When is an aerial view more than a Google snoop-shoot? When it’s an Essex aerial view painting created by the super clever Touch the Art creator, Amy Guglielmo (@amyguglielmo). And better yet? You can view Rosslyn from the eagle’s perspective…
Deciphering this Essex Aerial View
Start with the two large masses extending out into Lake Champlain. The lower, more rectilinear man made peninsula is the Old Dock Restaurant. If you’ve ever arrived in Essex, NY via ferry from Charlotte, Vermont, you’ve seen this red building. A little over a century and a half ago that pier and building were part of the Ross family’s mercantile operations. Today, the Old Dock is a popular summer destination for boaters and locals to grab lunch, cocktails or dinner with an outstanding view of the Green Mountains.
The second man made peninsula is the Essex-Charlotte ferry dock. See the ferry loaded with cars? It looks like it has just pulled away from the dock. Our ferry offers more than prime Champy spotting. It’s also the way that many commuters (and a handful of local kids who attend schools in Vermont) conveniently cross Lake Champlain a couple of times a day.
Now let your eyes drift a little further up Amy’s Essex aerial view and you’ll spy a third, smaller pier. That is Rosslyn’s boathouse, the maritime folly that enchanted us back in 2005-6 enough to swap NYC for the Adirondacks. Heck, it still enchants us despite constant maintenance and seasonal flood worries. And the boathouse hammock is a mini vacation!
Head inland from the boathouse and you’ll discover Rosslyn itself, tucked next to two massive trees, a ginkgo and what I believe is a silver maple (Acer saccharinum). In fact, I’m sitting in the top right room on the second floor right now. Perhaps if you swoop in a little lower you’ll catch me jotting this blog post.
A little further left of the house are the carriage barn (lower) and ice house (upper) which offer up all sorts of mysteries. But those for another day. Unless you remember three curious artifacts I shared with you a while ago…
It’s impossible to frown your way into the day with this magnificent view smiling back at you. Even the dreamy distortions of wavy glass don’t spoil the effect. In fact, like so many other old home enthusiasts, I love the wavy the glass!
Homes built before the turn of the 20th century have a very distinct characterization that many homeowners may not completely understand: a wavy appearance that can distort the images behind it… There is a certain charm about wavy glass that gives your home an antique, historical value that many homeowners find appealing. Many… appreciate the authenticity and originality of the wavy windows as contributing elements to the overall style of the home. (Angies List)
Rosslyn has greeted spectacular sunrises for almost two centuries, so the least we can offer as her current custodians is respect for her antique quirks. But preserving (and occasionally replacing) Rosslyn’s wavy glass goes beyond respect for history.
One of the things I absolutely love about old houses and antiques is the minor but striking detail and character that wavy glass brings. It’s one of those little things that screams “I came from a simpler time, where things were still hand made, imperfect, and unique!” (Old Town Home)
What is Wavy Glass?
So what exactly is the story with the wavy glass you see in old houses?
Apparently one of the best explanations comes from an article that appeared some time ago in Old House Journal. Although I haven’t successfully laid my hands on the original article yet, the following explanation is ostensibly quoted from the original. It offers as good an explanation as any I’ve seen, and breaks out the two different varieties of wavy glass.
For centuries, the best quality window glass was crown glass. To make panes with this method, a glass blower gathered a clump of molten glass on the end of a hollow pipe and blew it into a bubble much like a bottle. As a helper attached a pontil rod to the other side of the bubble, the glassworker broke off the blowpipe creating a hole. Then, by heating the glass and coaxing it with a wood paddle, he quickly enlarged this hole into a rough plate.
Working in front of a furnace to keep the glass hot and fluid, the worker then spun he rod with his hands, often on a supporting bench, so that centrifugal force stretched the glass out into a thin disc – a process nearly identical to a baker spinning fresh pizza dough for a pie. When the blower severed the rod, he had a disc of thin glass, up to 4 feet in diameter.
After annealing this table in another oven to equalize stresses, the glass was carefully cut into panes according to grade and size. The central “bull’s-eye” – the thickest and most malformed part where the rods touched – was usually unsalable and returned to the furnace… (Fairview Glass)
Creating crown glass must have been incredibly time consuming and labor intensive. Suddenly the luxury of early glass panes comes into focus. So nostalgia (and that dreamy filter which subtly distorts the view) and historic authenticity are trumped by a third important reason to value and preserve wavy glass. It retains the intimate contact and hard work of a human being. As old home owners we should feel obligated to honor that enduring investment of human labor.
