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.


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.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Hurricanes, Slides, Avalanches and Backcountry Access

Photo of Angel Slides on Wright Peak I’m not an avid skier. But I have several friends who are ski and snowboard (and in some cases mountain bike) fanatics. Most grew up in skiing families and learned to ski as young children, at small family operated ski areas like Mount Pisgah in Saranac Lake and Titus Mountain in Malone.

They’re people who love powder enough to climb a mountain for it, seeking out the backcountry where, as one friend likes to say, “The powder is plentiful. The lift lines are nonexistent. And I have the whole darn hill to myself.”

They hike marked, as well as unmarked trails, where nothing is groomed; often trekking up mountains in remote, inhospitable areas, for miles, intent on conquering a slope or slide that’s not part of any ski resort. And while I admire their courage and determination, unlike them, I thank God for the mountains. But thank goodness for ski lifts. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Geopolitics of Cheese

putting cheese into molds at the food science plant at Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Stocking HallI enjoy a wide variety of dairy products. And I especially like cheese. All sorts of cheese. Hard, soft, sharp, mild, pungent, curds. Sliced, shredded, cubed, balled, spread, powdered, creamed, and whipped. A little tossed into my breakfast omelet; a slice, perhaps two, on my sandwich at lunch; a touch grated or sprinkled into my salad and/or over my pasta and/or drizzled on my veggies at supper. And then, of course, there’s pizza, cheesy burritos, mac and cheese, cheesecake, cheese Danish, wine and cheese. I can go on. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Rick LeVitre Retiring From Cornell Cooperative Extension

Assemblyman Billy Jones thanks Rick LeVitre for his service to New York’s 115th District After 7 years of Executive Directorship at Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Franklin County and two years of double-duty as Executive Director at CCE of both Franklin and Essex Counties, Rick LeVitre is retiring.

I remember the apprehension I felt when Rick arrived at Franklin County Extension. I knew that our Board of Directors had been working long and hard for months; holding meetings with and about candidates, and that they’d appointed Rick to the position with good reason. But the appointment of a new Director, more often than not, is only the beginning of all sorts of organizational changes. Structural changes to the staff. Strategic changes with regard to Association goals. Changes that both the Board and the new leader believe will move the organization forward. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Poinsettias Have a Long and Colorful History

PoinsettiasPoinsettias are among the most popular potted flowering or foliage plants of the Christmas Season. They have been for decades. According to the most recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics available, the wholesale value of U.S. grown poinsettias was roughly $140 million in 2015; $143.7 million in 2014. (By comparison, the 2015 wholesale value of orchids was about $288.3 million; chrysanthemums, $16.7 million; Easter lilies, $24.3 million.)

Long-recognized as the largest and most successful poinsettia breeder in the world, Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, California was founded in 1924, by German immigrant entrepreneurs who moved to the US in 1902. For three generations, the Ecke family grew and sold poinsettias; first as field-grown landscape and mother plants and as cut flowers and, eventually, as greenhouse-grown stock plants. They moved their stock production facility to Guatemala during the 1990s and, in 2012, sold the business and the name. The leadership team stayed on. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Caring For Houseplants During Adirondack Winters

Snake Plant In winter, when we spend most of our time indoors, houseplants can add beauty, color, warmth, and contrast to living spaces. Several scientific studies indicate that they improve indoor air quality, too.

Successful houseplant horticulture doesn’t have to be difficult. You need to start with plants that are healthy and free of pests. And you need to understand how indoor environments affect plant growth. Even healthy plants may not survive (and certainly won’t thrive), unless they’re given the amounts of humidity, light, water, and fertilizer that they require. » Continue Reading.