Monday, May 18, 2009

One Tweet Can Win You A Copy Of The Adirondack Reader

Time is running out 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 May 31, 2009. Good luck.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Volunteers: Cranberry Lake 50, National Trails Day

June 6th is National Trails Day and Adirondack region hikers will have an opportunity to volunteer, at Cranberry Lake in the western Adirondacks. Each year, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) sponsors an event in conjunction with the American Hiking Society’s celebration of National Trails Day. This year, ADK’s event will celebrate the Cranberry Lake 50, the recently completed 50-mile loop around the lake.

According to the ADK: “Volunteers will spend the day performing trail-maintenance work, such as cutting brush, removing blowdown and building waterbars and rock steps, under the supervision of an ADK trail professional. One crew will tour the lake by motorboat, with state Department of Environmental Conservation personnel, to move outhouses and clean up campsites. There will also be a project for kids, planting tree saplings near the Streeter Lake lean-to.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Forest Owners: What You Should Know

Master Forest Owner volunteer training is now over, and I can say that if there is one thing I learned, it’s that forest owners need to be familiar with the resources available to them. A free visit from one of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Forest Owner (MFO) volunteers is a great place to start [a pdf list]. An MFO can sit down with landowners and help them consider the issues land owners face that might include agro-forestry, maple syrup production, logging and timber sales, pest and invasive species management, understanding wetlands, soil and water quality, developing a management plan, or just understanding a little more about the land they own. Those with a keener interest in their forested property should consider becoming a volunteer themselves. The next training will be held at the Arnot Teaching and Research Forest, September 9-13, 2009.

Here is a list of the stories I wrote while taking part in the training. We covered a lot more, but these stories provide some information, and more importantly, links to resources:

An Introduction to SUNY-ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center at the Huntington Forest.

Access to DEC information about Adirondack forests and wildlife.

A field trip to the Tupper Lake Hardwoods Mill.

A “whirlwind tour” of Adirondack mammals.

Maple syrup production for forest owners.

Felling trees safely (with training info).

Agro-forestry: making money from your forest without logging.

Water quality best management practices.

Saw timber economics and timber sales best practices.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Saving Fruit Trees from the Frost

The forecast says the low temperature tonight in Saranac Lake will be 22 degrees. The apple tree we share with a neighbor decided to bloom yesterday. What to do?

Since the tree has thrived at an elevation of about 2,000 feet for longer than anyone living in this neighborhood can remember, it must be a pretty cold-hardy variety. But a deep freeze at blossom time really threatens to thin the crop. So we called Bob Rulf, who owns Rulf’s Orchards, in Peru. He said it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to light charcoal in a couple of grills beneath the tree (this is a pretty big tree) and keep the smoke rising. Between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. is the coldest part of the night, Rulf said.

The temperature is only supposed to get down to about 29 degrees in Peru, the more-temperate apple basket of the Adirondacks. Cornell Cooperative Extension advises that when an apple blossom is tight and in the pink it can stand 30 degrees F for an hour; when it’s wide-open white it can stand 28 degrees for an hour, which seems counterintuitive, Rulf said.

His orchard is not equipped with wind machines or any large-scale equipment for dealing with frosts, so he’ll take his chances with the apples. However Rulf does plan to tow a furnace around the strawberry patch tonight with helpers riding along to blow hot air on that crop.

Photograph: Our apple tree in bloom


Sunday, May 17, 2009

ORDA Announces Summer Olympic Venue Schedules

The New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) will soon be re-opening the Olympic venues for the summer and fall seasons. Facilities scheduled to open in the coming weeks include the Whiteface Mountain Highway, the Olympic Sports Complex, the Olympic Jumping Complex, Whiteface Ski Center, and the Olympic Center skating rink. A variety of events, tours, and opportunities are being offered,

The Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway in Wilmington kicked-off the openings on Friday (May 15). The highway allows visitors to drive to the top of the fifth-highest peak in the Adirondacks. The highway is an eight-mile drive from Wilmington to the summit, where a castle made of native stone and an in-mountain elevator await. The highway will be open daily from 9 am – 4 pm thru October 12.

The Olympic Sports Complex, where the combined bobsled/luge/skeleton track and the 1980 Olympic Bobsled Track are located, began summertime venue tours Saturday (May 16). Tours will be available daily thru October 12 from 9 am – 4 pm. The Lake Placid Bobsled Experience consists of a ½-mile wheeled bobsled ride with a professional driver and brakeman through awe-inspiring turns, a 4”x6” photo, commemorative pin, a team gift and more. The LPBE is scheduled to begin May 30 for weekends only from 10 am – 4 pm through June 21. Starting June 27, bobsled rides will be available Thursday through Monday until September 6.

