Sep 18, 2016

Farm Sanctuary in New York State

Farm Sanctuary is the only Farm Sanctuary on the East Coast
whereby injured farm animals are taken care of.  Several years ago I took my grandkids to Watkins Glen and Farm Sanctuary was the most affordable accommodation for the five of us.  It turned out to be perfect. It was serene and included breakfast plus a tour.  We were the only people there. 

On a recently visited and I was surprised how many people were there to take the tour which is offered several times a day most days from May through October.  The cabin we stayed and two similar ones are still available plus they added three “Tiny Houses” with more amenities.  Great family value. 

The mission of Farm Sanctuary is to protect farm animals from
what they consider to be cruelty and to promote vegan living.  Vegan diets are based on grains, vegetables and fruits. They eat nothing that is associated with animals including no milk and no eggs. According to Farm Sanctuary an ideal world would be one where there were no factory farms or stockyards. 
In the Visitor Center there are displays of enclosures used in the farming of animals along with a lot of free printed material to peruse.  There is a short video explaining their point of view some of which is quite graphic . They show animals crowded and confined and how some animals are mutilated to better control them and manipulate their growth. For instance chicken are de-beaked so they don’t peck  at one another. Some are so packed in they cannot move so they get fatter. It is not a pretty story but I am still not a vegan.

The hour tour is very good and the guides (some are voluntary
interns from foreign countries) are passionate. Self-guided tours are also possible.  The tour starts in a cow pasture where we petted the contented cows and Patrick, our guide, knew all the animals by name, their history and how they came to be in Farm Sanctuary.  There are some interesting stories
including those of veterinarians who, instead of euthanizing an animal they think can be saved, asks the Sanctuary to take them. The tour group was an interesting mix of people including a young boy who was fascinated with the cows but keep saying, “But, I love milk” and a man who whispered to his companion, “I can’t go in the pig barn. I used to raise pigs.” Actually the pig barn was nothing to worry about; all the pigs were sleeping on the heated floor.  It’s a pig’s life – they sleep 18 hours a day.  The kids really liked petting the pigs.  

Many of the animals were out in a large pasture, they have 175 acres. Patrick said deer sometimes come to the pasture to give birth because they know it is a safe place and the young deer stay until it can jump the fence. I liked the goats the best.  They are so curious.  As our group approached they all climbed up the raised shelter to greet us and then followed us as we walked up to another pasture. 

Even though they promote a vegan life style they do it by showing the animals and telling about them not by pitching veganism. Some of their beliefs such at preventing animal cruelty, I think, are taking hold – in part – because I see more advertisements for free-range chickens and cattle.

Sep 12, 2016

Visiting Montour Falls

Montour Falls has an enviable location.  Located at the end of Main Street is a magnificent 156-foot waterfall – Shequaga Falls, the Seneca word for “tumbling waters.” Well, it must be magnificent when there is more water going over it.  I love waterfalls but sadly I visited the area during one of the worst droughts in years and while the falls is rarely completely dry there
was only a trickle when John and I visited.  Regardless, it wasn’t hard to imagine water cascading over the rocky cliff. Adding to the beauty of the area is a picturesque stone bridge at the top. The location right in the village is amazing.  Evidently Louis XVIII, the “citizen king” of France thought so too because, according to the sign, while he was in exile
during the French Revolution the sketch he made of the falls is now in the Louvre. The streets below the falls form a “T” which is referred to as Glorious T because of the beautiful homes that line the streets. They are a wonderful mix of architectural treasures from craftsman to Greek Revival to Victorian. 

I got my “waterfall” fix by making a short drive to Havana Glen Park.  There is a great walking tour brochure we picked up at the entrance gate.  It started at the Turtle mound which is the basis of the Iroquois Creation Story and continues to where there was a Seneca village. Queen Catherine Montour, the Seneca Chief and matriarch from 1710 to1804, was an important liaison with the colonials. The serene park has a short, easy hike to Eagle Falls. At the bottom of the 40-foot falls is a pool, which during a wetter season, might be a great place for a dip.  There were several couples walking their dogs and the dogs sure thought the pool was fun. There are 44 water falls in Schuyler County.  I would love to visit all of them. 

No matter how many museums John and I visit, and we have
visited a lot of them over the years, there is always something interesting and new to learn.  The Brick Tavern Museum is one of the area’s gems.  As the name suggests the building, built in 1828, was once a tavern but through the years it also served as a boys’ boarding house and the home of Dr. Charles Clawson. Clawson ran the nearby Bethesda Sanitarium, one of many sanitariums in NYS where people felt the fresh air, local waters and rest were beneficial to their well being.  

