Sunday, June 30, 2013

Civil War Sunday - The Reunions

Today, we are on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, in southeast Pennsylvania.

On C-SPAN 3 (a non profit cable channel initially created by the cable industry here in the United Stats) I've been watching live coverage of various Civil War historians giving talks about various aspects of the battle and the people who were part of it.

Earlier this evening, I watched a live interview with writer Jeff Shaara.  He is not a historian, but a writer of historical fiction.  When he writes a novel (Civil War oriented or otherwise) he goes directly to source documents, and, for him, "it's all about the characters".  He tells history through the story of the people who were involved.

Jeff Shaara also talked about the Gettysburg reunions - the 50th and 75th reunions, to be exact.

Shaara told us that, in the 50th reunion (in 1913) sicknesses ran rampant as the veterans, mostly in their 70's, camped on the battlefield.  The bodies of the veterans had been weakened by malaria and dysentery suffered during the war.  Now, climbing hills and hiking across land they had fought on as young men, they became sick once again.

But, they wanted so much to be there.  Federal and Confederate veterans shook hands and ate together. Confederate veterans once again voiced the "rebel yell".  The Civil War shaped these men - for good or bad, it followed them all their lives.

The last verified veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg died in 1950 at the age of 102.

Now it is up to future generations to remember the Civil War,  the story of America's past. Part of the history of the human race.


Today is "Word Cloud" day and the final day of the Word Count 2013 Blogathon.  Later today, I will post my Civil War Sunday post.

To create a Wordle "word cloud" go to the Wordle website and enter the URL of your blog's main page. You can choose different fonts, sizes, colors and even layouts. Then, in order to save it, you must do a screen shot and save it in Paint (if you are using a PC, which I am) and edit out your computer's  taskbar and whatever else doesn't belong. And voilà! (I can't get rid of some of the spaces, though so it saved a bit strange. If I make it bigger, the image is too big for the screen.

 Mine shows what's been on my mind: Farmers Markets.  Am I surprised?

My wrap up of the 2013 WordCount Blogathon will come later this week.  Tomorrow I start the Ultimate Blog Challenge and Camp NaNoWriMo. In the meantime: celebration!  I have survived my third Blogathon!

Do you enjoy making word clouds? Have you ever made one as a tool to analyze your blog?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Saturday Otsiningo Market and Community Garden

After blogging yesterday about a failing downtown Binghamton, New York farmer's market, I had a much difference experience today at the Otsiningo Park Saturday market on the edge of Binghamton, New York in a county park.

An overcast sky did not stop shoppers from coming out.

It's almost July, and we are hitting the main part of our growing season.  Items in season include lettuce, snap and sugar peas, zucchini, and fresh herbs.  Fruits include strawberries and sweet bing cherries.

One booth even had broccoli and cauliflower.

 These lettuces were from earlier in June. We are more into the main, full grown lettuces now.

I bought some cherries and some strawberries.  At one time, you couldn't even get local sweet cherries - the times (and climate) are a'changin.  One local orchard even offers u-pick cherries.

 I noticed that a number of vendors had signs indicating where in New York or Pennsylvania (we are near the Pennsylvania border so Northern Tier Pennsylvania growers in our Southern Tier New York market are considered local)  their fruit came from. A far cry from downtown Binghamton's Friday market and the suspect produce I blogged about yesterday.

Later, we spent some much needed time in our community garden plots, which are a few hundred feet from the market.  Rain and soggy soil has kept us out.  While spouse planted swiss chard and yellow beets for the fall, I weeded and weeded and surveyed the garden. Our beans are flowering, our summer squashes don't have squash bugs (yet), and the Godzilla sunflowers (photo above) are doing just fine.

And what about Bob, the heirloom paste tomato we bought on a whim after our main tomatoes were already planted?  It's growing nicely, and flowering although the plant still isn't as big as those tomatoes planted before it.  If we get good seed from it, a blogger from Nebraska has offered to swap tomato seeds with me.  We'll have to see.  Unfortunately, our spring and summer rains don't bode well for late blight, which ruined our entire tomato crop in 2009. (My spouse even got into the newspaper with a picture of him standing by some of the dead tomato plants before he ripped them up).

What local foods are selling in your markets this weekend?

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Decline and Fall of the Binghamton Farmers Market?

Alas, poor Binghamton, New York Farmers Market, I knew thee well.  I fear I will be writing your eulogy before long.

