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Gardening and a Word About Brick

by Laurel ~ May 31st, 2011

Firstly, in the blazing heat (or perhaps humidity is a better description), I added mulch to the garden plot that lies under a large evergreen and abuts the fence dividing our yard from the neighbors. Naturally I ran out of mulch, but managed to be pleased with the results anyway.

I am a fan of Coral Bells aka heuchera. I began growing them in Brooklyn, and when we moved here I thought this might be the perfect spot for them. I adore the foliage and the amazing color range you can find in the plants. So year one I planted two of these and, being perennials, they seemed to like the spot well enough to return in the spring. Year two I added another variety and it also seemed to thrive. This year I have added a couple more varieties, and more than likely any additions next year will have to be mail order. I haven’t seen any other varieties available locally.

This is how it looked when I finished, or “almost” finished. Naturally the area needs some more planting that will be happening forthwith.

Coral Bells (heuchera)

Coral Bells (heuchera)

You may notice the brick that defines the perimeter of the area. Indeed there is always a story and this brick edging is one.

When we moved to the Finger Lakes in 2008 my husband had lived in New York City some 30+ years, the majority of it in Manhattan, the final six years in Brooklyn. We moved from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn in 2002 and it was then, while packing house, I learned about Llewellyn’s interest in red brick.

In our 89th Street apartment, we had a slip of a back yard, a narrow alley at best. Shady and dark, even impatiens would not thrive in that space. Llewellyn would always try to grow them however and he had, over the years, acquired a rather large collection of red brick he used to “landscape” areas — lovely visually, though all plants seemed to wither and die. These bricks were acquired on the streets, when buildings were demolished. LOTS of brick. Take a look at his self portrait in the Bronx when he was a Checker Cab driver in the 1970’s and you will see what I mean about brick acquisition. I liked looking at the brick because most of them were pretty old with stamped logos.

Moving house can make the kindest spirited person cranky, and just when it seemed the majority of the apartment was packed for our Brooklyn move, Llewellyn announced he wished to take the bricks with us to our new house. I bristled … do you know how much a small box of bricks weigh? And I am talking about many boxes of bricks. I’ll spare you the discussion, but Llewellyn took on the packing and moving of them so how could I complain? We all lived happily in Brooklyn for six years, the bricks residing in our spacious backyard garden, driveway and basement.

Then we decided to move to the Finger Lakes and again the bricks issue became a focus point. Additionally we had acquired a number of Brooklyn bricks and I fully admit to having assisted in the acquisition of some. All of that rebuilding in Brooklyn and gentrification made a brick here and there pretty easy to find. Anyway the brick collection grew somewhat. Again moving crankiness, again brick packing and schlepping by Llewellyn– though a 6 hour drive this time rather than across the Brooklyn Bridge. But all those NYC bricks are country bricks now, and we use some of them in our garden.

Below are pictures of a selection of Llewellyn’s bricks. And of course there are legitimate brick collectors and even a website and yes, a Brick Blog. I fully admit in the here and now I couldn’t be happier that Llewellyn had the fortitude to get the brick here — gotta love someone who loves old things enough to save and preserve them.

And it makes me feel like I have a little piece of New York City in my own back yard.

NYC Bricks Enjoying a Leisurely Retirement in the Country

NYC Bricks Enjoying a Leisurely Retirement in the Country

NYC Bricks Enjoying a Leisurely Retirement in the Country

NYC Bricks Enjoying a Leisurely Retirement in the Country

NYC Bricks Enjoying a Leisurely Retirement in the Country

NYC Bricks Enjoying a Leisurely Retirement in the Country

The Bunting Was Hung …

by Laurel ~ May 13th, 2011

… on La Belle Vie with care …

La Belle Vie with Patriotic Bunting

La Belle Vie with Patriotic Bunting

Yes we are ready for the Keuka Rifles send-off reenactment tomorrow. It is hot and steamy here today. Actually, it really is only in the low seventy degree range, but it is quite humid with a chance of rain in the forecast. Here is hoping the rain will be overnight and in fact not ruin all the hard work of the Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society. They deserve a spectacular turn out.

This morning I dropped off the crocheted gauntlets. I was tea-dying them at 4:00 a.m. and by mid day they were finally dry enough to drop off at the Underwood Museum. The Museum is a bustling center of activity today as last minute costume needs are attended to. I am pretty happy with how the gauntlets turned out and it is always fun to try something new in the crafts department, in this case tea dying.

