Random shots from Schuyler & Tompkins counties, in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Autumn, Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. September & October, Schuyler & Tompkins Counties



I’m curious why sometimes a particular fern frond, or patch, will turn snow white, instead of brown.






Autumn, Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. October, Schuyler County

1300's, Alternate History, History, Revisionist History, Uncategorized

A New Concept in Cruise Lines. Charon’s Ferry


"Charon and Psyche" by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope

Just a quick swab, and you’re welcomed aboard.


History teaches us that every disaster is also a great opportunity.

Starting in grade school, we were taught to regard failure as a “teachable moment,” and every fiasco was a chance to grow and mature.  Boy have we been growing lately.

And it’s true, that a real catastrophe can stimulate reform, societal progress, repentance, and all that kinda stuff.

For example, without the bubonic plague of the 1300’s, The Black Death, which led to much greater freedom of movement for the peasants, we might still be mired in the Dark Ages.

We’d be subject to deadly epidemics, bizarre and ineffective eye-of-newt cures, fickle and thoughtless leaders, chronic conflicts and massed armies, endless labor to erect crenelated walls, crumbling infrastructure, superstitions running rife, distrust of science, …

hey…wait a minute…

Well anyway, suppose for the sake of argument, that we’ve progressed.

But let’s not talk about disasters’ silver linings.

Let’s talk commercial applications. 

Let’s talk how to profit from all this.


A guy who knew how to make an honest buck. And avoided that like the plague.


This train of thought started with an old-time Milwaukee mayor,

Byron Kilbourn

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of him.  A businessman/politician/crook, the kind we’re all so very, very familiar with nowadays.

Scandals, schemes & scams  – but none too sensational, or clever, so there’s nothing to imitate. Pretty honest, about all the bribes he passed out, and yet was never jailed.  He helped start the city’s “Bridge War,” by making sure the streets in “his” part of town, didn’t line up to connect with the other neighborhoods.

He was Mayor of Milwaukee, back in the 1800’s, and a big-time real estate promoter.  But a whole lot of his investors lost their shirts, and finally, late one night, he thought he’d better develop arthritis and move to Florida, where he raised some oranges and died, in 1870.  And he never came back.  For quite a while.

Back in Milwaukee, a century or so later, he was missed.

The history buffs here, picked three early mayors to be The Three Founders.  The first two were still around town, buried somewhere, but the absent Byron bugged the buffs — without #3, they didn’t have the complete set – the Fab Founding Fathers, the troika, the Merry Milwaukee Musketeers.

So in 1999, a guy named Frank Matusinec, in Milwaukee’s Historical Society, called up a lady in Jacksonville’s Historical Society, and asked if Milwaukee could have Byron back.  Since he wasn’t famous, or a Confederate, she said sure, and they dug him up.

But…he was in a ½-ton cast-iron coffin, and Northwest Air didn’t want to fly him.  A trucking company, and then UPS declined (this is all true).  So, Road Trip!  

Frank flew down to Florida, rented a U-Haul van, and drove back north, keeping the windows cracked open, got a flat tire, etc. but eventually, he and Byron got back to Milwaukee.

The locals popped the lid, like you would, if you bought an old used car at auction, took a few snapshots, some guys played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes, etc…. and Byron Was Back in Town!  just shy of 129 years after his first funeral.

So, that’s not much of a travel story, really, just one postmortem outing, 1,157.6 miles.

He was kind of a jerk, but he did get the city a working harbor, started a newspaper, founded a railroad, etc

Basically, he got some things moving.  And then continued to move, after he was dead.

And that started me thinking, and that’s never good.

As soon as you start thinking about it, wow, so many dead people, have logged so many miles.


I always try to stick some Shakespeare, or stuff like that, in my posts, to make it seem like I’m well-read. I thought this could be an ad called, “Totally Immersive Experiences.”  But Ophelia is useless for my project, which is “Long Distance Voyages by Dead People.”  I looked at a map of Elsinore (Kronberg Castle) and don’t see any little willowy streams like this, feeding into the Baltic Sea, or into the Øresund, the strait between Denmark and Sweden. As near as I can tell, she must’ve been in the moat, near the Café Brohus and across from the souvenir shop, and couldn’t have traveled more than 1/8 mile. But what a great painting.  [by Millais, in the Tate]

Look at this next restless soul:

Evita had a lot of good qualities, but also suffered from a strange form of kleptomania, as seen in this photo – – a compulsion to steal fancy bedspreads.

