Almanack Contributor Richard Gast

Richard Gast

Richard Gast is a retired Extension Program Educator and has been contracted by Cornell Cooperative Extension Franklin County to continue his informative and thought provoking articles.


Monday, January 24, 2022

Enjoying Winter 

There’s no getting around winter. So you might as well get into it. Right?  Enjoy a good book, binge-watch Netflix, savor warm drinks, and cozy up beside the wood stove or fireplace for hours with your music (and your sweetie).

But, being active and getting outside are vital for our health. And most northern New Yorkers will tell you that access to year-round outdoor recreation is a bonus; one of the blessings that comes with living here. We have the Adirondack Park, along with many other local and state parks, forests, waterways, recreation areas, and trail systems that make the region attractive and accessible to families and friends who enjoy getting outside together. Unless it’s dangerously cold, winter weather is no reason to stay indoors.

For kids, winter is the season of snowballs, snow forts, snowmen, snow sculptures, snow angels, sledding, tobogganing, tubing, ice skating, and fat (tire) biking. And for families and friends, there’s snowmobiling, downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking, winter camping, dog sledding, ice fishing, and winter carnivals.

If you live in northern New York, you live in the middle of, or at least near, some of the best outdoor recreation in the east. In fact, outdoor winter recreation is a rich part of the region’s heritage and a vitally powerful and sustainable economic engine that supports local businesses and contributes to healthy local communities.

So, put on your long johns, layer up (consider several high-quality, moisture-wicking layers), and grab a warm coat, hat, boots, perhaps a scarf, and a well-insulated pair of toasty gloves or mittens. Because, as I’ve heard it said, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.’

» Continue Reading.


Monday, January 10, 2022

Helping Birds Survive the Winter 

Carolina wrens on snowmanAs winter sets in across the North Country, devoted bird-enthusiasts resume feeding overwintering birds. They take both pleasure and pride in helping their feathered friends survive the harsh winter months, by dutifully providing them with food, water, and shelter.

Feeding birds during the winter can be a never-ending source of entertainment and enjoyment. And an easy, rewarding, and sometimes surprising way to connect with nature. No matter where you live, you can invite birds into your yard and help to ensure their survival by simply putting food out for them to find.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Cornell University, other colleges contend with Omicron Variant Surge  

cornell covid testingIn the face of the new COVID-19 variant (Omicron) and a precipitous rise in the number of infections on college campuses across the country in the weeks following Thanksgiving, administrators found themselves confronted with having to, once again, put measures into place aimed at limiting COVID-19 transmission on their campuses and in their communities.

    Numerous schools around the country declared that students had to finish their semesters remotely. Many are extending mask mandates and requiring vaccine booster shots in order to return to campus. They’re limiting social gatherings and canceling sporting events as well, which greatly inhibits campus life. This comes at a time when almost every academic institution in America was starting (or at least hoping) to relax safety measures and begin returning to normalcy.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 11, 2021

Boughs of Holly 

holly

Deck the Halls 

    Deck the halls (with boughs of holly). It’s a fun-to-sing Christmas song (with its fa-la-la refrain) and perhaps one of the most widely recognized and most-often caroled.

    First published in 1881, the song is generally believed to be American in origin, although the author remains unknown. The music, however, (or should I say the tune) dates back to 16th Century Wales and a song titled Nos Galan, which means New Year’s Eve. Some people associate the music for Nos Galan with a duet for violin and piano by Mozart, and / or a piece written for voice and piano with violin and cello composed by Haydn.

    Interestingly, an early calendar in the Church of Rome described Christmas Eve as templa exornantur; churches are decked.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 4, 2021

Solar Grazing: A Ewe-nique Idea 

Harvesting the Sun 

    According to the United States Energy Information Administration, there are approximately 2,500 commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) energy gathering and generating stations currently serving the nation’s electric grid. Most produce one- to five-megawatts (MW) of power. A five-MW facility requires roughly 40 acres of land. Some analysts maintain that, depending on how quickly the nation moves from non-renewable to renewable electricity, an additional 10-million acres of land could be needed by 2050. That’s an area greater than the land-mass of Massachusetts and New Jersey, combined. Although commercial solar arrays are frequently built on low-quality, low-impact sites, such as landfills, brownfields, abandoned mining land, and former industrial locations, they’re often placed on agricultural land, as well.

    A couple of years ago, I wrote an article addressing solar development on agricultural land in the North Country. At the time, several large-scale PV energy generating projects were being considered in northern Franklin County, including a massive 150-MW power generating project on roughly 950-acres of land in the town and village of Malone, proposed by Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy. After the initial proposal encountered unwavering opposition from local residents, the application was scaled back to 50-MW, but resistance remained high and the project was eventually scrapped.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, November 15, 2021

The Season of Northern Lights 

aurora

In late October and earlier this month, spectacular aurora activity was visible across much of the northern hemisphere. Sightings were reported from Maine to Washington State and as far south as Connecticut and California.

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Friday, November 5, 2021

Fuzzy-Wuzzy Woolly Bears

Banded wooly bear caterpillar; Pyrrharctia Isabella larva Whitney Cranshaw; Colorado State University; Bugwood orgIt’s been a remarkably mild fall. In fact, at the time of this writing (Oct. 27), I still haven’t had a frost at my home, near the Canadian border. But winter is coming. And while winter can be a very picturesque time of the year and getting outdoors in winter can be a lot of fun, harsh winter weather can stop most of us… well… cold.

Someone recently asked me, “What do you think the winter will be like this year?” I simply replied, “I don’t know.”

