Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer Reading, Rugby and Mushrooms

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Companion Plantings for the Vegetable Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Red Efts: Nifty Adirondack Salamanders

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

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


Friday, May 22, 2009

Adirondack Weekly Blogging Round-Up


Friday, May 22, 2009

Town of Keene Getting Wired for Broadband

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, May 22, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, May 21, 2009

ADK Music Scene: "Fiddler," Geoff Muldaur, and More

First off: don’t forget the open minded mic tonight at BluSeed in Saranac Lake. The show starts at 7:30 pm admission is $3.

Too Human and Karen Glass are at the Amos and Julia Ward Theater in Jay at 7 p.m. Friday. Too Human gets raves where ever they play and from what I’ve heard online they deserve it. Jazz and R&B make up the majority of their high energy repertoire. Karen Glass is a storyteller with two CDs to her credit. This is a JEMS production. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lake Placid’s "Great Moments in Sports" Award

From the better late then never category, comes news that Lake Placid artist Arti Torrance, in partnership with the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) and the 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum, created the national Great Moments in Sports Award earlier this year. The award is the brainchild of Torrance, and its purpose is to honor the achievement of 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team and The Miracle on Ice. The Great Moment in Sports Award, also know as the “Arti,” will be given each February 22, the day the U.S. hockey team beat the Soviets. The plaque is signed by the Mayor of the Village of Lake Placid, the Supervisor of the Town of North Elba and the President and CEO of the Olympic Regional Development Authority on behalf of all members of the Lake Placid Community and the Olympic Region.

The first-ever Great Moment in Sports Award was presented February 22, 2008, to the Football World Champions New York Giants. This year, at the request of Torrance, two awards were given for the 2008-09 sports’ season. One was presented to the Central Washington College women’s softball team, while the other went to the International Luge Federation World Champion Erin Hamlin, of Remsen.

According to a press release: “During an extraordinary act of sportsmanship on senior day, the Central Washington teammates carried the opposing team’s batter around the bases in order for her to get credited with her one and only home run of her career. The batter from Western Oregon State hit the home run, but on her way past first base she fell and injured her knee so badly that she could not even get back to first base, let alone continue to run the rest of the bases. Central Washington lost the game 4-2, but won a moral victory with its heroic act of sportsmanship.”

Hamlin, a New Yorker sliding for the U.S. luge team, became the first U.S. woman to win the world championship title. Hamlin not only won the title on her home track in Lake Placid, but also snapped the German women’s 99-race winning streak. The streak included world cup, world championship and Olympic competitions.

For more information on the Great Moment in Sports Award, please contact the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Museum at (518) 523-1655 ext. 226.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

WWI Exhibit Opens for Memorial Day

The restored Trudeau Laboratory, at 89 Church Street in Saranac Lake, will open its first museum exhibit Saturday, May 23, “The Great War: World War I in Saranac Lake.”

“The lab” houses the office of Historic Saranac Lake, which curates the new exhibit and has been renovating the 1894 structure for more than a decade. This summer the group will also open to the public the actual laboratory of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, who did early research into tuberculosis there.

Following are details about the WWI exhibit from Historic Saranac Lake’s press release:

World War I, also known as The Great War, left an indelible mark on the people of Saranac Lake, especially those who served or helped out on the homefront. Many servicemen came home injured or shell shocked, having endured horrific conditions in the trenches. Some of Saranac Lake’s citizens were among the 15 million men who lost their lives in the war.

Servicemen who had contracted tuberculosis came to Saranac Lake for the fresh air cure. One of those men was original hall-of-fame pitcher Christy Matthewson. Another was John Baxter Black, for whom the addition to the Saranac Laboratory was named in 1928.

Historic Saranac Lake worked with designer Karen Davidson of Lake Placid to create panels that tell the story of how World War I impacted Saranac Lake. A number of panels were acquired thanks to the generosity of Elizabeth McAuliffe and the Windsor Connecticut Historical Society.

Several of the bookcases in the John Black Room will display uniforms and other artifacts loaned for the exhibit from families of local soldiers Ralph Coleman, Dorchester Everett, Elwood Ober, Percy Bristol and Olin Ten Eyck.

Historic Saranac Lake invites families of veterans to share their stories, letters, photographs, or artifacts Saturday. The exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, and from 2 to 4 p.m. on Memorial Day. It will remain open to the public through the summer months. Historic Saranac Lake requests a $5 donation to help defray costs for the exhibit.

The “Great War” Exhibit is a lead-in to the opening of Saranac Laboratory Museum this summer. On July 18, the new exhibit “125 Years of Science” will open in cooperation with the Adirondack Museum and Trudeau Institute.

For more information contact Amy Catania, program manager, (518) 891-4606, amy@historicsaranaclake.org

Photo: WWI officer John Baxter Black, courtesy of his family.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Adirondack Black Bears

There I was, cruising the VIC’s Sucker Brook Trail in search of spring wildflowers (translation: staring at the ground as I walked along), when to my left I heard a rustle of vegetation. “Ruffed grouse,” I thought, and turned my head, anticipating the explosion of wings as the bird made a hasty retreat towards the treetops. What I saw, however, was no ruffed grouse. It was black, it was furry, and it was galloping away from me a high speed.

