Sunday, October 19, 2014

Walk to Defeat ALS: In memory of my sister, Ruth Ann Longley, and my mom, Hetty Coombs.













We did it.

This morning was cold and blustery, so we chose the largest tee-shirts they had and wore them over our coats.

There was an enormous crowd for the 2014 Walk to Defeat ALS.  The scenery from the Walkway over the Hudson was magnificent. It took us about 45 minutes each way because we kept stopping to admire the view.

The final tally raised for The ALS Association by you, our family and friends, was $840. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


To learn more about The ALS Association, please click here.








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Friday, October 10, 2014

Autumn Arboretum

Ed Miller has been one of the unofficial leaders of the Thursday Naturalists for some time. Yesterday, he arranged for the group to tour part of the Landis Arboretum in Esperance, NY, just west of the capital region.
Ed has also been a stalwart volunteer at Landis and he and his friend, Nan, have been working on a native plant trail and a fern garden there. Yesterday, they were both present to give us their first-hand tales of the planning and execution of these major projects.
The day couldn't have been lovelier. Blue skies and changing foliage, mild temperatures, no bugs, who could ask for more?
The woodland colors this day ran from gentle purples and mauve to berries and fruits of ivory and red. Here above, New England asters were still putting on a show.
Knapweed, above, is considered an "unwanted invader" but it sure looked pretty on this October day.
On a redstem dogwood shrub, we encountered about a half-dozen of these caterpillars. None of us could identify them. I thought at first that they might be a stage of the Dogwood Sawfly larva that Jackie Donnelly wrote about earlier this week over at Saratoga Woods and Waterways. But after Googling around a bit, I couldn't find any pictures of the sawflies that looked like these guys. Can anybody help identify these caterpillars? Are they friend or foe? Update: A friend has supplied the name: Red-humped caterpillar moth (Schizura concinna.) It does indeed feed on dogwood leaves.  Thank you, Johannah!
Crab apples aplenty hung from this trail-side tree.
In the shady woods, one scarlet branch glowed against its still-green neighbors.
Ed and Nan pointed out purple milkwort, a fairly rare plant in these parts.
American bladdernut is a native understory tree you might pass by without noticing. This is why it is such a pleasure to explore woods and fields with knowledgeable folks, for there is always someone to point out such things as this tree's interesting fruits.
Winterberry is a favorite native of mine. Come the snowy months, these berries light up the woods with Christmas-like cheer.
And here is another plant I love: Herb Robert. It is such a lush yet dainty-looking plant Here, it was growing among Nan's ferns.
After our walk, we returned to the Landis Arboretum meeting house to enjoy our brown bag lunches. The deck of this building offers a wonderful view of the Schoharie Valley, looking as if unchanged for a hundred years.
Landis Executive Director Fred Breglia and his lovely wife Erin (standing) stopped by to greet us all. Seated are Ed and Nan, our guides this day.

Later this month, Ed Miller will celebrate his 90th birthday. I didn't inquire about Nan's age, but they are both an inspiration. They have season tickets to ski in Vermont this winter.

Two delicious cakes appeared so that we could have an early celebration for Ed's 90th.

Ed has written as least two books about plants and trees. But what I think he should really be writing about is how to live a full and rich and healthy life. Ed is one of the most upbeat and positive people I know. He never mentions aches nor ailments. He looks bright-eyed and optimistically at tomorrow. He is always excited about upcoming projects and plans.

Happy Birthday, Ed.  Thank you for the many ways you share your gifts and inspire us all.


The Landis Arboretum is open daily from dawn to dusk. If you have never visited there, it is worth the trip. Find more information here.



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Sunday, September 7, 2014

River Side Story

 The Handsome Husband and I headed south on Saturday for the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival.


 Due to the iffy weather forecast, the performances were moved from Jennings Landing overlooking the river (formerly Albany Riverfront Park) to an unlikely location under a highway overpass. It seemed like a better site for a rumble between the Sharks and the Jets than for a jazz concert.


