The Pride of Central New York: Stefan Senders speaks out about Fracking.

Yesterday, along with Thor Oechsner, Neal Johnston, Sandra Steingraber, and a host of others, I spoke at the Anti-Hydrofracking Day of Action in Albany. We distributed almost 200 loaves of bread to the assembled crowd, and then we marched, led by a chanting, bread-carrying farmers, to Cuomo’s office. Here is what I said:

My name is Stefan Senders, and I am a baker. Beside me are Thor Oechsner, an organic farmer, and Neal Johnston, a miller. We work together.

Today we bring bread to Albany to intervene in the self-destruction of the great State of New York. We come, Farmers, Bakers, and Millers, to remind our state and our Governor, Andrew Cuomo, that despite the promises of industry lobbyists, the exploitation of Shale Gas in New York is bad and broken economy of the worst kind.

This bread is the product of our community and our farms. The wheat, grown, tended, and harvested by our local organic farmers, is fresh from the soil of New York. The flour, ground in our local flour mill, is as fine as concerned and caring hands can make it.

To resurrect a term long since emptied by advertisers, the wheat, the flour, and the bread are ‘wholesome’: they bring our communities together, give us work, nourish us, please our senses, and make our bodies and our land more healthy.

This is good economy. It is wise economy. It is a steady economy that nourishes the State of New York.

We know that for many New Yorkers, Fracking sounds like a good idea. We have all heard the fantastic tales: Fracking, it is said, will save our state from financial ruin, release us from our dependence on “foreign oil,” and revive our rural economy by bringing cash, if not fertility, to our once vibrant farmland.

For politicians, these stories of money and growth are hard to resist: the numbers are large, deficits are unnerving, and elections are expensive.

For many farmers and land-owners, the promises of cash are dizzying, and to risk the land’s fertility to extract gas is only one step removed from risking the land’s fertility to extract a few more bushels of corn or soybeans.

But farmers might know better.

Farming has not always been, and need not be, an extractive industry. There was a time when farmers worked with a longer view, keeping in mind their role as stewards and caretakers of the land. That long view is the farmer’s wisdom, and it is as good and wise today as it ever was.

The promises of the gas industry are demonstrably false, and they miss what farmers know well: There is no independence that does not demand care and responsibility. There is no quantity of cash that can restore fertility to a poisoned field. There is no adequate monetary “compensation” for poisoned water. There is no payment, no dollar, no loan, that can restore life and community to a broken world.

Our work and the work we provide others—on the farm, at the mill, and at the bakery—depends on fertile soil, pure water, and a viable community. All of these are put at risk by Fracking.

What happens to our land in an economy bloated by gas exploitation? Prices rise, rents rise, and good, arable land becomes scarce as acres once leased to farmers are set to quick development schemes—flimsy housing, storage barns, parking lots, and man-camps.

And what happens to our water when gas exploitation takes over? Storage pools, as safe as Titanic was unsinkable, overflow, contaminating the soil; inevitable leaks in well-casings allow gasses and Frack-fluids to pass into our aquifers, into our bodies, and into the bodies of our children.

And what happens to communities held in thrall to gas exploitation? As we have seen in other parts of the country, the boom-bust cycle of the petroleum economy fractures communities, undermining our capacity to act wisely and civilly.

With every boom, a few get rich, a few do better, but all are impoverished. For every hastily built motel there are dozens of apartments with rising rents; for every newly minted millionaire there are many dozens who see nothing but the pain of rising costs and receding resources. For every short-term dollar there are hundreds in long-term losses that can never be recouped.

To go for gas is to go for broke.

With this bread we are here to remind you that there is another economy, one that works.

This bread symbolizes a commitment to the health of New York State. It embodies the knowledge that good work, not a gambler’s dream, is the basis of a sound and sustainable economy.

This bread symbolizes the farmer’s simple truth that without fertile soil, without pure water, and without strong community, we go hungry.

This bread reminds us all that the promises of gas exploitation are empty: What are we to grow in fields broken by the drill and tilled with poison? What are we to feed our children when our water and wheat are unfit? Shall we grind money to make our bread?

