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Linda Roorda

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Linda Roorda last won the day on November 21

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About Linda Roorda

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  1. Thanks Giving Day

    Thanks Giving Day… a time of reflection, appreciation, gratitude… recalling blessings even among the difficulties of this most unusual year… and memories shared from years past as we recall what touched our hearts deeply… remembering our loved ones who are no longer here among us… for extended family gatherings with delicious food and lots of it… for endless football games (sorry, not my favorite)… for hunting (let’s go!), especially if there’s fresh snow for tracking… all felt with grateful hearts! We really do have so much to be thankful for… like starting each new day with a heart that simply appreciates the little things of life… because it’s so easy to fuss and fret about those little things that annoy me/us… yet it’s the grateful heart that brings out the best in each of us! And simply thinking about being thankful got me pondering deeper. How grateful I am for the love of family and friends, smiles, cards, and encouraging words! With love, we lift each other up, strengthen, bring comfort in difficult times, and see the good in each other… reminders of hope and renewal to cheer us on. As I began to write this reflection a year ago, it was another cool and dreary, cloudy, drippy, fall day… much like it is now while reviewing this blog to repost. It was the kind of day that tends to depress me just a bit… warm summer days have passed and the cold snowy winter is coming. But then I realized that we were blessed with a good summer and sufficient rains during a warmer-than-usual fall, overcoming the droughts of recent years. Though they might seem an irritant to enjoying sunny days, the rain and snow are so needed to renew and replenish the earth and our water supply, and so I am thankful. A grateful heart shares love and joy. From our own thankfulness, we reach out to others. I have often admired those who give their time to serve holiday dinners at local missions. Yet, I have not volunteered as I also feel it’s important to spend holiday time with my husband who cannot go out and about… a way to make his day special. Family time and making precious memories are also blessings from God to treasure with a heart of appreciation. I also like the idea of a thankfulness jar, but never implemented one in my home. Throughout the year, family members can write notes about what they’re especially thankful for and put the slips in the jar. On Thanksgiving Day, or perhaps several days in a row, slips are removed and read aloud, reminding everyone in the family of all the ways we appreciated and blessed each other. A thankful heart is at the root of the joy and happiness we so often search for. With a thankful heart, we praise the Lord for His many blessings each and every day, even for every breath we take. With a grateful heart, we express love for each other in a myriad of ways, and are open to seeing the hidden beauty among us and around us. With a thankful heart, we are more apt to focus on the good that can come from trials we face. And with a grateful heart, we see that which we tend to overlook, or take for granted, as the genuine blessing it truly is. For with a thankful heart, we will readily say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His love endures forever…” (Psalm 107:1) Happy Thanks Giving Day! Thanks Giving Linda A. Roorda ~ For the dawning of each new day For the sun which shines its brilliant rays For the birds who share their sweetest songs… We thank you, Lord, for blessings rich. ~ For desperate pleas You hear with love For all the ways you meet our needs For answers to our many prayers… ~ For all the friends who grace our lives For the ones who left our arms too soon For tears and peace that fill our hearts… ~ For those who fight for freedom’s sake For those who protect our streets from crime For those who gave all that we might live free… ~ For each new season in the cycle of time For spring’s rebirth and summer’s bright sun For autumn’s harvest and winter’s rest… ~ For the joy of life in a newborn’s cry For hope-filled days as our youth pursue dreams For resilient smiles that greet a harsh world… ~ For our great bounty midst a world in need For each new breath in a day not promised For all the ways we love each other… We thank you, Lord, for blessings rich. ~ 10/22/18
  2. Heroes Of Yesterday

    Thank you about the poem and if not you, I thank all who served!
  3. Heroes Of Yesterday

    Thank you so much Mahatma! I apologize as I only just now saw your comment. If you were in the military, Thank You for your service!
  4. Mary or Martha...

    I got to thinking one evening while doing dishes after dinner… am I a Mary or a Martha? Or perhaps a little of both? I’ve always been intrigued by the biblical story of Mary and Martha, two sisters, friends of Jesus along with their brother, Lazarus. Luke 10:38-42 describes Jesus’ visit to their home where Mary joined others and sat at His feet, listening to His teaching. But Martha remained in the other room preparing a meal for their guests. While busying herself with all that went into food preparation, her frustration simmered to a boiling point. Life gets so busy and hectic sometimes, doesn’t it? Ever feel like you’re trapped in the kitchen while everyone else is having a great time visiting, talking and laughing? I’ll admit I have! Cooking is not my forte`. I’d much rather be visiting with my guests than in the kitchen. So, I empathize with Martha. There’s so much to do for your guests, and you fret and worry as time presses in. You want everything to be right for them to feel special, loved and appreciated… to give attention to the fine details as you prepare to serve them a delicious meal. Being the oldest of six, having helped care for four younger brothers during my teen years, taking the family laundry in a wagon to the laundromat every week for some time at age 11-12 with my sister in Clifton when our Mom was laid up, plus an every-other-day babysitting job of four children all through high school from 4 p.m. through 1:20 a.m., (alternating evenings with my sister), plus other weekend babysitting jobs, plus caring for my horse and flock of several dozen chickens and ducks, plus working for a lawyer in the afternoons during my senior year of high school and full-time after graduation, contributing a portion of my income to my parents for room and board while also buying my own clothes, fabric to make clothes, paying for my own school supplies and for a car with its upkeep, I’ve always felt responsible for myself, and everyone and everything else. Even my husband and kids will tell you that! To be honest, with Martha being the oldest sibling, perhaps she also carried the weight of responsibility and obligation that Mary may not have felt as strongly. So, as Martha prepared the meal, in frustration and perhaps with a quick temper, she petulantly asked Jesus, “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” and then even demanded, “Tell her to help me!” On one hand, you’d think that was a valid request – after all, they needed to eat, and Martha did need help. But, on the other hand, I’ve also been appalled at Martha’s nerve for speaking in such a demanding tone to their beloved teacher. And isn’t that how I sometimes think when I’m overwhelmed by life’s demands? Yet, instead of answering sharply, Jesus gently rebuked her for being concerned with these lesser matters, saying, “Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” His response to Martha can seem a bit confusing. As I contemplate His words though, I believe Jesus intended that the meal could wait. They didn’t need anything fancy – no abundant buffet or big fuss was necessary. Martha only needed to serve something simple, quick and easy. I believe He wanted Martha to understand the value of the personal time and teaching He was giving to the guests, and to the sisters in their home. In essence, He was reminding them of something He’d taught the crowds in His Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink… But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow… (Matthew 6:25, 33, 34a NIV) Priorities mattered then just as much as they do now… in my life… in all our lives. I need to set aside quiet time to think and reflect, to meditate, to pray and listen to what God is trying to say within my heart… and to give Him the weight of responsibility I feel for everything. I need not fret and worry. The Apostle Peter understood how we feel and said it well, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7 NIV) When I do, it sure seems to help me handle whatever comes my way. It also seems to put life into a clearer perspective so that I can better serve others with a heart of joy instead of stress in the little nuisances of life. Mary or Martha Linda A. Roorda ~ If I were Mary, Or were I but Martha, What would I choose Should a friend come to call? Would I be too busy To welcome my guest, Or would I gaze attentive And at His side be still. ~ But a meal must be served! The depth of discussion I’m too busy to hear There’s so much to be done! Lord, can’t you tell Mary I need her help now! The preparations are great A burden for me alone. ~ Martha, my dear child, Can you not understand? Mary’s gentle spirit Seeks my Word for her soul. There’s a time and a place For the busyness of life With much to be done For those in need of care. ~ And yet there’s a time To come away from it all As you quietly listen And ponder My Word. A word of wisdom I seek, To restore my soul. Lord, show me the path, My steps to trace Yours. ~ Attentive and still To quiet the chaos In the depths of my soul I need You, dear Lord. Your soft voice I hear As I sit at your feet Resting in Your Word The Way for my life. ~~ 09/05/13
  5. Heroes Of Yesterday

