Gardens: turning the mid-summer corner

The stump garden, featuring delphiniums (over 6 feet tall), sedum, bee balm, at The Hedges in Blue Mountain Lake. Photo (and garden): Virginia Jennings.

The stump garden at The Hedges in Blue Mountain Lake, created by Virginia Jennings for Pat Benton. Photo: Virginia Jennings.

We’re picking tomatoes from our garden and the early corn is getting very close (by August 1, I’m guessing). On the other hand, the flower gardens around my house are a wreck–a combination of trampling by chickens and our house painting operation, as well as my failure to keep up with weeding.

You all are sending me some amazing photos. The collection today is from the past week and includes gardens from Raquette Lake to Ogdensburg, Blue Mountain Lake to Saranac Lake. Scroll through, get inspired, and send me your garden photos for next week’s garden-tracking post: ellen@ncpr.org

Here are a few more photos from Virginia Jennings.

Canterbury Bells started from seed last year in Long Lake. Photo: Virginia Jennings

Canterbury Bells started from seed last year in Long Lake. Photo: Virginia Jennings

"Nana's Garden" in Long Lake. Photo: Virginia Jennings

“Nana’s Garden” in Long Lake. Photo: Virginia Jennings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another garden at The Hedges (in front of the dining room) in Blue Mountain Lake. Photo and garden: Viriginia Jennings

Another garden at The Hedges (in front of the dining room) in Blue Mountain Lake. Photo and garden: Viriginia Jennings

Tomatoes–not quite ripe in Ogdensburg, and getting going in Saranac Lake.

Backyard baby beefstakes. Photo: Dan Denney, Ogdensburg

Backyard baby beefstakes. Photo: Dan Denney, Ogdensburg

"It's ready!" Photo: Bobbie Karp, Saranac Lake

“It’s ready!” Photo: Bobbie Karp, Saranac Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a great photo from a couple of weeks ago, sent in by Tracy Santagate at Timberdown, Paul Smith’s.

"Garden Shower," watering nasturtiums, peas, beans, kale, spinach and lettuce. Photo: Tracy Santagate

“Garden Shower,” watering nasturtiums, peas, beans, kale, spinach and lettuce. Photo: Tracy Santagate

Here’s another charming photo from Tracy’s garden.

santagatechickscat1

Cat overseeing chickens at work. Photo: Tracy Santagate

 

 

The lilies this year have been stupendous. Lots of lily photos in last week’s post, but the rain has helped keep them going long and strong. Our garden photo friend Cassandra Corcoran from Monkton, Vermont faced a common problem: dealing with a garden that’s been left untended for a week or more because of vacation or work travel.

St. Regis lily (anonymous photographer and gardener)

St. Regis lily (anonymous photographer and gardener)

After 14 days of travel, I came home to my garden. Not looking too weedy. I missed the peas but the blueberries and currants are plentiful. Photo: Cassandra Corcoran, Monkton VT

After 14 days of travel, I came home to my garden. Not looking too weedy. I missed the peas but the blueberries and currants are plentiful. Photo: Cassandra Corcoran, Monkton VT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This past weekend, I visited station friends Jeffrey Sellon and Marilyn Burns on Raquette Lake. Jeffrey’s floating dock garden has some celebrity status, not only on its home lake but across the Adirondacks. Here’s what it looked like yesterday.

Jeffrey's floating greenhouse garden. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Jeffrey’s floating greenhouse garden. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Peering in...lots of green. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Peering in…lots of green. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Beans galore. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Beans galore. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Lettuce and one variety of kale. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Lettuce and one variety of kale. Photo: Ellen Rocco

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view of Raquette Lake over the purple kale. Photo: Ellen Rocco

The view of Raquette Lake over the purple kale. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Proud farmer. Jeffrey in front of the cuke trellis. (Note the cap.) Photo: Ellen Rocco

Proud farmer. Jeffrey in front of the cuke trellis. (Note the cap.) Photo: Ellen Rocco

Okay, you know what to do: snap those pictures and send them to ellen@ncpr.org, and remember to include your name and the town you live in.

Gardening tip of the week (this is actually the first time I’ve offered one of these): stay away from those bean plants when it’s wet.

“Older ladies” and feeling good at any age

Still from video "Older Ladies"

Still from video “Older Ladies

I happen to be on the high side of middle-age. So, naturally, a friend sent me Donnalou Stevens’ “Older Ladies.”

I loved its quirky, upbeat joie de vivre, and I hope you’ll like it too.

