Utica on the Map

Utica on the Map
Smack in the Center

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Local Food: Aqua Vita Farms

Well, I see that my posts dwindled in the month of April. Let's just say the pouring rain failed to inspire me to go anywhere or find out about anything!

Foodies take heart. More and more citizens of Oneida County are becoming entrepreneurs in the slow food, organic, home farming movement. I have already posted about a few, such as Debra Richardson of Leaf, Loaf & Ladle (see my post of 2/3/11).

My friend, Mark Doherty, has been urging me to look into his new business in Sherrill. It's called Aqua Vita Farms. Although I haven't visited yet, I've talked to Mark and gone on Facebook to get information and look at photos.

Aqua Vita Farms is an indoor farm that utilizes Aquaponics to grow fish and produce, for wholesale distribution. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. It involves growing fish and plants together in one integrated, soilless system. The fish waste provides a food source for the plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water in which the fish live. Aqua Vita Farms grows safe, fresh, organic produce and seafood.

Aqua Vita Farms Plant

Lettuce growing aquaponically

I hope to talk to Mark soon and add more details in another post about this exciting new project.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Upstate Writers: Frederick Busch and Snow

Frederick Busch

Almost ten years ago I attended the Chenango Writers Conference at Colgate. It's a summer conference and participants attend workshops in fiction and poetry, as well as readings by visiting writers and editors. I was lucky enough to sign up for Fred Busch's class, author of some 25 novels, admirer of Charles Dickens, realist, and all-round enthusiast. Sadly, Fred died a few years ago.

But of course, his novels and short stories live on and are often situated in Upstate New York. His descriptions of life here are pretty accurate. Here's a passage from one of his last novels, Girls, which was based on the Sara Ann Woods kidnapping and murder. Even though it's still snow showering on this cold April day, we can take heart that we are done with storms like this one:

  We had more snow on our road than I'd ever seen. I watched it from our bedroom window and our living room windows and our kitchen window. In the back room, I saw the vast amounts of snow in the field and at the edge of the woods. I saw plenty of snow...

  While she was at work, I climbed out onto the roof from an upstairs bedroom, and I tried to shovel snow. The idea was to keep the stuff from breaking through the roof. It weighed tons. The idea was also that when the snow really began to melt, it would run under the shingles, and then if it froze again and melted, it would shove the shingles off or even break through the subroof. The dog stayed below, where the lawn would be if the snow ever melted, and he barked each time I tossed a shovelful over. That added up to five barks, because the pain was too bad. I settled for edging the stuff around with a stiff leg, then kicking it sideways, in a clumsy soccer motion, to push it in powdering mounds off the roof. He didn't bark for the pushes because they were probably not very impressive."


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Upstate Architecture: Turrets

Here begins a series of photos of the sometimes strange assortment of houses and public buildings we live in and/or with, perhaps without noticing.

This one struck me as one of those ordinary houses that wanted to be a castle instead.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Fine Arts Dept.: The World Music Chorus

Last Saturday morning I went to a rehearsal of an international chorus at the Unitarian Church. Several members of the group are friends of mine and they had encouraged me to come and listen or sing. I can't sing, or even read music, but I can listen.

The sun was streaming through the many windows as the chorus slowly went over Abun d'bashmayo, or The Lord's prayer in Aramaic. As their leader, Chris Gaca, explains below, their objective is not the perfect "trills" of a church choir, but a more natural, honest singing, as well as a means of introducing people to international music.

Here is Chris Gaca's description of the group's beginnings:

 "I started this group in August of 2009.  Having just come back from a week long workshop in world music and dance with the "Vanaver Caravan" at Omega Institute, I decided to test the waters of Utica, NY for interest in this topic.  I advertised a World Music Workshop which was held for no charge at the UUU church and there were 15 people that showed up for it.  At the end of the workshop, most of the people who attended wanted to continue, so I set our rehearsals for 2 x each month and got approval from the church to use their facilities to practice.  We have been singing together as The World Music Chorus ever since.

