Adirondack Autumn 2012: Part I

As I mentioned recently, Adirondack autumn invites retrospection and introspection. But don’t fret, today’s lilt is less wistful. Levity is restored and whimsical iPhoneography is the flavor or the day.

With September and October skulking away and November slithering in, I’m dishing up a photographic retrospective, a parade of annotated images gathered “on the fly” over the last few months.

Viewed en masse they offer a voyeuristic immersion in the lifestyle which binds us to Rosslyn, Essex, Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. Most of these images were shared through my personal Twitter feed (@virtualDavis) and/or the Rosslyn Redux twitter feed (@rosslynredux), and their creation and distribution was made possible by the narcotic genius of this virtual symphony: iPhone, Instagram, Instacanv.as, Tout and YouTube.

3' Adirondack timber rattlesnake killed on Lak...This first photo was actually taken in August, but I couldn’t resist including this unsettling image. I came across this freshly killed three foot long Adirondack timber rattlesnake while cycling along Lakeshore Road near Essex. The blood was fresh and the rattle had been cut off.

Although I want to believe this near-black Crotalus horridus was accidentally hit and killed by a car, it prompted a serpentless September rattlesnake safari, and catalyzed much conversation with friends about our local population of timber rattlesnakes. How can we protect them?

I’ll share rattlesnake news if/when relevant. For now I’ll move over to the autumn harvest. Given our hot, dry summer it was been a phenomenal year for most locally grown produce.

While we began flirting with frost most nights in September (earlier than the previous two years), tender vegetables like tomatoes were still coming out of our own garden and our local CSA, Full and By Farm, owned by Sara Kurak and James Graves.

Ugly and delicious #tomatoes from Full & By Fa...These “ugly but delicious” heirloom tomatoes from Full and By Farm tempted me despite the fact that we’d been giving away and composting excess tomatoes since August. Too many, too fast. I’d been eating 2-3 tomatoes every day for lunch and dinner. Literally. I’m not exaggerating!

When I posted the picture of these yellowish orange tomatoes on Twitter and Facebook, several friends insisted that these tomatoes weren’t ugly. True. They were voluptuous and vibrant and even a quick glance discloses the explosion of flavor they pack.

But many of the heirloom varieties that we grow in our vegetable garden and the Full and By farmers grow are often referred to as “ugly” simply because they lack the uniformity of color and the blemish-free skin of the hybrid varieties usually sold in stores. In fact, the “uglier” the variety, the better they usually taste. One of my favorites, Black Krim is a perfect example. I wish I had posted a photo when they were still producing…

Hot, hot, hot! Picking up peppers at Full and ...These hot, hot, hot peppers (early Adirondack autumn colors?) were part of our farm share pickup for several weeks. I don’t tend to use many hot peppers in my cooking (and I grow several varieties in our own garden) so I haven’t been loading up on these, but I find them beautiful. Beautiful! I’m always amazed how naturally glossy and polished peppers and eggplant are. And the green/red mottling is exquisite.

If you scratch and sniff the photo, you just might understand why the farmers remind us again and again, “Those are hot!”

And what better complement to those exotic peppers than a not often witnessed artichoke blossom. We grew Imperial Star Artichokes for the second time this summer. Last year we successfully propagated and matured a half dozen plants. But the result was only a few smallish artichokes. Lots of effort for negligible reward, but I was encouraged to try again. I’d never even known that we could successfully grow artichokes in the Adirondacks.

Sea anemone or blooming artichoke? #iphoneogra...The discovery  was made in the fall of 2010 while visiting the gardens of Château Ramezay in Montreal. I was astonished to see the thriving plants, and immediately began researching. It turned out that Imperial Star Artichokes are productively grown as annuals in Maine and other parts of the Northeast. We vowed to try to our luck.

This summer we had nine plants of which two never produced artichokes but the other seven each produced multiple artichokes. Several plants produced five to ten artichokes apiece. We’ve felt truly fortunate each time we’ve harvested artichokes for lunch or dinner. Can believe that artichokes are yet another highlight of Adirondack autumn?

In fact, so abundant were the artichokes during August and September that several began to bloom before we could harvest them. The photograph above nicely conveys the part-sea-anemone-part-fireworks blossom of an Imperial Star Artichoke. A favorite of our Rosslyn honeybees.

Sail away... September Saturday on Lake #Champ...Adirondack autumn is also the perfect time for sailing on Lake Champlain. Although my bride and I have mostly concentrated on windsurfing in recent years, I often find myself gazing longingly at larger sailboats gliding gracefully across the water.

