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Talk like a pirate – or travel to their haunts

Illustration of Blackbeard's Jolly Roger flag. It depicted a skeleton piercing a heart, whilst toasting the devil. Traced from a scanned image of Konstam's book. Source: Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Illustration of Blackbeard’s Jolly Roger flag. It depicted a skeleton piercing a heart, whilst toasting the devil. Traced from a scanned image of Konstam’s book. Source: Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Thanks be to me matey, Todd Moe, for a telling us all this be talk like a pirate day. It slipped me mind.

And that’s it, I’m done. Because it’s hard to talk like a pirate. After Argh, avast, ahoy and shiver me timbers, what’s left? (Some of ye can bestir yourselves to greater efforts, but my powder runs short.)

According to media and Internet sources, Sept 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Really.

Here’s more on that . Apparently a newspaper humorist is to blame:

Ever since Dave Barry mentioned us in his nationally syndicated newspaper column in 2002, what once was a goofy idea celebrated by a handful of friends has turned into an international phenomenon that shows no sign of letting up. Whether you be new to the notion, or one of the millions who’ve made it your own personal excuse to party like pirates every September 19th, welcome! Stick around, check out our social media sites, an’ learn all about September 19 – International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Coincidentally, I am recently back from time at Ocracoke Island, on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where real pirates once made port, including Edward Teach, AKA Blackbeard.

This Feb 2014 Smithsonian article gives a good account of “The Last Days of Blackbeard

…Blackbeard’s life and career have long been obscured in a fog of legend, myth and propaganda, much of it contained in a mysterious volume that emerged shortly after his death: A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates. Nobody knows for sure who wrote the book—which was published pseudonymously in 1724—but the General History almost single-handedly informed all the accounts that have come since. Parts of it are uncannily accurate, drawn word-for-word from official government documents. Others have been shown to be complete fabrications. For researchers, it has served as a treasure map, but one that leads to dead ends as often as it does to verifiable evidence, which scholars covet like gold.


Ocracoke Inlet, 1775 map, via Wikipedia, public domain.

While in Ocracoke we stopped by something called Teach’s Hole (full name: Teach’s Hole Blackbeard Exhibit and Pirate Specialty Shop). It’s a combination of pirate souvenirs and a small museum about Edward Teach and pirate days in the area. We’ve been there before, and paid the extra dollars to see the museum side. (But apparently one pirate flag is not enough, someone had to stop again so our household could own two.)

September is off-season so it was only us and the store owner. He said when they opened over 20 years ago it was difficult to find pirate-themed items, they had to find huge number of different individual suppliers. That go easier after the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. But, he said, it’s sort of dying down again.

Of course, pirates have had their fans as far back as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure IslandPirate allure has legs. It won’t vanish, even if it ebbs and flows.

While at the store I was harassing my spouse about his boyish regard for pirate symbology. (And it is a boyish regard because he didn’t care enough to watch all the Johnny Depp Captain Jack Sparrow stuff.) Putting on my best schoolmarm identity I asked how any adult could seriously admire raping, stealing and pillaging honest, hardworking civilians?

The spouse had a decent rebuttal. He couldn’t really justify the larceny, nor the modern practices of piracy. But he has some regard for at least one aspect of the golden age of piracy, as a rare, early outlet of democratic organization.

Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, illustration from

Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, an early engraving by Benjamin Cole, via Wikipedia, public domain.

In a time when ordinary sailors were whipped and hanged for the slightest offenses, pirates sailed under “articles of agreement“, which they had some say in drafting and enforcing.

Not just thieves then, but free thieves. Little wonder they were hunted and hated by authority

By the way, according to the previously mentioned Smithsonian article, “…Despite his infamous reputation, Blackbeard was remarkably judicious in his use of force. In the dozens of eyewitness accounts of his victims, there is not a single instance in which he killed anyone prior to his final, fatal battle with the Royal Navy.”

Anyway, for those who like that sort of thing, this is your day!


Oil: are we crazy, optimistic or greedy?

Photo: Mike Psiaki, via Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Photo: Mike Psiaki, via Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

I’m no more an expert on the global oil industry than anyone else. I am old enough to remember the 1973 oil crisis–when Middle Eastern production was reduced to put pressure on Israel and its allies following the occupation of Gaza–which led to a U.S. ban on oil exports, a ban that has remained in place through multiple oil crises in subsequent decades. Until now, maybe.

