Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Simply Summer - What Will Bee Will Bee

There is a definite shortage of honeybees this summer.  Several people I know are complaining, for example, that their zucchini are flowering but not setting fruit.  Last year, for a similar reason, we had problems with cucumbers.

What I am seeing a lot of this year is bumblebees.  I did a little search online, and found an article discussing the role of bumblebees as pollinators in New York City community gardens.  So perhaps all these bumblebees are trying to pick up where our honeybees have failed - for reasons we still don't fully understand.  And it isn't just us-bee decline is hitting other parts of the world, such as the United Kingdom.

But, I can be encouraged by all the bumblebees I've seen recently.  Here are some pictures taken in the last few days-on ornamentals, for the most part, but still.  To paraphrase one of my favorite commercials "Roll that beautiful bee footage".
Bee on one of my basils.

Bee on an echinacea plant on the West side of Binghamton, New York.
And a bee on a sweet pea, again in Binghamton.

But where are the honeybees?  I think I found one - or at least a bee that wasn't a bumblebee.  I'm the first to admit I'm no expert on bees, as much as I love gardening, and as much as I depend on them.
So here she be, whatever kind of bee she is.

And with this post, I end another Ultimate Blog Challenge.  I'm also proud to say I completed Camp NaNoWriMo, and added another 10,000 words to my memoir - although most of it wasn't the "chicken memoir" part of my life.

Have you seen the decline in honeybees in your area? And, were you aware that bumblebees are in decline, too?

Its scary.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fears of Falling Part 2

Yesterday, I talked about falling during an exercise walk when my ankle suddenly gave out.

Late in the afternoon, I was in the bath, soaking some of my aches away, when the phone rang.  My spouse answered.  It was his sister.

She had been trying to reach their mother, who is 85 years old and has fallen several times in recent years, to check up on her.  My mother in law, it must be noted, has voluntarily given up night driving, and, although she goes out many times on Sunday, she is home usually by a certain time before sunset.

She lives with my brother in law, a man in his 50's with autism, a developmental disability - he helps her as he can, but the ways he can help are limited by his disability.  He is verbal, but finds it difficult to express himself.  My mother in law insists he can call 911 - but I'm not sure what would happen afterwards, assuming he can.

My sister in law had been trying to reach Mom for over an hour, at a time when she should have been home, without success. She decide to call my spouse, who is her oldest brother.  My spouse and I, incidentally, live almost three hours away by car.  That makes us long distance caregivers, like so many other Americans. 

We had compiled, a while back, a list of friends, neighbors and/or relatives who we could call in case of emergency. We had updated it earlier this year.

Out came the list.

But first, spouse tried to call the house, thinking that if something had happened, he could get his brother to answer the phone.  We've never actually tested whether he would call 911 in case of emergency - and, although my mother in law has an emergency monitoring service (the "I've fallen" bracelet, which at age 85 is not a joke) she doesn't wear her button a lot of the time.  (You can lead someone to water, but....)

No one answered, although spouse stayed on the line a couple of minutes beseeching his brother to answer if he was there.  It was time to call someone else.

The first neighbor he called answered, and said she would go to the house to check into the situation.  She came back a few minutes later, saying Mom's car was not in the garage.  It was way past the normal time where she would have been out driving - so now what?

Fortunately, a couple of minutes later, the neighbor saw her car, coming home, and let my spouse know.  What a relief!  My spouse called his sister, then his mother. She explained she had been at a birthday party a mile or so from her house, whose start had been delayed, and she wanted to stay for some of it, at least.

So all ended well.  THIS TIME.   Would we have ended up calling the local hospitals, or the police?  We don't know, and hopefully, we will never find out.  But, I just know, she is going to fall again.  And the next time, she might not be able to recover.  That is our greatest fear.

It just didn't happen yesterday, thankfully.

One day, we know, there will be an emergency.  Will we be ready?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fears of Falling

I was going to write a little wrap up of my efforts to expand my Camp NaNoWriMo "chicken memoir" - my effort to start writing a memoir, to include my experiences raising chickens in rural Arkansas during the misspent years of my youth 30's. But my ankle had other plans.