We do have a choice. We need not poison our land to live. We need not taint our water to drink. We need not sell our future to finance our present. These are choices, not inevitabilities.

With this bread we say: take the long view; pay attention to the health of the soil and nourish it; treasure pure water; remember the value of your community and keep it whole.

If something must be broken, let it not be shale. Let it be this bread.

little chrysalis

Kitty and Robbie at the Haunt, July, 2011, Q. CassettiWell, the new year according to the Empire of Q. started this morning with a Shaggin’ Wagon dead battery—key in, no results. But, Alex got to school on time, empty bookbag, gym clothes, a check for lunch and his favorite greasy breakfast (at school). Mr. K from AAA came before 9. to give me a jump and I did a bit of driving over to Peach Orchard on Seneca Lake to get some peaches to peel and freeze, to make a cobbler, and to make more peach/ginger jam (freezer jam).

We got off around noon on Sunday to get to Amherst around 6. We stopped at Kitty’s new abode and ran into a bunch of her friends. So, we left her to catch up and did a little tootling around with Alex to see what was new and where we might have dinner (Mission Cantina, a new Mexican place on West Street—just steps from Hampshire). We then got Kitty and a friend and had a nice dinner watching Alex reel from the great music they were playing on the overhead combined with a double love of fresh fish tacos that he consumed happily (in hindsight, we should have ordered him two plates…he loved them soooo much). Then, off to the hotel for sleeping before a big day on Sunday of moving Kitty in, going to Target to get stuff to make her life a bit more liveable and then back home in the afternoon.

It sure felt like the brave new world. Kitty was ready to shoo us out the door when we  started getting in her space trying to help but making her crazy. I am the queen of noodlers, so I fear I made her the craziest. So, going to the store to buy olive oil, honey and peaches, fresh tomatoes and bread got me out of her space but alllowing me to show the love as the pseudo italian housewife I am. She is in an onward and upward mode versus the poor little lonely girl we left—a girl filled with fear and trepidation. We left  a far more confident young women this year with more of a grasp on what she is about, what she loves, where she is pointed. Her work this summer along with living in the house of the Lost Boys give her a boost that was happily unexpected—along with the mental and emotional sorting that coming home often initiates. After she showed us all around to the wonderful round room in the center of her Greenwich mod to the other mod with the cutest little student run library—I feel that this year our little chrysalis  may begin to notice her wings this year with new friends and acquaintances, new opportunities and studies, new learning around how to live on your own and with friends, and the raft of other things that just happen in college. I am not sulking and mooning over my little girl albeit she is on my mind as we had such a treasured time this summer. She is back with her tribe—with a desire to learn more about fashion, clothing, sewing, decorative arts and fashion.

So, it really wasnt much of a weekend….but the beginning of the new year for all. Rob is off to Miami later this week/ back Saturday—so I will be handling the XC breakfast solo. which is no biggie. I will be making little Granola/yogurt and fruit parfaits (so peeling and prepping the fruit will happen Friday night (more peach use). I am going to do a Tuesday pick up at the CSA now that school is back in session. Oh my.

Alex is back to running full time. We have so much to do with him!


Last Monday of Eleven Month

Swan Heart from Sketchbook 3, Q. Cassetti, 2010, sharpiesPiles of work…yikes. I am pleased I got the little done yesterday (thank you Rob) with the NYFA application and the scans as they were just hanging there wanting to  be done. I also had a really nice time with a little drawing in the evening complete with peppermint tea. It was just nice.

In hindsight, it was interesting to complete the NYFA application because it was all about funding artists to continue to build their voice and vision—so everything is pointed to showing that. I am pleased that I made a list and created a flow to the imagery to show how the styles and imagery flow (which, interestingly they do) prior to uploading them all. The images will be shown really large—in two groups of 4…so a progression from the SOI Willowhead (from Memento Mori) to Forever Love (from the Valentines) to The Fraktur Angel heart, to Valentine “Sweetheart” (bees),  to Bee Mine Valentine, to Bee Goddess, To Bee Twins, to in Search of the Sweet (Lubki illos). It looked good and consistent. The drawing group is assessed with Book Arts and Printmaking. My work fits right in there. Additionally, they have a folk art subset they judge mid year, next year which I plan on applying for. This foundation work is appealing because it has a fiscal piece to drive the work versus trying to sell it.