Learning about crown wavy glass offers an almost romantic glimpse into window’s patina’ed to past. And yet the inefficiency is obvious, and innovation was inevitable.
Though crown glass was made up to the 1850s, it could not supply the need for bigger panes created by a growing population. The glass that could was cylinder glass (also called broad glass or sheet glass), and it dominated this industry for the rest of the century.
To make cylinder glass, the glassworker blew a large tube of glass. After cracking off the blowpipe, the glassworker cut off the ends and slit the tube down one side. From here these shawls were transferred to a special oven where they could wilt and unfold into a flat sheet.
By the 1870s, glass manufacturers were adding pits dug deep in the floor of the glass factory to allow blowers to swing the glass as they blew. The resulting cylinders were up to 18 inches in diameter and a remarkable 7 feet in length.
Two decades later, some manufacturers had mechanized the steps with cranes and compressed air. These cylinders made possible by the Lubbers process – the last before the switch to drawn-sheet glass manufacturing in this century – were several feet in diameter. (Fairview Glass)
Cranes and compressed air?!?! My commitment has been renewed to preserve and enjoy the nuances of Rosslyn’s wavy glass… And you? What’s your take on wavy glass?
Can you smell the chicken Provencal wafting through Rosslyn?
Sundays are the best day of the week for experimental cooking. Pungent aromas filling the house all day long just feels relaxing, the perfect reward for a week well lived.
Besides, Sundays at Rosslyn tend to be the lazy day of the week, affording more time for culinary caprice. During the week, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “efficient cooking”. The schedule is tighter, and the risks of a flop can outweigh the joys of taking risks in the kitchen. But on Sunday I get brave. It’s time for adventure!
This morning’s dish was less adventurous than some previous experiments – chicken Provencal (or chicken Provençal if you’re French-ish) is a pretty straightforward – but it nevertheless fueled my anticipation receptors. Enter the slow cooker. It’s the perfect way to concentrate flavors, preserve tenderness and stretch out the pleasure of a fine meal. Think of the aromas wafting through our house, enticing my appetite, tempting an early taste. Or two. (Though undercooked chicken offers pretty effective sneak prevention!)
I’ve often joked that some foods like bacon, popcorn, and chocolate chip cookies are almost as enjoyable to smell during their preparation phase as they are to actually eat. Take away the aroma of bacon cooking, and you’re left with a crinkled, strip of fat and marginal meat. But smell the bacon in the skillet, hear the occasional crackle, and you’re halfway to heaven before the first crunch.
Slow cooked sundae meals fit into the same category. The tangled fragrance of bay leaves and tarragon sweetened with caramelized onions. And the juicy chicken and white wine gradually marinating as it cooks. Tantalizing!
Here’s what I did:
Cleaned, dried and browned four organic chicken thighs in olive oil, salt and pepper.
Saute two finely chopped medium onions with three bay leaves.
Add the chicken thighs to the onions and bay leaves, and pout 2 cups of dry white wine overtop.
Slow cook on low for three hours.
It’s a hearty meal for two people or a savory middle course for four people. Today I paired the chicken provencal with garlic wilted spinach drizzled, but Brussels sprouts would also pair nicely. Along with the rest of that bottle of white wine. Aaahhh, Sundays…
The gallery below shows a bit more of the process. Enjoy.
Organic chicken thighs, chopped onions and bay leaves.
Toss the chopped (minced?) onions and bay leaves into a skillet (of range-safe slow cooker pot.)
The onions have begun to caramalize and I can smell the bay leaves softening up and releasing their distinctive aroma.
A couple of healthy pinches of tarragon should do it.
Add a couple cups of dry white wine. The alcohol will cook off but the wine will tenderize the chicken and flavor the marinade.
Three hours at low in the slow cooker and, voila, chicken Provencal!
It’s that time of year again when we put the vegetable garden to sleep.
I’ve been asked if it isn’t bittersweet ripping out limp, frosted tomato plants and tilling under the rotting stems of zucchini and cantaloupe.
And you know, it really isn’t bittersweet. It’s a celebration of another bountiful summer, eating delicious, fresh produce harvested from a small plot of dirt a short walk from my kitchen. And it’s a celebration of the bounty yet to come. I know that sounds sort of “woo-woo” Pollyanna-ish, but I genuinely mean it. Putting this summer’s garden to bed is actually a way of starting on next summer’s vegetable garden.