My next thought was “someone’s black lab is loose.” Then it dawned on me: this was no lab, it was a bear. A small bear, probably a yearling, but a bear nonetheless. What I saw was the typical view I have of bears in the Adirondacks: the south end of the animal as it’s headed north. If I’m lucky, I’ll see the face before the animal turns tail. And this is how bears are – they fear people. Many people fear bears as well, but unlike the bear, people really have little reason to be afraid of these normally placid animals. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ADK Music Scene: Tonight Jazz in North Creek!

The Tony Jenkins Jazz Trip plays tonight from 8 to 10 pm, at barVino. Tony Jenkins is a Fort Edward native and plays everything from Thelonius Monk to Jimi Hendrix. barVino offers eclectic food, beer and wine menus and is located on 272 Main Street in North Creek, (518) 251 -0199.

Tomorrow night at 7:30 is the last open-minded mic night of the season. Come to BluSeed in Saranac Lake and vote for your favorite performer, giving that person a chance to perform in the All-Star open mic happening Saturday, June 6. The Starlights are hosting tonight, and sign-up is at 7 pm. Admission is $3. Come on out and support your local musicians and poets — coffee, tea and cookies are available.

Check in tomorrow at 3 pm for the weekend line-up.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Adk History Center Opens, Edward Cornell Exhibit

The Adirondack History Center Museum in Elizabethtown will be opening for a new season beginning on on Saturday (May 23) featuring exhibits around the theme “Celebrating a Landscape of Culture and Ideas: 1609-2009.” The museum will be open new expanded hours, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. This season’s “Inside the Landscape,” will showcase contemporary artist Edward Cornell, who museum Director Margaret Gibbs calls a “cultivator of poignant creations which meld art, history and the present life of community.” “Cornell’s landscape paintings and farming implement sculptures provide viewers with a deeper appreciation of the past which widens our perspective of the present day landscape,” Gibbs said. Visitors can also see Cornell’s colossal sculpture on the front lawn of the museum.

“In and Around Essex,” is another new exhibition showing thirty-one color photographs taken by photographer Betsy Tisdale in 1972 and originally showcased in the early 1980’s. The exhibit has been revitalized for 2009 to convey how the human landscape of Essex, New York has changed over the past twenty-seven years. The museum is located at 7590 Court Street, Elizabethtown. For more information contact the museum at (518) 873-6466 or echs@adkhistorycenter.org.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An Outstanding New Adirondack History Resource

The Library of Congress has launched the beta version of a new online searchable newspaper collection, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, in beta at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/. The site currently contains newspapers from 1880 to 1910 (more are coming) plus a directory for newspapers published in the United States since 1690 (a look there turns up over 11,000 New York newspapers). Results from Essex County include 85 newspapers once published there.

Research Buzz has all the tips on searching, but suffice it to say that along with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle online, Northern New York Library Network’s vast online collection of Northern New York newspapers, and the Digital Librarian’s Adirondack History Links, online Adirondack research just got a whole lot better. The Library of Congress site includes papers that have heretofore been unavailable for free. These include New York City / National papers The Evening World, Horace Greeley’s The New York Tribune, and the The Sun, plus other major dailies from across the nation.

The collection includes reports from Adirondack travelers, social notes from local resorts, and hundreds of advertisements like the one above by the Delaware & Hudson Railroad from 1908. Genealogists are going to find a lot of great stuff here, as well as political historians, and folks interested in the creation of the Adirondack Park, the 1903 and 1908 fires, and a lot more like a long report on the 1900 New York Sportsman Show, including the Adirondack Guide exhibit photo shown here.

Take a look at Adirondack Almanack’s Adirondack History Search Tools more more online sources of local history. All of our stories about history can be found here, and those interested in New York History should take a look at my “other project,” New York History.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An Adirondack Farm Helping Local Farmers

Laurie Davis, Adirondack Harvest Coordinator, has announced a new opportunity to market local farm and forest products. Dave and Cynthia Johnston, owners of DaCy Meadow Farm on Route 9N in Westport, are opening a farm stand exclusively featuring Adirondack Harvest products. For a small fee ($5 for 2009) they are willing to sell your products at their stand with no markup and no profit to themselves; participants will receive full retail price for their product. According to Davis “their goal is to support Adirondack Harvest and our members while providing a beautiful farm stand for local folks and tourists.” The stand also includes an agricultural art gallery and hosts special events. They are situated along Route 9N – a very busy road near Lake Champlain. For more information contact Dave Johnston at 518-962-2350 or email via at dacymeadowfarm@yahoo.com.

While we’re at it, check out the new website developed by the North Country Regional Foods Initiative – www.nnyregionallocalfoods.org – which provides information on how to find regional foods and resources to help communities support and expand local food marketplaces.

The new website includes links to online tools designed to connect producers and consumers, research-based publications about North Country local foods, a calendar of local food events, and links to ongoing local foods work in the North Country.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tri-Lakes Power Line Close, More Lines Proposed

We’ve moved one step closer to having a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot in November that affects a corner of the Adirondack Park in Colton in St. Lawrence County. Monday the NYS Senate passed (62-0) a bill that would allow the construction of a power line from Stark Falls Reservoir to the Village of Tupper Lake. The supplemental line would pass through a section of Route 56 roadside within the Adirondack Forest Preserve between Seveys Corners (near the Carry and Starks Falls reservoirs) and the hamlet of South Colton. The line is part of a project to improve power reliability for the Tri-Lakes communities of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. » Continue Reading.