Eva Perón

(Better know as Evita, as in “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”)  Died in 1952, only 33, but was at least spared from seeing herself played by Madonna in the movie.   After she died, her body was displayed in the Ministry of Labour Building, then the Congress Building, then she was wheeled over to her office in the trade unions’ building.

And there she stayed, in her office, on display, for roughly two years.

Juan Perón believed he had some English ancestors, and thought the British custom of keeping dead, or near-dead, people in office (professors, bureaucrats, politicians, etc.) was charming.

He did plan on a huge monument, bigger than the Statue of Liberty, where Eva could be kept in the base, like hiding a house key under a candlestick.  Oh crap, I shouldn’t have said that, now I have to find another place.  But when he fled after a coup, he not only left all the lights on in the Presidential Palace, but he forgot to pack Eva.

The generals who took over, turned off the lights, and the body disappeared, for sixteen years.  In 1971, she was located in a crypt in Milan, Italy, under a different name, due to some sort of paperwork issue.  These things happen.

Perón had her shipped to Spain, where he was exiling, and kept her in the dining room (seriously?)(and again, this is all true).  He eventually returned to power, and after he died, in office, his 3rd wife had Eva shipped back home, displayed with Juan for a time, and then finally stashed Juan & Wife #1 in a special tomb, under a trapdoor.

And there, as far as I can tell, Eva remains at peace, except of course, for rolling over when they cast Madonna.   By a conservative estimate, that’s 13,931 postmortem miles, and of course that’s just air travel, and doesn’t include parades, side trips, and excursions.


photo credit: NASA/JIm Ross

Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) must have set some sort of record, because he, or at least, a sample of his cremated remains, went into space twice.  The space shuttle Columbia took him for a spin in 1992, and then in 1997, a Pegasus rocket took him up into space again, and he circled Earth, every 96 minutes, for over five years.  The Pegasus spacecraft burned up on re-entry, May 20, 2002, somewhere over Australia (where they figured, what’s a little more dust).   Probably something like 17,000 mph, so way above 122 million miles for Mr. Roddenberry.

(I checked, and that’s = the total mileage clocked by the Space Shuttle Endeavour, and the yearly mileage estimated for Santa Claus to complete his rounds.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.)

I’m just not sure how to count the mileage for Dr. Eugene Shoemaker.  Some portion of whom was aboard the Lunar Prospector in 1998, when NASA crashed it into the Moon (on purpose, or so they said).   OK, that’s roughly 239,000 miles to get there, but…the Moon, and I hope I’m not offending anyone’s beliefs by saying this, is generally believed to revolve around the Earth, so do we count those orbits as travel time?   Or just the miles to get to the Moon, where Shoemaker is presumably firmly planted, dust to dust, and not moving.


“Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus” John William Waterhouse (1905). A couple of thoughts on this painting.  First, lax regulation of bottled spring water.  2nd, does it strike you that these two nymphs look more curious than horrified?  3rd, doesn’t that look more like a zither, than a lyre?  4th, how’s a head gonna strum that, either way?


I’ll just mention Abe Lincoln, whose legendary funeral train covered 1,654 miles.  His remains were the object of an attempted kidnapping in 1874, and were famously moved and concealed seventeen times before finally coming to a halt in 1901.  However, this was all in the Springfield, Illinois area, and one of the 17 moves was no more than eighteen inches.

Russell Shorto, in his excellent book Descartes’ Bones, details the complex travels and travails of the skull and bones of René Descartes, but he didn’t include a rule-book on how to score the mileage for people like that.  Heads, etc. off traveling on their own, I mean.  Do we credit the mileage, or pay it no mind.  The Headless Society includes Haydn, Mozart, Mata Hari, and the Marquis de Sade.  Do we credit Albert Einstein with 2892.8 miles, when his stolen brain was removed from a beer cooler, and driven cross-country in a Tupperware bowl??  **

Well anyway, you don’t have to be a genius, to know there’s money to be made here.


