Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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 (http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2013/03/06/athletic-director-salary-database-methodology/1968783/) 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

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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 ellen@ncpr.org

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.

 

A slow, but sure way to grow LOTS of garlic

These small bulbs can be used as regular garlic or planted out one more time to size up bigger. Photo: Lucy Martin

These small bulbs can be used as regular garlic or planted out one more time to size up bigger. Photo: Lucy Martin

Fellow gardeners who grow their own garlic may be confronting an annual conundrum right around now. The harvest is here, with lovely bulbs to dry and eat. But some has to be saved to plant in the fall for next year’s crop.

Eat or plant? Doing one feels like stealing from the other. I always felt like there just wasn’t quite enough for either purpose.

Last spring I wrote about one way to get around that tug-of-war: use bulbils.

At the time I spoke from partial theory. I’d heard “Fish Lake Garlic Man” Ted Maczka demonstrate bulbil multiplication at the Perth Garlic festival in 2011. This consists of NOT trimming off the so-called flower stalks, or scapes that grow on hard-neck garlic.

What grows if the scape of hard-neck garlic is left to fully develop: lots of bulbils. As a bonus, they are beautiful to behold! Photo: Lucy Martin

What grows if the scape of hard-neck garlic is left to fully develop: lots of bulbils. As a bonus, they are beautiful to behold! Photo: Lucy Martin

By letting some of these fully develop, you get heads with bulbils that range from the size of rice to pomegranate seeds, depending on the variety involved.

I confess, I found the ones the size of rice just too exasperating to bother with. (Sometimes size does mater.) I played around with the bigger bulbils and feel they deliver a reasonable return on space. Growing and replanting bulbils has a number of advantages: they are cleaner – usually free of soil-borne disease, very cheap to produce and an easy way to boost your count.

The main disadvantage is how slow it can be. It can take several growing cycles to get to the bulb size produced in one season of conventional planting (by clove).

Anyway, I’ve been giving that a try. This year, as I deal with my harvest in early August, I can finally say “Whoa, Nelly! That’s enough garlic!”  Indeed, that’s more than enough. I have garlic aplenty, to eat, plant and share. And you can too.

In my case I’ll also be sharing surplus with friends who recently moved to a large country property where they’ll have lots of space and time to pursue a self-sufficiency life style. They can plant out a big bed and be rolling in garlic – in not too long a time – at zero cost.

Here come the photos to illustrate how this worked in my garden. (Note: For those who want more info I’ve found this commercial outlet in B.C. an excellent source of details on all things garlic, including propagating with bulbils.)

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POSTSCRIPT (Monday Aug 12)

I regret to add I just learned that long-time garlic evangelist from Ontario’s Prince Edward County, Ted Maczka, died on Dec 30, 2013.

Here is an obituary from the Toronto Star, in which his daughter, Barbara Campbell called him the Jonny Appleseed of garlic in Canada:

“He pioneered this,” Campbell said. “Nobody else was doing anything in garlic back in the ’70s.”

RIP “Fish Lake Garlic Man”!

 

The next step: plant the wee one in the fall. By spring it'll be the size of a small radish. Photo Lucy Martin

The next step: plant the wee one in the fall. By spring it’ll be the size of a small radish. Photo Lucy Martin

Re-plant the small radish size in the fall and it'll grow into a small bulb, with individual cloves. Photo: Lucy Martin

Re-plant the small radish size in the fall and it’ll grow into a small bulb, with individual cloves. Photo: Lucy Martin

Divide the small bulb into cloves and plant them again to grow into regular bulbs. Photo: Lucy Martin

Divide the small bulb into cloves and plant them again to grow into regular bulbs. Photo: Lucy Martin

Got it? Each of these can be a big old bulb, in two cycles. With time, you'll never be short on garlic again. Photo: Lucy Martin

Got it? Each of these can be a big old bulb, in two or three growing cycles. With time, you’ll never be short on garlic again. Photo: Lucy Martin

Garlic comes in a wide array of varieties. Labels and clear separation will be essential to not get them mixed up. Photo: Lucy Martin

