October 25, 2014, Backside of Fall

We are on the backside of fall, with November on the horizon next week.  We had a day in the mid 70’s so took a break from the grind of studying and working around the farm for a trip to Ledges State Park.

They grow big leaves here!

It was a great day to take a hike up a creek, especially this one with lots of sand on the bottom. (Emma will be bummed she missed the green stuff near Mom’s head.)

Even though the leave are past prime, there is still enough color to make things interesting. Yes, there are places like this in Iowa!

Martin “owns” the sandstone outcrop.

spindle tree, red berries in pink casing

First time noticing this shrub with brilliant pink berry protectors – this is a spindle tree or Euonymus europaeus.

Euonymus europaeus.jpg

A peek at the berries inside.

October 13, 2014 – Back to Work in Portland

I was also able to geek out with about 300 hundred or so new friends at a conference centering around content strategy and user experience. It was good to get some time away from the urgent tasks at hand and think about some longer-term ideas.

Welcome back to you Portland!

I guess the bridge in the opening credits of Portlandia doesn’t really open up that much.  Pretty much wasted three days waiting for it (OK, maybe that was a slight exaggeration).

It’s easy to get into Portland, but not so easy to get out, unless you can figure out how to drive your car up a bridge piling.

October 12, 2014 – A Brief Respite on the Oregon Coast

Before I spent most of the week in Portland, I was able to catch up with some long-lost neighbors living in Portland. I was able to catch up with their family and they treated me to a trip to the coast.

crescent beach oregon coast

By the time we reached this part of the coast, the fog and rain broke.

foggy mountains

Earlier, I felt like I was trapped in an asian style painting.

ecola point

This is a view from Ecola Point, a state park.

There were high surf warnings out for this day, with 20 foot waves crashing in.

Yep, I was really there.

Had a chance to walk in the forest and see moss growing in tree branches.

Part of the trail along the coast as the park.

September 1, 2014 – Mini Maker Faire

We headed down to a mini-maker faire at the science center of Iowa this weekend.  It was full of 3d printers, CNC machines and the like.

Of course, some of the usual exhibits never quite get old!

How about a keyboard made out of carrots?

Or a cheap DIY microscope that uses a cell phone camera for incredible magnification!

There was also a virtual reality trailer from ISU and a virtual welding helmet as well.  Oh, and a traveling Tardis and R2D2 as well!

August 24, 2014 – Reykjavik and Good Bye to Claire

The last days were in Reykjavik – spent getting Claire settled into her apartment, getting groceries, household goods, a cell phone and the like.

Again, I will just put a few photos in the blog post and put a slideshow that can be viewed full screen with many more photos at the end.

We stayed three nights at this place – a flat adjacent to the harbor above a wood carving shop.

This shot was taken out of the front window of the flat.

Downtown pedestrian street in Reykjavik.

This is Harpa, Reykjavik’s answer to the Sydney Opera house.  In the clouds and fog and daylight, the shimmering fish scale effect of the glass panels is not as apparent.

A view out to the harbor from inside Harpa.

Imagining my life with a fixer-upper fishing boat.

Claire a the harbor just outside our flat.

Finally, the reason for the trip – Claire in front of the University of Iceland.  I took my parental duties seriously to settle her into her new location.  Such a sacrifice to spend eight days in Iceland with her on that mission!

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August 23, 2014 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Just to fess up, I think a few days earlier I said that the day along part of the south coast was my favorite day, well, this day on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula really was my favorite. The day had a lot going for it – a rare sunny day, a beautiful peninsula with a volcano with a glacier on top of it, and a journey to the top of the glacier-topped mountain, with some beautiful coastline thrown in for good measure.

Again, I will just put a few photos in the blog post and put a slideshow that can be viewed full screen with many more photos at the end.

Snaefellsjokull

Snaefellsjokull glacier in the distance.  Oh Icelanders, why use 7-8 letters per word, when  15-20 letters will do?  Snaefellsjokull is visible from Reykjavik on a sunny day, 180 kilometers away. Did I say there were only two sunny days in the entire month of July and I had sun my first three days!

In this cleft in the rock, a small stream comes out and forms a very narrow canyon.

Inside a larger room inside the narrow canyon.

Near the end of the so-called road up to the glacier – you have the option of driving most of the way in your own car, or adding a ride to your tour. The 2.5 mile trek in the car takes about 30 minutes.  I was a bit hesitant to take the rental car, but it would have been 40 more bucks to get a ride and I would have missed the adventure of the drive.

The last few minutes, they take you in the truck until the road really ends.

Heading up Snaefellsjokull.

Still going up.

Approaching the top.

Claire on top of the world, with a view up and down two coasts of the peninsula and the ocean.

There were many seemingly scattered and remote churches throughout Iceland.  Typically, a prosperous farmer would build a church and hire a minister out of his own pocket. It was both a status and point of pride to provide a church.  The farmer would however get half the tithe from the church for his efforts.

Another epic shot along the coast.

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August 22, 2014 – Stykkisholmur, the Sea, and Icelandic Horses

Stykkisholmur is a small coastal village in western Iceland.

Again, I will just put a few photos in the blog post and put a slideshow that can be viewed full screen with many more photos at the end.

Claire overlooking adorable Stykkisholmur. One of the yellow buildings to the left of Claire’s head is where the helicopter/bar scene from the Secret Life of Walter Mitty was filmed.

We headed out to sea here for a cruise to look at wildlife in some of the thousands of islands off the coast  in this part of Iceland.

Many of the isolated islands have sheep that graze.  You might be able to see a few white and black spots on this island. In order to get lambing timed, the ewes and rams are placed on separate islands.  At one time ewes started lambing at the wrong time of year on a few islands.  Eventually, they discovered that a ram named Magnus took to the sea and swam between islands visiting the ewes on many islands on his schedule!

