Thursday, May 28, 2009

2009 Environmental Bond Act Pitch From Adk Council

I’m reprinting below a press release issued on the proposed $5 billion 2009 Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act by John Sheehan, Director of Communications for the Adirondack Council. The bond act is also being pushed by businesses like Caterpillar and Nova Bus, and the American Cancer Society, Audubon New York, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, New York League of Conservation Voters, New York Public Transit Association, New York State Laborers, Scenic Hudson, and The Nature Conservancy. The hope is that the targeted spending in this time of economic crises will encourage a green economy and provide more jobs. Projects include wastewater infrastructure, energy efficiency, transit, public health protection and economic development projects. Although details are scarce (bond act organizers are waiting for the Legislature to suggest projects), I have a copy of a slightly more detailed pdf fact sheet outlining the bond act, if anyone is interested. More later today. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Adirondack Rain Brings Little Reflief From Drought

As I sit here this morning contemplating my Wednesday post, the rain seems to be at a temporary lull. During the night I awoke to the steady beat of the rain and even as I let the dog out (and later toweled him off), I smiled: we need this rain and it is very welcome.

Rain has always been something we took for granted here in the Northeast. Some years might have been rainier than others, but overall, our rain could be considered moderate. We had no really bad floods and no real droughts.

Until lately.

Since I’ve been living in the Adirondacks (I moved here in 2000), we have been in drought conditions. According to the government hydrologist person who came through the VIC a couple years ago, we’d been in a drought since the late 1990s. Hard to believe! But looking at the precipitation numbers this year, the reality is there to see.

This winter we had an average amount of snow, but it was below average in the amount of moisture in it. As a matter of fact, three of the last four months had the lowest liquid levels in the six years we’ve been a National Weather Service Co-op Station. May seems to be making up for it (closing in on six inches for the month), but one month of rain does not make up for an entire winter’s deficit.

Feast or famine – that’s the phrase that seems to describe the precipitation patterns these days. When it does rain, it often comes in buckets, sometimes up to several inches at a time. And while some people think this signals an end to droughty conditions, in fact it is usually very little help. This is because sudden heavy rains tend to become runoff – the dry ground cannot absorb it and it all heads downhill, filling ditches, streams, ponds, lakes. Flooding happens. Even my hometown, which has NEVER had a flood, found itself 1-2 feet under water a couple years ago – the flood of the century. People were fishing in the streets. Amazing.

So when we get gentle soaking rain, like last night (over half an inch), it is something to rejoice. I spent the last three days working in my vegetable garden and conditions were dry. Even with my dripper lines on four times a day, fifteen minutes at a time, the soil was rather dusty. With all my newly planted seeds, rain was needed, and it arrived just in time.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Old Mountain Road: A Short History

Given the Grannis Decision‘s potential to open Old Mountain Road between North Elba and Keene to automobile, ATV, and snowmobile traffic, here is a look at the old road’s history.

Originally the only road between Keene and North Elba, Old Mountain Road was built in the early in 1800s and travels behind Pitchoff Mountain. The road is part of the a route that was authorized by the NYS Legislature in 1810 and completed around 1816. The longer road went from Westport on Lake Champlain to Hopkinton in St. Lawrence County by way of the Keene Valley, Saranac Lake and Paul Smith’s – parts of the original road are still in use today. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Discussion: Reopening Historic Adirondack Roads

A week ago today, state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis effectively reopened Old Mountain Road between North Elba (Route 73) and Keene (Shackett Road / Route 40) in Essex County. According to surveys made in 1893-1894 (here, and here), the road had been abandoned since the 19th century; it was believed to have been officially closed when the Sentinel Wilderness Area UMP was ratified in 1974. Beginning in 1986 part of the road has been maintained as the popular 35-mile long Jackrabbit Trail by the Adirondack Ski Touring Council.

The Grannis decision was forced by Lake Placid Snowmobile Club President James McCulley who drove his truck down the trail in May of 2005 and was ticketed (he previously beat a 2003 ticket for doing the same thing with his snowmobile). An agency administrative judge later found that the road had never been closed properly (it required public hearings). » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Adirondack Almanack Staff Summer Event Picks

Summer in the Adirondacks can be magic, and it can also be manic. It is always fleeting.

