I'd much rather read than write so it's not much of a blog...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dave Brubeck 1920-2012

You know you're going to outlive a lot of people who have been important in your life but I'm surprised how difficult I'm finding these mounting losses. I suspect it may be that I'm less able than most to offset the losses with some measure of faith in the future but the future was a very different place when I came to appreciate the music of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond in the 60's.

I saw Dave Brubeck in concert whenever I had the chance, the last time being here in Syracuse in 2007, but of all the concerts and recordings, the image I love best is the one portrayed in a 2001 hour-long interview with Hedrick Smith, "Rediscovering Dave Brubeck". It's not often one can truly believe a famous person known from afar is also a fine human being but Dave Brubeck was just that.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Buttoning Up

The attic is quiet. I'll miss the flying squirrels but not the red ones.

With new coverings of hardware clothe and screening there's only the the sheet rock to replace and a couple of holes to patch. We've considered adding to the cedar trim but I haven't had any problems with moths in the woolens so I'm just going to fill a few old pillowcases with cedar shavings and place them around the room.

I've spent much of the past few months hauling stuff out of the attic. The last boxes of books, crockery & glassware, linens, Christmas decorations, etc. went this week.

The once cluttered and crowded attic is now almost empty and I can't for the life of me decide how I feel about that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Beautiful Sight

We can't remember the last time we saw a radar image like this. It is a truly lovely thing to see and I feel a sense of relief just looking at it.

The modest amount of rain we've had this month has made a noticeable difference in some of the trees. Some of the trees that were beginning to fade or yellow earlier than usual have actually 're-greened'. Those that are probably stressed by other factors besides lack of water however, are going to need a normal winter of dormancy and moisture to recover.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Good Vibes

I finally got to see "The Intouchables" and while I'm not unaware of the film's flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed it because of the wonderful performances by Omar Sy and François Cluzet.

Now I have Earth, Wind and Fire running through my head 24/7...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Too Little, Too Late

A damaged corn field in central Kansas August 7, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Jeff Tuttle

(Reuters) - Dry weather will return to the drought-stricken U.S. Midwest crop region, with corn and soybeans ending their growing season on a negative note after this week's rains proved to be too little too late, an agricultural meteorologist said Friday.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Georgian Crystal

So I'm pulling the last of my garlic, 24 plantings of what I expect to be Nootka Rose, and I realize half of them have hard necks. I can't believe I didn't notice the difference when I prepared the garlic last fall but it seems one of the two growers from whom I ordered Nootka Rose last year sent me something else, a porcelain with the lovely name, 'Georgian Crystal'.

It's really quite pretty and not like any of the others I've grown. The silvery outer wrappers have a blush of pink and the cloves have just a bit more color. It has a nice full flavor without much heat. Even though all my garlic is small this year after I planted later than usual, I think I have enough good-sized cloves that I will be able to grow some full-size Georgian Crystal next season.

That's pretty much how I'm coping, by looking forward to next season. The storm systems that do roll through central New York almost always part as they approach us, going north and south, leaving us dry as a bone. We get the odd brief shower and it greens up the grass but does nothing for the more deep-rooted.

Everything seems to be in stasis, waiting for rain.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer 2012

It's July and I'm on my annual virtual vacation in France. J'aime Le Tour de France. I also adore Dave Harmon, Sean Kelly and Carlton Kirby, the Eurosport broadcasters.

Other than watching the cycling I'm spending most of my time schlepping hoses around the yard & garden. NO rain for weeks now and all I'm trying to do in the garden is tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, some beans and summer squash. After all, the critters have to have something to eat.

The bad news is that it's dry, the good news is that it's dry and so the 90º weather is surprisingly bearable. We haven't gone to AC more than a few nights when there was some humidity along with the heat. I'm just glad I don't have grazing animals to worry about.

The other upside to the dry conditions is that it's almost wiped out the nymph stage of the deer ticks.

Still, I wish it would rain.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

NO Fruit In 2012!

Today was the first day of the full Farmers Market. At first I was happy to see the vendors who don't come in the winter but then I spoke to an old-timer who has been one of the major fruit vendors for many years. He's despondent. I knew they had suffered a lot of damage last month but until he told me, I didn't realize last week's low temperatures pretty much finished off the rest of the crops.

