Thursday, June 4, 2009

DEC Reminder: ‘A Fed Bear is A Dead Bear’

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reminding campers, hikers and homeowners to take precautions against unwanted encounters with black bears. There are approximately 4,000 – 5,000 bears in New York’s northern bear range, primarily in the Adirondacks. Bear populations have been increasing in number and expanding in distribution over the past decade.

Black bears will become a nuisance and can cause significant damage if they believe they can obtain an easy meal from bird feeders, garbage cans, dumpsters, barbecue grills, tents, vehicles, out-buildings or houses. When bears learn to obtain food from human sources, their natural foraging habits and behavior are changed. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Adirondack Literary Awards Ceremony June 7th

The 4th Annual Adirondack Center For Writing (ACW) Literary Awards Ceremony will be held this Sunday, June 7, in Blue Mountain Lake, 3-5 pm at the Blue Mountain Center. The Adirondack Literary Awards is a juried awards program that honors books published in or about the Adirondacks in the previous year. The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to ACW (phone or email) if you plan to attend.

Juried awards will be given in fiction, poetry, children’s literature, and nonfiction, plus a People’s Choice Award. ACW members are encouraged to send in their votes for their favorite book of the year via email, phone, or mail. A complete list of submissions by category is below. Voting is also permitted at the awards ceremony itself. Most of the books considered for awards are made available for purchase at the ceremony by the authors, and they are happy to sign their books. Questions may be directed to ACW at 518-327-6278, acwevents@gmail.com.

Entries of Books Published in 2008

:

Fiction –
The Wettest County in the World
, Matt Bondurant,
 Scribner


Orebed Lake, Russell Hall
, Lighthall Books
Chant
, Rick Henry, 
BlazeVOX Books


Brio, Mary Randall
, Mary Randall


Christmas in Port Davis, (Stories by multiple authors)
, RA Press


Wilder Ponds
, Kirby White, 
Fox Creek Press

;

Poetry –


Reasons to Hate the Sky, Stuart Bartow
, WordTech Editions


Threat of Pleasure
, Philip Memmer, 
Word Press



Lemon Peeled the Moment Before: New and Selected Poems 1967-2008, 
Roger Mitchell
, Ausable Press;
The Long Fault: Poems, Jay Rogoff
, Louisiana State University;



Children’s Literature

 –
Butternuts for Rexford, Tom Adessa
, SassyKat Books
March Toward the Thunder, 
Joseph Bruchac
, Dial Books


Skylar, Mary Cuffe-Perez
, Philomel Books


Adirondack Gold II: A Summer of Strangers, 
Persis Granger
, Beaver Meadow Publishing
Champlain and the Silent One, Kate Messner, 
North Country Books


Catch the Wind and Spin, Spin, Spin
, Thomas M. Schneeberger, 
PublishAmerica
When Thunder Rolls: The Underground Railroad and The Civil War
, Irene Uttendorfsky
, Spruce Gulch Press


The Adirondack Kids 8: Escape from Black Bear Mountain
, Justin and Gary VanRiper, 
Adirondack Kids Press

Photography –
In Stoddard’s Footsteps: The Adirondacks Then & Now, 
Mark Bowie and Timothy Weidner, Stories, Food, Life, Editor, Ellen Rocco
, North Country Public Radio
Historic Images of the Adirondacks, 
Compiled by Victoria Verner Sandiford
Adirondack Hotels and Inns
, Donald Williams
, Arcadia Publishing

Nonfiction

 –
Stepping Out; A Tenderfoot’s Guide to the Principles, Practices, and Pleasures of Countryside Walking, 
Eleanor Garrell Berger
, Tenderfoot Press


Forest Enterprises of the Adirondacks, 
Steven Bick
, Forest Enterprise Institute

, North Country Books


At the Mercy of the Mountains: True Stories of Survival and Tragedy in New York’s Adirondacks
, Peter Bronski
, The Lyons Press
Adirondack Attic #5
, Andy Flynn, 
Hungry Bear Publishing
One Foot Forward; Walks in Upstate New York
, Richard B. Frost, Bloated Toe Publishing
Breaking Out of Prison: a guide to consciousness, compassion, and freedom, Bernice Mennis, 
iUniverse
Log Marks on the Hudson, Richard Merrill
, Nicholas K. Burns
Echoes In These Mountains, Glenn Pearsall
, Pyramid Publishing


