Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Best Summer Job Everrrrr!

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined the rooftop highway road crew this summer, requesting $150 million for the proposed four-lane divided highway north of the Adirondack Park — newly renamed I-98 by supporters who argue that it will prevent the mass migration of jobs and humans away from the region. Environmentalists counter that it will cut off north-south migration routes in and out of the Adirondacks for many other species.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: Producer-Only Farmers’ Markets

Tis the season for zucchini. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. It is only the closest of friends that can continue to pass out fresh zucchini like it’s a present rather than penance. Since I am in transition, my own garden has been put on hold and I rely on the kindness of others for my fresh veggies. Zucchini, on the other hand, has become the garden growers “gift with purchase.”

I was just given a secret at a recent trip to the Farmers’ Market that if I de-seed the giant green squash first and then chop, it will retain its sweet flavor without having to attempt to swallow seeds the size of cherry pips.

For my children a trip to the Farmers’ Market is a day out on the town. Not because it is errand day. More so because most open-air markets are designed for just that purpose, for people to stroll, smell and experience where food comes from. Sadly and not surprisingly some kids never know the vast amount of travel some of their vegetables have taken before reaching the table.

Lake Placid’s Green Market Wednesday is one of many “producer-only” farmers’ markets. The requirement is simple. The product is either grown at the vendor’s location or made from scratch. Vendors are not allowed to purchase products to resell to customers. This policy provides a creative atmosphere for local farmers and artisans to explore new possibilities with their produce and merchandise.

For us, we show up with little more than water bottles and pick our lunch like it’s right off the vine. Oh wait, it is! The kids weave around the various booths choosing a piece of fruit here and a piece of cheese there.

August 26 will be the last Wednesday Young and Fun series located at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts that runs in conjunction with this particular outdoor market. This is a Salute to Art Day! Clowns, musicians, face painting and crafts are just part of the family-friendly activities available.

Enjoy the market while the children are entertained. Buy a fresh meal while figuring out whether your zucchini toting neighbor is friend or foe.

For a complete list of all Adirondack and beyond Farmers’ Markets check out www.adirondackharvest.com. For a list of producer-only venues, see below.

Lake Placid Green Market on Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Schroon Lake on Mondays from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Plattsburgh Farmers Green Market on Thursdays from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Essex on Sundays from noon – 4:00 p.m.
Saranac Lake on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Queensbury on Mondays from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Glens Falls on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. – noon
Saratoga Springs on Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Meaning of Cairns

Cairns, the rock pyramids that hikers amass to show the way across treeless summits, are turning up in other Adirondack settings — as memorials, as anonymous art, and as markers of unknown significance.

When Howard “Mac” Fish II died on a trail by Lake Placid on a summer day a few years ago, his family piled stones at the place where he fell. Today the mound stands taller than ever, thanks in part to the superstition that it’s bad luck for a hiker to pass a cairn without adding at least a pebble. Every time I set a new stone I remember the Reverend Fish, who married and blessed many friends in his lifetime and still seems to give guidance through this monument. Ancient cultures are said to have used cairns similarly, to mark burial sites.

At the Wild Center’s opening ceremony in Tupper Lake in 2006 the staff asked attendees each to bring a stone to start a cairn at the entrance to its trail system. “So many people helped make the Wild Center a reality and we want everyone to have a part in the monument,” then executive director Betsy Lowe said at the time. The Wild Center’s cairn is atypical in that it includes rocks not just from the immediate area (one came from the Great Wall of China), and the foundation was built by a stonesmith, Mike Donah of Tupper Lake. Most trail cairns are more haphazard and assembled by many hands over many years.

The cute stone statues that popped up beside Route 73 between the Ski Jumps and the Adirondak Loj Road this year are little more than sand paintings, sure to be knocked over by snowplows if they haven’t toppled already.

On a trip around Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula last fall we saw inunnguaqs: cairns in human form for miles along the coastline near the Irish Memorial national historic site. Adirondack granite breaks rounder than the rock up there and is not so well suited to simulating arms and legs, so our cairns are usually pyramidal.

This spring Adirondack Life ran a beautiful photo feature on summit cairns, by aptly named photographer Stewart Cairns, followed shortly by an essay on “Zen and the Art of Cairns” in the July Adirondack Explorer by publisher Tom Woodman. Woodman wonders about the unnamed makers of rock-piles in a field near his Keene home as well as the sculptors whose work guides the hiker: “Even the simple trail-marking cairns embody values worth reflecting on. We place our trust in them and whoever stacked them as we scramble from one to the other. Maybe we can feel a sense of community and solidarity with those who came before us. Surely, if through mistake or mischief, a set of cairns would lead us over a cliff, someone would have set things right by the time we got there. We look out for each other.”

