.  Pumpkins and "fall decor" appear everywhere and in everything.  Porches are decorated, and there's a kind of gradual build-up to Halloween and then onto the "holidays" (aka Christmas).

Winter is generally bitterly cold (although Christmas day last year was a very unseasonable 75 degrees).  By January, snow falls frequently, but the world doesn't grind to a halt - the roads are usually cleared quickly and without fuss, and everyone gets on with their life.  School days may be delayed by a couple of hours, but it's rare that they close completely.  Having to clear the driveway before you go anywhere becomes a bit of a drag.  The cold can be biting, so gloves, hats, layers and big boots are a must.  Trees are bare, grass is brown (under the snow).  Weirdly, there isn't much frost (the air becomes incredibly dry), so you don't have to scrape your car windscreen very often.

The snow can last into March and even beyond in some years (it can feel like a loooong winter), but Spring eventually comes around.  Warmer weather, greener grass, more farming activity in the fields, fresh air, and the promise of evenings outdoors again, fire pits and barbecues...

In some ways, the changing seasons can make the year seem to pass more quickly, but looking back on some of these photographs, we can appreciate all that we've seen and done in that time.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cherry Fair in Historic Schaefferstown

Being in a fairly rural area, there's almost always something farming or food-related going on locally, whether it's corn cobs, apples, melons or pumpkin related.

Back in June, we found a Cherry Fair going on in a place called "Historic Schaefferstown", a 30 minute "scenic" drive from home.  It was a traditional cherry fair, celebrating the cherry harvest, along with an "Early American Craft Show" with lots of artisans and demonstrators dressed up in historic garb.

The cherry fair has traditionally been held in Schaefferstown since the late 1700s, when farmers and their families would gather in the village square to sell seasonal cherries and other produce and catch up on local gossip.  This was held at Alexander Schaeffer House, an 18th century house on an 85 acre farm.

There was a lot to see, including exploring the old farm buildings and contents, seeing local craftspeople at work (eg weaving, pottery, quilting, scherenschnitte (paper cutting), lace making and blacksmithing), watching period farming demonstrations and listening to 17th and 18th century musicians, and of course, enjoying the cherries in all their glory, from ice cream and pancakes to cherry wood products.

Sadly, we missed the annual "sit and spit" cherry pit competition (?) and the squirrel tail oven baking (??).  Either way, another interesting insight into the history and culture of Pennsylvanian Germans.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Tubing at Sickman's Mill

The weather here in the summer can get extremely hot and humid, so sometimes it's difficult to find things to do that make the most of the weather but aren't going to make you hot, sweaty and grumpy (mainly Hubby) within 10 minutes of being outside.

Last weekend we found the perfect solution - tubing down a local creek!  We'd done tubing before in the snow whilst skiing in Andorra, but never in the water.  We'd seen a photograph in the paper ages ago and it looked like fun, but we didn't really know if there was anywhere local to try it. Then Hubby found Sickman's Mill - just south of  Lancaster and only about 20 minutes from home. 

Sickman's Mill itself is a 19th century roller mill, powered by the Pequea Creek, on which it sits, to crush and grind grain etc.  The building is 4 1/2 storeys high, with 30" walls, and with a large marquee on the grounds is also a popular wedding venue.

However, with temperatures forecast in the high 90's, we were much more interested in their tubing facilities.  We got there mid-morning, and it was already filling up with cars as others obviously had the same ideas.  After signing safety waivers and paying up, we collected our respective "tubes" - actually huge canvas covered rings - and made our way down to the creek shallows.  Nothing for it at this point but to get wet, as we clambered in and shoved off, joining the current and drifting along peacefully, slowly getting used to having a soggy behind stuck in the water...

Because you set off whenever you wish, you can drift along quite peacefully in solitude, occasionally catching up with other groups depending on the currents you catch and whether or not you manage to ground yourself on the occasional boulders (mainly Hubby).  As it was summer, the water levels were lower than normal, although a good thunder storm the night before helped to swell the waters, and the terrain ranged from tranquil calm to mini rapids, causing minor squeals (mainly me) as you were spun round and round and bounced off the rocks.

So peaceful and cool, driving along with your feet (and behind) in the water, gazing up at the blue sky beyond the tree canopy, listening to the bird song, catching the occasional glimpse of wildlife in the bushes (including a little cat quenching its thirst at the edge of the creek), and befriending the multitude of dragonflies that caught rides on your knee.  

Unfortunately no photos during the trip itself (didn't trust myself with phone or camera whilst literally sitting in a river), but great fun, and although perhaps not as exhilarating as tubing in the snow, definitely less exhausting and more relaxing!

After about an hour or so, we reached a bridge which signalled the end of the ride, and after some mad paddling to the edge, we clambered out and made our way back up the road where a waiting mini bus very conveniently transported us and our tubes back to the Mill.

A lovely way to spend a couple of hours in high summer and well recommended as a way to beat the heat!