Stops Along the Way #4: Case Road in Broome County

One’s first driving experiences have the potential of being tremendously profound. Raised in protective households, often in homes isolated even from their neighbors deep in the suburbs, for many young people driving is their first experience of being beyond the monolithic eyes of family and school. As I write this, I know that many readers imaginations will immediately turn to late-night parties, but I mean a type of liberation that is more subtle and more profound. It is the chance to experience the world on ones own terms.

A decade ago, soon after I received my license, I was driving home on an early summer evening up Case Road from Robinson Hill Road in the Town of Union (in Broome County). I was taking the long way home from some activity just because, well when you’re the driver you can do things like that and I wanted to savor the freedom of curves on dark country roads.

As I turned up Case Road, I was passing a pasture on my left and something made me stop. I pulled the car over on the shoulder by the ditch and got out. I looked out over the pasture and I remember the scene, it has been seared into my memory. Beyond the barbed wire fence, mist curled over the rough field (they’re never as level as a yard) and around the feet of sleeping cows. Beyond there was a dark line of trees and above that was an incredible yellow moon, one of the largest I have ever seen, hanging in the air. Sixteen year-olds rarely have the vocabulary of beauty and the mystical to properly describe such moments and even today I struggle to put it into words. I do know that the Romantic poets had a concept of the “sublime,” an experience with the nature that was not the loveliness and congeniality of beauty but instead the encounter with the empowering spirit of the world. It is not a pleasant experience, but a shaking one, something akin to the Old Testament prophet who hides from the Word of God.

While I can not now, and perhaps will never be able to, properly describe my experience on Case Road that night, I do know that whenever I pass that pasture—usually in the light of the day—I slow down for a moment and reflect.


Stops Along the Way, is a column created to highlight those places in the paths of our lives where we pause. These are the little spots in life where we rest for a moment, gain knowledge, joy or assistance before continuing upon our myriad of journeys. These places are not destinations in the proper sense of the word, but are the planned or unintented links in the chain that makes up a trip.

“Stops along the Way” celebrates the journey itself and hopes to call into question the goal-driven values that speed up and depersonalize our lives. Instead it promotes a view of life as a process—one in which we do not always have a goal in mind and never know the fully control the direction of.

To submit your Stops along the Way, please email us at york.staters (at) gmail (dot) com. Please feel free to visit our Mission Statement and Submission Guidelines with any of your questions. We look forward to hearing from you.


Taste of the Region #15: (U-Pick) Blueberry Jam in 10 easy steps

It is blueberry season and the group expedition to the bushes is an old Northeastern tradition. In Ralph Waldo Emerson's eulogy for Henry David Thoreau, he claimed that “he had no greater aspiration than to be captain of a huckleberry party.” Of course, it's sometimes easier to collect berries than it is to eat them before they go bad. Blueberries freeze relatively well, but one of the finest ways to keep them is in the form of blueberry jam.

The following recipie for simple blueberry jam is based on one from my housemate Zay, who got it from her grandmother. She calls it "blueberry crack" for its addictive sweetness and I'll swear by its deliciousness. After the recipie are resources for more information about canning and how to find a u-pick farm near you. For the more adventurous, here is a guide to finding wild blueberries. Good luck!

Blueberries 4 c.
Lemon Juice 2 tbsp.
Sugar 4 c. (this can vary, see below)
Pectin 1 pkg

Supplies (details here)
Jar Funnel
Jar Grabber
Large Pot (16-20 quart)
Large spoons and ladles
1 canner (a huge pot used to sterilize the jars)
Mason jars, lids and rings (note that jars and rings may be reused by not lids)

