Friday, August 16, 2019

Bleepin' Beeping

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York state

 There can be few things more ominous than this type of sign

Or more annoying than the beeping you get from reversing lorries aka trucks. The other day we had a whole symphony of them, working on patching up the road surface. Truck after truck heading up and down the lane and each with its own musical (sic) pitch. In our hilly country you can hear them echoing all over the place which makes it ten times worse. Here's one going past the end of our drive. I believe it's the same one they attach a snowplough to in the winter.

And here's the lane partly finished. For once they were reasonably quick about it.

Our tax dollars at work as hubby would say. They seem to have done an OK job if they would only lay off the beeping. Elf and Safety again.
  Though one thing I never understand about this part of America. They spend all summer digging up roads and patching potholes and the next spring it's just as bad and they start again. The charitable explanation from hubby is that the freeze and thaw sequence in the winter wreaks havoc with the roads and then there are all the heavy trucks cutting up the surfaces. I say that the Americans have many good qualities but they are nowhere near as good at building roads as, say the French. Plus they take ages over it.  One tiny bridge took about five years to finish and the motorway to Buffalo is in a perpetual state of cone-inflicted chaos. You'd think someone would invent a better way. Or perhaps there are too many vested interests in the local road building business looking for their annual windfall.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Garden Report

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York

Alas, not much good news from the garden. Well Jack is always good news and although a bit of a slow starter this year, he's done us proud again.

Sadly I can't say that for the rest of the bunch. The deer have discovered the buffet and we made the big mistake of being away in June, when they did their worst. Even the rudbekias, blackeyed susans, yellow daisies, whatever, which usually proliferate like, yes, weeds, have only grown about six inches.

 And well as the usual suspects - deer and slugs, we've had two new problems this year. One is wasps. I was gardening a couple of weeks ago and (accidentally) stuck my hand in a wasps' nest. These particular wasps live in the ground and are extra vicious. One got me on my finger, which swelled up a bit but was manageable. I sprayed the nest with the usual stuff that usually seems to do the trick. A week or so later, I was walking past - walking past at a safe distance, not poking around. One of the survivors, out to avenge friends and family, shot out and deliberately targetted my leg, which swelled up like a balloon. I spent the next couple of days with my foot in a bucket of ice. Hubby had to resort to the flamethrower. And we've just discovered a new settlement of the brutes right under the trumpet vine.
  And the other thing is mud. Mud mud mud mud and more mud. And heavy rain is forecast again for this afternoon. The chap who was supposed to clear some of our jungle with his brush hog (not a species of wild pig but a tool for just that - clearing jungles) got his tractor stuck in the mud. Yes his tractor. It took all afternoon to pull it out. We might as well cut our losses and set up in business as a mud-wrestling venue.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Mysteries of the Lane

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York 

The lane is in full summer mode and makes for a good workout when it's not pouring with rain. We are getting a little tired of the thunderstorms and the mud. But there are compensations when the view from the lane in morning looks like this....

 Or this....

Heavenly visions and fairytales spring to mind.

And the misty forest is full of the drumming of rival woodpeckers

But from beyond the stream, swollen by rain, way behind the trees and out of sight,  comes an odder noise. I've noticed it over the past couple of weeks and it definitely sounds like... chickens. At first I thought it might be the geese chuntering away on the pond but it no, it was fairly umistakeably clucking chickens. Do they have wild ones here like the wild turkeys? First I've heard of it. But the other morning I got proof. "Cock a Doodle Doo!" sounded piercingly across the valley. Several times. It seems an odd place to keep chickens, far away from any house and too close to a selection of hungry potential customers but they must have a reason.
  Another mystery - how wild flowers can arrange themselves so prettily against the road barrier.

And turn it into

A thing of beauty

And the flowers on the banks

Doing their bit too.

And yet another mystery. How Queen Anne's lace

Always manages to come up with

 A different design

 Is it Queen Anne or Anne of Denmark that it's named after? Americans so love their old monarchies.

 Whichever one it was, the tiny red dot in the centre, they say, comes from a drop of blood from the Queen pricking her finger.

Ouch. You can't keep a good fairytale down.

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Little Boat Gets a Lift

 We were tardy putting our sailing boat, Titanic 2*,  into the water this summer. Prolonged travels followed by days of monsoon-like weather, followed by necessary repairs to our tow vehicle, my trusty  but old 4 wheel drive, which proved to be unnecessary repairs,  meant we didn't get cracking until last week. But this year we had a new and exciting experience. After years of struggling with masts, winches, ramps and the like, we decided to call in professional help in the shape of the lads at the Buffalo boatyard. And they produced a wondrous machine.

A massive, wheeled contraption with a sling for the boat (nicely padded) which could be towed anywhere and everywhere.
  While they tinkered with getting Titanic 2 comfortable, I took some snaps of the romantic Buffalo waterfront....

...with its fabled grain elevators, a legacy of the days when the produce of the prairies steamed across Lake Erie to Buffalo, making it one of America's most prosperous cities. . Now they're the last word in post-industrial chic, fringed by small boat marinas and  intrepid kayakers.

