Adirondack Vacation 2015

We canoed on Lake Eaton and walked on the Wild Walk at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake
We canoed on Lake Eaton and walked on the Wild Walk at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake

I like sitting by the campfire late at night.   JoAnne likes to read, sometimes even sitting in the car to get away from the bugs or the rain.   Both of us love to canoe around the lake. I nearly finished one book this year.  JoAnne pulls out her recorder and plays folk songs, gospel choruses and patriotic tunes by ear at the campfire.  I roast marshmallows for s’mores.

For us camping is an Rx of sorts.   Being a pastor is a very public vocation.  So as part of our vacation time JoAnne and I try to get apart in the Adirondack Mountains.  Getting alone as a couple like this provides a good antidote to the high level of people time that is normal for pastoral life.   It gives time to process, time for extended devotions, and time to read.    We always find it a bonding experience too.   Whether it’s canoeing as a tandem, setting up camp together, enjoying a meal out at our favorite Italian restaurant in the Village of Tupper Lake, eating ice cream at Hoss’s, or holding hands watching the stars, we find ourselves drawn closer together in the Adirondacks.

This year we camped again at Lake Eaton State Park just Northwest of Long Lake, NY .  Even though we had multiple rainstorms, we still had a great time.   I had just finished sealing the tent fly again when the first downpour came.    Amazingly, it didn’t rain during campfire times at all and I was able to gather wood at the right stage of dryness so that it would burn in spite of the dampness.   But it did rain at suppertime twice.  Trying to cook in a rainstorm is the pits so we ate out for supper both evenings; chili dogs and ice-cream at a corner stand one night and Italian at Little Italy the next .

Probably the highlight of the vacation was the trip to the Wide Center in Tupper Lake.  We highly recommend it .   They have a new section called the Wild Walk that has been a huge success.   Thirty-five thousand people have visited the center in the twenty days since the Wild Walk opened.   We took the walk and highly recommend it.  The people who conceived this place have great imagination and make it so much fun for children.   This year the theater inside featured an award winning film about climate change.

My daylily hobby

An inherited avocation

The last daily bloom faded away one day this past week ending another season of daylily delight. Growing the flower technically called hemerocallis is a pastime I inherited from my grandmother, Jessie Isaman. Watch out! Growing daylilies is catching; my daughter has the bug as well.

How it started

I started growing daylilies while at my first church in Bentley Creek, PA.   When I visited my parents, I would dig up a shovelful from the huge clumps on the farm and transport them to my parsonage in northern Pennsylvania. When I moved from there I took a shovelful from each clump and threw the daylilies in a crate in the back of the moving truck. In spite of being packed away in the closed up semi-body for a month, every plant lived.   They are tough. I had the start for a new daylily garden at my second parsonage in Kirkville, New York.

How it grew

While in Kirkville, I discovered a daylily farm at Grace Gardens on Angus Road just off Route 14 south of Geneva, NY.    Over the years that I lived in Kirkville I purchased many more daylily varieties and planted them around the property until I had more than 30 varieties.   A few more came from Roots and Rhizomes by mail. When I moved to my third parsonage in West Granby Connecticut, my plan was to take a shovelful from each clump and pack them in the truck again. But this time, I was using a moving company and they would not do that.   So, I clipped a double fan or so from each clump that I had dug and gave the rest away.    I filled my car trunk and brought them with me.   Some ended up at my daughter’s house.   Most of them form the nucleus for my collection here.

My latest additions

This summer, I was meandering home from an Adirondack vacation when I drove by Jim’s daylily farm in Ticonderoga, New York.   He has the healthiest daylilies I’ve ever seen and lots of them.   Though his lot space is limited, every square foot was growing daylilies.   I brought the car to a screeching halt, turned around and somehow found room for about six new varieties on top of all our camping goods. My wife was not so happy about some dirt that filtered down through.   But then I’m not noted for keeping my car pristine. I’d rather carry some things that I need and clean up later.  Anyway, with these new additions, I now have about 40 varieties of daylilies here at West Granby parsonage.   Fortunately, there’s lots of room.   Of course, the beds are young, so the displays are just getting started. Here are a few pictures from this summer.



