Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sustainable Saturday-Mystery at the Farmers Market

Saturday.  Otsiningo Park Farmers market day, near Binghamton, New York.

 The first of the garlic is coming in.  We couldn't resist.

One vendor was selling these white currants, and also had black raspberries for sale.  We've been noticing wild raspberries are ripening, and hopefully will be U-picking domestic red raspberries later in the week.

And then, there was the mystery.

My spouse and I struck up a conversation with a vendor called Gimme Cookie, who makes wonderful English muffins and cookies.  (Read her bio on her website, and you'll see why.)  We bought three of her chocolate cookies, which are studded with nuts and raisins.  Yum.

She doesn't make every flavor every week, but if you ask, she will add a particular flavor to her weekly baking schedule.  In chatting, she told us that she also sells at the "farmers market at Highland Park in Endwell." (Endwell is part of our "triple cities" here in the Binghamton, NY area.)

That was really interesting because I had no idea there was a farmers market in Endwell.

That was the problem, she explained.  She goes there Tuesdays, when the market is held (4:30 to 6:30 she said).  Hardly anyone seems to know about the market, either, which is a shame.  It is about time our area had a weekday evening farmers market.  What is more puzzling is that this is a popular park. Highland Park has a (free) carousel and a swimming pool.  Is the market covered by an invisibility cloak?

And then there was last Sunday.  Driving past our neighborhood's Home Depot, we saw someone waving a sign at oncoming traffic.  "Farmers Market in the Home Depot Parking Lot" the sign announced.

News to us.  We entered the parking lot, and found - one lone booth.  We had to be somewhere, and didn't stop to check it out.  I had no idea who it was.  I'm familiar with a number of the vendors in this area, as I attend three local farmers markets (at least one, and sometimes two, each week).

For that matter, there is a twice weekly farmers market at the Y in my neighborhood.  It is in easy walking distance of my house (pity - I can't attend it because its hours coincide with my work hours) but somehow you never seem to hear of it although it has been in operation for two years now.

But the email I got the other day "did it" for me.

Somehow, I've become subscribed to a weekly email from NY Governor Cuomo.  Each week he has done something great for the citizens of New York. I hope I am not coming across as too sarcastic but politics is not the happiest subject for me lately.  But I was please to see this week's email, which said, in part (I hope he doesn't mind me quoting from it):

"Dear Fellow New Yorker:  Summer means a fresh new season of new York produce. Governor Cuomo's FreshConnect program is increasing access to affordable, fresh New York-grown produce for all New Yorkers, while also supporting our local farmers....Click here to find a market near you and for more information on current projects.  In additionl to the Fresh Connect project, New Yorkers can view a full list of farmers' markets in New York State by  clicking here."

So, I should be able to find all farmers' markets in my county by clicking through to the linked website?

Um, no. I clicked on the "full list of farmers' markets in New York State." There were only four listed for the ENTIRE COUNTY I live in, and two of them are actually the same market - the winter Binghamton farmers market (indoors) and the summer one (outside).  That makes three farmers' markets in all of Broome County?


So what is the mystery?  The mystery is how farmers markets can operate, with people not knowing about them, and with an official New York State agency not knowing about them!?  Something just doesn't seem right.

Could someone at least let ME know about them?  I'll be happy to give them some publicity, not that I have that many local readers. 

Support your local farmer....if you can find him or her, that is.

Do you have any "mystery" farmers markets in your area?

Friday, June 29, 2012

It's the Finish Line!

It's the finish line!

Yesterday evening, I walked a predicted mile race (one where you guess your time, and the person who comes closest to their guess wins.)   The race was sponsored by the local YMCA.  It's called a "Corporate Challenge" because employees of participating businesses run or walk various races, and the entry fees go to charity. 

I've done this race for 5 or 6 years (I forget); I've raced in 95 degree weather and in pouring down rain.  Tonight it was in the 80's but humid - we are at the start of a heat wave so we are lucky the race wasn't today.  Last year, I did well, but it is very hard to win this race. Needless to say, no one can race with a cell phone or a watch.

On top of it, I've been having internet problems for almost a week.  Sometimes it is on. Sometimes it is off.  Sometimes it is on but really anemic.  Fortunately I've been able to make all of my posts.  My 14 month daily posting streak continues.

Perseverance is the name of the game.  This brings me to today's post.  This is the last day of the Author Blog Challenge.  Today's post is "What are you going to do to keep the blogging momentum going?  What plans do you have to continue your connection with other Author Blog Challenge participants?"

Good question.

I've been in several other month long challenges, and when the month is over, most of the participants scatter.  A few will keep in touch.  I already knew (cyberknew, anyway) a couple of the people on this challenge.  I've read several blogs that I want to continue with, and I have subscribed to those who gave a subscription option.

I will continue to read those blogs I've subscribed to.  I will occasionally check into the Author Blog Challenge Facebook page.  I may "see" some of you at the Ultimate Blog Challenge (which I will probably join since I'm blogging every day anyway.)

In other words - I am going to be one of those who scatters.   Scatters, and regroups.  I don't know if I will participate in the next challenge in December but I have a lot of thinking to do and a lot of learning to absorb.  Depending on the path I want to take, I may or may not take this challenge again in December.

Thank you for the opportunity to take this challenge.   I've enjoyed meeting you all.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

AM the Author?

Today's prompt in the Author Blog Challenge is:  "What has been the best part of participating in the Author Blog Challenge? What are your suggestions for improving the next Author Blog Challenge?"

I have been bobbing and weaving around Internet problems the last four or five days, trying to continue my 14 month daily blogging streak  I thought (after a call to the Internet Service provider yesterday-thank you dear spouse) our problem was solved.  I spoke too soon.  So right now, I am crawling towards the finish line with chains attached to my ankles.  I suspect I need a new modem.

The best part of the Challenge - learning about new blogs.  Writing alongside of published authors. Reading their blogs (less than I would have linked).  To use a cliche, participating in this challenge, like others I have participated in, is like drinking from a fire hose.  It was frustrating, in this case, because this is the first challenge I've participated in that involves an actual theme, instead of just posting for x number of days straight.

