Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Fayetteville Arkansas Farmers Market

Today, on our vacation in the southeastern state of Arkansas, we visited the downtown Fayetteville, AR farmers market that is celebrating its 40th birthday.

It was the first farmers market I had ever visited, back in - do I dare admit it? 1981.

It is still going strong, unlike the downtown farmers market in Binghamton, New York, where I work. Sometimes I wonder:  what will our future be, in Binghamton?

Binghamton, take careful notes.  When I first worked in Fayetteville in 1981, its population was 36,600 and Binghamton's (which I didn't move to until the mid 1980's) was 55,860.

Now, in 2013:  Fayetteville 76,900.  Binghamton:  47,376.  There are many reasons for this, but that would take an entire post (or more than one) to blog about. 

One of the things Fayetteville is doing right is their farmers market, which was voted #1 market in its category in 2012.  Fayetteville has a town square and this market went all the way around. (It's a 3 day a week market, incidentally, plus a fourth day in another location).

Some items for sale were not surprising at all, here at the end of August.
Greens (although lemon grass wouldn't have been sold in 1981-nor Thai basil.)

Tomatoes would have been sold - but not heirlooms, including the Arkansas Traveler (not pictured).

Peppers (not just as many colors)
The musical entertainment was no surprise.
But this was.  It was actually a complete, but pleasant, surprise to see who was selling a lot (not all of) the produce, because this was not part of the rural scene in Arkansas back in 1981.  It made me so happy to see that.

We enjoyed talking to several of the vendors.  And, what we found was, Binghamton has a lot to learn from Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

It must, or it won't survive.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Art of Wal-Mart

Arkansas, the land of art.

Not just folk art.  But fine art, the museum quality art of people such as Arthur Dove, Gilbert Stuart, John Singleton Copley, Asher Durand, Thomas Cole, and others.  And, it is FREE.

In the Northwest Arkansas city of Bentonville, where the giant chain Wal-Mart got its start, the family of the late Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton opened a world class art museum called Crystal Bridges a couple of years ago.  It is sponsored by the Walton family - so, when you shop at Wal-Mart, think of this place as your reward.

It is worth seeing.  You can get right up close, and sketch if you want.  It is a dream for those who love to study art.  I am not any kind of art expert, but I enjoyed the little bit of the exhibit I saw.

We visited briefly this evening, but were just slightly overwhelmed.  Yes, a blogger who grew up in New York City, overwhelmed by an art museum.

Can you imagine retiring in this area, and having something like this in your backyard?

The museum is nestled into a ravine cut by Crystal Spring (hence, the name) with the spring in the middle.

 It really fools you - you think the building is on multiple levels, but (we were assured by a docent) it is only due to the topography.
A Friday concert being set up, near the spring.
One of the many outdoor sculptures (it was in the 90's, and we just didn't have the stamina after a full day of sightseeing to explore the extensive grounds.)  But tomorrow, we hope to explore some of the trails.

This is one of the art works I enjoyed.  It is called "Winter Scene in Brooklyn" by Francis Guy.  Photography (without flash) is permitted and I hope it is OK to post this.  This scene is from the early 1800's and I loved the scene.

There are even two George Washington paintings by Gilbert Stuart, the man who created the portrait that is on the American one dollar bill.

Arkansas - land of surprises.  The rural Benton County I remembered from 27years ago has grown up.

Tomorrow is my last day in Arkansas.  I will return with a lot of memories.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dust In The Wind

There is a blogger in Nebraska who is a born writer.

Yesterday, she wrote a post asking if the modern homesteading movement had reached its peak.  I can't answer her question, but I can sure write (and write and write) about the previous "back to the land movement", the one that lasted into the early 1980's, because I was part of that.

Not in a "hippie" way.  We weren't hippies - no, we were far from it, probably about as far from it as you could get.  But here we were anyway.

