Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday - The Transition into Winter

Wildflower season may be basically over in upstate NY, but there is still a lot of color.

Rose hips remain on the now bare rugosa rose bushes.

Where fall asters once bloomed, now seed puffs remain.

And where the bright yellow of goldenrod once shone, now there is only dead white.

The only thing missing is snow.  This is probably the only November in my 25 or so years here I can remember without measurable snow at our house and without a high temperature lower than 40 degrees. 

This weekend was so gorgeous it was a shame that we had to travel.  We even tied a record temperature yesterday (63 degrees).

But it is over now.  The chilly winds of November are finally blowing.  Today the high was right after midnight.  During the day the temperature dropped and the daytime high at our house was 44 and we had a burst of ice pellets in the late afternoon.  We may have some wet snow showers tomorrow.

But this is the edge of the snowbelt, and the snow won't hold off forever.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Eternal Sunsets of the Spotting Mind (An Encore Post)

At this time of year, we are close to our earliest sunset here in upstate NY.  Commuting home from work in the almost-dark reminded me of this post from 2009.  I haven't discussed this particular obsession for a while, but I have always been fascinated by the "midnight sun". I've always wanted to visit - oh, Alaska, or Iceland, or Norway, or somewhere with 24 hour light.  Or even, in the winter, 24 hour dark.  That wouldn't have been as much fun, perhaps...except if I could see the Northern (or Southern) lights.

Ironically, the one time I visited Alaska, it was in September when sunrise/sunset is pretty even no matter where on Earth you are. So I have never come close to 24 hour day.  Or 24 hour night.

I really did have the dreams I describe in my youth, and I have no idea why they sometimes frightened me.

One day.....I will experience in person....

Eternal Sunsets of the Spotting Mind

Back to my favorite website. And my childhood obsession with the 24 hour day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Not Your Typical YMCA

In the fitness center, men and women pedal stationery bicycles, stride on treadmills, and use other exercise machines.  In the pool, aquatic exercise classes alternate with lap swim. 

Such is a typical evening at the Johnson City YMCA.

But that is where any similarities to a typical YMCA end.

Half of the building is dark. The gym is unusable.  Throughout the building, the smell of smoke from an October fire still lingers.  The ceilings, missing since October, are slowly being replaced but duct work is still quite visible.  Electrical wires still hang down in places. The front lobby still doesn't have a finished floor- it has been stripped to the bare concrete since the floods caused by Tropical Storm Lee of the first week of September.  Entering the locker rooms, you dodge painters on ladders.  The locker rooms have no lockers.  We wear flip-flops because signs warn us to wear shoes throughout the building.

But no one seems to care. 

One day, our Y will be restored.  (right now, I understand, there is still a dispute among insurance companies regarding who will pay for what, which is delaying the full recovery.)  The porta-potties in the front will be gone.  The gym will be full of volleyball and basketball leagues once again. 

And just think.  People in big cities pay big money to be entertained in warehouses with visible ductwork and partially painted walls.  We are getting the same experience at no extra charge, we in this small village of Johnson City, in upstate NY.

You don't need a fancy building to exercise in.  What you need is a caring staff.  The Y has that.

Who could ask for anything more.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Civil War Sunday - The First Civil War Thanksgiving

Have you wondered how the first Civil War Thanksgiving (our first year at war with each other) was celebrated by the troops on both sides?

Keep in mind that in 1861 there was no national Thanksgiving, as I explained in my blog post of last week.  Every state set its own date.

Thanks to a blog I've just discovered, we have a good description of how Thanksgiving was celebrated by the troops in 1861.  I love it when someone does my research for me! Some of the foods are those we would gobble (pun intended) down today. 

The troops had a lot to be thankful about.  Similar to the Thanksgiving dinner our troops get today (if at all possible, according to location) the troops on the designated Thanksgiving Day for their locality got special rations, and the chance to eat "real food":  turkey, potatoes, and even oysters.

If you are interested in Civil War food in general, this site will give you a good selection of foods to choose from and experiment with.

Me - I'm grateful for the pre-slaughtered, defeathered, and gutted turkey of today.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

More Ramblings on Aging

As people approach their 60's, they tend to dwell a lot on aging.

On the one hand, I have some role models for "how one should age".  For example, I had blogged recently about a restaurant in a neighborhood a handful of miles from where I live.  That restaurant, Pete's Legacy Diner, is owned by a man who turned 80 in September.  He has spent his life establishing restaurants, selling them, and going on to the next restaurant challenge.  All but one of the restaurants he founded are still operating.

We ate at Pete's today and, as usual, he was there, seating customers, getting them coffee, making sure everything was running smoothly - without missing a beat.

How wonderful that must be. But on the other hand....
It's been a hard week for some people I know, or used to have an association with.

In the past two weeks, four people I know have lost a parent.  One lost an in-law.  We do expect the elderly to pass on.  But not all of them were old.