Yesterday, I was walking on the Vestal Rail Trail with my spouse, taking pictures and having a nice time.  I was into mile three of four, I think, when my right ankle suddenly gave out and the ground was rushing up to meet me.  This is something that happens infrequently (thank heavens) thanks to an ankle injury from many years ago.  In fact, I started to exercise walk in my 20's (I'm 60 now) partially because it was good for that ankle.

I ended up on my back (not missing hitting my head by much). I hit my left elbow and scraped it nicely, with blood dripping all over the trail.  And all I could think of, in a somewhat dazed state, (besides the pain in my elbow) was:


 It was in my right hand and - amazingly - I never let go of it.

So, yes, I am hurting.  I am not hurting near as badly as my Falling Friday episode of a couple of years ago, when I fell face first after tripping on an uneven sidewalk, and it turned out three other people I knew hurt themselves falling on the SAME DAY. I hope I don't find out other people I knew fell yesterday, too.

Of course, I'm now worried about infection, and I have the usual aches and pains.

But it got me to thinking - the last three times I've fallen, its been connected to walking.Twice, exercise walking.  Once, walking downtown.  I think I am going to have to find some ankle exercises to make sure this never happens again.  As I age, the consequences become more and more dangerous.

In the meantime, I am grateful I did not fall on my face.  And, yes, I'm grateful that I did not break my iPhone.  For right now, I am not going to worry about walking with it - I love the ability to take photos with it too much.  Cross fingers!

Do you have a problem with a weak ankle that will go out once or twice a year without warning? How have you dealt with it?

As I finally rested, late yesterday afternoon, the phone rang.... a little long distance caregiving episode was about to begin for my spouse.  More tomorrow.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Civil War Sunday - Sam Houston and the Prophetic Speech

Many know him only through the name of Houston, Texas, one of the largest cities in the United States.  Fewer know the history of this man Sam Houston, who was the elected governor of two states (Tennessee and Texas) and the only governor to ever be a foreign head of state (the President of the Republic of Texas, before it became the state of Texas.)

Governor Houston, a slave owner who opposed abolition, lost his office on the eve of the Civil War when Texas voted to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy.  Houston refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy and was evicted from office on March 16, 1861.  The War Between the States began barely a month later.

Again - few things in this war that tore our country apart for four years are clear cut, and, perhaps, that is what fascinates me the most about it.

This January, when the 2013 calendars went on clearance, I picked up a Civil War calendar for my office desk.  Each day has a different event connected to the Civil War.  One day, they featured a portion of a speech Houston gave from a hotel window on April 19, 1861:
“Let me tell you what is coming. Your fathers and husbands, your sons and brothers, will be herded at the point of bayonet. You may, after the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, win Southern independence... but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche... they will overwhelm the South.”
Sadly, Houston was proved correct, some 620,000 casualties later.  In some ways, our country has never recovered.

Sam Houston died 150 years ago this week - July 26, 1863, in Huntsville, Texas, in the Confederate States of America, and is buried there.  A 77 foot statue of Sam Houston there is considered to be the second tallest free standing sculpture in the United States.  Only the Statue of Liberty is taller.

Texas is a fascinating place - I lived there briefly many years ago.  Texans liked to say that "everything is bigger in Texas."  With Sam Houston, they were right.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sustainable Saturday-Happy 90th Birthday to You

Today, a park in Johnson City, New York celebrated a special 90th birthday with a Carousel Festival and cake for visitors.

Part of sustainable living?  Yes, because these carousels build community.  A community needs activities for its young.

CFJ Park in Johnson City is one of six parks in our area who received gifts from a local industrialist and philanthropist, George F. Johnson.  Johnson grew up poor, and could not afford to ride the carousels in his native Massachusetts.  He vowed that the children of the "Triple Cities" of upstate New York would always be able to ride area carousels.  He donated six carousels on condition that they would remain free, forever.  In turn, our community has kept that promise.

This year, CFJ's Park carousel turns 90.

All six carousels were manufactured by the Allan-Herschell Company of North Towanda, New York.