Apparently this is one of those “going viral” videos, so my apologies if you’ve seen it already. (Free MP3 download and lyrics are at her website.)

I can quibble with it a little. Gray hair and wrinkles look fine to me. But too much flab can be a health issue. So – without hating your body – I’d advocate putting at least a little effort into staying moderately fit too. And men (the poor dears) may be genetically hard-wired to appreciate younger, fertile forms, though they can probably chose to act on that or not. (More fodder for the “biology is destiny” debate!)

Curious about how that particular video was made, I found this interview with Stevens on something called “Boomerology Revealed TV: Live your life, not your age”.

In the Skype interview Stevens talks about things like catching up with new technology. She also opens up about learning the difference between pain and suffering, and how to not suffer even when she’s in pain.

That’s an important lesson to master at any age, even more so as joints ache and organs begin to fail. She is reportedly working on other songs, including one for older men.

So find your bliss, folks. And stay divine.

A bluegrass festival is so much more than the music

Greetings from the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY... just south of Albany, in the foothills of the Catskill mountains.   This is Del McCoury (on the JumboTron).  Yes, the photo is 'backwards'.  I was standing backstage behind the JumboTron, so all images were reversed.  Del turns 75 this year, and the Grey Fox crowd LOVED celebrating his milestone!

Greetings from the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY… just south of Albany, in the foothills of the Catskill mountains.
This is Del McCoury (on the JumboTron). Yes, the photo is ‘backwards’. I was standing backstage behind the JumboTron, so all images were reversed. Del turns 75 this year, and the Grey Fox crowd LOVED celebrating his milestone!

 

 

This festival is one of the largest I've ever attended.  Here's a portion of the campground, looking down from halfway up the hill to the main stage.  There are vendors and sponsor tents in the front row, with a sea of campsites in the background.  This is about 20% of the festival area, which includes 5 different stages (which run concurrently), plus thousands of campsites, and miles of parking spaces.

This festival is one of the largest I’ve ever attended. Here’s a portion of the campground, looking down from halfway up the hill to the main stage. There are vendors and sponsor tents in the front row, with a sea of campsites in the background. This is about 20% of the festival area, which includes 5 different stages (which run concurrently), plus thousands of campsites, and miles of parking spaces.

 

Then, there's the music!  This is The Dry Branch Fire Squad, the host band for this festival. I took this photo backstage, from one of the wings of this huge, portable stage.

Then, there’s the music! This is The Dry Branch Fire Squad, the host band for this festival. I took this photo backstage, from one of the wings of this huge, portable stage.

Here's what the main stage looks like from the back.  It's the big, dark 'box' in the back.  It's huge!  It arrives via tractor trailer, and unfolds into this huge stage, with lighting racks and side wings.  Pretty amazing.  Since I was one of the emcees, I got backstage access (and that's why all the photos are taken from behind the stage!).  The interesting pillared building on the left is the 'merch tent' - a temporary building that serves as the festival store:  T-shirts, cds, and all things band-related.

Here’s what the main stage looks like from the back. It’s the big, dark ‘box’ in the back. It’s huge! It arrives via tractor trailer, and unfolds into this huge stage, with lighting racks and side wings. Pretty amazing. Since I was one of the emcees, I got backstage access (and that’s why all the photos are taken from behind the stage!). The ID checkpoint is in the foreground of this photo. The interesting pillared building on the left is the ‘merch tent’ – a temporary building that serves as the festival store: T-shirts, cds, and all things band-related.

 

Meanwhile, over at the dance tent, the Carolina Chocolate Drops are bringing the house down!  Again, I'm backstage, looking out at the crowd.  In subsequent photos, you'll see this tent as the one with all the points on top.  This tent is rockin' all day and night with great dance music - and even daily dance lessons!

Meanwhile, over at the dance tent, the Carolina Chocolate Drops are bringing the house down! Again, I’m backstage, looking out at the crowd. In subsequent photos, you’ll see this tent as the one with all the points on top. This tent is rockin’ all day and night with great dance music – and even daily dance lessons!

Here's Elephant Revival, also packing 'em in the dance tent.  Their set was great - and Bonnie Paine - the woman in the pink dress - played the washboard in special 'washboard gloves', while playing percussion with her feet (on a stomp board).  Listen to String Fever to hear some of their music!

Here’s Elephant Revival, also packing ‘em in the dance tent. Their set was great, and Bonnie Paine – the woman in the pink dress – played the washboard in special ‘washboard gloves’, while playing percussion with her feet (on a stomp board). Listen to String Fever to hear some of their music!

