Taking in Upstate Western New York

September 26, 2007 at 4:37 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country life, country living, dating, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, knitting, love, marriage, photography, recipes, relationships, romance, yarn | 20 Comments
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An apple orchard on the road to Clayton New YorkLast weekend my husband and I took a three-day road trip exploring the Thousand Islands area of New York, the Adirondack Mountains, and a drive back home via Route 67 from Saratoga Springs going west toward the Buffalo/Rochester area. Our first day out, we left before dawn on Friday morning and arrived in Clayton, New York up in the Thousand Islands area before noon.

We both love the feeling of being up and out on the road at early morning dark and through the various, sometimes misty, stages of dawn while much of the world is still asleep. There is something exciting about being up and out on an adventure when others are not even thinking yet about their day. I don’t know why, but it has always been that way for me. As a child I used to get up at five or six in the morning and go outside to run around the neighborhood with my dog. I could feel an energy that was all my own, and only my own, running around in the quiet of a new day just beginning to bud. I carry the feeling with me still today, and it is one of the things my husband and I hold in common.

A misty morning lake on the drive to Clayton New YorkOur morning drive took us along the shore of Lake Ontario much of the time, and through farming communities along the way. The apple orchards flowed one into another and farm stands seemed to be around every bend.

I continue to be amazed at how much agricultural activity there is in the state of New York. Before meeting my husband, and before coming here to see it all myself, I never had any clue that New York was such a farming state … a beautiful, simple, humble farming state.

It is also a state of many old barns, old mills, and factories. I find the old buildings more beautiful than those that are newer. Older building had such character of detail and materials. I know there is a practicality and economy to new methods of building, but the lack of charm stands out in stark contrast when you take a drive through an area like this that is so rich in heritage. You see the old places along the way that are wasting away, and somewhere further on you come across a pocket of “new” and you can’t help but feel a yuk inside … well, I certainly can’t help it.

Door of an old deserted mill on the drive to Clayton New YorkWhen we arrived in Clayton we were delighted to find the place we had reservations at was a cute little 50’s/60’s style roadside motel with a few rooms in a one-story building and then, down the hill by the water half a dozen sweet little cottages of the same era. It was clean and tidy with a beautiful view of the St. Lawrence river and the beginnings of the Thousand Islands.

The folks at the motel let us check in early, even though it wasn’t even noon. We were able to take a bit of a nap to the sound of … nothing but a light breeze and a few crickets. Then we headed over to my husband’s favorite museum: the Antique Boat Museum. We wandered around the museum for two or three hours, viewing their wonderful collection of antique wooden boats of all kinds. Another thing I didn’t yet know about Upstate New York until this trip is how prevalent boating and canoeing are up this way and what a rich part of the history of the state they are. Of course, it completely makes sense when you consider the abundant supply of water. Keep in mind though, I am used to living in the desert of Southern California and this thing of being around so much water is a new experience of senses and awareness for me.

It was quite warm that day, so after the boat museum we headed back to our motel so I could change into cooler clothes and get my hair up off of my neck. Then it was off again to do some photography in the countryside and find a place to eat. After driving over to Alexandria Bay and turning back to Clayton, we finally chose to eat at a restaurant in a converted Victorian house across from the Boat Museum, The Harbor Inn. The food was wonderful … my favorite was their fresh homemade hummus served with little triangles of whole wheat pita bread. I would love to know their hummus recipe, because it was some of the best I’ve ever had.

Sunset on the St Lawrence river in Clayton New YorkAfter dinner we walked through Clayton (small place, doesn’t take very long) and landed out on a peaceful bench along side the St. Lawrence river where we spent two hours sitting quietly, enjoying the relaxing flow of beautiful river and the little bit of activity that was going on … two or three people fishing, seagulls, a handful of sailboats and other vessels enjoying the last couple of hours of hazy sunlight, a couple of large freighters going by. Oh, I sigh just thinking about the utter feeling of peace and relaxation.

The next morning, we were up and away early again stopping for breakfast at Beefer’s Family Restaurant to try out their “famous” breakfast buffet. We were their first customers and couldn’t have been treated any nicer. An older gentleman greeted us as we came in as if we were old friends. He told us they always wait until their first customers arrive before they start cooking eggs and pancakes, etc. for the buffet because they want the food to be as fresh as possible.

