Vinica, Macedonia, Hiking to Vinicko Kale

Today is Friday, the second day of our trip. The family is busy getting ready for the events that will take place on Saturday. Today Amy is going to be our guide and show us around Vinica. This morning we are going to walk to Vinicko Kale.

I learned about Vinicko Kale some years ago when Amy took some of her photography students up to the ruins to do light painting one evening. She also has a photograph of herself taken standing in part of the ruins and honestly it looked like she was standing in the map of Africa. So many overlaps to our growing up in South Africa and what we saw in Macedonia, although I will say I never spent time in ruins in South Africa.

Vinicko Kale sits above the village of Vinica. I am a bit of a romantic, with an appreciation of a blood thirsty battle. I love reading history of the Scots. Stories of the way they lived, and the battles that took place fascinate me. Stories such as Troy, 300, Braveheart, King Arthur, I love them all.

So when I think about Vinicko Kale, I think about a fortress built to defend a city. A beacon on a hill in a country where life could be threatened at any given moment. I think about men and women, living through these times. And I think about how much of a privilege it is for me to walk through these ruins and ruminate on life gone by.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, most of the walk was uphill. Aside from a short detour downhill to get to the road that went up to the ruins, it was an uphill climb. And I confessed, I am unfit!. I come from a family of asthmatics, and while I do not have asthma, this kind of exertion honestly makes me feel like I do. Add allergies and altitude and my breathing is the pits. So along the way, I would stop and take photos of the scenery, and the flowers and catch my breath. We passed some stairs and I gave thanks that we would not be climbing those but rather walking the road.

This was where we were heading – up to the ruins of Vinicko Kale. Reaching the top we were rewarded with the spectacular view of the town of Vinica. I mentioned previously that there are about 10, 800 or so people living in Vinica. Walking around the town, I would not image that many people, but the view from here makes it much easier to understand those numbers.

To be honest I wish I had a drone. What we saw is not the full picture of the ruins, they are far bigger. Vinicko Kale is situated at an altitude of 400m. The ruins themselves are about 250m x 150m, and spread across the hillside and onto the surrounding hills.

So what is the story with Vinicko Kale. According to what I have read, Vinicko Kale was discovered in 1954. Around 1978, 5 fragments of terracotta Christian icons were discovered. These icons dated back to Neolithic times, and through to the Middle Ages. This has sparked a real interest in the ruins.

The findings of the icons has sparked archaeological excavations since about 1985. What was found was the history of these ruins which they believe began around Neolithic times and stretched through to the Middle ages. It appears that various identifying features were found in amongst the ruins, such as “benches”, plumbing installations, walls of what appears to be a church.

There was a great site on the web that gave a lot more information on the ruins than I had found. You can learn more if you go here.

I read a number of sites that mention tombs and the excavation of a female tomb. In the excavation process they found glass and bronze gilded bracelets and bronze rings. Some of the icons found appear to have been mounted of the walls of tombs

Looking from where we stood, I believe we could see the town of Kochani, which we would visit later in the day.

As you look over the town of Vinica, the church that you see in the middle, is the church where Luka would be baptized on the Monday.

Above the hill of Vinica, and in fact many towns that we visited stood a tall Cross. Macedonia is made up of a number of religions. Most Macedonians traditionally follow the Macedonian Orthodox Christianity. However, the Albanians, Turks, & Roma are typically Muslin. One of the observations that I saw was there were many small Orthodox churches, and there were also many mosques. Since I managed to get a photo of the cross from the ruins, I opted not to climb another hill just to see the cross.

While we marveled at the beautiful ruins, this little man slept through. I was so amazed at how well he adapted to the busy schedule that we had. He was a real trouper. And his baby jogger was the best investment Amy made before traveled. Oh and the cheap octopus like battery operate fan that she could attach to his stroller to cool him down

Heading back down, I thought Richard and Amy would take the road. I optimistically thought I would take the stairs and meet them as they came around. But no they decided it would be quicker to carry the stroller down the flights of stairs. Below is an example of just a short section of the stairs heading up and down the hill, if you opted not to take the road up to Vinicko Kale.

Heading back into town, I was dragging, simply turning around and taking photos along the way. This always happens and before I know it Richard is way ahead of me. Amy is like her father. They do not walk slow. Me on the other hand, I want to take in what is around me.

One of the best moments of this morning, was right before I headed up the short hill back to the hotel. I was taking photos, and these two men below asked me to take their photo. I do not know them, I could not speak their language other than to say hello, but I got the message that they would like me to take their photo. These are the moments I love. They are spontaneous, they are moments that bring joy.

Vinicko Kale, in my mind, was the first line of defense for the ancient dwelling place. A place where the hustle and bustle of people made the fortress a thriving place of industry. Lying on one of the busiest economic roads, Vinicko Kale would see many travelers, and perhaps many who would want to subdue all and take over the fortress. In my mind, battles took place, and men and women rose up to defend, but, of course, that is all in my mind.

If you find yourself in Vinica, definitely take the walk up to Vinicko Kale, embrace the ruins of history, allowed your mind to imagine what it was like back in the day. Then go down to the village and enjoy the history that is found within this town.