Photograph of children adding stones to the Wild Center cairn in Tupper Lake.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Northern NY to Host New York State Maple Tour

The Adirondack Maple Producers Association is hosting the September 27-29 New York State Maple Tour with speakers and sugarhouse tours starting from the Lake Placid Horseshow Grounds that will highlight the potentially great economic impact of growing the region’s sugaring industry. Cornell University Uihlein Maple Forest Director Michael Farrell has conducted a comprehensive survey of the maple industry in Northern New York and reports that his research shows the potential for the region to grow its maple production resources into a $9 million annual industry. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, Northern NY has 347 maple farms: 55 producers in Clinton County, 22 in Essex County, 36 in Franklin County, 26 in Jefferson County, 112 in Lewis County, and 96 in St. Lawrence County.

Here is the event’s schedule from the full announcement:

Dr. Timothy Perkins, director of the Proctor Maple Research Center at the University of Vermont, Underhill, Vermont, will open the program at a Sunday, September 27th evening reception with a discussion of the latest research on check-valve adapters. Those attending the Sunday evening program will learn about Get Involved with Maple opportunities to lease trees to a maple producer, tap themselves and sell sap to producers, or how to become a full-fledged maple producer. There is a $10 fee for the Sunday reception.

At the Monday, September 28th evening awards banquet, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Patrick Hooker and his staff will offer a report on the work of the new state Maple Task Force. The Maple Task Force was formed in March 2009 to identify the programmatic and regulatory measures needed to enhance the vitality of New York’s maple industry.

On Monday, September 28th, the New York State Maple Tour will visit sugarhouses in the Lake Placid area including:

North Country School, a co-ed boarding and day school for grade 4-9 children – the school operates a wood-fired evaporator to boil 400 buckets’ worth of sap collected by students. The school also leases several thousand taps to Tony Corwin, whose South Meadow Farm Maple Sugarworks is located across the road from the school. The school is currently thinning a newly-acquired forest for Corwin to tap.

Uihlein Maple Forest is a 200-plus acre Sugar Maple Research and Extension Field Station of Cornell University. Farrell will lead a tour of the 4,000-tap sugarbush, a sweet tree plantation, and newly-built education center and community garden. New York State Extension Forester and Cornell Maple Program Director Peter Smallidge will demonstrate proper tree felling and chainsaw safety techniques and a method for controlling beech understory sapling encroachment.

At Heaven Hill Farm, Henry Uihlein’s old sugarhouse has been renovated as a site for teaching local students about syrup production. Tour participants will learn about two research projects supported by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program and Cornel University here – the timing of tapping for optimal sap flow and the effects of different thinning treatments on sugar maple tree growth and sap production.

The Tuesday, September 29th sugarhouse tour will travel one hour northeast to the Chazy, NY, area to visit:

Parker Family Maple Farm, a sugaring and dairy farm established in 1889 by Earl Parker’s grandparents. The modern wood sugarhouse has an attached candy kitchen, bottling room and restroom facilities. The Parkers tap between 18,000 and 20,000 trees, some rented from the neighboring WH Miner Agricultural Research Institute. William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute operates a demonstration dairy and equine farm and offers educational programs in dairy and equine management and environmental science. The Parker family has practiced sugarbush thinning for more than 40 years and is a collaborator on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program/Cornell University sugarbush thinning research project.

Homestead Maple is a smaller sugarbush operation established as a hobby business in 1994. Owner David Swan has 225 taps and 25 display buckets and is upgrading toward making maple sugaring a full-time retirement venture. Swan sells most of his syrup from the sugarhouse, but also uses independent representatives in Missouri and Maryland for sales.

Tour options include discounted tickets for a bird’s eye view of the Adirondack Mountains from the top of the Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumps on Monday.

For New York State Maple Tour information and registration, contact the Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau, 49 Parkside Drive, Lake Placid, NY 12946, 518-523-2445 x109. Registration deadline is September 11, 2009. Registration form and details are on the New York State Maple Producers Association website at www.nysmaple.com.

For details on Northern NY maple industry research in regional sugarbushes in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties go to the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org. Maple production and research information is on the Cornell Maple Program website at http://maple.dnr.cornell.edu.


Monday, August 24, 2009

New General Manager Named For Whiteface Ski Area

Vermontville resident Bruce McCulley, who has worked at the mountain since 1981, has been named the new General Manager for Whiteface Ski Center by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA). McCulley will replace Jay Rand, who has taken a position as the Executive Director of the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) as of September 3.