What is this with Wikileaks? What is going on with this world?

Another just as important, I called The Regional to see if they had another delicious turkey for Thanksgiving. The home team is wild for it.

More later.

Travelling with the Curmudegeon

From the culling of the apples, we then went off to Peggy who had a beautiful lunch spread out for us to eat and warm up (dry off) before the second chapter of our travels with Peter, who refers to himself in his business as the Curmudgeon. Peter is seen second from the top in the posted pictures. We went to his cider house and picked up all sorts of containers and milk carriers and put them in Steve's big white truck. Then, off we went to Sayre-- home of the Keystone Cider Mill-- a place that will press your cider and not pasturize it as the point of this besides delicious cider is the creation of Peter's hard cider. It was a beautiful drive. The weather had cleared up to give us a perfect fall afternoon--driving a new route for us through Danby and south through Spencer and VanEtten (two places we know of from the snow reports and school closings in the winter-- but never seen). The trees were blazing, the valleys beautiful and purple.

Turns out, the Keystone Cider Mill was more that what was promised. It was a moment in time. We learned a bit from one of the family members who own the complex...Apparently, the Keystone Cider Mill and the Keystone Rollerskating Rink were at the end of the train (trolley) line and these were built to be an attraction. The cidermill also boasts a stand with a fill your own jug operation along with every sort of apple, pumpkin, squash and gourd for fall. The rollerskating rink is back to basics...a little vertically sided building with windows that illuminate a small but well maintained rink--well worn--but very viable today. We looked around back and it appears that it is heated by its own woodfired/coal fired furnace with it's own building. The cider press is in the back and is a jewel. Apples are brought in and sent through a chute to a crushing process which dumps apples (cores and all) into large, wood framed layers of filtration material which is tidily wrapped up and another layer placed on top. After the layers have been filled, the whole operation pressses (from the bottom up) the apples and the juice streams down the sides (see the picture). This whole operation, a Rube Goldburgian contraption, is driven by all types of belts which are driven by a tractor to the back of the building. Pretty back to basics. So, we unloaded 30 bushels of apples (3 of them were pears), and ended up with 220 gallons of cider. Peter refuses to buy the fruit, but gather it from friends and acquaintances who might not otherwise do anything with their fruit.

While the crushing happened we all gabbed and had a nice social time until it was time to either unload more of the apples from the truck to feed the press or in the case of the strong people, load the final juice into the truck. We talked about our lives, about cider, about wine making, about food, about distilling, about those things we all had in common. There were artists, masons, biochemists, scientists, librarians, information technology people...a range of ideas and people. It was terrific.

We all carried and pushed and pulled and got the cider home to Peter and Peggy's house where Peggy had a wonderful dinner for all of us. What a treat. What fun. We are so lucky to have been included in this learning and tasting time.


Just got back from the last LPGA 2300˚ event at the Corning Museum of Glass. They must have had 4000 people there...two bands with the big draw being a fab jazz group "Room Full of Blues". The Voices show was open as was retail with people eating, drinking, dancing and shopping. Ran into some friends who had lost their positions and were interested in talking about the new paths they are on. I know this--that when you are walking in the forest, you need to see the sun occasionally to know that there is a world out there with interested people there to support you. I know that these friends are feeling lonely--so I hope I was helpful and encouraging in their new, unplanned trip.

Kitty and I trolled retail--catching up with some of the folks we know that work there. I bought a green beaded necklace. Kitty bought a bejeweled "Hello Kitty" style bauble. There were loads of temptations the foremost being the shoes with toes that turn up totally covered in beads and sequins. Apple green and magenta, gold and ruby, all opal-ie white or tones of black and brown. This sort of glamor for a pittance, $19.95. But somehow we just couldnt rationalize this wonder.

