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Friday, July 31, 2009

Skywatch Friday

It's Skywatch Friday and photo bloggers round the world are posting photos of their skies. Click the link to see what's in store this week.

It's raining at this very moment, and although I like to try to get a photo of the sky as it is right now, I'm afraid that wouldn't be very interesting. This is from a few weeks ago and I was inspired by several of the other regular Skywatchers. They post some truly eye-catching clouds, so I thought I'd try to capture some individual clouds that were interesting enough to post.

That's hard! Double kudos to those who recognise a great photo among all the clouds in the sky, and treble kudos for anyone who manages to capture one in a photograph.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cat on a not yet hot roof

Normally, we don't let the cats onto the roof. It's not impossible that they won't jump off onto the car roof and then to the ground, to make good their escape! The night before, I went onto the garage roof to have a better look at the International Space Station as it went overhead. It turned out that the track was a bit farther south than I'd reckoned, so I galloped back inside, down the stairs and out the front door.

Leaving the window to the garage roof open.

In the morning, all 3 cats were out there, partaking of the morning sun. This is Savannah. She's a rescue cat, despite being apparently a purebred Persian. She's not grumpy - that's her happy face!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


That's what they call flowers like this: weeds. I'm guessing it's a native wildflower here in New York but I can't fins much information on the internet. This particular plant is growing out of a crack in the sidewalk near the road. In winter, it has 6 feet of snow and ice piled on it, but it comes back every year and I haven't the heart to pull something this beautiful out.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day lily

Close-up of one of the day lilies in the garden. Captured on one of the sunny days. Well, more accurately, captured during a sunny interval!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wild rabbit

This little fellow came out from the tall grass to nibble on the tender new stuff that has been growing rampant during the recent rains. He wasn't too sure he wanted his portrait on the web so he hopped under the car. Using the now famous 'Eric Tenin perspective' I snapped one from ground level and now he's famous!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Skywatch Friday

It's Friday, and somehow I've managed to remember to snap a photo of the sky this week so I can participate in Skywatch Friday. Click on the link to see what hundreds of others posted from their skies!

Not much of a story behind this one. I was helping a friend with some vehicle repairs and this is the view that greeted me as I was getting ready to head for home. How could I resist?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Viewed from the boat launch, some of the details of Onrust. (Some history in yesterday's post.)

There's another sailing vessel tied up on the other side of the dock from Onrust - a pirate ship! It looks like these are friendly pirates, though...

From the bow, we see the bowsprit, the hole for the anchor line, the main mast with the sail gathered round the base, the even longer gaff mast going up at an angle, the leeboard (one on each side) and in the stern, the tiller is barely visible. No wheel, but a tiller.

This ship draws something like 4 feet of water, so she's not going to be deep enough to sail a reach (wind from the side) without being blown over. That's why her builders (then and now) added leeboards. These drop down into the water when sailing and act in the same way a keel does - it resists the movement of the boat from slipping sideways through the water.

Because there's one on each side, it doesn't matter which tack she's on; as she heels, one of them will be in the water! Leeboards are a very clever engineering answer to the problem of a ship having to sail in shallow water.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Onrust is a Dutch word meaning 'restless.' This Onrust is a replica, built by hand with native trees and the construction methods of 1614.

Adriaen Block was a Dutch explorer who was stranded in Manhattan when his ship Tyger burnt. Rather than give up, he and his crew built a new vessel - Onrust - and proceeded to sail her up and down the East Coast from New Jersey to Massachussetts. Block Island is named for him, and the maps he made were so good they were still in use a hundred years later. That makes Onrust the first ship built by Europeans in North America.

I'm sure that's all interesting (yawn) but what has it got to do with Schenectady? The new Onrust was built just outside the city, at the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction. She's currently tied up across the Mohawk River at the marina on Freeman's Bridge Road.

Why was she built in the first place? Because it was in the year 1609 - 400 years ago - that Henry Hudson made his voyages of discovery on the East Coast. And the current Onrust is part of the quadricentennial celebrations. She's already sailed to New York City and she's back up here for a while, enjoying the relative quiet.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eastern Milk Snake

I was helping a friend with some vehicle maintenance this weekend. He lives in the country. We needed a piece of wood for leverage, and when he went to the wood pile, he uncovered this little fellow.