We were afraid the economy was tanking, along with a lot of other people.  Although we were in our late 20's, we found ourselves trying to prepare for a future that was uncertain.  Part of it was reading a magazine called "Mother Earth News" and deciding we were going to "live off the land". Oh, and by the way, unlike my fellow blogger in Nebraska, neither of us had any relatives that had ever pursued the rural life.  We were fully urban. 

And yet....we had dreams of self-sufficiency, of living the "organic way", and Arkansas turned out to be the place where we were going to make them come true.  My spouse was in the Air Force, he was stationed in Wichita, KS and his enlistment was going to be up in another year.  We went on a vacation and bought land.  We moved a year after my spouse left the military, and gave it a good shot. 

We lasted five years.  It was five years we are very proud of.  We learned skills, we learned there was courage in us we didn't think we had, and we learned that failure means only that you tried, and you need to do something different.   I realized part of this in trying to write a "chicken memoir" in Camp NaNoWriMo this year, and part of it by coming back to where we tried.

A life without trying and failing is not a life at all.

And you know what?  Our dreams really did come true in the next 27 years.  My spouse and I are married 38 years.  We have a grown son.  We garden, my spouse sometimes cans, we shop at farmers markets, I've blogged these last four years, and we are still curious, still wanting to champion the sustainable lifestyle.

Why did we fail?

We were too unprepared, still too immature.  And, Arkansas wasn't ready for us, either.

We've somehow, we and Arkansas, moved towards each other in the 27 years since we left, and we've met in the middle. 

So I wanted to take you on parts of the drive we made yesterday.

Northwest Arkansas has grown tremendously over the past 27 years.  Just from 2000 to 2010, the population grew 71%.

But, at some point in the nearly 27 mile drive from Fayetteville to our former land, it was almost like time had stood still.  The roads were back down to two lanes.  Farmers drove slowly.  The traffic lights disappeared. Round hay bales stood in the fields.  Cattle grazed.

We went through Canehill, an incorporated place that could have been great except for the Civil War.  I will tell the story of Canehill in one of my future Civil War Sunday posts.   Several historic buildings, in ruins, the remnants of its former history as a college town, and a ruined mill, can be seen if you know where to look.  And we did know, even though we had never bothered to investigate its history when we had lived near there.

And then we made the turn into the small town of Morrow.

We passed what used to be the Morrow Cash Store, a true general store. (We didn't go in).
Then, we turned onto the road where we lived.  A little of it is paved now, but most of it is still unpaved.  Just like when we left.

So let me tell you what we found. 

We had two neighbors.  One (we had found this out right before we left) died last year and the other died earlier this year.  We had not kept in touch with one at all; the other, it had been many years.

The house of one of them (he and his wife had moved before we did) was gone  - absolutely no trace of it, or his barn.  No foundation, no nothing.  As of last year, the other neighbor was still living exactly where they had been. I don't know if she, as a widow, is still there or not, but her trailer was there.

The cabin my spouse built with the help of his son - gone.  Our chicken house - gone.

The peach tree we had planted - gone.  My roses.  My flower beds.  Gone.

Our garden areas - gone.  Our raspberries - gone.
The people living there had two dogs who ran after our car, and no trespassing signs at the driveway made it clear they would not welcome a visit (which we weren't planning to do anyway, but I did want to get out and walk on the road.  I abandoned that idea quickly).  

We went up the road a bit, turned around, drove down the hill and left, as I took pictures.  When we had cell phone service again, I sent pictures to my son.

We will never come back to Morrow.  There is no need.  Only ghosts of our past remained, and we let them go.  They flew away in the hot, late August, breeze, dust in the wind.

For many of the homesteaders of the 1970's, I suspect what happened to us also happened to them. Some succeeded.  Many didn't.  But they took what they learned back to the city, and changed our country.

I think this is what is going to happen again, with the modern homesteading movement.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Simply Summer - Is Progress Our Most Important Product?

 It's time to blog about what I've been experiencing the last three days, ever since I arrived in Arkansas.