NPR reported this morning that the President is favorably inclined to reconsider and remove that export ban, in light of increased domestic fuel production in recent years and the availability of expanded fuel resources, partially because of new extractive technologies like hydrofracking.

Since 1973, we’ve seen a brief public and corporate response to oil crises and then, each time the price of fuel at the pump declined, our national memory is wiped clean again and we’re back in the 1960s when fossil fuels seemed limitless, cars got 10 mpg, and “national security” was code for the cold war with the Soviet Union not domestic vs. imported oil availability. So through multiple fuel security scares, our long-term response has been relatively trivial, except for developing new extractive technologies. This brings to mind an old saying, which I’ll paraphrase: doing something the same way over and over without success is a sign of insanity.

But, maybe it’s good ol’ American “can do” optimism. Another story from NPR considers the current price decline at the fuel pumps. In recent years, with the growth in the Chinese, Indian and large emerging economies, with conflicts across the globe, we would expect a rise in demand and cost. Instead, prices have declined and there’s plenty of fossil fuel. This fuels our optimism about the future: we will continue to find reserves and ways to extract those reserves and, by the time those reserves may be depleted, we’ll have found new reserves or new fuel solutions. This makes economic growth possible, and economic growth is good.

Or are we just greedy when we accept 25 mpg SUVs as a good enough response to climate change? Can the planet handle our material greed? In developed and developing nations? In our own country? In you? And me? Is the extraction of seemingly limitless fossil fuels and the use of those fuels by billions of people something our planet can handle?

Just asking. Crazy, optimistic, or greedy?


Ottawa Folk Fest Day 5: Some Kind of Wonderful!

With the clouds finally parting for the fifth and final day of the Ottawa Folk Fest, Hog’s Back Park was once again transformed into the place to be for music lovers to enjoy a wonderful fall afternoon.

Coeur de Pirate_01

Coeur de Pirate at the Ottawa Folk Festival

The day began with a poignant homage to folk legend Pete Seeger, whom the world lost back in January of this year. The hour-long tribute focused on the man and his music with performances of Seeger’s best loved songs by members of Elephant Revival, Parsons Field, The Carper Family, Spencer Scharf and Fred Penner.

The remainder of the afternoon continued on with individual performances by the aforementioned folk artists spread across the park performing on various stages, along with various workshop sessions and free activates for the family.

As the sun began to set late in the afternoon, award winning Canadian Singer-songwriter Beatrice Martin, better known by her stage name ‘Coeur de Pirate’ kicked things off on the RavenLaw stage with her trademark energy on keyboard and vocals.

Matt "Guitar" Murphy at the Ottawa Folk Festival

Matt “Guitar” Murphy at the Ottawa Folk Festival

As evening approached, The Ottawa Folk Festival was honored to host a living legend, iconic Mississippi Blues man Matt “Guitar” Murphy. Best known for his work with Howlin’ Wolf and The Blues Brothers, he performed an intimate one-man set on the Hill Stage. Despite suffering a stroke back in 2003, he was still able to blaze through a set of intricate blues riffs, and standards. Often taking time out to interact with the crowd of adoring fans.

Joss Stone_02

Joss Stone at the Ottawa Folk Festival

Following in the tradition of R&B greats the festival has welcomed in the past, 27-year old British soul singer Joss Stone took over the RavenLaw stage, with a set showcasing the soulful sounds of her early Motown influences. Despite the cold, she performed barefoot, as is her trademark, taking time out between songs to flirt with the crowd, before engaging them once again with her incredible vocal range.

Joss Stone_04

Joss Stone

The Folk Fest closed out the 2014 edition with the Eh! main-stage performance by Canada’s own “Hey Rosetta!” Who were called up to fill the headline slot for the evening at a moment’s notice upon a last minute cancellation by New Jersey band Gaslight Anthem.

All in all, the Ottawa Folk Fest has once again proven itself as the region’s most anticipated way to kick off the fall season. Thanks again to the organizers for welcoming North Country Public Radio to share in this year’s festivities. See you next year!

Ottawa Folk Fest Day 4: Roots, Rock and Rain!

