Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stacey and Mark in Concert December 15

We are now well into our third season of hosting House Concerts, and it has turned out to be a wonderful, rewarding, but somewhat stressful endeavor! However, we wouldn't trade it for the world.

I often think back to when the kids were still in school and we didn't do anything more than run around to their events, cook and care for them. That all changed when the last one graduated and we decided to expand our lives. I began blogging and became active in other social media, we began to renovate the cabin in the Sandhills, traveling more, and we started hosting House Concerts. Sometimes when I'm lying in bed at night thinking of all the things I didn't get done that day in preparation for the next concert, and what is left to be done, I wonder why on earth I ever got myself into this!

Then I think of all of the artists, and others whom I admire who are entrepreneurs and survive each day on the effort they put into their careers, and I get ashamed. It must be nervewracking for each of these to put themselves out there every day, wondering if people are going to show up, or like them, if they are going to make enough money to pay their bills.

My son owns his own business in Idaho, Archery Central. These are tough times to be a start-up business, yet he's doing what he loves and working hard to make a living at it. One of my sons-in-law is doing the same with Maly Marketing. Each day I get emails from artists hoping to get a booking into our concert series. The stresses that I put upon myself, promoting and preparing for our concerts pales in comparison to the efforts that these wonderful people are making.

So, it's up to me to put things in perspective and to keep doing everything in my power to make our concert series a success, for the artist that we host and for our guests who need to experience great live music. Whether that means walking door-to-door to hang up our invitations, working on the concert series Facebook page, blanketing my social media followers with updates, preparing and sending out the email blasts, talking to people one-on-one, writing press releases for the local newspapers, reviewing potential artists and checking myriad calendars to come up with dates, or cleaning, preparing menus, shopping, cooking, and setting up the house.

With all of that, let me introduce you to our House Concerts for December 15: Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart.
Few husband-wife musical duos provide audiences with the complete entertainment package that Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart dish out in a live performance. Armed with clever acoustic guitar interplay, autobiographical songwriting, lovely harmonies, and humorous storytelling this couple captivates your attention from the first moment they are onstage. Based out of Tennessee, Earle and Stuart draw from blues, pop, country, rock, and more in their heartfelt music. The years of touring the folk/Americana circuit (playing 170 concerts a year) have given them a knack for reaching out to the audience in an intimate “come in to my living room” fashion.

Stacey and Mark own their own record label, Gearle Records, and have made 8 CDs over the years. Since meeting in 1992 and marrying in late 1993, the partners have toured the USA, Canada, and Europe repeatedly. They left the environment of pursuing a major label deal in Nashville in 1998 to target small intimate venue crowds in theaters, coffeehouses, festivals, clubs, and house concerts. This has become their home and they are a recognized fixture on the folk music trail they blaze.
The concert is scheduled for December 15, at 7:30pm in our home. If you would like to attend, please email me, or check out our facebook page for all of the details and to RSVP.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pymatuning Lake