Next blog we head to Kochani, a slightly larger town than Vinica, which was about 15 minutes away from where we were.

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Share Six: September 2022: Intentional

Liz from It’s Still Life Photography by Elizabeth Willson chose our theme {Intentional}. This was going to challenge me. I had to really sit and think about it. I have not had a lot of time to myself this past 2 weeks. Aside from my Luka days which always seem to be more than Friday (and I am not complaining), I have had a change in job description. I have been asked to take over two areas that our ex Finance Officer was handing, insurances & employee benefits along with HR. I may loose the HR later but right now it is on my plate. It has been a learning curve. So I had to go back and look at what I had been intentional about recently.

Macedonia was so different to what you see in South Florida. South Florida is so manicured that it is virtually impossible to see a weed. Whereas in Macedonia there was a wildness to the flora on our walk we were taking, and also plenty of wildflowers. On our walk to Vinicko Kale, the ruins of the fortress that sits on top of the hill, I was intentional about looking for the beauty that surrounded us. That and stopping every so often to breathe. The walk up hill was a killer. I am unfit, that goes without saying. However, while I am not asthmatic, I come from a family that does suffer from asthma. My allergies tend to play up when I hit dry climates and the altitude affects my breathing. So I would stop and take photos, and catch up on my breathing at the same time. As a result Amy and Richard were always way ahead of me on the hike.

Macedonia’s topography undulates. We were constantly going up and downhill. We had to go downhill to get to the point where we could go uphill to Vincko Kale. And then it all went uphill. While for many, the sides of the road may seem overgrown, I loved seeing all the wildflowers. Some of them may have been weeds, but they were beautiful flowering weeds. Nature has so many beautiful specimens to offer and I was seeing a good few of them here in Vinica as we walked.

About halfway up the hill I stopped to breathe again, and to breathe in the beauty of our surroundings. Florida is so flat that it is so amazing to be able to look around and see hills, valleys and mountains again. It reminded me so much of the countryside we used to explore in South Africa.

I have no idea of any of the names of the flowers sadly, but they definitely captured my attention. The image below is the ruins of Vinicko Kale, a fortress set on top of the hill that dates back to the Neolithic times. This is where our uphill walk was taking us.

No only were the flowers stunning but I was blown away by the spiderweb below. It appeared that the spider created this tunnel through to where it waited.

After huffing and puffing my way up the hill, with all my {Intentional} stops to breathe and seek beauty, the view from the top was spectacular. It was of the city below. Now while the walk downhill may not be bad, the last little stretch uphill had me huffing and puffing again.

Doing things {Intentionally} is not a bad thing. I intentionally plan before we go. I like to know where I am going and what there is to see. When I am there, I am intentionally looking for the beauty that is around me. Intentionally trying to connect with what the country has to offer. I loved our trip to Macedonia and a journey into an area of the world I have never been before.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Katherine of Cobert Photography is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

If you want to learn more about the Fortress Vinicko Kale, then look out for the next blog due to go live later this week.

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Macedonia: Vinica

Vinica was the town we would be in for the next 5 days. Today we are going to explore some of the town and a little bit of the history. We often have preconceived ideas of what to expect.

Like most of Europe the cities are full of history. I had already used my google man to do some exploring but Vinica was too small to explore. The town was so interesting, we loved meeting family but, best of all, the welcome in Vinica exceeded my expectations. Like most countries that originally formed part of the Soviet block there is not a lot of infrastructure and the income level is not high. Vinica is found in the north east of Macedonia about 1 hour from the capital Skopje. Vinica is also the center of the Municipality of Vinica.

Vinica is a small town with a population of 10, 863 inhabitants. Broken down the town is made up of predominately Macedonians, but there is also a small group of Roma, Turks and Aromanians as well. It is located between the Golak and Obozna mountains and at the foot of the Plachkovica mountains.

The name Vinica is derived from the word vine, and Daniel tells me that Vinica was at one time well known for it’s vineyards. Walking around the town you will see vines growing on awnings outside of the houses.

This morning we walked up the street above to Daniel’s family home to meet up with Amy. We were heading to the Park Hotel for breakfast. Breakfast was good. We had omelets that cost us about $4 each. Coffee was good and they accommodated my milk and hot water request. I drink tea but only certain teas. The coffee was strong for the most part, mainly Turkish.

Luka ate some tomato’s at breakfast and had a bad reaction to them so Amy rushed off to the pharmacy to get an anti histamine to settle the reaction down. Looking back she feels like the blotchy face may have been the second time he had a reaction to tomatoes. We later walked up to the fort so he slept most of the way.

What was interesting for me, and to some degree worried me, but I am sure that up north USA you will see the same thing in winter. The amounts of firewood stacked in the streets and against the houses is incredible and I am sure that in winter this is all used. But I have to confess I kept thinking fire hazard. Oh me, of the state (Florida) of eternal heat. And if I am confessing, I have to be honest and say “hats off” to anyone who can live for months in snow.

Vinica has fallen under a number of different times. Neolithic times, Byzantine times, the Ottoman empire and the Yugoslavia times. Neolithic times is defined as the Stone Age, in around 4500BC. Byzantine times was apparently when the Eastern Roman Empire split in about 395CE until it fell to the Ottoman Empire in about 1453. Last but not least Yugoslavia from 1929 after the war until the 1980’s when the federation broke up.