 

Meanwhile, over at the Creekside stage, Bluegrass Karaoke is taking center stage.  Meet Lucy, an amateur performer who also facilitates morning yoga at the Grey Fox Festival.  Like I said, there's a lot more here than just the music!

Meanwhile, over at the Creekside stage, Bluegrass Karaoke is taking center stage. Meet Lucy, an amateur performer who also facilitates morning yoga at the Grey Fox Festival. Like I said, there’s a lot more here than just the music!

Click below to hear Lucy singing Blue Moon Of Kentucky, backed up by the Grey Fox Karaoke House Band:

1 BGKaraoke GF14

 

I'm on my way back up to the main stage, past  the vendors and port-a-potties.

I’m on my way back up to the main stage, past the vendors and port-a-potties.

There are all sorts of vendors at festivals: clothing, instruments, and accessories.
I was attracted to the Blue Chip Pick display…. Here’s some of our conversation about these very high end picks:

BLUECHIP

Then I wandered past a photo display – and saw photos of last night’s performance.  I was curious, so I met Dave, the mastermind behind Gypsy Shooter, a mobile photography studio:

BGGYPSY

I wrapped up my little tour of vendors’ row with a stop at the Woodrow instrument booth.  Rather than try to describe the Woodrow to you, I’ll let JT Turner do it:

WOODROW

 

Up in the sky -- hard to see, but it's a huge flying pig!  Oh yeah, the clouds are nice, too.  The pig is that little dot on the right, just above the horizon.  Why didn't I think to bring a flying pig with me?

Up in the sky — hard to see, but it’s a huge flying pig! Oh yeah, the clouds are nice, too. The pig is that little dot on the right, just above the horizon. Why didn’t I think to bring a flying pig with me?

 

There's a lot of walking at this festival, but so many nice people to meet along the way!  This family is getting ready for a full night of music under the stars... but first, the long haul from the parking field to the big stage.  Everybody helps.....

There’s a lot of walking at this festival, but so many nice people to meet along the way! This family is getting ready for a full night of music under the stars… but first, the long haul from the parking field to the big stage. Everybody helps…..

 

 

Meet the glitter fairy!  She sprinkles almost everyone with 'fairy dust'.  If she gets you, you'll glitter all night.  She's one of many roving artists and characters at this festival - there's never a dull moment!

Meet the glitter fairy! She sprinkles almost everyone with ‘fairy dust’. If she gets you, you’ll glitter all night. She’s one of many roving artists and characters at this festival.

... more climbing.... again.  Camping is down the hill.  Food is up the hill.  Simple as that.  Count on at least a few trips up and down each day.

… more climbing…. again. Camping is down the hill. Food is up the hill. Simple as that. Count on at least a few trips up and down each day.

Meet Shelly, our assistant stage manager.  When she's not  volunteering at this festival, she's a veterinarian in Baltimore, MD.  There are so many interesting people here!

Meet Shelly, our assistant stage manager. When she’s not volunteering at this festival, she’s a veterinarian in Baltimore, MD. There are so many interesting people here!  Shelly does everything that’s needed:  she picks up musicians at the gate and delivers them (and their instruments) to the stage area.  She also transports performers from one stage to another (did I mention there are five stages here?).  She delivers food.  She reads minds.  She delivers whatever’s needed.  She usually has a radio in one hand, and cell phone in the other.  Her job is a VERY busy one.

 

 

Now that it's dark, it's easier to see how big this stage is.  The performers are on the right - that glowing blob - and the entire audience gets a close-up view on the JumboTron.  There's  one on each side of the stage.

Now that it’s dark, it’s easier to see how big this stage is. The performers are on the right – that glowing blob – and the entire audience gets a close-up view on the JumboTron. There’s one on each side of the stage.

... and there's Del McCoury again, with his whole band - on the Jumbo screen.

… and there’s Del McCoury again, with his whole band – on the Jumbo screen.

It was our lucky night!  There were fireworks in nearby Oak Hill!  This display lasted over half an hour -- too bad the performers couldn't see it.  It all took place behind the stage, but it was fabulous!

It was our lucky night! There were fireworks in nearby Oak Hill! This display lasted over half an hour — too bad the performers couldn’t see it. It all took place behind the stage, but it was fabulous!

 

 

... and all too soon, it's over.  Because I emcee until the very end of the festival, there's no traffic jam by the time I'm ready to leave.  It's hard to imaging thousands of people, and so many structures, coming and going within a week.  By the time you read this post, all the big top tents, the main stage, and all the other temporary structures will be gone.  So will the people... until next year.  I hope I'll see you there!

