Sunday, March 7, 2010

Got Great Food? The Adirondack Museum Needs You

Is your raspberry jam extraordinary? Do you grow fresh herbs, craft fresh mozzarella, or make the crunchiest granola this side of Cranberry Lake? If so, the Adirondack Museum invites you to be part of three special marketplace events that will celebrate local artisan food preparation this year.

The museum introduces a new exhibit in 2010. “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” celebrates food, drink and the pleasures of eating locally, sharing culinary stories and customs from Native American corn soup to Farmers’ Markets.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum will hold three food-related events: “Picnic in the Park” on Saturday, July 10; “The Adirondacks are Cookin’ Out” on July 29; and the annual “Harvest Festival” scheduled for October 2 & 3, 2010.

The museum seeks Adirondack “foodies” to display and sell their products at one, two, or all three of the events. Products may include jams, jellies, syrups, honey, sauces, marinades, meat, eggs, dairy items, fruits and berries (fresh or dried), vegetables, herbs, condiments, cider, teas, candy, granola, and baked goods. Pre-packaged mixes and prepared foods are also welcome.

Marketplaces will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the day of each event. 10′ x 10′ lawn booths will be available for $25 per event. For more information or an application, call (518) 352-7311, ext. 115 or email jrubin@adkmuseum.org.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Honey Bees in Winter: Think You Got it Tough?

It was a bright, sunny, and cold day in early January. I was down in Wilton for a tracking workshop, and as we headed out across an open expanse, I discovered a dead honey bee lying on top of the newly fallen snow. Why had this bee been out in the middle of winter, and on a day that was so cold? I had no answers, and neither did anyone else, so I took a photo of the poor thing, set it back on the snow, and rushed to catch up with the disappearing class. I have since discovered some interesting things about bees in winter.

As we all know, the honey bee of gardening fame is not native to this country. Apparently it was the Egyptians, some 5000 years ago, who first started to keep bees in hives so they could have a steady source of honey for personal use. Over the ensuing years, bee keeping spread around the Mediterranean Sea and across Europe and Asia. When explorers became settlers here in the west, honey bees soon followed.

Now, I am not a bee keeper. In fact, I grew up terrified of bees. But over the years I have studied bees from a naturalist’s point of view, and have discovered many fascinating things about these fairly docile insects. I’ve come to appreciate their social system and am often fascinated by their behaviors, to the point where I have even contemplated keeping a hive. I’ve since given up the idea of a bee hive in favor of encouraging native bees in my yard and gardens, but this makes honey bees no less interesting.

Which brings us back to the lone bee on the snow. It turns out that honey bees, whether in man-made or wild hives, will sometimes leave the hive on warm days in the dead of winter. The reason? They’ve “gotta’ go.”

Honey bees are very clean creatures. They will avoid soiling the hive at almost any cost. But when winter closes it fist on hives in northern climes, a bee can be faced with some important decisions. Fortunately, bees are able to “hold it” for quite some time. I’ve read accounts that claim bees can easily retain their fecal matter within their bodies for four to six weeks! When the first warm day comes along, out from the hive they zoom, dropping their loads as soon as possible. Bee people claim that the snow around the outside of a bee hive will be brownish-grey in color from all the released fecal matter.

But what happens if the weather doesn’t warm up? Suppose a cold snap has gripped the region, with weeks and weeks, or even months, of cold cold temperatures. What is a bee supposed to do? Some bees bite the bullet and head out any way, only to freeze to death after they leave the hive. Other bees opt to keep holding it.

As you might imagine, retaining one’s fecal matter for weeks on end is bound to cause problems. The bees start to swell, and they start to get sick. When they can hold it no longer, they end up letting loose in the hive, splattering fellow bees, honey, and comb with contaminated fecal matter. When this happens the whole hive is bound to sicken and will often perish. Perhaps it is best for the hive if these bees just go outside and freeze to death instead.

Bee keepers can tell when their bees are having a rough time of it when the snow at the base of the hives is black and yellow from contaminated feces, instead of the brown-grey that surrounds a healthy hive. The ground will also be littered with the swollen bodies of dead bees.

Looking back at the photograph of my dead bee, I can’t tell for sure if the abdomen is abnormally large or not. I am inclined to think that it is at least somewhat swollen if only because I have yet to discover any additional reason why a honey bee would be flying around on a cold winter’s day.