There are three schools in Vinica, 2 primary and 1 high school. Amy taught English, through the Peace Corp at one of the schools, over a 27 month period. I had hoped to travel over while she was there but that did not happen.

In preparation for traveling I pulled up a map of Vinica and plotted out what to do and see. I will be honest, there is not a lot of “sights” to see in Vinica but on my list of things was St Arhangel Michael (where Luka would be baptized), the school where Amy taught, the St Apostal Luka, the Mosque, the Fortress, known as Vinicko Kale, the City Museum, St Pavale. To be honest we did not get to all of them, but Vinica was about family and we did a lot of that. There is also a cross on top of the hill, but after hiking to the fort, I was not up to hiking to the cross. I am unfit, the altitude affected my breathing and it was just so hot. Temps were sitting around 103 F. However, walking around the town, there were many things of interest, parks, coffeeshops, general shops etc.

One thing I did notice about Vinica, which we are just not used to anymore, was the overhead power lines. I have to think it would be an American Electricians nightmare. Daniel’s brother told me that the power system was sold to an Austrian company and they are required to only use that form of power. As you will see in other images, in winter wood is their main source of fuel, and they have big stoves in the basement that heat up the houses.

Amy showed us the apartment above that she lived in for at least 18 months. It was the lower right apartment of this building. It was perfect for the quick walk to school.

Hotel Central was the hotel that we stayed at and I will say in all honesty that it was well worth the stay. Not only was the room comfortable, but they provided a breakfast for us each morning. They also offered a gym and a spa. As much as I wanted to get a massage, trying to fit it in with all that was going on was not happening. Below the hotel was a shop where we could go and buy water and any other items we may wish to snack on. It was very convenient given that the temperature on most of the days. I also loved that our hotel had air conditioning. It was good to be able to go and cool down when the temps got to high. I think Luka and Amy loved it as well. We are so spoilt. I forget that growing up in South Africa we didn’t have air conditioning either. That said I am not sure I could live without it now.

There are apparently three major hotels, but I only found the two, Hotel Central where we stayed, and Hotel Aleksander Park where we went for breakfast a couple of times. There are lots of shops, bars and restaurants. Very often in the mornings the coffee bars were full. Mostly men drinking coffee. We drank beers at the Park, and I will tell you that those beers were far bigger than the standard size you get in the US. Skopsko IPL was the beer we seemed to order most of the time. We also ate at one of the pizza restaurants one evening, but again most of the time was spent with family. More on the lower part of town in another blog.

The main farming production around Vinica is rice, which also explains the high population of mosquitos in the area. Nasty biting mean machines :). In addition to the rice farming, there is also is known for their textiles and wood furniture production.

There appeared to be two sides to Vinica, the slightly older side and then the more modern newer looking side. This we came across as we walked to the Vinicko Kale later in the day. What interested me was the solar powered water heaters on the roof.

In addition I noticed that while the buildings may be older, the owners loved adding colorful flowers to the balconies and walkways to beautify the area. They did a really good job of making the area around their homes look pretty.

While Vinica is a smaller and older town, we had a wonderful time there. We were welcomed by the family with open arms, some tears and a whole lot of hugs. Despite our language challenges we were able to meet all the family, and to see some of this historical town.

If you are looking for a place to stop over, then the Hotel Central is ideal. Take time to explore, visit the churches, climb to the Fort, and the Cross if you can, sit at the beer garden and try a Skopsko, do early morning Turkish coffee. Breathe in the smells, experience the beautiful culture, love what you see. That’s the only way to travel – with an open mind, and an open heart.

Next blog will be my Share Six blog, then we will be heading up to the Fort. Join me if you can. If you want to see the other blogs on Macedonia click on the blog tab and scroll down

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30 minutes in the life: June 2022

I am writing this early in the month so that I don’t get caught up with things later on. I work from home so very often I don’t venture out my office, let alone my home. Richard arrived home at about 3pm last Thursday and he mentioned there was a big bird out in one of the flower beds. I can see from the photo that it is part of the Peacock/hen family. I grab my camera and go out the back patio door and walk down the side of the house hoping to take some photo’s before she disappears. She spotted me and started walking away, then turned around and walked towards me. I got a little nervous as I wondered if she might peck at me. She didn’t, but I decided she may be hungry so I grabbed some of the duck seed and put it in a bowl and put it outside for her. She walked right back around and came to eat from the bowl.

She disappeared in the afternoon and Richard later found her on top of our double story house. I did not know that a peahen could fly that high. I always assumed that they were more ground birds

Richard saw her briefly on Friday on the back canal. Saturday she was spotted on our neighbors yard. Today is Sunday, and Richard told me that she had dug a hole and was settled in it. I got really excited thinking she may start laying eggs, but then Richard found her in the garage. So now I am wondering if the hole in the sand is a way for her to cool down. I am probably going to go outside and now and leave a bowl of water for her.

Monday she was back again, so I ventured out to take a few more photographs. This time I lay on the grass and watched her walk around me.

I think it is so cool when I get to see the different critters in the garden. I love all the birds and the animals that frequent our property.