… and all too soon, it’s over. Because I emcee until the very end of the festival, there’s no traffic jam by the time I’m ready to leave. It’s hard to imagine thousands of people- and so many structures- coming and going within a week. By the time you read this post, all the big top tents, the main stage, and all the other temporary structures will be gone. So will the people… until next year. I hope I’ll see you there!

Tune in to String Fever every Thursday at 3 pm to hear great bluegrass and acoustic music, and to find out where all your favorite musicians (and bands) are playing!

Of course, if you – or your band – has a gig, just email the details to me: Barb@ncpr.org.

 

 

 

 

A matter of substance

It’s getting around to the time of the year when people–well, a few people anyway–ask me what I might like for my birthday. This never used to be a difficult question. I lusted after stuff. There were always at least a dozen albums on my gotta-have-that list, then there was the gear category, and the book category–two categories, actually–cheap guilty pleasures and expensive collector’s editions, and there was the art category–pottery, paintings, prints, photos…

But ask me these days and my mind kind of goes blank. Got nothin’. Have I achieved a state of enlightenment transcending material possessions? Unlikely. Am I trying to reduce my carbon footprint? A little maybe, but not by cutting back on greenhouse-gas emitting works of art. Instead, I think it’s the growing lack of substance in the former objects of my lust, and in the disappearance of the physical institutions that fed and informed my desires.

Old school music lust. Photo: Chris Fraser, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Old school music lust. Photo: Chris Fraser, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

As an example, the paraphernalia of music used to be as important as the music itself. Bulky shelving to house the vinyl, cover art and poster art for the walls. There were extensive liner notes and a basket of music magazines to study. And the quality and size and power of your stereo components spoke volumes of your station in life. More space in the living room belonged to music than to overstuffed furniture.

An important part of having company or being company was the opportunity to browse another’s collection, to admire or scoff or discuss or recommend albums and bands and venues and songwriters and radio stations. There was bin-diving at the long-vanished neighborhood record store and those heartfelt discussions with the opinionated mavens behind the counter. There were obscure foreign releases and bootlegs.

And what do I have now? An iPod in my phone, earbuds and a few apps, a one-click purchase account at Amazon and iTunes. My phone is exactly the same as the one the lame guy who only listens to Nashville Top 40 has. I would never know that important bit of information about him because I use my earbuds and he uses his.

The music that was once part of the public persona is now privatized. The part that was actual and in-person is now relegated to social media. I rarely have a chance to show it off, I can’t lend my music to anyone, and there’s nowhere (in the physical world) to go for recommendation and discovery. It’s just me and an algorithm based on previous purchases. The entirety of the music apparatus in my life is now small enough to get lost in the couch cushions. It’s all gotten pretty insubstantial.

Hmm. I guess what I do know what I want for my birthday–a time machine.

Recipe roundup: Who’s up for pie this weekend?

Strawberry pie. Photo: The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Strawberry pie. Photo: The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Hello! So I’m pretty much up for pie all the time. And based on your Homer Simpson-esque responses to this week’s recipe callout, so are you! (One person just wrote “blueberry,” while Facebook friend Bob Maswick of Lake Placid generously offered to eat all mistakes.)

I agree. Pie is fantastic (did I make it clear that’s how I feel about it?) I wish I had some now, actually, but since that’s not the case I’ll settle for sharing some excellent pie recipes with you all. Since I couldn’t figure out how to put “mmmmm….pie….” in recipe form, this week’s contributions are from NCPR’s always-useful book “Stories, Food, Life.” Don’t forget to not over-worry your crust!

Strawberry Pie
Diane Romlein, Potsdam

Though most of our 125 acres is wetlands and woods, we garden as much of it as we can. Adam and Daniel, the youngest of our five children, love to garden and care for plants. This is part of their proud strawberry harvest from the family garden. It looks the way kids like birthday cakes to look—messy and gooey.

9-inch pie crust:
2 cups flour
Sprinkle of salt
½ cup oil
¼ cup milk

Filling:
4 cups fresh berries, washed and hulled
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup sugar
½ tsp. baking powder
3 drops red food coloring

Mix crust ingredients gently; roll out between sheets of wax paper. Bake crust for 15 minutes at 400°.

Spread 2 cups berries over bottom of pie shell. Mash or cut up remaining berries. Add sugar, cornstarch and baking powder; mix well. Place over low heat, bring to boil slowly, reduce heat and cool, stirring constantly. Add food coloring. Then pour over raw berries in shell. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Garnish with sweetened sour cream or whipped cream.

