Friday, October 11, 2019

O Christmas Ski!

Well my golly gosh, if Christmas isn't here already. And I haven't even started collecting pictures of weird Halloween displays.
 Yesterday I was in Ellicottville, aka the Aspen of the East, home of our local ski resort, Holiday Valley.
 And standing proudly outside the Post Office was this..

Yep, a tree made of skis.

And the top part, if you look closely, of ski sticks. Well that's what I always say, though, being in America, I now have to call them poles.
Something tells me that this phenomenon might not be all that uncommon in the ski-ing world but it's the first Christmas Ski Tree I've seen.
 It got me ruminating that if the global warning doom-mongers are right, there will be a lot more things made out of redundant skis in the future.Perhaps they can grind them down to make artificial snow.
Still, I wish Holiday Valley a successful season along with my friends in the gallant Wednesday Ski Group.  I had many happy times there, though, sadly, I now spend the winter in Flat Florida and I will miss them.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Lookback: Glen Iris

Did you know that western New York has its own version of the Grand Canyon? It's called Letchworth State Park and you could say it gives Niagara Falls a run for its money too. Especially when it's rained a lot.

1,000 acres of what's now the Park were bequeathed to the state in 1906 by an industrialist called William Pryor Letchworth. Whether he had anything to do with the Hertfordshire version I don't know.  His hunting lodge looks very American. Now it's the Glen Iris inn and a picturesque spot to have a bite.
  I read that Letchworth Park also contains the grave of  Mary Jemison, who was captured by Indians in 1755. Apparently she liked the life and decided to stay with them, had two Indian husbands and seven children.

 Glen Iris Inn dates from later than that - early 20th century. There's some natty woodwork inside.

And interesting glass in the doors.

This summer the flowers looked a lot better than mine. There must be plenty of deer in the Park. I'd like to know their secret for keeping them away. Fences don't work. Neither does cayenne pepper, Irish Spring soap or anything else my neighbours have suggested.

But the best part of Glen Iris is that they do a nice line in local New York wine, from a village nearby called Naples. Letchworth and Naples in the same state,  that's America.

Monday, September 30, 2019

You See Some Strange Things

At Buffalo Marina. We were coming back from sailing, chugging along to our dock when something came chugging the other way. 

Had it got detached from somewhere? But no there were people aboard and they sounded perfectly happy, slugging back drinks.

So it was meant to be where it was. A floating Tiki Bar (I think this name comes from Hawaii but it seems to mean anything with a fake grass umbrella. You get them in Florida but they look  just a little out of place in Buffalo.)

Well all credit to people coming up with new ideas to revive the Buffalo waterfront. Unfortunately the season when it's warm enough to do it is short. And there aren't that many palm trees and golden beaches. But like all good Buffalonians they make the best of what they've got.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Lookback: Not Your Usual Buffalo

Buffalo, western New York's major city gets a lot of stick. It was once one of America's richest  but sadly no longer. "Rustbelt", "decaying", "freezing cold", "dangerous", just some of the stereotypes cynics have applied to Buffalo.    
   But if you'd had a quick walk with me around the downtown the other Sunday morning, you'd have been surprised.    Here's just a glimpse. The lovely older buildings were warming in the sunshine

There was something interesting around every corner. Cool reflecting pools

Cool reflecting buildings

Edgy sculptures

Blending in with history..

 A glimpse of Buffalonian humour....

 Don't write this city off yet!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A New Look Farmers' Market

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, wester New York state

   Something wonderful has happened to our local town, Olean. The farmers' market, which used to be a few stalls in the mall car park, always worrying about the weather, has a new building right in the centre of town.

It's on the lines of those old market halls in Europe, with the open sides. And it's been positively buzzing

All kinds of new stalls, selling everything from  local goldenrod honey to Italian bread to lotions and potions... the old favourites, like Stayer's Greenhouse. Amazing how well hibiscus grows in western New York. And their New York peaches are to drool for.

Hordes of customers - and vendors - having a great time and doing a spot of celebrity-watching.  That's Charlie, the famous rescue Yorkie, all the way from Manhattan (see him on Instagram  @charlie_barkie )  with his agent, Molly and to the right, an old friend of the blog, John Policastro of Flanigan Farm fame. I snagged a few of his excellent pork chops and local Polish sausages (well this is America.)

And there was live music too. I got the feeling the new Farmers' Market has made a real difference to Saturday mornings. Almost everyone shows up there, meeting friends, catching up with gossip, strolling, having a coffee. The best idea this town has had in a long time.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Lads Are Back!

Or, probably in this case, lasses. It's been a while since we've seen the turkeys. But I walked up the lane the other morning and 

...there they were, on the neighbour's immaculate lawn.

They didn't hang around. Meanwhile, this little salamander was trying to cross the road. Sadly some of his friends had been squashed but I hope he made it.

I'm never quick enough to get a good picture but here are some Canada geese flying south - or west in this case. Another perfect V passed right over my head, so close I could hear the rush and beating of their wings, not to mention their purposeful honking.

Autumn is fast approaching, despite the fact that, with all the rain, we don't seem to have had a summer.  The goldenrod is taking over everywhere.

The neighbour's pond is rippling with autumnal breezes.

The wildflowers getting ready for tapestry time.

And in the garden, the evening sun shines through the fir tree.

This is about as good as the garden's got this year.

It seems the deer didn't eat all the garden phlox. Just most of them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Chipmunk Grand Design

You've got to hand it to the little stripy fellas -they're nothing if not resourceful.

