Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Homecoming, Adirondack Style

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We are back at our little cabin in the big woods, the Adirondack hideaway we refer to as "Beaver Meadow Heights." For weeks leading up to our departure from Florida, North Country friends
sent dire warnings. "Got another six inches of snow last night. Driving winds. Bitter cold. Will it ever end?" wrote one. Another penned, "All the snow has slid off your roofs, but the pile is so high you won't be able to get in your door." Just in case we weren't taking the warnings seriously, a stiff wind practically blew us from Florida to Thurman, accompanied by driving rain. Terrible storms flared all around the southeast, but mercifully were not close to our travel route.

We followed the swollen Schroon River out of Warrensburg, awed, as always, by the force of the water roaring toward the Hudson. Familiar landmarks led us home -- Sugarloaf Mountain, Thurman Station, Thurman town hall; then Martin's Lumber, Crane Mountain. At last we were at the foot of our driveway, surprisingly able to navigate the slope, spraying mud all the way up the hill. The snow pile in front of the house had shrunk from its mammoth proportions, and we were able to get into the cabin.

Far from a turn-key set up, our cabin remains unheated during the winter, and the water pipe to our spring is drained. A stack of firewood was waiting for us, however, and within hours the woodstove had taken most of the chill from the living room and had moderated the temperature in the back part of the house. Buckets of snow now melt behind the stove to supply utility water until we can access the supply from our spring again. We have begun settling in and catching up on emails -- albeit by dial-up connection.

Cold, banks and buckets of snow, dial-up Internet--it doesn't matter. There's no place like home. Most of the snow is gone and mud season is well underway. It's spring in the Adirondacks, and we are here, looking forward to a joyous summer.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

When Good Things Happen to Good People

Okay, I know I'm borrowing heavily from Harold S. Kushner, author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People". Hope he doesn't mind. I'm so busy bubbling I just couldn't think of a truly original title (if there even is such a thing).

On Friday
evening my Thurman neighbors Gary and Wini Martin learned that Gary, who owns and operates Martin's Lumber, a Certified Tree Farm and sawmill -- a classic mom and pop business run with the help of Wini's brother Bill -- had been selected as one of just ten semi-finalists in the I Love NY "Greenest New Yorker" competition for 2011. What a tribute--and one Gary well deserves! He honors the rule our parents' and grandparents' generations lived by: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or go without." And he remembers hearing his grandfather saying, "Take care of your woods, and your woods will take care of you." A small boy at that time, Gary didn't understand what his grandfather meant, but today he does, and he works daily at taking care of his tree farm, selectively cutting and utilizing every bit of wood from the trees he saws, right down to the sawdust.

Not to be outdone in the "green" department, Wini, when she isn't out helping him saw, turns junk mail into jewelry--transforming glossy ad fliers into exquisite beads for earrings, bracelets and necklaces. She also custom designs commemorative gifts from wedding/engagement/save the date announcements and other special paper items.

As a team, they have carved a special place in the Th
urman landscape, hosting open houses during maple weekends, and on a daily basis welcoming customers as guests, sharing a fresh-baked cookie and a cup of coffee and guiding them on a woodswalk to show just how Martin's Lumber protects and preserves the forest for generations to come.

So what's next? The public gets to vote Gary into the top three candidates for "Greenest New Yorker" and
you can vote, too, once a day, every day through April 17th. And do you visit Facebook? Log on and tell us what not-for-profit "green" organization you think Gary should select to receive $500 given by I Love NY if he wins. We've listed some ideas, but you may add your own. It's fun when good things happen to good people. It's GREAT when you help make those things happen.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Maple Sugaring ~ Not for sissies, but, oh, so sweet

Spring approaches in the Adirondacks, but no one is slathering on the sun block or slipping into shorts just yet. Maple producers around Thurman recently have shared stories of wallowing on snow shoes through fluffy drifts in cut-to-the bone winds in order to set taps for this year's sugaring season. Those who use plastic tubing to deliver sap to the collection vats have been out running new lines, repairing old ones, and making sure all is ready for the running of the sap. The weather toys with them, flitting playfully above freezing for a couple of days, then dropping twenty degrees and dumping more snow -- sometimes the kind of snow that can snap tree limbs, limbs that then fall on newly strung sap lines. Once the sap begins to flow in earnest, the boiling will begin. In a good season the task on a given day can go on for hours on end. Tales are told of sugarmakers who literally fall asleep on their feet beside their evaporators, steam crusting hair and eyebrows with crystals of sugar.

Sugaring is tough work, but those I know who engage in it, love it. "I think most sugarmakers are a little bit insane," observed Dave DeLozier, publisher of Ecolocal Living magazine, when I recently submitted an article I'd written about Toad Hill Maple Farm's new sugarhouse. Most sugarmakers I know would agree, readily admitting that the amount of work they do, the need for blind trust in weather known to be fickle, and the expense of equipment and supplies all set them up for failure. A compulsion drives them out into the sugarbush each February and March anyhow.

This year, as in years past, Thurman's maple producers, along with a local sawmill, will roll out the carpet for visitors each of the last three weekends in March. It begins with Thurman Maple Weekend, March 12 and 13, when Valley Road Maple opens at 9 a.m. for pancakes, and the other three sites open at 10 to offer tours and demonstrations. That first Saturday is crowned by the annual Maple Sugar Party, a buffet supper to raise money to fight cancer. Hod Ovitt and the Warren County Ramblers will be on tap to make the occasion festive, and a dessert of pure Thurman maple jack wax will leave no sweet tooth unsatisfied.