One person (only in his early 50's) who co-founded a business I had an association with years ago, and was at the time of his death a co-worker of my son's, passed on.  And, last but not least, a man who graduated from my spouse's high school three years after my husband passed on, again, just in his 50's.

More and more, death and aging are on my mind.  Not that I dwell on it, but I have to notice, and I do think about it. And about the people who never got there, who died too young.

I want to be able to age with grace.  Now I have to figure out just now to do it.

Any ideas?

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Butterflies of Black Friday

I remember a number of Black Fridays here in upstate NY with snow on the ground.  I don't remember a whole lot that were partly sunny with temperatures close to 60 degrees. 

Nor do I remember a lot of Black Fridays where I saw butterflies.  But, I saw butterflies today.  Three of them, to be exact.

Two of them are in this picture.  It will be almost impossible for you to see them. They are perched, wings closed, on either side of a dandelion and they blended into the yellow flower.   My guess is that one was a male and one was a female.  One had a couple of visible black spots.  the other seemed to have a border around its wings.

I took this one on maximum zoom (my camera has only a 3x optical zoom ) and then tried to get closer.  My attempt was unsucessful as I'm not exactly light on my feet - they were scared off and went flying away.

Speaking of camouflage, later in the walk I saw a rabbit.  Try to find the rabbit.  It (he? she?) is in the lower left hand corner.

Still later, I saw a large brown butterfly.  And when I got home and tried to sit in the back yard, I was buzzed by mosquitoes. 

What an unusual Black Friday. We didn't even know if we would be able to get to the Rail Trail with the Black Friday traffic, but we didn't have any problems.  I'm glad I was off of work to enjoy the day.

Tomorrow - it is supposed to be as mild as today.  Unbelievable.

Does anyone have a guess as to what these butterflies are?  Or what a "large brown butterfly" in late fall in Upstate NY may have been?

Thursday, November 24, 2011


 Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, where I live.

I'm thankful this year for so many things in the aftermath of a natural disaster that hit the area where I live in September.  (me, among thousands of others....)

I am thankful that I have a home with heat, a home with electricity and hot water, a home that now has a brand new living room floor.

I am thankful that I rose today to a sunny sky here in upstate NY, and the promise of a mild day after a couple of seasonal, brrr days.

I am thankful that the businesses, large and small, continue to reopen.  Each reopening is another sign of recovery.

Sunday, I noticed that the Vestal Recreation Department had moved from its temporary quarters on the Vestal Rail Trail in the restored Rounds Coal House (photo above) back to its normal location.   Last week, Toys R Us in Johnson City reopened.  Yesterday, Home Depot in my neighborhood reopened.

A local restaurant shows signs of life, and each day more progress is made.  The closing of the large BAE plant (and the moving of 1300 jobs) near my home will impact all the neighborhood small businesses tremendously, I fear, but they are trying to make a comeback nevertheless.  Bless the small businesses and those who have poured time and love into their reopening efforts.

More businesses are returning to this plaza near our home.  One, Unicorn Electronics, had been operating out of a trailer.  Since this picture was taken they are back in their building.  Not too much stock yet, but we went there on Saturday and told them how happy we were that they were back.  Unicorn did a lot to nurture my son's interest in computers and electronics.  Only a local small business will do that!  The manager smiled and asked us how we had weathered the flood.  The story of the owner's personal struggle.after an accident is a true inspiration.  Those stories are all around us too.  I am grateful for neighbors like these.
The temporary Unicorn trailer (shown in the above picture from late October) is gone but the flowerpot they used to decorate the outside is still there in the parking lot - a reminder.

Recovery is hard and ongoing.  But today, we will pause and we will give thanks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday-Confused Fall

It's supposed to be fall, right, here in upstate New York?  Snow covered ground?  No more wildflowers?  No more green?  Everything fast asleep until spring?

Not so fast.  Summer is taking another curtain call.  Well, not quite summer.  But it did reach the low 60's on Sunday, and by Thursday it is supposed to be back in the 50's.

Fall? Someone forgot to tell this plant, which is sprouting new growth.  It isn't the only one, either.

Someone forgot to tell the very green grass and a neighbor was seen mowing his lawn Sunday.  Here, a dandelion peeks through a local lawn.

The last of the fall foliage. This should have been bare two or three weeks ago.

Other sights are more seasonal, such as this example of sumac bare except for the seed cones.  Yes, except that it was in the 60's when I took this picture.

I am glad for our extended fall.  It is about time the weather "cut us a break".  In fact, I was talking with some co-workers today and we agreed we wouldn't mind if all of winter was just like this!

Not that that would ever happen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Lost Everything

Today is the 48th anniversary of the assasination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.

I missed seeing an interesting special on the National Geographic channel Sunday night.  "JFK-The Lost Bullet" is going to be rerun this Sunday morning but I won't be able to catch it then either.