Garlic comes in a wide array of varieties. Labels and clear separation will be essential to not get them mixed up. Photo: Lucy Martin

 

The music that makes you shiver or cry

Solomon Burke--his version of "How I Got to Memphis" was the theme song at my wedding. Photo credit: Tom Beetz

Solomon Burke–his version of “How I Got to Memphis” was the theme song at my wedding. Photo credit: Tom Beetz

It has nothing to do with logic, taste or even quality. I’m going to guess that you have one or more songs that bring on the tears or goose bumps or just knot the stomach into an emotional ache every time.

I’m not talking about great compositions necessarily, though the music that makes you cry, that really moves you may be brilliant. I can listen repeatedly to pretty much anything by Bach–from the Mass in B Minor to the cello sonatas and piano concertos. It’s always a revelation.

But tears? shivers? Three songs which cannot hold a candle to Bach but which rattle my emotional cage every time I hear even the first few bars:

1. Donna Donna (“On a wagon bound for market, there’s a calf with a mournful eye, high above him there’s a swallow, winging swiftly through the sky…”) Is it my genetic connection with the Eastern European melody? The inevitable and imminent demise of the calf? Who knows. Here comes the knot in my stomach.

2. The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Oh this one always brings on the crying. No kidding. Really, please, do not ask me why. I haven’t a clue. Julia Ward Howe wrote new lyrics for “John Brown’s Body” and the song became totally connected to Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, and somehow neurologically connected to my tear ducts. Go figure.

3. That’s How I Got to Memphis. This one, less well known, makes sense as an emotional trigger for me. For my late husband and me, it was “our song.” Somehow there was a parallel in the lyrics about a man searching for his beloved in a strange town and our story of relocation in order to be together. Sung by the late great Solomon Burke, this is the ultimate tearjerker for me.

Your turn. Share the music that goes right to your emotional heart. Doesn’t have to be great music. Just curious to see what does it for other people.

Bring your life to work day

Americans on average work too much, everyone else says–too many hours, too little time off, and a tendency to not use up what little downtime the contract might allow. We have a reputation for being acquisitive, obsessive, harried, and oblivious. I, for example, am writing this on Saturday morning, my day off. I’m not oblivious to the irony.

Time is money, we say, and we “spend” it on the job. Hard work is a virtue much admired, along with dedication and ambition. They are synonymous with “getting ahead in life.” Give us a nice white beach and a little sunshine and what do we do?–fill in the mangrove and put up a time-share condo complex. Incorrigible.

NCPR is no corporate cubicle kind of workplace, nor do I see myself as driven drone overtiming myself into an eventual heart-attack retirement–but I do put in more hours than I have to, and take off less time than I could. I’ve used some of that time to think about the way we structure work. And I conclude that we make our workplaces as little like our lives as possible. The things around us are about work, the people around us are co-workers, the conversations are about work. The art on the wall and carpet on the floor all say work, work, work. Why?

Jamie--a great addition to any workplace, or life. Photo: Nora Flaherty

Jamie–a great addition to any workplace, or life. Photo: Nora Flaherty

This was brought home to me when the baby started coming to NCPR. Not my baby, but Nora’s across the hall. No matter. A baby at work becomes everybody’s baby. And when the baby is in the room, it’s magically no longer work; it’s life. Imagine how the dynamic of a board meeting or a negotiation would change with a baby or two in the room. There is a world of difference between sharing a project goal and sharing a life.

Jamie, alas, has moved on to Maine Public Broadcasting with her mom, Nora. I doubt I’m the only one going through baby withdrawal around here. But I learned something from the experience. If I’m going to be taking the workplace back home with me, I need to remember to take my life into the workplace, too. Everything is a little more human that way.

When was the last time you wrote a letter?

Letters. Photo: Liz West, via Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Letters. Photo: Liz West, via Creative Commons, some rights reserved

For Jon at our front desk, it was 3rd grade when his teacher required pen pal letter writing. For Dale and Bill on our digital team, blank stares and no memory of when that last letter might have been written. Ditto for Denise who’s on the janitorial team in our building and said she emails and texts. Period.

