Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Rockland Hotel - a little family history

Recently, I sent out some photos of my grandfather to commemorate his birthday. While I was collecting the photos I came across the biographical notes that my cousin Cynthia had made about our Grandfather. She remembers the hotel (even had some dreams of time spent there) but I was too young. Here are her notes:

"Anthony was smuggled across border to get out of Poland in 1901. Came to
U.S. Worked in the coal mines in Pennsylvania as a child (no child labor
laws). As a adult, he worked at Yale and Town. His sister Mary worked
there as a timekeeper and helped get him a job. Anthony got to be a
foreman (would be an engineer in modern times). He was very concerned
about the worker's finger tips that were always being cut. He invented a
shield or safety catch for Yale and Town lock company to prevent loss of
fingers of assembly line workers. Still in use. He got $500 for it
which is much too high for those days as one could buy a house to live in
during those days for that money. He spoke fluent English and knew how
to handle the foreigners. He had a wonderful sense of humor and charm.
Many evenings he would have a class for those who wanted to be citizens.
Naturalized at least 50 citizens through interpretation/translation
assistance. He sponsored such a large number that the governor gave him a
citation. He was a good citizen. Every evening he would walk to the
Advocate (newspaper) office. There was a big bulletin in the window with
daily news which he would read and come home and tell his family what was
going on. As Lillian said, "I think our interest in politics comes from
these reports".
With the $500, he bought a mansion that had to be razed. Took all the
lumber and built two apartments over their bungelow. Kowaleski's lived
in one. All the bathroom fixtures were transferred. Lamps and other
things were installed after being taken apart. Lillian remembers various
neighbors coming in to admire and pull the chain to flush the toilet.
"Goodbye outhouse. Boy, did we feel rich".
Anthony sold insurance at night after work. Whenever he made a sale he
would wake children up with ice cream or a chocolate bar.
Loved animals...dogs always followed him home and in his last years,
worked at a veterinarian hospital to be near them.
Helped build the Holy Name Church in Stamford, CT (stone by stone). Owned
and operated a hotel in Stamford -(Rockwell ??) and made quite a nice
living in real estate until the stock market crash in the 20's."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Squirrel proofing the bird feeders...Ha!

We used to have a "squirrel-proof" birdfeeder. It had a cantilevered perch that would cover the seed when a heavy rodent would climb aboard and gorge on black oil sunflower seed. Of course the clever beasts discovered that they could hang on the side and reach into the opening avoiding the perch. One day I was startled when a mouse climbed out of the seed when I was refilling the device. I spent a couple of weekends adding fishing sinkers to fine tune the weight of the tripping mechanism. Icing was a definite problem , because squirrels are natural meteorologists and understand that a frozen lever does not move. A couple of roaming bears, attracted by the smell of oil seed, decided that the best approach was to tear the damn thing apart.

I decided on a different approach using hanging metal mesh baskets with a clever name of "No-No" or something. The squirrels like to hang on these, sucking the seed through the mesh I assume. Originally I had them on a metal pole, which was bent to the ground by more marauding bears. The mesh held up pretty well to the bear attack, just a few teeth marks in the metal rain guard. I also discovered that roman candles will deter bears from feeding.

I tried suspending the feeders between 2 trees at a height that hopefully out of the reach of all but the tallest bears. Everything was fine for a couple of months, but finally an especially acrobatic squirrel appeared and managed to walk along the 10 feet rope. It was awesome to watch, he (or she) would take careful steps using his (or her) tail for fine balance correction. Even more distressing was that this squirrel gave lessons to the other squirrels and soon it was a regular high wire act.

The picture that I have posted shows my latest (and greatest) attempt yet. I have a series of washers, computer CD's, and light weight aluminum tubing covering the rope. I'm not positive it will stop the raids, but it will be fun to watch their attempts.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why can't I find lyrics to "Hupaj Siupaj"?

UPDATE (June 21, 2016) - I found the words!

I have found a book called Treasured Polish Songs which contains the word to "Our Company" the song that most of us know as Hupaj Siupaj. The book is available at Amazon. Nine years ago after a fruitless search I posted a request on my blog. Some of the comments pointed me in the right direction. I'm including the words but STRONGLY suggest you buy the book, it has all the Christmas Songs and so much more.

Page 104 - Treasured Polish Songs
Page 105

Monday, March 12, 2007

Coyotes (I mean Fisher Cats), Bears and The 1808 Sign.. Oh My!

In the middle of the night we were awakened by a strange animal sound. All sounds are magnified and more frightening around 3 am. After we turned on the exterior lights we could see a creature running through the yard. Apparently we had a visit from a coyote and thankfully all the cats were safely inside. Coyotes breed in January- March and are quite vocal during that time.

Coyotes are not the only excitement in our town. March is Town Election time and we have the "Sign". The "Sign" has dominated our newspaper letters and town politics for some time. Sometime in the past an illuminated LED sign was installed by the 1808 corporation. After the neighbors picketed, petitions offered, cease and desist orders, letters sent to the papers... there will be 3 warrant articles on Tuesday's ballot related to the "Sign". Ironically the "Sign" is now being used to defend it's right to exist (it has a rudimentary computer brain). There is a lot of money at stake in this issue, a daily fine is being enforced for violation of the cease and desist order. Passions are running high... http://www.1808corp.com

Voting is tomorrow, so I'll post the outcome as a comment.

I mentioned "Bears" in title... They are another creature that we see more now than when we moved here 30 years ago. After they destroyed my birdfeeders they haven't been back. I did see a few hanging around the "Sign"

Sunday, March 04, 2007

What's for dinner? Roast Mouse?

I first became aware of a problem when I preheated the oven to heat some tortillas. I noticed smoke billowing from every opening of the stove. I assumed that it was a small grease spill that would quickly burn off.
After I was forced to open the windows I realized that I needed to find a remedy. There was no sign of a spill on the floor of the oven so I removed the bottom panel. There was no spill beneath the panel. It was then that I noticed an "object" lodged between the bottom panel and a plate of metal that acts as a flame spreader. When my wife asked "How did grease get in there?" I had the realization that maybe it had crawled in there. There is not much left of our visitor after several bakings but some whiskers and the hind legs were clearly visible.
I had a little chat with our 3 cats about their responsibility on maintaining a vermin free environment. Bon Appétit!

Friday, March 02, 2007

March 3rd - Worm Moon (Vermicomposting revisited)

Years ago while visiting my children's middle school, I was shown a vermicomposting project that the science teacher had set up for her students. Vermicomposting is the process of using worms (Eisenia foetida) to eat food scraps and produce rich compost.

After ordering a pound of worms from Plains Georgia, I received a package label "live worms". Preparation was simple, I prepared a bedding of shredded newspaper, some soil, coffee grounds and some crushed eggshells, and dumped in the box of worms. The worms have been thriving every since. The are easily the most trouble free creatures I have encountered, they are much less problematic than the cats (who produce unusable compost). All they need is an occasional melon rind or some corn cobs and they happily munch away. You can actually hear them eat!

The only issue I face is the separation of the worms from the compost. Placing newer material on one side of the bin is supposed to produce a "worm migration" from the old to the new, but not for these worms (I can only assume that these are sedendary worms that have grown fat and lazy on melon rinds).

I was under the impression that I was being a good steward of the earth by raising these creatures, but today I was made aware of a darker more sinister side of worm-wrangling. Apparently introducing non-native worm species to the environment can be damaging. I can't imagine what damage I'm doing growing high-altitude cactus in the front yard.


"Worms may be responsible for destroying foliage in forests in northern United States and Canada"


Worm Photographs courtesy of Paul Romagna (Feb 19 2007)