Serves 6.

Rhubarb-Orange Pie
Lynn Case Ekfelt, Canton

I grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo amid manicured lawns with not a cow in sight. But every Sunday after church we’d ride out into the country to buy our eggs from Mrs. Miller. She and Mom would chat while I’d play with the big Lab, Blackie. In spring Mom always added rhubarb to her egg order. The season was never long enough for us to get our fill of rhubarb sauce, rhubarb shrub and rhubarb pie. Sometimes we had straightforward, 2-crust pie, and sometimes when something a little fancier was called for, we had this one—a recipe from Mrs. Miller.

Pastry for a 9-inch, 1-crust pie

Filling:
3 egg whites
½ cup sugar
3 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup butter, soft
3 tbsp. orange juice concentrate
1 tbsp. orange rind, grated
2 cups rhubarb, cut into ½-inch pieces

Line the pie pan with the pastry, making a fluted rim.

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add ½ cup of the sugar by tbsp., beating well after each addition.

Mix the remaining ½ cup of sugar thoroughly with the flour. Add this to the egg yolks along with the butter, orange juice concentrate and orange rind. Beat well. Add the rhubarb, mixing thoroughly. Fold in the meringue.

Pour the mixture into the pastry shell. Bake at 375º for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 325º and bake for 45 minutes more.
Serves 6 to 8.

And, bonus! One savory pie recipe. This is more of a winter recipe, but I couldn’t resist.

French Canadian Meat Pie
Miriam Kashiwa, Old Forge

One of the delectable surprises bequeathed from the Gaspé settlers to our region is this Christmas specialty that our French Canadian neighbors would share with us. This recipe is from Cecelia Buckley, 95-years-old in January 2008.

1 ¼ lbs. ground pork
1 ½ lbs. ground beef
1 ½ lbs. ground veal
1 cup grated and peeled potatoes
½ cup grated onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. dried savory
¼ tsp. rubbed sage
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. water (divided)
¼ cup dried breadcrumbs
1 egg

In a large skillet over medium heat, combine and cook the pork, beef, veal, potatoes and onion until the meat is no longer pink. Drain mixture. Stir in the garlic, seasonings and part of ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature. Combine egg with 2 tbsp. water in small bowl. Stir breadcrumbs into egg-water. Stir into the meat mixture. Line 9-inch pie plate with bottom pastry; trim even with edge. Fill with meat mixture. Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pie; place over filling.

Trim, seal and flute edge. Cut slits in pastry. Cover edges of pastry loosely with foil. Bake at 400º for 15 minutes. Remove foil and reduce heat to 375º. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling heated through.

Serves 6 to 8.

****

I’m sure you have your own pie favorites and traditions, and I’d love it if you’d share them in the comments below! Now, it’s time to start thinking about next week: It’s almost time for the annual avalanche of zucchini and summer squash. So how do you deal with use the massive quantities of squash your garden yields? Bonus points if it doesn’t include putting it in your neighbor’s car. Send those recipes to jackie@ncpr.org and enjoy the weekend (and the pie)!

 

 

Bri and Mo in the field

Our first selfie together in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec

Our first selfie together in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec

I am the type of person who will: ask if you want a sip of my drink even when there is one straw; comfortably disclose my state of well-being, or ill-being, to anyone at any given time; and generally be solid during social interaction with strangers or pals, even enemies.

For the most part, I can say the same for Brian Mann. This is not something I knew, as the first time I met Brian was when I got behind the wheel of his wife’s Honda to travel to Lac-Megantic, Quebec. For the next five days we covered the one year anniversary of an oil-train explosion.

Brian is an experienced reporter in so many ways, especially in situations where major trauma has been inflicted on a community or environment. This was my first time being in a place that had been stricken by disaster. It was comforting to be with Brian, someone who can understand and empathize with tragedy, but remain an outsider looking in. I watched and began to understand this process; how his every move in the field led him to creating the best possible story.

Together we faced all the true tests of companionship: apocalyptic weather, illness, sharing a bathroom, sleep deprivation, famine—I wasn’t presented with food until 4pm on the second day— and separation from loved ones.

I’ve never developed this kind of companionship in so little time.

We were both honest with each other about experiences, the ugly ones and the beautiful ones. He talked about travel and I talked about being vulnerable. We both had so many things to share, and we created a balance of give and take.

