Tag Archive | horses

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – Letters G or H

The letters for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week are G or H and, keeping to my chosen theme of nature and more specifically animals, bugs and the like, I didn’t have too hard a time coming up with the goods.

The patterns on this giraffe make for great camouflage among the leaves at Brookfield Zoo.

Despite being stripped of his brilliant color by the b/w treatment of this image, a greedy goldfinch in our garden still makes a good subject for the letter G.

A giant grasshopper; at least it appears that way thanks to this close encounter at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

A hopeful hen looking for food and a handsome horse waiting to do a little light work at the Volkening Heritage Farm in Spring Valley Nature Center, Schaumburg.

A hungry hawk making short work of a hapless sparrow.

This picture of a huge hippo was taken back in the day when Brookfield Zoo still kept a number of large mammals.  Somehow the whole zoo-going experience just hasn’t been the same without these giants.

For more on Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge go to https://ceenphotography.com/2017/03/23/cees-black-white-photo-challenge-letters-g-or-h/

 

A Golden Day

What better way to celebrate the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series than a leisurely stroll around Spring Valley Nature Center on a sunny, 65 degree day in November!  Yes folks, miracles do happen!  After all the baseball hype and excitement of the past few days, it was nice to get away from it all yesterday and just relax, if you can call walking about for two hours relaxing.  For some of us it is, especially when you’ve been sitting on the edge of your seat for what seems like a lifetime, waiting for the Cubs to finally win the big prize.

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And it seemed like Mother Nature was celebrating with us, everything basking in a golden glow.  Finally we could take a deep breath and enjoy life after all those years of torment.

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It’s been a couple of months since I was at Spring Valley but apart from the new children’s play area that is being built near the entrance, things are pretty much the same.  The farm will probably be closing for the winter soon, so I was glad to be able to make one last visit there this year.  One of the horses, that had an abscess in its hoof, was being attended to by the resident veterinary technician who kindly let me stay and watch the proceedings. She did an amazing job and the horse didn’t seem the least bit bothered as she applied some gooey green stuff to the hoof.

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After that, I went on to the farmhouse where I met a young lady in costume who kindly posed for me. Everyone at Volkening Farm is very friendly and helpful.  I would have visited the house but unfortunately the immediate area was being patrolled by a ruthless band of chickens and as many of you will know, I have a terrible fear of birds, and chickens in particular, so I stayed well back and used the long lens, glancing around me every few seconds to make sure none of them were creeping up behind me.

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Leaving the farm, I walked past the track to the arboretum and headed towards the cabin that used to be the old visitor center.  A nice surprise was awaiting me on the path, two deer that stayed just long enough for me to take a couple of pictures.

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Leaving the cabin, I went along the road to the pond and found several frogs making the most of the sunny day.  There was a handy bench by the water’s edge so I got comfortable while a duck paddled over, thinking there might be something to eat in the offing. It soon realized there was nothing doing and steered away to the other side of the pond.   A dragonfly landed nearby, blending in nicely with its surroundings.

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I would have stayed longer but time was getting on so I bid goodbye to the frogs, (I’ll swear I heard one of them croak “Go Cubs!” as I left) and made my way back to the parking lot. There most likely won’t be too many more days for strolling around but, as we always used to say with the Cubs, “Wait till next year!”

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Local

For this week’s Photo Challenge on The Daily Post, Jen has asked us for something local (as in home.)  I have written several posts on one of my other blogs, Incidentally, at http://skfjrifnd.wordpress.com/ about the towns and villages in the Chicago area.  I wish I could think of here as home but that term will always be reserved for dear old England, so for now I will just share a few images of my favorite places to visit that are within an hour’s drive of our house.  I suppose they could be considered local.

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The Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe; one of the most worthwhile annual subscriptions that I’ve ever kept up has been to this place.

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Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg; always a pleasant walk and a good opportunity to do some nature photography as well as visit the farm animals.

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Millennium Park in downtown Chicago;  despite all the bad things that I read about Chicago these days, I still enjoy the occasional visit, especially to Millennium Park where there are so many good things to see.

