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

 

P.S.

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

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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

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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?

 

 

 

Standard

 

Saturday

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday

 

What a difference a day makes.

I took a snapshot on Saturday, to show what a good year the trillium are having.

And then showed the same spot, the very next day, during a little snow squall.

There was a polarizing filter on the camera, the only one I ever use, and the snow-covered plants can be seen more clearly in the photo, than by the naked eye.

The pictures could have been taken twenty minutes apart, though, that snow vanished quickly.

That’s just the way the weather is around here, in March.

Er…April, sorry.

Wait!  It’s the middle of May – – and it should be 30° by dawn tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. May. Trillium & Marsh-marigold. But not Snowdrops

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Basically, this post was supposed to be about how much I’ve been wanting a haircut.

By a professional barber, I mean.

I now have an electric clipper thing, a rechargeable beard trimmer, given to me as a present, and hint, by my folks.  But I’d already shaved off my beard and mustache, as the weather got warmer, and anyways it really did seem like airborne germs might hide out there, muggers in the shrubbery, snakes in the grass.

I watched a couple of YouTube haircut videos.  The NYTimes how-to had a guy with the identical clipper and similar hair, but I’m not ready for the Paris Island look.  I’m not vain about my appearance, it’s just, I might need to wear glasses someday, and I just like my ears where they are, attached to my head.

This old truck prompted this thought, about a haircut, and also, Grace Bedell.

 

 

Grace Bedell, from Westfield, NY.

Recognize the name?

Maybe not, but if you went to grade school in the U.S., you’ll probably remember the story.

She was the 11-year-old girl, who wrote to a presidential candidate before the ’60 election, and recommended that he grow a beard.

That was John F. Kennedy, of course, and he opted for Ray-Ban Wayfarers instead, and was elected President.

 

 

 

Actually that’s wrong.

Kennedy didn’t wear Ray-Bans, they were American Optical’s Saratoga sunglasses, still, very cool-looking.

 

 

 

 

And the little girl actually wrote in 1860, to Abe Lincoln.

“I have yet got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you.  You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin.  All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”

Come to think of it, I received similar advice, about growing a beard and wearing some Ray-Bans, I think from a former roommate, who also recommended a haircut and dim lighting, and all that was just to get a date, not the Presidency.

Lincoln, by then fully-bearded, made a point of meeting Grace, on his way to the inauguration.  It was February, temperature was just above freezing, so he was probably glad of the beard, and anything else to cut the wind off Lake Erie.  His train stopped in Westfield, and he sat down on the edge of the railway platform, chatted a few minutes, gave her a kiss, and continued down the tracks to Buffalo, Albany, and eventually, Washington, D.C.

It’s a charming story, but as happens so often, one with a sad ending, as Grace eventually moved, and lived many years in Kansas.

It’s hard to imagine him without the beard, isn’t it.  We’d have a time changing all those statues, pennies, and postage stamps.

So anyway, as regular readers are aware, I don’t go off on tangents anymore, and to return to the central point of this post, I was thinking about a line from the Beatle’s “Come Together

 

 

 

 

Got to be good-lookin’ ’cause he’s so hard to see

Even if you’re a song-writer, and taking a lot of hallucinogens, I think we all know that’s just not so.  It just doesn’t always work that way.

Under all those vines, that is one homely automobile. I never knew Chevrolet made anything half that snub-nosed ugly.

I saw it last week, while driving to a park with my parents.  I guessed it was maybe a 1957 model, since that’s when my dad was born, and when they were standing side-by-side, they had a very similar state of decrepitude.  But he believes it was 1950 or even earlier.

 

 

I’ve tried to avoid that stretch of 14A, until the vines have leafed out, and covered this thing better.

But you know, I’ve been by it a few times since then, and that truck is starting to be like the hideous old bulldog that lives next-door – – without any conscious thought, or effort, you develop a feeling of affection, over time.

It just grows on you.

The bulldog snuffles and gasps and rattles, sounds like a dishwasher on its last legs, but he’s a very sweet-natured old boy, I’m always glad when he waddles up to say hello, and I swear this truck is growing on me too!  I’ll look forward to seeing it’s Green Man look in a couple weeks.