How do you begin to describe a location whose claim to fame is "where the ducks walk on the fish?" Well, let's just start at the beginning.
Pymatuning Lake is located in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, and part of it spills over into Ohio. I know this first hand, because even though we went with a local, we missed the turn to Linesville and skirted the western shore of the lake on the Ohio side before crossing over on a causeway to the Spillway.
It was a chilly November day when we were there, but I can just imagine how beautiful and busy the lake is in the summer. Even though the lake is large, there is a 20-hp motor limit for boats, which must make it a very laid-back and relaxing place to visit in the summer. As described in the Pennsylvania State Park website:
Almost everything about Pymatuning State Park is huge. At 21,122 acres, it is one of the largest state parks in the Commonwealth. The 17,088-acre Pymatuning Reservoir is the largest lake in the Commonwealth. In its three campgrounds, Pymatuning has the most campsites in the Pennsylvania state park system. More people visit Pymatuning than almost any other state park in Pennsylvania. But the biggest thing about Pymatuning is the fun you can have boating, fishing, swimming, camping and enjoying other recreational opportunities. In addition to the state park facilities, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission operate a fish hatchery and visitor center, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission has wildlife viewing areas and a learning center.
The spillway area is beautifully developed with a concessionaire (not open while we were there), and great parking areas and walkways. Feeding the seagulls is almost as popular as feeding the fish.
Pymatuning lake was originally built after a disastrous flood in 1913 to control the water, but it has since become a haven for fish, wildlife and birds. The spillway separates two portions of the lake. It's hard to describe because I don't understand the mechanics behind it, but the water flows over into the bowl, which is filled with fish.
And ducks, too, of course. After all, how could you have a place where the ducks walk on the fish without the ducks?
When the concession is open, they sell bread there, but it wasn't open on the day that we were there. Although we didn't bring any bread, fortunately for us, there were other people who had, and we got to watch the antics of the seagulls, ducks, and the carp devouring the bread that was thrown. Did I mention carp? Millions of carp, I swear!
Click on the video below so you can see the frenzy that is created when bread is thrown. First the ducks, then the seagulls, and last of all, the carp.

While we didn't observe any ducks walking on the carp while we were there, it was easy to see that they could have if they had wanted to.
Everywhere you look, the fish are just begging to be fed! It is well worth a visit, and while you're in the area, be sure to visit some of the other attractions at the great communities of Crawford County, Pennsylvania.
According to what I read, more than 300,000 people visit the Linesville area each year to feed the fish. What an incredible example of making the most out of what you have. Figure out what makes you unique, that people can't get anywhere else (really, do think there is anywhere else like this?), then market that! The resulting visitors will benefit all of the other area attractions.

It was a great side trip, and had it been in the summer, would have been a great place to rent a cabin and stay for a few days exploring.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Got Corn?

Being a farmer is tough these days. In addition to contending with volatile and often adverse conditions from Mother Nature, today's farmers have to navigate a maze of federal regulations for everything from carbon footprints to chemical usage. And then, after the farming is done and the crop is harvested, the choices and related pitfalls of the various marketing strategies can prove to be their undoing even after a successful harvest. But farmers in Nebraska continue to do what they do best - grow excellent crops. As can be seen from these pictures of corn storage. Above is the pile of corn just east of the elevator in Sutherland.
Above is protected storage as well as corn on the ground just outside of Hershey.
This pile of corn is just west of the elevator in North Platte. You can also see two alternative corn storage facilities just behind it.
The above massive pile of corn is shown from the Poplar Street viaduct in North Platte, just east of the elevator.
Above is the huge pile of corn on the ground on the outskirts of Paxton, Nebraska.

For once, corn prices have risen to a sustainable level for farmers. While the current high prices are being blamed for everything from famine and food shortages worldwide to high food prices here in the U.S., the current prices represent a very small profit margin for farmers, who usually produce their crops at a loss.

Raw materials in the form of corn, wheat, soybeans and other commodities reflect a very small portion of the food we purchase to put on our tables. Most of the cost comes from transportation, processing and packaging. Everyone along the line needs to make a profit. Farmers are generally the ones who are short changed, and also the ones to be unjustifiably blamed when prices rise.

Ah well, the above pictures represent a bountiful harvest here in Nebraska, and I hope across the entire U.S. corn belt. Now the process starts all over again with planning and preparation for the spring planting season. Such is the life of a farmer.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Ogallala Tradition

Nebraskans have long been known for placing their worn out cowboy boots upside down on top of fence posts. Besides being a dubious form of decoration, it serves the purpose of protecting the top of the fence post from moisture that could cause it to rot.

