Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Late July Upstate NY Farmers Market

What is late July bringing to our local Binghamton, NY area farmers markets?  We were at the Otsiningo Park Farmers Market last Saturday.

A Dog Parade was lining up, and many of the shoppers had leashed dogs accompanying them.

We bought a variety of items:  sorrel, dragon langerie (Dragon Tongue) beans, multi grain English Muffins, cucumbers and even a summer squash.  For various reasons, our community garden has not had a good year, and we find ourselves buying things we normally would be growing. (If anyone has zucchini to spare, I'll send you my address.)

What else was good?

New potatoes, of various colors.

A Boothby Blonde cucumber (a yellow heirloom)

Baked goods, made with free range eggs and organic flours.

Rabbit meat, complete with charts and statistics.

This sign just about sums it all up. (And oh yes, we even have a breakfast wagon now, right behind the sign.)

What is on sale at your local farmers market?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Yikes Skypes

We've come a long way from the Picturephone at the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York City. As a school child, I visited the Fair both with my school and with my parents, and can remember the long lines to see it. (I never did).  Now fast forward 48 years.....

Planning a mini-family reunion in this electronic age has brought me to the realization that I am the last person in the United States to not have Skype.  And, in the last day, whereever I turn there seems to be an article about Skype and how these people use it to keep in touch, and so on, and so forth.
**Sigh**.  I am going to get an education in the next several days.

Several of my relatives and I are gathering (the old fashioned way - in person) this weekend for a mini-reunion.   But there are people who can't attend due to distance.

Yesterday, I got the bright idea to use Skype, something I've heard of but never used, to be able to have these far flung relatives visit with us virtually. I had remembered that my uncle, who lives in the American Heartland, used Skype to communicate with his far flung children, one of whom lives on another continent,

So....luckily for me, most of my family has embraced technology to a greater extent than I have.

Two attending cousins replied, sure, we have Skype accounts. We'll bring our laptops; just be sure we can connect to your Wi-Fi.  The Wi-Fi is my son's responsibility, along with the security he set up to safeguard the account, and hopefully he will get them on smoothly. (if not: yikes, I'll have to get a Skype account!)

One far flung relative replied to my email, saying how delighted she would be, gave us a good time, and by the way, her Skype account name was __________.   Her brother can't  make it, but she is going to research if she can save the conversation for his later viewing. (If anyone knows about that, could you comment?)

I'm waiting to hear from the uncle and his children.

In the middle of this, my neighbor comes by and invites me to test drive his Google Tablet. (More on that later this week).  Sure enough, he had Skype on it.  (I didn't poke around).

In these waning hours of the Ultimate Blog Challenge, I am going to ask my readers familiar to Skype to leave a comment and tell me about their experiences.  I could read the FAQ on Skype's web site but that would be too easy.

And not as much fun.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Civil War Sunday - Onward, Reenactors

It's been a little over a year now since Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson fought at First Bull Run (First Manassas), the first "large" battle of the Civil War.  Both sides have learned the art of fighting against their once fellow countrymen.

You will note I call him Thomas, and not Stonewall.  Jackson felt his nickname of "Stonewall", given to him at First Manassas, was something only for the men he commanded to use), had seen a lot of action since that July, 1861 day near Manassas Junction. There was the Shenandoah campaign and the Peninsula Campaign.  And now, it is time to return to where the first major battle of the Civil War occurred for Round 2.

I'll be catching up with Thomas Jackson and his fellow soldiers at the 150th anniversary of Antietam in September.

But first, I want to talk a little bit about how reenactors have created and engaged my interest in the Civil War.  I've always loved history. But why the Civil War?

 (Picture courtesy of AM of Ramblin'with AM, taken this year in Elmira, NY)

Years back, in a visit to the Town of Binghamton, about an hour from Binghamton, I met a CSA general for the first time.  And, I dare say, it is because of him that I became as interested in the Civil War as I have become.

I went to that reenactment, at Pierce Creek, my first one, in August of 2009 and fell under the spell of a man by the name of Rich Gow, who played CSA General Armistead, who would later be mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Growing up in New York State (and living in NY much of my adult life, I had basically only heard "one side of the story".  Rich Gow told the other side with such passion that I was hooked.

Since then I've been to several reenactments and other Civil War events, including the 150th anniversary of First Bull Run.  But I didn't experience the historical passion (purely G rated, folks) of that day in 2009 until a day in early May this year in Elmira, New York, when I ran into Thomas Jackson.

He was perched on a flood wall, his voice booming.  He was talking to people in character.   I learned a lot about Jackson, and something about the reenactor - whose name I do not know.  In fact, he was so much in character that he asked the audience's permission to take off his heavy wool coat as the afternoon warmed up, and address us in his vest.  Back in those days, he explained that was an R-rated action, and needed the permission of ladies present.

This reenactor has played Jackson for some 10 years.  He said his life and Jackson's have many parallels, and he very much identifies with Jackson  He loves educating people and one of his main missions is to make sure that school children learn more about the Civil War, and Thomas Jackson in particular.  He talked about the feelings of the Confederates with such passion that all the onlookers were mesmerized.

What fascinating people those involved in the Civil War were, and Jackson was no different.

Jackson actually has a link to New York State, having been stationed at Ft. Hamilton for a time.