Each of the carousels has a panel showing their manufacturer.

CFJ Park is named after C. Fred Johnson, George F. Johnson's brother. Even Johnson City, New York, was renamed (its original name was Lestershire) after George F. Johnson.

Its carousel is the largest of the six carousels and contains 61 horses and one zebra.

This is the structure that houses the carousel.
When you enter, this is what you see.

Each of the horses is decorated with "jewels" and are individually decorated so that no two are exactly the same. All animals on a Johnson-donated carousel are "jumpers" i.e. they move up and down.

Panels above the horses are all decorated.  I don't think these are the original paintings but I love this one of hot air balloons.  In another week, our community will celebrate our annual Spiediefest which includes a Hot Air Balloon Rally.

One of the heads that decorate the top of the carousel.

Another one of the paintings (a bit overexposed, I'm afraid).

When my son was growing up, we spent many happy hours together on the carousels and it because a Labor Day tradition, for a few years, that I take his picture on a horse.

Sometimes I think that young children in our area are some of the luckiest in our country, because they have six carousels, all free, to ride during the summertime.  It's too bad their luck runs out when they grow up and it is time for them to look for jobs - but that is a post for another day.

Happy birthday, CFJ Carousel!

If you visit the Southern Tier of upstate New York during the summer - or are a Twilight Zone fan - you owe it to yourself to take a spin on one of these free, historic carousels from the 1920's.  And when you do, thank a poor boy from Massachusetts who grew up to delight generations of children.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Day Lilies of the Field - Why Grow Them?

Let's say "Summer Sunday Cutler Day Lilies" three times fast and I promise I will show you some. I will bring you, virtually, of course, to Cutler Botanical Gardens in Binghamton, New York.

These photos were taken last Sunday, during a spell of hot, humid weather.  But the day lilies didn't mind.  Reason one, perhaps, for growing them.  Reason two: they are so simple to grow, at least in our upstate New York area. (I was sorry, though, to find that deer will eat the flowers.  Thank you, fellow blogger who commented on that.  Other than that-easy to grow and low maintenance.)

Entering the day lily area, this is what you would have seen last Sunday.

There were few name tags, so their beauty will have to speak for themselves.   Shall we count the ways of day lily beauty?  There is the ruffled look...
The "I'm orange and proud of it" look...
The bi-color look....
The "I'm thin and flashy" look...
..and the "I'm so pink, and I know it" look.

So, why would we grow day lilies?  Because - they are so beautiful.

Want more?  Comment below!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Are We Willing to Pay the Price for Free?

Google.  Almost all of us online folks use one or more of their products. Is this a good thing?
(Note: This post doesn't even begin to touch on personal data collection, or the other prices we pay for "free" including the possible loss of personal liberty. That could easily be the topic of another post. Rather, I'm talking more about personal inconvenience.)

Today, I thought about just how Googleized (is that a word?) my life has become.  I like (and use) Google Maps (I love the iPhone app), Blogger (yup, the blog you are reading is hosted on Blogger), Google the search engine (I've tried Bing - yes, I like Google way better for searches I do), You Tube, and Gmail. I used to like to waste time with Google Earth, but haven't gotten into it recently. These products are all "free".  But, free has a price. And, it appears, that price has several components:

1. "We are going to waste your time by organizing you whether you like it or not."

Gmail gave me "tabs" for my email even though I didn't ask for them.  I don't want "social" and "promotion" tabs for my email.  Do you want to know how to get rid of those?

Google, give us inboxes or give us...oh, never mind.  But a quick search, Google - reveals I am far from the only one not too happy over this.

2. "You are going to get our ads shoved in your face whether you like it or not."

Gmail has always had ads - after all you must pay for free - but now the ads are in your face.  The first "in your face" ad insisted on me viewing a Facebook link for winning a trip to somewhere I have little interest in visiting. The ad explained it was based on an "email I received".

So, Google,you just confirmed that you really do read my email, or at least keywords.  And I'm at a loss knowing which email I received that mentioned that country.  It could have been a blog post someone I subscribe to wrote about their trip to that country.

