Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Long time no see

Yes, it has been months since I last posted here.

I started this blog more than three years ago, to chronicle my quest for sustainable community in my adopted city.  In the intervening time, I have made many discoveries that support my belief that moving here was a good decision for us.

The geographic location was an important prerequisite for sustainable living in a time of climate instability, rising energy costs, and economic uncertainty: temperate climate, good fresh water supply, nearby agricultural land and small farming.  Western NY is also an area of great natural beauty. The small city environment of Jamestown is big enough to have all the services we deem necessary (although if you want to debate about the meaning of "necessary," we really don't "need" many of the things we think we do) -- unquestionably boosted by the nearby Chautauqua Institution. But it's at the same time small enough to easily navigate and to make everything accessible -- in the sense that, if you have a question or issue to discuss with somebody like the mayor, go find him and talk to him about it. We don't have as many layers of bureaucracy and gatekeepers here. Everybody knows everybody else.

The upshot is that we seem to have found our community on several layers, from neighbors who look out for and share (food and tools and services) with each other, fellow church members that share all that plus deeper convictions, and friends and acquaintances in the larger community who are dedicated to common goals for improving the hometown we share. 

So now I seem to be doing more and writing about it less.  Our newest project is the rehabbing of a rental property we acquired for that purpose. In its present condition, it is not habitable. There is no heat, no plumbing, and only in the fast week have we had (limited) electricity.  We're currently jumping through the urban renewal agency's required hoops in order to qualify for rebate money (from a community block grant) when our rehab is completed. Today, the lead inspectors are coming.

And a snowstorm is also coming, so we'll need to get out to the store for whatever we need for our quiet Thanksgiving at home. The weather will prevent us from spending the holiday with our grandchildren and their parents this year, unfortunately.  I'm afraid it's the new normal.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

High humidity and cool nights

Note: I almost remembered to post this a few days ago. I think I need a little vacation.

If you don't like what the weather is doing, wait a minute. We seem to be having an early taste of autumn now.  I love the cooler temps. The garden does not.  The fungi have arrived and are wreaking havoc. The tomato plants have been hit with blight. The squash plants are getting mildew. My hollyhocks have succumbed to rust. The rose bushes have black spot.  I keep removing the infected leaves and hoping I get some ripe tomatoes before the plants give out.

I keep thinking about climate controlled indoor vegetable gardening.

It looks like the carrots are going to be fine, and I planted some more chard and kale seeds, hoping for a good late crop that I can donate to St. Susan's.

Oh well.

Lucy Fest has come and gone. The summer is flying by. I need to finish my painting projects at the church before September, when services and classes resume at UUCJ.  By the way, I was elected co-president of the new church board, so you may call me Madam President. Lately I've been spending my mornings at the church in old clothes with a paint brush in my hand. Stuff needs to get done.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The heat wave has broken

I'm loving the cooler weather we're having right now. Garden time is much more enjoyable. We've been getting lots of kale, chard, zucchini, beans, and cabbage (also green beans and zucchini from our giving garden for St. Susan's kitchen). The flower gardens have really filled in, and though I thought I was finished with planting for this year, I couldn't resist getting some "Cherry Brandy" coneflowers and Russian sage to add to the landscape. I love my flowers.

We've been finding lots of things to fill up our time lately, which hasn't left a lot of time for sitting still and writing about it.  Tom and I tend to be very project-oriented workaholics.  I may not be employed, but I do work, between my projects here at home, the church, and the food buying club.  We don't get out enough to really appreciate why we chose to live here in the first place.  But lately, we've been working on it.

 On Saturday, we decided to head across the lake to Bemus Point for an alfresco lunch at the Italian Fisherman.  I love that it is right on the water--I spent a lot of time on lakes when I was growing up and have a special fondness for that environment.  Bemus was bustling. It's definitely where the action is around here for families on vacation with the kids.  Swimming at the beach was declared off limits last week because of the blue green
algae blooms, but there are still plenty of places to play, shop, and eat, and I guess that's what people were doing! Pedestrians all over the place.

The previous weekend, there was the St. James Italian Festival, which has a good chance of becoming an annual must-do event for us. The food was great, especially the cannoli!

I'm also making more time for garage saling (very dear to my reusing-recycling-repurposing heart!) and visiting the Downtown Jamestown Farmers Market on Fridays. 

And in the evenings, I read.  The books and authors I have been choosing lately have taken me on foreign adventures-- to Ireland, Iran, Afghanistan, Spain. Places I will never see with my own eyes (and in a couple of cases, thank goodness), but the written word has the power to transport us across time and space. Without using fossil fuels!

This weekend, we'll go out some more. The Jammers are playing at home, the long-awaited Brazil Craft Beer and Wine Lounge will be open on Friday and Saturday to preview some of their selections, there's a craft fair in Westfield, and our church is having its summer picnic.   The weather looks good, maybe a little rain on Saturday. But if it makes the plants happy, who am I to complain?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Happy days

Now that summer has finally gotten here, it's flying by.