He became estranged from his sister, who was firmly on the side of the Union.  He died during the war, so we will never know what would have happened if both had survived the war.

Jackson was an extremely devout man.  It colored everything about him, including his bravery in battle, and even his official battle reports.  
And even his last words, spoken as he lay dying from wounds suffered by friendly fire - Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.

I believe the reenactment group that was at Elmira, NY that day in May will be at the Antietam reenactement in September, and I am looking forward to catching up with Jackson once again. And, A.P. Hill, and maybe even author Jeff Shaara.

Maybe some of the reenactors I met at the Battle of Charleston these past two years will be there, too.

I can't wait.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sustainable Saturday- I'm Falling Apart-Are You?

No, it really isn't me falling apart (although my back, which suddenly has decided to trouble me again, might make me change my mind), but, rather, my laptop.

I cracked the lid and epoxy didn't work.  The crack got bigger and bigger.  Now I can barely move the thing without the lid separating from the screen.  I am going to have to make a decision - try to get fixed (I am not sure ducttape will work) or get a new laptop.  Or a tablet.  Or something. 

This laptop is practically the most important thing I own.  It's my communication device with people all over the world.  I blog.  I play FarmVille (again, with an international cast). I write.  I buy things. I email.  I tweet.  If I could, I would cook on it.

When did we get out of the habit of fixing things? Or, for that matter, making appliances or devices that aren't junk?  Not having to fill our landfills with stuff is part of sustainability, after all.

For example:

We own a waffle iron.  It was given to us by my mother in law.  It was made in the 1950's.  Still works fine.

How many people own refrigerators from the 1950's that still work?  Maybe you keep one in your garage, or your basement, as a 2nd refrigerator for party supplies or extra food for company.  They still work.  Or an old toaster?  OK, I know waffle irons and toasters are relatively simple. But still.  They were metal, they didn't melt, and they kept working and working.

Does anybody reading this have an old telephone affixed to their wall?  Still makes calls, doesn't it?

No, instead, we are stuck with examples like this:

Exhibit 1 is our refrigerator, which we have limped along for some 6 years.  A tiny part in the freezer kept breaking.  We would come home from work or wherever to discover that our no-frost freezer had turned into an Arctic ice cave.  We had bought an extended warranty (I love Consumer Reports, but totally disagree with their stance concerning extended warranties) and for the first 3 years got free repairs.  And then the same part would go out, over and over. 

Once it was out of warranty, we paid money for a local repairman to come out.  He said, for some extra money, we could get said part in metal instead of the plastic the extended warranty people were using.  We took his advice.  No more problems.  (Now, if only we could get decent crispers instead of the worthless ones that came with the fridge.  They keep cracking.  I refuse to pay the price Sears wants to charge.

Exhibit 2- we had a similar problem (plastic part, kept breaking, but in this case no metal available) with a dryer.  Our flood last September finally put that appliance out of its misery.

Exhibit 3 - now our phone (yes, we have a landline)  is malfunctioning.  Sometimes it makes calls.  Sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes weird things happen when you think it is making a call.

Almost makes you want to go back to the days of Ma Bell black rotary phones  doesn't it?

Exhibit 4:  a beautiful pot we bought years ago, again from Sears.  (I'm not putting Sears down.  Just saying....) The handle broke.  No way we could get a new handle. Why?  Sears didn't make them.  No one made them.  We ended up giving the pot to someone with welding skills.  I hope he was able to fix it for his own use.

Look, I am realistic.  I know that old isn't always better. I enjoy having a phone with caller ID (this minute, I am ignoring a junk phone call.  Nice to be able to do that.) and a built in answering machine. But I can also remember a time when quality mattered. Now, I think, manufacturers are in a race to produce products they should be ashamed of.  Where is our pride?

This isn't good for our wallets.  That isn't good for the environment, or the landfills.  It isn't good for repairmen (they deserve to be able to make a living, too.).  It isn't good for any of us.

Do you have stories to tell about devices that died before their time; ones you wish you could have gotten repaired?  Or, do you think this modern trend is good?

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Dark, Stormy and Science Fiction-y Night

A stormy night, modern style. In my childhood, this would have been a science fiction dream.

I leave a few minutes early from work, because my spouse calls to tell me theWeather Channel is announcing severe storms on the way.  This is around 4:15 pm, where I live, near Binghamton, New York.

On the way home, spouse's cell phone emits a tone we've never heard.  It's lying near me and I pick it up. There is a text message - National Weather Service telling us we are under a tornado warning. (Interestingly, he doesn't have a smart phone.  I have an iPhone - which remained silent.  Why didn't I get a warning?  But that's a question for another day.)

We get home and it is so dark we head for the basement.  When all seems  OK, we emerge.

First there is the phone call form my son, via his cell phone.  He, like so many other young people, does not have a land line.

Then, my sister in law texts me. 

Meanwhile, I am posting my status on Facebook and my neighbor across the street comments. Nice that we don't have to yell at each other from our respective houses.

Then I email someone with some info I got off the Internet, and I post info about a tornado that hit in Elmira, about an hour away, on Facebook.

Then we try to call my mother in law, who lives some 150 miles from us, in a suburb of New York City..  Her internet phone is out, meaning no doubt she is without power. (This seems to happen to her a lot).