However, I was able to watch a special (first aired in 2009), "The Lost JFK Tapes" that featured tapes of WFAA (a Dallas TV station )news broadcasts the day of the assasination and of the next few days.  That is what I loved the most about this special - instead of rehashing the famous tapes of Walter Cronkite losing his composure while announcing the horrible news, we got to see a local station where the shooting occurred.  Live, and in black and white.

We got to see the people gathered at the luncheon Kennedy was on his way to, sitting there as the minutes ticked by and no Kennedy.  In today's day the people in that room would have known what happened in minutes - certainly someone would have been on Twitter or Facebook, or someone at the scene would have texted someone at the luncheon.  But in those days they were clueless, those people, and you saw the reaction when someone announced the assasination to them.

We saw a WFAA program director state, on air, state that Dallas was ashamed.

We saw the horrified expressions of people on the street.  We saw reporters interviewing people on the street, who expressed their shame and their hope that citizens of the United States would not blame Dallas for the terrible event.

And, in a moment that made me gasp, we saw the WFAA program director introduce a middle aged balding man who had brought some film to the station.  His name was Abraham Zapruder.  THE Abraham Zapruder.  And someone was interviewing him, live! I was just a child when this assassination occurred, and I've seen the "Zapruder" film over and over again.  Now, I saw, for (I think) the first time, the man, in the moment of his filming made public, in his first interview.  Could he ever have imagined how his day would unfold, as he stood there and filmed?

Today, of course, there would have been hundreds of videos from cell phone cameras.

I saw the new coverage featuring the assassination, in turn, of the accused assassin.  But not just the shooting, but action in other parts of the building.

This is history come to life.  I saw the hair styles, the way people dressed, the way people reacted.

I was there.

This is true living history. Painful history but a history seared into my memory and the memory of everyone my age.   At least these tapes (if they were ever truly lost) are now found.  They were submitted for our approval.

I approve.

Monday, November 21, 2011

November Warm Wave

November 21.  We got into the 60's yesterday.   It's not unknown - in fact our record high for yesterday (73) was set during a year I lived here.  But it is not that usual to have a partially sunny day - usually a mild day in November would include rain and/or lots of gloom.

Today, the weather is supposed to be cooler but still a bit unseasonable.

Many times, we have snow on the ground by the beginning of November. So when I see Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations while experiencing mild temperatures and no snow on the ground, it can be very disorienting.  Things aren't exactly the way they are supposed to be - although mind you, I am not complaining.

When I did my Garden Bloggers Bloom Day back on November 15 I thought I had no flowers blooming.  Boy, was I wrong!  Nature is trying to spring back while it can.



 Even my hanging basket with petunias in it, which didn't fare well in the torrential rains of early September, has a petunia that is trying to come back.

And the last of the fall foliage hangs on.

Sometimes, New York can pay a heavy price for mild Novembers.  Let's hope that is not the case this year.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Civil War Sunday - Lincoln Proclaims

We commemorate two important dates in Civil War history this week involving Abraham Lincoln.

Yesterday, November 19, was the 148th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, one of the greatest speeches (some consider it the greatest speech) made by a United States President.  (and, Civil War General and future 20th president of the United States, James Garfield, was born on November 19, 1831.)

In  four days we will be celebrating Thanksgiving.  Although the celebration of Thanksgiving was nothing new by the time of the Civil War, it was not declared a national holiday until 1863.  Prior to this, each state scheduled Thanksgiving at a different time.

I will allow Lincoln to write the remainder of today's blog post.  The Gettysburg Address is first, followed by the Thanksgiving proclamation.  You will  note that this proclamation declared the holiday to be the last Thursday of November.  That is not how it is celebrated today.  This quiz on Thanksgiving will teach you a lot of fascinating things including why Thanksgiving is now celebrated the fourth Thursday in November - but keep in mind that our national celebration of Thanksgiving here in the United States started during the Civil War.

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It May Be Mild But It Looks Like November

We enjoyed a walk in the 51 degree Upstate NY sunshine  (considering that a dusting of snow frosted our lawn yesterday morning, the sun is most appreciated) and then we cleaned out our car.  Next door, roofers worked on a roof (one of many being worked on in our neighborhood.)  Another neighbor mowed his lawn! - something you usually do not get to see in mid November in the Binghamton area.

We went inside about 3pm.  About an hour later I looked out the window and - the sky looked white.  It looked like it was about to snow, although no snow threatened.

There is just something about the quality of sunshine in November.  It can be mild in temperature but the light grows weaker by the day.  The sun doesn't shine as high in the sky as it once did.   The clouds seem to thicken so much easier.   The breeze, even on a mild day, has a hint of chill in it.  The trees, except for a hardy few, are bare now.

Can winter be far behind?  With eggnog and hot cider?

I treasure every day without snow on the ground.  But soon, that will be a rare day, and I will pine for April when the earth starts to wake up again.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Community Garden Decision

An interesting letter came the other day from our Community Garden Association here in Binghamton, NY.  It invited us to the annual meeting of the Otsiningo Community Gardeners Association this coming Monday.

