M O U N T A I N
HOME Pennsylvania & the New York Finger Lakes
High-Speed in the Hinterlands
Tri-Co Connections Brings Broadband Internet to the Mountains By Carrie Hagen
Libâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Supper Club Keeps on Cooking Mt-Glen Farms Takes the Prize Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy Celebrates 30
Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Assume Your Best Deal Comes From The Big Home Center...
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Volume 15 Issue 6
5 The Prize Goes to Hope
High-Speed in the Hinterlands
By Michael Capuzzo
By Carrie Hagen Tri-Co Connections brings broadband Internet to the mountains.
16 The Nature of
By Gayle Morrow
Northcentral Pennsyvlania Conservancy celebrates thirty.
18 Mother Earth
By Gayle Morrow Rooted in magic.
6 Thinking Like a Field
22 Tractors by Day,
By Lilace Mellin Guignard A Bradford County dairy farmer channels Aldo Leopold.
Woodworking by Night
By Karey Solomon
Nelson Janowski’s love of wood brings new growth to Nel’s Tractor.
30 Dinner with Napoleon By Cornelius O'Donnell
Before Waterloo there was Marengo (and chicken).
34 Back of the Mountain By Linda Stager
20 Mangia Bene!
Legions of lupines.
By Mike Cutillo The brothers Spaziana keep on cooking at Lib’s Supper Club.
Cover by Gwen Button, cover photo Dave and Katie Taylor of Coudersport and their children, Jude and Mary Kate by Jeff Fetzer, Tri-County REC; (from top) Jeff Fetzer, Tri-County REC; courtesy Dean Jackson (pictured); courtesy Joe Spaziani (pictured).
w w w. m o u n ta i n h o m e m ag . co m Editors & Publishers Teresa Banik Capuzzo Michael Capuzzo Associate Publisher George Bochetto, Esq. D i r e c t o r o f O pe r a t i o n s Gwen Button Managing Editor Gayle Morrow S a l e s R ep r e s e n t a t i v e s Joseph Campbell, Robin Ingerick, Richard Trotta Circulation Director Michael Banik Accounting Amy Packard Cover Design Gwen Button Contributing Writers Maggie Barnes, Mike Cutillo, Ann E. Duckett, Melissa Farenish, Lilace Mellin Guignard, Carrie Hagen, Lisa Howeler, Don Knaus, Janet McCue, Dave Milano, Cornelius O’Donnell, Brendan O’Meara, David O’Reilly, Jan Smith, Karey Solomon, Beth Williams C o n t r i b u t i n g P h o t o g r ap h e r s Bernadette Chiaramonte, Diane Cobourn, Michael Johnston, Nigel P. Kent, Roger Kingsley, Beate Mumper, Peter Rutt, Jody Shealer, Wendy Snyder, Deb Stafford, Linda Stager, Curt Sweely, Sarah Wagaman, Curt Weinhold, Ardath Wolcott, Deb Young D i s t r i b u t i o n T eam Layne Conrad, Grapevine Distribution, Duane Meixel, Linda Roller, Phil Waber T h e B ea g l e Nano Cosmo (1996-2014) • Yogi (2004-2018) ABOUT US: Mountain Home is the award-winning regional magazine of PA and NY with more than 100,000 readers. The magazine has been published monthly, since 2005, by Beagle Media, LLC, 39 Water Street, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, 16901, and online at www.mountainhomemag.com. Copyright © 2020 Beagle Media, LLC. All rights reserved. E-mail story ideas to editorial@mountainhomemag. com, or call (570) 724-3838. TO ADVERTISE: E-mail email@example.com, or call us at (570) 724-3838. AWARDS: Mountain Home has won over 100 international and statewide journalism awards from the International Regional Magazine Association and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association for excellence in writing, photography, and design. DISTRIBUTION: Mountain Home is available “Free as the Wind” at hundreds of locations in Tioga, Potter, Bradford, Lycoming, Union, and Clinton counties in PA and Steuben, Chemung, Schuyler, Yates, Seneca, Tioga, and Ontario counties in NY. SUBSCRIPTIONS: For a one-year subscription (12 issues), send $24.95, payable to Beagle Media LLC, 39 Water Street, Wellsboro, PA 16901 or visit www.mountainhomemag.com.
The Prize Goes to Hope and Optimism By Michael Capuzzo
ry a thought experiment. It’s an effective new method to stay sane in an insane world, from the positive psychology movement that came out of the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980s. Ready? Think about coronavirus. There’s a bad thought. Now give yourself a little vacation. Forget all about the pandemic for a moment. Instead think about these things: 1. An Elmira boy made it to the big leagues with a ninety-mile-an-hour fastball, about as fast as a human can throw a baseball, then came home to teach English and coach young people, his true love. 2. As Adolph Hitler carved up the map of Europe, the Allies’ blockade prevented America’s Christmas ornaments, which were made then in German small hill towns, from reaching our shores. A small Pennsylvania hill town produced all the ornaments in the U.S.A., saving Christmas during World War II. 3. A young man from a small town (pop. 3,239) left home for New York City, which devours all kinds of naïve dreamers. The small-town boy made Forbes magazine as a brilliant entrepreneur before he was thirty. 4. A young couple, both of them from farm families, decide they’ll make a life as dairy farmers, even if the twenty-first century doesn’t agree. They make it work by starting a farm camp for kids to teach the wonders of rural life. Feeling any better? You should be, according to a fascinating new book by New York Times science columnist John Tierney, The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule it. Tierney’s co-author is research psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, a leader of the positive psychology movement, who says abundant research shows that people need to think at least three good thoughts, four to be safe, to drive out a bad one. Here’s another good thought if I may share it. Mountain Home recently won eight prestigious Keystone Awards from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association for the best journalism in the state in 2019. Our writer Carrie Hagen won a first-place award for her story on Jason Black of Wellsboro. He’s the small-town boy who made Forbes magazine as one of the country’s top young entrepreneurs. Carrie won another first-place prize for “The Town
That Saved Christmas (Again).” That’s Wellsboro, during WWII. She took a third prize for her story on local Vietnam hero John Hummel. Our writer Brendan O’Meara won an award for his story on Matt Burch, the Elmira Heights pitcher who played in the Kansas City Royals system and came home to teach at Corning-Painted Post High School. Two gifted photographers, Sara Wagaman and Linda Stager, took first and second place in feature photography. Jan Smith won a business writing award for her story on inspiring young Tioga County farmers Tuck and Vanessa Hess and their farm kids camp. Our staff also won a prize for headline writing. Positive psychology, Baumeister says, is a reaction to a century of negative psychology since Freud that focused on what was wrong with us. Positive psychologists research what we do right, how we make it through the day, and a good life. Baumeister says the relentless bad news coming from politicians and media, long before the pandemic, has grown into a “crisis industry” of unprecedented force that overstates our conflicts and underplays the facts of how people get along, neglects the truth of how we survive and flourish in the real world. Mountain Home has now won more than 150 state and international journalism awards for a kind of positive journalism. We love our beautiful region, and we tell the stories of folks like this month’s cover story by Carrie Hagen about Craig Eccher and Bill Gerski, who are bringing high-speed Internet and opportunity to our remotest rural areas. Or folks like David and Marla Nowacoski, who came home from Wall Street to a Bradford County farm to start Delivered Fresh to bring organic food from farm to table—May’s cover story by David O’Reilly. Now the couple wears masks and gloves as they deliver door-to-door across the region to meet an urgent need. They work day and night, a real struggle at times, delivering the freshest food with a smile or an encouraging word, a side dish of hope and optimism. Turns out, according to the very latest psychological research, that’s how we get through everything.