After a very cold, very wet Saturday afternoon in what some concert goers began referring to as “Hog’s Back Swamp” here in Ottawa, the rain finally subsided just in time for all the great performances on the evening line-up. Which, despite all the mud left behind, was definitely well worth the trek out.

Ed Kowalczyk_07

Ed Kowalczyk at the Ottawa Folk Festival

Among the many notables performing throughout the course of the day, we saw Simon Townshend, younger brother of famed Pete Townshend of legendary band The Who, performing his own distinctly personal work on the Hill Stage. Followed by Adam Cohen, son of the legendary Leonard Cohen, performing in his own unique style on the Valley Stage.

Neutral Milk Hotel at the Ottawa Folk Festival

Neutral Milk Hotel at the Ottawa Folk Festival

We also saw iconic Canadian children’s entertainer, singer/songwriter Fred Penner perform two shows at the Craft Beer House. The first, billed as a “family show” featuring his most memorable repertoire of childhood favourites for the kids performed, ironically amidst a bevy of craft brew concessions. (presumably for the parents). The second set was themed around the grown-up “Fred-Heads”, and had the “gentle giant” and his trusted side man Paul O’Neill engage the audience with thoughtful witticisms and humour geared to help guide the kids inside all of us through the next phase of our lives.

Blue Rodeo guitarist Greg Keelor at the Ottawa Folk Festival

Blue Rodeo guitarist Greg Keelor at the Ottawa Folk Festival

At nightfall, the Valley Stage played host to legendary singer / songwriter Ed Kowalczyk, former front man of multi-platinum rock band “Live” who performed a phenomenal one-man “unplugged” acoustic set that spanned his entire catalogue, from some of his biggest hits and solo albums.

On the RavenLaw stage, the influential American indie rock band ‘Neutral Milk Hotel’ performed a set filled with their trademark ‘experimental sound, ambiguous lyrics and diverse instrumentation’, with a “mountain-alt” aesthetic that bordered on the sublime.

Blue Rodeo at the Ottawa Folk Festival

Blue Rodeo at the Ottawa Folk Festival

The evening concluded with Canada’s most renowned roots rock band, Blue Rodeo on the Eh! Main-Stage, featuring a cross selection of their iconic recording career. Starting off with Head Over Heels and running through a stirring set list of classics spanning their entire catalogue from the last few decades to the delight of a captivated audience. Their set lead up to the rousing folk sing-along for portions of the grand finale which included Hasn’t Hit Me Yet, Try & Lost Together. Definitely the ‘high water mark’ after a cold rainy day

Who’s the most different from you and me?


Howling wolf. Photo: Via Creative Commons, some rights reserved

My pug Guy. Yes, he is descended from the wolf and genetically a close relative. Photo: Ellen Rocco

My pug Guy. Both wolves and pugs bark and howl. Photo: Ellen Rocco












Them. Those other people. And, sometimes, friend, I gotta say, I wonder about you when you (fill in the blank here).

This week, NCPR is honored to host Keith Woods, NPR’s VP for Diversity, during his two day visit to Canton. In preparation for  the variety of events and activities he’ll be participating in (scroll to bottom of this post for details about what’s open to the public), I’ve been thinking about diversity and difference.

What better setting than an Amish barn-raising I was invited to earlier this week? In many ways, the Amish are the most different from the rest of us (we’re all the “English” to them) than any other cultural, religious, or racial group in the region. Your skin color may be different than mine, you may have grown up on a farm and I grew up in the city, or you may be agnostic and I’m a devout church-goer, but we all live in the same world of politics and government, media and entertainment, education and culture. Regardless of your political affiliation or favorite tv shows, regardless of the college you attended (or didn’t attend), collectively–including our differences–we create a common world or society called the United States.

Now, think about the Amish. Aside from local school and town levies, they pay no taxes; they do not vote in general elections; they send their children to one-room schools through 8th grade and no further; they build no churches, but their lives are unequivocally grounded in their Christian faith; they don’t drive cars (!); and, in a time when we “English” have abandoned small family farming and moved en masse to cities and suburbs, the Amish believe that a life on the land is inseparable from their Christianity.

Plus, they speak a dialect of German in their homes and among themselves, and English to the “English.”

So how do we even talk to each other?

