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.


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Beauty of a Snowflake 

Snowflakes

A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations. Psalm 147:16 begins, “He sends the snow like white wool” (NLT). And there really is something awesome about freshly fallen, white snow covering everything. It really is like a blanket of white wool spread over the earth. In fact, because snow is comprised of 90 to 95 percent trapped air, when it covers the ground, it keeps everything beneath it warm. That’s why so many animals tunnel into the snow to hibernate or burrow into the ground to get comfortable beneath the snow during winter. It’s also the reason that igloos can be so much warmer inside than outside.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 8, 2023

An Insatiable Hunger for Energy 

Combustion-related air pollutants

By the Numbers – Homes and Businesses 

We use energy in our homes every day; lots of energy. According to the United States Department of Energy, 40% of the energy consumed in the United States goes to powering our homes and commercial buildings.

We use energy to keep rooms at comfortable temperatures, to provide lighting, and to heat water. We also use energy to cook food and to power our phones, computers, games, and appliances.

 

By the Numbers – Transportation 

Even though Americans account for just 4.23% of the global population, with nearly 291-million registered vehicles, the U.S.A. is home to almost a quarter of the world’s cars. American motorists drive more than 3-trillion miles annually, and the Federal Highway Administration expects that number to grow by 22%, by 2049.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, December 30, 2022

Sleeping the Winter Away? 

North County winters pose a challenge to animals who choose to stay here, rather than migrate to warmer climates. Food is scarce. Many survive by sleeping. Well… not sleeping exactly. Hibernating.

Hibernation is a life-saving adaptation. Essentially, it’s the ability to reduce one’s energy needs when resources run low or become unavailable. Many warm-blooded animals would die of starvation if it wasn’t for their ability to hibernate.

Very Few Animals are ‘True’ Hibernators 

    The term hibernation is commonly applied to all types of winter dormancy. But ‘true’ hibernators enter hibernation at the same time every year, regardless of the outside temperature or availability of food. During ‘true’ hibernation, body temperature is lowered to slightly above that of the temperature in the animal’s lair. Respiration is reduced to just a few breaths per minute. Heartbeat becomes barely distinguishable.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, December 12, 2022

Buying, Selecting, and Caring for the Perfect Christmas Tree 

 

I can still remember how exciting it was for my younger sister and me when, as kids, my dad announced, “We’re going to get the Christmas tree tomorrow.” The following morning we’d put on our hats and gloves and head out to the Christmas tree lot in front of Dad’s favorite hardware store to buy that ‘perfect’ Christmas tree. (Once the tree was up however, my sister and I quickly became more focused on what we hoped would be under it.)

Buy Local 

    As I see it, the choice we have as consumers this Christmas (and throughout the year) is to either support small, family-run businesses, or help some fat-cat, one-percenter CEO buy another yacht, sports car, or vacation home.

    Picking the perfect Christmas tree is high on many families’ to-do lists, right now. Maybe you’re planning to pick up your tree this weekend. If so, I want to encourage you to purchase your tree from a local tree farm, nursery, garden center, or farm stand, as opposed to a big box store.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 27, 2022

Snowmobiling This Winter? Ride Safely and Have Fun 

Snowmobiling provides great opportunities for recreation with family and friends during the winter months. It’s a healthy activity that combines sightseeing with adventure. And northern New York offers some of the best snowmobiling you’re likely to find anywhere.

Almost all snowsledders experience the beauty and freedom of the open trail on public access snowmobile trail systems. And northern New York is home to thousands of miles of interconnected, public access snowmobile trails. But with that freedom and riding enjoyment comes considerable responsibility; not just for one’s own safety, but for the safety of other trail users; snowmobilers and non-snowmobilers alike (e.g. cross-country skiers, snowshoers, dog-sledders).

» Continue Reading.


Monday, November 14, 2022

Canada Geese – Big Honkin’ Birds 

Canada Geese in flight

Canada geese, often referred to as Canadian Geese, are the second largest waterfowl in North America. (The largest is the swan.) They’re also the most widely distributed, with a range that encompasses arctic, sub-arctic, and temperate regions in Alaska, Canada, all of the lower 48 states, and Mexico. They’re also found in Greenland, northern Europe, and parts of Asia. Introduced populations have established themselves in New Zealand.

Only the females are actually called geese. The males are known as ganders. And the young are goslings. A large group is called a flock. A flock on the ground is known as a gaggle. And geese flying in the characteristic V-formation are referred to as a wedge, team, or skein.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Building a Better Apple 

Where Do Apples Come From? 

Apples are the most-consumed fruit in the United States. The annual estimated total value of the American apple industry is $23 billion, with just five cultivars; Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and Red Delicious; making up two-thirds of production. Of these, Honeycrisp is easily the most valuable; having nearly twice the value per pound, if not more, than any of the others.

A few of weeks ago, I was sharing a couple of Honeycrisp apples with a friend and his granddaughter. As the youngster devoured a slice of apple… and then ate another… and another… and another… enjoying the juicy sweetness of each crunchy bite, she asked, “Where do apples come from?”

» Continue Reading.


