September 1, 2007

Taking no-kill beyond Tompkins County

Former Tompkins County SPCA Director Nathan Winograd will be launching the tour for his new book at their Hanshaw Road facility on Sunday. He hopes to spread the story of how the Tompkins County SPCA euthanizes only the "hopelessly ill or irredeemably vicious" and helps the rest of the animals find homes.

In Darts and Laurels, two Dryden residents shower praise. Paul Lutwak thanks the Hangar Theatre for their wild performance when the power went out last week, and Cheryl Nelson thanks county employees for their participation in a blood drive. Jeanette Knapp also receives some thanks for her work planting flowers at the Women's Community Building.

How They Voted in Tompkins County lists recent legislative votes.

Posted by simon at 7:56 AM Comment

September 3, 2007

Upstate not dead

Gannett's Jay Gallagher must be spinning a bit. He wrote late last week about the failure of Upstate New York, presenting the Business Council's perspective, and today he writes about the Fiscal Policy Institute's rather different take on the economic health of Upstate New York. Gallagher writes:

Wages for the average worker in New York went up by 1.7 percent last year after adjusting for inflation, the first hike in four years according to a new report.

In addition, job-creation figures for the chronically depressed Upstate region improved slightly compared to downstate and the rest of the country over the last two years. And those figures may continue to improve as the drop in manufacturing jobs eases and much of the rest of the nation suffers from the bursting of the real-estate bubble that never inflated Upstate.

Thriving? No, certainly not. But we may winding up a decline in manufacturing that the rest of the country is starting to see, and we didn't have much of a housing bubble here. The Business Council, unsurprisingly, isn't interested in the proposals the FPI makes for improving the situation, but there's a lot here worth contemplating as we try to figure out what path Upstate should take.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton is celebrating additional state funding for breast cancer support groups.

Posted by simon at 12:51 PM Comment

Finding a Path for Upstate New York

Upstate New York is trapped by its past and offers a glimpse of the rest of the country's future.

Its past was one of wealth and innovation, providing a place where the ideas and commerce of New York City melded with that of the rest of the country. Canals and railroads brought people, goods, and ideas through it and to it. The "Empire State" was more than just the city that shares its name, a much larger place that grew wealthy in prosperous times and developed its own sense of place.

That glorious past came to an end after World War II. At least symbolically, Upstate's decline can be marked from the opening of the St.Lawrence Seaway. What had been a vibrant transportation corridor since the Erie Canal's opening in 1825 began a slow drift into a world of uncertainty. The Port of New York's steady decline, the rapid growth of road networks, and the shift of manufacturing toward ever-cheaper places took away Upstate's powerful position as a good place to start or run a business.

The place most obviously damaged by these shifts in transportation was Buffalo, the city where the grain elevator was invented to ease the transfer of grain between the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal. Its decline as a transfer point reduced its advantages dramatically, though Niagara Falls still provides hydropower. It's not just Buffalo or even the "Thruway cities" (formerly "canal cities") - Hornell's Erie Railroad repair shops shut down, as did shops across the state. Manufacturing now had less reason to be here, as new transportation corridors opened all over the county. New York agriculture found it harder to compete against California produce, which could break the seasonal cycle thanks to cheap transportation.

As hard as current New York State residents may find it to believe, an intricate web of business relationships used to connect Upstate and Downstate tightly together. The New York Central might have been most famous for Grand Central Station, but its core routes roughly followed the old Erie Canal route before shifting south of the Great Lakes. Goods flowed to and from the Port of New York, and to and from the incredibly diversified manufacturing that flourished in New York City. As both of those keys to New York City's importance declined, the value of placing businesses along those routes declined too. New York City doesn't have any intrinsic need to get much - except for its water supply - from Upstate. (Connections to the midwest simultaneously declined in importance, as did the old ties to Pennsylvania coal transport.)

New York City itself recovered by shifting to an economy based on less tangible goods, like finance, publishing, and media, but those industries don't have the same kinds of spillover effects on the surrounding area that a port and manufacturing center could claim. While Upstate still benefits from the taxes that pour out of New York City's financial district, and from the students that come from downstate to Upstate's many colleges and universities, the ties are much looser than they used to be.

Upstate's peaking in the 1950s meant that it had already accumulated so many of the things that were considered good then and "Rust Belt" later. Unions (fewer than New York City, but enough), lots of heavy manufacturing, high expectations for municipal services, a tolerance for regulation (less than downstate, but more than many places), and a sense of stability that made it hard to imagine and respond to substantial downward change.

We still have a hard time imagining and responding to our diminished place in the world, and the last ten years, in which New York City accelerated while the Upstate economy seemed to settle into permanent stagnation, led to a lot of people thinking that Upstate somehow needs to become North Carolina. Somehow, if we can just make our government as small as their government, all the businesses that left for the South will come back.

We seem to forget, however, that the businesses that headed south have often kept moving. "Right to Work" states seemed less exciting when the bold new vistas of Mexico and China opened up. They offer cheaper wages, less regulation, and transportation costs that don't demolish the profits created by making products cheaply and selling them into a market used to paying dearly.

Upstate New York may well be a few decades ahead of the rest of America, facing challenges today that the rest of the country is only starting to notice. Finding new ways for Upstate to thrive means - I think - that we can't simply try to be what the rest of America is. We've been there, watching the collapse of the advantages we used to enjoy because of our location and our infrastructure.

I don't have a simple answer for the path ahead. I have a few suggestions to get started, though:

  • We need to look carefully at the natural advantages we have - notably water and decent soil - and figure out how they can help us over the long term.

  • We need to consider what "the long term" will bring. I don't, for example, believe that cheap energy will last forever. How long it will last is an open question, one we should look at closely. Upstate New York is a rare place that could actually benefit from higher energy prices worldwide, because that would restore much of our geographic advantage as a transportation corridor.

  • We have to stop thinking that Albany is the right place to fix Upstate's problems. It's a key place to negotiate our relationship with the rest of the state, but we lack the power and the credibility to make demands of Albany, expecting the rest of the state to listen.

  • We need to evaluate our relationship with New York City, and figure out how that huge metropolis is helping or hurting us west and north of the Hudson Valley. What used to be a mutually benefical relationship seems to have diminished into a story that is much more mixed. Recognizing the good while identifying the bad should make it easier to start a conversation about the future.

  • We need to look around our cities, villages, towns, and counties to see what local systems we have that we can build upon. There may be new opportunities in rearranging things - consolidating in some cases, but empowering smaller or different areas in others.

  • We need to find a way out of the liberal-conservative battle that takes up so much political energy. It's not that the issues aren't important - they are. It's not that we shouldn't look outward and help others far away - we should. The problem is that the battles make it very hard to build coalitions willing to work together on regional issues that won't fall apart every time there's a national (or even a state) election. Politics will (and should) continue - we just need to find ways to focus them more on what's happening here. (I also suspect that the meaning of liberal and conservative will shift as we look at more local issues, but that's a more complicated philosophical conversation...)

  • We need to look outside of New York State to see what's happening in other places suffering from similar problems. The Northeast and Midwest have lots of places which are suffering from related difficulties, and we need to look beyond the boundaries of the Empire State.

None of those suggestions come with an easy answer to the obvious question of "how do we do that?" I don't see a lot of it happening yet, except in the percolating thoughts of a few bloggers and some offline conversations. For a start, though, I'd like to get these ideas out, and hope the seeds germinate. Maybe eventually there will be an Upstate Focus political party, unaligned with the traditional parties. Maybe we'll see a magazine, or an Upstate-focused think tank. It's hard to know right now what path is best - but it's time to start looking through the brambles for a clearer path forward.

