Almanack Contributor Paul Hetzler

Paul Hetzler

Paul Hetzler is the Horticulture and Natural Resources Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County.

You can reach Paul at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Canton at (315) 379-9192.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Drought, Maple Trees, And Adirondack Maple Syrup

sugar mapleGiven that maple producers have to boil down roughly 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, you would think that dry weather might improve things. Obviously if drought could get rid of a bunch of water for free, the sap would become concentrated and you wouldn’t need to boil as much. Heck, in an extremely dry year maybe we could just drill into a maple and have granular sugar come dribbling out.

If only it worked that way. In general, a shortage of water during the growing season hampers the production of sugar and leads to lower sap sugar concentrations the following spring. Green » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Boxelders: The Kissing Bug

boxelder bugHoliday parties are great for mingling with friends, but also for meeting new folk. Once you loosen up a bit, you might even let a charming newcomer kiss you under the mistletoe before the night’s end. But perhaps not if the new arrival is uninvited. And no one wants to be kissed without permission. Especially by a bug.

Chances are better than usual you’ll run into uninvited house guests this winter, and you can blame it on the past summer. Hot dry conditions in 2016 helped boost the population of some habitual break-and-enter offenders known as boxelder bugs. These oval, beetle-like insects are black to dark brown » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Christmas Yule Log Tradition

yule logsApparently, the ceremonial burning of a large chunk of wood on or near the winter solstice (Yule to the old Germanic peoples) may have begun as a Nordic custom in the 6th century, possibly earlier. Known as a Yule clog, Yule block, Christmas log and other variants, the Yule log was purported to bring good luck in the new year if it burned all day long without being fully consumed. A remnant was always saved, and used to light the following year’s log. Though the tradition is much less common today, it has not been completely extinguished (so to speak).

Given the climate there, it is no » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pining For That Evergreen Smell

balsamSpeaking as a guy who can hide his own Easter eggs and still not find them, I marvel how Father Christmas, who is at least several years older than I, still manages to keep track of all those kids and their presents. Lucky for us that the most enduring memories are associated with smell. If it was not for the fragrant evergreen wreaths, trees and garlands (and possibly a hint of reindeer dung), Santa probably would have long ago forgotten his holiday duties.

Of all the memorable aromas of the holiday season, nothing evokes its spirit quite like the smell of fresh-cut pine, spruce or fir. Although most American » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Poisonous Caterpillars Of Northern New York

hickory tussock mothWhen I was a kid I was fascinated by caterpillars, but had trouble with the word. To me, the sweet little woolly-bear traversing my hand was a “calipitter.” It was only years later I learned that a calipitter is an instrument used to measure the diameter of a caterpillar to the nearest micron.

Caterpillars continue to interest me, although I no longer find them universally cute. Imagine the letdown and loss of innocence following the discovery that some of these fuzzy, fascinating, gentle creatures that tickled their way across my hand were venomous. This revelation was akin to finding out Bambi was a dangerous » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 12, 2016

The Dry Weather And Adirondack Fall Foliage

DSCN4905It turns out that, in terms of fall foliage, the color of too dry is officially known as “blah.” This would undoubtedly be the least popular color selection if it was included in a jumbo pack of Crayolas. Basically, it is a jumble of faded hues with a mottled brown patina throughout. This year’s dry summer could mean that “blah” may feature prominently in Mother Nature’s fall hardwood forest palette.

Why would a prolonged lack of moisture affect autumn color? Let’s look at what makes leaves colorful in the first place. Among the things we learned — and probably forgot right away — in Junior High » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Dead Trees: Suddenly Is Relative

witch of 4th lake postcardOne of the drawbacks of being an arborist is the language barrier. Routinely I spout off about trees such as Corylus, Carpinus, and Crataegus before noticing a glazed look on the faces of my victims, I mean audience. Once I engage my Nerd Translator, though, such offensive words are corrected to hazelnut, ironwood, and hawthorn, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Sadly, this works in reverse, too.

Fairly often someone calls up wanting to know what caused the unexpected and untimely death of their well-established landscape tree that “suddenly” died over the spring or summer. As a result of my arborist-ailment » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Paul Hetzler: Pining For The Good Old Days

Adirondack Rain StormEver find yourself pining away for the “good old days” when things were simpler, a time when 911 was just a number, and no one was allergic to peanut butter? Maybe you like the era of Beatles concerts, big collars and even bigger hair, or you dream of living in the horse-and- buggy days.

