Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Closer Look at Bees: Pollen and Body Parts

The more I learn about bees, the more interesting they become. This morning I was out photographing the insects and flowers in our butterfly garden, and a large portion of the insects I saw were bumblebees, which were mobbing the globe thistles. When the bumbles are this plentiful, it makes studying them a bit easier, for space is at a premium. When they find a good spot to feed and collect pollen, they stay there until the resource is exhausted. So armed with my macro lens, I started stalking the bees.

One busy little lady was well-laden with pollen, her pollen sacs bright orange bulges on her hind legs. This got me to wondering about pollen sacs. What exactly are they? Are they actually pockets in which the bees stuff pollen, or are they just sections of leg around which pollen is piled? I had to know more.

As it turns out, bumble bees have a very interesting system for storing pollen, which begins with pollen collection. Because they are extremely fuzzy animals, pollen sticks to them every time they visit flowers. It sticks to their antennae, their legs, their faces, their bodies. They become one giant pollen magnet.

One of the really neat things I learned about bumble bees (and apparently beetles and ants), is that they actually have a special structure just for cleaning their antennae. Located on their front legs is a special notch. The inside curve of this notch is lined with a fringe of hairs that work like a comb. Have you ever watched a beetle, ant or bee wash itself? It will draw its antennae through this notch, and the comb-like hairs brush off pollen and any other debris that might be there. Pretty nifty.

Meanwhile, the middle legs are also equipped with brush- (or comb-) like hairs. These are run over the body, scraping off the collected pollen. From here the pollen is transferred to the pollen presses located on the hind legs.

At this point we have to take a good look at those back legs. Just like us, the bee’s legs have a tibia, which is the lower leg (think of your calf). On bumble bees the tibia is flat, somewhat convex, shiny and surrounded by hairs, some of which are rather long and stiff. This forms what is called the pollen basket. Located at the lower end of the tibia (think of your ankle) is a comb-like structure, and on the metatarsus (think of your heel or foot) is the press. These two structures work together kind of like levers.

So, the pollen (which has been moistened with nectar to make it sticky) is transferred to the press and the bee manipulates the press and comb to press the pollen onto the bottom part of the flattened tibia. Each new batch of pollen is pressed onto the bottom of the basket, pushing the previous batches further up. When the basket is full, it will bulge with upwards of one million grains of pollen. The hairs that surround the tibia hold the pollen in place while the bee flies from place to place, either collecting more pollen, drinking nectar, or flying back home to stock the nest with this carefully gathered food, which is what her offspring will eat when they hatch.

Bee pollen is considered one of the all-time great foods. Of course, the information I found on the nutritional content of bee pollen is specifically for honey bee pollen, but bumble bee pollen is probably very similar. So, here are some statistics on honey bee pollen:

• It is a complete protein;
• It is the only known food to contain all 22 amino acids that the human body needs but cannot produce for itself;
• It contains more protein than any meat or fish;
• It takes a honey bee about an hour to collect one pellet (basketful) of pollen;
• A teaspoon of honey bee pollen contains about 1200 of these pellets.

(Honey bees, by the way, have crevices on the backs of their knees, and it is into these that the gathered pollen is stuffed.)

It is now clouding up and the bees have probably left the garden. I know, however, that the next sunny day we have, I will be out in the garden watching the bees. I want to see if I can actually witness a pollen press in action. Perhaps some of you will do the same. If you get to see a bee pressing pollen onto its pollen basket, I hope you will let me know.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Winners of the Adirondack Museum’s Campfire Cook-off

On Thursday regional chefs competed in a trial by campfire at the Adirondack Museum as part of “The Adirondacks Are Cookin’ Out.” Each chef selected his own menu; all cooked over an open fire. Tony Zazula, Sally Longo, and Suvir Saran judged the competition. The cook-off resulted in a tie between Chef Tom Morris, Chef De Cuisine at the Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Chef Stephen Topper, Lorenzo’s al Forno in the Copperfield Inn, North Creek, N.Y.

Photo: Back row, left to right: Chef Tom Pollack and Chef Kevin McCarthy, Paul Smith’s College; Chef Tom Morris, Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid, N.Y.; Chef Stephen Topper, Lorenzo’s al Forno, North Creek, N.Y.; Sous Chef Kevin Gardner, barVino, North Creek, N.Y.