Posted by simon at 1:45 PM Comment

September 4, 2007

Your local Marco Polo

Weird title, isn't it. It's actually the name of a weirder store I've thought about for a while, and written about elsewhere.

I'm not sure it's my idea - someone else may have suggested it - but I wish there was a food store that specialized in local food, with a "Marco Polo" section for things like spices that normally come from afar. Everything would have origin labels - customers could always tell where the goods and the ingredients came from, preferably to the city or town level where possible.

To get a little more detailed, I see a few sections in the store:

The Fresh Zone

This would be the section everyone thinks of when they think of farmers' markets - fresh produce, meat, and baked goods, with new food coming and old food going depending on the season. In winter, this section would shrink a lot, in favor of

The Stored Zone

This would be the area for frozen and canned local foods, as well as things like grain and flour that last without a major investment in storage. One thing I'd especially like to see here is food preserved in a root cellar or equivalent, from root vegetables to apples. (It would also be fun to offer on-site flour milling and things like that.)

The Marco Polo Zone

This would be the 'exciting' part of the store, where foods from all over would be welcomed. I picture spice racks and shelves of things like chocolate, tea, and coffee - valuable items that travel easily.

The Teaching Zone

At least at first, I think the place would need to teach customers how to deal with seasonal food if they want to have a market. It's not that I think customers would only buy from this store if they knew it existed, but rather that a lot of people need to learn basic cooking skills to even use the less-processed foods available in this store. It could also host events like group canning and freezing days, and maybe serve as a center for light processing and preservation of local foods.

I'm sure a lot of folks would only shop there out of curiosity, and I'm not sure it's a business model that would work right now in most parts of the country. I suspect it could work in Tompkins County, but alas, I lack the time or money to start it. Hopefully someone else might think it's a good idea. (It's not all that different from an old-time grocery store.)

Posted by simon at 8:42 AM Comment

Fair and Festival

I'm very happy to report that it looks like the Ellis Hollow Fair and the Freeville Harvest Festival will be on different days this year, making it easier for Dryden residents to attend both.

The Ellis Hollow Fair will be held at the Ellis Hollow Community Center on Genung Road this Saturday, September 8th, from noon to 4:00pm.

Exploring the white elephant sale.
Exploring the white elephant sale, 2005.

The Freeville Harvest Festival will be Saturday, September 15th, in front of the Freeville Elementary School. Signs suggest that there will be a barbecue, and there are usually booths, children's activities, food, and garage sales as well as a morning church service.

Pie by the slice at the Freeville Harvest Festival
Pie by the slice at the Freeville Harvest Festival, 2005.

Back in 2005, I posted stories about and pictures of the Freeville Harvest Festival and the Ellis Hollow Fair.

Posted by simon at 12:09 PM Comment

State Senator Seward coming to Dryden September 18th

I just got a notice from State Senator Jim Seward that he'll be having "Area District Office Hours" on Tuesday, September 18th at 7:00pm at the Dryden Firehouse, 26 North Street, in the Village of Dryden. The description says:

State Senator James L. Seward will address the audience in a town hall style meeting on major state and local topics of interest. Following the senator's remarks, residents will have the opportunity to address Senator Seward with a question and answer period. Later, Senator Seward will be available to talk privately with those who have state-related problems. For more information, please call Senator Seward's District Office at (607) 432-5524 or visit our website.

That feels a bit weirdly written - "will have the opportunity to address Senator Seward"? - but it describes pretty well how this went the last time I went to one of these events.

Posted by simon at 12:55 PM Comment

Eight Square Festival, Community Cafe

The Dryden Courier seems to be arriving later and later every week. Thanks to the Labor Day holiday, I got my copy the day before tomorrow's issue comes out. There's a lot of good in the issue, though once again the editorial makes me wonder.

Matt Cooper's article on the Eight Square Schoolhouse Festival goes beyond the usual "exciting day for old and young alike" coverage, digging into why the schoolhouse survived, and asking hard questions about the Bible's role in the old curriculum and why Dryden schools don't come to the old school's programs.

Also on the front page, Stacey Silliman reports on the Dryden Community Cafe meeting held on the 23rd. It's a great overview that pulls some excellent quotes as well, giving a flavor of what people felt there. (And remember, the proposed cafe now has a weblog with further updates.)

Inside the paper, the Village of Dryden Police Department report seems shorter for once, so maybe late August was a vacation for crime as well.

Matt Cooper's Inside Dryden column reports that Lifelong will be having a scenic walk along the Jim Schug trail on Monday, September 24th. For more information, call them at 273-1511. He also notes the continuing search for a Freeville member of the Dryden Youth Commission and their search for programs. He suggests that with the start of a new school year readers should contemplate attending school board meetings.

The Sports section visits with Dryden Athletic Director Ralph Boettger about the challenges of being a coach, and there's an article on keeping cool while playing and practicing in the summer heat.

The Groton page reports on the challenges the SPCA is facing in funding their animal control programs, and the SPCA's efforts to address them.

The editorial is strange. It's not a blast at bloggers or anything obviously controversial. Somehow, though, "Coffee as the Elixir of Democracy" manages to make broad claims about "people from all walks of life" in a strangely highbrow way. I can't help suspecting that the writer hasn't actually participated in the work of a community center and can't imagine that non-profits occasionally even encourage democracy. After worrying that a community center run by a not-for-profit will keep the community away from the coffee, it concludes with a strange paragraph about the essence of being human and suggests going for coffee.

Maybe George Will is the guest editor? I'd reproduce its full strangeness here if it wouldn't be a grotesque copyright violation, but I'll definitely be keeping this issue of the Courier for a long time to come. And maybe the editor should come to a Varna Community Association pancake breakfast? There's one Sunday morning. I can't, of course, guarantee that the coffee will promote democracy - that's up to the people who come.

Posted by simon at 6:07 PM Comment

September 5, 2007

Fire on Ringwood damages house

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that firefighters quickly put out a fire at a house on Ringwood Road yesterday, using water they carried from the Cornell Barns. Dryden led the response, with Varna, Etna, Freeville, Cayuga Heights and Slaterville also responding. Update: Apparently the fire rekindled, and firefighters are back on the scene.

There's a report on Ithaca schools' redistricting which seems to focus on the neighborhood effects near Northeast Elementary and on the Caroline schools, but there's no mention of Varna, where student shifted to Caroline. (I know at least one family that moved because of redistricting, and still marvel that Varna kids get a hilly bus ride to the second-furthest elementary school in the district.)

Along the western edge of Dryden, the county supported Hanshaw Road reconstruction and the Town of Ithaca Planning Board voted against a development moratorium on Sapsucker Woods Road.

There are a few articles that present contrasting views of the state's health, with pension costs declining (because of investment success) and the likely cost of services for the elderly in Upstate climbing. There's also an article which makes me wonder if pessimism about Upstate may in fact be creating new problems, as Scottrade had a hard time finding workers in Ithaca, a place that should be producing them.

On the opinion page, County Legislator Martha Robertson writes about strategies the county and local governments hope to pursue to bring more affordable housing to Tompkins County.