1. When choosing blueberries, remember “garbage in, garbage out.” If you won’t eat it now, it won’t get any better if put into jam and can in fact ruin an otherwise good jar. Wash and sort your blueberries, removing stems, rotten and un-ripened berries
2. Sterilize your jars, either by using the “sterilize” function on a dishwasher, or by washing them in hot soapy water and then boiling the jars for 10 minutes and keeping them hot until used (you can do this by putting them upside down on a clean cloth or keeping them in a dishwasher set at “heated dry.”
3. Heat the lids (to make the glue gummy) in boiling water for a few minutes and then keep them warm.
4. Crush your berries, either with a potato masher or in a food processor.
5. Prepare your pectin (if you’re using dry, instructions are on the box) or just mix in liquid pectin.
6. Bring blueberries, pectin and lemon juice to boil.
7. Add sugar. Check your box of pectin to determine how much sugar is appropriate. You can also substitute juice (such as apple, grape, peach) at a little less than half your suggested sugar amount.
8. Bring back to a hard boil for 1 minute.
9. Test the jam—does it stick to a spoon like jam should?—if so, you’re done, if not add a bit more pectin and repeat steps 8 and 9.
10. Fill the jars up to a ¼ of an inch from the top and wipe off any spillage on the rim. Put them into boiling water of the canner. Keep them in the boiler at least 5 minutes, check your pectin box for more instructions.

Remove the jars and let them cool. Your jam is done!

For spiced jam add 1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon, cloves and allspice to fruit along with lemon juice.

Simple recipe
Detailed instructions for jam making
Variant recipes
Sugarless recipe

Canning Resources
How do I can? from the National Center For Home Food Preservation
USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning

Upstate U-Pick Farms
A nice, regionally-organized list of blueberry u-picks
New York-wide List (scroll down, it's a pretty short list)
Finger Lakes U-Pick
Central New York U-Pick


Young Naturalist

Every child goes through a “bug phase.” Mine far outlasted brief forays into stamps, dinosaurs, fossils, rocks and minerals, though I still have a “Herkimer diamond” from that period. In my pre-teen years, I invested heavily in baseball cards, collecting not just individual heroes like Stan the Man or favorite teams like the Dodgers but complete annual sets. I remember the thrill of trading for a Solly Hemus that completed the 1958 set.

Some would claim that my fascination and involvement with stream life clearly indicates that my bug phase endures to this day. Others, less charitable, seeing a foray with a Cub Scout Pack poking with sticks in the muddy bottom and taking the occasional soaker, would walk away muttering something about arrested development.

My bug phase was supremely unscientific. Though immersive, it had its limits. Even at its height, I was deathly afraid of spiders. Let the fearless scoff, but my autonomic nervous system would fairly shriek in the presence of a little baby spider. Of course, the worst place in the world for a person fearful of spiders is a lakeside cottage.

The porches, railings, stairs, windows and shutters of the cottage were festooned with webs to trap the gnats and flies hatching in clouds off the stream and lake. Thousands of spiders guarded and worked these meshes, especially active in the evenings when the cottage lights attracted moths and craneflies to the snares in the windows. My fear wasn’t lessened by watching spiders at work biting and wrapping their prey. I wondered how THAT would feel. Even worse, the dark corners of the cottage’s kitchen and dining room seemed to spawn huge hunting spiders whose size was augmented by the shadows. I mean, they not only inhabited the shadows but were big enough to cast their own.

My reaction to spiders was so strong that I wouldn’t willingly share the same room, car or boat with a spider. Every time we took the boat out to go fishing on the lake, there were lots of spiders under the seats, in the oarlocks and under the gunnels. Knowing what was coming, my uncles would sweep the boat out with a broom, but when a spider was found, it was a good question whether I’d stay inboard long enough for the tiny, inoffensive spider to be flipped over the side. I was very careful where I put my hands during these fishing trips.

Across the creek and north along the shore, our neighbors were the Bishops. Sherman “Doc” Bishop was a gentle biologist and naturalist employed by the University of Rochester. His speciality was herpetology, and his book on the salamanders of New York originally published in the 40s has been kept in print to this day. His wife’s family had owned cottages on Canandaigua Lake for generations.

Doc Bishop died young, in his fifties, when I was four years old, but I remember him well. I don’t remember his face. Though I’ve seen many photographs of him, I don’t recognize him that way. I couldn’t pick his face out of a crowd. It was his hands I knew.

