Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Spring Things - Art Me Up Buttercup

The weather gets more extreme and scarier.  As I write this post, the death toll from the tornadoes of the past several days stand at over 29.

I was in North Carolina barely two weeks ago, before this weather outbreak.  Now, as I write this, parts of North Carolina not that far from where I took these pictures are under a tornado warning.

I'd like to think back to that trip, earlier in April, before the tornadoes came, when we toured the outdoor exhibits at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.  Some of the exhibits were intentional, made by man.  Others were there, waiting to be appreciated, brought to us by Mother Nature.

Dogwoods bloomed by a lake.
 Legs in pink sneakers, made by man, and below a dogwood.  Which do you like better?
Can you see it? In the lower right hand corner?
Violets, at the edge of the woods.
And finishing up with a buttercup.

Nature.  Beautiful and deadly. Two sides of the world we live in.  We won't see dogwoods for another few weeks here in upstate New York where I live, so I appreciated the chance to see them in North Carolina.  But, the severe weather, that's something that is not our turn - yet.

This is my last post of the April Ultimate Blog Challenge.  Next month, what do I have in store for you?

You'll just have to come back daily to see.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Weeding My Mental Garden

I was not feeling very good about blogging last night.  I was finishing up the Ultimate Blog Challenge, and feeling like I didn't get very far with it.  I couldn't spend a lot of time on it this month, and didn't get the benefits I could have, as a result.  I'm feeling a bit burnt out right now, feeling like I don't have that many readers, and obviously was feeling a bit sorry for myself.

I barely got 5,220 words in my Camp NaNoWriMo manuscript.  Maybe I'll work on it some more in July.  Maybe.

Or, I can be grateful that I'm here, waking up every morning.  It's time to weed my mental garden.

I think I'm feeling this way because my mother in law is going to her oncologist today and, from all indications, she will be told she is in remission.  But several other people I know struggle on. Perhaps it is natural to feel guilty, in a way, although if she continued ill it wouldn't help the other people I know. And, she copes with aftereffects of the treatment she received, including fatigue, and our general long distance caregiving for her continues.

Only two weeks after a neighbor died from cancer, I really need to be reminded of how fortunate we who are not battling for our lives are.  Time to pull some more mental weeds.

This is what I REALLY need to do, instead of feeling sorry for myself.

1.  Support my friends more.  I haven't even contacted my friend down in Brooklyn recently.

2.  Report that, today, I am giving several trees to a work friend, who will plant them in my late neighbor's honor.  Remember I have people in my life who care for me, and, again, thank them all.

3.  Post a beautiful photo. (Here you go.)

Near Charlottesville, VA, April 16, 2014
This is a farm I photographed from our car on our way back from Charleston, SC a couple of weeks ago. Can anyone I know imagine themselves on that picturesque plot of land?

4.  Stop complaining about the cold/windy weather in upstate New York. Hope no one I know is in the path of those terrible tornadoes that have hit Arkansas  and Mississippi (19 dead so far) in the past couple of days.  Spring can be beautiful in the United States, but it can also be deadly.

5.  And finally: Thank you all, my faithful readers, for sticking by me for another month.  Next month, May, is my favorite month of the year, and I am gearing up to bring you more spring beauty, some gardening tips, and updates on my brother in law with autism and my spouse's effort to gain guardianship.

Please join me in weeding your mental garden, and here's to a productive May.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Six Lessons of the Orchid

I am an eternal optimist when it comes to orchids.

I've killed some, and I've made some rebloom.  And, each year, I go to the orchid show at the local mall and end up buying something new.

With orchids, it's all about the journey.  There are so many different kinds of orchids - literally thousands of them, and some even grow wild here in upstate New York.

Next month, I will share with you my latest orchid adventure.  Today I want to treat you to several pictures of the show orchids. It was the perfect day for an orchid show - a gloomy, overcast, windy day with a biting wind.

