Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blogathon - It's a Wrap! Lessons Learned

The Blogathon is over.  And so is may.  I am depressed, because it has been so much fun.  Fellow Blogathoners, you've all been great!

Tomorrow is the wrap party, which I won't be attending - first, because I will be working at my day job when the party takes place (oh well) and second, because I still haven't signed up for Twitter, where it will take place.  However, I've done a little research on my blog statistics and:


1.  I received 31 comments on posts posted during the Blogathon.  For the entire two plus years of my blog previous to this May, I only received 7 (not counting the spam I had to delete before Blogger increased its blog filter.  As a result of the spam, I turned off commenting for a couple of months.)

I hope some of my Blogathon readers stay with me.  I will try to make it worth your while.
2. Traffic to my blog increased.  Although the top two viewers are people who knew about my blog previous to the Blogathon, I did get increased traffic overall.  (and yes, I know who has been viewing, and I thank each and every one of you for reading.)

3.  I got the opportunity to guest blog post on two blogs - one person I knew beforehand (although I've only met her once) and the other was on a blog I had never heard of before the Blogathon.

4.  I got to stretch myself, blogging alongside several professional writers.  These professional writers leave me breathless, by the way.  It is obviously a LOT of hard work - work I'm not sure I am ready for.  Yet, if the worst ever happens and I find myself unemployed, I have an idea now of directions that I can go.

And, to those people, thank you for being gentle with me.

5.  I know now what people are interested in when reading my blog.  The gardening and weather posts seem to be getting the most attention. Although, my #1 post ever (to my amazement) was not Blogathon related but a post from last year concerning dinosaurs that briefly invaded Binghamton, before vandals put an end to their reign.

My "to do" list

1.  Give thought to where I want to go with this blog.  Should I dedicate it to gardening and perhaps local food?  Or, as an alternative, have "theme days"?  (I don't think I am going to keep posting 7 days a week!)

2  Improve my proof reading skills.  (also see #3)

3.  Perhaps buy a style book?  Or learn something about grammar?  Do more editing?  Sometimes, after I post, I find sentences that made sense in my head, but not on screen.  I have to go back and edit the posted post.

4.  Play less FarmVille?  Would you believe, I didn't take the cheap way out and blog about FarmVille, not once?  (Also, I played Angry Birds for the first time this weekend - I'm staying far away from that)

5.  Continue to visit, and comment, on other blogs. This is something I did very little of (the commenting part, anyway) before the Blogathon.  I now realize how important it is.

6.  Mine my blog a little more - now that I have over two years of material, I can revisit some of the older material and see if I have grown in my writing.

7.  Keep that momentum going!  I'm not one for "new year's resolutions" but hey, it's May!

And, last but not least-
8.  Look forward to Blogathon 2012. 

Blue Petunias Match My Gardening Mood

My Burpees live plant order arrived the other day.

One of the plants I was looking forward to planting was a new variety (to me), the Sky Blue petunia.  These are supposed to be true blue petunias, not a flower that is actually a shade of purple. When/if they bloom, I will post those photos.

For the first time in my four years of ordering from Burpees, I was disappointed.  I pay extra for Burpee plants (over and above what some others charge), but it is worth it to me because of the care they take in packing and the quality of plants overall.   It's an expense to buy plants rather than start from seeds but it's worth it to me because
1.My windowsill space is limited
2. I work a full time job and "time is money" (unfortunately)
3. Certain seeds I've never had luck germinating.  That includes petunias and impatiens.

Burpees plants are usually of the highest quality.  The couple of times I've had minor problems, which normally crop up a day or two after planting, Burpees has always promptly credited me - their plants are guaranteed (another plus!) I was depending on the impatien plants - I love the double flowered types and they are expensive in local nurseries.

So what happens when you get plants mail order?  Usually you have to add a little water to each cell upon receipt, and then you rest the plants for 24-48 hours.  Then you can generally plant.

This time the plants, every one, were in cells so soaking wet you could have practically wrung water out of them.  (and now, for a little rant.)

The heavy Northeast rains may be responsible for that.  (although, just because Burpees is headquartered in Pennsylvania doesn't mean the plants came from there.  And maybe that doesn't make sense-would the plants have been field grown?)
The petunias were supposed to be in a pack of 12.  I got 11 plants.  The 12th plant wasn't rotted:  there was no trace of a plant in the cell. (However, the other plants did survive the trip in good condition-so far.)

I also ordered 12 double-flowered impatiens.  This is the 3rd year I've ordered these.  In previous years, no problem.  Upon delivery this year, two of the plants were wilted.  I think it was wilt from being too wet.  Within a day, during the rest period, 6 of the 12 plants were dead or dying.

One of my 3 Cardinal basils also wilted within a day after delivery.   The other two are out in our yard tonight, with the other plants, and they face their next challenge:

Rain.  Lots and lots of rain.

At the Binghamton airport (which is on a mountaintop, and doesn't always have the same weather as our river valley where I live) they've had over 17 inches of rain between April and May.  Last night I was awakened on three separate occasions by thunder and torrential rains coming down. The soil in our community garden is squirts water when you walk.  My spouse is a strong man but he can't even work the soil (and you shouldn't be working it anyway, if it is that wet).  We have a lot of organic matter in it from tending the same plots year after year, but there's only so much organic matter can do.

The soil in our small yard isn't much better.

My mood is blue, as blue as the sky blue petunias that we planted this holiday weekend.  I am going to wait a day or so to see if any other plants die (I won't blame Burpees if it is weather related) and then I will contact Burpees customer service.

I wish I wasn't ending this with a gardening "downer".  I hope I have better news for you, dear reader, soon.

And with that, dear blogging friends new and old, my participation in the 2011 Blogathon ends.  Tomorrow: the recap.  But for now:  I'm sad that the Blogathon, and May, are over.  It's been a lot of fun.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memories of Memorial Day

In 2002, we were on our way from upstate New York in the United States to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We stopped off in Iowa City, where one of my aunts then lived.  It was the Memorial Day weekend.

Just after we crossed into the city limits, we passed a cemetery.  It was a blizzard of American flags.  I could not believe how many flags there were.  It showed that the residents of Iowa City had not completely forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day, a special day for residents of the United States.

Last year I blogged about a GI love story for Memorial Day.  This year, at the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, I'd like to talk some more about the origin of this holiday.  It's strange in a way, when I write about the Civil War, because I had no ancestors in this country during the Civil War.  So I don't have any direct family links to this war.  Rather, my links come from being born and growing up in this country.  And, knowing that I had family members in several wars.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day.  It was first observed in 1868 with laying of flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate troops at Arlington National Cemetery.  (as an aside, you may be interested in the origin of Arlington National Cemetery,  whose origin is also directly related to the Civil War.)

My home state, New York, was the first to adopt Decoration Day as a holiday.

After World War I, it became a holiday (Memorial Day) to honor the dead of all wars.