The things I learned about Brian and myself are personal treasures that I’ll always remember, and I know he’ll do the same. Maybe the most important thing I learned from the so talented veteran of journalism is this:

Go out and make things.

There is nothing stopping you at any given time from making something: whether it is using your body to dance, your hands to sculpt, or your voice to sing. You can create things. Whatever your passion is, there is a huge chance you don’t need a title or paycheck to continue creating something. For me, this means there will always be stories to tell and people to learn about.

One of our final meals we shared together on our voyage. Anything tastes good when you're famished. Photo: Monique Cornett

One of our final meals we shared together on our voyage. Anything tastes good when you’re famished. Photo: Monique Cornett

I feel so fortunate to have spent my first time reporting in the field watching Brian Mann do his thing. My official title as production assistant meant I was chauffeuring, keeping an eye on the clock, and being Brian’s number one cheerleader before each story deadline. If you want to keep him happy all you need to do is never burp, have coffee ready in the morning, and not drive too crazy because he is the most easily car sickened human-being I know.

As for you Brian, yes, I will give you a job when you’re old and potentially dated if I end up “making” it in the journalism world. Ah yes, this is where I will casually thank you for being the exact mentor I need at this point in my life.

After working with you, I know if I wake up a bit earlier than everyone else who is doing the same job as me and produce something people want, I can do this. This is all public record, so you know how serious I am.

Decided just now by me, I proudly reserve the right as the only person who can call you Bri—also public record.

Next time we hear Bri Mann, let’s remember how talented he and all the NCPR staff are at what they do. I’ve learned it is something to be truly respected.

 

An Amateur’s Guide To Hiking from NCPR’s summer interns

When we’re not busy hitting you with hard-hitting news stories and engagingly introspective blog posts, there’s a good chance we’re giggling about something slightly moronic but enticingly funny in the digital suite (key word: suite) here at North Country Public Radio. (The web guys love us, we know it!) We’re a group of hard-working, strong, independent women, all soon-to-be college seniors and all aspiring writers.

Sitting in the office, talking about literature. Photo: Nora Flaherty

Sitting in the office, talking about literature. Photo: Nora Flaherty

But a few weeks ago, after we had heard Kelly complain one too many times about the blaring AC conveniently located above her head, we decided we needed to break away from the shackles that keep us confined to our intern corner. Together, we decided, what better way to get to know one another than to go on a hike!

So we told our bosses that we were going to “work” on a Saturday. We were going to complete the hike, all the while taking pictures, collecting audio and writing about our experience. We could have just texted/instagrammed/tweeted each other, but we’re coworkers and we need bonding activities.

Not that any of us were “experts,” I mean sure, we thought we knew what we were doing. But the higher we climbed, the more tips we picked up on. Here’s what we learned:

Don't forget to register before you begin your hike! Photo: Monique Cornett

Don’t: forget to register before you begin your hike! Photo: Monique Cornett

Do: Try to leave early in the morning. The sooner you get there, the better your chances of finding a parking spot. On weekends, parking spaces are hard to come by.

Do: Make sure you have killer tunes to play in the car…this is how you get pumped!

Don’t: Wear new hiking boots on an epic hike. You will literally tear your heels apart.

Natalie and Monique exploring. Photo: Kelly Bartlett

Natalie and Monique exploring. Photo: Kelly Bartlett

Do: Bring band-aids, just in case you DO wear new hiking boots and end up with blisters.

Don’t: Leave your hiking boots on after your hike. Give your feet a break and bring your Birkenstocks. Your feet deserve a chance to breathe!

Do: Be friendly and say hello to your fellow hikers—after all, you are sharing the space.

Don’t: Disrupt the environment around you. These aren’t your woods, so be respectful.

Do: Pretend to be a bird. Photo: Monique Cornett

Do: Pretend to be a bird. Photo: Monique Cornett

Do: Bring Duct Tape. It’s waterproof and can fix a water bottle, a tent, almost anything.

Don’t: Be like Aron Ralston (the guy who had to amputate his own arm) and not tell anyone where you’re going. Sign in at the trailhead and check yourself out when you’re done.

Don’t: Sprint. A long hike is about endurance.

Do: Drink lots of water and eat snacks. Snacks keep you well-nourished and energized on a long hike.

Don’t: Get discouraged: hiking isn’t always about making it to the top…getting there is half the fun!

Do: Take your time and enjoy where you are. A car can’t take you to a lot of the places in the Adirondack Park. So when you get to the summit, relax: you earned that view.

