Saturday, May 31, 2014

And a Couple of Days Later

Little clumps of pink are starting to appear. Here's a new one on me. Did this chap escape from someone's garden?

The sprouting sprigs on the ends of the branches - for some reason the colour reminds me of the elf costumes in my junior school pantomime or perhaps those tiny frogs I saw in Costa Rica. It's a green vivid  like no other.

All set for Christmas.

A bush in a shady spot by a neighbour's house. I don't know what it is - there isn't another one like it anywhere near here. The flowers look a bit like a rose but again - that colour!  I had a dress that colour when I was about seven and have always looked in vain for another one.

It makes up for the poor showing by rhododendrons this year. The ones in town are OK but up our hill they must have really felt the cold winter.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Western New York Idyll: Spring Starts to Spring

There's nothing lovelier than the fresh, gentle green of early leaves,  a little stream babbling along behind.

Even if it's already late May.  Our lane has come on a treat.

And the woods are filling out.

The grass springing up on the old logging trails.

Some vigorous-looking catkins.

The Five Mile Baptist church shrouded in early morning mist.

Somewhere behind there is, allegedly, the highest point in Cattaraugus County.

And the forested hills are starting to look like forested hills again.

And I have to make myself do some gardening.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Bon Jovi Free-Zone

Now here's a bizarre Buffalo story. The rocker Jon Bon Jovi...

---- has been declared off limits. Persona Non Grata. Public Enemy Number One. In short, if he knows what's good for him, he'd better not come anywhere near Buffalo.
  An odd thing, you might say. He seems a relatively inoffensive chap as rockers go, unless you don't like Democrats. But he has been linked with a consortium that wants to move the city's beloved Buffalo Bills  following the recent death of their owner, to, of all places, Toronto. (We are talking about an American football team here.)  Believe me, this will be much worse than Wimbledon moving to Milton Keynes. The Bills are the life and soul of Buffalo. Now fans want a boycott of all things JBJ.
  I can't resist adding that I have a very tenuous personal connection to Bon Jovi and one I'm sure he is entirely unaware of. Many years ago, when I lived in London, the house where I had a flat was used for a photo shoot for a film starring the great man humself. I forget its title and it has probably sunk without trace. But the film company asked if they could film my door - just my door - opening and shutting. I watched the film to try and get a glimpse of my now world famous door but I fear it may have landed on the cutting room floor. Anyway, I have had a soft spot for Jon Bon Jovi ever since but I hope he leaves the Bills alone.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

In the Pink

Dark, wet, soggy weather in the past few days but spring is gradually taking a hold.  With creeping phlox


and bleeding heart all looking pretty chipper.

Better late than never, I suppose.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Just When You Thought it was Safe to go Out into the Garden....

 I grabbed hubby and said, "Come and see something beautiful!". After a miserably cold winter and a nasty wet spring, we needed something to cheer us up - and there it was...

A blossoming apple tree

And among its delicately scented flowers, the fattest bumblebees I'd ever seen, buzzing industriously away, just off camera.

  Now if only we don't get a savage frost, we can look forward to another good harvest and I'll have to steel myself to tackle that most sacred of American culinary arts, the apple pie.
  But there's trouble in paradise.  The Demon Lawnmowers are back and up to their tricks. We live out in the sticks, up an idyllic country lane but we might as well be in the middle of an industrial estate. Many of the local householders, in that mysterious American way I can never fathom, surround themselves with huge expanses of grass and nothing else. Few trees, hardly any flowers. Just grass. They don't use it for golf or polo, or cricket, or any  other useful purpose. What pleasure they derive from it appears to comes from sitting for hours on a small tractor called a riding mower, with noise-cancelling headphones over their ears (they should be so lucky) rumbling and roaring up and down, up and down, sometimes, I swear, going over each blade of grass at least three times, till I want to invest in a flame thrower and let 'em have it.
   In all other respects kind, friendly and civilised people, when they straddle their riding mowers, my American friends undergo a terrifying transformation. And they always sense when I'm going to emerge to do a bit of gardening or take a well-earned coffee-break. It's always then that they start up. First one, then the next, then the next.  The ones under the hill are especially ear-splitting, as the hill throws off an echo and makes for an amplifier worthy of Glastonbury.
   And they play mind games, making me think they're receding into the distance, then turning round and thundering back with a vengeance. And it's only going to get worse.
    Some parts of the world have rules, for example not making a noise on Sunday afternoons, at least. Not so in the Land of the Free. I could persuade them that a push mower like ours is not only quieter but healthier (I notice that many people sitting on riding mowers look as though they could do with some exercise)  but it would fall on deaf ears. Riding mowers, along with pickup trucks, are important status symbols around here.
   I'm trying to think how to fight back. Set up loudspeakers playing Frosty the Snowman or the Laughing Policeman or some other terminally irritating song at full blast? Even better, set up loudspeakers playing the Laughing Policeman at full blast in the middle of the night?*  Now there's an idea.  But first, maybe I'll give the flame thrower a go.  

*Don't laugh too soon, I've seen at least one person actually mowing at night - on a rider-mower with headlamps.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ski-ing, Anyone?