When I think of the horrible death experienced by a nearly exploding bee, it makes me grateful for simple things, like indoor plumbing. And it makes me appreciate even more the little things we all take for granted, like honey on our muffins and in our tea.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cooperative Extension Offers Veggie, Herb Seed Starter Kits

Cornell Cooperative Extension in Warren County is offering affordable vegetable and herb seed starter kits for the 2010 garden season beginning Tuesday, February 16, 2010. Each kit includes five different seed packs, growing directions, and garden row markers. The vegetable kits also include the Cooperative Extension’s “2010 Booklet on Vegetable Varieties.” The herb kits include information on starting a container herb garden. Each seed kit is only $5 (only $9 if you buy both).

Each VEGETABLE seed kit includes: Five different vegetable seed packs, full growing directions for each seed type, garden row markers and the newest The vegetable seed kit includes ‘tendergreen’ beans, cucumber, lettuce, squash and tomato seed packs.

The HERB seed kits include five different herb seed packs, growing directions, garden row markers and other information about starting a container HERB garden. The herb seed kit includes sweet basil, dill, green scallion onion, parsley and nastursium (nastursium produces beautiful edible salad flowers!).

Proceeds from the sale of the Seed Starter Kits will be used by the Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H (Youth Development Program) and the Master Gardener Volunteer (Consumer Horticulture Education Program) to help support the many 4-H youth programs in Warren County and the Master Gardener Volunteer programs that provide science-based gardening information to people in our community.

The seed kits are available begining February 16 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Warrensburg, at 377 Schroon River Road, Warrensburg, NY 12885. The office is open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Tel.: 518-623-3291.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nut Trees: Hazelnuts in the Adirondacks

Several years ago, I received three little hazelnut trees from the Arbor Day Foundation. I don’t recall actually ordering them, but there they were in the mail one day. I planted them and waited to see the results. A couple years later, three more hazelnuts showed up in my mailbox. Those, too, went into the ground. Over the years they’ve moved about the yard (not under their own steam), finally coming to rest along the southwestern boundary. Every summer and fall I look at the four remaining shrubs and ask “where are the nuts?” No answer has been forthcoming.

So recently I went on-line to see if I could find out any further information about hazelnuts. Where are they native? What do the flowers look like? How do they pollinate and produce nuts? The Arbor Day Foundation was a good source of info, and it should be, considering it has been in the hazelnut business for several years, trying to produce a hybrid hazelnut that will thrive throughout the United States, whereas the native species were historically only found in the northeastern US and southeastern Canada, and into the prairies. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Master Gardener Training Set to Begin January 25th

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County is now accepting applications for their Master Gardener volunteer program which will begin on January 25th. The Master Gardener Training program provides Cornell University faculty, Cooperative Extension staff, and local experts who teach volunteers a wide range of horticultural topics including Basic Botany, Entomology, Soils, Home Lawn Care, Vegetable and Fruit Gardening, Composting, Organic Gardening, and more. The trainings are held in Ballston Spa on Mondays from late January to mid April.

After completing the 12-week training program, volunteers Master Gardeners are relied on to help answer the large number of phone calls that County Extension offices handle during the gardening season. Master Gardener volunteers also provide gardening information to community groups, school children, and the gardening public through lectures, pH soil clinics, demonstration gardens, articles in a monthly newsletter, and garden workshops.

Master Gardeners are also provided with advanced training and are encouraged to attend state and regional conferences as well as Master Gardener sponsored garden tours.

For more information call Julie Nathanson at 518-623-3291 or 518-668-4881.

Photo: Julie Nathanson, CCE Community Educator and Sandy Vanno Master Gardener.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Taking A Closer Look: Blueberry Stem Gall

One of the plants that make the Adirondacks special is the blueberry, which likes to grow in, or alongside, a variety of wetlands. I recall one of the highlights of summer camp was when the nature counselor made her blueberry fritters. Campers and counselors alike would flock to her nature room as the rumor of fritters spread like wildfire. Her “Live off the Land” camping trips were never complete without blueberry fritters for breakfast.

But blueberries aren’t just special to people; lots of wildlife benefit from the fingertip-sized fruits, not least among them birds and bears. Not all blueberry fanciers are after the fruits, though. The blueberry stem gall wasp (Hemadas nubilipennis) is more interested in the stems of the plant. Highbush, lowbush, the variety probably doesn’t matter, not when reproduction is on the line. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Permaculture Workshop: Sustainable Backyard Farming

On Saturday January 9 the Wild Center in Tupper Lake will host a talk and workshop on permaculture, aka, how people can produce food while enhancing the natural environment on the land around them.