Natalie resting after at the top. Photo: Claire Woodcock

Natalie resting after at the top. Photo: Claire Woodcock

Do: Bring extra clothes. No one wants to smell like that on the way home.

Don’t: Forget to pace yourself!!! You might be feeling energized and ready to scale a wall at the beginning of your hike, but remember: for a while you’re merely walking towards the mountain, not up it. Set a pace you know you can maintain for hours on either steep or flat terrain.

From left: Kelly Bartlett, Claire Woodcock, Natalie Dignam, Monique Cornett. Photo: Monique Cornett

Happy to have made it to the top in one piece! Photo: Monique Cornett

We weren’t the most experienced hikers on the trail that day, but it didn’t matter. We were taking it all in—the good, the bad, and the ugly. But all jokes aside, If you want to get to know someone, go on a hike with them. Hiking can take someone out of their comfort zone, which is the perfect time to see what someone is really about. You’ll most likely hear them complain, but you’ll also watch them experience something beautiful.

From left: Natalie Dignam, Kelly Bartlett, Claire Woodcock, Natalie Dignam. Photo: A friendly hiker.

From left: Natalie Dignam, Kelly Bartlett, Claire Woodcock, Monique Cornett. Photo: A friendly hiker.

These were the lessons we learned while we were out in the woods, but we definitely didn’t touch on all of them. Do you have an tips to add? Any advice? Did anything we said spark a memory, a funny story? Share them with us–we’d love to hear from you!

Mid-summer beauty and bounty

Keene Community Garden. Photo: Sarah Prince

Keene Community Garden. Photo: Sarah Prince

Lilies are the leading ladies of the landscape during July. Other showy growers right now: squash and cukes, plus tomato plants growing like, well, weeds, though not many of us have seen anything red yet.

Your photos from the past week came from Schroon Lake, Plattsburgh, Tupper Lake Junction, Keene and parts unknown but definitely on NCPR’s landscape.

Here’s a gallery of gorgeous photos from flower and vegetable gardens sent in by NCPR friends.

Ken and Barb Adams garden in Plattsburgh. Flowers abound.

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Clematis Contesse de Bouchaud. Photo: Ken and Barb Adams

Daylily Pasque Flower. Photo: Ken and Barb Adams

Daylily Pasque Flower. Photo: Ken and Barb Adams

Split Rail Fence. Photo: Ken and Barb Adams

Split Rail Fence. Photo: Ken and Barb Adams

Many of you know George DeChant’s photographs from his contributions to our Photo of the Day feature. I’m assuming these garden photos were taken in his hometown of Saranac Lake.

 

Lily. Photo: George DeChant

Lily. Photo: George DeChant

Lilies. Photo: George DeChant

Lilies. Photo: George DeChant

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Nursing home flower box. Photo: George DeChant

Nursing home flower box. Photo: George DeChant

Helene Vanderburgh has been checking in periodically with photos from her Schroon Lake garden. Here’s the latest selection.

Lilies and daisies. Photo: Helene Vanderburgh

Lilies and daisies. Photo: Helene Vanderburgh

Mallow and gooseneck loosestrife. Photo: Helene Vanderburgh

Mallow and gooseneck loosestrife. Photo: Helene Vanderburgh

Finally, something to eat…

Squash up the wheel. Photo: Helene Vanderburgh

Squash up the wheel. Photo: Helene Vanderburgh

A proud husband Glenn Poirier sent in these photos from Tupper Lake Junction taken by wife Nancie.

Nancie's garden.

Chives and herbs, plus a bee.

Nancie's onions.

Nancie’s onions.

Tomatoes in Nancie's garden.

Tomatoes in Nancie’s garden, plus peppers, cukes, herbs.

From Patricia Bowdish in Lisbon, some beautiful garden photos:

Photo: Pat Grace

Photo: Patricia Bowdish

Photo: Pat Grace

Photo: Patricia Bowdish

Photo: Pat Grace

Photo: Patricia Bowdish

Photo: Pat Grace

Photo: Patricia Bowdish

Finally, my favorite of the week. This from Canton–we all can relate.

Weeding is highly overrated. Photo: Maegan

Weeding is highly overrated. Photo: Maegan Bos

Keep those photos coming…Flowers usually reach their peak in July, but August is vegetable month. All gardening photos welcome. I’m posting about once a week. Send your photos to: ellen@ncpr.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How a small, simple ramp can make all the difference

The difference between accessible and inaccessible can be this simple. (Photo from StopGap Facebook, used by permission.)

The difference between accessible and inaccessible can be this simple. (Photo from StopGap’s Facebook page, used by permission.)

