Monday, September 29, 2014

UPDATE And Hello Summer!

ps the petunias that looked like something the cat brought in all summer must have sneaked out for a makeover.

They are insisting on being included.


I'm back in western New York where a surprising Indian summer is bathing us in misty light. The garden flowers seem to have had a boost - something definitely happened to them while we were away - maybe some sun at last, maybe the temperatures dropping but they've pulled themselves together.

And are looking better than they did in the summer.

This glad is just starting to bloom with absolutely no help from me. I didn't dig it up over the winter as you're supposed to do but here it is, come up all on its own, the hydrangeas looking sweet in the background. (These latter weren't eaten by deer or some other miscreants, like the unfortunate ones in front. There's always a flip side.)

And wonder of wonders, there are even some tomatoes left!

Meanwhile out on the lanes the dry cornstalks rustle.

Making music in their own enchanted forest.

Fringed by asters and goldenrod.

 And the stream, aka creek looks like something out of a story.

Under a ridiculously powder-blue sky.

 But there are signs of autumn upon us - more than I want to see. To be continued....

Monday, September 22, 2014

See You Soon!

 The blog is taking a short holiday in lands beyond. Normal service will resume on 29th September.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Goodbye Summer

  And some mementoes of the garden on one of the few sunny days.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

And Speaking of Which

This is what we saw on our way home.

A lovely little collection of Triumph TR6s parked at the Wingate Inn in Ellicottville.

They'd come a long way. From Canada in fact.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Spotted at Buffalo Marina

 A cute little tug

A palm tree. A PALM tree? Well that's global warming for you.

And a dog enjoying a ride. Well you can take my word for it. 

You never know what you're going to see... 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Flanigan Farm Frolics

   Remember Olivia?    I first saw her at our Saturday morning farmers’ market.  It’s where people come and sell their produce – everything from Swiss chard to goats’ milk body lotion.
  Olivia was attracting a crowd of children, who could pay five dollars – or their parents could – for her to paint a picture for them. She had considerable talent;  her sample oeuvre,  a funky abstract, looked better than most of the stuff in the Tate Modern. This was  remarkable considering  we were in rural western New York and even more remarkable considering Olivia was a pig.

  Intrigued by this porcine Picasso.  who painted with her snout, I stopped to talk to her owners, John and Jessica Policastro. 
  Their farm stall sold,  among other things, pork chops but Olivia, they hastened to tell me, was a family pet, a “teacup pig” as they’re called and perfectly behaved and  housetrained.
  We got chatting and I took up their invitation to come and visit the farm.

  It was called “Flanigan Farm”, after the steep Flanigan Hill not that far from us.  As I walked down the precipitous drive (“A bit intimidating – better leave your car on the road”, John had warned), three small brown-and-white piglets chased each other across my path and into the barn.
     John and Jessica were in there with their ten-year-old twin daughters, Keely and Noella, who were seeing to Dahlia the white goat, Keely’s favourite.  “The animals are like our friends,” she said,  scratching Dahlia’s head.
  Noella’s favourite was a Jersey-cross calf called Baby. Both girls had won prizes for their animals at the County Fair, “The hardest part”, Noella confided,  “was getting her to stand with the legs right, so the judge could see all of them”.

  The Policastros have had animals for about ten years but recently started a more commercial enterprise.
 It was partly, John said, to do with the girls getting old enough to help out. “It’s really confidence-building for them”.
     “Now I let them do all the work and  I enjoy the animals!” Jessica quipped.
    At last count they have  20 turkeys being raised for Thanksgiving, two calves, six piglets, including three older ones, “The Three Amigos”  (two named Hamilton and Bacon Bits, so they don’t get too sentimental about them; the third, Spot, might get a reprieve) and Poppy the matriarch sow,  “We had a boar but he’s in the freezer”. 
  Then there are the goats and the chickens for laying eggs and eating.

    It’s not all storybook stuff. They lost nine piglets to a mystery illness, a  raccoon once decimated the chickens and the laying hens are currently  “on strike”.
   Plus it has rather changed their lives. “It’s hard to go on vacation!” said Jessica.
 But they’re  rewarded by their customers’  enthusiasm.  They like the idea that the animals are free to roam.  After all, not every chicken can boast its own private Cresta Run – in winter, the girls take them sledding down  the drive.
       “I can tell our customers that I know  what’s gone into those chickens since the day they were born”, said John, “I didn’t know how much it would matter to people but it does.”
   It’s a challenge  as the Policastros both have day jobs, John in marketing and Jessica as office manager at the local Catholic school, which the twins attend.  Various Policastro animals are called into service at Christmas for the school’s live Nativity scene.
  “And the values of the school are reflected in everything we do,” added John,  “Being Catholic isn’t just a hobby.”
   As we stood in the yard, bathed in evening sunshine, someone called out, “Look!”  A wild crane, a large stork-like bird had landed on the Policastros’ car. The girls rushed to take pictures.
       I could think of worse places for animals – or kids – to grow up.

