Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Spring Things - Crocuses, Bees, and Snowdrops

Spring has arrived in my corner of upstate New York - I think.

While two to three feet of snow blanketed the ground in the last two weeks, lots of things were happening under that snow cover.

And now that the snow is mainly melted off, that activity is revealed. This, incidentally, is not at my house, but, rather, on the west side of Binghamton.  My bulbs are mainly on the north side of my house and are a bit further behind.
Crocuses.  Look carefully at the top crocus on the right.  You'll see a speck of brown and yellowish.

That speck is a bee.

Perhaps, after all, spring is truly here.

Note to my readers:  My Spring Things will be suspended in April, due to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  But it will be back in May, along with the best part (I hope) of spring.

Is it spring yet where you live?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Best Harvest Ever

Years ago, before the Internet was invented, I spent my winters buried in seed catalogs.
Some of our favorites
I would read them from cover to cover, because, from as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be around plants. To me, seed catalogs were more exciting than novels.

They promised so much The newest varieties.  The biggest yields.  The tastiest harvest.  The easiest to grow.  Oh, please, pretty please, dream all you want, they would plead with me, but then, buy OUR seeds.

Considering that my Twitter handle is @RamblinGarden,I don't talk all that much about our gardening on my blog. So here are a few quick facts:

My spouse does the veggie gardening. I do some flower gardening.  My back problems have held me back in recent years, but I am finding ways around it.

We've rented community garden plots for over 20 years.  Our community gardening season starts in mid-May and ends at the end of October.

If you drive on I-81 through southern New York State, you have passed our garden in Binghamton.

In another six weeks or so, our community gardening plot opens for the year, and we've just now completed our seed ordering.

Saturday, spouse bought a new shovel.

Dreams of how he will plant his seeds this year run through his head.   He will have the best harvest ever.  My flowers will bloom the longest and my vase will be filled daily.

I will leave you today with a picture of some luscious tomatoes from last year's harvest.

Let's hope for a good gardening year.

Do you enjoy gardening?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Music Monday - Don't Look Back

I was living in Wichita, Kansas in 1977 with my spouse (who was then serving in the military). One of his flight mates was a young man from small town Missouri who introduced us to several bands, including Van Halen and this one:

It was instant love as I found this album was absolutely "Smokin".  And I'm not joking.

John "Sib" Hashian was the drummer on Boston's first two albums.  The first album, self titled "Boston", may (in my most humble of opinions) be one of the best rock albums ever.  I played that album on our phonograph over and over again.

Sib Hashian died on March 22, while performing on a cruise ship with other rock greats.  He was 67.

Perhaps a rocker would love to enter rock and roll heaven while performing.  In tribute, I'd like to ask you to listen to a handful of other Boston songs.

Hitch A Ride.

And, finally, the song I think is the best song they ever did - "More Than A Feeling".  The lyrics and music both transport me to a different place.  I read online that it took more than five years to perfect this song.

That's all I have to say.  I'm going to close my eyes and slip away....

Another great gone.

No, wait - one more song.   "Don't Look Back".  Except I do.

Note:  In April, I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Not all of my Monday posts will be music oriented (although the April 8 post will be).  I will be back posting music Mondays again starting in May.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Civil War Sunday Throwback - Historic Walls

This post was originally written in September of 2014.

Civil War Sunday - Historic Walls

The escaped slaves huddled in the cluttered basement.  It was cluttered intentionally, to give them places to hide if the basement was raided.

It was cold and damp, but they did not care.  They had suffered every day of their lives - forced to labor from an early age, with little opportunity to rest.  Some labored on plantations, in the hot, burning sun.  Some were house slaves, attending to their master's every whim.  Others were skilled craftsmen, who had to give some or all of their earnings over to their masters. Some knew extreme cruelty.  Others knew mainly neglect.   They all, however, had one thing in common:

They had the burning desire for FREEDOM.  It was the desire that made them risk everything.  If they were caught, death or cruel punishments awaited, so they only had this one chance.  Somehow, they all had met up with this guide, the guide that would take them north to a magical place called Canada, where men hired by their masters to hunt them down and bring them back could not pursue them.

And now they were in this basement, in a place called New York State, just a few days run from freedom.  It was so close!

The guide had brought them there, but they could only stay a night or two. Then they had to move on.

The house was owned by a white man.

Who was the white man who was sheltering them for the night?
It may have been the man who owned this house in Auburn, New York.  This house was owned by someone who may well have become the Republican candidate for President in 1860.  But Abraham Lincoln got that nomination instead, and the owner of this house became Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State during the Civil War.

He became a friend of former slave, Underground Railroad conductor and overall amazing woman  Harriet Tubman, whom I blogged about last Sunday.  In fact, for some years, they lived only a couple of miles apart, on South Street in Auburn, New York.
His name was William H. Seward. When I went to school, I learned of him only in connection with something he did in 1867.  His entire history before that date was a big unknown.

Photography is not permitted in the house or in the basement that was a stop on the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War, but I can show you the exterior and grounds of this house.

Ironically, Seward was the son of a New York slaveholder, growing up just north of New York City at a time before slavery was outlawed in New York State. As a child, one of his playmates was a slave owned by a neighbor, a black boy who escaped one day after a vicious beating due to a prior escape attempt.  As an older teen, he lived for a time in the Southern state of Georgia, and what he saw of slavery during his time there turned him totally against the "peculiar institution".

Seward risked a lot in sheltering slaves in the years prior to the Civil War, but he risked even more by being an anti-slavery Senator.  He lost the opportunity to run for President of the United States as he was so hated in the states that ended up seceding and forming the Confederate States of America.