I can remember, growing up, when Memorial Day was observed on May 30, no matter what day of the week it was.  In 1971, I believe, it was changed to the current "last Monday in May" so that it could become part of several three day weekends being created.  Many people think that celebrating Memorial Day more as a "first day of summer" blowout beach/BBQ/shopping day has been recent, but apparently even in the early 20th century the day was already starting to drift away from its original meeting.

Another ceremony connected with this holiday is the playing of Taps.  Taps originated during the Civil War, composed by a member of the Army of the Potomac to serve as a "lights out" signal. Research I've done indicates that it didn't take long for Taps to be adopted by both Federal and Confederate armies.  It is so well suited to military burials that, again, its true origin is somewhat buried.

I am proud to say that my father was a disabled veteran of World War II.  Today, let us take a moment to honor the veterans of all wars, living and dead.  They are our living reminders that the price of freedom is sometimes a very steep one for those who pay it on our behalf.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Thank You BBQ-Or, Adventures in Long Distance Caregiving

Yesterday was a day I wished was not necessary, but it was a happy occasion nevertheless.

My mother in law is now 83 years old.  Earlier this year she had a dizzy spell in her house and fell.  She sprained her ankle and bruised herself up badly.  The recovery was going to take a while.

We live 150 miles away.

What happened next?  Panic time. Mom was going to have limited mobility and a long recovery time.  We'd have to cook for her, help clean for her, take care of shopping and transportation needs - from 150 miles away.

 But then, to the rescue...

There were several sets of guardian angels in my mother in law's life, and yesterday we all converged on my mother in law's house for a BBQ we had promised as a thank you.

Two sets of nieces and nephews, and a single niece, sprung into action to help my mother in law out.  These weren't local people either.  They lived closer than we do, but they still had to drive a bit.  One of the duos sometimes came out more than once a week.  They all had experience with caregiving for their elderly parents (in all cases, since deceased).  They did many things, too many things to mention, to help her recovery and make her everyday life easier.  I learned a lot from the experience.  I know we are going to have many more adventures in our care giving journey.  I know this is only the beginning. 

All of these relatives, and you know who you are, thank you.  You will always have a special place in my heart.

One of the nieces, during this whole process, gave me almost nightly updates on Facebook.  We kept in touch with my mother in law, of course, and visited when we could, and other siblings helped out also.  But we both work, and anyone who has done long distance caregiving knows how difficult it can be.  I know it is only going to get worse.  We've been lucky so far.

In our case, the fact that my mother in law lives with her developmentally disabled son just added to the complications.  That's worth a blog post all by itself.

Thankfully, my mother in law is a lot better now. But time marches on and she is very frustrated at what the aging process has done to her.

Today, the weather cooperated.  My spouse (the family cook) grilled hamburgers, white hots (a type of bockwurst popular in our part of upstate NY), pork tenderloin spiedies (spiedies are another specialty food of our area), and grilled vegetables.  Everyone else brought a covered dish or a dessert.  Two people brought their I-Pads and owning one is very tantalizing.  One of the men brought a remote control helicopter, called a Parrot, which is controlled through an I-Pad.  If I'm up to it, I'll post some pictures of the adventures of the Parrot later this week.

One of the couples brought their daughter, who will graduate high school on June 15. What a smart, well poised cousin my husband has.  This is a young woman who is going to go places.  She pitched right in and did more than her share of the cleanup.

After dinner, my mother in law brought her wedding photo album out for some family memories.

There is a lot of sadness in watching my mother in law age.  She's always been a hard worker, and it is so hard for her to sit down and let other people do the work. She kept herself in shape when younger, but time takes its toll on everyone.  A stroke several years ago didn't help her, either.

She managed to exhaust herself because she kept insisting on helping us out.  Still, I know she enjoyed herself very much today, and that is all that really mattered.

And now....we can keep worrying.  Worrying about when the next fall will be.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hail, Hail, the Hail's All Here

A little excitement last night for the Binghamton/Johnson City area.

This is the second night in a row for storms. On my exercise walk on the West Side of Binghamton this afternoon, we saw damage from downed trees and branches from last night's storms.

About 6:30, the rain started to come down with thunder. We were under a severe thunderstorm warning. We weren't under a tornado watch, unlike Thursday night.  My spouse, the amateur metereologist, was at the back door.  He never saw any hail sign. But suddenly we heard the thudding of hail on the roof.

Quarter sized hail came down, shredded most of our iris plants, decimated plants we bought at Home Depot yesterday to plant for my mother in law, did other damage to our home garden (and probably our car, but I haven't had the heart to check yet.)

This is "nothing" compared to some hail storms we used to get back in my Tornado Alley days, but was pretty impressive for upstate NY.

This storm (unlike the storm the night before last that came at 9:30 and the sirens going off had me scrambling, half asleep, to see if they were tornado sirens or fire department sirens) had the courtesy to come when it was still light.

Here are a couple of pictures of the hailstorms to give some perspective: this first one was taken during the storm (the hand is my husband's) so it is a bit blurry.

This picture was taken after the storm:

And finally (thank you, husband, for risking frostbite), one more.

In the next photo, the rectangular box is an Earthbox (with tomato seedlings in it) and the white stuff on the ground is also hail  It looks like marble chips on the ground, doesn't it?  This was taken during the storm.
Here is another perspective from right outside our front porch.  Again, the white stuff" is hail.   This was also taken during the storm.
I tried to take some "action photos" (I didn't have enough card space for video) but they really didn't come out that good.

I hope no one had a tree come down on their house.  And that no one got hurt from the storm.

(I'm also grateful that the storms have apparently subsided, at least temporarily, in the midwest.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Odyssey of the Rosemary

(Thank you, Gardening-4-Life, for giving me the inspiration for today's post.)

Sometimes I really envy zone 7 and zone 8 gardeners.  They can grow so much that we can't here in upstate NY.  Plants such as camellias, one of my favorite flower.  And, they can grow plants outdoors all year that we have to take in, or plant as annuals.  Things such as paperwhites.  Dahlias. And rosemary.

To grow rosemary in upstate NY you have to have a strong back, and a good sense of weather timing.  Let me explain....

In the late 1980's (I forget the exact year), we went somewhere and saw rosemary plants for sale.  At that time, it was not that common to find herbs for sale, at least around here.  We bought two plants.

Our local neighborhood groundhog quickly took care of one of the plants.  But the other one thrived.

Problem:  we knew the plant wouldn't survive the fall.  So come fall, dear spouse potted up the plant and brought it inside.  Little did he know of the odyssey he was embarking on.

Rosemary is not that easy to grow indoors (it tends to get too dry) so the first quest was to find out how to keep it moist, but not too moist. And, we had to find a sunny place for it.  At that time, we didn't have any nice sunny windows.  So spouse had to rig up a lighting system.  All for one little plant.  But spouse loves to use rosemary in his cooking.