I couldn't get rid of the ad entirely, but at least now it's inviting me to download a free spell checker. (I'm not the best speller, and Google must know that.  Well played, Google.)

3. "You are going to start using your Google Plus identity whether you like it or not for sites such as You Tube, and if you don't want to have your real name associated with your You Tube Account, well, lots of luck with that."

My You Tube channel does not have public links.  It is under my blog's name and I want to keep it that way.  My videos are not quite ready for prime time, or any other time, yet. It took me over an hour figuring out how to undo what Google was trying to do unto me, and You Tube whined at me at every turn, insisting I undo the changes.  For now, I've won.  Ask me again next month.

I can see the day where my Blogger blog will insist on me using my Google Plus profile, and that will cause another level of aggravation and time wasting because I do not want my real name directly associated with my blog.  I've written enough about the neighborhood where I live, and I don't want a direct association with my name. Although, because I use Twitter to comment on a lot of blogs, my secret identity is actually not that secret.  Using Google you can...(sigh).

Yes, again, I realize their products are powerful, and they are free. If Google can't use ads and other techniques, their products won't stay free.  So yes, I know that free means "it isn't REALLY free; we just hope you aren't going to find the hidden "yeah, but" in our fine print."

So, each of us must make the decision:  Are we willing to pay the price for free?  So far, I've been.

Are you willing to pay the price for "free"?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Simply Summer - How to Grow Daylilies

Day lilies - for many parts of our country, they are an ideal flower for the beginner.

Hardy in a range of approximately zone 3 to zone 9 (sorry, parts of Florida), it doesn't take much more than choosing your color and height and planting them in a sunny spot - and then spending the rest of your busy day on something else.  Yes, it's that easy.

These are not true lilies, but who cares?  Lots of color combinations. Spider type, striped type, fringed type.  Some are fragrant. No pruning needed, no insect pests, few diseases - the only care they will need, besides your love, is making sure they have sufficient water (yes, they will grow in semi-desert areas) and dividing them every few years.  Oh yes, fertilize them yearly with some compost.  Some people recommend mulching them before their first winter, but in my zone 5, I've never found that to be necessary.

Groundhogs don't bother them (and I should know). They are said to be deer-resistant, but since I don't have much of a deer problem (knock on my garden fence) I can't confirm that.

But what a reward you get for your few minutes of care.  These are daylilies from my yards. I got the first three from a plant sale last year at Binghamton, New York's Cutler Botanical Gardens and they are in my front yard.  The woman who sold these to us told my spouse and me that these came from a garden in Pennsylvania - and they didn't know the varieties - or, in some cases - even the colors.

The price, though, was right.  As it turned out, these are shorter varieties and I may have to replant them in slightly different locations when it's time to divide them.
This and the photo below have not been shared previously on my blog.

This third one ended up being buried.  It will definitely have to be moved.
Here are some more of my daylilies.  This first one is (somehow) growing in my oregano bed.
The next two below I've had for years.
This last one is a taller, larger variety and is magnificent near my back yard fence.
Alas, the one drawback of day lilies is: they are well named. Each bloom lasts for a single day.  These would not be the best choice for cut flowers.

Yes, in upstate New York, July isn't July without a few - or a lot - of day lilies.

What s your favorite go-to flower?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The 100th Anniversary of the Binghamton Clothing Company Fire -When History Comes Alive

All of us are scared of fire. It is an instinctive fear, I believe.  Fire has the power to heat our houses, to cook our food - and to destroy our lives in a matter of minutes. Or, to scar us terribly, physically or emotionally.  For many of us, fire is part of our deepest nightmares.

Sometimes, those nightmares come true.

Many Americans have heard of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 2011, that took the lives of 146 workers in New York City as thousands of onlookers watched, helpless, in horror.  Many of the dead were Jewish and Italian immigrant women trying to make a living for their families.

