Back in the fall I was asked to take over the Visit Ithaca instagram page. I gladly accepted and then the day before I was supposed to start the election happened and all the wind went out of my sails. Key to my not losing faith in humanity was the task of highlighting the beauty if the Ithaca area. Here are a few shots from the effort.
Hopshire beer and cheese night
This poppy is from an evening lecture by Gary Snyder with an awesome garden party in the Botanical Gardens after.
Cornell Campus during the golden hour
Sometimes I sit by our garden like it is an old friend. I snuggle up the the Kentucky Wonder beans and wait for the Ruby-throated Hummingbird to stop by on its traplining route that includes the zinnias, the pole beans near the kitchen window and the Kentucky Wonders near the old boat. I watched some ants take down a small dollup of rich blackberry jam made by my mom. A few weeks ago I spent nearly a whole Saturday soaking it up.
Recent adventures in kombucha-making have made for a rather sweet version, so I am still working on my timing.
An abundance of fungus at Ringwood Nature Preserve lately
While Eliot biked around Lake Cayuga, I went for a nice long run and then drove up the lake to Long Point State Park for some swimming and putzing around. I learned about the park from a man who sells jewelry at the Farmer's Market. A friend bought a necklace from him with these tiny little lake shore stones and old pieces of porcelain (like lake beach glass of the ceramic variety) and I asked him where he found them. He told me about this cool swimming and beach combing place, so I went to check it out. I've never been a huge fan of places where you have to swim in the designated "swimming area" and I am also a strict rule follower, so that made for a bad combo. I did meet a nice older couple who really wanted my picnic table and in exchange for the table, the women gave me a tip on the best spot to look for lucky stones. So, I foraged for stones with an elderly lady until I lucked upon one. With a measly google search, I can't figure out what causes these holes. Some sources say "fossil wormholes" and most others have lots to say about their ability to bring good luck. Sounds perfect!
I finally got word from Eliot that he was close to the town of Aurora where we planned to have an early dinner before he finished the last leg home. Here he is with his turn sheet and some hearty poutine at Fargo Bar and Grill. I had to have one last dip in Cayuga before my drive home.
The next day we had a big breakfast and a fun adventure. We swam at a secret waterfall, drove to The Farmhouse Brewery for a tasting and good company, stopped at the Route 96 Road Side BBQ Diner (don't worry, Diet Coke is a once a year thing for me), where Eliot had the Route 96 Fix (a special peanut butter and fried egg burger). Then, we couldn't pass up the maple shakes that we didn't have enough cash for and they kindly just gave to us. Oops!
Bean pride and a plum tart made with the plums I canned in Idaho last summer.
If you have yet to try the dosa at the Sadya Snacks booth at the Farmer's Market. Get yourself on down there! Perfectly paired with a Hopshire beer on a rainy evening. We used to get these every now and then in Sydney as a special treat. They are the perfect combo of salty and sour, but with all the comforts of crispy carbs. Delightful!
Evening harp and Guinea fowl heading up to roost in Weeping Willow trees
Garden pride and adorable caterpillar feet
The Ellis Hollow Fair: friendly sheep, a dunking booth, a White Elephant Sale, an abundance of apple pie, a cake walk, a silent auction (totally scored a yoga pass), and a physics bus.
South African Honeymoon, 2016
I figure I might only make it to Africa once in this lifetime, so I better make a few notes to keep it as fresh as possible in my mind and to honor the opportunity. Because I took thousands of photos, I divided these posts up into geographic regions. A note on the photos: many people who visit Africa to watch wildlife have fancy lenses so that they can nicely photograph animals from a distance, but these are all point and shoot (a lovely one) and iPhone 4s. My wildlife photos are taken through binoculars and are terrible quality, but provide me with a memory that I once got to feast my eyes on such creatures. The photos are also totally lacking many of the things I found to be most wonderfully interesting about the people and the culture.
Our general route took us to Johannesburg where we rented a car and drove up into the Drakensburg escarpment to the Magoebaskloof region near a town called Haenertsburg for a couple of days, through Tzaneen for groceries, and then into Kruger National Park via the Punda Maria gate. We then took 10 days/9 nights to drive south stopping at various rest camps for a night or two. We stayed at Punda Maria, Shingwedzi, Olifants, Lower Sabie and Skukuza. After leaving the park, we explored more of the escarpment near Sabie and then up to some native remnant forest to find the Gurney's Sugarbird before driving to Old Joe’s Kaya for a wonderful night’s rest and then on to Joburg to fly down to Cape Town. We spent a couple of days in Cape Town and then two more in Simon’s Town before heading home.
