Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Summer That Wasn’t (But We’re Making the Most Out of It Anyway)! By C.P. Stringham

The Summer of 2015 hasn’t been very summery. It’s as if April forgot to arrive in time with its April showers. Even in May, we had several frost warnings beyond Mother’s Day. I would know because Mother’s Day weekend is our normal vegetable garden planting time and that means I was having to go out in the evening and cover our tender little plants with newspaper to prevent frost damage and then remove those paper “tents” in the morning as the temperature began to rise. We experienced a cooler, dry spring. Our farmer friends were each saying the same thing, “It’s going to be a cold, wet summer.” I don’t question these folks when they make statements like that because they know. They know better than our local meteorologists. Sydney’s riding instructor, Pat, is usually good at reading nature signs as well to predict weather trends. She grew up on a dairy farm. These past two years were a good example of her skills. While everyone was commenting about how overly full their fruit and nut-bearing trees were during harvesting, Pat warned us it was a sign of a long, harsh winter. Her words, “Mother Nature takes care of her own.” My fellow Northeastern United States folks know how our past two winters have turned out. All I need to say as a reminder is Polar Vortex.
Our damp gardens...

Here it is July 8th and, instead of having to worry about keeping our gardens watered or risk a wilted, non-productive harvest, my husband and I are considering putting up clear plastic sheeting tents, using rudimentary framing from scrap wood so the plastic doesn’t lie against the plants, and shield them from the rather damp weather conditions we are having. We are drenched in Northeastern PA!! About the only vegetable doing well from all the rain is our broccoli. The rest? Well, they’re looking a little yellow from too much water. Even my flower containers that we use around the yard within our landscaping, look yellow—the same containers I usually have to water every evening this time of year because the hot summer sun dries the soil out by the end of the day.
Montour Falls, New York...

Nevertheless, even with all the rain, we’re still managing to fill in our free time with our summer adventures—just armed with umbrellas for when the heavens open up and soak us again. Since my last blog post, I celebrated my 45th birthday. We used it as a family day and traveled up New York’s Route 414 from Corning to Watkins Glen and then headed home on Route 14 with a tour along the side streets of Montour Falls. We stopped at secondhand shops and antique stores along the way for a little window shopping. Outside of Corning, we discovered an architectural salvage/secondhand store operated through SESC Habitat for Humanity called ReStore. We were truly impressed with their prices on furniture and salvaged items. The crafter in me was going bonkers with ideas for up-cycling items for repurposing! Montour Falls used to have two great antiques shops along West Main Street, but they have since closed from our last visit three years ago. Instead, armed with my camera, I shot photos of Shequaga Falls and some of the gorgeous local architecture. One such treasure is the Cook Mansion. I fell instantly in love with the brick Victorian Italianate-style mansion that was built in 1873 by Elbert Cook. His brother, Charles, is lauded as the “Father of Schyler County.” Since I was scoping it out from a distance, my voyeuristic eye couldn’t see the telltale marks of fire damage until I used my telephoto lens. And then I was heartsick. I tend to look at art instead of the in-your-face-details of reality, you know, when it smacks me in the face—and that arrived when I took notice of the auction sign at the front of the property. The house had most recently been a highly rated bed & breakfast. The owner, Carol Hagopian, returned the house to its heyday splendor, decorating each room with a true Victorian flair, adding her souvenirs from around the world, while not going over the top. I know this information from the B&B’s website along with reading their stellar reviews. For whatever reason, Carol was unable to bring this Montour Falls gem back from the fire damage it received on November 2, 2014. I am hoping someone can step in and, like a phoenix, help raise this truly fantastic structure from the ashes so it can once again welcome visitors.
Mr. & Mrs. Herrlich looking at each other as if the rest of the world
doesn't even exist. 

The Fourth of July weekend was a whirlwind for me. On Friday, my friend Terri married her boyfriend of six years. She and Mike are glowing proof that middle-age relationships can be just as romantic as our first serious adult relationship. As wedding photographer, I got to be with her while her and the bridesmaids (her daughters) got their hair styled and they dressed for the private ceremony. After the ceremony, they held an outdoor reception for family and friends at Mike’s parents’ house. With a red, white, and blue color scheme, great food, company, and drink, fireworks that included a sparkler sendoff at dark, it was a spectacular ending to a wonderful event. Terri and Mike, I wish you a long, happy and healthy life together as Mr. & Mrs. Michael Herrlich! Thank you for allowing Syd and me to be a part of your special day.
On Saturday, to make up for the beautiful day Mother Nature gave us on Friday, she decided to add rain showers to the early part of our Independence Day. But that didn’t stop us from having our parents over for an evening cookout. I made burgers with all the fixings, mozzarella and tomato salad, smoked mac & cheese, and Oreo Grasshopper Pie. To end the evening, we sat around a bonfire roasting marshmallows and hotdogs as our neighbor set off (illegal) fireworks. We didn’t even have to leave the comfort of home to see a great aerial display!
Our family adventure in Hammondsport and Watkins Glen.

Sunday’s weather was perfect for a family drive around the Finger Lakes. We headed out with a cooler packed for a picnic lunch at a destination to be determined when the mood hit us. I printed up directions (no GPS for this girl) to Hammondsport, New York which sits at the base of Keuka Lake. We’d never been there before. The quaint little town has lots to offer for travelers in the way of boutiques, antique stores, restaurants, pubs, and bed & breakfast lodging. The hot and humid day was made comfortable by the gentle cool breeze coming off of the nearby lake as we walked along the sidewalk with fellow travelers. Due to the holiday weekend, the town was quite busy. One shop we meandered into was called The Wine Barrel. As we walked the store and looked at their unique furniture and decorations, I was struck by how ingenuous their items were—made by using white oak wine barrels—in essence, repurposing something that their region has in surplus due to the local wineries. I love up-cycling!!! The owner of the store was working on this particular day and was welcoming as she explained their product and even mentioned that they will gladly take custom orders. She was totally gracious when I asked her if I could take a picture of her store for the blog. If you want a one of a kind piece with a little winemaking history, look no further! Visit their website through this link. After leaving Hammondsport, we drove up the western shore of the lake, across the top, and then down the eastern shore before traveling the short distance to Seneca Lake. We stopped in Watkins Glen’s Lafayette Park for our informal picnic lunch of sandwiches and chips. When I finished mine, I headed out on foot and shot pictures of the nearby churches. Each of them built in the latter part of the 19th century. We ended up at one last destination, Brand Park in Elmira for their outdoor summer concert series, before heading home.
Shops in Hammondsport. 

Even with our damp, chilly summer, we are finding plenty of family daytrip adventures to keep us busy during our leisure time. I hope everyone who follows our Broads of a Feather blog is taking time for a little family adventure as well! Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans!   

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