Not as many people have heard of the Binghamton Clothing Company Fire of July 22, 1913, one hundred years ago yesterday, and over two years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. This fire took the lives of 31 more workers, again, mostly women, working in a four story building that was destroyed in less than 20 minutes. The fire escape was inadequate and there was no continuous staircase for the workers to escape from.  At least two of the dead, a man, and a woman, died heroically trying to save their co-workers.

Many of the dead were buried in a mass grave in Binghamton.

These two fires, combined, led to badly needed fire safety reform.

It is amazing, in a way, to read the account published in the New York Times on July 23, 1913, and the early, damning results of the investigation into the fire. (note, these two links lead to PDF's which will need Adobe Acrobat reader or similar to read.)

Descendents of  the dead still live in this area and they, the former historian of our county, and firemen, gathered yesterday to commemorate the anniversary.  To quote from our local paper (I am doing this, in addition to providing a link, because our paper charges for online subscriptions and I feel this information needs to be shared in honor of the affected families ):
The Rev. Charles Connor — whose great-great-aunt Nellie Theresa Connor died in the blaze after saving many of her co-workers — read the names of each victim.
As the crowd bowed their heads, the whine of a lone bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace” broke the silence .. A wreath of white flowers with gold writing that read “100th Anniversary” sat beside a table with black-and-white pictures of the fire’s aftermath.

Gerald Smith, former Broome County historian, retold the horrific story from a century ago, when more than 100 workers frantically tried to escape the burning four-story brick building.

If you read comments on this blog post, you will see comments from descendents of the victims - a link to history that is thrilling.

Never forget that history is the story of You and Me - and we forget history at our peril.  Indeed, quoting again from the local coverage:

Ricky O’Connor, 16, traveled from Atlanta, Ga., with his father, Kevin, to attend the anniversary. He recalled growing up with stories about his ancestor, Nellie Connor. “I think it’s good that I have a hero in the family I can relate to,” O’ Connor said, standing beside his father and other relatives, including Rev. Charles Connor, who attended from Maryland.“She is the cornerstone of our family,” he added.

Do you have a family link to the history of your local area?

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Perfect Plant

I love coleus.  It is almost the perfect plant.
I purchased the coleus in this hanging basket last fall at the Ithaca, New York, farmers market.  It was reduced (my favorite kind of find) and in a little hanging basket.  I took it right to my office and it thrived there.

Now, it is thriving in a shady spot on my porch that I would consider full shade.  I've taken a number of cuttings, for other containers I have, and it roots readily in water - takes only about a week.  I gave cuttings to my son for his tiny garden.  I'll be taking cuttings son to root and put back into the hanging basket I bought it in, and back to my desk at work it will go.

So, why should you grow coleus?
1. It comes in tens of color combinations - see what this garden blogger has done with hers. (Thank you, Cosmos and Cleome, for the inspiration to write this post.
2. Coleus is deer resistant and groundhogs (the bane of our home garden) don't seem to bother them, either.
3. Most varieties thrive in part shade to shade.  Some newer coleus tolerate full sun.
4.  They do well in containers.  Some, like the one I have, are trailing plants.
5.  Up to now anyway, I've never had problems with insect pests on coleus.

The only downside I know of -they aren't hardy in areas with frost. But, you can grow them indoors in winter from cuttings.

If flowers appear, snip them off immediately.  The flowers are insignificant, and will drain energy from the plant.
Can you imagine using coleus in a garden mosaic?  If you look at this gallery of photos, you can easily imagine coleus art. Maybe one day I will try that.

Do you have a favorite "go to" plant that is ideal for you?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Civil War Sunday - The "Other" John Brown and the Battle of Fayetteville, AR

After an over 25 year absence, my spouse and I plan to return to Arkansas, the site of our failed homesteading adventure and the location of my future "chicken memoir".

(I've tried to write some more of the memoir during this month's Camp NaNoWriMo session. I keep getting sidetracked, and I will be blogging soon about my experience. And, yes, the Civil War in Arkansas had a tiny bit to do with it. )  But, now, back to Civil War Sunday.

Arkansas, during the Civil War, was part of the Confederate States of America, but was occupied by Union troops for part of the war.   Fayetteville and the surrounding area within Washington County, Arkansas, were part of that occupation by 1863.