Front row, left to right: Chef Luke Bowers, barVino, North Creek, N.Y.; Tony Zazula, co-owner of Commerce, New York, N.Y.; Sally Longo, a chef and owner of Aunt Sally’s Catering, Glens Falls, N.Y.; Suvir Saran, a respected food authority, television personality and consultant worldwide, and Chef Eric Hample, The Cellar Restaurant, Long Lake, N.Y.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Campfire Cook-Off at the Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum will hold a special event, “The Adirondacks are Cookin’ Out,” on Thursday, July 29, 2010. A highlight of the day will be a “top chef” competition – Adirondack style. Outstanding regional chefs will compete in a trial by campfire. Visitors are invited to watch and cheer them on as guest judges choose the winner of this outdoor cooking challenge.

Competitors include: Chef Kevin McCarthy, former Executive Chef at The Point in Saranac Lake, N.Y. and the Lake Placid Lodge, Lake Placid, N.Y., now a faculty member at Paul Smith’s College; Chef Stephen Topper, former Executive Sous Chef at The Sagamore on Lake George, Executive Chef at Friends Lake Inn, Chestertown, N.Y., and currently at Lorenzo’s al Forno in the Copperfield Inn, North Creek, N.Y.

Also, Chef Richard Brosseau, Executive Chef at the Interlaken Inn and Restaurant, Lake Placid, N.Y.; Chef Luke Bowers, Executive Chef, barVino, North Creek, N.Y.; Chef Tom Morris, Chef De Cuisine at the Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Chef Eric Hample chef and owner of The Cellar Restaurant in Long Lake, N.Y.

Tony Zazula, co-owner of “Commerce,” a contemporary American restaurant in Greenwich Village, Suvir Saran, a respected food authority, television personality, and consultant worldwide, and Sally Longo, a chef and owner of Aunt Sally’s Catering, Glens Falls, N.Y. will be judges for the Campfire Cook-Off.

The Campfire Cook-Off will begin at 11:00 a.m. Each chef will select his own menu; all will cook over an open fire. Judging will take place at 1:00 p.m.

The Chefs:

Chef Tom Morris
Chef Morris is the Chef De Cuisine at the Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid, New York. Tom worked under chefs Serge Roche and Pierre Couvin at the Three Clock Inn in Londonderry, Vermont and was sous chef at the Three Mountain Inn in Jamaica, Vt. Tom returned home to the Adirondacks in 2007 to complete his studies and join the Mirror Lake Inn under Chef Paul Sorgule. In 2008 Tom was on the team for the “Taste of the Adirondacks” dinner at the James Beard House. He has been involved in the Vermont Fresh Network and the Adirondack Harvest Association and strives to utilize the bounty of fresh ingredients the mountains provide in New York and Vermont.

Chef Eric Hample
Chef Hample graduated from Paul Smith’s College in 2002 with an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts and a concentration in baking. He has worked at various local restaurants in multiple positions and in Syracuse as a pastry chef for two and a half years. He now owns and operates The Cellar Restaurant in Long Lake, N.Y. with his wife Brooke and partners Ali and Michelle Hamdan where they pride themselves in consistent, fresh, and delicious food at fair prices.

Chef Luke Bowers
Chef Bowers is Executive Chef at barVino, North Creek, N.Y. barVino is a restaurant, wine bar, and live music venue. Under Chef Bower’s leadership the chic rustic menu uses many local products and changes seasonally to incorporate the freshest possible ingredients.

Chef Kevin McCarthy
Chef Kevin McCarthy took local Adirondack ingredients to new heights as Executive Chef at The Point, Saranac Lake, N.Y. and Lake Placid Lodge, Lake Placid, NY. He has appeared in numerous trade and travel magazines and was featured in the PBS documentary “The Adirondacks.” McCarthy currently lives in Saranac Lake and has recently joined the faculty of Paul Smith’s College.

Chef Stephen Topper

Chef Stephen Topper was the Executive Sous Chef at The Sagamore Resort on Lake George, N.Y., moving next to the role of Executive Chef at The Friends Lake Inn in Chestertown, N.Y. His elevation of the menu offerings to match the Inn’s impressive wine list won numerous awards. Chef Topper was the chef at Saratoga Polo –Catering & Events, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. before coming to Lorenzo’s al Forno at the Copperfield Inn, North Creek, N.Y.

Chef Richard Brosseau
Richard Brosseau is the Executive Chef of the Interlaken Inn and Restaurant in Lake Placid, N.Y. He draws inspiration from the rich local farming community in the Adirondacks to add dimension to his menu. He has been featured on “Live! with Regis and Kelly” as well as PBS’s “Roadside Recipes” and has received numerous Wine Spectator Awards for the wine list he has compiled at the Interlaken Restaurant.