If you don’t want to invest in a lengthy cruise, we’d offer day trips, too, just little jaunts around scenic lakes and rivers. Canoeing, kayaking, rowing, paddling…sculling.


So here’s the money-making idea.  All these vacant planes, tour buses and cruise ships companies, could be booking Departures for the Departed.

We can revive the travel industry, without spreading the epidemic, by sending dead people on trips.

It’s a lovely gesture, and expired tickets are so much cheaper than regular fares.  The tour groups can really pack ’em in, don’t have to worry about long lines for the buffet or food poisoning, finding clean restrooms, or getting a room with a view.  You can run the whole operation with a skeleton crew.




“In September for a while / I will ride a crocodile / Down the chicken soupy Nile”


And it’s not some passing fancy, cultures have been doing stuff like this for millennia.    The Pharaohs always had some boats tucked into their tombs, to go cruisin’ in the afterlife.  Canoes were used in funeral rites by ancient Polynesians, some Native Americans, Sarawak islanders, etc.  The British general Pakenham, killed at the Battle of New Orleans, and Admiral Lord Nelson, shot down at Trafalgar, were shipped home in barrels of rum or brandy, 5,060 & 1,300 miles, respectively.  In more recent times, lots of famous people – JFK, H.G. Wells, Neil Armstrong, Robin Williams – and countless others have been scattered at sea.


The Anglo-Saxons and Vikings practiced ship burials, and funeral pyres.

Although, apparently what they didn’t do, is set funeral ships on fire, and then send them out to sea, like they show in the movies.

Too bad.  When I was a kid, I remember asking my grandfather why they stopped doing that, sending people off in ships, it seemed pretty cool.

He said, during the Depression, when he was a kid in the Bronx, there were always guys seeing people off at the pier.  People who were dead to them.  But there were no boats, just a washtub full of concrete.  Farshteyn?  Ya get me?

So we’ve got Tradition, and Hollywood, Vikings, Good Fellas, and the Almighty Buck, what else do we need?


Folks in the U.S. have always been restless, a people in motion.

Movement, of all kinds, defines us, like the Beach Boys, hotdogs, or a rotten healthcare system, Americans Are On The Move.

So…why should a catastrophic pandemic mean you have to settle?  Why should dying mean you have to just lay around?

Before you even get started with objections – – how you hated “Weekend at Bernie’s II” etc. or how the local DMV told you letting dead people drive is a misdemeanor and non-moving violation, etc. — let’s just settle down, take a deep breath, get the historical perspective.  Release the deep breath now, while counting to ten.  Times like this, pard, you want to keep a cool head.  Even if you have to stick the head in a beer cooler, to do that.

This is in the worst possible taste?

Oh yeah?  Really?  After the last 3 years, 5 months, and 28 days, in a pig’s eye, comrade, good luck with that “good taste” argument.  And incidentally, Liberace and Jeffrey Dahmer were from Milwaukee, so we know a thing or two about good taste.  And if you didn’t take a deep breath, shame on you, do it now.  Count to ten while breathing out.  It helps somehow, and think of the all people we’re going to be discussing, that can’t enjoy this kind of thing, so just do it.

My goodness, tut-tut, you’ll see that you’ve known about, and accepted, postmortem travel all your life.


Just think for one sec.  One wordMummies.

(Maybe with mummies, I should’ve said extra-dry or brut, instead of sec?)

I’m sure some of you think I’m “not wrapped too tight,” well, styx and stones – – you must’ve seen a few well-traveled mummies, right?  Pretty much every old museum or art gallery I’ve ever visited has a couple.  The Met in NYC has thirteen, the British Museum has 140, for pete’s sake.  Even the college library near my hometown, kept one in the bottom of a stairwell – when I was a kid, I’d stop by to visit the mummy, all the time.  If I remember right, her toes were sticking out.



I calculate the body in the library stairwell, traveled at least 6,211.18 miles, figuring Abydos necropolis > Cairo > NYC > Geneva, NY.*

The University of Manchester recently sent 8 dead people out to cover thousands of miles.  The “Golden Mummies of Egypt” made it to Buffalo (in February!  brrr, better stay wrapped up!) but I imagine this tour unraveled as things shut down for the epidemic.  They were looking forward to swinging by Raleigh, North Carolina, before returning to the damp gloom of Manchester.  7,829 miles, not bad for dead guys.  And people say my posts wander!