Thank you for joining us, 30 Minutes in the Life is a circle blog and we have some very talented photographers in the group. I always love looking at the sneak peaks and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what Kristina of Hello Olivia Photography has for you this month, and I look forward to seeing what she has to share.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

30 Minutes in the LIfe: May 2020

Well it is June already, but since there were not too many people blogging, and I had a sick baby in my arms all weekend, I opted to request that we wait a week and blog late.

Luka takes up my play days, and unless I get to play with Luka along, I really don’t get to go out as much as I did in the past. However, I love having that one day a week with him, where we can continue to bond and grow closer. His little face lights up bright when he gets to see his Nuala and Granda. There is such big smiles that it just brings such joy to my heart.

Suffice to say I have not got out this month because he is on the 7th week of being sick. The one nurse said to me that day cares are “evil” and I tend to agree. You no sooner send him back to day care and he is off sick again. I guess one has to start adding up how many days you are paying for day care that he is not actually going.

That said I did get one walk in this month. My goal was to see the new babies in the wetlands, but honestly by the time I eventually got to see them they were juveniles already. Here is a few images from my walk.

Flasher lol – This is a typical position for some birds on a really hot day. However what you cannot see behind mom’s wings is some teeny tiny Woodstork. She was shading them from the sun.
These babies are no longer tiny babies, however, they are still reliant on mom to feed them.
The Woodstork take over the nesting areas in the wetlands much to my dismay. There used to be pockets of Great Blue Heron, who have the cutest mohawk looking chicks, but the Woodstork have really pushed them out of the area.
George taking a nap on the berm. What you don’t see is a number of Iguana playing chicken. They are perfect gator food.
This guy was on the other side of the walkway. This is typical mating colors for the Iguana.
These Tri-colored Heron are newbies. There were three in the nest.
Cormorant are some of my favorite birds. The Cormorant in the wetlands are fairly tame and you can walk right up to them, and they will just stare you down. These birds have the most incredible turquoise eyes.
Lazing in the afternoon. Turtle suntan time. I love seeing them especially when there is a group of them hanging out on a log.
Juvenile Great Egret. Not sure where mom was but they were hanging out waiting. What I love about these birds is that there legs bend backwards.
That’s it folks 🙂 The Woodstork certainly have a lot to say for themselves.

It was good to get out and walk again. If I had planned to do it this weekend I would have been in trouble. We have a tropical storm passing over us and dumping a huge amount of rain. Nothing else to worry about although Richard did say that some cars in Miami were up to their windows.

Thank you for joining us, 30 Minutes in the Life is a circle blog and we have some very talented photographers in the group. I always love looking at the sneak peaks and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what she has for you this month Kristina from Hello Olivia Photography is up next, and I look forward to seeing what she has to share.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: June 2022: Light

Well this month has passed and I have done one walk. I have struggled to get out on my free day as I have had Luka and for the past 6 weeks he has been sick. Last weekend when I did plan to go out, I ended up with him spending 3 days in our home. Amy had bronchitis and she did not feel at all well, Daniel was working night shift, and honestly we did not want Luka to catch something else. As it was I took him to the doctor for a check up on his cough and discovered he had another ear infection, and subsequently received another antibiotic. Poor guy spent a good bit of time in my arms.

So I looked through what I had not edited this past year and pulled images for light from there.

This image caught my attention because of the bokeh and the light shining through the wings. This poor Anhinga has clearly had a run in with something, probably an aligator, given the loss of feather. I have to wonder how it is flying to be honest.

Whenever I go to shoot the sunset, I always take my lensbaby, but for some reason I never pull it out. This was one of the light images that I had not edited 2 months ago. This is my favorite spot to get some nice pond reflections. What I like about this image is the reflection of the son on the leaves of the reeds.

Out in the garden and just after the rain. The light was dullish but I was able to capture the waterdrop at the tip of the leaf.

Out on my walk recently I spotted this Iguana in pockets of light. He was on a berm surrounded by trees and there are odd spots that get lit up along the edges. The Iguanas are in mating season and this guy clearly has been fighting as he has a bloody spot on his back that looks like a claw snagged him.

Sunsets are my favorite and sometimes they are average and sometimes they light up the sky. I loved the different shades of light in this image.

Moody kind of light found along a secluded walkway. This are my favorite kinds of images.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Janet from @wiredtothemoon next is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her  Instagram pages. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_light

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

30 Minutes in the Life: March 2022

Just a heads up – this post is more than 30 Minutes. There was way to much going on on my time out.

We have a wee bit of Irish in our bloodline. My grandmother was born in Halifax, Yorkshire. Her father Michael Nolan, was born in York, Yorkshire of Irish Immigrants. My great grandparents emigrated to South Africa where my mother was born, as was I and my children. However, I do hold onto that tiny bit of Irish history.

It was St Patrick’s day, and so we dragged out Luka’s “My first St Patrick’s Day” bib and headed to the local parade. We grabbed some starters at a local restaurant, some beers and Guinness and family time until the parade started. I have to confess when I go to a parade like this, I honestly expect to hear and see all things Irish. Sadly I was disappointed. Green beads, green outfits and loud hooting does not make it Irish. The parade was not great and so I spent more time people watching, which seemed a lot more interesting.

