Running on Country Roads

The Lake Road in Winter and Carolyn's Cottage

The Lake Road in Winter and Carolyn's Cottage

I’m a runner. Not a very fast or athletic runner, but I run consistently and frequently participate in running events. So it will take quite a bit for me to miss one of my thrice-weekly runs. I often bring my running gear with me on trips to Lodi.

There aren’t a lot of options when it comes to running trails that I have discovered so far around Lodi, though I’m sure there are some hidden gems. When we stay at the cottage, I run along the lake road which is rough, gravel in parts and also one lane wide in certain areas. However, it is a great advantage to be able to jump right in the lake at the end of hot run.

When we are staying up in town I typically choose to run along the two lane highway that runs through Lodi, Route 414. This is not the world’s best running route for a number of reasons. It is a highway: cars, trucks, motorcycles, farm machinery and tractor-trailors all pass by at an alarming rate for a small little human chugging along on the shoulder. I often feel like I take my life in my hands when I take off on my country highway runs.

Another aspect of running along the highway route is the fact that I pass by farmers fields. I certainly get a unique perspective on the crops and livestock as I pass by. I see chickens, sheep, horses and sometimes wave at the farmers at work in the fields. Sometimes the more curious animals will even come down to the fence by the road to get a better look at me. I try to say hello but rarely get a response.

An Amish Carriage

An Amish Carriage

Which brings me to the most interesting and potentially dangerous aspect of my running along this route. There has always been a population of Amish and Mennonite in our area of the Finger Lakes, but it has been growing in recent years. It’s a common occurrance to see members of those communities at work in thier fields using Clydesales or families riding along the shoulder in thier horse-drawn carriages.

Every time I set out on a run I wonder if this will be the day that I meet one of these carriages up close and personal, unable to hear them approaching because I’m listening to my iPod while running. Will I see the shadow of the carriage bearing down on me? Will I feel the horses’ breath on the back of my neck? Will I be able to get out the way in time?!

I expect this will never happen and that I will have plenty of warning should a horse-drawn carriage ever approach. But it certainly does add a level of excitement to my regular running routine!


The Barn Cats

Barn Kittens, photo A. Covert

Barn Kittens, photo A. Covert

Like any good barn, our barn has barn cats. Lots of them.

My uncle made a practice of feeding the barn cats event though they’re feral and not domestic cats but as an animal lover can see why he risked his life to care for them. They’re cute little, sweet little kitty cats living in that big drafty barn! Wouldn’t they prefer to come and stay with us in the house and be warm and snugly and eat processed cat food and keep us company and look adorable when chasing string and the like?

We dare not start trying to feed the barn cats, but my uncle got to the point where he was feeding many of these cats and bringing certain of his favourites into the house. One of my uncle’s best-loved barn cats he named Harry and let him into the house to stay warm and keep him company. Harry had a sweet disposition and was a long haired barn cat, hence the name.

My uncle took care of six or eight of the feral barn cats at once, providing food, litter boxes and woolly covered places for them to seek shelter from the elements. He did this faithfully for a long while until one of them scratched him quite seriously and he became ill as a result. It was difficult, but after that we convinced him to give up the practice and the barn cats went back to the drafty barn and had to get used to fending for themselves again.

My uncle’s been gone for about three years, but the barn cats are still alive and well out there in the big drafty barn. We saw them out there in the barn on our recent trip to Lodi a week ago. I spotted two different cats–one long-haired, mangy white one, probably the mama barn cat, and a smaller, short-haired white one as well.  Dad saw a couple as well, a different black one and the mama.They seemed to be eyeing us in the house as their potential meal ticket, but each of us was equally wary as the other. We all seemed to recognize that much as we’d like to reconcile it would be better to keep to our separate spheres of existence.

Lodi Kittens, photo A. Covert

Lodi Kittens, photo A. Covert

These are probably the same cats that used to visit my uncle for their regular meals, though some have certainly come and gone by now. It’s hard to resist their sweet little furry faces, but we know from experience that it’s not wise to attempt to domesticate these feral barn cats and so we let them stay out in the barn. All things considered, they’re probably completely content without human companionship.