We could hear sizzling coming from the kitchen as the cook hopped right on it, and we were shown to a nice little booth and served piping hot coffee. Within a few minutes the buffet was ready to go and we each had a nice assortment of scrambled eggs, pancakes with hot syrup, house potatoes, and bacon. (I am a vegetarian, but oddly enough bacon is the one meat I eat on occasion). The breakfast was hot, fresh, and delicious. Even though it was an all-you-can-eat buffet we were both fine with just one serving of our choices then off we went, headed for the Adirondacks.

A stand of autumn trees in the Adirondack MountainsWhile Western New York has been showing early signs of autumn since mid-September, the Adirondacks were in full bloom when we drove through them. There were still some green trees, but the fall colors were glorious. Most striking was the brilliant red leaves which were showing in abundance. I fell in love with the Adirondacks as they reminded me of a perfect combination of North Carolina (where I grew up part way) and everything I have come to love about Western New York. Water, water everywhere, soft old mountains, and trees to delight the eyes.

At Blue Mountain Lake we stopped off at the Adirondack Museum for a couple of hours and I went into sensory overload. I literally could not take any more in, it was all too much. It got to a point where I was feeling quite dazed and “full”. The collection at the Adirondack Museum is impressive in size, and the quality and character of the wonderful old artifacts of boating, sporting, farming, living, creating, etc. is … well, I am speechless to tell you the truth. The entire experience of driving through those lovely mountains and stopping off at the museum left me wanting to return to the area many times in the future to settle out my feelings of being a bit too “full” of everything I had seen.

View of Blue Mountain Lake from a deck at the Adirondack MuseumMost exciting to me is the idea of taking our canoe up there next year sometime to do some camping and canoeing along with sight seeing. We both want to do that very much, and had quite a bit of fun as we drove south through the park discussing some ideas and details of the trip we might make.

If you have read my blog since last year, you have heard me mention our friend, Winnie of the Buttons as I like to call her. I gave her that name on my blog because she gifted me with a huge collection of antique and vintage buttons last year before she moved away to Queensbury, New York to a retirement community. Our primary mission on this trip was to pay a visit to Winnie which we promised her we would do before summer’s end (we were only a couple of days late for that).

A peaceful scene on the way to Saratoga Springs New YorkAfter leaving the Adirondacks, we arrived in Queensbury about two-thirty and checked into our hotel there. I have to say, and I am sorry to say it, but we were not fond of Queensbury–at least not the part of it where our hotel was. It was a complete contrast to the peace and beauty of both Clayton and the Adirondacks. Busy streets, shopping malls everywhere, crowds of people, wall-to-wall cars.

However, the area where Winnie’s retirement residence is situation is much more quiet and we could tell she is completely happy to be where she is. She drives out into a more rural area to attend a country church much like ours that she left behind and it is great she has the opportunity to do so. We had a wonderful afternoon and evening with her and then it was off to our hotel for a not-so-restful night of attempted sleep in spite of the loud sounds of a drunken fellow who, for some odd reason, decided to sit down right outside of our door with a couple of his friends at one-thirty in the morning. Oh well, the contrast only goes to make the early parts of the trip even more beautiful.

The next morning we were up early again and spent the entire day, from eight in the morning until six at night, making our meandering way back home. Route 67 (and later Route 5) was a picturesque alternative to Interstate 90 as we made our way through village after village, continuing to demonstrate to me the abundance of farms and croplands in Upstate and Upstate Western New York.

The trip was wonderful, scenic, inspiring, educational. Even after all of the beautiful places and scenes we saw, I was still happy to get back home to our farm.  It has become my most favorite place on Earth. There is just something about home, a friend waiting for you with open and familiar arms.

A little girls hand knit sweater pattern available soonKnitting News: Here is a photo of a little girl’s sweater not designed or made by me. It was designed and knit by one of the owners of my LYS (Local Yarn Shop for non-knitting readers) and she has agreed to share the pattern on my blog. Today I can show you the photo, and next week sometime I hope to have the pattern available. It is a scrumptious little thing, and quite affordable to make. The materials come to less than $20. The plan at this point is to start utilizing knitted creations by the two ladies who own the yarn shop (they are the source of the yarn I make available on my website) and my daughter as well as continuing to share my own with you. That way I can bring you even more quality knitted items and more knitting content while also continuing to do the other things I do (photography, writing, and painting).