I needed a low key photo for my 52 Frames project so the two images that you see in black and white were my choices for my low key images. I eventually decided to submit the image of the young lady.

Here are some images from the St Patrick’s Day outing.

The wind picked up, the dust was blowing everywhere, Luka was tired and getting dust in his eyes and Amy was getting stressed. We tried to find a seat at a restaurant and they took forever, and then only gave a seat for 2. He wandered off to try and find out if he could seat four. While we were waiting for the table, the police opened the cross roads, and so we abandoned the table and crossed the road heading back towards our car. Richard did not want to leave with all the traffic so we wandered down the road, and came across an outdoor Italian restaurant playing Irish music and offering corned beef and cabbage. So we hung out there for a while and had another beer. Just before we finished it started spitting, so we packed up and headed to the car as quickly as possible, each of us agreeing that we were glad that the parade was over and vowing we were not getting caught again next year. I needed Irish music, lilting laughter and good beer. Perhaps there will be another time. Or perhaps, we can plan to visit Ireland.

Thank you for joining us, 30 Minutes in the Life is a circle blog and we have some very talented photographers in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month, Kristina Dominianni is up next, and I look forward to seeing what she has to share.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: March 2022: Revive

As I sit here and write, the news is on the the attack on the Ukraine is happening. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine. My prayer is for peace and no more senseless killing. I pray that they stay strong and resolved see this through to the best of their ability.

The theme this month is {Revive} and was picked by Elizabeth of It’s Still Life Photography by Elizabeth Willson.

Revive, I had to put on my thinking cap for this one. Books revive me, or allow me to escape. I thought about a spa day, but there’s no time for that.

What does {Revive} me is getting out and walking in the wetlands. It gives me peace. It restores my soul. It centers me. I am in awe of creation .

I also realized that nature itself is in {Revive} mode, certainly in South Florida. The weather is warming up, and there are definitely signs that spring is on it’s way. I took Luka for a walk this past week deliberately looking at nature for this revival.

The flora definitely has little spikes of green happening.

However there is more, Revive is happening amongst the bird life as well. As we see winter come to an end, the bird starts coming in and creating nests, doing their mating dances, and before long we will see new life again.

The Great Egret is one of the most stunning birds in breeding season. They get these really wispy feathers that are used to attract the male and you are fortunate if you get to witness both the calling dance and the mating dance of the two birds. Above this bird was in the middle of her calling dance. Her feathers were splayed wide and and the stand up wide as she moves. The green around their eyes deepen in color.
New to the wetlands is a set of baby gators. Mom was hanging out in the shallow water. if you look at her body you will see the head of a baby gator resting up against her. In the reeds (but at the wrong angle for me) the siblings were playing in the reeds.
The male Great Blue Heron is the stick collector and you will see them flying out to find a stick, and bring it back to the female. She will attempt to wedge it into the nest. They also go through the mating dance routine, and I have actually managed in the past to capture the actual mating.
The Wood Storks are currently moving in. When they first arrived some years ago I was over the moon. These guys have a prehistoric look about there. I have since discovered that they have a prehistoric behavior about them as well. They move in in mob form and take over. They have pushed all the Great Blue Herons to a section that is not as easy to photograph and by the end of the season I am convinced that I am breathing toxic waste by the time I have passed them. While it is nice to see them I kind of feel that they have taken over.
The Cattle Egret, like the Snowy Egret, also get this wispy feel to their feathers. The top of their heads get darker. They are really cute and I wish they would nest closer to where I can photography them well.
The Anhinga is also doing their thing. One of the amazing things about the Anhinga in the mating season is the color of their eyes. They get this ring of turquoise green rings around their eyes. The male gets these wispy feathers on top of their head. Below I managed to get up close to a male anhinga that I hopped up onto the board walk to dry it’s wings. When they go fishing they are weighed down with the water and can only fly a short distance and then they need to dry their wings so that they can fly again properly.

Spring is a time of revival. It is a time of new birth. It is a time to start planting. It is a time to revive.

Thank you for joining us this month.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Ceri Herd Photography up next is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Facebook and  Instagram pages. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_revive

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

30 minutes in the life: February 2022

How did we get to the end of February already. Clearly time is flying. At least I am having fun. As I think I mentioned sometime back, I kind of lost my desire and energy to go out and take photographs. I am trying to be a bit more determined, but Mr Luka is taking up a good deal of my time. Three weeks ago when I had him I thought I would take him for a walk. That wasn’t the worst experience, but it could have gone a lot better. I did not get the images I would have got on my own. In all honesty I just wanted to get out and walk. We are going to revisit this option, perhaps in the coming weeks but maybe a smaller park.

Two weeks ago, with some determination, I took my camera along. I packed in my zoom lens, my wide angle lens. my 28-135mm and my Lensbaby sweet 35. I did not pull any of them out at the house, but when I came to leave I weighed up going to the shop or going to the sunset. The sunset won. I was able to see some “sunset” friends again and just relax and laugh and enjoy the moment. Honestly you just have to grab that “happy moment” where you can

I always like to stop at the “pond” first because very often I will get nice reflections across the water. This particular evening I was looking for a depth of field image so spent some time playing around with the branches of the tree. Ultimately it was not the image I used .

