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.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Tisquantum: The Native Man Who Rescued the Pilgrims

Embarkation of the Pilgrims by Robert Walter Weir“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” These are the words of H.A. (Henry Allen) Ironside; a Canadian-American Bible teacher, preacher, theologian, pastor, member of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, and one of the most inspired Christian writers of the 20th Century.

For most Americans, Thanksgiving is exactly that; a time of giving thanks. But it’s also a time when we commemorate the success of the Pilgrims; the Separatists who came here from England to establish the Plymouth colony. And, next year, Americans will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower, and the Pilgrims, to the shores of Massachusetts. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Growing Berries in the North Country

a new strawberry variety created by Cornell courtesy Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life SciencesThere are several types of cultivated berries grown in Northern New York. Among the most popular are strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, although several other minor fruits (e.g. currants, gooseberries) are grown, as well.

Starter plants are relatively inexpensive and, once established, the plantings are reasonably easy to maintain. They last for years and the fruit is incredibly flavorful when picked fresh. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Seriously Supersized Prize-Winning Pumpkins

Leonardo Urenas prize winning pumpkinGrowing giant pumpkins may be a lot like baseball. After all, both are traditional, competitive sports that require hard work, determination, discipline, attentiveness, patience, and the ability to anticipate. Both continue to grow in appreciation; not just in this country, but internationally. The season starts in the spring. And fall is the time of final defeat for most; victory for a lucky few.

During the final weeks of September and throughout the month of October, millions of people around the world take in fall festivals featuring giant pumpkin weigh-offs. Many also showcase pumpkin parades, pumpkin carving contests, pumpkin sculpture, pumpkin pie-eating contests, and pumpkin beer, as well. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 23, 2019

It’s Apple Season!

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

New York’s apple harvest is underway. And it’s shaping up to be a good one. Early season varieties are now available at area orchards, farm stands, pick your own locations, and farmers’ markets. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

A Good Year For Monarch Butterflies

monarch pupates in the relative safety of a firewood pile by Richard Gast If you’ve noticed a lot of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) lately, you’re not alone. From my own observations and from what people have been telling me, this summer appears to have been a very successful one for them; at least in this part of the northeast.

Monarchs have four life stages; egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult (butterfly). The caterpillars feed only on milkweed leaves and seed pods. And, for this reason, adult Monarch females lay their eggs only on milkweed. In fact, the search for milkweed is the sole reason for monarch migration; perhaps the most remarkable migration in nature. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 8, 2019

A Renewed Fight to Protect Migratory Birds

bird covered in oil courtesy USFWSDuring the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the use of feathers in women’s hats was all the rage.

To meet fashion industry demand for their elegant plumage, several North American bird species (e.g. egrets, herons) were hunted to near-extinction. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Adirondack Harvest: Farmers Markets Support Local Growers

Saranac Lake Village Farmers Market courtesy Regional Office of Sustainable TourismFarmers Markets (marketplaces where people gather to buy and trade goods and services, exchange news, and share stories with one another) can be traced back 5000-years, to Egyptian villages and towns along the Nile.

They have deep roots in American history too; enduring as a part of our society, business, and trade since 1634, when the first Farmers’ Market in the ‘New World’ opened for business in Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout much of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, outdoor marketplaces remained vital centers of commerce in both American cities and rural communities. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

No Evidence of Native Cougars in the Adirondacks

Mountain lion paw print taken in Lake George on Dec 10 2010 courtesy NYSDECBefore the 19th century, cougars were abundant across the American continent. In fact, the cougar was the most widely distributed land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. They were found in forests from tropical to boreal; from Chile to the Canadian Yukon.

A lion living in the Arizona desert may appear different than one living in the coniferous forests of British Columbia or the freshwater marshes of Florida, but genetically, they’re the same animal, Puma concolor. Taxonomists classify cougars from different regions by subspecies, however. Examples are the North American cougar, Eastern cougar, Western mountain lion, and Florida panther. They’re also called pumas and catamounts. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

It’s Hummingbird Season

Adult Male Hummingbird courtesy Ian DaviesI’ve always been fascinated by ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris), the only hummingbird species to regularly breed in eastern North America.