I believe a downtown farmer's market has become essential to the well being of any American downtown.  One example? In the early 1980's I lived in Northwest Arkansas and, for a while, worked in downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Their downtown was vibrant and had a vibrant farmer's market.  Cause and effect?  I don't know but I hear that Fayetteville's market is better than ever. (I hope I can see it again this fall for the first time in almost 30 years).

In 2012, the farmers market in Fayetteville was voted the best in the "large farmer's market" category.
Meanwhile, there is the farmers market in downtown Binghamton, New York, also known as the Incredible Shrinking Farmers Market. It's been a struggle for years. For a while looked like things were improving.  For a year or two, booths were increasing. 

Now, the market is now down to two or three booths on Friday, their busier day.  On Tuesday, the less busy day, it is even worse. 

One of the regular booths obviously is not selling local produce.  They sell tomatoes out of season (but could have been greenhouse grown). But they were recently selling plums.  In June? In upstate New York? Seriously?

Is there a reason this grower posts pictures of their "fields"? I don't doubt they grow some of their own produce, but I will not buy from them because I can't depend on them selling local.   If I want supermarket produce I go to a supermarket.   I don't trust the Binghamton farmer's market. 

Binghamton, New York (population about 47,000.) has a downtown with no nearby supermarkets, and  is trying to attract more and more Binghamton University students to rebuild.  That can happen (Raleigh, North Carolina) successfully.  There are a lot of office workers, in addition to the students and the other people who live in walking distance of downtown, who would love a good farmer's market.  This is a downtown trying to come back to life despite the odds.  It needs all the help it can get.

I once talked to a vendor who had sold at the downtown market, and left.  He told me that the narrow street the market is located on could not accommodate his trailer. That complaint is valid. Has the City thought about relocating the market to another part of downtown that would be more user friendly to vendors?

So, it's time, perhaps for something new.  How about local craftspeople like the Ithaca market (an hour away) has?   What about offering free parking with purchase? Theme days? Events that would interest students when the university is in session?  Soon, there will be two downtown microbreweries.  Will they be able to sample their wares?

Has the market thought of changing the Friday hours to something like 3-5:30 so that office workers can pick up produce on the way home?  Perhaps "take out" food vendors could be brought into the Friday market so office workers could pick up a cooked entree for dinner.  Evening markets are rare in this area.  I've seen them succeed in other places, such as Asheville, North Carolina.

Vibrant farmers markets are possible.   For downtown Binghamton's survival, one is essential.

I'd love to hear from someone who knows more about why the downtown Binghamton farmer's market is failing.  I know getting a good market up and running is difficult, and I don't mean this post to be critical - but, rather, an attempt to see what is wrong and have the opportunity to blog about what could be done to fix it.

Did your area have a struggling farmers market that managed to turn itself around?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Food Nostalgia Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be

I was a child of the 50's and 60's and I remember the "bad old days" of American cooking, before "ethnic" (as it was called back then) ingredients became every day staples in our supermarkets.

No mangoes.  No jicama.  No fresh water chestnuts.  No salsa.   At least, none in our local Bronx markets.

Back then, someone could publish directions for a "Honorable Chinese Dinner" and feel they weren't insulting one of the oldest cuisines in the world. (In all fairness, the article did compare the "art" of Chinese cooking to the "art" of carving fine jade.) Meanwhile, my introduction to "Chinese cooking" was the double decker cans of LaChoy Chow Mein - one can with the chow mein, and a can of crispy "chow mein" noodles that I sometimes made for dinner as a teen -  before I discovered the joys of baking my own bread and cooking in a wok.

I love to look at old cookbooks - but the "Better Homes and Gardens Meals with a Foreign Flair" cookbook from 1963 a blogger recently wrote about shows just how much cooking in the United States has progressed.

In fact, there's a blog devoted to horrible cookbooks of the 40's, 50's and 60's.  (You must read this blog, even if you weren't alive back in "those days" - you owe it to yourself).  No wonder the residents of the United States didn't have a weight problem!

I don't want to insult the "home cooks" of the 50's and 60's who made genuine, "down home" food - including, in this area, spiedies and "hot pies" - just the commercial versions of what someone out there thought we should be eating.

So, my readers, it is true confession time.  'Fess up in the comments:
Did you eat  Swanson's TV Dinners?
Did you make molded food with Knox Gelatin?
Or, worst of all - did your Mom serve you Miracle Margarine? (mine did)

Or, are you nostalgic for those days, perhaps because you never lived through them?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Simply Summer - Fruits Blooms and Berries

It's summertime, the living is somewhat easy (at least more relaxed), and I have renamed my Wednesday feature "Simply Summer". 