There's been very little in the news but in Canada the situation is much the same:

"'This is the worst disaster fruit growers have ever, ever experienced,' orchard owner Keith Wright said Friday. 'We've been here for generations and I've never heard of this happening before across the province. This is unheard of, where all the fruit growers in the Great Lakes area, in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York State, Ontario, are all basically wiped out,' the Harrow, Ontario grower said."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Breaking Out

I've been dying to see what the heron hatchlings look like and, by gum, they look very heron-like, no? I guess it's all in the beak!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I'm doing a good job of not mentioning weather or climate, here or anywhere. In that overly used phrase, "It is what it is." I'm am however going to express my admiration for the Great Blue Herons nesting on the pond at Sapsucker Woods in Ithaca. Since the peregrine falcons in Syracuse don't appear to be having any success again this year, I've been checking this heron nest in the morning. Monday it was barely visible through the snow and there could be more of the same tomorrow but the herons seem to take it all in stride.

I'm trying to follow their example.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Maple Syrup 2012

Our maple syrup supply this year isn't local but its carbon footprint is phenomenally smaller than that of any I can find closer to home.

Berkshire Sweet Gold not only uses reverse osmosis to reduce the time and energy required to shed the water in the sap but they use solar generated electricity to power their evaporators. The end result is not only environmentally sustainable but wicked good!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Lovely Trout

Regardless of the lousy photo I want to honor this lovely trout. The season opened on Sunday and Mark, the friend who primarily supplies us with duck and goose, caught this two-and-a-half pound beauty. Thank you Mark! And thank you fish.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Best of 2011

Last year's tomatoes weren't spectacular but some did better than others. The old favorites, Jaune Flammé and Isis Candy were good as ever but the tomato I ate as quickly as it ripened was Super Snow White. It was my 'best of 2011'.

The first seeds have germinated including Super Snow White and the other cherry tomatoes, eggplant and bell peppers. I'm trying to use up the older seeds I have so the germination rates are hit-or-miss. I may have to try again with a few varieties but it's nice to see the little green shoots lined up in the flats.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

May In March

Actually it's more like July in March. Which begs the question, what pray tell will July be like?

If our temperatures continue to run more than 20 bloody degrees above average, July will feel like equatorial Africa and I will be suicidal. I know it's pointless to speculate but I had such high hopes of doing so many things that I wasn't able to do the past two summers...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Go Bobcats!!

As of March 19 the Ohio University Bobcats have beaten Michigan and South Florida to advance to the 'sweet 16'.

We aren't much into basketball but the chance to see an Ohio U. team playing brings back fond memories.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Let Them Eat Ticks – and Slugs

The Tractor Supply Co. also sells guinea fowl which I have every intention of getting some next spring if I survive this summer...

Antibiotics & Insecticides

Specifically Doxycycl HYC and Permethrin. In trying to remove the tick, it broke off and left a piece The Mister and I couldn't remove. I saw an NP this afternoon who removed the remnant and prescribed two capsules of the Doxycycl. It seems a prophylactic dose within 72 hours of being bitten by a tick is effective in preventing Lyme Disease and the other Borrelia, B. Miyamotoi. I'm not sure about Babesiosis which is also on the rise. I'll have a blood test in eight weeks when I have an annual checkup with my doctor.

Meanwhile I mixed some Permethrin and sprayed a couple of pairs of pants, socks and boots. I used an economical concentrate I found in the equine area at The Tractor Supply Co. It comes in a clever bottle that measures out a half ounce which I'm mixing with 10 ounces of water to make a 0.5% spray. I have a fairly new Columbia® Bug Shield™ shirt and I've ordered a couple more. I'll eventually treat the shirts I wear in the yard and garden but it's going to be a royal pain keeping track of when I treated what and how many times I've washed everything.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Year of the Tick

that's 59º at 1:18 AM!!

Also on this date I got my first tick bite after removing another tick from my pants at the park yesterday. I hope everyone who has aggravated me this so-called winter with a moronic grin and "isn't this weather great?" gets at least one tick bite this year. Not really.

I knew I was taking my chances yesterday, doing a long hike before I bought and applied permethrin to my clothes & boots but I've got some now and I won't go out again until I've used it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Repeat Performance

Of course I have no way of knowing if it's the same bird but I'd like to think the Carolina Wren that was here last February has been back again this year.  He put on quite a performance one morning last week, singing his full song rather than just the usual raspy call. I never saw more than the one wren last year and he was gone after a few weeks but but I'm hoping he'll attract a mate this spring and stick around.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Lesson in Lard

It turns out the smoking point of lard can vary greatly, even when the lard is from the same source.