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Morton Arboretum in Lisle;  I have to visit this place at least twice a year, in the Spring to see the daffodils and in the Autumn for the fall color.

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Arlington Park racetrack in Arlington Heights; always a favorite venue during the summer months and a fun day out even if I don’t always pick the winner.

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Brookfield Zoo;  We’ve been taking children and now grandchildren to the zoo for more than forty years. The big cats are always popular. “Here kitty.  Nice kitty.”

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BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Bartlett; one of the most beautiful buildings in our area and such a peaceful place.

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Lilacia Park in Lombard; I never miss the Lilac Festival. It was always one of my mother’s favorite parks.  For more on The Weekly Photo Challenge go to https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/local/

 

Halloween Challenge – Corn Maze & Hay Ride

This is a tale of two fall festivals.  The first two images were taken last year at a well-known suburban pumpkin farm where, for a not inconsiderable sum of money, the kids were invited to find their way around a corn maze, see tigers and feed giraffes, go for a hay ride and watch pig races, along with a whole bunch of other activities.  Admittedly the maze was well set out, with a reasonably comfortable path to follow but, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, Halloween has become sadly over-commercialized. Have our expectations become so high, in this neck of the woods, that everything has to be done on such a lavish scale?

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Fast-forward to this year and a trip that we took this week to Willow Springs Garden near Wausau in Wisconsin.  What a difference!  Everything except the food and pumpkins was free.  The petting zoo consisted of a donkey, one goat and a few chickens.  kids could amuse themselves by trying their hand at an old-fashioned corn shucker or, instead of a fancy bouncy castle, they could wear themselves out by jumping along the tops of a series of hay bales. The path through the corn maze was uneven and painfully strewn with rocks, just like you would expect a cornfield to be, but no-one seemed to mind.  And the hay ride was awesome!  Give me a good old-fashioned country Fall Festival every time!  For more on Jennifer Nichole Wells Halloween Challenge go to https://jennifernicholewells.com/2016/09/26/jnws-halloween-challenge-2/

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The Nature Of Biltmore

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As I imagined, there was far more to the Biltmore Estate than just walking around a magnificent house, although that in itself was well worth the price of admission.  The nature of Biltmore extends to every corner of the 8,000-acre estate which includes some spectacular gardens.

Biltmore was landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted’s final major project and what an almighty challenge it must have been.  In 1895, the original property purchased by George W. Vanderbilt covered 125,000 acres, much of it over-farmed and with many of its trees already cut down, but with the help of Olmsted’s brilliant planning it was turned into a profitable, self-sustaining estate.

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It is interesting to note that the Biltmore Estate appears on the National Historic Landmark Register not because of the house, but because Carl A. Schenck established the first forestry education program in the U.S. here on the estate grounds in 1898.

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Vanderbilt had asked Olmsted to set aside 75 acres to be transformed into formal gardens, one of which is the Italian Garden that features three large water gardens and classical statuary.  Each pool contains water lilies, lotus and papyrus as well as other water plants.   You will see koi and goldfish swimming about among the lily pads and I also noticed a large number of tadpoles in various stages of development lounging around the edges of the center pool.

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The 4-acre Walled Garden features thousands of tulips in the spring and colorful mums at autumn time. Our visit came just after they had planted out all the summer annuals and as they hadn’t had time to become established, the beds were not quite as spectacular as they might have been, but the garden still looked beautiful nevertheless.

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Similarly, the rose garden had already seen the first flowers in full bloom and they were past their best but if you didn’t examine them too closely you could imagine how gorgeous the garden must have looked just a few weeks previously.  Timing is everything and it’s not always possible to visit these places at exactly the right moment.  Still, we were very lucky with the weather and enjoyed brilliant sunshine throughout our stay in Asheville.

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Water plays an important part at Biltmore. The French Broad River runs through the middle of the estate which also features a bass pond and waterfall.

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Traveling further from the house you come to the Farm, Antler Hill Village and The Winery, all of which are overlooked by The Inn on Biltmore Estate.

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As always seems to be the case, we had to cram as much sightseeing as we could into one day, but you could easily spend a few days at Biltmore in order to look at everything.