Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ice Cream Review: Who Reads Adirondack Almanack?

In a post last March, we made a passing reference to Stewart’s Shops’ ill-advised decision in 2002 to discontinue it’s lemon chiffon (incorrectly referred to as “meringue”) ice cream flavor. Evidently, the post made its way to the marketing department. The ubiquitous eastern New York State dairy/gas/convenience chain—a mainstay of many Adirondack communities—has reinstated the flavor this summer. What’s more, they seem to have taken into consideration the passage of time and our decreased metabolism. Their lemon chiffon is now a “light” flavor.

While you may not be inclined to consider this flavor a summer music festival in your mouth, it will convince you, for the ten or so minutes it takes to eat a single scoop cone, that this is the sunniest Adirondack summer on record.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Climate Change Talk at Adirondack Museum

“Fifty years from now we may have Adirondack winters without snow and ice and forests that are the biological analogues of the dying coral reefs seen in the tropics today: stressed, structurally altered, not reproducing, and unable to support the birds and animals that once lived in them” Jerry Jenkins wrote in the Adirondack Atlas (2004). On Monday, August 3, 2009, Jenkins, co-author of The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, will offer a program entitled “Climate Change and the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake. Part of 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.

Jenkins, a researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society, will discuss
the impacts of global climate change on the region. He is trained in philosophy and mathematics, and works as a botanist and geographer. He has thirty years of field experience in the North Country, working as a naturalist and natural resources geographer for government agencies and non-profit groups including the Nature Conservancy, the State of Vermont, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Together with Andy Keal, Jenkins co-authored The Adirondack Atlas a Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, perhaps the most significant Adirondack book in a generation. Bill McKibben describes the atlas as a “great gift…that marks a coming of age.” Jenkins recently contributed to an anthology Acid Rain in the Adirondacks an Environmental History, which one reviewer called the “definitive work on the topic.”


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Adirondack Gardening: Habitat Close to Home

When the editors of Adirondack Almanack asked me to take over Ellen Rathbone’s garden columns while Ellen is on vacation, I couldn’t help thinking, they have got to be kidding! Me, write a garden column? I guess they don’t know that I’m more of an anti-gardener. Not anti in the sense of “against” (I love other people’s gardens), but in the sense of “antithesis of.” In short, I’m a weed-loving wildflower nerd who will risk drowning and broken bones and heart attacks and Lyme disease pursuing additions to my wildflower “life list,” but I faint at the thought of cultivating the plot behind my house. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Golf Tourney to Benefit Adirondack Architectural Heritage

Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) will be hosting a benefit golf tournament at the Westport Country Club on September 1, 2009. Play will be Partner’s Better Ball and the event will begin at noon with lunch followed by a 1 pm shotgun start. Entry fee is $75 which includes lunch, greens fees and cart. Registration deadline is Aug. 23; provide your handicap upon registration. Reservations are required and may be made by calling AARCH at 834-9328.

Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) is the private, non-profit, historic preservation organization for the Adirondack Park region. This tour is one of over fifty events in our annual series highlighting the region’s vast architectural legacy. For more information on membership and our complete program schedule contact AARCH at (518) 834-9328 or visit our website at www.aarch.org.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sticking Up for Skunks, Adirondack Style

A friend of mine in college had a pet skunk named Cauliflower. We heard tales of this unusual household companion, but sadly only got to meet her on the occasion of my friend’s funeral. The year before, while I was interning at a nature center near Syracuse, someone brought in an “abandoned” baby skunk. One of the staff worked with a rehabber and took temporary custody of the little animal until the end of the day. After giving it a meal of Similac, I volunteered to babysit. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a baby skunk nestled in your bosom for the better part of a day (I had to keep it somewhere warm and secure). Needless to say, I developed a fondness for skunks.

In the ensuing years I have discovered that the mere mention of the word skunk causes cries of “pee-eeww” to leap from the mouths of every child, and even some adults, in the vicinity. Noses are pinched tightly shut, even though no actual skunk is nearby. This reaction amuses and baffles me. I guess some lessons are learned early and persist for a lifetime, whether legitimate or not.

Striped skunks (there are, by the way, nine other species of skunks) are known to scientists as Mephitis mephitis. Once grouped together with weasels in the family Mustelidae, skunks now have their own family, Mephitidae, which is shared only with stink badgers, an animal found in the Philippines and Indonesia. It is easy to see why skunks were combined with weasels, for like skunks, weasels have many scent glands and can be quite aromatic. However, only skunks use their scent as a mode of defense.