I love composting almost as much as gardening!
Besides, there’s still so much happening in the garden. Shortly we’ll begin harvesting leeks and that’ll continue through Thanksgiving, maybe even Christmas if the ground doesn’t freeze.
And I’ve just finished knocking most of the foliage off of our Brussels sprouts so they can continue to fill out. I’m about a month late, so it may not have as much effect as it would’ve otherwise. Under the best of circumstances this practice helps fatten up the sprouts.
The artichokes provide the only bittersweet harmony in my veggie patch lullaby. Out of a dozen plants, only six survived the swampy May and June early season. Plants that thrive in the sandy, dry, relatively temperate Monterey Peninsula struggle in clay soil flooded by rain after rain after rain. And of the six plants that survived, they developed slowly and bore no chokes. Three of the plants are at prime July first condition today! I’ve accepted that we won’t be eating any homegrown artichokes this year, but I’m not giving up hope for next year.
Given the decent artichoke crop me managed two summers ago and the outstanding bumper crop last year, I’m going to continue growing artichokes at Rosslyn. In fact, I’m going to undertake a bold experiment.
Ever since discovering that Imperial Star Artichokes can be grown successfully in our abbreviated norther season, I’ve been tempted to defy conventional wisdom.
Although artichokes in more forgiving climes can be grown as perennials, severe North Country winters and a short season require transplanting healthy, established juvenile artichokes and accepting that the crop will not endure from season to season.
Annual artichokes are certainly better than no artichokes, but given our fruitless season I’ve decided to see if I can’t successfully overwinter our plants.
I plan to cut them back almost to their base once they’ve actually stopped growing and become dormant. And then, before we get any deep frosts or snow, I’ll bury the plants in straw, leaves and organic mulch to try and insulate them over the winter.
Nothing lost in trying!
And I’ve overlooked the still productive raised bed, still flush with greens. Although some of the spinach has browned off, and most of the kale is gone (some pest really did a number on it late this fall), the beets, beet “purples”, Swiss chard and lettuce continue to feed us.
So you see, the veggie patch lullaby is a happy, hopeful tune!
How do you feel when it’s time to put your veggie patch to bed for the winter?
A warm thank you to friend, photographer, and some time Essex neighbor Eve Ticknor for giving me these evocative images of Rosslyn’s boathouse.
You will see in my photographs, ways to see water, not just to look at it. Honing your observation skills will open your eyes to other worlds. ~ Eve Ticknor (Aquavisions)
Indeed. Eve’s photographs capture dreamy abstractions that don’t easily reveal their source. Rarely does she share images as literal and representational as these. So I considered myself very fortunate when I received her email recently.
The photos were accompanied with a question: Is that you in the hammock? She had shot the photographs from near the Belden Noble Memoiral Library on the Essex ferry dock. At first, she hadn’t noticed that someone was reading in the hammock. It wasn’t until she saw my flip-flops on the deck that she realized someone was contentedly resting.
She caught me!
Image of Indian Summer
Although we’ve already experienced some chilly days and nights this fall, we’re also enjoying frequent installments of Indian summer. I’ve taken advantage of a few such days to grab my tablet and work lakeside from the comfort of my “corner office”.
Eve explores refracted and reflected images on the surface of water, never using Photoshop or filters to alter her images. What we see is what she saw. And yet she succeeds in capturing all sorts of whimsical illusions on the water surface.
Illusion of Indian Summer
And yet these fun photos are no illusion. I was busted midafternoon playing hooky. Can you blame me?
Almost orderly rows of zinnias, eggplants and tomatoes.
Deep purple (almost black) eggplant enjoying the shade.
I skipped the hot peppers this season and focused on several varieties of sweet peppers.
These slender, curving Asian eggplants are beautiful and delicious on the grill or in stews.
The foliage on the Brussels sprout plants looks like lace. Full of holes!
We’re enjoying a heavy melon crop including cantaloupe, musk melon and watermelon.
We overproduced artichokes last season, but this season’s been disappointing. Still no chokes!
Gangbuster cuke season! They’re getting too big too fast…
It’s been getting considerably cooler at night lately, and feeling fall-like much earlier than the last few years. We’ve already had two nights that broke forty degrees! But still no killing frost.