What was farmland or woods is now shopping centers.  Massive strip malls, nonstop, seemingly, from just north of the Missouri border, through once quiet towns that are now bustling cities.

What were quiet, scenic roads - housing developments, office parks, and more construction.  One city (an Arkansas city can be just a couple of thousand people) that had one blinking control light in 1986 now has four traffic lights, a biker bar, and a Civil War battlefield park that is about four times as big as when I last drove past it.

What was once a quiet U.S. highway winding through a rural area now features rush hour traffic on an Interstate that did not exist (I-540).

Tall office buildings.  Gigantic Wal-Marts.  Road constuction.

I-540 South near Rogers, AR
I got to thinking about something, something that I first realized exiting a shopping center parking lot (one of the few things that was there when I was last here 27 years ago) on Monday.  I thought about it again and again these next two days.

U.S. 71Business Heading into Fayetteville, AR

At least, the beautiful, green hills are unchanged.  For now.

So much of this was due to one man. Yes, one man.  The next time you think one man, or one woman, can't make a difference in the lives of thousands, consider this.

His name was Sam Walton.  

You may know him as the founder of Wal-Mart.  But he did something, something of absolute genius, once Wal-Mart became that "certain size" that could "highly recommend".

He "highly recommended" that Wal-Mart's suppliers open corporate offices near the Wal-Mart corporate offices in Northwest Arkansas.   And they came.  And they came. And they came some more.  They weren't satisfied with the quiet.  They wanted what they had left.

When I lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas and the surrounding area some 30 years ago, the population was fairly homogeneous and things were - well, quiet.  Now, there are million dollar homes for some.  Ethnic food.  Liquor where it used to be dry. But is the average Arkansan better off?  I am no longer an Arkansan - maybe I never was - and they have to answer that question.  I can't.  And, just who is an average Arkansan? I've met so many people in the past few days who obviously weren't born here.

Maybe I was just 30 years too early.

I'm comforted by the thought that maybe Sam Walton himself (who died in 1992) wouldn't recognize the place, either.

It makes me wonder if progress really is our most important product (that, incidentally, was a G.E. advertising slogan when I was growing up in the early 60's) or if quality of life is something more.

But, I have too many things to think about - too many things to process.

Tomorrow, I return to where I did my rural homesteading in the early 80's.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Getting Reacquainted with Arkansas

The dreams started to come about five years ago.  I was traveling on College Avenue, a main street in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  It was always in the dark, and I was always looking for something.  What, I never knew. 

I finally decided it was time to find out.

Yesterday, arriving in Northwest Arkansas, I was in shock.  And, I blogged about the shock of change yesterday.  I just wasn't ready to blog about it.

Today, I know (and I hope I'm right) that some things will never change.

The Farmers Market in downtown Fayetteville, AR was only eight years old when I started to work in downtown Fayetteville.  Now, it celebrates its 40th year in business.
Pawpaw Tree, Downtown Fayetteville
I personally don't like the native pawpaw fruit, but it is nice to be back in pawpaw territory.

The peaches and nectarines are nearly at the end of their harvest, and the apples are coming in.  Soon, our apples in upstate New York will be coming in, too.  Our blueberries just finished up, some two months after the Arkansas berries did.

The downtown Fayetteville farmers market, incidentally, was voted #1 in the nation in 2012.  We spoke to several vendors, and it was a pleasure meeting them.
Crepe Myrtle, downtown Fayetteville, AR
It is so nice to see crepe myrtles again.
And the people of Fayetteville still love their Razorbacks....Sooie!

Just in slightly new ways.

Arkansas will always be a natural - and I will be blogging more about Arkansas in the next few days.

Yes, Arkansas changed in those 27 years, and I promise I will blog more about what I found.  After today, I know the change is both for the good and for the bad.

But I do know this - I will never wander down College Avenue in my dreams again, because I have found what I was looking for.

Tomorrow - Simply Summer.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Be Careful What You Ask For

Twenty-seven years ago, I started a journey that I completed tonight.