Here’s the amazing thing. Over the years, with many Amish neighbors and friends, the differences seem less and less important in terms of knowing each other and caring about each other and working with each other. Don’t get me wrong, there are big differences. But, the proximity of our homes and the fact that we operate small farms gave us common ground. We use tools that most large farmers–not to mention non-farmers–don’t even recognize. (A teenage neighbor who helps out his grandfather on a very large dairy, gave us a hand haying. He was truly flabbergasted at how much time and work it took to put up hay in small square bales, compared to using combines and round-balers. My Amish friend Abe was helping me and we had a good laugh–both of us have also brought hay in loose, so square-baling seems kind of modern to both of us.)

We share small farming as a meeting point and a place to work cooperatively. We share a lot of similar values, too, though our Amish friends are quietly devout Christians and I’m a cultural Jew whose awe is directed toward nature and this planet, respect for the land is mutual and paramount. We all work hard at physical tasks, and respect those who use tools well.

We laugh at each other and our quirks; we share slightly off-color jokes (y’know, farmers are pretty earthy whether English or Amish); we take care of each other when we need help; and we trust each other.

Even a cat, a lamb and a dog can find cross-species trust. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Even a cat, a lamb and a dog can find cross-species trust. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Being invited to the barn-raising was a sign of friendship and trust. Here’s what it boiled down to as I see it: Abe and Lizzie knew that Mike (my “adopted” son) and I, without being told how to do so, would be comfortable ourselves and wouldn’t make uncomfortable the 150-200 Amish men and women there to help. We are not anthropologists. We were there as friends to pitch in and get the job done–me in the kitchen (mostly washing dishes and stirring stuff), and Mike on the building site (where he said he watched a lot and pounded a few nails once he got the drift of what is clearly well-established barn-raising procedure).

In the kitchen, the women spoke German almost exclusively, unless I asked something or someone was chatting directly with me. It didn’t matter. I’ve washed dishes and laid out food for big crowds. In this case, the entire house and main porch were filled with tables and benches to accommodate the midday meal (still called dinner by the Amish and other older rural people). The men washed up outside, were seated and served first, then the tables were cleared and the women ate.

Here’s another difference: the Amish still divide much of the day’s labor by gender, just as rural “English” families did a century ago. Men take on the bulk of the field and building work; women shoulder the house, garden, milking and childcare duties. This is not about sexism. This is about efficiency and lifestyle. Women know how to drive a buggy or a work team in the field, but their work is centered around the home, and taught by mother to daughter. Outside, it’s not unusual to see Abe’s oldest two sons, John and Levi, 16 and 14, go zooming by the window like any teenage boys…it’s just that they zoom by driving a team of work horses pulling a skidder or wagon.

So what’s the takeaway for me in the context of the upcoming visit from Keith Woods? I remember something Keith said to me when we were talking about how to shape the conversations he’d be leading. In spite of his title, VP for Diversity, Keith urged me to think of the challenge as one about difference. He considers this a better way to think about our complex make up as a society, a better way to find common ground and meaningful conversation.

For me, the key difference between talking about difference rather than diversity is that it levels the playing field. There’s some kind of hidden code in the word “diversity”–it’s been used for so many years, in so many ways, largely by those who have played a dominant role in our society (white, male, well-educated, affluent or simply more privileged in any specific setting). For those who have been more privileged and who have had their voices heard,  even when well-meaning and wanting to extend a kind of magnanimous message to those who are “the diverse peoples,” the language shapes our thinking: the dominant group is not part of the meaning of “diverse.” And that perpetuates a kind of imbalance, and wariness between different peoples.

So the barn-raising was a pretty clear place for me to begin my thinking about Keith’s upcoming visit. I was alert to the differences between my world and the Amish world but it wasn’t about them including me or me including them. It was about working across, through and with our differences.

This is not a cutesy or romantic thing to do. It builds community, it makes us all better, in all directions.

Here’s hoping you’ll join the conversations with Keith Woods. There’s the Great Conversation dinner event on Wednesday, at 6 pm at Eben Holden on the SLU campus in Canton. Here’s a link to more info about the evening and how to secure a spot at the table. (By the way, Keith suggested we call this Good Conversation, bring it down a peg. Not a bad idea.)

If you can’t make the evening dinner, plan to tune in f1om 11-noon on Thursday for an on air conversation with Keith, who will be taking your questions via phone and online.