A Maple Syrupy Memory

On the last day of our recent week of vacation, my wife and I stopped at a Maple Syrup Museum on Route 7 just north of Rutland, Vermont.  It was a fascinating stop for me as it brought back many childhood memories.   The museum contains many artifacts from the production of maple syrup in the late 19th and 20th centuries.  An entire wall mural was dedicated to telling the story of the production of syrup by the Native Americans of New England before settlers arrived.  This fascinating dimension of the history of the maple syrup industry was new to me and I was glad to see it featured prominently.  One of the most captivating displays was a hand-carved diorama depicting the gathering of maple sap using a team of horses and a sled with gathering tank on top.   In the same diorama is a representation of a sap-boiling shanty in the woods.  The first 3 pictures above are of this diorama.    The last two pictures are from an even bigger diorama depicting lumbering before tractor power.  The museum is a great stop for maple lovers and those who remember making syrup.

I have a very early childhood memory of assisting in the gathering of sap on the top of the hill above Twin Elms Farm.   Deep in the woods plot, there was an old shed devoted to boiling sap in the spring. My father and grandfather had traded the horses for a tractor the year I was born.   But, for the spring that I remember, it was too muddy in the woods to use the tractor for gathering sap.  Early tractors were not the behemoths we are used to today.    So my grandfather and father made arrangements to borrow a team of horses and use them to pull the sled and gathering tank.    I remember riding the sled with its metal gathering tank on top from the house up to the top of the hill and into the woods.   I recall the old wooden tank next to the boiling shed into which the gathered sap was dumped from the gathering tank.    I remember the old arch, as it was called, inside the shed.   It was simply two rows of concrete blocks, just wide enough apart to fit the large pans on the top.   The two pans were placed end to end on the arch.    The long slabs or poles of wood we burned were inserted into the arch underneath the pans at one end. The fire and heat traveled the length of the two pans– which must’ve been 10-12 feet — and the smoke exited through a stack at the far end.    The freshest sap was inserted in the pan nearest the chimney, the cooler one; the boiled-down syrup was removed from the first pan, the hotter one.   We did not use wooden buckets, as the diorama pictures, but galvanized metal ones instead.

This old syrup shanty on the hill was deserted before many years had passed.    After that, my father continued boiling sap on a smaller scale in a single pan over a smaller arch.   I remember helping and  trying to keep it clean and light colored.    I have many other memories that go with the traditions of maple syrup making at Twin Elms Farm too.   I remember loving to drink the sap straight from the tree.   I would go down to the maple tree in the front lawn and tip the sap bucket to get a drink.   There was just a hint of delicious flavored sweetness.

After the sap had been boiled down in the pans over the arches, my mom would “finish off” the syrup over the kitchen stove.    I don’t remember seeing it happen, but I was told that sometimes this released so much moisture that the wallpaper had come loose.   She poured milk into the syrup to help boil out the impurities.    I sometimes tasted the creamy, foamy skimmings, though I don’t think Mom approved of that.    I remember each year we would have a contest at stirring maple sugar.   Mom would boil down some syrup even further until it was just the right consistency for making sugar candy.  I think it was right when it would spin a hair from the spoon.     Then she would ladle it into bowls and we would begin stirring our bowlful.   The faster you stirred, the lighter colored and finer textured your sugar would be.   That was the goal.    Of course, the most delightful part was eating it.   I preferred eating it while it was soft and still do.   JoAnne learned about stirring maple sugar while she was dating me. She learned to love eating it too and still does, much more than me. I bought her some at the museum.

At the Vermont museum they had taste samples of different grades of maple syrup.  I checked them out!    I remember during maple syrup season on the farm, once in a while, Mom would serve us a small dish of maple syrup for dessert– nothing with it — just served to eat with the spoon.   I loved it and I still can eat maple syrup by itself.    Mom also prepared syrup for us to pour on snow if the weather made snow available.  This was also a delightful candy treat. We called it wax.

