Friday, October 20, 2017

The 52 week photography project: Alice's microcosmos

For week 35 of the 52-week photography project, the challenge was to "get up close and personal with nature in this natural beauty shot." Suggestions for subjects include flowers, bugs, bees, and spiders. Here is my microcosmos, which I found in gardens and other places. All of these photographs were taken in Grand Island, New York, in places that included town hall and private gardens.

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge  (Hyperlink this to:   

#writebravely #writetribeproblogger

Next week: Check back for the next episode in the continuing 52-week photography challenge. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Humans of Grand Island: the food truck

Yesterday, I talked to Suzi Bognar-Langenfeld, who is the owner and operator of a food truck called Oarhouse Eatery. She was parked outside of Momma De's Mixing Bowl on Whitehaven Road. I asked her what motivated her to own and operate a food truck.

I love to cook. It doesn't feel like work when you do what you love and you feel like it matters. I was in the human services field, the mental health human services field. Then, I became a mom. Therefore, my life is built around accommodating my young child. She is four and a half years old.

How long have you operated the food truck?
This is my third season with my food truck. I wanted to be a mom first. That is my main job. I love the flexibility of being my own boss. I decided, "You know what? I'm going to buy a food trailer." I went online and just followed the regulations to start a business. I had money saved, and I founded a food trailer. It was established in 2014.

What do you most enjoy about owning and operating a food truck?
I can keep flexible hours. I enjoy the creativity with food, serving other people, the interaction with the community, and all the different types of people that you meet.

Do you do anything else, in addition to running the food truck?
I have a farm. I raise poultry and sell eggs. I am clearing land and my goal is to plant blueberries and strawberries and raspberries for a you pick operation. Last year, I sold turkeys and meat chickens. Next year, I plan on selling poultry again and maybe grow a pumpkin patch.

Next Wednesday, October 25th, is the last week that the Oarhouse Eatery will be parked outside of Momma De's Mixing Bowl for the season. Feel free to try some of Suzi's food samplings and then head on inside for dessert. There is seating both inside and outside.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Autumnal images & haiku

The harvest came in
with orange and golden hues
October bounty.

Screaming winds cause fear
to sit deep within my heart
October nightmare.

Juicy red apples
cooking in a large kettle
time for applesauce.

A world of beauty
starting to lose its color
autumn's last hurrah.

The queen bee searches
for a hibernation home
the bee needs to sleep.

Walking soundlessly
footsteps masked by fallen leaves
An autumn delight.

Pumpkins on the porch
winter squash ready to be cooked
October bounty.

Monday, October 16, 2017

How to help insects: Insects and their conservation (part three)

Yesterday, Dr. Tara Cornelisse came to Riverside-Salem Environmental Chapel in Grand Island to talk about insects. Tara is assistant professor at Canisius College, where she teaches courses in animal behavior, ecology, and conservation. She is working on a monarch butterfly habitat project in Western New York and she is a member of the board of directors for the Pollinator Conservation Board.

Parts one and two of Insects and their Conservation can be found here:

What's all the buzz? Insects and their Conservation (part one)
Bees and Butterflies: Insects and their Conservation part two)

In autumn, as the seasons change, there are things that can be done to help support insects. You're probably asking: why should we help to support insects? Well, probably because we really can't function without them. According to E. O. Wilson, "If we were to wipe out insects alone on this planet, the rest of life and humanity would mostly disappear from the land. Within a few months."

Here are some of the things that our mini superheroes do:
Pollination produces about 50 percent of our food. This is done, mostly by bees and butterflies. Some pollination is done by hummingbirds and other small birds, as well. Seed dispersal is important in forests. It is mostly ants, which transport seeds from one part of a forest to another.
Insects offer biological control, which helps to keep us from overloading our yards with toxic pesticides. And that is a good thing because those pesticides are poisonous for the pollinators, that produce half of our food. 

