Monday, October 5, 2009

A New Hiking Guide for Adirondack Dog Lovers

There are many good reasons to pick up a copy of Dog Hikes in the Adirondacks: 20 Trails to Enjoy with Your Best Friend, a useful and big-hearted little book from Westport’s Shaggy Dog Press: Authors who know the territory offer their favorite places to hike with pets. The book’s editors, Annie Stoltie and Elisabeth Ward, provide tips on introducing young dogs to the trail, rules and courtesies, and veterinary care. Finally, proceeds from the sale of the book benefit animal shelters and humane organizations throughout the Adirondack Park.

“The Adirondack Park remains uncrowded by the grace of location,” the book’s introduction says. “The pet population may well rival that of humans, which helps to explain the number of animal shelters in the park’s 11 counties. As in any predominantly rural setting, these shelters are overfilled and struggling to save abandoned cats and dogs, to educate on proper care of pets, to teach the importance of spay and neuter programs. Often these shelters have to rely on the kindness of the strangers who visit the Adirondacks for their outdoor experiences.”

Cats are an especially big challenge for Adirondack shelters, as Annie Stoltie explains in this Adirondack Life article. The link also provides addresses and contact information for Adirondack humane organizations.

North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann aired a charming on-trail interview with the book’s publisher, Libby Treadwell, last week.

The soft-cover book is 64 pages. To order send $12.95 per copy (price includes tax and postage) to: Shaggy Dog Press | PO Box 318 | Westport, NY 12993. Donations also sent to that address will be forwarded to shelters. North Country Books is distributing the book, so check your local bookstores as well.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

ADK Releases Free Eastern Region Guide Supplement

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) has released online a 24-page supplement to its guidebook “Adirondack Trails: Eastern Region” which features twelve additional trails at ten locations in the eastern Adirondacks, mostly along Lake Champlain; half of the routes are in Wildlife Management Areas. The routes traverse marshland, woodland, meadow and island habitats from the Lewis Preserve Wildlife Management Area in the northeast to Cat and Thomas Mountains Preserve in the southeast.

According to an ADK media release “some, like the alternate access to Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain, are relatively new; others, like the bucolic Lewis Preserve north of Chazy Lake, are visited only infrequently. Noblewood Preserve offers spectacular views of Lake Champlain; other sites have special appeal for birdwatchers, paddlers and skiers.”

The supplement was written by David Thomas-Train and is available as a free downloadable PDF file online at www.adk.org (downloadable PDF file), or for $1 at ADK’s Lake George and Heart Lake properties. It may be ordered by sending $1 to Eastern Region Supplement, 814 Goggins Road, Lake George, NY 12845. The supplemental material will be included in the next printing of the Eastern Region guide.


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.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

September DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report (Sept 2009)

For the interest of Almanack readers, we present the September DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report in its entirety:

Clinton County
Town of Black Brook, Taylor Pond Wild Forest
On Saturday, September 19, at approximately 2:05 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call from State Police in Plattsburgh, reporting a group of 3 young girls, ages 9, & 10, missing from the DEC Taylor Pond Campground. The girls were last seen at 11:30 AM heading to an outhouse. The girls’ parents searched for 2 hours before reporting them missing. Five DEC Forest Rangers responded, along with the State Police Aviation Unit helicopter. A forest ranger aboard the helicopter spotted the missing group approximately 3 miles from the campground. Another forest ranger searching in the area made contact with the children and safely escorted them out of the woods by 5:15 PM. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

North Country Hitchhikers: Getting Stuck on Seeds

There are lots of plants out there that really grab you…literally. We’ve all encountered at least one, probably more. With hooking barbs or puncturing spikes, they lam onto our shoes and socks, pant legs and shirt sleeves – and heaven help you should you be wearing a woven poncho when you have your run-in with them! Our dogs return from a romp in the field with seeds of all sorts clinging to their fur. Yep, late summer and fall are the time of year to get to know your seeds. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Weekly Adirondack Blogging Round-Up


Friday, October 2, 2009

Hyde Receives Gift of Painting of Finch Pruyn Workers

Douglass Crockwell is known today as a commercial artist whose images of daily American life appeared regularly on the covers of popular magazines like the Saturday Evening Post and in advertisements for national brands of beers and dog foods.