For most of my life I’ve dreamed of a swift sailing vessel large enough to live aboard and wander from port to port, slowly gunkholing my way around the world with occasional blue water crossings between continents. I even have a name for my ship. And her dinghy. But I’ll keep them under wraps until the time is right.

This handsome navy blue sloop was in the neighborhood for a few days, repeatedly cautching my eye because of its minimalist but handsome design. Elegant when drifting in a light breeze and even more so when scudding through whitecaps riding a stiff blow!

By the dawn's early light... The Adirondack ch...Although I’m aware that my critics may justifiably accuse me of bellybutton gazing each time I post a new image of Rosslyn’s boathouse, I simply can’t resist it. This architectural folly has enchanted me since childhood, and now that I have the opportunity (and responsibility) to care for her, I’m all the more smitten.

This photo was taken at dawn after a forceful windstorm (an unwelcome hand-me-down from Hurricane Isaac) that loosed one of the Adirondack chairs from the deck and dumped it into the shallow water of the beach. We were relieved to recover the chair because it was a handmade wedding gift from a close friend. Though one armrest was shattered, we will repair and repaint it this winter so that it will be ready to enjoy again next spring.

Remembering the calm before the tornado watch....And, as if hurricanes weren’t enough, a short time later we were warned that a tornado threatened! A tornado? It does seem that extreme weather is becoming more and more common.

Only a couple of days before, Camp Dudley, a boys camp in Westport, NY where I spent a couple of memorable summers as a boy, was hit by an destructive windstorm that damaged roofs and snapped trees.

This moody black and white photo of the dockhouse was taken in the hours awaiting the tornado. Anxious hours.

Fortunately we were spared the worst of the tornado, but our good friends who own a home north of us near Valcour Island were not so lucky. They lost a towering old growth tree and their boat docks were tossed and somersaulted out into Lake Champlain. Fortunately nobody was hurt and the docks were able to be recovered.

Autumn Vigil. #EssexNY #Champlain #Adirondacks...In a similarly ominous vein, this photograph of Rosslyn’s waterfront not only conveys the foreboding of stormy weather but also of summer passing. Or at least that was my hope. You’ll have to be the judge.

The lighting and the shading suggest an antique photograph (thanks to a handy iPhone app which allows limitless technical control over the image elements) while the angle and unpopulated Adirondack chairs and beach add an eerie, abandoned feel. As if a seasonal camp or resort is about to be mothballed for the winter.

There’s irony in this, of course, because Rosslyn is our home. Once our summer guests depart and Essex village slows down, we experience a second wind. We are revitalized. But that story for another day…

Wild turkey feather after wind and rain passed...Although we have several times hunkered down in anticipation of severe weather this fall, we’ve been been spared each time. And each time the skies have cleared to reveal blue skies and sunshine enough to warm our optimism. And even the occasional wild turkey feather. Check out this bumpy but fun video of twenty turkeys in Rosslyn orchard.

I’ve walked the property after these storms to survey fallen limbs and other damage. Each time I’ve been relieved with the minimal damage. We’ve lost many branches and leaves, but few trees. Perhaps this is due to some sort of cosmic payback for the damage to our fruit trees this spring when a powerful hailstorm destroyed an ancient crab apple and killed seven young fruit trees in our orchard.

Carriage barn after wind and rain. via virtual...Chief among my concerns when the winds howl (or the snowstorms dump, dump, dump) is our carriage barn which is overdue for a new roof.

When an old barn collapsed at Full and By Farm a couple of winters ago I started looking more critically at our historic carriage barn. Although it is in surprisingly good shape for its 100-200 years, the structural elements of the post and beam construction are under-built by modern standards. There are several areas where settling and sagging cause concern, and we’ve been moving forward with plans to secure the building and replace the roof.

If all goes as planned, construction will begin soon and we will be spared another anxious winter worrying that the snow load will overcome the proud old building. I will post updates if/when this project advances.

The perils and challenges of severe weather for homeowners with aging property are plenty, but there’s little pleasure in fretting. And there’s ample pleasure in celebrating the harvest, so I’d like to return to the topic of harvesting, preparing and preserving the vegetables of our labors.

But I’ve already droned on ad nauseum, so I’ll save further harvest updates for your next installment… Stay tuned for Adirondack Autumn 2012: Part II.

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