Just for fun, a pic of the ski slopes at Holiday Valley. If you screw up your eyes and look into the distance you'll see some white strips, enough to do a few parallel turns if you can be bothered to walk up. Another example of our glorious warm spring...
  By the way, in the foreground is an alpaca farm. (Not  the one I featured a while ago.)    You know, those animals that look like giant poodles. They're getting very popular around here. I'd buy the socks if they didn't want so much for them.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Sausage Search Continues

  Readers may remember that, since the beginning of my unexpected sojourn in Western New York, I have been craving certain foodstuffs unattainable here. Prime among these are British sausages  - real bangers. Related to that are sausage rolls. This is where the culture clash has really hurt.  This, believe it or not, is an American sausage roll. And yes, it has no sausage in it. 

  As I said before, what sort of a country sells sausage rolls and expects you to provide your own sausages? Sadly I was taken in at first by its empty promise, to the immense derision of hubby.
    But the other day, I had an interesting experience. Stopping on the road from Ohio at an unfamiliar Starbucks to get my coffee fix, I walked past what Americans call a Food Court, the offerings of which I would normally avoid like the pestilence but my eye was caught by an odd little display. There were sausages, sitting all hot and ready on a sort of grid and underneath, wrapped rolls and those cardboard case things to put them in. A sign said "Polish Kielbasa". Now, to my chagrin, for I have many dear Polish friends, I had previously dismissed these delicacies as just another take on the hot dog. But this time, possibly because I was ravenously hungry, something snapped. I was already walking towards the coffee counter when I turned around. And headed back to the sausages. Embarrassed, I couldn't work out how to serve myself, thinking I had to do something clever with the machine to heat up the rolls. So I approached the lady at the till with my usual preamble, "I'm from Britain and I don't understand..." I had to wait for her to finish serving the customer in front, who, as always happens to me, was buying 500 lottery tickets, each of which had to be individually printed out. But eventually the kind cashier took me to the sausage stand, unwrapped a bun (cold), popped a sausage in it and said, "There you are!" Simple. I was too embarrassed to ask where the ketchup was and ended up drenching my purchase in chili sauce. Despite that, it was really very good. A nice little exotic twist to the hot dog flavour but not too exotic. So good, in fact, that I sought out Polish Kielbasa in our local supermarket and bought a packet.  I inserted a Kielbasa in the aforementioned sausage roll and I'm sure you'll agree it was a vast improvement.

Especially with the addition of ketchup. Bangers they aint but like exiles who plant British rose gardens to try and stem their homesickness, I have adopted the Polish Kielbasa as my consolation prize.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

That's Nothing

I'll show 'em how to dress.

Now then, when's that Met Ball?

Actually I've seen four Rose-breasted Grosbeak couples. Someone must like this weird weather.  Would you believe it's nearly mid-May?


 The tulips are trying their best though - rushing to open as soon as the warmth flooded them, then looking a little puzzled.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Finch Fantasia

No one's telling these chaps it's not summer yet.

Lately they've been descending on the feeder in hordes, the lads all in beautiful bright yellow now, having sent their khaki winter get up to the charity shop. The gals on the other hand, well, let's say drab is the new black.

At one point I counted a dozen of them, with several miniature dogfights exploding all over the place. American goldfinches is what they are. Not like those nasty European starlings that lower the tone everywhere they go. Of course you can never get them all in the picture.

It's like herding cats. Ooops, sorry, lads. Bad choice of words.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Update: Buffalo On the Rocks

And here's what the marina in Buffalo harbour looked like yesterday. Yes that's genuine, solid, Lake Erie grade ICE. And it's not going anywhere in a hurry.

 So much for sailing out into the lake.

There's Buffalo beach (sic) with a nice border of ice for anyone who fancies a paddle.

And a twisting path of ice leading to the lighthouse which you would have seen if I'd had the camera with the zoom.

All in all it's a pretty poor show for May Bank Holiday. Oh, wait a minute, I'm in America. It's not May Bank Holiday here but that's no excuse.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Our Strange, Strange Spring

 Something is wrong this year. It's early May and there trees are still as bare as they were a month ago. It's cold and the ground is soggy and waterlogged. Everything looks bleak and brown - just a few trout lilies braving the elements in the woods.

Normally, by this time, we would have been planning to put the boat in the water. But they're only just removing the ice boom from outside Buffalo harbour - and when that happens the ice from Lake Erie flows into the marina. No boating there for a while. We haven't got enough lifeboats.  Well that's global warming for you.
  But I refuse to be defeated. Through the rain, you can glimpse our spring bulbs and pansies doing their best. .

Friday, May 2, 2014

Update: A Slightly Better Day for the Lads

 Well the bison rancher delivered as promised and admitted he had not yet had any success with the turkeys. "I'm after a big one", he said.  I'm not wishing him luck. Apparently the bison had a very good winter. They liked the cold weather and stayed healthier than ever. There are already three babies and around 11 expected.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Bleak Day for the Lads

 May 1st is many things to many people - May Day, Commiefest, Feast of St Joseph the Worker, whatever. In Cattaraugus County it is one thing and one thing only: the start of spring turkey season.
  I am waiting for our friend the bison rancher to deliver some of his delicious bison burger but he doesn't know what time he'll make it. "Depends if I get a big one early on". Oh dear. Run for your lives, lads!