So, let’s not call it weedy and overgrown, we’ll say, “a luxuriant growth of native grapevine.”  And to hell with the haircut, too.

 

Rip Van Winkle awakens.  N.C. Wyeth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1950's, Automobiles, Finger Lakes, FLX, History, NY, Upstate New York

Old tow truck

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Spring is finally trickling in to the upstate woods.

Yesterday the trout lilies and bloodroots were out and about, so we’re feeling a bit more sanguine about the weather.

Still dipping into the 30’s some nights, like a bad habit you can’t break.

And the woods still look autumnal in most places.  Last year’s beech leaves still clinging on, in a few spots, looking pale and ghostly.

Few trees have leafed out, and other than moss and evergreens, the wood colors are predominately browns and grays.

But finally, not a scrap of snow still lurking, even in the crevices of the darkest ravines.

I wondered why these acorns, even if they didn’t fall far from the tree, left without their caps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A weed’s empty seed head, no bigger than a shirt button, is unexpectedly interesting.

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

Lingerers

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Wood, brick, or cobblestone, one-room schoolhouses still dot the Finger Lakes region.

Some are simply boarded up and slowly collapsing.  Every week, I used to drive past an abandoned school on Route 96, a small but handsome brick one, like the photo below, but it has fallen down and disappeared, since I was in high school.

Some have graduated to new roles, like this first photo, as cottage homes, or farm storage, like the second.

I haven’t known that many people, who attended one, but have read of countless famous folks who did, and they all have nothing but praise and appreciation for the experience.

 

Fayette NY. In 1900, there were sixteen schoolhouses in that town, with a total population of 2.711 residents, so some of them must’ve been almost one-student affairs.

 

But they’re really not completely ancient history, are they.  One of my teachers, who retired three years ago, attended a school like this in Cayuga County.  And there’s plenty of Amish schools all around us that are still active, for grades 1-8.  One of my grandmothers, who graduated from teachers college around 1950, was still required to do a term of student teaching in a one-room school.  But there are only a few hundred left in operation in this country.

I’d thought Herbert Hoover held the record, but actually Lyndon Johnson was, I think, our last “one-room schoolhouse” President.

LBJ, like nine other Presidents, did some teaching himself, before going into politics. And he achieved some important gains for education, like Head Start.

He briefly attended a one-room school at the age of four, and when he signed the “Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” in April 1965, he was sitting next to that school again.

LBJ Library

“In this one-room schoolhouse Miss Katie Deadrich taught eight grades at one and the same time. Come over here, Miss Katie, and sit by me, will you? Let them see you. I started school when I was four years old, and they tell me, Miss Kate, that I recited my first lessons while sitting on your lap.”  LBJ

 

But according to his biographers, apparently his conception of “domestic affairs” was a pretty broad, er…I mean, a pretty broad one, so to speak, and I think Miss Katie might have been a tad dismayed, if she’d learned just how many women LBJ invited to sit in his lap, throughout his married life.

 

Currier & Ives print of an 1858 painting by George Henry Durrie (from the MMA website). James Garfield, who might’ve been remembered as “The Education President,” if he hadn’t been assassinated, was our last “Born-in-a-Log-Cabin” President, also attended and taught in some one-room schools, including one in Poestenkill, NY. There’s a beautiful 1881 two-room school, in neighboring Brunswick, named in his honor.

 

The two-room “Garfield School” in Brunswick, NY. (Photo from Wikipedia). I haven’t been systematically photographing this old-time schools, but may do another post – – there’s some octagon ones in the area that might be of interest.

 

 

 

You may be surprised to learn, that I attended this school. (Well, for a day.) The Ansley School (1849 – 1953) is south of Geneva, and they bring grade-schoolers there for the one-room experience. I believe we practiced cursive writing on slates.

 

 

Winslow Homer’s “Snap The Whip” (1872)   A number of older folks have told me, they remember having prints of this hung in their schools.  This is the Met’s version – –  the original, larger version, exhibited at the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia, had a mountain range in the background.