Heading down to the waters edge I always love silhouettes. Normally I try to get people but there were not too many in the right position.

There are all sorts of critters around at this time of night and I am always on the look out. The picture above was the tail end effect of a duck diving. See two below for the same duck looking at it’s refelction.

I had really got there just before the sun started to set. Added to that there was this thick band of clouds that the sun got behind and stayed for a while.

Fly by’s are always fun and the question is, how many images you can take of birds flying by. If you look at my drive I took about 30. At times the grackles do their murmuration and that is such a treat to watch. They were out this evening but unfortunately not playing in the direct sunset set.

The clouds to the side of the actual sunset were stunning and I kept moving my camera back to them. I hoped that the final sunset would infuse them with color.

Looking directly at the sun as it emerged for a brief second before setting, gave me the opportunity to get this lens reflection.

While the birds were flying by the duck about was playing in the water. At it’s own risk because there are gators hanging out.

I have learned through error, not to walk away when the sun has set, because very often the next 15 minutes could change the outlook of your images. As the sun set below the horizon the sky came alive and the colors were amazing.

Cruising in the sunset takes on a whole new meaning in the Everglades and this guy was hanging out. I was up on the high road looking down on the low road, so I had a better view of the gator paddling along in the water. I kept thinking “lady if that gator comes up where you are sitting at the very edge of the water, some parts of you are going to be missing”. Lucky for her he did not swim her way, but these guys are lurkers and quickly slip under water. I would not want to be the one sitting on the edge of the water at sunset.

My friend and I hung out chatting until the very end of the sky show and were super glad that we had done so.

I love the beautiful sunsets that I am privileged to view in South Florida. The Everglades is out west location for doing that. I can do it from home but there are trees in the way so it is very much sky and no horizon. The Everglades gives me the view of the setting sun and that is a real treat for me.

Thank you for joining us, 30 Minutes in the Life is a circle blog and we have some very talented photographers in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month, Lupji Photography is up next, and I am hoping that he shares his new addition to his family. Congratulations to you and your family.

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Share Six: February 2022: Pets

{Pets} are what I love and this is the theme for February, was chosen for us by Lynne Grant Photography.

Pets I have grown up with, and grown older with. I don’t want to say grown old just yet but some days I feel like that. I was fortunate growing up that my parents were happy to have my strays and we collected quite a few.

Over the years we had a Daschund, Noddy, that was my dearest friend. We had a cross Labrador spaniel, Monty, that loved to chase cars. One day the car got the better of him and sadly he did not make it. We had two Labradors, a black called Duke, and a golden called Sandy. There was the unforgettable story of the rabbit that my brother was given. The rabbit was found cold, and apparently my father thought to put it in the oven to warm it up and potentially revive it. Nope, did not work. Next time my brother saw the gift giver, he told the person that his daddy had put the rabbit in the oven. Obviously explanations were made, but out of the mouths of babes and all that. My dad did not live that story down. Somewhere in the midst of this we had a budgie and I am sure there was a fish or two.

In addition to the above, there were the pets we found in the garden. We found a guinea pig. It was in the days my brother had music lessons. Off we went to the music lessons, dropped him at the music school and went directly to the local pet shop. They identified the guinea pig as a smooth haired male. And they sold us another male. I was so excited. Off we went home. My dad built a hutch for me and I played with the pets, until one day I discovered that my purchased male was getting fat and before I knew it there were nine of them. Both mom and dad were both smooth haired guinea pigs, but the babies clearly had a different looking father because I had a bunch of tufted guinea pigs, Abyssinian guinea pigs. They were cute to look and for a while to play with, but I soon developed an allergy to their hair. I have to be honest I quickly outgrew the cleaning of 11 smelly guinea pigs, so they were all rehomed to new and exciting homes.

Then we had the Bushbaby that we found in the garden. Wikipedia tells me that bushbabys are the following: Galagos, also known as bush babies, or nagapies, are small nocturnal primates native to continental, sub-Sahara Africa, and make up the family Galagidae. They are considered a sister group of the Lorisidae. According to some accounts, the name “bush baby” comes from either the animal’s cries or its appearance. 

Our bushbaby was the cutest little thing. My dad built a cage for him and he lived outside. We had to catch insects for him to eat. That became tiresome after a while. Those days we did not have the internet or we would have known to feed him pellets etc. I have recollections of him being let loose in the living room of the house and he would make his way up to the pelmets (I think the USA word is cornice) and snuggle down on one of the beer mugs that sat on the pelmet (Yeah I know, who has beer mugs on their pelmets – apparently my mother). I also recall that it peed on me alot. Suffice to say, with the struggle of catching insects and not really knowing what to feed him we decided to take him to a local zoo.

The last interesting animal that I recall having, while living with my folks, was a tortoise. He wandered into the garden and we decided to let him stay. However, he drove the Labradors crazy when he disappeared into his shell. He eventually found his way to a wildlife center.

After Richard and I got married we purchased a German Shepherd with a pedigree longer than that of royalty. Flash was an incredible dog and was definitely an asset to our family. We lived on an acre of property and he was a great deterrent to any would be unwelcome visitor.