Posted by simon at 7:56 AM Comment

Dryden Community Cafe sustains momentum

The Dryden Community Cafe held another meeting last night, this time a business meeting. Business meetings tend to attract fewer people than "Hey, let's talk about this cool idea" meetings, but they still had around 35 people there.

Business meeting about the Dryden Community Cafe
Business meeting about the Dryden Community Cafe

Most of what happened last night followed pretty naturally from the previous meeting. The main things that seemed clear were:

  • The group will move to take possession of Charlie's Diner earlier, hopefully in October, and start using the space for fundraising events toward a more formal cafe opening around January.

  • The cafe may start out run by volunteers, but will aim for a substantially paid staff as the project moves forward.

  • A lot of the conversations will move into smaller, more focused committees that can work out the details.

  • They're still waiting approval of the non-profit status by the New York Secretary of State, and will begin taking donations (and setting up an official organizational structure) as soon as that arrives.

This idea seems to be finding some real traction, and I hope we'll see it blossom soon.

Posted by simon at 5:36 PM Comment

Change-makers not necessarily radicals

I was talking back and forth with a friend who's also interested in Dryden, local issues, and the politics that seem to come with all of that, and was delighted to hear something that I've been thinking about for a while summarized:

I think "radicals" forget that if we are going to succeed EVERYONE must succeed, even conservatives, even shoppers, even boneheads. And some very non-alternative people might just be leading the way. whew. some radicals might find that a little humbling!

One of the things I've enjoyed most about focusing on local issues is seeing people work together even when I know their political views are at opposite ends of the spectrum. I know there are limits to how far that can go - I've encountered them myself at times - but it's something I think we might all pause to appreciate. We have a lot more in common than we often realize.

Posted by simon at 5:50 PM Comment

Spreading the word about local blogging

I'm mostly happy about how Living in Dryden has turned out, and every now and then I try to encourage other folks to do something similar. Judging by the list of Dryden weblogs on this site, I'd say Dryden is doing pretty well in building a community of people writing on a regular basis about things that matter to them.

A couple of months ago I did an interview with Jon Udell, a fellow technologist I know through work. He wrote up some of the interview (though I don't think those are really 'laws'), and the full interview is now available.

I'm also hoping to lead a panel on Creating Local Life on the Global Web at the SXSW Interactive conference next March. Talking about Dryden in the middle of Texas may seem a bit strange, especially at a web development conference attached to film and music shows, but there's a lot to do there.

When the Internet and the Web first appeared, they seemed like great ways to reach large numbers of people who weren't already connected to each other. People who lived in California could talk to people in Germany, Bangaladesh, South Africa, and New Hampshire, about common interests they couldn't have easily shared before. In the past few years, though, it seems that we're learning about how these technologies can help us communicate on a much smaller scale, helping us look beyond the walls and property lines of our homes to connect with our neighbors.

There's a lot to discuss here, and it's not just about places like Dryden. Some 'local' communities are local once a year, at a conference or event, while many have members coming and going. Online communications let people who have left the community stay in touch with what's happening, and even build new connections while they're away.

I don't know that a lot of Dryden residents will be at SXSW, though I'm hoping David Makar will be on this panel as well. There may be a few web-folks among the readers here, and maybe they can visit the panel-picker and vote for (or against) the proposal I've put in. (The Panel Picker is open until September 21st.)

Posted by simon at 6:10 PM Comment

September 6, 2007

Corrections day

A few weeks ago I published a piece on local flour that included this picture:

Bread made from fresh whole wheat flour.
Bread made from fresh whole wheat flour.

The Dryden Courier asked for the recipe, which we sent:

Pumpkin Seed Bread - Angelika St.Laurent

I always add the ingredients in the following order:

1 1/4 cups Water
2 TBSP Honey
1 1/2 TSP Salt
21/4 cups Whole Wheat Bread Flour
1/2 cup Oat Flour
1/3 cup Buttermilk powder
1 cup Pumpkin Seeds (raw)
1 1/4 TSP bread yeast

Choose bread machine cycle for dark wheat bread.

Notes: I grew up in a family where food was never ever thrown away. If in summer the milk gets slightly sour and is no longer pleasant to drink, I don't discard it, but make a bread substituting the water and buttermilk powder with 11/4 cup of sour milk. (Don't use rotten milk, though!)

Many people like their breads a bit fluffier than I do. Replace 1/4 cup of the whole wheat bread flour with white bread flour and the loaf will be lighter textured.

It's on page 6 of the "Autumn Between the Lakes" insert that came with last week's Courier and I think the other Finger Lakes Newspapers.

They wanted to broaden this for readers who don't have bread machines, and added:

Bake in oven at 450 degrees for one hour or until a straw can be withdrawn without bread sticking to it.

The Courier warned us that they had added the wrong information, but I didn't see the recipe in the main part of the paper, and forgot about it. Angelika found it, and worries that not only is the temperature wrong - 375 degrees is more likely - but that it doesn't mention letting the bread rise at all. Hopefully there aren't a lot of cranky people with burned and very dense loaves of bread out there....

It's not just the Courier. Today's Journal includes a correction that:

Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Tuesdays at the Tompkins County SPCA Dorothy & Roy Park Pet Adoption Center. A brief item on page 1B Wednesday regarding new hours gave an incorrect hour for closing time on Tuesdays.

The complete schedule is noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays; noon to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and closed Wednesdays.

The online version of the paper has it right now but the print version shows the wrong times on page 1C, just across from the correction.

I probably need to make some corrections here too, though...

Posted by simon at 12:25 PM Comment

Dealing with the Disconnect

Every now and then I get to enjoy the results of a conversation I started, and it's been a good week for hearing other people state really clearly what's on my mind.

I posted a piece about Upstate's past and future at Living in Dryden and at The Albany Project, and got great comments both places. The last one (so far) at TAP does a very clear job of explaining the problem with Upstate's place in New York State government.

NYCO writes:

To me, the problem is the fundamental disconnect between upstate and downstate and that all the wealth downstate is holding us up, perhaps, but is not *solving* anything for upstate. If this is an Empire State and NYC is the Eternal City, this Rome is just not administering its provinces very well. Of course, the problem is not downstate but Albany; how does upstate NY disconnect itself from Albany?

My feeling is that without NYC you would see upstate continue to struggle, obviously, but there would be a fighting chance for it to discover some internal political vitality. That's what's missing. Without NYC, upstate Democrats would have to form a real party with real responses to real issues, not just sucking at Albany's teat and making nice with Sheldon Silver and other downstate power brokers. That's the big prize inherent in a a theoretical splitting: energized internal upstate politics.

Perhaps there are only two choices available: an upstate that is poor and politically dead, or an upstate that is poor and politically conscious and alive. If one had a gun to one's head, which alternative would one choose?

It's a hard question. Upstate is politically alive today in some ways, but the politics around the Upstate-Downstate relationship seem trapped in the amber of liberal vs. conservative views of state government. Those are important - but they don't say much about the relationship.

I'd love to find a way for Upstate to develop a political identity that can examine the relationship between the parts of the state, not just the usual Democrat/Republican conflicts funneled through Albany's balances of power and money. I haven't found that way yet, though...

Posted by simon at 12:43 PM Comment

Buying American

It's a little ways distant from my eating local project, but buying American (New York Times, registration required) seems to be returning to public consciousness. The article is from the fashion section, so it's a bit wackier than usual:

"Made in the U.S.A." used to be a label flaunted primarily by consumers in the Rust Belt and rural regions. Increasingly, it is a status symbol for cosmopolitan bobos, and it is being exploited by the marketers who cater to them.