In Glens Falls, he had what is known as intra-mural fame, as the city’s best known artist.

“He referred to himself as the ‘poor man’s Norman Rockwell,’” said Patricia Hoopes, who sometimes served as a model for Crockwell’s illustrations, as did her husband and two children.

“What Doug painted is not the kind of art that would ordinarily be displayed at The Hyde,” says Sam Hoopes, whose great-aunt, Charlotte Hyde, founded the Glens Falls museum to conserve and display her collection of European and American art.

But last year, Hoopes became aware of a painting that he thought The Hyde should own.

Painted in 1934, Paper Workers, Finch Pruyn & Co. shows workers smoothing and stamping an enormous roll of newsprint, the plant’s principal product at the time.

The workers appear to be carved of wood, Crockwell once said, because he wanted to liken the men to the source of the wood pulp from which they made newsprint.

Mike Carr, the executive director of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, saw the painting in a New York gallery and called it to Hoopes’s attention.

“I thought it seemed out of character for Doug, since we knew him best as a commercial artist,” said Hoopes.
After discussing the painting with The Hyde’s director, David Stetford, and the museum’s chief curator, Erin Coe, Sam and Patricia Hoopes decided to buy the painting and donate it to The Hyde.

“Given Doug Crockwell’s connection to The Hyde – he was a trustee from 1952 through 1968 and served as acting director from 1964 and 1968 – and The Hyde’s connection to Finch Pruyn, I thought the painting was something The Hyde should have,” said Hoopes.

“Sam Hoopes saw the opportunity to share with the Museum a piece of Glens Falls history. The image of “Paper Workers, Finch Pruyn & Co”. connects us with the industrial roots that allowed The Hyde Collection to begin,” said David Stetford, noting that Charlotte Hyde’s father, and Sam Hoopes’ great-grandfather, Samuel Pruyn, co-founded Finch Pruyn in 1865.

According to Erin Coe, Crockwell painted two nearly identical versions of the image. The first version belongs to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. and was created by Crockwell in 1934 for the Works Progress Administration. The version donated by the Hoopeses to The Hyde, was made by the artist for Finch Pruyn & Co. later that same year.

“Although Crockwell is more widely known as a commercial illustrator, this painting is a remarkable example of his endeavor as a fine artist — long before he became the famous illustrator of the 1940s and 50s,” said Coe.
Other overlooked aspects of Crockwell’s career, such as the surrealist films he made and the avant-garde jewelry he designed, have yet to be fully explored, said Coe.

He was also a patron of more pathbreaking artists, including the sculptor David Smith.

His wife, Margaret Bramen Crockwell, once said, “My husband was one of the first to buy Smith’s sculptures. Someone told me years later that the sale of ‘Structure of Arches’ kept David from starving.”

The Hyde owns two other works by Crockwell, Coe said. The first, acquired in 1971, is a painted illustration for the Saturday Evening Post and was donated to The Hyde by Crockwell’s family. The second is an unfinished portrait of Louis Fiske Hyde, which was donated to the Museum by the family in 1979.

According to Coe, “Paper Workers, Finch Pruyn & Co.” was presented by The Hyde’s Collections Committee to the Board of Trustees for approval at their meeting on September 21, 2009. The work will be sent to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center for conservation treatment, and when the painting returns it will be placed on public view.

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror

Image courtesy of the Hyde Collection


Friday, October 2, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Adirondack Music Scene:Country, Classical, Bluegrass and a Jam Band

There are plenty of good shows to choose from this weekend. My personal favorites are Julie and Larry Friday night in Lake Placid followed by – if I find my second wind – Lucid in Saranac Lake. Then I will do what I can to see Jay and Molly’s Family Band in Edwards on Saturday.
On Sunday I’d like to make it down to The Adirondack Harvest Festival in Blue Mountain Lake with some kids I know to say hello to Roy Hurd , see lots of pumpkins and taste some fresh pressed cider.