We get her on her cell phone.  She asks us to check the NYSEG (her electric provider) website to see when her power might be restored.  I do a quick search and find out the estimated restore time is 11pm tonight.

Meanwhile, my sister in law has posted on my Facebook wall...er, timeline...well, whatever...that she is leaving work, wish her luck.  Roads in her area are subject to flooding.  She lives about 20 minutes from my mother in law.

When she gets home, she gets hold of my mother in law, who advises her power just came back on.  So sis-in-law texts me.  Now we can sleep easy.

And now here I am, writing this on my blog.

I am nearly 60 years old and I have to admit that this kind of everyday thing has a science fiction-y feel to me.  None of this technology (except landlines) existed when I was growing up.  Yet, we use this technology - the cell phone, websites that tell you when your power might be restored, email- like it was as natural as breathing.  To younger people, it is as natural as breathing.

To me...well, I am still amazed. 

I think I will always be.

Are you still amazed by texting, by cell phones, by automatic alerts, by the Internet?  Or is it an everyday thing to you?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Gnats No Wasps - No Problem?

Spouse cleaned up our patio area in our upstate NY back yard yesterday, and did a little backyard gardening work, taking advantage of a break in the hot weather.

Midway through dragging the hose around, spouse noticed that he wasn't being followed by gnats.

Gnats are an everyday problem here but - come to think about it, we haven't seen any lately.

And, in cleaning up the overhang over our patio area, spouse took special care to avoid the paper wasps who like to build nests in the rafters.

Except there weren't any wasps, nor were there any nests.

So strange, just like the strange winter and spring we've had.  Almost no snow.  Trees blooming in March.  Crickets chirping in May. 

You would think:  yippee!  Gnats are such an annoyance.  Wasps are dangerous, not just a nuisance.

So why should we miss gnats and wasps?  Well, because their absence is an indication of something out of balance.

In the meantime, we have more than enough of certain other creatures.  Like whatever is eating our community garden crops.  Like the bears sighted not too many miles from us.  Like the ants we've been getting.  Normally, sometime in the spring, we get one invasion of ants.  We've had at least three this year, including some teeny tiny ants we've never seen before inside our house.

Everyone's allergies have been horrid this year.  Mold is off the charts.  People are suffering from hives.

Was all this due to the flood of last September?  The mild winter?  Global warming?  All of the above?

Makes you a little anxious about the upcoming fall and winter. Will the imbalance get worse?  Or will nature straighten itself out?

Meanwhile, this morning - some rumbles of thunder, some rain.  Must be a warm front.  The hot weather is returning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday Blooms - A Midsummer Afternoon's Dream

August is upon us, ignoring the calendar. The crickets are chirping.  Goldenrod is blooming all along roadsides. 

We actually got some rain in the last 24 hours. We probably got close to 1/2 inch at our house, and I think certain areas of our county got almost 2 inches. Could our drought be breaking?

Our grass is brown and not growing, and Queen Anne's lace white has replaced green in many lawns.  I've never seen so much Queen Anne's lace.

Tonight, on an exercise walk through the West Side of Binghamton, a city in upstate New York, we went down a street we normally don't.  What initially caught my eye was a container with a dwarf canna growing in it.  An orange flower was starting to open.  And then we saw the tall yellow flowers.  Taller than us.

The flowers looked like dahlias to me but the foliage didn't. 

As I was preparing to take the picture with my phone, I heard a beep.

A car was preparing to enter the driveway. I was standing too close.  He waved at me to move, which I did, and he pulled in and parked.

A man with grey/white hair got out.  My spouse approached him. "We were admiring your flowers.  Do you know what type of flower the yellow flower is?"  He didn't.

But he wanted to show us something, and walked up his driveway. We followed. We will never go onto a driveway, or otherwise onto someone's property, by the way, when I take photographs.  So, we were fortunate that he showed up when he did.

We saw the fake owl first, then the dangling strips and then - loaded grape vines.  It was a grape arbor, with white grapes awaiting harvest hanging everywhere.  How shady and inviting it was!

These were California grapes, the man explained.  Last year (the year of our heavy rains) he wasn't able to harvest one grape.  This year, he was hoping for a bumper crop, if the birds stayed away. (hence the owl and the dangly strips.)

We thanked the man for his time, and walked on.
A later further on stood a Rose of Sharon, loaded with white blooms.  I am aware, by the way, that there are several flowers that bear the name "Rose of Sharon" so I will refer to this Korean import by its Latin name, "Hibiscus syriacus". 

The hot weather has broken for a few days. I walk along, dreaming about an endless summer, a summer that will not end with trees starting to turn color, the cold winds starting to blow, flowers black with frost, and the promise of ice and snow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Siri - Seriously?

On Sunday I tested out the virtual assistant Siri on my iPhone 4S.  I've had the phone some three months but had never tried Siri out.

So, is Siri like the perfect assistant shown in the commercials?  Is it a true virtual assistant?

The short answer is "sometimes".

I had out of town company staying at our house and another relative's house..  There were 7 of us, and we wanted to eat breakfast out.  We had arranged to meet at a restaurant, one that normally has a lot of seating, and have breakfast.

We sent someone into the restaurant to make sure they had seats.  It turned out there was a large reunion in there and there were no tables available.

So here we were - 10am on a Sunday morning, prime breakfast time.  Now what?