Our grandkids (and their parents) were here for the 4th of July weekend. (Oh, how we wish they lived close enough to drop over for an afternoon anytime and we could see them more frequently than for three days a couple of times a year.)

The weather sort of cooperated. It was threatening to rain most of the time, but held off when we needed it to -- for grilling and eating dinner on the patio and fireworks, for instance. They had been so impressed by Jamestown's Labor Day fireworks display two years ago, that they were expecting big things.  Jamestown doesn't do fireworks for the 4th of July, but most of the lakeside communities do, and there is the tradition of "lighting the lake" with a ring of flares along the shoreline. So we decided to see it all from the vantage point of the rest stop off I-86, with its million dollar view overlooking the lake. It's a popular spot, and the atmosphere was festive with people staking out their spots with blankets and lawn chairs on the hillsides, while kids adorned with glow sticks ran off their end-of-the-day energy. Logan watched them for awhile, and then decided he wanted to lie down and roll down the hill. The whole thing wasn't as impressive as the "right there" effect of fireworks in Baker Park, but it sufficed.

Since he was asleep before we got back home, he missed seeing the large deer standing in our neighbor's yard (on her way up the street to eat my lilies, no doubt)--and he very much wanted to see "animals" while he was here! Well, he got his wish when the whole family took a walk around the neighborhood at 6 am (having young children means you wake up early) and saw the whole herd on their way back into the woods after a night of gourmet dining in residential gardens. 

The play tent and bean bag game we had picked up at a garage sale last year were big hits, and so was the Fisher Price dollhouse (another garage sale find, intended for the church nursery, but I hadn't taken it there yet).  Grandpa also introduced Logan to the gyroscope, the plasma globe, and the card game of War. We apparently passed the entertainment test.   And of course we topped it off with a visit to Peterson's Candies, because grandparents must do what parents frown upon!

Now that the highlight of our summer has come and gone, we're back to the more mundane (but still enjoyable) things like tending the garden. We've been getting a steady supply of snow peas and chard and black raspberries, the kale is just about ready, the zucchini and green beans are coming soon, and I harvested my first beautiful big head of cabbage yesterday. All the rain we've been getting is making the garden very happy, and thank goodness for the superior drainage you get with raised beds.

The college community gardens are also looking wonderful, but the deer damage is apparent in some of the beds (thank goodness I covered mine with the bird netting to discourage them) and the fence has still not been installed.

We heard some very good community news yesterday: Cummins and Wegman's are going solar! Solar Liberty was recently awarded 6.5 Megawatts of Solar Power Projects from NYSERDA. Cummins Jamestown Engine Plant - JEP (2MW, Roof Mount System), Wegmans (536.31kW, Roof Mount System) and two additional 2MW customers will partner with Solar Liberty on these solar installation projects.We hope many more will follow the leadership of these forward-thinking businesses. BPU, are you listening?

Monday, June 24, 2013

"I went back to Ohio but my city was gone..."

We lived in Cleveland for 23 years before we moved to Jamestown. But before that, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I grew up in Ashtabula, a Lake Erie port city that was once also a manufacturing center. Until it wasn't anymore, and became another notch in the Rust Belt.

I had an occasion (a funeral) to return to my hometown on Saturday, and couldn't get Chrissie Hynde out of my head. (Way. To. Go. Ohio.)  My high school is gone. All that remains is a grassy field. At least they had the decency to leave the tall, stately trees that once framed the front walkway.

The old neighborhood is riddled with vacant lots where houses used to stand. My childhood home is still there, but barely recognizable, now surrounded by a chain link fence.

Few of the old businesses are still around. Out beyond the (westside) Saybrook Plaza area, which was hurt when someone had the bright idea to construct an eastside shopping mall in the early 1990's, something like a ghost town remains. The McDonalds that stood there for years (the very first one to open in Ashtabula, back when burgers cost 15 cents) is just gone. Gas stations, bowling alley, cinema complex, other businesses -- vacant, boarded up, abandoned, looking ready to dry up and blow away. These days, that mall doesn't seem to be in great shape either. Relics of the 20th Century. 

Is this our future in America? Will we discard everything that we deem past its expiration date, seeking newer, bigger, brighter, and shinier, until our entire past is gone and forgotten? Or will more communities adopt the repair, reuse, recycle, repurpose mantra and show some mindfulness and respect for human history, the limits of the planet, the needs and sensibilities of others around us, and those who will come after us? 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

In every life a little rain must fall

Well, what did Henry Wadsworth Longfellow know? These days, it's either NO rain (drought) or a WHOLE LOT of rain. I'm wondering if my little annual flowers will survive these repeated soakings. I have dug little drainage canals through my flower beds.