Until then, how about your thinking on this: what are the differences between the people of the north country that strengthen or challenge our region?




Ottawa Folk Fest Day 3: Old School Soul and The Modern Age

Fall has definitely made it’s way to the Ottawa Region, and as the cold snap continues there was no warmer place to be than the Ottawa Folk Festival on Day 3.

Lee Fields & The Expressions_01

Old-school soul singer Lee Fields

Kicking things off on the Eh! Mainstage was authentic old-school soul man Lee Fields & his tremendous band The Expressions, “bringing it” to the park with a solid showcase of timeless authentic soul.

With a career spanning 43 years, the North Carolina native has toured with a who’s-who of soul legends, and is often compared to the Godfather himself, James Brown, in terms of his deep rich tones and gritty yet powerful phrasing.

His set included a string of timeless and powerful selections from his latest release “Faithful Man” that only exemplifies the fact that vintage soul is still alive and well in today’s modern world.


North Carolina singer J. Cole at the Ottawa Folk Festival

Next up, Another North Carolina native, J.Cole on the RavenLaw stage, contrasted by Ottawa’s favourite avant-garde pop noir band The PepTides on the Hill Stage, Black Prairie on the Valley Stage, with Chrissy Crowley followed by the Sprag Sessions in the Craft Beer House.

The National_04

Matt Berninger, singer for The National, at the Ottawa Folk Festival

The evening was capped off at the Eh! Mainstage with Brooklyn’s indie rock sensation ‘The National’ lead by frontman and songwriter Matt Berninger.

Opening up with “Don’t Swallow the Cap” from their critically acclaimed 2013 release “Trouble Will Find Me” the band continued through their catalogue with a series of melodic yet introspective, and often world-weary contemplations on love, self-destruction and the monotony of urban paradigm.

Bryce Dressner, guitarist for The National, at the Ottawa Folk Festival

Bryce Dressner, guitarist for The National, at the Ottawa Folk Festival

Themes accentuated by the dark baritone vocals (notably reminiscent of musical precursors like that of late Joy Division singer Ian Curtis) complimented the bands lush tones against a tepid backdrop of illumination on stage. Finishing up the set with “Mr.November”, ‘Terrible Love” and the always effervescent “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”

Putting a little new up in new media

As what we used to just call “the internet” has become increasingly fragmented across all kinds of devices big and little and across various platforms and services new and old–well, less new anyway–the job of providing stories, news, information and entertainment to an audience has become very complex. It used to be that a media organization would just have a website, and that was how you experienced it online. It did pretty much the same job and looked and functioned pretty much the same way on whichever beige box was plugged into the wall and into the wired world. Ah–the good old days.

It takes a whole suite of tools to do the job properly now, and NCPR has been scurrying around trying to keep it’s presence current on as many of them as is practical for a small organization with limited resources. All of them are changing and evolving rapidly, so it might be a good time to inventory what’s out there now for the NCPR audience and what’s coming up.

NewandImprovedFirst–a brand new website is days away from launch. It will have a cleaner look and be a lot more flexible, scaling to work properly on desktop, laptop, tablet and phone screens. It will highlight good photography better, and will operate more conveniently, providing the ability to read, listen to audio, watch video and share stories directly from the home page. It will use a new media player that is compatible with more browsers and operating systems. And shortly after launch, it will provide stories from a wider array of public media networks, programs and producers than we can do now. That is because the Public Media Platform, which has been in the works for several years is finally beginning to roll out, and will give us access to  news and entertainment from programs like PRI’s The World, Science Friday, and others that listeners have long enjoyed on air, but couldn’t receive via our website.

Second–we are testing out a totally-remade version of our NCPR app. I’m one of the testers and have to say the experience so far is a big improvement, particularly on the phone screen. We also plan to add a second stream in addition to the NCPR broadcast stream to the new app, including for the first time our Public Radio Remix station WREM, now heard only via broadcast in the St. Lawrence County area. NCPR is also working on creating a local presence on the new NPR One mobile app, which provides a mix of national and local stories that is tuneable to individual preferences  and story selection and can respond to voice prompts. This will make it possible to retain a local “radio” presence in the growing area of the connected car, where terrestrial radio is taking a back seat to new digital and satellite offerings available in the dashboards of new vehicles.

