Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Joining the back to school gang

I'm taking on something new just like Miss Cicely Clark in 1942, of The Women's Timber Corps at work in a timber camp in Suffolk as part of the war effort.  (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

I’m taking on something new just like Miss Cicely Clark did in 1942, joining The Women’s Timber Corpsas part of the war effort. (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

One of the perks of working at NCPR is our access to free courses at St. Lawrence University, also available to spouses. My late husband, Bill Knoble, earned a BS in Geology (Summa Cum Laude!) which he started at the age of 60. I’ve audited a couple of classes and taken one for credit.

This week, it’s back to school for area colleges, and after Labor Day, public schools return. I’ve joined the school crew. I signed up for an advanced fiction writing class with Professor Paul Graham. I’m thrilled, and a little scared.

I live with a “foster” son who is in his senior year at SUNY Canton, just two semesters away from a degree in Electrical Engineering. He takes 19-21 credits each semester and pulls down straight As. In my family, top of the class seems to be the norm.

But here’s the thing. At this age (my age, over 60), who cares, really? I no longer worry about what “people think.” My mother-in-law passed away and took to her grave the metaphorical white gloves swiping windowsills; I traded in fashionable for functional clothing years ago; and, I’ll pretty much let you know if I don’t like the music.

The joy of going back to school late in life is that grades and status just don’t matter any more. It’s about curiosity and challenging yourself. I wish I could say the same about my undergraduate years four decades ago (that was more about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll). Now, I want to stretch. I write a lot of prose for my job, but writing fiction is a whole different world. I’ve dabbled. Now I want to challenge myself to do it for real. Maybe get a few chapters for that novel started.

Wish me luck…the younger students in this class are the cream of the writing crop at SLU. I hope I can keep up.

Oh, and help me out by telling me about your late in life learning experiences–formal classes, seminars, shadowing a artisan you learned a craft from, whatever. Thanks.


What’s your relationship to fast food chains?

A typical Tim Hortons store sign, known across Canada. Photo: Creative Commons, some rights reserved

A typical Tim Hortons store sign, known across Canada. Photo: Creative Commons, some rights reserved

The big news in the fast food business today is Burger King’s purchase of Tim Hortons for $11.4 billion.

As summarized by the BBC:

The deal would create the world’s third-largest fast-food chain, with 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries.

The new group would have a market capitalisation of about $18bn and annual sales in the region of $23bn.

Burger King’s majority shareholder, 3G Capital, will own about 51% of the merged company.

Analysts have much to say about the deal in terms of market share, stock price and long-term impact. Customers may mostly be wondering if their usual menu is going to get shaken up.

Interest on this runs especially high in Canada because Tim Hortons is a beloved institution to a degree not seen at all in the U.S.

I am generalizing, of course. Not everyone loves Timmy’s. But Tim Hortons commands what I’ll call Canada’s public space in terms of grabbing a coffee or a quick bite. In place after place across Canada that is where people gather and cross paths, from all walks of life.

Hence the news has many Canadians wondering – no worrying – what it may mean, as shown in this coverage from CBC:

…what’s at stake for the Canadian icon?

“Tim’s won’t die because of foreign ownership, they’ll die because foreign ownership will bring forth … death by a thousand cuts,” says Alan Middleton, executive director of York University’s Schulich Executive Education Centre.

In a joint press release, the two entities reassured customers that they’d continue to operate “as standalone brands,” promising to preserve each companies’ “iconic brands.”

But such early day promises don’t always last.

While this announcement has its own resonance for investors and the business landscape of fast food outlets, I’m wondering where fast food fits into readers’ lives these days.

I don’t drink coffee, and doughnuts are not my friend as I try to hold the line on middle-age spread. Matter of fact, most fast food has become unattractive to me for a variety of reasons. But we go on long road trips where finding a washroom becomes somewhat attractive. I don’t have a data plan for my phone, so free wifi is another attraction. (Note: It’s only polite to buy something when utilizing services, so I will get a pastry, or a side of fries at the golden arches.)

The public radio demographic is famously stereotyped as Prius-driving, granola heads. So the sample audience for this post may well lean toward outliers (which Merriam-Webster defines as “a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample”).