That winter was a type of hopscotch.  If it warmed up, the plant went out.  If it was cooling off the plant went back in.  Out, in.  Out, in.  A lot more in than out, because our winters tend to be very snowy, cold-and long.  But we noticed that the plant looked better if it could spend even a few hours outside.  We knew, though, that it wouldn't survive much of a frost.

The plant made it, and the next year it went back into the ground once danger of frost was past. (For us, that's usually early to mid May.)

Then in the fall, back into a (larger) pot, and back indoors when our first frost threatened to hit in October.

Sometimes, when we brought the plant in, spouse would accidentally knock off a branch.   One time, (this was before the Internet, so we couldn't just run to our computers and look stuff like this up) spouse got the idea to put the sprig in water and see what happened.  To his delight, it grew roots.  He potted it, and now we had two plants. And then three.

Over the years, the original rosemary plant got larger and larger.  It bloomed, beautiful little purple flowers.  Its trunk was like wood, gnarled, like a large bonsai. There were some close calls with cold weather.  Spouse experimented with various types of overwintering.  For some years, he used the basement (with a grow light).  As our son grew older we had the use of a former bedroom, and the plant did better there.

The plant got larger and larger.  Fortunately spouse is very strong and (unlike me) a strong back.  It was no problem to transport the matriarch rosemary plant in and out.

The years passed.  The babies were adults now, in large pots, too.  And the matriarch kept going.

Finally, a couple of years ago, the unthinkable happened.  We left the plants out and it got down to about 28 degrees.  The younger plants were frostbit, but we were able to nurse them back to health.

It was too late for the matriarch.

Almost the entire plant died.  One little branch survived, but it was obvious the plant wasn't going to make it. Spouse finally clipped off the last little branch and put it in water.

The matriarch lived, we think, about 18 years.  The oldest "child" now is about 18 years old, too.

We still have the matriarch in our back yard.  Last year, a volunteer tomato plant sprouted near it and grew up using the dead rosemary as support.  We tied it to the gnarled trunk.  The frost came, the tomato plant died, and we left the pot out for the winter.

This spring, it's still out there.  Spouse has taken a couple of clippings of it still fragrant trunk for special BBQ's. He intends to continue to use it until it's gone.

A fitting end to a special plant.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Mystery Wartime Photo

On my almost daily walks through downtown Binghamton, I frequently pass a number of historic buildings, among them the Security Mutual building.

(The Security Mutual website features a very nice history of the building and company, for those interested.)

Several weeks ago, scaffolding appeared around the building.  Some window work is being done. Two or three weeks ago some banners appeared, strung between the supports of the scaffolding.  One of them features a photo it says was taken of employees, right outside the front entrance, on Christmas Day 1943.

It's hard to see the photo (I had to stand in the street to take this and I tried to get the entire banner into the shot) but the photo contains mainly women.  There are only a few men, and they are old.  This tracks with the fact that this photo was taken during World War II.  The young men were fighting overseas.

How many Security Mutual employees went off to war?  Did they all return safely?  I don't know.

Were all of these women working there before the war?  Or did some take the place of the soldier employees, to disappear into the home again after the fighting was over?

Then, I had still another question.  Right now I have no answer to this question, either.

What were they doing there on Christmas Day, 1943, instead of being with their families back at home?

Did Security Mutual ask them to come in for a company sponsored Christmas dinner?  Or, because of the war effort, did they have to work?

Why the photo, to begin with?  Was it sent to soldier overseas?  Was it done to boost morale?

I would love to know the story behind this photo.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Memories of Tornado Alley Past

So much tragedy in the past few days, between Joplin, MO and now Oklahoma.  TV and the Internet brings us a taste of the suffering and tragedy that has resulted.    It brings back memories of living in Tornado Alley, years ago. 

Sunday, I was alerted to the tornado in Joplin on-where else, but Facebook.  I turned on the Weather Channel.  A team of Weather Channel stormchasers had almost rammed into the back of the tornado.  The weather had delayed them, otherwise they would have arrived in Joplin just in time to be swept up into Oz.

They arrived at a local hospital to find a parking lot that looked like a junkyard.  A hospital had been hit.  Rubble of former buildings was everywhere. The only thing I could think of was....how many dead under that rubble?

When I lived in Tornado Alley, I met people who had survived tornadoes.  It is an experience you never forget and I'm glad I never had that experience. The trauma colors the rest of your life.  The one thing everyone remembered was the sound.  A tornado set to strike you sounds like a train  The largest train you could ever imagine.  Roaring so loud it can shatter your eardrums.

Yet, most of the time you are not dodging tornadoes or listening to tornado warnings (contrary to popular opinion).  Actually, it becomes a part of your everyday life.  Many people live all their lives out there without coming close to a tornado-yes, really.  And, in general, spring is a gorgeous time of year out there.

Memories of living in Kansas flood into my mind, from the safety of the Southern Tier of Upstate NY.

When I lived in Kansas back in the late 1970's, there would be a special symbol in the lower right hand corner of the TV screen if we were under a tornado watch.  A different symbol if it was a warning.  This was before Wichita had cable TV.  We listened to the broadcast networks: CBS, NBC, ABC.  The CBS stations in Kansas had banded into the "Kansas State Network" so they could better keep people informed of bad weather, hence the symbols.  The "tornado watch, tornado warning" became an almost everyday feature of life in the springtime.  We had no Weather Channel, no doppler radar.   We did have warning sirens.  The same sirens that put fear into my life as a child (too many duck-and-cover drills) now would be warning me to take cover from nature.

I remember seeing the sky turn black as night at 9:30 on a summer morning, one day at work.  I remember storms where the sky turned green, where rain came down so hard you couldn't see the road in front of you.  You haven't experienced Kansas weather until you've seen the ground covered in summer snow, but it isn't snow-it is large hail, and your garden has been pounded into submission.

But now those memories flood back live, and in color, online and on TV.  Yesterday evening I watched the Weather Channel, again live, picking up the live feed of Channel 4 in Oklahoma City.  A storm chaser was surrounded (literally) by tornadoes.  As he drove down the road, a utility pole snapped in two and rose into the air, barely missing the car, like some kind of special effect. 

I understand that storm left at least two dead.

Spring.  Beautiful....and deadly.

Yes, our turn will come.  Our turn will come in mid-June.  Not as bad as Tornado Alley but I'm not looking forward to it.

Now to enjoy the calm while we can.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So Where Do I Like to Write?

So, hmmmm....where do I like to write from?  Well, since the Internet has allowed us to roam almost anywhere to write, thanks to laptops and other devices, the possibilities are endless.

There are a lot of places I WISH I could write from. For example, I wish I could be writing from a comfy chair at a nice motel in Sanibel Island, Florida. (alligators optional.)

I can imagine myself sitting in a quiet garden in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Or, inside a lovely historic Bed and Breakfast in Americus, Georgia, while lingering over an awesome breakfast.

Or, last but certainly not least, from Massee Lane Gardens in Georgia (at least during the winter!)

But, you know what?  I'm not in any of these places.  You know what they say....be happy where you are planted.