Richard’s mom moved in with us and along with her came Bella, a cross Labrador Rottweiler. She looked like a Rottweiler but had the Labrador personality. When both those dogs died (practically at the same time), we got what was supposed to be an Alsatian, Sasha, but I honestly think she was 57 varieties. I also got another Daschund from the pound. Well he looked like a Daschund in shape but was Jack Russell in coloring. I also called him Noddy. Someone left the gate open one day and poor Noddy got out on the road, and did not survive that experience.

We then got Mika (Cameron named him after the racing driver). He was a stunning white German Shepherd. Mika got in close contact with Sasha, and before we knew it we had 10 additional pups. I thought it would be a great birth education for the kids and they would see the puppies being born. Sadly all those puppies were born while the kids were at school. Feeding, inoculations and vets visits and then they were off to new homes.

We had two cockatiels as well. One Richard and I bought. It was gray and white. I cannot remember what we named it. It died a few years later. My dad had caught one in their back garden. It was white and yellow. When our cockatiel died, dad gave us his. We had it for about a year. Amy opened his cage door and he flew away.

We had a couple of hamsters along the way. Cameron reminded me that his was called Rambo. We could not remember Amy’s hamsters name but I do remember Amy calling me at work to tell me that her hamster had worms. All 8 of them. Fortunately we were able to rehome them.

At one point in time Amy wanted a cat. She had been really sick with a weird viral infection that affected all her joints and she begged for a cat. So while she was staying with my mom for the holidays, Richard and I headed out to the pet shop and bought her a tuxedo cat. After much debate he was named Oliver.


Oliver was one of our best pets. He was our African cat. He was loveable and my best friend. When we moved to the USA, we could not bring the dogs, but I pushed for Oliver to come with. Richard thought I was wasting money, but I just could not part with him. So I bought him a dog box, so that he would be able to stand and move around somewhat, got all his shots done, paperwork in order, did all my homework, and Oliver was ready to travel with us. I still remember traveling to the airport thinking, what if I cannot put him on the plane. I told my friend that if I couldn’t, I needed him to give Oliver a home. At the airport things went smoothly, Oliver was given a slight sedative, and taken to the hold. 18 hours later, when after we went through immigrations, who was waiting there for me to go home, but my beautiful happy cat.

We had Oliver for almost 17 years. He saved my life the first few years in the USA. I was not allowed to work. I was the only one home all day, in a foreign country, knowing no one initially. Oliver became my best bud. We would hang out together. I would talk to him and play with him. Oh I loved that little man. He was a cuddler. In his last few years he developed diabetes and had to be given insulin twice a day after he had eaten. It became very stressful when he would not eat and some days had me begging for him to have his food so he could have his life saving shots. 3 years after diagnosis his health declined until one day he had a fit. That was the hardest day of my life. I hated making the decision to say goodbye but I know that his quality of life was no longer what it should have been. My eyes were red for a good week, and even now, I still miss this beautiful man

Oliver was the last cat I actually bought. The rest I have inherited.

Moonshine aka Ms Muff

Moonshine came to us via Cameron. His girlfriend at the time, decided that she wanted this cat. She forgot to ask her parents if the cat could stay there. The answer was no and so she came to stay with us. She was a sweet little girl. She loved to lie on my desk next to me while I was working and put her paw on my arm. I loved the little girl but she was not Richards best friend. She overlapped with the next cat and I think due to her being their first, she took to marking her territory, all over the house and he was not happy about that. For the sake of our marriage, Ms Muff had to go. It broke my heart to say goodbye to her.

In 2015, Amy moved to Gainesville. She lived in a house opposite a Barber shop. Every morning the owner would come outside and put mounds of pellets on the floor to feed the wild cats. It was one of those days when I was staying up there that I spotted this cat across the way. I had my camera in my hand and so I snapped a couple of pics of him.

Simba – Stretching exercises in the warmth of the sun

Little did I know that 6 months later she would call me and say “mom you have to take this cat. I have been feeding him and I cannot leave him on the street”. Amy was joining the Peace Corp and traveling to Macedonia. I was not certain. I was worried that the cat was feral. However, I drove up to fetch her and all her belongings and who came home with us but this random cat. I had gone outside to the street level and sat on the patio step and who should wander over but the cat she wanted me to take home. He walked up the steps, sat on my lap and my decision was made. Simba has a clipped ear to indicate that he had been sterilized and put back on the street. This little guy was not feral. In fact, soul brother to Oliver, he has turned out to be the most loving cat, and definitely a favorite of mine. Life on the street does come with disadvantages. Simba’s teeth are yucky. However, just as we were preparing to sort his teeth out (literally on the table with a catheter down his throat), we discover that he has some kind of lung disorder not unlike asthma in a human. Multiple x-rays later and enormous vet bills. it appears that this condition is for his lifetime., He has been on steriods for 2 years now. Simba has been with us almost 7 years now and I hope he is around for a lot longer. This is my cuddle cat. He is my shadow. He sleeps on the couch in my office during the day, and he cuddles into me in the bed at night. He may have found a home, but I found a friend in this little man. Actually as I am writing this, I have Luka (our grandson) on the couch sleeping and not far from him is Simba. Just a pillow in-between.