Third–we are improving the online listening experience. Streaming is an expensive proposition and costs increase with both the quality of the audio and the number of listeners. So it’s a balancing act to provide the best service to the most users without breaking the bank. But NCPR has begun offering a higher-quality stream which uses a more efficient encoding method to deliver better quality using less bandwidth. So far it is available only using iTunes Radio, but we plan to extend this kind of improvement to the streams available directly from the NCPR website sometime in the coming year.

While it’s too soon to say “You’re welcome,” it’s never too soon to say “Thank you.” Your consistent support over the years has enabled NCPR to build and maintain a steadily improving presence on the technology of the new media era. I think this will be a jackpot year for NCPR listeners and visitors.

Ottawa Folk Fest Day 2: Lorde have mercy!


A cool arctic air that surrounded festival goers in Ottawa last night was matched only by the pre-show buzz, which could be felt far and wide as day two of the 2014 Ottawa Folk Fest took flight. I personally have never seen that many music lovers arrive simultaneously to Hogs Back Park, as if in some orchestrated flash mob fashion, and it was clear from the start who everyone came to see…


… New Zealand born “indietronica“ sensation, Lorde, performing on the E! mainstage

First up on the main E! stage, it was Wakefield Quebec’s own electro-pop sensation The Strain, paralleled on the adjacent Hill Stage by phenomenal Ottawa folk-pop singer/songwriter Laurent Bourque. Followed shortly thereafter by a world music group from South Italy called Almoraima, blending Eastern Arabic and Andalusian gypsy flamenco.

As darkness, chilled air and the masses continued to pour into the park, Dear Rouge, a Canadian husband and wife duo performed hits from their debut synth-rock EP ‘Heads Up Watch Out’ to warm things up at the RavenLaw stage, along with old-time folk and bluegrass band The Noisy Locomotive down on the Valley Stage.

Dear Rouge_01

Husband and wife duo Dear Rouge on the RavenLaw Stage

By 7:55pm the park was jam-packed for the highly anticipated 17 year old New Zealand born “indietronica“ sensation, Lorde performing on the E! mainstage. It was evident from the moment she appeared, that this transcendent performer would not disappoint.


Opening up with a striking rendition of ‘Glory and Gore’ and flowing seamlessly through selections from her multi-platinum 2013 debut album, Pure Heroine. Often taking moments between songs to comment on her impressions of Ottawa, life and love.


The entire 75 minute performance was built around her trade-mark minimalist production, contrasted dramatically with free flowing costume changes, deep bass and programmed beats themed on youth and critiques on mainstream culture. Concluding with hits “Royals,” “Team” and a “A World Alone.”


And with that, all eyes turned to the adjacent RavenLaw Stage to catch the sensational Canadian singer/ songwriter Serena Ryder perform what could only be described as an electric live performance that kept the energy going.

Serena Ryder_02

Serena Ryder on the Valley Stage.

Shortly after Serena Ryder took the stage, Dailey & Vincent, one of Americas top Bluegrass bands jumped in to perform on the Valley stage. Along with performances by Lucky Ron, Jill Zmud, Chrissy Crowley and Sprag Session on the adjacent stages to finish up the nights unparalleled line-up.

Dailey & Vincent_01

American bluegrass band Dailey & Vincent on the Valley Stage

September gardens

Still brilliant marigolds. Flowers and photo: Diane Romlein, Potsdam

Still brilliant marigolds in Diane Romlein’s garden. Photo: Daniel Romlein, Potsdam

The full moon last night felt like a corner turned into autumn. Still, some great flowers and vegetables flourishing in gardens across the region. Here’s the latest collection from the first few days of September. Keep these photos coming–there can never be too many photos of garden harvests and even clearing and prep for next year.

Here are four stunning photos sent by Jim and Virginia from The Hedges in Blue Mountain Lake. Beautiful, whimsical and creative flower-gardening.

