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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Here’s a nice little fifty-footer, not too far from Boonville, NY.

People are surprised to learn, that the falls is actually located in Hurlbutville.  They often say, “Goodness, can that be so?  I’d have thought  Hawkinsville, or over by Forestport.  Or perhaps, between Alder Creek, and Alder Creek Station?  Or possibly, at the foot of Potato Hill?”

It’s hard not to scoff at such speculation, and I’ve no patience with wild conjectures.

It seems to me, that a sprightly name like “Pixley Falls” should be located someplace more legendary-sounding.  Rome, NY is just down the road, so they could’ve called this hamlet to their north “Gnome,” for example.

But it’s definitely Hurlbutville.  I’m sorry, but it can’t be helped.

Even though, I’ve never been able to see any real trace of that place.  I think maybe Hurlbutville, with a name that magical, might be like Brigadoon, only appearing once every century.

But then, I haven’t looked that hard, I don’t wander too far off the winding, sagging little road that runs from Rome up to Boonville, along the remnants of the Black River Canal.   It’s one of those wooded, thinly populated areas that surprises people, who think New York is all urbanity.

Just on the other side of the old canal, is a creek called Lansing Kill, and this falls.

That name shouldn’t make you uneasy.  If you’re from NY, you already know this, but “kill” is just an archaic Dutch term for a stream, and there are kills all over the Mohawk and Hudson valleys.  Like the little mountains called The Catskills (get it?  Cat’s Creek, maybe because of mountain lions, or because they used to wash the cats there, before making them into felt hats, when the beavers were all gone). (OK, no, that’s not true.) (But in the old days, they did use them for coat collars, my sister just read Gogol’s story “The Overcoat” and told me that. )

Just north of the waterfall is Boonville.  A nice little town, on the Tug Hill Plateau, famous for amazing amounts of snowfall, even by upstate standards.  People come there in the winter, to snowshoe and cross-country ski on the canal trail.

The Black River Canal took almost twenty years to complete, and then operated for seventy years.  It used to connect to the Erie Canal, until it went bankrupt a hundred years ago.  You’ll see some beautifully-constructed old stone locks along the trail – – they built 109 of them, for only 35 miles of canal – – more locks, and a greater rise & fall, than the entire Erie Canal.

 

 

This is from the Library of Congress, taken sometime during the last fifty years.

I’d seen different lengths quoted for the canal.  According to the Black River Canal Museum in Boonville,  it was 35 miles long, with another 10 miles for the Erie Canal connector, and they also “canalized” 42 miles of the Black River, to make it navigable.

In the autumn, Boonville is kind of an entrance to the Adirondack region, and hunters head there in droves, chasing after deer with not just shotguns and rifles, but bows, muzzle-loaders, and crossbows.  I realize they’re high-tech items, with AR-style stocks and telescopic scopes, but somehow seeing hunters with crossbows, or black powder/percussion cap rifles, just seem to add to the forgotten-by-time flavor of this corner of upstate.

The canal trail, about ten miles long, is a very pleasant walk, down the old towpath, part of it with the Lansing Kill right along the other side.

 

a rivulet flowing into the kill

 

canal trails, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Walks Around Upstate New York. Pixley Falls, late March, late afternoon.

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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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There’s a story I’ve heard many times, about a couple of my directionally-challenged aunts, getting lost on their way from NYC to visit my family in central NY, many years ago.

They were missing in action for many hours, and finally, late at night, they called from a payphone.  “We must be near Waterloo, because we passed Watertown quite a while ago.  It’s very dark, and there’s nothing but trucks loaded with logs.  The sign says ‘Last U.S. Exit.'”

If you don’t have a map handy, you just have to know, they’d driven north from The City, and neglected to ever turn west, toward my town.  They’d just pressed on, northward, like Admiral Peary, and were calling from the Canadian border.

It was assumed by most, they’d arrived somewhere near the St. Lawrence River, and the province of Ontario.   But I think people underestimate my aunts’ ability to misplace themselves, and it could’ve easily been near Quebec, or even New Brunswick.

If they ever have time, and a platinum gas card, I believe with all my heart, that they could outdo Moses, who only wandered in the desert for forty years, and they’ve been practicing for almost that long now.

The last time I told this, the listener wasn’t surprised about them getting lost, since they’re related to me, but they asked about the log trucks.   And they were surprised when I mentioned logging in New York.

I don’t think these photos are all that special, but they’ll serve as illustrations.  Folks who’ve only visited NYC, might not realize, that New York still has lumbering.  While not on the scale of the Pacific Northwest or southern states, NY is on the top ten list for producing hardwoods, especially maple, oak, and cherry.

 

 

 

The pine trees in the photos are something different.  Government foresters planted them to help stabilize worn-out farmland.  That was years ago, and I think all of the pine plantations around the Fingers Lakes, state or federal, are now mature, or a bit past it.

As they were harvested, some were being replaced with red oaks, but mostly it appears to be left to windblown chance – – so it’ll probably end up with the usual suspects – – beech, maple, oak, hickory.  Sometimes you’ll see cottonwoods and dense thickets of poplars springing up – – not very valuable for lumber, but good cover for grouse, quail & woodcock.

This region doesn’t have the large-scale chip- and pulpwood farming that goes on in the south, with it’s industrialized pine monoculture.  The white pines are in decline around here, between logging, windstorms, a destructive fungus that attacks the needles, blister rust, and pine bark beetles & weevils.

 

 

I guess the plantations are “fake forests,” of course, but I have to confess, that walking in these groves, through the orderly rows of pencil-straight trees, has always appealed to me.  They’re not that common around here, so it makes a nice change.  Almost zero undergrowth, so you can march along inspecting ranks, not worrying about ticks or thorns, breathing that great pine-y air, with chipmunks skittering across your path.

Especially when it’s frosty outside, it’s great to take the path less traveled by, but it’s also nice to not get bent in the undergrowth, always having to watch for trail blazes, and just let your mind wander, knowing you’re on the straight and narrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. February, Schuyler County.

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The Stone Church was built by a German Reformed congregation in 1823. Quite a few of the area’s farmers back then were “Pennsylvania Dutch” emigrants, Reformed and Lutheran, and now, almost two hundred years later, many local farmers are again Penna. Dutch emigrants, but from a different offshoot of the Reformation, the Amish and Mennonite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1859, this place had a tailor, shoe store, carriage- and harness-makers, a sawmill, and three churches.  And two taverns, convenient to the churches.  I don’t believe there is currently a single business operating in the hamlet.

 

 

Apparently that merry gang in Wash.,D.C. is again talking about privatizing and shrinking the Postal Service.  There’s no longer a grocery store, so the post office is about the only place to run into your neighbors during the week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1820's, Finger Lakes, FLX, NY, Post Office, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. Fayette, New York, January. ZIP code 13065

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