I could have printed everything out but it would have been like printing out a book.

Yet, if it stays up on Facebook, I will be able to draw from it once I have my own plans consolidated.

Will there be blogs I will continue to read after the challenge?  Yes.  More of that tomorrow (Internet provider willing.)

What are my suggestions for improving the Challenge?

Well....I wouldn't hold the next one in December.   Sadly, the holidays have become too much a source of stress for too many people with too much to do.  I would ask that it be moved.  I will leave other suggestions to the actual authors in this Challenge.  I will mention though, that although some of the prompts didn't have immediate significance, they did make me think.  I didn't mind having prompts I couldn't respond to - this time.  Maybe next time I will be able to respond.  I could make that a goal.

Because I don't have a book started, and still don't have a book started, was it a failure?  NO.  It made me think.  It helped me learn.

My challenge will now be to continue to think.  Possibly becoming a published author is hard, but I now have a blueprint to consider.  I won't be going into it unprepared.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday Flowers - Cutler Roses

On June 16, I visited our local Binghamton, New York botanical gardens - Cutler Botanic Gardens.  They have a very nice display of heirloom and modern roses.  I wanted to share some of these roses with you.

It's a pity I can't share the fragrances with you. Which - brings me to the Author Blog Challenge I am participating in.  Only 3 more days to go! (I think - I'm a bit math challenged.)

Today's prompt for the Author Blog Challenge is:  "What is/will be the subject of your next book?"  That is a good question because I don't know the subject of my first book yet.

It won't be horticultural - I have a feeling that market is quite saturated.  I'm not sure I bring anything new to the genre.

I daydreamed, a couple of days ago, about writing a book with photographs, to show the beauty of upstate New York.  Wild and domestic flowers would be part of that effort if I really did something like that.  My love of photography began with my first camera, a box camera with two settings - "black and white" and "color".  We are talking early 60's here.  It took flash bulbs and size 127 film.  (Anyone under the age of 40 is probably saying "huh?" just about now.) 

I would need to take some courses in photography. I am a point and click person. I don't know how to use photo editing software.  My photographs, a lot of times, really don't reflect the beauty, the colors, of what I see.  I want to be able to do that.  To me, it is an expansion of painting with words.  Not a substitute but a visual aid, so to speak.

But in the meantime, my blog is an outlet for my present skills.

I don't know the names of these roses. I'm never organized enough to bring a notebook and pen with me and second, because of our floods of last September, a lot of the tags are missing.  (A shout out to everyone who worked hard to get this botanic garden back in shape for this spring - it did flood badly.)

A mysterious purple rose
This may be what is called a "cabbage rose".  It certainly put out a huge cluster of lovely, fragrant, pink roses.

Isn't this a perfect yellow flower?
Another pink rose.

Finally, a cluster of beautiful white blooms.

There is such variety in roses.  I gave up growing roses years ago - it is not easy to do organically, at least with the types I tried, and my roses basically became a lunch counter for the local Japanese beetles. (speaking of which, they should be arriving just about now.)  I admire those who can do it organically.  These roses, I am sure, are not organic.  But they are a feast for the soul.

What is your favorite rose?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Envelope, Please

The envelope, please.

Time for another daydream.  I have been voted Upstate New York Blogger of the Year 2012.  The vote was a landslide!

I'm floating on a cloud.  I can't believe it.  I'm pinching myself.

Since this is a daydream, I have no fear of public speaking. The ceremony is at the New Floridian Diner in Brooklyn. (Who needs stuffy hotel conference rooms?  Why not one of my favorite restaurants in Brooklyn?  This is my daydream, after all.)  Instead, I remember the 25th prompt of the Author Blog Challenge:  "Time for some shout-outs.  This may mimic your acknowledgement page, but whom would you like to publically thank for their help in creating your book or completing it to the point where it is presently?"

Where my book is presently is a twinkle in my eye. (That was one of my Dad's favorite expressions describing a time when I did not yet exist.).  So, instead, in this speech, I would like to thank the following people who, no doubt, would help make my book possible.

1.  My friend, who was my very first follower.  She has been my occasional guest photographer.  Her sister has helped me with some wildflower identifications.  She's given me support for many, many years while caretaking her late husband through two major strokes, many minor strokes and three battles with cancer.

2.  Another friend, my childhood friend living in Brooklyn.  We've known each other nearly 50 years.  I've blogged about her several times recently, and have shown you some of her backyard garden.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention her husband of 40 years.  He has sent me some photos of flowers blooming in Brooklyn, too.  I'd love more to share with my readers.

3.  My sister in law, another early fan.  She is a former blogger herself.  If I ever wrote a book, I may call on her for some editing - who knows?

4.  My neighbor across the street, and occasional commenter on my blog.  A very different man, in a good way. Keep those comments coming.

5.  Several fellow bloggers.  Some I've met in this Challenge.  Some I've met in previous challenges I've participated in.  Because I've been having a lot of internet problems in the last day or so, I am going to save the complete list for another day and try to post this while I have Internet.  I named some of them in a post towards the beginning of this challenge (or maybe it was late May).

Next to last:  my long suffering spouse, who puts up with my wild ideas, my stopping in mid-exercise walk to take pictures, and my love of macaroni and ketchup.  Well no, he won't let me eat macaroni and ketchup in his presence.  But I love him anyway.

And finally, a shout out to my blog readers.  If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't ever think about writing a book. 

Because of my internet problems, I am posting this without looking at it in preview.  I hope I haven't made a fool of myself in this speech.  Of course, since it is a daydream the speech is perfect.

Now back to the hard work of deciding if I truly want to be an author.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Greatest Daydream of All

It's been many years since I have daydreamed - truly daydreamed.

I didn't realize it until just the other day.  During all these years of adulthood (in my case, some 40 years of adulthood depending on if you count from 18, or 21) I forgot how to daydream.  There are various reasons. But, come to think of it, these are excuses, not reasons.

