All this talk from me during the last two weeks about spruce-related subjects (Sprucelets and spruce beer) is linked to past conversations with my mom, a native of Churubusco in northern Clinton County.
It’s officially known as the Town of Clinton, but to local folks, it’s just Busco — and about as country as it gets around here. Growing up there on a farm in the 1920s and ’30s, Mom partook in things that were once the norm, like drinking raw milk and chewing spruce gum. » Continue Reading.
Cold and flu season once again has sufferers scrambling for any kind of relief from all sorts of medicines. A little over a century ago, right here on Northern New York store shelves, next to cough drops by national companies like Smith Brothers and Luden’s, was a local product made in Malone.
Sprucelets were created mainly from a raw material harvested in the Adirondacks: spruce gum. Like hops, blueberries, and maple syrup, the seasonal gathering and sale of spruce gum boosted the incomes of thousands of North Country folks seeking to make a dollar any way they could. Much of what they picked was sold to national gum companies, but some was used locally by entrepreneurs who established small factories and created many jobs.
Among these was the Symonds & Allison Company of Malone, founded there in 1897 by Charles Symonds and Aaron Allison when the latter purchased half-interest in Symonds Brothers, a convenience-store operation offering food, coffee, candy, and tobacco products. » Continue Reading.
The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has posted the results of a project exploring opportunities for regional maple sugarmakers to produce birch syrup.
Four sugarhouses participated in the 2015-2016 birch syrup project; one each in Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Jefferson counties.
Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center Maple Program transported the sap collected from 61 paper birch trees there 20 miles to the Uihlein Forest sugarhouse for processing. » Continue Reading.
The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District has partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to provide financial assistance for agriculture and forest management to Hamilton County landowners though the United States Department of Agriculture Resource Conservation Partnership Program.
Funding is available for residents who would like to enhance their agricultural practices through the installation of high tunnels over an existing garden. Funding is also available for implementing forest management plans and wildlife habitat enhancement practices. » Continue Reading.
Given 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 plants have a magic formula for turning sunlight into sugar, and it calls for a few simple ingredients: water, carbon dioxide, sunlight and chlorophyll. If one item is missing, the transformation won’t work. I’m told most spells fail for want of a newt’s eye or some such, but if a thing as basic and usually commonplace as water is in short supply, the miracle of photosynthesis slows to a snail’s pace (which is likely used for some other spell). » Continue Reading.
You picked it out, maybe cut it down, brought it home, watered it, and decorated it. But do you know what species of tree that is surrounded by presents in your living room?
If you purchased your Christmas tree rather than cutting it out of the woods, chances are it’s either a balsam fir (Abies balsamea) or a fraser fir (Abies fraseri) – these are the two species most commonly grown on Christmas tree farms in northern New England. Balsam fir is found naturally everywhere, from Alberta to Pennsylvania, and has the largest range of any North American fir species. It’s perhaps best known for its aroma – when people say they want a tree that smells like Christmas, they’re talking about a balsam. Fraser fir, native to the Appalachian Mountains, doesn’t have the same trademark scent, but it does have a little more visual flourish in the form of elegant blue-green needles with silvery-white undersides. » Continue Reading.
Apparently, 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 surprise that the hardy folks in northern Europe thought the best way to observe a winter holiday was to light a tree trunk on fire and gather round it. That’s probably what I would have done, too. The French, on the other hand, put a whole new twist on the thing, inventing a delicious Yule log cake that they never burn, at least not intentionally. It took them a dozen or so centuries to come up with the recipe, but let’s not complain. You don’t have to go to France to check out a bûche de Noël — in Quebec you can find Yule log pastries that are works of art in addition to being delectable. (In an ironic twist, the bûche glacée de Noel, or frozen Christmas log, is gaining popularity in France and its territories.) » Continue Reading.
The Cornell Small Farms Program, with support from the USDA Specialty Crop Grant Program and New York Farm Viability Institute, is engaged in a two year project to elevate development of a new niche crop in the New York; log-grown shiitake mushrooms.
Research and development at Cornell over the past decade, along with several partnerships and research projects has enabled greater understanding of the technical and business aspects of a small farm log-grown shiitake enterprise. Woodland log-grown mushrooms are a relatively new, niche crop and are low-input, high output enterprise that can also offset land taxes. » Continue Reading.
The Greater Adirondack Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. (RC & D), with financial assistance from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Lake Champlain Basin Program, is implementing a free Skidder Bridge Loaner Program for landowners and loggers.
RC & D says the free Skidder Bridge Loaner Program is hoping to encourage the use of the skidder bridges and other Best Management Practices in forest management to protect water quality and assist landowners in increasing economic activity in their communities. » Continue Reading.
Each year, TAUNY works with naturalist and North Country Heritage Award recipient Jane Desotelle to offer hand made balsam wreaths for the holidays. This annual fundraiser for TAUNY highlights the regional traditional artists who make their living from the gardens and woods around thier Adirondack homes.
All wreaths are made to order with balsam fir and natural decorations. The wreaths are long-lasting and can usually remain on display until Spring. » Continue Reading.
This weekend New York State maple producers are opening their doors again for visits, tastings and pancake breakfasts. This celebration of spring can be found throughout the state with many producers offering a wide range of activities as well as samplings of their tasty maple products.
According to owner Pat Parker there are five generations of her family involved in her maple business. With almost 50,000 taps on 1,000 acres, the Parker Family Maple Farm in West Chazy proudly makes their local maple syrup while creating a year-round business. » Continue Reading.
The next two Farm Talk presentations – on organic vegetable farming and woodlot management – will be taking place on March 11, 2016.
Rand Fosdick, Farm Manager for Landon Hill Estate Farm, will present “Starting A Small Certified Organic Farm.” Fosdick will be followed by John O’Donnell, Certified Forester for Benchmark Forest & Land Management, who will present “Woodlot Management: It’s In Your Roots”. » Continue Reading.
At this time of year, many a gardener’s daydreams turn to the springtime promise of sprouting plants. Seed catalogs start arriving in the mail months before the soil will be thawed and drained enough for planting, and we use this downtime to plan for the coming season.
At Green Fire Farm in Peacham, Vermont, Michael Low is also planning, not only for this year’s crops, but for biochar to help those crops grow. He harvests about 50 cords of low-grade wood each year on his 67-acre homestead, and turns the wood into his own version of black gold. Biochar is charcoal used for agricultural purposes. Its advocates laud its potential to retain soil nutrients, sustain moisture levels in both drought and heavy rain conditions, and sequester carbon in the ground. For evidence of biochar’s usefulness, they point to the terra preta of the Amazon region, where biochar-enriched soils have maintained high fertility for thousands of years. » Continue Reading.
In August 1939, tanks began rolling toward the border. That short sentence should call to mind the beginnings of World War II, as German tanks headed for Poland. The very same thing was happening here at the very same time: tanks preparing for war were rolling towards New York’s border in August 1939. It was the 66th Infantry’s tank battalion out of Fort Devens, Massachusetts, crossing the Crown Point Bridge from Vermont to Port Henry and heading north to the Plattsburgh area for war maneuvers. Included were more than a hundred trucks and motorcycles and thirty-seven tanks. » Continue Reading.
What do you call a dairy farmer who spends decades improving the genetics of a herd, then abruptly sells all the best animals to start a new herd from scraggly, unproven stock? Crazy, perhaps, or foolish at the very least.
Under normal circumstances, no livestock farmer culls their best animals to start over with random ones. Yet it’s common for woodlot owners to sell all the large, well-formed trees during a timber sale and leave nothing but small and defective trees to regenerate the next forest. » Continue Reading.
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