Joanna of Castile, Queen of Spain, was expecting her sixth child, when her husband, Philip the Handsome, passed away. She’d just booked a stagecoach ride for two, from Burgos to Granada, non-refundable tickets, so she brought the body along, 413 miles.  OK, the mileage isn’t impressive, but they spent eight months on this journey.  Juana delivered a daughter, and stayed at monasteries and villages along the way, keeping the coffin and un-embalmed Phil close to hand.  This is a snapshot, taken shortly before his death, with the travel agent.  (Notice how everyone is pretending not to notice the huge rats running around the palace?  The Queen was known as Juana la Loca, because she fed them, thinking they were little dogs.)


OK, I see I’ve run long again, so, as the ancient Pharaohs used to say, let’s wrap it up.  Spirit Airlines in Miami has expressed interest, and I’ll let you know when I’ve got Greyhound or a cruise line onboard with the concept.



P.S.   About the name for my new business. 

What do you think of Charon’s Ferry?  I think it sounds pretty upscale.  Don’t think I could get away with Grateful Dead on Tour, so I’m also considering Sic Gloria Transit. 

That phrase is based on an incident from the ’60’s, that would’ve been forgotten, if Van Morrison hadn’t written that tribute song.  Gloria was a street musician, with a cardboard sign “Sic.  Any $$ Helps”  When she finally passed away, some of NYC’s finest couldn’t be bothered to drive her to the coroner’s office, so they just snuck her onto a bus.  Where she rode for several days, before anyone noticed.

No one knew her last name, so the transit authority buried her in the Hart Island potter’s field, under the name “Gloria Transit.”  I think it would’ve been nicer to have her cremated, and send her urn traveling on the bus in perpetuity.  Maybe the S78 route on Staten Island, that always seems interminable.


* The mummy in the Geneva, NY library died around 320 B.C., during the days of the Ptolemaic Kingdom.  Did you know the ancient Greeks, who were running things in those days, didn’t have “silent letters?”

I thought they were supposed to be pretty advanced in science and art and philosophy, and stuff, and were aware of the concept of zero… and yet they hadn’t figured out how great silent letters are??  It’s true, and so without knowing better, they pronounced the “P” in words like “pneumonia” and “pterodactyl,” and “Ptolemy,” and when this Egyptian lady, the mummy in the stairwell, was introduced & tried to say “Ptolemy, Pharoah & Highest-Praised Priest of Ptah,” she got the giggles, and was executed.

**  The preserved body of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, of course, is displayed at a college in London.   His head was severed from the body, and the preservation process was not cosmetically successful, so they put a lifelike wax head in it’s place, and the real head sits on the floor, like a butternut squash gone bad.  But he’s of no interest to us, because neither he, nor his head, ever get out and about, they’re not a traveling exhibit.










A cellphone snap from a walk around the College of Agriculture at Cornell.

A considerable campus, covering over 800 acres, with its pastures, greenhouses, labs, test plots, arboretum, etc.

so I was glad to see a map on the wall of an old barn.

It turned out to be unlabeled and not much use as a guide to the campus, but still kind of intriguing.

Not roads, I think, but maybe geologic faults?

or pathways only a cow would understand



On ceramic or enamel surfaces, it might be described as “crazed with cracks,”

so maybe this is indeed, a sign of the times, as Dave suggested.

FLX, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Minimalist Map

1600's, Arrant Nonsense, Colonial History, Early American History, History, New York City, NY, Revisionist History



Elegant al fresco dining & social distancing.



A few days ago, I posted some pictures of a young cardinal, and mentioned that even though the chick had left the nest, its parents would continue their GrubHub deliveries.

That prompted me to look up “grub.” Because reading the big dictionary, that’s the kind of excitement you can have, after months of quarantine.

I’d always thought that grub, in the sense of food, was cowboy slang – kind of surprising to find out, the OED lists its first use as 1659!

I took that as a Sign.

