Spring Soggies & Blooms

Spring Soggies: first hint of sunshine on Rosslyn's carriage barn after rain, rain, rain... (Source: Geo Davis)
Spring Soggies: first hint of sunshine on Rosslyn’s carriage barn after rain, rain, rain… (Source: Geo Davis)

The rain has stopped. At last!

It’s a misty, moody morning, but the sun is coming out, and the rhododendrons are blooming.

Life is good.

Spring Blooms: rhododendron blossoms after rain, rain, rain... (Source: Geo Davis)
Spring Blooms: rhododendron blossoms after rain, rain, rain… (Source: Geo Davis)

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George D. Anson, Essex Merchant

ACME, Marseilles White Spray Soaps, sold by Essex merchant Geo D. Anson.
ACME, Marseilles White Spray Soaps, sold by Essex merchant Geo D. Anson.

Ever scouring the midden heaps—real and virtual—for Essex artifacts, I came across these curiosities. These ACME “picture cards” were offered as incentives to soap customers. Save ACME brand Marseilles White Spray Soap wrappers, mail them to Lautz Bros & Co. (located in Buffalo, New York), and receive these odd collectibles. Think of them as the colorful baubles of an early brand loyalty scheme.

Why am I sharing these?

Flip the cards and you find this.

George D. Anson, Essex Merchant

It turns out that Essex merchant Geo. D. Anson (aka George D. Anson) was offering these to patrons of his general store in the late nineteenth century, yet another reminder of our industrious forebears in this once bustling community.

We learn a bit more about George D. Anson here:

George D. Anson established a store in the building now occupied by him in 188o. It is the same building which H. D. Edwards had used as a store years ago, but it had been vacant for some time when Mr. Anson came into it. (Source: “History of Essex, New York”, Chapter XXXIV (pp. 540-559) of History of Essex County with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers, edited by H. P. Smith, published by D. Mason & Co., Publishers and Printers, 63 West Water St., Syracuse, NY 1885.)

And, if the data logged at Find A Grave Memorial is correct, then we know the following about George D. Anson:

Birth: 1839
Death: 1902
Parent: Serena Spear Anson (1800-1887)
Spouse: Caroline Stower Anson (1847-1877)
Children: Edward S Anson (1875-1946), Laura S Anson (1877-1954)
Burial: Essex Cemetery, Essex, New York
Source: Heidi McColgan (findagrave.com)

I can’t personally vouch for the family tree since it leapfrogs my research, but it seems plausible. (Special thanks to Heidi McColgan and Karen Kelly for the information and photos.)

Anson’s Store and Anson’s Dairy

This is my first discovery that George D. Anson ran a store in Essex circa 1880. I hope to learn more about him/it in part because I’d like to know if this is the same Anson family that ran a dairy in Wadhams when I grew up. (See “Homeport in Wadhams, NY“, “Hickory Hill and Homeport“,  etc.)

Vintage milk top from Anson's Dairy in Wadhams, NY
Vintage milk top from Anson’s Dairy in Wadhams, NY

I grew up in Wadhams when there was still a post office, a general store, and an Agway farm supply store. Does that sound like a Norman Rockwell calendar illustration? It certainly does when you add a milkman into the mix.

Rain snow or shine Mr. Anson delivered the brunt of our breakfast ingredients. Each week he drove or walked (if too snowy or icy to drive) up our steep driveway lugging his fresh provisions. He let himself in, dropped off the goods, picked up a check that my mother left for him once a month, and continued on his way.

The good old days… (Source: Essex on Lake Champlain)

Off to poke around some more! (Please let me know if you can help fill in the gaps.)

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Contemporary Vintage Boathouse

Vintage boathouse postcard? Or not? (Source: Geo Davis)
Vintage boathouse postcard? Or not? (Source: Geo Davis)

Is this a vintage postcard or a recent photograph taken from the ferry dock in Essex, New York?

