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Beyond the Witches: 48 Hours in Salem

For locals and tourists alike, Salem Willows has been the heart of Salem for generations; photo by Robin Catalano.
For locals and tourists alike, Salem Willows has been the heart of Salem for generations; photo by Robin Catalano.

And now a Halloween-bubble-bursting PSA: there were never any witches in Salem.

At least not in 1692, and not in the cauldron-stirring, body-snatching way Hollywood would have us believe. And while this minor thrill—that something wicked supposedly this way comes—might seem like a reason to visit Salem, it’s not the best one, not by a mile. The real reason to make a weekend getaway to Salem is because this quirky, energized city has evolved from its roots as a maritime trading power into an eclectic destination with dozens of options for exploration—most of them affordable and accessible, and nearly all of them memorable.

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Dried tomatoes: Summer’s bounty becomes winter’s secret ingredient

Juliete tomatoes on the vine; photo by Jason Velázquez
Juliete tomatoes on the vine; photo by Jason Velázquez

As you who follow my food rants know, I’m a big fan of the dehydrator. In mid-September mine has one major task—drying tomatoes. This year the fruit of choice is the Juliet grape tomato. A bounty of them will provide the special touch to the soups, stews, and pasta dishes of winter.

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Green beans and carrots: Good individually, spectacular baked together

I sing the praises of my 30” X 72” back and knee-saving stand planter. It has yielded early crops of lettuce, chard, basil, bok choi, bunching onions, parsley, oregano, more. But where it shines is in producing later crops, planted when the others have been harvested, leaving beautiful, rich soil that begs, “More, we can do more.” And we can.

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Savoring Homegrown Onions

A photo of a pile of assorted onions on a table: A treasure trove of oniony goodness; photo by Sheila Velazquez
A treasure trove of oniony goodness; photo by Sheila Velazquez

I stepped out into the cool morning air, coffee in hand, and thought, time to pull the onions. When you’ve gardened or farmed for a long time, things sometimes hit you suddenly. You don’t have to think about them. The day was warm but dry, mid-August, and the beginning of the harvest season. My harvest for one is not time-consuming, and it recharges my seasonal battery as nothing else can.

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The need to nurture: We all need somebody, or something, to love

Baby African Violets waiting to be separated from their mother leaves; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
Baby African Violets waiting to be separated from their mother leaves; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

What typically comes to mind when we hear the word “nurture” is a mother holding a baby. But nurturing is not a gender-specific activity, nor is it only applied to human babies. In fact, if you think of every instance when you viewed a scene or picture of a farmer cradling a lamb, calf, or chicken, that is what nurturing is—caring for a living being that often cannot express its thanks. The object of nurturing can be a child or other human, or it can be a puppy, kitten, apple tree, or flowering plant. All require nurturing in order to thrive.

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Confessions of a prepper: Freeze it, dry it

My kids will tell you that I have been something of a prepper since the 70s. It’s true, because it was then that I began to be concerned about food security. We built a house in the country, and a barn, and then added every conceivable farm animal. Well, maybe we went overboard on the animals. We had a cold cellar under the porch where we kept 600 pounds of potatoes over the winter and a storage area where shelves of canned foods lay in wait. We sold at farm markets and on site. I have held on to some version of this lifestyle during the years. It’s who I am.

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Climate Catastrophe: Why isn’t the poster child an actual child?

Mashup: Bangladeshi children; photo by Sadman Chowdhury; Antarctic Penguins on icefloe; photo by Jerzy Strzelecki, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Mashup: Bangladeshi children; photo by Sadman Chowdhury; "Antarctic, Penguins on Icefloe" photo by Jerzy Strzelecki [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

While the mainstream media feeds us a daily slop of pablum about the foibles of the president and the clown car of Democrat presidential candidates, the problem that won’t go away with an impeachment or an election is, for the most part, ignored. 

Very often, when you see a story about climate change/global warming, it is accompanied by a photo of a polar bear, an animal that most people have never even seen. By various estimates, the total world population of polar bears is between 20,000 and 30,000. This mammal has become the poster child of global warming, even though projections of their future are at this time, speculation. There is still insufficient evidence, no matter the huge sums spent on very expensive Arctic research, regarding the fate of these mammals.

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Weekend Travel Pick: Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival

Image of Hot Air Balloon. Caption: Ever wonder what a hot air balloon ride feels like? Why not treat yourself to a tethered launch? You might get hooked on the feeling! Photo by Robin Catalano.
Ever wonder what a hot air balloon ride feels like? Why not treat yourself to a tethered launch? You might get hooked on the feeling! Photo by Robin Catalano.

A few facts you might not know about hot-air balloons: it’s hot—as in, skin-prickling hot—riding directly beneath their burners. Hot-air balloons also rise off the ground a lot faster than you’d think, and can vertically travel 10 feet or more per second. And once you’re up, you feel weightless and free-floating, as if you’re suspended over the landscape on the gentle breath of the breeze.

Another fact: the Hudson Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival, now in its 28th year, returns—bigger and more aww-inspiring—to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, New York, this weekend. Dubbed “Little Albuquerque” by insiders (after the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest in the world), the Hudson Valley festival started out as a 10-balloon event with 3,000 spectators. Last year, 35,000 people came out to watch more than twice as many balloons. This year, with more than 100 morning and evening launches of 30 invitation-only balloons helmed by both national and international riders, attendance may tip the scale at closer to 50,000.

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Water, water, everywhere
Nor any drop to drink

Photograph: Public water fountain. Newly installed public water fountains in high traffic/athletic areas grant near luxury-level access to the most basic of human needs; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
Newly installed public water fountains in high traffic/athletic areas grant near luxury-level access to the most basic of human needs; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

The title is a line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, spoken by a sailor surrounded by a salty sea. The sailor had no choices, but we do. We have available fresh water, for now, and can choose to use tap water, filter it or not, and bypass the aisles of bottled water when we shop. We can choose to help ourselves and Mother Earth.

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To buy or not to buy, that is the question: Wary shoppers slow retail sales

Mannequins doing their best to incite consumer desire; photo by George Shervashidze, from Pexels
Mannequins doing their best to incite consumer desire; photo by George Shervashidze, from Pexels

Quarterly financial reports often portend the future. The retail apparel numbers are out for the first quarter of 2019, and they aren’t pretty. Sales dropped by 24 percent, the biggest decline since the first quarter of 2008, when they were a bellwether for the last recession. People aren’t buying clothing. Maybe some of them read my article about how Fast Fashion is contributing to climate change. If not, they should.

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Unsung Eats: Valhalla, Adams — mythic taste, priced for mere mortals

The aptly named burger, "The Balder," bravely adorns itself with lettuce, roasted tomatoes, and onions, allowing it's brave flavors to shine through. Highly recommended side item? The hand cut wedge fries; photo by James Kennedy.
"The Balder" burger bravely adorns itself with lettuce, roasted tomatoes, and onions, allowing its flavors to shine through. Recommended side item? Amazing hand cut wedge fries; photo by James Kennedy.

Here at Unsung Eats we usually have to search out the rare gems for great food at a good value but in this particular case the eatery found us.  We kept hearing, “Hey, have you tried Valhalla yet?” and when the Greylock Glass ran its Greylock Nation’s Greatest: 2019 readers poll, it was Valhalla Eatery in Adams that kept on popping up, so we knew who was going on the short list.

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