One of the party said "you have a smartphone.  Why don't you find us another restaurant?" Another relative chimed in "Why don't you use Siri?" Luckily, she knew how to bring Siri up.

"Where near me can I eat breakfast?" I asked.

Siri translated my voice into text (accurately) and responded "I see 19 restaurants near you whose reviews mention breakfast."  It brought them up.

Some of them were quite far away (7 or 8 miles).  I knew that one was closed permanently due to the flood we had last September. 6, 7 and 8th.  So, in other words, the database Siri was using was not too recent.

Two of us had eaten in one of the listed restaurants, and liked it.  "Why don't you call and see if they have tables?" So back to Siri I went.  "What is the number for ______?" I asked.

Siri responded 'would you like me to call the number?" I said yes, and we made the connection.

After breakfast, we wanted to go somewhere and I asked for "directions to the Vestal Rail Trail". This time Siri didn't understand me.  First, someone else was talking in the background, and Siri picked up a few words from that person.  And, it thought I was saying "Festal Rail Trail" so it couldn't help me.

So - rating these experiences:

1.  Siri is great if you ask about restaurants.  Ditto if you ask it to call the number of a business. 

2. If you are out of towners, you may have a problem.  The database Siri connected with for us was at least 10 months out of date; possibly longer.  Of course, as they say, garbage in, garbage out.  Not Siri's fault.  But worth some caution.

3.  If you use an unusual word, like 'Vestal", Siri may have problems understanding you.

The Apple website suggests that the more you use Siri, it will start to understand your accent.  (My accent?  Native New York City mixed with Arkansas and 25 plus years of upstate NY.)

So, rating this exexperience I would give Siri a B.  It's a high enough grade that I will try her...I mean it, again.

Have you given Siri a test?  Did it work for you?

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Awakening of the Dragons

A dragon boat race is part of an overall "Dragon Boat Festival" that technically, in the Chinese culture, is held on the 5th day of the 5th month of their calendar.  During this time, the forces of the universe, ying and yang, are considered out of balance.  One symptom of the unbalance can be extreme weather events (hmm, maybe there is something to this.)  One of the ceremonies held to get ying and yang back into balance is the "Awakening of the Dragons". (I am not of this culture, so if I misstated anything, please correct me.)

This is how the dragons awoke a week ago Saturday in Ithaca, New York and danced for us.  This was at a Dragonboat festival held in Ithaca, home of Cornell University, and a multi-ethnic population drawn by the university.
The "dragons" get ready to don their costumes, showing the beautiful art work that goes into these costumes.

Part of the costumes on the ground.

The ceremony begins with dignataries, including the Mayor Of Ithaca"dotting*the*eyes" of the dragons - actually the dragon heads of the racing dragon boats, which were unscrewed and brought to the platform.  The mayor is directly to the right of the person wearing a red hat and red shorts.  He is the youngest mayor in Ithaca's history andis ready to bring change. (One of his campaign platforms, for example, was making Ithaca a more walkable city.)

Then, the dance began.
Here, the the dancers still somewhat visible.  (By the way, it was warm and humid that day.)  The dance is accompanied by the clash of cymbals. I can't imagine how hot it was in those costumes.
I am not knowledgeable of the symbolism displayed in this dance, but I understand there is a lot, even to the number of scales on each dragon.

This is quite an art form - very athletic, and I enjoyed it very much.  Although, I must say, if Ithaca is to become a more walkable city, they really need to do something about those dragons (and the terrible traffic for a city its size, but that is a post for another day.)

We are fortunate that dragon boating is catching on in more and more cities - maybe one day it will reach the Binghamton, NY area where I live.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Civil War Sunday -Need for Preservation

Did you know that many of our Civil War battlefields, forts, and other sites are in danger of being swallowed up by development?

Actually, this has been happening for a long time.

The Civil War Trust, a preservation organization,  estimates that at least 20% of our Civil War battlefields are already destroyed.  In some states, the figures are more dire.  For example, in Texas, only about 21% of Civil War acreage remains.

One recent example:  A Wal-Mart attempt to build a superstore near the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia failed, after the story went national, in 2011.

Here are some more endangered battlefields and Civil War related sites:

1. Camp Allegheny, West Virginia - the threat here is construction of wind turbines.  I do not know the current status of this situation.

2.  Ft. Palmetto, Mt. Pleasant, SC  the remains of this fort are threatened by a housing development.  (Thank you, blogger Carolina Heartstrings, for alerting me to this.)

3. Cedar Creek, Virginia - expansion of a nearby mine

4.  This one may surprise you - Gettysburg, the battlefield that was the turning point of the Civil War in 1863 - a proposed casino. (this, by the way, is not the only endangered site in Pennsylvania)

I viewed a site in Manassas, Virginia, where development came right up against a Civil War site that was up on a hill.

I also blogged recently about Camp Elmira, a notorious Civil War prisoner of war camp, which is partially in a residential neighborhood of Elmira, NY.

So....why should we care?
Because it is our history?
Because it is our heritage?
Because, in some instances, these sites were where our ancestors died?
Because those who don't care about their history are truly rootless?