Where I am is in a yard in upstate New York.  The sun is shining (miracle) and the birds are singing!  So right now, I don't mind this being my place to write at all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Directions as the Blogathon enters Its Last Week

New directions for people in my life....and a new direction for this blog?

But before I begin.....I used to live in Northwest Arkansas, and my heart goes out to the victims of the Joplin, MO tornado.  I never visited but I went through Joplin several times during the early and mid 1980's.

And now, back to upstate New York.

1.  My cousin graduated yesterday from Binghamton University.  She loved her four years there, but is going to go to graduate school in another city.  She grew up in New York City, fell in love with Binghamton in her college years, but also likes Manhattan.  She's at the beginning of her adult life - so many directions she can go in.  I wish her the best.  I will do the world a favor and not give her any unsolicited advice.

2.  Another relative, earlier this week, bade farewell to his job - he had worked for this employer (through a number of buyouts and takeovers - so it wasn't the same ownership as he started out with but all his benefits carried forward from owner to owner) for over 30 years.  He was laid off.  He wasn't totally surprised, having survived several other layoffs. He follows his wife, who was laid off in March.  They both see this as the opening of new possibilities, but also face uncertainty.  Many of us have been there before-too many, in this new world of ours.

3.  And last, but not least - the Blogathon has made me think.  Made me think of what I want to do with this blog.  I've been posting a lot of flower pictures recently, because someone I know is going through a very hard time right now, and I want her to know she is in my thoughts.  I know she loves these types of photos.  But this kind of thing is not totally normal for this blog, which has no set topic.  So:
-should I devote it to one topic?  Or maybe several related topics?
-should I include more photos?  (I don't think I am a horrid photographer, but I could certainly use practice.)
-how should I further hone my writing skills?  should I try to take my amateur writing to the "next level", whatever the next level is?  If #2 above happens to me, then what?

For now, I will keep on ramblin...I even feel more Civil War haikus coming on! (run for the hills!) But for the future after the Blogathon - ??????  Is anyone else feeling a need to reassess due to the Blogathon?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More Dispatches from the Binghamton Rain Festival (aka "Spring")

No, there isn't any such thing as the Binghamton Rain Festival.  But if there was one, it would be in full swing right now.  I've been through drought and I've been through too much rain, and I honesty don't know which one is worse.

During this week, our lilacs bloomed.  By the time I got to them for cut flowers, they were already rotting on the bushes.  I never did get to pick any for indoor bouquets.  I also missed taking pictures of neighborhood dogwoods.

Right now, the main season bearded irises are starting to come out.  I should have pictures later this week of some irises. Azaleas and rhododendrons are also in bloom.  Between yesterday and today, I took these pictures for your enjoyment.

I believe these azaleas (yellow) are "Mollis" azaleas. These are deciduous azaleas which bloom before they fully leaf out, in colors of orange or yellow.   I caught a pink dogwood, basically done with blooming,on the right.

In a nearby yard, was an example of an orange azalea.

This house featured a lovely blend of a pink dogwood and a Japanese maple.

This may be a spirea, trimmed into a "ball".  Spireas do not seem to do as well here as in other parts of the country I've lived in. (they seemed to thrive especially in southeast Kansas.)

This house also had a nice combination of red azaleas and a white flowering tree, although the tree in front didn't do much for the composition of the photo.

In other gardening news, a big yellow ball appeared in the sky a couple of times this week when there were breaks in the clouds.  We were all puzzled by its appearance.  Was it a UFO?  When it came out, it got warmer, and it felt so good.  Also, the light was blinding to eyes used to the constant cloud cover.  But it only came out while I was at work.  By the time I got home, it was again drizzling, or raining. 

Many people here are starting to ask "are we going to have a summer"?

Let's hope so.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Peregrine Falcons of Downtown Binghamton, NY

One of the joys of working in our downtown area here in Binghamton, New York, is knowing that high above you, a pair of peregrine falcons is taking care of business. 

Back in 2001, a pair set up on top of the Security Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York building, and proceeded to nest.  They (and another pair that took over at some point, I believe), make this an annual ritual.

I have been fortunate enough to see the falcons several times over the years.  Sometimes, bird watchers set up near the Broome County Court house when they are sighted, and allow noonday office workers out and about at lunch to share their binoculars.  And, enough times....how do I say this delicately, but if I have to walk past the Security Mutual building, I must step around....er, the remains of their lunch.  Pigeons are their favorite, and they are choosy about which parts they eat.

I understand they can dive at 200 miles per hour.  I've never seen one take prey, but I have heard their haunting screeches.

In June of 2008, someone I know who works in the Security Mutual building sent me these photos.  I would like to share these photos with you.

Thank you, Donna, for these photos. As Donna explained at the time:

"Please enjoy the pictures of the male, baby Falcon, approximately 3 months old, that hit the window of the Security Mutual Building around lunch time, and decided to take a little rest on the ledge, outside offices on the 8th floor, before he took off flying to join the rest of his family.  We learned from the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) that this may have been his maiden flight."  

The building visible in most of the pictures is the Broome County Courthouse.

This is an action sequence.  The bird rests on the ledge, a bit stunned, recovers, and then finally flies away. 

The pigeons may not be happy to have the falcons in town, but many office workers in downtown Binghamton are thrilled to have the falcons live among us.

 Here, the falcon peeks into the 8th floor offices.

What a beautiful sight.

 A very nice closeup.
 Great shot down Court Street, as the bird prepares to take off.  And finally, the happy ending.
The young birds, sadly, do not always survive to adulthood.  But I believe this one did.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Binghamton Rainbow For You

I ran across this photo today.  It was sent to me last fall by the friend of a friend.

Fall is the time of year where Upstate New York is in its glory.  This picture was taken last October, in downtown Binghamton, right after a storm.  The blue building on the right is the Perry Building, which miraculously was not damaged during the Fire of 2010 that seriously damaged the building on either side.

This is a weekends of new beginnings as a cousin who is attending Binghamton University is graduating, and an in law starts his new life - having lost his job of many years.  (Yesterday was his last day).  I'll hopefully be writing about both milestones this weekend.

May each of you find your personal pot of gold this weekend.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Disability Causes Grammar Leave Your Brain?

Today, I am proud to feature a guest blog from a fellow participant in the Blogathon, Sawyer.  Her normal home is at http://somecanwhistle.com/
I am a guest blogger on her blog today, and I welcome you to check out my post there.

This post gives all of us a lot of food for thought.

Today's Guest Post

I have a wonderful boy who turned 13 this year. He is funny and warm, deeply caring and sensitive, with a quirky sense of humor, an innate love for order, and a natural curiosity about people. He is a fantastic dancer who loves to entertain a crowd with his dance routine that even incorporates a form of break dancing. He readily comforts classmates or siblings who are crying, he walks up to lonely strangers and greets them, making them feel special again.

Did I mention he also has Down Syndrome?