If you guessed that the image is contemporary, you’re right. It was taken on 29 May 2017. Born a moody, slightly fuzzy phone shot but reborn a tango dancing, filter-upon-filter-upon-filtered vintage postcard wannabe. Or something…

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Coyotes Captured on Camera

This winter Rosslyn’s trail camera silently monitoring a fence opening (along the margin of a woods-fields transition) recorded our second most frequent nocturnal visitor, the Eastern Coyote. The images in this post, captured this past January (2017), might even offer a glimpse at the animal frequently referred to as a “coywolf”.

The coyote—or possibly “coywolf”—was easily as large as a malamute… and the head and tail were notably larger than other coyotes I’ve seen.

Although none of these photographs portray exceptionally large canids, on several occasions I have witnessed firsthand coyotes of significantly larger proportions. My first experience took place almost a decade ago while brush-hogging one of the rear meadows. The coyote—or possibly “coywolf”—was easily as large as a malamute and considerably more robust than the coyotes in these trail cam photos. Coloring was mottled grays and browns, and the head and tail were notably larger than other coyotes I’ve seen.

My second experience was more recent.

An almost black coyote/”coywolf” of still larger proportions was startled by me during an early morning orchard inspection. S/he loped away from me across the near meadow, slowly and confidently, gliding through the high grass with a confidence and elegance I’ve never before witnessed among coyotes.

Spectacular!

Coyote Captured on Camera, January 2017 (Source: Trail Camera Photo by Geo Davis)
Coyote Captured on Camera, January 2017 (Source: Trail Camera Photo by Geo Davis)

If you’re interested in learning more about coyotes and/or “coywolves” in the Adirondacks, I recommend friend and neighbor John Davis’s post on our Essex community blog, “Welcoming the Coywolf.”

I will share additional game/trail camera photos of Rosslyn’s native wildlife (including Bobcat) in the near future. Stay tuned!

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Moist May 2017

Moist May 2017 (Source: S. Bacot-Davis)
Moist May 2017 (Source: S. Bacot-Davis)

The Lake Champlain water level is ever-so-slowly dropping, but it’s premature to rule out the possibility of hitting (or even exceeding) flood stage. At present, there’s about a foot of clearance between the bottom of Rosslyn boathouse’s cantilevered deck and the glass-flat water surface. Windy, wavy days are another story altogether.

With the first impossibly green asparagus and precocious yellow narcissus, can summer be far off?

For now, at least, Rosslyn’s boathouse is safe.

Safe, but not dry. The boathouse, house, carriage barn, ice house, yards, meadows, gardens, orchard, and woods are soggy. Persistant showers with insufficient soaking up / drying out time has resulted in waterlogging. My bride catalogued current circumstances (see video below) including a row of cedars that were destroyed in late winter when an old, rotten maple tree fell down, crushing the hedge. And the vegetable garden has finally been tilled once, at least a week or two later than ideal.

The final images offer a nice balance to the spring rain, rain, rain. With the first impossibly green asparagus and precocious yellow narcissus, can summer be far off?

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Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues

Welcome to spring in the Champlain Valley. And to Rosslyn’s annual spring drama: the Lake Champlain boathouse blues!

Over the last month lake water level has been rising, rising, rising. And rising some more. In fact, it’s even risen since I started drafting this post. (Current level a little further down.)

Boathouse Blues Begin

Until recently I was singing the end-of-ski-season rag and the dandelion ditty while quietly hoping that Lake Champlain water levels would rise enough to hedge against last summer’s all-too-low water levels. 

And then I received this recent message and photo from Essex friend and neighbor Tom Duca.

Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Tom Duca)
Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Tom Duca)

“The lake was superlow last year, but now it’s moving right up… Most of the snow is melted in the higher elevations, so I don’t think the lake will get much higher than this…” ~ Tom Duca

Nerve wracking, right? Hopefully Tom’s snow melt assessment is accurate. And hopefully it’s not an overly rainy spring. 

My mother was the next boathouse blues melody maker. Here are her updates. 

Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Melissa Davis)
Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Melissa Davis)

“Water much higher, you’ll be glad to know!” ~ Melissa Davis

So I suppose my wishes for higher-than-2016 water levels weren’t as quiet as I had thought. And initially Lake Champlain’s spring  water level increase did relieve me.

And then my mother sent me this. 

Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Melissa Davis)
Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Melissa Davis)

“Water rising! Almost even with Old Dock dock.” ~ Melissa Davis

She was referring to the Old Dock Restaurant, located just south of the ferry dock. Time to start monitoring the official Lake Champlain water level. 

Boathouse Blues Reference & Refrain

For the official Lake Champlain water level, I turn to USGS.gov and pull up a one year retrospective that reveals the lake is much higher than last spring.

Current Lake Champlain water level on April 21, 2017 (Source: USGS.gov)
Current Lake Champlain water level on April 21, 2017 (Source: USGS.gov)
See that red line marking 100′ above sea level? That indicates flood stage. Yes, we’re pretty close. In fact, as of today, April 24, 2017 the most recent instantaneous “water surface elevation” is 99.74′ above sea level. And by the time you read this, it may be even higher. Check out the current Lake Champlain water level (and temperature) if you’re curious.

Until then, here are couple of additional glimpses of Rosslyn boathouse struggling to stay dry. This latest refrain in the Lake Champlain boathouse blues was photographed by Katie Shepard.

Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Katie Shepard)
Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Katie Shepard)
Great angle, Katie! You can tell that even on this relatively placid day, a medium-sized wave or boat wake would likely inundate the floorboards.

Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Katie Shepard)
Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Katie Shepard)
Looking down on the boathouse gangway reveals flotsam and jetsum that have already washed up on the decking.

Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Katie Shepard)
Lake Champlain Boathouse Blues (Source: Katie Shepard)
And Katie’s last photograph shows the water level almost cresting Roslyn’s waterfront retaining wall. Fingers crossed that we won’t experience flood stage this year!

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Rosslyn Boathouse, circa 1907

Rosslyn Boathouse, Circa 1907 (Source: vintage postcard with note)
Rosslyn Boathouse, Circa 1907 (Source: vintage postcard with note)

It’s time travel Tuesday! Gazing through the time-hazed patina of this vintage postcard I’m unable to resist the seductive pull of bygone days. Whoosh!

I tumble backward through a sepia wormhole, settling into the first decade of the 20th century. It’s 1907 according to the postal stamp on the rear of this postcard.

Back of Rosslyn Boathouse Postcard
Back of Rosslyn Boathouse Postcard

Eleven decades ago a man rowed a boat past Rosslyn’s boathouse, from north to south, through waves larger than ripples and smaller than white caps. It was a sunny day in mid-to-late summer, judging by the shoreline water level. A photographer, hooded beneath a dark cloth focusing hood, leans over behind his wooden tripod, adjusting pleated leather bellows, focus, framing. And just as the rower slumps slightly, pausing to catch his breath, the shutter clicks and the moment is captured.

Perhaps this is the photographer who memorialized Rosslyn boathouse more than a century ago?

Albumen print of a photographer with Conley Folding Camera circa 1900. (Source: Antique and Classic Cameras)
Albumen print of a photographer with Conley Folding Camera circa 1900. (Source: Antique and Classic Cameras)

Or this well decorated fellow?

1907 Rosslyn Boathouse Photographer? (Source: Antique and Classic Cameras)
1907 Rosslyn boathouse photographer? (Source: Antique and Classic Cameras)

There’s so much to admire in this photograph-turned-postcard. Rosslyn boathouse stands plumb, level, and proud. Probably almost two decades had elapsed since her construction, but she looks like an unrumpled debutante. In fact, aside from the pier, coal bin, and gangway, Rosslyn boathouse looks almost identical today. Remarkable for a structure perched in the flood zone, ice flow zone, etc.