The Hedges, Blue Mountain Lake. Photo: Jim and Virginia Jennings

The Hedges, Blue Mountain Lake. Photo: Jim and Virginia Jennings

Beautiful, elegant porch garden at The Hedges, Blue Mountain Lake. Photo: Jim and Virginia Jennings

Beautiful, elegant porch garden at The Hedges, Blue Mountain Lake. Photo: Jim and Virginia Jennings


Garden at The Hedges, Blue Mountain Lake. Photo: Jim and Virginia Jennings

Garden at The Hedges, Blue Mountain Lake. Photo: Jim and Virginia Jennings

More flowers at The Hedges, Blue Mountain Lake. Photo: Jim and Virginia Jennings

More flowers at The Hedges, Blue Mountain Lake. Photo: Jim and Virginia Jennings

On the other side of the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake, Betsy Folwell is growing vegetables. Here’s a basket of recently harvested fare:


Produce from Betsy Folwell and Tom Warrington's Blue Mountain Lake garden. Photo: Betsy Folwell

Produce from Betsy Folwell and Tom Warrington’s Blue Mountain Lake garden. Photo: Betsy Folwell

Our friend George DeChant captures the end-of-garden feel as the coreopsis go into decline:

The end of coreopsis. Photo: George DeChant

The end of coreopsis. Photo: George DeChant

But Martha Foley reports that the morning glories are in their, well, full glory right now.


Morning glories going gangbusters. Photo: Martha Foley

Morning glories going gangbusters. Photo: Martha Foley

Dead and dying flowers, cut back perennials, rows cleared of finished plants–all part of the gardening cycle. Let’s get some more harvest photos from our vegetable gardeners for next week’s post. Send all gardening photos to:




Reflections on the Plattsburgh cool

For the last few weeks, I’ve been starting a new life in Plattsburgh.

I get the honor of continuing the kind of reporting my colleague Sarah Harris did as former Champlain Valley Correspondent. So I’m the one-man show we’re now referring to as the Plattsburgh & Champlain Valley News Bureau. It’s been an invigorating challenge, and as I wrap up my first official week on the job, I’d like to share a first impression or two.


A small crowd watches a series of short independent films at 30 City in Plattsburgh on Friday, September 5th. According to Jason Torrance (right), this event is not necessarily “hip.”

Technically, I’m not new to the region. I lived in the Champlain Valley, in Burlington, for almost five years before coming to NCPR (four years as an undergrad at UVM, and then for less than a year post-graduation). However, as anyone in any North Country town will readily inform you, Burlington is nothing like New York’s North Country. This is absolutely true. That’s partly why I was stationed in Canton for the past year – to get the feel for place. During that time I reported from our main offices, and also from Potsdam, Ogdensburg, Morristown, Wanakena, Gouverneur, Saranac Lake, and other towns.

Plattsburgh is a different ballgame. It’s an urban scene, but unlike Watertown, Glens Falls, or Burlington, the attitude is totally unique.

Of course I’m generalizing, and I can’t totally put my finger on it yet. Part of this different ballgame is that among my own age group (the twenty- and thirty-somethings), there’s an unusual, offbeat cultural scene. Young grownups here are making music, films, paintings, and other art forms that intentionally subvert the mainstream. But people, as far as I can tell, are not really participating in the larger trend of “hipsterdom” – or “hipsterism,” as my recent acquaintance Jason Torrance says.

Jason is an adjunct English lecturer at SUNY Plattsburgh and a filmmaker. He’s one of the organizers for Plattsburgh’s upcoming Lake Champlain International Film Festival, which has received submissions of indie flicks from Japan, Canada, Poland, Austria, Australia, and Germany. During an interview about that festival, I asked, “Is Plattsburgh hip?” His response:

“…Plattsburgh is a very earnest place… I hate the term ‘hipster,’ even though me and most of my friends could probably be classified as them. But the thing about Plattsburgh is, you can indulge in hispterism. You can find things hip around here. But what we have over hipsters in other locales, is we can still be earnest about things – and forthright, and romantic, and expressionistic about things, and not fall prey to that kind of hipster irony of not finding joy in anything. We may have twenty- and thirty-somethings with big crazy beards, but they’re also passionate people who are, once again to use that term, earnest.”

From what I can tell so far, that is an accurate assessment. The artistic people I’ve met have have been welcoming, warm, and unpretentious. To be sure, they are cool – but also nonjudgmental, open to nuance, and genuinely psyched that NCPR now has a full-time Plattsburgh-based reporter. I think I can work with that enthusiasm.

Hilariously, Jason adds,

“We got a pretty wonderful parfait of honesty and hipness, I guess. So grab a spoon.”

Grab a spoon!

Listen to Jason talking about Plattsburgh “hipness” here.