After living for five years in somewhat rural Northwest Arkansas in the 1980s, trying to see if we could make a go of living on rural land, we left, and moved back to New York State.  We never returned.

In the meantime, time passed, both for us and for Northwest Arkansas.

In upstate New York, we grew older, I gave birth to, and we raised, a son, and my hair turned grey. (I like to think that having my son had something to do with the grey hair- only kidding.)

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, time did not stand still, although my memories did.

Wal-Mart,headquartered in Northwest Arkansas, became hugely successful, as did other Northwest Arkansas businesses such as J.B. Hunt (trucking) and Tyson (chicken).  Populations doubled and even tripled.  An interstate was built.

And, about five years ago, I started wanting to go back to Arkansas, just to see what had happened, what had changed, what had gotten better, what had gotten worse.

Tonight, I returned.

Be careful of what you ask for. I knew intellectually what progress had done.  I had not seen it though, through my eyes and my heart, not until tonight.

Have you ever heard the song "My City Was Gone" by the Pretenders?

Years ago, I returned to Orlando, FL after 30 years and had seen a sleepy city replaced by tall buildings and superhighways.  But I had never lived there and my heart hadn't been invested in it.

Arkansas is different.  Right now, I am in shock, and even a little bit in tears. I'll explain more later this week.

I know tomorrow will be different.  I will just pretend, perhaps, that I was never here, ever before.....and I will have to accept the change.  Not like, no. But accept.  Yes, I have no choice.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Best of AM - The Auto Train as Spiritual Journey Part 2

This is one of the first blog posts I wrote, back in 2009 when I started this blog.  Civil War Sunday is on hiatus - I hope you will enjoy this travel post, instead.  This story will conclude tomorrow.  Join me in this train story, as I go back in time to my childhood.

In July of 1966, my father and I flew down to Tampa, Florida to visit family. It was my first "real" trip outside of the general area around my native New York City and my first time on an airplane. We were supposed to fly back home except...the airlines went on strike. Every single one of them.

My Dad had to get home and get back to work. The way back home turned out to be on an Atlantic Coast Line train. Tampa to NYC. The ride was about 26 hours long.

I was familiar with the NYC subways and had even ridden the Long Island Railroad, but this was something different.

I can still remember portions of the journey 43 years later. A dinner (I remember how expensive the prices seemed), served on china. Many people carrying Atlantic Coast Line bags; how I wish we had bought one. At one point they told people the train was going to split, and if you weren't in the correct car you would end up going somewhere else. But most of all, the scenery stayed with me. When you are on a train, there is an intimacy totally unlike seeing the country from the Interstate. On a train you travel literally through people's back yards. Their everyday lives are yours to observe as you speed past. We traveled through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina. Rural poverty unfolded around me, almost close enough to touch. It wasn't the war on poverty from television. This was reality.

I don't remember much about the big cities, although I know we later traveled through Baltimore and Philadelphia. It's the countryside I remember. And the countryside that called to me the next time I would travel on a long distance train, 40 years later, back to Florida.

Tomorrow, my then-16 year old son and I connect on a train.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - What the President Missed Yesterday

I interrupt my 3 part posting on the Auto Train as spiritual journey to bring you this note to our President, the day after he visited our area.

You were so close to me yesterday and yet so far away.  You and your motorcade, yesterday, visited the upstate New York area where I live.  Presidents visit so rarely here.  This isn't Iowa, where people breakfast with Presidential candidates daily (or so it seems, sometimes.)  I rarely get political and I promise I will keep this non-partisan.

I think the last time a President visited us was 13 years ago. So this was a big deal for us, here in upstate New York.  You thrilled people in Auburn by exercising at the "Y".  You gave a speech in a high school in Syracuse, a city which has, sadly, seen much better days.

So has the area where I've lived for many years, what we call the "Triple Cities" of Binghamton, Johnson City, and Endicott.