Take a walk with me through some parks and neighborhoods in the Binghamton, New York area to see what is blooming and what is berrying.
My thanks to a certain reader who is an expert on plants and will be helping me out from time to time.
First up, rhus glabra - smooth sumac.  I found this in Otsiningo Park near Binghamton, New York.

When I lived in rural Arkansas we experimented with making a tea from the berries of sumac.  It was too tart for my taste.  I've now found the leaves and roots of this particular sumac were used medicinally by Native Americans. 
Second - mulberry.  This tree was dropping black berries all over the sidewalk in front of a house on the West Side of Binghamton.

Third- elderberry.  These were in bloom last week on the Vestal Rail Trail. 

This is a closeup of the flower, which is edible, as is the fruit.  Years ago, again in Arkansas, we used to make fritters with the flowers (which can also be used medicinally) and jam with the fruits. (needless to say, you can make wine,too.)  Elderberries are a member of the honeysuckle family.

I want to close with a couple of fruits of non-native invasive honeysuckles.  Beautiful the flowers are, beautiful the fruits are - but these plants do not belong in our ecosystem-period.

This nonnative honeysuckle could be Lonicera Morrowii or L. maackii, and to me (and her) it looks more like the latter.

And, finally, another nonnative honeysuckle, Lonicera Tatarica, Tatarian honeysuckle.

Next Wednesday, I may be blogging about the Civil War (due to the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg) so the next Simply Summer feature may be in two weeks.
Do you like summer? If you do, what is your favorite part?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Science Fiction Weather

This week it is supposed to be very warm and humid.  "Very warm" around these parts of upstate New York, means temperatures in the high 80's.  Humid means...well, humid.  Sticky.  Hazy hills.

Sunday, at our house, it reached 90 degrees F (32.2 C).  Yesterday it reached 87 before a gust front came out of nowhere (or so it seemed).  Thunder rumbled like it was trapped in a kettledrum.  I had never heard thunder quite like that.

Nowadays, every weather event feels like it came out of a science fiction novel.  The weather doesn't feel right. The clouds don't look right. My spouse insists he hears a monk parakeet (Quaker parrot) in the backyard sometimes - a bird we've never heard here before. Now, thunder doesn't sound right, either.

It's creepy.  All is not right with the world.  What used to be normal is now something to dread.  The cycles have been broken.  Things don't make sense. 

But then, nature does make sense.   There were scenes like the above (and worse) through our area.

When I got home yesterday, my neighborhood was littered with tree branches and limbs.  One of my hanging baskets was struck by something and lies on its side on the ground, the metal hangers ripped off and lying nearby.  Amazingly, the flowers are still intact although the cracked basket is a total loss.  Tomorrow, I'll take care of getting it into a new basket. 

Downed tree branches are nothing new, of course.  Areas to the north and eat of us have been getting severe weather so it could be lots worse.  There were flash flood warnings to the north and the east of us.  We got little rain out of this system but that may change quickly.

Derecho.  A derecho (super-straight line winds) stretching from Chicago, through Indiana and almost to Ohio yesterday.  A couple of tornadoes, trucks blown off roads, but again, it could have been worse. We remember what happened last year, in states to the south of us. A swatch of some 700 miles of downed trees, wind damage, days without power in the midst of a heat wave, closed food stores and gas stations, all caused by a "super derecho".  Our brave new post-climate change world.

Thursday we have a "potential for heavy rainfall". With the rivers running high, we might also have the potential for floods.  That also seems to be a common thing, world wide, in our brave new post-climate change world.  Once again, weather related anxiety gnaws at me.  At our community.

Along with kettledrum thunder.

This morning, I hear the birds sing, and look forward to another very warm, humid day.

How's the weather where you live?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Haiku Monday - The Dreaded Purple Trap

Today, bloggers participating in the 2013 WordCount Blogathon write haiku.  Two years ago, I wrote Civil War haiku. Last year's haiku day includes a definition of haiku.

Except for the three line, 5-7-5 syllable count, my "haiku" doesn't really qualify as true haiku.  But since when has that kept me from my once a year effort to make true haiku fans cringe?

Today's haiku are based on something I saw the other day on a walk through my neighborhood near Johnson City, New York.  My heart sank when I saw the dreaded purple box.  Indeed, there are two ash trees, side by side, just blocks from where I live.

The magnificent ash
Survived kids, floods and squirrels,
Standing patient guard.

