Friday, February 22, 2019

Where the Mustard Grows

If you had to give February a color, which one would it be? Gray for rainy days? White for snow? Charcoal for stormy skies?

Here in wine country is has to be yellow. This is the month when the vineyards turn yellow - it's mustard season. It happens gradually, you almost don't notice it. And then suddenly one day you look around and the vineyards are a-glowing.

Doesn't it look almost like spring? Well... don't get me wrong, it sure is beautiful and you think it's warm and you can leave your comfy jacket at home, but then you turn around and you see this.

Sure, the snow doesn't reach down into the valley - and I'm grateful for this - but it does get cold. When we drove to one of my favorite wine valleys - the Dry Creek Valley where most of these photos were taken - we wore winter jackets and never stayed outside too long. Just long enough to take some pictures and capture this beautiful time. Otherwise - it's been freezing.

When the mustard starts to bloom the work in the vineyards also starts again. Everywhere we saw activity in vineyards, workers cutting back and trimming the vines, getting ready for the breaking of the buds in a few weeks. Other vineyards still lay dormant, but certainly not for long anymore. There is a lot of work to do.

The California Quails were busy, too. I'm sure they enjoyed the first warming rays of sunshine after the big storms we had. Some vineyards were completely flooded from the past heavy rains.

I love the patterns that the vines make. You can see in the image below that these vines are waiting to be trimmed and cut back so that we will get our next year's fill of delicious wine. Yes, it's a lot of work. Tending a vineyard is definitely not my idea of spending my time (but drinking the result certainly is!).

The mustard season doesn't last too long, but long enough to enjoy it for a few weeks. When it's over the buds will soon break and the cycle starts again.

I love the gnarled base of the vine against the fresh and luminous yellow of the delicate mustard flowers.

By the way, mustard doesn't grow in every vineyard. There are winter vineyards completely free of any mustard or only a sprinkle of them. They are beautiful as well.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

We have Winners!

Thank you to all of you who voted on the favorite photos. I'm sure you want to know which photos made the top 3.

First of all, there is no 3rd place, but a tie for second place:

Point Reyes Shipwreck which was my September image of An Image and Its Story.

and Stairway to Heaven, the beautiful stairs in the ancient Hagia Ireni which I first showed in this post.

But your favorite was the colorful umbrellas in Istanbul's Kumkapı Quarter - first place!

And now, of course, you can't wait to know who the winner of the greeting card set of these three photos is.

It is....

Sheri from Red Rose Alley

Congratulations, Sheri! Please e-mail me (address in sidebar) your address so I can send you the photo card set.

By the way, my favorite photo is the Pepperwood Sunset which always reminds me of one of the most beautiful days in the last year.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

In the Land of Fairy Chimneys

When we visited Turkey we didn't limit our time to Istanbul even though we could have easily stayed a couple more weeks there (and still not see everything). But we wanted to explore more of Turkey, go into the interior. So after one week in Istanbul we rented a car, crossed the Bosporus into Asia and started our "Anatolian adventure".

One area we wanted to see no matter what was Cappadocia, a historical region in Central Anatolia. Here you can find exceptional natural wonders that are characterized by fairy chimneys and a unique historical and cultural heritage. The UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of Göreme National Park, Kaymakli Underground City and Derinkuyu Underground City. Except for the last one we visited all of these places - and they truly took our breath away.

So what are these "fairy chimneys"?

The relief consists of a high plateau over 1000 meters altitude (hot summers and cold winters) that is pierced by volcanic peaks. The sedimentary rocks of Cappadocia eroded into hundreds of spectacular pillars and the people carved out houses, churches and monasteries from the soft rocks of volcanic deposits (this happened from the 4th to the 11th century). There are entire underground cities that you can visit if you feel like it (more about that in a later post).

Many of these "cave houses" or "cave apartments" are deserted today, but some are still inhabited. We could see signs of life everywhere. These places offer coolness in the very hot summers and seem to be reasonably warm in the cold winters (yes, it can snow here). I'm not quite sure whether I would like to live in such a cave, however, we did stay in a cave hotel in Göreme and it was pretty awesome (more about that in a later post).

Most of these photos were taken in Uçhisar, about 5 km from Göreme. All at once we saw these fairy chimneys rising in front of us. I just wanted to stop and explore. So we parked the car and walked down into a beautiful valley from where we could see dozens of these unique housing units. It was our first real view of this area and until the end it remained my favorite one.

The rock has a slight pinkish hue that starts to glow at sunset. It is simply spectacular and a sight that I will never forget. Except for fruit trees (apricots!) and olive trees there isn't much shade here and the sun burns down mercilessly. But you almost don't feel bothered by the heat in this other-worldly landscape.

Can you see all the "apartments"?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Favorite Photos of 2018 - and a Giveaway

During the year I usually organize favorite photos in a special folder so that later I can easily locate those photos of the certain year. 2013 was a year with a lot of favorites, whereas 2018 I didn't put even half of that number in my folder. Its a clear sign that I didn't take that many photos as I used to do.

In this post I will show you my top 15 favorite photos of last year. Some of them you already saw in a blogpost I wrote, but some are new to you. I would love you to tell me in the comments which 3 images out of these photos are your favorites. All the photos have numbers, so just put in the numbers in the comments. By next week's Saturday I will see which three photos have made the top, and one of you will get those three photos as greeting cards.

So leave your ranking and see whether you will be the lucky winner by next weekend, February 16/17.

1. Along the Ring of Kerry

2. Before the Lava Came

3. California Spring

4. Hagia Sophia Lights

5. Happy Hour

6. Irish Sheep

7. Istanbul Umbrellas

8. May Beauties

9. Old Saddle Road

10. On the Lookout

11. Pepperwood Sunset

12. Point Reyes Shipwreck

13. Soaking up the Sun

14. Stairways to Heaven

15. Winter Sunset

Sunday, February 3, 2019

An Image and Its Story - January 2019

I had debated with myself whether to continue "An Image and Its Story" in 2019 or not, and then decided to go ahead. Looking back at the photos I took during the previous month always makes me aware of how much (or not) I went out with my camera or just the phone. I can recall walks, events, sunsets, anything that I thought was worth a photo. It's also easy to see whether it was a good month or weeks of stress and discontentment. January was so-so - lovely days with my daughter in the first week and after that work rushed in full power and kept me busy throughout the month.

But I was still able to find time for walks, and what better place in the rainy season than to walk around the lake. Usually I meet up once a week with my friend Lyz, we walk and talk around the lake and then stop at "our" bench along the Fisherman's Trail where we sit, sometimes for hours, talking, looking out over the lake, listening to the birds and occasionally we even spot an otter or two. It's a special place for both of us where we can take a break and breathe. She lost her home in the October firestorm in 2017, has moved four times since then and struggles with insurance, contractors and builders to finally get their home rebuilt. It's a long and agonizing process.

The view in the photo appears pretty early in our walk and is one that never ceases to delight me. I have a weak spot for crooked trees anyway and fortunately for me, there are several at the lake or in the vicinity of it. Whenever I am here I feel grateful to have this special place so close to my home.