It turns out that it's an Eastern Milk Snake. These guys are beneficial to us - when little, they eat insects, slugs and that sort of critter. When they get larger, they eat mice, which is better than having mice chew on your electric wiring!

It was a warm day, so this little guy was very active and it was hard to get a photo of him. Over about 10 minutes, he wiggled and squirmed and did everything in his power to get away, including trying to bite me. I say 'trying' because his tiny teeth were too small to break my skin! I felt a bit sorry for disturbing him for so long, so once I got his portrait, I put him back in the wood pile, safe and sound.

Good hunting buddy!

Here is some more information on the snakes of New York.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Storm's aftermath

A storm rolled through on Thursday (no surprises there!) and so much rain fell so quickly that the rain covered the street from curb to curb. That's a little unusual, but only a little: there are no drains on our short street. The water needs to flow down to State Street (at the far end of this photo.)

The amazing thing is that we had hail and torrential rain and ten minutes later the sun was shining again.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Skywatch Friday

It's another Skywatch Friday. Do pay a visit to all the other participants round the world as they post photos of their skies!

This was taken during our paddle boat ride on Central Park's Iroquois Lake. We got daringly close to the fountain in the centre, but a change in the wind saved us from being doused.

The sky was doing its recent, typical storm cloud gathering; in fact we got a storm about an hour after this was taken.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My street in summer

I'm not sure I'd call it the height of summer, given all the recent rain, but it's probably as high as it's going to get this year. This is what my street looks like today. Everything growing at a frantic pace, from every scrap of soil.

The flower of the week? Hosta. You can see some on the right. We have several species of hosta ourselves, as we don't get a tremendous amount of sun.

Compare this photo to one taken in winter.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

General Electric

The General Electric plant in Schenectady is a local landmark. Once, and perhaps even still, GE was the largest single employer in the city. Today, many of the buildings at the plant have been razed for tax reasons, and much of the work is now done elsewhere.

This building is the Large Steam Turbine & Gas building. It's located right alongside Interstate 890. Or should I say that I-890 was located alongside the plant? Inside this building, Schenectady workers build steam turbines that are used in power plants all over the world. If you drive by at night in the summer, when the big door are open, often you can see some of the behemoths being built inside.

View Larger Map The General Electric plant in Schenectady. The largest building is LST&G.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This way to Schenectady

We went for a walk on the Great Flats Nature Trail and this is what it looked like on the way out. It was an irresistible photo!

The Great Flats are a controversial place. On the one hand, the aquifer that provides Schenectady with its wonderful drinking water is located here. It's also a wetland area with many plants and animals that can only live here. It's also a swamp - a filter for rainfall to recharge the aquifer.

It's also undeveloped land, which makes it commercially valuable.

At any rate, the Great Flats is currently protected, and there's a small lake back there, a boardwalk and some mowed trails. Very easy walking - saw lots of frogs and toads as well as too many birds to mention. Water was high due to the recent rains, so part of the trail was submerged. It was still a fun walk.

View Larger Map

Entrance to Great Flats Nature Trail. Zoom out for a broad view. Lake to the SW.

Monday, July 13, 2009


The youngest likes to go fishing and since we live so close to Central Park, that's a common destination for an hour or two of catch and release fun. This is one of his catches - a bluegill.

Bluegills nest quite close to the edge - they can be seen easily from shore. They also feed on just about any food like worms or bread. We haven't had any luck with artificial lures, but a bluegill will grab a worm in under 30 seconds.

Which is perfect for a soon-to-be 7 year-old!

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Hydrangea are interesting plants. The colour o the flowers depends on the pH of the soil and it's possible to manipulate their colour by adjusting the pH. Sometimes, the flowers from a single plant can show multiple colours, like this one does.