    In honor of Veterans' Day this Wednesday, sharing my blog from 2016: Heroes of Yesterday - I’ve read books or stories from virtually every war in which men and women of our nation, including my family and ancestors, have been involved. Their sacrifices have deeply touched my heart as I live a life of freedom, a blessing either limited or unknown to so many elsewhere in this world. Yet, our families have not known a loss in war during this past century. Recently, friends of ours shared some treasured family papers with me. Before the reign of Covid-19, Gene Dougherty would visit my husband, Ed, while I attended an afternoon Bible study with his wife, Lena. The spring of 2016, several boxes of treasures were given to Lena by a relative, mementoes she never knew her mother had kept. They included old photographs and newspaper clippings. What especially touched Lena’s heart were family photos and letters, including from her brother, Glen, who had died in World War II. Lena’s mother, Edna, had saved numerous clippings of the war from a local Binghamton newspaper. Here were reports of a war’s ups and downs, of the efforts of battle-worn troops, of men who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and of soldiers who returned home safely. Also included were touching reports by Ernie Pyle, a reporter embedded with troops in the European theater and later in the South Pacific. Pyle was a beloved reporter in the U.S. and abroad. He had a way with words, evoking an empathy from his readers for the servicemen he wrote about. A reporter who opened his readers’ eyes, he put a personal touch to the effects of war, and to the emotions of hard-won battles for freedom’s sake. I remember him well… no, I did not grow up during the war, but had purchased and read his book, “Brave Men,” as a teen. Perusing through Lena’s papers, I knew I had to take that book off my bookshelf and refresh my memory. Then, as I continued to read through Lena’s papers, thoughts and emotions swirled around and the following poem began taking shape. I have always been grateful to those men and women who have joined the military to protect our freedoms and to gain the same for the oppressed around the world. But to think about each one who has ever gone off to war, to remember them as their family knew and loved them so well… is to contemplate the little child who ran into the loving arms of parents with boundless energy, full of love and joy… the playing and learning he or she did under their wise and watchful eyes… the teen coming to terms with adolescent struggles… the young adult who emerged from military basic training with a new sense of purpose… the seasoned soldier whose loyalty to his or her unit proved a perseverance and bravery they never thought they had… and the final tribute paid to one who gave his or her all that others might live… is to contemplate the heart and soul of each one who left behind a sweetheart or spouse, beloved parents and siblings, and even children… the one forever remembered for a life interrupted, of the great sacrifice made, and of the legacy now carried in the heart and soul of those who have grieved their loss. As we celebrate Veterans’ Day this week, may this simple poem evoke in you a heart of thanks for all who have served, or paid the ultimate sacrifice in any war. Without a willingness to put their lives on the line for the sake of freedom, we would not be enjoying our “…land of the brave and home of the free.” Thank you to each of you who has served in the military, and to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Heroes of Yesterday Linda A. Roorda Where tyranny reigns evil’s at the helm As the young and free who know only peace With faces brave must enter the fray In the fight for rights we take for granted. ~ Responsibility trains boys into men With troop cohesion, a unit’s tight bond To honor and hold each life in their care For freedom’s defense and the rights of all. ~ Orders to battle and the hell of war The call to arms which tests the mettle For within each heart lies the chance to prove The value of truth to fail or succeed. ~ From red alert to general quarters Emotions run deep in calm before strife Of imminent fight and future yearnings Always thinking, “If I get through…alive…”* ~ The sounds of war above stealth and fear The zing of bullets and bombs that explode Challenges met, overcome with courage Proving capable the common valor. ~ Back home they reflect, living fear and dread Loved ones waiting for word from afar A card or letter received with relief Until the knock comes when time stands still. ~ The letters home that ceased too soon As horrors of war burn deep in the soul Who’ll be the judge at the end of combat What the heart ponders to serve and protect… ~ To gain advantage with success for peace To hold these truths that all may live free To lift the spirit and rebuild from loss As we remember peace has a cost. ~~ 05/04/16 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~ *”Brave Men,” Ernie Pyle, Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1944, p.5
  6. Who's Walked This Road Beside Us?

    There is One who walked this earth long ago, who shared this life, and who felt the same emotions we do… the One who walks this road beside us still. One who understands our fears and anxieties, telling us to come and bring all our cares to Him, to rest in His peace. I suspect we tend to think of our Lord’s journey on this earth as one which was just as perfect as He was. We have the ability to look backward with Scripture in hand and see that Jesus’ three years of ministry were anything but a life of ease. Though we realize He was fully God, He was also fully human… and maybe we tend to forget that just a little from time to time. I know I do. At the beginning of his ministry, he graciously changed simple water into the best wine for a wedding feast at Cana which He attended with his mother. (see John 2:1-11) But, He also had an intense righteous anger at the money changers in the temple. (see Matthew 21:12-17) Jesus got hungry, yet He taught that man should not live by bread alone. With these very words, he resisted Satan’s temptation in the wilderness. Fasting for 40 days, Jesus was tempted by Satan to throw himself down from the highest point of the temple and let the angels catch him. Satan then offered to give him all the kingdoms of the world if he bowed down and worshiped him. Instead, Jesus trusted in His heavenly Father, and commanded Satan to get away from him, “For it is written: ‘worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Jesus was being prepared for the demands of His ministry ahead by facing His own human temptations. (see Matthew 4:1-11) Jesus ate with people considered sinners and unworthy by the pious wealthy and religious men of society. He taught small intimate groups and large boisterous crowds. He felt sorry for them in their hunger, and fed them with just five little fish and two loaves of bread… recovering 12 big baskets of leftover crumbs! We can hardly fathom the excitement that must have run through the great crowd of thousands. Did you see that? How can that be? That’s beyond amazing! That’s a miracle! Jesus was the embodiment of love and compassion. He had compassion on those who were ill, and healed them when they came to Him in their faith. He forgave their sins, just as He heard their whispers asking who this man was… for no one but God could do that! I marvel at the awe and respect they felt toward Jesus. They didn’t have Scripture in hand to tell these stories like we do. They witnessed it! He had compassion on a group of ten lepers and healed them. Afterward, only one man returned to thank Jesus for healing him. I’ve always thought the other nine were so ungrateful to accept their healing without one word of thanks. It’s as though they took their healing for granted… like we often do with our own blessings. And I have to ask, where is my heart in response for all God’s done for me? Yet, Jesus was so like us in many ways. He got tired after a long day. He needed to get away from the noisy bustling crowds. He would slip off to a quiet place, away from the pressing urgency of people all around Him as they clamored for more teaching, more miracles. Jesus needed to rest and have quiet time alone with His heavenly Father… just like we do. He needed time to pray, time to meditate, and time for simple rest to refresh His soul. That’s why I enjoy time in my sitting gardens… time to think and pray, to give thanks, and to rest in the beauty of God’s awesome creation around me. Jesus also showed compassion and forgiveness to a woman caught in adultery, an offense punishable by stoning to death. When the men brought her to Him with their accusations, he stooped down to write in the sand. Standing up, He told them that whoever was without sin to cast the first stone. One by one, each of her accusers silently walked away. I’ve always wondered what it was He had written in the sand that confronted each of them… Perhaps, Jesus began writing down their sins, for not one of them, or us, is sin free. Jesus knew the adoration of the crowds. He had awed them with many miracles of healing, but told some not to share their good news with anyone. In every fiber of His being was humility. He did not go about looking for the praise of the people. Yet, how often don’t we hope for praise for something we’ve done. On Palm Sunday, He rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey as the crowd spread their cloaks on the road ahead of him, waving palm branches and praising Him for all He had done. This was the one time He allowed such adulation saying the rocks and stones would cry out if the people didn’t! Yet, Jesus also knew rejection and scorn, mocking and ridicule. His own disciples argued about who should be seated next to Him in His future kingdom. They really didn’t understand what His ministry was all about… not yet, anyway. He knew and heard the accusations swirling around Him. Jesus knew His days were numbered. He knew that the powerful rulers within the Jewish community wanted Him silenced. They believed He was a blasphemer to call himself God. And so, He was sold… stabbed in the back, so to speak, by one of His own disciples, Judas, for a paltry 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave. Even the night before He was killed, just like we might do, Jesus prayed to God that the agony of what was in front of Him would pass Him by. Yet, He was obedient to His heavenly Father. He understood that the shame He would soon face … the ultimate sacrifice for each one of us and our condemning sins… would all be borne on His shoulders on that cross. It was His ultimate gift to each of us, ours to accept in simple faith, as He welcomes us into His kingdom – our eternal heavenly home. What love… what incomprehensible love! Who’s Walked This Road Beside Us? Linda A. Roorda Who’s walked this road each step beside us? Who knows the way? Who’s been there Himself? Who’s felt our love and adoration? Yet knew the pain, rejection and scorn? ~ Who’s been tempted, tried and tested? Just as we are was He among us. Hungry and weary, needing time alone Away from the crowds, away from demands. ~ Who’s walked among the poor and needy? Who’s shown true love for outcasts of life? Who called the broken to draw from His well, And gave His life for the least of these? ~ Who’s walked with those just clinging to faith With nothing left but a seeking heart? Who gave His words, a beacon of hope To carry forth His light in this world? ~ Who’s walked beside those who are mourning? With tears of sadness, who’s shared in our loss? Who’s eased our pain with comforting peace That we in turn may console sad hearts? ~ Who’s walked beneath humility’s grace To freely carry our burdens of guilt? Who willingly faced mocking and shame That we might know redemption’s mercy? ~ Who’s walked alongside that we might yet share Our hopes and fears in honest release? Who’s cared enough to guide every step With wisdom’s voice when to Him we pray? ~ Who’s held our hands when life overwhelms? Who’s taught us to trust by giving our heart? Who’s picked us up each time we stumble, And lovingly drawn us back to His side? ~ Who’s walked each step so we’d learn from Him? Who’s given of self that we might receive Showers of blessings to meet all our needs That in this bounty His praises we’ll sing? ~ Who’s walked with us and covered our soul? The great I Am who calls each His child! That upon life’s path we’ll safely abide When under His wings, sheltered by His love! ~~ Dec 2014 / Jan 2015 You may share this blogsite, but It may not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  7. My Father's Centennial