You came, and you conducted a town hall in a university and then you sped away to your next stop.  You saw students, and you saw a lot of protesters.  Such is the life of a President.  You can't get out among the people, because that's too dangerous.  It's a lesson several previous Presidents, sadly, learned the hard way years ago.  So everything is carefully planned for you.

But this is what you could have seen, if only you could have escaped from your security bubble and walked our streets. You could have seen people shopping at a farmer's market, enjoying the fresh air (wasn't it nice, yesterday?) and filling their stomachs with good, locally produced food.
Downtown Binghamton Farmers Market 8-23-13
When you see this nice picture, also know that there is a food desert a couple of miles away.  I lived, years ago, in the neighborhood where that "desert" now is, on the North Side of Binghamton.  That neighborhood has seen better days, too, and those better days may never return.  They haven't had a supermarket there for years. I'm sorry you didn't get to hear that story.  You should.

It's nice to talk about college affordability, but people have other things on their mind here.  Jobs.  Health insurance.  Fracking.  And yes, food. Affordable, high quality food.
This would have been music to those Binghamton residents' stomachs.
And these beets and tomatoes would have been so welcome on tables, too.

It would have been nice if you had seen what committed people are doing to try to relieve the food crisis here, with an organization called VINES.  They will be selling at another farmers market today.
I could have taken you on a walk.  You could have seen fruit trees growing on the West side of Binghamton....
And a fruit tree my neighborhood near Johnson City.

And even a blueberry u-pick operation. (Last week for blueberries!)

Still, I'm glad you came.  Everyone I spoke to yesterday, regardless of political affiliation, was also glad that you came. It will probably be a long time before any President shows up in our Triple Cities again, as I said earlier.

But, Mr. President, you really need to truly get among the people.

Maybe next time?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Best of AM - The Auto Train as Spiritual Journey Part 1

This series was one of the first things I posted on my blog back in 2009.  In honor of the Labor Day travel season, I post it again.  I took a fourth ride on the Auto Train this winter and - well, one of these days I'll post about that, too.  Enjoy!

Now that spring has come, I can admit that this is actually my second spring of the year.

My first spring was in early March, when spouse and I took the Auto Train to Florida. And, unexpectedly, back again.

For those of you who live on the East Coast and do not enjoy flying, the Auto Train is an alternative. It is an Amtrak train that runs non stop (well, one stop, but not to take on passengers) between Lorton, VA (just south of DC) and Sanford, FL (just north of Orlando). If you are lucky you leave around 4pm (either way) and arrive the next day around 10. In another hour or so, you have your car and you are on your way.

Catches? A couple....
1. You must have a vehicle (doesn't have to be a car-can be a motorcycle, SUV or something large) to ride the Auto Train
2. Planning to sleep? Don't. Expect to be sleep-deprived the next day. Sleep is a bonus. But more on that later.

We have taken 3 trips on the Auto Train. There are some very nice features to it.

1. The sardine-can mentality of the airlines has not hit the Auto Train. You sit two across, and there is a ton of legroom. And, of course, you can move around.
2. Lots more ability to carry luggage on board. There is security, but it is very unobtrusive. To date, we haven't been picked for random searches. On the Lorton end, our car was "sniffed" without us having to get out, my guess was for explosives.
3. Lots of "included in the fare". Free coffee, free water, free fruit (apples, bananas) to munch on, free snacks (a mixture of pretzels, corn chips, cheeze doodles-if you want nutrition there is the fruit) free dinner, free continental breakfast. Free wine with dinner.
4. The crews are very customer service conscious. At least the ones we have traveled with. A lot of snowbirds travel this train and Amtrak is very service conscious on this train.
5. A big plus for us, with apologies to those traveling as families with children - separate cars for family and adults traveling without children. On our first trip, with a 16 year old, we were able to sit in the adult car.
6. There are electric outlets, so you can bring a laptop. A lot of people do that to amuse themselves. There isn't much entertainment, unless you count your fellow passengers as entertainment. Don't depend on the "movie" they advertise-it is in a lounge car, on a small TV screen.