In all the years of mothering this child what disturbs me about his disability is the attitude that others have toward it. I am not talking about friends necessarily, although I have had my gripes with them too. I mean, is it too much to ask to show some warmth toward a kid who maybe isn't very verbal but who smiles and is friendly and just wants to be acknowledged? But I digress. Worse are strangers and the way in which they either stare or pointedly do not stare. But I still digress.

I really mean to talk about speech, not the speech my son obviously struggles with, but a certain particularity of speech that surfaces amongst perfectly fine people, well educated and otherwise rational folks who suddenly fall into demented language, consistently and unfailingly misusing the word is. Is, as in "He is Down Syndrome."

Excuse me? The first time I ever heard this I thought it was just that one person's weird proclivity. But I have heard this turn of phrase countless times by all kinds of people concerning their own child, or a patient, or one of their students. I hear parents say "She is ADD," teachers: "He is spina bifida." It baffles the mind.
I mean, if you are diabetic, are you diabetes? Is your husband arthritis? Is your friend, God forbid, cancer? Does it take any linguistic trouble as far as pronunciation, or is this some kind of short cut - is it any easier to say is instead of has?

Of course not, and therefore it indicates to me that in the mind of the speaker, at least on a subconscious level, this turn of phrase has to mean something, and what else can it mean but an over-identification of the person with the disability. They would, of course, never admit this, and it is not for me to judge. I only know that this makes me incredibly angry, and I wish with all my heart people would stop saying it already.

All I know is this: while a disabled person may be limited in certain ways by his disability, at the same time he is not defined by it. That belief may be a fine line to walk for some people, but to me it is crucial to think that way. It is a matter of principle, just like using the correct verb in all the right places.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Our" Generation Vs. Theirs

This is a "rewrite" of a blog post I made in May of 2009.

My Childhood and Young Adulthood Considered as a Museum Piece

I thought about a woman who has been my mother in law's neighbor for many years. The neighbor is in her 70's.

We both grew up in the Bronx, 2 miles and some 20 plus years apart.

We can reminisce about a major shopping area in the Bronx off Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse, shopping at the same stores, going to the same movie houses and even eating at the same restaurants. We read the same magazines (including Life and Look). We used pay phones. We drank the same brand of soda (in 7 oz green bottles). We remember the same shows, although it is true that she heard a lot of them on radio and I watched them on T.V. We even remember when TV had steady schedules and seasons that always began the same week each year. We played potsy on the sidewalks. (I'll stop now before I sound like one of those "I love the 50's" emails that circulate.)

There were many differences (popular music, fashions, hair styles, to name three) but we have so much in common that we've had several nice chats about our respective childhoods.

Now think of someone 26 years younger than me.   Think of it this way:  My sister in law is 12 years younger than me and there is so much we don't have in common (not that she grew up in my neighborhood, but just in general).

And the 38 years between me and my son? It's sometimes like trying to build a bridge across the Grand Canyon.  (using modern technology, of course.)

 (In the near future I am going to blog about some of my struggles with modern technology - primarily, cell phones.  But on the other hand....)

Let's list some of the things I've had to explain to him: For starters: typewriters. Record players. Rotary phones. Carbon paper. Mimeograph machines. Telegrams. The Space Race. Communism. The Soviet Union. Hollerith cards (OK, I am being technical here, but my son did dream of majoring in computer science at one time in his life.)

I've had some surprises in my career as a parent but having my childhood and young adulthood considered a musty museum piece was a big surprise.  I struggle with this at work every day too, as I interact with members of a younger generation and the increasing pace of technology/social networking growth.

When I wrote the original piece, I thought I would have my revenge when he has kids and they do the same thing to him.

Now, two years have passed and ironically-as he continues to be comfortable with modern technology, he has become a collector of obsolete technology.  He is fascinated by wire recorders, laser discs, 8 track players, old computers, and more.

And, I look at the generation of my mother in law, going on Facebook so they can interact with their grandchildren.

However this ends up, the "Ours" vs. "Theirs" generational question will continue to be an interesting topic.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Our Local Neighborhood Marathon - Finally!

Binghamton, this Sunday, finally joined "the big time":  sort of.

The first annual Greater Binghamton Bridge Run was a great success (although a bit wet).  Several people working for my employer participated as runners/walkers, and my manager, among others, volunteered.

My manager couldn't believe how many runners came from out of town.  One even came from the United Kingdom.  Not too shabby for a first time half marathon in a city of about 47,000. people.

I heard nothing but good things from coworkers who volunteered.  In fact, the races were so popular that registration had to be cut off early.

I hope the runners enjoyed the flowering trees, although several days before there would have been a better selection to look at. (yes, I know, they aren't sightseeing and probably didn't even notice.)

My one complaint was that, in the original literature I saw, there was nothing mentioned about the 5K being a walk or run.  I can not run far (other than not being in shape for running, my arthritic knee would more or less rule running out) but I can easily do a 5K walk.  I wouldn't be winning any walking race but, if my back cooperates, I can do 4 miles in about 1 hour, 15 minutes (it used to be faster before my back and knee issues.)  I've participated in measured mile competitions, but never a 5K.  I would have signed up for the walk.  Oh well, there is always next year.

I've walked enough of the route either at lunchtime, or after work.  Some of the streets this was held on were streets I've taken photos of flowering trees on, and posted, in the last month.

Which, actually, brings up a question.

My spouse overheard a conversation between two men living in one of the neighborhoods the runners ran through.  One mentioned that his street was closed for about 1/2 hour, he wasn't able to get home, and wasn't too happy about it.  It got me to thinking:  many of those streets are in purely residential neighborhoods.  What if someone had a medical emergency?  Was there any contingency for this?

What do other cities do? Do cities like Boston or NYC have a way to handle this?  I'd be curious to know.

I am putting this on my calendar for next year.

I hope some of the runners from out of town liked what they saw, and will tell others that we are more than a burnt out industrial town.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Guest Post: And He Said WHAT?

Today's guest post....from The BillieGram.  Enjoy!

Dad had driven down from North Florida to visit, and I pulled out all the stops making him a nice roast with browned potatoes, a really rich gravy, my gets-me-invited-places veggie casserole, a crisp Bob salad (BFF Bob makes a salad worthy of a name, so I picked his …), and a pineapple upside-down cake.

How could two people finish all that food? Ha! We couldn’t, so I invited Barry to come to dinner.

I’d met Barry years earlier, when I ran my coffeehouse. He’d come in to play guitar as part of my open mic. Nicest man you’d ever want to meet. Ran the window treatment/installation biz that his dad started back in 1950.

After the coffeehouse closed, we stayed in touch. I thought Barry and Dad would get a kick out of each other, and I knew that never-married Barry would enjoy a full-on home-cooked dinner.

Dad was on a roll that night, regaling us with stories of his misspent youth,  when he rubbed elbows with businessmen who were best known by their underworld nicknames.

He tossed in stories of his most recent crop of friends down in the Keys: Bill the Cop, Paul the Hat, Larry the Loon (I’m making that one up for my sister’s amusement …).