McCulley began his career as a lift operator and snowmaker, and then moved into supervisory and foreman positions before being promoted to Assistant general Manager of the ski center in 1996. McCulley also serves on the Board of Trustees and Leadership Team at the High Peaks Church in Saranac Lake and has served 17 years as a religious services volunteer in the Federal Bureau of Prisons system at Ray Brook.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Saranac Lake Artists as Art

Photographer and author Phil Gallos has a show of 120 portraits at BluSeed Studios, in Saranac Lake. Known for documenting various aspects of life in his community, Gallos photographed 25 local artists — visual, literary, performing, musical and other — over the past three years. The exhibition includes more than just faces; the artists are depicted at work, or fiddling while the sap boils or floating on their backs in crystal clear water. The show opened Thursday and runs until September 12. If you are curious to see some of the people making art in the area but can’t make it to BluSeed, visit Phil’s Web site here.

In the 1970s Phil shot some fascinating black & white street scenes in Saranac Lake, seen here. So many buildings, bars and people gone. It’s amazing how fast things go from contemporary to historical.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Adirondack Youth Guides Practice Professionalism

Over the weekend of August 8th and 9th three of the more experienced 4-H Adirondack Youth Guides participated in a special trip offered only to active 4-H Guides who have reached Intermediate level or above. This year’s trip included a 14-mile paddle in canoes from Lower Saranac Lake to Middle Saranac Lake and a hike up Ampersand Mountain. The three youth guides spent several weeks preparing for the trip. They met for three weeks to plan the menu, itinerary, and logistics. They secured the camping permit and then acted as the guides for three adults during the entire journey.

The trip began at the Route 3 DEC Ranger Station on Lower Saranac Lake where participants paddled to Bluff Island for lunch and then through the Saranac River to a campsite on the Northwestern edge of Middle Saranac Lake. The Youth Guides planned and facilitated educational programs on aquatic life, wild bird identification and astronomy and used GPS units in a team building exercise. On the second day the group paddled back to Lower Saranac and then climbed Ampersand Mountain.

The 4-H Youth Guide Program is offered to any young person age 12 and over with an interest in acquiring outdoor skills and experience. For more information contact John Bowe or Martina Yngente at Cornell Cooperative Extension at (518) 668-4881.

Photo: 2009 ADK Youth Guide trip participants; Top – Ben Hoffman, Sabrina Fish and Michaela Dunn; Bottom – John Bowe 4-H Team Leader, Martina Yngente 4-H Community Educator and Tabor Dunn- chaperone.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

‘The Adirondack Guide at The Adirondack Museum

Don Williams, storyteller, author, and retired Adirondack guide, will deliver a presentation entitled “Adirondack Guides” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue
Mountain Lake Monday, August 24. 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.

William’s program will include the portrayal of a historic Adirondack farmer-lumberman-guide, Adirondack humor as found in folk tales, and the introduction of skunk oil, ginseng, and spruce gum, as well as traditional Adirondack skills and tools well known by guides. He will focus on the role played by jack-of-all trade Adirondackers in
opening up and popularizing the rugged North Country with sportsmen and tourists.

Don Williams (above) is known throughout New York State for his Adirondack storytelling, sharing the lives of Adirondack settlers and visitors through oral histories and humorous tales. He has been an Adirondack lecturer and storyteller at schools and organizations throughout the Northeast for more than forty years.

A retired teacher, school principal, and Adirondack guide, Williams has provided presentations about the Adirondacks at elementary and high schools, colleges, libraries, and Elderhostel programs.

Williams is the author of nine books about Adirondack and local history. He has written more than 250 articles for magazines including Adirondack Life and the Journal of Outdoor Education. He served as Adirondack regional editor for New York Sportsman for twenty years. His “Inside the Blueline” column has appeared weekly in four regional newspapers since 1989.

Williams hosted an Adirondack television show in Gloversville and Glens Falls, N.Y. for six years and appears in the PBS documentary, The Adirondacks, produced by WNED Buffalo.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Epsom Salts and Dry Milk in the Garden

My friend Edna shared with me her secret for growing tomatoes: Epsom salts and dry milk. The mixture is blended together and applied by the teaspoonful to newly transplanted tomato plants, and can be sprinkled on the soil at the base of the plants later in the season.

Hm, thought I. Maybe I should give this a try.

So last year I got out my carton of Epsom salts and my packets of dry milk and commenced planting about 100 tomato plants.

