Sunday, May 21, 2017

The wetlands of Buckhorn Island State Park

On Saturday, May 20th, I participated in a guided hike through Buckhorn Island State Park. The  guide was Dave, who works for New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

The focus of this walk was wetlands. Dave said that there are four different types of wetlands, three of which can be found in Buckhorn Island State Park in Grand Island, New York. They are:

This is a swamp in Buckhorn Island State Park.
There are no bogs.
  • bog: This is a fresh water wetland that was formed in old glacial lakes with a spongy peat base. The soil is acidic and low in nutrients. Plants that grow well in bogs include blueberries, day lilies, pitcher plants,  cranberries, and orchids. There are no bogs in Buckhorn Island State Park or anywhere in Grand Island.
  • swamp:
    Dave describes common traits
    of swamps.
    near rivers and their tributaries (creeks). They provide a nursery for ducks, frogs, fish, and salamanders. There are trees in or near the water. Tree types may include cottonwood and red maple. In the past, people thought that swamps were the source of disease. The reputation was undeserved.
    Woods Creek
    Actually, swamps cleanse the waterways. 
    But people believed that swamps were bad and they wanted the swamps to be drained. That was the sad fate of many swamps, which have been lost forever.
    The Niagara River
    The swamps are protected and preserved in Buckhorn Island State Park.
  • vernal pool: they are created from melting snow and spring rain.
    They are temporary bodies of water. There are species that can lay their eggs in vernal pools and nowhere else. They are called "obligate species." They include Jefferson salamanders, blue spotted salamanders, and spotted salamanders. The babies hatch and start maturing in the water. They leave the vernal pools before they are dried, which is usually during the summer. Eggs can be viable in the dry mud of a vernal pool for several years. Another important characteristic of vernal pools is that there are no fish in the pools. These pools are temporary and would not support fish, who need a permanent aquatic environment. There is, however, a vernal pool in Buckhorn Island State Park that is considered to be "semi-permanent."
  • marsh: very rich and one of the most important wetlands. Much of Buckhorn Island State Park is underwater and is marshland.
    The marsh in Grand Island is the largest remaining marsh on the Niagara River. Species that can be found around marshes include dragonflies, emerald minnow shiners, May apples, chorus frog wood frog, spring peepers, and more. The plants that grow in a marsh tend to be soft, while the plants that grow around a swamp tend to be woody.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Teacher stories 11: Zumba instructor Nichole Becker

For today's post, I interviewed Nichole Becker, who teaches Zumba classes at the Radisson in Grand Island, as well as various other places. The Zumbathon that Nichole organized will be held tomorrow at the Radisson. It will feature two hours of Zumba, a basket raffle, demonstration of different types of Zumba classes, and much more.  This is Nichole's story:

How did you get interested in teaching Zumba?

The gym I was a member of had classes. I just checked it out one day, and I fell in love. Plus I have a dance background. I grew up doing tap, jazz, ballet, and hip hop. I went to Miss Cathy’s on Grand Island. That’s where my daughter goes. She likes acro. She does tap, jazz, and acro.

I  was going to Best Fitness on Sheridan. There were Zumba classes and, after a couple of years of taking classes, I was thinking, "Why am I not teaching this?"

So funny story: Basically, I was having a pre-birthday meltdown, close to my 29th birthday. I was stuck in a job, and I wasn’t going any where. I asked myself, what do I love? I love dance and I love fitness, and Zumba gives me the opportunity to do what I love.  I work part time at night so my kids have never been in daycare. I am lucky to be with my kids all day.

How did you get the idea to do a Zumbathon?

Well it’s been on my mind for a while. I noticed how involved AnnMarie Salviski was with Relay for Life. We kind of tossed the idea of a Zumbathon to raise money, so I figured this was my way of contributing. I did it for my Grandma Sarah. She was diagnosed with breast cancer over 10 years ago, and she’s been in remission for a while now. Everyone knows somebody who has been affected by cancer, so I wanted to do what I could to raise money for the cause.

Tell me more about choosing a Zumbathon for your fundraiser.

There are two things that I am very passionate about: Zumba and my grandma.

I love Zumba, and I love my grandma, and this is a way for me to use my talent for Zumba to help support people like my grandma.

Also, there is NNF neurofibrosis, which is cancer in the brain. I know multiple children who are affected by that, as well. I just can’t imagine what they are going through. As a parent, that’s a whole other ballfield.

What is your teaching style like?