Thinking about 1659 + grub +cowboys . . .

I should write about Old New York, back when it was The Frontier.



Once upon a time, New York (then called New Netherlands) was the Wild West — a rip-roaring settlement, clearly no country for old men.  Like a colonial version of Dodge City – – cattle grazing, land barons, company stores, unprovoked attacks on Native Americans, gullible hayseeds from Weehawken, etc.

“Hayseeds” have been sticking around since 1577 (“hicks,” “yokels,” and “rubes” wouldn’t shamble along until much later), to provide comic relief, and to hire on as Barney Fife deputies (the ones whose only line is “They went thataway.”)

“Comic relief” wasn’t invented until 1783, and people pretty much just scowled all through the colonial era.



“Bandannas” didn’t mosey along until 1741. The Dutch proto-cowboys used to lament “How you gonna look tough / When you’re wearin’ a ruff?”


In those bucolic days of yore, Manhattan was a lush, verdant island, a little slice of Edam.

And the European settlers brought in livestock.

(Out-of-towners might say “Cattle drives?  in New York?!” and the locals reply, “Haven’t you ever been to New York?  They let anybody drive!”)

And I thought, they must’ve had cowboys.

But I was wrong.

It turns out to be an example, of just how badly History is organized.

Because according to the big book, there weren’t any “cowboys” to eat the grub in 1659.  That word didn’t ride over the horizon until 1725.

Before that, those folks were saddled with a lame, generic job description, just lumped together with “herders” (1625, from a Dutch word), and shepherds tending their flocks, sometimes by night (without getting paid time and a half).

So, if there weren’t any cowboys, just who was eating this antique grub?  And prior to 1725, did the cows just wander around, unsupervised and untutored, in the streets?

I checked, often they did.

“Milkmaids” (invented in 1552) had a surprisingly strong union, and refused to do any “herding, wrangling, or bovine guidance of any kind.”

Cattle & swine roamed freely for centuries, rooting around in gutters, eating the nasturtiums out of folks’ flower beds, leaving hoof marks on the Bowling Green, and making the tavern floors quite a mess.

With no cowboys to keep order, it was just the Dark Ages, practically, and you really had to watch where you stepped.


“Howdy!” The greeting is derived from the old-time, cheese-loving cowboys of New Netherlands, from their salutation “Gouda!”



Even when History finally had cowboys, and could’ve gotten things organized, it wasn’t that great.  Turns out, the harmonica, which to me, is another essential part of the oater scene, wasn’t invented until 1821, so for almost a century, these old-time cowboys had to lug guitars around, and maybe harpsichords.

And History didn’t think of “chuckwagons” for another forty-five years, so they had to brown-bag it until 1866.

Without chuck wagons, there’s no chance of carrying eggs for a Western Omelette, or ranch dressing for your salad.  “Sandwiches” had been created in 1762, but after hours in a saddlebag, no way they’re going to be in good shape.  Kind of a personal night mare.

If it was me, I’d ride down the interstate until I found a “diner,” but that’s even more recent (1935).  You see what I mean about disorganized history?  Nothing happens in the right order.



If you’re planning on obtaining an animal this size, it would behoove you to actually read the operator’s manual, and go through an approved cow-owners’ training class, run by a professional cowboy. (“Behoove” from the Old English “behōf,” meaning, to not get underfoot or trampled by cows.)



Anyway, despite these obstacles, New Amsterdam had cattle grazing, out there in Big Sky Country (Manhattan), by 1625.

Amazon wasn’t around yet, but the West India Co. offered Free Cow Shipping, if you purchased land in the new colony (seriously).

There were even (honestly) honest-to-heck prairies in those days, in the Hempstead Plains region of Long Island.

And “desperadoes” (1647) roamed – this is a real reward notice from those days:  “And whereas complaints are made that the Gardens of many persons have been robbed and their Poultry taken away, if there be any one who can give information of the Thieves…he shall be paid five & twenty guilders…”  Yes, there were no trains or banks to rob, but chickens lived in fear.



Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim. When New Amsterdam was founded, these Puritans had been living next-door in Plymouth for four years already. The Dutch remembered them, living in Leiden for ten or twenty years, and had wondered where the heck they’d gotten to.



