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, February 2, 2016

Happy Groundhog Day: The World Of Woodchucks

Groundhogday

Researchers are still puzzling over the age-old question, “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood,” but I may have an answer. Re-brand the woodchuck.

Like the words skunk and moose, woodchuck (wojak) is a Native American term, Algonquin in this case. I don’t know its literal translation, but I suspect it means “fat fur-ball that can inhale your garden faster than you can say Punxsutawney Phil,” or something pretty close to that. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

This Weird Winter And Adirondack Wildlife

Deer Yarding Area“Make me one with everything.” If you had to guess, you’d probably say that was a diner order, or a supplication to the Divine. This winter, I think someone whispered that line in Mother Nature’s ear, because even though it is not yet half over, she has already made us a winter with everything. It’s as if she glanced at her weather playlist and hit the buttons for unseasonable warmth, extreme cold, high winds, rain, sleet, ice, and snow, and then selected the “shuffle” function and walked away.

After each meteorological mood swing I have heard people comment how confused the weather makes them. You plant daffodil bulbs on Christmas, shovel heavy snow the next week, then need crampons a few days later because it rained and then suddenly froze. If you think it’s hard for us humans who can retreat into our posh shelters, imagine how the animals feel. » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Puffballs: Giants Of The Mushroom World

Puff Ball Photo Courtesy John Warren“Never eat anything bigger than your head.” I don’t know if cartoonist Bernard Kliban came up with that or if it’s a nugget of old folk wisdom. Certainly you should not eat anything that big without at least chewing it first.

But if you like mushrooms, you can find wild ones that are in fact much larger than your head. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Porcupines: The Original Bark Eaters

Porcupine photographed by Mary HarrschWhat fearless animal has an adorable face, plows snow all winter and has a six-million acre park named after it?

One of 29 species worldwide, the North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is the largest New World species, growing to 36 inches long and weighing as much as 35 pounds. That makes it the second-largest North American rodent behind the beaver, but still puny compared to an African crested porcupine which can exceed 60 pounds. It is also the only cold-hardy porcupine, and one of the few that regularly climb trees. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Slime Mold: Aliens in the Landscape

Slime MOldImagine if you ventured out on a rainy afternoon and found a bright yellow slime-blob slithering across your perennial gardens, one that had not been there the previous day.

Let’s say this amoeba-like thing was growing larger by the minute as it dissolved and consumed organic matter it encountered on its way through your yard. You might look around for Steve McQueen and the rest of the cast of the 1958 classic horror film “The Blob,” right? Just before you called 911. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Native Foods On The Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving-BrownscombeThe winter of 1620 nearly wiped out the Pilgrims, who were woefully unprepared for life in the New world. Many historians feel they would all have perished if not for food provided by the Wampanoags, on whose land they settled. The following spring, the Wampanoags provided the Pilgrims with seeds to plant, as well as a tutorial (possibly an App, but we can’t be sure) on the production, storage and preservation of food crops such as corn, beans, and squash.

That fall – we’re not even sure if it was October or November – the Pilgrims gave thanks for Native American agriculture, and feasted upon its bounty for three days straight. The Wampanoags probably gave thanks that there wasn’t another ship full of Pilgrims on the horizon just then. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Native Foods: All About Cranberries

Cranberries - Keith Weller, Agricultural Research Service PhotoLike the political process, cranberries can leave a sour taste in your mouth. But unlike politics, whose bitter aftertaste cuts through any amount of sweetener, the flavor of cranberries is readily improved with a little sugar.

To say a fresh cranberry is sour is like saying Picasso and Monet are reasonably good painters. In fact it can have a lower pH value than stomach acid. It’s almost a wonder people ever started eating them, right? » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lichens: More Than Meets The Eye

A lichen covered treeWe all know correlation does not equal causation, and that it’s unfair to convict someone based on circumstantial evidence. But when every appearance points to a culprit, it’s hard to resist jumping to conclusions, which by the way is my favorite athletic endeavor. After all, the kid out in your yard holding a baseball bat might not be responsible for the ball that just smashed through your window.