On a recent trip to Ogallala on Highway 30, I saw several examples of another tradition that has been going on in the Ogallala area for a long time, so I took the time to snap a few pictures with my cell phone.
When driving around the Ogallala area, you often see bottles of all kinds and descriptions stuck on branches along the roadway, sometimes even on weeds. Someone had obviously been very busy recently, as I passed numerous trees decorated thusly.
Now I'm not here to pass judgement, only to document. Whether or not this industrious person found the bottles along the roadway and decided to move them to the tree branches, or whether they brought their own trash is unknown.
Yes, this might be considered litter, but it's also a form of folk art, and pretty in its own way.
It's interesting what you see in rural Nebraska.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Through The Seasons Part Eight

May 5, 2010, 6:10pm
June 5, 2010, 8:30am
July 5, 2010, 10:00am
August 7, 2010, 8:30am
September 6, 2010, 7:00pm
October 3, 2010, 9:00am
November 2, 2010, 8:30am
December 4, 2010, 9:00am
The temperature was hovering around the mid 20's when I took the picture above. The cloud shadows are dappling the Sandhills, where all is dormant to await the coming long months of winter.

Personally, I am going to enjoy perusing previous blog posts about our wonderful summer, and dream of the return of the long warm days of sunshine.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Decorating for Christmas At The Codys

A quick video showing you some of the behind the scenes moments at decorating for Christmas at the Codys at Buffalo Bill State Historical Park in North Platte.

Christmas at the Codys 2010 will be December 17 - 20.

Hope to see you all there.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on - maybe even hot chocolate.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Seat Belts Are There for a Reason - USE THEM

In 2002, my daughter's best friend was killed on her way in to school on the Monday morning after their senior prom. The pickup she was driving rolled over on a paved country road just north of Sutherland. She was not wearing her seat belt and she was ejected from the vehicle.

Just yesterday, a fourteen year old Sutherland boy was killed on his way in to school when the pickup he was driving rolled over on icy roads. He was not wearing his seat belt and he was ejected from the vehicle.

Saturday morning, a friend of mine hit a sheet of black ice while he was driving and rolled his pickup. He was wearing his seat belt. When the pickup came to a stop, he calmly used the butt of his shotgun to break the window and climb out of the wrecked vehicle. He was shaken up but unhurt, and what could have been a tragedy is now a humorous story to tell.

Children, and all people. The seat belts are in your vehicles are there for a reason. It is a scientifically proven fact that in the event of an accident, using your seat belt will save your life. It is cool to wear seat belts. PLEASE WEAR THEM!

I can't even begin to imagine what a family goes through in the hours, days and years following the senseless death of a child. In all likelihood, both of the tragedies I described above could have been prevented if the children had buckled up the instant they got in their vehicles on those mornings. Please, don't let the next family to experience this heartache be yours.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

You'll see a new banner at the top of my blog today - it's a direct link for you to vote to route the Union Pacific Steam Excursion train. Head on over there and vote for your hometown to receive a visit from the UP Steam train.

I'll like it even more if you choose a route that has to come through North Platte!

Oh, and just in case you don't see it at the top of the blog, here it is again:

Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure
Go ahead... click it and vote!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our Visit to Niagara Falls

We left for our Niagara Falls adventure early in the morning, heading north out of Portersville on I-79. We made it to Erie, then headed east along the shore of Lake Erie. It was my first view of any of the Great Lakes, and I think I'm hooked! I hope to plan more trips to this part of the country in the years to come.

In fact, I believe that there are so many things to see in America, that it's almost unpatriotic to stay home and not go see it! Utilizing networks like Couch Surfing, it doesn't necessarily have to be incredibly expensive. We got off of the Interstate onto Highway 5, which is the Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway which stretches along the southern shore of both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. This part of the country is also home to the Chatauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail.
The wine trail stretches 45 miles through 30,000 acres of verdant vineyards along Lake Erie in western New York and Pennsylvania. Welcome to "America's Grape Country," the largest grape-growing region east of the Rockies. Visit more than 20 wineries known for their award-winning wines, including vinifera, ice wines, fruit wines, and specialty wines such as brandies and ports. Our wineries are open year-round. Plan your trip and experience the rich heritage of one of America's oldest grape growing regions.
We only made the time to stop at one winery, the Willow Creek Winery. Honestly, we have got to come back this way just to hit the entire wine trail and stop at EVERY winery! The tasting was incredible, and we picked up nine bottles to take with us! We had been under orders from the Moms to pick up Willow Creek's chocolate wine, and, if you like sweeter wines, you'll love it. It tastes like a cherry cordial.