What happened to the child me?  What happened to the girl who dreamed of being Lois Lane during the end of recess when we lined up for what it seemed hours?  What happened to the girl who was going to change the world for the btter one day? 

Was the girl buried under life?  Well, I've been digging these past few days, trying to find my way to the surface.  Even if I can't break that surface, I will try to poke a hole in whatever buried me, and breathe in the fresh air of Anything Can Happen.

I've missed a couple of prompts (admission:   more than a few) in the Author Blog Challenge I have not been participating in that much.  I wish I could tell you it was because I was undergoing a Great Crisis of Belief.  In a way, that is true.  But in a bigger way, it is still another excuse.

My voice is not fully formed.  It tries to be heard, but cracks whenever I try to write, and keep up with the other participants.  Like a boy who is reaching puberty, I am beset with doubts.  Everyone is staring at me.  (Or worse, not reading me at all.) Everyone knows how inferior I am.   Why am I even here?

The Blog Challenge to the rescue.

A recent prompt was:  "Describe your first book signing.  Real or imagined."  The next day's prompt was  "If a Hollywood agent were to come knocking on your door with an offer to turn your book into a movie and told you that you could call all the shots, who would you have direct and star in it?  Write the first paragraph of Rober Ebert's review of your film."

Funny how you should ask, Author Challengers, because a couple of the most terrifying things I can think of are
a.  Being forced to interact with mobs of people at a book signing, even if they all love me.  I'm an introvert.  I love quiet.  I like people, but a few at a time, thank you very much.
b.  Thinking about Hollywood. I think back to the day we were asked to write a composition in class.  I think it was in junior high - what is now called middle school here in the United States.  Normally I enjoyed those writing assignments.  This time, the topic had something to do with the movies and our favorite actress or actor.  I froze.  I handed in a blank page.  It was humiliating.

You see, I rarely watch movies and I pay very little attention to the actors and actresses.  I will not go to a movie just because it has Tom Hanks, or Helen Mirrin, or the latest good looking hunk.

But here, in my daydream, I Am Different.  I am energetic, I am not overweight, I do not have a bad back and an arthritic knee.  I smile at my admirers.  I have no desire to hide under the table until they leave.  I am signing copies of my book "The Beauty of Upstate New York As Seen Through My Photographs".  People mob me, praising my usage of light, wondering at the ways I captured a bumblebee in flight, marveling at how I captured the essences of sunsets, the redness of a male cardinal in flight, the juicy crunch of an upstate New York Empire apple.  And then, the mobs part.

It is Mel Brooks!

Mel makes his way over to me.  "What are you doing here, Mel?" I gasp.  "This book isn't a comedy!  There is no social satire in this book!"  "No, there isn't", says Mel.  "But I was totally overcome by the beauty of the flowers in Rod Serling's boyhood neighborhood on the West Side of Binghamton.  I wanted to bite into an apple fresh from one of the farmer's markets you talk about.  I just had to visit Otsiningo Park and walk the Vestal Rail Trail.  I even had to see how your area was recovering from last year's floods.  Your book is sheer genius.  I want to make a movie out of it!.  How about Jon Steward plays your long-suffering spouse?  And if you want, I can line up Helen Mirrin to play you.  What about it?"

As Roger Ebert starts to write his glowing review, my long suffering spouse asks me when I am going to straighten out the pile of papers on the sofa next to me.

Gotta go.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Civil War Sunday - The Unsung, The Unknown and the Complex

One of the reasons I became interested in study of the United States Civil War (1861-1865) was to learn about the people who were swept up in it. 

Acres of trees have been cleared to provide paper to write about Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and many more of the main people who influenced the war.  But there are many more people out there that not much has been written about.  If I wanted to, I could dedicate the rest of my life to combing through university libraries and attics to uncover the lives of some of the many unknown of the Civil War.

Many of these unknown are slaves.  Others are people, both white and freeborn black, who never had the spotlight of history sweep their way to light up their existence. 

Here are some of the resources I was able to find spending just a few minutes online today.

1.In the 1930's, a Depression project to put writers to work allowed some of those stories to be uncovered, and told, while a number of these people were still alive.  It was called the Federal Writers Project and some of their work in telling the lives of the unknown of the Civil War is online.

To quote from the Born in Slavery website:

"Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938 contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves. These narratives were collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and assembled and microfilmed in 1941 as the seventeen-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves."

2. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library also has extensive online resources to research the story of slavery (and the stories of African-Americans after the war was over).

Speaking of North Carolina (a former Confederate state) I also found this little tidbit:  slavery was outlawed in North Carolina until 1790.

Contrast this with my native state of New York (a state that did not secede and stayed with the Union):  slavery there was legal from the 1600's to 1827. 

Whether we live in the North, the South, or somewhere else entirely - there are gaps in our education, and this 150th anniversary of the War is a good time to fill in some of those gaps.

That is why I love history.  Not only is it the story of "We the Unsung", but it never ceases to amaze, and there is always something new just around the corner.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sustainable Saturday - Monkeys Typing At a Farmers Market

Have you ever seen monkeys typing at a farmer's market?  If not - more on that later.

I work in downtown Binghamton, a city of about 47,000 people in upstate New York.  It saw its prime  years ago, and is struggling to regain some of its former glory.

Every year, for the past several years, there has been a small farmer's market in downtown Binghamton, twice a week between mid-June and October - Tuesdays and Fridays.

The farmers market, in the summer, is a source for good, fresh, local produce. You see a wide selection of people shopping at the market, including people living in the immediate area of downtown, students, the elderly and office workers.

This week, offerings included the last of the local strawberries:
 Greenhouse tomatoes:  These look soooooooo tempting, don't they. (I resisted).
English peas, and the first of the summer squash:

More peas, and the first of the yellow squash crop.  The lawn you see beyong the produce is that of our county courthouse.

Garlic scapes, and lettuce:

Another booth featured homemade breads and pastries.  There was a seller of bagged herbs, and someone selling frozen meat.