My tree peony burst it's garlic headed sized blossom...thus the picture. We are getting into lilac and peony season. The iris by the house (clear yellow and some that are purple...more the tailored siberian style versus the frill) are opening with their sharp spikes. The hosta have totally doubled in there may be a bit of moving with them. Monarda, otherwise known as Bee Balm, the source of beramot (the zing that makes Earl Grey tea--Earl Grey), is a plant our dear deer detest. They are flourishing. And our fringe tree keeps living despite the woodpeckers who peck away the paint we seal the wood with. I sent some of the teens outside with clippers to start pruning the brown hanging branches/ dead and not additive. So, things are looking cleaner, and more taken care of.

I have my thesis paper out to be edited with a real live editor. Man, Why didnt I learn about this earlier? Peter Hoover is a new friend and a Trumansburg Rennaissance man. He is at this iteration in his career, a retiring editor (from Big Red). He has asked me wonderful, and insightful questions. He has put his eye on the flow and format--and I know that the time spent with him will take my ramblings to a whole other place. Learn about Peter's interest in music>>--Here's an excerpt from John Hoffman's remarkable writing about Peter's field recordings...

It was the summer of 1959 and a young Peter Hoover, having flunked out of Harvard the summer before, was volunteering at the Library of Congress, transcribing inventory information of aluminum disc recordings made in 1937 of Crockett Ward’s Bog Trotters, from Ballard Branch, Virginia (the original Bog Trotters, consisting of Davey Crockett Ward and his neighbor Alec Dunford on fiddles, Fields Ward, Crockett's son, playing guitar and singing, and Crockett's brother Wade Ward often playing the banjo). . Not bad work if you can get it. It seems the young Mr. Hoover had gotten interested in the traditional music of the southern Appalachian Mountain region over the past couple of years and he was driven to immerse himself in all aspects of this musical genre. In between working as a janitor at a local private school to pay the rent, the 20-year old was hanging around the archive listening to numerous field recordings and engaging in conversations about the music with the director, Rae Korson. Peter was spending the summer developing a list of favorite old-time music performers as he hatched a plan that would take him on a journey throughout the southern Appalachia region in search of these old-time musicians. Not long after, in the fall of ’59, Peter drove out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania having borrowed his parents 1955 Rambler sedan, his Revere recorder in tow, heading straight for Hillsville, Virginia and the homes of Glen Smith, Wade Ward, and Charlie Higgins. Over the course of the next five years, Peter would make these summer journeys an annual affair. During this time, Peter recorded musicians in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. After five years, Peter had recorded more than sixty players and singers, all documented on fifty reel-to-reel recordings, copies of which are now deposited in the Library of Congress and the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University in Bloomington.

And this is just the beginning with Peter. I am sure you are going to hear more about him as we go further. He is an inspiration to me...and we have many common interests and old friends (and for me mentors). Lets just say...he has his fingers in many pies...and now he has his big brain, sharp pencil, gentle persona and generous spirit touching my paper. How lucky am I?

Work awaits. We have 50 high schoolers coming for an evening party. Its a purchased party...meaning we are having subs, chips, strawberries, little chocolates and drinks. There will be frisbees and water pistols--music and dancing...and then it will conclude. I have the compostable paper plates and cups and forks/spoons. Alex is making plans for a party for the "distance runners" and others to cook sausages and "hang". Sounds great he is putting this forth because now we can act on it.

Weekend is pretty open. I hope to touch up the thesis drawings. The big output is coming early next week...and I will decide at that point to print them on my printer with 3 centerpiece biggies (and frame them with an off the shelf frame with acrylic from Dick Blick or output stretched in a smaller size). I am looking forward to a bit of peace.

a selection from Laylah Ali

"I’m thinking about formal portraits, but the portraiture that I’m thinking of when I’m making these encompasses a much bigger range than I’m thinking about right now. I’m thinking of them as distinct individuals who exist or who have existed. The idea is for the distinctness of that individual to come through and to speak in some way about a narrative that is not readily apparent. So something about the way the person is dressed or their setting or the weathering of their face tells you a story. The look in their eyes speaks of something larger. Think of society portraiture in the late 1800s, like a [John Singer] Sargent painting. He commissioned portraits of very wealthy individuals and you’re looking at the individual as much as you are at their dress, what they’re holding, what the setting is—the whole picture. With really amazing portraits, the painting of them also plays a role. The quality of paint and something about the eyes, those sorts of artistic decisions become an active part of really good portraits.