For many the label represents a heightened concern for workplace and environmental issues, consumer safety and premium quality. "It involves people wanting to have guilt-free affluence," Alex Steffen, who is the executive editor of, a Web site devoted to sustainability issues, said in an e-mail message. "So you have not only the local food craze but things like American apparel, or Canadian diamonds instead of African 'blood diamonds,' or local-crafted toys...."

American Apparel, which carries the label "Made in Downtown LA" in every T-shirt and minidress, famously brought sex appeal to clothing basics that are promoted as "sweatshop free." In the process it won the allegiance of young taste-makers.

They note Still Made in the USA, a handy reference for things made in this country.

When I spent a lot of time on woodworking discussion sites, it seemed like Made in the USA was not so good for machines, but getting ever better for hand tools. (Taiwan and then China sold American machine designs at lower prices and mixed but improving quality, while the European machines had better design, higher quality, and frightening price tags.) I've wondered for a while how much manufacturing would leave America entirely, leaving all of it much like Upstate New York, but articles like this suggest that there may be a natural limit, even just because of consumer preference.

Posted by simon at 6:20 PM Comment

Ellis Hollow apartment built with Hammond Hill wood

I couldn't remember what Ithaca Artisan, one of the business links on this site did, so I visited. Then I took a look at their piece on building a new apartment on Ellis Hollow Road, and was amazed to find the story of how they were using lumber:

from trees we salvaged from spruce logs knocked over by ice storms on Hammond Hill. Two summers ago, Charlie and our son Shawn very carefully cut these trees off from their rootstocks (which each then tipped back down with a resounding "kawomp!"), then dragged them out one by one with a small farm tractor. It then took the better part of a year on nights and weekends to saw all the logs into useable lumber with a portable Turner band saw we purchased with this project in mind. All the lumber was stacked up with air spacers in between layers according to their dimensions, and left to air dry.

There are some great things happening in Dryden!

Posted by simon at 7:02 PM Comment

September 7, 2007

W.B. Strong approaching 100

This morning's Journal notes, in Briefly in Tompkins, that the W.B. Strong Fire Company, also known as the Freeville Fire Department, will be 100 years old next April 7th. They're hoping to put together more information on the company:

Those with pictures, memorabilia, or stories to share should contact Richard Blackman at 844-8651, Joan Manning at 844-9334, or the Fire Station at 844-9662. The Fire Company is especially looking for pictures of the Firemen's Auxiliary and parades from the 1950's and 60's.

On the opinion page, Jerome Ziegler of Dryden writes to support Herb Engman in the Town of Ithaca Supervisor's race.

Posted by simon at 8:42 AM Comment

Garage sales tomorrow

The latest issue of the Etna Volcano brings news that the 17th Annual Etna Community Yard Sale will be tomorrow, Saturday, September 8th, from 9:00am to noon at Houtz Hall (the Etna Post Office and Community Center building), 2 Lower Creek Road, Etna.

If you need still more used goods, the Ellis Hollow Fair will have its classic White Elephant Sale from noon to 4:00pm at the Ellis Hollow Community Center on Genung Road.

Posted by simon at 8:57 AM Comment

Freezing corn

It was a tasty year for sweet corn, and we decided to extend the season a bit longer by freezing some corn. Angelika bought 26 ears yesterday, and we got a little under five pounds out of that. I also got to enjoy some tasty corn by going over the stripped cobs again, and then the chickens and composter got to enjoy what was left. We used these instructions, which we found by the classic method of visiting Google and entering "freezing corn".

Angelika and soon-to-be-frozen corn.
Angelika and soon-to-be-frozen corn.

It's pretty simple - blanch the corn, cool it off, and then strip off the kernels. Angelika used a "Kernel Kutter" instead of a knife, using a nail through a board to hold the cob vertical. Then it went into the freezer.

Freeing the kernels from the cob.
Freeing the kernels from the cob.

The corn cost $9.00, so we wound up paying under $2.00 a pound. Of course, there was also an hour of (fun) labor, and there's the energy for boiling water and freezing the corn, if we want to do a full calculation.

I've posted a tiny photo gallery showing a little more of how this worked.

Posted by simon at 12:31 PM Comment

September 8, 2007

A great New York separation?

I guess that talking about the Upstate-Downstate relationship inevitably leads to talk of possible separation, of ways to fragment the state. NYCO points to another discussion on separation, with both Upstate and Downstate voices.

I don't think we're headed for separation - yet - but the prospect is good food for thought, making us consider what really connects (or doesn't connect) the Empire State. And even though it's Western NY-centric, I like one of the proposed names for a new Upstate - the State of Niagara. I just don't expect to see it happen.

Posted by simon at 7:48 AM Comment

Bed and Breakfast tours Sunday

This morning's Ithaca Journal notes that several Bed and Breakfasts will have open houses tomorrow from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. The Candlelight Inn in the Village of Dryden and Bountiful Blessings in Freeville will both be open, as will Thomas Farm on Ellis Hollow Road near the Dryden-Caroline line.

There's also an extended correction about tax rates, assessments, and tax levies.

Posted by simon at 8:38 AM Comment

September 10, 2007

Dryden views on Ithaca Supervisor

This morning's Ithaca Journal has two competing views of the Town of Ithaca Supervisor's race on its opinion page. County Legislator Martha Robertson writes to support challenger Herb Engman, while former Dryden Town Supervisor Mark Varvayanis supports incumbent Cathy Valentino.

That primary will be September 18th, and hopefully after that we'll see a lot more on Dryden's contested races. We have Town Supervisor, Town Board, and Town Justice races that I hope will get some ink from the Journal!

Posted by simon at 8:20 AM Comment

First egg

Ever since we got the chickens, we've been wondering when exactly eggs would show up. We got our answer yesterday, sometime during the pounding rain.

First egg, under the shelter.
First egg, under the shelter.

First egg, inside and cleaned up.
First egg, inside and cleaned up

It's a small egg, but seems very solid. We'll be switching them to layer feed, and I need to get to work on some nest boxes and the coop.

Posted by simon at 8:54 AM Comment

Etna fall events

The Etna Volcano, the Etna Community Association newsletter, arrived last week. They're planning a busy fall, though the garage sale happened this past Saturday.

Etna garage sale
At the Etna garage sale.

Still to come are two Soup and Salad Suppers, on Wednesday, October 17th and Wednesday, November 14th. Both will run from 5:30pm to 7:00pm. They'll also be trying something new, holding the first Etna Craft Fair on Saturday, December 1st from 9:00am to 2:00pm.

All of these events are at Houtz Hall, 2 Lower Creek Road, in the same building as the Post Office next to the Etna Community Church.

Other news includes a successful Playground Day back in May, and a request for a playground coordinator "to make regular inspections of the park facilities, organize projects, and make reports to the board." The Etna Fire Company calls for volunteer firefighters - stop by the fire station at 26 Wood Road Wednesday nights at 7:00pm to volunteer.

A pedestrian survey found that most respondents walk more than five days a week, with an average of 25 minutes out. "Almost all walkers use Lower Creek Road, and most of us use Etna Road and Upper Creek. 60% of respondents cross the bridge over Fall Creek." The article also notes "newly painted stop lines and a crosswalk at the west end of the bridge."