I can envy people who can grow these orchid beauties, but I know they aren't doing anything I can't do. All I need to do is devote the time to learning the craft of the orchid.

What else can I say but: Beautiful! 

What I loved about this display is the use of various natural materials - moss and wood.
White and lilac - stunning.

What do orchids teach us?

1.  They teach us to pay attention.  Each orchid has its own needs.  You must pay attention to moisture, to the amount and kind of sunshine, to proper orchid nutrition.

2.  They teach us to be patient, because an orchid blooms on its own schedule.  You can not make them bloom. (well, maybe you can, but why would you want to?)

3.  They teach us how thrilling it is when an orchid reblooms.

4.  They teach us that failure is only a stepping stone to success, if we don't give up.

5.  They teach us that spring is not a steady process, here in upstate New York.  Spring advances and retreats. Today was time to retreat indoors, after we completed some yard work, and consider the orchid.

6.  Orchids, and spring, are worth the wait.

Spring will return. One day, it will return for good.

Have you succeeded in doing something hard, which seemed impossible at first?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Civil War Sunday - A Woman of the Civil War

We are coming up on the anniversary of some major Civil War battles.  With that, I want to take up a suggestion of one of my blog readers, who asked me a couple of years ago (sorry it took so long!) to check into the lives of some lessor known Civil War figures.

One of the most fascinating of them was Sarah Emma Edmonds, a Canadian woman, who participated in the Civil War as both a man (disguised as a man, that is) and a woman.

Several months ago, I saw a book in the Young Adult section of our local public library called "A Soldier’s Story: the Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds. A Civil War Hero" by Marissa Moss.  I didn't have a chance to really look at the book due to what else was happening in my life at the time. It's too bad, because the story is one fascinating story.

Initially Sarah ran away to escape an intolerable home situation, disguising herself as a man, and working as a traveling Bible salesman in the United States.  When war broke out, she enlisted in the Union army and worked a number of positions, including in combat, in nursing, and in espionage.  She ended up deserting. Sick with malaria, she was fearful her female identity would be discovered.

Once she recovered, she continued to work in the war, as a woman.  Her memoir, written in 1864, is available online.  

After the war, she married, had three children (all of whom died in childhood) and adopted two other children.

In her fight to be awarded a military pension, many of the men she served with supported her efforts.  I think, of everything, this is what fascinates me the most about her life - given the times, and the attitudes towards women, I admit to a bit of surprise as to how her fellow soldiers rallied around her. In order for her to be awarded a pension, the charges of desertion first had to be dismissed - and, finally, they were.

Even more astonishing, Edmonds is the only woman to have been inducted into the Union veterans group Grand Army of the Republic, although she was far from the only woman who fought in the Civil War.

Is there a "person not widely known in history" (any part of history) who fascinates you?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - They Didn't Get His Goat

Today, in the Triple Cities of upstate New York, it was time for Earth Day celebrations.  At a local liquor store (whose history is a little controversial, including whether the store can truly be called "local"), they were having tastings of various organic wines from several countries, along with organic cheeses, crackers and almonds to go with the wine.

There were also tastings from a New York State winery, one with a fascinating history.

Anything with a chicken on the label is worth trying, I say!
The story of Bully Hill Vineyards is the story of Walter Taylor, a man who said his birthright and name had been taken from him - but they would never get "his goat".  As a result, some of his wine labels (many of his labels used his own artwork, and his artwork is still used today) featured goats.   (you can find a lot of those labels in an Internet search).

Since he wasn't able, due to legal reasons, to even use his last name on his wine, there would be a "blank" where Taylor's last name would have gone.

Walter (blank) would have been proud to have been called a gadfly.

Today, at the tasting, the sales hook was simple:  Bully Hill was sampling boxed wines, made from native grapes. At one time, boxed wines had a stigma of lack of quality.  That is disappearing in some circles, although there are still questions about whether the plastic liners have BPA. 

But, that little box has as much wine as three 750 ml bottles, and costs a lot less to ship.