If one encounters a skunk, and does not threaten it in anyway, the skunk is liable to trundle along its merry way without a second glance. If harassed, it will give plenty of warning to leave it alone. First, it will stomp its front feet. If this doesn’t work, it will make little charges towards it’s harasser with its tail raised over its head. Should the intruder continue to bother it, the skunk will bend its nether regions around to the front, so both its nose and rump are facing the same direction, and let loose a stream of yellowish liquid, a potent musk that can be fired up to twenty feet away. The skunk can manage six to eight squirts before its supply is gone, after which it will require about a week to recharge. The active compound in the spray is butylmercaptan, Mother Nature’s answer to tear gas. While it will burn and sting the eyes, it will not persist (and the recipient will not go blind). Unlike man-made tear gas, the odor can persist for weeks and can be smelled up to a mile away.

In short, it’s best not to bother a skunk.

And why would you want to? After all, skunks provide a valuable service to those who grow crops, and they do it at night when we are asleep. They eat many grubs and grasshoppers and insects of all stripes that are considered pests to the farmer. True, skunks have been known to chicken eggs and sometimes even a hen, but these instances are considered rare. Skunks are true omnivores, consuming berries and bugs, mice and roadkill all with equal relish. That said, invertebrates make up the greatest portion of the skunk’s diet.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, skunks were routinely trapped and bred in captivity for the fur industry. Believe it or not, their pelts were the second most popular fur in the business. But after about 1915 the demand for skunk fur started to decline, and all the skunk breeders had to find a new outlet. Skunks as pets became the next rage. Today pet skunks are hard to come by, mostly because they are illegal in most states due to the fact that skunks are the number two carrier (in the wild) of rabies. Red foxes, incidentally, are listed as number one.

I have been asked several times by local folks why Newcomb has no skunks. My pat answer has been that it’s simply too cold here for them. However, I have learned from long-time residents that Newcomb used to have a good number of these black and white animals. Pursuing this, we discovered that skunks seemed to disappear about the same time that coyotes moved in. Hm…interesting. Part of me wonders, though, if it has more to do with the lack of open space than it does with the presence of coyotes. Skunks are traditionally animals of open spaces, preferring to live near agricultural lands and open woods. Sometimes they inhabit dense woodlands, and have even been found at elevations over 2000 feet, but this is not where they thrive best. Since Newcomb has reverted back to forest over most of its acreage (believe it or not, at one time most of this area was cleared for farms), I suspect this is what has driven the skunks from our fair village.

We could learn a lot from skunks, who are truly pacifists at heart. They waddle their way through life, minding their own business, consuming pestiferous insects to help out (unintentionally) their human neighbors. We could all use a few more neighbors like this.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Weekly Adirondack Blogging Round-Up


Friday, July 31, 2009

Meet Guest Contributor Jackie Donnelly, Woodswalker

Elen Rathbone will be away on vacation for a couple of weeks so we’ve asked Jackie Donnelly, who writes the Saratoga Woods and Waterways blog, to fill in. She’ll be posting Ellen’s columns under the name Woodswalker beginning Sunday.

Jackie is a former editor/writer recently retired after 15 years as a Hospice nursing assistant. She’s not a professional naturalist (she majored in English), but a self-described “lifelong nature enthusiast and wildflower nerd.” She also says she is an admirer of Ellen Rathbone, whose blog inspired her to start her own on January 1 of this year, she says “hoping to document a full year’s cycle of the beautiful wilderness settings and amazing diversity of flora and fauna close to my home in Saratoga Springs.” Liberated from land by her Hornbeck canoe, she primarily haunts the Hudson River where it forms the northern boundary of Saratoga County, with occasional forays into the “genuine” Adirondacks.

Please join us in welcoming her.


Friday, July 31, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Performing Arts Return to Scaroon Manor Amphitheater

The Adirondack Shakespeare Company will celebrate its inception by presenting Hungry Will’s Variety Hour at the historical Scaroon Manor Amphitheater on the west shore of Schroon Lake at 3 PM this Saturday, August 1, 2009. The 500-seat outdoor Greek style amphitheater, which has been dormant for the past 50 years, is located on the grounds of the Scaroon Manor Day Use Area which reopened to the public in 2006. According to a DEC it’s the “first new recreational facility constructed in the Adirondack Forest Preserve since 1977.”

ADK Shakespeare is a company conceived by Patrick Siler and Tara Bradway to bring professional productions of classic plays to the Adirondack region. Hungry Will’s Variety Hour will feature a select group of actors drawn from across the country performing scenes, songs, and speeches from Shakespeare and other great dramatic authors.

ADK Shakespeare utilizes an approach to classical performance where all non-essentials are stripped away and the language of the playwright takes center-stage. Actors prepare their roles individually, and with only one day of rehearsal, present the full production. “Because even the company is unsure of exactly what will happen, the performances are authentic, dynamic, compelling, and unlike most anything you are used to seeing in the theater,” according to Siler. “Our goal is to discover the play for the first time with the audience present, and together create a world by mixing the raw materials of the author’s language with the catalyst of the audience’s imagination”.