New Amsterdam was a company town, just like Durango, Colorado – full of fur traders & colorful eccentrics, a Wild Bunch, on the frontier. Only half this bunch was Dutch (there were Danes, Swedes, Germans, Walloons, Sephardim, Huegenots, Holsteins, etc.), and it was a tolerant place, by the standards of the time — a wrangling, polyglot-trouble-spot of the good, the bad, the ugly.

And there were all those cows – then and now, The Big Apple was all about the bull market and branding.



Each year, more people are killed by cows, than by sharks. Cowboys monitor and prevent gang activity, and keep ’em on the straight ‘n’ narrow.



So by 1659, when people started eating “grub,” New York had all the makings of a good western – prairies, cows, sheriffs (called “schouten” in those days, as in “Fill your hands, and come out schouten!”), soldiers fighting Native Americans, a stockade, and windmills.

As far as I’m concerned, you have to have a clacking, creaking windmill for the right atmosphere, whether you’re filming Hans Brinker or Rio Bravo.




The stockade, along what’s now Wall St, was actually to keep out English & Yankees, not Indians, but again, a great backdrop for a western.  The beer was weak in those days, but a “vaquero” (1519) could have a medicinal shot of Holland Gin, good for arrow wounds, lumbago & sciatica, which you’re gonna get after a long day in the saddle.

But tragically, in its disjointed way, poorly steered, History still lacked chuck wagons, diners, harmonicas, really portable harpsichords, steam locomotives, six-shooters, and cowboys.



Cowboy’s Lament – the end of free range beef and traditional windmills


Sorry to say a discouraging word, pardner, but it’s kinda sad, thinking of those early Dutch herders,  home on the range, making sure the windmills didn’t spook the herd, and yet not considered to be cowboys.  Maybe some of them, who didn’t have horses, would just take the Broadway stage to work.  Glumly setting around the fire, eating their “grub” – probably pickled herrings, maybe a bowl of succotash – washed down by a tankard of warm heiferweizen.


And those colonial range riders, darned if they didn’t feel kinda unappreciated somehow, kinda…undefined, you might say, because they weren’t just herders, they were cowboys…but the word just hadn’t sprang into existence yet.  Dang it.

History is just a mess.


Yep, lose the fancy duds, trade that lace ruff for a bandana, and this Dutch feller’s ready to ride.  That looks to be at least a ten gallon hat.


portrait by Fredric Remington (born in Canton, NY)



Big hats, big boots, horses, cows, prairies, an addictive tobacco habit, windmills, lack of concern for personal hygiene…they were all set for to be cowboys, just didn’t have the right word for it.

But on a happier note, in the morning, there’d be cardinals singing in the trees, beautiful birds which they didn’t have back in Holland – the cardinal chick was what started this whole discussion, remember?  And about exactly the same time in history that people started eating “grub,” the Dutch also started coffee plantations, in Ceylon, India, and then Indonesia, so the 17th c. cow-herders could at least have a cup of Java with their donuts.

They’d sing an ol’ cowboy lament from the Lovin’ Spoonful, accompanied only by guitar, since there weren’t no harmonicas yet:

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck gettin’ dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a cowboy in the city


Far as I’m concerned, it ain’t a real western without a few windmills.



When my relatives Out West, roughing it in the Wasatch Range, want to do some real cowboy-style cooking, they build a fire, shovel the coals into a pit, and do Cast-Iron Dutch Oven Cooking


A native New Yorker, and cowboy, of New Netherlands descent.  Teddy Roosevelt, at the chuck wagon. Lookin’ kinder ornery, like a man who spotted a saddle sore on his steak.


Yep, most a these here pictures are from The Nat’l Gallery of Art,
The Met & the U.S. Library of Congress.
I don’t hold with readin’ much, myself.
It’s jest a sight easier to make stuff up.


















One of my grandmothers instilled in us a family custom, passed down from her parents, etc – – to celebrate the “first” of each summer arrival.

So, the first time you have any vegetable from the garden, for example, you’re allowed to make a wish.

When it’s fresh peas, or corn-on-the-cob, it’s also customary for me to wish for more.