At one point, they dropped a net overboard and hauled up scallops.  Claire’s not too sure if she is a fan of fresh scallops on the half shell.

On the way back to our lodging, we went for another small hike an encountered these horses along the way.

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August 21, 2014 – Golden Circle

The most popular tourist track in Iceland is called the Golden Circle – a one-day trip to Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gulfoss waterfall. For my time, it was one of the least interesting days, but being close to Reykjavik, the attractions are easy to get to in a day. Again, I will just put a few photos in the blog post and put a slideshow that can be viewed full screen with many more photos at the end.

Þingvellir is Iceland’s national shrine and most historic sites. The oldest existing parliament in the world first met here in 930 A.D. The Alþing met here every year to enact laws, including the law passed in 1000 A.D. to introduce Christianity into the island. It has always been the focal point for the country, and whenever a major event is to be celebrated, thousands of people come here. The independence of the Republic of Iceland was proclaimed here on June 17, 1944. At the celebration of the 1,100th anniversary of the first settlement in 1974, more than 60,000 people packed into Thingvellir. This photo is of the drowning pool where mothers of illegitimate children were drowned in the dark ages.

Adjacent is the largest lake in Iceland, Thingvallavatn. The lake is 328 feet deep and home to trout and Arctic Char.

Just down the road is the world’s original geyser, named Geysir in Icelandic and the source of the English word. Geysir itself is rather unreliable after an earthquake a few years ago, but nearby geysers are very regular blowing every eight minutes or so.

The last stop on the Golden Circle is the Gulfoss waterfall.

Finally on the way home is a trip around the Hvalfordur fjord.

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August 20, 2014 – Reykjanes Peninsula

This area is around the airport, which is about 40 kilometers south of Reykjavík. It appears as a vast wasteland of lava flows from the air, and after leaving the airport, but there are some surprises here and there. Again, I will just put a few photos in the blog post and put a slideshow that can be viewed full screen with many more photos.

At the Seltun geothermal area.  A Yellowstoney-type place with mud pots and steam vents.

Yeah, not the fresh scent that is usually around the country.

Most of Iceland’s power comes from geothermal and hydro power – 85%.  The water in Reykjavik comes directly from the ground and goes through all the houses, offering heating in radiators and hot water. You do not want to turn water on the tap only hot.  It is much hotter than hot water in the U.S.  Even though the outdoor temperature is commonly around 50 degrees F, most houses have their windows open most of the time, as the hot water that  constantly flows through the house, is also virtually free. The downside is there is a sulfur smell to the water.  Cold water is from another source, and is untreated with chemicals.

Here is the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are spreading apart a few millimeters a year.

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August 19, 2014 – South Iceland

Since there are so many beautiful photos from Iceland, I am only going to insert a few in each blog post and insert an album so you can view many more photos full-screen. I’ll start the post with some of my favorites and then include an album at the end of each post with more photos you can make full screen to better see the landscape.  This day on South Iceland was my favorite – sunny skies! The only bummer was that Claire’s flight was delayed 24 hours (and her luggage delayed 7 days), so I was solo on this beautiful day.

Welcome to Iceland!

dyrholaey beach

The black sand beach near Vik, in the Dyrholaey nature reserve.  A gorgeous place with black sand beaches, imposing rock formations, great columnar basalt, and puffins!

dyrholaey, iceland beach, black sand beach

Another view from a bluff above Dyrholaey.

puffins

The Puffins were almost all gone for the season, but there were still a few stragglers.

The airbnb organic farm I stayed at near Vik.  Missing in this photo is the hoophouse and miles of mountainous pasture behind where this farmer’s 2500 sheep roam up to the foot of a glacier.  In 2010, when Eyjafjallajökul blew, his place was covered with 4-5 inches of ash. You can also see the trout stream and white forage bales as well.

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August 16, 2014 – Farm Aerial

Here’s a shot of most of the farm from the air. It looks so much smaller when you are not in the midst of a pasture, near a tree, or facing a row of vegetables and weeds.

Things that jump out at me are all the visible changes since the first farm aerial shot we have.  All the white roofs on outbuildings are new. All of the trees less than 60 feet tall or so are new.  The garden beds in strips are new.  The wind turbine is new.  The mowed labyrinth in the pasture is new. There are also a few things missing – old decrepit buildings, many trees that blew down in storms or were cut down.  It is fun to look and see a different perspective on progress.

August 3, 2014 – Catching up

After returning home after an absence of longer than a week, you get an appreciation of all the things that you do, even though you feel like you are never caught up.  Seeing what the farm looks like with a week of inattention brings home how much really does get done.

garlic

Garlic was ready to pull.

Onions wer ready to pull.

Sunflowers went wild.

And we finally got around to introducing Martin to firearms training – one of the many rural skills that have eluded him to date.

August 1, 2014 – Niagara!

Since we were only 90 miles from Niagara Falls, we decided we could get there on a weekday at the time it opens to beat the crowds.

Falling water always seems to put a smile on your face.

It was refreshing to see vast quantities of clear water thundering over the falls.

Of course we took at the boat tour and this was about as close as you could get a picture before the mist and water covered the camera lens.  It was rather ethereal to be in the middle of this mist with falls thundering down around you in a half circle.

And we had to take the boardwalk down to the bottom of the falls.

Enroute down to the base of the falls.

Hardly ever a picture of Dad, so here ya go.

Standing in the “Cave of the Winds” at the base of the falls – feeling and looking for all practical purposes the middle of a hurricane.

More reveling in the tumbling water.

A look down from a bit up.  Yeah, it’s touristy. But it’s also the highlight of the trip for a 13 year old boy!