Sarah Wagaman 5
High-Speed in the Hinterlands Tri-Co Connections Brings Broadband Internet to the Mountains By Carrie Hagen
his past March, college freshman Tristan Byron chose to remain on campus when Mansfield University moved classes online to thwart the spread of COVID-19. As most of his classmates left to finish the semester at their homes downstate, Tristan knew his chances for maintaining good grades were better at Mansfield, where he had high-speed Internet access, than back in Genesee, along the New York/Pennsylvania border in Potter County, where his family had unreliable satellite service.
“I didn’t go home at first because of the Internet issue,” he says. “There is Internet [in Genesee], but it’s a little bit harder to access when you live a mile up a dirt road.” As social isolation protocol grew and campus restrictions tightened, Tristan, nineteen, grew tired of being one of approximately forty-eight students huddled inside a dorm complex built for several hundred. So he returned home, relying on the mobile hotspot he could set up with his phone to access his twenty-one credits of coursework. See Internet on page 8
Courtesy Jeff Fetzer, Tri-County REC
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Internet continued from page 6
Tristan’s professors handled remote teaching differently, with some emailing videos for students to watch, others relying on reading assessments, and others employing Zoom meetings to engage the class in discussions. All exams, of course, were online. During one timed assessment, Tristan’s Internet connection failed and he just missed the allotted time to upload his answers. The professor was understanding and let him resubmit. What has been more difficult for him to complete from home is his Army National Guard service. After graduating from Northern Potter High School, he joined the Army and completed basic training before beginning his first semester at Mansfield this spring and serving in the Army National Guard. Amidst the pandemic, the Army replaced mandatory monthly weekend reporting with online course training. Spotty Internet service and slow download speeds delayed Tristan’s course module. It took him eight hours to complete assignments that should have only taken him three. “High-speed Internet,” he says with frustration, “would save me hours of time.” • In 2019, the Center for Rural Pe n n s y l v a n i a a n d t h e Fe d e r a l Communications Commission reported that approximately 800,000 of Pennsylvania’s citizens (6 percent of the population) don’t have high-speed Internet access. Over 500,000 of these people live in rural parts of the state. Last month, Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative launched an ambitious, six-year program that aims to change the state of poor Internet connectivity in north central Pennsylvania: through its telecommunications subsidiary TriCo Connections, the cooperative is bringing fiber-optic broadband—the fastest of Internet connections—to its membership across 5,000 square miles and seven counties. Aimed at increasing economic opportunities and improving livelihoods in rural Pennsylvania by putting people in touch with better healthcare, educational resources, and professional prospects, Tri-County’s
effort faced historic and herculean challenges prior to the pandemic that sent America into greater social isolation. Internet access first came to homes and businesses in north central Pennsylvania through phone lines that facilitated “dial-up” connections. After plugging one end of a telephone line into a computer and the other into a telephone jack, users would dial a number that connected them online. Dial-up access faded in the mid-2000s with the rise of “broadband,” a word that essentially means “constantly connected online” through a wireless service that uses radio waves. Broadband customers have routers inside that connect their computer devices into a network, and modems that send signals between this network and the Internet. (When Internet connections drop—or crash, as some people say—often the modem needs to be reset to again find the right signal.) Cable broadband uses cable television wires to connect customers who share bandwidth, the capacity to process and transfer data. So while customers receive fast access at some points in the day, speeds can slow dramatically during peak hours when more people need service. Most Internet users in north central Pennsylvania have access through satellite service or DSL. Satellite—often the slowest option and largely dependent upon good weather—is available almost anywhere and at times the only choice for families like Tristan Byron’s who live outside of cellular service. DSL (which stands for digital subscriber line) is the most common form of Internet access in the world. Transmitting signals through unused telephone wires, DSL-based broadband goes directly into each consumer’s home. Its speed, however, is often affected by the distance between someone’s home and the Internet Service Provider station (ISP). The further one lives from their service ISP, the slower the speed. • For two years, Katie Taylor of Coudersport experienced DSL’s shortcomings. Potter County’s only drug and alcohol prevention specialist, Taylor lives in a remote area with her two young schoolaged children and her husband, Dave, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Time and again, when she went to log into an online meeting, her connection would fail. “It would crash multiple times a day,” Katie says. “One day I literally reset my modem twenty times.” Leona Hilfiger understands the frustration. She has served as the office manager at the Carpenter Shop in Ulysses for nearly six years. A family-owned business for decades, the woodworking shop is known for its custom millwork and precision wood products. Leona says that most of the store’s orders and customer communication is facilitated online. “There are no phone calls anymore,” she laughs. “Pictures, drawings, and the profile of molds are hard to communicate over the phone.” At one point, the Carpenter Shop had satellite Internet, and it now uses Verizon DSL. Service is “intermittent,” Leona says, often requiring her to wait minutes before loading and sending emails. Internet speed is dependent upon how much data can be sent and received—or uploaded and downloaded—per second. Sending emails or scanning websites doesn’t require very much data. Streaming movies requires more bandwidth; so does downloading songs, books, video games, and college lectures, uploading papers, See Internet on page 10
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conducting Zoom meetings, and having two or more devices using the Internet at the same time. Internet speeds of 25 Mbps (megabytes per second) should be able to handle all of these activities—if the connection isn’t interrupted because of distance between customer and ISP station, or bad weather affecting satellite reception, or too many people sharing the bandwidth at the same time. On April 7, Tri-Co Connections connected the Taylor family with 100 Mbps of broadband service. It was the first of what will be hundreds of “fiber-to-the-home” installations in Potter County over the next several months, the first phase of an $80 million plan to bring fiber-optic service to all Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative members across 5,000 square miles within the next five to six years. “Getting fiber is a game changer,” says Bill Gerski, senior vice president of Tri-Co Connections. “It crosses the digital divide and ends social and economic inequalities.” Described by many as “lighting fast”—100 times faster than average broadband service—fiber-optic connections are made through fiber-optic cables, not telephone or cable wires. To make fiber optics, engineers make fiber units about the size of hair strands from plastic or glass, bundle them together, cover them with another layer of plastic or glass material, and wrap them in two more protective casings. These cables allow laser pulses to transmit light signals, which move faster than electric ones. Fiberoptic service installation is expensive because it requires the laying of new cables—and ones that cannot bend at that. Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative’s launch of fiberoptic broadband in north central Pennsylvania is as historic as it is unprecedented. “It has made us as an organization relevant again,” says TriCounty president and CEO Craig Eccher. “We are providing our membership with an essential service that it does not have.”
