Thursday, June 29, 2006

More Need for Riparian Buffer Zones

Our stream joins many others here in Fall Creek where riparian buffer zones become even more important. The goal is to reduce the quantity of pollutants washed into the watershed by heavy rain such as we've had the past few days and to absorb water and reduce its speed when the body of water overruns its banks. To that end, streams are best protected by trees, with brush beyond that and meadow beyond that.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Rainy Day

It rained hard again today. Here's our stream, inches away from escaping its banks. Makes me realize the importance of the guidelines for riparian buffer zones the Conservation Council is working on.

Nothing like a rainy day to catch up indoors. I finally moved my downstairs computer back to its summer home in the West Wing (where it's too chilly in the winter to do much work.) Who is it that sneaks in when I'm not looking and braids all the computer cords? I swear I connect them all in a logical fashion and neatly fasten up the excess length of cord. But whenever I have to unplug anything, I find everything elaborately tangled.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Chicken update

It turns out to be surprisingly difficult to get a decent picture of the chickens. Here they are, doing what chickens do.

There is one who doesn't pay close attention when the group moves on. She's always running to catch up.

In other news, I did it! I've grown a rose. Well, I can hardly take the credit. I bought this plant in April and kept it alive for all of three months. Ask me about it next June. I generally don't try to grow things that require a lot of attention. The garden is just too big to focus much on individual plants. But a few years ago I took on the challenge of adding a cultivated rose. (We have plenty of beautiful, fragrant wild Rosa multiflora. You'd think that would be enough.) But I decided to try a Joseph's Coat climbing rose. It's growing in a wholly inadequate place in a perennial border. It manages, against all odds, to put out a flower or two each season. But this new rose, whose label I've lost and name I've forgotten, is in a better location and if I remember to protect it for the winter, I have high hopes for it.

On the way home from Agway with a truckload of mulch and feed, we visited The Plantsmen Nursery. Though they advertise "Under new ownership" I actually never knew there was a nursery there. And, wow, what a nursery. They have a fabulous collection of perennials and trees and shrubs that you won't find anywhere else. I couldn't resist a Magnolia tripetala, 'though I think it's on the edge of hardiness here. If it a survives, it will have 8"- 10" fragrant flowers. I also found the Witch Hazel I've been wanting. I meant to find one in the woods that I could transplant, but for $10 this well grown specimen was irresistible.

In the perennial section, Primula saxatilis and Salvia argentea are among the many species you won't find in most nurseries. And with my recent interest in Euphorbias, I decided to try Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon' with attractive purple foliage and early season yellow/orange flowers.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Foxglove has been the star of the woodland garden the past week or so. For scale, those trees are twelve inches or more in diameter and the tallest Foxglove is about five feet tall. I'm developing a pretty good list of things apparently unaffected by deer and/or the toxic root hormone of Black Walnut. Well, the list is pretty short: Barberry, Forsythia, Daffodil, Peony, Centaurea and Foxglove. The list of things at risk is much, much longer.

My success with deer repellent has made me somewhat bold this year and I'm growing lilies outside the confines of the electric fenced area. And foxtail lilies (Eremurus) - I'll never know for sure if they're tempting to deer 'cause I've been spraying them with repellent regularly. They'll be upstaging the foxglove next week.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Varna Firefighters

On my way home tonight, I was intrigued by a billow of black smoke from the direction of Varna. Having discussed the current ban on open burning with the Etna fire chief last night, I couldn't help wondering what was going on in Varna. I pulled into the Varna Fire Department to find this training going on.

Adding foam and water to the fire creates huge clouds of steam and smoke.

But, of course, the firefighters win. Thank you, Natan, Duane, Barbara and Nancy, for explaining the procedure and encouraging me to take pictures.

(Cross posted at Dryden Democrats)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Blogger : (

Well, Blogger let me upload two photos this morning, but no more. I imagine it has to do with my browser's cache but I don't have the patience to work it out. I guess what I have to do for now is upload five photos to a draft post when I first log on. Then at least I have their addresses when I get to writing the post. This is such negative reinforcement for blogging it's discouraging. I used to wonder why I wondered why people complained about blogger. Up 'til a few months ago I never had any trouble. But lately, damn. Log in problems, lost posts, photo upload issues...

