Sunday, February 12, 2023

Looking Back to a Simpler Time: Being Paid with Food, Gardening & Camping

Valentine Cactus

So many big nature-related events happened this week, it will be hard to fit them all in. Most of you suffered through the two-day, one-night super freeze and way below zero windchill factor that would freeze any exposed skin in a matter of minutes. We had -27 here at Eight Acre Wood that morning and the birds at the feeder were sitting on their feet to keep them warm. [We had] 75 Evening Grosbeaks that morning, and the single White-Throated Sparrow was the first at the feeders, he even ate with the grosbeaks all around him.


My daughter, Erin, called me on Saturday, [Feb. 4] at quarter to three from the front porch [of her condo] in Myrtle Beach to say they just shot down the weather balloon. Photos coming via the internet. Well, I couldn’t have gotten that any sooner on the national news. They had been watching it for quite a while behind the building and then over the ocean where four jets had been all around it. Then one shot it down with a rocket. Now when she walks the beach, she will be looking for balloon parts, not shark’s teeth.

The freight train wreck in eastern Ohio has cleared a big section around that wreck because of all the possible chemicals that could cause serious injury if they burn and explode into the surrounding area. Being so close to the borders of Pennsylvania and New York, people there have also been evacuated. So far, the officials have kept everything under control, but the potential is still there until these chemicals are all under control.


There was a rumble in western New York near Buffalo, a 3.7 earthquake, which will shake the Earth, but normally does little damage. Many people thought their furnace in the cellar was rumbling only to find out it was a small earthquake. Bigger earthquakes did occur early this morning in Turkey and Syria, the first 7.8 on the Richter scale, and a short time later 7.6 on the Richter scale, which did widespread damage to several cities and villages. As of tonight [Feb. 6,] over 3,800 people are dead, and thousands of people injured as buildings collapsed around and on them. Several countries have pledged aid and assistance to these countries in their time of need.

White-throated sparrow.

White-Throated Sparrow. Photo by Gary Lee.

Growing up in the Lee family meant many outdoor activities and much time spent out in [the] big two-acre garden where mom and dad grew all our vegetables that we ate fresh, and canned then froze when the freezer came for the winter. Dad even rented an acre out back just for potatoes, which brother Bob and I would dig a row a night after school and football practice. During the summer, we picked peas and green, yellow and lima beans by the bushel then got them ready for canning or freezing. We had a strawberry patch, raspberry patch, and asparagus patch…all which had to be tended to and picked. We had all kinds of squash, pumpkins…and dad even grew musk melons and one-year watermelons.


There was a row of carrots, beets, and turnips, many of these we kept most of the winter in a cold cellar along with the potatoes, which we sprouted twice a winter. We had several patches of corn that came on at different times, a row of peppers…and I don’t know how many rows of tomatoes. Mom put all these in canning jars and then freezer boxes, and we ate these all winter. She would visit the meat market for meat, when we hadn’t been fishing or hunting some wild game. Bob and I worked part-time at the local dairy farm milking cows, haying, getting the corn in the silo, taking care of several hundred chickens, a few hundred pigs, and picking potatoes which they planted and mechanically-dug in a many-acres field.


The farmer paid us in raw milk that had cream on top, eggs, a chicken or two, and some bacon when they did the pigs. Two growing boys can drink a lot of milk. When we weren’t in the garden or working at the farm, we were off fishing a nearby stream or hunting in the woods, which were just out back. During the summer when school was out, we went camping many times during the summer and it had to be where there were lake trout as Dad was a lake trout fisherman and he could catch them if they were there. We camped in all the campsites on Lake George, Paradox, Schroon and Raquette Lakes.


I remember my sister, Wendy, being born June 6, 1954 and we took her camping at Heartstone Campsite on Lake George the first week of July. One camping trip, we did some stream fishing and stayed in the Wilmington Notch Campsite on the Ausable River right under Whiteface Mountain. It was July and there were blackflies and punkies enough to carry you away, but the rainbow and brown trout were biting on almost every cast. The river was just a short walk down behind the campsite. A big pool just below some ledge rocks. Brother Bob walked along the narrow ledge further up the pool and he was catching fish. I started up the ledge, clinging to the rocks and nearly went in backwards into the swirling river. I went back down where it was safer, and there was a big trout jumping after flies right beside where I sat.