You would think that between sitting under a highway ....
.. and being right next to an active railroad bridge, you wouldn't be able to hear any of the music.
Yet, surprisingly, it wasn't a problem and it turned out to be a very enjoyable show. Kudos to the sound engineer.

 We encountered some friends there and settled in for the afternoon.

 My personal favorite was Professor Cunningham and His Old School, pictured above and below.
Their choice of music was traditional New Orleans-type jazz played by some very talented young musicians.

 There is a pleasant walkway along the Hudson and despite the threatening clouds, lots of people (and geese) were picnicking and otherwise enjoying the river.
 We stayed for three acts and liked them all. We have seen Catherine Russell before, last year at A Place for Jazz in Schenectady.  I like my men like I like my whiskey Mmm, aged and mellow!
 We encountered Tim Coakley, host of The Tim Coakley Jazz Show at WAMC.  When Tim isn't cuttin' a rug, you might see him performing locally as a drummer either with his own trio or with Skip Parsons' Riverboat Jazz Band.  Tim is also involved with A Place for Jazz , which I notice has a concert planned for this Friday night.  You should check it out.

My Handsome Husband also blogged about the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival. See his take on it here at Planet Albany.






Friday, September 5, 2014

Up the creek with good company









In the town of Milton in Saratoga County, NY, there is a 100 acre parcel of land which has been made into the Boice Family Park. Volunteers from conservation groups like “Friends of the Kayaderosseras” and local scouts have created a 3 mile network of blazed trails along Kayaderosseras Creek.

As I did yesterday, I have walked there before with the Thursday Naturalists. There was also a great force of town employees there yesterday, mowing, weed-whacking, and clearing brush, but that didn't interfere with our walk.

On this visit, we walked upstream, which is a more forested trail. When one walks with skilled naturalists, there is always much to see and learn.

I didn't take as many notes and photos this time. I felt more like just walking quietly, listening to the creek gurgle, noticing small things like tiny mushrooms and caterpillars.

I know almost nothing about fungi, so I can't tell you the name of the mushroom pictured above. But the other photos show closed gentians (blue), pale leaf sunflower, partridgeberry, and white snakeroot.

After each week's outing someone, usually Ed Miller, emails out field notes about what we saw that day.  I have pasted Ed's notes from yesterday, below.

Ed will be 90 next month. He has just finished writing a small book about ferns native to New York State, to be illustrated with photos by his friend Nan. Ed is an active volunteer at the Landis Arboretum. His book will be available soon both through the Arboretum and through ECOS in Niskayuna, as well as electronically.

Ed told me yesterday that he has just ordered his season pass for skiing in Vermont this coming winter.

I can't tell you how much I admire this man. Ed is as bright-eyed and spry as many people half his age. He loves life, loves learning new things, loves to share his knowledge of the natural world. Ed has an easy chuckle; I've never seen him grumpy. He is a good raconteur.

Ed told me that he hopes  the group will do the Thursday walk nearest his birthday at the Landis Arboretum.

"Maybe we will have a cake or something," Ed said hopefully.

I think that could be arranged.

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Ed Miller's Field Notes Boice Preserve Sept 4, 2014 TN  
In bloom;  white snakeroot, silverod, blue stem GR,  canada goldenrod, zig zag GR, grass lvd GR, Wood, Lowries, calico, heart leaf asters , pale leaf sunfloer, jump seed,  closed gentian, cardinel flr, dog violet, agrimony, lettuce (prenanthus), joe-pye-weed, steeple bush, a bidens, 

In fruit, Horse balm (Collinsonia), sweet fern, enchanters nightshade (on  my socks)

Ferns NY. lady, ostrich, sensetive, interupted, intermediate, Christmass, ostrich, cinnamon, oak, hay scented, royal, maiden-hair,  Lycopodium complanatum, (ground cedar)

Grasses Long awned wood grass, Deer tongue
Roadside weeds QAL, Heal all,  

Comments We did the upstream segment of the red trail. We saw fewer plants in bloom or fruit than last years walk about the same date when we went downstream. But we saw more fern species today. We saw some interesting fungi, coral, russela, toothed (one that otherwise  looks like old man of woods, a jelly tooth, a pretty puffball

[My notes regarding the above: GR =goldenrod, QAL = Queen Anne's lace, TN = Thursday Naturalists.]