If a plant flowers in the woods...

Belinda came back from mowing the trails last weekend with news of an azalea blooming in the woods. Bill planted azaleas grown from seed about thirty years ago, but that area's become overgrown with brush and we don't walk there very often at this time of year. We've long since given up on Rhododendrons and Azaleas because of the deer. So, imagine our surprise to find that these Flame Azaleas are thriving - even self-sowing.

It reminds me of the wild apple in full bloom that we found last year. It's amazing and delightful that we can still find surprises in places we thought we knew so well. It doesn't surprise Bill. He knows the place better than I do yet he always expects to find new things.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Rural Internet Access

It isn't entirely stubbornness that keeps me tied to this dial-up connection. The good news is that I have a beautiful place where it's a five minute walk to my nearest neighbor. The bad news is there are so few houses on our road that Time Warner is unwilling to provide roadrunner and the nearest DSL connection is still too far away. The only option I'm aware of is a satellite connection. The last time I checked installation cost several hundred dollars and the monthly charge was over $100.

When I ran for Dryden Town Board I hoped to look into what the town might do to help provide high-speed access to rural internet users like me. I wrote about it here and here. Since being elected, I've been tied up with the renewable energy ordinance, the stormwater runoff mitigation ordinance, riparian buffer zones and interminable learning about water and sewer districts among other things. Cable companies and phone companies keep talking about rural access, but until it's mandated, like rural electrification, I doubt any private enterprise will put much effort into it.

The town of Dryden has made a laudable commitment to maintaining the rural character of the town. But I'm not sure other board members understand what all this wonderful open space means. I don't think Jason, who bought my father's house up on Hile School Road, knew that there was no internet access there. His job depends on telecommuting and he's been doing heroic work to try to establish a wireless access point.

My frustration with Blogger is multiplied by the amount of time it takes to test each failed effort to post a picture. I'm going out to the garden again. I know, and accept, how long it takes to grow things.

Monday, June 19, 2006


I'm one of the people unable to post photos on Blogger the past few days. It's making me cranky. Blogging is much less fun without photos.

Adding to my crankiness is the growing awareness of the handicap of my dial-up connection. Uploading a hi-res photo to Shutterfly takes more than five minutes.

I give up. I'm going out to the garden.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Yesterday was a crazy wildlife day.I started the morning with a casual “Let’s see how the garden is doing” tour. Remember last week I thought bunnies were eating the lettuce? The next day the bunnies were off the hook when I found a half-grown woodchuck pretending to be invisible just inside the garden gate. I caught him and moved him a few hundred yards away outside the garden and hoped for the best. But yesterday I found two half grown woodchucks pretending to be invisible in the garden. One was bold enough to escape while I went to get the camera. Here’s the other playing his best version of “If I don’t move you can’t see me. Right?” I deported him. Probably not far enough. But at least he’s outside the electric fence.

While I was hanging up the laundry the house wrens were complaining more than usual. I know the clothesline is kind of close to their nest, but we’ve had this discussion before. Looking around, I thought maybe it was the cat they were objecting to. Then I realized "That’s not the cat! It’s a grey fox." That may help explain why last Wednesday my chicken population went inexplicably from eight to seven. I went to be sure there were still seven (there were) and they seemed surprisingly willing to go back into the coop. I’ve been thinking it’s odd that they follow me around like puppies. Do you think they saw the fox? For now, they’ll have to stay in the coop unless I’m there to keep an eye out. I think I need a rooster.

At a five hour meeting last night, I was being entertained by a tiny red mite. As the committee tediously discussed each line of a ten page document the little mite explored the page on top. By the time we got halfway down each page the mite had disappeared. Then each time I turned the page, there it was. On page eight, the environmental planner who was leading the meeting absently reached over and crushed the mite. Damn! What kind of environmental planning is that?