In my next post, more on our travel experiences with the Auto Train, and how I renewed a love relationship with trains that started when I was a young teenager.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Worries for the Future Part 1

I've been blogging on and off about my brother in law, who is in his 50's. He has autism, and lives with his aging mother in the only house he has ever known. We, and another brother, live some 150 miles away from them.
This can be a harsh world for people with developmental disabilities.  We can think we live in enlightened times.  But how enlightened? There's the example of this  recent hate letter  received by a grandmother of a 13 year old boy with autism in Canada and we have to think - what can be the future of my brother in law, with people like that still out in our world?  
Thank the heavens above my mother in law was just the opposite, raising her son at a time when many professionals may have advised her to put him in an institution.  But now, she's in her 80's, and, although she still cares for him, she knows, and we know, this won't last forever.

And, two of my brother in  law's siblings are older than him.  He may well outlive some or all of us. 
Recently, my mother in law, without letting any of us know until after the fact, turned down an offered group home placement for my brother in law. "Group homes" can have a bad name, but we are told that this home, where nine other men live, is a good one.  If he had moved now, he could have been transitioned at his own pace.  Anxiety and industrial strength resistance to change are part of his makeup.
If a parent died, would anyone suddenly want to be thrown into a strange housing situation? 
Now, in speaking to his Medicaid Service Coordinator, we're finding out some scary things about my brother in law's situation, all because his future was never planned for properly. In all fairness, parents in "those days" were not given guidance and had to figure it out themselves.  His mother never got herself appointed as his guardian.(There's a story behind that too, which I will blog about another time.  It wasn't at all from lack of caring.)
In our next installment - what happens to a developmentally disabled individual in New York State if their parents die and there is no guardian.  And then, I'll share some of our continued journey with my brother in law in a future post.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Simply Summer - Wildflowers

A couple of years ago, I devoted Wednesdays on my blog to wildflowers.  I've gotten away from that, but feel like returning to my blogging roots (so to speak) this Wednesday. 

So, what's blooming in upstate New York?  A lot of flowers and plants which, I found to my delight, also have medicinal uses.

I'm careful about saying this, because I do not, personally, use wild plants for this purpose.  But it is interesting that several well-regarded websites, including WebMD, now feature articles on these alternative therapies.

There's the yellow wildflowers:
Mullein.  This doesn't give the best view of mullein growing.  This is a tall herb, and my picture doesn't show just how majestic this herb is.  And, it may be of some usefulness with sicknesses that produce a lot of mucus (among other uses).
Goldenrod.  Contrary to popular opinion, it does not trigger hayfever - in fact, it is another medicinal herb.
Evening primrose

And then, the blue:

Chicory.  Not just a coffee substitute.
And finally - it's on its way out, but one of my favorites - Joe Pye Weed.

We are close to the end of wildflower season.  Soon, we'll see the ones that will bloom until frost - the tiny native asters.  When I see the goldenrod, and hear the crickets chirp, I always feel a little sad.  I know that winter is on its way.

Do you enjoy wildflowers?  What are your favorites?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Do You Want To Be Famous?

Five days a week, I walk down the streets of downtown Binghamton, New York on my way to work, or during my lunchtime, and no one cares.

No news people follow me.  Nobody organizes demonstrations concerning fracking, budget cuts, or medical coverage knowing I will pass by.  No, it's just me, and my iPhone, and my co worker who sometimes goes on photo jaunts with me.  Unlike President Obama when he visits Binghamton on Friday, I can do ordinary things like these:

Rose in Bloom 8-16-13 Confluence Park
I can visit Confluence Park, where the Chenango River meets the Susquehanna, and I can stop and smell the roses - literally.
Chenango River at downtown Binghamton, 8-16-13
I can walk along the Chenango, and admire the wildflowers.
I can look at a viburnum with its ripening blue berries.  (my plant expert and I are still working on exactly which species).