Still, I am curious. Canadians, is Tim’s really special to you? If so, can you describe why?

And readers on both sides of the border, have you seen your relationship with fast food change over the years? How so and why? Do you see that happening in general, or just in more health-conscious spheres?

For me, fast food chains have become occasional travel hubs that have almost nothing to do with the food they offer. What are they to you?

Old timers know what love is all about


Old Gay Couple on a Harley. Photo: Thaths, via Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Not teenagers. In fact, you could argue that Romeo and Juliet were motivated more by lust than love–hard to separate at that age. So, when I came across a Boston Globe story about an 80 and 90 year old who re-found each other after decades, well past the season of lust, it got me to thinking about love.

My mother, who outlived three husbands, and loved each of them dearly, was full of advice about love and relationships. Generally, she seemed to be right. Some of her ideas may seem a bit quaint in this day of online dating and blurred social practices (e.g., always let the man think he’s smarter than you–yikes!), but the Henrietta Rules definitely worked for her–and some of them for me.

Here are the standouts.

1. Take care of each other. In sickness and in health. Good times and bad. Be there for each other.

I think this one moves to the top of the list as we age. I’ve seen friends care for their partners through life-threatening or terminal illnesses and been moved to tears of respect for how much energy, selflessness and love this takes. This is the extreme. But taking care of each other is part of daily life when you’re in a marriage or committed partnership. Helping each other get through each day with a little love.

2. Don’t nitpick. Or, as some would say, don’t sweat the little stuff.

Y’know, everyone snores or makes equally irritating noises. My father, to the day he died, wiped each piece of silverware before using–in our home, as well as at restaurants. My mother shrugged and refused to take it personally. (Dad had spent much of his youth in a Lower East Side tenement–sanitation definitely an issue.) We all have habits or tics that may be at best unattractive and at worst drive others to distraction. I always saw the “don’t nitpick” as a basic requirement for living with anyone–partner or roommate.

3. Enjoy life, with each other.

My mother had true joie de vivre. She loved to eat, she loved to travel, she loved to socialize with friends and family, she read voraciously, listened to music, and enjoyed most of these activities with her husband(s).

4. It’s only money.

We know that sex and money are the two likeliest causes of tension in relationships. Henrietta often said, “it’s only money.” Mind you, she was thrifty and rarely spent money on useless “stuff.” But, once the bills are paid, she’d say, don’t worry about money. You may not have a lot but as long as the basics are covered, use money to make your life and others’ lives better. Don’t be neurotic about money.

5. Laugh, a lot.

No explanation needed, right?

So, there you go young lovers, advice from an old gal who had three successful marriages and a long rich life. Now, tell me what works for you–young or old–to make love stick around.


Robot successfully hitchhikes across Canada

Can this robot trust you?

Can this robot trust you? Photo: hitchBot Twitter page

A book club I attend spent a whole year on the theme of rivers. Believe it or not, one of the titles we grown-ups dove into was a children’s book from 1941 called “Paddle-to-the-Sea“, by Holling Clancy Holling.

In it, an young Indian lad carves a paddler in a canoe. He sets it into the snows of Nipignon, Ontario, where the spring thaw carries the craft into Lake Superior. The plot line takes the bobbling boat through the whole water system of the Great Lakes, all the way to the sea.

These “let’s take a journey of learning” books seem somewhat dated now. But it’s fun – lovingly detailed with natural and human aspects of the route.

In our more-cynical time, I had trouble with the idea that not one of the different people who encounter the boat on its multi-year journey would vandalize the canoe or even take it home for their kids. “Ha!, That would never happen today!” was my thought.

But I have to take it back. A robot, no less, has just made it across Canada as a hitchhiker dependent on the kindness (or curiosity) of strangers.

Meet hitchBot.

I may look young but I have an old soul.