Adirondack Birding, John M.C. Peterson, Gary Lee, 
Adirondack Mountain Club, Lost Pond Press


Stories, Food, Life, Editor, Ellen Rocco
, North Country Public Radio


, Adirondack Museum, North Country Books


Freedom in the Wilds: An Artist in the Adirondacks, about Harold Weston, 
Syracuse University Press




Wednesday, June 3, 2009

American Bitterns – Groovy Little Herons

You just never know what will dash in front of your car up here in the Adirondacks. The other day I was driving towards civilization, cruising past a couple of marshlands, and a bittern flew across the road in front of me. The American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) is one of those really cool birds that few people get to see, thanks to its solitary nature and its stupendous blending capabilities.

A member of the heron family, the bittern stands about two feet tall. Like all herons, it has long skinny legs and a long, spear-like bill, which it puts to good use catching its prey. Chances are, if you see a bittern it will be busily hunting. Not that you can tell, for it will be standing stock still, waiting for food to come by. When a fish, frog, snake or yummy-looking insect gets too close, the bittern’s long neck snakes down quick as a flash and the unlucky food item is snared. After a killing bite, or a vicious shake, the food is swallowed head first.

If, however, the bittern sees you first, it will likely go into its blending act. Bitterns are denizens of wetlands (bogs, marshes, wet meadows), and they hang out where emergent vegetation is tall (cattails and bulrushes). When they feel slightly threatened, these small herons thrust their beaks straight up towards the sky, exposing their striped necks and breasts. Now, instead of seeing a bird-shaped thing, you see a collection of plant stems, for the stripes are tan and blend right in with all the surrounding vegetation. If you look closely, you may see the two bright yellow eyes peering back at you around the sides of the beak – a bizarre sight if ever there was one.

But the best (and strangest) thing about this bird, in my humble opinion, is its vocalizations. Pliny, that great philosopher of old, thought the bittern (that would be the Old World bittern, not the American bittern) sounded like the roar of a bull, which in Latin was/is Boatum taurus. From this we get the genus name of bitterns everywhere: Botaurus. I’ve listened to bittern calls, both recordings and in the wild, and to me they don’t sound at all like a bull. For me the sound brings to mind the soundtrack accompanying a slow motion drop of water hitting a pond. Others claim it sounds like congested plumbing. Some of the bittern’s additional common names are suggestive of the sound: thunder-pumper, mire-drum. In order to make these strange sounds, the bird’s throat/neck goes through some stunning contortions; a friend commented to me that when he witnessed this he thought for sure the bird would give itself whiplash. To hear the bittern’s call, follow this link http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Bittern/id and look down the left side of the website for the button that says “Typical Voice”; press play.

If you want to hear (or see) a bittern yourself, hie ye to a nearby wetland with tall emergent vegetation around dawn or dusk (take your bug shirt). Find yourself a comfortable spot near some cattails and water, and wait. If bitterns are around (and they are fairly common), you are bound to hear them “booming” before too long. If you are really lucky, you may even catch sight of one as you peer into the cattails. Beware; it might just be peering back at you.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Canadian Guns on Mohawk Land, 400 Years Later

The border closing this week at the Cornwall bridge, prompted by Akwesasne Mohawks protesting the Canadian government’s new policy to arm border agents, offers a distant echo of the unwelcome introduction of firearms to Mohawk lands in northern New York from north of the border 400 years ago.

According to David Hackett Fischer’s book Champlain’s Dream, Samuel de Champlain’s incursion into the valley that now bears his name was in fact a military campaign to confront Mohawks, who had been disrupting trade routes along the St. Lawrence river. At the end of July 1609, Champlain and two French soldiers allied with a coalition of northern Indians — Montagnais, Algonquin and Huron — ventured deep into Mohawk territory, engaging a superior force of the legendary warriors at the southern end of the lake.