At 11:30 Keith Morris, a Vermont-based instructor on the faculties of Sterling College and Yestermorrow Design/Build school, will discuss the concept of permaculture and ways people can design homes and communities that are productive, ecologically restorative and less fuel-reliant.

At 1 p.m. Morris will lead a workshop on how yards and other human-centered spaces can produce food and support pollinators (and look beautiful). He will discuss challenges, such as small spaces and contaminated soils, as well as animals and plants suitable for the Adirondack region, including nuts, fruits, berries and vines.

“One of the key issues for us in the Adirondacks is our soil,” says Gail Brill, a Saranac lake resident who received permaculture certification last summer through a course Morris taught at Paul Smith’s College. “If we are going to have to feed ourselves in the near future and become a nation of farmers (thank you Sharon Astyk) in order to survive, we need healthy soil to do it. Our sandy soil makes growing difficult, so one of the key issues for us is making compost as a soil amendment. This is something every household can do and we need to do it on a grand scale. (On March 20th, the Wild Center will be having a Home Composting Workshop.)

“We need to extend our growing season with high tunnels and cold frames,” Brill says. “We need to understand what edible wild plants are readily available and plant perennial Zone 3 vegetables like Chinese artichoke and creeping onion and much more. There is much to be done.”

The event is part of the Wild Center’s 2010 Winter Wildays series and is free to members or with paid admission.

Photo: A backyard apple tree in Saranac Lake.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Adirondack Cookbook for Fall & Winter

There’s a new cookbook tailored for the season, Northern Comfort: Fall & Winter Recipes from Adirondack Life. Edited by food writer Annette Nielsen, it includes more than 100 traditional and contemporary dishes gleaned from the magazine’s 40-year history. It focuses on regional flavors, including wild game, maple, apples, hearty vegetables and hearth breads. Paperback, 142 pages, $15.95.

Click here to hear an interview with editor Annette Nielsen by Todd Moe, of North Country Public Radio.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One Adirondack Turkey Gives Thanks

This is George, a turkey who lives down the hill. She’s so cute and sociable she’s been granted a Thanksgiving reprieve. She was hatched this summer in Standish and brought to Saranac Lake by a family who intended to fatten her up for a November feast. George endeared herself so much that she’s the one who’ll be feasting.

She lives with eight peacocks and probably thinks she is one. Have a happy Thanksgiving, George.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saranac Lake Community Store Closer to Funding Goal

Last week we received word from the people behind the Saranac Lake Community Store project that a recent fundraising surge has brought investment capital to $395,000. They need to sell $500,000 worth of shares to launch the store.

If organizers don’t reach half a million by the initial offering deadline of December 17, board vice-president Gail Brill said they will apply for an extension on the offering. “We are so close,” she said in an e-mail, “and light years ahead of Greenfield, MA, which started well before we did.”

Shares cost $100 each and may be purchased by residents of New York State only. Individuals may buy up to $10,000 worth of shares. Organizers had hoped to have the store open by this summer but the economy appears to have rescheduled those expectations. When $500,000 is reached, backers will choose a location, hire staff and purchase inventory.

The business is expected to be about 5,000-square-feet, located downtown and carry department-store-type retail items not currently available in Saranac Lake. Organizers say they will ask local people what they want the store to sell. The village has been without a department store since Ames closed in 2002 but citizen groups have thwarted efforts by Wal-Mart to open a big box. Hardware and drug stores have been filling some of the retail gap.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Have Dinner With Samuel de Champlain Oct. 24th

Rogers Island Visitors Center in Fort Edward is hosting dinner with Samuel de Champlain on October 24th at the Tee Bird North Golf Club (30 Reservoir Road, Fort Edward). Local Chefs, Neal Orsini owner of the Anvil Restaurant in Fort Edward and Steve Collyer, researched the stores list aboard Champlain’s ship, the Saint-Julien, to develop a dinner menu using European, 17th century ship and New World ingredients. Some menu items were standard fare aboard 17th century ships, but the Saint-Julien was 500 tons, carried more than 100 crew and had a galley which meant that even livestock was brought on board aboard, if only for the captain and officers.

Don Thompson, who has spent this Quadricentennial year traveling throughout New York, Vermont and Canada portraying Samuel de Champlain, will serve as a special guest presenter bringing the story of de Champlain’s North American explorations to life.

There will be a cash bar at 5 pm; and dinner served at 6 pm. The price is $22 for Rogers Island VC members, $25 for non-members and $8 for children under 12. Special prize baskets have been donated for a raffle.