2020 CAMPGROUND ACTIVITIES
Friday Evenings: Candy Bar Bingo, Movie & Popcorn Night Saturday Mornings: Arts & Crafts, 11:00 p.m. in the pavilion ($ cost) Weekends: Wagon Rides, Card Games, and Cornhole Tournaments (depending on participation)
May 30th: STONE SOUP, 1 BETTER BAND & HORSESHOE TOURNAMENT—Saturday: 6:00 PM. Join us Saturday evening @6PM to enjoy the amazing stone soup that everyone will help prepare throughout the afternoon. Local BAND “1 BETTER” 7-10 PM. Cover charge for the band - $5.00 per person for non-campers, kids under 8 free. Sunday 10 AM: help us raise money for Camp Good Day (camp for kids with cancer) by joining us for our 1st horseshoe tournament of the season. June 6th: BIRTHDAY BASH 4-6 PM—(celebrate everyone’s birthday) & DJ Biggie Entertainment 7-10 PM June13th - 14th: Wine & Cheese gathering—enjoy our Wine (any beverage) & Cheese with your fellow campers. You bring your favorite beverage, will bring the food. June 19th-21st: SQUARE DANCERS & FATHER’S DAY PANCAKE BREAKFAST—Watch our Square Dance Club dance all weekend, they love visitors. You may be the next square dancer. Sunday: Father’s Day Breakfast: Pancakes, sausage, coffee and juice. Dads eat free! Adults $5, kids $2. 9:30 AM in the pavilion. June 27th: KICK-OFF TO SUMMER—Saturday: Join us for a Charity meet & Greet Event (4-6 PM). Commemorative Glasses for Sale, all money & donations goes to charity. During the day, we will have the slip n slide out for everyone to enjoy leading up to the Charity event Then 7-10 PM Music by Sam Pallet Band. Popular, local band playing Classic Rock music. Bring your lawn chairs and beverages to the pavilion! Cover charge for the band $5.00 per person for non-campers, kids under 8 free July 3rd–5th: 4th of JULY CELEBRATION—Saturday & Sunday enjoy our FIREWORKS, both displays at 10 PM Saturday Evening: Ice Cream Social at 7:00 PM, $1.00 for 2 scoops of ice cream and lots of toppings, followed by Camp Bell BINGO. Also, join us for Cornhole tournaments (sign up in the office). Sunday: Dance music provided by DJ Biggie Entertainment, 7-10 PM July 10th—July 12th: SAWMILL FESTIVAL & ROUND HOUSE ROCKERS—Join us Saturday & Sunday for our 5th annual Sawmill Festival. There will be lots of activities and trophies for winners from different age group and activities. We had a PHENOMENAL Time last year. More details to follow. Join us in the evening for this popular, local, country western & rock band. Cover charge for the band - $5.00 per person for non-campers, kids under 8 free. July 18th: DEATH BY CHOCOLATE & KARAOKE—Join us Saturday afternoon for Wine & Art event, then in the
evening 6 PM for endless CHOCOLATE. Everyone can bring their favorite chocolate item. We will all share and die by chocolate. Followed by a fun evening of karaoke with DJ Biggie. July 25th: WENDY OWENS MUSIC with JIM ANDERSON—Join us in the evening 7-10 PM for this popular, local band. Cover charge for the band – $5.00 per person for non-campers, kids under 8 free. August 8th: CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST—Celebrate with Santa. Saturday: 11:30 AM, lunch and photo with Santa ($4.00). Followed by arts & craft project (free) and then a wagon ride to the ice cream shop with Santa (parents must attend to purchase ice cream). In the afternoon 4-5 PM, join us for a wine (you bring) & cheese (we provide) party with Santa (adult time with Santa). 7 PM – 10 PM, Tree lighting & Dance music provided by DJ Biggie Entertainment. Aug 15th: NASCAR WEEKEND & PEDDLE CART RACES— Join us for the campground’s 2nd annual peddle cart races. Heats by age group. Prizes awarded. Watch our Square Dance Club dance all weekend, they love visitors. August 22nd: CHARITY LUAU POOL PARTY—Saturday: DJ BIGGIE (maybe a special guest appearance) for a Charity fund raising Party Time TBD. August 29th: SOUTHERN EXIT BAND—Join us for our 7-10 PM listen to this popular local Country band. Cover charge for the band - $5.00 per person for non-campers, kids under 8 free. Sept 4th -6th: LABOR DAY WEEKEND CELEBRATION— Saturday: 7:00 PM, in the pavilion Ice Cream Social $1.00 for 2 scoops of ice cream and lots of toppings, followed by Camp Bell BINGO. Also, join us Cornhole & Euchre (sign up in the office). Sunday: Dance music provided by DJ Biggie Entertainment, 7-10 PM in the rec hall. Sept 13th: HORSESHOE TOURNAMENT—Join us Sunday at 10 AM for Horseshoe Tournament to find out who is the “Best” and who gets the “Horse’s Ass” trophy. Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be sold. All money raised will be donated to our charity, “Camp Good Days” (camp for kids with cancer.) October 10h–11th: HALLOWEEN WEEKEND—Decorate your RV for the Halloween festivities and win a prize for the Most Unique. Saturday: 11:00 PM, in the pavilion, Halloween Activity, free to all kids. 2:00 PM: Trick or Treat Kid’s Parade and Costume Contest. Don’t forget to bring treats for the kids. Wagon ride at dark, weather permitting. Sunday, 7-9 PM Join us for a good old fashion Barn Dance.
Call 607-527-3001 or visit campbellcampground.com for full event listings and more information
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(4) Courtesy Hess Farm Camp
Memorial Day thru Labor Day
In the early 1930s, fewer than 6 percent of people in rural Pennsylvania had electricity, a utility enjoyed by approximately 90 percent of those living in urban centers. The Rural Free Delivery program of the postal service delivered news and magazines to farm families, and those who flipped through publications like the Saturday Evening Post would see advertisements for products they couldn’t use—like radios and refrigerators—whether or not they could afford them. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt aimed to change this in 1935, when he signed the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) into law as part of his New Deal relief program. The government hoped to build a stronger economic infrastructure in rural areas by financing electrical service and getting basic utilities to all Americans; Roosevelt’s administration hoped that by giving low-interest loans to private power companies, these businesses would extend their existing grids and recoup any expenses from their new customers—farmers. It didn’t work. Electric companies knew they wouldn’t profit from rural expansion—that’s what kept them from doing it in the first place. Especially in mountainous regions like north central Pennsylvania, too few people lived too far apart in challenging terrain for utility companies to make any return on expended resources like See Internet on page 12
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manpower and equipment. One year after Roosevelt signed REA into law, 75 percent of Pennsylvania farms still had no electricity. Frustrated with the lack of progress, farmers decided to do the work themselves. Gathering into regional cooperative groups throughout the state, they cleared land, dug holes, split rocks, erected poles, and strung wire. (In a 2008 article for Mountain Home Magazine, Joyce Tice wrote of her uncle, Homer Tice, who dug holes for electric poles in Rutland and Sullivan Townships using only a nine-foot shovel and a nine-foot crowbar.) Recognizing the reach and motivation of the farmers’ grassroots movement, the government quickly reorganized its plan and channeled REA monies through the cooperatives. Within five years, underserved rural residents united into fourteen electric cooperatives organized under the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association (PREA). Farmers recruited consumers by going from farm to farm, explaining to skeptics how indoor appliances, running water, and radio could not only improve lives but also aid production. Early cooperative customers paid a usage fee of two dollars a month. And for community organizations that couldn’t afford installation, members held fundraisers like ice cream socials at the Elk Run Methodist Church. Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative incorporated in Mansfield during the late fall of 1936 as one of the fourteen member groups under PREA. Today it provides electricity to parts of seven counties: Tioga, Potter, Bradford, Lycoming, Clinton, McKean, and Cameron. And eighty-four years after its founders brought electricity to their communities, Tri-County has become the first of the rural electric cooperatives (which together serve more than 230,000 households and businesses and over 600,000 consumers) to bring what has become another utility denied to underserved populations because of cost and access: high-speed Internet. “Our goal is to end the educational, economic, and social inequalities that exist between rural and urban communities,” says Bill Gerski. “To break down the digital divide. Craig Eccher admits he didn’t know much about telecommunications when members of the cooperative started mentioning the discontent they had with their Internet connections in the late 1990s. “I’m an electric and natural gas guy,” he says. “This is a whole different ball game.” He knew that broadband did exist in rural Pennsylvania, but only in pockets, and there was inadequate equipment to provide a reliable Internet network to the residents, business owners, and tourists who needed it. If he wanted to help Tri-County’s members, he needed help. And he knew who to ask. Craig reached out to long-time professional acquaintance Bill Gerski, a former cable executive who had worked with Time Warner, Viacom, DirecTV, and Sirius Satellite Radio before moving to Las Vegas and opening a nightclub. Bill’s wife had family in Coudersport, and when he would visit the area, he and Craig would get together for a beer and trade business stories. Craig would talk about electrics and acquisitions, and Bill would talk about cable trends. More than once, Bill had mentioned opportunities opening up for electric companies to enter the telecommunications game.