As a robot, I enjoy listening to electronic music. I currently have Mr. Roboto on repeat but the Blueman Group and Kraftwerk are also amazing. I was conceived in Port Credit, Ontario. My guardians are Dr. David Smith (McMaster University), and Dr. Frauke Zeller (Ryerson University). Growing up I was surrounded by bright, intelligent, and supportive people who I am proud to call my family. I have one sibling, kulturBOT, who travels from one art gallery to the next, tweeting photos of the artwork and of the venues. kulturBOT is definitely not as good-looking or well-rounded as I am: I enjoy reading a lot of books, and I’m especially interested in philosophy and astrophysics. It certainly is an interesting mix — that is what happens when a robot is influenced by both the sciences and humanities. Simply put, I am a free-spirited robot who wants to explore Canada and meet new friends along the way. I am an avid instagrammer and tweeter. On my downtime, I can appreciate a good game of trivia and would never pass up any opportunities to bake desserts.

hitchBOT from hitchBOT on Vimeo.

According to their initial press release of July 16, the team that created hitchBot did it to…

…explore topics in human-robot-interaction and to test technologies in artificial intelligence and speech recognition and processing.

Developed as a sociable robot, hitchBOT’s creators are encouraging Canadians to pick up this friendly stranger, should they see it on the roadside this summer.

“Usually, we are concerned with whether we can trust robots. This project asks: can robots trust human beings?” says Frauke Zeller.

hitchBOT will be able to communicate with those who pick it up; drivers can ask hitchBOT about its creation and personal history, and ask about hitchBOT’s family.

“hitchBOT will have to rely on people to get around, including being strapped into a car seat belt,” says David Harris Smith. “We expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough in its conversation to secure rides across Canada.”

hitchBOT’s final destination is the Open Space artist-run centre in Victoria, British Columbia.

Relying solely on hitchhiking to reach its destination, hitchBOT’s family does not know how long the cross-country trip will take. However, the robot is equipped with GPS and a 3G wireless connection, should it go astray.

HitchBot finished its 6,000 km trek on Aug 17th and collected 35,000 Twitter followers along the way.

No news like nerd news

CarlSaganStampI have been a news junky in my time, trying to keep current on every story and every development everywhere. But there comes a time when one piece of news finally trickles in, the news just isn’t really very new. And at a time when so many disturbing stories come from so many directions–local, national, international–that can be demoralizing.

But how could it be otherwise? For the news to become really new, human character, both individual and collective, would have to be transformed. Until that hypothetical day, nations will continue to do the kinds of things they have always done, as will politicians and the police and the criminals and the deranged, and the kind and generous, too. Attention seekers will seek attention, the secretive will lurk in shadows, and the curious will try to take note of everything. The details can be rearranged, and are on a daily basis, but the stories themselves?–old stories.

Which is one reason I have become such a hopeless science nerd. While the laws of nature are even more unchanging than human nature, human curiosity and insights are always uncovering things that, while not new to creation, are news to me. I read the National Science Foundation’s e-newsletter, and EarthSkyNews. If there is a National Geographic in the dentist’s waiting room, I’d be happy to wait hours for my check-up. If I still put pin-up posters on my walls, they’d be papered with Einstein and Kepler and Newton, along with Bill Nye and Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

So I have heard and read much this week about the kidnapping, and about Ferguson and Gaza and ISIS, and political news from Albany and from Washington. But the things that have really given me new information are a view of the aurora from the space station, photos taken during the “Blue Hour” just after sundown, or stories like “Zombie ant fungus kills its hosts on doorstep of ant colony” or “Researchers find life beneath half a mile of Antarctic ice.”

I’m not exactly sure what to do with this kind of new information, but then I often feel the same way about news of current events, politics and war. All I know is that I am happier to have these stories kicking around in my head than to have the old, old stories of fresh strife, disaster, deceit, oppression and villainy.

Return of a non-native (notes on a North Country homecoming)

A good landing place: misty morning in the Thousand Islands. Photo: Duncan Rawlinson, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

A good landing place: misty morning in the Thousand Islands. Photo: Duncan Rawlinson, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Andy Bates and his wife have just returned to the North Country after a few years away. They have settled in to Cape Vincent for what they hope will be a permanent stay. Andy will be writing for NCPR on a regular basis, taking a look at life in the region with refreshed vision.–Dale Hobson, NCPR

* * *

Back in May, as my wife and I headed north on I-81, with Syracuse falling farther from our rearview and Oneida Lake sprawled to our right, I turned to find my wife crying. We were on our way to Canton, to our 10-year time-warp reunion at St. Lawrence University, and I knew this time we’d never leave.