For reservations call Rogers Island Visitor Center at 518-747-3693 or e-mail rogersisland@gmail.com. Proceeds benefit the Rogers Island Visitor Center.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Food, Agriculture And The North Country Economy

It’s often overlooked as a part of our Adirondack economy and history, but believe it or not farming has been a part of Adirondack culture since the 18th century. At one time, farming was what most Adirondackers did either for subsistence, as part of a commercial operation, or as an employee of a local farm or auxiliary industry. While in general across America the small family farm have been in decline, according to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture farms that sell directly to the consumer in the six Northern New York counties grew from 506 to 619, while all other agriculture sectors declined 6.6%. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

What to Do With All Those Carrots

Since we’ve already had our first snow, I figured it was about time to dig up the carrots. So yesterday I braved the wind and rain when I got home from work, grabbed my grandfather’s spading fork and a bushel basket, and headed for the carrot patches. At first I tried pulling the carrots right out of the ground; after all, we’d had plenty of rain lately, so I figured the ground was probably wet enough to let the roots go easily. It’s a good thing I brought the fork.

I planted several varieties of carrots this year, ever hopeful that some would grow well. I’ve not had much luck with carrots, you see, which is surprising, considering how sandy our soil is. Loose sandy soils are usually great for growing carrots, for their roots can push down easily, growing to great lengths before harvest-time. I suspect, however, that soil isn’t so much my problem as crowding is.

In early June I scatter the tiny carrot seeds and cover them with a thin layer of soil. Keeping them watered is a challenge, especially since I’m trying at the same time not to wash them away. Once they germinate and get growing, I feel so grateful that any survived this long that I feel guilty if I thin them out. Thinning is really important with carrots, though. If left crowded, few, if any, of them will grow to any size worth keeping. So, bite the bullet and thin them out.

Thinning can be accomplished multiple ways. Traditionally, you pulled out the superfluous sprouts. This, however, can disturb the remaining ones, so the modern backyard gardener goes out with little gardening shears and snips the tops off the extras. I still couldn’t quite bring myself to cut their little carrot lives short, so I tried relocating the extras this year. I found out yesterday that this did work, sort of. Some of my transplants grew in very odd shapes – all bent and curled.
Some, however, did just fine, while others still remained pretty runty.

So, I forked my way through the carrot patches yesterday, tossing the dirt-covered roots into my bushel basket. Surprisingly, it filled up quickly. In the past I’ve been lucky to fill up a single bag with my carrot harvest. This year, however, I already have two bags of carrots in the fridge, and now I have a bushel more to put up for the winter. Even more impressive, however, is the fact that more than half of these carrots are more than two inches long. I’d even be willing to claim that more than half are over four inches long!

Some sources say to wait to dig your carrots until late in the fall, and then only after several sunny days. It seems our sunny days ended about mid-September, so I dug mine in spite of rain. Then these sources tell you to leave your freshly dug carrots out in the sun to dry for a few hours. This will make removing any clinging soil easier, and it will kill off the root hairs. If you plan to store your carrots whole, say in a root cellar, then you want these root hairs killed of, for this will make the whole carrot go dormant. If the carrot doesn’t go dormant (or if dormancy is broken during storage – more on this in a bit), it will rot.

Now, if you are going to cut up your carrots and freeze them, as my family always did, this next bit won’t apply. You can just go ahead and wash them, cut them up, blanch and freeze. If you want to store your carrots raw, read on.

Clean the soil from the roots. You want to do this gently, with as little handling as possible. Some authorities say to use well-chlorinated water when you clean so as to kill off all unwanted pathogens. Use your own judgement. Take your clean carrots and trim off the tops to about two inches. Now you have a choice to make. Do you want to store the carrots in your fridge, or in a root cellar type of system?

If going the fridge route, take your carrots and place them in plastic bags that have holes in them. You want to be sure the carrots get some air circulation. Then stick them into the coldest part of your fridge. Carrots want to be stored between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and they want to be kept moist. Below 32 they will freeze, and over 40 they will break dormancy and either start to sprout or start to rot.

If you opt to store in the cellar, garage, non-heated attic, or on the porch, you can go with the traditional storage system. Take a crate, box or barrel. Fill the bottom two to three inches deep with damp peat moss, sand or sawdust. Place a layer of carrots on top, staying two to three inches from the sides. Cover with another two to three inches of damp peat/sand/sawdust. Add another layer of carrots, etc., until you reach the top. The last layer should be your insulating material. Place the container in a cold, moist area. Again, you want the temperature to be steady, somewhere between 32 and 40 degrees. If your carrots are stored in an area where the temperature fluctuates, even if it is only by about five degrees, your carrots will break dormancy and either sprout or rot.