The ash borer came.
Will the purple trap find one?
What will happen now?

The magnificent ash.  900 million ash trees in New York State are endangered.  The emerald ash borer has arrived.

The last thing I wanted to do for Haiku Monday was write one about the emerald ash borer, which now is in 19 states in the United States, and threatens various types of ash trees, including the one that baseball bats are made from.  The emerald ash borer is not the first invasive species (or fungus) that comes from overseas to endanger a beloved tree.  And it will not be the last.

Just because the purple box traps that are put into trees (with a botanical lure) have appeared in my neighborhood doesn't mean the ash borer has. (These beetles are also attracted by blue and purple colors.)  But it's not a good feeling, based on the past history of trees in the United States.

There was the American chestnut, brought low by a fungus.

There was the American Elm, many dead from a pathogen carried by the elm bark beetle.  So many Elm Streets in our nation, so few elms left.

And now, we battle for our friends, the ash trees.  Not just us here in the United States battle. Canadians battle.  Meanwhile, in Europe, Norwegians and others battle an ash fungus.

It isn't a good time in which to be an ash tree.

Don't move firewood, we are told.  Slow down the spread.  Give scientists a chance to find a natural answer to this beetle.

Are beloved trees in your neighborhood or country endangered by a foreign foe?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Civil War Sunday - All Roads Lead to Gettysburg

In September of 1862, the Army of Northern Virginia had invaded Union territory, in Maryland, and had fought an epic battle near Sharpsburg, Maryland on a field near Antietam Creek.  Robert E. Lee's eventual goal was to capture Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  His hope was that the will of the Union to continue the war would be broken by Harrisburg's capture, and the Union would then have allowed the Confederate states to go their separate ways.

Harrisburg, at the time, was the capital of the second most populous state in the Union, Pennsylvania and a major railroad center.  But the capture of Harrisburg was not to be.  The Confederates lost at what we know as the battle Antietam, and retreated back to Confederate territory.  It was a dear loss of lives on both sides, with approximately 22,717 casualties (dead, wounded, captured).  Antietam was the bloodiest one day battle in the Civil War, but the worst was yet to come in 1863.

Now, in June of 1863, Lee's army is on the move again, invading Maryland.  His aim, once again, was to capture Harrisburg and break the will of the Federals.   On June 24, 1863, there would be another skirmish at Sharpsburg, Maryland.  Through the rest of June, there would be various skirmishes and actions, as Lee brought the war again to Union territory.  Various places in Maryland, and then north into Pennsylvania, became places of battles.  McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania.  Hanover, Pennsylvania.  Carlisle, Pennsylvania. 

Lee, at the last minute, had to divert from Harrisburg, because the Union Army of the Potomac, he discovered, was closer than he thought. So he ordered troops poised to invade Harrisburg, to march to another place instead... a small town called Gettysburg, where 51,000. people would be killed, injured or captured between July 1 and July 3, 1863.  The mind can barely comprehend it.  

Our local regiment, the 137th New York Volunteer Infantry, under the command of one David Ireland, would help hold Culp's Hill on the night of the second day of battle.  A local photographer has produced this collage of his photos of monuments (mainly of New York but some Confederate) and vintage photos of Gettysburg.  It is only a few minutes long, and well worth your time.

The Confederates lost the battle, and retreated, and with them retreated their hope of victory in Pennsylvania.  But the war would go on for almost another two years.

Why do people pour into Gettysburg for the 25 year anniversaries?  What makes it so special, so sacred?  Part of it is its proximity to the most densely populated part of the United States.  Gettysburg is 50 miles from Baltimore, 90 miles from Washington, DC and 250 miles (approximately) from where I live in upstate New York.

I won't be there this July, due to circumstances. But I have been to Gettysburg, and I hope to return later this year.  But what a gathering it will be between next weekend and the weekend after. Not just because of the local connection but because Gettysburg created the modern United States we all live in.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Under The Shade of the Butchered Tree

This week, British blogger Caro Ness wrote a wonderful poem about a Chestnut tree.  (most of our chestnuts in the States have been destroyed by a blight - but that's a story for another day).

Caro, you inspired me to write about neighborhood trees in my Westover, and nearby Binghamton, in upstate New York. 

Neighborhood trees are a blessing to the urban neighborhood, providing shade, food for wildlife, and beauty. They reduce air pollution, provide wind breaks, save energy and, in some cases provide food for humans.  As such, they are a good topic for a Sustainable Saturday. 
In my part of upstate New York, the catalpa trees are in bloom, and this one in my neighborhood is putting on quite a show. 
One branch was hanging low, and I was able to get a nice closeup of the flowers on this native tree.