They’re small hummingbirds with slender, slightly curved, black bills, fairly short wings that don’t reach all the way to their tails when sitting, and strikingly radiant iridescent feathers that change in intensity and hue, depending upon the light and your angle of view. All ruby-throated hummingbirds; males, females, and immature birds; flaunt bright emerald- or golden-green on their backs and crowns, with a dull white or pale gray breast. Only the male brandishes the intensely lustrous ruby-red throat for which they’re named. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Invasive Lanternfly May Be Vulnerable To Native Fungi

spotted lanternfly nymphs adultsThe season of daylight and blooming flowers has finally arrived. But, along with the emergence of all things green, comes the emergence of all sorts of flies, bugs, mites, worms, and mollusks. Many of these are unwelcome home, garden, and agricultural pests which, as the weather continues to warm, will only become more active.

Early season leaf- and plant-feeding insects are on every grower’s mind. And this year, grape growers, orchardists, nursery operators, home-gardeners, and others are advised to be aware of the potential for the appearance of yet another invasive pest from Asia. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Cornell Experts Suggest Energy, Water Mexico Border

energy water border along usa mexico borderRebecca J. Barthelmie, is a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering who specializes in developing wind as a renewable energy resource. Her colleague Sara C. Pryor is an atmospheric scientist and Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences professor who uses a combination of field measurements and numerical tools to improve understanding of the climate system. Barthelmie and Pryor are part of a consortium of 28 scientists, researchers, and engineers from several American universities proposing an unusual and thought-provoking alternative to building a nondescript wall along the US-Mexico border. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

American Robins: Harbingers of Spring

Adult male American Robin feeding nestlings“The early bird catches the worm.” It’s an old adage that most likely refers to the American robin (Turdus Migratorius). This year, I first saw robins in late March, right around the time that maple sap started running.

As I write this, they’re still showing up, almost daily, apparently looking for fly nymphs resting on the ice and snow alongside the river. Just up the road, they’re already hopping around on bare areas in lawns, gardens, fields, and pastures; cocking their heads from side to side as they try to find a big, fat, tasty worm to eat. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

Exploring the History of Maple Syrup

Mike Todriff firing the sugar boiler in 2018 (Shannon Houlihan photo)I don’t think there’s a more magnificent forest tree or more glorious shade tree than the sugar maple (Acer saccharum); a deciduous tree that matures in 30-50 years, generally growing to between 70 and 90 feet tall, with a crown that turns a brilliant, fiery yellow, orange, or red at summer’s end. The sugar maple is the official state tree of New York, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. It’s also the national tree of Canada. And the maple leaf is the Canadian national emblem.

For sugarmakers, this is maple season. Having tapped thousands of maple trees, they now harvest their reward; collecting the sap that brings the region’s maples out of winter dormancy and boiling it down, with pride and care, to just the right consistency for pure maple syrup and the delicious cream, candies, and confections made from maple sugar. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 25, 2019

Roosting Crows: Birds of a Feather

American Crow Birds of a feather flock together. It’s a metaphor dating back to the sixteenth century; used even then in alluding to people with similar interests, motivation, loyalties, or like minds.

It’s also a straightforward reference to the fact that birds congregate with others of their own species. So, when I’m asked, as I have been recently, about the considerable numbers of crows that people have seen roosting in the village of Malone, I’m inclined to simply answer, ‘birds of a feather…’ » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 18, 2019

Viewpoint: Coming to Terms with Solar Energy Development

Early stage project construction at the at the former village of Malone landfill sitePerhaps the most significant energy question in the North Country in the coming year will be the potential long-term advantages and/or disadvantages of advancing industrial-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) project development in the region.

Solar power represents a significant opportunity for economic development and job creation in North Country communities. And PV energy production is playing an increasingly important role in how states meet their (renewable) energy needs. » Continue Reading.