During the calm of the other seasons our neighbors plan events for almost every day of the calendar between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s impossible to list every single happening, but all day today Almanack staff will be sharing a few things we’ll be sure NOT to miss this summer.

You can see our picks and also all the Adirondack events we announce here at the Almanack by clicking our event listing at the right – you may want to bookmark the events page.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Moose and Bear Pick Essex Co. Fair, Blueberries, and Rustic Furniture


Monday, May 25, 2009

ADK Music Scene: Farmers Markets, An Irish Fest, and Childstock

One of my favorite things to do during the summer is go to farmers’ markets. I’m especially connected with the one held on Wednesdays at LPCA in Lake Placid (between 11 am and 1 pm). I see so many people I really enjoy – visitors and vendors alike. You can listen to live music while shopping for veggies, flowers, plants, meats, cheese, smoothies, coffee and beautiful crafts. There are so many farmers markets in the park that I’m going to defer to Adirondack Harvest which gives details and times for all of them.

Another won’t miss for me is the 2nd annual Irish Festival to be held at the Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid. Shane O’Neil and John Joe Reilly are the founders and they have so much energy and love for the traditions in Irish culture that I’m sure with each year the event will grow. Great music provided by internationally known piper Micheal Cooney who, by the way, happens to live locally and Pat Egan, one of my favorite guitarists. Many other musicians and dancers will be contributing to the continuous sound. I even heard a rumor that The Dust Bunnies will be there – they’d better learn an Irish tune or two. The music combined with games (like tug of war and tossing a bale), good food and beer all make for an enjoyable two-day event. A perfect way to celebrate the end of summer.

A new for me event I’m very excited about is Childstock on July 18th in Malone, NY. This is a rain or shine grassroots festival started by two guys talkin’ over a beer – one had a band, the other land. Now in it’s fourth year Childstock has grown. There will be live music from 1 pm until at least 11 pm. The first half of the day is acoustic, including Eddy and Kim Lawrence, then electric, including headliner Raisonhead, to take you into the night.

With free camping, local food vender Shawn Glazier on the premises, a safe site (there will be underage wristbands given out as ID’s are checked) and coolers and grills allowed, there is everything you need to have a phenomenal Saturday.

Started by founders Ralph Child and Micheal Lamitie, Childstock is named for the farm that hosts the event. It’s located off of Route 30 as you head into Malone from the south. You turn onto Cosgrove Road (at Carla’s Greenery and there will be a sign) follow it to the end and make a right onto Child Road just for a moment before turning left onto Royce Road – parking will be on your left.

Here’s the acoustic line up though not necessarily in this order. There are a few acts from Malone: Liz Hathaway, a folk singer who does all of her own originals, Nick Poupore, a high school student who is reminiscent of Neil Young and Micheal Lamitie and Micheal Werhrich calling themselves Tadd Ruff, Saul Good and The Lou Daques, this band performs folk rock covers and originals. Eddy and Kim Lawrence from Moira and Mike Shepherd from Lake Placid.

Electric rock to keep you dancing into the night: Headliner Raisonhead is doing two full sets with these local acts in between, From Malone; Save The Humans and The Nebulons .

Families are asked to donate $25, individuals $10 and children under 12 are free. There is plenty of parking and there is a large tent and canopies if it rains.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Must-do Nature Events for Summer 2009

Summer. The word conjures up images of the outdoors: sunshine, trees, beaches, birds, flowers. It is THE time to go beyond your door and explore the natural world. There are so many options that, as Calvin noted in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, “The days are just packed.” Here are three summer activities on my “to-do” list this year.

1. Orchid Hunting. Orchids are wonderfully strange wildflowers that hide out in many Adirondack wetlands. Some are in bogs (Ferd’s Bog, near Inlet, is famous for its white-fringed orchids), some are in roadside ditches (like the smaller purple fringed orchids I found last year near home and the green wood orchid I tracked down along the road to Tahawus). But I’ve also found ladies tresses on a dry roadside bank! The best time to go orchid hunting (and this is visual “hunting” – orchids are all protected by law, so do not collect or pick them) is mid-July through early August. Visit a wetland or roadside ditch near you, or go for a drive to a public wetland, like the Boreal Life Trail at the Paul Smiths VIC (white fringed orchids, rose pogonia, and grass pinks await you there, although the latter two are at their best late June into early July). I recommend taking along Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide to help you identify your discoveries. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 25, 2009