A landscape tree has a rough life, by definition beset with hardships not faced by its forest-dwelling peers. When chronic stress catches up to one and it declines and dies, I often hear from the homeowner about beetles, pillbugs, mushrooms or what-not (mostly what-not) found near the crime scene that must be to blame. It’s understandable – it’s like the kid with the bat. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Adirondack Winters: Understanding Hibernation

7-year-old mother Black Bear with cubs in a den under a fallen tree - courtesy North American Black Bear CenterOffhand I can’t think of much to say in defense of envy, greed and gluttony, but sloth is different. The lives of some creatures depend on sleeping for half the year, and I don’t mean adolescents. Survival strategies of bats, woodchucks and other animals include long periods of sloth. Ironically, sloths don’t hibernate.

If hibernation is loosely defined as a period of inactivity and lowered metabolism in warm-blooded animals (endotherms) in winter, then many of us in northern latitudes do it. Of course there’s more to it than that. Turns out that among biologists, the exact definition has been a matter of debate in the past. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Asian Lady Bugs: Unwelcome Halloween Decorations

Asian lady bettleWhat’s round to oval-shaped, mostly orange, and is a common sight leading up to Halloween? Everyone knows the answer to that: Harmonia axyridis, obviously. Better known as the multicolored Asian lady beetle, this insect, while beneficial to gardens, is no treat when it masses by the hundreds on, and inside, homes in the fall.

Lady beetles, or lady bugs, are the darlings of small children everywhere. There are a number of native lady beetle species, which tend to be more reddish than orange, and they aren’t known to be nuisances in homes. Multicolored Asian lady beetles, however, are not as polite. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Great Pumpkins: Storing Garden Squash

Traugers-farm-bucks-county-largeLinus, the precocious, blanket-toting “Peanuts” character, waited faithfully for The Great Pumpkin all night on Halloween in spite of being disappointed every year. Perhaps his unwavering belief in the mythical pumpkin was spurred on by the fact that almost every year brings the world a bigger “great pumpkin” of the sort one can measure and – at least potentially – eat. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

When Caring For Trees Avoid Topping

tree toppedTree topping is a subject I can really get worked up about. It’s unprofessional, unsightly, outrageous, unethical, dangerous, and I even suspect it causes more frequent rainy weekends and bad-hair days. It’s unthinkable, horrible, bad, yucko, blecch! That should be pretty clear—any questions? Oh, exactly what is tree topping? Hang on. Mmmph—there, that’s better. Had to wipe the foam off my mouth.

Tree topping is the removal of limbs and or/ trunks to an arbitrary length, leaving stubs. Variably known as heading, hat-racking or tipping, it is denounced by the Tree Care Industry of America, The International Society of Arboriculture and other professional tree-care organizations. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 18, 2015

That Old Line About Why Leaves Change Color

in this leaf the veins are still green while the other tissue is turning redAs a wee lad I was told a story wherein the bright summer sun would bleach pigment from clothes hung on the line, and save up the colors to paint on autumn leaves. Thinking back on that yarn it occurs to me that solar dryers (a.k.a. laundry lines) and fall leaf color change are similar in how they operate. They’re both elegant and cost-free, but their performance depends on the weather. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Distressing Colors: Early Leaf Change An Unhealthy Sign

Early leaf colorIf trees held a race to see which would be among the first to have their leaves turn color, the winners would be losers. Premature leaf color change is a reliable indicator of failing health, and the worse a tree’s condition, the sooner it begins to turn.

Precious few places in the world have a fall color show like ours, and the display that northern hardwoods produce each autumn never fails to fill me with awe and appreciation. But when it starts in July, as was the case again this year on some roadside maples, I know those trees aren’t long for this world. In early August even some forest hardwoods growing on thin rocky soils began to show color, which is also unusual. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Afflictions Of Late Summer Tree Leaves Only Skin Deep

330px-RhytismaAcerinumDetailUBeing an arborist, I’m of course very mindful of complexion. Things like bruises and blemishes catch my eye, in addition to scabs, cuts, and even those out-of-place whiskers that appear out of nowhere. It sounds like a description of my aging skin, but I’m talking about blotches, warts and cuts that accumulate on tree leaves over the summer.

I suppose if we had to stand outside day and night all season, our skin would develop issues too. Those who work or play much outdoors need to be concerned about skin spots that suddenly show up. With tree leaves, that’s not the case – even the ugliest “skin” condition is generally no cause for concern. » Continue Reading.