Friday, October 2nd:

In Lake Placid at The Station Street Bar and Grill from 7 – 9 pm, the bluegrass country duo Julie Robards and Larry Stone will be playing and singing their hearts out. Julie plays acoustic guitar and Larry plays some very cool sounding vintage guitars. I’ve seen both of these fine musicians individually or in other bands and have always enjoyed myself. Together they’re bound to give a great show. Call 837-5178 for more information.

In Saranac Lake, the band Lucid will be playing at the Waterhole. I really like the sound of these guys. A horn section is always a treat and they know how to get a good groove on. I heard the last show had some pretty visuals as well, thanks to one of my favorite percussionists Chris Shacklett from the band elephantbear.

In Indian Lake at the Indian Lake Theater, Tom Akstens & Neil Rossi with the Kossoy Sisters are in concert! Remember that awesome version of “I’ll Fly Away” from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? Well, that was the Kossoy Sisters. Oh, and just so you don’t think I’m loosing it Allison Krauss and Gillian Welsh are on the CD (thanks Ned). It starts at 7:30 pm and costs $15. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Art Center at 352-7715 or through this link: http://www.adirondackarts.org/indianlaketheater.html

Also in Lake Placid at 8 pm there is a LPCA Concert: Dire Straits co-founder David Knopfler. The evening will begin with music by Jeff Ross formerly of Badfinger. Tickets are $16 in advance.

Saturday October 3rd:

In Edwards at The Edwards Opera House, Jay Unger and Molly Mason will be performing at 7 pm. This show includes Mike and Ruthie. I just met and spent time with this wonderful family at an Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camp. I was impressed, not just with their excellent level of musicianship, but with the generosity and warmth they give to everyone they meet.

In Redford there will be a Square dance held from 7 – 10 pm at The Assumption of Mary school. Don Perkins and Friends will be providing the music. He’s an excellent fiddler who also happens to be the uncle of Saranac Lake’s Joel Perkins who’s been teaching violin here for years and heads the popular group Inisheer. For more information call: (518) 846-8402.

In North Creek Trio Casals will be performing at 7:30 pm. This will take place at the Tannery Pond Community Center. For information call: (518) 251-2633.

In Saranac Lake Tony Trischka at Will Rogers in Saranac Lake starting at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Click here for more information.

Saturday the 3rd and Sunday the 4th:

Popular local folk and country singer/songwriter Roy Hurd and fiddler Frank Orsini will be giving two concerts each day in Blue Mountain Lake. On both days the shows are at 11 am and 2 pm at the Adirondack Museum. This is part of the Adirondack Harvest Festival which also includes pony rides, pumpkin painting and a barn raising!

Sunday the 4th:

At the Glens Falls High School at 4 pm, the Glens Falls Symphony will give it’s opening concert titled “Chasing Light…Degas and Music”.

Monday the 5th:

In Glen Falls at The Hyde Collection Art Museum, The Walden Chamber Players will give a concert at 7:30 pm. This is part of the Degas and Music series. For $20, not only can you listen to music composed by friends of Degas but you can see the collection starting at 6:30pm.

Photo: Jay and Molly’s Family Band – that’s little Will on Ruthie’s tummy!


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


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Helping Visitors Stop and Enjoy the Culture

As much as people in the Adirondacks go on and on about canoeing, hiking and skiing, a lot of visitors’ favorite thing to do here is drive around and look at the scenery.

In recognition of this, the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) has released the first travel brochure dedicated to things to do along a single road route: the four-county, 188-mile Adirondack Trail scenic byway on Route 30 between Malone and Fonda. ANCA is also seeking grants to design brochures for some of the region’s 11 other designated “byways.”

Since its founding in the 1960s, ANCA has promoted what it called “touring routes” as a means to encourage tourism and economic development, says program coordinator Sharon O’Brien. When New York State instituted a Scenic Byways program in the 1990s, the independent agency changed its labeling but kept encouraging motorists to visit small North Country towns and spend some time and money.

