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Thursday, 03 September 2015


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Many Americans think that "New York" is just NYC, when in fact, the state is quite large with a lot of beautiful country and even wilderness.
You are in a great place; beautiful and a bit isolated yet not far from larger towns. I went to college at Syracuse and my daughter went to Cornell, with friends at Hobart, so I know the area a bit. As a creative, visual person you'll love it. My only suggestion would be that your next car have either 4 wheel or awd; the last couple of winters in NY have been pretty heavy.

One of my fond memories from my years at Syracuse was going to Watkins Glen in the fall; foliage, cars and tailgating. Great. Also, go over to Elmira (the "soaring capital") and get up in a sailplane. Quite an experience. At the risk of being cliche (one of our favorite terms on here), it's like being a bird.

We are fortunate to live on six acres we bought over thirty years ago in what used to be "the country" west of Austin. There are now subdivisions surrounding us with huge houses jammed in side by side. We sit on our porches and watch the deer, foxes, hawks, and the wind blow through the oak trees. Our "neighbors" sit in their home theatres and watch who knows what? Unfortunately our fourteen year old daughter has told us that those packed together homes are better and "are the way society ought to be!"

To go with your jokes about bed sizes:

"When I was a boy, I laid in my twin-sized bed and wondered where my brother was."
-Mitch Hedberg

Sounds - well, sounds like it's more your sort of spot than mine, Mike. I enjoy natural beauty but I also love bustle and crowds. How far away is your nearest grocery store/supermarket? What will it be like in winter? Do you have the means to get out?

iPhone weather forecast: mine sometimes gives me the forecast for different locations depending on which side of the house I'm at - Totley at the front and Dore at the back. Sometimes they're different!

I predict your next "camera" may be a small boat, or maybe a canoe.

You may be wanting some x-country skis this winter....If this is not something you have done (although I would think that you would have), get wider, metal edged ones so you can "break trail" better. It's a great workout, easy on the joints at our age, and not as disgusting as other forms of exercise (like walking fast from the Hirshhorn to Union Station right now, like I am doing, the disgustingness of which you will understand. Let's just say no one sits next to me on the train going home if any other seats are available). Not as dangerous as cycling in America, either.

Nice! But I prefer a screaming lifestyle.

Congrats Mike! Sounds like you've reached a lifetime goal, many only dream. Love the picture of the deck with the new chairs, it has a lovely symmetry to the color palette- you must have a really good camera ;-)

It sounds quite like what we here in Michigan call Up North, which can mean a lot of things but definitely covers little lakes and hamlets filled with A-frames and sided cottages. Lots of raucus and often rancerous debate about people from down below building big year-round houses. Good luck, Mike.

Looks like a lovely, peaceful place, Mike. I hope you find it as satisfying as you expect. Brace yourself for oppressive dead-of-winters.

@ Chuck Albertson: If you like to scream it looks likes the perfect place to do so...and never be heard.

Me? No way. I've never even lived in the suburbs...or even in a single-family house. Although I occasionally fantasize of living with wildlife in view and wood smoke wafting through my nostrils I'm pretty much a city boy forever.

I second the recommendation to get cross-country skis and a canoe (or kayak). Once the city people have left, it should be very peaceful out on the lake.

What a great new chapter in your story ! Good for You !
It should always be about the Place more than the house, and the house looks great.
You really only need 2 comfortable chairs, ...more than that just encourages the extra people to stay.
Most galleries are sparsely furnished, make it a gallery, less to clean, more to enjoy.
We have a second home near the Ocean in Montauk NY near the tip of long Island. It is 120 miles out into open ocean as compared to NYC.
Bustling in summer, near desolate in winter (my favorite time). But like the Finger Lakes it is a destination people use their vacation to experience. You will get a heightened sense of the seasons, of renewal each spring, but in the fall you get excited all over again, because you are about to have it all to yourself again. Even most of the stores and restaurants close, you become a Local, in the best sense of that word.
Come Spring, you get to do it again.