We've been community gardening here for years. Our small home yard is not really big enough, or sunny enough, for a good veggie garden. (We do have a couple of Earth Boxes, and some planters with herbs, but that's about it except for flowers.)

Besides electing new Director and soliciting feedback from members, there was one very interesting "special initiative" on the agenda.

To quote from the letter, they are considering "whether or not to plant a cover crop at the end of the 2012 gardening season, which would then be plowed under as a "green manure" sometime prior to the beginning of the 2013 garden season.  The rationale...would be to improve soil fertility and structure, both of which may have decreased, due to erosion and other factors in the 16 years during which the gardens have been in continuous cultivation."

We do attempt to enrich our plots, which we can keep from year to year, with leaves and other organic matter. But not everyone does or can do that.

Sounds good so far. But wait, there's more.

The letter tells us that the way they will  allow time for the cover crop is by shortening the 2012 gardening season. We'll have to vacate by mid September or even earlier.  Now let's put this in perspective.

Most of the time, the plowing doesn't get done until early to mid-May.  That's around the last frost date here in Binghamton, NY (zone 5b) so in effect we can't get in early to truly grow good spinach, peas, and other early crops before the heat hits. Now, we'll need to be out in early to mid September. Hmmm. Many people don't start getting good tomatoes here until early August.  Peppers can even be later. 

This wouldn't allow us to grow fall crops either. Our first frost comes mid-October nowadays and we normally must vacate on October 31.  (They will reduce the plot rent for next year to make up for the shortened season.)

So, we are going to have to balance inconvenience with the possibility of getting a good cover crop in.  But even then, I think a one time cover crop isn't going to do as much as is needed.

My spouse and I are split about this.  He's in favor.  I'm not.  And he does about 98% of the gardening and harvesting so his decision will rule our response.  But I am still tempted to email them with my input.  At the very least I'd like to suggest that they try to get the garden plowed  by mid-April.  But I know that would be up to the county and how wet our soil is at the end of the winter. (And, when the ground defrosts-although in recent years that hasn't been an issue). 

If you had to make this decision - shortened season or cover crop-what would you choose?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Anger Can Be a Sign of Hope

RIP BAE Westover.   It's now official.

It's been a pleasure knowing you, BAE. You were a good neighbor until the end.   Your employees have been good to this area, with a lot of charitable work.  You plowed your sidewalks in the winter (a big thing, around here.)  But now the long goodbye that started September 8  is almost over.

 This is what you looked like on September 12, four days after the flood and two days after Main Street, which you front, was plowed of most of the dirt that covered it and was reopened.  At the beginning, your employees helped with the most stricken residential parts of Westover and we will always be grateful.
BAE, this is what you looked like in the dusk yesterday, before the demolition announcement.  You didn't waste any time, after your announcement earlier this month that you weren't returning to the building, to take down the BAE sign on the front of the building.  And, I think of all the people employed to help with the "rapid recovery" - their backbreaking, filthy work was for nothing.

The 600,000 sq ft building, 3 blocks from my house and heavily damaged in our flood of September 8, is now declared unsalvageable and will be demolished.  You may be interested in reading this link - even if you have no interest in what happens in upstate NY - because you, my U.S. readers, will be footing the bill for the demolition. (I guess I should be gracious and thank you in advance.)

Do I seem bitter or angry?  Yes, a little.  But, you know, I read somewhere once that anger can be a sign of hope.  If you are angry at something, it means you have some control.  With control there is hope.  I've never been angry at the flood itself. 

I only hope this is for the best.  Without the Air Force (owner of the building) assuming the cost, BAE would almost certainly have left our area instead of relocating to a different building, leaving almost 1300 people unemployed.

And at least the building won't lie vacant for the next 30 or more years, like some former Endicott-Johnson factories have.

But still, I have to wonder....what will become of Westover? (there's a lot more damaged than BAE.)  And will we, the residents of Westover, have any control over that?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday-The Return of November Wildflowers!

It's November 16 and...the wildflowers are returning!

Here in upstate NY, we have had unseasonable weather - highs in the 50's - and, just as I thought that the wildflowers were gone for good, they have made a comeback.

On the Vestal Rail Trail, where I exercise on weekends (now that Daylight Time has ended), spouse and I were amazed to find a patch of blooming dandelions.  Here's one.

 Further along the trail, some goldenrod had burst back into bloom but by that time my camera batteries were running low.

Here is what I believe is a witch hazel, in bloom at one end of the Rail Trail.

Meanwhile, the last of the trees are turning color.  I took these pictures in downtown Binghamton yesterday on Court Street near the Broome County Library.  It was misting rain so the colors were better "in person".

The parking lot of the Broome County library.

And one final view of trees soon to be bare.