Posted by simon at 6:28 PM Comment

Speed limits of the past

A friend of mine loaned me New York: A Guide to the Empire State, the old 1940 WPA guide that is now sadly out of print. I'm just getting started reading it, and came across this:

No State speed limit, but speed in excess of 40 m.p.h. for 1/4 m. is considered presumptive evidence of reckless driving. In special cases maximum speed is indicated on road signs. Incorporated villages and cities establish speed limits never less than 20 m.p.h. (xxii)

I wonder when (and how) those limits climbed. Even though I drive to Boston and Montreal occasionally for work, an effective limit of 40 everywhere seems like a pleasant idea, as I watch the traffic fly by on the theoretically 45mph highway in front of my house.

Update: The Onion, a satire site, suggests an appropriate vehicle. I could actually fit one of those in the garage on this house, so I'd be willing to consider it, provided I could use modern wheels and tires. Gas mileage ranged from 13 to 21mpg, so I'd probably rather go with a Model A at 40 mpg. Its top speed of 45mph would be okay for these old speed limits.

Posted by simon at 6:37 PM Comment

September 11, 2007

BMX bike theft; politics

This morning's Journal reports something I've seen very rarely: a theft committed by a resident at the William George Agency, better known as George Junior Republic. A BMX bike was apparently stolen from Stewart Park in Ithaca August 13th by a juvenile who had left the agency the previous night. Ithaca Police are looking for the bike's owner.

The opinion page includes a letter from Kathleen Quinn-Jacobs calling for the impeachment of Vice President Cheney. A letter from former Ithaca Town Board member Ellen Z. Harrison brings up an old episode in Dryden politics:

The last straw for me was when instead of backing the new "good government" Democratic slate, she supported a Republican incumbent for Dryden supervisor who embodied the worst of politics.

I believe that was Valentino's endorsement of Jim Schug over Mark Varvayanis, who wrote to support her yesterday. Valentino also endorsed Mike Hattery for County Legislature over Mike Lane in 2005. While I don't normally have any interest in getting involved in surrounding municipalities' politics, her regular incursions into Dryden politics gave me a clear conscience for sending a donation to Herb Engman.

Posted by simon at 8:17 AM Comment

It's campaign season

The Journal seems obsessed with the Town of Ithaca Supervisor's race, but there's much more going on in Dryden this year. We have contests for Town Supervisor, Town Board (two seats), and Town Justice.

PositionDemocratic CandidateRepublican Candidate
Town SupervisorMary Ann SumnerCheryl Nelson*
Town BoardDavid MakarStanley Marcus*
Joseph SolomonWalter Keeney*
Town JusticeJason LeiferChristopher Clauson†
Town ClerkBambi Hollenbeck*

* - Also running on All the People line
† - Also running on Independence line

David Makar's signs from last year came out of basements and garages to make a return appearance along roads, and now there are more signs for the Democratic candidates.

Campaign signs out
Campaign signs in front of my house.

Both parties shared a voter registration booth at last Saturday's Ellis Hollow Fair, and there will be a number of meet the candidates events to come, including some early ones. The first will be at the Dryden Fire Station on Tuesday, September 25th, and the second will be at the Etna Fire Station on Tuesday, October 2nd. Both will be at 7:00pm, and I'll have more details once we've sorted out format.

For more information on candidates, you should visit the Dryden Democrats and Dryden Republicans sites. I'll have more here in the near future, though unsurprisingly I'm leaning strongly Democratic.

Posted by simon at 8:34 AM Comment

September 12, 2007

Community happenings

Cathy Wakeman's Dryden Town Talk emphasizes community events today. She starts with the work toward the Dryden Community Cafe, which will have a meeting tonight (and future Wednesday nights) at 7:00pm.

She also notes:

  • The Southworth Library book sale, which runs September 20th and 21st from 8:00am to 9:00pm and September 22nd from 9:00am to 1:00pm, all at the Dryden Fire Hall, 26 North Street in the Village of Dryden.

  • The Varna United Methodist Church chicken barbecue on Saturday, September 22nd at 4:00pm. They'll have both halves and meals available.

  • Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts will be selling popcorn throughout the town for their annual Trail's End fundraiser.

  • The Dryden Town Historical Society will be hosting Patti Kiefer's "Gallagher Hill: The Incomplete History of Lot 57", an exploration of the history along one area of Irish Settlement Road, on Tuesday, September 25th at 7:00pm at Dryden Village Hall, 16 South Street, Dryden. I've seen the notebook she's assembled and strongly recommend seeing this one - it should be great!

Emergency responders held an emergency communications workshop at TC3, focused on getting information out to the public rapidly and accurately.

It sounds like Cornell's new master plan will keep the university focused on its main campus, rather than expanding out into Dryden. (I've heard rumors of expansion toward Ellis Hollow as long as I've lived here.)

Posted by simon at 12:25 PM Comment

Disappearing corridor study?

I've heard bits and pieces about changes to the Route 13/366 Corridor Study, but there's no sign of activity on the project's web site. I believe that they've talked with the Dryden Planning Board about a revised draft that does one of the things I'd hoped for, focusing more attention on the existing Varna hamlet rather than scattering development all over - though I have no idea what the details look like. (As a bonus, my house is apparently no longer marked as a driveway for the mountain goat apartments to be developed on the hillside.)

I can't really tell, though, since nothing's actually been published or announced to the public since the last public meeting back in April.

Even if the results prove tolerable, I still have to say that this has been a lousy process, far worse than other planning activities of the past few years. The county should take a long hard look at how seriously it takes public involvement, and realign the rhetoric with the reality.

Posted by simon at 12:43 PM Comment

Ellis Hollow Fair started well, continued through rain

This Saturday's Ellis Hollow Fair got off to a bright and sunny start, filling up both the main parking area and the overflow parking area as people came to enjoy the annual event.

Clowns at the Ellis Hollow Fair.
Clowns at the Ellis Hollow Fair.

The weather was not kind for long, however, and around 2:30pm the sky opened up in a downpour. I stayed under the tent at the joint Democratic-Republican voter registration booth we held, watching the rain and hoping it would pass, but it took a long while to go away. The fair continued, though slightly damp.

Escaping the rain at the Ellis Hollow Fair.
Escaping the rain at the Ellis Hollow Fair.

Angelika took a lot of photos of the sunny part of the fair, and I added some of the rain. They're all available in this gallery of pictures from Saturday.

Posted by simon at 12:57 PM Comment

September 13, 2007

Deadman's Curve discussion tonight

Well, that's what people were calling the curve on Lower Creek Road when I spoke with them at the Etna Garage Sale. Tonight's Town Board agenda starts with a Public Information Meeting about that curve, and then looks at mileage rates for Dryden Ambulance. Much of the rest of the agenda seems likely to surface in the generically titled staff and committee reports - I guess we'll see!

It should be the last board meeting in the soon to be old Town Hall, 65 East Main Street (Route 392), Dryden, at 7:00pm tonight.

Posted by simon at 12:55 PM Comment

September 15, 2007

Seward, Citizenship Day

Most of the Dryden news in today's Journal is in Briefly in Tompkins. Dryden Middle School will be celebrating Citizenship Day this Monday morning:

The entire middle school will gathers to say the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the national anthem and see a flag raising ceremony by Boy Scout troops 24 and 46. The school will assemble at 7:48 a.m. and the ceremony will last 10-15 minutes. In the event of rain, the event will move to the high school gym.

There's also mention of State Senator Jim Seward's Town Hall meeting, to be held at 7:00pm on Tuesday at the Dryden Fire Station.