Champlain and his French soldiers brought to the seemingly lopsided battlefield the latest advances of European ammunition: the arquebus, a short shoulder-fired gun. Champlain packed his firearm with multiple balls. By Fischer’s account, Champlain’s first shot brought down two Mohawk chiefs and a third warrior. The two flanking soldiers fired into the Mohawk ranks, felling a third chief. The warriors left the field, pursued by the gun.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fort William Henry Hotel Fire 100th Anniversary

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the destruction by fire of the Fort William Henry Hotel in Lake George. On June 24, 1909, the day before the hotel set to open for the season, it was destroyed in a blaze that started in the early morning hours.

According to Bryant Franklin Tolles’ Resort Hotels of the Adirondacks, “It was here that tourism in the Adirondack region originated and the first foundations of a substantive hospitality industry were firmly established.” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Current 10 Best Selling Books About The Adirondacks

In time for planning those summer reads and outdoor activities, here is a list of the current ten best-selling Adirondack books according to Amazon.com.

1 – 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks: Short Walks, Day Trips, and Backpacks Throughout the Park, Fourth Edition by Barbara McMartin (May 2003).

2 – At the Mercy of the Mountains: True Stories of Survival and Tragedy in New York’s Adirondacks by Peter Bronski (Feb 26, 2008).

3 – Adirondack Trails High Peaks Region (Forest Preserve Series, V. 1) by Tony Goodwin and Neil S. Burdick (April 13, 2004).

4 – The Adirondack Book: Great Destinations: A Complete Guide, Including Saratoga Springs, Sixth Edition by Annie Stoltie and Elizabeth Folwell (April 21, 2008).

5 – The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park by Jerry C. Jenkins and Andy Keal (Jun 30, 2004).

6 – Adirondack Home by Ralph Kylloe (Oct 19, 2005).

7 – The Adirondacks: A History of America’s First Wilderness by Paul Schneider (Sep 15, 1998).

8 – Adirondack Wildlife: A Field Guide by James M. Ryan (April 30, 2009).

9 – Adirondacks (Hardcover – April 25, 2006).

10 – Adirondack: Wilderness by Nathan Farb (Jun 16, 2009).


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

McHugh Nominated to Secretary of the Army

Congressman John McHugh has been nominated today by President Obama to become the nation’s 25th Secretary of the Army. McHugh, a Republican from Pierrepont Manor, has represented New York’s 23rd Congressional District since January 1993. He is currently ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

On the House Armed Services Committee, McHugh succeeded his predecessor in the district dominated by the Fort Drum, David O’Brien Martin. Since 1993 McHugh has worked his way up through Republican ranks until assuming the position of ranking member in this year’s 111th Congress upon the retirement of former Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter.

Despite serving on the committee over the course of the Iraq war, McHugh never lost popular support in his increasingly Democrat-leaning district. He forged alliances with New York Democrats serving on Congressional Armed Services Committees, Senator Hillary Clinton and Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand. He would leave the committee shortly after Congressman Scott Murphy of the neighboring 20th District joined.

As a position, the Secretary of the Army is a direct descendent of the Secretary of War, which was a Cabinet-level position from 1789 until 1947. In that year the office was renamed Department of the Army, and brought together with the other armed services under the Department of Defense.

Approval of McHugh’s nomination by the US Senate would set the stage for another special congressional election in the Adirondacks, and a probable short tenure for the eventual victor. The district will likely face a severe reconfiguration, if not outright elimination following the upcoming 2010 census and reapportionment fight.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Bloom Index, Part II

It’s a fresh new month and time for an update to our bloom-dates table. But first, my friend Gerry Rising, Nature Watch columnist for the Buffalo News, reports that phenologists are asking regular jamokes to share their observations of trees and wildflowers. You can become a citizen scientist by noticing when chokecherries or even dandelions bloom in your back yard.

Two Web sites collect this information: the National Phenology Network and Cornell University’s Project Budbreak. Plant and animal life cycles can be susceptible to climate variations, so phenologists (the people who study seasonal patterns) are interested in your observations.

