Saturday, July 25, 2020

A visit to Three Sisters Island

Today, my friend Joanna and I went to Niagara Falls, just to be there. To experience the might and power of the falls. It is truly an amazing sight. The water rushing over the three separate waterfalls is incredible. Those waterfalls are the American falls, the Bridal Veil falls, and the Horseshoe falls. The best views of Niagara Falls are in Canada but that will have to wait because someone with more power than sense decided that Covid-19 was a hoax, leading to a tepid response to the pandemic. It wasn't a hoax. Canada got the pandemic under control. The United States didn't. Hence, the border closure. Essential travel only.

Looking at Niagara Falls is fun, but not essential, sad to say. Instead, we went to Three Sisters Island, where you can see the rapids up close and almost personal. Three Sisters Island is located off of Goat Island and is accessible by footbridge. It is the closest view of the rapids possible. Hence the up close and almost personal concept.

I googled Niagara Falls and found this site (link to fun facts about Niagara Falls) that has a whole collection of facts about Niagara Falls and about the park in Niagara Falls, NY, that Joanna and I visited.

Here are a few of them:

Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the United States. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Delaware Park in Buffalo and Central Park in New York City. Frederick Law Olmsted was a landscape architect and an artist who believed that the layout of a park should affect the emotions of the visitor.
He combined the concepts of pastoral and picturesque parks to build his creations.

His parks and parkways and park systems are still wonderful places to visit. They still offer calming effects or excitement, depending on which park you're visiting.

This is how Niagara Falls appears
from Three Sisters Island
Sometimes, people get a little bit too much excitement when visiting Niagara Falls. One person who was affected in such a dramatic was was Annie Edson Taylor, who wanted a very experiential visit to Niagara Falls. On October 24th, 1901, the 63-year-old schoolteacher became the first person to survive a trip over the falls in a barrel. She was very fortunate. A month earlier, a lady named Maud Willard went over the falls in a barrel with her dog. The dog put its nose into the barrel's only air hole. Maud Willard died of suffocation, but the dog survived. 

Unfortunately for Annie Edson Taylor, her fame did not lead to fortune. In 1921, she died, penniless and blind.

And speaking about people who live to tell the tale of the power of Niagara Falls, there was Maria Spelterini, who, in 1876, became the first woman to cross the Niagara Gorge on a tightrope. For more information about daredevils, check out this link.

I'm not pruning that shrubbery!
Niagara Falls was born 12,000 years ago, during the last glacial age. Four of the five Great Lakes feed into Niagara Falls. They are Lakes Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. The water than drains into the easternmose of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario.

Unlike humans, fish don't need barrels when going over Niagara Falls. Most of them survive the incredible drop because they know how to go with the flow.

A circus? What a quaked idea!!
Oh, and did you know that, at one time, PT Barnum wanted to turn Goat Island into a circus grounds? There could have been even more tightrope walkers over Niagara Falls! You never know!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Touring charming Niagara County

These days, I don't travel very far. I go to work and I come home. Sometimes, I go to the farmers market. On Sunday, I went to church. The first time since March 8th. It was nice to be back, and it was different. The church service was held outside, under a tent. No singing. We wore our masks and we socially distanced. 

My world has grown bigger since the shutdown began in mid-March. It is not the great big world that I used to know.
My adventures are smaller, but they are still adventures. I am still fascinated by everything that I see and touch. Today, it was the insects that landed on me as I worked on weeding a very overgrown garden in a playground. 

A few weeks ago, I had a bigger adventure, as I got the opportunity to take a tour of Niagara County with Nate McMurray and his Congressional campaign. Most of Niagara County is in the 27th Congressional district of New York State.
It is a rural county, except for Niagara Falls and Lockport. The northern part of the county is along Lake Ontario.
If you travel farther south, you will find the barge canal, also known as the Erie Canal. Before the Welland Canal was built in 1932, the Erie Canal was a major east-west shipping channel.
Many of the towns along the canal have names ending in -port, such as Lockport, Gasport, and Brockport. 

During our tour, we visited towns that included Lewiston, Youngstown, Wilson, Newfane, Hartland, and Lockport.
We would have had a closing rally (with social distancing) in Wheatfield
but, just as we left Lockport, rain started falling copiously, with accompanying thunder and lightning.
And so, the adventure came to a sudden and electrifying halt.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Life in these strange times: reality and official denial

There are times when I think that, once we finish all of the phases of re-opening, everyday life will just pick up where it left off. The world looks normal. Is it really possible that danger lurks behind such a placid surface?
The flowers are blooming and the lake is often a beautiful shade of blue. And then, there are times when I think that a return to normal will never happen. The world has changed too much. I have changed so much since the shutdown began in March.
Four months ago. It feels like a lifetime, but it's not. Simply understanding the truth and getting a grasp on what is truth and what is propaganda is very difficult. This has been my challenge. 