On the opinion page, Freeville resident Joan Brink calls for more enforcement of traffic laws. After hearing about traffic craziness on Lower Creek Road at Thursday night's Town Board meeting, I have to agree, and marvel at the strange things people do because they're in a hurry.

On the front of the Classified section (D), there's an odd bit called "Go Natural" talking about how to buy organic food. The part that seems really weird - especially for Tompkins County in mid-September, is:

2. Choose organic foods from trusted brand names.

Organic producers have become mainstream so it's easy to find them at most major food retailers. Grocery stores carry everything from their own organic labels to generic organic brands to various organic-labeled products from new food companies looking to emerge on to the organic scene.

Or, since it's September, you could just look around here and find more organic produce than you know what to do with at a farmers' market or one of the many organic farms in the hills here.

I'm guessing this is a generic Gannett piece meant to be published in places far from farms, but it does make me wonder if anyone at the Journal itself looks at these things.

Posted by simon at 9:43 AM Comment

September 17, 2007

Why I think energy prices will climb

I've had a few people question one of my underlying assumptions, one that makes a huge difference to what I see happening in Dryden in the future. In general, I see energy prices going up, especially gas prices.

Ethanol won't save us from this problem, because the crops we're using for it (corn) require energy-intensive inputs, from tractors to fertilizer and pesticides. Brazil has a better approach with sugar, though I worry how well that can work in the long run because of soil issues. Cellulosic ethanol sounds better still, but despite the enthusiasm of venture capitalists it isn't nearly here yet - and it's not an easy thing to do.

There used to be lots and lots of natural gas, but utilities burning it to generate electricity means less for the rest of us, and natural gas fields have a nasty habit of stopping suddenly. Hydrogen won't save us either, because it only changes the form of the energy, and doesn't ever earn us free energy. We've already burned the best and most easily reached coal, so that's not going to get any easier. Nuclear power remains the one wildcard out there, though it lacks a critical ingredient right now: trust.

So what's wrong with oil? Aren't oil price hikes just a conspiracy of OPEC and oil companies?

No, not really. Those could cause short-term shocks, but not long term increases. There are two basic problems: increasing demand, and flat - eventually declining - supply. Both of those lead to higher prices in the long term.

This interview with the retired chairman of Shell does a better job of summarizing than I can:

world energy demand is continuing to rise. It's rising because of increases in population, and that population is not only becoming more numerous but more wealthy as well. As it becomes more wealthy per capita energy use increases too. So the world energy demand is just rising relentlessly. In parallel, we have clearly got tightening supplies of fossil fuels. We know that in an ultimate sense reserves are finite; they're not being made any more, if I can put it that way. And I think we know enough about the world to say the majority - perhaps not all - but the majority of the big oil and gas fields have been discovered. Modern exploration methods are just so effective that it would actually be hard to miss any of those. So we think that the big supplies have all been found - or should I say the big easy supplies. It's worth pointing out the world is never actually going to run out of oil, what it's going to do is run out of cheap, accessible oil....

what really matters is the gap between gap in production and demand. I don't know whether there is going to be a peak in world oil production, whether it's going to plateau and then slowly come down. It could well plateau within next 20 years and I guess I would be surprised if it hadn't. The thing is that demand is almost certainly going to outstrip availability, for whatever reason, and that is what is going to cause us difficulties. We're never going to run out of oil, it's simply going to become too expensive to use as we traditionally have....

given the nature of our infrastructure, and that we're totally dependent on oil for making the internal combustion engine work, it is going to be at least 30 years, 40 years before we can more to a different sort of economy....

we are just about to enter hot water, quite serious hot water. And the danger is that we sit there blissfully like the frog in the pan of water gently heating on the stove until - as the Irish would say - it wakes up to find itself dead. In other words we may be sleepwalking into a problem which is actually going to be very serious and that it may be too late to do anything about it by the time we are fully aware...

In Dryden, I worry that we're building a lot of things, especially new isolated houses, that aren't going to make much sense for their owners if the price of gasoline climbs and the cost of commuting grows. I don't think we can stop people from making those kinds of investments based on their expectations from the past, but I do think we need to be ready with options for a different kind of future. Allowing cluster subdivisions, for instance, would make it easier to concentrate population so it can be more easily served by public transportation or carpools. Allowing household alternative energy, which the Town Board approved last year, lets people take better advantage of the wind resources around them instead of coal burning at AES Cayuga. We also need to rebuild the old neighborhood store infrastructure, though I'm not sure that's something we can do before energy prices climb.

It's going to be an interesting few decades.

Posted by simon at 8:29 AM Comment

Southworth Book Sale Thursday

This week's Dryden Courier leads with an article on the Southworth Library book sale, to be held Thursday through Saturday at the Dryden Fire Hall. It will start at 9:00am all three days, but end at 5:00pm 8:00pm on Thursday and Friday and 1:00pm on Saturday. Last year's sale bought the library a photocopier and some expensive large-print books.

The Dryden schools are looking for an interim superintendent, with applications due today. They also passed an audit, and are having a hard time getting a serious examination of traffic on Route 38 by the Middle School/High School.

There's a wonderful "This Month in History", which opens with a picture of Dryden Senior Citizens meeting around 1958, and talks of trains for the Dryden Fair, construction of the Borden Milk Plant, and opposition to the Freeville sewer project twenty-five years ago.

The editorial talks about the importance of voting in primaries, but remember - there is no primary tomorrow for either Democrats or Republicans in Dryden. Mary Kirkwyland thanks Ithaca Beautification Coordinator Chrys Gardner for applying for a grant that funded the Dryden Beautification Brigade.

The Dryden Village Police report looks like a lot of traffice stops, many of them in Freeville, which the Dryden police also patrol under contract.

In sports, there's a report on the Dryden Girls Soccer team's 1-0 loss to Trumansburg, with a photo.

Matt Cooper's Inside Dryden column starts with "Bed and Breakfast Month", noting discounts at the Candlelight Inn and Bountiful Blessings. He also notes the Dryden High Student Council's 5K run, which will be held Sunday, September 30th. He mentions the Dryden VFW's steak and fish dinner on the 21st and an Auxiliary dance the 22nd. Sylvia Short still has "The Dryden Barbershop Cookbook". He also reflects on how New York State car inspections are more thorough than those in Texas, and wonders if that's a good thing.

There's an article on the Freeville Harvest Festival, talking with the planners.

Posted by simon at 5:02 PM Comment

September 18, 2007

Thanks for Eight Square; county budget

The Journal has been pretty quiet on Dryden so far this week, with a thank you for supporting the Eight Square Schoolhouse Festival from The History Center yesterday.

There was also an article on the county budget that seemed to leave commenters thinking that a 20% tax increase was coming though the article states that it's a 2% tax levy increase. I don't think the interaction between assessments moving back to 100% from 85% valuation and the overall tax rate is as simple as a 15% increase - but I'll confess that I don't entirely understand how it works. I suspect, however, that the tax levy math is correct.

This morning's paper has an article on possible additions to the county budget.

Posted by simon at 7:52 AM Comment

September 19, 2007

School tax jump for Freeville couple

This morning's Ithaca Journal opinion page has a letter from Hans and Doris Fuchs of Freeville wondering how their school taxes skyrocketed - "more than 150 percent higher than last year's bill." They've heard that "Star and Enhanced Star" were reduced this year, though I don't believe I've heard any such thing in the triumphant mailings from our legislators. Anyone know?