Shelly wrote a letter last month to her young son in summer camp. Apparently the camp encouraged email messages but Shelly went the distance: she found the postal address at the camp’s website and sent off a real letter. Her son brought it back in his duffel bag when he returned home. (I guess handwritten letters are collectibles.)

Letter from Eileen and Shirley Hussey's foster mother to Mrs. Hussey, 1940. Over 35,000 children were evacuated from Birmingham during the second world war. Children left at short notice with few possessions, and their parents often didn’t know where they were going. Some children were unwelcome, or even mistreated. Letters provided vital contact with home. Some parents either refused to send their children away or brought them home before the war ended. Many Birmingham children perished in air raids. Photo: Birmingham Museum via Creative Commons

Photo: Birmingham Museum via Creative Commons, some rights reserved

I’m talking about personal letters. Not business letters. Not email letters. Not condolence or happy birthday cards. Letters. David Sommerstein wrote a letter a couple of months ago in reply to a letter he received from a friend in New Orleans. That’s the thing. We reply to email with email. We reply to text messages with text messages. And we may be more inclined to write a letter in reply to receiving one. It used to be we just wrote letters–with or without a prompt.

There’s been chatter in recent years about the loss of personal–and cultural history–with the death of the written-on-paper letter (doesn’t matter if it’s typed or handwritten).

For example, take this letter from Eileen and Shirley Hussey’s foster mother to their mother Mrs. Hussey in 1940. Here’s how the Museum describes this artifact:

“Over 35,000 children were evacuated from Birmingham, England during the Second World War. Children left at short notice with few possessions, and their parents often didn’t know where they were going. Some children were unwelcome, or even mistreated. Letters provided vital contact with home. Some parents either refused to send their children away or brought them home before the war ended. Many Birmingham children perished in air raids.”

In my early years living on the farm–we’re talking way back in the 1970s–I used to write lengthy letters to friends and family, complete with hand-drawn illustrations of my garden, the cats and dogs by the stove, plants and trees I was learning about. Why don’t I write letters (regularly) anymore? Well, there are all those digital distractions, whether Facebook or email, texts or Netflix. In the “old days” we pulled in one or two local television channels with rabbit ears and if we didn’t like what was on, we turned it off…and often, wrote letters. All this media and digital entertainment (okay, and information) takes time.

Will we really delve into digital archives the way we rummage through dusty boxes retrieved from the attic? A few years ago I came across a letter from an uncle who replied to my mother’s request for advice about her relationship with her first husband. Holy cow. Shared with my cousins. Their father had written this incredibly moving and empathetic letter. Somehow I can’t imagine my son finding something as meaningful buried in my digital files.

Photo: Selfie by Jake Rotundo.

Magic marker and an air kiss save the day.

 

Speaking of my son, he’s the reason I felt compelled to consider the issue of letter writing. He lives in NYC and is increasingly more reliable about texting, calling or emailing me on a regular basis. I might even receive a quirky birthday card in the mail. But letters? Not since he spent three years in Japan, and even then I was more likely to Skype with him than receive something on paper. (Remember the old tissue-thin blue-tinted airmail envelopes?)

In any case, he’s been a bit remiss for the past few weeks. Feeling guilty, he texted this photo to me. Made me laugh.

 

Okay, digital communication has its up side. For sure. But isn’t it fun when you go to the mailbox and there’s something inside besides the grocery store flier and bills?

And, I’ve got to tell you it is much more satisfactory to take a match to a letter from the lover who scorned you than to simply hit the “delete” key on your laptop.

 

Photo: Howard Hall, via Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: Howard Hall, via Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Flowers, vegetables galore…and deer

Bambi, go home! Photo: The Weasel Family

Bambi, go home! Photo: The Weasel Family (Judy Simon, Canton)

 

From my garden perch in DeKalb, and from looking through all of the photos you’ve been sending in, it appears that we’re having a banner growing year. Good mix of rain and sunshine.