Fortunately for this tree, it didn't live in nearby Binghamton.  But the one below does live in Binghamton.

 If you are a Binghamton homeowner, seeing this on your tree brings dread, because...
...soon enough, your tree will look like this.

Can you imagine a scenic street such as Riverside Drive lined with butchered trees like this?  And now, the butchering is spreading to nearby neighborhoods, despite public outcry.

NYSEG, the local electric utility that everyone loves to hate, has the right to trim trees to avoid problems with power lines.  I won't ask the obvious "why were these type of trees planted under power lines to begin with?"  So, they try to prune and the trees are fatally tangled with the powerlines.  And, these are NYSEG employees not tree pruning experts.  Can't NYSEG afford to hire someone knowledgeable to oversee this operation?  Don't they make enough off we the people who pay some of the highest electric rates in the country?

Can you just imagine what would happen if we get a snow before leaves are off the tree?  The weakened infrastructure of that tree is not going to take the weight too well.

Binghamton homeowners aren't taking the weight of their butchered trees too well, either.

If you have a nice, shady tree - enjoy it, enjoy its benefits and be grateful you don't live in Binghamton, New York.

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Eternal Obsession with the Midnight Sun

Today, in the United States, it is the first day of summer.  In some areas of Alaska, they have 24 hours of light.  In Fairbanks, Alaska, they will be holding the Midnight Sun baseball game - played without any artificial light - first pitch at 10:30 pm.

A lot of famous baseball players (before they got to the majors) played for the Alaska Goldpanners - including Hall of Famer (and former New York Met) Tom Seaver.  Watch him get the last out in the 1965 Midnight Sun game and see if you don't get chills.  I do.  Repeat after yourself:  this is near midnight.  This is near midnight.  Time for my annual and eternl obsession with....(Please be sure to read the update at the end of this post).

Eternal Sunsets of the Spotting Mind(from one of my early blog posts.)

 When I was growing up in the Bronx,I used to have dreams about living in a place where the sun never set. In these dreams, sometimes the sun would set, but it would be very late at night. I would gaze out my window at 11pm (in my dream) and it would still be light. Sometimes, though, it was dark all the time. I would look at the stars, and they were different. This would, for some reason, frighten me.

When I found out that there were, indeed places which had 24 hour light and 24 hour dark depending on the time of year, I began to wonder about what it would truly be like to see the sun at midnight, or experience total darkness.

As an adult, I haven't had that opportunity (either way) except through the Internet.

Last year, through Eternal Sunset, I tracked a location in Antarctica and a location in Fairbanks, AK for an entire year. However, neither location has the true 24 hour swing - Fairbanks, for example, has a maximum daylight time of 21 hrs and 45 minutes (approximately.) They do have 24 hour "light"on the day of the summer solstice but the sun does set.

Now, I have, again through Eternal Sunset, found an actual 24 hour web cam location - in Norway. Svalbard and Longyearbyen, to be exact. Right now, as I write this, it is almost midnight. The sun is right on the horizon. The web cam is pointed at it. It is 28 degrees above zero, snow on the ground, and several people on snowmobiles are clearly visible. I wish I could be allowed to post a picture from this website. This is a childhood dream come true. What is it like to live there?

There are photos of this area, and stunning would not begin to describe it. What does the person who runs this website do for a living? Does he sleep at all during the arctic day? Has he ever been to more temporate climes? If so do our days and nights seem weird to him?

One day I will sign his guestbook, although I'd better not tell him about my obsession with the Midnight Sun. Some things are better left unsaid.

(2013 postscript - I follow a blog written in Fairbanks, AK.  The blogger, Sue Ann Bowling, is participating once again in the Word Count Blogathon.  She has just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and is waiting for the pathology tests to come back.  Please drop by and send some good wishes her way.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Watermelon Oreos?

Would you eat a watermelon flavored Oreo? 

I haven't tried one yet but this inspires me to blog about my favorite cookie:  the Oreo Cookie.
I am still pining away for the limited edition Strawberry Milkshake Oreo. 

The Strawberry Milkshake Oreo.  The best Oreo ever-strawberry creme, chocolate cookie.  (Nabisco, when will you ever bring it back?  And, is it true that it is still sold in Canada even today?)