The Journal's editorial writes about hopes for Community Building Works, Inc.. It sounds to me like they'll just be in Ithaca, but I hope they'd also look around out here for possibilities.

There's also an article on the "I Live New York" summit held yesterday in Cortland to address Upstate's economy. I wrote a bit about this at The Albany Project, and there's some more there too.

One general thing I worry about in these efforts is their heavy emphasis on young professionals - though at least this one also included farmers. I know that keeping manufacturing jobs here is difficult, but I have to wonder whether talking constantly about keeping young professionals is a smart path to keep a broader economy growing.

Posted by simon at 12:37 PM Comment

September 21, 2007

Corridor Study updated

I complained a while ago about the disappearing Route 13/366 Corridor Study. I see today that a Route 13/366 Corridor Study that looks very different from what we saw at the public meeting has finally gone up on the Tompkins County Planning Department site. I'll be reviewing it this weekend before writing it up in more detailed, but I'm already a little concerned by the first few paragraphs:

Tompkins County has crafted an inspiring vision for the community. The recently adopted Comprehensive Plan outlines "Principles, Policies, and Actions" to lead the community to an exciting future. The Plan focuses on a thriving economy for both the urban and rural areas, preservation of the agricultural and forest resources, and growth centered on existing population centers and "new villages" or nodal centers created through local community plans. The principles included in the Plan are consistent with the 2002 Tompkins County Vital Communities Initiative developed to assist local municipalities in achieving their local vision.

The Town & Village of Dryden and Hamlet of Varna have also independently completed Comprehensive Plans that are consistent with the Tompkins County Plan and Vital Communities Initiative. The plans provided specific focus on the Route 13 and Route 366 corridors with concerns related to congestion, speeding, as well the opportunity for new development near existing nodal development.

The NYS Route 13/366 Corridor Management Plan (CMP) offers a perfect "next step" in the evolution of creating the vision. Keys to the success of the CMP are to clearly define nodal development points that accommodate the increase in development while safely and efficiently moving commuters into and out of Cornell, the City of Ithaca, Village of Dryden, Hamlet of Varna, and to Cortland. (Italics mine.)

Did you get that? The County Comprehensive Plan is an "inspiring vision for the community... focuses on a thriving economy", and this new 13/366 plan is "a perfect "next step" in the evolution of creating the vision." The work that the Town and Village of Dryden, as well as the Hamlet of Varna, put in, are simply "Plans that are consistent with the Tompkins County Plan."

Who writes this stuff? And who are they trying to make happy?

Posted by simon at 12:03 PM Comment

Fun at the Freeville Harvest Festival

Freeville held its annual harvest festival last weekend, and as always it was delicious fun. They had games for kids, a white elephant sale, a haircuts tent, music, and piles and piles of food. I was especially fond of the Apple Cook-off - I had to try all 12 - and the Chili Cook-Off.

Apple Cook-off at the Freeville Harvest Festival
Apple Cook-Off at the Freeville Harvest Festival.

Haircuts at the Freeville Harvest Festival
Haircuts at the Freeville Harvest Festival.

It was little cool outside, but it was usually sunny, which made my photos kind of extra-contrasty. I've posted a gallery anyway, if you want to see more of the fun.

Posted by simon at 2:11 PM Comment

Candidates forum Tuesday night, September 25th

The Dryden Democrats and Dryden Republicans will be jointly hosting a series of candidates forums, starting next Tuesday, September 25th at 7:00pm at Dryden Fire Station, 26 North Street, Dryden.

This first event will be moderated by the League of Women Voters, and will include opening statements from candidates, questions from the audience, and some informal time to meet candidates. (The formal part will include the Town Supervisor and Town Board candidates.)

We'll be serving refreshments, and I'll be mulling some cider.

It would be wonderful to see as many people there are possible, especially people with questions for either side. You can find out about the candidates at and

We hope to see a lot of you there! We're also planning events in Etna on October 2nd, and Varna October 23rd, but it's not yet clear whether the League of Women Voters will be involved in those.

(The Ithaca Journal also ran a notice of this as late-breaking news today.)

Posted by simon at 4:01 PM Comment

September 22, 2007

Dryden opinions; dissolve Tioga County?

The Ithaca Journal has been remarkably quiet about Dryden lately. Yesterday, there was a letter in the paper from Peter Davies (listed as Ithaca) suggesting a change in the way groups fundraise. Today Peter Lipinski of Dryden co-signs a letter dismissing the City of Ithaca's concerns about joining Bolton Point as a customer rather than as a partner. Even as a Dryden resident, I find the letter pretty bizarre, given that the city is used to having control over how its water supply is run, and cities are generally supposed to have control over their infrastructure - that's a lot of why we have governments, not just armies of private contractors. It's nice that Dryden's a partner in Bolton Point, given our tiny share of its customer base, and it's hard to wonder whether anything but history makes us partners.

There's also a letter from the director of the Tompkins County SPCA on the success of their "no-kill" policy.

Looking a bit further afield, dissolving Tioga County came up as a surprise item in a list of ideas for improving government efficiency. I've written about this at The Albany Project, and you can see another Dryden opinion here.

Posted by simon at 7:27 PM Comment

September 24, 2007

The cost of business in New York, circa 1940

When the 1940 WPA Guide to New York State wrote of "smokeless factory chimneys," they weren't talking about environmentalism, but rather another long-standing problem here:

In every city of the State, and there are 60 of them, the presence or absence of geographical advantage and flexible, intelligent enterprise accounts for prosperity or the lack of it. Few, if any, New York State manufacturers have a competitive margin with respect to low labor costs. This circumstance accounts for neat and pleasant housing, generally speaking, but here and there it explains some smokeless factory chimneys as well. (4)

I don't think New York's been a low-cost state since, oh, probably 1817, as work on the Erie Canal started driving up demand for laborers. It's interesting to see the impact of this described so bluntly in 1940, though, well before the more recent 1950s date I suggested earlier for New York's loss of advantage.

Posted by simon at 8:48 AM Comment

Remembering Gallagher Hill

If tomorrow night's candidates forum isn't for you, the Dryden Town Historical Society is offering another option down the road. At 7:00pm at Dryden Village Hall, Patti Kiefer will be exploring "Gallagher Hill: An Incomplete History of Lot 57:"

In 1982, Patti and John Kiefer purchased the house at 260 Irish Settlement Road on Lot 57 in the Town of Dryden. In early 2006 - to mark their 25th year in the house - Patti decided to put together a short history of the property as a gift to John. She explored the records in the Town Clerk's office, searched the archives of the Dryden Town Historical Society, and spoke with the older residents of the area known as Gallagher Hill. What she came up with is a fascinating wealth of information not only on her own home but also on the men and women who brought the area to life in the mid-19th century and the families who still reside on the Hill.

Come and learn about the Webb Corbin and Frank Gallagher families and the history of the farm. Hear from long-time residents who recall bobsledding all the way down the hill to Route 13 and winter storms that would leave them stranded for weeks on end. Hear about berry picking, picnicking, walking up the hill to the signal tower from Willow Glen School, and enjoying the scenic views in the days before the area became overgrown with trees. Join us and share your own memories and add to the history of Lot 57.

The binder Patti Kiefer assembled is incredible, and it's clear this will be a great night. I really wish I could be at this one.