A couple things that are sort of not optional,
A 4WD vehicle, some proper boots and outerwear
A small inverter Generator, (a honda 3kw and Transfer switch & UPS for your computer (you Will lose power)
A good pair of 7x50 binoculars for the winter sky
If you are prepared, it is not even a hassle.

I do envy your summers. I went to college at Cornell back in the seventies where I studied physics and in what little spare time I had took pictures of the region using a Ricohmatic 225 TLR. The area is truly beautiful. I now live on Lake Toledo Bend on the TX-LA border and take my photos with an old Rolleiflex 2.8 E that I rescued from a trash pile. Given the hot summers here maybe I should look into a small place in upstate NY. I just wouldn't want to pay NY taxes. BTW, the Honda generators are overpriced. I use one from Harbor Freight that Consumer Reports recommended - http://www.harborfreight.com/6500-peak5500-running-watts-13-hp-420cc-generator-epa-iii-68529.html

I'm glad you are beginning to settle in. I am looking forward to hearing from you, in passing as you focus on other topics, what life is like in a Keuka winter, as I've only known the place in July and August. (One of those Pennsylvania Yankees for whom I've been told the town of Penn Yan is named.)

Some winter-time thoughts:
-Get a "snow rat." This is a capable enough but unlovely old vehicle that you just use in the Winter. (Told to me by someone who once lived in Buffalo. NY is notorious for using tons of corroding salt on the roads.)
-Get a generator, preferably hooked up to your gas line, so you need not venture forth for gasoline, and a transfer switch. If you can afford it, get one that starts and transfers automatically. A capable UPS between your outlet and your electronics will filter out any ugly electrical stuff, while avoiding the steep premium price of an inverter generator.
-Have a fireplace? Get it fitted with a wood burning insert. Especially if you don't get a generator, it's nice to have an emergency heat source. I have a small Lopi one, which can keep my 2,000 sq ft Cape Cod warm.
-You're from Wisconsin, so you don't need any advice about getting around in snow.

The generator is a good idea. The Honda's are pricey but quiet. They are usually small but portable. I personally like the boat idea; either a kayak or a small rowing skiff. Canoes are nice but kayaks or rowboats are more stable for photography. When I say rowing boats, I mean the smaller, narrower beam skiffs designed to be a joy to row. I went to school in Rochester (RIT) and there is much to like about winters: frozen waterfalls, virgin snow, many things. Hope it all goes well!

Upstate New York is the Garden of Eden.

Where did you purchase your furniture? I had virtually everything I own built by Hornung Chair/Furniture in Penn Yan. They do beautiful work...

I'm not convinced we lucky few do actually live in democracies. Maybe Iceland. We go through a democratic sham once in a while to elect representatives who then wield power regardless of their mandate.

What passes for democracy is better described as meritocracy.

Mike R said:
"You're from Wisconsin, so you don't need any advice about getting around in snow."
I have lived near you in Wisconsin, and I have lived near you in Ithaca, and there was much more snow in upstate NY than ever in WI. Get a snow blower.

All this talk about generators... I never had one in Wisconsin and the neighbors who did had the generators fail too.

4 wheel or all wheel drive? Hey I had that in Wisconsin, but you seemed to survive there without it. Perhaps S.O. has all wheel drive? Then you are already set.

Notice all these guys are giving you advice. I say listen to S.O. as she has lived there already. She surely has given you all the advice?

Why did reading you write about this, about Xander and Abby and this home, brought tears to my eyes? Just "Further evidence that scientists are incurable sentimentalists".

I have just ordered some Solux lights for the gallery and print studio that I am opening in a small village an hour away from Cape Town, South Africa.

I have been following your move and some of your thoughts with interest because we too have moved to a "new life" in a quiet place.