As was customary at the time there was a separate entry door for men and one for women. Guns were not allowed so on the side of the door is a closet where the guns were stored.  Men would go into the tavern while the women spent time in the parlor. Music was an important source of entertainment. On
display is the first musical saw, in a carrying case, I have ever seen. Upstairs there are changing exhibits one of which shows many medical artifacts of Dr. Clawson.  There is a wonderful collection of early toys. One room has a selection of garments worn through the years denoting the changing fashions.  The fabric room has a working loom and the Native American room also has interesting displays. It is thought that the first indigenous people settled in the area around 1000 BC.  A great little town to visit.  

Sep 5, 2016

Croghan, NY, has Three Museums

The little village of Croghan, population 700, has three, yes, three museums.  Truly amazing.  The Maple Museum, located in what was a former school, is the place to learn about a product that is unique to North America. It is open year round but not necessarily every day of the week.  It pays to check the web site of any museum or historical site before visiting.

While Vermont bests NYS in production of Maple Syrup, NYS has the largest resource of tappable maple trees within the United States with more than 2000 maple sugar makers. The museum is the place to learn about maple syrup production then and now. Not all maple trees are suitable. The sugar maple is preferred as its sap has a high content of sugar and while other trees can be tapped their sugar content is about half that of the sugar maple. For successful sugaring there must be cold freezing nights and warm days in the spring for the sap to flow. That describes Northern NY State.

The Maple Museum preserves the history and evolution of the maple syrup industry which started with the Native Americans.  When I was a youngster I remember seeing maple trees in the spring with buckets collecting the syrup now plastic tubing is used.  There are three floors of displays
including a replica of a sugar house and the American Maple Hall of Fame. I found the sugar devil interesting. It is jammed into a large maple sugar block and twisted to break it into small granules. Since Maple Syrup production and logging are related the third floor has displays of logging tools and a replica of a lumber camp kitchen and office. I would love to return in the spring for Lewis County’s maple weekend so I could visit a working sugar shanty.

John and I also visited the Mennonite Heritage Farm just outside
the village of Croghan. It was the “Moser Homestead” and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was built in 1845 and was home to several generations.  At one time it was used for worship services. Mennonites originated in the 1500s in Alsace-Lorraine. Mennonites are Christians who follow a simple lifestyle but do not forgo
modern conveniences like the Amish. The name comes from one of 
the early leaders, Menno Simons. Brothers Joseph and John Moser emigrated in the 1830s as indentured servants and after earning their freedom they brought over other members of their family.  The flower garden near the farm house honors the various families by inscribing their names on
rocks around the garden. The Heritage Farm maintains artifacts of the local Mennonite community and is a place to learn about their heritage.  Besides interesting early household items a state-of-the-art archive room is something historians dream of. The best time to visit is during their annual Zwanzigstein Festival. The name means “Twenty Stones” and refers to the twenty families that settled in the area. During the festival visitors can learn about rural life of years past through stories, exhibits, tours, demonstrations, and fund-raising venues such as foods and crafts.

The third museum, the Railroad Museum, wasn’t open. The station is beautifully restored and there is an “iron horse.” Nearby we noticed “Good Ol’ Wishy’s,” an old fashion soda fountain where we enjoyed a root beer float.   Who would have thought Croghan would have so much to offer!

Aug 28, 2016

Visiting Lyons Falls, New York

John and I went on another summer outing to places seldom
visited. This time to Lyons Falls in Lewis County.  It turned out to be more interesting than I could have imagined.  At one time it was a vibrant community centered around the Black River Canal and the Lyons Falls Paper and Pulp Mill. Lyons Falls was the where the Black River Canal terminated. Travel on the canal ended in 1900. The mill was operational from 1895 to 2001; the buildings are being torn down.. 

Lyons Falls had one of the few three-way or Y-shaped bridges in the world.  To bad it wasn’t saved and repurposed as a pedestrian walkway; it could have become a tourist attraction. It was torn down in 1965 but there is a memorial in memory of the bridge. It is near an area where the water can be accessed and there are good views of the waterfalls that powered the paper mill. However, there are other things in the small town of interest.  