The vegetable garden is still thick with produce. We’ve been eating cantaloupes and musk melons just as quickly as we can. The same goes for eggplant and tomatoes. We’ve lost the battle with cucumbers which are getting so big they’re almost obscene. I have to apologize before giving them away as a gifts lest I offend someone with tender sensibilities. Fortunately they still taste good. The key is to slice them the long way and scoop out all of the seeds the same way you do with melons.
Several varieties of tomatoes have succumbed to blights. Fortunately the affliction hasn’t really damaged many tomatoes themselves, just the plants. It seems to primarily be an issue with the determinate varieties. 75% of the indeterminate plants are still growing like gangbusters, pumping out large, delicious heirloom tomatoes.
The zucchini seem to have gone dormant, although they’re still producing lots of blossoms. I would love to cook up some squash blossoms before the season ends, but haven’t managed to do it yet.
Lots and lots of sweet peppers too. And a full crop of green beans, spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, and baby kale coming online soon. I grew a small quantity of beets with the intention of harvesting their “greens” (actually, their deep purple/red). We ate about half of the crop in our salads this summer, but at this point many of them have grown into full grown beets. So we’ll end up harvesting those as well this fall.
What else? The Brussels sprouts are just beginning to set, so I need to snap off most of the foliage to concentrate their energy into sprouts. We pulled up all the corn stocks and composted them. The leaks will be ready to start harvesting in about a month, and only the artichokes have failed to produce. After last summer’s bumper crop, it’s a mystery. Half of the plants succumbed to root rot during the rainy month of June. And the half dozen plants that lived are runty and unproductive. To date none have set even the smallest of chokes. Not giving up yet though…
It seems that rainy days always result in crops all of mystery mushrooms sprouting in our lawns. I remain a total mycology neophyte, though I own several detailed mushroom identification books and enjoy reading the descriptions. I remain totally ill-equipped to distinguish between delectable and deathly!
I posted an image of this mushroom clump on several social media sites and received a couple of guesses including Chicken of the Woods. But I don’t think it’s a very close match.
My wife has a cousin who visits us each summer, and if he were here I feel pretty confident that he’d be able to identify this mystery mushroom. But he’s not. And I can’t. Can you?
Until it vanishes (another equally quick phenomenon, not unlike the way they appear overnight) I will simply ensure that Griffin does not snarf it up. He is forever trying to eat any mushrooms he can get his mouth on. We worry that one day he’ll manage to gobble up a magical mystery mushroom. Or worse!
Although it would have made more sense to start last spring, I’ll make a mental note to begin recording the various different sorts of mushrooms I encounter on Rosslyn’s grounds. There a mammoth mystery mushroom sprouting from the side of the ancient maple tree in front of our house. Tourists stop and take pictures, often with a young child standing underneath. Unfortunately, the mushroom’s prodigious growth also spells the expiring tree’s demise, but that woeful tale for another day. For now, a promise to snap photos of any mystery mushrooms appearing in the near future.
Until then, I’m hoping that a clever reader can help me identify the clump of mushrooms above. Are they edible? Are they poisonous? Thanks in advance for demystifying the fungusamungous…
Without a doubt, one of the greatest rewards of living at Rosslyn is the parade of people I’ve met (and the stories they tell) simply because this house and boathouse have touched so many over the years.
A couple days ago I answered the front door midday. A smiling, well dressed lady introduced yourself. Lila and I had met a couple of winters ago at the Essex Inn, and she reminded me that she had spend many enjoyable afternoons and evenings at the Sherwood Inn a half century or so ago.
She presented me with a color copy of a Sherwood Inn postcard she had received from a friend long ago. The rear side of the postcard said, “My summer home for June – September 1953. Old looking, eh?” Lila explained that she been meaning to bring this postcard to me ever since we first met.
She told me stories about the glory days of the Sherwood Inn, a once popular place for a drink and lakeside lodging in the property where I now live. She named several of the friends with whom she’d wiled away pleasant afternoon in the tavern or on the porch, and several were names that were familiar to me.
Lila also told me about playing tennis at the Crater Club where she still spends the warm part of the year. She lamented the fact that younger generations in her family (and all families perhaps?) seem to spend less and less time relaxing on Lake Champlain during summer vacation. “Everyone’s so busy nowadays,” she explained. When she shook my hand to greet me and then again when she left I was amazed with her firm grip. “Tennis,” Lila reminded me. “I played lots of tennis for many years.”