I am not a wine connoisseur so don't come to me for advice on whether a wine is good.  I grew up on sweet wine (very sweet wine, if the truth be known), and I still savor (well, drink) sweet wine.

 Many grapes grown in New York State are hybrids.  But these wines are made from native Niagara and Concord grapes.  (the above wine is a concord wine). The wines are sweet.  Bully Hill is not the smallest winery in New York State - far from it, but that also means that people as far away from New York as Indiana and Iowa can sample this wine made from native grapes.

Sweet and good, I think. I enjoyed each of the above wines. (Bully Hill, incidentally, also bottles wine - it isn't just sold in boxes.)

My spouse and I may have met Walter Taylor in 1988, when visiting Bully Hill.  Nowadays, years after Taylor's death (he passed in 2001) I can't be sure, after all these years, but I wondered, because the man I met at the tasting counter was loud, outspoken and, to use a cliche, "larger than life".  We never will know.

My readers who are interested in independent men and women would have loved Walter Taylor.

If you are interested in wines made from native American grapes, you may want to give this wine a try.

Do you have a local "character"?

Friday, April 25, 2014

3711 Photos

See the title?  That's how many photos I have on my iPhone.

No, I'm serious.  I hoard photos.

It's understandable in a way, considering that I am 61 years old.  When I was a child, my most prized possession was a box type camera, with two settings (B&W and Color), a flash (which used - yes, flashbulbs), and which took rolls of 127 film.

You got 12 pictures per roll.  Rolls were expensive.  So was the developing.

You didn't get to see your photos right away, either, so you had no idea if they had come out properly. Or if the roll of film had been loaded correctly, for that matter.   You had to get the film developed first, which took several days.  Especially if you were using color film, which was a luxury reserved for special occasions.

Now, with my iPhone, I point, click, and it's done. Instant photo. I can edit it on the spot with my (simple) photo editing software.  I can post it on Facebook.  I can send it by email and by message.  It's a dream come true.  For example, I took a walk today on the West Side of Binghamton and took these pictures of our sudden spring - it seems flowers are popping out by the minute.


Pieris Japonica (Andromeda)

This massive weeping cherry isn't even totally open yet. What a specimen!
This blue squill wasn't from today but they are still out.

And now, I've just sent these photos all over the world.  Could I have ever dreamed of this back in the film days?

I love modern digital photography.  I was slow to adopt it but I would never go back to film.  And, perhaps like a grown person who knew hunger as a child, I hoard.  But I don't hoard food.  I hoard photos.  That's the only explanation I can come up with.

Anyway, during my recent vacation, I ran out of memory.  I hurridly had to delete, delete, delete. (The pictures are already backed up on my computer). And you know what? I was deleting pictures of family and buildings and keeping pictures of flowers.  And I had all these flowers on my camera already.

But those weren't THIS year's flowers.

I couldn't delete the flowers.  So now I have a phone full of flower photos.  I'm hopeless.

Shhh, don't tell anyone.

Am I the only one who has thousands of photos on their phone?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo April Update

This April, I was supposed to go to camp.

I was supposed to go to virtual camp, a virtual camp for writers.  It's called Camp NaNoWriMo, and I was supposed to write 10,000 words between April 1 and April 30, joined by other writers.  I could write whatever I wanted and I didn't have to show anyone my work.

Sounded nice, right? I would go to the nightly virtual campfires and hang out with my fellow writers.

I was going to try my hand at fiction, something that really isn't "me", and write a YA (Young Adult) piece based on a dream I had many years ago, growing up in New York City.  I enjoy dystopian YA literature, and even as a teenager, my dreams were dystopian.  It didn't hurt that I grew up in a city housing project in a part of the city that was going downhill fast as I entered my later teen years.

This dream involved me attempting to escape a future New York City (I somehow knew it was in the future).

As of today, my word count is 3770 words.

What happened?  (Also known as:  What's my excuse?)

Too many distractions.  A vacation.  A huge case of writer's block.  I've done almost all the writing in the past five days.

