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, March 10, 2015

With All This Cold, What About Global Warming?

Global Mean Tempertures RiseI had such high hopes for global warming, but when the first week in March was just as cold as February, I felt disappointed. Betrayed, even. I thought the planet was heating up. All my plans for a northern NY citrus and banana orchard, out the window.

Turns out it’s easy to mix up climate and weather, two very different things. There’s a saying in the Adirondacks (and elsewhere, I’m sure) that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. That’s weather: what we experience in a given day, week, season or year. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Identifying Trees In Winter Using Buds

Tree BudsEvery winter I teach several tree identification classes to biology students. Cold or colder, it’s always outdoors, but if student evaluations are on the level, it’s always fun. Demonstrating how to tell one leaf-bereft hardwood from another is one thing.

Bark is not the best feature for identifying trees. Sure, white bark means birch, but some birches have black, yellow or reddish bark. Typical bark patterns, such as diamond-shaped furrows for ash, can be absent depending on site conditions and tree health. Cherry and ironwood bark have light-colored horizontal dashes called lenticels, but only on young wood. Not all hickories have shaggy bark. Bark may provide a clue, but it’s not to be trusted as a sole, or even a primary, source of information. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snow: Nature’s Fertilizer?

winter corn fieldWhere agriculture is concerned, dairy is king (or is dairy queen?) in Northern New York. But with the kind of winter we’ve had so far, I wonder if we shouldn’t start producing other crops, ones particularly suited to our region. How about we raise snow peas? Or iceberg lettuce?

OK, so I’m indulging one of life’s most futile activities, griping about the weather, but for farmers, foresters and gardeners, there is an upside to all this snow. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Learn To Spot Emerald Ash Borer

EABadult4in72DavidCappaertMichiganStateUOne of the invasive species that deserves attention by forest owners is the emerald ash borer (EAB). Having eaten its way through the Great Lakes states and portions of the upper Midwest, the EAB is on a fast track to Northern New York.

Since its discovery in 2002, the emerald ash borer has stripped cities and villages of all ash trees. Dorothy wouldn’t recognize one of these “emerald cities.” Treeless neighborhoods in places like Fort Wayne, IN, or Dayton, OH are a far cry from the emerald city of Oz. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Watch for Hemlock Wooly Adelgid

HWA_Whitmore_smallDon’t look now, but the sky is falling. Again. This time it’s poised ominously over our hemlock trees, whose verdant canopies shade many a North Country stream and glen. Although hemlocks make lush hedges for home landscapes, they’re best known as stately forest giants that form cathedral-like stands in the Adirondacks and elsewhere. It’s hard to believe these titans are being killed by a tiny insect less than a sixteenth of an inch long. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

For That Real Evergeen Experience, Buy Local

local spruceOf all the memorable aromas of the holiday season, nothing evokes its spirit quite like the smell of fresh-cut evergreen. Although over 80% of American households where Christmas is observed use artificial trees, about 11 million families still bring home a real tree.

Every species of conifer has its own mixture of sweet-smelling terpenols and esters that account for that “piney woods” perfume. While all natural Christmas trees share many of the same aromatic compounds, some people prefer the smell of a certain type of tree, possibly one they remember from childhood. No chemistry lab can make a polyvinylchloride tree smell like fresh pine, fir or spruce. A natural Christmas tree is, among other things, a giant holiday potpourri. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Canada Geese: Autumn Immigrants

CanadaGoose3542468111TonyHisgettWhat can cruise at an altitude of 29,000 feet, is a beloved icon of the great outdoors, and yet can be the bane of lawn lovers? It’s the honking harbinger of advancing autumn and coming cold (and sometimes, bad alliteration), the Canada goose.

The familiar autumn voices of Canada geese overhead can at once evoke the melancholy of a passing summer and the anticipation of a bracing new season of color and activity. Kids return to school, hunters take to the woods, and farmers work past dusk and into darkness, all to the cacophonous cries and the heartbeat of wings of migrating geese. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Choosing The Right Stick for Roasting Marshmallows

Roasting Marshmallow by Flickr user Nina HaleI don’t know about you, but I really look forward to those sticky evenings around a campfire. Not the sweltering, sweaty kind of sticky nights, mind you. I’m thinking of those outdoor-fire evenings spent with family and friends, dodging mosquitoes and smoke, and trying to find the perfect marshmallow stick. I realize campers roast other things on sticks, such as hot dogs and fish (helpful hint: don’t eat the fish sticks). For our purposes, though, we’ll stick—so to speak—to marshmallow.