Following are median bloom dates for June from Mike Kudish’s Adirondack Upland Flora. Mike says the dates are most accurate for 1,500-to-2,000-foot elevations (the “Adirondack upland”).

June 1: Jack-in-the-pulpit, chokecherry, Solomon’s plumes
June 2: Low sweet blueberry
June 3: Wild sarsaparilla
June 5: Clintonia, bog rosemary
June 6: Bunchberry and white baneberry
June 7: Canada mayflower and bog laurel
June 9: Starflower and black chokeberry
June 10: Fringed polygala, three-leaved false Solomon’s seal, nannyberry
June 12: Labrador tea, Indian cucumber, small cranberry
June 13: Pink lady’s slipper
June 14: Hooked buttercup (Earliest sunrise, 5:13 a.m.)
June 15: Blue-eyed grass
June 17: Wild raisin, common cinquefoil
June 20: Sheep laurel
(June 20-23: Longest days of the year, 15 hours, 41 minutes)
June 26: Bush honeysuckle and tall meadow rue
June 27: Wild iris
June 29: Wood sorrel

The late naturalist Greenleaf Chase made a list for the Nature Conservancy of rare blooms on some of its Adirondack protection sites. On alpine summits he found Lapland rosebay aflower in early June, Diapensia, Labrador tea, bog laurel and mountain sandwort in late June. Greenie would visit the Clintonville pine barrens in early June to see Ceanothus herbacea (prairie redroot). Viola novae-angliae (New England blue violet) also flowers in early June on the Hudson River ice meadows near North Creek; Listera auriculata (a native orchid called auricled twayblade) blooms there in late June.

Lastly is a list of plants that amateur botanist and hall-of-fame pitcher Christy Mathewson identified around Saranac Lake in June 1922: wild carrot, bunchberry, mountain laurel?, sheep laurel, wintergreen, trailing arbutus, labrador tea, star flower, moss pink, forget-me-not, heal-all, ground ivy, bluets, ox-eye daisy, dandelion, hawkweed, Canada hawkweed, spring beauty, yellow pond lily, live-for-ever, horsetails, blueberry, twin flower, red berry elderberry, hop clover, harebell, yellow wood sorrel, sundrop, dewberry, wild red raspberry.

Boys, take note: being good at sports is nice. Being good at sports and knowing your wildflowers? That’s hot. Special thanks to Adirondack Daily Enterprise columnist Howard Riley for finding Mathewson’s handwritten list in the Saranac Lake Free Library archives and sending me a copy.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Announcing The Adk Almanack / Twitter Contest Winner

Jamie Deapo has won our Twitter contest and the copy of the new edition of The Adirondack Reader.

Congrats Jamie! And thanks to everyone (nearly 100 of you) who entered the contest and to the Adirondack Mountain Club who provided the copy we gave away.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.

You can read Mary Thill’s review of the new edition of The Adirondack Reader here.


Monday, June 1, 2009

DEC to Increase Dam Inspection


Monday, June 1, 2009

NYSDEC Dam Safety Regulations Posted for Public Review

In the closing stages of its efforts to strengthen dam safety across the state, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has posted for public comment amended regulations proposed following the failure of a southern Adirondack dam in 2005.

The proposed regulations would more than double those sections of New York’s Codes, Rules and Regulations devoted to dam safety (and here, and here), implementing a regimen of inspections and record keeping requirements for owners of dams across the state. The the amended proposed regulations would also strengthen the State’s enforcement capacity, allowing the DEC to undertake repairs of privately-owned dams in cases of imminent peril to the public. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lake George FUND & Waterkeeper Want Phosphorus Law

For your Sunday afternoon reading pleasure comes this delightful press release from Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky. The FUND for Lake George and the Waterkeeper are working together to support state legislation to ban the sale of high phosphorus household cleaners and fertilizers. According to Navitsky, studies find 50 percent of phosphorus in stormwater runoff comes from lawn fertilizers and nine to 34 percent of phosphorus in municipal sewage treatment plants is from household cleaning products. New York law would follow laws in Minnesota, Maine and Wisconsin and a law just enacted in Westchester County. You’ve got a lot of science and policy reading ahead of you, so enjoy!

