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This past weekend I took my dogs for an early spring hike at Fillmore Glen State Park, in Moravia, NY, not too far from where I live. As we climbed the steep road, I noticed all these partially frozen puddles displaying unusual organic patterning. I don’t know what causes it, but thought it was visually kind of interesting and beautiful in its own unique way.

Kind of like my dog, Umber – also organic, unique and unusual – enjoying the breeze from the car window, on the way to the park.

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Dr. Temple Grandin

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing one of my heroes, Dr. Temple Grandin, live in person at TC3. (The event was sponsored by one of my clients, Franziska Racker Centers, an organization based in Tompkins County, NY, that serves people with autism and other developmental disabilities).

Her talk was about her experiences with autism, and what it’s like to be a visual learner (as opposed to auditory or other type; being one myself, I perked up and listened closely to what she had to say on the topic). She also mentioned the new HBO movie that just came out about her, starring Claire Danes. Dr. Grandin seems very pleased with the movie and feels the actress portrayed her very accurately, in the phase of her life when she was young, and what she defines as being “pre-anti-depressants” (FYI, it’s playing at Cornell Cinema this Thursday, and Temple Grandin will be there)

Although I am interested in the subject of autism, and cannot applaud this amazing woman hard & long enough for all she has manged to accomplish in her life and career as an autistic person, what makes her my hero is what she has accomplished working with the handling of animal factory farms in this country, to make them more humane.

This is a really important subject to me – if you know anything about me you’ll know I’m a foodie, and I always think about where my meat comes from when making purchasing decisions. I was a vegetarian for many years, mostly because I abhor the conditions of animals kept in factory farms and the cruel manner in which I learned the slaughterhouses handle them. I started eating meat again about three years ago when I moved to the Finger Lakes region because I was able to locate farms where animals are raised and slaughtered compassionately, and buy directly from them (a good example, and one of my faves, is PDH Buffalo Farm, located in Sempronius, NY).

Dr. Temple Grandin’s work in this area is the subject of the book, Animals in Translation. Last night I purchased another book (which she signed), Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals. I look forward to reading it and gaining insight into the care I provide my beloved pets.

alpaca at the Cayuga County Fair

Patagonia pup

Patagonia pup

alpaca at the Cayuga County Fair
4-H-ers exercising their frisky calves at the Cayuga County Fair

4-H-ers exercising their frisky calves at the Cayuga County Fair

Dock Dogs: annual event whereby canines who are trained to leap off a ledge and go flying into a pool of water.

Dock Dogs: annual event whereby canines who are trained to leap off a ledge and go flying into a pool of water.

I’ve been negligent in writing blog entries lately, now that the rainy season has ended. Instead I’ve been out & about trying to get the most out of summer. And dear readers, let me tell you, that looong, cold, harsh central NY winter IS worth it when summer finally arrives. Here’s a smattering of recent adventures:

• Cayuga County Fair

• backpacking in the ‘dacks with husband and dog in tow

High Falls in the Adirondacks, reached only by arduous backpack thru marshes, woods, and over beaver dams.

High Falls in the Adirondacks, reached only by arduous backpack thru marshes, woods, and over beaver dams.

• kayaking on Cayuga Lake

Paddling in Aurora, NY

Paddling in Aurora, NY

• hay day at the ag museum, Auburn, NY

Mennonite family watching old-fashioned hay demo at O'Hara Ag Museum in Auburn, NY

Mennonite family watching old-fashioned hay demo at O'Hara Ag Museum in Auburn, NY

• u-pick blueberries

Biggest friggin' blueberries I've ever seen (Newfield, NY)

Biggest friggin' blueberries I've ever seen (Newfield, NY)

• adopted two more SPCA “unadoptable” felines; one is a big mush and has become my office muse

newest adoptee from SPCA: Neitzsche the cat

newest adoptee from SPCA: Neitzsche the cat

• and finally, relaxing in the rockers and being a porch potato

Watching the corn grow

Watching the corn grow

Rory at the Ithaca dog park

going...

running around the dog park

...and coming.

Here’s my dog, Rory, a cross (I suspect) between a walker coonhound and a redbone coonhound. At 2.5 years of age, she’s graceful, affectionate, athletic, social, smart, and incorrigible. I adopted her when she was 6 mos old from the Wanderer’s Rest Humane Assoc. in Canastota, NY. I try to take her to this dog park of all dog parks, in Ithaca, en route to my weekly Toastmasters meeting at Cornell U. The plan is to totally tire her out so she sleeps in the car throughout my one-hour meeting. And you know what, it always works like a charm. But let me tell you, it is very difficult to capture moving dogs with a still camera. As you can see, she is either constantly moving IN or OUT of the frame.

a still from movie I shot at fair Haven Beach State Park

a still from movie I shot at fair Haven Beach State Park

During the first six months of 2009, I participated in an intensive and esteemed program called Leadership Cayuga (LC) with about 25 other people (Much has been previously documented and written about LC, so I won’t go into the details of its history or purpose – click here to learn more).

As part of our many activities, we were responsible for undertaking a county-wide scavenger hunt, on our own time and at our own pace over the course of 6 months. There were many items on the list and the goal was to get at least 200 points, with most items fetching 10 points apiece. One of the items on the list was “an art project”, which I decided to take on using online mapping and video. I documented my travels around Cayuga County with both a camera and a video camera, with special focus (groan) on the county’s many parks and natural areas and the trips I made to these places with my dog, Rory, in tow. Among the places I explored and filmed were Fillmore Glen, Fair Haven Beach, Bear Swamp, Howlands Island, and Long Point.

In some of the videos I’ve created a musical soundtrack, while in others I’m narrating about such things as nature sitings, comments about cute things Rory is doing, and other observations.

The video camera was on loan from BOCES, with whom I partnered to create the videos, as I had never previously used or even held a video camera prior to this project. I worked with instructor Terry Cuddy and his media and graphic design students to edit the resulting 5 or 6 videos which were then uploaded to the appropriate place on the Flikr map where each was filmed.

I chose to film these places because exploring natural areas with my dog (and husband) is one of my all-time favorite activities. Access to nature is one of the reasons I chose to move to central New York from New York City two years ago. The natural beauty of Cayuga County inspires me daily and greatly contributes to my quality of life.

Flikr map with photos and video of Cayuag County points of interest

Flikr map with photos and video of Cayuag County points of interest

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