These pictures are of the first cardinal fledgling I’ve seen this summer.  I really enjoy seeing cardinals, and certainly wish to see more.

The chick was sitting in a bush, looking a bit disgruntled, but she was the one who violated the stay-at-home order.

Apparently it’s quite common for young cardinals to attempt to fly prematurely.

No worries, the parents will continue GrubHub services, to feed the chick until it can fly.

Although I think it’s sunflower seeds, not actual grubs.




Birds, Nature, Uncategorized

First visitor of summer

NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around Upstate New York. June. An old door.



summertime door


A cellphone shot of the door on an old shed, near Barnes Corners, NY, on the Tug Hill Plateau.

I like the faded colors on it, wish I had a striped shirt like that.

I tend to like colors that have weathered a bit – had some of the newness rubbed off, like faded blue jeans.

A lot of the old-time paints, some of the oldest, I guess, used things from the earth, like iron oxide.

This reminded me, visiting The Cloisters, a museum in Washington Heights.  Studying a medieval image – cracked, dim, remote – a docent mentioned that the underpainting, the layer under the face, was usually composed of greenish minerals, to tone down the pinks & reds, and get a more realistic skin tone.  But those ruddy pigments don’t last forever.  The face, no longer in the pink, now has a greenish cast to it, like an alien, just visiting this planet, whose disguise is wearing off.

The undercoat is called “Green Earth,” and as the image of some forgotten aristocrat fades, the Green Earth shows itself, “unaffected by light or chemicals.”

Isn’t that great?

Well, headed back to Milwaukee in about four hours, we’ll see what’s going on with those Badger State folks, see ya!







Great Blue Heronry




Whether it’s Mexico, Chile, northern Africa, the Mideast, India, Australia, etc.  there’s constant news of water shortages.

Meanwhile, around the Great Lakes, collectively a fifth of the fresh water for the entire planet, people complain of damage to shoreline properties, from high water levels. Most of the shoreline trail at Sterling has been closed, due to erosion and falling trees.



The Great Lakes Charter & the Great Lakes Compact (agreements between U.S./Canadian states/provinces bordering the lakes) basically prevent the exportation of water outside the drainage basin.  Every once in a while, I see an article mentioning the possibility of pipelines to California or the Southwest.  These have always remained, well, pipe dreams for now.  Ocean-going tanker ships can access the lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway, and there have already been attempts to set up sales of fresh water to foreign countries.   I think such ideas will inevitably arise again with increasing urgency.






In the ’70’s, a local utility company purchased thousands of acres on Lake Ontario, for a nuclear power plant.  About sixty miles east of Rochester, and twelve miles west of Oswego.  There are already nuclear plants on the lake, near both those cities.   When the plans for this plant fell through, part of the land became the Sterling Nature Center, which preserves two miles of Lake Ontario shoreline. It includes woods, a beaver pond, and other wetlands; about nine miles of trails, and is a great place for bird-watchers.





A young beaver paddled around in circles, apparently curious about us.








Clean Waters, Great Lakes, hiking, Nature, NY, Ontario, Upstate New York

Walks Around Upstate New York. Sterling Nature Center. June, early evening.



Aye, the eyes have it.  Polyphemus moth.



Drama in the backyard.

I was watering a climbing honeysuckle yesterday, didn’t notice this creature at first, and inadvertently rained on its parade.

The damp moth fluttered to the lawn, and I took a snap with my phone.

It dried its wings for a minute in the sun, and flew across the lawn, but couldn’t gain altitude.

A catbird noticed, and swooped down.

And those “false eyespots” worked as advertised!

At the last second, the catbird slammed on the brakes and swerved away.

It then sat on a branch and studied the situation, but before it could dive again, Sarah jumped in front of the moth.  She likes catbirds, but told this one off, and suggested it go find another snack, and leave the moth alone.  A polyphemus moth has less than a week of adult life, that’s short enough, and the bird can find something less beautiful to munch on.

Polyphemus was a giant cyclops in Greek mythology.  When Odysseus’s ship landed on his island, Polyphemus invited the crew to his cavern, with typical Greek hospitality, and mentioned he liked seafood.  The Odyssey turned out to be a typical cruise line experience, an epic fail, with rampant gastrointestinal issues, a buffet buffeted by fate – by “seafood,” the cyclops meant seafarers, and he started eating the crew.