Even meteorologists, using state-of-the-art models can’t predict weather with 100-percent accuracy. In fact, it seems to me that meteorology is a notoriously inexact science, with accuracy dropping especially quickly as you look more than a week or so into the future.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Real Johnny Appleseed

apples

There’s little in life more pleasing than biting into a fresh, crisp, juicy, mouth-watering, slightly sweet, slightly tart, apple. And what could be healthier? Apples contain vitamins C and A, antioxidants, potassium, pectin, fiber, and no cholesterol. They can be eaten fresh, baked, or stewed. They can be juiced or turned into cider; made into sauce, butter, jelly, vinegar, and wine; or cooked into pies, crisps, crumbles, cakes, doughnuts; even meat dishes. They make delightful confections when coated with candy (sugar syrup), caramel, or toffee and nuts, too.

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Monday, October 4, 2021

A Harvest of North Country Cranberries

Gathering cranberries with a floating 'boom'

The 2021 growing season is nearing an end. And, as the last of the greens, Brussels sprouts, and turnips are taken from the ground, I’m grateful for the diverse variety of vegetables that family, friends, and neighbors have harvested, processed, stored, and shared; everything from tomatoes, potatoes, summer squash, and zucchini, to Romanesco broccoli, Kohlrabi, purple cauliflower, tomatillos, and blue dent corn. Tree fruit and nut yields from both wild and cultivated trees were bountiful this year, too. Wild and cultivated herbs and edible medicinal plants are being readied for use as spices, teas, tinctures, and poultices. And the harvest of forage corn, hay, and beans, which will feed dairy and meat cattle in the months ahead is nearly complete.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A Change of Season: The fall equinox and ancient astronomers

At Hovenweep Castle provided by Richard Gast
The Autumnal Equinox

This year, the autumnal equinox falls on the 22nd of September. It typically occurs on the 22nd or 23rd but, due to differences between the calendar year and the solar year (365 days versus 365 and 1/4 days), may take place anytime between Sept. 21st and Sept. 24th. The last time an autumnal equinox was on the 21st however, was in 1931. And the next Sept. 21st equinox isn’t until 2076. The last time one occurred on the 24th was in 1907. That won’t happen again until 2303.

An equinox takes place when the Earth’s axis is turned neither away from nor towards the sun, which when seen from the equator rises due east and sets due west. Day and night are of approximately equal length everywhere in the world. The word equinox comes from the Medieval Latin word equinoxium, which means equality of day and night.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, September 13, 2021

Asters and Goldenrod: Late Season Native Perennials

Monarch-Butterfly-on-New-England-Aster-2-–-Rick-L-Hansen-US-Fish-and-Wildlife-Service.

As autumn approaches, the days grow shorter, evenings grow cooler, acorns fall from the oaks, and the maples, in anticipation of the coming change of season, start to reveal hints of the glorious spectacle of color that lies ahead.

It’s also the time of year when the goldenrod and the asters (also called starworts or frost flowers) present their showy blooms along roadsides and forest edges, in woodland openings, meadows, and old fields, and along stream banks. At a time when most other perennials have finished blooming, their eye-catching flowers are an abundant source of nectar for bees and butterflies, including adult monarchs, setting out on their remarkable flight to overwintering sites in the high-mountain forests of central Mexico. The seeds of both (and the insect larvae that feed on the plants themselves) are a valuable food source for birds, including migratory birds making their way south, and for many small mammals, as well.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Farmers Markets are in Full Swing Across Northern New York

keene valley farmers market adirondack harvest

During my years at Extension, one of my (self-proclaimed) missions was to support local farms and producers and to promote consumer-access to, education about, and appreciation for local, fresh, sustainably produced foods and products, while also working to develop farmers’ markets as vibrant gathering places within local communities. That mission continues.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

High Tunnels can Extend the Growing Season and Enhance High-Value Crop Viability

Putting the finishing touches on a high tunnel Photo Credit: Susan Alman; University of Arkansas

High tunnels, sometimes called hoop houses, offer northern New York market growers an easy way to extend our limited growing season by two or three months. Sometimes more. Farmers can grow early and/or late crops of cool weather and salad vegetables even while there’s snow on the ground. And depending upon the weather, warm season crops, like tomatoes, can mature several weeks earlier and be harvested and sold many weeks after similar field grown crops have been killed by frost.

In addition, high tunnels offer protection from wind, driving rain, disease, insects, and deer. And more than a decade of Cornell University-conducted research has shown that the yields and quality of produce grown in high tunnels can be far superior to that of comparable field-grown crops.

This is great news for consumers too, who gain access to an ever-increasing variety and supply of top-quality, locally-grown fruits and vegetables, both earlier and later in the year.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Emerald Ash Borer and Ash Trees – A New Approach

The emerald ash borer adult is a green buprestid or jewel beetle about 1/2 inch long.

The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a half-inch long, green buprestid or jewel beetle. It’s an invasive insect native to Asia, believed to have made its way to the United States on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or on airplanes.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Plan Next Year’s Perennial Wildflower Garden Now

rudbecka hirta black eyed susan

Look at the wild flowers. See how they grow. – Luke 12:27; International Children’s Bible

You belong among the wildflowers. – Tom Petty

Love is like wildflowers; it’s often found in the most unlikely places. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I walk along the fields, meadows, and roads or hike through the forests of northern New York, I often come across wildflowers and think, “those would look great in my yard.” Native wildflowers are hardy, low maintenance, and attractive to pollinators, which makes them very desirable for cultivated landscapes. And, because they’re adapted to the climate and soils of the region, when grown under similar conditions they’re generally well-suited for use in home gardens and landscapes.

» Continue Reading.



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