I’m also fond of the sailboat drifting just south of Rosslyn boathouse. Raised a sailor, one my greatest joys in recent years has been owning and sailing a 31′ sloop named Errant that spends the summer moored just slightly north of its forebear recorded in this photo.

Although the pier and the massive coal bin in front of the boathouse are no longer there, they offer a nod to Samuel Keyser‘s stately ship, the Kestrel, for many summers associated with Rosslyn boathouse.

Kestrel at Rosslyn Boathouse in Essex, NY
Kestrel at Rosslyn boathouse in Essex, NY

Other intriguing details in this 1907 photo postcard of Rosslyn boathouse include the large white sign mounted on the shore north of the boathouse (what important message adorned this billboard?); the presence of a bathhouse upslope and north of the boathouse (today known as the Green Frog and located on Whallons Bay); and the slightly smudged marginalia referring to a small white skiff pulled ashore slightly south of the boathouse (what is the back story?).

This faded photograph kindles nostalgia and wonder, revealing a glimpse into the history of Rosslyn boathouse while dangling further mysteries to compell me deeper into the narrative of our home. Kindred sleuths are welcome!

Posted in Archeology of Home, Artifacts, Boathouse, Lake Champlain, Summer, What's Rosslyn? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Helle Cook’s Notion of Home

Notion of Home by Helle Cook (Source: QCA Galleries)
Notion of Home by Helle Cook (Source: QCA Galleries)

One of the themes that I’m exploring in Rosslyn Redux is what I’ve loosely termed the archeology of home. It’s a misnomer really, an imperfect vessel that I settled on in the earliest days of renovation. Although my method was anything but scientific, I was mostly fascinated with the relics and artifacts we’d inherited. And before long new artifacts were being — in some cases quite literally — being disinterred. I was trying to decipher the practical and historic and aesthetic puzzle of an almost two century old property.

Soon the puzzle pieces included stories, memories, and anecdotes gathered from the people I met and recorded histories I read. As I sought to weave these various threads into a tapestry of sorts, I inevitably (and imperceptibly at first) began to insert my own wonders and hypotheses. Hopes. Confabulations. What-ifs…

Notion of Home by Helle Cook (Source: www.hellecook.com)
Notion of Home by Helle Cook (Source: www.hellecook.com)

And soon enough my own meditations on home, my own rucksack of patinated, nostalgia-filtered experiences began to infiltrate the tapestry.

My archeology of home had evolved into a wide-ranging contemplation of home-ness. So much more than a dwelling place, “home” is a psychologically complex and, I’ve come to believe, a profoundly important concept. I’m still trying to unpackage it, but my process has shifted somewhat from the more intentional, methodical, even quasi-scientific approach of my earliest inquiry toward the lyrical.

And so it is that I lament being unable to attend artist Helle Cook’s exhibition, Notion of Home, opening two weeks from tomorrow in Brisbane, Australia at the Project Gallery (QCA South Bank Campus).

Here’s what the gallery has to say about the show.

Balancing on the threshold of abstraction and figuration, Helle Cook uses painting as language to investigate a sense of home identity… In ethereal, bold fields of colour emerges a sense of imagination and memory. Eschewing traditional and inflexible notions of “home”, Cook’s concept of plurality opens spaces of multiple perspectives within and in between, and fuels a quest for multifaceted exploration. (Source: QCA Galleries)

This language, both verbal (“a sense of home identity”) and visual, resonates with my own personal investigation despite the fact that Helle Cook’s search appears to be more focused on geographic/cultural places (i.e. Denmark, Australia, and the interstices). I’ve cast around often enough for a better alternative to “archeology” for explaining my quest, but I’ve come up short. Perhaps I’ve been looking in the wrong place(s).

Notion of Home by Helle Cook (Source: www.hellecook.com)
Notion of Home by Helle Cook (Source: www.hellecook.com)

What defines the notion of home?