I don't like backing off of challenges, but I don't think the writing is going to happen this time.  My teenaged dream to story project will have to wait until I can really sit down and think about it.  Meanwhile, all these things I've read circulate in my mind.  And here I am, supposed to be just writing.  (Note, I am not asking you, dear readers, these questions. I'm supposed to be answering them myself. No cheating!)

1.  Show, not tell. Oh, it is so much easier to explain something than to show it.  Can't I just tell it? (I say this in a whiny voice.  The answer is yes, sometimes.)

2.  Your protagonist has to be likeable.  Oh darn, character development!  Maybe the protagonist can be a jerk, but he or she has to be a likeable jerk.  In non fiction, characters develop themselves.  How am I going to make my main charac...I mean, protagonist (have to use the big word here) likeable but not built out of sugar? I reckon I'm a nice older woman now but when I was a teen, I could be a real jerk. (Yes, I said it here!!)

3.  I haven't even thought of an antagonist yet. Does the antagonist (the person who "opposes" the protagonist) have to be a person?  Can it be a thing? A force of nature?  Like, for example, the weather?  (The answer, dear reader, is Yes.  Whew!)

4.  Dialog.   Doesn't come easy for me.  I get the feeling that an author either loves to write dialog, or hates to write dialog. Guess which camp I'm in.

5.  And I don't care what they say, but I'm not putting a love triangle in the story.  In fact, there will be no romance whatsoever!  I hate love triangles in YA books! Why do authors think they are needed? Is it a law?

How do people do all this fiction stuff and write thousands of words in 30 days???

 There will be another Camp session in July, so if I do drop out, I can try again.

Have you ever started a story and then wondered what happened to what you thought you wanted to write?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Things - Wildflower Wednesday and a Founding Father

I haven't had a Wildflower Wednesday in a long time - too long a time. 

I'd like to share some wildflower pictures I took earlier in April during a trip to Charleston, South Carolina.

 In identifying some of these, I'd like to thank my wildflower helper in New York State.  Anything with a Latin name is her ID.

We are finally starting spring here in upstate New York, but I just couldn't wait for our wildflower season. Enjoy!

Charles Pinckney was a founding father of the United States - an author and signer of the U.S. Constitution, a man who literally lost his fortune due to his public service in the founding of our country.  What is left of one of his plantations, Snee Farm in modern day Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, provided these wildflower photo oppotunities.
Oxalis rubra, purple wood sorrel.  Isn't this pretty?

Blue eyed grass, one of my personal favorites.  I knew this from my time in Arkansas, and I've even seen it here and there in upstate New York. It's hard to see, but these actually bloom at the end of blades of the grass.

 I don't know what the tiny yellow flowers are surrounding the grass. I've seen this up here in New York, and I'll kick myself when I find out.

Strawberries were planted in an abandoned bed (the park ranger on duty knew nothing about this bed) and were also blooming on the edge of surrounding woods.
And finally, not a good picture, but if you can make out something purplish, it is blue toadflax, Nuttallanthus canadensis.

So many times, I go somewhere to study history, and end up wandering around the wildflowers.  Maybe one day, I'll even tell you more about Charles Pinckney-he is a man who is now somewhat forgotten, but we have him to thank for a lot of the protections of our Constitution.

Are there wildflowers blooming where you live?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Would You Drink Your Toilet Water?

Today, in the United States, it is Earth Day.  It's the day to think about the environment, and our impact on it.

Years ago, my spouse and I lived (for about eight months) in Wichita Falls, Texas, a city of about 104,000 about 10 miles south of the Texas/Oklahoma border.  It was an interesting experience but I have not been back since.

Today, I turned on the Weather Channel while preparing to go to work, and there was a fascinating discussion about a city so terribly impacted by drought, that they are trying to get state approval to capture and recycle their "potty water" (as they call it) and mix it in with reservoir water.

Turns out that city is Wichita Falls, Texas.