Lake George – The FUND for Lake George and Lake George Waterkeeper support new state legislation to ban the sale of high phosphorus products used for household (and commercial) cleaning supplies and in lawn fertilizers. The impact of the widespread use of these products is that they contribute to water pollution across New York. In this action, New York follows successful legislative efforts of the state of Minnesota, which passed similar legislation in 2005, and Maine, which started its law on January 1, 2008, and Wisconsin, which just passed similar legislation in April 2009. Local laws banning phosphorus in household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers have passed a number of counties in Michigan, Florida, and Illinois, among other states such as Maryland and Vermont. In New York, Westchester County recently passed a phosphorus product sale ban in order to protect the water quality of its public drinking water supply reservoirs and the Long Island Sound. Studies of the Minnesota law found 97% compliance in retail establishments, no higher costs for consumers, and found an overall decrease in phosphorus loading to state waters.

“One pound of phosphorus can make 50-60 pounds of algae in a lake or pond” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George. “This state legislation would have a positive impact on Lake George where overall phosphorus levels have continued to rise due to poor lawn management, lack of stream buffers, poorly designed and managed septic systems, and high volumes of stormwater runoff. Limiting the amount of phosphorus used in fertilizers and in household cleaning products used primarily for dishwashing, is an important tool to help protect the water quality of Lake George.”

This legislation prohibits the sale or distribution of household/commercial cleaning products used in dishwashers that contain 0.5% by weight of a phosphorus compound, reduced from 8.7%, and to prohibit the use of such products in commercial establishments as of July 1, 2010. High phosphorus household cleaning detergents often include as much as 9% phosphorus and are often responsible for between 9 – 34% of the total phosphorus in municipal water treatment plants. The legislation bans the sale of fertilizers that contains 0.67% by weight of phosphorus. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that fertilizers can be responsible for 50% of the total phosphorus in stormwater runoff. Phosphorus loading continues to negatively impact Lake George.

“It’s important to limit the amount of phosphorus that is being loaded into Lake George” said Chris Navitsky, the Lake George Waterkeeper. “Each time it rains, improperly managed stormwater loads phosphorus into the lake. Phosphorus in fertilizers is being washed into Lake George, is not being absorbed into the soils and becoming absorbed into soils and is failing its intended use.”

The issue of phosphorus loading into Lake George has long been identified as a major long-term problem facing the lake. The 2001, the Lake George Park Commission published a report “Total Phosphorus Budget Analysis for the Lake George Watershed” by Sterns & Wheler, which concluded that “The majority of phosphorus loading is from surface water runoff, with a disproportionate amount of runoff derived from developed area round the lake as compared to undeveloped (forested and agricultural) areas. Although developed areas only account for 5 percent of the land area in the watershed, they produce 43 percent of all the phosphorus that enters the lake as surface runoff.” The report also calculated that Lake George is receiving 300% of the amount of phosphorus that it can naturally process.

Lake George is buffered somewhat as compared with other lakes across New York as its watershed is 95% forested. The undeveloped natural forest systems around Lake George load phosphorus to the lake. This happens as leaves and twigs that fall into the lake decay and as sediment is carried to the lake as part of the natural stream bed load, among other ways. A healthy Lake George needs phosphorus to function. Excess phosphorus causes water pollution and the natural aging processes are accelerated.

The Sterns & Wheler report stated that undeveloped areas around Lake George, which includes 95% of the entire watershed (some 141,500 acres), produces as much phosphorus as the developed 5% of the watershed (some 7,500 acres). Just 5% of the watershed around Lake George is developed with houses, roads, parking lots, barns, stores, parks, sewers, yards, and a whole lot more, whereas. 95% is still relatively wild, either in private forest lands, a backyard forest, or as part of the state’s Forest Preserve. From this 2001 study the developed areas deliver phosphorus to the Lake George at a ratio of 15-1 when compared with natural forest areas. This is consistent with research around the U.S. that compares developed areas with non-developed areas. Use of household cleaning detergents and fertilizers are part of the overall phosphorus loading problem.