Barry’s a good listener, so Dad was really eating up the attention.

Fast forward about 14 hours.

I’m at work, concentrating on putting an article together on deadline.

Another friend from the coffeehouse days, Paul, works in the office next to mine. We keep our doors open in case one of the dogs in our pet-friendly office decides to come visiting.

The place is pretty quiet—four writers, all writing away at our desks.

I have “Oh, look! Bright Shiny Thing” Syndrome, so I have my desk turned away from the door so all I can see is my computer monitor and the drab, grey corner. No eye candy.

Didn’t keep my ears from working, though. I heard the phone ring on our receptionist’s desk, was vaguely aware that she’d answered it.

“Billie? Yes, she’s here.” Ah, that got my attention. I was expecting someone to call in for his interview. “Who may I say is calling?

“You want …what?” Pause.

“You want me to say that?” Pause.

“You’re sure?”

This did not bode well. God, had I offended a doctor or patient, who was now calling to say what a jerk I was? I heard the office overhead pager click on, and wondered for the life of me why Michele was going to go public with whatever this message was.

“Um … Billie. Barry the Drill is on Line One.”

Oh, Jesus. I knew Barry well enough to know that his brain parts sometimes go on vacation and forget to tell the rest of him. But this?

I could hear everybody in the building laughing as I reached toward the phone. Nobody except Paul knew who Barry was, but they rest of them knew a story in the making when they heard one.

I pushed the button on my phone, heard the call as it connected with my headset, and through clenched teeth pushed my words into the microphone.

“Barry. The. DRILL?” I said. “You called my office to say ‘Barry the DRILL’?” I could sense the crowd gathering at my office door. The door I’d left open in case the dogs wanted to visit. The door that was too far away from me to push it closed.

“Yeah,” said Barry, with what sounded like the world’s most self-congratulatory smile. “What do you think?”

“What do I think? I think you’ve lost your mind! Whatever possessed you to call me at work and say something like that?”

My coworkers—all of them, not just the writers, the whole damn office—were crowded into the space that belonged to my door. Hanging on my every word. Loving every minute of it.

Barry sounded puzzled that I sounded upset.

“Don’t you remember?” he asked. “Last night your Dad was telling stories about all those guys with nicknames that went with their jobs or their hobbies! Bill the Cop used to be a cop, and Paul the Hat collects hats … so I’m Barry the Drill, because when I do window installations, I’m always using my power drill. Isn’t that clever?”

By now I was massaging my temple with my left hand, thrumming my fingers on my desk with the right.

I took a deep breath.

“Barry, do you have any idea what everyone in this office is thinking right now? Any idea at all?”

He was thinking. I could hear him.

Ah! Comes the dawn!

“Oh! Oh! I’ll bet they thought … but wait! Who would think that? We’re not … you know.”

Yeah. I did know. The trick was going to be explaining where that nickname came from to my coworkers.

Billie Noakes is a freelance writer, storyteller, and children’s author living in Pinellas Park, FL. She also makes lace and is learning to garden. She blogs regularly at http://billienoakes.com/the-billiegram/ .

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-May 15

I wasn't going to post again today.  I was wrong.

My garden made me do it.

Thanks to the Blogathon, I read a post from a blog called Gardening-4-Life which told me about another blog, May Dream Gardens.  May Dream Gardens is inviting everyone, through a"Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day", to post pictures of their yard taken on May 15.

Of course, by the time I read this, it was a bit late in the day.  And, it had been raining part of the day. So my photos were going to be of somewhat wet plants.

But then the sun came out....sort of.  So, herewith, from the Binghamton, NY area yard of AM (zone 5b) is a rather tired blogger who wonders just what the Blogathon has again sucked her into.

This is a small portion of a huge lilac that was already planted when we moved in some 24 years ago.  So we don't know what the variety is.  All I can tell you is, it blooms year after year.  It is on one of our property borders.

This white lilac is on our other border.  Again, we don't know the variety.

This primrose originally came from my mother in law's yard downstate.  We rescued it, as I blogged about earlier in May.  It's past peak now, but is still blooming.

Turning to our front yard, is our earliest bearded iris.  We lost the name of it.  We have a good number of bearded irises in our small yard.  Many have buds, but won't be blooming until later in the month.

And then, my camera batteries died.

But undaunted, I remembered I had one last photo.  Technically this was taken yesterday.  But it really looks much the same.  These are tulips: Rembrandts, and an almost white variety with tracings of pink.

My brunneria (that I posted earlier this month) is in very nice bloom now, but you will have to use your imagination.

Our columbine plant looks just about ready to open.

Our neighbor's flowering quince shrub is still blooming, but I guess that doesn't count.

So, thank you, I guess, Gardening-4-Life.  I am going to go to May Dreams Gardens and post this.  Maybe tomorrow I'll see who else linked to that site.  It should be fun!

So, What's Blooming in your Walle....I mean, Yard?

It's Back to the Future!

This is the post that I had in my drafts all ready to post on Thursday, May 12 when I came home from work.
 Except that, we had the Great Blogger Blackout, and it disappeared.

It was lost, and now it's found.  After a three day absence this has made it back into my drafts.

Except, it wasn't all found.  For some reason this reverted back to a still earlier draft, missing some of the links.  I wouldn't post it now except that I promised the author of one of the blogs that I would post a certain link.  I like to think of myself as a person of my word.  So, better late than never and I am sorry for the delay.  Here, from the past, is my post:

"So far the Blogathon I am participating in has been a lot of fun.  The group is very supportive.  I've gotten some very nice comments.  I wanted to share some of my favorites of the past 10 days with you.

You'll never think of a backyard pool in the same way again. 

Pool Maintenance

I have a developmentally disabled brother in law, and this post resonated with me.
World of the Developmental disabilities in film

Next, we hear about a Japanese fruit, from someone living in Japan.


This next blog has an original idea-post entries from a high school diary, on the date (50 years before) it was written.  This one is on astronaut Alan Shepard:

High School Diary"

And that is where it ended.

I'm still agonizing over whether I want to launch myself into the unknown and move my blog to another venue (WordPress or Tumblr).  May is a pretty busy time in Upstate New York, as nature wakes up.

So. as for tomorrow- I have a special announcement. Tomorrow, on our Blogathon, it is Guest Post Day.  I am thrilled to announce that the woman who gave me the inspiration to join the Blogathon will be my guest poster.  And, I will be guesting on her blog, too.  In fact, I sent her my post a few minutes ago.

She has some pretty big shoes to fill and I hope I can fill them.

But I know you will enjoy her.

Her who?  Well, that will have to wait until tomorrow.  Unless that becomes yesterday.  In the world of the Internet, anything is possible.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wartime Magazines and New Plants

Ithaca Plant Sale
Summer's promise in a plant
To bloom one day soon

The library sale
Magazines of the 40's
My heart beats faster

On an overcast spring day, spouse and I headed up (a bit more than an hour's drive each way) to Ithaca.  The plant sale, as we expected, was mobbed and plants went fast.  These were some of my finds:

This is a white marigold called Vanilla.  I've tried several times to grow white marigolds with varying success.  (as many gardeners know, white is not a normal shade for marigolds - which are usually yellow, red/yellow or orange.)