This bush is over 5 years old, and well-established. It's been producing more pink flowers each successive year, but for the moment, it's very interesting to see a spectrum of blue, yellow and pink all on the same plant.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Skywatch Friday

It's Friday, and for many photo bloggers, that means it's time to post photographs of their sky. Visit the Skywatch Friday web page to see all the wonderful photographs from round the world.

We've had a very wet summer here. If it doesn't rain all day, a storm is sure to move through and dump an inch (25mm) of rain on us in an hour. This is the aftermath of just such a storm.

I think it's very difficult to photograph a rainbow and I'm rather in awe of people who seem to manage it on a regular basis. I suppose it's a matter of practise, practise, practise!

One thing I've learnt to do now that I'm using a digital camera is to take lots and lots of shots; try different settings. It's not like I'm wasting film any more! I'm using a 1999 Nikon Coolpix 950, with a 28mm filter size. That makes it somewhat difficult to find filters - certainly none of my Minolta film camera filters fit! On the other hand, it's possible to hold a 58mm filter in front of the 28mm diameter lens :-)

And so I experimented with several filters, including a polariser, a UV filter and a variable grade filter. Strangely enough, the photo posted here was taken with my polarised prescription sunglasses in front of the camera lens. Photography can be an interesting exercise sometimes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ducks in a swimming pool

During our paddle boat excursion, we went by the swimming pool. The Central Park swimming pool is a section of Iroquois Lake that has been walled off and the bottom paved. The part closest to the wall is the deepest, and not many swimmers go there. To be honest, the water is quite cold; fed directly from the city's main water supply. Besides that, it's mostly children who swim here and they prefer the shallows.

Well for some reason known only to them, the ducks like it here. Maybe they like city water better than pond water? I sure don't know, but it's fun to see them floating in the pool like that.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Paddle boat

In Central Park, there is a small body of water I'd ordinarily call a pond, but its official title is Iroquois Lake. In the warm months, one can rent a paddle boat to go out into the lake. $4 for 2 people for a half hour; $6 for an hour. Strangely, I'd never been out on one, so the youngest and I decided to give it a whirl.

His steering was... erratic, as befits a nearly-7-year-old, I suppose. Full port or full starboard, nothing in between! He managed to navigate us to the fountain in the middle (fortunate wind shifts kept us mostly dry) as well as close to the wild ducks and geese who were paddling the lake independently of us.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rose Garden

This is the Rose Garden in Central Park. We've had a lot of rain of late, and it's amazing how much work the Rose Garden people have done to keep it looking so good. They're all volunteers and it's clear they love their job.

Thank you!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Almost ready

These tomatoes will be gone today or tomorrow - probably eaten straight off the vine! These particular vines are growing in a pot - container gardening. We were quite worried that the plants would rot with all the rain we've had recently, but they're working away anyway.

We've been harvesting fresh kale, lettuce and arugula for a month now. Yellow squash and green peppers within the week.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Skywatch Friday

On Fridays, I try to participate in Skywatch Friday. I remembered today!

This photo is from several weeks ago, taken on the way back home from My Greylock, MA. I wasn't the only one who stopped here to take a snap.

Do visit the Skywatch Friday page to see what other participants posted this week!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Theme Day - Empty

The City Daily Photo blogging community sets aside the first day of the month for a common theme for many of us to try to post a photograph that suits the theme. This month's theme is Empty. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants.

This is at once unusual and common. It's a deserted strip mall. I don't know why we call them strip malls; perhaps it's because the stores are in a strip alongside the parking lot? Anyway, there was a time when building strip malls was the thing to do. Apparently, they are cheap to make. Anyway, soon after the strip malls were everywhere, the large shopping malls began to be constructed, attracting customers from the small strip malls, which gradually faded away.

Normally, when a strip mall loses the 'big' store, the rest leave as soon as their lease expires. Once the stores are gone, someone else buys the property, razes the strip mall and builds something else.

That's what makes this sight common - everyone has seen a moribund strip mall. What makes this particular one unusual is that it has been empty for more than 15 years. No one has bought it and the current owner hasn't demolished it. It just sits here, empty.

Note: I had this scheduled to be posted but Blogger didn't do it. Technology.
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