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fw2014cover-150Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society.

Dedicated to publishing the content of folklore in the words and images
of its creators and practitioners!

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Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore features articles, stories, interviews, reminiscences, essays, folk poetry and music, photographs and artwork from people in all parts of New York State. Voices is the Society’s membership magazine. The magazine also publishes peer-reviewed, research-based articles, written in an accessible style, on topics related to traditional art and life, including ethnic culture. Join NYFS today to receive this new membership magazine!

Voices features articles, stories, interviews, reminiscences, essays, folk poetry and music, photographs, and artwork drawn from people in all parts of New York State, folklorists and non-folklorists alike. The magazine also publishes peer-reviewed, research-based articles, written in an accessible style, on topics related to traditional art and life, including ethnic culture. Informative columns on subjects such as legal issues, photography, sound and video recording, archiving, ethics, and the nature of traditional art and life appear on a regular basis.
Look inside ⇓
VOICES, Vol. 41, Spring-Summer 2015


What always strikes me about Voices is its clarity and openness, both in design and content. It’s inviting, lively, and readable and has plenty of variety. It presents artists and communities with respect and sensitivity, yet one learns too about what folklorists do and who they are. Voices gives a picture of New York State and its people that cannot be found elsewhere.
Anna Lomax Wood, Director, Association for Cultural Equity

LISTEN to New York Folklore Society’s executive director, Ellen McHale interviewed by Steve Black for his radio show, “Periodical Radio,” about Voices.
Download MP3

⇐LOOK INSIDE back issues of Voices

From the Spring–Summer 2015 issue of Voices:

An explosion of pollen sent us to the hospital one May morning. A seemingly extraordinarily long winter ended suddenly with 80-degree temperatures and soaking showers! Spring flowers responded immediately, enthusiastically casting pollen into the air, covering porches and cars in a fine yellow dust. Heaven for those awaiting spring. Hell for those suffering from allergies and asthma.

Many years ago, my wife’s difficulties were with all those cherry blossoms, azaleas, and other warm weather exotics in Washington, DC. “Up North,” we wait for winter’s end as crocuses and daffodils, more often than not, poke up through snow.

That morning the fruit trees, suddenly in bloom, were quite a sight, but the small flowers of oaks and maples especially caught my attention. “Tree flowers?” You remember the acorns you used in fights as a kid, and maple seeds you’d break in half, peel open, and stick to your nose—the fruits of these small flowers. Millions of blossoms softened the once bare trees on distant hills. Poor Nancy, her eyes almost swollen shut, could not appreciate the view.

Flowers of my childhood in the mid- Hudson Valley included forsythia, its golden flowers bursting forth before its new leaves opened. It grew like a weed in our yard, generating a new bush wherever a weeping branch touched the ground. Shadblow, or serviceberry, another early bloomer, was said to mark “the shad run”—the migratory fish swimming up the Hudson to spawn. I often picked daisies, buttercups, black-eyed Susans, and other wildflowers for bouquets for my mother.

An elderly neighbor gave my dad a variety of young lilac plants with blossoms of purple, white, and a deep French blue, that grew to become a hedge alongside the yard. What a sweet, heavenly scent! The still young lilac bushes offered only few blossoms, though, so we kids had to find others to make bouquets for Mother’s Day. After Sunday School, we’d walk the mile home from church, crossing neighbors’ yards of the village. About halfway, we’d pass through an archway of a tremendous lilac hedge, so loaded with purple and white blossoms that the branches almost touched the ground. Tolerant neighbors smiled from behind their curtains, as we broke off armloads of scented blooms to proudly carry home, where we filled large vases for our grand bouquets.

These days, vases of lilacs are not good for my wife’s allergies. We find common interest in another flower of early May. Just when yards and fields begin to green, in some places vast swaths of gold overtake the green. The dandelions have bloomed! Opening for only a week or so, this humble flower provides for our springtime ritual— dandelion wine-making.

Nancy’s dad made dandelion wine north of Syracuse years ago, and when we first moved back to the upper Hudson Valley, a neighbor served us some at a dinner party. A local wine-making store sponsors an annual contest. Still, it’s not a common activity.

Farm fields with acres of flowers are the best picking. Early in my wine-making career, I received permission to pick flowers from the matriarch of a farm. While I was filling my bucket, her angry son confronted me, a perceived trespasser: “Just what do you think you’re doing?” I humbly replied, “Picking dandelions, sir.” We became fast friends, though he refused my offer of a bottle of the future product. Now each spring Nancy and I receive hearty waves and smiles from passing vehicles.

Patience is necessary. Some say to gather the entire yellow blossom head; others say use only the yellow petals pulled out of the green calyx. I pick, agreeing with some that a bit of green adds to the final product. It also fills the bucket faster. Sliced oranges, lemons, and fresh ginger go into the dandelion flower tea that steeps for five days, covered with a cloth to keep bugs out. My daughter laughs at childhood memories of Dad’s stinky concoctions in buckets in the kitchen. Nowadays, she and her college friends enjoy the wine.