The porch railings, old wooden bridge over the creek, and dock pilings provided the large open spaces favored by the large, orb-weaving spiders late in the season. Doc was fascinated by the orb-weavers. Their intricate webs would shimmer in the early morning sun as they caught a breeze off the lake. I remember him plucking the bulbous bodies of the female spiders from their webs, like you’d pick a fruit. He would caress them with his thumb and, holding them in the palm of his hand, hold out his hand to me, to introduce us.

-by Stephen Lewandowski


I’m Sick of the Color Green, or, Why the Carousel Mall can never be Eco-Friendly.

If you’ve taken a walk through the Carousel Mall in Syracuse at any time in the past year, you’ll have noticed that it’s been green-ified. Exploiting its captive audience of shoppers to the greatest extent possible, the people that own Carousel have been shamelessly selling the proposed expansion and ‘greenification’. Posters hang from every wall, an interactive map sits at the bottom of the atrium and everything from railings to walls have been painted varying shades of green. I didn’t know ‘going green’ was meant to be taken so literally.

The people of Syracuse are ambivalent on the subject. For some, the expansion of the mall means jobs and that’s what Syracuse needs. For others, the Mall is an example of the increasing popularity of green ideology: one friend explained to me how the ‘common people’ need to be educated by corporations about the importance of the environment. Perhaps he saw the Carousel Mall as some sort of modern Rachel Carson. Of course there are those who see Carousel with a bit more skepticism.

As someone concerned not only about the environment, but also the state of our local communities, the domination of corporations on our political, economic and social lives, and the broader cause of social justice, I find Carousel Mall’s turn towards green to be infuriating. Why?

Because a mall can never be green.


Even if they build everything from penthouse suites to urinals out of recycled toothpaste containers and power their buildings by organic, free-range, cruelty-free hamsters running on little wheels for union wages. Why?

1. Malls emerged out of a car-culture and a car-economy. At the heart of the Carousel people’s promise to economic transformation is that it will bring in business from around the northeast. Of course, the assumption is that they will drive to Central New York. No matter how many solar panels they put on the roof, the are still built off of a gas-devouring culture of automobiles and highways.

2. Malls Centralize Production. A walk through Carousel sees most of the same stores one sees in malls in Massachusetts, Florida, California and Hawai’i. The stuff inside them are almost universally produced in places across oceans and borders. Everything in that mall is shipped there, often thousands of miles. If Carousel Mall were to be truly green, they would be talking about building a Gap factory in one of the city's many brownfields.

3. Malls are artificial places. Carousel claims that it will build a miniature Italian summer in its expanded grounds. Now, like all Central New Yorkers, during the winter I wouldn’t mind occasionally jumping into Florence in June. Especially when I’m shoveling and snow has gotten into my boots. But to actually reproduce it under a bubble is an unsustainable project. Part of being green is not just consuming green stuff, but in making our lives line up better with the natural cycles that surround us. The attempt to completely control our environments—through means like jacked-up AC, anti-biotic sprays—has caused innumerable problems (like summer brownouts and superbacteria resistant to anti-biotics) while never giving us the control we desire. Carousel is not only continuing this trend but ramping it up a notch with its promises of utopian summers in a CNY winter.

The key here is the idea that green-ness does not exist only at the point of sale. The things we buy in a mall have histories before they ever arrive at the store. The materials they were produced out of were extracted from some natural resource, which was then transported to be processed somewhere else which was then transported to be turned into a product somewhere else, which was then transported to a distribution center which was then transported to the mall. Malls are absolutely crucial in reproducing that type of economics and this is something that the Carousel Mall can never escape from, its built into its very fabric.

When I make this argument, my friends will often say, “but why make such a big deal, isn’t what Carousel is doing better than nothing?” The great religious teachers know that false piety is more dangerous to a faith than blasphemy: after all Jesus stood up to the pompous priests of his own faith, not the oracles of the Roman gods. When Carousel claims to be green it makes it more difficult for people to separate out what ‘green’ means. Carousel sucks at public monies set aside for green projects, cutting the supports out of real eco-friendly ideas. Moreover, it makes people complacent: “Carousel Mall’s green now, we don’t need to change other things.” Finally it distracts the energies of the people who are protesting it (such as this essay) who should be working on more productive tasks than attacking a mall expansion.