Of course, there are bugs and deer to challenge us. And, I’ve heard from many gardeners about the abundance of other hungry critters: woodchucks, rabbits, raccoon (look out corn). I think of my garden as the food pantry for the neighborhood–not just the human neighborhood. And, as long as no one gets too greedy, I’m happy to share.

We’ve been eating green beans, onions, garlic, snap peas, lettuces of all kinds, Swiss chard (until the bunny mowed it down), tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, and of course summer squash. I think we’ll be eating our first sweet corn this week. This is a surprise: I planted the corn about two weeks later than usual and it seems to be the earliest I’ve ever harvested. Go figure. After 40+ years of gardening, it’s all still a mystery to me.

 

 

 

 

Brad Pendergraft, long time NCPR friend and serious gardener in Parishville, has used high mesh fencing to keep out the deer. This has become an increasingly common solution as the deer population across the region exploded over the last 10-15 years.

pendergraft1a

Deer fencing around Brad Pendergraft’s robust Parishville garden. Photo: Brad Pendergraft

Just up the road from me, Phil Harnden (founder of GardenShare and a really talented gardener) sent in a photo of his summer herb and vegetable patch, situated in an old barn foundation. It’s beautiful and interesting. Phil grows storage and high quantity crops (winter onions, tomatoes, etc.) in an adjacent large garden. Like Brad, Phil surrounds the entire growing area with high mesh deer fencing.

Phil Harnden's old DeKalb garden. Photo: Phil Harnden

Phil Harnden’s old DeKalb garden. Photo: Phil Harnden

How about a garden with a lake view? Here’s one on Black Lake.

Garden on Black Lake. Photo: Rebecca Reynolds

Garden on Black Lake. Photo: Rebecca Reynolds

It seems to me that people who garden in the North Country overcome all kinds of adversity–most notably, unpredictable late and early frosts. The higher the altitude, the more likely those frosts will challenge gardeners. Here are a couple of garden photos from Michael Relyea who faces down the odds in Paul Smiths.

Paul Smiths garden. Photo: Michael Relyea

Paul Smiths garden. Photo: Michael Relyea

 

Paul Smiths garden. Photo: Michael Relyea

Paul Smiths garden. Photo: Michael Relyea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kathleen Haedrich in Chestertown sent some photos with this note:

“The backyard garden of perennial and annual flowers is in its fourth season. Originally, a stoned area of lawn and overgrown yews. Creating the garden and watching it evolve – pure, simple pleasure.”

To my eye, Kathleen has succeeded in creating a magical space. Sometimes, that’s the most fun: take even a small, unused or messy area and turn it into a microcosm of beauty.

A secret backyard garden. Photo: Kathleen Haedrich

A secret backyard garden. Photo: Kathleen Haedrich

A spot of beauty. Photo: Kathleen Haedrich

A spot of beauty. Photo: Kathleen Haedrich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Echinacea (coneflower) in the foreground. Photo: Kathleen Haedrich

Echinacea (coneflower) in the foreground. Photo: Kathleen Haedrich

Another flower photo from Judy Simon in Canton, plus a nice deck garden from Lois Kelly in Indian Lake.

Clematis and friend. Photo: The Weasel Family

Clematis and friend. Photo: The Weasel Family (Judy Simon, Canton)

Deck garden in Indian Lake. Photo: Lois Kelly

Deck garden in Indian Lake. Photo: Lois Kelly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep the photos coming. I’m hoping for a collection of photos from Old Forge documenting a recent tour of gardens. You can send your photos to ellen@ncpr.org and remember to include your name and location.

This is a great time to put in the late crop of lettuce, spinach, beets and beans. Yes, there is still time!

 

 

An epic tale of summer interns

Odysseus and the Sirens. Photo: public domain

Odysseus and the Sirens. Photo: public domain

Little remains now of the once-robust intern culture that dominated the new media office during the summer era. But this one nearly intact artifact was discovered .4 metres below surface in grid sector p-14. –Dale Hobson,–new media archaeologist.