Bill says that fiber-optic installation offers a “perfect opportunity for electric companies in rural areas.” Because the companies already own the poles, they have an essential piece of the infrastructure. “It sounds complicated, but really we put up the poles, wire the strands of fiber, and drop them down into houses.” Craig Eccher encouraged Bill to move back East, intriguing him with the opportunity to troubleshoot the challenges of providing affordable high-speed Internet to Tri-County’s membership. The main obstacles were those faced by the cooperative’s founders eighty years before: cost and terrain. In 2016, Craig’s team did a feasibility study to identify the financial cost of providing the 5,000 square miles of territory that TriCounty facilitated with fiber-optic cables. “The return of investment was not great,” says Craig, on building an infrastructure through territory that hosted 5.8 homes per mile. But they didn’t give up. And their passion was shared by someone at the highest echelon of state politics: Governor Tom Wolf. Noting the high cost of broadband infrastructure across Pennsylvania’s mountainous topography, Governor Wolf introduced a proposal in early 2019 aimed at helping municipalities purchase and install needed technology. Restore Pennsylvania— still on the floor of the state legislature—is a $4.5 billion bipartisan proposal that provides funds to “bridge the digital divide” across the state through a severance tax on the natural gas industry. “One of the biggest challenges holding back Pennsylvania’s economy is lack of universal broadband access,” said Governor Wolf in announcing the Restore PA proposal. Sheri Collins is the Acting Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Broadband Initiative. Having spent thirtyfour years working in state government, she says that broadband access is a priority on “everyone’s” list. The problem is expanding it affordably across the parts of Pennsylvania’s “thick canopy” that present the strongest mobile connectivity challenges. “Superintendents, students, commissioners, advocates,” says Sheri, “all want to be supportive and work to help. But they still have to demonstrate a profit.” According to her, the Restore Pennsylvania proposal reflected the “first time that a [Pennsylvania] governor has stepped up and said, ‘we are going to create an effort like this.’” The thinking behind the bill was that it would “gather resources to address our most critical issues in blight-ridden parts of the state.” And although the bill hasn’t passed, its conversations have put companies like Tri-County Electric in touch with the financial resource opportunities it needed to ease investment risks. “Federal programs are out there to help,” says Sheri. “But organizations have to overcome barriers. There are a lot of hurdles to jump.” The main hurdle for Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative was finding a way to lessen the cost of its vision. Estimates showed a price tag of $80 million. So, under Craig’s leadership, the TriCounty team went to work on bringing in one grant at a time. It received $17.1 million from PennDot, $2.5 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission, and $33 million in subsidies from the Federal Communications Commission made available to eligible providers that could expand broadband in underserved areas. The cooperative also received $1.5 million from the state of See Internet on page 14
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Pennsylvania for the first phase of its six-year project: constructing 103 miles of above-ground fiber so that Potter County consumers near Coudersport could have reliable high-speed Internet. Phase One of Tri-County’s buildout started in November 2019. Five months later, the company had constructed approximately sixty miles of fiber-optic cables, over half of what it would need to build to provide broadband service to between 1,100 and 1,400 residential, seasonal, and commercial members. The timing couldn’t have been more essential for Katie Taylor’s family. Nearly three weeks after Governor Wolf ordered the closure of non life-sustaining businesses to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Taylor household became the first in the Coudersport area to receive high-speed fiber Internet service. Now Katie can participate with uninterrupted service on online work calls while her daughter uses Google Classroom for schoolwork. Essential connections: Sheri Collins says that she is “hopeful that (from top) Tristan Byron initially stayed on campus this COVID-19 pandemic will shape policy and during the lockdown discussion.” Without the ability or opportunity to because of the Internet physically engage, more Americans than ever are connection; Bill Gerski (left) struggling with two things that in some ways seem and Craig Eccher inspect very different: isolation and occupation. the box bringing the fiber-
(2) Courtesy Jeff Fetzer, Tri-County REC
optic cable into the Taylor home; Bill Gerski at a Seniors 2 Seniors session at the Coudersport Senior Citizens Center.
For some time, Tri Co Connections has fostered a program called Seniors 2 Seniors, during which high school seniors help senior citizens understand technology so that they can benefit from online services such as tele-health appointments and video visits. Now, says Bill Gerski, the pandemic has only accelerated the need for people of all ages to have more virtual tools at their fingertips, and—especially for families that have multiple members at home—the ability to access these tools from more than one device at a time. “We’ve also got to retain our youth,” says Bill. Tri-County is counting on broadband access to attract young adults with lifestyle and professional opportunities that they are otherwise leaving the area to pursue. Back in Genesee, Tristan Byron agrees that the arrival of fiber optics “is definitely going to be a good thing.” As far as keeping young adults in the area, though, he says fiber-optic Internet access is going to have to do one thing in particular. “I think it could help, but it’s going to have to find a way to make more jobs around here other than manual labor. People with mechanical experience can find things, but there isn’t much more.” Right now, as an MU freshman and a member of the Army National Guard, Tristan plans to graduate from college, finish his Army service, and get a federal job, perhaps as a fishery biologist, somewhere out of the area. The Internet will probably help him find that job. And, says Bill Gerski, “High-speed broadband just may bring him back home.” To pre-register for fiber-optic service, visit tricoconnections. com or call (833)-822-2010.
Inspired and haunted by true stories, IRMA and Keystone Awardwinning writer Carrie Hagen is the author of We Is Got Him: The Kidnapping that Changed America. She lives in Philadelphia.
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(4) Courtesy Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy
Close to home: enjoying nature is a great way to distance, and NPC conserves properties for everyone to enjoy, including (clockwise from top left) Avis canoe launch in Clinton County, CCSWA wetlands in Clinton County, Irion ponds in Tioga County, and Laning Creek in Bradford County.
The Nature of Conservation
Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy Celebrates Thirty By Gayle Morrow
here do you turn when you need a nature fix? Maybe it’s nearby public land where you enjoy trails and wildlife and pristine streams. If you’re lucky, maybe it’s your own green fields or wooded hillsides. When people are asked to “stick close to home,” as they have the past few months, says Reneé Carey, executive director of the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, there seems to be an increase in outdoor recreation. “We’re creating places that people appear to turn to,” she continues, “and that has been one of the things we’re most proud of.” They’ve been doing it for thirty years, and she’s been the executive director for twenty-five of those.