Now it was time to head on down the road to Buffalo. Here is a view of the Buffalo skyline.
By this time we were getting hungry, and needed something to soak up the wine tasting. We had asked for a recommendation, and the young lady at Willow Creek recommended the Pearl Street Grill and Brewery in Buffalo. What a great recommendation! Great beer and great food. Unfortunately, they don't bottle, so the only way to take it with us would have been in a growler, and that would have been impractical for us.

The building has four floors, plus a basement, and numerous decks overlooking the Buffalo water front. According to the menu:
Our building was born in the year of Our Lord 1841 in the heart of what the world unaffectionately called "The most evil square mile in America", the Buffalo Erie Canal District. It is no "sretching the blanket", during its heyday it was estimated that 70 to 80% of the major crimes of the entire nation occured along the "Canawl".

Out of the maelstrom of the teeming masses of Foofoos, Lakers, Canawlers Blacklegs, Macaronis, Whitelegsm Scalpers, Scoopers, Roughnecks and Runners our nation was reborn. The Babel-like confusion of Canal Street and the Commercial Slip was the Western terminus of the new America on the march, the brave new world, the H9ope of the unanointed and the downtrodden. The result of this amazing period of Buffalo's history was that we were the "Silicon Valley" of America for over 50 years.

We are proud of our History and the hard-edge character of our building; our restoration has tried to maintain the "feeling".

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of detail of the history of either the building, the brewery or Buffalo area. Just enough to whet the appetite, I'm afraid. Hmmm... we might have to go back. The kind waiter gave us great directions, which basically entailed getting on I-190 north, which wasn't too difficult from the Grill. The roadway passes over two bridges that span the Niagara River, and a toll of $1 per car is collected at the first bridge (on the return trip, too). It's important to be in the far right land crossing the second bridge, because IMMEDIATELY on the north end, you have to exit on the Robert Moses Parkway that takes you to the American side of the falls.

We parked at the American side and stopped for a view at the overlook at American Falls. You hear a lot about Niagara Falls, and I have to agree - go see the falls if at all possible! It is simply spectacular! This is a view up the Niagara River from the American Falls.
It cost $10 to park on the American side, then we walked across the Rainbow Bridge to the Canadian side. Remember to bring your passports! The view from the Rainbow Bridge is incredible, looking toward the falls.
Early in the day, it was beautiful and sunshiny, but the closer we got to Buffalo and Niagara, the more overcast and chilly it became, so our pictures leave a little to be desired.

Even in mid November, the sunken gardens on the Canadian side are beautiful.

However, this time of year a lot of the activities and amenities are closed, including the people mover that runs from the bridge to the falls overlook, so we hoofed it. Also closed (October 31, so we didn't miss it by too much) was the Maid of the Mist. But, if the only time you can go to Niagara is in November when a few things are closed, STILL GO! The falls are still falling and are incredible!
Some of the best attractions are still open, including the Journey Behind the Falls. There are so many websites that help you plan your trip to Niagara, I'll just try to link a few here. This video is taken from the observation deck near the gift shop. Note, you might want to turn the sound down on your computer before you click on these videos. The roar of the falls is one of the attractions, but on a cell phone video camera, it just gets to be annoying!
As you head down to the "Behind the Falls", they'll stop you to take your photo, which will be available at the end of the trip below. Ours turned out pretty good, but at $20 a pop, we decided to pass.

