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Summer of 2013: Random Notes

October, 2013
By John Huckans

The past few months in central New York were notable for several reasons of varying importance – fewer books at the local library book sale held annually in late July, a rise in racially-motivated hate crime in the nearby city of Syracuse, and the most challenging gardening season in memory.

Cazenovia's annual library book sale goes back several decades and was originally scheduled to coincide with the even older Cazenovia antiquarian book fair that no longer takes place.  We asked several volunteers about the smaller sale but no one had a definitive answer.  Part of the explanation might be that unlike in past years when we've seen dozens of copies of recent best sellers, clearly bought to be read and passed on, this year there were very few.  It suggests that for many readers for whom books, along with magazines and newspapers, are primarily disposable vessels for content, electronic reading devices make perfect sense.

We suspect that this local trend reflects what is happening in other areas of the country and it hints that in the years to come physical books will become scarce with potentially more demand for what remains.  Which might explain reports that younger booksellers are quietly buying up collections and stocks of retiring booksellers at distress-sale prices, with an eye to the future.


This past spring and summer is also being remembered for the rise in racially-based hate crimes, not only in Syracuse but in other towns and cities throughout the nation.  A few days ago, in the second of two nearly identical incidents, an elderly white man died as the result of injuries sustained while being attacked on the streets of Syracuse by a group of black teenagers. Several months earlier another older white man was attacked and killed under similar circumstances.

Participants in this new sport refer to it as “knock-out” or “polar bear hunting”.  The way it works is this – an individual, targeted because of his race, is attacked, usually from behind, by several young males who knock the person down and continue to kick and beat the victim until senseless.  In the latest incident, one of the attackers subsequently went into a nearby convenience store to “celebrate”.

As far as we've been able to learn, officials in Syracuse have been reluctant to prosecute these hate crimes as hate crimes.  One possible explanation is that Syracuse has been trying to promote itself as a convention and tourist destination and if news about the rise in hate crime in that city were to spread, it might not be good for business.

The owner of a central New York nursery and landscaping business, in one of his regular radio spots, commented that after a wet May, in June it rained only twice – first for ten days and then for twenty.  And it certainly didn't help that the berm at the top of our drive gave way with water from the road flooding our main vegetable garden.  By the time I repaired the damage, the garden looked like a rice paddy and remained so for weeks.  Except for the leeks, garlic, lettuce and one lonely zucchini plant (that did quite well), everything was pretty much a disaster.  Our second vegetable garden was even wetter and when I was finally able to get onto the land without sinking up to my ankles, I decided to till it under in preparation for next year.

The various flower beds and borders were relatively unscathed – a new variety of red wax begonia was spectacular, and the dahlias that were several weeks late benefited from the late September sun and are presently at their peak.  Our mums, planted 23 years ago, continue to perform well year after year and, in my opinion, are more attractive than the ones that while offering welcome color to supermarket and big box store parking lots, look so unnatural and out of place in a garden.

Plenty of lemons remain from our two trees that began yielding in January, and they presently share branch space with half-grown lemons from what will be next year's crop.  In a few weeks they will be trundled into the “orangery” section of our garage where they'll happily spend the next few months.

And that's some of the news from Lake Owahgena – where the winters are long, the garlic is strong and the zucchini are all above average.