A caller recently asked what kind of tree yields the best marshmallow sticks. It seemed like a silly question since the scientific method for finding the right stick historically involved two criteria: It must be 1) close at hand, and 2) long enough to avoid burning oneself. However, it occurred to me if it’s a fresh-cut green branch, the species of tree is important. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Mini Maple Forest In Your Lawn

0836MapleSeedlingLawn3003BPWMy lawn is a vast Lilliputian forest of two-inch tall trees, a carpet of closed-canopy maple seedlings punctuated by dandelions. It’s hard to tell, but a few blades of grass may have survived. Anyone with large maple trees in their yard probably has a lawn in similar condition. So what happened?

It all comes down to stress. Not the stress you feel trying to figure out what to do with 10,000 tree seedlings per acre (a fair estimation, by the way), but rather stress the trees felt when they ran out of water in 2012. That summer saw the driest soil conditions on record in northern NY, and trees really felt it. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Arbor Day Originated with Northern New Yorker

Tree IllustrationToday is Arbor Day, a 140-year-old tradition wherein Americans plant trees to improve home and country, and it has local roots, so to speak. Begun in 1872 by Adams, NY (Jefferson County) native J. Sterling Morton, Arbor Day was intended to conserve topsoil and increase timber availability in his adopted state of Nebraska. It has since become a worldwide observance.

Morton believed planting trees went beyond improving our nation. He said “The cultivation of trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful and the ennobling in mankind.” Rather lofty words, but I agree with him. To invest in trees is to invest in the future; it’s an act of generosity and responsibility. When we plant a tree in our community, it’s possible—depending on the species and the site—that our great-grandchildren and beyond could one day enjoy it.   » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tree Pruning Time: Six Weeks Before Buds Open

Proper-Tree-PruningSo far as tree health is concerned, the optimal pruning time is the six weeks or so before buds open. We should still have ample time to prune, as spring appears to be in no hurry to get here.

Pruning is a skill that can be readily learned, and, if you practice it enough, you’ll enter into the art of it. It requires the application of a few basic principals using the right equipment. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

First Day of Spring: Starting Seeds Indoors

starting-seeds-indoorsEven while we remain snowbound, the days are growing longer and the sun is getting higher; robins are singing, and there’s a good chance spring will come sometime in 2014. For those who still believe in spring, late March is the time to start planting vegetable and flower seeds indoors.

Raising your own plants gives you the option to pick unusual varieties not available commercially in the spring, and it’s a lot cheaper than buying transplants. For kids it can be a fun activity, and for the rest of us it’s at least in part about seeds of change; a sign we believe growth and change are possible despite a bleak forecast. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Firewood: Tips For Keeping Insects Out

Fire Wood by John WarrenIt’s economical, sustainable and keeps you in shape, not to mention that nothing feels so good as a seat by the woodstove on a sub-zero night. What’s not to like about heating with wood?   Certain things do bug people. The mess, for one. Stacking and splitting can get old. Adjusting the ‘thermostat’ may involve a trip to the woodpile. And occasionally, unexpected guests arrive.

Firewood, I’ve discovered, comes from “trees” which are covered in “bark,” under which insects can hide. As wood brought inside warms up, it feels like winter’s over to these critters, who gleefully sally forth. Inevitably, insects and homeowners are both disappointed. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Adirondack Deep Freeze: Groans, Snaps, and Booms

winter-injury5When temperatures dip well below zero Fahrenheit, especially if they fall precipitously, things pop. Wood siding creaks. Frozen lakes and ponds emit ominous groans, snaps, and booms that reverberate through the ice. If soil moisture is high and frost is deep, even the earth can shift in a harmless localized cryoseism, or “frost quake” that produces a nerve-rattling bang.

If you live in a wooded area, you’ve probably heard trees popping and cracking during a deep freeze. It’s an eerie sound on an otherwise still night. Native peoples from northern regions were very familiar with this sound, and some even named one of the winter months in honor of it. The Lakota call February cannapopa wi, ‘moon when trees crack from the cold.’ The Arapaho consider December the tree-cracking time; for the Abenaki, it’s January. » Continue Reading.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Coping With Trees and Landscape Winter And Salt Damage

20131223BPWIcyPines4003crop(1)Each year the Northern New York region gets a half-dozen or more freezing rain events, and every few years we might see an actual ice storm (technically at least 0.25 inches ice accumulation). But the storm that froze the North Country in up to two inches of glaze between December 21 and 23, 2013, was exceptional.

It didn’t have quite the punch of “The Great Ice Storm of 1998” in which freezing rain tumbled for 80 solid hours, but in some locations damage was extensive.

Ice storms happen when a warm, moisture-laden front slides up and over a cold air mass, and then lets loose the water works. Cumulus clouds billow up (occasionally spawning winter lightning), and when cloud air temperature is between 25 and 30F, the resulting subcooled rain freezes to cold surfaces. Warmer than 30, it rains; colder than 25, it sleets. If the warm front is slow-moving—or worse yet, stalls—the ice really builds up. » Continue Reading.