I don’t understand naming the moth after him – – the fake eyes are clearly in pairs.

And we clearly see it as a welcome visitor, and not to be eaten.





Nature, Spring

Moth vs Bird

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, Spring, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. May. Bear Swamp State Forest

There’s a lot of places called “Bear Swamp.”

New York State has, I found out yesterday, two identically-named state forests.  I visited the one in the Finger Lakes region, just south of Skaneateles Lake.  It’s namesake is in Otsego County, about a hundred miles east, near Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame).  And a quick web search came up with lots of Bear Swamps, all over the country.

Bears apparently just love a good swamp.  And yet quagmires, morasses, even a good foggy fen – – you really cannot interest them.   You show them a sun-dappled marsh, spacious, move-in-ready, priced-to-sell, and it’s “Yeah, it’s ok I guess, I don’t need anything fancy, but this is just.. a bit…reedy, I guess.  Yeah, that’s it.  A bear needs trees, you know?

Peat bogs, forget it.  That’s more of an amphibian scene, and too acidic.




Well, we saw no bears, beavers, or otters, which were reintroduced into the area.  We did see numerous red newts, which always make me happy, and one red fox.

Despite it’s name, Bear Swamp has plenty of hills and woods, and miles of trails.  Depending on the website, it’s acreage is 3280, 3300, 3316, or 3539.

Perhaps it’s growing, that would be nice.  It’s a pleasant mix of old pine plantations and hardwoods.


And it included kind of a surprise – what, according to my map, downloaded from the state DEC site, was a little creek, yesterday appeared to be a good-sized pond:



I’ve never been to this spot before, and didn’t know if some of this is normally marshland, and just submerged by spring flooding.  (And I think that’s the explanation.).

Standing on the road with the pond washing over it.

The pond was lapping the edge of one of the access roads, and looked like it had recently washed over it.  The access roads are dirt, and were fairly rough, with some huge puddles, and I wouldn’t recommend driving down them without AWD.


This was one of the smooth stretches:



We saw some wildflowers, but what was unusual, were huge stretches of forget-me-nots.  And I’m pretty sure, these were Chinese forget-get-me-nots – – I guess they’re not considered an invasive species, but wow they really spread.



Some of this forest was reclaimed farmland, and so, predictably, there were patches of Vinca minor (“periwinkle”) near the sites of old houses – – apparently all the old-time farmers were absolutely required to grow this in their gardens – – but I’ve never seen so many forget-me-nots before.

[Editor’s Note:  One Paragraph Rant Warning] 

And also one of the banes of my existence.  Garlic mustard, which is really getting on my nerves.  A lot of folks who normally don’t visit parks & woods, have been venturing out this spring, while the epidemic has shut down their normal haunts, but I’m guessing they don’t recognize this plant as a horrible plague of its own.  I have not taken a single walk in the past few years, without seeing it.  It spreads along the access roads, then up the trails, and at this point, it’s impossible to take a walk anywhere in the region without tripping over the smelly stuff.  The deer won’t touch it – –  the leaves are bitter and contain cyanide (just a bit, they’re still edible, but it shows what kind of an attitude this plant has), and the allelopathic roots not only kill off native plants, but also the soil fungi which are beneficial for trees.  Whenever I stop for a drink of water, I yank it out, but it would literally take an army to clear an entire woods.  You can see it in this photo, the heart-shaped leaf, and by next year, it may have killed off that flower.



I always think of swamps as low-lying, but Bear Swamp is the high point of the county.

Not culturally, I mean the land around the swamp, soars to 1860 feet (over a thousand feet higher than the county’s lowest point). OK, the Rockies it ain’t, but on the other hand, the Rockies don’t have these cute red-spotted newts.

And it turns out, the forest is indeed growing a bit. The local land trust acquired 145 acres along the creek, and it’s now been attached to the state forest. This watershed drains into Skaneateles Lake, which serves as the reservoir for the city of Syracuse.  They’ve managed to keep the water so pure, that the city essentially does no filtering. Isn’t that good to hear?