NPC got its start in 1989 when some like-minded folks in the area saw the need to unify the conservation efforts of many into one organization that could act quickly and efficiently. The Williamsport-Lycoming Foundation provided the seed money, and NPC was incorporated in 1990. Its first land purchase was 117 acres along Pine Creek in Lycoming County in 1991. Known as the Townsend Acquisition, it was subsequently sold to the state Bureau of Forestry and is now part of the Tiadaghton State Forest. NPC facilitated a similar purchase and transfer in 2016 when a 132-acre parcel along the northern section of the Pine Creek rail trail, adjacent to Marsh Creek Road,
became available. It happened fast, Reneé remembers. The privately owned property in Delmar Township was to be auctioned, and the Bureau of Forestry contacted NPC to ask if it could try to buy the land. Within seventy-two hours, it had. When the auction was over, and NPC found itself the new owner, Reneé immediately called two of the founding members to thank them. It was their foresight, she says, that enabled the organization to be “nimble” enough to step in on such short notice and be the successful bidder. Ownership of the parcel, now known as the Cavanaugh Access, has since been transferred to the Bureau of Forestry. The land is protected from development, and serves
as a wetlands conservation area, a place for wildlife to move between the nearby woods, Marsh Creek, and the wetlands, and serves as a “huge sponge” that helps keep Pine Creek cool in the summer. Plus, it also gives people another public spot to access the rail trail. It’s not just public land that NPC helps protect and conserve, however. For Lou Irion and his family, Tioga County residents who own and operate Irion Lumber, a specialty hardwood business (irionlumber.com), putting about 80 percent of their property into a conservation easement in 2004 with NPC meant they’d never have to worry about it being developed. “We consider the land a part of our family,” says Lou. “We try to act as stewards. We have this opportunity to make sure it stays open; development rights are taken out of the equation. We don’t want to give up control, but we want to leave it in the best possible condition.” Lou explains that the easement he and his family worked out with NPC allows them to use the land, log it, farm it, even erect agriculture-related structures on it, but “we’re legally bound to not build on it.” And that was the protection they wanted. Prior to
entering into the easement agreement, Lou and his wife, Wanda, set aside two chunks of property—one for each of their two kids to build their own homes on if they wanted to (they did)—but the “bulk of the land is pretty much left to nature.” It’s not only shelter and breeding areas for wildlife, but it’s a hundred-plus acres of living area for those creatures that is not fragmented. “It’s been a really good relationship,” Lou says of the association with NPC. “You work with them to tailor it [the easement] to your needs.” Renee explains that one of the first steps for anyone interested in pursuing any type of land protection through NPC is a conversation. There is paperwork, and a site visit, but “we always emphasize that they [the property owner] are under no obligation.” “I don’t think it’s a difficult process,” she says. What’s in store for NPC’s next thirty years? “I think public access [to public land] is huge,” Reneé notes, adding there might be ways to make it easier for people to do that. “It’s also important that people have more of an understanding of the services that
nature provides.” Keeping watersheds clean and available as a natural water filtration network, for instance, is critical, as “it is a lot easier and cheaper” than building water treatment systems. “Most of the counties we work with have active Conservation Districts, and we partner with them and their events,” Reneé continues, but those activities have been temporarily put on hold. Even the thirtieth anniversary dinner celebration has been postponed. And, while many of the conservation easements are donated, as are some properties, the organization must generally take out a loan when money must change hands. “The big thing for us in the next year is we’re definitely paying attention to finances,” she notes. “We recognize there are economic stressors.” There are fourteen counties in which NPC operates, including Bradford, Lycoming, Potter, Sullivan, and Tioga. To see all the properties under NPC care, or for more information about how land trust and land protection works, visit npcweb.org or call (570) 323-6222.
(3) Gayle Morrow
Rooted in Magic By Gayle Morrow
R.R. Tolkien tells us that Ents, those slow-moving, tree-like beings in his Lord of the Rings series, are the oldest living things that walk Middle-earth. One of my favorite scenes in The Two Towers, the second movie in Peter Jackson’s trilogy, is when Treebeard, the oldest of the old, finally gets angry enough about the evil Saruman’s ongoing destruction of trees to marshal his fellow Ents and destroy Isengard. With their ire properly roused, the Ents are able to break apart dams and walls; using their great limbs to heave enormous chunks of stone at their enemies, they wreak well-deserved havoc on the bad guys. Legend has it that Ents were created to be “Shepherds of the Trees,” but it’s hard to know if they’re trees that have become humans or humans that have become trees. Ents come in all shapes and sizes, and they often resemble the specific kinds of trees they are charged with shepherding, or protecting—oaks or firs or rowans or whathave-you. They have bark-like skin, rootresembling fingers and feet, and their hair 18
and beards are described as bushy, twiggy, and mossy, making personal grooming perhaps something of a challenge. At least they can walk away when the need arises. Ents’ rooted-to-one-spot counterparts, however, don’t have any options other than to make the best of where they find themselves. The ways they manage to do that are as magical as anything you might encounter in the forest of Fangorn. You’ve seen them yourself—trees embracing rocks, trees eking out a living from cracks and crevasses and nothing but thin air, trees clinging with gnarled roots and tenacity to eroding creeksides and crumbling road banks. How do they do that? I didn’t know any Ents to pose the question to, so I resorted to Google and typed in “tree roots.” Root growth, it turns out, is opportunistic. Roots go where they can find what they need—water, nutrients, and oxygen—and the tree, unless it is on its way to becoming an Ent, has no choice but to hope they’re successful. There is no
such thing as a shallow-rooted species or a deep-rooted species. Trees can grow deep roots, but root architecture is, well, rooted in climate conditions and in soil. Shallow, compacted soil will eliminate deep roots, but the tree still grows. Different species tolerate variations—good and bad—in soil structure, chemistry, and oxygen availability (thank you arnoldia.arboretum.harvard. edu), and the tree still grows. According to some older studies—the ones that talk about the “square units of leaf surface” and the “grams of root present in a vertical column of soil”—trees such as oak that have large diameter xylem vessels (something akin to our own blood vessels) also have direct connections between a given root and a particular set of branches. Which leads to another interesting factoid: the roots of some forest trees sneak out beyond the canopy of their own limbs and intermingle with roots of neighboring trees. Are they chatting? Planning a move? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
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Courtesy Mighty St. Joe’s Champion clan: The Jackson family proudly display their Leopold Conservation award at the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show. Pictured are (front row, from left) Katie Root, Regina Jackson, Dean Jackson, Rebecca Jackson, Brooke Ward, Courtney, Eric, and Lynlee Foster; (back row) Zach Root, Kyle Jackson, Dinah Jones, and Clark Jackson.