Don't like cow poop? The job of the dung beetle is to take care of that unpleasantness. This insect, whose specialty is decomposition and nutrient cycling, is able to digest cellulose, something that cows do by eating grass. Humans and most mammals cannot digest cellulose.  

Insects also can let us know if something in our environment is right or wrong. If you notice many caddis flies, may flies, and stone flies around a body of water, that is an indication of healthy water quality in that body of water.

Insects can even be a source of food, as bizarre as it is to think about eating bugs. Cricket flour is one way to indulge in bug consumption. It's made of ground crickets. I know. That doesn't sound super appetizing but the nutrients makes up for the bizarreness of the food. It's packed with protein, instead of starch, so it might actually be healthier than regular flour. Also, cricket flour is completely gluten free. And it's GMO free, which is another plus.

Now that you know how bugs help us, how would you like to help them? Here are a few suggestions. The bumblebee queen is now starting to hibernate for the winter, as many of the worker bees have died off. She'd like a warm space, maybe in a flower pot or in a shed or under a floor. She really needs just a little burrow. Maybe that queen will find her hibernation spot near your home. Just let her sleep peacefully until spring. Fireflies like night and darkness. Their larvae grow on the ground under autumn leaves, so leaving some leaves will help the lovely and glowy fireflies. 

Another way to help insects is to leave dead trees standing, as long as they are not a safety hazard. Insects like to nest in dead trees.

Also, there are endangered insect species, including the rusty patched bumblebee, the salt creek tiger beetle, and the nine-spotted ladybug. By the way, the nine-spotted ladybug is New York State's official insect.

So... every time you bite into an apple or some other food that exists because of pollination, remember our six-legged friends.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The 52-week photography project: humans of Grand Island

For week 34 of the 52-week photography project, the challenge was to tell the story of a stranger. At the Grand Island Fire Company's open house on Friday, October 13th, I found two people, who shared part of their stories with me. One is a fire company cadet, who was giving water bottles and hats to kids, and the other is a member of the fire company, who serves as an emergency medical technician. She was available to answer questions about machinery that is used to save lives.

Question: What motivated you to become a fire cadet?

Patrick: My dad, Pat, is a firefighter in Buffalo and I have always had a love for the job. I like the people, and I like to serve the community. I also like all of the cool equipment and the fire truck. I've been a fire cadet for one year and am a senior at St. Joe's. I want to go to college and study law. I'd like to become a public defender or a prosecutor. I really like the event today. There are people here from different schools, and everyone is having a great time.

Question: Could you explain this equipment to me?

Shelley: This is an AED (automatic external defibrillator). You can find it in public places, such as banks and gyms. The larger tool is a Zoll AED. It is high end. We can determine rhythm rate and can detect irregular rhythms. We can transmit the information to the hospital. If we find that a patient is experiencing a lethal rhythm, we can put him on medications and an IV. Twin Cities Ambulance transports the patients to the hospital.

We are certified first responders. We have EMT (emergency medical technician) basic and EMT paramedics.

And a reminder from instructor Charles Jones about fire safety: Always have a planned escape route and two ways out of any room.

Next week: check back for a new theme in the 52-week photograhy project.

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge  (Hyperlink this to:   

#writebravely #writetribeproblogger

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A celebration of autumn

Today, I went out in search of autumnal images. What looks like autumn? What tastes like autumn? What does autumn feel like? Here are some of the images of autumn, as they are celebrated at Tom Thompson's farmers' market and at the second annual fall festival at Kelly's Country Store.

To me, autumn feels like the last days of warmth before winter arrives with snows and winds and monochromatic iciness.
Autumn is the vivid color of falling leaves before they become old and crunchy and brittle. Autumnal colors are warm.
They are reds and oranges and yellows and the few remaining greens. Autumn is the season that glows brightly before the trees go dormant. Autumn is fragile beauty. 

Autumn tastes like the apples that fall from the tree. It tastes like cider and winter squash and roasted squash seeds.
Autumn tastes like apple pie and pumpkin bread. It tastes like spaghetti squash covered with pesto.