When I got home after midnight I was admiring the bud of a Rosa rugosa Bill had brought me that afternoon. It's the most delightfully scented rose I can imagine. It opened last night to reveal a lovely velvety black caterpillar. See the hole it’s eaten in the back petal. (Wait. I can't seem to upload the picture. Maybe later.)

(Edit: 6/23/06 I was finally able to upload the photo. Thank you, Blogger)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Weekend Fun

Last week was crammed with political meetings and rain. So, it was a special joy to have Maggy here for the weekend for her birthday (or the "celebration of the miracle of her life.")

We had a great weekend, including a trip to the Ithaca Farmers' Market where we found this beautiful onyx and silver necklace by Zehna.

On Monday, despite Maggy's reluctance to leave, we drove her back to New York. To make the drive sort of a recreational experience, we planned to drive back through the Black Dirt region of southern New York and north along the Upper Delaware River.

Near Westtown, NY, there was a short detour around a bridge repair project. On a small back road, we couldn't believe our eyes when we saw camels, (yes, CAMELS, many of them) in a pasture with horses, mules, geese and such. Despite horrible traffic on this tiny road, we stopped for a picture.

We met Babette who explained that this is an animal sanctuary. The camels (there are dozens of them) were rescued from an importer in the Midwest. The sanctuary raises money to support the animals through Dawn Animal Agency which arranges for animal appearances on TV and in movies. Babette explained that they became involved in animal rescue "because, frankly, people suck." I'm sure we've all heard enough animal abuse stories to believe that and it's good to find people devoting their lives to correcting the problem.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Last week there were four (FOUR!) bunnies hanging around the garden.

I took some comfort in the fact that our electric fence is designed to exclude bunnies. But you never know.

It's been raining most of the time since then and the grass has grown so much the bunnies would be pretty much hidden in it. And it interfers with the effectiveness of the electric fence.

It looks like they're sampling my lettuce. When I'm picking lettuce, I can almost hear them grumbling, "Damn, there's that person raiding our lettuce again."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

First Salad

If I had a "June Day" celebration, it might include this first garden salad of the season.

I don't plant many radishes - just a few to mark where the onion seeds and carrots are planted. Carrots take so long to germinate and onions are so hard to see at first, that the radishes help me keep on top of weeding while I'm waiting 'til I can see the onions and carrots. Then the radishes are ready to pull before the onions and carrots need the room.

In my tiny garden, seed mixes are good space savers. These are Easter Egg II Blend radishes from Jung Seeds - shades of red, pink, purple and white radishes in one packet. New for me this year is this Jung's Caesar Salad blend including green and red leaved Romaine lettuce.

It's long been a goal to have lettuce and tomatoes ready at the same time. It's not that it can't be done. It's just that I forget to keep planting the lettuce every two weeks. I think I'll try harder this year. In fact, I think I'll try growing lettuce year-round.

In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan describes the organic spring mix lettuce grown at Earthbound Farm. It's a charming story of young Drew and Myra Goodman starting a roadside organic farm. When the chef who was their biggest buyer of baby greens abrubtly left town, the Goodmans were faced with a huge unsold havest of baby greens. They began washing and bagging the mixed greens and selling them to grocery stores. Thus we all started abandoning iceberg lettuce for those delicious mixes and the Goodmans business started growing by leaps and bounds.

The story of the development of the laser leveled lettuce beds, the machine that cuts the baby greens at precisely the right point, the refrigerated process of washing and packaging the greens and the 25,000 acres of farmland the Goodmans have converted to organic production is inspiring. Yet, “according to Cornell ecologist David Pimental, growing, chilling, washing, packaging, and transporting that box of organic salad to a plate on the East Coast takes more than 4,600 calories of fossil fuel energy, or 57 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food.”

I’m happy to say Wegmans buys lettuce from Finger Lakes Fresh here in Dryden, NY. It’s grown using a hydroponic system developed by Cornell over the past fifteen years in response to concerns about long distance distribution and rising fuel costs. So, the lettuce is grown locally but it’s still energy intensive. On the other hand (I feel like Tevye now) Finger Lakes Fresh is managed by Challenge Industries, which provides job opportunities to people with disabilities.

Anyway, I think I'll try to grow more lettuce.