Have a beautiful day!

~firefly

Beyond the first hello

September 20, 2007 at 4:47 pm | Posted in blogging, Christmas, country living, dating, faith, family, free knitting patterns, gifts, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, summer, yarn | 16 Comments

A beautiful autumn field in Fireflys Western New YorkYesterday afternoon we drove down toward Buffalo for a family visit, enjoying a lazy driving chat and some quiet moments of reflections along the way. We passed by many, many fields of rusty-golden corn and yellow soy beans. I asked my husband if it is my imagination or are there significantly more corn fields this year than last. He affirmed there are indeed many more corn fields this year.

Last year, if you recall, we had corn growing in our fields and tracked their growth and beauty in photographs and descriptions. This year our fields are empty, though the farmer who rents our land does show up from time to time to prep the acres for …something. My husband feels certain the farmer will be planting winter wheat, but he tells me the wheat must be planted by the end of September. I suppose we have to wait and see.

If he does put in winter wheat, my husband says it will be beautiful because we will be able to see clear out to the woods beyond the fields all winter long and when it snows the snow will lie in blankets on the wheat. I do so hope I get to see that view this time around.

Autumn has come early in Western New York and the views recently have been spectacular. Spring is lovely and lush with green growth and new flowers, summer is gorgeous with persistent green and healthy crops but autumn is where it all seems to come together visually. As the leaves and plants begin to change to autumn yellows and gold, all around there is a depth and texture that glows from within. Details non-existent during the barren months of winter and hidden in the lush greens of spring and summer emerge both gradually and suddenly, growing and expanding with each passing day.

A field of pumpkins in Fireflys Western New York

The beautiful autumn colors of leaves on trees are of course quite lovely to behold, but what I am seeing and loving is so much more than those leaves. It is the fantastic light, color, and texture of crops near harvest and fallow fields bursting with the last big splash of this year’s wild, abundant growth.

I have been out there in this world of ours taking many, many photographs in preparation for paintings I long to execute over the coming winter. Last year, my first year here, though I loved my new home and environment much of it was a blur because it was all so new. There was so much to take in it was difficult to focus on individual qualities of the land, the farms, the fields. So difficult to take it all in.

Last night was we drove home I was thinking about how different this second year is for me. There is a direct correlation between my relationship with my husband and my relationship with my home, this place, this land.

Last year when my husband and I met online and decided to get married, though we had tremendous faith and knew instinctively, somehow, that this would all be right … honestly, we could not possibly have known each other so very well. We knew each other instinctively, inside ourselves where faith is the stronghold. Outwardly however, in the living of life and the handling of life’s trials and tribulations, we could not have known each other … it was too soon.

So it was last year with me and the place I know call home. Instinctively, we knew each other. I knew this was the place I had always dreamed of, the climate I longed for, the way of life I wanted. This place instinctively knew me, knew I was a friend, and that I should be welcomed with a lovely year of tasty weather and beautiful views. Though the place and I knew we were right for each other, we could not have known just how right it all was until we had some time together to test the waters … literally, considering all the rain we had last year.

Cows in a field at the Amish Place near Fireflys Farm Last year between my husband and I was “hello”. At the time I didn’t realize that, but I do now that we have gotten into the nitty-gritty of life and living.

Last year between the place and I was “hello”. I was here, but I was a bit dazed by the newness of everything. Where could I start, where could my focus land … what could I concentrate on and sink my artistic teeth into?

Side Bar: I just put up an online version of my current artshow at the I Live on a Farm website. I think you will enjoy it, if you wish to take a few minutes to view it after you read this post.

Back to the Blog: This second year, for my husband I, is about rolling up our sleeves and really living together, in each other’s company … through thick and through thin. No matter how much love, no matter what a feeling of romance, there is bound to be thick and thin to confront together or flee from in opposite directions.

This second year, with the place, I am seeing things that I instinctively knew where here before, but that I could not focus on last year. I catch my breath when I take it all in, because now I am seeing the depth. Every time I am out there in it, I look and I see way far off into the distances and I see the way the light shines on this or that … not just a momentary glance, but I see it at different times of day in different types of weather.