We have not had a truly spectacular display of foliage in several years now.  But I'll gladly trade some color for no snow on the ground in November.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November Garden Bloggers Bloom Day-Growing Moves Indoors

Ah, it's the 15th of the month here in upstate New York (United States).  Once again it is time for garden bloggers and those just plain interested in gardening to post at May Dreams Gardens Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

I've only been posting since Spring so this is the first GBBD post-frost.  There is nothing blooming in my yard right now.  We have some hardy wildflowers (but none in my yard) starting to bloom again due to some unseasonably mild weather (50's).  So instead, I'd like to share some indoor flower pictures with you and ponder the months ahead.

This beautiful African violet was a rescue project.  Our local supermarket had some "damaged" violets several months ago that they were selling for 50 cents each.  Of course, I had to buy one.  I don't have the best track record with violets-they seem to last three or so years for me and then die - but I seem to have good luck with "rejects".  This one has rewarded me with a lovely show of blooms. Thank you!

I just bought this African violet Saturday at a nursery that sustained major flood damage. (Our area suffered major flooding back in September due to Tropical Storm Lee). 

This is a Christmas cactus now coming into bud.

And now for a mystery flower.  I've had this plant for many years - it has orange blooms.  I was thinking it is a shrimp plant but online pictures of shrimp plant flowers don't look like what I have.  These flowers are in bud.  The leaves of the plant are glossy.   Does anyone have any guesses?
For January I am hoping to have amaryllis to show you.   One bulb is brand new this year.  The other is a bulb I bought at Home Depot on clearance (can you tell how I get some of my plants, hee hee) in 2009, it bloomed, it bloomed again last year, and after resting and repotting this weekend I am hoping it will bloom for me again.

I usually take impatiens cuttings (they root easily in water) and pot them but this year I only got about three cuttings to root.  So I do not have indoor impatiens flowers to share with you - yet.

And finally, I have my poinsettia from last year.  Every year I buy a poinsettia on Black Friday at Home Depot.  Our Home Depot flooded in September and will be reopening on November 23 - just in time.  (I  hope they have the Black Friday special). [For those in other countries - Black Friday is the day after our Thanksgiving and is an epic shopping event, with some stores opening at midnight.  Unbelievable specials for early birds are the rule of the day.] 2009's poinsettia actually gave me red leaves last winter without any special care  - just stuck it in my sunniest window and didn't restrict its sunlight like you are supposed to.  It died over the summer - just wilted one day for no reason I could figure out - but the 2010 plant is still alive and well.  I hope it will color up for a future GBBD.

So, for us in upstate NY, it is almost time for our long, hard winter to begin.  GBBD will keep my gardener's heart beating until spring comes in April and I can plant outdoors again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The First Seed Catalog

Have you noticed that everything seems to be speeded up?

Halloween candy for sale in August?  The airwaves (and it isn't even the middle of November yet) jammed with Christmas themed ads?

The first seed catalog a couple of weeks after our growing season ended?

Here in Binghamton, NY, our last frost date ranges from May 1 to May 10.  In the "olden days" we would get our seed catalogs after New Years (along with income tax packets).  That provided enough dreaming material until the snow melted and the ground defrosted (usually in early April).  Then catalogs started migrating into December.  Recently, the mailings have migrated into November. Now we have passed the November 15 mark.

Maybe we should start keeping track of this, like my spouse keeps track of the last date he can find a tree with leaves on it.

In case you are curious, the early bird catalog is Pinetree Garden Seeds.  They do have a section for various gardening gifts, so it is obvious they want people to be able to do some of their holiday shopping with them.  So in a way, I can see what they are trying to do.

But still, I hope we don't start getting catalogs before the end of our growing season.  Sometimes, early is just a little too early.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Civil War Sunday - Hardtack and Sailor Boy Pilot Bread

 What does Alaska, a specialty bakery in Virginia, and the Civil War have in common?

Last Sunday, I visited a Civil War exhibit at our local museum here in the Roberson Museum and Science Center in Binghamton NY. (I highly recommend this exhibit if you have an interest in the impact of the Civil War on the Southern Tier of New York and the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania.)

One of the items on exhibit was some genuine Civil War hardtack that a soldier had sent home. It was exhibited behind a piece of glass.   It looked just as good (or bad) as it did almost 150 years ago.  Not a speck of mold.

Apparently, this local soldier wasn't the only one who saved his hardtack as a souvenir.  It would seem there are some other pieces of Civil War Hardtack in museums.  The video above was made in Minnesota but the piece in Roberson looked about the same.

Yummy?  Civil War soldiers didn't think so.  One nickname was 'worm castles' because of the little weevils that inhabited the hardtack.

Hardtack was popular (with the people supplying food to the troops, that is) because it was cheap, and it was easy to transport.  And, it lasted a long time. (150 years, for example....)

How would the soldiers eat it?  Well, they might crumble it into coffee or soften it and then fry in bacon grease.  There are a number of sites giving information on hardtack.  The subject seems to be fascinating to a lot of people.  In fact, in Brunswick, Maine, which we visited in early September there are "Chamberlain Days" every August, celebrating their favorite son, Civil War hero Joshua Chamberlain. As part of the festivities they have a Civil War bake sale with - you guessed it, hardtack.