I bet, though, that you are waiting for me to tell you about the typing monkeys.  No, it has nothing to do Shakespeare (an idea. though. Shakespeare at the farmers market. How about it?)  Instead, on Fridays,  from the start of the market in mid-June through the last Friday of August, the market brings us free musical entertainment from 12 to 1 Fridays.   The artists are local, there is a good variety of musical styles, and some of the musicians are quite good.

Yesterday, the market featured: a local group called Monkeys Typing.  Their music is in the style of the Grateful Dead.  I am far from a Deadhead, but I enjoy their once a year appearances at the market.  One thing that makes me feel a bit old - most of the people who sat on the folding chairs provided by the city were elderly. A part of me still thinks of that type of music as being only for young people.

There was a lot of toe-tapping.

As they played, it started to rain.  A cold front was coming through, bringing relief after two days of 90 plus degree temperatures with pea soup humidity.

The group thanked us for staying through the rain, joking that rain was good, but not for people playing electric guitars.

"It's good for the vegetables!" a member of the audience joked back.

Yes, it is.

Support your local farmers.  Support your local musicians.  Have fun.

What events are happening at your local farmer's market?

Friday, June 22, 2012

In a Reblooming Kalanchoe Is There Hope?

In a reblooming kalanchoe, is there hope?

Today's prompt in the Author Blog Challenge is "What is the single best piece of advice you've ever received about the publishing process and/or what advice would you offer to a first-time author?"

That single piece of advice I learned from this challenge was "never give up hope."

Hope of what?  Hope of achieving your goals.  Sometimes, just not giving up hope of survival.  I knew, before the Challenge, that becoming a published author was hard.  Now I have a better idea of just how hard and grueling it can be.  In the midst of the struggle, a beginning author must believe in him or herself, and never give up hope that it will get better, that the goals will be achieved, that the hard work will pay off.

And then there is the story of the kalanchoe.

I have a neighbor who is seriously ill and probably will stay that way for the rest of his life. Sometimes, he sits outside in the sunshine, enjoying the small garden he and his wife have planted next to their rental house.  I  hope he enjoys the view of my front yard, with the flowers, the sometimes untidy herb bed, and my "flood angel".

Some months ago, before he was diagnosed with this illness, he was in the hospital for another reason. Someone gave him a kalanchoe as a get-well gift.  A kalanchoe, for the uninitiated, is a succulent plant with small blooms, which come in a variety of colors.  They can be quite pretty. 

Ah, those hospital gift plants.  You get them from people who know that flowers may not be the ideal gift.  Flowers die after a few days, and if your recipient is allergic, those flowers are the gift that brings misery.  Now, a flowering plant, that's slightly different.  There's a hope of keeping the plant alive after it finishes blooming.  A foliage plant?  Even better.

My neighbor, after a period of enjoying the kalanchoe, offered it to me.  I hesitated for a minute before accepting the plant.  I take flowering plants seriously.  I have two poinsettias in my upstate NY yard right now, along with two amaryllis.   Any flowering plant I receive will get the best care I know how to give.  I can't bear to have one die on me, although I have blogged about my less than stellar track record with orchids.

I hesitated because a few years ago, I got a kalanchoe as a gift.  I kept it alive on my windowsill for a couple of years.  It never rebloomed and eventually it succumbed to white flies. 

I kept this one alive all winter on my living room table.  Come late spring, it went outside, where I figured it would have a better chance of escaping white flies.

Last night, I went out to water my back yard potted plants, and this sight awaited me.
Could it be?
Yes, it could.

My neighbor's kalanchoe is starting to rebloom.

There's a moral here somewhere.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"It's Just Plain Mean"

Today's 28 Day Author Blog Challenge asked a very timely question because of something that recently happened here in upstate New York:

" How are you using social media to promote your book? What aspect of social media would you like to learn more about? What are your next steps?"

Well, what about that power of the social media? 

Today, a middle school in the city of Greece, New York (near Rochester) is on everyone's lips, and not for a good reason, either.  At my upstate New York job this morning, a You Tube video was a major topic of discussion.

A school bus monitor is an internet heroine for keeping her cool as she was bullied by students on her bus.  All because a student on the bus took a video with his (or her) cell phone and posted it on You Tube.

A person in his 20's then grabbed the video (which has since been taken off You Tube at the request of the Greece school district) posted it on a social website where money can be raised for causes and is raising money for this school bus monitor.  

As of right now, the total raised is somewhere in the range of $330,000.

He wanted to raise enough money for her to have a nice vacation. 

Besides being verbally harassed, she was touched by students and was even verbally threatened.

If not for social media, this bullying incident would have stayed on the bus.   Plain and simple, her bravery would have gone unnoticed. Instead, the video has gone viral, major blogs and TV networks are reporting on it. and hopefully this will start discussions that need to happen.

All because of social media.

This afternoon, a news conference was held.  Apparently (and I say "apparently") the responsible parties are four 7th grade students.  Where did I watch the news conference?  Online, after I got home.

Earlier today, the monitor announced she is not going to press charges.

So, what was the prompt?  Oh yes.  Promoting books using social media.

I don't have a book, but I use social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest) to promote my blog. If I do write a book, I'm sure I will use those and other social media to promote it.

 But yesterday, a cell phone video showed us all the power of media. What exactly it showed us, I have a feeling we still don't fully know.  Like ripples in a pond, I don't think we are finished with this story because I find it hard to believe that this was an isolated incident.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday Flowers - Lilies

Today is the first day of summer here in upstate New York.  With that, I have to change the name of my Wednesday feature. Goodbye to "Spring Things" until next year.

Last year, I spent the summer posting wildflower pictures, as I sought to learn more about them.  It was fun, and I learned a lot.  But the world of flowers also includes domestic varieties.

This summer, I am going to expand my Wednesday feature to include flowers of all types.  A lot of the photos will probably be taken during exercise walks on the West Side of Binghamton.  Others will be from my small perennial garden in Westover, near Johnson City, New York.  I will also feature wildflowers and flowers from my travels.