So autumn is celebrated. It is celebrated for the harvest and it is celebrated as

the last gift of color that nature makes until spring pokes fragile greenery through the snow-covered ground. 

Kelly's Country Store, Grand Island, New York

autumn squashes 
farmers' market, at Thompson & Son farm in Grand Island.

Douse the flames: fire safety week

Charles Jones of the Grand Island Fire
Company discusses fire safety
In the United States, there are 1,000 house fires every day. Most people don't know how to use fire extinguishers when they are faced by an active fire. Problems include inability to open the extinguisher, standing too far from the flames to be effective, and getting distracted from the fire by something or someone else.

The correct way to operate a fire extinguisher involves the word "PASS." 
Pull out the pin safely.
Aim the nozzle at the bass of the fire.
Squeeze the nozzle.
Sweep the fire, making sure to get it all.

And there's more. I learned quite a bit about fire safety when I went to visit Huth Road Elementary School yesterday to take pictures for the PTA. Charles Jones of the Grand Island Fire Company spent the week visiting local schools. Yesterday, I saw him at Huth Road Elementary School during his presentation for fourth and fifth graders. Today, I saw him again at the Grand Island Fire Company's annual open house.

So... where do fires start? When I was a kid, I was terrified of fire. I truly didn't understand that fires actually had a cause. I believed that all fires were the result of spontaneous combustion. In my mind, a fire could start anywhere at any time. It wasn't a very reassuring thought.

The idea that fires actually have causes and, therefore, can be prevented is much more reassuring. One of the most common places for a fire to start is in a kitchen. Kitchens are actually fairly hazardous places because of the presence of oils, chemicals, and electricity.
Other places that fires start readily are in industrial buildings. The chemicals are extremely volatile and everything burned, despite the presence of fire safety doors and sprinklers.

How should you keep safe?
This is a simulation of a living
room. It was set on fire as a demonstration
of fire fighting techniques during
the Grand Island Fire Company
Open House.
firefighters dressed in their gear. Most
firefighters in the United States
are members of volunteer units.

Make sure that you have at least two ways out of each room in the house.  Those two ways would involve a door and a window.
the fire has been started and smoke is
beginning to form. First the smoke
is white, but, later, it turns black. Today, the
winds caused the smoke to blow mostly
to the north.
Families should have an escape plan in case of fire and they should practice the escape plan. Practice is necessary. Firefighters practice their skills all of the time. 
Don't play with matches or fire.
Be careful with electricity.
Be safe in the kitchen.

It's a conflagration!

If you see smoke, get low to the floor and crawl. Before opening doors, touch doors to make sure that they don't feel too hot.
Fighting the fire. "Put the wet stuff on the hot
stuff." Pouring water is not appropriate
for all fires, however. On an electrical
fire, water will conduct electricity.
Fire is also ineffective in fighting
a chemical fire. There are fire extinguishers
that can deal with electrical and chemical
If the doors are hot, that might be an indication that there is fire on the other side of the door. If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop, and roll. Don't run in burning clothes. Fires like oxygen, and, when you run, you are feeding the flames. 
Don't hide. Fires are frightening and, usually, we like to hide from danger, but hiding in a burning building is a very dangerous idea. Scared or not, you get out of the burning building. Don't go back inside for any reason whatsoever! Once you're out, stay out

In case of a fire, call 9-1-1. When you are on the phone, be calm and give lots of information to the trained dispatch officer. Speak clearly. This will help get the fire company to you quicker.
The fire is out. It still needs to be
inspected and investigated. Although there
are no more flames, this room
is still considered to be a fire hazard.
When firefighters arrive, with sirens blaring and lights flashing, they will wear heavy suits and masks and the oxygen from the mask may sound like Darth Vader. It could be frightening.

"We are your friends," Charles Jones said, explaining that firefighters may sound ferocious. "We have to yell so you can hear us."

Remember! Always have a planned escape route and two ways out of every room!