The Western battles in this war tend to be neglected by many - so many times it seems we concentrate on the action on the East Coast.  Battles in Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas and other more western states deserve more attention.

The Civil War was in my consciousness, even all those years ago.  I was in my 30's, and my entire focus was on trying (and failing) to "live off the land".

I lived not that far (as a bird would fly) from the sites of two 1862 Civil War battles - Prairie Grove Battlefield Park and the Cane Hill battleground.  For all I know, one or both armies - Union and/or Confederate - traveled across  the land we owned.  I wonder if the Washington County, Arkansas historian could help me find out. 

One thing I never realized is that Fayetteville, the city in Northwest Arkansas that I lived in for several months, and worked in for over four years, had its own John Brown.

No, not John Brown the abolitionist of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia fame.

No, this John Brown was about as different as "that" John Brown could be.  Fayetteville's John Brown was John Henry Brown, a Texan, who eventually became the mayor of Dallas, Texas after the war.

Brown served in the Confederate Army and, for a time, was stationed in Fayetteville.  While he was there he published a Fayetteville paper called The War Bulletin. This paper, to put it mildly, was pro-secessionist. 

Brown also printed money for the Fayetteville area on his printing press.

In 1863, a small battle, the Battle of Fayetteville, was fought (a failed attempt by the Confederates to liberate Fayetteville from Federal occupation) at what is now a major intersection of Fayetteville.  A commemoration of its 150th anniversary was held on April 18.  This newsletter has an interesting account, with photos, of the 100th anniversary commemoration in 1963.

Fayetteville, Arkansas has changed tremendously since I lived and worked there in the early 1980's.  It has more than doubled in population and there has been a lot of new development.  I look forward to visiting later this year after over 25 years of last being there, and - yes, learning more about its Civil War history.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - The Farmers Market Manager

I've had the pleasure, the last two weeks, of being able to chat with Abigail Stevens, the manager of the Otsiningo Park farmers market on the outskirts of Binghamton, New York, an upstate New York city of about 47,000 residents.  She's set up a booth at the Otsiningo Park farmers market to talk to the public - something that she calls "her passion". 

She is knowledgeable, energetic and an excellent spokesperson for local farmers' markets.

We are soon to get a year round indoor farmers market (greatly needed in this land of winters that sometimes give us over 100 inches of snow in a year) and construction will begin next month.

Ms. Stevens assured me (contrary to rumors) that the market will not endanger the nearby community gardens we've participated in for many years (at least for the next three years) although our parking area will change.  If the market must be moved, she assured me that it would be relocated to a different part of Otsiningo Park, a county park.

The best part of our talk, though, was finding out that Ms. Stevens is also managing the Binghamton downtown farmers market this year.  As I've blogged about before, this downtown market is dwindling and action is needed.  I discussed some of my concerns, as expressed in the blog. 

Unlike the requirement Otsiningo Park's market has of everything coming from a 50 mile radius of the market, the Binghamton downtown market does not have a similar requirement.  Ms. Stevens did speak to that (this is something that won't change in the immediate future for reasons she shared with me) but assured me that, as part of her job as manager, she visits the farm of every vendor in both markets.

Most of all, Ms. Stevens noted the downtown Binghamton market, while she works to improve it, needs the support of everyone who works, lives or shops in downtown Binghamton.

So, what else is going on at the Otsiningo market?
Today - shitake mushrooms and blueberries....(I hope we can pick blueberries tomorrow)

Last week, potatoes...
...and local cheese.

Between last week and this, we bought local garlic, lemon thyme MooVache, lettuce, eggs. Other produce, right now, we are getting from our community garden.  I am grateful that I have the financial resources to shop at farmers markets.

Were you able to support your local farmer this week?