Sure, by the end of the weekend, we’d be traveling this same stretch of interstate, winding our way through New York and Pennsylvania, through slices of Maryland and West Virginia, and eventually back to Richmond, but the line had been cast, we’d taken a fresh bite, and now it seemed that even though we’d given the North Country a good chase since we last left, now it had us completely.

I left the North Country five years ago, and until then, it was the only place I’d lived that didn’t come with a curfew. Through four years in Canton as a student and another five in Saranac Lake as a reporter and editor for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News, it somehow became the place by which I’ve measured all the others I’ve been, fairly or not.

Western Montana was wild and expansive and breathtaking, Iowa City was unfathomably friendly and comforting, and Richmond provided both the pleasures and pains of urban living—but none of them were home in a way the North Country had been.

I realize now that the five years I’ve been away have really been five years spent trying to get back, and for a long time I considered the pull I felt to be more a case of simple nostalgia than genuine longing. Or maybe it was a little of both. After all, when we find a home, we tend to look for it everywhere else we go.

Sunrise at the Intervale Lowlands Preserve. Archive Photo of the Day: Larry Master, Lake Placid, NY

Sunrise at the Intervale Lowlands Preserve. Archive Photo of the Day: Larry Master, Lake Placid, NY

Though the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana were striking in their steep peaks covered in snow till July, whenever I gazed at them, my mind would turn to the Adirondacks—to the way the clouds cast velvety shadows on the High Peaks in summer or reflected back lavender sunsets at dusk in the winter. Every downtown street I walked reminded me of North Country main streets, not because they were similar necessarily, but because I wanted them to be. And every river I’ve crossed has paled in comparison to the scope and beauty of the St. Lawrence and its thousand islands, which is where I now find myself settled.

But in spite of all this romanticism, I’m not necessarily interested in going back five years (even though, as I drive along Route 12 or wind my way through Canton and Potsdam and down through St. Regis Falls into the Adirondacks, it feels as if I’ve done exactly that). No, what I’m interested in is staking a full claim, in carving out my future, and the future of my family, in a place I’ve never quite been able to shake.

North Country downtown: Saranac Lake on Christmas Day, but it could just as easily be after a "May surprise." Archive Photo of the Day: Tom Dudones

North Country downtown: Saranac Lake on Christmas Day, but it could just as easily be after a “May surprise.” Archive Photo of the Day: Tom Dudones

Maybe I’ve forgotten, slightly but not completely, how unforgiving its winters can be and how ferocious its black flies can swarm, and perhaps I’m being naive and shortsighted to strike out amid such an economic climate, to start over with so little to my name and bank account. Indeed, it’s possible that come next May, when the snow still has the tendency to swirl, and the wind whipping off the river can be as cold as the steel that colors its waves, all the nostalgia of the past five years may very well have been beaten out of me, but that’s alright.

Despite what living here can exact from you, I came back because I can’t think of any other place I’d want to be. Quite simply, I came back because I missed it, and while I know I said I wasn’t interested in going back in time earlier, I suppose I missed the person I was when I was here, too, and maybe a part of me just wants to find him again, to pick up where he left off—only a little wiser perhaps, and ready for it this time.

Digging into the “less is more” lifestyle

A relief of Frugality on the Ceska sporitelna building, Czech Republic. Image by SJu, Creative Commons.

A relief of Frugality on the Ceska sporitelna building, Czech Republic. Image by SJu, Creative Commons.

The list of dangerous topics best avoided in polite company often includes religion, politics, money and sex. But what would be left to blog about if we honored that wisdom?

So today I’ll hit up money. Specifically my new guilty pleasure, something called “Mr. Money Mustache“. Which comes with a rowdy working slogan: “Financial freedom through badassity”. (And I should just caution anyone who cares, he cusses sometimes. Likes to use the f-word for emphasis.)

The search phrase that took me there was “early retirement.” Retirement has different definitions and is movable target, of course. Easy for some, impossible for others. Something I like about the “MMM” website is it can help anyone (at any stage of life) re-think their relationship to money, values and thrift.