The Judges:

Tony Zazula
Tony Zazula is the co-owner of Commerce, a restaurant in Greenwich Village, featuring an upscale, contemporary American menu with Asian, French and Italian accents. Zazula began his career at the famed Tavern on the Green in New York City. He went on to gain invaluable experience at the St. Regis Hotel where he was the Director of Food and Beverage, and at The Plaza where he was the Catering Sales Manager. Zazula has also worked at Windows on the World as Vice President of Sales and Catering, and The Rainbow Room.

In 1985 Zazula and partner Drew Nieporent opened the award winning Montrachet, marking the revitalization of Tribeca and playing a critical role in shaping the neighborhood’s status as a hip and desirable section of Manhattan. During it’s 20-year span, Montrachet maintained a reputation of excellence. When not in New York City, Zazula enjoys spending time at his family summer home in Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y.

Suvir Saran
A respected food authority, Saran has been featured in Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, Fine Cooking, Travel & Leisure, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Magazine and many other national publications. Television and radio appearances include: The Food Network, “Next Iron Chef”, “The Martha Stewart Show,” NBC “Today”; and the Travel Channel’s “Epicurious TV.” Saran is also a featured chef in the national public television series “How To Cook Everything: Bittman Takes On America’s Chefs” (2005) and “Food Trip with Todd English.” When he is not on the road teaching and learning, Saran enjoys working on his 68-acre American Masala Farm in upstate New York.

Sally Longo
Sally Longo is the chef for and owner of Aunt Sally’s Catering, a renowned local catering company in the Adirondacks. For over 18 years Longo has catered dinners and parties for families, businesses, and private camps. She is the host and associate producer of the popular regional cooking show “Dinner at 8” and has appeared on “Sixty Second Helpings” for WNCE News. Longo teaches cooking classes and has published on food and catering.

Tasting, Presentations, and Music
Lake Placid Brewery will offer a tasting of their award winning products – including Ubu Ale, the brewery’s flagship beer — from 12 noon until 4:00 p.m. Visitors must be twenty-one years of age to enjoy the sampling; ID will be required.

Visitors can expand their own cooking skills by participating in demonstrations and food-related talks throughout the day. At 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. smoking and grilling will be the hot topics. Join Susan Rohrey (grilling) and John Roe (smoking) to learn more about both techniques.

The presentations “Edible Adirondack Mushrooms” and “Wild Vegetables of the Adirondacks” with Jane Desotelle and “Pairing Beer & Food” with Christopher Ericson, founder, owner, and brewmaster of Lake Placid Brewery will be offered in the museum’s Auditorium. Times will be posted.

Intermountain Trio will offer three sets of classic folk and rock in the Marion River Carry Pavilion at 12:00 noon, 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

For a full schedule of the day’s events, visit www.adirondackmuseum.org.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Let’s Eat: The Trudeau Sanitorium Diet

In Rules for Recovery from Tuberculosis, published in Saranac Lake in 1915, Dr. Lawrason Brown stated that “there are no more difficult problems in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis than to make some patients gain weight and to help others avoid digestive disturbances.”

Diet was an important part of treatment for tuberculosis, the “white plague.” Highly contagious, tuberculosis (or TB) was one of the most dreaded diseases in the 19th century. Caused by a bacterial infection, TB most commonly affects the lungs, although it may infect other organs as well. Today, a combination of antibiotics, taken for period of several months, will cure most patients.

The drugs used to treat tuberculosis were developed more than fifty years ago. Before then, thousands came to the Adirondack Mountains seeking a cure in the fresh air, away from the close quarters and heat of urban streets. Doctors prescribed a strict regimen of rest, mild exercise, plenty of fresh air, and healthy, easy to digest meals. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Adirondack Harvest Named Conservationist of the Year

The Adirondack Park’s largest environmental organization held its annual Forever Wild Day celebration on July 10 at Hohmeyer’s Lake Clear Lodge, with just over 250 guests in attendance. The Council presented the group Adirondack Harvest with its “Conservationist of the Year” award for 2010, for promoting sustainable local farming.

Part of the celebration was a 100-mile-lunch, in which all ingredients for the meal came from 100 or fewer miles from Lake Clear and the Adirondack Council’s 35th annual members’ meeting. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cattails: A Wetland Favorite’s Useful History

The other evening I was walking along the shoreline of a local wetland, enjoying the songs of the thrushes, the ripples made on the water by insects and small fish, and the rustle of the tall, emergent vegetation in the light breeze. The edges were muddy – sometimes completely barren and squishy, while in other places thick with plants. Life was everywhere.