While we were busy cooing over them and handing out peanuts on the front porch, they were up to something of their own at the back...
  The first thing we noticed was a suspicious amount of debris around the oak tree.

Odd - it hadn't been all that windy. A closer look showed empty acorn hats - much of the contents had disappeared.

 Later, we heard the sound of plopping and the end of a branch mysteriously shaking.

The chipmunks were having a relay. One shinning up the oak tree to nip the twigs with their acorns and send them falling onto the grass, another coming down. "Go on Harry, it's your turn, bite those twigs son!"

And around the tree on the ground, the rest of the family were busy collecting the spoils.

 Aren't we clever!

 Somebody's going to have a good stash for the winter. Never mind that our oak looks as though it survived a hurricane. And it's not just ours.

 This was the scene around a neighbour's tree up the lane.
  Not content with tunneling our lawn into a swiss cheese, they're out to get the trees now. Little darlings.

Friday, September 13, 2019

A Prickly Visitor

 Dateline: Cattaraugus Country, western New York state

What on earth will be next in the wildlife circus we live in?

The handyman was working on the outside of the house when I heard a shout and he burst in through the screen door, white as a sheet,
  "There's - there's some kind of animal out there........

........and he's heading straight for where I'm working!

"Do you think - could it be a porcupine?"
 "Yes",  I said - the Brit to the lifelong western New Yorker -  "that's definitely a porcupine" And I added optimistically, "Don't worry, he won't hurt you."
 Then I started to have second thoughts. "Don't go too close in case he shoots his spines out!"
 "No he won't!" Hubby had emerged behind the house, "That's a fallacy".
  "But what about the neighbour's dog? He turned up at the door looking like St Sebastian shot through with arrows."
  "Well he was probably trying to bite the porcupine. The spines have barbs so they get stuck."

I wasn't about to get close enough to find out. But the handyman had downed tools until such time as the new visitor left.  I grabbed the hose and tried a gentle spray. Mr Tiggywinkle turned and looked at me, "You cannot be serious!" and waddled slowly, very slowly under the bush right where the handyman was working.

Hubby tried the same trick on the other side. Very nonchalantly, the porcupine emerged again and waddled down the hill and out of sight.
  Last week we had family staying,  including a tiny rescue Yorkie.  I do not want to think of what could have happened there.
  Still, the porcupine, with his little beady black eyes, was quite the charmer. Though we'd prefer he didn't come back too soon.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019


  We waited until dark. On one of the few nights when it wasn't raining. Then hubby announced grimly, "That's it - we're going in". He carried the petrol can; I had the matches. And the torch. As the searchlight swept the flower bed, hubby slung an almighty slosh and I struck a match with a gung-ho flourish. It broke.  So did the second one. And the third. "Defective weaponry!", I cursed. Finally, on the fourth attempt, as our helpful commenter (see below) had so graphically described, there was a sizeable "Woosh!" and flames leapt upwards. We stood back to gloat on our handiwork.
  The next morning we inspected the scene. There was unavoidable collateral damage - the rudbeckia and the garden phlox slightly singed. There was a small black patch in the flowerbed. And all appeared quiet on the wasp front. We congratulated ourselves on a successful operation.
  That was last week.
  Yesterday I walked past the patch to have another gloat. I heard an ominously familiar sound. Two wasps were jauntily celebrating their survival. I blasted them with what was left of the spray.
  Today I walked past again.  Three more of the brutes whirled around,  defiantly buzzing the wasp equivalent of "Remember the Alamo!" You've almost got to admire them.

Monday, August 26, 2019

One Red Leaf

The geese are on the move. Here are a few of them waddling across someone's foggy front garden.  And they've been flying overhead in their big V formations, ready to go south.

 Oh and here's a deer crossing the road. You need to look very carefully - or just take my word for it..

 And here's what looks very definitely like the first red leaf. OK it's only a sumac - they're a bit impetuous - but still.. And it feels as though we haven't had our summer yet. Hardly two dry days in a row and the garden's still boggy.

 They'll be bringing the snowploughs out next.

Meanwhile we're still struggling with the wasps' nest in the flower bed (see below). We've now tried one kind of spray twice, another kind four times - with hubby valiantly getting up before dawn when they're supposed to be asleep. Today we tried ammonia - a friend's suggestion. But all these efforts have only invigorated them. This afternoon they're buzzing around like whirling dervishes on speed. More and more of them too. I think it's going to have to be the flamethrower. Goodbye the only flowers they deer didn't eat.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

More Mysteries of the Lane

The lane in the morning fog certainly looks mysterious enough.

A ghostly landscape from which almost anything could emerge. The other morning two deer were picking their across through the whiteness. Sadly a pickup truck came up behind me and scattered them before I could take a picture.  It's a mystery all right where all these pickup trucks are going in the early morning.

The cloud formations are haunting enough, even on the rare fogless days.

 There's the mystery of the abandoned open mailbox at the end of the drive of a seemingly abandoned house.

The wood of an old barn, overgrown by the forest.

 A derelict shelter under an ancient apple tree where children, long grown and gone, once waited for the school bus in the snow.

But this  was the summer's biggest mystery.  In the distance, I spied a pale patch in the long grass.

A path - for deer or humans?

Leading to the patch, which turned into a carpet.

And then, even more mysteriously, growing out of the rutted mud,

More flowers.

Flowers that looked as though they belonged in a garden.

Gallantly springing up in the middle of nowhere

Not weeds but flowers fit for a bouquet

What were they doing there?

How did they get there?

Is the answer mundane or magical? Do we really need to know? That's the lane.