As mentioned above, Lake George receives 300% more phosphorus than it can process naturally. What happens to phosphorus-rich waters? They steadily lose water clarity as transparency in the water is lost as microscopic algal life is stimulated. They stimulate greater plant growth, which is turns creates more decayed matter on the lake bottom thus changing the aquatic system as this matter accumulates. Phosphorus rich waters are also very hospitable to invasive aquatic species, such as Eurasian Watermilfoil (EWM), which require high levels of nutrients. High phosphorus rates are also a human health issue as this can make water not safe to drink. High levels of phosphorus also contribute to creation each summer of a “dead zone” on Lake George where oxygen levels are depleted due to high nutrient levels making large parts of the lake unable to support fish life. Lake George has been experiencing a slow, steady decline in water quality. Land use changes and poor land use practices on just 5% of the land areas around the lake have changed the lake’s water quality.

“Legislation to control phosphorus pollution from household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers is critical to help manage and reduce water pollution across New York. Lake George is enormously important to the local economy. In many ways, Lake George is the engine of the Warren County economy. The high property values, robust tourism season, sport fishing and boating industries, among others, all require clean water” said Peter Bauer.

“If this legislation is unsuccessful at the state level, we would explore whether or not it’s feasible for the Lake George Park Commission to undertake a similar effort within the Lake George watershed” said Chris Navitsky.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Last Chance To Win A Copy of ‘Adirondack Reader’

Today is the last day to enter to win a copy of the new, expanded Adirondack Reader. Thanks to a donation from the Adirondack Mountain Club, which published the latest edition of the Reader, Adirondack Almanack is giving away a copy of what Mary Thill called in her review a collection of “pivotal and perceptive accounts of how people have experienced these woods since the arrival of Europeans 400 years ago.”

Here’s how you can win:

1. Follow Adirondack Almanack on Twitter.

2. Tweet the following:

Just entered to win a copy of The Adirondack Reader. Just follow @adkalmanack and retweet – www.adirondackalmanack.com

We’ll be drawing at random on June 1, 2009. You must tweet by midnight tonight (May 31, 2009). Good luck.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Adk Gardens: To Till or Not to Till

Spring arrives and the garden beckons. The urge to plant seeds and pick flowers is strong. But first, the chores must be done, and the big garden chore that looms over all is preparing the soil for planting.

We open the shed and stare at the tiller (or we go to the garden store and stare at the tillers). Lugging the machine out into the yard we check for fuel, check for oil, push the lever to choke and yank on the chord. If we are lucky, it fires up with only a pull or two. If not, well, we stand back, glare at the machine, pull the chord some more, kick the infernal machine, push some levers back and forth, pull the chord, flood the engine, and lug the thing back into the shed.

There must be a better way.

That was me last weekend. I had one bed that I really wanted to till up, but for the first time in three years I couldn’t get the tiller started. Not being mechanically inclined, I returned the tiller to the shed and grabbed my broadfork instead.

I discovered the broadfork three years ago, about the time I was really getting into my veg gardens. All the flower beds around my house I had dug by hand, and doing the same with the veg gardens was daunting, so I bought a tiller. After running/bouncing it over the lawn a few times, I still had to dig by hand to remove all the rocks and weeds and clumps of grass. What had been the advantage of getting this $300 machine that now stood idle in the shed?

I read through some of my gardening books and came across the broadfork in a book about Biointensive gardening. This method espouses double digging, in which the gardener starts at one end of a garden, digs down with a shovel one shovel length, puts that soil in a container, and digs down another level to just loosen the soil. This can be done with the broadfork – a tool that breaks up and loosens the soil without disrupting the soil’s structure (more on this in a moment). This tool looks exactly like its name: a fork that is rather wide. It has 6-8 tines attached to a horizontal bar, with handles emerging upright from the ends of the bar. One thrusts the tines into the ground, steps on the bar, and then grabs the handles, levering the tines through the soil. It’s a primitive thing, but it works great! You then back up and start the next row of digging. The first layer’s soil goes into the trough you just dug, on top of the broadforked soil. The second layer is now forked. This continues until you reach the end of your bed. After you broadfork the last layer, the soil you removed from the first row is placed on top – the loop is closed, the system complete.