Soon I was hooked. Mind you, I’m one of those types who has to read books, watch movies, etc., in chronological order. So I haven’t even made it to the 2012 posts yet. But I really like some of his key concepts. None of them will shock All In readers, but they are worth contemplation:

~ time is a limited commodity of great value

~ relationships matter more than things

~ massive material consumption is bad for the planet and does not bring lasting happiness

~ intentional frugality can be a form of freedom

~ cycling and libraries totally rock!

~ many of the best things in life are found in nature and are free

~ most of us can find ways to spend less – which is worthwhile, if only to free up money for that which you value most

He’s also fun to read, with nods to things like the virtues of stoicism and picking good places to live.

Sure, it’s easy to find fault with his set-up. (Or his numbers. Or his advantages.) But Mr Money Mustache says the hyper-critical are missing the point:

A Complainypants looks only at results – seeing the external trappings or the successes of a particular role model’s life, and justifies why he can’t have those things. And then makes himself unhappy because of not having those results.

Instead, the Complainypants needs to think about the reward of puzzle-solving. It’s not the results that make you happy, it’s the using of your own mind and skills to advance your own cause. You won’t get any further telling me that I have failed to account for your particular life’s situation in my blog.

You will get further by figuring out how to solve the situation for yourself

There’s a whole genre of books and blogs devoted to saving money, but this one has an amusing mix of everyday-practical and broad theory. In his own words:

Mr. Money Mustache’s whole deal is that even by just paying a tiny bit of attention to the details, I find that you can have the whole middle-class lifestyle with well under a third of the standard US level of consumption.

As Mr. Money Mustache told Forbes Magazine in this 2013 interview:

It’s not like I did anything complicated or difficult to retire early. Minimize your spending regardless of your income, and then good things will happen. People in other countries write to me and say, “Do you realize how silly this is? In Germany, you’re just a normal guy. This is what normal people do: They don’t spend all their money.” But in America, the first guy not to spend all his money gets into all the newspapers.

Forbes has this slide show of 12 money tips from Mr. Money Mustache.

My own life has been a mix of economic circumstances. I didn’t come from real poverty, but at times I have had little. Now I’m comfortably middle-class, most gratefully so!

Which is to say, I know talking about early retirement as if that’s a real choice for all is insulting. We don’t all have the same education or skill sets. Mr. Money Mustache and his wife both started out as high-earning professionals. (And he still works for pleasure and additional income doing carpentry and house renovations.)

But it seems to me everyone can benefit by taking a closer look at what they have and how they use it, for maximum benefit in their lives and a lower ecological impact. And one need not be thinking about retirement to start the journey of ignoring our culture’s bad messages about spending. Learning to do more with less can be smart and fun!

Missing August light

"Clover Fields," Rockwell Kent

“Clover Fields,” Rockwell Kent

Two years ago I had this idea that each month of the year shone with its own unique quality of light, and that I should write a twelve-poem cycle that would capture those qualities. As it is with many summer projects, I made a start but couldn’t follow through because–well–because hammock, because barbecue. You know how it goes.

I ran across the abortive effort last night, one poem imaginatively titled “August Light,” and realized that in this chilly August, this particular light has been completely passed over. As long as you’re all showing off your North Country stoicism by resisting the impulse to fire up the furnace “just to take the chill off,” maybe this will provide you with a little warmth.

August Light

In the cool morning of a hot day
the road is lined with chicory,
purple loosestrife, buttercups
and Queen Anne’s lace.

The corn is green, grass is brown,
the sky blue, except at the horizon
where haze tints the raking light
the same shade as lemonade.

When I was five I would walk
in lemon light all by my lonesome
(without crossing the street)
to the store for a five-cent treat.

And at ten, identical light shone
down through filtering oaks
where I crossed the rusted tracks
to mess about beside the river.

It was light the shade of lemonade
I was trying to evoke at twenty,
sweating out the writing workshop,
beating at the page like a moth.

At forty, this light lit up my dad–
elbow out the window, pipe in teeth,
ball-capped, driving a ’67 Safari,
trailing his motorboat toward heaven.

Memory, sweet and sour, mixed
like lemonade in August light.
Everything everywhere always shining–
that is how the light looks now.

Did the NCAA finally get it right?

Clarkson vs. Cornell. Photo: Chris Waits, via Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Clarkson vs. Cornell. Photo: Chris Waits, via Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Are there big changes coming to college campuses?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) made a landmark decision last week, one that will hit home throughout American academia with ripple effects well beyond the top tier sports schools.