When we think of wetlands, the plant that most likely comes to mind is the cattail, with its green, sword-like leaves and brown corndog-like flowerheads. It is a plant that is known around much of the world. In some places, like parts of Africa, it is considered a menace, choking waterways and aiding and abetting the spread of malaria. Historically, though, especially in North America, this plant has helped pull humanity through harsh winters where cold and starvation could’ve had the final say.

Cattails are in the grass family, as are many of the plants we now depend upon for food (corn, wheat, rye, millet). Like its modern-day counterparts, the cattail is a highly edible plant. Practically the entire plant is edible at various times of the year. In late spring when the base of the leaves are young and tender, they can be eaten raw or cooked. As summer approaches, the stem, before the flowerheads develop, can be peeled and eaten like asparagus. Soon the male flower is growing, and before it ripens, it can be cooked and eaten like corn on the cob. Once it’s ripe and producing pollen, the pollen can be harvested and added to baked goods as an extender for flour and a thickener for sauces. From late fall until spring, the rhizomes, those horizontal stems that grow underground, can be dug up and eaten like potatoes.

Historical utility didn’t end with food. Throughout the Northeast, native peoples collected cattail leaves to sew into siding for their homes. Wigwams were the housing of choice in the Northeast. These structures were constructed first from poles stuck into the ground and bent into a dome-like shape. More saplings were tied horizontally to the sides, creating a sturdy framework. The outside of this framework was then covered with some sort of mat, or shingles made from bark, depending on what was available. Where wetlands dominated, cattail leaves were sewn into mats that were tied to the wigwam. Early Europeans commented on how weather-proof these homes were – warmer and drier than the structures made by the more “civilized” settlers.

A variety of medicines were made from cattails. The roots were used to treat kidney stones, wounds, whooping cough and sprains. The downy seed fluff was applied to bleeding wounds and burns.

But wait – there’s more! Leaves were bundled together and sculpted into the shape of ducks to be used as decoys. Not only were these decoys used to attract real waterfowl, but also to lure in other animals that considered waterfowl food, like wild canines. Cattail leaves were also made into dolls and other toys, woven into bags, baskets, mats and hats. The dried flowerheads could be dipped in grease or wax and lit to provide a slow-burning light that smoked extensively, effectively keeping insects at bay. The seed fluff was used as tinder, stuffed into bedding and pillows, and during WWII was stuffed into life vests and seats cushions for tanks and airplanes.

The usefulness of this plant is not limited to historic records and a few modern foragers, though. Several scientists are studying the economic viability of converting cattails into ethanol. Currently, about 95% of our country’s ethanol is made from corn, which is an energy intensive crop (it needs a lot of water, and a lot of petroleum is also consumed in its production). Corn yields about 200 gallons of ethanol per acre. Sugar cane is also converted into ethanol, at about 640 gallons per acre.

Cattails, on the other hand, need very little encouragement to grow. In fact, many of the ethanol studies are growing them in sewage lagoons that are the by-products of hog farms. Not only do the cattails clean and purify the water in which they are grown, but when they are converted into ethanol, they can produce up to 1000 gallons per acre. There seems to be a fair amount of promise in this.

Two species of cattails are found in New York (and the Adirondacks): common cattail (Typha latifolia) and narrow-leaved cattail (T. angustifolia). The Revised Checklist of New York State Plants also lists “Cattail”, a hybrid of these two species.

Common, or broad-leaved, cattail is, well, pretty common. Odds are if you see a cattail, this is it. Its brown flowerhead is about an inch thick, and the leaves are also about an inch wide. Narrow-leaved cattail is also fairly common, but more so along coastal areas. Its flowerheads are narrower – about as thick as a finger (about half an inch wide), as are the leaves. From a distance you can usually tell if you are looking at a narrow-leaved cattail if the upper male flower spike is separated from the lower female flower spike by a space (see photo). On common cattails, the male flower spike sits right on top of the female spike.

This highly useful plant is one that everyone should get to know. Once you learn some of the nifty history of this plant, you will want to then study the critters that find it useful. Birds, mammals and insects all have a stake in this plant. It is worthy of our attention. Once the weather cools off a bit, find yourself a patch of wetland and spend some time with the cattails. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Council Releases Plan to Combat Invasive Species

The New York State Invasive Species Council has submitted its final report to Governor David Paterson and the State Legislature. The report, titled “A Regulatory System for Non-Native Species,” recommends giving the Council authority to develop regulations for a new process that will prevent the importation and/or release of non-native invasive species in New York’s waterways, forests and farmlands. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Let’s Eat: Cooking with a Cast Iron Cookstove

To My Old Cookstove

Oh! My old kitchen cook stove, to time now surrendered,
How well I remember the day you were new.
As so proud in your newness, you stood in my kitchen
So black and so shiny, and fair to my view.
How oft, by your side, in the years that have vanished
I have held my firstborn to your genial heat
And the years in their passing, added still others
‘Till your hearth was surrounded with dear little feet….