John Warren: This Summer’s Great Local History Events

Summer is the time for great history events in our region, and I love local history. So here are three events that I won’t miss this season:

Fort Ticonderoga French and Indian War and American Revolution encampments – 2009 marks the 250th Anniversary of the British victory over the French at Fort Ticonderoga (known then as Fort Carillon). To mark the occasion the Fort is planning the Grand Encampment of the French & Indian War (June 27 & 28). Recreated battles and military life are just one aspect of the event, which includes a large period encampment, the smell of black powder, the roar of cannon, and period music.

The American Revolutionary War encampment (September 12 and 13th) includes American and British units and a contingent of Native American interpreters. The 2d New York, the Lexington Training Band, three British Regiments of Foot, the King’s Rangers, the Royal Irish Artillery, and more will all be there. These are the area’s premiere history events for all ages. A tip: the best parking is in the back by the King’s Garden.

Fort William Henry Lecture Series – Serious students of local history will want to attend this series of lectures offered each year at Fort William Henry. This year features noted historian Laurence Hauptman on the Munsee and Mahican (Mohican) at the time of Henry Hudson (August 6). Glenn Williams of the National Museum of the U.S. Army will give a talk on “Irregular Warfare on the Revolutionary Frontier” (August 13). There will also be lectures on the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) influence on Women’s Rights and the Hudson-Champlain Quadricentennial. Most of the lectures (which are free and start at 7 pm) are held at the Fort William Henry Conference Center (behind the fort) on Canada Street in Lake George.

Gokey’s Auctions in North Hudson (occasional Saturday nights) – Yes, it belongs on a list of great Adirondack summertime history opportunities. Gokey’s Auctions are staple good clean Saturday night fun in our part of the park. Located in North Hudson (check the Frontier Town ruins while you are there), John Gokey’s Trading Post offers food and a well-run auction staffed and attended mostly by locals. The previews start at 2 pm and the auctions at 5 pm, but check the complete schedule for dates and announcements of their on-site auctions around the North Country. Don’t bid against me.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer Reading, Rugby and Mushrooms

Only weddings have kept me from watching the Can-Am Rugby tournament in Saranac Lake, held this year Friday July 31 to Sunday August 2. It’s so huge it spills into Lake Placid. Both towns are overrun with happy jock energy as a hundred teams of serious amateur ruggers from all over the Northeast and Canada converge in one of the largest rugby gatherings in the world.

It’s a bracketed tournament culminating in a championship match watched by as many as 3,000 people. There are men’s and women’s divisions, and this summer for the first time in the event’s 35-year history kids will have their own scrums. It’s a fantastic game, and the teams play hard. The best way to watch is to pack cold drinks, put on sunscreen and bicycle among the half-dozen fields in either town. Look for the black-and-red jerseys of the Saranac Lake Mountaineers.

I’ll miss the last day of rugby this year because on Sunday August 2 my friend Kelly and I will attend mushroom class at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Adirondak Loj near Lake Placid. First, experts teach us which fungi are safe to eat, then we go into the woods to find them, then we have them for dinner. The Loj offers a series of educational programs all summer.

This is also the season for slipping silently into the woods. The man who wrote the book on slipping silently into the woods is James Fenimore Cooper. His Last of the Mohicans, set in the French-and-Indian War southeastern Adirondacks, is my choice for a summer re-reading assignment. North Country Public Radio holds an annual summer reading call-in program, scheduled for 7-9 p.m. Thursday July 9. Readers are welcome to send titles to station manager Ellen Rocco beforehand at ellen@ncpr.org. She’ll include them on a list on the station’s Web site.

Artwork: Uncas, Hawkeye and Chingachgook, an N.C. Wyeth illustration for The Last of the Mohicans


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Companion Plantings for the Vegetable Garden

Picture a vegetable garden full of bright flowers and variable foliage. Instead of a giant garden with straight rows of vegetables, you have many smaller beds, each a jumble of vegetables, herbs and flowers. A waste of space? Not at all! It turns out that vegetable gardens that exult in variety are inclined to be the most productive. Companion planting, folks – that’s the name of the game.