    I loved this, too!!
  8. The Train's A'Comin'!

    Who among us isn’t fascinated by the steam trains of yesteryear? As the big locomotives and cars rumble past, you can’t help but wonder where they’ve been and where they’re headed. To feel the pulsing ground vibrations of an old steam engine as it chuffs down the track, to see huge billows of smoke and steam with cinders and ash in the air, to smell the smoke and oil, and hear the blowing of the whistle and clanging of the bell all make the heart beat just a little faster! The train’s a’comin’! Constructing model trains was a hobby of my dad’s, along with setting up a track and miniature town for display. I remember watching him when I was in kindergarten as he built a passenger car with its tiny pieces. In the mid to late 1960s, I also enjoyed it when he took us kids on the annual drive to a small, non-descript building in Carlstadt, New Jersey. There, our eyes were opened to a whole ‘nother world as both O (1/4” scale) and HO (1/8” scale) gauge trains were set up in working displays. And, many a youngster has been thrilled to open the much-anticipated Christmas gift of a model train set like these! At the Carlstadt Model Engineers Association’s display (341 Hoboken Rd, Carlstadt, NJ 07072), the HO-gauge trains run through small towns, farming communities and mountain passes – with sound effects of the old locomotives. It’s not huge by any means, encompassing two rooms, but it’s a fantastic setup nonetheless. Check out their website for photos, videos and further information. My dad, Ralph Visscher, was born to Dutch immigrants in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but grew up in Clifton, New Jersey next to the train tracks, where he developed his love for the old steam engines. Clifton had two train stations – one for the Erie Railroad and one for the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. Eventually, they consolidated as the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad in 1960. We lived opposite the closed Erie station in the latter 1960s, a great paved playground for us kids; but it has since been demolished like many others, the loss of a priceless piece of history. In speaking with my father while writing this article in 2014, he told me, “Steam engines were doing a great job, getting better and better, especially when the Big Boy locomotives were developed and used out west.” He told me their wheel designation was 4-8-8-4, which I’d learned from my research so I knew exactly what he was talking about. He explained, “They had a front 4-wheeled truck to stabilize the engine on the curves, followed by 8 driving wheels, another set of 8 drivers, and a rear 4-wheeled truck underneath the engine’s firebox with the tender car coupled behind that. Tenders carried the train’s fuel [coal, wood or oil] and water. The Big Boys were used to pull freight cars a mile or more in length over the western mountains.” In the 1940s after World War II, he added that it was determined diesel engines could do a better job and go faster than the old steam engines. “But, actually, a steam locomotive could accelerate faster from a standing start than diesels, which were slower to get started; once they got up to speed though, the diesels could travel much faster than steam engines.” By 1950, he said, the railroad companies had switched all their locomotives to diesel. “But, now and then you might see a rare steam engine being used on the track just because it was available.” My dad also explained that steam locomotives needed a tremendous amount of water to create steam from the burning fuel. For example, in The Great Book of Railways, I learned that the Big Boys used “22 tons of coal and 44 tons of water every hour.” (p.20) Clean-burning anthracite coal from Pennsylvania mines was used to fuel steam engines in the eastern U.S. with coal from Wyoming used for the western trains. I was surprised to hear my dad say that oil was also used for trains out west because of the availability, but with the proximity of oil wells that makes sense. “And, water tanks,” he added, “were set up every so many miles along with places to take on more coal. Some trains used extra tenders to carry additional fuel needed for their run. And, sometimes, to get a train up a mountain, more than one engine was coupled together to haul the freight cars up, or they used pusher locomotives at the rear of the cars.” And then my dad, who never passes up the opportunity to tell a good story, shared this one about a well-seasoned engineer running a steam locomotive with a long line of cars. They’d just hired a new young fireman on the crew. As the train pulled up to a water tower, the engineer placed the tender exactly in position to take on water. Pulling the chain on the gantry (crane), the young fireman filled the tender. When he was done, he released the chain, took a look in the tender to check the water level and fell in, yelling for help, paddling to stay afloat, wondering how long it would take for them to get him out of there. After a while the old engineer strolled back to see what was taking so long. Peering into the tender, he pondered the sight that met his eyes, and calmly said, “You know, son… you don’t need to tamp the water down!” I have to admit – I really enjoy researching and writing articles for the learning I gain in the process, but this article was one of my absolute favorites as it meant so much to my Dad who was on Hospice at the time of this writing (passing away in April 2015). And it carries childhood memories of time spent with my dad at the train shows. So, come along and together we’ll learn the history of those grand old iron horses, the steam locomotives. Looking back to the start of the 19th century, life was moving forward at a relatively slow pace. The times still invoked thoughts of the century past in every-day life, but now there was a sense of optimism in our new nation. And, if they could only have known of the many improvements to come in the new century, they’d have shaken their heads in disbelief, just as our view backward amazes us at how far we’ve come. Since the invention of the wheel, man has been contemplating how to make a better wheel or vehicle to transport all manner of goods. England’s mines were the backdrop for development of the early steam locomotives by some of the best engineers in the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Beginning in February 1804, Richard Trevithick’s locomotive invention hauled iron and passengers, followed by locomotives for racked/cogged rails (trains with a center driving wheel which engages with the racked or cogged rail for climbing steep grades) as designed by John Blenkinsop in 1812. The next year William Hedley’s Puffing Billies came on the scene (the first smooth-wheeled locomotives), with George Stephenson’s steam locomotive of 1814 designed to work at a typical colliery (British deep-pit coal mine). [The Great Book of Railways, pp.8-9] On a side note, the above research regarding Hedley’s Puffing Billy trains brought to mind a favorite children’s song that perhaps others remember. “Down by the station, Early in the morning, See the little pufferbellies, All in a row. See the station master, Turn the little handle [we sang throttle], Chug chug, puff puff, Off they go!” Supposedly written by Lee Ricks and Slim Gaillard in 1948, the words go back to a 1931 Recreation magazine, with a tune similar to Alouette; and first popularized by Tommy Dorsey. (Wikipedia) American ingenuity took a little longer than the Brits to work itself up to full steam. With the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company forming in 1823, the intent was to construct and operate canals between New York City and the coal mines near Carbondale in northeast Pennsylvania. Eventually, the idea of locomotive power became their focus as a more efficient means of transporting both coal and passengers. With that in mind, the D&H engineers took a tour of England’s renowned locomotive factories to gauge what would best meet their needs. This tour led the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company to order the first steam locomotives for use in the United States. Built in England in 1828 by Foster, Rastrick & Company, the Stourbridge Lion was shipped over in pieces and reassembled at New York’s West Point Foundry. Ready for its first official run on August 8, 1829, it was meant to carry coal from the mines near Carbondale to the canal at Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Weighing about 7-1/2 tons, however, it was too heavy for the wooden track, a definite disappointment as the engineers had sent requirements to England for a locomotive weighing not more than 4 tons. However, by the early 1830s, steam locomotives were being built in the United States. Col. John Stevens, the “father of American railroads,” set up an experimental track by 1826 on his property in Hoboken, New Jersey to prove the viability of a steam locomotive operation. In 1830, Peter Cooper built the first American-made steam locomotive, the Tom Thumb, which ran on common track. The public was additionally impressed when George Pullman invented the Pullman Sleeping Car in 1857, improving passengers’ over-night travel. With much of our early transportation dependent upon beasts of burden over roads which were not of the best quality (see Homestead article No. 5, Traveling From Here to There), or by boats on the rivers and lakes, a boon developed with the construction of numerous canals. Following close on the heels of New York’s Erie Canal debut in 1825 (see Homestead article No. 24, Clinton’s Ditch, aka The Erie Canal) was the burgeoning development of the railroad. With a good percentage of engineers graduating from the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, their knowledge was put to active use in surveying, planning and developing the railroads. With their expertise, many of these West Point graduates soon became presidents and officers of the various railroad companies. Each state soon began granting charters to these newly-formed railroad companies. Among the earliest to be chartered was