Our repertoire at present includes about 20 different songs from countries all over the world including China, Puerto Rico, Iran, Bulgaria, Nigeria, and many more. Much of the music we do comes from world music I have collected over a lifetime  but we have also had some workshops to learn music from many other sources.

The music I pick is based on folk tradition - again not western re-arrangement.  We are unafraid of trying to pronounce lyrics that have sounds and vocal expressions not used in the English language.  There are many examples out there of groups who have taken musical pieces from other countries and re-arranged them for choir by swapping out the original melodies for something more western sounding and dropping the original language for English. This is not us.  Choirs can also become somewhat elitist.  There is no audition to join my group and abilities cover a wide range.  We sometimes learn from music, but also learn aurally, so there is no requirement for specific musical skills.  We are just a group of adults who enjoy tapping into the sound production possibilities of our bodies and giving homage to cultures other than our own by exploring their vocal expressions.
 I have started my own blog at:  http://chrisgaca.wordpress.com/category/world-music-chorus-repertoire/

This site has connections to YouTube videos of native singers performing the songs we are trying to learn and a link to download lyrics. If people want to know the kind of songs we are working on, they can go to the website.

We have performed at the UU church several times now as part of their services and also at St. Luke's Nursing Home where we sang our full repertoire for the residents there."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

News from The Other Side: Don't Miss Monk Rowe

Monk Rowe

On Wednesday, April 13th @ 7:30 p.m., The Other Side will present the Imagining America talk called Jazz Tales from Jazz Legends, with Monk Rowe presenting excerpts from interviews with some of the jazz greats  archived in the Hamilton College collection. Included will be samples of their performances. This is a wonderful opportunity not only for those of us who already are jazz converts, but for people (and you are the majority!) who aren't sure how they feel about it but want to know more. 

Monk is the Joe Williams Director of the Jazz Archive at Hamilton College. He has helped create a collection of 300 audio interviews with jazz musicians, arrangers, writers and critics, the jazz greats and the supporting cast from the 1930s to the present. This collection is now available online and free to the public courtesy of the Hamilton College Jazz Archive. Listeners can click on a link and read the transcripts or listen to interviews with some of jazz’s most well-known musicians, including Dave Brubeck, Lionel Hampton, Oscar Peterson and George Shearing as well as former members of bands led by Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton and the Dorsey Brothers. 


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Petit Larceny, or what our citizens are stealing lately:

I've been struck by frequent notices of trivial crimes, but crimes nevertheless, in the Observer-Dispatch. They're called petit larceny, or the stealing of property worth less than $50.

I wonder why these crimes need our attention, or what they say about us? Poverty? Desperation? Boredom? Lack of imagination? Temptation? (There's so much stuff out there just waiting to go on sale.) Cleptomania? At the same time, the absurdity of stealing a jar of oregano has its comic side.

According to the Observer-Dispatch, the following thefts occurred in the last week:

  • A woman told police she first heard noises from her bedroom, and upon checking the room saw Brandon Woods, 18, of Park Avenue, exit through the window holding her purse, police said.

  •  A Utica man was arrested Tuesday for stealing copper pipes and wiring in a home, Utica police said. Allen Dole, 30, was charged by Investigator Salih Rizvanovic with felony second-degree burglary and misdemeanor petit larceny. in connection with a March 24 burglary, police said. Officials said often times, thieves sell copper pipes to recycling centers for cash.

  • At about 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Renee Lyles, 49, of Green Street, was arrested by Officer Joseph Dare after store security witnesses him stealing Tylenol from the Genesee Street store, police said.

  •  A Utica man has been accused of stealing chewing gum and cold medication from a Rite Aid Tuesday afternoon, Utica police said.

  •  Fallon Bell, 24, Neilson Street, has been charged with petit larceny after she allegedly stole several cosmetic items and food seasonings from Hannaford Market, 1122 Mohawk St.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring in Upstate New York

Although winter won't quite let us go today and it's snowing, the days portrayed in this wonderful photograph, in which you can almost see the buds on the trees, the wind moving the clouds across a new blue sky and the sun-dappled fields--those days are coming. Spring is coming.

Thank you Patrick Yasu Huther, via a friend on Facebook.