May 23, 2010

New dock, new kayaks, new car: Can summer be far behind?

VALOIS, New York, USA - In the past few days, Admiral Fox and I picked up our new-to-us car from car dealer Hal Van Skiver, had the dock guys from Schamel Brothers show up with their barge to start pounding in pilings for our new dock and - in a total surprise move - the Admiral bought us two kayaks so we can get on the water quickly.

Can summer be far off?

The car was three weeks coming, but worth it: a used 2002 silver-blue Lexus SUV that has so many computer and electronic features it's scary. Still, it is probably the most comfortable car I have ever driven, and so far, getting good gas mileage (good being defined as 23 mpg on the highway).

And, perhaps most important, it has a sun roof, a feature the Admiral has wanted since we sold our sun-roofed Jeep Laredo two years ago to an Ithaca woman who specializes in rescuing injured wild animals.

Now if we just could get some of that sun...

Kayak on top of new car
The new car, with new kayaks

Dock extension gets started
The Schamel Brothers pile driver at work

Friday, the pile driver showed up and the air was filled for an hour with clanging and banging as we started the process to get our dock extended out into deeper water. The Schamel Brothers crew will also be putting a large "L" on the end, so we will have a spot to sit and more places to tie up visiting boats (as well as our own).

The posts are driven 6-8 feet down into the lake bed forming a permanent base for the dock. The water should be 6-7 feet off the end, perhaps deeper depending on how quickly the bottom falls away. We need to ensure that it's deep enough to dock the newly-painted sailboat Eric Hazlitt has been working on since last summer.

We have been promised that Monday the crew will be back with the rest of the posts to drive and shortly after that, construction will start on the actual dock.

Memorial Day weekend might be even more memorable this year, particularly if we can sit on the end of the dock.

Sailboat chugs north on Seneca Lake
A sailboat motors north, waiting for the wind

While we wait for the dock to be finished, we have pulled out the gear for our sailboat - The Red Rocket - which we expect to launch this week so it we can use it Memorial Day weekend. The parts were right where I left them, along with a small family of spiders who apparently were studying the instructions on how to rig the boat.

The pontoon boat - the Spirit of Louise - is in storage at Keuka Lake and will splash Friday June 4, the earliest it has been in the water since we bought it.

And the Admiral already figured out that we can carry the two new kayaks on the bow of the boat when we are out and about - even if I have to move the beer cooler a little to accommodate them.

Spirit of Louise at launch ramp
Spirit of Louise at the launch ramp last summer

May 17, 2010

A party weekend - with a fundraiser for a teen cancer victim

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - After a long week of working outside - and getting the property ready for summer (should it arrive...), Admiral Fox and I went to social events Saturday and Sunday.

The Saturday night soiree was a social get together at a local winery where we swapped tales about winter and the upcoming summer. The group/event is held twice a year, an outgrowth of the former Seneca Lake Sailing Association (which is no longer active).

The Sunday afternoon event was to raise money to help a local teenager who has cancer.

Fifteen-year-old Devon Shaw, is a freshman at Watkins Glen High School. He had cancer discovered in his leg months ago. And doctors now say he has cancer in one lung and  faces surgery in June. He is already having several rounds of chemotherapy.

Devin Shaw
Devon Shaw

But this young soccer player is a real gamer, by all accounts.

While several bands played Sunday at an outdoor benefit to help cover his incredible medical costs (and show support for him), Devon hopped on a tour boat with several hundred of his high school classmates for a Seneca Lake tour and teen party in his honor.

Teen benefit cruise
Teens head up Seneca Lake

The community effort has been incredible, a not-uncommon occurrence in this part of rural upstate New York. The event had a chicken dinner, t-shirt sales, raffles and something called a 50-50 drawing. The bar inside did a brisk business, too, selling beer in red plastic cups. The cold beer didn't help with the cold temperatures, but it still tasted good, and for a good cause.

In many ways, the event reminded me of the way people in Arroyo Seco rally around when someone is sick or in need. Whenever someone in that village has trouble, people also come through with food or help of some kind.

The local newspapers here have been full of news about Devon, his plight, and efforts to raise money - and spirits.

Here's a short video of some of the music and dancing...

May 14, 2010

On our way to out to breakfast, we meet an odd duck

MONTOUR FALLS, New York, USA - After week of cold weather, the temperatures climbed today to over 70 - a veritable heatwave after days and days of burning logs in our wood stove and wearing jackets and hats all the time to keep warm.