Several years ago I bought leaf lard online from Prairie Pride in Minnesota. I bought enough to use for pies and frying and while the lard made for some of my better pies and galettes I was disappointed to find it would smoke as soon as I tried to do even simple pan frying.

In clearing out the freezer recently I put some of the old lard in a pan with a thermometer and confirmed that its smoking point was about 320º. Last fall I ordered some fresh lard from Prairie Pride and I decided to check it too. I'm not sure what its smoking point is but it's above 365º. The first lard also left a residue in the bottom of the pan while the fresher lard left nothing behind.

If or when I order leaf lard again I will ask about the smoking point and what recourse I have if it's not above 365º. Lesson learned.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Before Lune

Before Lune Chocolat opened in the village last year the best candy maker in the neighborhood was my neighbor, Doris. Her specialties, caramels and toffee, are every bit as good as any professional products. Now that she's learning about couverture chocolate and tempering I'm lucky to be her taster!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Abbey Hot Lips

Abbey Hot Lips
60% dark chocolate with rum and habanero infused ganache 
with a dark base center and locally grown peppers

I am long overdue in mentioning the new chocolate makers in the village, Michael & Emily Woloszyn of Lune Chocolat. They are making truly edible art with the most amazing fillings even for someone like myself who prefers a plain dark chocolate bar to pound of Godiva any day. My favorite is their Abbey Hot Lips and I'm hoping my valentine comes through with a couple today.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Kisses On the Bottom"

An early valentine to myself. I heard "Get Yourself Another Fool" on MVY radio a few weeks ago and made sure I downloaded the album first thing today. Lovely. Thank you Sir Paul.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jon Stadt & Flour City Pasta

David Lassman / The Post-Standard

One of the busiest vendors at The Regional Market is Jon Stadt of Flour City Pasta. I wasn't shopping for pasta yesterday but I stopped in my tracks when I saw a bag of Red Fife flour amidst the boxes of pasta. I couldn't be more pleased to discover one of my favorite bread flours is now being grown and milled locally.

Neil Miller of Farmshed Nation was also at the market yesterday and posted some wonderful photos of Jon and his beautiful new grain mill.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Touch of Winter

-5.3º/-20.7º this morning. I wish I could call this post 'careful what you wish for' but I can't. This bit of arctic air is just a reminder of what winter is supposed to be and the first snow we shoveled yesterday was hardly better than nothing.

At least for the next few days the mud will be frozen.

I'm avoiding social interaction these days. I can no longer be civil when yet one more person with a moronic grin dares to ask me about the "wonderful weather". I ask people if they're going to be happy when all the mature trees (and the maple syrup) are gone due to the abbreviated period of dormancy but their eyes just glaze over and they change the subject.

Another sign of disruption is the scarcity of birds at the feeders. The numbers pick up when there's a bit of snow but I've never seen anything like this in the twenty-three winters we've been here. I hope it's just a matter of less need for calories and other sources being accessible, not the toxic Scotts birdseed or the female red-tailed hawk that's taken up residence. Among those absent is the crow family which was such a constant presence until late last summer; they haven't returned to keep the hawks from getting too comfortable.

Besides the moss, the other unwelcome sign of change around here is the mildew. Since the furnace isn't running nearly as much the house simply doesn't dry out the way it used to and the resultant humidity level is nurturing the mildew making it a year-round problem. I also see more condensate on the window during the brief cold snaps.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

So Very Wrong

It's impossible to look out my window and not realize there are forces at play that are going to make for a very bleak not-to-distant future.

The lush moss on the cottage roof in January is a disturbing reminder of the instability, environmentally and societally, ahead.

We have not shoveled snow once this season. Just typing those words makes me heartsick.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Posole aka "Hog & Hominy"

Our family tradition on both sides was pork and sauerkraut for New Year's and I did that myself for many years. More recently I've done some other traditional New Year's dishes including cotechino con lenticchie and Hoppin' John with collard greens. This year I made a boatload of posole to be topped with napa among lots of other garnishes. Funny how it always seems to come down to pork and some member of the legume and/or cabbage family...