My last two carrot harvests, which, as previously mentioned, only filled a single bag each year, did very well in my fridge all winter long. I chopped them up for color in my omelets, diced them into the dog’s food, and added them to stews. This year, however, because I have so many carrots, I will probably be blanching and freezing most of them. Some will stay in the fridge, though – a garden fresh carrot is a welcome taste at any time of year.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

North Country-Grown Wines Win Awards

This week Richard Lamoy will help begin the harvest of 25 varieties of cold-hardy grapes at an experimental farm in Willsboro. “The grapes are running about two weeks late this year,” says Lamoy, who lives in Morrisonville and cultivates a three-acre vineyard of his own. With a cold winter, wet spring and summer, windy pollination and now a cold rainy harvest, he says, “pretty much anything that can go wrong this season has gone wrong. Still we’re hoping to get some good wines out of it.”

Wine grapes are new to the Champlain Valley so LaMoy was eager to find out how locally grown wines compare to more established vintages. This year he entered eight wines he made in a contest sponsored by WineMaker magazine. He came home with six medals, including a gold for French hybrid white grapes (LaCrescent). “Obviously they did pretty well,” he says. “I’m encouraged by that. The whites are doing especially well in this region.”

LaMoy is one eight grape and wine producers participating in a Northern New York Agricultural Development Program-funded cold-hardy grape research trial based at the Cornell University Agricultural Research Station at the E.V. Baker Farm in Willsboro. The project was established in 2005.

The WineMaker contest is reputed to be the largest amateur winemaker event in the world and had 4,474 entries in 2009, judged in Manchester, Vermont.
 
Lamoy earned three silver medals for varietal wines (St. Pepin, Adalmiina, Petite Amie) made with locally grown French hybrid white grapes, and one bronze medal for a wine made with Champlain Valley French hybrid red grapes (Leon Millot). He earned another gold for a non-local grape.
  
Lamoy plans to apply for a winery license so he can sell wines next year. For now he’s gaining experience working in the vineyard at the Willsboro Research Farm and conducting Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education-funded trials in his own vineyard, Hid-In Pines.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program awards grants for practical on-farm research, outreach and technical assistance and is supported by funds from the New York State Legislature through the backing of the North Country’s state senators and assembly members.
 
The program receives support (funds, time, land, expertise, etc.) from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, NYS Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, six Northern New York Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations, W. H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, U.S. Department of Agriculture, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, cooperating farms, agribusinesses across the region, and others.

To learn more about the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, go online to www.nnyagdev.org, contact Program Co-chairs Jon Greenwood: 315-386-3231 or Joe Giroux: 518-563-7523, or call your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

Photograph of grapes from the Willsboro Research Farm


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Potato News: Late Blight Spares Some Crops

Tucker Farms in Gabriels is in the midst of what’s being described as a good potato harvest. According to co-proprietors Steve and Tom Tucker, the 300-acre farm’s crop seems to have escaped late blight.

Less important but surprising: the tomatoes in a shared Saranac Lake garden plot were turned to brown mush by the blight, but untreated potatoes in a mound surrounded by those plants produced lots of apparently healthy tubers.

Steve Tucker has heard similar reports from other gardeners. “Tomatoes are a little more tender to the blight apparently,” the farmer says. The airborne fungal pathogen has destroyed fields of tomatoes and potatoes around the Northeast this year, introduced on shipments of tomato plants to big box stores. Cornell Cooperative Extension reported in July that an unidentified commercial field of potatoes in Franklin County “was completely lost and has been mowed down.”

The Tucker brothers took precautions, spraying the foliage as often as once a week with fungicide. If invisible late blight spores ever reached the Gabriels farm, the fungicide probably killed them. Once the blight enters the plant, however, fungicide won’t help, Steve says.

Because this region is remote, high and relatively pest free, the Adirondacks is a source of seed potatoes for the rest of the state. Tucker Farms sells seed potatoes as well as table stock. Tom Tucker explained that Tuckers’ eating potatoes can also be planted because, unlike most supermarket potatoes, they’re not treated with sprout nip, a chemical that inhibits eye growth. The potatoes in the Saranac Lake garden, by the way, were Tucker Farms’ Adirondack Blue variety, and they were delicious.

Photograph courtesy of Richard Tucker


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