      And there’s never a dull moment.  The animals’ free-and-easy life does have its drawbacks. John told me the tale of how their first pig escaped and he went out in the car to fetch it back. He ended up heading home with the pig trotting behind the car. A woman driving by braked and gaped, “ I just have to hear this story!”
 And I thought you should too.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Western New York Idyll: A Babbling Brook

Well not so much babbling as idling, though it's had plenty of water to fill it this non-summer. It runs under our lane and the banks on the other side are deep in forget-me-nots. There's no real reason to mention it except that it's a thing of beauty.Oh and I once saw a furry animal cavorting in it. Could it have been a fisher?

Or, since fishers don't like fish, possibly a muskrat?

It never introduced itself so I shall probably never know. But I still study the brook intently every time I walk past.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Happy Anniversary, Hungarian Scouts!


  I drove past this sign on the Short Tract Road  the other day and thought it a wonderful slice of Americana.  Noticing the old crown of the Kings of Hungary with its famous wonky cross atop. I got home and looked up the website of the Hungarian Scouts in Exile. The park was named after Sandor Sik, a priest, teacher poet and scout leader who wrote the words of the scout hymn. The scout movement was suppressed under Communism but the scouting tradition was carried on in exile.     That will be a familiar story to many immigrant groups in America. By all accounts the Hungarians still have a thriving organisation and the park celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. Good luck to them!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Sumac Struck by Lightning

  Almost as if whatever evil sprites have conspired to make this the nastiest, wettest, wildest summer since I came to western New York, have decided on one last hurrah. Well at least it didn't go through a window and no one was hurt.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

An Honorary Flying Turkey Award

     Last weekend we had a visit from some London friends, who were due to land in Buffalo from Washington at 1.55pm. They assumed they were travelling on United Airlines but as everyone who frequents that route knows, it's usually contracted out to small regional outfits. Our friends' flight - and this is purely anecdotal you understand - was delayed due to a "maintenance issue". They texted me optimistically that it would only be 30 minutes. Alas, those of us with bitter experience know that things are never that simple. There is no such thing as a short delay. You are either not delayed or you are delayed for a very long time while they string you along in gradual increments until it finally dawns on you that you are not going anywhere fast. The 30 minutes turned into an hour, then more. Then a replacement plane was promised. When the replacement plane arrived it also had a maintenance issue. As my (impossibly stoical) friends reported, this was the point at which one of their fellow passengers "lost it." When they finally began boarding, they were turned back again "because it was raining."
 They finally got to our house at midnight.
 I'd put it down to bad luck but it's far from being the first time this has happened to people who visit us from London. It's getting embarrassing.
 An honorary Flying Turkey to whoever the United lackeys happened to be in this case (our friends omitted to read the small print) and while I think about, it, to United as well, in the forlorn hope that they might one day start treating their passengers like paying customers.  Or at least subcontract to some decent mechanics.                                                                

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Water Falling

    The other day we had a look at Letchworth State Park, which is apparently known as "The Grand Canyon of the East".  That's a bit like calling our village the Acapulco of the North because it's got a Mexican restaurant but never mind that, the Letchworth Park waterfall is still a magnificent sight, especially after all the rain we've had.

You can walk down to see it close up.

Though of course you're never far from the clutches of the American equivalent of Health and Safety...

Are you scared yet?

When you walk down the path

There's a pretty mini-waterfall to your right

And then the real thing.

 William Letchworth, a businessman described as a "humanitarian and conservationist" donated the land in 1906 to create a State Park, along with his country retreat, now the Glen Iris Inn looking mellow yellow and pretty  in the evening sun

And even prettier on the other side.

 A lovely place to have dinner looking out over the flowers, though not over the waterfall, which is a pity.

Here are some Bananas Foster in progress

  A shame, though, that some slobs at the table next to us came in looking scruffy and wearing baseball caps while they were eating. An insult to the other diners and a restaurant trying to provide a pleasant atmosphere - but unfortunately an all-too-prevalent American disease (and probably a British one too).