Anyway, the lights are coming from - according to my UPS tracking number - Henrietta, NY. I though I would see where Henrietta was and, immediately recognised the distinctive shape of Lake Keuka!

It seems that Henrietta is not more than about 60 kilometers away from you. Small world!

We are in a little village called Riebeek Kasteel and this life suits me just fine! I hope you will settle down nicely too!


I like reading this post a lot. A lot of beauty coming through.

Forget cross-country skis, it's easier to take photos on snowshoes.

Lucky you are. The Milky Way is quite a show.

If there is a Boat in the future, it has to be one of these:
The Penn Yan Swift Boat

Apples, falling leaves, pumpkins, cider donuts, the Ithaca farmers market. From now until mid-January the region is just about perfect. There is a very nice outdoor sculpture garden in Cazenovia (two hour drive for you?) worth a long wander with your S.O. and a camera, Rochester and Buffalo if you are yearning for some type of city action, and a drive to the Berkshires for Mass MOCA and the Clark if you need a fine art fix. Given the frequent weather changes, the lakes provide plenty of dramatic views to photograph, and get even more interesting to shoot once full winter arrives and the lake freezes.


I was in Scotland this afternoon when my wife asked me to stop the car at a retail outlet, GAP clothes shop for kids, so it was. Right there hanging on a rail was a child's tea shirt with... Historic Aviation Finger Lakes NY emblazoned across the front. I instantly thought of you, I've since searched Google for Finger Lakes NY.

...I've been quietly following your blog for a number of years now and I just thought I'd drop in and say, I'm liking the look of this new place you've found. It looks to be a beautiful location and I hope you'll be very happy here.

Kind regards from the other side of the pond.

Paul Wood

I have to agree with Tom Burke - give me the city life, NYC, or London being the best. Quietness and the same old countryside quickly gets boring. It's a bit like people romanticize about traveling across Switzerland by train "Okay another mountain with snow topped peaks, another lake." The city gives you the security and comfort of being surrounded by society in all its forms. There is a constant ephemera of change, noise, buildings, streets, transport, light and it makes me feel very much part of the earth.

Congratulation Mike. This is so exciting. Keep more stories about this place and your life coming. I live in Oslo, Norway, the southern part of the country at 59 degrees north (Anchorage, AK, is located at 61 degrees north) and after a few nice summer weeks we have 11C (52F) today. Nice to be able to turn off the lights and see the Milky Way! Let us know about your furniture and the Amish.
Best Jean

Congratulations, sounds like you found a nice spot. Make local friends, you will need each other, especially in winter. Find the person who will be doing your snow plowing (and a backup). A non electrical secondary heat source can be critical in maintaining the health of your house and yourself. Lock things up when you are away. Secure proper winter clothing. Avoid eating as entertainment.

Really enjoy reading about this phase of TOP. So well done, as always.

We're undergoing a similar move: from the burbs of NYC to the pacific solitude of the Catskill Mountains. And I'm gonna build an old-fashioned wet darkroom. Gawd help us!

Hopefully Pierce won't show up at my doorstep with a bottle of sodium sulfide!

Yours for a digitally modified food chain,



Your new home looks idyllic, but I wonder about the risk of flooding, given the proximity to the lake.

Oops. I forgot to include our resurrected blog on photojournalism in the digital age https://wordsandpixels.wordpress.com


I have been a bit disconnected for the last 10 days or so, in my case looking at the Milky Way (the constellation, not the chocolate bar) from South Bay, Ontario. South Bay is an actual bay, not a village or town, in Prince Edward County, Ontario. It's been our pre-Labour Day vacation destination for 13 years now.

It's somehow comforting that we were both engaged in stargazing at the same time, at least approximately.

Hope to see you again soon, Mike. It would be immediate, but we are looking at buying retirement property in "The County", which is a peaceful rural area that has become a food and viticultural destination. Sorry, Finger Lakes, but County Pino Noir kicks your ... :D

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