 

 

 

Butler Institute of Art

 

I doubt public schools would hang these pictures anymore – – bare feet!  no adult supervision!  dangerous single-sex game!  head coverings! unstructured play!  possible bees in the wildflowers!  children having fun!  etc.

I love both versions.  The mountains make it look more secluded, like it’s probably a small community, in a little valley.

In the other one, without the mountains hemming them in, the scene looks giddier somehow, and the open sky makes it seem like one of those kids might just escape the gravity of their little town, and get airborne, if they can just spin fast enough.

 

“The Country School” Winslow Homer 1871 (St. Louis Art Museum). I’ve read many times, that the teachers were often young, unmarried women. One of my grandmothers, teaching in a city school in the ’50’s, was married, but concealed the fact that she was expecting as long as possible, because they didn’t allow pregnant teachers in her school!

 

 

 

 

 

1880's, architecture, Finger Lakes, FLX, History, NY, United States, Upstate New York

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. April, Italy Valley Schoolhouse #4

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Scene is along a country road, rainy day.

An interesting sensory experience, taking this photo – – a really nice floral fragrance, from the grape hyacinth.

And also, a farmer was busy in the field just in back, with a honey wagon.

If you’re not from dairy country…a “honey wagon” is a/k/a manure spreader.  I was going to say “a bucolic scene, despite the pong from the cow manure,” and then realized, that’s exactly right.  I looked “bucolic” up, and that word comes from “ox” and “herdsman,” so the cows’ contribution is appropriate.

I read about President Truman giving the press a tour of his birthplace, a farm in Missouri.  A White House staffer asked Mrs. Truman if she could please get the President to stop saying “manure.”

Mrs. Truman replied, “Do you know how long it took me, to get him to say manure?”

 

 

The farmhouse cellar and a collapsed barn, are just behind the forsythias. Whoever lived there, must have planted the grape hyacinths many years ago, for them to have naturalized and spread so much.

Finger Lakes, FLX, History, Spring, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes ~ April, Yates County ~ A Place Where a Farmhouse Used to Be

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It always seems amazing somehow, how ferns shrug off ice and snow. I guess after 300 million years, they’ve learned how to get by. Probably a relief when the dinosaurs stopped stomping on them, and our era’s deer don’t care to eat them.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s worth hiking though the snow, back to these little waterfalls, just to listen to the sounds you only get in winter. A strange combination of delicate swirling sounds, very musical & almost chiming, with deeper gurgling and gulping sounds. Seems like an unlikely and awkward pairing, but they all get along just great, and it’s a very mellow little jam they’ve got going.

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the snow in the stream bed had a strange, cotton wool look.

 

 

In late afternoon, the sun found its way through the trees, and illuminated a little waterfall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

a miniature forest of beech saplings is almost lost in the snow

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, NY, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Uncategorized, Upstate New York, Winter

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. February, Finger Lakes National Forest

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This pedestrian bridge at Watkins Glen has survived since 1870.  For some reason, a park sign identifies it as a suspension bridge, but a website run by historic bridge enthusiasts says it’s a cast- and wrought-iron truss bridge – – specifically, a “bowstring pony truss.”
I like that name, although it suggests some sort of uncomfortable rodeo event.  I’ve posted pictures in the past of the remnants of a similar bridge, over the Keuka Lake Outlet.  The company that made this example was located in Phoenixville, PA, and made all sorts of iron & steel, for almost two hundred years, including over a thousand rifled cannons for the Civil War.

 

 

Since we’re talking about bridges (well, I am, anyway), upstream from the little pedestrian bridge, is a 1949 railroad trestle bridge, kind of overgrown, but still in use.

 

 

 

A train crossing the trestle over the glen.

 

 

Looking down into the glen

 

 

 

 

The white line is the top of a stone wall, running alongside the trail. Which is closed during the winter, but always seems to have footprints on it, nonetheless.

 

 

Some of the reasons why the trail is closed in winter.  You can see some of the stone stairs in the bottom left.  These giant icicles hang over the path, and can detach any time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, History, Nature, NY, Railroads, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Uncategorized, Upstate New York, Winter

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. February, Early Evening, Watkins Glen. Train-, Bridge-, and Icicle-Spotting

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