Thinking Like a Field
A Bradford County Dairy Farmer Channels Aldo Leopold By Lilace Mellin Guignard
e think of a farm as a place for breeding a particular type of animal or producing a specific crop under the control of one owner or manager. A dairy farm, for instance, is a place that breeds cows for the purpose of producing milk. Following the law of modifiers set by the dictionary definition, a family farm must be a place for producing families. At Mt-Glen Farms in Bradford County this has certainly been the case. Three-going-on-four generations of Jacksons have farmed 900 acres in Columbia Crossroads. But Dean Jackson doesn’t see himself as controlling the cows or crops anymore than he can control the weather. Or his family. “I’m a cowman,” he tells me one evening, “but I’m a conservationist first. If I see a spot of erosion, I want to do something about it.” His voice holds the tired satisfaction of a person who has spent his day doing something good and noble. The Jacksons were awarded the Leopold Conservation Award in 2019, which recognizes farmers, ranchers, and foresters in twenty states who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on private, working 20
land. They were recognized in January at the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, where they were given $10,000 and a crystal award. The award is given by the Heinz Endowments, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, and Sand County Foundation. The award honors Aldo Leopold—a hunter, forester, professor, and writer—who was one of the leading conservationists of the twentieth century. His essay “The Land Ethic” calls for us to expand our understanding of community to include animals, plants, streams, hills—everything. He writes, “In human history, we have learned (I hope) that the conqueror role is eventually selfdefeating.” “I know exactly what he means,” Dean tells me after I read him that quote. “A conqueror wants to squeeze every dollar out of every acre, pushing the ground to yield as much as possible by pumping fertilizer in. That’s not right.” Dean is very much aware that his farm is both a way of life and a business. The bloodline of their Holstein herd is internationally recognized, and, even during the pandemic, bull sales have not slowed for them. Yet they’ve felt the effects. There is less
demand for extra cattle. In May he’ll only be paid full price for 85 percent of his milk. The price for the other 15 percent is unknown, as is the price for milk or crops in the following months. He’s not alone. Family farms were facing a range of struggles even before COVID-19 came along. Most farms in Pennsylvania are family-owned, and there are 300 family dairy farms just in Bradford County. But something does set Dean apart. His conservation practices like no-till farming have made it cheaper to operate. “When you have the efficiencies in place, you can handle hard times like this,” he says. “We are more sustainable economically as well.” But those practices take time to implement. In 2002 Mt-Glen switched to 100 percent no-till after Dean became more aware of the damage from tires constantly driving over the field to plow, disk, and spray. Now their cycle starts in fall after harvesting the corn, soybeans, oats, or wheat. When the stubble is still on the ground he plants a cover crop right away in hopes of getting several inches of growth before winter. He covers this with liquid manure that feeds the cover crop. The cover crop suppresses weed growth and
improves soil fertility. Come spring, Dean sprays and lets the crop die down and rot, feeding the worms and adding to the topsoil’s organic matter. Then he plants his cash crop right over it. This way the field is always covered, retaining and absorbing moisture and minimizing erosion. Now that he only needs a 65-horsepower tractor and sprayer, he has cut down on fuel use and time by three-quarters. “It’s unbelievable!” he tells me. Dean has put many other conservation practices in place, including: adopting a nutrient management plan, rotational grazing, installing solar panels on his shed that supply two-thirds of their energy, establishing grass borders around crop fields, managing manure, and planting pin oaks and evergreens along Mill Creek to provide wildlife habitat and more runoff absorption. Conservation is in his blood, and every breeder knows how important bloodlines are. Dean’s grandfather, Scott Jackson, started cooperating with the Bradford County Conservation District soon after it was established, creating a plan in 1965 that included land renovation, contour strip cropping, surface water diversion, and hedgerow planting. Dean’s father, Ben, constructed their first manure storage facilities. Dean saw firsthand how important it is to build a relationship with the land and the local conservation district. “First thing I’d tell a new farmer is don’t turn your back on the government. They know what other farmers in your area are doing, can help you improve your operation, and pay you to do what’s best for the land and your business.” Now Dean and Rebecca’s children are involved with the operation. Katie is herd manager. She and her husband live just down the road. Son Kyle graduated from Mansfield University in 2019 with a degree in environmental science. Throughout college he worked on the farm when he could, and now works helping landowners solve water issues. “I guess he got more the conservation side of me than the farming,” Dean jokes. Their oldest daughter, Courtney, lives in Maryland, and youngest son, Clark, graduated from Penn Tech and is looking for work in construction management. He’s been handy to have around the farm. “I tell my kids, no matter where they are, they’ll always have one foot on this ground. No other place will ever mean more. It’s the love of the soil.” When asked to describe himself, Dean says he’s blessed and grateful. Aldo Leopold wrote about learning to think like a mountain, to take a long and deep view of the interconnections of all animal and plant life, as well as the rocks, soils, and streams. This realization came in the 1920s, the same decade Scott Jackson established MtGlen Farms. I listen to Dean describe the soil below the surface full of worm channels that allow roots to grow unimpeded, soil with room to soak up the rain instead of it running off and carrying topsoil into Mill Creek. Mill Creek hugs the northeastern edge of the farm, flows south to Mt. Pisgah State Park, and fills Stephen Foster Lake where people come to fish. This conversation is not what I expected from a dairy farmer. Dean talks far more about feeding the worms than feeding his cows. Here, I realize, is a man who thinks like a field. Leopold would be proud. Lilace Mellin Guignard raises her kids in Wellsboro, teaches at Mansfield University, writes about women outdoors, gets wild with community theatre, and shakes things up at Sunday school.
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Karey Solomon Repurposed purpose: Nelson Janowski holds a slab of wood that will be used to highlight a wedding cake.
Tractors by Day, Woodworking by Night Nelson Janowski’s Love of Wood Brings New Growth to Nel’s Tractor By Karey Solomon
everal hundred small tractors, lawn mowers, and various other implements for taming vegetation, repositioning snow, and/or conducting construction projects are displayed outside and in at Nel’s Tractor, at 3611 Watkins Road (State Route 14) in Pine Valley, New York. When you look past them you’ll see large, beautifully grained slabs of natural wood leaning against an outer wall of the shop behind the tractors. Above them, if you look you’ll see a small sign modestly suggesting those interested might look within for finished pieces.
And inside, past rows of shiny red and yellow tractors, mowers, and other engine-driven necessities are gleaming tabletops and finished live-edge slabs. On the unfinished base of a treadle sewing machine rests a shiny, chocolate-hued oval of walnut, its dark heartwood encircled by the golden sapwood. About four feet across, it’s intended to serve as a platter for a wedding cake. Nelson Janowski, the “Nel,” behind the business, began making these last year. He’s always loved wood, but when he opened the tractor sales and repair business
here in 1981, it was a pursuit he laid aside. “My grandparents always had logs around,” he says, explaining the arts of working with wood were passed down through both sides of his family. His father worked in a sawmill. When something was needed, someone in the family built it. Nel himself had a collection of logs he saved until, in 1999, he built his own home. To check this achievement off his bucket list, he hired sawyers with a portable sawmill to turn his logs into lumber. The experience rekindled his love of woodworking, though See Woodworking on page 24
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From forest to table: large logs transform into beautiful platters and tables.
Woodworking continued from page 22
he kept it damped down until 2017, when he built his own sawmill and a shop to house the machinery and keep the wood under cover. “Most sawmills work with logs twentyeight to thirty inches in diameter. But no one builds a sawmill for the big stuff,” he says, then explains why he did just that. He designed his own sawmill so he can operate it entirely by himself. “The tractor business I do with other people, but I was looking for something I could do by myself.” And because he can handle unusually large pieces of wood—“The largest I can do is seventy-one inches across”—people who have to down a large tree are referred to him. He’s become regionally known in the logging industry. One huge walnut tree yielded eight “live edge” tabletops, each revealing the full glory of the grain. “Live edge” means the irregular edge of the wood beneath the bark, formed as the tree grew, isn’t planed away but is gently finished to retain its character as an organic, natural feature. After letting the slabs dry, then sanding them smooth, he finishes them with epoxy resin, which yields a tough, high-gloss finish while filling in any gaps or cracks in the wood. “We don’t have defects, we have character,” he says. Incidentally, he still has at least three of them left. In some smaller pieces, he’s tried out colored epoxy, which gives a stained24
glass effect. “I was playing,” he says. He points out an end-grain tabletop slab whose large diameter is the result of three original sapling trees that grew together and eventually fused into one large tree. “It’s a monkey face,” he jokes. Squint and you’ll see a face in the arrangement of tree rings. He’s created vanities, benches, coffee tables, trays, and more. He tried making chairs but didn’t enjoy the process—“Too much work,” is his verdict. “Tables are the biggest thing—coffee tables, kitchen tables, countertops, and bar-tops,” he says. “I’ll custom build to what people want. Vanities are more popular now because a lot of people are doing just a farm-style counter with legs.” He built his sawmill as a way of looking ahead toward retirement—he’s sixty-four now—when he decides to step back from the tractor business. Two sons are already involved, so he knows when he does lighten his shop schedule he’ll be leaving things in capable hands. For now, at the end of the day, when he puts down the tools used for tractor repair, he walks to the sawmill a few hundred feet behind his main shop and spends a few glorious hours before supper working by himself with wood. Here a long slab of bark serves as a welcome mat outside two large sliding barn doors. The bandsaw, twenty-six feet long and two inches wide, is looped into an oval cutting machine. He does his own
sharpening, but he has several replacement blades nearby just in case. Because he’s created a way of working with very large trees, loggers, construction workers, and highway crews bring him wood. “It’s out there and people know I’m looking for that stuff,” he says. A wedding platter—still large for a single piece of wood but smaller than his largest tabletops—costs between $100 to $200. The bride’s and groom’s names, the date of their wedding, and any other designs they want might be engraved on its surface before finishing, a job Nel hands off to someone else at additional cost. Some couples decorate their platter themselves; one couple had their guests sign the platter with magic marker before the finish was applied, using it as a more permanent guest book. “They can use that for tabletop, or wall hanging,” he says—either way it’s a tangible souvenir of the day after serving as a sturdy platter for a momentous cake. A large platter might also, he notes, be a beautiful way to commemorate a significant anniversary. For more information about wedding platters, tabletops, or engine-driven equipment, contact Nel at (607) 796-9087. Karey Solomon is a freelance writer and needlework designer who teaches internationally.
