Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Day Away: Labor Day Saturday in Spencertown and West Stockbridge































The Handsome Husband and I were looking for a low-key way to spend part of our Labor Day weekend, and so decided to check out the Festival of Books at the Spencertown Academy Arts Center in Columbia County. The drive there was about an hour from Malta and took us through some pretty upstate New York countryside.


The festival featured a large used book sale and some author talks. The HH and I both enjoy browsing through good books, but on Saturday, the first free admission day of the sale, we found the prices were a bit high. (Later in the weekend, the prices drop.) 

But on this day, we limited our purchases to just three books. I chose a paperback edition of The Outermost House, a book by naturalist writer Henry Beston, originally published in 1928.  It chronicles a season Beston spent living alone on the dunes of Cape Cod. I have been meaning to read this for a while. Now I can do so at my leisure.

My second purchase was a children's book that I will take with me to Uganda next Easter. The school I will visit there has a tired library of well-worn donated books, not all of which are appealing to young African students. I think this book about kids playing soccer will interest some of them.


But the real find of the day, by the HH, was this one: 

Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother , by Kate Hennessy. My HH spent part of his vagabond youth with Catholic Worker folks, and this book was one he looked forward to reading. It is in great condition.


From the book sale, we headed generally in the direction of the Berkshire Botanical Garden, stopping first for lunch at Dan's Diner in Chatham. What a labor of love that place is! The charming 1925 diner was purchased by Dan Rundell from a Connecticut scrap dealer. Dan, a mason, spent twelve years restoring it. And what a thing of beauty it is. Dan was there on Saturday, helping with the lunch crowd. I told Dan how much I admired the work he had done, and asked him how he had enjoyed the experience. The one thing he hadn't counted on, he said, is that he would grow old. 
Yes, I can relate to that.

At the Botanical Garden, HH and I parted ways. We arranged that I would tour the gardens for two hours while HH went on to check out Stockbridge. The only details I heard about his visit there were regarding a cool draft Guinness in the bar of the Red Lion, which he described as, "very pleasant."

I, too, had a pleasant time, checking out what was blooming on that end-of-summer weekend. My own garden has become a bit ratty over this wet, hot summer. However, I felt less guilty about it when I saw some similar signs of strain in this professionally maintained garden. Their hosta, too, is well-chewed by slugs, and certain other plants looked just plain tired of living. But most of the garden was full of things to admire and to learn from and to be inspired by. 

Four things that I saw there that I want to add to my garden next year are: windflowers (they were looking especially lovely on Saturday), and a summersweet shrub (oh, the scent was lovely and the blossoms  were so full of bees) and lots more simple zinnias. Those at the Berkshire gardens were holding up well and offered bright splashes of color just where that was needed. I also want to try malabar spinach which not only sounds tasty but grows as a colorful, interesting-looking vine.

Outside the education building, I found a flat of assorted unfamiliar plants with a sign that said,  "Free, help yourself!"  So I did. Here is what I brought home with me:


  •  Pinellia tripartita Atropurpurea, aka Purple Dragon. One internet site described it as, "A strange plant, for equally strange gardeners." Hmmm. It is, apparently,  an Asian relative of Jack-in-the pulpit.
  • Petrorhagia saxifrage, or pink saxifrage, is a spreading, mat-forming, grass-like perennial of the pink family.
  • Corydalis aurea , is a biennial that produces small yellow flowers. It self-sows freely, I have read. This last plant is native to North America and a number of states list it as threatened or endangered. So maybe rescuing that one was a good thing.
I enjoy discovering new plants to tuck into my garden, especially when they are free!

Our last stop before heading home was in West Stockbridge at (wait for it) a book store. What can I say. It's an illness and we are co-dependent.

Shaker Mill Books has a lovely, shaded porch that overlooks a nearby mill stream and an interesting assortment of new and used books. The HH  bought three.

So now, as fall begins, we are well-stocked with books and I have plenty of garden inspiration to mull over through the winter ahead of us.

I hope your Labor Day weekend was a good one, too.  Thanks for stopping by.


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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Saratoga's "Families Belong Together" March












People began to assemble in Saratoga's Congress Park this morning well before the 11:00 AM start time for the "Families Belong Together" march. Saratoga Unites hosted the June 30th event,  partnering with Saratoga Immigration Coalition, Saratoga Peace Alliance and Saratoga Progressive Action.

After some opening remarks, about 1,000 people of all ages began to move north along the sidewalks on the east side of Broadway. The march looped around near City Hall and returned on the west side of the street to Congress Park.

Many passing cars hooted their approval and passers-by gave the thumbs up sign. 

Concern for the welfare of immigrants and their children, both locally and across the country, brought people to the march.
I share those concerns and was proud to be among the marchers today.   

My people were once immigrants, too.


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Friday, June 29, 2018

A Hymn Sing in Round Lake









The Village of Round Lake's Methodist origins were on fine display last evening when the Handsome Husband and I attended the annual hymn sing there, at the historic Round Lake Auditorium.

Leading the singing was the talented Cecily Cullinan, whose sweet voice guided us through a selection of traditional hymns, with one more modern hymn added in for good measure.  Cecily, I later learned, teaches Kindermusik classes in the village. I would bet she is awesome at that, for she was certainly patient, cheerful,  and encouraging last night.

There was a pretty good turnout at the auditorium. A choral group from Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church, Joyful Hope,  also performed a gospel-style arrangement of "Standing on the Promises" under the direction of Pamela Easter.  Their presence in the audience probably accounted for the good strong harmonizing from the back rows during the sing-alongs.