I didn’t have the actual recipe on hand, so I merely dumped Epsom salt and dry milk in each hole before I laid down the plant (I plant my tomatoes on their sides, so roots will form along the buried stem and the upward-growing bit is stronger). Despite my willy-nilly method, the plants did fine and I put up about four gallons of sauce by the end of the summer and gave many fresh tomatoes away to friends.

This year I mixed it up correctly…sort of. And this year my tomatoes are mostly brown and looking rather dead. Some have fruits, although most (all but one) are green and all are very small. The one that is reddening is also rotting.

Now, I don’t blame this on the homemade fertilizer (or my haphazard methods). Nope, the culprit, as far as I’m concerned, is this summer’s weather (and possibly the Late Blight I’ve been hearing about). Cool, damp weather does not make for healthy tomato plants (and I’m really glad I didn’t even attempt peppers this year).

So, the big question is: are the Epsom salts and dry milk actually doing anything beneficial for the plants, or is this recipe an old wives’ tale? I was determined to find out.

As it happens, Epsom salts (so called for the town in England where they were first collected) are actually beneficial to certain soils. A simple salt made up of magnesium and sulfur, Epsom salt is a swell addition if your soil is lacking these nutrients. Soil that is acidic is often depleted in magnesium, so a treatment of Epsom salts can be beneficial. If your soil is really depleted in magnesium, however, you are probably better off giving it a treatment of dolomitic lime. This compound will not only deliver the magnesium, but it will also help balance out the soil’s pH, which should make your plants happier all around (unless they are acid-loving plants like azaleas and blueberries).

The dry milk has been a bit more difficult to trace for relevance in the garden. One presumes this is to add calcium to the soil (at least that’s what Edna’s book claimed). And it seems that tomatoes really do like to have a good bit of calcium, and having plenty of calcium on hand helps prevent blossom end rot. Blossom end rot occurs when the plant’s demand for calcium exceeds the amount of calcium available in the soil. This could be caused by too much, or too little, water (excess rain or drought), not enough calcium in the soil to being with, or even an over-application of nitrogen fertilizers, which cause rapid vegetative growth and an increase in calcium demand. Putting a little dry milk in the planting hole may help, but it isn’t a long-term solution.

In the end, the answer is soil testing. If your soil has a good pH level (around 6.5), and if it is provided with proper drainage and watering, then regular amendments of good compost (and composted manures) may be all you really need. But that soil test is the key.

I’ve been reluctant to get an official soil test done for my veg garden. I bought a home-testing kit when I started my garden and have used it a couple times, but I’m not so sure the results I got were accurate (this year’s tests said I had no potassium, no nitrogen, and no phosphorous at all in my soil). Considering some of the beds still have a sour smell to them, which is usually an indication of acidic soils, I may just bite the bullet and send in my soil samples for real tests.

When you get your soil test results back, you should also get amendment recommendations – suggestions on what you can add to make your soil better and your plants happier. By treating your soil as a whole, you are more likely to have success with your garden than you are with spot treatments of dry milk and Epsom salts.

That said, adding a little dry milk, or a sprinkling of Epsom salt, probably won’t hurt your garden. And if it makes you feel better by doing it, then go for it. Just remember: while a little may be beneficial, more isn’t necessarily better; all things in moderation.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Exhibit Features Photos of Johnsburg Gathering Places

A new exhibit entitled, ‘As Time Goes By’: Photos and Stories of the Town of Johnsburg, will open at Tannery Pond Community Center’s Widlund Gallery August 29th. The exhibit will feature a Johnsburg Historical Society collection of photos and stories in the Town of Johnsburg in the past beside contemporary images. Gathering Places such as local bars, rooming houses for skiers in the 30s, the Ski Bowl, businesses and more, will be featured. The exhibit was written and assembled by Sally Heidrich with contributions from others connected to Johnsburg.

The exhibit will open at 6:30 pm, Saturday, August 29th as the first event of an evening of entertainment at Tannery Pond. At 7:30 pm will be a showing of A. R. Gurney’s play, “Love Letters” featuring Nan and Will Clarkson and directed by Lyle Dye. A reception will follow the performance.

Photo: Near T.C. Murphy’s Saw Mill, Wevertown, c. 1944-5. L to R: Tommy Smith, Bert Stevens, Kenneth Waddell, Foster Monroe (U.S. Army) and Mott Liddle. Photo courtesy of Mary Murphy.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

White Baneberry: The Eyes Have It

Have you ever walked through the woods and thought something was watching you? You turn around, scanning the forest for eyes, and there they are! Short red stalks at the top of a green stem, each tipped with a white eyeball dotted with a small black pupil! Is it an alien from outer space? No, but you have discovered the fruit of White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), also known as Doll’s Eyes (and White Cohosh). A member of the buttercup family, white baneberry is closely related to the genus Aconite, which includes wolfsbane and monkshood among its species.