Mountain biking on the cross country ski trails at the Olympic Sports Complex begins May 23 with the trails open on weekends only thru June 21, with daily operation beginning June 27. The venue offers over 20 miles of trails for riders from beginner to intermediate. High Peaks Cyclery runs the mountain bike center at the venue and offers lessons, rentals, and trail passes. The trails will be open from 10 am – 5 pm, and rentals are available.

The “Be a Biathlete” clinics begin June 27 at the Olympic Sports Complex Biathlon Range. Participants learn the basics of the sports of biathlon, are taught gun safety, and then get to shoot a .22 caliber rifle at the same targets used during the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano. This program is offered Thursday through Monday from 10 am – 4 pm.

The Olympic Jumping Complex, home to the 90-meter and 120-meter ski jump towers and the freestyle aerial training facility, is currently open 9 am – 4 pm Thursday-Sunday. The complex offers a 26-story elevator ride to the Sky Deck atop the 120-meter tower for spectacular views of the Adirondacks, and on May 23 opens the chairlift from the base lodge to the base of the ski jump towers as well. The chairlift and elevator are open Friday-Sunday until June 26, when both the chairlift and elevator will be open daily.

The Olympic Jumping Complex is also home to the Soaring Saturdays and Wet and Wild Wednesdays jumping series. Each Saturday, beginning July 4 and running thru August 22, top Eastern ski jumpers take to the hill in hopes of landing the longest jumps of the day. The season ends with the Flaming Leaves Festival October 10-11.

At the freestyle aerial center, aerialists of all types launch from one of three kickers high into the air, performing twists, flips and turns before splashing down in the 750,000-gallon pool. The pool opens for the summer training season in June. The center is home to the weekly Wet and Wild Wednesday aerials shows, beginning July 8 and running through August 26. Another highlight at the pool is the annual Huck & Tuck Summer Freestyle Competition, slated for August 29.

The Whiteface Ski Center will open for the summer season on June 19. The mountain offers scenic Cloudsplitter gondola rides which take guests to the summit of Little Whiteface, lift-serviced downhill mountain bike trails for pedalers of all abilities. For further mountain biking information go to www.downhillmike.com. Whiteface also offers an hour and a half nature trek to the beautiful Stag Brook Falls. Gondola rides and mountain biking are available daily from 10 am – 4:30 pm thru September 7. Nature treks depart the base lodge each day at 11 am from June 26 to September 17.

The Olympic Center is celebrating the 77th Anniversary of the Summer Skating Program. In addition to being named “The Best Summer Skating Camp for Kids” by Sports Illustrated For Kids magazine, the Olympic Center also offers basic skills lessons, hockey power skating classes, and hosts the weekly Citizens Bank Skating Series, including Freaky Friday and Saturday Night Ice Shows. This year the Olympic Center is host to the annual Lake Placid Free Skating Championships and the Ice Dance Championships, as well as the USA Hockey Junior Men’s Camp.

For more information on ORDA venues and events and for web cams from five locations visit www.whitefacelakeplacid.com.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

North Country Gardening: Innoculations for Vegetables?

Believe it or not, some of your vegetables will benefit from the application of an innoculant. We’re not talking vine flu here, or spinach pox, but the addition of a few beneficial bacteria to give your veg an extra boost. And not just any veg: legumes.

Legumes are those vegetables that have nitrogen-fixing nodules on their roots, which enable them to access naturally occurring nitrogen much more readily than plants that don’t have them. Your basic legumes are peas, beans, peanuts, and fava beans. And with the probable exception of the peanuts, all can be grown here in the North Country.

The bacteria in question is Rhizobia. It is a naturally occurring bacterium, but apparently it isn’t terribly active. In order for it to be of tremendous benefit to your plants, you need lots of it! This is where the innoculant comes in. Innoculant can be ordered from almost any seed catalogue. It does have an expiration date, so you should check to be sure that what you purchase is good for the year you want to use it. I bought some last year but never used it. I found it in a drawer of my fridge this spring and decided to see if it was still viable. I’ll let you know.

So, you get this little packet of Rhizobia (millions and millions of them in one tiny packet). How you apply it is up to you. You can shake it onto your seeds after you plant them, you can shake your seeds in a bag with it, or you can mix it up as a slurry and soak your seeds in it. I did the latter: 4.5 oz water and the bacteria. It was like mixing up mushroom spoors in water: a very fine black powder. If you go the water route, you must be sure to not let it dry out – use within 24 hours. Don’t let the wind dry your seeds, either. If the innoculant dries, the bacteria are dead.