Now I have comparisons I can draw, and it opens up my sight so much further into what I am truly seeing.

Two weeks ago we drove down toward Buffalo after a rain, when the skies were still gray, but some sun shone through. I saw textures and colors and places only visible during that particular lighting situation, that time of that day at that particular moment only. It hit me, it penetrated my perceptions and struck a chord because I could compare it to other times I saw those same fields, or trees, or barns, or skies under different circumstances. I have driven that road enough times now that I can truly SEE it, truly take it in, each and every time … because I can compare.

As for the husband, it is similar with him. Neither of us is perfect (thank goodness). There have been a few points on which we have disagreed, sometimes vehemently. Always, though, there is this persistent and real affection and respect. We have fun together; we always have something interesting to do together or to speak about. Our minds and creativity are well matched, our values are in harmony. I can evaluate my feelings for him and my attitude toward him because I have quite a bit of life experience behind me and I can draw comparisons between our viewpoints, comparisons between him and other people I have known, and I can see him very clearly … more clearly now than last year when we were still on “hello”.

I like what I see. Well, actually I love what I see in him, and in this place. More so now even than when we first said hello … big surprise, huh? I also realize I am only beginning to get to know, and the road ahead looks very, very promising.

Fireflys first adult sized sweater has made its way to New York

I have a bit of knitting news: I am recently reunited with a sweater I knitted back in 2003 in California. It was the first adult sweater I knit, and I love it dearly. It was a fun project and went very quickly. Sadly though, I knit it out of a beautiful chocolate brown merino wool and I could not for the life of me find a time to wear it while I lived in Los Angeles. I tried, but each time I put it on, no matter how seemingly cold it was in LA, the sweater instantly made me so hot I would have to rip it off and pant for a few minutes.

Ah, but now I live in upstate western New York where winter is winter and cold is cold. The sweater was in with my things I shipped here from California earlier in the summer. I recently unpacked it and can hardly wait for cold enough weather to warrant its use.

I got the pattern for this sweater from “The Green Mountain Spinnery Knitting Book”, page 5 “Spinnery Jacket” (well, they call it a jacket, I call it a sweater). I knitted it of Aurora 8 100% Merino by Karabella Yarns, with size U.S. 6 and 7 needles. Varying from the pattern a bit, I edged my sweater with Paton’s Grace 100% Mercerized Cotton in Taupe, just for a bit of a contrasting accent. I also changed the sleeves to make them longer and so they would flare out a bit rather than hanging straight or tapering in. I have all of the info and details about the sweater because, that year my son gave me a Knitting Journal as a Christmas gift and I recording the project in that journal … another item I am recently reunited with.

Until next week then … enjoy the textures of your life!

~firefly

River Dog

September 5, 2007 at 8:24 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, flowers, health, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, September 11, summer | 9 Comments

Blu The River DogLast September I wrote about spending September 11th down by our cottage, out in our row boat on the river (This will be our tradition, posted 12 Sept 2006). At that time, I shared the peace and beauty of our sweet river in description and photos. This summer has been so busy, we didn’t get out on the river in the boat until just this past weekend.

Sunday afternoon my daughter and I went out in a funny little paddle boat for a while; it was her first time on the river, and she fell in love with it just as I did one year ago. Later that evening my husband and I went out in the row boat for fishing (him) and photography (me). We went upstream from the cottage, with him doing all the rowing and me snapping photos the entire time. Once he got the boat far enough upstream, he let it drift back down toward the boat house while he fished and I shot more photos. Between the time we spent at the river and other things we did over Labor Day weekend, I believe I shot well over 1,000 photos since last Saturday.

Fireflys River was Beautiful this Labor Day WeekendOurs is a quite, private river even during a holiday weekend. I saw less than half a dozen people there other than us. We took Blu along with us to see about getting him swimming and playing in the water. Sunday he started out a bit awkward and we couldn’t get him to jump in, full-bodied, to fetch sticks. However, I started pulling up long blades of grass and tossing them just a little ways out into the slow current and he was willing to gently step in to fetch those out as long as they weren’t too far from shore.