This next one (which came out a bit overexposed) is something called a Lamiastrum. (or False Lamium.  True Lamium is something also known as Dead Nettle).   It has yellow flowers and variegated foliage.

We next went to Cornell Plantations on the Cornell University campus.  This treasure is a must see for people interested in gardening, flowering trees, ornamentals-or who just like to look at beauty.  And, it's all free. (Warning though, parking can be hard to find, especially during the week.)

We were not expecting to see a new visitors center.  This photo does not do justice to this "green" building.  The official grand opening is next Sunday, but with the price of gas being what it is (and the parking situation being what it is), we can't justify two visits to Ithaca in one week.

We bought an interesting flower pot there, which I will try to blog about later this week.

Near the visitors center, a magnolia caught our eye.

After a stop at Purity Ice Cream, we went to one of the country's largest library book sales, hosted by the Friends of the Tompkins County Public Library. (ironically, for all the times I have gone to the book sale, I have never set foot in the actual library.)

This year (I seem to have a talent of visiting when this area of the sale is closed) I was able to visit Collectors Corner and pick up some ephemera.  I do have an interest in certain ephemera, especially that of the 1940's (war time) and 1950's.  For the vast sum of $2.40, I picked up this wartime issue of Woman's Day magazine. (I don't collect these to make money:  I just love looking through them.)

Along with that I got a present for my son, who loves old electronics:  an issue of Byte Magazine from the 1970's.

And now, we are supposed to have rain in the forecast for the next 6 or so days.

Ah, upstate NY spring.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday the 13th - The Machine Stops

Many of us are still "recovering" (in cyberspace) from the massive Blogger outage of yesteday....Friday the 13th a day early.

I am a science fiction fan, although I read a lot less than I did in college, in my 20's, in my 30's.

There is a story called The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster which made a very big impact on me at a young age.  By the technology of the Internet I share it through the link in the previous sentence - if Blogger stays "up", that is.

It wasn't until years after reading it for the first time that I discovered that this story was written in.....1909.

Fellow Blogathoners, on this Friday the 13th, I invite you to read this story.  Not just for the technology it predicts (not the Internet, but that's not really important) but for what it shows us.

That is true Science Fiction in action.  Stories that make us think.

It's scary the way not having Blogger in the middle of a Blogathon affected me.  And the Internet has only been around for a fraction of my life.  How would my young adult son react?

If our general technology ever crashed....how would we as a society react?

Please read this story.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Blogger Blues

Blogger (the platform this blog uses) had a major outage.  My scheduled Thursday post has totally vanished.  I am putting this in as a "placeholder" for the Blogathon, dated in the past, and if my  Thursday post reappears in my drafts, I will certainly post it.

Thank you, Michelle, our Fearless Blogging Leader, for keeping us from a total freakout when many of us realized we wouldn't be able to post yesterday.

And thank you, Blogger....(if you get things back to normal, that is.)

The Internet and online applications are wonderful....when they work.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Card Carrying Member of....the Local Public Library

This is a serious post.  If blogs had subtitles, this entry would be "And now our libraries need us".

I would bet that, of the nearly 200 bloggers in this year's Blogathon, that most of us are heavy users of our local libraries.

I've lived in NY, Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Arkansas, and in every one of these places, I made frequent use of the local library.  I can remember the days, growing up in the Bronx, when librarians kept track of your books by taking your card and putting it against a pocket in the book, taking a picture.  And then they would stamp a card with the due date and put it in the pocket.

Now, everything is electronic, and after your card and your books' bar codes are scanned, a receipt prints out.  That drives me crazy, but one local library, the one in Vestal, still stamps that pocket.

But they may not be doing that for much longer.

Most of our local libraries, but the Vestal Library especially, are in danger.

The Vestal Library has had to cut hours and purchases this year.

Prior to that, another local library (Endicott) had to do much the same thing for a lot of the 1990's into the early part of this century.

Reasons?  It can be complicated.  Governments are hurting.  Around here, a lot of people are hurting.   Our citizens don't want to pay increased taxes.  Local governments are cutting services.

A blog written by an urban librarian (not part of our Blogathon, but very worthwhile to read), details the danger to her job she personally faces.

Ironically, this is happening at a time when more people need public libraries than ever.  People here (and in your home town, I bet) depend on the library for internet access. Children need homework help.  Some parents use libraries as unofficial after school day care.  People job hunt at libraries.  People use databases.  They study for exams.  They read the magazines they can no longer afford to subscribe to.  People take out videos and now, even e-books, at the local library.

Libraries have not become less relevant with the electronic age.  They have become more relevant.

So, what can we as Blogathoners do to save our libraries?  I'm shy, and not very outspoken.  Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Civil War Haiku

It was very sneaky for the Blogathon "moderator" to have several "theme days" that Blogathoners could participate in, if they wanted to.  One of the theme days (today, May 10) has the theme of Haiku poetry.  What I've found is that that haiku is a "crash course" in writing, in general.   Also, in leaving your comfort zone.

Leaving your comfort zone is oh-so-important for people approaching 60, because otherwise your brain glitches and starts to sputter.  "Use it or lose it."

Until this week, I hadn't written a haiku in, oh, almost 40 years. I went through a "period" when I was around 13.  I would stay up nights, listen to WABC radio (a top 40 station in NYC), and write my heart out.

What did I like about haiku back then?  I liked the structure.  The 5-7-5 syllable construction forced my sometimes chaotic thoughts into a kind of discipline.  In a personal world that to me was in danger of breaking apart under the stresses of puberty and junior high (now called middle school), it was just what I needed.

What I am trying here is not classical haiku.  I've been reading up on haiku in the past few days, and it is fascinating. (noting here that I am not a fan, in general, of poetry.)  When you try to translate a poetic form from another language and another culture into American English...it is a much harder job than you would think.  I'm not even going to try.

Readers of this blog know that I have a love for history, and have been "getting into" the Civil War in this, the 150th anniversary year of its beginning. So, I am going to try to describe the period from just before the election of Lincoln in 1860 to the Battle of First Bull Run (First Manassas, as it is known in the former Confederate states) in July of 1861.  (Historians, please don't hate me.  This is very shallow, and I know it reads like a Classics Illustrated version of the start of the Civil War, but I'm trying to do something pretty new to me.)

The one thing I need to explain is that Lincoln was not on the ballot in a lot of the Southern states in the 1860 election.  It was quite well known that a number of states were planning to secede if he was elected. Once war began with the shelling of Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor, many people thought the war would be over in 90 days or less.

And now, the haiku (accompanied by a couple of photos from my March, 2011 visit to Charleston.)

Storm clouds gathering
States want to leave the Union
Election winds blow.