Lucelia Mills Clark, a farm wife from Cranberry Lake, wrote this ode to her cast iron cook stove in 1899. Her verse reflects the iconic status of the 19th century cook stove in the American imagination—as the heart of the home, a place where families gathered and generations spent time together, when life was simpler. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Picnic in the Park" at the Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum will celebrate National Picnic Month on July 10, 2010. Activities are planned from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. All are included in the price of general museum admission. Children twelve years of age and younger will be admitted FREE of charge as part of the festivities.

“Picnic in the Park” will include displays, tableaux, special presentations, music, a Teddy Bear’s Picnic just for kids, cookbook signings, demonstrations, menus, recipes, hands-on opportunities, and good food, as well as the museum’s new exhibit, “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions.”

Visitors are invited to bring their own picnic to enjoy on the grounds or purchase sandwiches, salads, beverages, and desserts in the Cafe. Picnic tables are scattered throughout the campus.

The event will showcase “Great Adirondack Picnics”. Ann S. O’Leary and Susan Rohrey will illustrate how the use of design and menu planning can create two Adirondack picnics. A Winter’s Repast, En Plein Air – an elegant New Year’s Eve celebration will be set in a lean-to. The Angler’s Compleat Picnic will feature local products in a scene reproduced from a vintage postcard. Both women will be available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to speak with visitors, and provide menus and recipes to take home.

To round out the elegant picnic theme, Chef Kevin McCarthy will provide an introduction to wines and offer tips on how to best pair wines with picnic foods. The presentations will be held at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Special presentations will be held in the museum’s Auditorium. Curator Hallie E. Bond will offer “Picnics Past in the Park” at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Varrick Chittenden, founder of Traditional Arts of Upstate New York (TAUNY) will present “Good Food Served Right: North Country Food and Foodways” at 1:30 p.m.

In addition, Sally Longo, chef and owner of Aunt Sally’s Catering in Glens Falls, N.Y. will offer “Fun Foods for Picnicking with Kids” in the Mark W. Potter Education Center. “Savory Foods and Snacks” will begin at 11:30 p.m. “Sweet Treats and Desserts” will be presented at 3:00 p.m.

Museum visitors can create their own Adirondack picnic fare at home. From 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., regional cookbook authors will sign and sell their work in the Visitor Center. Participants include the Upper Saranac Lake Cookbook with Marsha Stanley; Good Food, Served Right, with Lynn Ekfelt; Northern Comfort with Annette Neilson; Stories, Food, Life with Ellen Rocco and Nancy Battaglia; and Recipes From Camp Trillium with author Louise Gaylord.

Tom Phillips, a Tupper Lake rustic furniture maker, will construct a traditional woven picnic basket in the Education Center from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Visitors will discover displays about “Picnics and Food Safety” as well as the many uses of maple syrup (recipes provided) with the Uihlein Sugar Maple Research and Extension Field Station staff.

Guided tours of the exhibit “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” are scheduled for 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.

Singer, songwriter, and arts educator Peggy Lynn will give a performance of traditional Adirondack folk music under the center-campus tent at 2:00 p.m.

The Museum Store will be open from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., featuring a wide array of North Country-made food products as well as a special “farmer’s market.”


Monday, June 28, 2010

Local Power and Energy History: Windmill Déjà Vu

Scores of gigantic wind turbines in the Adirondacks’ northeastern and southwestern foothills are a startling site amidst historically bucolic scenery. The landscape appears “citified,” with structures nearly 40 stories high where the largest buildings rarely top 3 stories. It is a dramatic change, and a far cry from simpler days when family farms were prevalent.

Few realize that in those “simpler days” of dairy farms, windmills were actually quite common across the region. Of course, the windmills once dotting the North Country’s landscape were nothing like today’s behemoths, which stand nearly 400 feet high from the ground to the tip of a skyward-pointing blade. And, the windmills of old weren’t always efficient machines.

Wind technology took a tremendous leap forward in the 1850s thanks to Daniel Halladay, a Connecticut machinist. Halladay’s windmill not only pumped water, but automatically turned to face into the wind as it changed directions. Almost as important, he devised a way to control the speed of the blades (windmills are prone to destruction from within when operating at high rpm levels). Halladay established the US Wind Engine & Pump Company, setting up shop in Illinois. From the start, the business flourished.

Though his sales were focused on the country’s expansion westward, New York State was also experiencing dramatic growth, particularly in the remote northern Adirondack foothills, where pioneers faced a harsh climate and difficult living conditions. Halladay’s invention eventually helped turn some of those weather negatives into positives by taking advantage of wind patterns across upper New York State.

In 1874, the railroad was expanding north from Whitehall towards Plattsburgh. Since steam engines require water, the line generally followed the shore of Lake Champlain. Tanks were constructed along the route where the rails neared the lakeshore. Steam pumps or windmills were used to fill the feeder tanks, which had a capacity of 33,000 gallons each.

As settlers moved north on both sides of the Adirondacks, windmill technology crept northward with them. Farming was necessary for survival, and the enormous workload was eased by mechanical devices like windmills. The description of one man’s operation about 18 miles south of Lowville was typical of the times: “ … a beautiful farm of 280 acres, milks 35 cows, and is a model farm. House, barns, windmill pump, all systematically arranged.”

In situations like that, windmills often filled tanks placed on the upper floor of a barn. The water was then gravity-fed to the livestock below, and piped to other locations as needed. The machine was also used to grind various grains. Early models were mounted on wooden frames, but many fell victim to the very power they were trying to harness, toppling before raging windstorms. Eventually, steel frames supported most windmills.

Wind power wasn’t just for individual homes and farms. In July 1879, H. H. Babcock & Sons of Watertown was hired to install a windmill at 1000 Islands State Park. Water was drawn from the St. Lawrence River to large tanks near the dining hall, and from there was conducted to the various cottages by galvanized iron pipe.

And at Hermon, a contract for $6,595.00 was signed with Daniel Halladay’s company to install a new waterworks system. Included were a wooden tank of 50,000-gallon capacity, a windmill with a wheel diameter of 20 feet, and more than a mile of piping. The frost-proof tank was 24 feet in diameter, 16 feet high, and 3 inches thick. It sat on a trestle 20 feet high, while the windmill stood on a trestle 80 feet high.

Many hotels, including the Whitney House in Norwood and the Turin House in Turin, used windmills to power their water systems. At Chazy, windmills pumped water from the quarries; at Port Henry, they filled water tanks for the trains; and at Saranac Lake, they fed the water supply of the Adirondack Sanitarium.

In 1889, George Baltz of Watertown handled the Halladay display at the Jefferson County Fair, demonstrating that windmills furnished cheaper power than steam engines and could run a feed mill, a circular saw for cutting wood, or pump water.

Though Halladay’s products were widely known, he did have competitors. Some added their own modifications, and some were “copycats.” And they weren’t all products from afar. In 1882, an advertisement touted a windmill “warranted to take care of itself in high winds, equal to the best western mills, and is sold for half the money. It is manufactured at Potsdam.” It featured a self-regulator, and appeared to be based on Halladay’s own successful model.

In the late 1890s, most of the windmills in the Ticonderoga and Lake George area were products of the Perkins Windmill Company, which had already installed more than 50 units across the lake in Vermont. Though windmills in the Midwest were primarily for irrigation, most of those in the North Country supplied water to homes, businesses, and farm animals.

Wind power did face competition from other sources. Gasoline engines became more and more common, offering a reliable alternative. However, they were expensive, noisy, and costly to run. An operator had to be present to start and stop a gas engine, while windmills employed a system of floats to start and stop filling the tanks automatically. A once-a-week oiling was the only required maintenance. The biggest problem at the time was that gas engines ran when you wanted them to, but windmills depended on the weather.

The giant turbines we see in northern New York today are not a new idea. In a peek at the future, Charles Brush of Cleveland, Ohio demonstrated in 1888 the first use of a large windmill to generate electricity. As early as 1895, observers noted that windmills were “destined to be much used for storing electricity. We predict an immense future for the windmill industry.”

In 1910, a farm in America’s Midwest employed windmills to charge a bank of batteries. Wind power provided electricity to light the farm and operate the equipment, and when the wind didn’t blow, the farm ran on battery power for a few days.

By 1925, wind turbines had been used to run refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and power tools. And in 1926, the NYS Fair urged farmers to purchase windmills, using a 12-foot-high model to show the benefits they might enjoy. It was an enticing glimpse at the potential of electricity. Ironically, the popularity of windmills soon became their undoing.