But the cold weather was ok, because much of the week was taken up with catching up on medical appointments and other such errands, capped today by my getting my lab work done as part of my annual physical.

Gawd, I hate it when they take blood from me.

But the bloodtaking also meant that I had to fast for 12-14 hours the night before, which automatically means a good breakfast at a restaurant, somewhere down in Watkins Glen or Montour Falls. This time (as the giver of blood), I got to choose the Harvest Cafe in Montour, a favorite spot with great food where the Admiral hopes she and some of her musical buddies will be doing some music one of these nights.

Harvest cafe and Sylvia
Admiral Fox in front of the Harvest Cafe

We discovered the Harvest Cafe two years ago on a foray in search of a used car. No they don't serve cars there, but the local used car dealer has breakfast there almost every day and that's where we had to track him down.

The food is excellent and this week we met one of the owners, Valerie, who is a transplant from Pasadena, California.

I can't make this stuff up.

She and her husband Jeff sold off their California home several years ago and now live year-round here, with Valerie in charge of the popular cafe and Jeff running their nearby farm.

They are very community-minded and even have a website by the name, Where Community Happens:
  • Harvest Cafe Website

  • Valerie and Jeff
    Valerie and Jeff

    On our way to town this morning, however, we encountered a new neighbor a few doors down - a Muscovy duck, who other neighbors (of the human type) told us spent the entire winter at the lake, romancing a flock of white ducks, quite unsuccessfully.

    Admiral Fox says she will try to find the fellow a girlfriend so that he isn't too lonely.

    Myself, I don't know enough about ducks to tell if the duck in this photo is a male or female. Or if he is lonely.

    But he/she certainly wasn't afraid of the camera.

    Though I had reasonable cause to believe he is not a native duck,  I didn't ask him for any identification papers.

    This is New York, after all, not Arizona.

    Muscovy duck neighbor
    One of our aquatic neighbors

    May 11, 2010

    Back from the Jersey Shore to Frostbite Falls, New York

    VALOIS, New York, USA - The wedding of niece Marion and Peter Saturday in New Jersey went off without a hitch. Even the weather cooperated with warm temperatures and predicted thunderstorms stayed well to the north.

    Marion is the youngest of the six children of my brother Tony and sister-in-law, Marion Sr.

    The entire family took part in the wedding - nieces, nephews, brothers, uncles, God parents and a lot of other folks.

    And the priest who performed the ceremony, Father Kevin, had the right combination of solemness and levity. He could probably land a job doing standup comedy if he wanted it.

    Peter and Marion
    Peter and Marion

    The band at the reception played an eclectic batch of tunes, a mix of Irish songs, 60s rock, and some other music that the people in their 30s seemed to know, but was foreign to me.

    Still, Admiral Fox and I spent a good part of the time out on the dance floor, along with most of the Fitzgerald clan and guests, whooping it up.

    The music theme started early - in church - when Marion's brothers John and Michael strummed a tune before the ceremony started. And outside on the steps after the ceremony, a fellow played the bagpipes as Marion and Peter left.

    Sunday morning we packed up our gear early and left the Molly Pitcher Inn, stopping by briefly at brother Tony's house to say goodbyes. We then headed north and east, back to Valois where we were warned the weather was colder than New Jersey - a lot colder.

    In fact, Sunday morning in Valois it snowed. Not the kind that sticks on the ground. It was the sleeting kind that makes you wonder why anyone lives north of Latitude 12 degrees

    This morning, it was about 36 degrees when I got up and loaded up the wood stove for the day.

    But after attending the joyful wedding, reception and trip, we were rewarded with a rare sight as we returned Sunday evening -  a white deer grazing in our yard. Native Americans believe white deer are a sign of good things to come for the people who see it and the people they are close to.

    Adm. Fox and I believe the appearance of the white deer indicates that Marion and Peter are on their way to very happy times.

    I'm hoping the deer is also a harbinger of warmer temperatures, too.

    White deer in the yard
    White deer pays us a visit

    May 8, 2010

    In the not-so-wilds of Red Bank, New Jersey, with a wedding ahead

    RED BANK, New Jersey, USA - The Admiral and I zoomed down the highway from Valois to New Jersey Friday so we could attend today's wedding of niece Marion Fitzgerald to her fiance Peter. The trip was quick and very quiet - thanks largely to Brother Dan lending us his Prius for the trip.