ANCA’s June 2009 “Adirondack North Country Scenic Byways Market Trend Assessment,” a survey of 300 motorists visiting the area, found, “When rating the activities most important to their overall experience and enjoyment, respondents said that driving through the areas, and enjoying the scenery, views of lakes, forest, and mountains were the most important activities while traveling in the Adirondack North Country region, and the reasons they have memorable visits.”

ANCA’s survey also found visitors generally like outdoor recreation; enjoying scenic views of lakes, forests, and mountains; visiting museums or historic sites; and getting out on the water. They also like “activities that take place outdoors, are relaxing, are family-oriented and that offer a change of pace.”

The new four-season Route 30 guide gives visitors ideas and directions on how to find “easy access to nature, history, and culture,” ANCA said in a press release. It suggests stops at obvious attractions like the Wild Center in Tupper Lake as well as local-knowledge places like the South Main Street Fishing Area in Northville or Arsenal Green Park in Malone. “It promotes something unique for visitors to stop and do in each community, thus providing new visibility for those locales with limited marketing budgets,” ANCA said.

The promotional piece complements ANCA’s new Scenic Byways website, which so far profiles individual communities in ten counties along three byways. The contents of the brochure and website are based on “travelers’ interests such as their desire for authentic/real experiences as documented in the 2009 Byway Market Trend Assessment.”

34,000 brochures will be distributed to visitor centers, museums, Chambers of Commerce and other tourist stops across the North Country. The project was funded by the New York State Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways Program through the Federal Highway Administration and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. For further information on ANCA’s Scenic Byway Program contact Sharon O’Brien at anca-obrien@northnet.org or 518-891-6200.

Photograph courtesy of ANCA


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lycopodium – The Moss That Isn’t

Language. It’s supposed to make communication easier, but sometimes it ends up just confusing issues more. Take plant names, for example, specifically mosses. If I say “moss” to you, you probably picture some dark green, low-growing, soft groundcover in the woods. And for the most part, you’d be right. But what about reindeer moss? It’s not a moss at all; it’s a lichen. Clubmoss is another misnomer – the plant may actually look like a large moss, but it isn’t. In fact, it is more closely related to ferns than it is to true mosses.

Clubmosses, which belong to the family Lycopodiaceae, are vascular plants that do not have flowers and that reproduce sexually by means of spores (like mushrooms, ferns and true mosses). Clubmosses have stems, which true mosses don’t, and the sporophyte, at least, has real roots – true mosses don’t have roots.

Here at the Newcomb Visitor Interpretive Center, we have three very common clubmosses: Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum), Shining Clubmoss (L. lucidulum), and Stiff Clubmoss (L. anotinum). You can also find Running Clubmoss (L. clavatum) – this is the one pictured above.

Princess pine, as you might expect, looks a lot like a miniature conifer tree. Also called ground pine, at one time it was harvested extensively for holiday decorations. As with many wild harvesting “programs,” gatherers did not make much money for the time and effort they had to expend. As a result, when patches of the desired plant were found, they were often cleaned out. Such unsustainable harvesting practices resulted in many plants becoming rare. Today clubmosses are among the many native plants that are protected by law.

When I started my career as a naturalist, one of the first things I learned about lycopodium was that the spores were used historically for flash powder. We’ve all seen westerns, or other movies that portray life in the 1800s. Whenever you saw a photograph being taken in that time period, there was a guy (usually) with a big box camera draped in black cloth. He would hold up a t-shaped bar, tell everyone to hold really still, and then flash! bang! the cross bar would explode and the photograph was taken. The stuff that flashed was clubmoss spores. Like flour in a mill, the fine dust-like spores, which are very rich in oil, are highly flammable. Unlike flour, however, the spores burn fast and bright, but with little heat. No theater stages (flash powder was used to simulate lightning) or photo studios burned to the ground because of flash powder.

It turns out, however, that clubmosses had many more historical uses. According to a couple sources I found, the Woodland Crees would rub raw fish eggs into stiff clubmoss to separate them from their gelatinous membranes. After they were separated, the eggs were used to make fish-egg bread. It doesn’t appeal to me, but then I’ve never tried it – maybe it’s pretty good.