Monday afternoon my husband had repairs to make on the elevator (engineered and built by his father when my husband was just a boy) we use to go down to the river from the cottage. We took Blu along with us and after the elevator repairs were finished, we took him back down to the river level with us to see if we could get him to go out in the boat with us.

Blu The River Dog Continues on His JourneyIt was a new experience, and he did not like the idea of jumping into the boat, so my husband had to lift him and plunk him down inside with me. At first he was a little bit nervous when we moved out into the current but within just a few moments he noticed how cool it was that there was so much water everywhere. He started dunking his nose in and letting his face run along the surface of the water as my husband rowed us upstream.

It wasn’t long before my husband and I both agreed that Blu had become an official river dog. He got to where he was moving all around the back of the boat where I was sitting, sticking his face in the water and watching the thick, dancing river grasses in the water as we passed over them. What a treat to be there watching an entirely new, beautiful world opening up to our sweet Blu.

Again, after getting us upstream as far as he wanted to go, my husband let go of the oars and let us drift back downstream. For a time, all three of us sat silently, watching the river go by as we drifted silently along in the peaceful, almost hush-quiet environment of the river. All we could hear was birds and crickets, along with a splash every now and again as a fish jumped up and ate a bug, or a frog plopped in from the side.

Fireflys Beautiful River on Labor Day Weekend 2007For years I have had recurring dreams of a river, and in the dream the river is mine. I stumble upon it and it instantly brings me an incredible feeling of love, and happiness that is more powerful than anything I have felt in real life. In that dream, the river is different each time in appearance, but the feeling is always the same. I know when I see it that it is my river. I run along the bank of it, I bound effortlessly from stone to stone or boulder to boulder, depending on the type of river that shows up in any particular dream. I love that dream, and always feel refreshed, invigorated, and happy when I awake from a night’s sleep that included my river dream.

Monday, as the three of us moved down stream on our river I began to get that same magical, beautiful feeling. That was the first time the feeling of the river dream came into being in waking life. The colors in the environment were rich, deep, alluring … magic and intense. There was something also of the motion itself that and the beautiful dancing motion of the nearly emerald green, lush grasses growing all along the bottom of the river that contributed to the feeling of magic.

I was affected deeply, transcended in a way that I feel somehow will touch every moment of the rest of my life.

Tueday afternoon we went back again, taking Blu for more time on the river and so I could shoot more photos. When it came time to get in the boat, Blu jumped in by himself, with only a little coaxing and made himself right at home in the boat. My husband took us downstream floating with the current, and rowed us back to the boat house when we were finished. It was overcast, but still very beautiful with rich colors … still and beautifully quiet except for the once-in-a-while sound of oars touching the water gently to steer us along, crickets chirping, occasional ducks and geese somewhere around the bend, and the intermittent sound of a Great Blue Heron “out there” in our midst.

By then Blu seemed to be an old hand at being a river dog. He moved about the boat freely and seemed at times as if he was awfully tempted to jump out of the boat, into the water.

Firefly and her husband saw this Great Blue Heron while out on the river with BluThere is an island in the river, not far downstream from our boat house, and as we got down back around the end of it, my husband spotted the Great Blue Heron and quietly directed my attention toward it. He predicted the heron would be liftong off any moment, and of course it did. I capture a couple of shots of it flying away. A bit further downstream I changed to a zoom lens when we spotted the heron again, standing on the side of the river. After the longer lens was in place, my husband slowly and quietly slid the boat forward while I snapped as many shots as I could. The light was low and there was a lot of movement in the boat because of Blu, so I didn’t get any good, clear shots. I did manage to get one almost clear shot as the heron took off, and with the zoom lens I got enough definition that I could crop in pretty close to share his beauty with you in the blog today.

That magical river dream feeling was even more powerful Tuesday than it had been on Monday. I told my husband about it and told him also that I believe it must have been this river, our river, I dreamed of all those years. How I have managed to make so many dreams come true in the past couple of years … well, now how have i done that? I have some private ideas about it, but perhaps for now some of my thoughts need to remain private.

My husband just got home from work, and we are about to head off into the woods to shoot some photos and gather wild stuff for this year’s Thistleonians (search in my blog for “critters” to see what I’m talking about).

We will be spending September 11th out on the river, because that is our new tradition and one we will carry on with for years to come … with Blu the River Dog at our side.

~firefly

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