The museum had maple cream to sample also, which is the most delicious stuff ever, but correspondingly expensive.     As we left the museum, JoAnne and I just wanted to find a restaurant that served pancakes with the real thing—maple syrup—for a topping!  At home, we never ate pancakes any other way.

Horses at the NY State Fair

Watching the horses

I don’t remember JoAnne and I ever stopping to watch the big hitches in the coliseum before.  Yesterday was the day.   We watched four different classes during the afternoon horse show.   In the third class, the six horse hitches came roaring in.  

Six horse hitches

These are the big Percheron draft horses.  According to Wikipedia, “the  Percheron is a breed of draft horse that originated in the Huisne river valley in northern France, part of the former Perche province from which the breed takes its name. Usually gray or black in color, Percherons are well-muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work.”   There was thunder in the air as each horse weighs about a ton.  Three hitches came in at one time and then the ringmaster invited all nine in.  It was quite a sight and sound.   

Unicorn hitches

Next in were the Belgian draft horses hitched together in the unicorn formation.   This consisted of a team of horses and one single horse hitched in front of the team in the center—a lead horse.    Belgians are a heavy draft horse and the largest horse on record was a Belgian.   I love their colors—chestnut body and contrasting ivory mane and tail.   As with the six horse hitches, every hitch had a second person on board who hopped off the finely finished wagon and served as the handler of the lead horse when the team stopped.   This person also was in charge of what we used to call in dairy cattle exhibiting, the showmanship aspect—helping the horses position themselves, making sure they were presentable for the judge. 

JoAnne and I both enjoyed our time in the coliseum very much.  If I had a little less to do, I would like to go back tomorrow when the six horse hitches will return along with eight horse hitches. 

Red Wing Baseball and Houghton

Tonight I had the privilege of attending Houghton night at Frontier field in Rochester.   It was hosted by Red Wing’s Board Chairman Gary Larder who is also a member of the Houghton College board of Trustees with me.   I met several Houghton friends I have known for many years and chatted with one young alumni named Ryan at the picnic.   We discussed what an advantage it is to graduates to have the good reputation of Houghton backing them when they apply for graduate school.   He had been accepted into an MBA program and anticipated some sports involvement on the side as well.  He felt that the name of Houghton had definitely been important in that process.

The game was a delight too as the underdog Red Wings won a pitcher’s duel over one of Charlotte’s best pitchers.  Red Wing hitters managed just three runs and missed some golden opportunities as always happens in baseball, but it was enough as Red Wing pitchers shut out Charlotte.  The night was perfect for baseball too – lots of sun, just a slight breeze, and not too hot. 

I drove home joyfully with country music blaring, something my wife’s sensitive and classically cultured ears could never endure.

JoAnne swims another lake

Congratulations to my wife, JoAnne, on accomplishing another of her summer goals.  She likes to swim across lakes.   I bet not many people have that on their list of things to do before school starts.  Yesterday she swam the length of Eaton Brook Reservoir; it took 47 minutes.    That makes two lakes this summer.  She uses flippers and varies her strokes.    Since she exercises regularly, she also is careful to pace herself so that her heart rate stays in the training range.   She is a natural swimmer, able to float easily, so she can use most of her energy to move forward.   By contrast, I would have to use most of my energy to stay on top of the water.  And I would probably last about 2 pool lengths without a big rest; beyond that it would soon be time for the rescue squad.

Thank you to Tom Bundle and his friend Marge for graciously hosting her swim at Tom’s beautiful cottage on Eaton Brook.  We also used Tom’s bass boat to accompany JoAnne.    That’s much easier for me.  Usually I have to row or paddle there and back when she swims.  Tom says she swims too fast to troll for walleye.   He estimates the distance JoAnne swam as a “good mile.”   Having an accompanying boat is essential for protection from other boats who do not expect a swimmer in open water.   After we were all back at the cottage, Marge served a great wild blackberry pie to celebrate!   Hmmmm!

