Monday, November 16, 2020

A SAD Story, but Some Bright Photos

Balnakeil Bay, Durness, Scotland

Hiking to Three Finger Jack early 1970s


Just when we think we’ll be overwhelmed by the news about the election and are faced with horrific stories of the pandemic, we then have to turn our clocks back and enter the darkest part of the year. It’s no wonder we feel depressed and lethargic. With all that baring down upon us it’s easy to see why we have little interest in usual activities. Most of us can readily acknowledge that we’ve got a case of the Winter Blues. But this year is worse and it’s more important to be aware of the real SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) syndrome.

CCC Cabin, Redrocks State Park, Nevada

Rannoch Moor, Scottish Highlands

Many will call it the Winter Blues, but the serious extreme is the clinical condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  Most of us feel at least a mild winter blues when we notice the shortening of the days because of the time of year and the turning back of our clocks at the end of daylight savings time. But as many as 10 percent of Americans are more seriously affected. The impact is greater on those living in the northern areas and lesser on those living for instance in sunny Florida. The incidence of SAD is greater in women than men, according to most studies. And SAD hits hardest to those who are already struggling with mental conditions like depression, ADHD or eating disorders, according to the National Health Institute.

River Dochart at Killin GC, Scotland

Cascadia Mt, Banff National Park, Canada

Himalayan Blue Poppy

The Yale School of Medicine says that symptoms of SAD begin gradually in September or October and last through March or April. These symptoms include:

- Feeling depressed all or most of nearly every day, pervasive sadness.

- Lack of interest in normal activities.

- Changes in appetite — overeating or craving carbs.

- Problems with sleep — oversleeping (hypersomnia).

- Having low energy.

- Having feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.

- Difficulty concentrating.

- Social withdrawal, like hibernating. 

- In the extreme, having increasing thoughts of suicide. 

Heron Reflection, Ankeny Wildlife Refuge, OR

On the Road to Death Valley

The causes of are more difficult to identify than the symptoms, but studies from National Health Institute indicate that 

- people with SAD may have reduced levels of the brain chemical serotonin, a                neurotransmitter, or

- produce too much melatonin, a hormone which helps regulate the sleep/wake    cycle, or

- may have lower levels of vitamin D which promotes serotonin activity.

Loch Morlich & Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland

There are treatments for SAD that are more effective than that used by one fellow who stared into the copy machine at work to get extra light on dark days. Light therapy, though, is one of the effective treatments for SAD. There are commercially produced light boxes which would allow affected suffers to to get extra light in the morning and evening to help reduce symptoms. Dawn simulators, lights that slowly come on and brighten, to wake sleepers more naturally are also effective. Simple things like a walk in the fresh air and winter light can brighten your day. This is part of the reason I have chosen bright photos for this post—hoping to brighten your day. Other treatments include Talk Therapy or psychotherapy (positive thinking to replace negative feelings), medications such as antidepressants (only under doctor’s orders), and increasing vitamin D (only mixed results).

Old man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Reflection, Fisherman's Wharf, Victoria, BC

This year, the winter of COVID, it is even more important to be aware of the dangers of SAD. Professor Kelly Rohan, University of Vermont, said that when patients in a SAD study were hit by COVID restrictions they had dramatic increases in their SAD symptoms and that the symptoms didn’t disappear in the summer like usual. COVID isolation is going to make even a mild case of Winter Blues harder for all of us to tackle. Hopefully knowing more about Seasonal Affective Disorder, and maybe seeing some bright photos, will make these difficult times a little easier to handle.

Rainbow, Tarbat Ness, Scotland

Next: Will depend upon whether people wear masks and socially distance so we can begin to travel again.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Travel of Sorts

 The Farm Shop Post

It’s a sad day when a morning shopping trip becomes the highlight of a travel blog, but such are times. Along with yesterday’s shopping trip to a neighboring town, I’m including a shout out to a similar spot in Scotland which we are missing. Now to the story of mundane travel in the times of Covid-19.

Yesterday Anne and I drove over to Bauman’s Farm and Garden, just a couple of miles past Woodburn on Hwy 99E—a trip of about 15 miles one way. Huge for us under current conditions. Bauman’s farm was started by Elizabeth Bauman in 1895 and became a small family-run farm market at its current location in 1988. The farm shop now sells produce year round, particularly apples, corn, and berries. 

The farm bakery specializes in pies (berry, peach, apple, among others) and anything made with marionberries. 

Known for its apple cider, both natural and hard, the farm also contains a seasonal gift shop. 

The Harvest Fair, a fall celebration each year, had to be cancelled this year because of Covid-19 restrictions. We came home with veggies, pies, cookies, cider, and a few other treats—

The clerk is separated from customers by a plexiglass shield.

all-in-all, a good shopping trip.