 

It was said all good things come in threes, yet their number
     stands at four.
Equipped with the skill of language, and adobe programs,
These girls, not yet acquainted, were unaware of what awaited.
Adventures exclusive to public radio they soon embarked.

Oh Ellen, muse of public radio and delicious baked goods,
Sing to us now of summer interns’ voyage through sound waves,
Tell us of the mountains scaled, cows milked and zombies unleashed,
Unwieldy computer mouses, podcasts, and lengthy transcriptions.

The meeting room finds our four heroes sitting, circled, bated breath.
More experienced reporters, hardened by truth’s pursuit,
Surround our four rising stars, asking for progress reports.
With much glee, they begin, the journey of summer travels relived.

Monique, born under Gemini, and clear master of the haiku,
Workers of two jobs and possessor of truly great hair,
Can see herself dating a star, perhaps one hit wonder.
Known for exciting reporting skills and her sassy Facebook comments.

“A mere week ago, under the fury of opened storm clouds
I bore witness to a miraculous birth, baby calf.
In the fine name of journalism, urine of a cow
Boldly ventured to places unknown. Namely, inside of my mouth. “

“Why are you talking in verse?” Martha raises a skeptical brow,
As Monique strikes a pose. Over thirty years’ experience,
Reveals it’s not in her nature to put up with office antics.
All turn towards the next intern, hair like fields of strawberries, she spake.

Claire embarks on her second trip around the sun with NCPR.
The veteran and commander of the humble Facebook page.
Always fashionable in stripes, floral, or witty tees,
Ever willing to give educated movie or album review.

“With a happy heart, I proclaim that from my hand I have penned 10,
Inspiring blog posts before the sun has reached its zenith.”
One of the most prolific artists of all time is she.
From dog parks to American Girl dolls, on her the public relies.

“Even as a poet, I cannot follow if you keep speaking,
In verse,” Dale slouches menacingly from his swivel chair.
“Finish those APs and transcribe the garden conversation.”
Nearly deaf, the poet does not deter our heroes, they continue.

Kelly, eater of both breakfast and lunch before 11:00 am,
Lurks in the deepest of corners at the fine NCPR.
Often attacked by the AC and the sass of fellow interns,
A Lorde scholar dressed in J.Crew, with a degree in Harry Potter.

“My journalistic ventures have led me to the depths of the web.
Oh wise colleagues, my mind is saturated by TED talks,
and Benedict Cumberbatch. To close, I will quote the great,
late Albus Dumbledore, ‘Merlin’s beard, lower the AC, I am freezing.”

Kelly, everyone else in the office is warm.” Says Nora, robed,
Entirely in black, like a secret. The infant in her arms,
Nods empathically. Constant bring your child to work day.
“Now stop being vague and too detailed. Let’s listen to Natalie.”

Natalie, a self-proclaimed old soul, baffled by most computers,
A poet whose skill surpasses even that of James Franco.
Often suffers the misfortune of typing long transcriptions
A skilled chef, once had her remote control attached to a brick.

“Food is mother earth’s sign of love for me. Except for tomatoes.
For my aged cheese soul, the internetz holds much mystery,
Yet I find myself an expert at WORD transcriptions.
Amy Ivy, is a favorite for growth in the garden of my life.

Natasha and David, one baffled, one alarmed, like spooked children.
With good fortune, Ellen, Muse and overseer enters. David gestures,
“Ellen these girls are insane,” “What do you mean?” incredulous,
This is an absolute riot. Everyone try these croissants I just made.”

The power of croissants, forged from both cinnamon and chocolate,
A peace offering between both parties, experienced and novice,
Merging as a collective truth seeking unit. Office mascot, Mugsy, agrees,
Yet is disgruntled at his lack of a chocolate croissant.

Thus ends the tale of our heroes four. Those brave interns who wake,
Early hours for justice and good reporting. Battling,
APs and podcast, traversing transcriptions. With joyous hearts we know,
Public radio marks the beginning of their truly epic adventures.