Monday, February 28, 2011

Chicks Rock ‘n Rule? or That Damn Chicken Farmer!

One of the many great features of our holiday place in Normandy is the beautiful landscape surrounding us. It is a varied and undulating scenery; crop fields and large grazing fields for the dairy herds broken up by small woods, copses and hedgerows. The local farmers manage their land very well; they cut the grass along the roads and they chop down trees on a regular basis, letting nothing go to waste. All the wood is used either for fences and similar, or for stoves like ours, at a cost of €50 per cubic metre. If you buy larger quantities you get a better price.

DSC_0532 DSC_0537 DSC_0959

We like to think that our farmer friends look after the environment in an excellent way, although they sometimes dump all sorts of rubbish in funny places. There is a natural rhythm to the agricultural year with sound old farming practices. This time of year is particularly suited to maintenance, repairing and forestry, apart from the milking every morning at seven and every evening at six.

Then there is the EU, the European Union, and the co-ordination of, in particular, agriculture; what to grow, how much to grow, subsidies for certain crops, subsidies for NOT growing certain crops, rules about raising animals, large and small, and the space they need, i.e. their own creature comfort zone. And this is where I have an issue with the chicken farmer over the hill.


Like so many farmers he has branched out, but his main business is still fowl. He now seems to be expanding his chicken division. Not only will he be feeding up more chickens, but he needs to stick to, possibly new, EU rulings regarding the personal space each individual chick is entitled to. So his two big chicken barns with their characteristic feeding towers close to the family home will now be joined by three new barns on the other side of the road. Tons and tons of earth have been shifted in the last few months, the ground has been levelled and the foundations now bear witness to what we can expect in the future. I am not concerned with the smell or the sound because these buildings will be situated several hundred metres away from any public road.

As my regular readers know, we like to go for walks all around our little hamlet. Just up the hill from us we often stop to take in the views, just a little short of the said chicken farm. If we look over the farm we can see “for miles and miles”. If we look down to the left we have one of our absolute favourite views, that is, until now.


Even approaching this beautiful hill from the other side, like we do when we arrive on holiday, fills us with joy and anticipation. But now, he has ruined our view. Just look at it!


On the other hand, in his defence, I have to admit he should get some credit for creating this bird and fish pond by the road some years ago.


But he is ruining OUR VIEW, buuuhuuuh!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Not So Old Pictures Continued

I had a comment from Oreneta with the very appropriate and justified question whether an image in my previous post came straight out of the camera. The answer is “not quite”. I used my photo editing software “Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2” to make a small adjustment. The result is like pulling off a thin coating of grey as you can see below.

Tech spec:

(All corrections within a range of max 100)

Focus – 44 sharper

Saturation – 20 more colourful

Brightness – 19 brighter, –60 shadows and 20 more highlights

I used the software’s One Step Photo Fix, and to me it looks just like clearing it up a bit. The difference is obvious when you see them next to each other, although it is a rather subtle enhancement. I sometimes use this feature when I want to check how I have managed my camera settings, what with all the ISAs, shutter speeds, depth of field and so on. I quite like the original, but the light was disappearing and there was a change of temperature creating humidity, hence the “grey coating”.

See what you think. Original on the left.

DSC_1136_20110216_12101 jpg from tiff DSC_1136_20110216_12101 ab

How is this for being honest!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Not So Old Pictures

Nature looks fairly pale and even bleak at the moment, although snowdrops and other garden flowers have adorned the flower beds for many days now. On a walk through the forest just before sunset the other day I took a few images just out of habit. What might look like dormant or dead vegetation can actually make quite a decent photograph with its subdued and understated colours, like in this picture of some naked birches and dead bracken. Almost ghostly beauty.


jpg from tiff DSC_1136_20110216_12101 ab 


This morning the sun was out and I took the opportunity to practise with my new long lens. Sadly my feeders are on the north side of the house, which is not ideal for photographing the poor little things, but the sun shines on the very top of some shrubs and cut-off trees nearby which serve as a waiting area for the birds where they scan the surroundings before moving in on the food. Here is one of the regular customers, a greenfinch, surveying the scene.


jpg from tiff DSC_1187_20110217_12152 crop fxd ab 


One of the regular winter guests is the brambling (Swedish: bergfink), who otherwise breeds in Scandinavia and Russia. It has got rather striking colours and marking.


jpg from tiff DSC_1234_20110217_12199 crop fxd ab 


I use my tripod for bird photography, in particular with this new lens without built-in anti-shake, but it is still a challenge to get the focus right when the little so-and-so keeps moving all the time!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Who Are These People?

I have been deep down in family history again, nostalgia. I am continuing to scan and organise my mother’s and father’s old photo albums. I have taken it upon myself to document and safeguard information which otherwise might get lost before long. There are quite a few albums, but I am nearing the end now.

Most people I recognise and identify, either through my own experience or logical thinking, deduction and a lot of staring at the same images over and over again. I look for hair styles, wedding rings and other clear indicators, who else is in the picture, which location, time of year, items in the background, notes on the back, anything printed in a corner by a professional photographer and so on. It is pure detective work most of the time.

It does not take long before you get to know somebody’s facial features, so you can recognise this person in another photo, which might be out of focus or damaged. You compare noses, eyebrows and mouths to determine relationships. Also somebody’s position in a group photo at a wedding in 1918, can determine the identity after having ticked off everybody you are sure of. Conclusion, this must be my grandmother’s only brother, for instance.

After a while I feel like I know some of these people who lived long before my time, but of course I don’t really. However, if I then come across some old letter written by one of them, suddenly this person takes on another dimension. I have found copies of letters, one of them 125 years old, regarding the death of my great great grandmother in 1885, and another from my grandparents to my grandfather's mother describing in detail what my toddler father had been up to in 1923. Quite sensational. Here he is that year on his mother’s knee.

S in 1923

Obviously there are many anonymous people who not even my old mother is sure of any more, some of them before her time, some before she knew my father. Then there is this very old photograph.

ca 1870

Who are these people? Well, they must be my relatives. My next assumption is that they most likely are in direct line, because why else would someone treasure an old photograph like that for so long? So they would then be my great great grandparents. Both sets of great great grandparents were born around 1820, and I guess they are roughly 50 years old in this picture. Then this was taken around 1870, but I could be out by 15 years easily.

Are there any clues in the way they are dressed, I ask myself? Probably not, because one of these men was a shopkeeper and the other one was a shoemaker, and one must assume they have got their Sunday bests on anyway. Does the man in the photo look six years older than his wife? If so, that would point towards the shopkeeper, whose wife was the one mentioned in the letter referred to above. My grandfather never ever met those grandparents because of the geographical distance, since they did not have a horse and cart. So did his grandparents therefore have their picture taken to send to the grandchildren? Does that sound plausible?

On the other hand, the shoemaker lived and worked in the small village of Bjellerup. My grandfather chose that to become his new surname in 1907. Is that connection why the photograph has been kept all these years. My father had it, and before he passed away five years ago, I seem to remember he told me it was the shoemaker in this picture. But I cannot be absolutely sure about it. Who can tell me? Can I phone a friend?