Over the years, my garden reading has come across many justifications for not tilling the soil. I first learned of no-till agriculture in a conservation class I took many years ago in college. We were reading about the Dust Bowl and how the advent of no-till farming helped cut down on soil erosion. In today’s gardening world, however, the idea of no tilling has more to do with “being green” – not polluting the air with gasoline fumes, cutting down on our carbon footprints. But it’s more than that – it’s also about preserving the vitality of the very soil itself.

As soil develops, layers are built; this is the soil’s structure. But the structure is more than mineral and organic layers; it is also the layers of living things: the worms, the beetles, the fungi, the bacteria. All these things work in concert to create a healthy environment in which plants can grow. When we run through this carefully balanced system with our rototillers, we mix everything up, disrupting the health and balance. Can your plants still grow in it? Of course, but the soil’s vitality has been reduced. By using the double digging method we preserve the soil’s structure. We are essentially fluffing up the soil without turning it on its head.

So I took my broadfork to this final garden and applied it. I was anticipating a struggle with hard-packed soil, but to my pleasant surprise the soil loosened up with hardly any effort at all. Maybe this is because last year the bed was built without any tilling: I layered tons of newspapers on the lawn and covered them with compost and manure. I was expecting the soil this year to be hard – that preparing the bed would have me digging down through the hard lawn under the papers (hence my initial attempt at using the tiller). As it turned out, the layers had successfully (for once) smothered the lawn underneath and all was cool, moist and soft – the easiest veg bed I have ever prepared.

Maybe the tiller will go in my next yard sale.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Late Richard "Dick" Merrill Wins 2009 Hochschild Award

The late Richard “Dick” Merrill of Queensbury has been selected by the Adirondack Museum Board of Trustees to be the recipient of the 2009 Harold K. Hochschild Award. According to a press release issued by the museum:

The Harold K. Hochschild Award is dedicated to the memory of the museum’s founder, whose passion for the Adirondacks, its people, and environment inspired the creation of the Adirondack Museum. Since 1990 the museum has presented the award to a wide range of intellectual and community leaders throughout the Adirondack Park, highlighting their contributions to the region’s culture and quality of life.

Although Dick Merrill made his living as an engineer for the General Electric Company, he lived his life by giving time and talent to his community.

Merrill was President of the Southern Adirondack Library System and President of the Crandall Public Library – successfully completing an $18 million LEED certified expansion project that opened in December 2008 during his tenure.

He was President of the Chapman House Historical Museum and served as a member of the Adirondack Community College Foundation as well as the Warren Country Historical Association.

In addition, Merrill was elected to the Queensbury Town Board and served as deputy chairman. He was a member of the Queensbury Land Use Planning Board, the Indian Lake Association, and President of the Warren County Planning Board.

Dick played bagpipes for Adirondack Pipes and Drums, Inc. and served as the group’s treasurer.

Nicholas K. Burns Publishing published Dick Merrill’s book, Log Marks of the Hudson –a meticulously researched and comprehensive cross-referenced guide to a cornerstone of Adirondack history — in 2008.

In the company of his wife of fifty years Mary Merrill, Dick was also a valued member of the Adirondack Museum family. For many years, they organized a corps of volunteers in support of the No-Octane Regatta. The couple developed lively history-based programs for children and families that enriched the experience of thousands of museum visitors each year. They also originated hands-on classroom programs for students in grades K – 8. With son Dean Merrill, the Merrill’s delighted crowds at the museum’s annual Harvest Festival with their vintage steam-powered cider press.

The Adirondack Museum will formally present the Harold K. Hochschild Award posthumously to Dick Merrill on August 6, 2009. The event will begin at 3:00 p.m.

Photo caption: Dick Merrill with former U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton during her visit to the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, NY in 2006.