Personally, I get misty-eyed when I think back to the early 2000s. It’s not that I can’t remember further back—my memory isn’t quite that bad yet. But those were the good old days when you could grow tomatoes free of blight, and pine needles were green. (Have you taken » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Many Uses Of Stinging Nettle

Urtica dioica from Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der SchweizOne of my favorite plants is either highly versatile, or very confused. On the one hand, professional herbivores like rabbits and deer refuse to even touch it, but many people, myself included, will gladly eat it every day it is available.

While contacting it is painful, it has been proven to relieve certain chronic pain. It is steeped in over a thousand years of folklore, at one point imbued with the power to cleanse away sin, yet medical science recognizes it as a legitimate remedy for many disorders. Some gardeners consider it a bothersome weed, but others actually cultivate it.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Understanding The Life Span Of Whitetail Deer

male whitetail deerJust about everyone who saw the Walt Disney classic “Bambi” shed a tear, or at least stifled the urge to lacrimate (that’s cry in Scrabble-ese). Even if I had known of the devastating effects deer have on forest regeneration, not to mention crops, landscapes and gardens, it still would have been a trauma for my five-year old self when Bambi’s mother got killed. (Oops—spoiler alert there, sorry.) But how might the movie have ended if they had all lived happily ever after?


Sunday, May 22, 2016

First Blooms: Juneberries

june berryAnother regional attraction has just opened, and for the next few weeks you can see the show at innumerable open-air venues across the Northeast. The performance is free, although only matinees are available.

The new event is the blossoming of a widespread, though strangely little-known, early-flowering plant. It is either a small tree or a shrub, depending on who you ask, which makes me wonder if it’s hiding something. In fact, this thing has more aliases than one of America’s Most Wanted. Variously known as serviceberry, shadbush, shadwood, shadblow, Saskatoon, juneberry and wild-plum, it is a small-to-medium size tree that also answers to amelanchier canadensis, its botanical » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Paul Hetzler: Consider The Dandelion

dandelion by greg humeApril showers bring May flowers, but not all posies are a welcome sight. Although it is quite possible they arrived on the Mayflower, dandelions do not get the esteem they deserve as plucky immigrants that put down firm roots in a new land, or as a vitamin-packed culinary delight, or as a multi-purpose herbal remedy.

On this latter point, dandelion is so well-respected that it garnered the Latin name Taraxicum officinale, which roughly means “the official remedy for disorders.” There are many reported health benefits of dandelion, including as a liver support and for alleviating kidney and bladder stones, as well as externally » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Paul Hetzler: Black Flies Bite, Spiders Burn

spidersSpiders can be dangerous, but mostly in ways you would never imagine.

A couple of years ago a guy in Seattle burned his house down trying to kill spiders with a blowtorch. In 2015 at a Michigan gas station, a man tried to kill one with a lighter and burned up a pump island, narrowly escaping injury. And Mazda had to recall 42,000 vehicles in 2014 because spiders could clog a small fuel vent line with silk, potentially cracking the gas tank and causing a fire. It’s no wonder we are afraid of spiders, right?

Fear of spiders is so common and widespread, it may well » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring Music: Peepers, Wood Frogs, And Chorus Frogs

Spring PeeperEvery spring, Mother Nature takes the choir out of the freezer. And sometimes – this year for example – she pops them back in for a while. The choir to which I refer is that all-male horde of early-spring frogs: spring peepers, wood frogs, and chorus frogs. Even while an ice rind still clings to the pond edges, untold numbers of these guys roust themselves from torpor to sing for female attention.

While in our species it is mostly an inflated ego which causes males to become unusually loud attention-mongers when seeking mates, it is an inflated vocal sac which allows male frogs to be so noisy. This air-filled » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Rare Species: The Stinging Rejoinder

stinging nettleHikers, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts are urged to keep an eye out this spring for an elusive plant that may be staging a comeback. The so-called stinging rejoinder, Aculeatus depulsio, although it is a distant cousin of stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, does not actually sting or cause a rash. It is an inconspicuous, native medicinal plant which was over-harvested in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and has been hard to find since that time. However, there is indirect evidence its population could be on the rise.

Its common name comes from the way Aculeatus depulsio works on the nervous system. When taken internally, » Continue Reading.


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