A classic book in the lexicon of gardeners is Carrots Love Tomatoes. Since this book came out, however, many others have joined the bookshelf, and one of my favorites is Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham. This book has almost become my garden bible because it is not only chocked full of great gardening advice, but it is immensely readable!

The key to a successful garden really is variety. You want to avoid the monoculture. When you plant expanses of just one type of plant (be it trees, flowers, or vegetables), you increase the odds that some disease or insect pest will find it and destroy it. If, on the other hand, you mix things up, garden survival rates soar!

But you don’t just want to chuck plants/seeds haphazardly into your garden; you need to follow a plan, you need to mix and match appropriately. For example, carrots and onions/chives are great companions. Carrots can be susceptible to carrot rust flies and onions/chives deter them. Onions are great for companions for many plants, actually, because of their pest-repellent qualities. Carrots also like caraway/coriander, calendulas and chamomile.

Beans and potatoes – these are a classic combo because the beans will help deter Colorado potato beetles. Here’s my two cents worth on this: bush beans yes, pole beans no. Make sure you use the right beans! Beets and onions are another good pair – alternate these root vegetables in your garden plots (I’ll discuss garden plots vs garden rows in another post). Your cabbage family plants (like broccoli) do well with aster family plants (like zinnias, dill and marigolds). Growing corn? Then you might want to try the traditional corn-beans-squash trio that many of our native people used (and still use). Plant your greens among your garlic, or under your cucumbers, or under broccoli and cauliflower, where the leaves will shade the tender greens from the harsh summer sun. Tomatoes do well with basil and peppers – all your pizza ingredients in one bed!

Nasturtiums, cosmos, calendulas and marigolds all feature prominantly in my veg garden – they provide wonderful spots of color, but also attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Buckwheat is another great attractant for pollinators, and it’s also a great green manure when turned into the soil.

So break away from the boring vegetable garden. Turn it instead into a riot of color and textures. Mix and match your herbs and flowers and vegetables, and then see if your produce doesn’t do better for the effort.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Red Efts: Nifty Adirondack Salamanders

Earlier this spring, after our first few bouts of significant rain, the red efts were on the move. They were tiny, measuring just a bit over an inch from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail, but their bright orange skin made them stand out brilliantly against the dark gray pavement of the road, and each one that I found got a lift as I carried it to a safer location off the road and into the woods.

Red efts are the terrestrial form of the eastern (or red-spotted) newt, Notophthalmus viridescens. More than just larvae, but not quite adults yet, red efts can be considered the teenager stage in the eastern newt’s life. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Adirondack Weekly Blogging Round-Up


Friday, May 22, 2009

Town of Keene Getting Wired for Broadband

Five years ago only a third of the 1,000 households in the town of Keene had broadband Internet service. By the end of this year John LaFountaine, lineman for Keene Valley Video (KVVI), the town’s locally owned Internet service provider, expects to string high-speed fiber-optic cable to 90 percent of the homes in the hamlets of Keene, Keene Valley and St. Huberts.

If you live inside the broadband bubble it can be hard to grasp that there are still people out there whose service disconnects or grinds on for ten minutes if someone tries to e-mail them a photograph. But a lot of Adirondackers are still in a dial-up world (there is no parkwide estimate of the number).

A few years ago a coalition of Keene residents, school officials, parents and KVVI teamed up to try to figure out how to keep school enrollment strong, how to keep KVVI in business despite a small customer base, and how to wire the town. Their thinking was that with broadband access, more families with school-age children would be able to move to Keene and work from home, and that their own kids wouldn’t have to leave to find work.

Senator Betty Little helped obtain a $100,000 state economic development grant to purchase equipment, and yesterday townspeople and a selected handful of Keene Central School students thanked her in a little ceremony at the Keene Town Hall.

Because of its mountainous topography Keene chose to run state-of-the-art fiber-optic cable house to house, and some other Adirondack towns are looking at using towers to beam wireless signals to far-flung homes. Keene organizers hope their project might serve as an example for other mountain communities trying to expand network access. “We’re ahead of the curve on this,” volunteer Jim Herman said. “This is Keene at its finest. So many people worked together to make this possible.” The first phase of the project will cost about $300,000; $200,000 of that amount has been raised privately, much of it from seasonal residents, and KVVI has donated labor.


Friday, May 22, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


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