Monday, October 17, 2022

It’s Pumpkin Season 

“There are three things that I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” — Linus (from ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’)

 

I can’t think of any horticultural crop that signals the arrival of autumn more than pumpkins. They’re as much a part of the fall season as colder temperatures and shorter days, trees turning crimson, gold, and orange, the smell of fallen leaves wafting on the crisp, clear air, huge flocks of migrating geese, corn mazes, hayrides, apple cider, and Halloween costumes and decorations.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 2, 2022

Heating With Wood This Winter 

I need to preface this article by assuring readers that, contrary to what many people are saying, New York State is not considering passing legislation that would prohibit burning wood or woody biomass products (pellets, scrap wood, sawmill and forest residues) at this time. There is a draft-plan, however, in which the state Climate Action Council’s advisory panel sets out scenarios for an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with overall wood use decreasing within that time frame.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 18, 2022

Northern New York Produces the Best Milk and Cheese in the State 

The dairy community in New York is comprised of both large dairy operations and small, family run farms, as well as processing facilities that range in type and size from trans-national food processing conglomerates to small, artisanal dairy-product-makers.

The dairy industry is a vital part of the State’s economy and its leading agricultural sector. Our nearly 3,600 dairy producers supply more than 15-billion pounds of milk annually, accounting for about one-half of New York’s total agricultural income and making New York the nation’s fourth largest dairy state.

What’s more, our producers and processors contribute significantly to local economies and to the vitality of local communities. And the milk and milk-products they produce are consistently top-notch.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 4, 2022

A Zucchini is Not a Cucumber 

Cucumbers are a part of any summer vegetable garden. And from salads and dips to sandwiches and smoothies, crunchy, refreshing, water-rich cucumbers are an indispensable part of any summer diet, as well.

I suppose, much the same can be said for zucchinis. And, given their similar appearance, it’s easy to see how cucumbers and zucchinis can sometimes be mistaken for one another. They’re alike in shape and color and belong to the same family of plants (Cucurbitaceae, the gourd family). But they’re of different genera (Cucumis and Cucurbita, respectively) and, actually, quite unalike.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, August 22, 2022

Managing Your Woodlot for Sustainable Firewood Production 

The Heating Season is Coming and Heating Fuel Costs are High 

It’s the time of year when North Country homeowners and renters start to think about and prepare for the upcoming heating season. The price of heating oil, propane, and natural gas all reached record highs earlier this year. And, what we’ll be paying for those fuels during the winter is anyone’s guess. The price will depend on many factors, including the weather, supply and demand locally and worldwide, and inflation. Whatever the cost, it’s apparent that high fuel prices aren’t going away. And that fuel prices are just one of several inflation pressures that everyone’s facing.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 4, 2022

Learn About 4-H at the Franklin County Fair

The 172nd Annual Franklin County Fair (frcofair.com) kicks off on Sunday, August 7th, with poultry judging, horses in place, Holstein and red and white cattle in place, and a demolition derby. It will conclude on Sunday, August 14, with an open beef show and tractor pulls. You can take a spin on the Tilt-a-Whirl or a ride on the Ferris Wheel, enjoy some fried dough, and take in a Monster Truck Show (Aug. 10), a demolition derby (Aug. 11), or a concert by Rodney Atkins and Tracy Byrd (Aug. 12th) or Walker Hayes and Tigirlily (Aug. 13).  

It’s also an opportunity to learn about or show your support for 4-H, America’s largest youth development organization. 4-H is almost certainly the most highly recognized of all Cooperative Extension programs. And the Franklin County Fair has a long and rich tradition of supporting 4-H programs and 4-H youth. For more than a century, the Fair has been a place for 4-H members to come together to showcase their skills, craftsmanship, showmanship, and their animals. The Fair isn’t actually a part of the 4-H program and Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Fair Board are not directly related. But both organizations have been cooperating for generations to assure continued success.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Controlling an Invasive Plant Without Herbicides

Invasive species are plants, animals, fungi, or microorganisms that spread rapidly and cause harm to other species. They are introduced species that can thrive in areas beyond their natural range of dispersal.

     Characteristically, invasive plant species are adaptable, aggressive, and usually lacking natural enemies that can limit their growth and populations. They have a high reproductive capability; growing rapidly in short life cycles and producing abundant amounts of seed. They aggressively compete with native plants and plant communities and often displace them, thereby disrupting the normal functioning of ecosystems and threatening biodiversity and already endangered native plant species.
     Purple loosestrife is a perfect example of an introduced plant species that has become a serious and widespread threat to native species, natural communities, and ecosystem processes. It was brought to North America by the European colonists as an herbal remedy for dysentery, diarrhea, and other digestive ailments and introduced in the 1800s as an ornamental. It was well-established in New England by the 1830s, and spread along canals and other waterways. Supposedly sterile species were offered for sale for many years, but researchers later found that those cultivars were fully capable of cross-pollinating with plants growing in the wild.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Bringing Farmers and Consumers Closer Together

Throughout most of the twentieth century, our local communities were thriving. We had sawmills, gristmills, fruit and vegetable farms, butcher shops (with butchers that may have known or raised the animals), dairies (many offering local delivery), and bakeries. Much of the food (and many other items) found on store shelves was from area farmers and producers.

    Today we import most of our food. We depend on grocery chain stores to make it available to us. And while it’s clear that we’ve become very effective at producing affordable food for much of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic, among other recent / current geopolitical events and climate change issues, brought to light an unexpected lack of security in our food chain (and several other consumer product distribution chains, too).
    Farmers were unable to ship produce or livestock to distributors, processors, market outlets, or slaughterhouses. And American consumers experienced (and to some degree are still experiencing) panic buying, empty store shelves, rationing of food staples, and the inability to obtain certain food items and consumer goods altogether.
    To better endure a crisis in the future, we need to build more sustainable, more resilient food systems. One way to accomplish this is to bring producers and consumers closer together.

» Continue Reading.



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