Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week Seventeen: Sheepherding Competition at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, Chatham, New York

I’ve been a slacker when it comes to writing blog posts, but I haven’t slacked on doing free things.  A couple weeks ago, Mr. Free Albany and I headed down to Chatham to see the sheepherding competition hosted by the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company.  It was amazing!
I love dogs.  My dog Jackson is a border collie mix, and I’ve always admired how smart and intelligent the breed is.  All of the dogs that I watched compete were border collies, although any kind of dog is allowed to participate in the sport.

The event lasted two days and nearly 70 dogs competed.  I was blown away by the athleticism and expertise each dog exhibited.
There was a commentator explaining the rules which definitely helped me better understand what was going on.  Here are the basics as I understood them:

The field where the competition was held was very large.  The dogs start at one end and the sheep they must herd are at the other.  The dogs have nine and a half minutes to complete the course.  At the start, the dogs sprint toward the sheep, making sure they come up behind them without being seen.  When they get close, they slow down and get the sheep’s attention.  They then start moving the sheep back toward the finishing pen.

I know I’ve said it already, but it was amazing to watch.  As the dogs brought the sheep back to the finish, the handler gave commands either through whistles or yells.  The dogs immediately responded, moving the sheep to where the handlers indicated.  

Once the sheep are brought back to the handler, they had to perform what they call splitting.  This is an attempt by both dog and handler to split the sheep into two parts.  Once the splitting was complete, the dog then had to herd the sheep back together.  The last maneuver was to get the sheep into the pen.  All this  in such a short period of time!
This is what splitting looks like
One of my favorite parts of the competition were what I called the “staff dogs.”  These dogs kept the sheep together before the competition began and sprinted onto the field after the nine and a half minutes were up.  I think they needed black t-shirts with Staff written in white letters across their backs.

If you can’t make one of the competitions, visiting the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company [] which is the largest sheep dairy farm in the U.S., is a great free thing to do.  The farm is open to visitors daily and there is a store where you can by their homemade cheese and yogurt made from sheep’s milk.  Mr. Free Albany and I stopped at the farm after the competition and I definitely recommend a visit.  The barns are pristine and the countryside beautiful.
The sheep are in!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Week Sixteen: Tulips in Washington Park, Albany, New York

I love the tulips in Washington Park.  They’re like old friends that you can count on seeing every year.  Over 100,000 bulbs bloom in the park; all of them unique and beautiful.  In May, Tulip Fest (which I plan on going to) celebrates these beautiful blooms but I also like to visit the tulips without all of the crowds.  

Located by the Moses statue, the tulips attract thousands of visitors a year.  My favorite tulip kept changing.  There are brightly colored ones, furry looking ones, and even tulips that look more like a tropical plant than an actual tulip.  There were quite a few visitors taking pictures of the blooms but it wasn’t too crowded.  Tulip Fest isn’t until May 12th and 13th and I’m not sure how many tulips will still be blooming by then.  I suggest going now before it’s too late!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Week Fifteen: Running, Albany, New York

Okay, so those of you who know me know that running is something that I do every week.  But with this week’s schedule completely booked, I was unable to venture out, so I thought I’d write about a free thing I do every week.

I like to run but I didn’t always like it.  In high school I played three sports and although I exercised then, I never ran on my own.  In college, I didn’t exercise, gained some weight, and was pretty out of shape.  After studying abroad in London and losing a lot of weight (13pounds!) I decided to start running.  This was around the same time that I started dating Mr. Free Albany, and running became something we did together.  We made it a goal to run a 10k and successfully completed one a few months later.

The past few years my running pattern has been to start running in the spring and to stop once the weather gets cold.  Every spring was always really tough and I scolded myself for hibernating all winter.  I could barely run a mile and was sore for days.

Last spring I decided I wanted to run a half marathon.  The farthest I’d ever gone before was a 10k, so I knew it was going to be a challenge.  And it was.  But it was definitely worth it.

If you’re intimidated by running (like I was), just know that the most important thing is to just start doing it.  Don’t be discouraged if you can’t go far at first, running is hard!  But if you keep at it you’ll see progress in a relatively short time.  In November, I completed my first ever half marathon.  I’ve managed to run through the entire winter (sooooooo happy it was a warm winter) and now that it’s spring again, I’m running in this warm weather and really enjoying it!