Yesterday, someone at work told me about a limited edition lemon Oreo (with blonde cookies).  She let me taste a couple today and they are good.  They would be better with the chocolate cookies, but that's not what Nabisco is marketing. (Note: as always, I do not get compensated from anyone for any product review - not that I do them very often). Not cloyingly sweet, like the birthday cake Oreo (ugh) or the candy corn Oreo (double ugh, but I detest genuine candy corn so what was I doing tasting one of these?) or the "this has to be a joke, right?" chocolate creme Oreo.

So I went online to research the lemon oreos and read instead about the limited edition Watermelon Oreos just introduced here in the United States.

 Could Oreo be outdoing themselves with new flavors?  I've read several online reviews about the watermelon Oreos (again, with blonde cookie) - and people actually like them.  They are not artificially over-watermelonated (is that a word?).  Why they are both red and green is beyond me - and who needs artificial color like this - but I am intrigued.

Of course, two of these watermelon Oreos are 150 calories and a lot of Weight Watchers points.  Too many, considering that REAL watermelon is zero points and lots of nutrition.

But I am intrigued.  If I can get to a Target soon (it's a Target exclusive) I may be tempted to buy a package. (but don't tell my former Weight Watchers leader.)

There are a lot of Oreo flavors that aren't sold in the United States.  Why not?  Perhaps we aren't ready for Green Tea Oreos (which do appeal to me) but why not the tri-chocolate Oreos they sell in Mexico? Each cookie a different chocolate and the creme a third kind of chocolate?  Or mango/orange Oreos?  Or raspberry Oreos?

Come on, Nabisco.  Bring back the Strawberry Milkshake Oreo and bring on the Mexican chocolate Oreo!  You are missing a marketing opportunity!

Have you had any of the "unusual" (to the United States, that is) Oreos?  What did you think of them?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spring Things - Promenade on the Chenango

Last Friday, during my lunch break, I took a walk along the Chenango River in downtown Binghamton, New York with a work friend.

Walk with us through the tunnel to the river path beyond.

So, what kind of wildflowers can you find on a river path along a shallow river in a urban area?  A sister of my work friend helped me figure it out (more or less - thank you for suffering through my sometimes blurry iPhone snapshots).
The white fuzzy flowers are probably "viburnum nudum var. cassinoides".  These flowers are smaller than other viburnums I've seen - and I see these are related to honeysuckle, which you can find (earlier in spring) along this same river.

This is a Traidescantias (spiderwort).  It's hard to see their triangular nature.

Penstemon digitalis (a wild foxglove). (you can see the really high Chenango River in the background.)

And now for my mystery wildflower.  My friend's sister couldn't identify this so....any guesses?  I keep thinking it's some kind of chickweed, but I think my friend would have known if it had been.

Next week I hope to take another walk with my friend - this time an urban one.

And now: this is my last "Spring Things" feature of the year.  Summer begins Friday, and this is a seasonal feature. So, what would you like to see here for summer? (sorry, we are not near an ocean).  And, what might be a "cute" name for my summer Wednesday feature?  No prizes if your idea is used - just my thanks, and a shout out to your blog (if you have one).

Today is World Sauntering Day. When is the last time you promenaded on your land or neighborhood?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Floods and Roses

We've been getting a lot of rain this spring, and the rivers are running just a wee bit high.

Friday, I took a lunchtime walk with a work friend down to the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers on the edge of downtown Binghamton.  It amazes me that a small city in upstate New York whose downtown has a number of vacant buildings (a couple of which have suffered fires in recent years) can have such natural beauty just a few hundred yards away.
The roses are out near a historic marker.  The Chenango Canal, which no longer exists, was a 97 mile canal.  This was near the southern end.

A number of roses bloomed nearby.  One, above, had two colors of flowers on the same plant.  I've seen this a couple of times before on rose plants, and I wonder how commonly this happens.  All I can tell you is that most of the roses were purple, and they had a lovely fragrance.
But not all was well with the river.  It was just starting to flood the park. (To the right, the Veteran's Memorial Bridge, built in 1923.)
Another view, with trees visible in the river.
There is a trail, the Chenango River Trail, that runs from Confluence Park up to Court Street, the main street in downtown Binghamton. (Court Street crosses the Chenango near where this trail deadends on Court Street.  To the west of the Chenango River, Court Street turns into Main Street).

The muddy river water was flooding the lowest end of the trail.

It's been 21 months since this river last flooded, and none of us want a repeat. Rain, rain, stay away! For a while, anyway.

I'd like to bring you one more rose picture - a rose after a rain.  Dare I say it, but I love raindrops on roses....

Just not floods.