The dandelion tea is then strained, the liquid boiled with 10–15 pounds of sugar, depending on whether dry or sweeter wine is desired. When cooled, yeast is added to start the conversion of much of the sugar to alcohol. For one of my first batches, I used Euell Gibbons’ recipe in Stalking the Wild Asparagus that called for cake yeast spread on toast to be floated on the tea. Now I use champagne yeast, but not the additives some winemakers use to kill wild yeast, stabilize the wine, and hurry the process. The golden liquid is then siphoned into a 5-gallon glass carboy with an airlock for an oxygen-free environment that allows the fermentation gases to escape.

More patience. Leave it alone in the cool dark of my stone cellar. Transfer to another carboy to help clarify the wine. Transfer again into cleaned, recycled wine bottles. Seal with new corks. By fall, this cottage wine is drinkable, but far better if aged longer, even a few years.

An hour of driving, another hour or so in the ER that May morning. The swelling subsided. Heart rate was normal. The pollen count this spring was off the charts, the doctor agreed. All too soon the snow will return, and a glass of dandelion wine by the fire will remind us that spring will also come again. We hope that perhaps the flowers will bloom with less exuberance next year. Meanwhile, let’s have another glass of dandelion wine.

Todd DeGarmo
Voices Acquisitions Editor
Founding Director of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library

The taxpayers are hollering, and the state’s contribution to this wonderful little magazine has been drastically cut. Those of us who read it all the way through have to all chip in.
—Pete Seeger, musician and activist, Beacon, New York

VISIT our online gallery bookstore to purchase back issues.


Meet Todd DeGarmo, Voices Acquisitions Editor
Todd DeGarmo

Todd DeGarmo is the acquisitions editor for Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore, leading an editorial team which includes Ellen McHale as executive editor, Patricia Mason as copy editor, and Laurie Longfield as Voices’ manager. Todd took over this editorship from Dr. Eileen Condon who served as acquisitions editor until 2007.

Todd is the founding director of the Center for Folklife, History and Cultural Programs at the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY. Todd is a former board member and past president of the New York Folklore Society. He brings a wealth of knowledge and prior experience to the position of acquisitions editor, including a knowledge of Japanese culture, Adirondack studies, tourism, and architectural studies.

Send Your Story to Voices!
Did you know that Voices publishes creative writing, including creative fiction (such as short stories), creative nonfiction (such as memoirs and life/work stories), and poetry? We also publish artistic and ethnographic photography and artwork, in addition to research-based articles on New York State folk arts and artists. If you are one of New York’s many traditional artists or working in a traditional occupation—including fishing, boat building, traditional healing, instrument making, firefighting, and nursing, to name a few—please consider sharing your life or work story with the readers of Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore. Check out our new column heading First Person, which spotlights folk artists and folk arts workers, giving creative people space in each issue to share their life stories in their own words. First Person allows people to share the reasons they have spent a lifetime supporting or recreating New York’s diverse traditions, passing them down through generations—whether it’s gardening, carving, roots music, village dancing, egg decorating, weaving, quilting, fiddling, traditional singing, basketry, ethnic foodways, traditional calligraphy, or home altar building. Email the acquisitions editor of Voices, at nyfs@nyfolklore.org.

Check our submission guidelines for authors.

Send your letter to the editor here

Folklorists are writers. We write every day: monographs and scholarly articles, field notes, festival and event brochures, exhibit texts, grant applications, final reports, press releases, proposals. In fact, I would say that time spent writing is more than fifty percent of any folklorist’s annual cycle of work. The essentials of folklore—the ethnographic material—are fundamental to a great story. As any fieldworker can attest, entering into the personal experience of another individual is expansive and illuminating. The everyday becomes novel when viewed from the viewpoint of the uninitiated. The job of the folklorist is to translate that experience to those who may not get the opportunity to go through it themselves and to help the reader to find meaning in the experience.
Ellen McHale, PhD, Executive Director, NYFS

What is Folklife?
The everyday and intimate creativity that all of us share and pass on to the next generation:

The traditional songs we sing, listen and dance to

Fairy tales, stories, ghost tales and personal histories

Riddles, proverbs, figures of speech, jokes and special ways of speaking

Our childhood games and rhymes

The way we celebrate life
  – from birthing our babies to honoring our dead

The entire range of our personal and collective beliefs
  – religious, medical, magical, and social

Our handed-down recipes and everyday mealtime traditions

The way we decorate our world
  – from patchwork patterns on our quilts to plastic flamingoes in our yards, to tattoos on our bodies

The crafts we create by hand
  – crocheted afghans, wooden spoons, cane bottoms on chairs

Patterns and traditions of work
  – from factory to office cubicle

The many creative ways we express ourselves as members of our family, our community, our geographical region, our ethnic group, our religious congregation, or our occupational group

Folklife is part of everyone’s life. It is as constant as a ballad, as changeable as fashion trends. It is as intimate as a lullaby, and as public as a parade.

In the end ... we are all folk.
American Folklife Center
Library of Congress, Washington, DC

NEW YORK FOLKLORE SOCIETY ♦ 129 Jay Street ♦ Schenectady, NY 12305 ♦ 518.346.7008 ♦ Fax 518.346.6617 ♦ nyfs@nyfolklore.org