Too Many Projects

The Home Farm in Winter

The Home Farm in Winter

We went down to Lodi this past weekend to check on things, visit with friends and family and engage in one of our family pastimes—cross-border shopping. The ground was coated in a foot or two of thick crunchy snow but the house was toasty warm thanks to our friend who went in earlier to turn the furnace on for our visit.

The only complication is that one of the bedrooms that we would normally use literally has no heat and the windows are coated with ice. This bedroom is in the very back of the house, overlooking the fields and was added to the house above the family room, you can see it at the top left of the photo here. This was the bedroom my grandma used for years, before she needed to be on the main floor of the house for health reasons. It’s a beautiful room with lots of windows and light, but not enough insulation for this time of year, so on Thursday night when we arrived (late) we had to move a bed into a room in the interior of the house to have a good and warm night’s sleep.

 The plants in the bay window weren’t too happy with the recent cold snap. We lost a few African violets and a few of the tropical plants but the Christmas cactus was thriving. Bizarre, but true. The Christmas cactus was happy as a clam in the frigid temperatures, blooming these amazing bright fuchsia cactus flowers–real survivors!

We began to seriously look at the spring and planning what projects we’ll want to attack when we return. The current main projects are the aforementioned Green Cottage steps, the bathroom floor in the Covert cottage, fixing the termite attacks in the floor of the Covert cottage, fixing the road up to both of the cottages, repairing the garage roof at the Home Farm, work in both of the 150-year-old barns to keep them upright… too much to tackle all at once. But we’ll keep thinking about the projects while the winter progresses and be ready to tackle everything when we come down in the spring.

Best of all on our weekend in Lodi we were able to enjoy the lovely house, vist with friends and family and shop, of course. But no trip to Lodi is complete without a meal that includes the deliciously white-enriched-bread-1950s-style dinner rolls from the Ovid Big M bakery that were a staple when my Grandma cooked, and we got to enjoy those too. Can’t get much better than that.

Planning the Garden

The Barn at the Home Farm

The Barn at the Home Farm

Recently we started talking about getting down to the logistics around planting this garden that we’ve dreamed up. We started by discussing when we would need to go to Lodi to start planting and it was then we realized that we all had slightly different views on how to plant a garden. Let it be stated for the record that none of us actually knows how to plant a garden, so any discussions are purely theoretical and in no way based on a) fact b) experience or c) knowledge.

There was a faction that was certain that one starts a garden by planting seeds indoors in the winter and tending to their little seedling selves until the ground is thawed and ready to receive them as little plants. Another faction was convinced that a gardener had merely to sprinkle seeds into the soil in order for delicious and hearty vegetables to spring forth in great abundance.

Certain parties tried to remain neutral and suggested consulting experts, reference material or at least Google.

In any case, we are all aware that we need to start planning and at least to start thinking of what we want to grow. Advisers have cautioned against planting too many zucchinis and suggest two plants maximum. I have absolutely no problem with this as I believe that the only good zucchini is a cucumber. I also relish (ahem, pun intended) an overabundance of tomatoes as I’m a huge fan of homemade salsa and have been known to make a fairly decent one, if I do say so myself.

In the Home Farm basement can be found a significant stash of canned produce made by my grandmother. Now she’s been gone for almost 15 years so these jars of dark, viscous vegetable matter are elderly to say the least. My mother has made me promise to help can the aforementioned overabundance of tomatoes and I um, relish the opportunity (sorry, I can’t stop) to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps and become a master canner.

I would guess that many people of my generation don’t have canning in their knowledge base, alongside making the ultimate iPod party playlist and the knowing the rules of Ultimate Frisbee (which I don’t either, by the way). So if I am to can tomatoes with my mother standing in the very kitchen where my grandmother expertly canned in late summer decade after decade, I will definitely need some guidance .

That and the ultimate tomato-canning iPod playlist, of course, which I will have no trouble whipping up.