Things are desperate in Wichita Falls. They have been in a drought for some three years. Their reservoirs are hovering around 25% capacity.

So, are you grossed out by the thought of drinking your toilet water?

A couple of interesting thoughts.

I grew up in New York City.  To me, drinking water was something that came out of faucets.  My parents rarely took me out of New York City - for one thing, our family did not own a car. (Back when I grew up, this was not uncommon in New York City.)  In fact, I never saw a garden until I was 17 years old.  Really.

One day I found out our drinking water came from a place called the Croton Reservoir. As a teenager, I got to see this reservoir - a large lake.  And, I suddenly realized, there were FISH in this body of water.  Fish who ate, drank and...pooped.

I was drinking water with FISH POOP in it.

It wasn't long before I found out that was the least of my worries.  Many cities took their drinking water from rivers (such as Binghamton, New York, whose drinking water comes from the Susquehanna River.).  If your drinking water comes from a river, maybe you know that your drinking water contains wastewater (treated, you hope) from every city upriver from you.  And, in turn, the cities downriver of you are drinking your wastewater.

So many of us already drink toilet water indirectly.  The difference is, Wichita Falls wants to use this treated water directly, mixing it in with the fresh reservoir water, to make up about a third of their water usage.

Not a happy thought for Earth Day, is it?

Well, as it happens,  a lot of people are watching the Wichita Falls situation with a lot of interest.  Other cities are thinking of trying to pass legislation to allow direct usage of this formerly dumped resource.

After all, astronauts are already doing it.

The good citizens of Wichita Falls have dropped their water usage from about 40 million gallons a day to about 11-12 million gallons. But that just isn't enough.  So, besides the waste water recycling project, the city is going to try cloud seeding.  And, people are purchasing rainwater collection systems to try to capture whatever rain does fall.   But, to survive, they may be turning to toilet water.

We can't live without water.  Would you drink treated toilet water to survive?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Remembering a Blogger

While I was on vacation, a fellow blogger and neighbor for many years passed away.   He blogged on environmental issues, under a pseudonym.  He enjoyed discussing gardening with my spouse, and repaired bicycles.  He and his wife took care of my young adult son when we were hit by major flooding in September of 2011 while my spouse and I were out of town.  They were good neighbors, and will be missed.

I would like JC, wherever he is right now, to know the following:

First, his worm bin is OK.  His wife had given it to us last year. It's been an interesting experience, keeping worms, and I plan to blog about it sometime in the next month as part of my "Dear Friend and Gardener" club posts. (Do you garden and blog about it? Come join us).

Here is a shot of JC's worm bin today as we empty the contents out.
I promised B, his wife, that we would plant a tree in JC's honor. Two years ago, he joined the Arbor Day Foundation and got 10 trees as a gift. He ended up giving them to us for our son, but our son was unable to do anything with them. We planted some at JC's house, kept a couple in pots and planted a couple on my property.  One of them, a cherry, is budding out today.

We don't have room for any more trees on our property, but I am going to try to find someone who will be a foster tree parent in honor of JC.

A week ago, cancer took a good hearted man too soon.  One of his last desires was to try to spend some time in the spring sunlight.  Such a little thing but, at the same time, a big thing. I wasn't here to know if he had this final wish granted.  JC, I'm enjoying the sun today in your honor.  My wind chimes are chiming in the light breeze, and the sun feels so good.  We are gardening today, too, and enjoying the last day of my vacation.

Goodbye, JC.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Civil War Sunday - The Northern Confederates

We just got back from a trip to South and North Carolina, two states that seceded from the United States at the beginning of the Civil War.  We think of my native New York State as a solidly Union State but you may be surprised at how many Confederate sympathizers lived in New York City - and, yes, even in upstate New York.

It may interest you that, prior to the Civil War, both Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee served at Ft. Hamilton in Brooklyn, in New York City, and that Abner Doubleday, who fired the first defensive shot at Ft. Sumter (the first battle of the Civil War), was the fort commander of Ft. Hamilton in 1861. (Contrary to popular legend, Doubleday did not invent the game of baseball, but that's a story for another time.)