Are flowers after a rain one of your favorite things?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Video Killed the Blogathon Star (Blogathon Video Day)

In the 2013 WordCount Blogathon, we have several theme days. 

I read "Theme Day #2 is Monday, June 17, the day everyone in the event is challenged to create a video post."  My first impulse was:  Run! This, of course, meant that I needed to at least try.  Fortunately, at age 60, I am mostly past embarrassment.

We don't have to participate in any theme day but this is something that intrigued me.  I am not a video maker, except, accidentally when I accidentally turn iPhone photos into videos because the two controls are so close to each other.

But many of my fellow bloggers do video posts.  And, Blogger does make it easy if you have videos up on YouTube.

So here is my video debut, as I show off some of my front yard.   You'll hear my thick Bronx accent for the first time.

I finally got this up on YouTube after about 5 takes (two in light rain) and a long struggle. Let's put it this way: even Steven Spielberg had a first time.  (My deep gratitude to my spouse, who put up with me running in and out the front door.)

As they say "It was a learning experience".  Later this week, I'll tell you what I learned in the experience.

Have you done video work? What was your "first time" like?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Civil War Sunday - The Fathers

 A reworking of my Civil War Sunday Post of Father's Day, 2011.  

Have you ever thought about Civil War figures as fathers?  Enough of them were.  And, fatherhood was and was not like being a father today.

1.  Infant mortality was high, and even if your child made it past infancy, the father was rare who did not lose at least one child in childhood or young adulthood.
2.  Fathers could forbid their daughters from marrying a prospective suitor - but then, it didn't always mean the daughter would obey. (and, obey was the word for that cultural context.) Jefferson Davis faced this decision with his daughter, Winnie, when she fell in love with a Yankee, the grandson of an abolitionist.  And, just like today, sometimes parents must watch their children as adults come to tragic ends.
3.  Then as now, many fathers had to be absent from home frequently, leaving their wives to be both mother and father.  (this hasn't changed, sadly, as many spouses hold down the "Home Fort" while spouses serve in the military - both men and women).
4.  Many fathers found themselves as single fathers when their wives died in childbirth. The solution, in many cases, was to marry again as quickly as possible.
5.  Although losing children was a fact of life, it caused great sorrow to the grieving parents.  Sometimes they didn't recover.  (One example, Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of Abraham Lincoln.)  There was not much that could be done in those days for depression.

The following information is taken in part from "After The War-The Lies and Images of Major Civil War Figures After the Shooting Stopped" by David Hardin.  

Abraham and Mary Lincoln had four sons.  Only two outlived their father.  One beloved son, Willie, died while Abraham Lincoln was in the White House and both Abraham and Mary took the death very hard.  (Abraham Lincoln's oldest son Robert Todd Lincoln grew up to be a Secretary of War under President James Garfield, who himself was a Major General on the Union side of the Civil War. R. Todd Lincoln witnessed Garfield's assassination. No, you can't make this stuff up.)  Lincoln has no direct descendents alive today (the last one died in 1985) but does have living cousins, including actor Tom Hanks.

Jefferson Davis and his wife Varina had six children, four boys and two girls.  None of the boys outlived their parents.  Jefferson Davis' son Joseph, died at the age of five in April of 1864 from injuries suffered in a fall from the Confederate Executive Mansion.  Jefferson Davis does have living descendents.

William Tecumseh Sherman and his wife, Ellen, had four children.  As with Lincoln and Davis, Sherman lost a son, Willie (was this a bad luck name?) in 1863 at the age of nine. (There is interesting speculation concerning how this impacted Sherman.)  A third son, born in 1864, died at the age of six months. Still another son, Tom, became a Jesuit priest but later descended into insanity and died in Louisiana.  Quoting from "After the War":  "The son of the despoiler of Georgia lies in the Jesuit cemetery in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, next to the Jesuit grandnephew of Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy's vice-president."

And finally, Robert E. Lee. Robert E. Lee and his wife Mary Custis Lee (George Washington's granddaughter) had seven children.  Unlike the other major figures above, Lee's children all lived into adulthood.  One, Custis Lee (a Major General in the Confederate Army), lived into his 80's.  Lee does have living descendents today (as does his Union counterpart, General U.S. Grant.)

On today, Father's Day, we should all be thankful that modern medicine spares many modern parents what these people of 150 years ago had to go through as fathers (and mothers).