There will be one performance only: Saturday, August 1 at 3:00 p.m. with a rain-date of Sunday, August 2. This event is FREE with paid admission to the Scaroon Manor Day Use Facility, although donations are appreciated. Reservations are not necessary, but can be made by emailing info@adkshakes.org.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

ADK Music Scene: Classical, Country, Blues and Reggae

Tonight at St. Bernards Church in Saranac Lake the Elegua Duo performs from 8 – 9:30 pm. Classical musicians, Claire Black and Ginevra Ventre, pianist and cellist respectively, will be recording for NCPR. Some of the composers they embrace are Beethoven, Chopin and Britten. They will then be in Westport on Friday from 7:30 – 9 pm for the Essex Community Concert Series and Blue Mountain Lake for an interactive children’s workshop. The workshop will be held at The Adirondack Center for The Arts from 3:30 – 5 pm.

Also tonight in Saranac Lake at 6:30 pm, pianist and accordionist Radoslav Lorkovic is going to be in Berkley Square. He is so accomplished – throwing different styles of music into his original compositions; classical, blues, swing and zydeco to name a few. I’m excited that he’s in town and changed my plans to be at his concert.

Tonight in Westport at Ballard Park, Meadowmount Classical presents an evening of Chamber music at 7 pm. As a child my folks used to take me to Meadowmount concerts and despite being antsy on occasion, I loved going. They gave me a deep appreciation and understanding of classical music even though I haven’t studied it formally. I also think those concerts helped teach patience and respect for the silent moments in music and therefore in life.

Tonight, last but not least, at the Elizabethtown gazebo; Larry Stone, Julie Robards and Max Van Wie will be playing at 7 pm. Julie is a great bluegrass musician, you can catch her with the band Stacked Deck (which Larry is also part of) and Larry plays some great blues/swing/country with his band Stoneman Blues Band. They’re so talented individually that as a duo they must put on a good show. If you miss them tonight, catch them tomorrow from 7 – 9 pm at the Deers Head Inn also in Elizabethtown.

In Saranac Lake on Friday at the Waterhole Pie Boys Flat begins at 10 pm. It’s Rugby Weekend so you know it’s going to be crazy. I listened to these guys online and I think they’ll do a fine job keeping everyone pumped and jumping with their blend of reggae, funk and rock.

Also on Friday in Plattsburgh Crow Party is playing at the Monopole at 10 pm. A great hard-hitting blues band as far as I’m concerned – my only complaint with these guys is that even though they purposely compose short songs, I sometimes wish they’d just keep playing. When the groove is really working and people are up and dancing more of the same is better than fine, it’s fantastic. Russ Bailey, Franz Pope and Matt Rabideau are all excellent musicians! Call 563-2222 for more information.

On Saturday Blues For Breakfast is playing at North Creek Station and is a Jerry Garcia tribute band. August 1st also happens to be Jerry Garcia’s birthday. I found out about this show from Nate Pelton’s website adkmusic.com. Thanks, Nate!

Looking into next week: On Monday, August 3rd at 11 am, Earthtunes will put on a interactive performance for children and adults at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Playing mandolin, viola and guitars, Steve Mayone and Barb Herson use different musical styles to teach their audiences about the environment and how to care for it.

On Tuesday, August 4th, The Pines Inn Songs at Mirror Lake series continues with Spiritual Rez. A 7-piece funky reggae band is giving a free 7 pm concert a Mid’s Park in Lake Placid. These concert are usually of a very high quality and excellent. I like what i’ve been listening to online of these guys.

photo: Russ Bailey of Crow Party


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Township 40 Dispute Resolution In The Works?

There is an interesting story over at WNBZ updating the more then 100-year-old dispute between owners of about 1,000 acres in the Hamlet of Raquette Lake, once a part of Township 40, and the State of New York. The dispute is a confusing mess of claims and counter claims, but it looks like there may be a resolution in the works. Of course any deal will require another Forest Preserve land swap and associated Constitutional Amendment. There is a nice recounting of the history of the dispute here.

Here is a taste of the story at WNBZ:

Representatives from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Town of Long Lake, Raquette Lake residents, state legislators and several environmental groups are back at the negotiation table in an attempt to end the land dispute once and for all. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Great Camps to Skyscrapers: Architecture of Robert H. Robertson

Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) is presenting a free lecture Monday, August 17, 2009 at 7 p.m. at the Essex Community Church, in Essex. “From Great Camps to Skyscrapers: Rediscovering the Remarkable Architecture of Robert H. Robertson,” will be presented by Daniel Snydacker, Ph.D., executive director, Pequot Library, Southport, CT, and architectural historian.