Clubmoss spores found their way into surgery as a dusting powder, and were even used to treat conditions like eczema. At one time the spores were popular as baby powder. This might be because they are water repellent. Apparently if you cover your hand with the spores and then submerge it in water, it will not get wet!

But that’s not all. Spores from L. complanatum, commonly called groundcedar, were used by the Blackfoot people as an antiseptic and to stop nosebleeds. They also used the entire plant as a mordant, which is a compound used to set dyes.

What about mystical powers? The Dakelh people of British Columbia at one time used clubmoss spores to determine if the sick would survive their illnesses. The divination process was simple: spores were dropped into a container of water. If they drifted in the direction of the sun, the patient had a good chance of survival. I’m not sure I’d want to rely on this for my own survival, but in a time when penicillin was unheard of and belief in the spirit world was strong, it might’ve made all the difference in a person’s will to live.

If you’d like to learn how to identify some of our local clubmosses, stop by the VIC and take the Browsing Botanist tour of the Rich Lake Trail. The guide booklet, which you can pick up at the front desk, will introduce you to these groundcovers. Once you’ve made their acquaintances, you will start to see them everywhere as a new window into the wild opens before your eyes.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Existentialism in the 23rd Congressional District

Consider the Existentialist dilemma of the candidates seeking New York’s 23rd Congressional District seat. You may recall Existentialism from high school French class or a movie date in college: the hard-to-pin-down philosophy supported largely on the precepts that 1) Orthodoxies and doctrines are meaningless 2) We all live for the moment and determine our fate by our choices, and 3) We’re all doomed anyway, so what the heck. Toss in words like “ennui” and “angst” and you’ve pretty much covered it.

Anyway, on June 2nd, when John McHugh accepted President Obama’s nomination to become Secretary of the Army, he triggered a five-month-long campaign to fill his House seat, a campaign which will end at the polls on November 3rd.

The abbreviated schedule means that the traditional binary and sequential format of American campaigns—an ideological race (left v. right) in the primaries followed by a partisan race (R v. D) in the general election—must be fought concurrently. As a consequence, the race for the 23rd features a pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage Republican who falls somewhere to the left of the opposing “centrist” Democrat, who was never really a Democrat before and doesn’t even mention the word all that often, and a Conservative who falls just to the left of a Viking on social issues. Contemporary political dogma will not help the disoriented voter in this election.

The foreshortened calendar has also served to concentrate the negative advertising in the race. While the regionally-recognized candidates need to define themselves (more by their actions than their party affiliations) across the sprawling district, they (and their surrogates) are already spending more time and money undefining each other—complete with ominous tones, distorted voting records and unflattering likenesses.

Perhaps the most resonant existential element of the 23rd CD race is the utter futility of the goal itself. Whoever wins the right to represent New York’s northernmost citizens will immediately have to gear up a defense of the seat in 2010, a tough job, with or without an extended recount. The 2010 election coincides with the decennial census, and the expected loss of two New York congressional seats in the ensuing redistribution. The choice of which districts to eliminate during reapportionment will fall to a state legislature that owes nothing to whichever rookie legislator occupies the seat.

In short, the best scenario that the victor of the November 3rd special election can hope for goes something like this: Beneath heavy Washington skies, following swearing in to the remainder of the 111th Congress, the Distinguished Representative, along with a few other members from terminal districts in Ohio and Pennsylvania will convoke the Jean-Paul Sartre Caucus at a cafe somewhere off DuPont Circle. Over espressos and Gauloises they will grimly deconstruct the lyrics of “Born to Run,” shrug twice, then disappear forever. C’est la vie.


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


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: The Corn Maze

This year we will be hunting space aliens in Gabriels. Yes, crop circles have been found in the Adirondacks, though this time they can be proven the direct result of human effort, not the paranormal. For the fourth year in a row the design for the maze at Tucker Farms is from the artistic work of Scott Rohe. He didn’t even have to perpetuate any crop circle myth by going out in the dead of night to complete the large-scale land art. He just came up with the design so the Tuckers could plant the corn in a grid-like pattern. » Continue Reading.