NYC under our wing
We had a funky couple of months before leaving and some travel for work so I was overwhelmed with the thought of making plans for this epic trip, but I tried. There were quite a few details to get together just hours before leaving. After a mad-dash at making last minute reservations and plans we were as ready as we were going to be. We left Ellis Hollow in the middle of the night to head to New York City for our flight to Johannesburg. We navigated rush hour while making further last last minute plans before settling in for our fourteen-hour flight. We enjoyed “Totally Anura” wine, aka sleep juice from a flight attendant with perfectly shiny dark periwinkle fingernails. Wine and frogs are a better match than I would have thought.
After landing in Joburg, we drove up into the most amazing mountains for a couple of nights and some serious birding. Lesson number one in how dumb my iPhone has made me was with navigation. We were smart enough to get a GPS for the car because I didn’t have an international data plan and Eliot didn’t have tons of data. We didn’t have a paper map, but the GPS got us close and some directions from helpful people got us to destinations eventually. Just outside of Pretoria, we got a look at African culture and we saw so many beautiful fruit stands, lots of baby wearing, children playing, very young children caring for other children, women balancing giant cases of yellow soda or 5 gallon buckets on their heads and men drinking at these little pop up stores under the shade of expansive trees, roadside car washes, older women with wheelbarrows stacked high with branches and the trees (just like the ones in my textbooks that always used African examples). Acacias, or at least the family formerly known as acacias. Acacias, oh my gosh, we were in Africa. We had to keep reminding ourselves.
We stopped for a few groceries and directions in the adorable town of Haenertsburg and then on to our quaint lodgings at Diggersrest. You see, I tried to book a little bungalow for us, but only the “main lodge” was available and it wasn’t much more, so we took it. It was giant and absolutely delightful! We swam, we lounged, we battled our jet lag and we birded our hearts out!
One of my favorite sensations is to leave winter and arrive in a blooming and sunny warm place. Well, this ticked all those boxes. The grounds were full of various Sunbirds and flowers and nooks and crannies and fairy crowns. We wondered around in the sudden warmth wearing our swimsuits (with binoculars) looking like the giant tourists that we were. That is the official relaxation cue: swimsuit/binocular wondering.
Agroforestry is a pretty big deal there. Lots of pine and eucalyptus.
My dear friend Taryn, who I was in grad school with at CU, is South African AND a birder, so she gave us some materials that helped us plan our Afromontane birding adventure.
I often get distracted when Eliot's birding enthusiasm outlasts mine and I look around for other stuff to check out. That day, I found a chameleon!
We spent a nice solid day in Afromontane forest. It reminded me of afternoons on Mauna Kea when the clouds would roll in or Pojo, Bolivia with the cotton clouds flowing over the mountains or near the divide in Costa Rica where the fog hangs out with the Quetzals, but no, we were in Africa (pinch yourself). We could drink the water, drive on amazing roads, and we had a wood fired pizza for dinner in an English pub where everyone was watching a cricket match.
A hike in Woodbush Forest
Watch out! If the American Dipper is the reigning bird king of your heart, this Grey Wagtail might steal its thrown. It was bobbing and dipping and hanging out in white water.
Leaving the escarpment (highveld) to head down into the lowveld.
A gifted CSA led to the discovery of the watermelon radish (with ID help from Donald), Old Raj martini (thank you Jed) with extra olives and an "Embrace the Gray" colored manicure (my first in at least two years), self-gifted Wegman's tulips with Dolly Parton and sunshine, puzzle from my lifter upper dear friend Katie, Ringwood hike with Eliot, Eliot and Sarah cider taste test Saturday night, driving home from work early, snow from the den above a giant pile of shaded laundry, our Sycamore, Aurora, NY on Cayuga Lake for Valentine's Day, curriculum development for Wall of Birds at CLO, matzo balls and guest-left pink champagne by the fire while dreaming of trips to Africa, sunshiny puzzle working today, tulip demise, and a hike at Ellis Hollow with some found vandalism.
About Sarah's Blog
This personal blog might be stream of consciousness for a little while, but I hope to share my discoveries in nature, food, travel, and thoughts from deep within in my brain folds. It is not peer (or even family) reviewed and is similar to a journal or field notebook that happens to be open to the public. I am a recent PhD graduate and transplant to Ithaca after thirteen beautiful years in Colorado and Idaho. I can also be found in the links below.