These are very toxic plants, and likewise so is white baneberry. In fact, if you think about it, the very name baneberry indicates that you should not eat it: bane = murderer, poison, death, woe, a source of harm or ruin. Kind of makes you think twice, eh? The whole plant is toxic (although the berries are considered the most poisonous), laced with cardiogenic toxins that are described as having a sedative effect on the heart muscles. If one decides to snack on it, one can expect to suffer cardiac arrest and death.

Birds, on the other hand, can eat this fruit with impunity, and a good thing, too, for they are the primary distributors of its seeds. And thanks to their efforts, this plant is fairly common throughout the eastern United States. You can find it growing in areas with moist, rich soil, favoring north-facing slopes and ravines. Earlier in the season it sports puffy white flowers that are fragrant and attractive, but come early fall, the plant disappears from sight and goes dormant until the following spring.


Friday, August 21, 2009

NCPR To Host A Talk On The Future of Journalism Monday

National Public Radio president Vivian Schiller will be in Saranac Lake on Monday to appear with North Country Public Radio’s Ellen Rocco. The subject will be “public radio and the future of journalism,” according to Brian Mann who will also take part. “Schiller created the New York Times on-line service, so her expertise straddles the traditional-new media border that we’ve been discussing,” Mann wrote in an e-mail yesterday referring at least in part to the discussions here at Adirondack Almanack over heavily discussed posts last Monday and this past Monday.

The hour-long talk will take place at the Saranac Lake Free Library’s Cantwell Room; the event begins at noon and will be free and open to the public. NCPR is asking that attendees arrive and be seated by 11:45 am. The event will air live, but the they won’t be taking questions over the phone. Instead, you can either show up in Saranac Lake, or leave a question at the NCPR blog here.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Weekly Adirondack Blogging Round-Up


Friday, August 21, 2009

Bill McKibben on Why 350 is the Most Important Number

In the past month Bill McKibben has been in India, the Maldives, Lebanon, Oman and Dubai. And last weekend he seemed delighted to be in Newcomb, population 472, catching up with Adirondack friends. The writer told Nature Conservancy members gathered at the Newcomb school for the Adirondack Chapter’s annual meeting how new information on atmospheric carbon has made him a global activist, and why he’s spreading the message that we must do more than install low-watt bulbs if we are to keep climate change from spiraling entirely out of control.

Two years ago arctic ice began melting dramatically faster than computer models had predicted, McKibben said. Scientists had projected that the natural systems that gave rise to civilization and the current array of life on earth would be disrupted when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 450 parts per million. A recent paper by NASA scientist James Hansen and others puts that tipping point at 350 parts per million. The planet is already at 390 parts per million.

McKibben referenced several places where life as people know it is changing, perhaps irrevocably: Glaciers that feed rivers supporting hundreds of millions of people in Asia are melting. The Maldives, a nation of coral islands preparing to be swallowed by the Indian Ocean, is essentially shopping for a new homeland. “Hundred-year” rainstorms are becoming routine. A problem that McKibben thought would manifest in the time of his children and grandchildren appears to be unfolding now.

“We need to make [the transition away from fossil fuels] happen quicker than is economically or politically comfortable,” McKibben said. And that means more than reducing personal carbon emissions; citizens must pressure government and industry to change, he argued. “We all need to play a role of some kind in that solution.” Action taken in the next couple of years will determine “whether we get out of it at all,” he said.

McKibben is trying to engrain the number 350 in the minds of policymakers and citizens worldwide. As director of 350.org, he’s organizing a day of global activism on Saturday, October 24, encouraging people to go public in support of the 350 ppm goal. So far, 1,323 actions in 91 countries are planned, including some in the Adirondacks.

The Adirondack Council, based in Elizabethtown, is looking for 350 or more people who will commit to an alternative commute to work or school the week before Oct. 24. Paul Smith’s College, which coincidentally will have an incoming freshman class of 350, is organizing an event, details still to come. The Adirondack Green Circle in Saranac Lake is planning to do something as well, and other communities are early in the planning stages. You can visit 350.org to find an action near you or to register your own.

If you missed McKibben’s talk last week and can’t catch him tomorrow at a Protect the Adirondacks benefit in Olmstedville, you can watch him surviving this interview on the Colbert Report Monday.

Also, here’s a little of what Bill had to say about the Conservancy’s Finch lands purchase, and here is an excerpt from his Newcomb talk, broadcast earlier this week on North Country Public Radio.


Friday, August 21, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories