Friday, September 30, 2011

On the Cover of the....Flood Book?

October should be a month full of inspiration, ripe pumpkins, fun in Ithaca, and fall foliage. What it will be, though, is a saga of recovery and frustration for many.  I find myself one of the relatively lucky ones in a neighborhood full of suffering.

Now I find our local paper advertising a book they will be publishing later this year about the Binghamton area's September flood.  Although there is a disclaimer that the cover is not final, yesterday's ad had a picture of the book with a cover.  The book they were advertising had, as its cover - something that looked suspiciously like an aerial photo of my neighborhood during the height of the flood.

Why do I feel exploited?

I really don't care that "a portion of the proceeds" will go to flood relief.  One question I ask is:  what percentage?  2%?  50%?  And is this percentage worth a rehash so soon?  Aren't there better ways to raise money for flood relief?

Do we need a written history and "best of" photos so soon (the book is supposed to come out in November) when every moment of this is engraved forever in the minds of those who went through it?  Especially hard hit communities such as Owego, NY are still trying to find their way.

Is the November release so that it can be on everyone's Christmas list?  Or am I just being cynical?

I may not be feeling reasonable about this. But maybe I'd like to see something happier.  I like the idea of a flood relief concert, which is being planned.  We get to hear great music, mingle with others in our community, and are given the opportunity to forget our troubles for a few hours.

The holidays are going to be a big challenge for many of us.

Music, yes.

Flood book, not yet.  Too soon.  Let us recover first.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why I'm Not Buying Pink Again This Year

I posted the below a year ago.  Now, we are nearly into October again.  October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we will be beseeched to buy pink carnations, pink wristbands, pink "Fight Like a Girl" T-Shirts and pink almost-any-packaged-item you can think of.  All to fight breast cancer.

And I won't buy any of them.  It's out of principle.

Before you boo me off the internet, please bear with me.

When, on a Sunday last October, I found many of my Sunday paper's cartoons were tinted pink, it was the last straw for me, and I wrote this post.  I still stand by every word.  I will gladly join in the fight against cancer (I've participated in several Relay for Life's, for example).  All cancer. 

All cancer deserves a cure, all cancer patients deserve support, and all cancers deserve our attention.  We should not, ever, pit one cancer against another for available funds.

As a sad update, one more person I know passed from cancer this year. This person  fought a valiant fight against multiple cancers.  And none of them was breast cancer.

All cancer sucks.

The Pink Cartoons that Made Me See Red

With deep apologies to one of my dear regular readers, I have to speak out.

Since when is breast cancer more important than other cancers?  It is, if you have it.  But there are a lot of women suffering and dying right now, from other cancers that barely see the light of day.  The light of funding, that is.  Funding for their cure.

Why does breast cancer rate a special fight, while other feminine cancers, such as uterine or ovarian, don't rate as high?  Do they not deserve our attention?  And our funds to "find a cure"?  Or at least a good test, which ovarian cancer needs desperately?

I am sorry, Pink Cartoonists, but I feel you have disrespected my Aunt Trudy, who died from pancreatic cancer.  You disrespected my Aunt Shirley, who died from stomach cancer.  You disrespected my late co worker Madeline, who died from melanoma.  You disrespected my late co worker Patricia who died from lung cancer.

You disrespect a co-worker for many years, whose grandmother and mother both died from colon cancer.  You disrespect the fear she faces every day that she will be next.

You disrespect a former neighbor who lived next door to me. Two years ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer (she was way too young for a routine colonoscopy, in case you are wondering.)  You disrespect my late neighbor, a respected teacher in the Johnson City middle school, who succumbed to ovarian cancer and left her husband, also a teacher, to raise their two children.

Their cancer struggles deserve respect. Their cancers deserve walks and a special color and products whose sales help to fund the fight for "the cure".

All cancers deserve a cure.  Not just breast cancer.  I am sorry, I know women fighting breast cancer now and I do not disrespect what they are going through.  What I fight against is this "women united against breast cancer" -while people seem to turn a funding blind eye to those women who were unfortunate enough to come down with a different type.

Don't they deserve a fight for the cure?  A day of cartoon colors in their honor?

I think of the other friends and females relatives in my life.  The survivors (two survivors of thyroid cancer, a survivor of ovarian cancer and a number of breast cancer survivors) and those who did not survive.

Their struggle was heroic, each and every one.  The courage my friend Pat, who knew from the day she was diagnosed that she would not survive and prepared her family for that day without flinching, moved me in particular.  I remember the last time I visited her, when she was in a coma, mere days from death.  She lay there in her living room, with her favorite country music playing.  "She won't respond", her husband said, "but she hears everything you say."  It was so hard to say goodbye.  The words stuck in my throat.  I could swear she weakly squeezed my hand.

My co-worker Madeline struggled for nearly four years against melanoma.

My mother in law, who had two breast cancer diagnoses in one year, with a 10 year old daughter at home, faced her own struggle.

Don't women deserve a race to the "cure" against CANCER, no matter what type?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday - The Flowers of Fall

The calendar has turned and it is fall at last.  (And it's still raining....)

Asters, and similar flowers, are taking the stage here in upstate NY.  Here is a nice clump, blooming among some goldenrod near a restaurant parking lot in Vestal, NY.

Remember, you don't have to live in the country to enjoy wildflowers.  Wildflowers are everywhere, there for your enjoyment.

The next several photos are taken by my guest photographer, whose photos you enjoyed a couple of times back in August.  She lives out in the rural part of our county, and lends a nice contrast to my urban photos.

Here is a picture of her purple asters.  These look to be a different variety than mine - the petals in her seem to be thinner and more "bent".

My guest has also, recently, started to see pink asters - not just the purple ones we are used to.

I also want to share two photos of viburnum my guest provided me with. I know I've seen these on the Vestal Rail Trail and if so, I know what they are now.
This picture, which is from this weekend, shows the ripe berries of maple-leaf viburnum.

And finally, this stunning picture from earlier in the year shows these witch-hobble viburnum in the red berry stage.  I love the shadows on this picture.

Next week, I am planning to have some pictures of fall foliage.  We are just about finished with new wildflowers, but fall foliage is starting to take center stage.

What is your favorite wild flower or plant of autumn?  (or, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere - spring?)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Non-Intentional Tourists

Since my blog started, I've written (more than once) about the need to attract tourists to our area, and how other cities I've visited do it.

Upstate NY gets no respect.  When people think "New York" they think New York City.  Not that New York City doesn't have a ton of things to do, but 98% of New York State is NOT New York City.  No disrespect meant.  We don't have world class museums, the Statue of Liberty or skyscrapers.  We do have fall foliage, pumpkins, bountiful harvests of apples, apple cider, candied apples, pears, the last of the sweet corn, the 3rd largest library booksale in the country, mountains, scenery that can't be beat, Cornell, cheese, ice cream.

I wonder if peoples' perception of upstate NY is about to change....because of our flood.

People from all over the country have converged on upstate NY (and Vermont and New Jersey - let's not forget about them) to help with the cleanup.  I need to point out that our flood stricken community is only one of many. And right now, we are hosting a lot of out of towners.

One such group was the crew from Servpro who showed up earlier this month to help with our basement.  They were from Bangor, Maine.  And when the crew chief met with us to go over the costs and services, and we got the business talk out of the way, he said something very interesting.

"I didn't think New York was like this at all.  It's beautiful country here!" (and yes, he admitted he thought the entire state was one huge extension of the NYC metropolitan area). 

I don't know how many out of town workers are in this area.  Our FEMA inspector was from Michigan.  Our homeowners insurance adjuster (who finally made it out yesterday) was from Louisiana.  We have all the major cleanup companies out here and they have mobilized crews from all over the Northeast.  We have the specialists who are cleaning up the BAE Industries plant (they are hiring local but there a lot of specialists from elsewhere). There were the firemen who were pumping basements in our neighborhood on September 11.  The Salvation Army was in our neighborhood. The Red Cross has been many places.  The list is long.

Each of them is seeing Binghamton and its people on display.  I hope they are being favorably impressed, because each of these people are unintentional tourists.  They are staying (some of them) in our homes, eating in our restaurants, driving our streets.  In a moment of rest, perhaps they are looking at our trees, which are starting to turn color.  They are certainly interacting with our people.

And who knows - maybe some of them are calling home and telling their families "Hey, this upstate NY is really pretty.  The people are wonderful. We should come back and visit one day!"

We can only hope.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blues on the Bridge

Yesterday, on an amazing warm and sunny day (both rather lacking around here the last month), we finally had a chance to forget our troubles for a few hours.

Blues on the Bridge!  10 hours of music from local and regional bands.

The bridge was in the flood, and pieces of Binghamton still stick to it.

Three weeks ago, both sides of Binghamton near the bridge were under water.  The effects linger, although the land is dry.  The businesses on the south side of the bridge (including my doctors office) are closed. 

Generators were needed to power the instruments.

It was almost a miracle that the concert was held.  The original date, September 11, was three days after the flood, and it was obviously postponed.  It was supposed to be held last Sunday, and had to be postponed again.

The annual organizer of this event was himself a flood victim. Several of the musicians were also victims.  But it was time to forget that for a day.

The concert has outgrown the Washington Street Bridge and now takes place on Riverside Drive.

The crowd starts out small, but builds throughout the day.
If any of you watched the Weather Channel coverage of the flood, this is a faraway view of where the Weather Channel broadcaster was broadcasting from.    Today, the view was tranquil, and the river is finally blue again.

Recovery is underway, so Mayor Ryan of Binghamton joined Blue Shift (I love that name) in a song, singing and playing blues harmonica.  Mayor Ryan is in the sky blue shirt to the right of the woman on stage.

A city whose mayor sings the blues can't go wrong.

Today, we returned to the hard work of our recovery.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Civil War Sunday - Hoax or Truth?

Last Sunday I decided to step out of my U.S. Civil War comfort zone and post something on quilt patterns, prompted by a blanket I bought on sale in Brunswick, ME that featured something called the Lee's Surrender pattern.  (I haven't started the fringe project, by the way.)  In so doing, I made mention of something I found in researching the Lee's Surrender pattern. This was a statement that there was an Underground Railroad "code" connection with quilts.  It sounded logical, and was found in several different sources - so it must be right.

Not so fast.

I have a very faithful reader, someone I know, perhaps my very first follower.  She read last Sunday's post and immediately tried to comment.  I have been having commenting issues on my blog (someone helped me, but now people are having problems again.)  So she emailed me, saying "Your blog post on the Civil War quilts reminded me of something I read on the Daily Kos site last month. There's a woman named Ellid who posts a weekly feature there called Books So Bad They're Good which has become a must-read for me. (She writes incredibly well and her taste in books lean toward the SF/Fantasy genres, but basically, she reads everything!) She also happens to be a quilt historian, and she devoted one of her columns to debunking the myth of the Underground Railroad "quilt code." Thought you'd be interested - here's the link:".

I followed the link and found a most fascinating article, which took me back years to the late 1960's and the Erica Wilson crewelwork craze...a story for another time.   Anyway, the "Underground Railroad Quilt Code' Ellid states, is a myth.  A myth that has fooled a lot of people.  Including me.

This is far from the only myth that has made it into history, and yes, that includes Civil War history. 

So, I did a little backtracking.  I am not knowledgeable of quilts, and I do not have the time or training to try to do really in-depth research. (getting that training is a dream of mine, by the way.)  With a simple Google search, I would have easily seen (if I had bypassed the top hits) that the theory has been quite controversial.  A couple of examples of online resources discussing if this is a myth or not: 
National Geographic Examiner.
U.S. News and World Report

This even extends past our borders into Canada, as this official Canadian website shows. 
Therefore I should not have presented this code as a fact but rather as a controversy.

So, this simple blanket out of a Maine Woolens store has proved to be quite educational.  Besides introducing me to this controversy, it also shows how careful (since I do not use source material as much as I should) I am going to have to be in bringing the usual and lesser know stories of the Civil War to you.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Farmers Markets on the Cusp of Fall

The Farmers Markets are back. And even our local newspaper is excited about it.

Taking the advice I gave readers last Saturday, we again visited two local markets, Vestal and Otsiningo Park (Binghamton).  Both markets are showing the transition from summer into fall, and both markets (I believe) will be closing up shop by the end of October.  (The Otsiningo Park market goes indoors, but only meets once a month.)

The Vestal market is in the parking lot of the Vestal Library, which has been closed since the flood. (the good news is, they are reopening Monday at 2pm.)  We bought some unusual decorative gourds there.  If we were so inclined, we could have bought either white or orange pumpkins from him, too.  I have been hearing of a  pumpkin shortage and I have to believe much of the local crop was lost.  I hope I'm wrong.

From another vendor, we bought a 4 lb organic free range chicken for a special occasion later this week. This is a special treat for us.  I must admit the price, while fair, (and we have actually visited this farmer so we know these are true free range chickens) is rather pricey for our budget.  But we decided to splurge.

If we hadn't had plenty of honey, a nearby honey stand would have taken care of that.  Fall honey is coming in.  The fascinating part of local honey is the different types:  the mild summer variety and the full bodied, deeper colored fall types.  Of course, that is due to the types of flowers available.  I'm sure the Japanese knotweed kept the bees happy but we noticed, when we visited Otsiningo Park, that a lot of the knotweed had been killed off by the flood.

Another stand sold us two ears of corn and a few pounds of Honeycrisp apples.  It appears the apple crop weathered the flood well.  The market was full of the seasonal Macoun, Galas, Cortlands, Ginger Golds, the beginning of the Empire crop (my favorite, next to Honeycrisp), and some unusual varieties such as Wicked Pucker.  Pears were plentiful, too.  One stand still had Pennsylvania peaches.  The winter squash are coming in, too - acorns, butternuts, and some other varieties.  At the same time, tomatoes (thanks to the heavy rains) are disappearing, as are some of the other summer crops.

Although we didn't purchase any, there were huge cabbages and cauliflower for sale, and even some eggplant (for whatever reason, it was a wonderful year for eggplant-just when we decided not to try to grow it ourselves anymore).  I wonder if this is due to all the rain.  One person's misfortune....

At Otsiningo Park we took a 4.6 mile walk to view the damage, which is extensive. (I will blog about that later this week)  At the market, people were flocking to purchase.  A couple of men provided music.  We picked up a couple of other items.

Again:  support your local farmer.  Support your local farmer's market!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Purple Sweet Potato Lasagna

Back in July, I blogged about some ethnic supermarkets we shopped in when we were staying in the Centerville/Chantilly, VA area.  We bought a couple of different vegetables there that we brought back to try.

One of the things we bought were purple sweet potatoes.  

We have always enjoyed growing unusual colored produce.  We grew (back in the 1970's, before most people heard of them) purple potatoes, yellow and white tomatoes, and yellow watermelon.  So the purple sweet potatoes were a natural.

Soon after we got home, spouse cooked a couple of them in the microwave.  Yuk.  They were dry and mealy.  I'm one of those persons who loves their food wet.  I have pasta with my tomato sauce.  That frustrates my spouse, who grew up in the Italian tradition of serving pasta with just a dab of sauce.

But even he agreed that the dry texture was a bit much.

We let the situation (and the sweet potatoes) lie until tonight, when it became apparent that the purple sweet potatoes wouldn't last much longer.  Apparently, they don't last as long as the sweet potatoes we are used to.

Spouse decided to use a recipe he's used for butternut squash and also for the sweet potatoes we are used to in U.S. markets.  And it worked!  Here, noting my spouse doesn't really measure, is what my spouse did.  Note, this is not a vegetarian recipe and he feels it would not work the same with out the ham.  And also note I also tried to make sense of his verbal narrative.  I suspect you will have to be an expert cook to follow this one.

Spouse's Purple Sweet Potato (or Yam or Winter Squash) Lasagna

You need lasagna noodles or any kind of flat pasta, or even bowties.   Then you need your favorite winter squash or sweet potato, cooked (microwave works great) until soft, let cool, and mash.  Ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced smoked ham (like Black Forest) or smoked sausage.  You'll need a little milk (skim is fine).  Finally, grated Romano or Parmesian cheese, and parsley to taste.  I can't tell you quantities.  Lots of luck.

For the sauce you need your choice of garlic, sage or rosemary.  Olive oil and/or butter, if desired.  Chicken stock.


1.  Thinly slice ham or sausage, the mozarella cheese, and a couple of cloves of garlic.
2.  Chop garlic slices.
3.  Mince sage or rosemary.
4.  Start boiling water for pasta.
5.  In the meantime, mix the mashed potato/squash and mix with about an equal amount of ricotta cheese.
6.  Add a little bit of milk so that the mixture is smooth but still thick. (this is important).
7.  Chop your parsley and add to the mix.
8.  Add grated cheese to taste.

This is your filling.
9.  Cook pasta until al dente or even a little firmer. Do not overcook!

While pasta is cooking, make the sauce.

10.  Heat, on medium heat, anywhere from 2 tbsp to 4 tbsp of oil or oil/butter mixture.
11.  When hot, add garlic and chopped sage/rosemary.  Let garlic start to sizzle but don't let it brown.
12. When garlic just starts to turn golden, add 1/4 to 1/2 c chicken stock.
13.  Turn heat on to medium high and bring to boil.  Let it cook while the pasta is boiling and you assemble the dish.  You want it to boil down a bit but don't boil away.


14. Drain and immediately put back in pot; fill pot with cold water, swish around and let the pasta sit for several minutes until cools down. This keeps pasta from sticking.
15.  Preheat oven to 365 F.  While it preheats:
16.  Spray backing dish with cooking spray or lightly coat with oil
17.  Drain pasta that is sitting in the cold water.  Put back in pot.

18.  Assemble like a lasagna.  Layer of pasta first, then several scoops of filling.  Spread out evenly.  Another layer of pasta,  Then a layer of the ham/sausage.  Then another layer of pasta . Then a layer of mozzarella cheese.  Then repeat.  (I somehow think I messed up this part, as my head was pounding by now.)

At this point sprinkle some of sauce over the mozzarella.

Then another round of the above.

Finish with plain pasta. Then sprinkle top with more sauce. Reserve some sauce.   Place in oven and bake for 30 min.  Let it rest 10 minutes. Serve with rest of sauce.

Now you know why I don't write a cooking blog.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's Raining It's Pouring And My Heart is Not Soaring

A few minutes ago I got out of my evening bath, dried off, and prepared to sit in front of my computer to blog.

Then I heard this sound.

There are a lot of sounds around here nowadays.  There are the backup beeps of heavy equipment, going day and night (24/7) at the BAE Industries plant, thanks to the flood recovery contractors. There's the sound of garbage trucks coming around to pick up flood debris (using back end loaders and dump trucks.) There are the contractors, coming around to give estimates for damage repair or new furnaces.  For a while there were the scavengers, hoping to wrestle scrap metal or scrap something to sell out of a pile of someone's 30 years worth of soggy memories.  Thankfully the last has mainly stopped, due to the garbage pickups.

But there is one sound in the neighborhood that we all dread.

It's the sound of rain.

There was just a burst of rain.  Heavy, pouring rain.  It stopped a few minutes after it started.  But more rain is in the forecast for tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday.  They say maybe 1 1/2 inches of rain by Monday.  But they could be wrong. And I'm thinking, and I know my neighbors are thinking:  will it be like two weeks ago?  Will the basement we just paid Servpro good money to steam clean and dehumidify in an effort to keep our first floor living room floor from warping further overwhelm our new dehumidifier?

I used to love the sound of rain.  Even after the flood of 2006 that affected parts of this area I still (after a while) fell back in love with its sound.  I don't know if I'll ever like that sound again.  If it starts to rain again, my heart will not be soaring.  It will be in the pit of my stomach.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday-Recovery Flowers

Our two major walking trails in the Binghamton, NY area (Otsiningo Park and the Vestal Rail Trail) were both impacted by the widespread flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee on September 8 and 9.  Otsiningo Park had to close for over a week.  I am not sure if the Vestal Rail Trail closed completely but I suspect it did.  One part runs on the edge of a neighborhood called Twin Orchards that was one of the most impacted by the flooding.  Last Thursday, that end was still closed.  But the other end was open, with its wildflowers alive and well.

Late summer/early fall belongs to the asters. Fall is almost here; it begins on September 23 this year.

I am not going to pretend I am a wildflower expert.  There are so many different kinds of asters out there, so if I am wrong about these, just jump in and let me know.

The first aster is (I think) is a New England aster.  They are so showy they almost take your breath away.  The second one was smaller.  This might be a New York aster. 

Time for my mystery plant of the week.  I wish I had gotten more of a close up of this white flower.  It's been blooming for a few weeks.  The closest I can get to this is something called "buttonbush" but what I read seems to imply buttonbush wouldn't be blooming this late in the year.  These flowers are small, round, and don't seem to have a center.  (the yellow flowers with them are goldenrod.)

Finally, I want to share a wildflower sight with you that I hope you never see.  This is a stand of goldenrod and other plants.  The grey foliage is what remains when a plant is covered by flood.

I hope you never see anything like that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Stripped Down Y

The YMCA's in Binghamton and Johnson City were both closed by our flood of September 9.  I've been a member since 1995 and take water aerobics classes there nearly ever week.

Within the next several days, Servicemaster trucks gathered in the Johnson City Y parking lot.  It was obvious they were trying to get back into business.

To realize the extent of the flooding, you must be aware that almost all of the non profits such as the YM and YWCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and similar, were closed at some point due to the flooding.  Many people depend on these organizations for exercise, recreation, socialization and child care.  At least two of these organization provide housing.

Late last week I received a letter from the YMCA.  They were doing everything possible to reopen on Monday, September 19.  They met this goal but when I entered the lobby last evening, I was in shock.

Turns out (when I chatted later with one of the front desk staff, who lives in my neighborhood) I wasn't the only one.

 I don't know exactly what I was expecting but...
The front desk was gone, replaced by some covered card tables and a computer. The carpeting was gone, replaced by stripped down concrete floors. The comfy chairs were gone, replaced by some folding chairs. In the locker room, the lockers were gone, as was almost everyone else.  They thoughtfully provided some hooks to hang clothes on. (I declined)

I took my clothes into the pool area so I could keep an eye on them.  The pool, normally heated, was 71 degrees.  There was only one other person there for the class.  The instructor could have cancelled the class due to policy as there were less than 6 attendees, but there was no way any of us were leaving.  She taught a class of two freezing middle aged women, and probably never had a more enthusiastic class.  (and probably none more fast moving, as we fought to avoid freezing in place.)

It was wonderful.

In chatting with my desk clerk neighbor (she's been working there since before I was a member), she disclosed that the cleanup cost over $1 mil per location.  I asked "how is the Y going to pay for this?"  She told me she really didn't know, but it was being discussed.

In recent years, the Y in Johnson City has become "fancier" - in fact they completed a front desk area remodeling a year or so ago that replaced benches with comfy chairs and even included coffee for the members.

Know what, YMCA?  Last night, all I needed was a water aerobics class in a chilly pool.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Claim Processes Begin

Yesterday, the FEMA inspector came to look at our house.  As I've mentioned before, our neighborhood was one of many hit September 8-9 in the Binghamton, NY area due to torrential rains (and both flash and river flooding) caused by Tropical Storm Lee.  We were relatively lucky but just a few streets from us they were hit horribly.

However, all affected residents are being urged to register with FEMA. We weren't originally planning to seek help from FEMA, but right now the final amount of our damages are somewhat up in the air.

What I want to do with this post is let people know what happens during the inspection process.

The first step in filing a claim with FEMA is to either register online or call a toll free number.  We did this on Thursday after the newspaper ran stories encouraging everyone to register.  The process is relatively simple.  You will be asked for various information.  One piece of information you must be prepared to give is your annual gross income.

Saturday night we received a call from an inspector, who announced he would be at our house at 8am Sunday.  And, we had to have the declarations page of our homeowners insurance policy handy. (Good luck if where we kept papers had been flooded, I guess, as there would have been no time to contact our insurance agent at 8:30 on a Saturday night!).

He did arrive promptly, with a computer.  This gentleman, incidentally, was not an employee of FEMA but rather a contractor.  I found that most interesting.

After looking at our insurance, he asked us various questions including
-if we had extra expense due to having to find another place to live (our neighborhood had been evacuated);
-if we had suffered any medical or dental issues due to the flooding;
-if we had bought a dehumidifier after the flood;
-if we had lost medication or medical supplies as a result of this event.

and a final question, which totally threw me.

Were we planning to move?

You know, that is a complicated question.  But we told him "no" which is true at this time.
Where would we go?  This was such a widespread event.

The inspector also went (twice) into our basement.  He took measurements with a laser device.  (he did not have a moisture meter).  He went into our upstairs.  He did, from the outside, an inspection of our roof.

He entered all this into a computer, sort of a folding device (not a regular laptop or tablet).  And then he told us we would get a decision in about 8 days, and left.

I finally want to mention that we spoke today to a contractor (recommended by a co-worker) who will do the needed repairs to our first floor living area (the floor is buckling) and he told us, based on previous experience with FEMA, that he feels they are going to deny all claims where there wasn't at least 1 foot of water in the first floor.   He basically told us that FEMA doesn't care about basements.  I find that interesting, since people tend to have their furnaces and hot water heaters in the basement.  And, winter is coming.

We can only see what happens - not so much for us, but to all the families a few blocks from us who were so much more heavily impacted. 

Our insurance adjuster won't come until next Monday, so things will remain uncertain for a while.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Civil War Sunday -The Lee's Surrender Pattern and the Language of Quilts

I have never gotten into quilting - I am not what one would call an expert sewer - but I have always admired those who can quilt, and their handiwork.  Similarly, I am in awe of weavers.  I look at a loom, and my brain freezes up.  I can not even begin to imagine how weaving works.  To me, it is in the realm of calculus or algebra, two other things that freeze me up.

Earlier this month, I spent some time in a store in Brunswick, ME called "Maine Woolens". They had very reasonably priced, Maine produced, blankets and other items. They also sold coned yarn.  I was after a thin blanket for the summer (yes, we need blankets here sometimes during the summer) or at least yarn I could use to crochet one.  It only had to be big enough to cover me, as my spouse is somewhat warmer blooded.

I found an interesting blanket, thin enough for my needs.  It was on a good sale because it had a flaw - one I did not care about - and the price was right.  It was only $10.  But what really struck my eye was the name of the pattern:  "Lee's Surrender"

Yes, the proprietor explained to me, this was indeed an old weaving pattern.  The blanket I purchased was red and white.  The proprietor told me that the particular blanket wasn't finished right and needed to be fringed, something I know how to do.  So once I get this finished (and it will be delayed now due to, I refuse to use that F word that has afflicted our area the last 10 days!) I will take a picture and share it during another Civil War Sunday.

Needless to say, I had to do some research on this fascinating pattern.

Not only weaving, but quilting, is an important part of Civil War history.  This only makes sense as both crafts were widely practiced before, during, and after the Civil War.

A quilt exhibit on the Civil War explains more about the importance of quilts, including the use of quilts to mark houses on the Underground Railroad.  How they were hung would communicate to the escaped slave if the house was safe to enter or gave information regarding the direction the slave should head in.

Maybe one day (if I can ever retire!) I will try to take up one or both crafts.  Some retirees paint.  Why shouldn't I quilt or weave my love of history?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Even At the Farmers Markets - We Must Get the Word Out

(Sign on the edge of the parking lot of the Vestal, NY Public Library - which is closed until further notice - where the Vestal Farmers Market sets up).

The Vestal and Otsiningo Park farmers markets reopened today.  Both of them had gaping holes in their lineup of tents.  They were the missing in action, due to our local floods.

 One local family owned farm, Engelbert Farms, is a staple at the Otsiningo Park farmers market.  They will continue to be there, but they sustained major damage and do not know if they will be able to continue in business.

As we spoke with them (and purchased some cheese), they asked us to "get the word out". I am more than happy to.
Your local farmers need your help now more than ever, especially if you are in an area of the country impacted by floods, or any other natural disaster.  I am well aware that the Binghamton area is only one such area out of many.

I would like to make an appeal on behalf of local area farmers markets:  If you are in need of produce and/or meat/honey/baked goods/other farm products, please consider visiting one of your local farmers markets. Like other local businesspeople, they deserve our support and work hard to serve their loyal customers.  They can be expensive, yes, but please patronize them as you are able.  In many instances, we've found they can be cheaper, or the same price as, the larger supermarkets.

Produce selection at today's markets was very impacted. (We did not visit the Binghamton market yesterday, and I fear what I am going to find on Tuesday after I return to work.)  We spoke to several farmers at both markets, who told us what was on display was all they were going to have - the late maturing crops have been ruined.

So - if you haven't yet learned the joys of shopping at a local farmers market - now is the time to discover them.  Thank you!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Thankful Week

Earlier this month, I read a post in a blog called Bike with Jackie that discussed three reasons to say "Thank You" more often.

Little did I know that I was going to have an opportunity to put her teachings into practice sooner than I thought.

Last Sunday, I returned from a vacation in Maine, about 8 hours from home, to a flood devastated area (as my regular readers know, as I keep returning to that topic).  Now that I have been home for 6 days, I need to take a few minutes to thank some people who meant a lot to me, my family, and/or my area.  Here goes - in no particular order.  If you are listed last, that doesn't mean I am thanking you the least!

1.  The workers of BAE Industries in Westover (a portion of the town of Union, near the village of Johnson City). This area, including the BAE plant on Main Street, was devastated by the flood.  The employees did not know when they would be called back to work or where they would be reporting for work. (And, rumors still persist that BAE is going to leave our area all together.) With that in mind, what did the BAE workers did?  Well, they walked across Main Street and started to help out a very hard hit Westover street, Evelyn Street.  What wonderful corporate neighbors we have!

2.  Area garbage people - working long hours to pick up the moldy stuff we've all dumped in front of our houses.  And may I add how stinky it is?

3.  The police and National Guard, who kept evacuated areas safe.

4. The desk clerk at the Comfort Inn on Upper Front Street in Binghamton.  When we weren't allowed to reenter our neighborhood Saturday evening after a long drive from Brunswick, ME, we started to scour area motels for a room - rooms we knew didn't exist.  Several desk clerks turned my spouse away pointblank.  (In their defense, they must have been totally overwhelmed by the events of the previous 3 days)  This particular desk clerk called another Comfort Inn, in Cortland, NY (about 35 miles from Binghamton) and secured a room for us.  You'll never know how comforting that room was.

5.  All the news people who worked tirelessly to keep us informed.  The Internet, Twitter, and Facebook were a lifeline to me when I was so far from home.  (I will write more about that another time).  A special shout out for Chris Straub, a former copy editor at our local newspaper, who now is an "area manager" of social commerce.  He took it upon himself to broadcast live, from beautiful Downtown Binghamton, as the flood waters rose, and he was another lifeline to me.  I promised him I would contact his managers, and I will.  I know (through someone I know at another Gannett paper, I know how precarious job positions are at Gannett.)

6.  Friends.  Neighbors. Co-workers.  Any and all of the people who lent emotional and other support to us.

7.  The people who banged on the door of my sleeping son Wednesday afternoon (he works nights) telling him to evacuate his home immediately due to flash flooding. And the people who patrolled his mobile home park to keep looters away.

8.  The people setting up fundraisers, and private citizens who just set forth on their own to help out.   One example, the people who set up in the parking lot of America's Attic in one of Johnson City's stricken neighborhood, and started to cook.  And cook. And cook.

9.  And last, but not least, the utility workers who came from out of town, and the first responders from other parts of NY (and Pennsylvania), to help our stricken neighborhood on September 11, 2011.  And all the out of town cleanup specialists who are working around the clock to get businesses back up and running.

The YMCA, just as one example, plans to reopen Monday.  For other businesses it will take longer but these specialists will be key to that recovery. 

Thank you!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day September 2011-Flood Edition

The 15th of the month has arrived again and what a month it has been for those in the Northeast.  My heart goes out to all those affected in upstate NY, Vermont, and other areas.  And, for those affected by the Texas (and other) wild fires.

If anyone is wondering where your rain has gone, I can tell you where it is.

Last week, devastating floods hit my area of upstate New York in the United States.  We had already received a lot of rain from the remnants of Hurricane Irene, and that was followed by over 10 inches of rain from Tropical Storm Lee.  It was more rain than our area could cope with. Flash flooding started last Wednesday, followed by river flooding.  Thousands of people were evacuated and some still have not been able to return to their homes.

My house was in one of the evacuated areas.  Thankfully, our damage is a lot less than many of our neighbors.  And, we were out of town at the time so we watched in horror from somewhere an eight hour drive away. 

We returned to our house on September 11.  The flood waters did not enter our yard (although our basement took on two feet of water)- we were on a small island of an otherwise flooded neighborhoood.  Some of our flowers did not survive.  I took pictures that day of what was blooming when we arrived  They are all still in bloom today.  (What is it doing today?  Raining.)

This is the post I made of my pictures.    So this may not be completely within the rules, but these are not good times for the Binghamton/Johnson City/Vestal/Owego, NY area.  So...presenting the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for September.

Dahlias....and a pot of mounding basil.  The second picture also shows some sedum starting to "pink up".

 Next, garlic chives.
The tag has gone missing and I honestly don't remember what these are!  But I will definitely buy them again next year.

One thing we did discover is that our petunias do not like water.  RIP.

But poinsettias (a plant kept from last Christmas) and avocado (we have an avocado mini-tree in a pot, started years ago from a pit) love tropical storms.  I've never seen them happier. (neither of these can be overwintered outdoors in our zone 5 climate.)  And in our back yard, yellow flowering bleeding hearts are still going strong, but the main plant that gave us September flowers is also RIP.  (this yellow bleeding heart photo is also an earlier photo.)

Rain, rain, go away.  Please come back eventually, but not right now.  So many people need it more than we do.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday-Mid Coast Flowers

Last week we spent a few days in what is called "mid-coast" Maine - a city called Brunswick, about 35 miles north of Portland. It is a college town, and I hope to have time to blog about it some more in the coming weeks.

I live in the Southern Tier of New York, and I was curious to see the differences in early September wildflowers between my home area and that part of Maine.  Actually, a lot of the flowers seemed similar.  But while goldenrod was still going strong in southern New York last week, it seemed to be a little past peak in Maine.  But we did find a nice specimen.

There was one wildflower we do not have here in non-coastal upstate NY which is the Beach Rose (purple flower below). They were very common on the several walks we took. (the red "berries" surrounding the beach rose in bloom are hips-very large hips.)
Here is another view of the rose hips.
Finally, I must always have my mystery plant.  This is a mystery berry, showing both the green and the ripening fruit. plus the leaves.  Any guesses?

Next week:  it will be interesting because my wildflower walk places have been impacted by our flood. So it may be just as much of a surprise to me as it is to you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Flood Flowers of 9/11/11

When we arrived home on 9/11/11 to see our flooded neighborhood for the first time (we were out of town when the floods hit) I was thrilled to see our front yard had been spared. 

Here are our flowers, still in bloom.  I am going to feature these on the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on 9/15 even though the pictures were not taken on that day.

These red dahlias were given to us by a friend in 1989, a year before she passed away from cancer. These are very precious to me.

I already forgot what these are.  I've never grown them before and they have bloomed all summer for me.  The torrential rains did not phase them at all.  Wish I could say the same about my "sky blue" lilac petunias, which apparently are now history.

Our garlic chives are also thriving.

And one last surprise, our mounding basil in full bloom in a pot (a couple of sedum flowers pinking up are also in the picture.)

Our yellow flowered bleeding heart is still in bloom too. 

Our avocado "tree" (started from a pit several years ago and not always happily residing in a pot) was very happy, as was our poinsettia plant from last Christmas.

It's going to be a hard haul for a lot of people in our community - but we still have flowers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

One More Time

Please excuse this one last flood post but this blog has become a way of communicating with a couple of people I know who are not on Facebook or Twitter.

(and speaking of Facebook and Twitter, I should do a blog post on how they helped with us being so far away and trying to keep in touch with the latest in our area.)

So...Taking a break from cleanup.  My son (who has to go to work at 10pm) is here, with a friend who just got back from his evacuation, and they are cleaning the basement walls.

The neighborhood diesel smell is improved.

It now appears, besides the water in the basement (now drained) that we got water in one of our interior 1st floor walls.  We will need to tear out and see how extensive, but the basement damage first.  Thank heavens we are on vacation from work this week.  Flood cleanup is not my #1 way of spending a vacation but it beats trying to work and clean up at the same time.  And I suspect it still would have been a not-fun commute to work today.

Life will go on.  My boss called me this morning to make sure I was OK. We rescheduled dental appointments we were supposed to have today.  A co worker offered me fans and even invited us to come to her house (and considering that she had flood damage too, that is quite an offer) after work if I needed a break.

At some point spouse and I are going to drive around just to change the scenery and go to the supermarket (after we feed these very hungry young adults helping us out), as we start to return to a more normal life.

When I get my laptop going (for some reason it isn't connecting to my home network) I will post some photos - of something else.  I promise.  Like maybe the flowers in my front yard.  And how some plants survived (or didn't survive) the deluge.

Thank you for sticking with me during this interesting period of my blogging career.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011 - I Am So Grateful

I am so grateful today.

If you came to my blog today for my Sunday Civil War post, I apologize.  Some of you may be getting tired of my recent posts about a storm called Lee and the over 10 inches of rain dumped on the Binghamton, NY area a few days ago (on top of what we had received from Tropical Storm Irene), causing flash floods and then record river flooding.  But it is very real to me and to over 20,000 people evacuated from this area.  If I had been home and not on vacation, I would have been one of those evacuees.  So the Civil War will wait and hopefully will resume next Sunday.

My son was one of the evacuees, told to leave his trailer park after a mudslide hit the area. Turns out about half the park was lost, trailers tossed everywhere.  His was not one of them.  The water stopped just short of his floor, so his contents remained dry.

He had a lot of problems fleeing on the damaged roads, but made it to our house in time for the river flooding to begin.  We have flood walls in our neighborhood, but they were fully breached for the first time since they were built in the 1930's (5 years ago there was some spillage but the rains stopped just in time).  Areas in easy walking distance of my house were totally under water, including a Home Depot and a major area employer.  Our house remained an island along with part of our neighborhood.  Other parts of the neighborhood, on the other side of Main Street, are still under water,I understand.

The evacuees returned between yesterday and today at least on this side of Main St.  Our local supermarket reopened yesterday.  Many, many basements were flooded.  No houses were swept away in our immediate neighborhood but there is a lot of damage.  There was a breach of diesel tanks several doors down from us at a municipal water pumping station so diesel also spilled into the water.  Frankly, it stinks of diesel everywhere. 

Ironically we are no longer under a boil water order but it remains several blocks from us.

So why am I grateful?
1.  The obvious - our house is here, and is livable.  Our immediate neighbors are here and their houses are livable.
2.  No lives were lost that I am aware of, although one neighbor had to be rescued from deep water because he tried to evacuate using a street that turned out to be the wrong street to use.  Ironically his house was probably the least damaged of those on our block.  His car is still under water on the infamous "other side of Main Street".  He got his share of ribbing today.
3.  Neighbors have pulled together, not that this is ever an unfriendly community.  We got offers of help from children of one next door neighbor (the one I wrote about in July when his wife died).  One neighbor cooked breakfast for my son while he was here.  I am told there were impromptu block parties last night along with a mystery fireworks show.  And gosh, we missed it!
4.  The firemen.  Yes.  Firemen from Throop, PA were here earlier yesterday helping to pump out basements.  (I don't know the exact distance from here but they are close to Scranton, which is an hour away.  And PA has its own problems right now!)  Also in our neighborhood were firemen from Moravia, NY, which is in Cayuga County, to the south and west of Syracuse.  One of their trucks was decorated with a 9/11/01 commemoration.
5.  My T-Shirt.  As soon as I got home I knew I would be getting dirty so I dug for an old T-Shirt.  And what leaped into my hands but a NYFD T-Shirt I purchased at Macy's right after 9/11, when I was visiting my downstate mother in law.  Proceeds from the T-Shirt benefited the first responders of that day.  And now they are up here, 10 years later, helping us.  For what it is worth, all or almost all of the 9/11 commemoration ceremonies in this area were canceled due to the flood.

I hope soon I can return to the "regularly scheduled blog programming" but for now, what is happening in my neighborhood deserves my time and blogging attention.  What you will not get is pictures of houses, as I will not document that kind of misery. But businesses are fair game and - well, I have to be able to get close enough first.

Tomorrow is another day....

September 11, 2011 - Almost in the Flood Zone

We did not make it back to our neighborhood.  Midway through our drive from Maine to the Binghamton area yesterday, our son called and told us about an 8pm curfew.  So time suddenly became of the essence.

According to 511NY, I-88 was open all the way.  It wasn't.  The detour cost us time.  We got to our neighborhood at 7:40 pm, Main Street was closed and blocked, the emergency worker told us they had closed at 7:30.  He would have "turned his back" if we parked in a certain place and walked in "just to take a look" but it was dark and it would have been too dangerous. 

We quickly found all the area motels were full.  We ended up in Cortland, NY, about 35 miles from where we live, totally exhausted. We will be leaving later this morning to go back to the Triple Cities.

I am watching the 9/11 ceremonies live as I blog this.  I just finished chatting with the one neighbor who didn't evacuate and he advised there is traffic in the neighborhood once again.  What a juxposition.  9/11 ceremonies and wondering what we will find in our devastated neighborhood.  I saw a picture on the TV as I ate breakfast.

I want to note there are a lot of people in our area worse off than we are.  Please do not feel sorry for us.  Our house is still there.

During our brief visit to near our neighbhorhood there was an indescribable haze, a haze of dust being raised by people plowing the road (yes, they were plowing Main Street) The flood smell I can't even describe was there.

Remember the Michael Jackson song describing the "funk of 40 thousand years"?

 It would not have been a pleasant night. 

My heart goes out to all the emergency workers and rescuers on this special 9/11.  You are at work once again. You are keeping my home and neighborhood safe.   And my son's.  I haven't even talked about my son's situation yet.  Stay tuned.

Wish us luck as we try to go back today.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hopefully either today or Sunday we will be back home.  But in the meantime, I was sent this link and wanted to share it with you.  My home area is beautiful and the flood doesn't change that - ignore the flood, watch the scenery.  I think this video is very well done.

And please consider donating to the Red Cross, which has expended a lot of money to help the 20,000 plus evacuees in our area.

Thank you!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Floodwaters Receding and Leaving to - Where?

Our son is still trapped in our evacuated neighborhood (he refused to leave) in the Binghamton area but the flood waters are receding and the water in our basement has mostly drained, leaving a slight diesel smell. Our neighborhood suffered a diesel breech and all the streets are coated in diesel.  Yuck. 

Our entire town in upstate NY is still under a boil water advisory. We will bring some bottled water and cleaning supplies home.  Tomorrow our son will let us know if he can get out.  If he can, we will be coming home from the state of Maine, about 7 1/2 hours away.  If he can't we will be heading to the relative who evacuated to our area two weeks ago.  How ironic.

We, of course, have no idea what to expect.  And our area still doesn't know the full extent of damage either.  What a terrible next few days it will be.

I will hopefully be able to post an update tomorrow.  If not...well my string of daily posts since late in April will end.  So be it.

More tomorrow-hopefully from the Binghamton area.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Upstate NY Flood Update

Our house (occupied by my son) and one neighbors are the only houses not under water in our entire neighborhood. The other neighbor is still at home. Everyone else has evacuated.  All the local roads are flooded.  Just spoke to my son. Amazingly our house still has power.  He tried to pump the basement but has given up.  It is eerily quiet. I told him to be safe.  Says he can't sleep because people keep calling him....earlier, he had ridden a bicycle around and took some video which he posted on Facebook.

To my readers wishing for the safety of our house and my son- thank you so very much for your prayers and good wishes.  We don't know what to do at this point - because even if we could get home to our area (which would be very difficult right now) we wouldn't be able to enter our neighborhood without a boat.

And the sun is finally coming out here in Brunswick, ME.  So we will try to make lemonaide, not knowing what the next few days will bring.

The Flood Waters Arrive

We spoke to our son a few minutes ago.  The water behind our house is up to our fence meaning any more rain and our back yard is going to flood.  (we are in a 500 year flood zone).  The 500 years may have arrived as our son is fighting what I fear is a losing battle to keep water out of the basement. We have a basement drain and water is coming up it-if he tries to dump down the sink he hears water gurgling - a sump pump would be of no use.

We couldn't get to our home if we wanted to (if we weren't 7 hours away on a good day, anyway) as the flood walls are up.  The town erects portable flood walls in several locations and they are up, so our neighborhood is cut off.  My job is closed because downtown Binghamton is in major danger of flooding. They have turned the event center at BU into a shelter and there are other Red Cross shelters set up.

The Weather Channel is broadcasting at the corner of Main and Front St. in Binghamton as I type.  The river is right up to the flood wall.  Downtown itself has never ever flooded.  We will hit record stage this people. People are coming out to gawk. Well I might have been one of them.

All the schools are closed.  Thre is a long list of closing on a TV channel website - as bad as a major blizzard.  The only good news is - I can now stop talking about Irene.

Wish my son luck.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Disasters - It's Our Turn

I am 7 plus hours away from home, on vacation.

This afternoon my son called.  We were in Freeport, ME enjoying the outlet mall shopping on a rainy day here in the State of Maine.  We knew our home area was having very heavy rains and were worried.  But we tried to put it out of our mind and have a good time.

I had to evacuate my mobile home, my son said.  He (he's a night worker) was sleeping and a policeman pounded on his door. There was a mudslide and he had to leave his mobile home park immediately.

He had problems getting out but he was able to, in his pickup truck, and made it to our home (he has a key).

Despite a state of emergency, his employer wanted him to come in, so he's left for work now.

Before he left, he sent me a message on Facebook that he has heard that people had to enter his mobile home park in hovercrafts.  Right now we (and he) don't know what is happening with his trailer.

I told him to call his insurance agent.  I know that regular homeowners insurance doesn't cover flood but the little I know about mobile home insurance (my knowledge is about 30 years old!) he might have some coverage.  I don't know if he had a chance to.  He also told me that he is having issues with cell phone service.

We wouldn't even try to go home now, at least until the rain stops. We know the interstate we would normally use is closed now (about 20 miles from where we live). So we have to wait.  We know at least two major roads in our immediate home area are closed due to flooding.   We had major flood in 2006 and know what that was like.  Part of our neighborhood was evacuated.  We were lucky-that time.

And meanwhile, the woman who took the wildflower pictures I posted earlier today - well, I had an email from her when I got back to our motel room.  Her sister, who lives next door, is flooding. She left work early to help.  So here we go again.

No matter how old your children are, you worry.   I'm sure he isn't worried but I am worried for him!

So I will tell myself:  We are safe, and our son is safe, and right now that is all that matters.   I pray my friend and her sister are safe, too.   And all I can do is wait and see.

Wildflower Wednesday - Rural Flowers

Today, in honor of my vacaton, I am going to let someone else do the work.

These photos are by my friend whose photos I used in my recent Joe Pye Weed post.  She lives out in rural Broome County, NY near the Pennsylvania border.  With her permission, I will be sharing (at a later time) her experience with Hurricane Irene.  But for now, I feature a couple of her photos of late summer fading into fall in Upstate NY.  These photos were taken in 2009, but would still be valid today.  Unfortunately, it has been raining since Sunday evening where I live, so any pictures there would be of very soggy wildflowers.

Fear not, I have some Maine wildflower pictures, and will be featuring them later this week.  But now, back to my friend.

It is true rural, where she lives.  So her photos are a good contrast to the ones I take, which are in county parks or rail trails.

This first photo features daisies, Queen Anne's Lace and an old trailer.

 This is one other view of her rural world.
Tomorrow, back to Maine.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Brunswick, ME Farmers Market - Still Life in Vegetable

Although I don't have an official/scheduled "blog about Farmers Markets and Local Food" day, I usually end up making those posts on Saturday.  That's because of my normal living schedule.  But I am on vacation this week, and took in a Tuesday morning Farmers Market in the midcoast college town of Brunswick, ME.

It rained all night, and was still dripping when we got there early in the morning. This park is called "The Mall" and is a very pretty location in the center of town.

(the soil was sandy, fortunately, because there was a lot of bare ground down the middle.)

Some of the produce was similar to what the upstate NY farmers markets of the Binghamton, NY area are offering:  cukes, summer squash, onions, kale, lettuce, green and red cabbage, tomatoes, apples, flowers.  But unlike upstate, the root crops here are stunning.

And the farmers take advantage of the beauty, making displays that were photo-worthy.

No one seemed to mind as I went from booth to booth with my camera.  This farmer had a display of golden and red beets.  They looked so good.  I don't know if these farmers went to art school or not, but an art class could have used these booths for still life inspiration.

This farmer featured celeriac and turnips (see the brown and white bulbs to the right of the green and purple cabbage spilling out of the wood basket), two crops you don't see much of in our area.  We are seeing what happens due to increased sunlight.  Not quite midnight sun, but more daylight than we enjoy in Binghamton, New York.
This farmer displays huge red radishes with kale in the background.

This same farmer's display of chard.
There wasn't that much corn.  But corn is a staple of where I live, so I wasn't too concerned. 

Potatoes?  Of course!  We bought several varieties, including Satina (yellow skin and flesh), Peter Wilcox (purple skin and yellow flesh), Red Gold (red skin, yellow flesh) Purple Viking (purple skin, white flesh - and an heirloom!).  One vendor had a unnamed russett baking potato and Superior (white flesh).  Another farmer was selling Yellow Finn fingerling and a rose fingerling.

Not everyone was selling produce.  This farmer was selling plants of stevia, ginger, strawberries, and (pictured) red peppers.

There was a booth, Big Barn Coffee, selling freshly roasted coffee (roasted in their barn).

The King and I Angus sold homemade whoopie pies, which is a specialty of both New England and the Pennsylvania Dutch.

I still hope to be here Friday. There are supposed to be a couple of cheese vendors and a lobster booth.  I can't wait!

Monday, September 5, 2011

A "Down" Labor Day

It's Labor Day.  In Johnson City, NY we celebrate it big, with Johnson City Field Days.  This is a very nice carnival at Northside Park - rides, games (run by local non profits), and live music.

It ends tonight with fireworks.  But this Labor Day - to be honest, it stinks.

Labor Day has always been very meaningful to Johnson City.  Johnson City was known at one time as the Home of the Square Deal thanks to George F. Johnson and the Johnson family of Endicott-Johnson shoes.  But that was then and this is now.  Many of those shoe factories have been torn down.  The ones left are ruins, inhabited by derilicts.  Downtown Johnson City, to be blunt, is depressed.  It may be slowly making its way back from ruin but it is not a place I would recommend to any out of town visitors.  I hope one day that will be different.