    We averaged 55 miles per gallon for the 280-mile trip.

    Red Bank was a nice surprise. I didn't expect it to be, well, so well done. I remember it from 20+ years ago and it was not the place it is today.

    Then again, I've changed a little in 20 years, too.

    The town is full of restaurants and neat places, and, best of all, a gorgeous waterfront on the Navesink River. We arrived late afternoon, had a quick beer on the deck and then headed out for pizza (and more beer, hydration is important) before returning back to our temporary, upscale housing for two days.

    Our digs for the two nights, the Molly Pitcher Inn, has a beautiful marina right in front. Not too many boats set to go yet. But  Friday afternoon the marina was buzzing with owners washing and waxing their vessels.

    They probably didn't see the forecast for today: thunderstorms, rain, and wind, followed by more thunderstorms, rain, and even more wind.

    The hotel is very classy, but the beautiful swimming pool - shown in all the brochures and on the hotel's website, is closed and won't be open for weeks. So much for packing three swimsuits.

    Closed for now - boo!

    Today's wedding will be at a nearby church at 2:30 p.m. afternoon, with a reception to follow at a country club (also nearby). A shuttle is being provided for guests from the hotel to the reception later, which means Brother Dan's Prius will stay locked and loaded for our return to Valois Sunday.

    Now, I just need to find all my wedding garb, assembled hastily by Adm. Fox in the last few days. And I also need to remember how to make a Windsor knot in my neck tie. It's been a long time.

    Ah, the Internet has already provided...

    How to tie a double Windsor

    May 4, 2010

    Summer? Not quite - but we will be ready if it arrives this year

    VALOIS, New York, USA - We landed safely at Elmira Airport Thursday, drove straight to the lake (thanks to loan of a truck from Brother Dan) and immediately dove into getting the Seneca Lake house opened up, and, por supesto (of course), launched into several projects.

    The house was in fantastic shape, thanks to Cousin Brett Beardslee and also amigo Brad. Between the two of them, the place was clean, operational, and even had some beer and wine in the refrigerator.

    Chena and Chon (our neighbors in Arroyo Seco, Mexico) would approve.

    Sylvias 2010 plants
    Sylvia's flower pots

    Admiral Fox said that she will take over the flower gardening duties this summer (Gracias Dios!), which fine by me. I'll still struggle with a few vegetable plants - the struggle being keeping the deer, squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits from chewing anything I plant.

    I have two tomato plants ready to go into outdoor pots. I have some wire and plans to make some cages that would make the guards at Folsom Prison take notice.

    Overlook project at start
    Overlook project, midway through completion

    Last summmer we cut down a small forest on the hillside in front of the house that had been blocking almost all view of the lake.

    Why live next to a lake if you can't see it?

    After the trees went down, I took a shovel, rake and other implements of destruction to make a small overlook where we spent many evenings toasting the sunset last summer. My project today (and last night) has been to expand it and put in some steps up from the path.

    I call this particular style of architecture, Hector Classic. I used almost all free materials that the lumberyard was going to throw out.

    As I finished the project an hour ago, a big thunderstorm snuck up behind me and dropped about 10 minutes of monsoon-strength rains. The water flattened out the dirt nicely and the sun has come back out. (Gracias Dios, again.) Maybe I'll go sit on the overlook before getting cranked up to do the next job.

    Overlook project, complete
    Overlook project - almost completed

    Today's second project, in anticipation of a likely May cold snap, is to clean out the wood stove. Two days ago we had a face cord of wood delivered, which I hope will be good insurance against any more cool weather.

    But who knows? It snowed two days before we arrived. And the day we arrived the wind was blowing 30+ knots and the temperature was about 45 degrees.

    Even if I knew it was going to stay warm (it's 72 degrees right now and sunny), I have to remove the carcass of a gray squirrel who thought the stove would make a swell condo for the harsh upstate New York winter. Unfortunately, once he got into the stove, he couldn't get out.

    Hmm. Better check the overlook and gaze at the lake for awhile first.

    Squirrel in the stove
    Rocky the Flying Squirrel could have escaped

    Lake View, May 4, 2010
    Lake view, May 4, 2010