My ancestors came to this country after the Civil War but I still feel that pull, that tug, to study it.  Going to where history happened makes it come alive.  It isn't at all like a dry textbook.  It gives context.  It allows you to smell, to feel, to see, what happened.  It allows you to use your imagination.  It is the best way to teach young and old alike.

How ironic, during this commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we are still fighting the Battle of Preservation.

Unlike the Civil War, which lasted from 1861-1865, we will be fighting this Battle of Preservation for many years to come.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sustainable Saturday - How to Pick Blueberries

We are so fortunate, here in upstate New York.  We have a variety of local farms offering you-pick blueberries.  All of our commercial berries here are highbush.

No admission charge, either. (I understand some farms now charge admission to pick - which bothers me but maybe one of my readers can justify that practice.)

If you have never picked blueberries before, I wanted to take you through a picking session.

Yes, you will have to wear sunscreen, bring some kind of bug repellent (there are natural ones available if you wish), and wear a hat to ward off the sun.  You also should bring some water.  Children and grandparents are optional.  The lovely thing about blueberry picking is that almost anyone can participate. The plants do not have thorns, and you can stand up (or sit down) and pick. 

How do you know blueberries are ripe?  Well, in the picture above, the ones at the top of the picture are definitely not ripe. There will be berries in all stages on the bush.  The best way to judge ripeness is to see if the berry has 'bloom" on it - in other words it should look like it has a dusty whitish frosting on it  Your bloomin' berry should be firm.  Shriveled means "too late".

This is where children come in.  Many people pick at "chest" level.  They miss the low down berries.  Train your children to think low (low, but not touching the ground low) and they may get all the wonderful berries everyone else has missed.

Size (unlike in some things) does not matter.  In fact, some people think the smaller the berry, the sweeter.

You don't have to worry about deep buckets (unlike raspberries, which will squash).

Once you get the berries home DO NOT WASH UNTIL JUST ABOUT READY TO USE.  You don't want to wash the bloom off.  They will keep 2 weeks (I admit to keeping them longer) in the fridge.

What about nutrition?  Need you ask how many lists include blueberries as one of the best foods you can eat?

How to eat?  A lot of people like them with cream or sugar.  But I've always loved them "au natural".

What is your favorite way to prepare blueberries?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Let His Name be Stricken from the Earth

I was not planning on two posts today, and there are very good reasons why I should not blog and post about the events of early this morning at all.

Today, Aurora, CO joins the select club of cities whose name is forever linked with a mass shooting.  As this story unfolds, it appears this may well be the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history.

On April 3, 2009 Binghamton, NY (where I work) joined that select list, the list you never, ever want to have your city or town join, the list of places where mass shootings took place. So, in a way, I felt this horror again with the Ft. Hood shooting, and again with the Tuscon shooting.  Now I feel that horror again with Aurora, Colorado, only a few short miles from Littleton, CO.

A profiler interviewed on CNN talked about the type of person who would have done this shooter, and how they thrive on publicity.  The more publicity, the better. It validates the shooter.  It gives meaning to his or her life. Of course, after this interview, CNN went right back to their coverage.

So why am I blogging about this?  Because we in Binghamton have a glimmering (only a glimmering, mind you) of what the people of Aurora are going through.  In a way it may actually a comfort to have the media there.  That's how it felt here.

It means someone cares.

But in the coming day, the same old same old will be so predictable.  The politicians, attracted to the scene by the smell of political points to be made.  The pro gun control people.  The anti gun control people.  And there will be millions of words written about the alleged shooter.  At least our shooter had the decency to kill himself at the end of his shooting spree, as much as it left his family totally devastated (and eventually leaving the area). They were blameless.  But because of that, our Binghamton shooter couldn't see himself being made famous, except perhaps from the next world.  And eventually, his fame went away.

Hmmm. I think that profiler has a good point.

Yes, let the good people of Aurora know that they are in the thoughts and prayers of those living in Binghamton, New York, and in cities and towns all over the United States.  Yes, let's celebrate the lives of those killed.  We need to do that.  The citizens of Aurora need us to do that, based on what we experienced in Binghamton, New York.

But not one more word about the shooter.  Let there be silence.  Let every journalist in this country agree not to write or utter his name or write anything about him.  No interviews at the store where he bought his weapons.  No interviews with his neighbors.  Let his trial not be covered by the media, but let it be known only to the judge and jury and lawyers.  Let all authors, bloggers and tweeters agree that they will not tell his story.  Let no one make a penny off of this.  Let his name be stricken from the earth.

Let's have a conspiracy of silence. For once.

Visions of Tomato Sandwiches

Upstate New York is not the place you expect to grow tomatoes and have them ready in July.  Not unless you undertake heroic measures, such as starting plants before the last frost date with season extending devices.

Because our community gardens were never open before May in the past, we never bothered with early tomato planting.  We've also found early tomatoes (if not protected) may turn purple in cold, and if they do, their growth is adversely impacted.  So, we just content ourselves with dreaming until August.

The last couple of years, we've had tomatoes late in July.

This year, we were able to get in earlier (because our garden is going to close down in mid-September - and, because of our ultra-early spring) and - today we harvested our first tomato.

Spouse surprised me with a tomato and cucumber salad tonight.  The cucumbers were purchased at the Ithaca, NY farmers market as groundhogs ate our cucumber plants and put them way behind.  The cucumbers were picklers, which I actually prefer to slicers for fresh eating. Each to their own, I guess.