George F. Johnson would not have been happy.

Ironic that in 2009 I blogged about the possible dissolution of Johnson City.  The voters voted that November, and Johnson City remained in existence. But now, there is talk of dissolution again.

And, speaking of loss....

I have met so many people who have lost jobs in the last year, or are in danger of losing jobs.  Just one example:  I know the mother of someone whose husband is currently looking for work.  Her daughter is a housewife with three children, the fourth one on the way.  It's not a good situation, to put it mildly.

Others try to cobble together part time jobs while going back to school.  

They aren't the only ones.  There is a fear in the Village, as there is all over the country. What happens when you lose your job?  For so many of us it isn't only the loss of money, but the loss of health insurance. (COBRA?  How many people can afford that?)  That can so easily lead to the loss of health, and worse.

These are not happy times for many.

Enjoy those fireworks, Johnson City.  Once again, the future is uncertain.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Civil War Sunday - As An Eagle Towards the Sky

Brunswick, Maine may be the last place you would think to visit in order to learn about the Civil War.  You would be wrong.  And that is why I hope to head there in the near future.

Bowdoin College is a small liberal arts college located in Brunswick.  It was founded in 1794.  Its motto is "As An Eagle Towards the Sky". For a small college, it has a good number of  alumni and professors who achieved fame.  Henry Longfellow.  Nathanial Hawthorne.  Alfred Kinsey. William Hodding Carter II.

And a man who may have, by his actions, saved the Union in the battle of Gettysburg.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  First there was a book, written by the wife of a Bowdoin College theology facilty member, in a house on the college campus.

Any writer could wish to write a masterpiece, the kind of book that is written only a few times in each century.  For the 20th century, one of those books was "To Kill a Mockingbird".  In the 19th century, that book was "Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly" by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Published in book form in 1852, this antislavery book  became the best selling novel of the 19th century.  I read the book as a teenager, over 100 years later.

Meanwhile, teaching at Bowdoin was a graduate of the school, Joshua Chamberlain.  When the Civil War broke out, he felt it was his duty to serve the North.  He enlisted, and fought in 20 battles.  At one, the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863, Chamberlain may have literally saved the Union on the second day of the three day battle, at Little Round Top. (I note here that there is some question of exactly what happened at Little Round Top - and part of the controversy involves the 137th NY, Binghamton's own regiment.).  What isn't questioned is that Chamberlain later won the Medal of Honor, and went on to serve as Governor of Maine and President of Bowdoin College. (Chamberlain, incidentally, was not the only Civil War general to end up as a college president.  At least one other famous general did, a Confederate who was also instrumental in saving the Union, and yes, I plan to write about him one day.)

When we decided to vacation in Maine, we were not planning to learn more about the Civil War.  But I look forward to visiting Brunswick, Bowdoin College and the Chamberlain House.

In a way, the Civil War is everywhere.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Farmers Markets and a Peaceful Labor Day Weekend in Binghamton, NY

Today we visited the Vestal, NY farmers market and were treated to a surprise:  ice cream!  It was the market's 30th birthday and they celebrated with bathroom size cups of vanilla ice cream (local dairy) with your choice of local honey, local maple syrup or local granola.  Yum!  Thank you!

Yesterday, in downtown Binghamton at the Farmers Market, it was the last Brown Bag Friday concert of the season.  I leaned against a wall and listened to the Energee Jazz Trio.  There was a very strong smell of onions in the air, while shoppers browsed the booths selling sweet corn, onions, garlic, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplants (I don't think I've ever seen such big eggplants in our markets before), tomatoes, cucumbers, summer and winter squash, grapes, blueberries, potatoes, cabbage, Gala and Ginger Gold apples, Pennsylvania peaches/cantaloupes, watermelons, baked goods and local honey.  A breeze blew.  It was only in the 60's.  The coolness of the breeze whispered that fall would soon be here.  Next week, the crowds of noontime shoppers at the market won't be as big without the music, and the market will begin its slow slide into the fall season.  The summer crops will disappear soon and winter squash, honey, onions, garlic, apples, pears and grapes will rule.

Friday night was First Friday in downtown Binghamton.  On the Peacemaker's Stage by our downtown River Trail, the Binghamton Philharmonic Brass played.  One thing you will not readily note from this picture is that the entire building to the right is vacant.  I hate to sound that sour note, but Binghamton still has a long way to go to be truly vibrant once again.  The River Trail, and these concerts, though, are a good start.

This is the first concert of a series.  First Friday has already been successful in drawing people to downtown on Friday night and I hope the other concerts (without First Friday) will be a draw, too.

Why the "Peacemaker's Stage"? To the side is a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A few blocks away an old van was parked, decorated in what one could call neo-hippie.

Nearby, an a capella group from Binghamton University sang.  I am sorry that I did not catch the name.  They started out with an energetic "Fat Bottomed Girls" made famous by Queen.

Today, it turned hot and sticky, and we are running our air conditioners. (Rare for September here!) But for now, I will sleep dreaming of the sweet corn I ate tonight (from the Vestal market) and the bounty of the summer, and how lucky we are here in Binghamton to have escaped the worst of Irene.

Friday, September 2, 2011

No Comment

Yesterday I blogged about storm chasing contractors who arrived in my neighborhood in the Binghamton, NY area, with a brightly decorated mobile home and pickup truck, all ready to give the homeowners free estimates - and claiming that "We have determined that the complete cost of [their] services in your neighborhood will be, in most cases, fully covered by homeowners insurance".

Today, I came home from work and signed onto Facebook (the Ultimate Blog Challenge page) and found that several people had tried to comment - and were unable to.  I want to thank them for their time, and for taking more time to post on the Ultimate Blogger page.

One person said in part " However, what those people don't say is that if you use the services, even if the deductible is waived, your insurance costs can go up phenomenally. That's the real cost."  I think that, and a comment that did get onto my blog, cut to the heart of the matter.

What I now want to report is what I learned when I spoke to my insurance agent today.  My homeowners insurance is with a major national company.  My agent said my company does not have any such arrangement with anybody to have deductibles waived if I have such company do storm repair work on my house.  She said the firm I wrote about yesterday might be legit, but she suggested I might want to call the police.

Today, when I came home from work, the mobile home and the pickup truck I saw yesterday were not there.

So now I know I did not overreact.  I'm glad I had good instincts in this matter - and that many people out there experienced what I experienced yesterday.  Irene has been a good teacher.

And, for a minute, I want to address the commenting issue with Blogger.

 I could write an entire series on my trials and tribulations with Blogger.  Let's see, there was the couple of days no one could post, right in the middle of a blogging Blogathon requiring you to post each day.  There was the upgrade to Firefox where I had to switch to a different browser to post. There was the couple of days I couldn't upload photos.  Those - they only inconvenienced me.   But this time I am very embarrassed.  My readers were inconvenienced.  I had people who wanted to communicate with me, and they couldn't.

Commenting is the lifeblood of a blog.  It's the possibility of two-way communication with readers that makes blogging special. (and yes, it does make you feel good - well, usually.)  I'm not sure I solved the commenting problem but it seems a couple of comments have been able to get through.  And I was able to post on my blog after signing out.  If you tried to post yesterday, please see the apology I put in yesterday's commenting section.