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Rattlesnake Master of Manhattan

Two weeks ago last Friday, on another hot Friday afternoon, my spouse and I walked the High Line, an elevated park in Manhattan, in New York City.  Come along with me on a virtual walk and you will see a "rattlesnake master."  But first...
Clethra barbinervis
 These pictures were taken near the Gansevoort Street entry point of the High Line.  The Clethra
 might not be hardy where I live in upstate New York but, I think it is attractive.  It's supposed to have good fall color, too.
Clerodendrum trichotomum
Eryngium yuccifolium
This last plant above is commonly called rattlesnake master.  There's even a run in Illinois named after this prairie plant.  It was named out of a belief that its root could be used to treat rattlesnake bite. (For my European readers, rattlesnakes are a poisonous snake of North and South America.) From my research, this doesn't appear to grow in upstate New York, but could possibly grow in the New York City area.  I've certain never seen this here.

Thanks to the bloom guide on the High Line website, I was able to identify the flowers in this post.
Ruellia humilis

Finally, deviating from the white theme - a flower I have not seen in years (I don't think) - wild petunia.

Only strange people like me, I guess, visit Manhattan to see wildflowers.  But, in the annals of strange, I'm sure this doesn't even rate.

Do you visit places known mainly for one thing, to see something totally different?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Local Vs. Chain - It Can Be Two Shades of Grey

I am all for supporting local businesses.  But sometimes the choice isn't, as we like to say in this country, "black or white".

What happens when you want to eat out and your choices are a large restaurant chain employing local people vs. a local restaurant business?   The answer may not be as clearcut as you might think - no black and white here, but perhaps two shades of grey.

Last week, I ate out two days in a row.  Please help me judge my experiences.

Experience One
I was in a party of eight.  We were seated promptly and efficiently by two servers, who combined to serve our table efficiently.  Both servers were personable and made sure water was refilled and salad (included with the meal) kept coming.  The menus were professionally printed and gave us the information we needed to make our choices.

One soup was not what was ordered, and the correct soup was quickly brought.  Otherwise, all the dinners were well prepared, and everyone (including my brother in law, who is developmentally disabled) had a nice time.

Experience Two
I was in a party of two. This was a lunch during our lunch periods at work, so my co worker and I had a limited time to spend at lunch.  Two menus were brought to each of us, a "express" menu and a lunch menu.  Each of our express menus were blurry, and part of the margin was cut off. In other words, some of the menu was cut off and it was also almost unreadable.  (My co worker, who is younger than I am, had the same comment about the blurriness.)

My meal, chosen from the express menu, gave a "choice of toppings".    One of the toppings was sour cream. The waiter explained the menu was wrong; there was no choice. I asked if it could be left off.  The waiter said no, because "this was the express menu". I asked if the sour cream could, then, at least be served on the side.  The waiter said he would see what he could do (it did come on the side.)

The service was very slow but this seems to be the case at a lot of downtown Binghamton restaurants, not just this one.

When it was time for us to leave, both of us had food on our plates.  The server brought boxes, then decided my companion's dinner needed a smaller box,and disappeared.  And didn't return.  We didn't have our checks yet so we just had to wait...and wait.  Finally he reappeared, with a smaller box and the check.  He said he would be back "in a few minutes" to take our payment, and disappeared again. We were very late, so we just left money on the table, and left.

Did I complain?  See below.

1.  Which of the restaurants would you eat at again?
2.  Which of the restaurants was a chain and which was local?

1.  The restaurant of Experience One.
2.   Experience One was a national chain (Olive Garden, to be exact) and Experience Two was a popular local Binghamton restaurant.

I wasn't even going to complain to Experience Two but a couple of my co-workers told me the owners deserved to know about my experience.  "Perhaps they would make it right", said one of them. 

The restaurant has a website with a contact email. This experience occurred Thursday.  I emailed them last Friday and last night got a brief response acknowledging that he received the email and he would respond.  Fair enough, he has to investigate, although if he has an email contact on his website he might want to monitor it more frequently in order to stay in touch with his customers.  But, I must have to say, at this point in time I don't plan to return and neither does my co-worker.

Have you ever had a disappointing experience at a local business and given your business to a comparable national chain instead?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Simply Summer - Hot and Flowery

July. It's hot in upstate New York. We've reached 90 or above for the fourth day this year. (some of you in other climes may be saying "so what's the big deal?".  One thing it's done is jump start the plants that were languishing because of our cool, rainy weather earlier this year.  It's also giving the soil a chance to dry out.