The variety of tomato was Golden Jubilee. (1943 AAS winner) which are meaty (a little dry to my taste) but otherwise an excellent variety.  And the salad was delicious.

Now, if it had been me, I would have done this instead:

Take a tomato, warm from the garden.  Slice.

Take a slice of the best bread you can find, and some Duke's Mayonnaise.(We can't buy it here. This is imported from the Carolinas.)

Spread Duke's mayo on bread. Add tomato.  Your tomato should be one of the juicy varieties.


Because of the surprise factor, I never got a picture of that first tomato but I am loving it.

Tomato season has officially begun.  And I will get to eat that sandwich, sooner or later.

What is your favorite summer veggie?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Locally Grown- Internationally Published

Today, in the Binghamton library, I saw a book they had recently purchased.  "This would be great for my Sustainable Saturday post!" I thought to myself.  "Just think, a book called 'Locally Grown.  Portraits of Artisanal Farms from America's Heartland' by Anna Blessing.  This is perfect."

I lived briefly in Iowa back in the 1970's, I used to have family in Iowa and I still have family in Peoria, IL.  I've been to the "heartland" several times. I know some of those places.  I thought I found a winner of a book. 

I browsed the book.  A farm in Dyersville, Iowa caught my eye.  I had visited Dyersville, Iowa back in 1995 with my spouse, a cousin who grew up in Iowa, and my then-young son.  We walked the Field of Dreams. (Yes, it is a real place.) We shopped in the Ertl store (and I know its toys are now made in Mexico and China)..  We hoped to get to the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah but that had to wait for another day. (Actually, it is still waiting.)

Suddenly something caught my eye.

"Printed in China."

Time froze.

Does anyone else out there find something wrong with a book devoted to locally produced, quality food being printed outside our country.

Participating in the Author Blog Challenge last month, I cyber-met a number of authors who have knowledge of publishing.  It's a subject I need to learn more about.

I've known for a long time that a lot of books being sold in this country aren't printed here.

But, if you are supporting local farmers - shouldn't your book be printed - locally?  And if not possible locally, then certainly within the United States?

It's bad enough the computer I am typing this on isn't made in the United States.  Sometimes you can't find a product made here.  But I do try to read labels on things I buy.  I had just never thought of looking at the books I buy to see if their publishing was outsourced.

Too bad a book on local food was printed thousands and thousands of miles from home.  I don't blame the author - I don't think she had control over that. 

Ironic? A sign of the times?  Something we should care about, as we carefully try to "shop local" and "support your local farmer?"

What do you think about this?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday Blooms - This and That

On this Wednesday in mid-July, I wanted to celebrate the beautiful flowers in bloom, here in upstate New York.l
Our local botanical gardens, Cutler Gardens, has a AAS Trial Garden, and these are a couple of zinnias growing in it.  Needless to say, I didn't take notes as to what variety they are.

Another flower from the trial garden.  Can you believe, I can't remember what this is either?  (is this the beginning of a theme?)
One of our sunflowers at our community garden plot.  Sure enough - I planted this and I can't remember it, either!  This is a pollenless variety as I get so tired of cleaning pollen off our dining room tablecloth.  This flower looks a little shy, doesn't it?  Maybe it knew it was about to be cut for my table.

Our sunflowers are going wild, in more ways than one.  We grew a (Giant Mammoth) sunflower years ago and it has reseeded for years.  This year it seems like they have taken over a lot of our garden plot.  And, they seem to be reverting to a more wild form with smaller, multiple flowers of the "regular" sunflower yellow petal type.  Yesterday my spouse harvested a head  that had five open blooms on it with a 6th that was past peak.
One of our Community Garden zinnias, just starting to open.
And last but not least, a honeysuckle (and some daisies) from my guest photographer friend's garden.

Here is hoping our area - and all the other areas suffering drought - get some rain soon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Row Well and Live

Today's quiz:  in what sport can a boat of 60 year old rowers win a race against 20 year old racers?

In Ithaca, NY on Bastille Day 2012, we were treated to a sport where that can happen.  The secret is coordination. The elderly team, if coordinated, will beat out the young ones, as a dragon boater explained to the crowd.

It's a sport where adults of all ages can participate and breast cancer survivors can make rude gestures at the obsolete medical advice that, after breast cancer surgery, they can give up activities such as carrying grocery bags. (More on breast cancer survivors dragonboaters later).

Maybe no more grocery bag carrying, but they sure can row a boat.  So can the seniors. 
Welcome to Dragon Boat racing.  Once something combined to certain countries in the Far East, dragon boats have caught on all over the country.

I've wanted to see a dragon boat race since I visited Philadelphia about 10 years ago, and the news shows were full of coverage focusing on the races to begin - right after I left.

It was love at first sight. Love as a spectator, that is. To my knowledge, there are no teams where I live in the Binghamton, NY area.

The boats are simple. 
In the front, next to the dragon head, a caller sits.  He or she beats the cadence (yes, like in that famous ship battle scene in the movie Ben Hur.)  Around 18-20 rowers are in each boat, along with a steerer.
Here is another view of the empty boats.
And, of course, there is the beautiful scenery of Ithaca, NY.