I hope I’ll another chance to catch up with Lila this fall, another chance to hear about slower times in Essex when friends stopped for drinks at the Sherwood Inn and played endless tennis and vacationed all summer long on Lake Champlain…
The Adirondack Art Association in Essex, NY sponsored a creative fundraiser recently. They invited members of the community to transform recycled slate from Rosslyn’s roof into unique artworks to auction off. Dreamed up by Amy Guglielmo following her successful Depot Theatre “sap bucket” art auctions, the slate art auction was an artistic and fundraising success.
Though I’m not sure how much my goofy doodle of Rosslyn’s boathouse contributed…
Just thought you would enjoy seeing it. Actually part of a longer term project to create slate doodles of many historic Essex architectural views which is the reason I saved the slate back when we were renovating. One more project for a rainy day!
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~ Henry David Thoreau
I’ve never successfully grown sweet corn at Rosslyn. Not until this summer, and the reward has been as much psychological as gastronomical.
As a boy my family grew sweet corn. I don’t recall it being a challenge. I do recall the splendor of towering stalks and flowing silks. Mostly I remember the joy of walking through the sweet corn “forest” and choosing the ripest ears. I remember sitting in our “stone sitting room” (and area of our front lawn with sofa-style bench seats made out of stone arranged within a rectangle of stone walls) husking corn, growing excited each time I started a new ear, witnessing the shiny kernels, their size, their rows. Sometimes I nibbled uncooked corn as I worked, sweet, crunchy and cool despite the summer sun.
Most of all I remember the taste of eating something delicious – closer in my young mind to a dessert than a vegetable – a taste that had taken months to transform from a withered and lifeless kernel into a delicious treat. Magic. Every time.
But since coming to Essex and gradually revitalizing Rosslyn’s gardens and meadows I’ve shied away from growing sweet corn.
Gardening at Rosslyn
During the first couple of summers, the garden was still too small to accommodate a corn patch. And my gardening hours were too rationed to undertake more than the essentials: tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, spinach, carrots, and radishes. But each summer the garden grew and the variety of vegetables we planted increased. Sweet peppers and hot peppers. Eggplant. Peas. Green beans. Watermelons. Cantaloupe. Brussels sprouts. Leeks. Onions. Cabbage. Artichokes. Beets. Kale. Swiss chard.
But no corn. Not until last summer.
Rosslyn Sweet Corn
In the spring of 2012 I decided that we finally had enough space and time to plant sweet corn.
I remembered that staggering the planting was helpful to avoid having the entire crop ready to eat at the same time, so I planted a couple of rows.
Within a couple of days the squirrels and chipmunks and crows had picked every last corn kernel out of the ground. So I replanted a single row, and this time I lay boards on top of the seeded row. I planned to lift the board daily, inspecting for sprouts, and when they began to emerge I’d move the boards and plant another row, proceeding gradually until all of the corn was planted.
The sprouts emerged, and I rolled back the boards. Unfortunately they were near enough to the edge of the garden that an overly hungry lawnmower savaged the entire row!
I gave up. Until this year.
Rosslyn Sweet Corn, Round #2
When I returned to Rosslyn in May from a Santa Fe roadtrip, I discovered that the generous neighbor who accidentally mowed the corn down last summer had grown and delivered several flats of 12″ to 15″ tall sweet corn plants. I counted almost five dozen plants ready for me to transplant into the garden. Which I did.
And despite June’s incessant rains, every single plant survived. Most were stunted from the water volume, but all have produced sweet corn. And for about a week now I’ve been eating corn on the cob.
Each bite is a gift. But all gifts come to an end sooner or later.
Racoons Love Sweet Corn
A couple of nights ago a family (perhaps an entire clan, considering their impact) of raccoons held a late-night picnic in our sweet corn patch. The images capture the mess, but overlook their efficiency. At first I was stung by the injustice of it all, after sooo many attempts to grow and eat corn.
But then I began to notice how meticulous the racoons had been. They selected only the ripest ears, plucked them from the towering stocks, feeling perhaps a bit like I did as a child. Thrilled with anticipation in the linear corn forest. The peeled the husks down expertly, and then ate the kernels off of the cob directly as we do. I imagined their little hands and eager mouths. And my disappointed waned. After all, they didn’t take all the corn. And these meadows had belonged to them for half a century. I suppose they still do.
They ate 37 ears of corn.
And last night they came back for me. Only a couple dwarfish ears of sweet corn remain.
Perhaps next summer I’ll skip planting sweet corn. For now I’m mostly hoping that our neighborhood raccoons don’t develop an appetite for tomatoes. Or melons…