Lincoln off ballot
Is elected regardless
States gather to leave

To Charleston they come
Confederacy is born
Will it be war?

Ft. Sumter is shelled
Union surrenders the fort
Cherry blossoms bloom

Both sides mobilize
The 90 day war begins
Then they'll all go home

War is just a game
As troops march to Bull Run Creek
Cicadas and heat

One thousand troops die
Brothers fight families split
War will last for years

Just don't ask me to write Civil War Haiku ever, ever again.  I'm exhausted!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Binghamton Virtual Flowering Trees Festival

 Last year, I visited Macon, Georgia for their Cherry Blossom festival and blogged:  why can't we here in Binghamton have our own festival?  We need something to celebrate the end of winter.  Having a spring festival and having tourists visit wouldn't be too bad for our economy, either.

We have maple syrup festivals but it isn't the same.  Snow, many times, is still on the ground and the trees are still bare. (in fact, once maple trees start to bloom it's too late for syrup anyway.)

So, since we don't have an official festival to go to....I present the Binghamton Virtual Flowering Trees Festival for...as Binghamton native Rod Serling used to say..."Submitted for your approval".  (Blatant self promotion disclaimer, this link is to a post I wrote when Binghamton celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first episode of The Twilight Zone.)

Some of these photos were taken on Friday and others Saturday.  These did come out a bit dark, and I apologize.

The first set of photos were taken near West Middle School in Binghamton - the "junior high" Rod Sterling attended.  There was a lacrosse practice in progress as we walked.

I like the second photo with the "doubling" of the flowering trees through the fence, as you see the trees continuing down a hill at a 90 degree angle to where I took the shot.

This is a flowering magnolia.  Alas, the showy blooms only last 3 or so days, around these parts.

Contrast in white and pink.

A Pieris (Lily of the Valley shrub, or Andromeda).

Finally, I hope someone out there can Name This Tree.  It has little "stacks" of very sweetly scented white flowers, and is blooming now.  Walking in some neighborhoods of Binghamton, the air is scented with these trees.  Again, wish there was a scent attachment for blogs. (well, maybe not.  I can't stand the scent of paperwhites, or Russian Olives.   But many people enjoy those scents.)

I hope you  have enjoyed the Binghamton Virtual Flowering Trees Festival.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The First Empty Nest Mothers Day - Bouquets and Memories

This is not exclusively a gardening blog, and I will be back to ramblin' on other subjects next week. (Stay tuned especially for Haiku Tuesday on May 10, and for my guest blogger this Thursday.)

In the Blogathon I am participating in, my gardening/photo posts have gotten good response.  So, since this is one of my favorite subjects anyway, I'll keep with it (plus the spring plants of Binghamton and Johnson City) a few more days.

This Mothers Day has dawned foggy.  I didn't mean to be up this early but my spouse snores and.....

This is my first Mothers Day as an empty nester.  Will my young adult son drop by later? (he works nights, so it wouldn't be until late afternoon or early evening.)  Will he call at least?  I'm going through that kind of thing for the first time.

Fellow mothers of adults say "he's a son" when I wonder about those things.

And, of course, I think back to other Mothers Days, when I got up early because my energetic toddler/preschooler was up early.  In those days my spouse usually worked weekends so it was just me and my son.  There were the couple of obligatory Mothers Days "breakfasts" consisting of somewhat interesting food that I grinned and beared through.  If my spouse was home, it was a joint effort.

And then I had a day to do what I wanted.  In those days, what a luxury!

I still appreciate it.

I would also be remiss if I do not pay tribute to special Mothers in my life.  For those interested I am reblogging two previous Mothers Day entries. I especially pay tribute to my Mom, who died when I was 12.  Mothers day always has a poignancy about it for that reason.  But onward....

Today, if the fog lifts, gardening is on the agenda, as my back permits.

So, as it is Mothers Day:  I have some virtual flowers for all my "mom" readers.  I've been enjoying the Blogathon, and welcome fellow blogathoners visiting my blog with more photos.

Taken yesterday on the West Side of Binghamton are pictures of creeping phlox.  This homeowner has several patches of these plantings, but I would have needed to go onto his property-which I never do-to take other pictures.  So this is what I could take from the road.

Here is another view:

The other picture is a closeup of what I think is a double flowered pink flowering cherry.  It does have cherry tree like bark. This seems to be a good year for these trees.

For some reason (probably a combination of bleariness and Blogger) my photos are not cooperating, so I am going to end the post a little sooner than I had planned to.

Later today, I hope to post pictures from our area's annual orchid show.  I took some pictures Friday but they aren't as high quality as I would have hoped. I'll pick through them and post the best.

So, from upstate NY, I wish every Mom reading this blog a Happy Mothers Day, and I hope to post some orchid pictures later today.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Black Petunias and Other Garden Surprises

Today was one of those strange weather days.  Started out sunny, clouded out, then the showers came.  Now it's back to sunshine.

In the morning spouse and I took a walk and enjoyed the spring scenery.  While it was cloudy and threatening, we went to nurseries, and made our selections.  After the rain stopped, we planted.

This year we are purchasing a lot of different things, trying to experiment.  I can see where our years of buying plants in nurseries is going to end soon.  Prices keep going up and up, and so does gasoline.  We don't have much windowsill space, which is why we went to buying plants several years ago, but I think those days of getting flowers from seed is going to return soon.

Rather than pay $25. for my Mothers Day hanging basket, I decided to make it myself for about $12.75 worth of plants.  (I've made baskets in the past, with varying degrees of success.)  The plants I used are for the one location that I have a full-sun hanger.  Two of the varieties are new to the market this year.

Here's a picture of the basket.  The yellow flowered plant is a Surfina Yellow Bush.  The black with yellow pinwheels is a new petunia called Phamtom.  It is not a truly black petunia but rather is very deep purple.
The all black petunia (again, really very dark purple) is called Black Velvet.

This isn't as full as a ready made basket would be but it will fill out.  I'm patient.

I hope the two black petunias can hold their own against the surfina.

The next "new to us this year" is a Nemsia hybrid.  This was of interest first, because it advertised itself as good for cut flowers and second, because it is "full sun part shade".  They are Proven Winners, a company that has rarely disappointed me here in upstate New York.  The location will be mainly full sun for much of the summer, but as the sun angle changes towards fall, it will get more shady.

In doing some research, I found they are related to snapdragons.  I had great luck with snapdragons in Arkansas (which has warmer summers than we do) but for some reason, after springtime, snaps have always petered out for us.  Nope the Nemsias do not disappoint.

Here's the pot I planted.

Finally, we fell in love with a little Dahlia varieta called "Dahlietta".  We've had very good luck with dahlias (I am still planting tubers from plants given to us by a friend - who later died from cancer - about 21 years ago. ) These, though, don't have to be dug up in the fall-they are annuals.

The one thing I'm worried about is (after the fact) I found they are heavy users of water, meaning I may have to water them more than once a day in hot weather.


If I remember, I will report later this summer on how these new type plants did for me.