The names of the teams were amusing or inspirational.  My favorite was "Dragonboat Z" (Cornell's team), who won a bronze metal.  Other teams included the Puff Puff Dragons, the Wall Street Dragons, Big Red October, and Water Viper.

After the "Dotting the Eye" ceremony (more on that in another post), the breast cancer survivor team came  on stage and talked about their sport.  The speaker, a retired nurse in her 70's, had been an oncology nurse (ironically) and remembered the hundreds of post-mastectomy patients she had talked to, cautioning them about all the things they could no longer do.  Now, as a breast cancer survivor, she dragon boats.

I've blogged before about how my hackles go up whenever breast cancer is seemingly put ahead of other cancers.  My hackles raised when she talked about the fact that only breast cancer survivors could race on her team.  But my hackles lowered a little when I did some research about the link between dragon boating and breast cancer survivors. It's symbolic and I understand the symbolism (knowing several breast cancer survivors) although I could wish they would take other cancer survivors.

It does make me wish I could get my 80-something mother in law on a dragon boat team.

Have you participated in dragon boating?  Have you seen the festivals abroad, or in one of the many North American cities now sponsoring them?

Monday, July 16, 2012

That's Entertainment!

Spam email is one of the scourges of our modern Internet age.  "Spam" has been around almost as long as email.  But, as you can find black humor in almost everything, you can even find it in spam.

I, of course, never open an email I even remotely suspect might be spam.  I have probably thrown out emails from time to time that may have been legit.    But I must admit (when I look through my junk mail before tossing it) that I sometimes find the subject lines extremely entertaining. A lot of people online (just look on Google) have written about the entertainment value of spam.

A few weeks ago.  Microsoft was the flavor of the week.  I  received two different emails in my spam folder recently referencing Microsoft.  One announces the "Microsoft 2012 Electronic Surprise Award".  I can just imagine the surprise I would get if I opened that and found out....what?  That I gave myself a virus?  That I've won a million dollars?  That Bill Gates loves my emails and is going to personally send me a cash award?  Surprise!

The other one has a subject line saying "Microsoft Compensate (sic) You with the Sum of 2.5 Million Pounds."  That's it.

Now I am getting a whole lot of grant emails.  Grants for all kinds of purposes.  I've never applied for a grant, so I have no idea why everyone is trying to give me one.  Nor do I know why spammers are suddenly thinking I am a student, or a non profit.

Today alone, I got 3 grant spams.

The Rolex people haven't given up.  I've been getting those for years, along with the usual "enlargement" emails (funny also, because I don't have that particular problem.)  Now, for some reason, I am getting "Magic Jack" emails in my spam folder.  I thought that was a legit product.

Ah well.

In today's world, we need all the laughter we can find.  Even from spam.
What are your favorite spam emails?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - Shy July 2012

Thank you once again, May Dream Gardens, for hosting this meme.  On the 15th day of each month, gardeners from all over the world post what is blooming in their gardens (or greenhouses, or homes).  You don't need to be a plant expert.  I'm not!  Come join in the fun.

Normally on Sunday I have a Civil War Sunday theme. Right now, severe weather is moving into my area of upstate NY (near Binghamton) so I am rushing to get this post up "just in case"  If you are here for Civil War Sunday -it probably will have to wait until next Sunday. But please enjoy my blooms before you leave.

Considering that last September our local river was sitting about 8 feet from our house, river levels are at almost record lows and we are officially in a drought.  It is starting to rain now, which we need very much.  Keep fingers crossed....

A lot of my flowers have been shy about blooming on the 15th of the month.   I would have liked to have shown you my two new day lilies - nope. Ditto for our Easter lily, which was salvaged from a post-2011 Easter clearance sale.  It thanked us this year with beautiful white blooms.  And, I have a surprise yellow daylily I don't even remember planting. (Full disclosure: my loving spouse does all the planting.)  It's done. The astilbes have come and gone.

This is what I do have....
This has been a banner year for day lilies.  This one is a later bloomer, and has very large blooms.  I forgot its name years ago.

This is the other day lily we have that is still blooming.  This is another variety we have had for many years.

A surprise cornflower.  Again, no clue how it got there. 

A shy flower from our ornamental dwarf sweet potato plant sitting in a planter.
One of our hostas.
Rudbeckia teamed with white marigold "Vanilla"


Last but not least, white impatiens mixed with African impatiens.  This pot gets some morning sun but the plants don't seem to mind.

I look forward to visiting some gardens and see what is blooming elsewhere in the world.  Happy Sunday!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sustainable Saturday - Baby Ducks, Garlic, White Currents and Dragon Boats

Today, July 14, would have been my father's 98th birthday.  I dedicate this post to my father, a 100% lover of life in New York City.  I'm sure he never quite understood what drove his daughter to leave the City as soon as she could, led her to life in Florida, Texas, Kansas and then rural life in Arkansas for a few years, and then to upstate New York, (although by the time of my return to New York he had passed away).  But he supported me every minute of it with his love. Happy birthday, Dad!

Today was a Dragon Boat festival in Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, and about an hour from where I live.   Our first stop, however, was the Ithaca Farmers Market, across an inlet from the festival.

We alternated between looking at produce and looking at the dragon boat races.

To my delight, adolescent and baby ducks were also watching the races.
At one of the entrances to the market, we are encouraged to Buy Local.

