Saturday, November 15, 2014

November Saturday

I love it when the Saratoga Farmers' Market moves to its winter quarters at the Lincoln Baths in Saratoga Spa State Park. It is so much more convenient for me and the parking is a lot easier, too.
This crisp Saturday morning, Balet Farms was still braving the outdoors, displaying their seasonal florals. How pretty and simple for Thanksgiving is this arrangement of fresh greens and colorful gourds, above, all locally grown.
Dried hydrangea blossoms glowed pink in this handmade wreath, for indoors or out.

Inside the building, there was a bountiful and colorful array of seasonal foods. I love winter root vegetables. I think that is in my Northern DNA. These got me thinking: soups, stews, casseroles au gratin, oven-roasted ...
I bought crusty bread, above, from the brick oven baker in Shushan. It looks and smells awesome.

The charming French farmer from Longlesson Farm was there, selling their grass-fed Angus beef and free-range chickens. I splurged and bought a beautiful piece of beef to grill. It will go quite nicely with the fresh Brussels sprouts and tiny yellow potatoes I picked up at other nearby stalls.

Not all of the market's products are edible, although this yarn looked good enough to eat. Blind Buck Farm was offering these lovely skeins of kettle-dyed yarn. Wool like this is not cheap, but oh my, what a lovely "hand" (feel) it has. Must. Not. Buy more yarn.

I am a sucker for homemade lavender soap, but with a nod to frugality, I resisted today. Just.

In the early afternoon, the Handsome Husband and I took the dogs and headed north to yet another area state park, this time Moreau Lake. We haven't had an awful lot of rain this fall, so the lake's water level was down a bit. This meant there was enough "beach" that we could walk all the way around the lake's edge. We did get muddy feet at a couple of spots, but the view was worth it and the dogs had fun.

Near the water's edge, these wild grapes were plentiful, even now in mid-November. How is it that the critters haven't polished these off yet?

That's an active beaver lodge in the center of adjacent Mud Pond of the back bay of Moreau Lake. (Thank you, Jackie D., for the correction.)

Below, Moreau Lake was full of migrating ducks and Canada geese. After a meal and some rest, most of these birds will be moving on to warmer climes. Sometimes a few ducks stick around through the winter months, but never the geese, at least not that I have seen.

But while they are here, they provide a peaceful scene to look upon. The occasional vocalizations of the geese, calling back and forth, are the very sound of autumn, part warning, part farewell.

Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving
But how can they know it's time for them to go?
Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming
I have no thought of time

For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?

Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know it's time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time

For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?

And I am not alone while my love is near me
I know it will be so until it's time to go
So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again
I have no fear of time

                      ~Who Knows Where The Time Goes? Lyrics - Sandy Denny

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Walk in the Park and Beverly's in Ballston Spa

Days like this one are why I do so love being retired. We had a mundane chore to do, to take the Handsome Husband's car for an oil change and an inspection. I followed him in my car to Mangino's (we are both fans of this dealership, especially the service manager, Mike) and then we went on to Saratoga for a walk in Spa State Park.

Our region had a frost last night but despite that, there was still some cheery color, above, at the park's well-loved main entrance garden.
 The air was brisk this morning but bright sunshine was already warming things up. We chose to follow what we both refer to as "the long loop", a paved path that takes about an hour to walk the full circuit.
Nature is well on its way to shutting up shop for the winter, but here and there, you can still spot bright fruits and foliage.
It was nearing noon when we got back to my car. The HH has been raving about Beverly's Eatery, a luncheonette in Ballston Spa, and although I am sometimes skeptical about his restaurant recommendations, I agreed to give this one a try. I am glad I did.
 The modest exterior of Beverly's doesn't prepare you for the seasonal choices available inside. It is a small place, maybe six or eight tables and a lunch counter, but the food is really very good. A friendly and attentive waitress took our orders and checked back frequently to make sure we had what we needed. I started with a cup of their Autumn Bisque, which warmed me right up after our walk. I am guessing it was largely butternut squash based, but there was a hint of sweetness (apple?) and a slight tangy bite to the seasoning. Lovely and piping hot.
 Now, I am prepared to concede that the HH's lunch choice may not look photogenic, but it was very tasty. He is a real potato guy (I mean, really, as in, he starts to get twitchy if  I try to substitute pasta or rice too often in my meal planning.)  So anyway, Beverly's "Good ol' Taders", on the right above, are what keeps bringing him back there. Potatoes are cooked with onions, mushrooms, sausage, and then topped with cheese. He polished these off with gusto. On the left was his order of vegetarian hash, which also contained some potatoes. And although it may not make a pretty picture, it was really good. I dove in for a tiny taste, then snuck back for two more. Beverly's cooks this with assorted vegetables, mashes them, then mixes in black beans and seasonings, and finishes off with some time on the griddle, like you would for corned beef hash.
My first choice for a sandwich had been curried chicken and apple salad, but they were out of that today. So I chose turkey and brie on toasted wheat bread. The turkey was real turkey, thick slices of tender breast meat from an actual turkey breast, and a very nicely-flavored warmed brie. None of that slimy, deli kind of turkey here. This was real food. The bread, too, was lovely: bakery whole wheat, dense and flavorful. And because today is Halloween, our lunches were accented with tiny marshmallow ghosts. Cute touch.
 Beverly's is located at 256 Milton Avenue in Ballston Spa. You can reach them at 885-2848.

They are open for breakfast and lunch only, seven days a week, from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM. I can't wait to go back and try the pumpkin pancakes they had on the menu today. Or another of their soups, or...almost anything on their menu.

And this is why retirement is such fun: a routine chore becomes a morning out, a lovely late fall walk together in the park, and the discovery of a new-to-me spot for a cheerful and delicious lunch. Life is good and I am very grateful for these small blessings.
Hey, folks: Don't forget the Chronicle Book Fair this weekend. On Sunday, November 2, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., over 100 authors will be selling their books at the Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls, NY. The hotel is located on the corner of Maple and Ridge Streets.

Best of all, the Handsome Husband will be there, selling and signing his biography of the Civil War general, Gordon Granger. It will be bargain-priced for holiday gift-giving at $15.00. If there is a history buff on your holiday gift list, come check it out! Admission to the book fair is free.


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.


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.