So, would anyone in their right minds enjoy hardtack today?

They sure do - in Alaska.  I found out about this when I read a young adult novel called Blessing's Bead earlier this year.  One of the staples of life for those in the remote villages is a cracker baked by a specialty bakery in Front Royal, VA.  You know the products of Interbake Foods - wafers used for ice cream sandwiches, Girl Scout cookies, and a product beloved in Alaska.

One of their products baked in Front Royal is something called Sailor Boy Pilot Bread.  Basically, it is hardtack, although apparently a little softer.  Alaskans love their Sailor Boy Pilot Bread and 98% of its sales are within Alaska.  They love it many ways - in soup, with melted cheese, even as the crust of a quick pizza.  Hunters find it convenient to put into their backpacks. It is survival food out on the tundra.  It is soul food for Alaskans in the city and in the bush.  And it is baked in Virginia.

From the Civil War to a bakery in the former Confederacy to thousands of fans in Alaska:   The Civil War always surprises me.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Return of the King of Small Towns

The last time I was in Owego, NY, a small town about 20 miles west of Binghamton, it was the Columbus Day weekend.  Spouse and I drove by a man working in front of his house.  It was a lovely fall day, crisp and sunny.  In front of his house was a neat, carefully lettered sign.

"Owego - The Coolest Small Town in America".

The man was wearing a white face mask and was working on gutting his house.  Nearby, debris was piled high.  Sadly, such a familiar site.  But as we passed house after house, the same sad scene presented itself.

Owego has had a horrific last nine weeks, since the floods of September 7 and 8 due to Tropical Storm Lee.  In Owego's case, it is near the Susquehanna River, and epic rains produced epic flooding.

But today, Owego announced its return, opening its doors (so to speak) to visitors for its annual Holiday Showcase.   What a welcome it was - sunny skies, highs in the 50's, a lot of flood recovery process in the past month, and many businesses once again open.

Outside The Hand of Man, an Owego treasure.  It was decorated for Christmas, and my spouse, who normally doesn't get into Christmas decorations, browsed the aisles and admired the beauty.  I think it is because we've seen so much ugliness in the last two months, it was time to see beauty.

Riverrow Books .

They lost their fabled basement filled with old books, but they are very much back in business.  They had two Bomba the Jungle Boy Books for $20. each - if I hadn't already spent money at the Hand of Man, I might have been tempted.  But no, I wouldn't have done it.

In the spirit of the season, this store presented a holiday tree made up of stacked old (I assume unsellable) books.  Reluctantly, I moved on to other sites.

Some of the historic homes of Owego.

 The Porter House (also known as the Harmon Pumpelly House).
Another nearby house.
Yes, come h*ll or high water, Owego remains the Coolest Small Town in America.
In future posts I will share some more of my visit to Owego today.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Three Towers

On this special Veterans Day, 11-11-11, we are proud to celebrate another homecoming here in Binghamton, in upstate New York.

What happens to veterans as they age?  Some can stay at home but others find themselves, along with other elderly, needing a low cost place to live.  Some are disabled, due to their war injuries, or for other reasons.

In a way, they are the invisible among us.  Who is to know if that elderly man or woman walking down the street is a war hero, or otherwise sacrificed so that we might enjoy our freedom?

There are a couple of senior/disabled housing projects in downtown Binghamton where these elderly/disabled vets (and non-vets) can find decent places to live.  One is North Shore Towers, run by the Binghamton Housing Authority - two towers and garden apartments, just blocks from where I work.  The other, Woodburn Court, is one tower and a series of garden apartments, privately owned, next to North Shore Towers.

Both complexes were heavily damaged in the flood our area suffered September 7 and 8 due to over 10 inches of rain received from Tropical Storm Lee.  Residents had to find housing with local relatives, with friends, in shelters.  They were displaced for over two months.

It cost over $3 million to restore North Shore Towers.  (the garden apartments are still closed, as is all of Woodburn Court.)

Monday, ahead of schedule, North Shore Towers reopened.

Now the veterans are back home and can celebrate 11-11-11 where they belong - with their friends and neighbors.  Homelessness is such a problem for vets (and that subject is worth another post) - I am so happy these elderly vets and their friends, at least, are home at last.

Tomorrow - more flood recovery 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Fellowship of the Thing

I read last night that the Wal-Mart in Joplin, MO destroyed by the tornado of May 22, 2011 reopened yesterday.   

The greeter, a greeter for some 18 years, is a survivor of the Dachau concentration camp.

What a happy day this must have been for the residents of Joplin. So many of us now understand that feeling. We are the residents of Joplin.  We are the residents of Vermont, of New Jersey, of Texas, of Fargo, North Dakota, of upstate NY, of Pennsylvania, of Oklahoma. 