I have been described as energetic and intense in a good way. Not intense as in scary but intense as in it’s a party! We have a good time. A lot of my music is music that I get from Zumba. I try to incorporate a lot of different rhythms and I try to keep up with modern hits so it’s music people are also familiar with. Zumba has got 10 base styles. to name a few merengue, salsa, cumbia, and reggaet├│n. These are the four main dance styles that you learn when you become a Zumba instructor. There are tons more, including Bollywood and hip hop.

My Zumba slogan is ditch the workout; join the fun

Zumba is fitness in disguise.

What can people expect at your Zumbathon?

I’ve been to Zumbathons where it’s been Zumba for two hours. When you’re with people who are are doing it with you, it’s easier to find the energy. It really is. Also, this is what I am doing to keep it entertaining. Were not doing just Zumba. We’re going to have a Strong by Zumba demo and a pound demo. Pound is fitness incorporating drumsticks.

We have eleven other very talented instructors who are joining us for this Zumbathon. They are certified in different fitness formats that we will be seeing at this Zumbathon.

What kind of turnout are you expecting for the Zumbathon?

The dream is 50 people. Right now, we have about 30, but that includes the vendors.

What has putting a basket raffle been like for you?

It’s been hard work trying to get enough baskets to really get excited, but I finally got there with the help of some local businesses and good friends. We have about 50 baskets/gift cards for the raffle, so it’s a decent raffle. I had to hide baskets from kids and cat. It's just like when the Easter bunny visits. The basket with pet stuff barely survived the attacks of the excited seven-month old kitten.

What do you think about holding the Zumbathon at the Radisson?

The hotel has been super accommodating. They gave us the room at a discount, and they are donating refreshments so none of us will die! Fruits and veggies, cheese and crackers, and water are all going to be provided from Radisson.

When should people show up for the event?

Come on Sunday, May 21st . Doors open at 1 p.m. Tickets are available at the door. There are about 12 local vendors, who will also be set up. 95 Nutrition is going to be there, Mary Kay, Dove Choclolate, Sensei, Avon, and 716 fit kitchen .
Where will the proceeds from the fundraiser go?

All of the proceeds will be divided between Relay for Life and Hannah Boyer, a three year old, who is currently fighting a rare and aggressive form of leukemia. I went to school with her mom, Chandra.

(Note: According to the May 19th issue of the Island Dispatch, Hannah has been at St. Jude Hospital with her mom. She has been undergoing chemotherapy, and she needs a bone marrow transplant.)

If people would like to donate, how can they best do it? 

Any time after the event, people can donate directly to Relay for Life, which is scheduled for June 9th at Veterans Park in Grand Island, New York.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The continuing emerald ash story: A tree's death

Today's blog post is a photo essay, which documents the removal of a dead ash tree from Town Commons, just outside of Grand Island's Town Hall.

On Wednesday, I witnessed the loss of trees in town commons.  The loss, however, had already occurred. The trees that were removed had already passed away.
The area was very busy. A crew from the town's highway department was there to remove some of the dead and dying ash trees that were close to the road.

This is a scene that could soon be repeated across Grand Island.
Between 30 and 60 percent of Grand Island's trees are ash trees.
According to Mark Whitmore, an entomologist from the department of natural resources, which is a part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University,
all of Grand Island's ash trees are infested.
Most will die. 

This is how the emerald ash borer kills ash trees:
in its larval state, the insect destroys ash trees from the inside.
After the adult lays its eggs on the tree,
the larva eats the tree’s inner bark.
That disrupts the tree’s ability to transport nutrients throughout the tree.
One of the first visible signs of infestation is the loss of the tree’s top foliage.
Within two to three years of infestation, the tree is dead.

Dead and dying trees must be removed quickly.
Mark Whitmore said that the dead and dying trees pose an imminent threat to the community’s infrastructure.

“We need to protect ourselves and our infrastructure,” he said.
The bark of a dead ash tree is brittle and branches could break off or the entire tree could fall.
The trees could fall on houses, cars, pedestrians, and power lines.
“I live in the country near Ithaca
branches go into the wood chipper,
and the chips can be used for
and I have a chainsaw in the truck and a generator.”

What can you do? If you have big, beautiful ash trees, it may not be too late to save them. The recommendation from tree experts is to have them injected with a pesticide, which kills the emerald ash borer. In addition, because so many ash trees will die, it is also recommended that you plant new trees. Make sure to plant a diversity of trees that can survive in your climate and in your soil conditions. Feel free to share tree stories in the comments section below.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The 52-week photography project: purple magic

The theme for week eighteen of the 52-week photography project was "purple." The Dogwood Photography Studio describes purple as the color of royalty, magic, and mystery.