Here are some flowers blooming today in the Binghamton/Johnson City area.
Eggplant.  Yes, eggplants have flowers, and they hang down - but I think they have a special charm.  This plant is growing in an Earthbox in my backyard.
Crocosmias.  I love these flowers, both open and closed.  These are survivors - there's a long story behind these and I only wish I had more of them.  They really need to be in a large, close bunch.
Scarlet runner bean plants - you can just see the scarlet flowers here.  We've gotten no beans, though - maybe it's too hot for them?

Our glads are starting to put up flower spikes-I haven't grown them in many years (except one year which was "sort of an accident")  and I can't wait to see them bloom.

And last but not least, we found this lily during our exercise walk in Binghamton yesterday.  My guess is it's an Asiatic lily - but I am no lily expert.  There are so many hybrids out there, I sometimes just don't know.

Are you in the Northeast United States heatwave?  How has your weather been recently?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Jazzing Up Binghamton

Got jazz?

Last Friday morning, I approached downtown Binghamton, New York, and, to my delight, found potted flowering plants lined up around a temporary stage.

It was time for July Fest - a street festival and downtown Binghamton's opportunity to shine.
(2012 sign created by July Fest participants courtesy of the Magic Paintbrush Project, which provides art opportunities for disabled children and adults )

Perry Building, 89 Court St., Binghamton, NY
 This year, I walked around with a relative who spends a lot of time in New York City.  She took pictures of several of the historic buildings of downtown Binghamton - for example, the Perry Building.
This time, Court Street was packed with booths, food vendors, and live entertainment.

Here, jazz singer Glenda Davenport performs in the Binghamton Music and Jazz Festival which brought July Fest back "from the brink" several years ago.  Now, it is an integral part of the festival.

This is a short video taken towards the end of her set.  Enjoy!

We are only at the beginning of various public performances of jazz and other music in Binghamton, and all of these are free: (I'm not even listing weekly performances in various parks throughout the area) - although I say "free" a lot of volunteer work goes into these, and some accept donations or have fundraisers.

Rec Park Music Fest
Chris Thater Music Festival (part of a fantastic bicycle racing event - a MUST VIEW)
Blues on the Bridge

Do you have a lot of music events where you live?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - July 2013 Hot! Hot! Hot!

Summertime, and the living is - hot.  Here in upstate New York, it's the late afternoon of July 15 and it's time for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  After you visit my blog, please visit other flower gardens from around the world using the links on May Dream Gardens, who hosts this event every month.

It's the most wonderful time of the year, at least for plants here.  Plentiful rain (too much, actually) and now, nature has turned up the heat.

So, what plants are soaking up the 90 degree heat in my Binghamton/Johnson City, New York area yard?  Here are some of them.
The first several photos are day lillies.  The first couple are types I've had for many years, and their names are lost in the mists of time. (Actually, if I had planted them last week, their names would have been lost in the mists of time, too.) So let's just call this one "fragrant orange striped".

These next two were plants picked up at a cooperative plant sale last week.  They were dug from a Pennsylvania garden, and they didn't have names of most of the plants.  That must have been a gardener with the same philosophies as I do.  So let's call this one "yellow".
I love this one.

My hostas (also a variety I've had for many years) are having a great year.
My first dahlia flower showed itself a couple of days ago.  This was given to me by a co-worker some 25 years ago - she passed in 1990 from melanoma, and I think of her every time I see the first
And now some edibles.  Tangerine Gem marigolds are thriving.
Scarlet runner bean flowers, which we are growing in a pot in our front yard.

Alaska nasturtium.

And finally, in our back yard, an onion flower. We don't have official onion beds (we do grow onions in our community garden plot in Binghamton) but this one escaped our compost heap.

Do you garden? What's happening in your garden or in your area? (and if the answer is "winter", no worries.  Our turn will be here before we know it, alas.)

Please consider joining the fun and link up if you flower garden or have indoor flowers - and if not, please look at the other gardens and their blooms.