One of the booths featured red currents, white currents, black currents, pink champagne currents (the ones at the end of the display) and gooseberries.  We bought a container of the pink champagne currents, which are so sweet you can eat them raw (although they have a lot of tiny seeds in them.  My spouse plans to cook them into a sauce to be served over grilled salmon.

Continuing the trend of early produce, the garlic is ready!  There were a number of booths featuring large and extra large bulbs of various garlics.  We bought 4, including 2 of spouse's favorite:  Music.

And last but not least...

Here is one view of the dragon boats.  (What a beautiful view from the farmers market, isn't it?)

I will blog more about the dragon boats and the festival later this month.

Are there dragon boat races in your area?  They seem to becoming more popular.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Falcon, a Farmers Market and Friday the 13th

Another summer Friday at the small downtown Binghamton, New York, farmers market.

It was warm and humid and the sun went behind some clouds as the band of the week started to play.  The road construction people just a few feet beyond the market (building a roundabout) were on their lunch break, and the cries of a peregrine falcon echoed off the buildings of downtown.  The falcon didn't care about the music or the produce.  The bird's mind was probably on a delicious pigeon dinner as he or she circled a hundred feet or more above us.

I so wish I could get a picture of the falcon (which I have blogged about previously with someone else's photos)  - but, well, I have blogged about my non-abilities in taking wildlife photos, too.

The falcon missed a good show.

This is the Alpha Brass Band.  They play New Orleans style music and worked up a pretty good sweat doing it.  At least they stood still long enough for me to take a picture.

From time to time one of the band members would come out to play a solo near the audience.

Last week they played just a few feet away on a big fest at the Binghamton Jazz Festival.  (We didn't go this year as my spouse and his continuing sinus problems weren't up to the 90 degree heat.)

Meanwhile, the earlier than normal produce keeps rolling in.  Blueberry picking started last week and already is in full swing.  Cherries probably aren't technically local but do come from the Finger Lakes region.

Another booth sold honey and still another booth featured summer squash and - yes - LOCAL CORN.  In the second week of July!  50 cents an ear.  Bi-color, of course, as people here will not eat yellow corn on the cob. (They may gather their courage for an all white ear, but those come very late in the season.)
Another pleasant surprise awaited.  We can not grow peaches and nectarines locally (although they can grow them in certain parts of the Finger Lakes).  Well - mid July! - the Pennsylvania peaches have arrived. And next to them were sugar plums.  I suspect they came from Pennsylvania, too.

As for it being Friday the 13th - no bad luck here at the market.  Only hot tunes and sweet produce.

What is for sale at your local farmers market?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Long Goodbye Continues

Last night, I was amazed.  I was watching TV when this commercial came on.

It featured a building.  A very familiar building.  A building I've passed nearly every day these past 25 plus years that I've lived in Westover, near Johnson City, NY.

I've blogged about this building time and time again, since the floods of September 7-8, 2011.

Ruined by the flood, it stands vacant, patiently waiting for the demolition ball.  Snowball bushes bloom near the former entrance.  The day lilies were blooming not that long ago.

The once green lawn, meticulously cared for with a lawn care service, stands brown with wildflowers starting to bloom here and there. (I've been tempted to do a blog post on how nature slowly starts to come back into its own when man stops interfering.  Well, let me qualify that. The county has mowed the grass a couple of times since the flood.  But other than that, nature is starting to reclaim.)

Now, NY State has made a commercial about the former BAE building in Johnson City, NY.

The flood took 1300 jobs from our neighborhood, and several other employers who will never return. Those buildings lie vacant, too.

But the good news is, the state saved those jobs, at least for five years, and other vacant buildings once owned by IBM, a few miles away, are now buzzing with activity.

It's bittersweet.  And I still wish the building could be saved.  In my daydreams, the building (or at least, a replacement building after the BAE building is torn down) becomes a farmers market.  The location would be so ideal, near to highways and right in back of a bus stop on a major BC Transit line.

Or not.

The long goodbye continues.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wednesday Blooms - A Milky Butterfly Appetizer

The milkweeds started to bloom over a week ago here in upstate New York.   Another wildflower that is blooming early makes me wonder what will happen after the late wildflowers bloom.  Will we have a month or two with no blooms? Or will the snow start to fly in September?

With the milkweeds come the butterflies.

Allow me a moment to whine.  Taking pictures of butterflies and other insects is my current challenge.  My reflexes are slow, my patience is non-existent, and the shutter lag on my Sony is too long.   I find myself envying those who can take these pictures.

I can do one of three things.
1) feel sorry for myself
2) read a photography blog or photography book and then go out and practice, practice, practice
3) eat chocolate

My guest photographer to the rescue, with some butterfly pictures on milkweed on her rural property.

This first butterfly is a checkerspot.  I had never heard of them until my friend sent me these pictures.  In doing some research I found that at least a couple of sub-species of this butterfly are endangered, such as the Bay checkerspot.

There are a lot of varieties of checkerspot butterflies  Each has its favorite flower, I discovered.

This next butterfly is a swallowtail.
Before we return to butterflies here is my friend's young honeysuckle in bloom.

Finally, one last view of another swallowtail.  My friend called this picture "Good to the last drop."

Seems like a lot of people are taking good butterfly pictures this summer.  Do you have a favorite butterfly?