Lilies have taken center stage on the West Side of Binghamton, both daylillies and Asiatic lilies (and Asiatic hybrids.).  I took what may be my last outdoor walk for a couple of days.  Temperatures in the next couple of days will probably be in the 90's. 

What I love the most about lilies is the great variety of colors they come in.  Here are red lilies in a planter.
These are orange day lilies, a variety looking a lot like what many people call "tiger lilies".

Yellow lilies are one of the more popular colors.

There are some beautiful hybrids out there.  This particular variety, "Tiny Sensation" is a small Asiatic lily we bought this year for our front yard (right now residing next to a container of cucumber plants).

One thing I really like about the Asiatics is that they are almost fragrance free.  Believe it or not, I find the scent of certain lilies, especially some that are sold as potted plants for gift giving (Oriental lillies?) quite objectionable.  Other people have allergic reactions.

I've joked at times about it being a pity that there is no such thing as smell-o-blog.  Perhaps, at least for those of us who have allergies, lack of smell-o-blog is a good thing after all.  But, I'm curious to know if any other of my readers think certain lilies have an objectionable scent, or if they are allergic to them.

Still, despite these drawbacks - I love lilies.  What flowers (if it is summer where you live) are blooming where you live?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy 60th Girl #1

So, consider this fiction book.  Would you buy it?

Two girls growing up in the 1950's Bronx meet each other in 5th grade.  Girl #1 has lived in the neighborhood all her life.  Girl #2 has recently arrived from the South Bronx. For whatever reason, they become friends.

They go to the same junior high and the same high school. Then, they go their separate ways.  One wants to be a vet and has always loved science. She goes to City College of New York.  Back in school, her parents had gotten her a French tutor, a young man with a talent for languages.  At the end of her sophomore year, she marries her former tutor.  They move to Brooklyn.

Meantime, the other girl goes to college in the Bronx, starts out as a history major and later switches to anthropology.  At the end of college she marries her college sweetheart.  They wander here and there, and eventually settle in upstate New York.

Kind of boring, right?  Well, let's make it interesting.

Age 29, two small children, Girl #1 never becomes a vet. And then her world changes for good.  She is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She beats it after nearly a year of harrowing treatment.  She becomes an elementary school teacher and teaches generations of childen.  She retires.  She has grandchildren.  She becomes a caregiver for her elderly mother.

Girl #2, well, that girl, in real life, is me.  And you've read the story of my last three years in this blog.

What did real life do to Girl #1?  It played her a nasty, nasty trick.  She's fighting cancer again today, on her 60th birthday.  But whatever you do, don't pity her.  She is taking things day by day and planning for the future.  I've visited her twice this year, and I hope to do so again. (I might even post more Brooklyn pictures one of these days.)  And, thank you for asking, she is still married to French Tutor.

Some things, you just can't make up.  A friendship that spans nearly 50 years is a priceless gift, one that I don't intend to give up any time soon. This is no fiction novel.  I am a non fiction writer, and this is a story I want to add chapters to for many years.


Do you have a best friend from childhood?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Back To The Writing Board

I have never been one of those lucky people who thought they had a book within them.   So, this prompt in the Author Blog Challenge had special meaning to me.

The prompt is "Describe the market for your book - to the tiniest detail (e.g. childless divorced women past age 50 who want to remarry). Why that demographic?  How do you connect with them to market to them?"

I'm still trying to figure out if I even want to write a book.  In some ways,. this prompt is the most valuable question the Challenge has asked.

I've been blogging for over 3 years - since late April 2011, daily.  In the past couple of months I finally realized I was a writer.  I blogged in May about my dreams of being a snowbird (I live on the edge of the snowbelt of upstate NY) and escaping the 80 plus inches of snow we get here in a normal winter.  Once I retire from my day job, I need a way to generate income which will leave me free to live in two places.

One reason why I joined this challenge was to take this next step.

If I wrote a book, the Challenge would give me lots of information on interviewing, on e-book vs. traditional book publishing, on how to market, how to outline, how to - well, write.

But this question brought me to the heart of what I am trying to do:  Who the heck am I directing my writing at?  What is its purpose?  Will anyone even be interested?

Let's take one example.  I've had stray thoughts, here and there, about consolidating many of the posts I've posted since August of 2011. Thanks to Mother Nature, many have a common theme. In August of 2011, torrential rains from Tropical Storm Irene hit my area of upstate New York. Shortly thereafter, torrential rains caused by Tropical Storm Lee hit.  Rivers overflowed and caused massive flooding.

My blog was a first person account of the aftermath in one particular neighborhood near Johnson City, NY.  I actually wasn't here when the floods hit, which was fortunate.  I would have been blogging from a shelter, which is to say I wouldn't have been blogging.  And if my house had been several blocks from where it is, it may have been destroyed.  Maybe 'destroyed' is too strong a word but there are houses in my neighborhood that will never again be occupied.  There but for the grace.....

 I wanted to bear witness to what was happening around me.  I wanted to report it to the world.

But - then what?  What if I had written a book based on those blog posts?

Would I have wanted it as a fundraiser, proceeds benefiting a charity that benefited my neighborhood?

Would I have wanted to interview other survivors of the flood?  I know some of them.  I am one of them.  We can connect.

What about a memoir?  I know there are lots of flood memoirs out there - By The Iowa Sea being a recent example.  (And, I'm no Joe Blair.)  But my life isn't exactly market material.  Parts of it would put you right to sleep.

Would I have done photo essays?

Would I have wanted to aim this at political officials as a wake up call, to transmit the message that we've had two major floods in the Triple Cities of upstate NY in the past six years and if something isn't done, the next flood might be the "last straw" that destroys this beautiful area of the country?

This prompt made me think, and I realized (after two days of thought) that I did not have a demographic.  So, back to the drawing board.

It will come.  It just isn't coming yet.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Civil War Sunday - Father Facts

Today, in the United States, it is Father's Day.  It is also time for my weekly Civil War post.  Always looking for the slightly offbeat, I decided to do an internet search and see what I could come up with for Father's Day.