Robert H. Robertson, the architect of Camp Santanoni, and Shelburne Farms in Vermont, was born in Philadelphia in 1849 and did his training with other, well-known American architects. He did not go to Europe to study at schools such as Les Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris as did his contemporaries Richard Morris Hunt and others. This non-academic training is clearly evident in much of his work which is profoundly American in so many ways. Robertson led the way in the development of several important categories of American architecture. He competed successfully with the greatest architects of the late 19th century and, in some of his work, anticipated the greatest architects of the 20th century.

Ironically, Robertson has dropped out of sight among those who study American architectural history. Unfortunately, his papers and drawings apparently have been lost and this may account for the lack of interest among scholars. Many of his buildings survive, however, and they bear eloquent testimony to the skill and creativity of their designer.

Robertson worked in a broad swath down the East Coast from the Adirondacks, to Tuxedo Park, through the Berkshires, into both Southport and Newport, and then, with a flourish, he designed a string of handsome, groundbreaking tall office buildings and churches right down the middle of Manhattan. His commissions reached as far West as Ohio and included several lovely homes in New Jersey and on Long Island.

Robertson’s architecture is human in scale. His had an unerring, firm control of massing. His roof lines are breathtakingly strong and powerful. He demonstrates a mastery of detail which he exercises with an often playful eclecticism that reflects the influence of William Morris, John Ruskin, and others in the arts and craft movement. The more one sees of his work, the more one recognizes his genius. The lecture will help put his local buildings into a broader context by circling out past the rest of his work and coming back again to understand the true importance of Santanoni and Shelburne Farms.

Admission is free; donations are suggested.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Porcupines: 2nd Largest Adirondack Rodent

This last winter one of our local residents came in with a photograph of the strangest looking tracks in the snow. There were no distinct foot prints, and no well-defined gait pattern. What it looked like was a beautiful serpentine zig-zagging design; it reminded me of rickrack. And it looked familiar. I grabbed one of my tracking books and quickly thumbed through. Sure enough, there it was: porcupine tracks. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

APA Adds Public Hearing on Land Classifications

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) held three public hearings in July regarding proposals to classify and reclassify state lands and water involving the Five Ponds Wilderness Area, Lows Lake Primitive Area, Hitchens Pond Primitive Area, Round Lake Wilderness Area, Lows Lake, Hitchens Pond and the Bog River. These areas are located in the northwest part of the Adirondack Park in Hamilton and St. Lawrence Counties. The Agency will hold an additional hearing on August 10, 2009 at its Ray Brook headquarters and will continue to accept written public comments through August 28,2009. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Adirondack History Lectures At Keene Valley Library

There are several interesting upcoming Keene Valley Library Adirondack History Lectures (beginning tonight) that will include Adirondack writer Andy Flynn, historian Fran Yardley, and NCPR journalist Brian Mann. The full schedule details are below.

A unique Adirondack treasure, the Keene Valley library was created in 1885 with an initial gift of $200.00 and a collection of just 167 volumes. Today the library holds more than 20,000 items thanks in part to members of the Keene Valley Library Association, organized in 1891. The library building was completed in 1896 and the organization was granted a charter in 1899.

The Library has been expanded several times over the years beginning with the addition of a childrens’ room in 1923 and a fireproof room to hold the historical collection in 1931 which includes the Archives of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. The library also includes a small collection of 19th and early 20th century landscape paintings which hang in the main reading room. They have been selectively chosen to reflect the tradition of artists finding inspiration in the High Peaks.

Adirondack Lecture Series:

Fran Yardley: A Photo Presentation: Stories and History of the Bartlett Carry Club on Upper Saranac Lake Wednesday, July 29 at 7:30 PM
Fran will present a portion of the wealth of material she has discovered as she researches the history of Bartlett Carry on Upper Saranac Lake from 1854 to 1985 for her upcoming book. Bartlett Carry is a short portage from Upper Saranac to Middle Saranac Lake, part of the historic transportation route from Old Forge to Saranac Lake used for centuries. Photographs date back to pre-1890. Spend an evening diving into this rich history. Bring stories of your own about this venerable, historic spot in the Adirondacks.

Andy Flynn: Turning Points in Adk History
Monday Aug. 3 at 7:30 PM
Andy is the educator at the Visitor’s Interpreter Center in Paul Smiths. He is the author of Mountain Heritage: Adirondack Attic, a series of books with stories based on artifacts found in storage and on exhibit in the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. His books will be available for purchase and Andy will do book signings.

Brian Mann: Ten Years at the NCPR News Bureau Monday, Aug.10 7:30 preceded by dessert reception at 6:00
Brian Mann, News Reporter and Adirondack Bureau Chief for North Country Public Radio. Brian moved from Alaska to the North Country in 1999 to help launch NCPR’s News Bureau. Brian is a frequent contributor to NPR and writes regularly for regional magazines including Adirondack Life and the Adirondack Explorer.