We are the Fellowship of the Thing.  No, not the Cosa Nostra.  Rather, the thing that is all the natural disasters that have struck our country in the past year and the aftermaths. Together, in our Fellowship of the Thing, we may hurt.  But we are among others who understand.  We will not be defeated.

Look at what happened in my area of upstate NY last Friday. 

Pete's Legacy Diner is open again for business.

The co-owner (with two of his sons) Pete Metritikis was there to welcome his customers.  Pete's is located in Twin Orchards in the Town of Vestal.  Of all the flooded neighborhoods in our area, Twin Orchards arguably has suffered the most.  Flood, sewage, and thieves who entered houses through cracks in the foundations to steal the last of residents' worldly goods.  When you drive through Twin Orchards, you will see houses marked with spray painted X's (condemned) and K's (inspected and OK to reenter).  There are still porta potties on street corners.  Winter is coming and the cold weather is here.

But on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we joined other steady customers of Pete's to welcome Pete and his sons, and to say hi to our waitresses.  At least one waitress lost everything in the flood.  We said Hi to Lois, and to Lisa, and to the other staff.  People were hugging each other.  Pete (who is in his 70's) went from table to table to greet everyone.   It had taken 8 weeks of hard work, some by his customers, for the diner to be able to reopen.  We were so happy to be back.  And so were they.

For a few minutes our troubles were forgotten. And that is why I felt so happy for the residents of Joplin yesterday.  It is because we are all part of the Fellowship.

The Fellowship of the Thing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday-Our Extended Fall

Our strange fall here in upstate NY continues.  We've had three straight days of clear, sunny weather with  high temperatures in the low 60's.  That just doesn't happen, especially in our year of Way Too Much Rain.

On Sunday morning, we had a hard freeze.  We left our house in the morning to a rain of green leaves falling off the trees.  Walking on the Vestal Rail Trail, there was no fall foliage to see.  Either we had bare trees, or trees still just starting to turn.

Today, spouse and I walked in Binghamton and decided to take pictures of ornamental trees.  In between the bare trees, we found some lovely specimens.

Each year, one color seems to stand out.  This year is the year of Red.

Of course, there are other colors, too.  Orange....

And yellow.
A rose, bitten by frost, hangs on.

And, a surviving petunia.
It's hard to believe that in a couple of weeks (or less) several inches of snow may coat those same plants.

And, one more observation.

Not one wildflower.  So Wildflower Season is officially over. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

1 in 100 - Autism Votes

A Facebook post by a Facebook friend of mine, a woman who has an adult son with autism, inspired this post.

Today is election day in the United States, where I live.

Her son is voting for the first time today.  Although she is his legal guardian, her son retains his right to vote.  She told her Facebook friends that her son has looked forward to exercising his vote for years.  This is a big day for him.

It's also a big day for our country for another reason.

Her son is on the leading edge of a wave of soon to be adults with autism.  Some say 1 in 100 live births in this country result in an individual with autism.  Not too long ago it was 1 in 166. Then it was 1 in 150.  Let's assume for the sake of argument that the 1 in 100 figure is accurate.  Let's step back a moment and see what that means.

Those babies are going to grow up.  In fact, the "leading edge" of the autism epidemic I just mentioned are now legal adults in many states, including New York (age of 18).  Just wait until all those adults with autism, who have been given the tools and supports to vote, start to exercise that right. 

And,  it is never too late.

My brother in law, who has autism, is in his 50's. He voted for the first time in the 2004 Presidential election.  Growing up, he was never encouraged to vote nor were people like him ever expected to vote.  This just didn't happen.  They weren't "normal".  So their voices, and opinions, were unheard.

In 2004, a person who worked with him in a support role decided that my brother in law should exercise his right to vote.  He watches a news station that carries a lot of political discussions and has formed very definite political opinions.  Why shouldn't he vote?  She worked with him, he did vote, and he was very proud of voting for the presidential candidate of his choice.

For the first time, his voice was heard.

It is not easy for a person with autism to vote, as described here, but it can be done with proper education and proper support.  This issue isn't restricted to the United States, either.

It's a new day, and soon, the politicians will feel the power of that new voting block.  It will be interesting to hear what these new adults with autism have to say in the voting booth.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall Cleanup

(My garden angel ponders the coming of winter.)

Yesterday was the first day of Standard Time.  I spent my "extra hour" in the sunshine of a crisp fall day, raking the fall leaves.

Back in the "old days" the leaves would have totally fallen before Halloween.  In our new climate over the past several years, the leaves hang on longer and longer each year.  We had a hard freeze yesterday, and when spouse and I left our house yesterday for a breakfast out, the green leaves were falling off the trees.

So, yesterday afternoon, I raked, and spouse (saving my bad back) put the leaves into bags.  It was a perfect day, and it wasn't even windy.  While I raked, spouse struggled with our new washing machine, which had its first malfunction.  Dear spouse also dug up our glads and our dahlias.