In back of the Lyons Falls Pharmacy is a pharmacy and historical museum. The first pharmacy opened in 1899 in a different location but the bottles and artifacts on display reflect an early pharmacy with health and beauty aids dating back to the 1900s.  Adjacent to the pharmacy display there are historical displays detailing the history of the area including a unique handmade tool chest from the 1800s that was owned by Geordias Gould. The Goulds were one of the earliest settlers and owners of the Gould Paper Mill. The town is
also home to the Storms-Bailey Home Museum parts of which are setup like an early home. The kitchen has an old kitchen stove and a Hoosier cabinet. Upstairs there is an eclectic collection of artifacts. Drive through the streets of the village and you will see many beautiful old homes including the 1902 Romanesque Gould Mansion. The house is a private residence so it is not open to the public but next to it is what was
once the Gould’s carriage house; it is now a library. Both are on the National Register of Historic Places. The library is worth a stop to see the historic cannon and an amazing diorama made by fourth graders, and a 1910 carriage.  Take note of the floor beneath the carriage and the ceiling above.  It is a lift that takes carriages up to the second level.  Interesting.
We had packed a lunch so headed to Brantingham Lake in search of a place to eat it. We noticed Camp Aldergate with picnic benches scenically perched on the rise above the lake.  We asked for permission to eat there.  The only other person was a lady who recognized us.  What a memory! We were on the same train coming up from NYC in April.

At one time my relatives lived in nearby Glenfield where my
father’s family owned the Central Hotel so we decided to check it out.  I was surprised at how busy it was. Obviously it is the best place to eat in the area.  I remember staying at the hotel with my cousins many years ago. And I stayed there again in one of their great apartments. It was excellent with two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom and a large L-shaped living area.  It could accommodate four to eight people.  It is mainly used by snowmobilers. It was a great find. 

Aug 22, 2016

Exploring the Sterling, NY area

John and I had another great day trip. This time we went to Sterling
and Fair Haven.  I am always amazed by the places close to home that we have not visited. We started with a visit to Sterling Museum. We have driven by the Red Schoolhouse Museum several times but never when it was open.  Like a lot of small museums getting volunteers to sit at a museum limits the times and days they are open.  The Little Red Schoolhouse Museum in Sterling is open Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 from mid-July to the end of August.

The museum has an incredible amount of artifacts on display.  On the first floor there is a large diorama of the Sterling area of yesteryear complete with a miniature train set. The railroad played a key role in the development of the area. At one time the train made three stops within a few miles. Impressive are the images of people shoveling to keep the tracks clear in the winter.  Some of the pictures show the snow higher than they were.  The track bed is now part of the statewide snowmobile trails. There is an excellent 15-minute video detailing the development of the railroad and its impact on Sterling.  On the first floor there is also a small room set up as an early classroom.

The top floor is set up so we could wander from one display area to
another.  Surely you will find something of interest.  I especially liked the general store and sewing display with material from feedbags. At one time feed came in colored fabrics that were used for many things including clothing. In 1942 it is estimated that three million women and children wore feedbag garments. The string that was used to tie the feed bag could be crocheted into a variety of things. The ultimate in recycling. John was interested in the display with a Civil War uniform and other artifacts.

Outside is the Heritage Park with a New York Central Railway Signal Tower that was originally in Sterling. The operational room is set up as it would have been including a candlestick telephone, telegraph and large levers used to switch the tracks. Next to it is the Raymond Arthur Waldron
Exhibit Building filled with everything from farm machinery to a buggy to tools for harness-makers, coopers, and blacksmiths. Not to miss is riding on the railroad hand car.  It takes two people to pump it along the short track. They hope to have a caboose soon to add to their exhibit.

We continued to Fair Haven and made a quick stop at the Sterling-Cidery. All their ciders are hand-crafted using only local apples then aged in American oak.  Try their Ginger Shandy made with California organic lemon and fresh ginger. They are only open on weekends; same as the museum. Our last
stop was down the road a bit to the Colloca Estate Winery. I find it amazing at the number of new wineries there are. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful spot to end the day.  All wineries seem to be in a picturesque location and Colloca is no different. They have a lovely pond and are just steps from the lake. They also have a seasonal outdoor wine bar that has wood cooked pizza. Summer is a great time for day trips.

Aug 15, 2016

Cruising on the waters of NYS

Summer is the time to get out on the water and relax.  You don’t need your own boat.  There are plenty of places in NYS to enjoy a day on the water without the expense of owning and caring for your own boat.  That is our concept – let someone else do the work while we enjoy
ourselves. Of course you can always rent one. There are several places including the St. Lawrence where you can rent a pontoon boat and explore the 1000 Islands. Uncle Sam Boat tours and Clayton Island tours stop at Boldt and Singer Castle – but not on the same tour. For a classic polished wooden speedboat ride there is one offered at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton.