I still haven't gotten to the Civil War museum I blog about below, but will try my best for this year.

This is a rerun of an earlier post from last year, which I think you will enjoy.

The Confederates of Upstate New York

It's funny how life works, because when you are busy traveling hundreds of miles to learn about Civil War history, you can sometimes find it in your own home state of New York.

It's even more fascinating when the history involves a New Yorker who served the Confederacy.  This isn't the only time New York and the Confederacy have been linked - there is the fascinating story of the hamlet of Town Line New York that appears to have seceded from the Union and did not rejoin the Union officially until 1946.

There are a number of fascinating articles online about whether this secession actually happened. (All I can say is that, despite statements that their fire department logo still includes a Confederate flag - their current patch has an American Flag and Flag of the State of New York.)

And then there was Jedediah Hotchkiss.

I had not heard of Hotchkiss when, in March of 2012, I was browsing the wonderful Civil War bookstore located in the National Park at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  I found a book "Civil War Battles The Maps of Jedediah Hotchkiss". by Chester G. Hearn and Mike Marino.  I quickly found that the book was not a biography of Jedediah Hotchkiss, a schoolteacher and geologist before the Civil War, who ended up becoming the mapmaker for Stonewall Jackson.  (We are coming up on the 150th anniversary of this famous Confederate general's death, and I will be blogging more about him next Sunday.)

Still, I found value in a book that contained some of Hotchkiss' maps, and Civil War era photographs, and I bought it. 

Later last year, my spouse found that one of his co-workers is interested in the Civil War, and this person told him "You've got to go to the Old Stone House Museum in Windsor!"  I work with a couple of people who live in Windsor, (which is a rural village a few miles from here) and it turns out one of them knows the person who runs that museum - she offered to set up a visit for us and her sister, who also loves the study of the Civil War - but we were never able to make the connection.

So, a second time, I ran into Jedediah Hotchkiss. He was born, and grew up in, Windsor, on property where this museum is now located. He later moved to Virginia, which is how he ended up on the side of the Confederacy, making maps for Confederate generals.

So, object lesson here - don't ignore treasures in your backyard.

And now, it will also be time to hunt for other New York Confederates.  None of us should be surprised - few of us today realize just how this war split our nation (and still does, to some extent) and how fighting it made the United States the country it is today.

Do you have a nice regional museum that mainly locals know about?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - Cabbage Collards and Strawberries

What do you like to do when you are on vacation?

Some people lie on the beach during a vacation.  Some people hike, some kayak, some mountain climb. I enjoy destinations that allow me to learn about history.  At the same time, I go to farmers markets, if there are any being held near where I am vacationing. They are all so different, and they rarely disappoint.

My spouse and were fortunate enough to be in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina earlier in April for their first farmers market of the year. 

Last Saturday I blogged about a farmer's market in South Carolina's second biggest city, Charleston.  To understand these markets, you need to to understand some of South Carolina's demographics.

Something I never really realized until the first time I visited South Carolina several years ago is just how rural South Carolina is - its biggest city, Columbia (the capital) has a population of only around 130,000. (Contrast this with neighboring North Carolina - its biggest city, Charlotte, has about 775,000 people).  Charleston, the second biggest city in the state, has about 125,000 people.  Mt. Pleasant is the fourth biggest city, and is growing rapidly.

Charleston has become a major destination for people interested in eating, and this has carried over to Mt. Pleasant, across the Cooper River from Charleston.  What I especially liked about this market was the fact that it started at 3:30 pm instead of in the early morning.

 We were greeted with posters advertising a Chef's Potluck, and Lowcountry Farm Tours.  We also talked to a couple of young women promoting local food.
Nearby was a sign advertising fresh pasta.