Though they were a wonderful source of cheap power, the main problem was intermittent operation. When the wind didn’t blow, the tools didn’t go. Battery storage systems were only good for brief periods, and people wanted power WHEN they wanted it. Soon, another overriding factor arose—the growing need for huge amounts of electricity.

By the late 1930s and 1940s, constantly flowing electricity was the goal, relegating wind power to the background of the energy battle. It was still used, and advancements were pursued, but success was limited. One notable effort was the huge Smith-Putnam windmill installed atop Grandpa’s Knob near Castleton and Rutland, Vermont, in 1941.

Though less than half the size of today’s models, it was still large, featuring a 16-ton, 175-foot steel rotor that turned at 28 RPM. Occasional use ended abruptly in 1945 when metal fatigue caused the blade to snap, hurling a huge section 1000 feet down the mountain.

In the North Country, windmills have returned after a long hiatus. They stand ten times taller than their predecessors, and now pump electricity instead of water. Where potato, hop, and dairy farms once dominated, the wind farms of today stand above all others.

Photo Top: Windmills 400 feet tall at Churubusco (and another under construction in the foreground).

Photo Middle Right: Typical use of windmill to fill railroad water tanks.

Photo Middle Left: Halladay windmills were offered by George Baltz of Watertown.

Photo Bottom: Advertisement for Halladay’s company.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Venison and Potato Chips: Native Foodways Lecture

During the nineteenth century, a number of Adirondack Indians marketed their skill as hunters, guides, basket makers, doctors, and cooks.

On Monday, July 5, 2010 Dr. Marge Bruchac will offer a program entitled “Venison and Potato Chips: Native Foodways in the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Bruchac will focus attention on what might be a lesser-known Native skill – cooking.

The first offering of the season for the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

Nineteenth century white tourists paid good money to purchase wild game from Native people, to hunt in their territories, to buy medicines and remedies, and to eat in restaurants or lodgings where Indians held sway in the kitchen.

Dr. Bruchac will highlight stories of individuals such as Pete Francis, notorious for hunting wild game and creating French cuisine; George Speck and Katie Wicks, both cooks at Moon’s Lake House and co-inventors of the potato chip; and Emma Camp Mead, proprietress of the Adirondack House, Indian Lake, N.Y., known for setting an exceptionally fine table.

Bruchac contends that these people, and others like them, actively purveyed and shaped the appetite for uniquely American foods steeped in Indigenous foodways.

The Adirondack Museum celebrates food, drink, and the pleasures of eating in the Adirondack Park this year with a new exhibition, “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions.” The exhibit includes a 1915 photograph of Emma Mead as well as her hand-written recipes for “Green Tomato Pickles” and “Cranberry Puffs.”

Marge Bruchac, PhD, is a preeminent Abenaki historian. A scholar, performer, and historical consultant on the Abenaki and other Northeastern native peoples, Bruchac lectures and performs widely for schools, museums, and historical societies. Her 2006 book for children about the French and Indian War, Malian’s Song, was selected as an Editor’s Choice by The New York Times and was the winner of the American Folklore Society’s Aesop Award.

Photo: Dr. Marge Bruchac


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ausable and Boquet River Associations Hosting Native Plant Sales

The Ausable and Boquet River Associations (AsRA and BRASS) will host native plant sales offering gardeners a selection of plants native to northern NY and the Adirondacks. A Master Gardener will also be present to offer gardening advice.

BRASS will host a sale tomorrow, on Friday, June 25 from 9-1pm at the Elizabethtown Farmer’s Market located on Hand Avenue. AsRA will host a sale this Sunday, June 27 from 9-2pm at the Keene Valley Farmer’s Market located at Marcy Field. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Farmers Market Returns to Adirondack Wild Center

The Wild Center welcomes local farmers and crafters back for a weekly seasonal market, beginning Thursday, June 24th from 11-3 pm. Over a dozen vendors from the Adirondacks and the Champlain and St. Lawrence valleys will return to the summer pavilion tent at the museum. Meats and vegetables, baked goods and herbs, hand-made crafts, honey and maple syrup will be available for sale by the producers who grew or made them. Vendors may include Sunwarm Gardens, South Meadow Farm Maple Sugarworks, Underwood Farms, The Cupcake Market, Lake Flour Bakery, Well Dressed Foods, Kirbside Gardens and Merchia Farms, plus many more.

Though this is only the second season for The Wild Center market the sponsor, Adirondack Farmers’ Market Cooperative, marks its 20th anniversary this year. Celebrations will be taking place at farmers’ markets around the region this summer. The Wild Center market will host an anniversary event at the market on August 12th with music, a pie contest, crafts and more.