If you are interested in the living descendents of various Civil War figures, this is a good source.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day June 2013-Pretty in Pink and Purple

Welcome to the 15th of the month and Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  Brought to us as always by the blog May Dream Gardens, this is the day that gardeners (indoor and out) from all over the word show what is blooming in their gardens or in their houses.  After you read my post, please hop over to May Dream Gardens and see the beauty of flowers from all over the world.

Here in upstate New York (zone 5b) we have had a cold, rainy spring.  A Corporate Challenge charity road/walk race event that never gets postponed due to weather got postponed due to weather.  The clouds have a science fiction look to them. Every time it threatens rain I feel like I'm in a novel.
Today, though, is going to be sunny and in the 70's.

On our side yard, a wild rose (any thoughts to what exactly it could be?) is in full bloom.

Also in our side yard, the last of the "Kool Aid" irises (they have a wonderful grape fragrance).  I took this better picture several days ago when they looked better.

In my front yard, cleome, which I am growing for the first time.
Garden Sage
A perennial viola.

Switching to the back, the last of the columbines.


What Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post wouldn't be complete without a mystery plant?  My spouse and I plant things and then forget what we planted.  I suspect this is an allium that I picked up on clearance last fall. Would appreciate your "best guess".

UPDATE 6-18-13 I have a positive ID on the above flower -  Allium bulgaricum, from a friend's sister.  Thank you!!!!!

And now for some flowers out of the pink and purple theme.  First, brunnera, I believe "Jack Frost".

Tangerine Gem marigold.  My first time growing these.  The flowers are supposed to be edible.
And finally, a yellow bleeding heart.

Happy GBBD to all.

Have you had unusual weather these past few months?

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Perfect Scent of Spring

Sunday was a rare, sunny day, and time to visit Binghamton, New York's gem of a small (and free!) botanical garden, Cutler Botanical Garden.  It's become a Ramblin with AM tradition to visit and blog abut Cutler when the old fashioned roses are in bloom.  But this time I decided to do something new and exciting - record their names!

We've had such a soggy spring that we treasure the rare sunny days.  Yesterday we were under a flood watch. We lucked out.  But if it keeps raining, Cutler is in a flood prone location.

 Cutler has some wonderful landscaping, and this gazebo walk is at its best when the roses are in bloom.

Let's start with the damask roses.  These are ancient in origin, and have a strong fragrance.  I wish I had smell-o-blog so I could bring these fragrances to you.  This white gem is Mme. Hardy, bred in 1832.
The York and Lancaster damask rose - this dates from the 1400's, and was a symbol of the end of the English "War of the Roses" between the Houses of Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose). (I invite you to read the story of its origin - how much is legend, and how much is truth?)
This is a different type of rose, the Gallica.  This variety,  'Cardinal de Richelieu', dates from 1840.

But even with me taking pictures and emailing them to myself with titles, I still have a mystery on my hands.  I emailed this to myself as "Moss Rose Salerno". If I try to look this up, all I come up with is portulacas (moss roses) or a bunch of women named "Rose Salerno".  I "think" this may be a gallica rose.  Your guess is no doubt better than mine.

You could spend a lifetime studying roses. It's been a long time since I've grown roses - I just had too much trouble trying to do it organically,  especially when the Japanese Beetles strike.  I also don't have too many areas in full sun.  I'm glad that someone can grow them it for me.

Kudos, once again, to the master gardeners of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Service, who maintain Cutler Botanical Gardens.

Tomorrow is the 15th of the month and is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, so I will not have my normal Sustainable Saturday post.  Sustainable Saturday will return next Saturday.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Spring Things - Wild Roses Couldn't Keep Me Away

OK, Kathy Purdy at Cold Climate Gardening (a most worthy blog, if you are interested in gardening in upstate New York, or a similar clime) this one's for you.
This is a picture I took of a wild rose on our local walking trail this past weekend.  Unfortunately, it is everywhere - this is an invasive species, and its beauty is deceptive.  They don't keep me off the trail, but it's a little sad to know the truth of the beauty you are walking past.

I had called it, in a previous post where I was talking from memory, a rugosa rose.  You told me chances were that it wasn't.  So I am curious to know, given that it is common on the trailsides of the Vestal Rail Trail, exactly what this is.  (If anyone else knows exactly what kind of rose this is, please let me know.)

Meantime, the wild rose we have on our small city lot (which is pinkish in color) is getting ready to bloom.  I hope it is ready by Saturday, Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. (I also hope we aren't in the middle of a flood on Saturday, but that's another story.)

Tomorrow - tame, old fashioned, wonderful scented roses.

Do you like wild roses?