the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) in 1827. Intended to run between Baltimore and the Ohio River, its first section opened May 24, 1830. New York’s Mohawk & Hudson Railroad was incorporated in 1826, and began operating in August 1831. Its first locomotive was the DeWitt Clinton, named for the former governor of canal fame. The Saratoga & Schenectady Railroad followed soon after with its opening in June 1832. Even then, ideas were being discussed regarding laying longer track from New York to Buffalo; but, it was a delicate subject as the state was heavily in debt for the Erie Canal which had just opened in 1825. Throughout the succeeding decades, many small railroad corporations merged to operate more efficiently. In particular, the New York Central, headquartered in New York City, eventually became the main consolidated corporation in the northeast and Midwest as it merged with more than half a dozen other companies. Innumerable side tracks were laid to meet the transportation needs of outlying regions as freight was shipped more efficiently than previously. Towns vied for the opportunity to be on a rail line or spur, able to ship products out from a nearby hub rather than the expense of taking goods to a station many miles away. Some towns were established after track was laid. Stations built in towns on the line included water towers there and along the route to replenish the locomotive’s need to create steam and thus power. The public found it convenient to take a passenger train for a trip to the next town or hundreds of miles away. It sure beat the slow horse and buggy! But, a major issue began to build as train schedules were based on differing times in towns along any given route. To bring this under control, the railroads determined standard time was of vital importance. At noon on November 18, 1883, standard time zones for both American and Canadian railroads began. Prior to this date, both nations were riddled with innumerable differences in time across the countryside. The vast differences stemmed from the use of “high noon” as each town clock was set depending upon when the sun was at its peak above their town. Obviously, the discrepancies in time caused a nightmare for train schedules, and standardized time was the only logical answer. Without government approval, the powerful railroad companies established four standard time zones which remain close to those still in use. In 1918, Congress formalized the arrangement, putting the railroads under the Interstate Commerce Commission. Prior to America’s adoption of standard time, the Great Western Railroad had established standard time in Britain beginning in 1840, with virtually all railroads adopting London time by 1847. It should also be mentioned that tracks were also built to different size specifications. Northern railroads typically used a standard 4 ft 8-1/2 inch or 4 ft 9 inch wide track. This was based on English track dimensions and the fact that U.S. railroads expected to import more British-made locomotives. This was the gauge used by George Stephenson (British inventor above) for his locomotives simply because he was familiar with this track width from a local mine near Newcastle. As it turns out, that gauge was used for the mine track just because it was the common width of local ancient Roman roads in England. It was next determined by measurements taken at excavations in Pompeii and elsewhere that ancient Roman roads were made for a standard chariot wheelbase of about 4 ft 9 inches or slightly less! And that is how 4 ft 8-1/2 inch rails became the industry standard. The early American railroads like the Baltimore & Ohio and Boston & Albany set their rails at 4 ft 8-1/2 inches, the Pennsylvania R.R. used 4 ft 9 inches, the Erie and Lackawanna both used 6 ft 0 inch tracks, Canada used a 5 ft 6 inch gauge, while Southern U.S. rails were set at 5 ft 0 inches. Obviously, the discrepancies prevented trains from running on certain track, necessitating standardization throughout the industry. I found it interesting to learn that for 36 hours over two days commencing May 31, 1886, thousands upon thousands of workers pulled spikes from all west-bound tracks in the South, moved the rails in by 3 inches to 4 ft 9 inches, and immediately replaced the spikes. Thus, as of June 1886, all North American tracks were capable of running locomotives built for standard 4 ft 8-1/2 inch rails. Impressive tunnels, bridges and viaducts were also designed and constructed to carry trains over stunning views of open water or above valley floors between steep mountain cliffs. With the need for better materials, wrought iron rail was produced in England by 1820. Following this, steel in America became available in the mid-1800s with the process improved in England by 1860. Naturally, the feasibility of a transcontinental track came under discussion and planning for several years before it became reality. With the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 under President Lincoln, healing began for a war-torn nation as the north and south pulled together in a common goal after the Civil War. The idea alone of a main railroad line from one ocean to the other across an entire continent was exhilarating! Thus, the Central Pacific Railroad toiled westward over the plains and up the eastern Rockies while the Union Pacific laid its track eastward out of California, over and through the western side of the Rockies. Meeting at Promontory Summit in Utah on May 10, 1869, the Golden Spike was nailed into the track in an exciting celebration. In honor of the occasion, the Union Pacific’s No. 119 and the Central Pacific’s No. 60 (Jupiter) steam locomotives met face-to-face with a single railroad tie width between them. See painting: “Celebration of the meeting of the railroad in Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869.” This event was the conclusion of several years’ worth of investment in time spent planning, designing, and hard physical labor of laying track. Many an immigrant, particularly the Irish and Chinese, found work in this venture. Across the plains and through tunnels blasted out of the seemingly impassable Rocky Mountains, the rails moved inexorably toward each other with much of the original roadbed still in use today. The meeting of tracks thus created a transcontinental railroad connecting innumerable side tracks and spurs from all across the nation. It was where the east met the west, no longer necessitating travel for months by wagon train from the Mississippi River to the Oregon Trail and points along the west coast. Nor did it require a lengthy sail by ship through dangerous seas around the horn of South America to reach our nation’s western lands. Closer to home, Sayre, Pennsylvania housed the extensive Lehigh Valley rail yard. Completed by 1904, it held the second largest factory of its kind in the world. Large cranes were in place to lift a locomotive and move it anywhere. With nearly everyone in Sayre working in one way or another for the railroad, it’s been said that the huge factories were noted for building or rebuilding one steam locomotive every day during peak production. In fact, between 1913 and 1921, the factories at Sayre built over 40 K-class locomotives. (The History of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, p.181.) Along with a growing railroad industry came the need of medical services for injured railroad workers. Robert Packer Hospital, established with railroad money, was named for Robert, son of Asa Packer who was the director of Lehigh Valley Railroad. The hospital’s adjoining Guthrie Clinic was modeled after Rochester, Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic. Donald Guthrie, MD, a graduate of Mayo, was appointed Superintendant and Surgeon-in-Chief of Guthrie Clinic (named in his honor), taking up his position in January 1910. Headquartered in New York City, the Lehigh Valley Railroad made an obvious impact on our region’s economy. Begun as the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company in the 1820s, it once held a monopoly in the mining and transporting of coal. In order to break its monopoly, the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad was incorporated in 1846. In 1853, under Asa Packer’s expert management, this mouthful of a company name became known simply as the Lehigh Valley Railroad. One of its passenger trains, the Black Diamond Express, with an Atlantic 4-4-2 locomotive, held quite a reputation. Known as the “Route of the Black Diamond” (named for the clean-burning anthracite coal it carried), the track ran from New York City, west through New Jersey to Easton, Pennsylvania, northwest past Wilkes-Barre and through numerous switchbacks to climb the mountains on its trip northwest to Sayre, Pennsylvania, then into New York by going north to Van Etten, northwest to Geneva, and finally west to Buffalo. Beginning in 1876, the Lehigh Valley Railroad “took control of the newly reorganized Geneva, Ithaca, and Sayre Railroad, started by Ezra Cornell of Ithaca. The famous university that he founded in 1865 would fill regular and special trains with college students and their families for decades. Special excursion trains were often set up with tiered-bleacher seating on flat cars for passengers to watch crew races on Cayuga Lake as the train kept abreast of the scullers. (History of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, p.126) The line to Geneva provided the Lehigh Valley a means to construct their own line into Buffalo, but its grade out of Ithaca to Geneva was too steep for heavy freight trains to travel. A diverging route was planned from Van Etten (then known as Van Ettenville) to Geneva along the east side of Seneca Lake. In 1892, the new bypass was open and the line was also completed from Geneva to Buffalo. The original route from Van Etten [through Spencer] to Geneva via Ithaca was now used for passenger trains and local freights.” Lehigh Valley Railroad Historical Society. With a new luxury train scheduled for its first run on May 18, 1896, the Lehigh Valley Railroad ran a contest to name the train. With over 35,000 entries received, the winner was Charles Montgomery, a hotel clerk from Toledo, Ohio. His submission, Black Diamond Express, “was considered most befitting the premier train of a railroad whose history and revenues were so closely intertwined with anthrocite.” [The History of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, p.152] “Running from New York City to Buffalo, the Black Diamond was promoted as a train of luxury. The 315-foot long train was the fastest in their fleet. The Black Diamond had chefs on board who were skilled in culinary arts. Complete kitchens had every facility present for ‘preparing and serving substantials and delicacies in most appetizing fashion.’ Day coaches were outfitted with plush velvet chairs, a large comfortable smoking room, and lavatories for both men and women. The last car seated 28 passengers and included a parlor and an observation platform. It was equipped with plate glass windows at the rear and wicker chairs for passenger pleasure. Touted by the Lehigh Valley as ‘The Handsomest Train in the World,’ the roadbed it traveled soon became known as “The Route of the Black Diamond.” Because of its appeal to newlyweds on their way to Niagara Falls, the train was nicknamed the ‘Honeymoon Express.’” (The Lehigh Valley Historical Society took much of its information from the book, The History of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, pp.152-153] Of course, accidents occurred for all railroads and the Lehigh Valley was no exception. Its second worst passenger train wreck took place on August 25, 1911. As the No.4 train headed east out of Buffalo, it derailed on the Canandaigua Outlet Bridge because of a broken rail. One passenger car rolled over onto its side, while two others fell into the creek 40 feet below with 29 killed and 62 injured. Built in 1916, a 30-bay roundhouse and turntable just south of Manchester, New York was used by the Lehigh Valley Railroad on its route to and from Buffalo. With the train yard seeing a decline in freight traffic during the post-World War II era, its doors closed forever in 1970. Once considered the largest in the world, the Manchester Yard employed over 1000 people during its peak years. In the mid-1960s, my dad had taken us kids on a ride to see the train yards along the Jersey shore. Touring a round house, I can still envision the locomotive inside as it was turned onto a different track. Fascinating stuff! In the decades after World War II, as better and more modern means of transportation came onto the scene with trucks traveling over better paved roads and planes reaching distant destinations in only hours, the old trains and their tracks began disappearing. Lehigh Valley passenger service also declined, ending with the Black Diamond Express making her final run with her sister train, Star, on May 11, 1959. The famous Black Diamond Express on the Lehigh Valley. Above photos and article extractions obtained from Lehigh Valley Railroad Historical Society As bigger and better locomotives were built throughout the latter 19th and early 20th centuries, record speeds were reached at or above 100 mph. The first train ever to record a speed of 100 mph was the Empire State Express of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad on May 9, 1893 on a run between Rochester and Buffalo, NY. Great Britain’s famous Flying Scotsman hit 100 mph in 1934, while the British Mallard reached a record 126 mph pulling 245 tons in 1938. Just recently, on February 25, 2016, the Flying Scotsman returned to the tracks in England, fully restored. Retired in 1963 when diesel engines took over, she spent a number of years pulling tourist trains along the western coast in the U.S. Press release. Sandwiched in the years between two world wars, the largest steam locomotives were built in both America and Europe. In the U.S., engines were often coupled together to provide strength for running with longer lines of loaded freight cars strung out behind, especially as they traversed the mountain passes of the western states. Then, in the early 1940s, the American Locomotive Company (Alco) in Schenectady, New York built 25 of the largest locomotives ever. They were dubbed “Big Boys,” intended for hauling freight over the western Rocky Mountains. In August 2013, Big Boy Engine No. 4014 was prepared for return to the Union Pacific’s Steam Shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming from a Pamona, California museum. Expected to begin its journey in April 2014, it will be pulled by several modern locomotives. Following complete restoration over the next several years to full working condition, it will be put back on the line for excursions. [An internet search of Big Boy No. 4014 will provide photos and videos of this magnificent locomotive. Follow the story of this steam engine online here.] Over time, the amount of coal needed to fuel these big steam engines contributed to their demise. In order to stay competitive with OTR (over-the-road) truck transportation and by plane, diesel and electric engines were designed and implemented. Germany’s Rudolph Diesel designed the first successful engine in 1897 which bears his name. By 1912, the first successful German-built diesel locomotive was also in use. Simply put, I learned that diesel operates differently by using an oil injection as compared to a gasoline-powered engine with spark plugs. Freight cars in America have often been pulled by several locomotives coupled together, providing greater strength than a single engine. Modern locomotives are designed with diesel engines and electric generators which help them reach top speed much quicker than a simple diesel engine alone. Thus, the “world’s first streamlined diesel-electric [locomotive was] a Denver-Chicago express” which began running in 1934. (The Great Book of Railways) With the invention of electricity, it wasn’t long before the great inventors put it to use in operating trains. Electric trains are connected to an overhead electric wire/cable which provides power. The first electric tram, designed by another German, Werner von Siemens, was on working display at the Berlin Trades Exhibition on May 31, 1879. His brother, Sir William Siemens, settled in England and designed the first electric railroad which began running in 1883 in Northern Ireland. It was not until 1890, however, that London’s first electric railway began operating in underground tunnels. London’s Metropolitan Railway soon became the world’s first subway in 1863 by using underground steam trains. Following these world firsts, America’s first electric railway was put to use in 1895 by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad with electric locomotives pulling steam trains through tunnels under Baltimore, Maryland. (The Great Book of Railways) And, of course, we also have subways and elevated rails which provide convenient transportation beneath and above city streets. In the latter 20th century, travel by traditional passenger train declined. There are, however, some passenger lines still in operation, including scenic excursions, just as there are freight lines providing an important transportation option. Locally, we can watch a freight train pass through Van Etten and Spencer. I do enjoy the days when I can clearly hear its whistle and the sound of the heavy engines and cars clicking and creaking over the rails as it passes through our community, reminding us of the halcyon days of long ago. At the end of every freight train was the red caboose. These cars were used until safety laws were relaxed in 1980 at which time improved safety monitoring devices were implemented. Cabooses provided shelter and cooking facilities for the crew who were needed to switch or shunt a train or individual cars onto another track. This was dangerous work as men could become injured or run over when coupling or uncoupling the cars. The crew also kept an eye out for any shifting of loads in the cars, or damage to equipment and freight, or axles that might be overheating. The cupola on top helped them keep an eye out for problems on the track or with the cars. I love to watch a train, hear the whistle, count the cars, and pace my car with the train if the track is parallel to the road just to see what its traveling speed is. I remember our fascination as kids as we watched trains and waved to the engineer or brakeman. The son of our friends, Scott, is an engineer for CXS in the Midwest, gave a few wise words of warning in an interview several years ago: “Please wait at railroad crossings. If your route takes you across a busy set of railroad tracks, leave earlier for your destination. Something that weighs 3 million pounds, moving at 50 miles per hour, does not stop fast. It can take a mile or more for something like that to stop.”
  9. Simply washing hands with soap and water, often. As a behind-the-scenes necessary medical transcriptionist, not a straight typist anymore, cannot work from home, expected on site unless sick, of course. Am exempt from manning tables at main hospital entrances to screen/question employees and visitors because of my lung issues and husband's higher susceptibility with lung/heart issues. Have always kept a small surplus of TP and tissues, so added a pkg of each before the hoarding began, but cannot find hand sanitizer locally; will try to find ingredients to make it. Am staying home from big events, like last Saturday's historical society talk I really wanted to hear. Church this past Sunday had smaller amount of parishioners; pastor considering closing regular church for next few weeks; if church remains open, I will not be there to help lead the singing; pastor also considering putting his sermon on FB or email. Will go out to medical appts for both of us, and have to get some supplies at WalMart tomorrow, but otherwise will only shop in Spencer, and stay home. Hoping prescriptions can be filled at beginning of April. Don't normally eat out so that's not an issue. And have had a serious conversation that if he gets COVID-19, I may lose him. Our kids are aware. We are not going to panic, will take all precautions possible, but face reality knowing whatever happens, we are in God's hands.
  10. Quilting