Buying local food can have great benefits for you and your neighborhood. Local food can be healthier for you, and there is something special that happens when you meet the people who have made the food that you feed your family.

The market will be held every Thursday through September 30th, rain or shine, from 11 am to 3 pm. The Wild Center outdoor grill will be open from 11 am- 2 pm featuring produce and meats from the market vendors. All related Farmer Market outdoor programming is free and open to the public. Admission to The Wild Center exhibits and additional programming is not included. For more information and directions please contact The Wild Center www.wildcenter.org or call 518-359-7800


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Let’s Eat: Adirondack Spring Water

The Adirondack Mountains have long been treasured for the healing properties of clean air, beautiful scenery, and sparkling water. The air and scenery could only be experienced in the Park itself, but water could be bottled and shipped elsewhere, and became a major export from the region during the 19th century.

Urban-dwelling New Yorkers in the late 1800s suffered from the effects of overcrowding, poor ventilation, summer heat, and the stresses of working a nine-to-five job. New ills like “dyspepsia” and “neuralgia” could be alleviated with a healthful escape to the Adirondack Mountains, where fresh air, exercise, and pure water would restore the weakest constitution to vigorous health.

For those who could not afford the time or cost of a summer in the mountains, bottled water from Adirondack springs was a more affordable alternative. Bottled water, some imported from overseas, was served in fine restaurants in New York City. Bottled from mineral springs, it often contained slight amounts of sodium bicarbonate, which could soothe an unsettled stomach. Bottled water was valued not only as an aid to digestion, but also for other perceived medical benefits.

In the early 1860s, the St. Regis Spring in Massena, New York, produced water advertised as a “curative for all affections [sic] of the Skin, Liver and Kidneys.” Harvey I. Cutting of Potsdam bottled and sold “Adirondack Ozonia Water,” the “world’s most hygienic water” from a spring “in the wildest portion of the Adirondack wilderness, far from the contaminations of human habitation” near Kildare in St. Lawrence County.

Cutting’s advertising included testimonials from satisfied customers. G.W. Schnull, a wholesale grocer in Indianapolis, Indiana, wrote in 1905, “I have used your Adirondack Ozonia Water for several months and find it to be the best water I have ever had. It acts on the kidneys and bowels in such a way as not to be annoying.” With typical Victorian hyperbole, the company touted the water’s “most excellent medicinal qualities,” claiming it cured hay fever, “congestion of the brain and prostate gland,” breast cancer, rheumatism, inflammation of the bladder, Bright’s disease, and “stomach troubles.”

By 1903, the Malone Farmer reported “an average of 1,500 gallons of Adirondack water is shipped from Lowville to Watertown each week. The water is sold in that city in three gallon cases at 15 cents per case.” In 1911, the Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat ran a story in the Farm and Garden column advocating “Water as a Crop,” as “a great many cities are complaining of the inferior quality of the water furnished by city waterworks.” Water wagons, bearing loads of spring water, were a common sight in many cities, and a “profitable trade in bottled water could be worked up at little cost to the farmer, provided, of course, they have never failing springs of pure water from which to supply the demand.”

A. Augustus Low (1843-1912), was a prolific inventor, entrepreneur, and owner of the Horse Shoe Forestry Company in northern Hamilton County, near the center of the Adirondack Park. Low produced lumber, maple syrup, wine, and jams and jellies. In the 1880s, his company began exporting bottled water from the “Adirondack Mt’s Virgin Forest Springs.” In 1905, Low designed and patented a glass water bottle with heavy ribs near the neck that strengthened it, reducing breakage while in transit. The ribbing also made the bottles easier to grasp.

In 1908, Low’s Adirondack empire collapsed when a series of devastating forest fires burned through his Adirondack properties. The Adirondack Museum owns several objects relating to the Horse Shoe Forestry Company’s products, including one of Low’s spring water bottles and the patent he received for its design. Both are on exhibit in “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions,” open in 2010 through October 18.


Photo: Bottle for spring water, Horse Shoe Forestry Company, 1903-1905.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Upper Saranac Cookbook Sales Fight Milfoil

A hardcover cookbook containing more than 500 tried-and-true recipes from residents of Upper Saranac Lake and their families and friends is on sale in Tri-Lakes museums, gift shops and book stores. All proceeds will benefit the fight against invasive milfoil on Upper Saranac Lake.

The Upper Saranac Cookbook: An Adirondack Treasury of 500 Recipes was created by volunteers from Upper Saranac who worked for nine months to produce the approximately 500-page book as a charitable project. » Continue Reading.