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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Late Light

This is the time of year when I get discouraged by the state of our gardens. We have lived in this house for eight years now and I am still trying to work out what I want and where I want it and how much labor I want to put into the whole shebang. This varies with the humidity levels.

Late Wednesday afternoon, I went out to tackle one wild corner. I was grumpily toting buckets of weeds to the compost heap when the lowering sun's rays suddenly lit up a red glow in a shrub I'd planted our first summer here. Ah, yes, I remember. That was supposed to be a highbush cranberry, but up to now, it hadn't fruited much. Yesterday, in the right light, it was finally showing off. This made me smile The berries should hang on for a while and may provide some winter color to that corner of the yard. My mood lifted a little.

Another shrub I planted eight years ago is this panicle hydrangea, which puts on a good show in late summer and fall. This one is getting quite large. I like the way the white flowers kind of glow against the woods in the early evening light. Admiring its wild sprawl at the edge of the woods, I was beginning to enjoy my chores a little more.

 In a tamer strip of garden, the low angle of the sun was setting off these late phlox blooms, as well.
 Some of my Mary-golds [sic] are past their prime at this point, poor things, but this cheerful bunch was a-glow in the late light.
 My Tom-mato plants [sic] suffered from Septoria Leaf Spot this summer, causing near complete defoliation. Yet, enough hearty fruits hung on to ripen and give a reasonable crop. There are still a few to come, despite the unwanted attentions of some squirrels and chipmunks.

 Chipmunks also ate nearly every pumpkin seed and sunflower seed I planted this spring. Grrrr. And the few seeds that they missed turned into tender - and apparently tasty- plants that were soon gobbled up. I managed to cage off only one pumpkin plant and it has rewarded me with two plump pumpkins, just now beginning to color up. For next year, I have to figure out some way to keep those chomping chipmunks at bay.

 The rudbeckia is past its peak, but it, too, creates a late day glow in the shadow of a spruce tree.


Pink turtlehead thrives in my yard. It is one plant that the munching critters ignore. But in September, the bumblebees can't get enough of it. They burrow down into the tight blossoms for the nectar they find there.
The annual zinnias keep strutting their stuff. What pops of color they still offer to an otherwise tired garden.
Chrysanthemums, here above and below, are re-blooming from plantings of years past.

Mums are not usually treated as perennials but in my garden, many return year after year.

Here is the kind of insect damage I LIKE to see: Something has been feasting on milkweed leaves. I
hope this means butterflies have been laying eggs here. Monarchs, maybe?

Rose of Sharon would happily take over our whole yard. Maybe I should let it.Volunteers pop up everywhere and bloom within a couple of years.

Hmm, more critter damage.

The cardinal flowers that survive are a buzz with hummingbirds. The little birds are too fast for my skills with the camera. I imagine that the hummers are fattening themselves up for their long migration south.

And here is the culprit who has been munching all of the hosta and cardinal flowers. You know I can see you, right? 

I guess gardening has been ever thus. Plant diseases, garden pests. Yet, we will not starve. We are very lucky and I know it.

On this early September evening, I entered my garden grumpy and out of sorts. The world news alone these day is enough to put one down in the dumps. But I was also brooding about the troubles of others: of a loved one who is in serious trouble; of friends who are dealing with grave health issues. I was also focusing on things that I have left undone, on the many ways that I am not measuring up to my own expectations.  

The garden brought me out of myself. As I poked about, weeding a little here, checking on something there, observing, planning ahead, I inhaled deeply. I noticed and took joy from the hum of pollinators, the glow of late summer blooms and fruits, and yes, even our marauding rabbit. The rhythms of life, the changing of the seasons, it was all there to see, to learn from, in lovely late summer light.



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