Full disclosure – my wife is a professor at a local university, so the impact of NCAA decisions  matters to us because it affects our lives and the lives of friends and others in our community.

That being said, let’s do a quick recap of last Thursday’s events.

The NCAA Board of Governors voted to allow the Power Five Conferences – South Eastern Conference (SEC, think Alabama, LSU as examples), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC, includes Duke, North Carolina), Big Ten (Ohio State University, Michigan), Pacific Athletic Conference (Pac-12, University of Southern Cal, Oregon), and Big 12 (Texas, Oklahoma) – to have more governance autonomy rather than strictly abiding by NCAA standards and rules like the other conferences must. In total, there are 65 schools in these Power conferences, out of a total of 351 universities and colleges with all of their sports in Division 1 (D1) teams. In our region, only the University of Vermont has full participation at this level, via the America East Conference. Schools like St. Lawrence University and Clarkson, where only hockey is played at the Division 1 level, are not affected directly by the proposed NCAA changes.

Under historic NCAA guidelines, student athletes cannot be paid for their participation in college sports. The recent decision is a direct response to the controversy surrounding whether student athletes should be paid. On one side: student athletes get a college education for free, that’s payment enough. On the other side: the amount of time a student puts into practice, games, and travel does not allow for other employment and therefore there is no opportunity to earn.

Yes, they can earn a scholarship, but rarely is it guaranteed for their full term at their school. For example,  if a player gets hurt in a game or practice in their Freshman year, they can lose their scholarship and may end up kicked to the curb in terms of cost of and access to a college education.

But there is even more to it. There are billions of dollars in profit generated by collegiate athletics, making money for colleges and their staff–like Athletic Directors (AD). At some major universities, ADs may earn up to seven digit incomes, like Jeremy Foley at the University of Florida who in 2013 earned $1,233,250, or Shawn Eichorst at the University of Nebraska who made $1,123,000 or Joe Castiglione at the University of Oklahoma who banked a cool million.

These are not the only ones, but a few examples, USA Today put together a great database ( for people who want to know what ADs are making, many of whom are based at publicly funded schools. Why pick on ADs? So many of them have said for so long, things like “how can we pay athletes, where would that money come from?” I will let you stew on that after checking out the USA Today story.

With the NCAA’s new decision, the Power Five, which includes the largest earning universities in collegiate athletics, will now be able to give financial incentive to athletes if their conference chooses to do so. And why wouldn’t you! In January 2013, when Alabama walloped Notre Dame in the NCAA Football Championship game, they earned $23.6 million dollars – for that one game. Granted, that is the largest earning game of the year in collegiate athletics, but it’s one example. Also worth consideration:  when a team makes a big time, big paying bowl game, the revenue earned is shared amongst all conference members.

So how might the NCAA decision play out? Well, it’s likely the big conferences are going to choose to pay players, to ensure they recruit and retain the best players, just like the pros. This is great for the players.

For the schools outside of the big conferences, the impact could go one of two ways.

In one scenario, the smaller conference teams try to “keep up with the Joneses” by proposing the same type of regulations for their own conferences, which would be a disaster financially. Teams like Vermont who play in the small conferences wouldn’t be able to muster, for example, the financial incentives for top basketball recruits the way Duke can. So then what? Would they try and pay athletes, with less of a bank account, how would that work out? Would it drain college resources for academics?

In another scenario, a direction I think would be much healthier for schools outside of the big conferences, smaller universities and colleges would end their conference-oriented sports programs. If a team like UVM knows it can’t compete with Duke, then why bother? Often athletic programs at small schools are a financial drain.

This second scenario could be great for schools, getting them refocused on what they are intended to do: educate. And, these days, educate for global competition—the biggest “conference” of all.

Having said all this, I want you to understand that I love sports and I love collegiate athletics: the pageantry, the kids who know they aren’t “going pro,” but who play truly for the love of the game. There are so many positive qualities. But this NCAA decision could put us in the direction of getting away from the façade. Either you are an educational institution that prioritizes athletics—hello, Alabama! Or, you could be an educational institution that, how quaint, prioritizes education.

What do you think?