Nothing spells summer better than spending some time in the
Adirondacks. Old Forge Lake Cruises has several cruises on the Fulton Chain of Lakes in a classic steamboat. They have cruises that combine with the Adirondack Scenic Railway. I missed it for this year but high on my list for next summer is their Rail & Cruise that includes the Loomis train
robbery. There is also a boat tour on the Stillwater Reservoir offered by Norridgewock Lodge near Eagle Bay. Check out the tours on Long Lake, Lake Placid and Lake George. All the
Adirondack Lakes are beautiful but I am a bit prejudiced.  I think Raquette Lake is the best because I spent many wonderful summers there years ago. The Raquette Lake Navigation Company’s Durant was built by the owner, Captain Dean Pohl who is also a marriage officer who has married over 300 couples.  There are several cruises to choose from and when the season ends in mid-October the Durant becomes the winter ice boat – no rides but many events. 

The Erie Canal is often overlooked by those of us who live so close
but some people travel miles and miles to learn about the canal system of NYS.  Erie Canal Cruises out of Herkimer offers cruises that include the Herkimer Diamond mines. Mid-Lake Navigation has a variety of tours on various sections of the canals and on also Skaneateles Lake.  Sam
Patch in Pittsford has daily cruises on a traditional canal packet boat as does the Mary Jemison departing from Rochester.  Also in the same area, is the Colonial Belle in Fairport. The highlight of any canal trip is locking through. On the Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride the boat travels “uphill” 60 feet past the Flight of Five Locks. The tour also includes a walk through a tunnel. 

The 315-mile Hudson River area is especially beautiful during the fall and there are many tour options. There are no low bridges or locks on the Hudson so the tour boats are larger and multi-tiered. The Captain J. P. Cruise Line out of Troy has a variety of special cruises. The Dutch Apple Cruises sets sail from Albany and like all the other cruises there is an historic narrative to inform passengers of significant places along the tour. 

Between Kingston and Peekskill there are several cruise companies exploring their part of the river. The River Rose is an authentic stern-driven Mississippi paddle wheeler. Views along the Hudson may include views of the haunted Bannerman Island, West Point and the Palisades of New Jersey. 

Manhattan is an island surrounded by the Hudson, Atlantic Ocean and the East River.  Circle Line Sightseeing tour in NYC offers the only cruise that completely circles the island. 

Aug 8, 2016

Visiting Constable Hall in Lewis County

Summer is the time for road trips. On a recent road trip John and I visited Constable Hall in Constable Hall.  Constable Hall is one of the most historic places in Lewis County.  The Federal-style limestone house was built in the early 1800s.  Five generations of the
Constable family lived in the
house from 1819 to 1947.  The house was built at the behest of William Constable, Jr. but he never lived in the elegant 14-room manor home that was patterned after the Constable estate in Ireland.  During construction he was seriously injured when the 10-ton capstone for the front portico slipped. He died in 1821 but his wife, Mary, lived there until her death in 1887. A member of the Constable family resided in the home until 1947 when it was purchased by a local family who restored the house and were responsible for it becoming a museum which opened in 1949. 

Constable purchased 3.8 million acres (ten-percent of the state) in Northern New York for a mere eight cents an acre. He was one of many land speculators at the time. Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, and Franklin counties were formed from this massive tract of land plus parts of Herkimer and Oswego Counties. 

The house with 18-inch thick walls is approached from the rear which has two long attractive porches.  From the front there is an expansive view of the rolling countryside.  We saw many interesting features during our tour. (Pictures of the interior are not allowed.)  On top of the stairway’s newel post was a round decorative ceramic button.  Legend has it that these buttons were proof that the mortgage was paid off and the house had no liens on
it.  Another part of the legends says that the mortgage papers were put inside the newel.  This legend is viewed with skepticism by many.   Legend or fact, many older homes sport this unique item. Besides the mortgage button I loved the dumb waiter.  Usually they are in a closet but this one is in the floor of the kitchen.  It was easier for the Constables to bring things up from the cellar than it is for me today. Every house should have a dumb waiter. Near the kitchen is a small little chapel.  As is true to all historic house museums, there are many interesting and unique features including elegant period dresses in one of the bedrooms and a diorama of the estate as it was originally planned.  

The garden is lovely and enclosed by the original buckthorn hedge imported from Ireland.  The hedge protected the flowers from damage by animals. The garden is divided into four quadrants forming a St. Andrew’s cross pattern. Constable Hall is open several days a week for tours from May to October.  A great place for a day trip.  

We had packed a lunch so after finishing the tour we drove a short distance to Whetstone Gulf for a picnic by Whetstone Creek. The park is built around a three-mile gorge on the edge of the Tug Hill Plateau and has camping, swimming, and hiking trails. 

Heading home we drove by the Maple Ridge Wind Farm on Tug
Hill.  Impressive.  There was some controversy dealing with the constructions of 195 wind turbines but they help the environment and local economy. Land owners with turbines on their land receive a yearly stipend. There is talk of adding more wind turbines.