About 3 years ago now, Mirrabelle (aka Ms Moo) came to stay. She belonged with a lady who lived with us for 3 months. The lady moved out but Ms Moo stayed. To look at her you would think she looks like a opossum. That is if you ever see her. She is such a nervy cat that it has taken all 3 years for her to get used to Richard and I, and to actually come out and spend time with us. However, my son-in-law does not believe she lives with us because the minute anyone outside of Richard or myself step through that door, she is in her hiding place under my bed. In the last year she has become more attached to me. She will come and lie on my stomach at night when I am reading on my couch, or she will lie next to me in Simba’s spot on the bed. That typically results in a tussle and off she goes. I have had her refuse to give up her new spot to Simba and had Simba sleep on my stomach all night. One of her “safe” spaces is on the landing of the steps. Quite often I will find her lying there with her feet on the next step as you will see below. While she is very skittish, she definitely has the sweetest personality. If only she could gain some confidence.

Mirrabelle aka Ms Moo

Last but not least, so the saying goes, was Houdini. Houdini was a rescue Quaker Parakeet. I was heading back to my office in early March 2020, when I spotted all the staff standing around the entrance to the offices. What I discovered was rather a dazed parakeet clinging to the edge of the window sill. Clearly in trauma, I was able to stroke him gently without him biting me and then get him onto my hand. My idea was that I would take him to my personal office and then phone around and see if he had been reported missing. He took off from my arm and flew around the office, eliciting screams from those who do not like birds :). He finally landed on my chest and I decided I would take him back outside and let him fly off. Which clearly he didn’t do. So it was back to my office. Given that it was a long weekend, I had to transport him home. So I shot out to the local Pet store and bought him a small cage, and off we went home. Richard was not overly happy that we had another animal in the house but he hung in there. I kept checking but no one claimed Hoo, so he stayed.

He was named Houdini, because, as fast as I was trying to put him in my cage at the office, he was trying to escape. Over time Hoo graduated from a tiny cage to a bird palace, with all of the nuts and bolts including a bird jacuzzi size tub. He sure loved to splash in that.

Houdini or Hoo as I called him was a pain in the butt, but he was my pain in the butt. He was so cool when he wasn’t biting my ear. He would fly to my shoulder and hang out. By the end of the year, Hoo was dancing and making weird singing sounds. He was starting to copy me when I was laughing. He would have me in tears. His favorite muscian was Edith Piaf and he really love La vie en rose. I think it was the high notes that he enjoyed. That is when he got his dance on. One year later, shortly after Richard had been diagnosed with melanoma, Hoo, was acting kind of strange. I needed to get bird food, so I headed out to the shop. Got him some treats while I was there. When I came back I let him out the cage, but he seemed a little lethargic. I had him on my chest and when he moved I notice a whole lot of blood. Avian vets are few and far between and the only appointment I could get was an hour later. Hoo passed away in my arms, 15 minutes after I made the appointment. I miss the little bugger. I cried for days. The other day I found a feather stick to my shutters and it brought up all those memories of Hoo time. Parakeets are not easy, those beaks are nasty, but that little bird crept into my heart and took up residence.


We have had a few other critters along the way. Amy had a hamster when we were first in the USA. I know I buried it in a tin in the garden. But I honestly don’t remember too much more about it. She also had two corn snakes. I am not a reptile fan, and I am not sure the snakes would have survived if they had got out of their cage. I was certainly super happy when they were rehomed. She also had two rats Arya and Xeno. I have to say it took a while but I did get used to them, and they never bit me like I thought they would do. She definitely took me out of my comfort zone with her pets. Thank goodness we never had a tarantula. That would have put me over the edge.

Someone brought me a duckling one time which I attempted to save. It was barely a couple of days old. I tried to feed it with a dropper, and I had it under a light to keep it warm but it did not survive. Someone else brought me a dove that they had rescued. Not sure what was going on with that dove, but something was not right with it. It could not fly properly. It used to sit on my shoulder and peck at my ears but if it took off it would fly straight into the ceiling. We thought we would take it outside and see if it would fly off. It flew alright, off the grass area to half way across the canal and landed in the water. I had Richard wading into the canal (which has gators I might add) to rescue the bird. We also rescued a baby turtle in the driveway. The kids were convinced that it would die if we put it into the canal, so I ended up buying a terrarium and building a turtle home with the idea of letting it grow a bit. Handling turtles is risky because they can carry salmonella so I got to do all the work. Eventually the turtle police (Richard and Amy) said it needed to be let go. Of course they wait until I have spent my money and then they make this decision. So Mr T as I called him was released into the canal.

If you haven’t gathered by now, I love animals. I get great joy having them around. Richard is less of a pet person. I told him that one day when he gets to heaven God is going to make him the keeper of all domestic animals.

To me animals bring immense love and comfort to so many, and I know over the years, ours have brought such comfort to us. They sense when they are needed. During my struggle with Richard’s illness Simba was my constant companion. When these animals come into my home, they become my family. Loosing anyone of them is like loosing someone I love dearly.

Thank you for joining us as we share the pets in our lives. We’d love to see your pets.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Ceri of Ceri Herd Photography up next is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Facebook and  Instagram pages. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_pets

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