The only real downside that I discovered in doing the slurry method is that my fingers and hand ended up coated with the black slurry of bacteria as well. Hm – I wonder if I’ll absorb more nitrogen this summer as well.

Do you have to use innoculant? Of course not. I never have before now, my parents never did, and I doubt my grandparents did either. But sources claim that you can have up to 77% more peas/beans/peanuts if you do use it! Hm. I picked an awful lot of peas last year. I planted even more this year, and I used the innoculant. I may be overrun with peas. Wouldn’t that be a shame?


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saw-Timber Economics and Timber Sales

Deciding whether to log or not and how is complicated by a number of factors according to Master Forest Owner Program Director Gary Goff and Cornell Cooperative Extension Forester Peter Smallidge. Most private forest land in New York State will eventually be logged and sold for saw timber; the question is when and how. Goff and Smallidge reviewed the details at the 2009 Master Forest Owner Training.

Stumpage is the price offered by a logger for a standing tree. DEC issues Stumpage Price Reports twice a year that can serve as a guide (if you know what you’re looking at) for landowners wondering how much their timber is worth.

A basic rule of thumb: A 20-inch diameter tree at breast height (dbh) generally contains two 16-foot merchantable logs. The same tree, cut down to four inch pieces, will yield about one cord of firewood (a cord is 4-feet tall, 8-feet long, and 4-feet wide).

Timber quality is the most important factor affecting the value of standing timber, but there are a number of other factors, including things like the volume per acre, the terrain, market demand, time of year, costs of harvesting, size, species, insurance, etc.

Another rule of thumb: a 12-14 inch tree can be graded to a 2-3 grade; 16 inches, 2 grade; 18-20 inches, 2-1 grade; 24-28, 1 grade. The bottom 16 feet on a tree holds two-thirds of the value of tree.

Other impacts on the decision to log include the rate of inflation, potential damage, rate of growth, market trends, changes in tax law, other goals and owner objectives (trails, wildlife improvement, etc.), social license (do I care what my neighbors think?), municipal ordinances (town, county, APA, DEC, etc.), supervision (do I need a forester?), state of stand (maintaining biodiversity and good regeneration, in other words, a stewardship plan).

Expenses to consider when logging include fixed costs like your mortgage, taxes, and insurance and variable costs like surveys, inventory, management plan, timber stand improvement, stand access improvement, and timber sale expenses. The bottom line is: management matters and can provide as much as twice the value.

Always have a contract between logger, forester, and landowner. Contracts should include who is selling what to whom and for how much, when, where, and with what restrictions. Payment options could include up-front stumpage, pay as you cut (certain dollar per thousand board feet), roadside (you haul ’em to the landing), or percentages. Contracts could also include best management practices, penalties for damaging residual stands, cutting of non-merchantable trees, a performance bond, non-transferability.

i won’t cover it here, because it’s complicated and really requires a forester, but those thinking about logging should understand what high-grading is and how to avoid it (of course the best way is to hire a professional forester).

Land owners should visit www.forestconnect.com for more about saw timer sales (and a lot more), and then begin thinking about a forest management plan.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Water Quality Best Management Practices

Water quality best management practices are an important component for logging operations. Potential problems include sedimentation of streams and other water bodies, thermal pollution (damage by exposing stream beds to full sun for example), and biogeochemical changes (changes in soil chemistry). Forester Peter Smallidge notes that “cutting trees does not cause erosion, disturbing soil causes erosion.” Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Logging roads and skid trails should follow contours in the land.

Disturb as little soil as possible, especially along streams and stream beds. Skid in winter.

Deal with small amounts of slow moving water such a rain events by using waterbars, sediment barriers, and culverts.

Avoid streams whenever possible. Always cross streams at right angles.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Agro-Forestry: Making Money From The Forest

At MFO training, agro-forestry expert Bob Beyfuss talked about income opportunities for forest owners that don’t include logging. Here are a few things folks can do according to Bob:

Recreation: hunting leases, cabins, and cottages for various seasons. Take a look at www.aplacetohunt.net and www.woodlandowners.org.

Silvapasture is leasing for grazing or browsing. Although now somewhat limited for elk and deer due to Chronic Wasting Disease and it’s not for sheep or cattle (they cause too much forest damage), there are opportunities for goats. Goats love burdock, beech, and especially poison ivy. They still may need to be fed if they are grazing in strictly forested lands.

Maple syrup production – I’ve already covered that here.

Ginseng, goldenseal, bloodroot, black cohosh, ramp/wild leeks, and fiddleheads are just a few of the botanicals that can be managed on forest lands for profit. Contrary to popular belief, while nothing can be taken from state land, only ginseng and goldenseal are regulated on private land. Old ginseng can sell for $1,700 a pound. Other opportunities include native ornamental plants like foam flower, maidenhead fern, and a lot more. In 1900, there were 5,000 ginseng farms in New York State and New York was the leading producer.