The covid 19 virus is most definitely not under control, especially in the United States, where official response has varied dramatically, depending on who the official is.
And, now, because the infection rates are spiking in a number of states, Americans are banned from a variety of countries, including the European Union, Mexico, and Canada ("essential travel only").
I think that the governments of these nations (and groups of nations) are wise to be cautious as the tweets from the White House flow ceaselessly:


Your chest may feel tight. You cannot get enough air in your lungs. 

"Mail-in ballots will lead to MASSIVE electoral fraud and a rigged 2020 election.

"We cannot let it happen."

You fight for every shallow breath.

"According to the PC Coronavirus Police, protesting America is safe, but celebrating America is unsafe."

Your temperature is spiking.

"Cases, cases, cases! If we didn't test so much and so successfully, we would have very few cases. If you test 40,000,000 people, you are going to have many cases that, without the testing (like other countries), would not show up every night on the Fake Evening News..."

If you never have a test, you are not sick. Even if you struggle to breathe and have a temperature that is spiking.

"A great day in Arizona."

Staffed ICU beds are unavailable in Tucson. Patients are being sent to Phoenix.

People traveling to New York from states with high rates of transmission must self quarantine.

We struggle to deal with so much loss, so much sickness. The names of the dead are recited every Saturday at the Washington National Cathedral.
The numbers of the dead can be counted, but the loss of those people creates a void that cannot be filled. Our hearts break at the loss and even the flowers seem to be weeping.
How can we ever return to "normal"?

A step by step guide to making kohlrabi soup

Two years ago, I had joined the Becker Farms CSA (community supported agriculture) for the season. When you join a CSA, you pay for every week that you get a box of produce. I had the option of ordering a box every week or every other week. My other option was the choice between a large box or a small box. I ordered a small box every other week. 

Despite getting the smallest possible order, I was inundated with produce, especially at the end of the season. I felt practically buried by cabbage. I spent massive amounts of time searching for ways to cook all of that cabbage. I was tired. Last year, my main source of fresh produce was the local farmers market.

This year, however, Becker Farms offered an even smaller share. The mini share. I was very happy to sign up for a mini share. I get delicious and, sometimes, unusual produce every other week during the growing season. On Friday, I picked up my second box of the season and brought it home, where I eagerly opened it. I found cherries and small potatoes (salt potatoes), a head of lettuce, kale, and kohlrabi. I also got a small container of raspberries (yum!) and an add-on (extra purchase) of feta cheese from Teacup Farms. After I washed the lettuce and put it through the salad spinner, I found that I had lots of lettuce. I shared that and the kale with my next door neighbor. 

So... the kohlrabi. How do I cook that? And what do I do with the leaves? I checked on the internet and found a recipe for Hungarian Kohlrabi soup. It looked so good that I decided to cook it and to photograph the cooking process.

I read the recipe and began preparing the soup, step by step.

My first step was to cut off the leaves from the kohlrabi and to to peel that vegetable. I then set the kohlrabi, both the bulb and the leaves, aside. I  cut up an onion, some garlic scapes (the recipe called for one clove of garlic, but I've got garlic scapes, so I substituted them), and one carrot. I then sauteed the onion in butter, and, after one minute, I added the garlic scapes and the carrot.
I generally prefer unsalted butter, but the recipe doesn't specify that so, if you like salted butter, go ahead and use it.
Once the vegetables are soft, add one cup of chicken stock, bring it to a boil, and then simmer it for ten minutes.

While the vegetables were cooking, I peeled a sweet potato and diced both that and the kohlrabi bulb. And I set that aside. 

My next step was to puree the cooked vegetables (carrot, garlic scapes, and onion) in a food processor. The recipe recommends a blender, but I don't have one of those, so I used the food processor. 

The cooked vegetables go back into the pot. I then added the sweet potato, the kohlrabi bulb, and two and a half more cups of chicken stock. These get cooked until the kohlrabi and the sweet potato are soft.

While the soup is simmering, get out another pot and boil water in it. Then put the leaves in the boiling water for one minute. I like to shred the leaves as if they were lettuce for a salad. Set the leaves aside.

The next step would be to heat up butter, flour, and a small amount of soup in a fry pan. Once these are stirred together, add the mixture to the soup and simmer the soup until it thickens.

Once the soup thickens, add the leaves, about one tablespoon of lemon juice (I prefer fresh squeezed), and salt and pepper to taste. 

And your final step might be your favorite. Eat your soup, and enjoy the magic of that wonderful root vegetable: the kohlrabi.