We don't have too much more fall garden work.  The community garden is already cleaned out, done for the year.  Spouse will take the leaves down to the community garden. Since we can keep the same plots year after year, we've been building up organic matter over the years with leaves and other organic matter.  Some of the leaves will also make it into a composting container in our back yard.

For many years, we would already had snow on the ground by November 7. Now the ground isn't even frozen.  This lack of snow I am grateful for, and I hope the snow delays itself as long as possible.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Civil War Sunday - Lincoln and the Constitution Exhibit

UPDATE:  I just realized that November 6, 1860 was the date Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States.  How could I have missed it?  But I must have subconsciously been thinking of that when I wrote this post!

So much to blog little time.

We are fortunate to have two local Civil War exhibits in town at the same time.

One, the Civil War exhibit in our local museum, the Roberson Museum and Science Center, I will write more about in a future post.  I visited it last Sunday (no pictures) during an open house.  What I really loved about the exhibit is that most of it focused on local events and participants - teaching me a lot that I did not know about.

The other, "Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War", is on exhibit at the Broome County Library through December 14.  This free exhibit is brought to us by the National Constitution Center of Philadelphia.  (Check out their Interactive Constitution which can be searched by topic, or keyword.)

(Painting of Lincoln that hangs, year round, in the Broome County Library).

Lincoln, from the moment of his election, had to grapple with Constitutional issues which are still relevant today.     After his election, a number of states had seceded from the Union. The federal Fort Sumter, located in Charleston harbor -now in the Confederacy-was running low on supplies.  If it was restocked, Lincoln knew the Confederacy would consider that an act of war.  What should he do?  The restocking proceeded.

At the start of the Civil War, many people thought it would be over in a matter of weeks.  The author(s) of these "postcards" likened the war to a boxing match that would be quickly won by the North.  How sadly wrong they were.

Another hard choice Lincoln had to make was the suspension of the "writ of Habeas Corpus".  This exhibit touched briefly on those issues, especially the events in Maryland immediately after the shelling of Ft. Sumter.  Indeed, today, we still struggle with how much freedom should be permitted during times of war, and the balance between freedom and the protection of our nation.

Later came the Emancipation Proclamation, which is another aspect of Civil War history that is misunderstood by a lot of people - it did NOT end slavery.  But it did have a very profound effect on the history of our country.

The Gettysburg Address, whose 150th anniversary is coming up later this month, was also discussed.  Many consider the Gettysburg Address as one of the greatest speeches in the history of our country.  Bloggers have a lot to learn from that speech.

This exhibit is a very simple telling of a lot of complex issues, many of which I have not studied extensively. (My focus on Civil War history tends to be more oriented towards the people and culture of the era than legal issues). For that reason, I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about these issues.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Support for Siblings of Those With Special Needs

I am asking for a favor from my readers. You don't have to donate anything and this will not cost you a dime above your normal purchases through  Just one click is all you need to make.  So please make that click if you are shopping with anyway.

As some of you know, I am the sister in law of an individual with autism.  He is a man, in his 50's, who grew up in less enlightened times (to put it mildly).  Nowadays, we have support for parents, and for sibllings, of those with autism and other developmental, mental, physical, and medical disabilities.

The Sibling Support Project is a very worthwhile support organization for those who have siblings with autism such as my spouse.  As the person who sent the below email gave permission, I am sharing this with all of my readers.

Please consider using this link for some of your holiday shopping.  I know I advocate 'buying local" but if you choose to shop online, please consider this.

Thank you!
Dear friend of Sibshops and the Sibling Support Project:

spacer.gifIf you’re like me, you will start thinking about gifts for loved ones in the next few days. And, like me, you may prefer shopping online instead of heading to the mall.

If you are one of the millions who shop at Amazon, I have a favor to ask: Will you support the work of the Sibling Support Project by beginning your shopping by “entering” Amazon through the Sibling Support Project’s “Astore”?

You will get the same great deals you always get at Amazon, and Amazon will donate up to 6.5% of the purchase price to the Sibling Support Project!

Here’s the website for our Amazon Astore. Please add it to your favorites or bookmarks.

Once you add something to your shopping cart and proceed to checkout, you can then wander anywhere on Amazon. (And, if needed, you can yank any item out of your shopping cart prior to purchase.) Any eventual purchase made within 24 hours of entering the Astore will benefit the Sibling Support Project. 

Thank you for your support! Here’s the link again.

One last thing!  If you'd like to celebrate the holidays with a direct gift to the Sibling Support Project please click here.  Those who give at the $100+ level get a free copy of our newest book, Thicker than Water: Essays by adult siblings of people with disabilities!

Wishing you all the best,

Don Meyer

Director, Sibling Support Project

PS—In case you were wondering, we never know who buys what on our Amazon Astore, so we’ll never know you bought grandpa a subscription to Playboy.

PSS—If you think this is a cool way to do good while doing the inevitable holiday shopping, will you please share this email with others?