After an elevator ride down, you put on the disposable plastic rain slicker and head down the tunnels.Note, It is really, REALLY wet down here! If you use your cameras or video equipment, be careful and use it only for a short time, otherwise it's going to get ruined.
A little further on are two more tunnels that open up directly behind the falls. Down the tunnels are interpretive panels that tell you facts and figures about the falls. Before they did some engineering to the river, the falls were receeding at a rate of about three feet a year. One of the tunnels that had been built earlier is now exposed on the rock face.
Now it's time to make our way back up above the falls, walk back to the bridge and cross back over to the pickup. Passing the commercial district of the Canadian side, it's easy to see that not all of the development around the falls enhance the natural beauty!
There you have it, our visit to Niagara Falls. Please make plans to visit yourself... soon!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee's always on.

Monday, November 8, 2010

First Impressions of Pennsylvania

My first trip back east is turning out wonderfully! We are here for The Mister's Cousin's wedding, so I am getting to meet members of his family for the first time, and not only are they wonderful people, but they are great hosts and tour guides.

Pennsylvania is night and day different from Nebraska. There are very few vistas where one can see for miles, yet it is still beautiful. We are long past the height of the fall colors, but judging from the few leaves remaining on the trees, it was spectacular!

We are in the Portersville, PA area, in the range of 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. All of the attractions and points of interest I've included in this blog post are within about 25 miles of our hostess's home, although without a GPS, I would be hard pressed to tell you exactly where! Not only is it difficult to get your bearings with all of the trees butting up next to the roadways, there are no STRAIGHT roads here at all! We've made our way to a few places on our own, but haven't ventured very far.
The above sentiments would be good advice to follow no matter where you live. I know that millions of dollars are spent in advertising to keep us home and in front of our televisions, but "Getting Out" would be the best things we can do for ourselves!
This scenery is taken from the Slippery Rock Creek canyon area, which is part of the McConnell's Mill State Park. It is an extremely rocky area, but that doesn't mean there aren't trees. As you can see, they have found a way to thrive.
On the road down to the Mill, the rocks and trees growing from them overhang the road.
As you can see, the trees have perservered no matter what the obstruction.

McConnells Mill State Park, in Lawrence County, encompasses 2,546 acres of the spectacular Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. Created by the draining of glacial lakes thousands of years ago, the gorge has steeps sides and the valley floor is littered with huge boulders and is a national natural landmark. A gristmill built in the 1800s is open for tours. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, year-round.
Of course, since we are here in early November, many of the attractions are either closed, or not offering their full range of activities. However, the Mill is open and operational, with interpreters, all summer long.
Another highlight of the Mill and the Canyon is the beautiful covered bridge, which has been rehabilitated recently.
Love for history and old places runs deep, rightly so, in Pennsylvania. It can be seen in The Mister's own family. Here you can see a house, that in 2002, might have seemed like a daunting project to turn into a home.
And another view of the same house - it would take an exceptional fortitude to undertake making this house into a home.
However, below you can see what can come from taking the time and care of putting the work into a project like this.
We had the chance to go into the building below, which was a roadhouse, first built in 1831. Outside of the chapel in Santa Fe, I think this is the oldest building I've ever been in. Inside it is a great gift shop.
And here is the Old Stone House, built in 1822. This was closed for the season, so we didn't have a chance to go inside.
Pennsylvania is just one series of picturesque towns after another, and Volant is no exception.
We stopped here, and didn't get the chance to go into many of the shops (as you can tell, this is a whirlwind tour!), but we did have time to go into the mill.
Many of the homes along the streets have been converted into cute shops.
Right down the road (actually butting up to the property), is the beautiful Moraine State Park.
The gently rolling hills, lush forests and sparkling waters disguise a land that has endured the effects of continental glaciers and massive mineral extraction.

Each year over one million people visit the 16,725-acre park, yet never realize that many people helped restore the park from prior coal mining and oil and gas drilling practices. Today, the park is an outstanding example of environmental engineering achievement.
So this is a blog post on the run, as our hostess is ready for us to walk out the door to our next adventure.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.