It's all supposed to be in a much-lauded process of regeneration, though I'd still say it has a way to go. At least one of the grain elevators is in use to this day. This one for General Mills, which produces that American  breakfast staple, Cheerios. If the wind's in the right direction, you can smell them.

So here's the mighty machine on its way. Possibly Titanic 2, unlike her hapless namesake, is the smallest boat they've ever had to deal with.

 And there she goes, down into the water. How about that!

It beats backing the car, boat and trailer gingerly down a perilous ramp any day. Thank you lads!

*(Author's note: For the benefit of new readers, not her real name. At my first encounter hubby assured me she had been marketed as unsinkable. I said I'd heard that one before.)

Friday, July 12, 2019

About That Mountain Laurel...

(See below). Wondering where I saw it? It was an unexpected place. Don't think the rugged wooded hills of Pennsylvania. Think green lawns, celebs and strawberries and "Quiet Please!" Yes, I saw it in Wimbledon.
Of course Wimbledon is only strawberries, celebs and "Quiet Please" for two weeks in the year. The rest of the time it's a leafy London suburb backing onto a magnificent area of open land in one corner of which is Cannizaro Park. I mentioned its fabled rhododendrons on a previous post but  that time I didn't notice the mountain laurel.

And it was doing a lot better than my Cattaraugus County versions which, thanks to the local deer population, haven't flowered for several years and a are barely a foot tall.

The rhododendrons were past their best and it was an overcast day but this one still looked pretty good.

Out on the Common there was a blast from the past. A genuine ice cream van. I don't know if it played a tune but there it was. I'm surprised they still allow them - you would have thought elf and safety would have done for them a long time ago.

(Though apparently some British ice cream vans are notorious for gang warfare. Well the Glasgow ones at any rate.  No one told me that when I was six years old and racing after the music with my hot little hand full of sixpences.) Meanwhile the Common and the pond - this being a couple of weeks before the tennis started - presented a peaceful, bucolic scene, the grey clouds adding to the perfect picture of a suburban British summer.

It really does look like a village green. You wouldn't think you were so close to London.
Now we're back in Cattaraugus County, I note my Wimbledon neighbours are complaining about all the people cashing in on the tennis, offering their front gardens for parking. One woman on the neighbourhood website has at least been honest "Yes, we charge for it and no, not a penny goes to charity. It's to pay for our holidays."  I might mention that any house near the tennis courts with enough front garden for parking spaces is going to be worth at least a few million. Pounds.
  Meanwhile the American TV commentators here have been remarking how exciting Wimbledon Village has got over the past few years. "There are even some good restaurants." Cheek. Wimbledon beats  Flushing Meadows hollow and always did.

Monday, July 8, 2019


Regular readers will know my frustration at living in western New York for several years now and never once seeing a bear.  Even some friends who came from Britain and stayed in Allegany State Park for just one week managed to see one. Correction: not one but a whole family trotting across the road in front of them. Friends, neighbours, sisters-in-law, they've all seen them - raiding their bird feeders, standing at the end of their drives, trying to get in through their kitchen door (well I'm not sorry I didn't see that one.) Bears have been in the local paper, raiding the Park and Shop in Olean among other things. And now another friend shows me this:

Captured on the rural equivalent of CC TV just about to make off with the bird feeder. All we ever get on our camera is a grey blur. Oh well. Maybe some day...

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Back At Last ...and Oh Deer

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York

  It's always an adventure coming back to our western New York home after a few weeks away. One time I encountered a large, fat woodchuck waddling across the porch. He had been used to having things nice and quiet. He looked at me, froze briefly, did a double take and waddled off again at double speed. This time we'd been expecting a jungle - it's never a good idea to be away in June, when everything puts on a manic growth spurt.

What we didn't expect was that it was just as muddy and wet as it had been when we left a month ago. And the jungle was twice as big as it had ever been in the past. I shouldn't have put all that Miracle-Gro on the flower beds; the weeds must have thought it was Christmas Day.
  And while the weeds flourished, morphed and mutated, the real flowers seemed hardly to have grown at all. As I walked despondently around the garden, assessing the extent of the debacle, I began to see why. Everything had been neatly nipped off at the top. Yes, the deer had been helping themselves. They'd omitted to disguise their footprints in the mud. What I can never understand is why deer don't eat weeds. It's part of the perversity of nature. And with thunderstorms forecast every day, the air muggy and the mosquitoes whooping it up, gardening is not a happy prospect.
  But tomorrow is the Fourth of July, a day of rest for my American friends. Hubby has hoisted his beloved Betsy Ross flag - the one with the thirteen stars for the thirteen original states, the first one made for George Washington et al by a lady called Betsy Ross.

He's furious that a few people with nothing better to do have been in the news objecting to the flag, claiming it's racist because it dates from slave-owning times and because some right-wing nutters espoused it. And the usual suspects have jumped on the bandwagon. (Well a few nasties liked to fly the Union Jack too. That doesn't mean we should get rid of it).
  "My ancestor fought in the Revolutionary War and the Betsy Ross flag was HIS flag and no one's going to tell me not to fly it!" hubby pronounced. And I suspect he's not alone. The Wall Street Journal  lamented today over "another sign of our current political insanity."  Yep.