The breakfasts, tours and demonstrations will continue on Saturdays and Sundays through the end of March, as Thurman producers participate in New York State Maple Weekends. For details on the event, how to find Thurman and navigate to all sites, please visit the Thurman Maple Weekends web page. You'll enjoy attending this event. If you are from out of the area, check out our local B&Bs on Thurman's web site, www.Thurman-NY.com, and spend a leisurely weekend in the Adirondacks.

Publicity for Thurman's maple events is made possible, in part, by use of Warren County Occupancy Tax funds, granted by the Town of Thurman.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Going once, going twice...Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat Auction

I love efficiency, and when the chance came to help a good cause AND create an opportunity for an aspiring writer, the allure was irresistible. Yesterday a multi-year participant in the St. George Island Writers' Retreat contacted me to say that the Crown Leadership Academy, an independent, private, Christian school in Charleston, South Carolina is holding an online Ebay auction to raise funds for their program, I realized I could help two causes by donating one workshop registration for this summer's Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat. This means the school makes some money and one writer has a chance to participate in this summer's retreat at a bargain price. If you plan to attend this Fiction Among Friends event (July 22-24, 2011, at Wiawaka Holiday House, Lake George, NY) , be sure to check out the Crown Leadership Academy Ebay auction. Please note that the winner will still be responsible for fees payable to Wiawaka for lodging, meals and day use.

The retreat runs from Friday noon through Sunday lunch, and participants will enjoy workshops, blocks of writing time, feedback sessions, readings and private consultations with our retreat leader Irene Sherlock. Participation is limited to eleven writers. The auction runs just through February 14th, so get your bid in early.

Friday, December 31, 2010


Crystal vision lollygags over past failures.
appiness demands focus on future promise.
Effervesce. Your bubbles pop in lives around you.
Expect happiness.
Rejoice in small things.
Savor friends.

To all the writers whose works and friendship have enriched my life, shored up my sagging spirits, allowed their effervescence to bubble over me, I wish a new year full of vision, creativity, joy and good health. Happy New Year!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

St. George Island in My Rear View Mirror

The last time I posted here, I wrote of my excitement about the upcoming St. George Island Writers' Retreat. Now here we are, two weeks since the retreat ended, and I'm so focused on the memory that I'm having a hard time moving forward again.

The writers--nine attended--were smart, creative, kind, funny, talented (picture me shaking my head in awe, here)--and some revealed their talents as fabulous cooks, preparing meals to live on in memory.

Adrian Fogelin fed our writers' souls with workshops and exercises that stretched our minds the way her evening floor routine stretched cramped muscles. We listened, we bent our brains in new ways, and then we wrote. After we'd written, we marveled at what came from our minds after their contents had been manipulated and moved around. And we delighted in what different directions each woman around the table had taken each exercise. The heady sense of freedom generated by being able to set our own courses seemed to ignite little embers of worry in many of us, causing us to question the tack we had taken. Many announced to the group before reading their new work aloud, "Well, this isn't any good, but...." Exercising freedom is scary.

But it was good. Even the work that needed editing and rewriting was good. Everything we did led us forward to a greater understanding of what works and what needs to be improved. That's progress.

Over our time together at the beautiful beach view retreat site of Abbeyfeale, friendships were created or reinforced, group jokes were hatched and a support network was formed. As always, I was sad when the retreat came to an end (but could I have lasted another day with five hours of sleep?), but full of happy memories, new skills and inspiration. Some photos have been posted on our Fiction Among Friends Facebook page, and I'll be updating my web pages soon with pictures, feedback and recipes.

I know I can't forever stare into the rear view mirror or I'll stray off course, but a glance now and then reminds me of a wonderful retreat that I'll savor and draw on repeatedly. Thanks, all.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Countdown for St. George Island Writers' Retreat

Next Wednesday I'll be jaunting up to the Florida Panhandle, about three and a half hours away, and as I drive north, then west, I'll feel the daily humdrum slough away. One by one I'll tick off the towns along the route; Fanning Springs, Old Town, Cross City....Steinhatchee...Perry......don't forget to veer west there onto 98....enough wilderness and coastline to charm and pull me onward. The highway hugs the coast around Carrabelle; getting close; then it's Eastpoint, and time to turn off the main drag and head out to the Island. After the initial flurry of unloading the car and unpacking totes and coolers of groceries and other supplies for the retreat, I'll be eager for the arrival of our mentor Adrian Fogelin (see thumbnail photo at left) and all the writers who've signed up for this year's adventure.

Ten of us will settle in for four days of workshops and writing. Most of us have a work in progress, so between the workshops we'll hole up to see if we can forge ahead with our projects, or perhaps double back and fix a trouble spot--often after consulting with Adrian.

Our group is diverse, having walked various paths in life -- journalism, small business, homemaking, teaching and other professional careers. The writing we do ranges from general fiction to history to mystery to memoir. Some are struggling to find a beginning to a work, while others are plowing on to end a work or polish a finished draft. Some unabashedly say they are coming hoping to learn how to cultivate self-discipline in their writing. Diversity aside, there is a unity of purpose that unites us. We all want to learn, and we want that shared sense of purpose the retreat promises. Together we'll commiserate over plot snarls and roadblocks, and rejoice over each victory, each landmark passed.

I've been revising the first three chapters of my very rough first attempt at a mystery, trying to whip them into good enough shape to serve as a foundation for the work I want to do next week. I've introduced the characters and am fine-tuning details of the setting. I have a pretty good hunch about what the crime will be and "whodunit".

Will I get it all down on paper? Can I make all of the threads twist into a believable, engaging plot? I'll have to answer that next week, after the retreat. That is, unless you are planning to attend, in which case I'll tell you there. Oh -- you haven't signed up? Get in touch. There's room for one more.