Bill Hubert played the Ferris-Tracker organ. That organ was built in 1847, coincidentally the same year that the poem "Abide with Me" was written, although it wasn't set to music until 1861. The Round Lake organ is a treasure itself. In 2017, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Upstate New York has a rich history of summer colonies with religious roots. Chautauqua, in western New York,  is probably the most famous of these and is still going strong. It, too, was founded by Methodists but other Protestant denominations participated from the first year onward.  Today, Chautauqua continues to be ecumenical in both spirit and practice and people of all faiths (or no faith) are welcome there. 

But here, closer to home, we enjoy the preserved history of the Village of Round Lake. And although we don't live in the village, we do live nearby and get to enjoy its traditions, like the annual hymn sing. In these divisive times, singing together feels so much better than shouting at each other.

The Village of Round Lake is located just off Northway Exit 11. You can find out more about Round Lake attractions and events in places like here  and here and here.

Peace be with you.

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

First Day of Summer along the Zim Smith Trail

Leah's Cakery











Wild Parsnip
  It has been some time since I have posted here. My previous post was on the last day of winter. So how fitting to jump back in to write about the first day of summer.

This past Thursday, restless from too much coffee at a breakfast meeting, I found it hard to settle to the at-home chores that needed doing. The weather was perfect for the summer solstice so I decided to take a much-needed walk.

I drove to nearby Shenantaha Creek Park, left my car there, and headed south along the Zim Smith Trail. On this leg of the trip, I strode at a pretty good pace, not stopping at all, just needing to move.
I made it to the Village of Round Lake, a distance of about 2.6 miles, in about 45 minutes.

Once there, I could see a good deal of activity: tents and tarps of all manner were being set up for this weekend's Round Lake Antiques Festival.   (It runs both Saturday and Sunday. If you've never been, you should check it out. You can find all sorts of  things there, both the quirky and the beautiful.)

Leah's Cakery, now a mainstay of the village, has recently re-opened after a renovation to expand their space there.  Although primarily a (very good) bakery, they do sell a few cafe items and drinks. On Thursday, I treated myself to a curried chicken sandwich and a bottle of water. And, if truth be told, a very good oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Their new space, with additional seating and an accessible bathroom, looks great. The decor is kind of vintage/shabby chic with a good touch of local artwork. Nicely done.

Having been well re-fueled at Leah's, I set off on my return trip at a more leisurely pace. I took time to admire the gardens around the sweet All Saints Episcopal Church.  Along the trail itself, I took more notice of the wildflowers and wildlife you can see as you walk: a small garter snake, a young rabbit, butterflies galore, a lone tom turkey sprinting along the trail ahead of me. I could hear the beautiful song of a wood thrush echoing up from the woods along the creek.

And then my peace was shattered a bit. On this slower walk back, I took time to check out the replacement trail-side bench some of our Malta Sunrise Rotary club members had just installed.  This past winter, a bench we had previously installed there a couple of years ago had been badly damaged, we thought, by accident. Town workers had discovered it, sheared off from its base. They guessed that it may have been struck by a snowmobile.

But how to explain this new damage? Once again, here was the replacement bench, with all four metal legs broken. How? Who would do this? Why? Other benches along the trail seem to be unmolested. What is it about this bench, this spot, that has attracted such animosity?

I later reported the damage to the sheriff''s department. The deputy responding seemed as perplexed as my husband and I were. There were four-wheeler tracks on an adjoining trail near by. Could someone have run into the bench (again)? Who knows.

What I do know is, our Rotary club will not be replacing this particular bench. And that's too bad. The Zim Smith Trail is a long one, used by folks of all ages. We have heard many positive comments about how people appreciate having the benches there. The photo above, of the bench with the sign on it, is of one that remains and is so far unscathed. I am sorry that there is now one less bench for folks to use.

(Please note: Our damaged bench was located on a section of the trail near Magnolia Way, a cul-de-sac in Avondale, off  Candlewood and Ruhle Road South. If anyone reading this knows how our bench came to be damaged, please contact Deputy Agresta at 518 885-6761. Thank you.)

And while I am on depressing topics, I also noticed one other alarming development along the trail. Not far from the main parking area for Shenantaha Park, I spotted a number of wild parsnip plants growing. These are somewhat dangerous plants, for both man and beast. Why is wild parsnip dangerous? According to the New York State DEC,  "Wild parsnip sap contains chemicals called furanocoumarins which can make skin more vulnerable to ultraviolet light. Brushing against or breaking the plant releases sap that, combined with sunlight, can cause a severe burn within 24 to 48 hours. This reaction, known as phytophotodermatitis, can also cause discoloration of the skin and increased sensitivity to sunlight that may last for years."
Ugh. Watch out for this stuff.
The last photo, above, shows one of the wild parsnips I saw on Thursday. Find more information about wild parsnips here: https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/105364.html

But mostly, I had a lovely outing. I am choosing to remember more about the young turkey and the song of the thrush than of the evil parsnip plants and broken benches.

May your weekend be filled with good things. Thanks for stopping by here.

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On matters of blog business, I have been unsuccessful in changing the internet address of this blog, as I had hoped to do, to reflect its newer title and focus. Perhaps one day I will figure out how to make that happen. But for now, Round About Malta shall remain linked to Bee Balm Gal here: https://beebalmgal.blogspot.com/   Perhaps when I become rich and famous, I shall hire expensive tech help and make a seamless switch.


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