Almanack Contributor Paul Hetzler

Paul Hetzler

A Canton, NY-based arborist, educator and writer, Paul Hetzler had intended to be a bear when he grew up, but failed the audition. He settled for an educator position instead, and serves as Horticulture and Natural Resources Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County.

His work has appeared in the medical journal The Lancet, as well as Highlights for Children Magazine. He is the author of Shady Characters: Plant Vampires, Caterpillar Soup, Leprechaun Trees and Other Hilarities of the Natural World.

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


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Windshield Survey of Back-Country Bugs

Dragonfly SplatterNext time you arrive at your cottage, camp or favorite fishing spot and the car’s grille is bristling with wings and other insect body parts, its windshield greased with bug guts, you should be happy. Those insects develop underwater, and they are an indication that the water quality thereabouts is very good. And that you should bring paper towels and glass cleaner next time.

Flying fish excepted, it seems odd to call an airborne creature aquatic. But these insects spend the vast majority of their lives in an aquatic life stage called a naiad, or nymph. They breathe through gills that, while well-developed, are readily damaged by sediment and other kinds of water pollution. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Crazy Worms: Fish Bait And Forest Pest

Crazy WormRaise your hand if you’re tired of hearing about new invasive species. Yeah – right there with you. Aside from the fact that there’s too much bad news around as it is, we’re still working on a solution for those good old-fashioned pests that rival the common cold in terms of eluding conquest. Japanese beetles, European chafers, buckthorn, wild parsnip, Japanese knotweed – enough already. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Trees: Understanding Roots And Root Care

PaulHetzlerTreeRootAngelaPerry4002.5April showers bring May flowers, the calls of spring peeper frogs, and of course, backhoes. Yes, it’s construction season, which for arborists and trees is also root-damage season.

As far as trees are concerned, root injury is the source of all evil. Well, most of it, anyway; chainsaws and forest fires aren’t so kind to trees, either. But regardless of the worrisome signs a tree may develop, whether early fall leaf color, tip dieback, slow growth, or even some diseases and insect infestations, the problem is below ground in the majority of cases. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week

EABadult4in72DavidCappaertMichiganStateUIt’s not Dorothy’s fault, or even that of the Wizard of Oz, but the emerald city isn’t what it used to be. By “emerald city” I mean Fort Wayne, Indiana. Naperville, Illinois. Dayton, Ohio or any number of Midwestern communities that are decidedly less green than before the emerald ash borer (EAB) arrived there. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Coltsfoot: Eye Candy and Cough Syrup

ColtsfootI haven’t checked with an optometrist, but I may have a winter-related vision problem. When five or six months of winter-white finally give way to a mostly brown world each early spring, my eyeballs hurt – they ache for something bright in the landscape. That’s probably why I plant a few additional crocus bulbs in the yard every fall, and why I search out early-blooming native wildflowers like bloodroot and Carolina spring beauty.

But what thrills me most is how clumps of yellow coltsfoot flowers emerge, long before their leaves come out, from muddy roadside ditches, rail embankments and other sites with a history of soil disturbance. Coltsfoot flowers look a bit like small dandelions, but without any leaves in sight. Maybe it’s the contrast between their bright color and the sepia environs, or perhaps it’s their audacity at blooming so early, but these tiny sunbursts do much to dispel my winter fatigue. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Arbor Day Has Northern New York Roots

SeedlingplantingUSDAForestServ3003.75Muskrat Day. Velcro Appreciation Month. Hair Follicle Hygiene Week. Arbor Day. You know it’s an obscure event when the greeting-card trade hasn’t bothered to capitalize on it. I like to think the industry knows Arbor Day is worthy of a Hallmark line, but that they’ve decided to honor its spirit by conserving paper. (C’mon, it’s possible.)

While it’s not the best-known observance, Arbor Day has a respectable history, as well as local roots. Begun in 1872 by Adams, NY (Jefferson County), native J. Sterling Morton, Arbor Day was intended to highlight the need to conserve topsoil and increase timber availability in his adopted state of Nebraska. Though it began as an American tradition, Arbor Day, which is observed on the last Friday in April, is now celebrated worldwide. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mountains Of Molehills: Not All Bad

MolehillsUKPaulGlazzardOne thing about snow is that it hides a multitude of sins, making one property look as immaculate as the next. In the years when winter lingers into spring, some of us start to think pristine is overrated, and we are prepared to settle for muck and grime if only Mother Nature would peel back her wintry shroud.

But as backyard glaciers recede, some homeowners are dismayed to find that an army of moles has apparently spent the winter detonating explosives. The star-nosed mole and the hairy-tail mole are the two species that live in my area of Northern New York, and as their soil mounds indicate, they are active all winter. If they have turned your once-flat lawn into a relief map of the Adirondacks, don’t panic; it’s not as bad as it seems. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Late Maple Sap Run For Syrup Makers

Sugar Shack 2015In spite of deep snow and frigid temps through early 2015, most maple producers in northern New York have been ready for sugaring season since early February, but they had to wait for the right weather to trigger sap flow.

Until this past week, sap runs in the region had for the most part been sporadic and brief, and producers at higher elevations where it is a bit colder have seen very little action until now. » Continue Reading.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Tips for Starting Garden Plants Now

starting-seeds-indoorsBased on recent excavations in northern New York State, archeologists have reached a stunning conclusion. Apparently, beneath layers of snow and ice there may still be “soil” in our region. It’s been so long since the presence of soil was confirmed, many people had begun to doubt its continued existence.

With the issue of object impermanence resolved, gardeners can get ready to start seeds indoors. If you’re new at this, the materials list can be perplexing. You’ll need to scrounge up the right amounts of light, warmth, drainage, timing and sanitation. Seeds would be helpful, too. » Continue Reading.


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.