I managed to miss out on just about everything last weekend, not because of the weather, but because I was waylaid by a nasty upper respiratory virus.  (But I was very pleased with the prompt, professional service I received at 5 Star Urgent Care on Saturday morning.) I'm feeling better now, and hoping for better weather this weekend, for everyone's sake.  The weather forecast at the moment says it's going to be just about perfect (with residual puddles and mosquitoes) on Saturday.

The St. Nicholas annual Yassou Festival will be held this Friday and Saturday, 11 am - 11 pm, rain or shine!   Maybe getting out for some yummy Greek food will make up for the ribs I didn't get last weekend?

On Saturday afternoon, there is a drumming festival, artists showcase, and Art BURN Auction (everything that doesn't sell will be burned!) at the 100 Acre Woods (it's free), and that evening at 6, Big Leg Emma is playing a free show at Southern Tier Brewing.

Could be some really fun times.

Still waiting to find out if we'll be seeing the grandkids this weekend, now that there's been some talk about postponing their trip a couple of weeks.

Still wondering when Tom will get back from his cycling trip, which has been plagued with downpours, making for less than ideal riding conditions.

Waiting and wondering as I oversee this week's food buying club distribution and sit here waiting for people to pick up their orders. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June is bustin' out

We waited so long for the warmer weather to get here, and now I've got my hands in dirt most of the time.  Hallelujah!
As you can see, my little "farm" has expanded this year.  I'm going to have to replant the carrots because nothing is coming up in that spot. It might have been too cold, or too wet, for the seeds.

My neighbor got her garden planted too. Tom built them a raised bed last year, but the first time around didn't go so well because she was late getting things planted and then out of town when things needed watering.  With a little "mentoring," I think it will work out better this year.

We also have a bed planted at the JCC College Community Garden. That one will be a "giving garden" for St. Susan's, provided that they get the fence put up before the wildlife finds the smorgasbord. There are beans and greens, squash, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, and melons.  When a water line on the site turned out to be too costly for the college to bite off right now, Tom constructed a solar-powered system that pumps water from the nearby stream into a cistern. It's pretty cool. There are also rain barrels. Looking forward to spending some time there with the other gardeners this summer and learning new tricks!

At home, I've been reworking the flower gardens a little because, as usual, some things didn't make it through the winter.  I've given up on growing butterfly bushes. Just given up. I love them, but can't afford to replant them every year.  They just don't like my yard.  My climbing "America" rose (the pretty coral pink one) bit the dust (the second one to die on me), so I replaced it with a good ole dependable Blaze.  I managed to save some of the plants in the corner that was excavated for the water line repair, but lost a rose there too.  I'm going to do some more thinking before I replace it, but in the meantime, I'm trying delphiniums again, though I generally don't have much success keeping those from one year to the next either. 
 My clematis, whatever the heck it is (one of those "we're not telling you what it is" things I picked up on a whim at Home Depot a couple of years ago) is in its usual show-stopping glory, and the smoke bush next to it is looking good too, having recovered from an earlier bout of "crispy" leaves (as nearly as I can figure, they got frost burned).

Now I'm on to a different project. Tom chopped out the old junipers by the front door and I've got a blank slate to work with. I'm increasing the width of my borders too, so I'm out there digging like a terrier every chance I get. (Oh please, don't tell the terrier next door I said that. He may take it as an invitation.)

Before all this playing in the dirt started, we  made a quick trip to Boston for Grandparents Day at Logan's preschool.  We had fun meeting his classmates and teachers. We got to participate in activities in the classroom, the kids put on a musical program for us, and then we were treated to a nice luncheon.  That's me and Tom sitting on the floor reading stories with Logan (blue shirt) and his friend Taylor.  When you're grandparents, it's always easier sitting down on the floor than it is getting up to a standing position again.

Next morning, we watched 5-yr-olds playing soccer! This is hilarious good fun. Sorry, we forgot the camera. Logan did score a couple of goals, which were almost as impressive as his celebrations of them.

His baby sister, Quinn, is 11 months old now and a very active, busy little girl. We will have to be vigilant when they come to visit next week... 

Jamestown Farmers Market opens this Friday, tomorrow!  The Prendergast Library is also holding their annual book sale, and having it at the Renaissance Center this year, so there will be congestion downtown.  (We've already been noticing an uptick in the traffic as the summer season approaches.)

The Celoron Rib Fest opened last night with beautiful weather, but today is a damp one. Don't suppose it will stop the diehard barbecue fans. The forecast for Friday and Saturday looks a bit better.

For nature lovers, the Roger Tory Peterson Bird Fest is this also weekend.  You can purchase "a la carte" tickets to the different field excursions (which include bus transportation) or buy passes for either day or both, to include meals.

In two weeks, the Jammers will be playing ball again.

Get out and have a good time.