Some may call it trivia.  I call it living history.  Too many people are turned off by history, thinking of the dull, lifeless presentation of history too many of us endured in school.  I've always loved history and want to try to make it more accessible to people.

So how is this for a start - a 2010 feature in the Utah Deseret News - a woman, Bashie Thomander, talks about her father, who fought in the Civil War on the Union side.  Yes, she was 94 when interviewed, and yes, her father was 74 when she was born. Still, she links us with our past.

The story of her father's service is one of the fascinating things about the Civil War that few of us studied in college.  We think of the war as "North vs. South" but it actually was fought, in one way or another, in a lot of far flung areas - including Utah, which was still a territory at the time.  His service was not against Confederates but - well, you'll have to read the story for yourself.  If you read Mrs. Thomander's story, you will learn something about Utah and the Civil War that many people, including me, didn't know about.

Before posting this, I wanted to make sure that Mrs. Thomander was still alive. As far as I can tell through online research, she is.  (If you know differently, could you comment?)

Then, I found that, just like Mothers Day (which I blogged about on Mother's Day), Father's Day is also connected to the Civil War.  Why not?

And finally, I found some quick facts about Civil War personalities and the fatherhood part of their lives last year.  In an era of high infant mortality and mortality among those growing up, I invite you to read my Father's Day post from last year, talking about four main players in the Civil War and some little known facts about them as fathers.  You may be surprised and amazed to know these figures more as human beings and less as statues in a public square (or on a battlefield).

Happy Fathers Day to all my readers who are fathers.  It's one of the hardest jobs in the world.  On a personal note, today would have been my parents' 61st wedding anniversary.  Today, I pay tribute to my Dad, and to all fathers everywhere.

Did your father's father or grandfather fight, or otherwise participate, in the American Civil War?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sustainability Saturday - Whines and Dilemmas

Today, after visiting two farmer's markets here in upstate NY, taking an exercise walk (3 miles) with some wildflower photography, making a trip to buy a couple of little gifties for a baby shower, I ended up in our local botanical gardens to check out the old and new fashioned roses in bloom.  Now I'm tired and whiney, and want to write a post that incorporates a couple of things that have been on my mind lately regarding sustainability and the buy local? or is it ever OK to buy imported? questions I struggle with.

At the Vestal, NY farmers market, the main items for sale were lettuce, radishes, peas, local strawberries, honey, garlic scapes, eggs, and - tomatoes???  I would be surprised if these were local hothouse tomatoes because they were as pale as a supermarket tomato normally is.  I wonder where they were from.  Maybe he does tell customers where they are from, and if I was less introverted, I would have asked.  Maybe he sells them as a convenience.  Maybe I'm making excuses for the vendor.

I saw someone selling peaches and those are NOT local, no way whatsoever, not in June.

There are customers, I am sure, who would buy produce from a farmers market that is still a month away from being available locally. I am not one of them.  I do not purchase in farmers markets if it is not local.  Period.

The second question is a question of quality. This year, local strawberries are not good.  On the other hand, I can get excellent strawberries from California, trucked over 2,000 miles, "fresh", to my local supermarket.  This is a local supermarket chain, headquartered in Rochester, New York.  That local supermarket provides about 600 jobs, many part time, but still jobs, to our community.  Do I buy the farmers market berries?  Or the supermarket berries?  I hate to say it, but so far, the supermarket berries have won.

At the other local market, at Otsiningo Park, I ended up with some more whines.  I bought a heuchera from this vendor last week, and was hoping she had a columbine.  She didn't.

The man who was selling sorrel last week had it again - but the weather was warmer, I was an hour later, and the sorrel was very wilted.  It's a tender plant - I hope he finds a way to put his sorrel in a cooler next time.  The schav (an Eastern European cold sorrel soup) my spouse made from last week's purchase was wonderful.  I had my taste buds set to indulge in some ice cold sour schav again.  Well, if that is the biggest disappointment I suffer this weekend, I can count myself fortunate.

My next stop was the Ravenwood Gardens booth.  But, to my disappointment, she did not have the herbal insect repellent I love.  Two more weeks, she said.   It was still steeping.  That was good to know - it means it is truly - shall I use the term? - artisan.

VINES, a very worthwhile urban gardening organization, didn't have anything we needed, which was too bad.

But a good day all in all.  The sun is shing.  What could be better than that?

Would you buy non local food from a farmers market?  Would you buy from a supermarket if the quality was superior to the offerings of the farmers market?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day June 15 Variety is the Name

Do we gardeners know what day it is?  Yes!  It is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day!  Brought to you the 15th of each month by May Dream Gardens, garden bloggers from all over the world gather to show what is blooming in their gardens, their greenhouses, their houses, or wherever their flowers reside.

Please, by all means, go to the website.  Click on some of the links at the bottom of the GBBD post.  A world of beauty awaits you.  Bloggers in the Author Blog Challenge I am in this month, it is time to stop and smell the roses.  We have a lot of fragrant roses in bloom right now in the Binghamton, NY area.  Just not in my garden.  I wish I had smell-o-blog to transmit the scent to you.

The weather the last couple of days here in New York has been spectacular. Crisp, low humidity makes colors pop out.

For some reason, my perennial flowers have decided not to show their blooms for the 15th.  Several have buds:  daylillies, a clerance peace lily we planted last year, several astilbes.  Others have already come and gone since the last GBBD:  my irises (which, for some reason, barely bloomed this year), my wild honeysuckle (no, I didn't plant it) and a wild rose that decided to take up residence on the edge of my property.

So what do I have to show off this month in my zone 5 garden?


The last of my columbine.  Columbines did very well this year here in upstate New York. I only have one plants, and I'm on the lookout for another.

Next, a couple of new plants:

Heuchera "Georgia Peach". (yes, it has a tiny flower stalk, not really visible, but it is blooming.)  I've not had the best luck with heuchera.  I got this at a local farmers market last Saturday.
Lilium Asiatic "Tiny Sensation" (for scale, next to a 12 inch pot containing cucumber plants)
One of my few established perennials, a yellow bleeding heart.
On the annual side, I wanted to show off a couple of unusual ones.  First, an impatien.  This impatien, I believe, was one I ordered from Burpees as plants last year.  The plants came (unusual for Burpees) sopping wet and I lost 10 out of the 12. I ended up taking a cutting from what survived as fall neared, kept it growing and planted it out.  It is rewarding me with a beautiful bloom.  I don't think this is the same color pattern as last year, but I am not questioning it.