When I was a little kid, one of my favorite stories was Harold and the Purple Crayon, written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson.
It was about a little boy named Harold, who went out and made an entire world by drawing it with a purple crayon.
He had all sorts of adventures. He even drew a sea and had to swim hard to keep from drowning before he got the idea to draw a sailboat for himself. It was a dramatic story. Harold was very independent and very brave. He drew his way out of all sorts of potential disasters.

I wanted to be Harold. I wanted to have a magical purple crayon to draw a world. An entirely purple world with purple windows and purple doors and purple people and purple food and a purple sky. 

I never got that magical purple crayon. This week, though, I got to revisit my love for all things purple. It has been fun to look for purple things, both inside and outside. I discovered that, even though I couldn't draw a world with a purple crayon, I could still discover a beautiful, purple world.

Next week: Stay tuned for the next episode of the 52 week photography project.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Julia Ward Howe's mothers day

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), who wrote Battle Hymn of the Republic, was the first person to come up with the concept of a "mothers day." In 1872, Howe, a writer, women's rights activist, pacifist, and mother of six, suggested the concept of a "Mothers Peace Day." The world had endured two disastrous wars: the Franco-Prussian war in Europe and the Civil War in the United States. Howe said that women did not bring their sons into the world to kill the sons of other mothers. 

Julia Ward Howe proposed that Mothers Peace Day be celebrated on June 2nd. The purpose of the holiday would be to promote world peace. She wrote a proclamation in favor of such a holiday.

Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, disarm! The sword is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Happy mothers day to all. Peace is meant for everyone: mothers, grandmothers, aunties and the rest of the extended family. No one is excluded. Unfortunately, our world has not achieved the hope that Julia Ward Howe had of disarmament and peace. I hope that we can all work together to turn Julia Ward Howe's vision into reality.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The fourth grade tour of Grand Island

Every year, fourth graders from three of Grand Island's schools take a bus tour of Grand Island. The tour is organized by the Grand Island Historical Society. It is a highlight of the year for both the fourth graders and for the historical society. As a member of the historical society, I was able to join the tour with fourth graders and their teachers from Huth Road Elementary School. The tour was fascinating and much information was shared with the students and the teachers. 

Here are some of the highlights of the tour:

the SS Corona was a wooden steamship that transported people from Buffalo to the "picnic groves" of Grand Island. They included Edgewater, Eagle Park, and Electric Beach. The steamship had been launched in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on September 25th, 1869. Its history included transporting passengers and freight on Lake Michigan, carrying passengers from downtown Buffalo to Woodlawn Beach, and transporting people from Buffalo to Grand Island. The ship caught on fire when it was docked at the Edgewater Hotel on November 18th, 1898, and it burned to the waterline. In this picture, you can see pieces of the ship's machinery that jut from the water. The cause of the fire was listed as "suspicious."

Tucker's store: This building is now a private home, but the store's lettering remains on the front windows. In the past, it was a dry goods store, with the only gas pump in the area. From 1938 until 1948, it also served as the town's post office. The postmaster was Harry Tucker.

the Davern House: this was a Victorian house that was built at about 1900. Some of the features of the house include lion heads, an octagonal turret with five windows and a ten foot high ceiling. It also sports two trap doors in the house. The stories are that the trap doors were used to hide illegal alcohol during Prohibition.

Highlights of River Lea:
the laundry skit: Maggie Gushue acts as a nineteenth century woman living on a farm. Laundry day occurred once a week and it was a huge chore. Everything was washed by hand, including sheets and stiff collars. Wet clothes had to be put through a wringer, as seen in the above photograph. Soiled clothing had to be scrubbed on a wash board. The iron had to be heated on the stove and it had to be exactly the right temperature or the clothing would either continue to be wrinkled or it would be scorched. All clothing had to be hung up to dry. 

the morning dressing routine: Robin Shipman told her story.
Getting dressed was a challenging project for a lady in the nineteenth century. She had to put on a variety of undergarments before getting her dress on. These undergarments included a hoop, a corset to make her waist look very skinny, a bustle to make her derriere look larger, and more. Another interesting item was a pair of shoes. A woman simply had two shoes, which could be put on either foot. There was no such thing as a "left shoe" or a "right shoe."  These fashion statements sometimes caused problems for ladies. If the corset was tied too tight, the lady could faint from lack of oxygen. 

the blacksmith shop:
Bryce Shipman demonstrated some of the work that was done on a farm, which including cutting down a tree with a two person saw, shaping a horseshoe, picking up hay with a pitchfork, and more. 