Crocheted and Tea-Dyed Gauntlets

Crocheted and Tea-Dyed Gauntlets

Gardening, Need a Plant ID

by Laurel ~ May 6th, 2011
Jacob's Ladder?  Plant ID needed!

Jacob's Ladder? Plant ID needed!

We have been struggling to get the gardens under control, and that is a lot of work.

In Brooklyn, my back yard garden measured approximately 10 x 33 feet. I mowed the lawn with a weed whacker, and was known to complain about the limited space available for planting. Here, we have well over half an acre and it has been a challenge to learn about existing plants, what they require to thrive and what plants are pesky and need to go.

Case in point is the plant (pictured above) which is rapidly taking over an area in “the peninsula” section of the garden. When we moved in, someone told us it was not a weed and in fact was called “Jacobs Ladder.” While online information suggests twenty-five varieties of Jacob’s Ladder exist, most of the images display purple flowers (ours are white) and images of the white versions appear to closely resemble lily of the valley. At this point I think this plant seems more weed-like and is spreading rapidly (this spring, it is appearing in my hosta border). I think it needs to be removed, I may take a bit of it to my local plant supplier for an ID — or maybe just place this photo in a Flickr plant ID pool. If you know what it is, please respond via comment!

This afternoon — with another day of sunshine upon us — I will be working to remove most or all of this plant from the peninsula and in its stead will be adding colorful annuals. This year at least, over time we shall see about adding perennials.

How Penn Yan Got Its Name

by Laurel ~ May 4th, 2011

Not a new story by any means, but just encountered the article while researching genealogical information in the Springfield Republican, located in western Massachusetts. What is also interesting is the article was acquired from the Sing Sing Prison Paper, Star of Hope — though this style of article acquisition was not unusual, I did not realize there was a prison newspaper at Sing Sing.

How Penn Yan Got Its Name

Curious Story of Pioneer Days in Western New York.

[From the Sing Sing Prison Paper, Star of Hope.]

At the foot of Lake Keuka is situated Penn Yan, county seat of Yates county, N.Y., and as the name has a peculiar origin, it may prove interesting to some. In the early days of emigration and settlement, companies of people left the settled colonies traveling in canvas-covered wagons, drawn as often by oxen as by horses, and camping wherever they were overtaken by night. They had no definite destination, but traveled on until they chanced upon some spot which they thought favorable to a quiet, peaceful settlement, where they could erect homes and engage in the honorable pursuit of farming.

A company of such people had left the New England states, and, driving across the country, eventually arrived at the foot of Lake Keuka. here being a abundance of water and thousands of acres of as nice farming land as any one could desire, they realized the advantages of locating there and pitched their camp accordingly.

A few days later a party of emigrants from Pennsylvania chanced upon the same spot and were welcomed by the first settlers, and were invited by them to locate there, which they finally concluded to do, for by joining forces they were better able to defend themselves against the attacks of Indians, where were quite numerous. This second party were what is commonly called “Pennsylvania Dutch.”

They began the erection of houses, built of logs, and when it began to assume the appearance of a village they thought it should be given a name. Those from the New England states claimed the right of naming the village, by reason of discovery and first occupation, the the matter was finally compromised and named Penn Yan in honor of both parties, Penn in honor of Pennsylvania, and Yan, in honor of the Yankees, as all people from the New England states were called. It finally became a popular route for emigrant travelers going to the wild and unexplored West, and many others located there, the place continuing to grow, until now it is a thriving town of several thousand inhabitants.

It is a popular summer resort for many wealthy and fashionable people, who prefer the quiet, healthful county to the noisy overcrowded watering places, and all along the shores of the lake, extending from Penn Yan to Hammondsport, a distance about 25 miles, can be seen the handsome and attractive cottages of those who go there to enjoy the summer.

The lake is navigable, and boats, running on a schedule time, make daily trips from Penn Yan to Hammondsport, the fare being a dime, and the shores abound with scenery as picturesque as that along the famous Hudson river. Along this lake are thousands of acres of land devoted to grape growing, and each year one can see whole train-loads of grapes shipped from Penn and and Hammondsport. There are also a number of wine cellars located at different points along the lake, some of the largest in the United States, and which have become famous for the high-grade champagne produced, champagne that surpasses any manufactured in California and equals most brands imported from France.

—Springfield (MA) Daily Republican, April 9, 1902, page 11, column 7