And more fresh pasta.
We purchased the sweet potato, bacon and leek ravioli, which was delicious, although at the price charged, it would not have been an everyday part of my eating.
We also bought some of these Carolina Sweet Onions and brought them home with us.
Greens were also local. We were introduced to something called cabbage collards, an heirloom - and delicious.

And finally, local strawberries - unexpected, and so welcome to someone living in an area where local berries come in June.

Do you do anything food related during vacations?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Crocuses, Croci, and My Fifth Blogaversary

Spring has come to my backyard.  Honest it has, despite Tuesday's snow.

Yesterday, I promised to show you what was blooming, since I couldn't do it in time for April 15, Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  But I didn't want to talk about plants - seems like I've done too much of that recently. (Do I hear a big groan from my audience?) 

My crocuses (croci?) had decided to go ahead and bloom without me. Only one was left - the others had their flowers sprawled out on my lawn, all finished, possibly worn out from the exercise of figuring out what their plural form was. (If you are wondering, dear reader, both crocuses and croci are correct, and it's a fascinating story because "crocus" is not derived from Latin.)

Yesterday, I dug my lenten rose plant out of a pile of frozen leaves that had settled around it.  I was wondering why it wasn't blooming, and it turns out it was, hidden under the frosty pile.  I hope this plant finds it in its heart to forgive me for negligent gardening.

My bloodroot also had to be rescued from the same leaves.

Yesterday, I was too busy to rake all the leaves away, including the ones covering my hyacinth and daffodils, and today isn't looking too good, either.  It's food preparation time, as we are doing much of the cooking for Easter dinner, which my mother in law (who is in her mid 80's and only recently was battling cancer) will be hosting.  And I have to prewrite three blog posts.  I like to pretend that there are a couple of people in my life who look forward to reading my daily posts, and, if this is true, I don't want to disappoint them.

Which brings me to the lost blogaversary.  On April 10, 2009 I wrote my first blog post. (It's a grim one, but if you want to click into my archives at the bottom of my blog, and check it out, you are more than welcome.) Because of my vacation, I forgot all about my fifth blogaversary.  So here I am, wallowing in virtual embarrassment.

Bloggers like to celebrate these types of anniversaries with special giveaways.  Well, I don't even know how to insert a rafflecopter (the software commonly used for this).

And I don't even know what to give away.


Seriously, I really do have to give this, and the next year of my blog, some thought.  Up to now, I've had a ramblin' type of blog. But I feel like my blog has become somewhat stagnant, and I really don't know where I want to take it. Do you enjoy the lack of focus? Would you want to see more nature/gardening/local food stuff? Or more about life in upstate New York? More about my brother in law with autism, who, somehow, I don't write about enough?  Long distance caregiving and my mother in law (who is doing much, much, better after her battle with cancer)? Chocolate, which has been totally neglected recently?

What would you like to see as a fifth blogaversary celebration?  And what do you think would be a cool giveaway?  (no chocolate - weather is getting too warm).

Let's see what my readers say: and to each and everyone of you: THANK YOU FOR READING MY BLOG!

Without you, my readers, blogging would be boring, and I would have quit it a long time ago.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Getting Back To Where I Still Belong

I am back at home near Binghamton, New York, looking at bare trees, early spring bulbs and....snow.
Snow near Bainbridge, NY 4-17-14
A day after it snowed for hopefully the last time....

....there was still some snow in my urban back yard, where the sun had not shone. I looked at the scene and knew that, in a way, I was being welcomed home.  I had gone back to where I still belonged.

My vacation was already like a dream.  I had swapped a light coat for shorts, and bare trees were still the order of the day.  Spring had rewound into a tight bundle, here and there showing a glimpse of the unfurling to come - any day now, I hope.

I thought about last week, in Charleston, South Carolina, as I imagined an 80 degree breeze caressing me.

I remembered my return visit to the famous Angel Oak, which may be the oldest tree east of the Mississippi.  It had been endangered by development, but (for now) has been saved.