In the center of Confluence Park, Binghamton, NY
And, I can wonder about the pine and turtle symbolism in this Confluence Park marker.  Is it related to the Oneida Nation tribal logo?

Obama could wish he could see this beauty in person.  He can't.  Unless he reads my blog, which is never going to happen.

But I can see that beauty, because I'm not famous.  And I'm glad I'm not.  I would miss the ability to go into a store, to eat in a restaurant, to take an exercise walk, to walk down a path and admire wildflowers.  All those everyday things would have to be fit into a tight schedule by my handlers, as security people sweep the streets, and crowds would follow me everywhere.

My life would no longer be my own.

Have you ever been famous, or been close (friend or relative) to someone famous?  Was the experience what you expected?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sake Tumi and the President?

The President of the United States is going to visit Binghamton, New York (where I work) on Friday.

Other than knowing that - we don't have many details.  Which, of course is intentional - the people who protect our President don't want to give those wanting to do him harm any more information than publically needs to be released.

So, this has led to a little bit of a game - sort of like "Where's Waldo?"  We know one place (Binghamton University) where he will be.  But rumors continue to persist that he may visit other parts of our area.
Maybe he'll come to downtown Binghamton- and if he does, I hope his drivers have better luck negotiating our downtown Roundabout than some.  (This damage has since been repaired.)

Wouldn't it be great if he got to see some of how committed people are trying to restore downtown?  For example, the Old City Hall building above is now a hotel.
The President could travel up Court Street (picture taken on an early weekday morning before traffic builds).  I know he prefers BBQ (I've been to 12 Bones in Asheville, North Carolina, where he's eaten twice) but could he honestly resist a sushi restaurant called Sake Tumi?  (OK, how many of my readers remember the 60's TV Show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In?)

If you don't, here's the skit I'm thinking of (the whole thing is funny but note 1:15 and after).

Or, he could visit our now repaired Roundabout, and (in back of the trees) our Broome County Courthouse.Or he could even visit - well, more later in the week.

Has a President or World Leader visited your city or town?    How did it affect the residents?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Civil War Sunday - The Diaries of War

Were you of the generation that wrote a diary during our childhood, and perhaps kept it up as adults?

I wasn't one of them (which was strange, considering that I started to write stories at an early age) but many of my contemporaries did.

We (I am 60 years old) may well be the last of the handwritten diary/journal generation.  I fear it is a dying practice, although I could be wrong.  I don't count digital diaries or blogs because if the technology that allows them to exist disappears - or changes - future people will have limited or no access to them.

What a shame if that had happened to all those Civil War diaries?

But it didn't.

The other day, a New York Times blog devoted to the Civil War wrote a fascinating pot on the role of diaries in the Civil War.

For many soldiers, their diary was a link to sanity.  They were portable, and in their down time (sometimes there was a lot of down time in the life of a Civil War soldier - it wasn't all forced marches and battles) out would come the diary to record the day's events, frustrations, or grievances.

These diaries were almost like a modern day planner, with the date and a few lines for writing - the soldier, by writing the diary in the space provided, could track the passage of the days.

There was just enough space for a short entry - perfect for the soldier who might be barely literate, or writing in the light of a fire, or writing in the rain.

Some of these Civil War diaries have been published as books, some are even available online.  They offer a fascinating glance into the daily life of a soldier, and - yes, the battles they were in, from their viewpoint.

For our local infantry where I live in New York (the 137th Regiment, NY Volunteers), there is at least one published diary available in book form.  Our 137th was mustered in right after Antietam in September of 1862, and fought in many famous battles including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain, plus they participated in Sherman's March to the Sea.

Not only soldiers wrote diaries - civilians did.  Ken Burns, in his famous Civil War series, depended on one of the most famous, the diary of Mary Chesnut.  Chesnut was, in many ways, "in the right place at the right time." 