    That's awesome Hal! You have a very special treasure!! I have two white quilted blankets (not actual quilts, and I don't think homemade) which apparently belonged to my mom's grandmother as one has her name stamped in black on one back corner.
  11. To Walk in Your Steps

    There was a time we longed to know more about our loved one, wasn’t there? When we were dating, we wanted to know everything there was to know about our beloved’s life… from childhood to adulthood… who they were in the depth of their heart, and what made them who they are today. We often come to so thoroughly know each other that we can finish sentences! We know how they think and why they do what they do. And we eagerly follow their leading. How well I remember following Ed in the barn, learning from him… following so close he called me his shadow! I hope we never lose sight of that longing to know our loved one on a deeper level, because life continually changes, and so do we. And that got me to thinking… and wondering… how well do I know my Lord? Oh, I know Him… I love Him… and I know His word. But, do I know Him deeply, as well as I know my husband? I know I fall short and cannot live up to His expectations. But, I also sense a need in my heart to continually study the depth of who He is; and, in that way, learn more about Him and His will, His path, His leading in my life. In Deuteronomy 6:5, we read, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” That’s not always easy. It’s a challenge. We have so much in life that clamors for our time and attention. Yet, as the psalmist David expressed his heart in Psalm 25:4, I find it echoes my heart-felt longings: “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths.” While he also wrote in Psalm 63:1-2, “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you…” Many years later, the prophet Jeremiah heard God speak to him with a message for the people of Israel on returning to their homeland from captivity in Babylon. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.’” Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV) And that’s the heart I want while seeking Him in my life. The day I was writing this blog in 2015, my step-mother, Virginia, and I spoke on the phone. As we reminisced about my father, Ralph, who had died that April, she shared a story about my brother Charlie’s daughter. At age 3, Nina tagged along behind her grandfather on his way out to the garden. “What are you doing Pop-Pop?” she asked. “Picking the Japanese beetles off the tomato plants and putting them in this bucket,” was his reply. Since she wanted to go in the garden with her beloved grandfather, he told Nina to follow where he put his feet so she wouldn’t get her sneakers dirty from the mud. Out of love and understanding for his little grand-daughter, Pop-Pop then took a shorter stride. As Nina followed, she stretched her little 3-year-old legs just far enough for her feet to land in Pop-Pop’s big footsteps as he led the way down the path. Under Pop-Pop’s guidance, Nina picked beetles off the leaves and dropped them into the bucket. As she exclaimed to Granny, “I pick Napanese beetles like Pop-Pop!” Nina was literally following in her grandfather’s footsteps, and proud of it! And isn’t that what the Lord asks us to do as we seek Him? That we would love Him enough to follow in His steps, on His path, as He guides our way! To Walk in Your Steps Linda A. Roorda My soul is thirsting for truth from Your word, My daily strength on this path of life. A joy with grace and merciful peace When in Your will my soul finds its rest. ~ Teach me Your ways, to walk in Your steps Let Your light shine as it guides my path, May I be used to reach seeking souls Others who need the touch of Your hand. ~ May all my words echo Your wisdom And may the thoughts within my heart's depth Reveal the treasures I’ve kept and pondered That all I do will glorify You. ~ So I’ll rise above the fray of this world To place my trust in Jesus my Lord And even though some days overwhelm I rejoice within His absolute love. ~ For gracious is He who pursues my heart Just as I am, He embraces me. To know His truth with mercy sets free Blessed assurance and peace in His will. ~~ 06/17/15, 06/23/15 You may share this blogsite, but It may not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  12. Quilting

    Thank you very much "Mahatma"
  13. Quilting

    Learned a new quilting technique from a friend - foundation paper piecing, and made this wall hanging.
  14. The Sap's Running!