A live oak dripping with Spanish Moss says "South" like nothing else.  This one is on the campus of the College of Charleston, one of the most beautiful urban college campuses in the United States.

Anemones and Tulips Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Duke University, Durham, NC
Then, we headed north, to the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) North Carolina and saw several gardens, including the Sarah P. Duke Garden at Duke University.

Camellia Moonlight Bay, Sarah P Duke Gardens
But then it was time to rewind spring and go home. Goodbye, camellias (sob, not hardy where I live).  Goodbye, live oaks (ditto). We started out, and as we traveled north, leaves on the trees started to disappear.
Near Charlottesville, VA, we were treated to wild red buds and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Further north in Virginia, spring rewound further, as Bradford Pears replaced redbuds. Then, traveling through Maryland, the Bradfords disappeared in favor of the yellow of forsythias.

Then, north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the forsythias disappeared.  Starting around 20 miles south of Hazleton, PA we were left with snow on the roadsides. 

It reached 57 at our house today, and it still felt good in the sunshine. We took a drive today, and appreciated the hills of home.  Those bare trees will leafed out by early May, we know.  The lenten rose in our backyard is blooming, as is our bloodroot. (You'll see them tomorrow.) Spring will come to us, all in its good time.

But it was sure nice to have spring before its time, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Things - The Triumphant Return of Winter

Sunday, it was 80 degrees (26.6 C) where I live in upstate New York.  Everyone thought that spring had come.  I had even traveled to Charleston to talk to Spring and convince it to return to New York.

I thought I had struck a deal with Spring.


Yesterday, it snowed, and got below freezing.  We were also put under a flood watch. When it rains, it pours, as the old expression goes.

My guest photographer back home took these pictures on her rural property.  Snow in mid April is not unusual where we live, although this kind of weather extreme is more uncommon.

The forsythias weren't quite ready to open so the snow decided to beautify them.
The daffodils were just starting to bud out.  This snow won't hurt them.
Elsewhere on her property, a daffodil bloom had just opened when the snow came, and another was preparing to open.
Zebra grass.
And finally, a path to a neighboring cabin.

Right now, it is 23 degrees in Binghamton, with an expected high of 40.  Back to the winter coats.

Is your weather continuing strange and unpredictable wherever in the world you live?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day April 2014 - Spring Rewind

It's the 15th of April and, in the United States, Tax Day (the day by which we must file our annual income tax reports with Federal and most State governments). 

And, it is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. This meme, brought to us by an Indiana garden blogger, encourages garden bloggers and flower lovers from all over the world to show what is blooming in their gardens or houses/apartments.

Except I can't, and I'm sorry.  I was supposed to be home today in the Binghamton area of upstate New York, but I am several hundred miles away, thanks to inclement weather.  Where I live, it was 80 degrees on Sunday. Now, as I write this, it is 36 degrees with light rain/snow flurries. With the wind chill it feels like it's 28.  It will be below freezing within the next couple of hours.
April Fool! No, wait, it's April 15, it's no joke, and people all over the midwest and eastern United States are covering plants and breaking their snow shovels back out.

When I left some 10 days ago on my trip, this is what was blooming, and it wasn't even in my yard.

What is a GBBD'er to do?

Well, I can show you what was blooming in my garden on April 15, 2013 and April 15, 2012.  
We've had a harsh winter, and I assure you, my yard looks nothing like either blog post now.  I checked just now with someone in my home area, and crocuses and early daffodils are all they have with perhaps some other early spring bulbs.
Redbuds, JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC
Or, I could show you what is blooming today, in the area around Raleigh, North Carolina, as I blog this.  Although, I suppose, this cheating.  In another day, it will be a fond memory.
Dogwoods, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
Tulips, Duke University, Durham, NC
At least it's spring here, at least for the next few hours.  But still, this isn't my yard.  I'm a GBBD cheater!

Tomorrow we will head home back north, and we will experience spring rewind.  But even here, they have a freeze warning for tomorrow morning.

What's blooming (or not?) for you?