Our Bauman’s trip reminded us of our favorite farm shop in Scotland. When we’re in Scotland we visit many of their farm shops such as Broadslap Farm (Dunning), Balgove Larder (St Andrews), and Storehouse at Foulis (on the way to Dornoch), but the one we go to most often is Gloagburn Farm in Tibbermore near Perth, about 20 minutes from our home base in Crieff. 

Opened in 2003 by Ian and Alison Niven, Gloagburn Farm is a working farm with a cafe, gift shop, farm shop, and deli. 

The cafe, serving breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea, serves food mostly prepared on the premises. The farm shop has an assortment of veggies, meats, and prepared food, as well as a full compliment of deli treats. 

Outside we’ve been able to get up close with pigs, sheep, the popular Highland cows (hairy coos), and some of the 4500 free-range chickens. When we visit Gloagburn Farm it is mostly for a delicious lunch or sweet in the fine cafe.

We hope you have been keeping yourselves safe and have found ways to enjoy a little travel, even if it’s just to a special shop.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Colorful Scotland #1

It’s a strange time we live in, a testing time for all of us. In this term of political, social, and medical turmoil, I find it very difficult to be creative. Add to that the lack of travel and of photo opportunities, the lack of new blog posts is understandable. Anne and I were scheduled to be in Scotland now after having rescheduled our spring trip into a fall time-slot, but that plan, too, had to be abandoned. We have rebooked our flights to April/May, 2021 dates. For all our sakes, I hope the world conditions will be such that we can take that trip.

This leads me back to the travel blog and what to write about. Snatching victory out of defeat, I decided to abandon my Colorful Scotland book idea (which didn’t seem to be going anyplace exciting) and use the material instead for a blog (or two) about the places in Scotland I’d like to be revisiting. Thus, we have this post: a series of colorful Scotland photos, each followed by commentary (description, story, or other). This is the same formula I used successfully in the Scotland in Black and White: 90 Photos book, at least that is what most who bought the book said. [Crass Commercial Announcement: there are still a few copies of the limited edition 90 Photos book available from me for $25 plus $5 shipping.]

Special Request: After you’ve read this post, please send me a note (in the comments section or via email) with your reactions. It’s nice to hear from those who look at my work.

Stones of Machrie Moor, Isle of Arran, Scotland

May 2014 , Nikon D5100 Nikon 18-200 at 45mm
     May 2014, Nikon D5100, Nikon 18-200 at 45mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO 250.

Most important of all the archeological sites on Arran is Moss Farm Road Circle and Machrie Moor, which has been called the best group of architecturally varied circles in western Europe. The one and a half mile walk from the main island road to the moor is an easy hike along a farm track with sheep watching warily the whole way.

Machrie Moor is an area of approximately five square miles of flat fertile sandy soil, machair in Gaelic. The wide moor hosts numerous prehistoric monuments, tombs, hut-circles besides the six megalithic stone circles currently in care of Historic Scotland. The moor is a sacred, ritualistic landscape on a high plateau on the southwest side of island between the Kilbrannan Sound on the west and Firth of Clyde on the east. The exact purpose of the stone circles is not known, but most have astronomical alignments and some are suspected of being ceremonial graves.

We’ve always enjoyed our visits to these ancient sites where even the crows seem to honor the quiet of the landscape.

Eilean Donan Castle

     October 2017, Nikon D500, Sigma 18-300 at 22mm, f/8, 1/200, ISO 400.

Eilean Donan Castle is probably the most photographed castle in Scotland. Located at the confluence of three lochs (Loch Long, Loch Duich, and Loch Alsh), in Scotland’s northwest highlands, the castle has an interesting history. Set on a small island along the shore of Loch Duich, the original castle dates to the early 1300s. But that castle was completely destroyed by British bombardment in 1719. The current Eilean Donan Castle (the name goes back to the 6th century, the “Island of Doom”) was completed in 1932—a modern mansion built to look like a medieval fortress.

The castle is a popular tourist attraction and an almost mandatory stop when heading to the Isle of Skye. It also has a strong Hollywood connection—used in The Highlander, 007 movies, Loch Ness (movie), Master of Ballantrae, Avengers, and as the BBC logo.

The Amulree Church, Perthshire

     May 2010, Nikon P90 at 11mm, f/11, 1/500, ISO 400.

The Amulree and Strathearn Church in the clachan (hamlet—three homes, one closed hotel, one closed tearoom, and a scattering of farming crofts) sits on the border between the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland at an elevation of about 1000 feet. The church is named from the Gaelic meaning the ford of Maolruibhe (one of St Columba’s monks who came to Scotland about 650 AD). The current church underwent major refurbishment in 1881. The church, which is in the Parish of Dull (the village of Dull is twinned with Boring in Oregon) is still in full use today.