Her diary has been in print continuously since 1905.

Online, I even found portions of a diary of a Civil War nurse.

There are also many collections of letters, a related topic.

To me, the diaries of women are the most interesting, as this example shows.  Perhaps, when I retire, I will be able to spend more time with this source material and enter the world of those who lived during the Civil War in a way I haven't been able to before.  My family didn't immigrate to the United States until the early 20th century so I have no family connection with the Civil War.  Perhaps that fact is is part of my fascination with the subject as a person who was born in, and grew up in, New York City.

If you are interested, here are several Civil War diaries and collections of letters that are online. The first two are Union and the last two Confederate:
Henry Tisdale (Massachusetts)
Frank Eldredge  (Ohio)
The Hackworth Collection (letters written by an Alabama family before, during, and after the war)
Richard Adams (Alabama), a POW for some two years and one of the Immortal 600.

Does your family own any Civil War diaries or letters of ancestors?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Autism and Tiger Bags Oh My!

I own an "autism puzzle" handbag, made locally near Binghamton, New York in a small village called Windsor.
Even if I didn't have a brother in law with autism, I would love this quilt-type bag, because it is made  by a craftswoman who has an eye for color and design.  Her name is Rebecca Mitchell, who makes these under the names "Becky's Bags" and she ships everywhere.  She'll put custom touches on your bag, too.  Do you want zipper or snap?  Do you want a certain size?  Do you want certain fabric?  She'll do a matching wristlet for you, too.

Rebecca does lots more than autism puzzle bags.

There's her tiger bag.  And to see one, you might need this bag-

-her pink camo bag.
She has several bird bag - here is just one.
I love this flower bag.

And here's a grouping of some of her other bags.

Like what you see?  Contact Rebecca on Facebook - or stop by the link above and see what other bags she has to offer.

(This is an unpaid endorsement.  I usually don't do this kind of endorsement, but - sustainable living involves buying local - and supporting your local craftspeople, in addition to your local farmer. )

Thank you, Becky's Bags!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why Are They Selling Their Farm?

I was going to post a "feel good" type of "support your local farmers market" post for tomorrow, Sustainable Saturday.  But this can't wait.

This post says it all.  It's from a farmer who is getting ready to quit.  It explains why so many farmers at farmers markets can't compete - and  the sad part is, few of us in Binghamton, New York - which is a depressed area (let's face it - we promote it, we love it, but it IS depressed) can afford to pay these farmers what their labor is worth. 

Here's why.  

It's not pretty.

And that's why you need to read it.  I offer it without comment.  But some of the comments on the blog are worth reading.

Tomorrow, on Sustainable Saturday, I will feature a local artisan whose creations deserve some publicity.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Aug 2013 -Treat Yourself to Summer's Best

Take time out of your busy day for some flowers!

It is time for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, brought to us the 15th of each month by Frosty the Snowman May Dream Gardens.  It's time to treat yourself - to refresh yourself.   Take a few minutes to stop and admire these beauties.

Today's weather,  I hope is better than yesterdays, which featured an official high of 68 degrees F. (20 Celsius) with a constant breeze. On some August days that is our low temperature.  Who turned summer off?  I won't complain in a couple of months, but until then - whoever stole summer, please bring it back so my veggies can ripen. Not the 90's - but 80's would be nice for a while longer.
Anyway, at our house in the Binghamton, New York area we have orange gem marigolds with pineapple mint;
Alaska nasturtiums (love the variegated leaves and the multiple colors);

Heart-leaf brunnera.
And, finally, a volunteer petunia that planted itself in a pot with tomatoes and volunteer basil. First time that has happened to me in some 25 plus years of living in upstate New York.  As they say, bloom where you are planted (or not).

Now that you've seen what is blooming in my upstate New York yard, come visit other garden bloggers and treat yourself to the beauty of flowers from around the world.  In the words of May Dream Gardens: “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.”thanks to the Internet.

What's blooming in your yard/neighborhood?