The idea of portraiture is a kind of storytelling—a distilled storytelling. I am interested in distilled narratives so the idea of trying to tell a story or hint at something larger than the individual—through the individual—became interesting to me. It’s new for me to do this and I’m not sure where it’s going to go from here. I think this is the first step at looking at these individual characters and blowing them up large. I’ve had individual figures before in my work, but they have been more distant, more distant, more deep into the picture." Laylah Ali from Art 21, PBS

a nod to the Burnt Over District

Just out of the Pool of Dilemmas. Phew. I must have left a good 4% of the world's problems behind. I pity the Pool Man who has to scrub all the residue and debris left by all the swimmers in the pool that the chlorine cannot scrub out--all the personal detrius, political strands, project grains and all problems that are dispelled in the daily back and forth in the magical blueness down the tiled line, between the blue crosses. Think about the leavings. And the takings? The Pool of Dilemmas solve more than surface them... Or maybe it dissolves them?
Could it be the chemistry of the water? Or just the flow of water to water...the osmosis of our 94% water to the pool and vice versa?

The Mount Everest of Super Bowl dining (making a pile of chicken wings) was attempted--and from the responses--it was achieved. The novel phrase "Mad Chill" and "Madgood" were impulsively spouted by the silent and stoic, non-evocative teen male. Our gal was, as always, positive, bubbly and happy to eat any and all (no sauce please). We are down to 2 scones and a pyramid of chicken bones. Those went down too...without a blink. It is nice to have an audience to perform to ...and all the output is input immediately. The Super Bowl made the boys happy. I watched YouTube videos about Gordon B. Hinckley, the former President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I am interested in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints--This has been a longterm fascination for me after visiting Salt Lake City in my teens on a family trip out West. Since then, we have visited Independence, MO (on a business trip...with a side bar to Independence), the the NYC church, to Palmyra NY for the annual Hill Cumorah pageant. Since high school, I have been devouring books about the LDS faith, Joseph Smith and all the history and controversies surrounding the faith, the facts and the lifestyle. It was coincidence that we moved here, to NY State, particularly that of Central New York which was the hot bed for social changes, religions and religious communities and thought--giving this region the nickname of the Burnt Over District. Some of the leading lights of this time period (1800- 1900) include: Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglas, The Fox Sisters, Joesph Smith( First Prophet of the LDS Church), William Miller and the Millerites, The Shakers, The Perfectionist Community --The Oneidas, to name a few. I love all of these local groups and delve into their history and imagery.

However, the LDS Church has become more dimensionalized for me since the web has come on with the blogging community and podcasts. I listen to most of the Mormon podcasts with my favorites being Steven Kapp Perry's Cricket and Seagull, a weekly half hour music and church related interview show; and John Dehlin's Mormon Stories. John Dehlin presents all sorts of aspects of the church, turning over ideas, philosophy and practices with experts in a very thoughtful, careful and prepared way. He shows great respect towards his listeners and his guests--providing, I would think, a huge resource for those members of the faith who may have questions without a place to go within the church at large to surface questions and get some direction. I admire the work and time John Dehlin gives to his podcast, his candor and the strength of his beliefs. Combined with my reading on history, lifestyle, the FLDS subset, and visiting the various locations, John Delhin provides balance and makes this American church real and somehow less victorian and kooky that is presented ink on paper. He has made me think of religion beyond beliefs--but that of community and lifestyle that are meshed together.

Take a listen through iTunes. It is an education--particularly in the visibility the church has with Hinckley's death, the new Prophet (to be announced), Mitt Romney and all the other LDS people and organizations beyond the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Donnie and Marie.

More later>>