Speaking of unusual impatiens, African impatiens have always done well for me but for some reason I haven't grown any in a couple of years.  This year I bought this peach colored one, and it is thriving in a pot near my front entrance.

Happy GBBD to my fellow bloggers around the world.  What is blooming in your garden today?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs and Cover Art

One of the recent prompts of the Author Blog Challenge brought back a childhood memory.

"Describe your process for choosing and designing your book cover.  Who created your cover?  How did you find him/her?  What do you love about your cover?  What might you do differently next time?"

Book covers - it brings back memories of the first author who influenced my writing.

When I was 10 years old, I broke my leg, and was treated at a hospital in the Bronx.  I had to go back to the hospital periodically to see the doctors during my recovery.   On one visit, at the hospital gift store, one of my parents bought me a book to read.  I don't know how or why, but they picked "A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

It changed my life.

I don't know how many young people have heard of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Even in my day (I am talking the early 60's) enough children may have known Edgar Rice Burroughs mainly through Tarzan movies.  Reruns of old Tarzan movies featuring Johnny Weissmuller were a staple of weekend movie afternoons on non-network local New York City channels.

But this book my parent bought me was something different.  The cover attracted me immediately - an exotically dressed woman in peril, with a muscular man, holding a sword, defending her.  Although the book started slowly, I very quickly got into the story once the hero, John Carter, reached Mars.  I ended up devouring the other 10 books of the series over the next few years.  Then, I went on to other series written by Burroughs - the Venus books, many of the Tarzan books, one of the Pellucidar books, and a couple of his non-series books.

I loved those book covers on the Ballantine and Ace versions of the Martian books from the 1960's.  In doing research, I found that other Edgar Rice Burroughs books were graced with unforgettable covers.  They really wanted to make you buy and read the contents.    Even after I grew up, the tradition of spectacular book covers continued.

Here, Burroughs himself writes about his experiences with illustrations of his books.

I don't have a book written yet, but if I did, I would like someone like Burroughs as my self-publishing mentor. Something tells me Burroughs would have been right at home in this Challenge and in the world of self-publishing. 

Incidentally, if you are interested in reading the Martian (Barsoom) books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, or some of his other books in the public domain, they are available for free online.

Did you find Edgar Rice Burroughs when growing up?  Are you a fan of "his" cover art/illustrations?  Do you long to visit Barsoom one day?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spring Things - The House of the Midnight Sun

Late spring.  Almost summer.  Here in upstate New York, we are almost at our maximum day length.  Only two more minutes to go. In fact, in a couple of days, our sunrises will start getting later.

This is as good as it gets.  And I love spring in upstate NY, don't get me wrong.  Right now the roses are blooming along with lillies.  And after a spring rain, flowers can look lovely.  But, it does make me long for the midnight sun I have never seen.

(Rose after rain on the West Side of Binghamton, NY taken by Ramblin' with AM).

I have never seen the midnight sun.  For all I know (as I am a very nervous flyer) I never will, at least in person. Upstate New York is a long way from Iceland, or Norway, Antarctica or even Alaska.

If I had a bucket list, seeing the midnight sun would be on it.  Why?  Because light at midnight breaks a basic rule of my life.  I grew up in New York City, and have lived in Florida, in Iowa, in Kansas, in Arkansas, and, for the past 25 plus years, upstate New York.

In all of those places, the sun rises every day.  It travels up in the sky.  Then it goes down and sets.  Then there is dark.  Repeat, 365 days a year.  It's one of those basic rules.  If the rule breaks, you become scared in a primeval way.  The world isn't right.  Just like, if you looked up at the dark sky, and the stars were all in places they didn't belong.

But the sunrise/sunset daily cycle doesn't happen the same way everywhere, and I've known that, within me, since I was a little girl.  I think I knew it before I ever learned about "why" in elementary school science.  I knew there were places where the sun did not set during some of the year, and did not rise during some of the year.  Or, the sun did rise or set, but not enough to matter.

I've blogged about the midnight sun (or midnight dark) on many occasions, including a post one year ago today.

Ironically, I visited Alaska once - in September, 1988. So the day length was about the same there as in upstate NY.  The quality of the light was different.  It was - well, not just dimmer.  It was different. Dusk seemed to go on for hours.

And the flowers - the flowers!  Nasturtiums with blooms practically the size of dessert plates (OK, I exaggerate) tumbling out of planters in Juneau.  Glaciers with ice so blue that I bought a blue topaz just to remember the color.  (We also saw banana slugs and moss covered roofs, but we won't go there.) 

I would love to see the Midnight Sun baseball game in Fairbanks, AK.  You'd be surprised how many major leaguers played ball in Fairbanks before they went on to bigger and better things.  They all got to see the midnight sun.   Arrrghhh.....

Thanks to the Internet, I can visit webcams, and blogs, that talk about life in these parts of the world.    I can even read the blog of the Midnight Sun baseball game.  And, I can see a video of Tom Seaver, who would go on to everlasting major league baseball fame playing for the NY Mets, playing as an amateur in the 1965 Midnight Sun game.  In Fairbanks, the sun does set, but still, they play the game without artificial light.

Until I can see it, I will dream and write about it in my blog. Who knows, maybe the reality won't be as good as my imagination.  And I think - if I had months with just three or four hours of sunlight a day, how could I ever grow houseplants with natural light?

There is that.  The months of dark.

Do you have a bucket list?  What is on it?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pruning, Thinning, Deadheading, and Weeding

 (Photo courtesy of Ramblin' with AM)

The Author Blog Challenge is almost half way through.  That means June is almost half way through.  This is a beautiful month of flowers blooming, and gardens growing.