For those lucky enough to be able-bodied, little things – like a few inches between a door and the sidewalk – don’t even merit notice. It’s a different story for those who use wheelchairs or similar wheeled mobility. Accessibility is also a concern for building owners and businesses.

So it’s great when more solutions come along to ease some of those issues.

Case in point, Carleton University just hosted an international accessibility summit here in Ottawa. One of the speakers was Luke Anderson, a professional structural engineer based in Toronto. Anderson grapples with these issues all the time after crashing on a 25-foot mountain bike jump back in 2002 and ending up in a wheelchair himself.

Speaking with Alan Neal on CBC Ottawa’s All In a Day, Anderson describes wanting a faster, easier, less expensive and more portable solution to the bumps that make wheelchair use so challenging. His solution: lightweight plywood ramps that store owners (for example) can leave in place or whip out at a moment’s notice.

And it’s worth noting that you don’t have to use a wheelchair to be bothered by these barriers. Those who push a baby stroller or deliver goods on a dolly run into the same problems too.

This 2013 write-up in the Toronto Star gives a sense of the potential:

Anderson wants no proprietary claim to the idea. The StopGap website (stopgapblog.blogspot.ca) describes how to make the steps for community projects.

It’s starting to spread across Canada, partially thanks to Marilyn Engel, with the Home Depot at St. Clair Ave. and Keele St., which has provided materials and constructed ramps. Each Home Depot has a community fund, so Engel added StopGap to the company website. So far 15 associates in stores across Canada have taken up the initiative, she says.

“I thought it was the coolest idea,” she says.

Anderson recently heard from an accessibility advocate in the Philippines who was inspired after visiting the website.

“It extends way beyond the city limits and goes across the country and around the world,” Anderson says.

Yeah, this is one of those inspiring stories about individuals who would rather light a candle than curse the darkness. (There’s even a children’s book to go along with it all, written by a grade 6 class.)

Some might argue that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) took care of all this in the U.S. Except that attaining full accessibility for everything new and old is a huge, on-going task.

One might also argue that plywood ramps are way too Mickey-mouse for what should be built-in as solid and permanent. Fair enough.

But consider the urban myth from the space race about different approaches to problem solving. You may have heard it: needing a way to write in outer space, the U.S. supposedly spent buckets of money developing a special ball point pen. Meanwhile the poorer (and hence more practical) USSR made their cosmonauts use pencils.

OK, it’s worth noting that story is labeled “false” by the rumor-checking site Snopes.com (The background presented there on how the pen that works in zero gravity came about is still quite interesting.)

Even if the pencil story is just that – a story –  it reflects something we’re all aware of: solutions don’t always have to be super hard or out-of-reach. If creative initiatives, even temporary fixes, makes better outcomes happen sooner, I say go for it!



Two kinds of people

Where are you right now? Photo: Velocia, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Where are you right now? Photo: Velocia, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Weekdays most folks are pretty much the same. They get up a little too early, buzz through a set ritual of morning ablutions, then hope the go-cup of coffee and the commute will awaken them enough to put in another long day’s work. Afterwards, there’s dinner to rustle up, eat, clean up, mooch around the house for a couple hours in search of light entertainment, then back to the sack. Rinse and repeat.

It’s weekend mornings that really test a person’s mettle. There are two kinds of people, and which you are is determined in this very moment–on Saturday, what do you do while waiting for the coffee water to boil?

One kind is already in the shower. By the time the water boils they are in the kitchen making a list, charting out the plan. They have to sharpen the blade of the plane so they can shave the bottom of that sticky cupboard door. They need to change the oil and the air filter in the garden tractor. Visions of chain saws and come-alongs are dancing in their heads. They are the ones you find drinking coffee in the parking lot of the hardware store with one or two others of their kind, waiting for the doors to open. They have tidy outbuildings full of useful objects.

The other kind of person is already back under the quilt, inhabiting a blissful zone of semi-consciouness, knowing that the whistler on the teakettle will rouse them at the proper moment. Their favorite lines of poetry (and this type has them) come from Roethke:

I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Where they have to go (in due time) is out to the kitchen to watch the water seep down through the Moondance blend in the Chemex–watch the birds and the bunnies outside the kitchen window until the brew is through–then back into bed. Maybe read a little, maybe listen to the radio. The day can wait until they’re ready. Maybe one cup of coffee–what the hell–maybe two. It’s all good.

The one kind is no better than the other, but what they hold in common is the smug certainty that the other kind is nuts.