    Originally published as front-page article in the local Broader View Weekly newspaper, March 21, 2013. “It’s all up to Mother Nature,” said Al Smith. When the days begin to get longer and stay above freezing, and nights are below freezing, the sap begins to flow. It’s then we start to see those long lines of plastic tubing snaking between maple trees in the woods as we drive by. Did you know it takes about 30 to 50 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of delicious pure maple syrup? While a number of maple syrup producers locally have been in the business for decades, for brothers Allan and Albert Smith, Jr. (formerly Smith Brothers Maple Syrup, now Smith Family Maple Products), the sugaring fever hit in their teens. And they come by it naturally. Their grandfather, Dayton Smith, his brother Ben, and Dayton’s son Albert Sr. (the twins’ father), operated a small evaporator in the early 1970s. Ben’s father-in-law, Aubrey Westervelt, had been sugaring for decades. So, it was only natural the Smiths used his sugar bush, tapping about 250 trees annually with spile and bucket, trees still used by the younger generation. Dayton, Ben and Albert’s initial evaporator was set up in a garage for a couple years. Then, Dayton bought a commercial 2x6 evaporator and set it up at Ben’s farm on Sabin Road. After operating for a few more years, selling by word of mouth, they ended the labor-intensive syrup production and sold their equipment. A favorite family story is told of a time Dayton, Ben, and Albert, Sr. went to a meeting at Cornell University’s Research Center. They brought along a bottle of their maple syrup to show what they’d been up to in the little farming town of Spencer. On showing their light golden syrup to the Cornell gentlemen, one of the Smiths wryly asked, “Do you know how much brown sugar we need to add to make the color darker?” I’m sure a hearty laugh was shared by all! Having grown up with sugaring in the family, Allan Smith decided to build a small homemade evaporator in 1992 for his B.O.C.E.S shop class. With twin brother Albert’s help, they set it up in an old woodshed to see if they could actually make syrup. One day, grandfather Dayton happened to visit and discovered the boys’ secret. Seeing their homemade evaporator, he got excited and motivated them to continue their endeavors. The following season, Dayton purchased a 2x6 commercial evaporator for them. They boiled sap the old way, using about a wheelbarrow load of well-seasoned firewood every 15-20 minutes. It took roughly an hour to make about one gallon of syrup. As Smith Brothers Maple Syrup, the brothers tapped annually, selling by word of mouth just as the older generation had done. In 2010, Allan and Albert, Jr. sold their old equipment and purchased a 2-1/2 x 10 natural gas fired evaporator, capable of producing about 8-9 gallons of syrup per hour. With this expansion in the family business, they changed their name to Smith Family Maple Products. In 2011, they remodeled an old machine shed on their parents’ property into a modern sap house. They love what they’re doing from the mundane aspects to operating the high-tech equipment. And their excitement is contagious! I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the two evenings I spent learning from the Smiths. Starting in 1992 with about 30-40 maple trees using spiles and buckets, they now have about 10 acres of sugarbush (maple trees), tapping about 500 trees, hoping to add another 500 next year. Initially, they used a hand-turned brace with a 7/16ths drill bit, pounded the spile into the tree, and hung a covered bucket. Later, they tried a chainsaw with an attachment to do the drilling. It worked well, but the saw was a bit heavy to lug around all day. Now, they use a lightweight cordless drill with a smaller 5/16ths bit that is much easier to handle. The smaller hole also causes less damage to the tree. In 1999, they bought a filter press which does a better job than the prior hand filter to strain the processed syrup of undesirables. Their new sap house, with running water, and hot water at that, is a major change from the original old woodshed. They now have a kitchen area with a work table, sinks, counters and kitchen stove to process their syrup into candy and other sweet confections. Stainless steel containers store the maple syrup before it’s packaged into bottles and made into other products. They’ve added machines to make maple sugar candy, maple snow cones, maple cream (equipment built by their dad), maple cotton candy, and granulated maple sugar. The Smith family is constantly upgrading, hoping in the next few years to add a bottling facility for a bigger and better kitchen processing area. In 2012, they added a vacuum pump to the sapline which pulls sap off the trees for increased production. With plastic tubing strung between the trees, the pump draws the flowing sap downhill to the large stainless-steel bulk tank. From there, it is siphoned into a large plastic tank on a trailer and hauled to their sap house. Sure beats the days of handling all those buckets! From this large tank, the sap is run up into an insulated stainless-steel storage tank that stands about 15 feet above ground next to the sap house. From the elevated storage tank, sap is fed downline into the Piggy Back Unit in the sap house which sits above a 1 million BTU natural gas boiler pan. The steam created from the lower pan heats the cold sap in the upper pan. As the sap heats, water is boiled off the sap, condensing it down to the beginning stage of syrup. Hot air is forced through the sap in the Piggy Back Unit with a high-pressure blower, helping bring the sap to boil. Sap usually boils at 212 degrees like water, but that changes with atmospheric pressure. At the time of my first visit, Sunday, March 10th, based on the barometric pressure in the sap house, the sap boiled at 210.8 degrees. As the sap continues to boil and water evaporates, the sap thickens. Reaching about 7 degrees higher than standard boiling temperature, or about 219, the sap reaches syrup stage. Thermometers in the pans are constantly monitored as they measure the temperatures. It’s a very delicate process. As the boiled sap loses water content, it flows from the Piggy Back rearward pan into the front syrup pan directly over the fire. Floats regulate the sap levels as sap is divided into channels to cook evenly. If it were to cook too hot or too long at this stage, it would blacken and harden like concrete. As it continues to cook, syrup is pulled from the front pan and drips down into a stainless-steel container. The syrup in this container is then poured into the finishing pan over a smaller fire where it is slowly boiled and refined to become the sweet taste we know as pure maple syrup. All this while steam from the boiling process emanates from the venting cupola above the building, permeating the outside air with the delicious aroma of sweet maple syrup. A daily log book is kept annually to record temps, weather (sunny, cloudy, windy, rainy, snowy), amount of sap collected and syrup made, the sugar content of the sap, barometric pressure, etc. I asked about the average amount of sap collected daily, and Allan simply looked it up in his log. Roughly 400-800 gallons are collected daily with a total last year (2012) of 4516 gallons of sap equaling about 70-80 gallons of syrup. The high boiling temperatures kill any bacteria that might come along with the sap. They also clean the equipment before each season starts, during the season on slow days with no sap to boil, and again at the end of the season. It is still a labor-intensive venture. The weather patterns make a difference as to the amount of sap and its quality. A good sap run begins after a cold winter with sufficient precipitation throughout the year. With the dry summer of 2011, followed by a warmer-than-usual winter and no deep cold spell in January 2012, the production of sap was down, though “still pretty good,” and the Smiths were pleased. Allan told me, “Every year’s production is different, and every night’s boiling is different.” They have definitely seen seasonal ups and downs, as does every farmer, but cannot say they have seen an overall “global warming” pattern. Usually they tap around Valentine’s Day, occasionally not until late February. This year they tapped February 8th and had their first sap run on February 16th. Sap collected in the raw state is about 2-3% sugar; the maple syrup stage is 66% sugar. The lighter grades of syrup are made earlier in the season, with grades darkening as the season goes on. The grades include Grade A light amber, most sweet; Grade A medium; Grade A dark with the most maple flavor; and Grade B dark, a cooking syrup. I asked about disasters, and they’ve had a few. When boiling, the sap can quickly burn if the temperature goes up too high too fast. What you’re left with is a pan of black goo that sets up like concrete, permanently ruining the evaporator pan. I can sympathize as I once accidentally overcooked some sugar water for my hummingbirds. Turning my back on the boiling sugar water for a few minutes longer than expected, I returned to find it had become a thin layer of solid black concrete in a good pot. I used a screwdriver to scrape hard and long, but got it all off. The Smith brothers faithfully attend the New York State Maple Producers’ Association every January, the largest convention in the U.S. The two-day event, held at the Vernon/Verona/Sherril High School, brings in speakers and specialists from Vermont, Cornell University, and Canada, etc. Highly educational, it is for anyone who taps from one tree to 10,000 trees. The Smith brothers have been learning as much as they can about the business, including the latest technology available, constantly seeking to improve and grow their business. They also learn about industry standards in order to meet government regulations so they can market their products commercially. Smith Family Maple Products are sold by word of mouth and at Family Farm Mercantile on Townline Road between Spencer and Van Etten. A few years ago, a woman visiting from Ohio happened to see the Smith’s maple leaf sign on Sabin Road and stopped. Now she faithfully orders maple syrup every year from her home in Ohio! Eventually, they hope to build up a large enough volume to sell online. If folks want to try making syrup just for home consumption, there are no regulations. Basically, Allen and Albert told me, “You need to boil the sap to 219 degrees, keep everything clean, without contamination, and enjoy! Maple syrup is good on anything!” There are many websites which can provide information, along with Cornell’s Cooperative Extension offices. Being rather technologically challenged, I was very impressed with the Smith Family Maple Products’ operation. From simple and humble beginnings, it has grown to encompass today’s modern technology in order to produce more syrup, more efficiently. Sharing about the old ways of collecting sap and making syrup brought to mind stories my mother has shared over the years. The Tillapaugh family of 12 children in Carlisle, New York has made and sold maple syrup for several generations, and my cousins continue the annual tradition today. My mother, Reba Visscher of Waverly, and her youngest sister, Lois Beach of Newfield, readily recall the childhood fun, albeit hard work, of helping their dad and older siblings during the 1930s and 1940s. Lois shared with me, “As the youngest I did look forward to maple syrup time. A lot of hard work, but worth it, with memories forever.” Their dad and older brothers used a hand-turned brace to drill holes in about 300-plus trees. They’d pound in the spiles from which buckets were hung, with lids placed by the younger girls. When the sap ran, besides regular dairy farm chores, they had daily sap gathering. This involved dumping each bucket’s worth into a holding tank on a large bobsled pulled by a team of black Shires (Dick and Daisy) or Belgians (Bunny, Nell, and Tub) on a trail through the woods. My mother said that if rain got into the buckets it turned the sap brown, and they threw that out. And, they often trekked the woods to gather sap with two or more feet of snow on the ground. Carlisle’s woods are not like those in our south-central fingerlakes region. Carlisle has rolling hills with limestone boulder outcroppings, and many crevices and mini-caves. With Howe’s Cavern near Cobleskill, the town of Carlisle and Tillapaugh farm also have small caves with nooks and crannies throughout the woods. There was a defined trail for the horses through the woods, but everyone had to walk carefully among the trees. I remember as a child seeing a good-sized cave opening in the ground next to one of the farm pastures, so I can attest to it being an interesting trek to collect sap. With a love for horses since my childhood when my father farmed with Belgians (and Clydesdales before marrying my mom), I can visualize harnessing the black Shires with flowing white “feathers” on their lower legs, listening to them clop along, stepping high in unison. I can imagine the creaking harness and traces, maybe bells tinkling, the big sled’s runners scraping along a gravel road or gliding atop snow. At this point, my mother chuckled to recall a day she rode out on the sled carrying the sap tank with her brother, Maynard. When he jumped off as they went up a hill, the sap tank tilted and she fell off, the sled nearly running over her but the horses were stopped just in time. Another time, she got a tiny piece of metal in her eye from a bucket lid. The doctor brought a large magnet to draw the speck out, but she refused to let him, petrified it would pull her eye out! She has no idea how the metal ever did get out of her eye, but there was no damage. When the holding tank was full, it was taken to the sap hut, and sap drained into one of two 4x8-10 foot evaporator pans over a wood fire. I questioned her about the size of those pans, but she was adamant about the very large size. Considering her memory has not failed her for other details, I saw online there were, indeed, evaporator pans this large. The oldest brothers stayed at the sap hut boiling all night, often around the clock, watching the temperatures carefully with thermometers. Lois also recalls their mother made lunches which the girls took out to their brothers. My mother agreed with my aunt who said that “when the partially cooked syrup was ready, it was brought to the house in milk cans. Mom would finish boiling it to the correct temperature over a kerosene stove in the summer kitchen, and strain it through felt into gallon glass jugs, mostly for home use, some to sell.” My mom added, “Some syrup was boiled further to make maple candy, or poured over the snow for a sweet chewy treat.” Maple syrup helped their family deal with sugar shortages and rationing during the Great Depression and World War II. At the end of the season came the hard work of cleaning all the equipment, repeated when the season started. After the youngest Tillapaugh brothers, Winfred and Floyd, retired and sold the family dairy herd in 1974, they built a modern and efficient sap hut closer to home. Using both pails and plastic tubing, Floyd’s son, Duane, recalls other cousins helping them tap a few hundred trees in a venture which eventually grew to around 1000. “Back then, we put a pill in the drilled hole [to kill] bacteria. I believe that’s illegal now. We burned wood, but Dad rigged up a thing that would blow old motor oil in when it was close to syrup [stage] to make the fire hotter to push it to syrup.” They sold syrup from home in pint, quart, half-gallon and gallon containers, also making maple cream and candy. Their peak years produced about 200-250 gallons of syrup annually. I researched online articles about the use of paraformaldehyde pills/tablets in the tap hole years ago. Controversy has surrounded its benefits of cutting bacteria and helping the tapped tree heal versus the pills leading to fungi setting in with increased decay versus the fact that formaldehyde was making its way into food for human consumption. Therefore, its use became illegal in the 1980s. Knowing that Native Americans made maple syrup centuries ago, I delved into their sugaring process. They would make a slash in a maple tree, collecting the sap as it dripped out. Hollowed out logs were filled with fresh sap, and white-hot field stones were added to bring the sap to boil. The Indians repeated this process until syrup stage was reached, or until they had crystallized sugar. When the first Europeans arrived, the Indians traded maple sugar for other products, and taught their sugaring secrets to the new settlers. Referred by my cousin, Bruce Tillapaugh, a retired Cooperative Extension agent, I contacted Stephen Childs, the New York Maple Specialist at Cornell University. Childs said, “Cornell has a number of resources for backyarders and beginning maple producers. Much of the information is available at . We have a Beginner DVD and Cornell Maple Videos. We hold many Beginner Workshops in the fall and winter. A maple camp is held in June that is three full days of instruction for new commercial producers or small producers planning to expand. There are recorded webinar programs online that interested persons can watch.” I also found a brochure online for the beginner by a local resident: “Maple Syrup Production for the Beginner” by Anni L. Davenport, School of Forest Resources, The Pennsylvania State University; Lewis Staats, Dept. of Natural Resources, Cornell University, Cornell Cooperative Extension, 1998. With a little more research, I learned pure maple syrup not only tastes good, but it’s good for you. It is a natural source of manganese and zinc, important for our immune defense systems. Zinc is an antioxidant which protects our heart by decreasing atherosclerosis and helping prevent damage to the inner lining of blood vessels. It is also known that a zinc deficiency can lead to a higher risk of prostate cancer. Zinc supplementation is used by healthcare practitioners to help reduce prostate enlargement. Studies have also found that adults with a deficiency in manganese have decreased levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. Manganese helps lessen inflammation, key to healing. Just one ounce of maple syrup holds 22% of the daily requirement of this key trace mineral. Syrup also contains iron, calcium and potassium which help repair damaged muscle and cells. It can settle digestive problems. It can help keep bones strong and blood sugar levels normal, help keep white blood cell counts up to protect against colds and viruses, and maple syrup is not a common allergen. With all the good it has going for it, 100% pure maple syrup is truly worth all that hard work! Enjoy!
  15. Your Hands