This is what Danish-born, Brisbane-based artist Helle Cook investigates in her painting practice… Drawing on interior and exterior monologues, Cook’s paintings explore home, identity, connection, culture and memories. Intuitive and imaginative, her work is an experimentation into the cognitive neuroscience of creativity, engaging both sensory and episodic memory to allow the paint to take agency. (Source: Cultural Flanerie)

Wow! Did you get all of that? Reread. Re-wow.

Let’s turn to the artist herself.

I use painting to investigate the notion of home… Is home a feeling. A sense of being present. Or does it connect us to particular place. A home with interior. Is home where we were born, where we live, can it be more places and anywhere in the world. And how is home connected to our identity and the sense of belonging. From the perspective that home is all of that and most of all a space in between, I explore the duality of my Danish background and my Australian life as an artist recreating my identity. In a space in between. With memories of the past, a sense of the present and ideas of the future, I create internal and external landscapes and fairy-scapes, symbols, nature, figures, creatures and objects of culture and design. I use my intuition, imagination and the slow process of painting to take agency. Creating the sense of belonging in a Space in Between. Home. (Source: Helle Cook)

Notion of Home by Helle Cook (Source: Cultural Flanerie)
Notion of Home by Helle Cook (Source: Cultural Flanerie)

Yes, “the notion of home” is precisely what I’ve been grappling with. It’s bigger than archeology, or different, despite that the reference served well initially.

I’ve discovered that identity and belonging are indeed intricately intertwined with the notion of home. Like Ms. Cook I find myself on an exploration of both internal and external artifacts, identities, terrains, narratives, and memories. And I’m increasingly discovering that my purposes are best served with a mix of inquiry (objective and subjective), imagination, and creative freedom.

Even this quick glimpse into Cook’s work has inspired me onward. Onward!

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February Swim in Lake Champlain

February Swim: Griffin "polar bear plunging" in late February 2017. (Source: Geo Davis)
February Swim: Griffin’s late February 2017 “polar bear plunge”. (Source: Geo Davis)

February swim, anyone? In Lake Champlain?!?!

Griffin “polar bear plunges” in 35° Lake Champlain… mid-winter swimming bliss!

Griffin, our now almost nine year old Labrador Retriever, was thrilled with to chase some throw-toys in the chilly lake today despite the fact that it’s February 19 and the water temperature is exactly three days above freezing… 35° of mid-winter swimming bliss!

Here’s a fuzzy but joyful glimpse into one of about a dozen of Griffin’s “polar bear plunges”.

We just returned to Essex and were quite excited about the recent snowfall. Last year’s virtually snowless winter was a bummer. No skiing in winter followed by alarmingly low lake levels due to unusually low levels of spring melt and runoff. Up until the last couple of weeks this winter has been similarly snow-free, so having a chance to spend the morning cross country skiing around Rosslyn’s woods, trails, and meadows with my bride and dog was a welcome change. And the perfect warm-up for Griffin’s February swim…

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Butternut Flats on the Boquet River

Butternut Flats on the Boquet River (Source: vintage postcard)
Butternut Flats on the Boquet River (Source: vintage postcard)

This vintage photograph of Butternut Flats was featured on a photograph that I discovered on eBay. Serene. Placid. Mysterious. Who is that boy? What are those wonderful rowboats? Dories? Skiffs? And — most intriguing by far — where along the meandering lengths of the Boquet River is this inviting bend referred to as “Butternut Flats”?

Here’s all that we learn from the eBay auction description.

Vintage Photograph: Butternut Flats; Boquet River (Essex County New York) Mounted photograph 7 x 9″ show wear and age foxing/discoloration, affected with moisture but not easy to see in the scanned images shown here, but still a nice old photograph; notice young child next two boat in background. Backside with name “Rosamond Lobdell”. (eBay)

Having grown up along the Boquet River (see Homeport in Wadhams and Hickory Hill and Homeport) I’m easily intrigued. And slightly vexed that I can’t identify this location! Perhaps you can offer some assistance? All leads welcome.

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