Daylily Summer Joys

Summer Joy

One of the true joys of summer for me is growing daylilies.   They don’t require a lot of care and they reward me with many blooms, each one lasting only one day.   When I spoke about that detail in my sermon one Sunday, I was surprised how few people realized it.   I guess we are so used to mums and dahlias, orchids and even African violets whose flowers last for a week or even weeks that the idea of a flower lasting only one day seems strange.   But as I mentioned that Sunday, the fact that the bouquet in my garden is different every day gives it an invigorating charm.  I go out looking for the new blossoms every day that I can.   The light patterns, the dew on the blossoms, critters hiding or not all add to the interest.

Collecting too

I have developed a little of a collectors mentality about it too with over 30 varieties now.   I have some daylilies just because they are odd—one blooms at night, another that I just planted is unusually tall, another is a double named Yellow Submarine.   Some are fragrant.   Several are spider daylilies, which means they have narrow petals rather than usual fuller round ones.   Some varieties have ruffled edges.  Colors range from a very dark maroon – inherited from Grandma Isaman–to a white one I bought called Nanuq.   I seem to prefer the orange and gold hues, though I have some striking red and yellow mixes now that will almost take your breath away.   Except for the picture of me visiting Grace Gardens, all the daylilies in the slides are from my garden.

Grandma got me started

When I was a boy, my Grandma, Jessie Isaman would pay us boys for helping her pull the quack grass from her large flower garden.   Her garden featured eight or ten different dayliles among the many other perennials and I grew to love their annual display.  Grandma died the same year I became a pastor, and my Mom encouraged me to take a small division from most of her daylilies with me when I moved to my first parsonage in Bentley Creek, PA.   I built a tiered daylily garden in the back and the daylily clumps grew well.   When I moved to Kirkville, I took part of each clump, threw them in a crate and stuffed it in the tractor trailer with my household goods.  Later that summer I unpacked the crate, planted the brown clumps and every one grew.  So I have most of my Grandma’s daylilies as the beginning of my collection.   One of them, Frans Hall, is still sold today.  Another is a fragrant yellow that I think is as fragrant as any newer cultivar I have.


Stony Brook State Park

Once a year or so, JoAnne and I like to return to another place we remember from our youth, Stony Brook State Park.   It contains a glass-clear stream that tumbles down an impressive glen.  It is located between Arkport and Dansville, NY and it can also be easily reached by going over the hill from Haskinville.  So my home church often held its annual Sunday School picnic there.  This entrancing park was also the site of a very special double date when JoAnne and I were in college.   Last week, JoAnne and I took a few hours off to visit it while we were visiting our parents.   We discovered to our sadness that it is one of the state parks that have been partially shut down by the NY state budget crisis.  What a loss to the Hornell-Dansville and eastern Alleghany County area.   It is a little gem.   I recently saw a copy of an antique postcard showing the Pittsburg, Shawmut and Northern Railroad Bridge that crossed the top of the glen years before I was born.

Taking time to celebrate

When I was a young pastor, I didn’t understand the importance of celebration.   I guess I must have ignored the fact that the OT has a regular schedule of feasts for the Israelites to be involved in.  Maybe it came from the the everyday nature of dairy farming where I grew up.  Maybe it was because celebration in our culture often has an unhealthy and unnecessary association with drinking alcohol.  But over the years, I have discovered the importance of the Bible’s example of taking time to celebrate in wholesome ways.

So, for example, this last weekend at Community Wesleyan, we took time to celebrate.  It was the Celebration Sunday of our 50th Anniversary Makeover Campaign.  So we took time out to celebrate.  We put up the tents outside, had chicken barbeque and brought in the watermelon and ice cream.   It was a great picnic and it lent a air of festivity to our event that it would not otherwise have had.   Everyone enjoyed themselves.