A few more photographs:
The bus tour included Town Hall. Pictured above is Town Court Clerk Maria Burns, explaining how the court functions.

The building with the red door was Grand Island's only known ice house. The ice house had double walls and it was well insulated. Ice was cut from the river in the winter and it was stored in the ice house. The ice was delivered to houses, and people used the ice to keep food cold in their ice boxes. Ice boxes were no longer needed after refrigerators were invented.

Hair art is the epitome of recycling. When women combed their hair, they saved loose strands in a container. When they had enough hair, they created hair art, much like this example.  Today, it just seems kind of bizarre.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My day in pictures

It was sunny. All day. It seemed like a miracle after a week of nonstop flooding. The creeks had overflowed their banks. I had never seen the water move so fast through the creeks. The ditches were so full of water that they looked like creeks. Front yards had suddenly turned into lakes. It seemed as if the rain would never stop.

And then, it stopped.

The sky and the river were blue again.

Today, I decided to photograph my day's adventure, to share my bright, colorful, springtime world with you.

In the morning, I walked to the beauty parlor. It is about three miles from my house. I noticed that the trees were flowering and that the lilacs had started to open. I saw flowers everywhere. The gardens were an explosion of color... yellow, purple, red, green. The flowers and the leaves were delicate and soft. 

There was a crew working replacing pipes along the road, which was a good thing because the nonstop rainfall resulted in numerous flooded basements. A flagman was there with a huge stop sign/slow down sign. I asked him what the crew was doing, and he pointed out the large pipes that were being installed. That was pretty exciting because, well, flooded basements are excitement best left unexperienced. 

As I walked to the beauty parlor, I took random pictures of flowers, trees, Woods Creek, and other things. Some of the pictures are for my 52-week photography project.

My hairdresser Jacquie styled my hair so I can look human... um... good when I have my two minutes of fame at the dance recital. At the beauty parlor, my hairdresser took my picture. There are people in the background, photo bombing (a potential new career option for me).

A recent addition to the Island
Ship Center. This room has comfortable
furniture, a virtual mailbox, and a
computer for use. There is a fee,
which covers use of all of these services.
My next stop was to the Island Ship Center, to get greeting cards made from a photograph of a painting of a view of the Niagara River from River Lea in Beaver Island State Park. Because I had to wait for about half an hour, I decided to visit some other businesses. 

Momma De's mixing bowl.
Next door was Momma De's Mixing Bowl. It is a bakery that has been open for about a month. It started by selling light breakfasts and baked goods. Just this past week, Momma De's started including lunch in its repertoire. You can get an entire meal for nine dollars.
Sweet stuff at Grand Island's
newest bakery
Included in that meal is a wrap in one of three flavors (chicken salad, turkey, or veggie), chips or fresh fruit, a beverage, and a cookie. Yesterday, I went to the dress rehearsal for the Grand Island Dance Center recital. The Zumba ladies are dancing in the recital!!! (What fun!) The rehearsal was long so we brought our own meals. I chose to get a meal from Momma De's, as I wanted to try their lunch special.

Celeste shows off some
of the baked goods offered
at Momma De's, open every
day, except Sunday.
I had a veggie wrap on a spinach wrap. The wrap consisted of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and avocado. My beverage of choice was orange juice. I chose the fresh fruit, which consisted of an orange slice and some cantaloupe and watermelon. The cookie that I chose was called "Amazing." The whole meal was delicious! The cookie, which I shared with a friend, lived up to its title.

My next visit was to the Niagara Frontier Publications. It was a busy beehive of activity. So there wasn't much time to chat. After that, I returned to the Island Ship Center, where my greeting cards were produced by Seema Mojowalla, who is the Queen of Awesome. She and her husband Fahim are the co-owners of the Island Ship Center. He is the King of Awesome. They call the Island Ship Center the Spa of Shipping.
What time is it? It's time
to visit the King and Queen
of Awesome at the
Island Ship Center.
I have never visited a business like that. Fahim and Seema know everyone's name. They go out of their way to make each customer feel like their only customer. Their work is excellent because it is done with care. They made my greeting cards look perfect. They have invested their money, their time, and their hearts into making the Island Ship Center a dynamic business that grows with the customers' needs.

After I collected my cards, I went home, relishing the spring weather. I hope that you also had a colorful, enjoyable day.

The wetlands of Buckhorn Island State Park

On Saturday, May 20th, I participated in a guided hike through Buckhorn Island State Park. The  guide was Dave, who works for New York State...