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Courtesy Joe Spaziani Sibling success: owners (and brothers) Bob Spaziani (left) and Chef Joe SpazianI bring fine dining and family to Elmira.
The Brothers Spaziani Keep on Cooking at Lib’s Supper Club By Mike Cutillo
oe and Bob Spaziani learned all about feeding lots of people from their Italian grandmother while growing up in Elmira. “She had nine kids,” Joe says. “She used to make polenta and the kids would get around the pasta board. She would put the board right on the table and put the polenta on it with the sauce over it and the meatballs and the sausage, and the kids would just get around and just eat their way to the middle.” He laughs, remembering those good old days as if they were yesterday. These days—in fact for the last four decades—the two Spaziani brothers have been serving thousands of diners a week as co-owners of the Queen City’s iconic Lib’s Supper Club, which covers 10,000 square feet, seats 350, and will almost double that capacity when a new banquet room opens soon. And it all started with grandma, who came to America from Morolo, Italy, a small village about fifty miles south of Rome,
unable to speak a lick of English. “She was a very, very good cook. She always taught us how to cook, and especially how to eat,” Joe says. “She cooked a lot of pasta, gnocchis, cavatelli, the stuff like that. She had a garden that was bigger than Lib’s. Every day she’d be out working on her garden, and we’d have to go help her out.” That family background—bolstered for Joe by an education at the renowned Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and hands-on apprenticeships at five-star restaurants in Florida and New York City—led the Spazianis to Lib’s. Like those meatballs in the middle of the polenta, Lib’s is in the middle of Elmira at 106 West 5th Street, a few blocks from Elmira College and maybe a half-mile north of the Chemung River. Originally a hotel, possibly as far back as the late 1800s, Joe says its name came “from a guy named Liberatore, then my uncle bought it in 1954, and he decided to keep the name.”
Later, their father bought it, but he owned it for just a short time before falling ill. Joe graduated from Elmira Free Academy and had gone on to Frederick Military Academy in Virginia, a prep school, primarily to play basketball. He later landed a scholarship at Southwest Minnesota State University, but his life took a different path when their dad got sick and needed help at Lib’s. “I had an instructor at Southwest State who graduated from the Culinary Institute,” Joe recalls. “At the time it was very, very hard to get into, but he got me in. I would go to school during the week and go home on weekends.” He graduated in 1979 after stops at top restaurants, including the famed Down Under and Casa Vecchia in Ft. Lauderdale, under restaurant pioneer Leonce Picot, who he calls his mentor. He then moved back to Elmira to cook at Lib’s full-time. In the meantime, Bob had left a good job as head See Lib’s on page 28
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Lib’s continued from page 26
(3) Courtesy Joe Spaziani
of purchasing at the Elmira Correctional Facility in 1977 to run the business side of the restaurant. Their father died in 1981, but the brothers have remained, side-by-side since ’79, first as co-owners with their aunt and uncle and then, for the last twenty years or so, as sole proprietors. “It’s like we are connected at the hips,” Joe laughs. “Even when we’re done working, I go sit on his porch and we watch the baseball game, or basketball, or football. You hear rumors about brothers fighting all over the place, and people say, ‘How do these brothers get along? They’re like gleep and gloop, they do everything together.’ A lot of people don’t have that.” Maybe that’s what makes Lib’s, which has won numerous dining awards in New York’s Southern Tier, such a success. Another thing, Joe says, is that early on the brothers changed the joint from more of an entertainment venue to just a restaurant. “They did bands, a little bit of vaudeville, mostly entertainment,” Joe says. “But I told my father, that’s short-lived. These bands are expensive. You’re paying for them, and as your clientele gets older, they’re nursing their drinks, and everything you end up working so hard for all day long, you’re giving to the bands.” He told his father, “I’ll let my food do the talking.” And so, it has. Joe says there is no real house specialty because he likes to cook everything. It’s basically Italian with influences of French and Chinese, and steaks and shrimp have become calling cards. “Especially filet mignon, people just love that,” Joe says, ticking off a list of other top sellers: shrimp scampi, Go big: Lib’s offers chicken parm, veal chops, New York strips, prime rib, an enormous occasion space and and seafood. matches that with Fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, a native son of outstanding food. Elmira, has dined at Lib’s, as have sports celebrities, astronaut Eileen Collins, and Little Rascals producer Hal Roach. Hall of Fame baseball manager Earl Weaver proposed to his wife at Lib’s, and Joe remembers that friends and family of the late Ernie Davis, 1961 Heisman Trophy winner and also an Elmira Free Academy alum, gathered at Lib’s after his services. Certainly because of its size, Lib’s can accommodate weddings, and does so, as well as banquets, birthdays, anniversaries, holiday parties, and showers. Lib’s smoothly handles them all. When we spoke in May, the restaurant was doing only takeouts because of the coronavirus pandemic—and who knows where that stands as you read this now—but Joe says Lib’s is more than holding its own. Thanks to a loyal clientele, the business is still doing hundreds of dinners a night and even more on weekends. (You can call them at (607) 733-2752.) “It’s better than I anticipated,” he remarks. “You don’t take in what you do on the in-house dining, but it’s enough to pay the bills, and so that’s what we’re doing. We’re maintaining until we’re ready to open again.” His grandmother may not have known how to say that, but she could, and probably would, say: Chi mangia qui mangia bene. Whoever eats here, eats well.
Mike Cutillo has been a journalist covering the Finger Lakes area of New York for thirty-five years. He’ll travel anywhere for a good steak and a dish of (not pasta, but) macaroni.