The site of the church at Amulree is quite lovely. It is set at the beginning of one of Scotland’s many lovely glens, Glen Quaich, and is next to the River Braan. The site is very close to the geographic center of Scotland. The location is along one of Scotland’s historic main Drover’s Trails and at certain times of the year (in about the 1880s) as many as 30,000 cattle would graze in the fields nearby as they were driven to markets in southern Scotland and England. Today, when you visit the church you might be greeted by a few local sheep.

Scotland’s Colorful Sheep

                              October 2014, Nikon D600, Nikon 28-300 at 300mm, f/9. 1/60, ISO 400.

On one of our visits to Amulree Church we realized we had never toured Glen Quaich, reputed to be one Scotland’s finest small glens (valleys). The views of mountains and lochs along the glen were lovely. At one point we had to drive a half mile stretch of single track road seeming straight up with no turnouts and no guard rails—if you meet another vehicle on this part of the road someone will have a terribly difficult backup. At the top of the climb we were rewarded with some nice closeup views of red grouse on fence posts beside the road, The most interesting sight along the road was a flock of what looked like flocked sheep—the whole flock was bright yellow/gold. I stopped and got a batch of pictures of the colored sheep and later did some research.

Originally photographer Gary Malin developed a project called “The Dream Series.” Malin worked with sheep  farmers in Australia to develop a non-toxic vegetable dye to color a flock of sheep for a photo essay. Applied with the same tools used to spray sheep for ticks and lice, the coloring brings no harm or bother to the sheep. Since 2007 various Scotish farmers have been dying their sheep to entertain passing motorists or tourists. One farmer, Andrew Jack, in Bathgate (West Lothian) has been dying his sheep either gold, yellow, pink, blue or rainbow colored. Obviously, the farmer in Glen Quaich liked the look. 

NEXT: I'm on a roll now. In a couple of weeks I'll have up another post about Colorful Scotland or something even more exciting. Slainte, which means good health to us all.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

A Tale of Two Gardens

Still not much travel even though Oregon, like other places, tries to open up a little. Anne and I are being very conservative—no sit-in restaurants, very little shopping, no real trips. We have been on the lookout for ways to get out of the house. We’re not fans of wild camping, but we did consider taking Morse, the travel trailer, to a formal RV resort on the coast. We stopped considering it when the Oregon coast became a Covid-19 Hot Spot and we saw pictures of filled campgrounds crowded with campers with no masks and not maintaining social distancing. We did finally decide a trip to The Oregon Garden with friends Scott and Jane Thompson (in separate cars) would be doable. That three hour visit is the kernel of this post, along with telling about a Scottish garden we’ve visited several times. Mostly pictures without much commentary.

If nothing else, I hope this post bring a little color and brightness to a quite dark time.

The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR.

Opened in 1999, The Oregon Garden is an 80-acre botanical garden with more than 20 specialty gardens (such as the Evergreen Garden and the Children’s Garden). The garden has four miles of ADA paths and usually operates a guided tram ride. The garden is open 365 days a year and is lovely any time of year. 
I usually visit the garden two or three times a year for flower photos, but this time I was particularly interested in the garden’s Covid-19 adaptions, including

Visitor’s Center was closed until July 10th,
This isn't the Visitor's Center; it's a garden shed.

Hours restricted to 10 to 4 daily, 
For a while I had my ducks in a row.

Only 300 guests in the garden at any one time, 

The tram is not operating, 

Drinking fountains are turned off (bring your own water), 
The crow on the right was teaching the young one how to feed.

Only restrooms by the entrance and the Children’s Garden are open, and

Masks are required in indoor public areas and six foot social distancing is expected in all areas.
Using a special photo program.

The local statue of Nessie.

The four of us maintained appropriate social distancing and then enjoyed a picnic lunch (we each brought our own) at different ends of the picnic table. A lovely and successful trip.

Kailzie Gardens, 2.5 miles from Peebles in Scotland’s Borders region,

In better times when Anne and I have visited the Scottish Borders we have spent time at Kailzie Gardens  (pronounced kay-lae), a private garden in the Tweed Valley. The garden dates from 1812 and is currently owned by Lady Buchan-Hepburn of Peebles. 

This is a spectacular 17-acre garden consisting of both woodlands and walled formal gardens, including greenhouses. Kailzie also hosts Tweed Valley Ospreys (an osprey observation area open Easter to the end of August) and Kailzie Courtyard Cafe.  The gardens are usually open all year, but this year closed in March and didn’t reopen until July 3rd.

These two gardens are very different, but we enjoy both and hope the photos will help brighten your day.

NEXT: Stay Safe and Find Out.