(As for those slaves, did they succeed in reaching freedom? We will never know. But like many things in the Civil War, everything was complicated. White men enslaving blacks.  White men helping slaves to freedom....although few of those white men considered blacks as their human equals, and that must also be pointed out.)

Seward nearly lost his life on the night that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.  The plotters, who included John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln's assassin), also targeted others in Lincoln's administration for death.  The man assigned to assassinate the Vice President lost his nerve. The man assigned to assassinate Seward, Lewis Paine, went to Seward's house, gained entrance by trickery, attacked Seward's son Frederick,  and seriously wounded Seward.

Seward survived. However,  Seward's wife died of a heart attack shortly afterwards.

After the Civil War ended, Seward remained Secretary of State under Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson.  In 1867, he purchased land in North America from the Russians, who had lost interest in that piece of land. Many people opposed that sale.  They called it Seward's Folly. But the sale went through. 

That land became, almost 100 years later, the State of Alaska.  You could say, though, that Seward had the last laugh when Alaska became our 49th state and proved its worth during the Cold War.

William Seward died in 1872 and is buried just a few blocks away from that house in Auburn.  His last words were "Love one another".

Look at that house.  It's a house that sheltered escaped slaves, was the home of a governor/senator/Secretary of State/ and saw a bloody assassination attempt turned back.  Kings and princes visited Seward there and dined with him, as did many famous people of the 1800's.

Their pictures line the walls of the house.  But you won't see any portraits of the slaves that sheltered in that cluttered basement.  I can wonder what happened to them, and their descendants.

It's a cliche to say "if only those walls could talk" - but, if only those upstate New York historic walls could talk, what would they say to us of the 21st century?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Local Saturday - April and Ava

Hundreds of thousands of us are captivated by a giraffe (still pregnant as I blog this) living in Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York.

But I am just as captivated by (as a famous journalist once based a long series of broadcasts on) "the rest of the story."

April the Giraffe lives about 30 minutes from where I live.  This park is owned by a man by the name of Jordan Patch, who you will see in this video along with zoologist Allysa and keeper Corey, and a bunch of tortoises. (why tortoises? You'll have to watch the video).

Last year, Jordan Patch and his wife Colleen welcomed the birth of their first daughter, Ava.  But this birth was not your usual birth.  Seven weeks before Colleen's due date, Colleen showed signs of premature labor, and a sonogram was done.  Soon after, doctors gave the couple dire news.

Their unborn baby had an arachnoid cyst — between the surface of the brain and the cranial base or on the arachnoid membrane, one of the three membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord.  The cyst was monitored by neurologists, but, two weeks before her due date, labor had to be induced due to the cyst's rapid growth.

After birth, and a number of health emergencies, a diagnosis emerged.

Ava has a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum, further compounded by infantile spasms.  In layperson's terms, the two hemispheres of Ava's brain are not connected.  This condition probably stemmed from the existence of the cyst.

Doctors don't know Ava's prognosis.  The condition could result in nothing.  Or it could result in Ava being severely disabled.  She may never walk.  She may have severe physical or mental deficits.  The Patch family may not know the entire truth for several years.

The Patch family has not let that uncertainty stop them.  Already, they and Animal Adventure have held a fundraiser for another local family with a baby challenged by a serious condition called "Ava's Little Heroes".  They wanted to take the love their community showed them and "pay it forward".  There will be another fundraiser this summer.

Many watching April did not know about the behind the scenes drama of Ava Patch, the baby whose nursery is decorated in giraffe prints and who helps feed carrots to April and her mate, Oliver.

There will also be an online naming contest when the giraffe calf is born.  With each $1 contribution, you will get a vote, and the proceeds will go to some worthy causes, including an animal conservation foundation in Africa, maintaining the local giraffes at the park, and for "Ava's Little Heroes".

And mark your calendars for May 13, when Animal Adventure Park opens for its fifth season, and show your support of the Patch family, and animal conservation.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Skywatch Friday - Mares Tails

It was the first day of spring in upstate New York, and what did I see?

Clouds my husband (a weather "geek") calls "mares tails".  Quoting from Wikipedia:
"Cirrus uncinus is a type of cirrus cloud. The name cirrus uncinus is derived from Latin, meaning "curly hooks". Also known as mares' tails, these clouds are generally sparse in the sky and very thin."

In sailor's lore, these clouds mean "prepare for a storm".

On this first day of spring, nature was wondering what had happened.  After a mild February, we were covered in a record snowfall.  Afterwards, the temperature had risen and the snow was melting, but winter was getting ready to return.

The trees, already budded out earlier than normal, had no choice but to wait it out.

Be sure to visit other blogs participating in #Skywatch Friday, and see skies from all over the world.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Real Life Hero

On the day after the horrific terrorist attack in London, I feel compelled to look for an example of good in humanity.  It didn't take long to find one.

On last night's evening news, they did a feature on the oldest working nurse in the United States. 

Florence "SeeSee" Rigney has been working as a nurse for over 70 years. She started out as a student in 1946.  Now in her 90's (she will turn 92 in May), she has scaled down to working two days a week.  On her work days, she sometimes walks three miles, and can still set up an operating room with good speed.  She no longer works directly with patients.

She even makes coffee for the break room for her co-workers.

She wouldn't have it any other way.  Her zest for life is obvious.

What an inspiration, to make a career out of caring for other people and doing it for so long.  And, if you want to read even more stories of inspiration next month, tune into the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and the posts of a man in India who will be blogging about "real life heroes".

Do you have an inspiring story to share today?