    When was the last time you studied the hands of someone you love? In observing them, have you really thought about the years those hands have seen… years of hardship along with kinder and gentler times? Those hands are visible reminders of all your loved one has gone through… of a life well lived through testing and trial, and of a calming peace during or following a storm. Gazing at my husband’s hands, the hands behind this poem, I’m reminded of all the years he spent as a dairy farmer… with the calluses and bruises; the painful cracks caused by winter’s cold on hands that were in and out of wash water at milking time; the dirt and grease deeply embedded in the skin from barn chores and machinery repairs; splitting and stacking firewood; the fractured wrist after his first day of kindergarten when he jumped off the top of the baler; a large scar at the base of his right hand from falling on glass and cutting it wide open when he was 5 years old; the fingernail smashed under a hammer’s blow with resultant painful blood blister to which he put a tiny drill bit, creating a wee little hole which immediately drained blood, relieving the intense pressure (what courage that took!); the tenderness with which he held and cared for our three tiny newborns; the housework, laundry and cooking he didn’t mind helping with; how gently his hard-working hands held me, his wife; and how precious his hands when they carry concerns and thanksgiving in the depths of prayer to God. Hands… they can express so much of the love deep within one’s heart and soul. They don’t just carry the visible reminders of years of hard work, but they also remind us of the many ways love is shown by all they’ve done in serving others… sometimes in ways no one else ever sees but God. Quite like the hands of our Lord and Savior… likely scarred from bumps and bruises as a child, callused and cut from learning to master his father’s carpentry tools, to the soft and gentle touch He gave those seeking His help during His ministry, to the visible scars left by nails so painfully pounded into His hands which held Him on that cross, and to the warm and welcoming hands He holds out as He draws us close to Himself. Hands… they have an elegant beauty unsurpassed whether worn and scarred or soft and tender… and nothing can compare to their beauty when they’re used to serve others in love. Your Hands Linda A. Roorda Your hands are scarred from a life of service From selfless giving to meet others’ needs Rough and calloused, yet soft and gentle Your hands speak loud of a life well lived. Your hands of strength have been there for me Through thick and thin they carried my heart And when I stumble with faltering steps Your hands reach out to hold me gently. Your hands so gently hold my heart close Guiding in love they’ve shown me the way, And though life’s storms have wearied my soul Your hands have brought a contented calm. Your hands are rough from labors of life Cracked and bruised they speak of hard work, Yet they gently gripped the tiny fingers Of children young who adored their Pop. Your hands were tender to embrace our babes They rocked to sleep and held to comfort They wiped away tears to mend little hearts And clapped to praise accomplishments earned. Your hands have aged as the years have flown Yet they reflect your tender heart, For as I note their weathered features Their lines show love so freely given. Your hands are clasped in daily prayers Seeking wisdom from the Lord above, His guiding light that shines on your path Directing your hands from His heart of love. Your hands are soft yet scarred by hardship They’ve been dismayed by bruises of life, They shower love as you give your all And gently hold with comforting peace. Your hands like Christ’s have served with joy Gifted for use in humble service May they always bring glory and praise For in your hands are seen God’s love. ~~ May 2015 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
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