There are a lot of great places to run in Albany.  You may want to check out: Buckingham Lake, Hackett Blvd, Washington Park, and the Corning Preserve.  I’ve run all over Albany and learn something new about this city every time. 

Not into running?  There are a lot of other free exercises you can try!  Now, I’m not a personal trainer or a fitness expert but these are just some ideas I know of.

Try doing arm dips with a chair.  Push-ups and sit-ups are also good.  Want to be more flexible?  I used to work with a woman who was a professional ballerina.  I expressed an interest in being able to do a split.  To become flexible enough to do this, spread your legs against a flat surface (a wall works).  Sit so you feel a pull in your hamstrings but not enough to cause you any pain.  Sit like this for ten minutes.  While sitting, your muscles will loosen and you may be able to push yourself forward and closer to the wall (it’s okay if you can’t do this in the beginning).  This really works and your legs will feel amazing!  I like to read for my ten minute stretch although it’s also a great time to listen to music or just sit in silence and meditate.

So there you have it!  This warm weather is a great time to get in shape.  Start slow and just know, if I can run a half marathon, anyone can.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Week Fourteen: 2nd Annual Capital Region Canstruction, NYS Museum, Albany, New York

Sorry this post is a little late.  On Friday (which was also Mr. Free Albany’s birthday) I went to the NYS Museum to see the Canstruction exhibit.  My in-laws accompanied me which made the visit even more fun.  

Canstruction is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to end hunger.  To help raise awareness and provide canned goods to the Food Pantries for the Capital District, the second annual Canstruction design competition challenged members of the community to design a display out of cans.  This year’s theme is “Zoo Can Do It” and over a dozen zoo animals constructed out of cans are on the fourth floor of the museum.    

Visitors are encouraged to bring their own cans which are used to cast ballots for their favorite animals.  Each animal has its own bin where you can vote for your favorites.  When we were there they were counting how many cans each animal received.

The animals are amazing.  I loved all of them but my favorite was the tarantula which was held together by cable ties.  I also loved the toucan standing next to a tree (the leaves were tea bags).  All of the animal designs displayed exceptional creativity and ingenious construction.  This is a must-see exhibit.  It runs until April 26th so stop by before time runs out!  

Free Stuff This Week

Monday April 9th
South to North: Hiking the Appalachian Trail with Millie Gittinger, Retired Occupational Therapist and Member of the Trail Conservancy, Schenectady County Public Library Central Branch, 12pm

Artful Stories: The Teacher, the Student and the Muse, Bush Memorial Hall Russell Sage College, Troy, 7:30pm

Tuesday April 10th
History through the Land: Using 21st Century Technology and 18th Century Maps to Create New Maps of Rensselaer County, NYS Library, 12:15pm

NYS Writers Institute Presents: Ghassan Zaqtan, Palestinian Poet with Fady Joudah, Poet and Translater, Seminar at Science Library Standish Room, UAlbany Uptown Campus 4:15pm, Reading same place at 8pm

Wednesday April 11th
REELS Film Series: Hugo, Schenectady County Public Library Central Branch, 12pm (also being shown on Thursday at 7pm)

New Geological Research Lecture Series: Ultimate Geo-Puzzler: The Rocks atop the Appalachians—400 Million Years Ago, Huxley Theatre, NYS Museum 12:10pm-1pm

Thursday April 12th
Focus Group-GE Presents: The Mystery of the Albany Mummies, Albany Public Library Main Branch, 2pm

Friday April 13th
Focus Group-GE Presents: The Mystery of the Albany Mummies, Schenectady County Public Library Central Branch, 2pm

The Singer’s Life with Amanda Matson, UAlbany Performing Arts Center, UAlbany Uptown Campus, 3pm

NYS Writers Institute Classic Film Series: Faust, Page Hall UAlbany Downtown Campust, 7:30pm

Saturday April 14th
Watchable Wildlife: The Early Bird, Five Rivers, 10am

Focus Group-GE Presents: The Mystery of the Albany Mummies, Troy Public Library, 10am

Winchester & Young at the Mechanicville Elks Club, Purple Pub in Maplewood, Watervliet, 10pm

Missing Persons Day, Huxley Theatre, NYS Museum, 1pm-4pm

Sunday April 15th
Sunday Cinema: Born to be Wild! Albany Public Library Main Branch, 2pm

Monday, April 2, 2012

Free Cone Day @ Ben & Jerry's

Get your free ice cream cone tomorrow at Ben & Jerry's on Lark Street!  The line may be long but it moves quickly. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Week Thirteen: Buckingham Lake, Albany, New York

Today wasn’t super warm but it was still nice enough for a walk.  Mr. Free Albany and I decided to have lunch at Buckingham Lake.  It’s within walking distance from our house and we saw a lot of pretty flowers along the way.

Buckingham Lake isn’t very large for a lake but pretty large for being in the middle of the city.  There is a nice trail around the entire lake which totals .72 miles.  There were a lot of runners and walkers out enjoying the scenery.
In case you don’t know, Buckingham Lake is located between New Scotland Ave and Western Ave near Berkshire Boulevard.  It is surrounded by a freshwater wetland and supports a lot of wildlife that you usually don’t encounter in a city.  While we were there, we saw several ducks and geese swimming in the water.  There are picnic tables and benches and Mr. Free Albany and I enjoyed lunch looking at the water.  A small playground is also nearby.

If you haven’t been to Buckingham Lake yet and you live in Albany, it’s definitely worth a stop.  It’s a quiet and peaceful section of the city.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Free Stuff This Week

Monday March 26th
-Free Credit Report and Credit Repair Information Drop-in Session with Affordable Housing Partnership, Albany Public Library Main Branch, 11:30am-1:30pm

-Science Series: Keeping Your Brain Young—Can Doing Crossword Puzzles, Ballroom Dancing, and Eating Healthy Delay Dementia? Presented by Francisco Gomez, MD Chief of Neurology, Ellis Medicine, Schenectady County Public Library Central Branch, 12pm

-Financially Fit Series: Managing Your Credit & Protecting Your Identity, Albany Public Library Pine Hills Branch, 6pm-7pm

-The Sage Colleges Nutrition Lecture Series, Bush Memorial Hall Russell Sage College, Troy, 7pm

-NYS Writers Institute Presents: Robert Nickas, Art Critic and Curator, University at Albany Art Museum, 7pm

Tuesday March 27th
-Free 30-Minute Financial Planning Consultation, Albany Public Library Main Branch, 4:30pm-7pm

-Author David Smith: If the World Were a Village, Bush Memorial Hall Russell Sage College, Troy, 7:30pm

-NYS Writers Institute Presents: Lauren Goff, Novelist and Short Story Writer, Assembly Hall Campus Center UAlbany Uptown Campus, 8pm

Wednesday March 28th
-“Rain or Shine…It’s Reading Time,” Story and Special Exhibit for Preschoolers (2nd and last Wednesdays of the month), NYS Museum, 10:30am-11:30am

-Research in Archaeology Lecture Series: Cache and Carry: New Insights on Ice Age Technology of New York Paleoindians, Huxley Theatre, NYS Museum, 12:10pm-1pm

-Songs from the Piano Bench, Adirondack Hall, NYS Museum, 12pm-2pm

-Basic Mandarin Chinese Conversation, Albany Public Library Pine Hills Branch, 4:30pm-5:30pm

-Beahive Open House, 418 Broadway, Albany, 5pm-7pm

Thursday March 29th
-Get Informed about NYS EPIC Drug Prescription Plan, Albany Public Library Main Branch, 10am-1pm

Friday March 30th
-Alternative Energy: Our Future Depends on It Lecture, Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium, 5:30pm-7:30pm

-Iranian Civil Society and the Threat of War, Albany Law School, 7:30pm-9pm

-NYS Writers Institute Class Film Series: Daddy-Long-Legs, Page Hall UAlbany Downtown Campus, 7:30pm

Saturday, March 31st
Howe Caverns Job Fair, Howe Caverns, 9am-1pm

-A Morning with Alice Ozma, Author of The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared, Contact: Central Library, Reference Desk 518-388-4511, Schenectady County Public Library Central Branch, 10:30am

-Family Fun: Maple Sugar Open House, Five Rivers, Organized groups please call 518-475-0291to register, 1:30pm-3:30pm

-Showing of “Guerilla Midwife” Plus Potluck Dinner, Sanctuary for Independent Media, Troy, 7pm

Sunday April 1st
-Wagon Train Easter Egg Hunt, Wagon Train BBQ, Schenectady, 11am-5pm
-Sunday Cinema: War Horse, Albany Public Library Main Branch, 2pm-4pm