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Dinner with Napoleon
Before Waterloo There Was Marengo (and Chicken) By Cornelius O'Donnell
hat famous portrait of Napoleon with his hand inside his rather scruffy gray overcoat always reminded me of the line I read in a long-ago book (was it Captains Courageous?) that I think went something like this: “His chef wouldn’t let Bonaparte go into battle without a liverwurst sandwich.”—or words to that effect. One of Bonaparte’s great feats was getting his army through the St. Bernard Pass (supposedly in that gray coat and on a mule). The French army went on to defeat the Austrians at Marengo, but our hero had little to do with that, and “rewrote the official account of Marengo in his favor.” The story of the famous dish is also suspect. I learned this from a new (to me) book. In fact, the full title of this book on which I’m basing the longish column you are now reading is titled Napoleon’s Chicken Marengo, Creating the Myth of the Emperor’s Favourite Dish, by Andrew Uffindell. Further, the myth also refers to the 1800 battle itself, as the generals shamelessly manipulated the story of the combat—Napoleon even more than the others—to make themselves seem more heroic and combat-savvy than they were. The author calls it spin-doctoring. We have
it now, the French had it then. I could go on about the politics of the time, and of this time, but I will spare you. Let’s get on with this beloved dish. Turns out Napoleon’s chef, a man named Dunant, is remembered for either procuring, or getting his staff to assemble, the ingredients for a dish called Poulet à la Marengo (the latter was the site of the battle that the French narrowly won). Bonaparte, who led the French and (not yet Emperor) had the title First Consul, supposedly ate this during or after the battle. Need chit chat for a cocktail party? (Does anybody give those anymore?) From the book, which is actually more of a tome for a war historian, I also learned that Bonaparte ate moderately but quickly, sometimes while standing, and that even at St. Helena the silver used for dining was spectacular, as was the Sevres china. Marengo appears in fiction in 1833, and the book’s author makes the case for the dish that “symbolizes French cuisine as a whole.” Tallyrand, the famous politico of the era, is recorded as serving Marengo circa 1829. I also learned that those famous St. Bernard dogs carried food, not brandy. And, alas, that the Duke
of Wellington wrote that Napoleon’s entire life “civil, political and military, was a fraud.” The Origins of Restaurants The word “restaurant,” and the concept of such a thing, was invented by the French in the late seventeenth century. These were an extension of the small bars where you’d stop for a “restorative” glass. Then owners added food and the word “restaurant” was born. There exist extensive records of restaurant menus; Poulet a la Marengo turns up about 1807 but took some time to become popular. Chicken was expensive back then. Because the myth was born of its connection with the great French leader, tourists who had heard the “Marengo story” were anxious to taste it. One third of the restaurants (most in Paris) in Le Guide des Dîneurs had the dish on their menus in 1815. The recipe did not appear in Le Cuisinier Impérial, the definitive French cookbook, in the 1814 or 1816 editions. But there it was in 1820. Moreover, the naming of food after battles was not totally unusual. The victorious battle at Austerlitz also produced a French dish, but it eventually faded. Another victory, this time by the British, resulted in
Beef Wellington, honoring the great general. The author praises the dish as being convenient and yet elegant. Versions, even today, are found around the world. Despite Napoleon’s exile and eventual return of the Royalists, Chicken (or veal or rabbit) Marengo stayed popular, although many points of interest in Paris that adopted Marengo as a part of their location title, in time dropped the reference (place names with Marengo appear in Cuba, Canada, Argentina, Chile, Belgium, and in twelve U.S. states). Cut to the 1900s and you find Marengo a standard on railroad dining cars (1907), as well as in upscale restaurants. It was also cooked at home (in the basic version it is easy to prepare), and it’s a dish that’s often found at state banquets and wedding receptions, perhaps a bit gussied up. That’s easy to do too, as you’ll see below. And to add to the fact that the main ingredient was pretty pricy before the depression, remember that in 1928 the Republican party’s slogan was “A Chicken in Every Pot.”
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Marengo by the Book When I heard the name Marengo, I knew that I had made it many times over the years. But whence came the recipe? I plucked my favorite go-to cookbooks and hit pay dirt on my first try: Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook (my copy is dated 1966). Next to the recipe was my comment, in pencil, “2x.” Must have been a large party. In Craig’s recipe, his herb of choice was dried tarragon. Today we’d try for fresh. He used a 3-pound roaster cut in pieces, rinsed, patted dry, then dredged in flour—enough to coat all the pieces. Put oil, a little butter, and the chicken in a skillet, brown, then pop into a casserole. Drain the fat from the skillet, then pour in 1 cup dry white wine, scraping the brownings from the skillet. When sauce is smooth and thickened, add tarragon to taste as well as a teaspoon or more of salt and pepper. Pour over chicken. Top with 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes, a finely chopped garlic clove, and 8 sliced mushrooms. Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until tender. Top with chopped parsley and serve to 6. In the 1990 edition, Craig specifies ½ cup of chopped fresh tarragon or 2 tablespoons dried (crushed). In what’s thought of as the “original” Marengo, Chef Durant garnished the dish with crayfish and eggs, fried so that the yolks were barely cooked, and the runny stuff would become part of the sauce. On a battlefield? Variations on the Marengo Theme Joy of Cooking (I used the 1980 edition) checks in with a recipe similar to the one above, but using 1 chopped onion and 2 garlic cloves, ½ cup dry white wine, 1 cup tomatoes (chopped, canned), ½ pound sliced mushrooms, and 1 cup pitted black olives. The headnote reads: “A good buffet casserole which profits from a day’s aging, refrigerated.” For 8 servings use 2 frying chickens. Joy uses thyme and a bay leaf in the sauce and parsley at the end. That’s no yolk. I might add the addition of 1 jigger of cognac near the end of cooking, or Napoleon Brandy, or a less expensive port. But just a bit of spirits is a good idea. Online I found a blog—“My Carolina Kitchen” (no longer in biz)—and the author uses the usual ingredients, plus 1 tablespoon brandy, then kicks up the tomato content with 4 peeled, sliced, and chopped tomatoes plus a tablespoon of tomato paste. She makes the sauce minus the chicken, then serves it over poached chicken See Marengo on page 32
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Marengo continued from page 31
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Elizabeth Yarnell’s Glorious One Pot Meals has a most unusual technique for cooking her version of Marengo. She first uses olive oil spray on the Dutch oven pan and inside the lid. She tosses 1 cup farfalle (bow tie) pasta in that pot with 1/3 cup water and 1 teaspoon olive oil. On top of this go ¾ pound chicken breasts or thighs, then add salt and pepper. Scatter 5 quartered garlic cloves on top, along with 6 ounces wild mushrooms, ½ cup pimientostuffed olives, 1 cup frozen pearl onions, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, and 1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves. Add 5 to 6 leaves of fresh chard, stems removed, and leaves chopped. Pour a 14-ounce can diced tomatoes overall. Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. If the sauce is too runny remove the chicken to a warm plate or platter and reduce the liquid over medium heat, uncovered. This serves a duo. With all that garlic, well… To end a Marengo meal, why not scour the bakeries and find a fitting finale to split with a friend. I suggest that multi-layered and custard-filled extravaganza: a Napoleon. Chicken Marengo a la Uffindell This is the recipe as it appears on the back of the dust cover of the book. Inside you’ll encounter precious little of the dish until you get to about page 170. You might enjoy a Finger Lakes Riesling while you’re reading and cooking, and another while you’re eating. 2 chicken breast fillets, skinless and each cut into 2 or 3 pieces 1 Tbsp. olive oil 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour 1 medium-sized onion, peeled and finely chopped 3½ oz. mushrooms, sliced 2 1/3 cups dry white wine 2/3 cup chicken stock or broth 2 garlic cloves, crushed (skin removed, bottom trimmed) 3 Tbsp. tomato paste 1 tsp. finely chopped parsley 5½ oz. long-grain rice 2 medium-sized eggs Heat a large frying pan and add the olive oil. Dab the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel. Roll them in the flour and shake off the excess. Add the chicken to the pan and sauté over moderate heat for about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken and add the onions and mushrooms to the pan and sauté for about 6 minutes. Once they are tender, tip them into another skillet or saucepan. Remove the pan you used for the chicken and vegetables and add the wine, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the broth, garlic, and tomato paste and stir well. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered (use a flat baking pan if you’ve no cover), for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to simmer. While the sauce is reducing, cook the rice. Arrange a bed of rice on each plate. Spoon the chicken and sauce on top and fry the eggs (you want the yolks to be runny). Garnish each plate with an egg and top with parsley. Bon appetit! Chef, teacher, author, and award-winning columnist Cornelius O’Donnell lives in Horseheads, New York.
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Legions of Lupines
By Linda Stager
y grandma’s gardens were loaded with lupines every June when I was growing up. Whenever I see lupines now, I am filled with the memories of my grandparents’ home—it was brimming with love. When I found out a few years ago that my friend had a large patch of lupines growing in his field, on Cherry Flats Road near Covington, I immediately asked him if I could go sit in the field and surround myself with these wonderful flowers. Of course he said yes, and my annual journey there early in the morning has become a tradition. Here is the view from the middle of the lupine patch. Ahhhh.
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