I continue my month long journey to decide if I want to take my writing to another level - to try to write a book. Or at least, to go beyond blogging.

Today's prompt in the Challenge is:

"Describe your editing process. Who edited your book? What was your relationship with your editor like? What could each of you have done to improve it? What might you do differently in the future?"

Well, I have no book, not yet.  But if I had a dream editor, I would hope that she would be my ally.

In gardening, it is necessary to cut, shape, and sometimes even thin, in order to get maximum production from your plants.  Some flowering plants also require deadheading.  This sounds horrible but is only the cutting off of flowers past their prime so that the plant will keep producing.  As for thinning, it seems mean to pinch the life out of tiny beets or lettuces.  However, if you don't give your seedlings enough space,  if you let them remain crowded, they will become stunted.

It is always necessary to weed, to give your plants enough room to stretch, and to insure that they get enough light.  And, because many garden plants are actually weaker than the weeds that threaten to overcome them, our garden plants need us to be their advocates and their allies.

Few gardens flourish without the guiding hand of a good gardener.  The skilled gardener sees the potential in his or her garden and, with a firm but gentle hand, prunes, deadheads, thins, and weeds.

My ideal editor, should I be able to get one, would be to see the beauty of my writing garden.  I, as the author, plant the garden and get it to growing. But, I might be so close to my work that I might not be able do an adequate job of shaping, pruning and thinning.  My ideal editor would help me see where to cut and where to shape.  I might not always agree, and I know the process would be painful.

But in the end, I would hope that, between the two of us, my book would bloom, and enrich the lives of its readers.

Do you have an editor?  Is it a good relationship?  Painful? Both? Does he or she make your writing bloom?  Do you have any advice to give a writer just starting out?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Author Blog Challenge - No Pain, No Gain?

My writing has not been critiqued (directly to me, that is) since college.  And that was a longgggggggggg time ago.  Sometime in the last century.  We won't mention which decade but there was a "7" in the number.

With the 9 month flood anniversary here in upstate NY having to be commemorated and my normal Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday theme days begging for attention, I haven't followed the prompts very much this week.  But that doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention to the quality of writing in this Challenge. Now, it is time to return to this Challenge.

Today's Author Blog Challenge prompt is:  "Have you participated in a critique groups?  If so, how did it work out for you?  If not, why have you avoided them to this point?"

The short answer is "No, I never have.  Don't know if I ever will."

I could have given you a lot of answers for the "why" but a blog post written by Tor Canstantino (not part of this challenge but his writings are well worth reading, in my humble opinion) finally explained why.  His post, The One Trait Every Writer Needs, created one of those "a-ha!" moments for me.

Tor wrote "..most creatives write from their hearts, losses or experiences – the words are inseparable from the author."  That is so true for me.

At this point in time I could not appear before a group, carrying my heart-I mean, my writing- and having people examine it.  Even if they found my writing was the greatest ever (no chance of that) the stress of the experience would be too much for me to bear.

I'm not even sure I could hire someone to do it for me privately.  Or have someone in the Challenge (if they offered) do that for me.  Not now.   Not yet.

But, I think I am beginning to realize that "no pain, no gain" is more than a cliche about exercise.

The encouragement I've received from fellow bloggers is like sunshine on the leaves of a green plant, to be sure.  But encouragement doesn't teach in the same way as a helpful critique.   One day, I must prepare to face that I must seek an unbiased opinion out if I want to continue my growth as a writer.  But first, I need to grow a very thick hide.  So, how do I do that?

Nothing worth doing is easy, is it?

Fellow readers and writers, what do you think? 

No critique pain, no gain?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Civil War Sunday - Civil War Penmanship and Dr. Charles Leale

 (Matthew Brady photograph of Abraham Lincoln in the basement of the Tioga County Historical Society, Owego, NY November, 2011, salvaged from the September 2011 flood..  Photographed, not too skillfully, by me.)

This past week, some exciting news was announced - the report of the first doctor to reach Abraham Lincoln after he was shot was found.  The doctor was Dr. Charles Leale,a doctor who had seen Lincoln speak several days before.  For some reason, Lincoln's face fascinated him and he decided to go to Ford Theatre that fateful night of April 14, 1865, to study Lincoln further.  Accounts say he was only about 40 feet away from Mr. Lincoln when he witnessed the assassination.

Of course, it is always exciting for historians to have a source document found.  But, to me, what is more exciting is the availability online of the document itself.

For example, doctors have wondered if Lincoln's life could have been saved by modern medicine. As of 2007, the answer would have been "yes but with a lot of brain damage".  Now, we have an exact account of the medical measures taken.

From my point of view, though, what fascinated me the most was the document itself.  If you look at it, you will see it is beautifully written.  Not only is the writing that of an educated man, but the quality of penmanship is breathtaking to the modern reader.  For example, I would never win an award for my penmanship.

I had to do some research.

Handwriting was a main form of communication during the Civil War.  Those fortunate enough to be schooled spent countless hours practicing penmanship.  There were no typewriters commercially available (to the best of my knowledge) until right after the Civil War, although they had been invented.  Many documents were handwritten.   Part of judging how educated a person was consisted of judging penmanship.

Each side, Federal and Confederate, wrote countless letters, battle orders, and the like. Some kept diaries. Most all of these were handwritten.

What I found is that there were two main styles of writing during the Civil War era, "Copperplate script" and "Spencerian script."  I am not a graphic designer, but it seems from the small amount of research I did that both scripts, in one form or another, are still quite alive and well.

Even the instructions provided for Spencerian script sing to me.

With penmanship an instinctive skill, the writer was free to express his thoughts - and I could imagine the thoughts of Dr. Charles Leale flowing as he wrote about the fateful night of April 14 and morning of April 15, 1865. He did not talk about that night, the night he spent holding the dying President's hand, for years.  He  made his observations public in 1909, the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, in a speech called "Lincoln's Last Hours".

Dr. Charles Leale died in 1932, one of the last living witnesses to the assassination.

Have you learned calligraphy?  Do you mourn the removal of cursive handwriting from elementary school curriculums?