Posted by simon at 5:34 PM Comment

Building a chicken coop

I'd been planning since July to take a week off and build a coop for our chickens, but that week never arrived, and it's getting cold now. I finally broke down and bought a Chick-N-Barn kit. The kit was easy to assemble, requiring only about a half hour's work with a screwdriver. The more difficult part, of course, was preparing the site, and adding a few missing parts, especially a floor, to the kit.

Coop parts on the porch.
Chicken coop parts on the porch.

Installing the floor - hardware cloth - was probably the hardest part of this project, making me very glad that I had a pneumatic stapler readily available. If I hadn't had that, I probably would have built some kind of separate floor frames, which (probably) would have had the advantage of being removable for cleaning. I filled the area under the coop with mulch and soil, in the hopes that whatever the chickens push through over the winter will help enrich that with compost. I'll shovel it out in spring.

I also added some latches to the coop doors, hoping to keep raccoons, foxes, and other predators away. The coop seems very sturdy, and should keep the chickens in and other creatures out, but I wanted a bit of extra insurance.

Coop, assembled.
The assembled coop in place.

We've been referring to this coop as the chickens' "winter palace", replacing the simple fenced-in area with plastic table that they'd enjoyed since June. That yard is now empty, waiting for next year's chicks. Supposedly the coop will hold ten chickens, though it seems a bit tight to me even for the five we have now. I guess I've just gotten used to seeing them in a bigger area.

Chickens in their new home.
Chickens exploring their new coop.

If you're interested in more construction detail, I've posted a photo gallery of the building process.

Next year's major home chicken project will be a lot of fencing, to give the chickens access to parts of the garden - like the compost heap - where they're welcome - while keeping predators away.

Posted by simon at 5:50 PM Comment

September 25, 2007

Candidates forum tonight at seven

This morning's Ithaca Journal print edition notes tonight's candidates forum in its Briefly in Tompkins section. The forum will be at the Dryden Fire Station at 7:00pm, and will be moderated by the League of Women Voters.

On the opinion page, Jessica Cushman of Dryden writes to support efforts to expand healthcare for children.

Posted by simon at 12:11 PM Comment

September 26, 2007

Candidates forum draws crowd

There was quite a crowd at last night's meet the candidates forum at the Dryden Fire Station last night, and I don't think they just came for the cider and cookies. Given that the Historical Society had an event just down the road, I was very impressed with the turnout, especially in September.

Crowd at meet the candidates forum
Crowd at meet the candidates forum.

The Republicans did a joint opening statement with a PowerPoint presentation, with candidate for Supervisor Cheryl Nelson doing most of the talking. Democratic candidates each gave a three minute opening statement, and then League of Women Voters President Kay Sharp opened the floor to questions.

The Journal article seems to do what Journal articles often do, covering controversy but losing a lot of the substance. While yes, everyone agreed that "economic development is good", the Journal didn't note either party's plans to do something about it, and missed what may have been the most interesting conversation on the subject in years. Peter Schug of Cayuga Press talked about how there really wasn't anyone at the town to help him find a way to stay in Dryden, and current board members Mary Ann Sumner and David Makar talked about how the departure came to the board, highlighting the need for better communication.

Mary Ann Sumner talks about planning.
Mary Ann Sumner talks about planning Dryden's future.

The Town Justice candidates, Jason Leifer and Chris Clauson, were more involved in the event than I'd expected, getting questions from the floor which tested the limits of what they're allowed to talk about under New York State's ethics rules. (I don't think any rules were broken; it just was strange to see how certain conversations really aren't allowed.)

Cheryl Nelson talks about her work with the county.
Cheryl Nelson talks about her work with the county.

I'm hoping that future events will let candidates get deeper into town issues, talking about their vision for what we can do in Dryden for the next few years. The next event will be next Tuesday, October 2nd, at 7:00pm at the Etna Fire Station.

(I'll report on the rest of the Journal in a separate story tonight.)

Posted by simon at 12:49 PM Comment

September 27, 2007

Grange to celebrate 100 years

Yesterday was way too busy, and I only managed to cover the candidates forum, not getting to Cathy Wakeman's Dryden Town Talk. Unfortunately, the first event she mentions, the Bill Tiberio Group's visit to Dryden to work with students and play a jazz concert, already happened last night.

The next event, though, is this weekend:

The Dryden Grange will celebrate its centennial year with an open house from 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 at the Neptune Hose Company hall on North Street.

Granges have had a hard time around here for the past few decades, and their continuing work here is impressive. I'm hoping that we'll see a resurgence of agriculture here in Dryden, much like that going on further west, and that the Grange will help for another century. (Unfortunately I'll be at a wedding Saturday, and can't go.)

This weekend will also see the Dryden High School Student Council's Dash for Cash, a 5K run starting at Dryden Elementary. If you'd like to plan further ahead, the Sertoma Soccer Spaghetti Dinner will be October 12th in the Dryden High School cafeteria from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.

She also reports that the Southworth Library book sale raised more than $3000, which will help them get a new copier and more resources.

There was also an article on efforts to create a community radio station. I'd love to hear a regular show on Dryden - there's more than enough news.

Today's Monitor includes some Dryden DWIs.

Posted by simon at 12:22 PM Comment

September 28, 2007

Supervisor race; garbage trucks

The only thing I see in this morning's Ithaca Journal specific to Dryden is a letter from Iretta Ellis of Dryden supporting Cheryl Nelson for Supervisor.

Another article deals with an issue that ties into complaints I've heard from Bethel Grove residents about traffic, though this focuses on large garbage trucks passing through and what can be done about it. The story's attracted a lot of comments!

Posted by simon at 5:52 PM Comment

September 29, 2007

Lane presses Winner on redistricting

I missed Mike Lane's comments in yesterday's article about a Town Hall held by neighboring State Senator George Winner. Lane asked hard questions about redistricting in New York State, and Winner basically ducked with the lame excuse that "the district was drawn to maintain the voting power of the rural counties."

Maybe it's easier for Winner to believe that than Dryden's representative, Jim Seward, whose district was recently compared to Abraham Lincoln riding a vacuum cleaner, but it's funny how Winner's sort of square district carries Ithaca as its eastern pimple.

Winner's dead wrong in his opposition to freeing redistricting from the Legislature, happy to stay trapped in a strange world where power in Albany flows down from the leadership rather than up from the voters. (He seems happy as Joe Bruno's pit bull, though.)

Posted by simon at 7:57 AM Comment

Grape pie

I haven't seen a lot of grape pie around Dryden, though maybe someone's making it. We were coming back from a wedding in Palmyra, north and west of here, and I took a detour on to Route 414, remembering that grape pies might be available there. The one I remembered was crazily sweet, and I wasn't sure Angelika would like this, but it was a regional specialty I just had to try again.

We stopped at Martha Manor Farm on 414 in Lodi, and got this delicious pie:

Delicious grape pie.
Delicious grape pie, partly enjoyed.

Wow. It was definitely Concord Grape, but it's not overbearingly sweet, and the crust balances the filling perfectly.

I either need to learn how to make these, or find an excuse to spend a lot more time in Lodi in September and October.

Posted by simon at 7:10 PM Comment

WHCU's Geoff Dunn to moderate Tuesday forum

I'm pleased to report that WHCU news director Geoff Dunn has agreed to moderate the Dryden Candidates Forum to be held this Tuesday, October 2nd at 7:00pm at the Etna Fire Station, 25 Wood Road.

Once again, we'll have refreshments and conversation as well as candidates - please come and talk about what's happening in your town!

Posted by simon at 7:19 PM Comment