I found an old black kat fly in my box and tied it on. I jigged it across the surface and that fourteen-inch brown grabbed it. Brother Bob got down off the ledge and netted the fish. [It was] my first on a fly, and I was hooked. We went back up to the campsite with my prize and Mother said they had sprayed for the blackflies and she had to cover everything to keep it from getting sprayed. I looked out into the roadway and there were several chipping sparrows flopping around unable to fly, some were dead. They had died from the DDT they were spraying for the flies. [I] learned two lessons that day, I could catch a trout on flies and DDT kills birds…no one told them to cover their food. I have a Christmas cactus that’s going to be a Valentine cactus this year.


I still didn’t get back out skiing…maybe the ankle can take it late this week, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Valentine cactus. Photo by Gary Lee.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

13 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    It is sad, if not criminal, that so many chemicals – including insecticides and herbicides – are minimally researched for toxicity prior to their release into the world. How many times will we keep repeating the process – selling miracles only to ban them TOO LATE for being toxic to other species? The list gets longer every day.

  2. Joe Kozlina says:

    Well Gary I enjoyed the article. I was unaware DDT was sprayed in the Adirondacks for black flies. The spraying of many chemicals still goes on today with the same affects. We know this but just keep on spraying. We just change it up to another new chemical when it stops killing.
    On the subject of the train wreck in East Palistine Ohio, My organic farm is just 6 miles east of the wreck. We packed up ready to evacuate but found it safer to stay indoors after the exploding of the train cars. The smell was strong for about 3 hours here. Many neighbors left for the night after they had burning of their eyes and throat. Years will pass before we know the true cost to the enviornment. The rail road will say sorry and pay a fine and move on to making billions of dollars of profit. The towns wells are now contaminated and the fish kill is large in many of the streams. Some peoples chickens were dead in the morning. I imagine many birds fell to the same fate.

  3. Kim Pope says:

    what a fabulous childhood you had !!!

  4. Jim Leach says:

    Thanks for a glimpse of your boyhood, Gary. Seems like values and interests learned early on have endured.

  5. Joe Kozlina says:

    The reason I am posting this video of the toxic cloud, caused by the train railroad explosion in East Palistine Ohio, is so it can be shared by others concerned with corporations controlling our great lands and environment. We have all seen these man made catastrophes before and we, as a people, cant seem to do much about it.
    This town is 5 miles south of my farm.
    This video contains profanity.

  6. Joan Grabe says:

    Wait a minute ! I just watched that video ( forget the profanity as the narrator really had no other words to describe what he was seeing ) and I don’t think I can process what I saw. I had read that the area had been evacuated. Were the residents allowed to return before the controlled burn ? Since the burned contaminants were airborne and spreading who was monitoring the situation ? This story will die because we move on and forget but I feel very sorry for those poor residents who may be affected now or in the future.

    • Joe says:

      Joan, This video was taken in the town of Darlington Pa. about 5 miles south east of East Palistine Ohio. There was only a 1 mile radius area evacuated.The wind was blowing south east so they got the brunt of the fallout of the cloud of toxic chemicals. Most of the toxic smoke went straight up in the town of EP and then floated over a wide area which no one was monitoring. And still not. I called our local emergency response center and was told to shelter in place. They were unprepared for such an event and were not helpful. You are correct this story will die like all the others. We are dealing with a to big to fail corporation. So what if 10,000 residence get sick. Pay the fine and go on with your business.

  7. louis curth says:

    Does anyone still remember the horrible fire and explosion that destroyed Lac-Megantic, Quebec after a train derailment occurred there on 7/6/2013? Take a look here and take note of how little our culture of greed and coverup has changed…

  8. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Joe! I sympathize with your angst! Truly I do! I have shed many tears over many years due to what I have seen with my own eyes, or read or heard about in the news, the horrors we commit against the natural world, all of it…..the pollution of our waterways, our air, our soil….all so a few people can get rich. Giants without hearts! They just don’t care and they never will! When you said (in the video) that “it is about time and money,” O’ how those few words are so near to me, because that is what it is always about….time and money! I feel that pain Joe, that anger, that sense of hopelessness!!!!!!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Joe Kozlina says:

      Charlie, I just want to clear up one thing. That video is not of me. It is of a fellow who lives in Darlington Pa.
      Not that I dont feel the same way, I just wanted you to know the facts as I know them.
      I have said those things under my breath many times when it comes to the destruction of the natural world.

      • Charlie Stehlin says:

        Thanks for sharing Joe. When I heard that person in that video I related so very much and I knew what he was feeling those moments. Tears came to my eyes then too while seeing that video and hearing his anguished voice!

  9. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “take note of how little our culture of greed and coverup has changed…”

    Yes, and now they’re working on tearing up one of the last sacred havens on earth in Alaska so as to get to the oil and gas under that wilderness! It’s about jobs! About keeping the economy going? They’re a bunch of trucking liars every one of them!

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