Our gardens runneth over

Gardening is a work of art. Photo and garden: Deena McCullough, Plattsburgh

Gardening is a work of art. Photo and garden: Deena McCullough, Plattsburgh

Each week it gets better and better. Lilies and daisies, beans and peppers. There is so much variety in the gardens of our region. Your growing techniques range from precise, vigorous vegetable gardens to slightly wild and whimsical flower beds, from stretches of be-flowered fencing to lovingly tended blooms around public buildings.

I don’t know if this blog has given me a pipeline to gardening activity that’s always existed in our region or if more people have discovered and re-discovered the joy of growing vegetables, fruit and flowers. Have you noticed an explosion, or even a modest increase, in gardening in your neck of the woods? On my 8-mile long road, it seems that the same four families garden each year. No new gardeners that I’ve observed.

The Pierce family vegetable plot in Lisbon: a bumper crop of carrots, onions and corn. Photo: M.D. Pierce

The Pierce family vegetable plot in Lisbon: a bumper crop of carrots, onions and corn. Photo: M.D. Pierce

Garden Club handiwork at Indian Lake Post Office. Photo: Lois Kelley

Garden Club handiwork at Indian Lake Post Office. Photo: Lois Kelley

I’ve noticed beautiful flower beds around churches–a project of the green-thumbed congregation members. It’s a commitment to maintain one’s own garden plus another space (and one that your friends and fellow congregants are going to notice on a weekly basis).

Lois Kelley sent in this photo of the Garden Club’s effort at the Indian Lake Post Office. She says that the garden changes a bit from year to year, featuring different color arrangements, but is always spectacular. Indeed.




Canadians grow gardens, too! Here’s a collage of a gardener and her handiwork in Ontario.

Marian Hofmann in the gardens she maintains around her home. Photo: Hank Hofmann, near Ottawa

Marian Hofmann in the gardens she maintains around her home. Photo: Hank Hofmann, near Ottawa

Okay, I’m a sucker for a photo of good, bad, ugly, beautiful creatures in the garden. Here’s one from Waddington.

Did this toad eat THAT MUCH PUMPKIN? Photo: Christy Snider, Waddington

Did this toad eat THAT MUCH PUMPKIN? Photo: Christy Snider, Waddington

Our friend Cassandra Corcoran in Monkton is harvesting the wild and cultivated.


Mint, dried chamomile and cleaned garlic. Photo: Cassandra Corcoran, Monkton VT

Mint, dried chamomile and cleaned garlic. Photo: Cassandra Corcoran, Monkton VT

Beans, hot peppers, leeks, cilantro. Photo: Cassandra Corcoran, Monkton VT

Beans, hot peppers, leeks, cilantro. Photo: Cassandra Corcoran, Monkton VT

Sumac drupes ready to be dried into sumac powder or used for tea. Photo: Cassandra Corcoran, Monkton VT

Sumac drupes ready to be dried into sumac powder or used for tea. Photo: Cassandra Corcoran, Monkton VT









Here’s an idyllic Adirondack garden.

Sweetwood Farm, Vermontville NY. Photo: Lisa Caggiula

Sweetwood Farm, Vermontville NY. Photo: Lisa Caggiula

And more beauty from another part of the Adirondacks…

The vegetable garden. Photo: Judith Ross, Wadhams

The vegetable garden. Photo: Judith Ross, Wadhams


Endless day lilies along the fence. Photo: Judith Ross, Wadhams

Finally, this one from the keen eye of George DeChant.

Reflecting pond at Will Rogers in Saranac Lake. Photo: George DeChant

Reflecting pond at Will Rogers in Saranac Lake. Photo: George DeChant

So, it’s only mid-August. Keep those photos coming. You can expand out from the garden to the kitchen if you’re preserving flowers or food you’ve grown. Send your photos to me at

I’m working on keeping up with green beans. I freeze some but my preferred method of putting up beans is canned as dilly beans. Or, I let the beans at the top of the pole bean support go past fresh eating and then I harvest as dry beans at the end of the season. It’s an easy way to dry beans–no worry about ground moisture or critters getting at them as they dry. Eat your heart out, Jack, my bean cage is about 15 feet high and the finial tendrils reach well beyond the top.