Mushrooms: chanterelles and morelles can be gathered, but oysters and shitakes can be grown at home (shitakes can bring $16 a pound).

Bob recommends two books:

Growing & Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal & Other Woodland Medicinals

Wildflowers, (The New England Wild Flower Society)

Also check out Marketing Special Forest Products in New York State


Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Lost Ladybug Project – Perfect for Families

“Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away home
Your house is on fire and your children are gone.”

I never really understood that little ditty when I was a kid. I mean, why would you tell this specifically to a ladybug, as opposed to a bumblebee or a dragonfly?

As it turns out, there is a reason. A quick search on the Web turned up a neat little website on nursery rhymes: http://www.rhymes.org.uk/ladybug_ladybug.htm. It seems that in merry ol’ England it was traditional to burn the fields after the fall harvest to cut down on potential future insect infestations. The farmers knew that this beetle, which they call a ladybird, was the farmer’s friend (they are ravenous aphid-eaters), so this was essentially a courtesy call made to tell the insects to leave the fields before they set them on fire.

Today we find ladybugs mostly in our houses in the winter and spring. This is because these insects seek out good hidey-holes for hibernation (cracks along the outside of the house), and when they detect the warmth and light inside, they move on in. Ladybugs are totally harmless, but they can exude a foul-smelling orange goo from their legs if they are pestered. This is a defense mechanism meant to drive away predators, but to them a broom is just as aggressive as a bluejay, so if you try to sweep them away, they may leave this exudate on your walls and curtains. The majority of the ladybugs that turn up in your house are probably non-natives, the Halloween ladybug being the most common perpetrator. This species is orange and black, and often shows up in the fall.

Despite this apparent evidence to the contrary, many native ladybug species are in rapid decline. Back in 1986, when the nine-spotted ladybug was proposed as New York’s state insect, it was common, but by 1988 its population was in a tailspin. One hasn’t been seen in New York now since the late ‘80s. Only one specimen has been found since then in all of the eastern US, and that was discovered by two children in Virginia.

What can YOU do? Cornell University, home to many a citizen science project, has started the Lost Ladybug Project (www.lostladybug.org). This is a great hands-on project for kids, families, or adults. All you do is go out, look for ladybugs, take their pictures, and send the photos in to Cornell, along with the particulars of where you found the ladybug, when you found it, etc. There are three species they are especially interested in finding: nine-spotted, two-spotted, and transverse ladybugs. If you go to their website, they have lots if photos and color print-outs that can help you succeed in this mission.

I know that I’m going to add ladybug hunting to my list of outdoor activities this summer. I have a patch of tansy that in the past has been loaded with ladybugs, both adults and their larvae (which are strange-looking beasts). Chances are most of these will be introduced species, but you never know…lurking among the immigrants there just might be a native or two.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Using the Wedge: Felling Trees The Right Way

Well, I’ve heard of the technique, but like most folks who’ve felled trees I’ve been doing it more dangerously than necessary. New York State Extension Forester Peter Smallidge educates on the wedge method that puts the tree right where you want it without chasing it down with a back cut. He cut his notch, then used the plunge method to leave all but the hinge.

A couple of wedges are placed in the backcut – one just as a safety measure to be sure your saw doesn’t get pinched – and the other to safely and slowly drop the tree. The top should generally never move (no rattling top and falling branches) until you drive the wedge home. Then it falls right on the mark. Take the “game of logging
training Smallidge gives to learn to do it right. He also runs forestconnect.com, Cornell Cooperative Extension site for all things forestry that includes plenty of resources for forest owners, including regular webinars.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Adirondack Weekly Blogging Round-Up


Friday, May 15, 2009

Maple Sugar Bush Production For Forest Owners

At the MFO training we heard from Mike Farrell of Cornell’s maple program at the Uihlein Forest. It turns out that New York is not what it should be in maple production, it’s second in the nation. The US imports four times more syrup from Canada than it produces. New York City alone consumes more syrup that all of New York State produces.

Here is a little more of what we learned:

All maple produces syrup, but sugar maple produces the most and the sweetest sap. However, a very large well-established and healthy red maple can produce nearly as much as a smaller less-healthy sugar maple.

You can tell sugar maple from red maple because the bark peels from the side; red maple bark peels from the top and bottom.

Trees less then 10 inches in diameter should not be tapped; the recommendation is one tap per tree, two on very large trees. Taps should be moved around the tree (about an inch and a half a year) and up and down a few inches. Spouts should be 5/16, instead of the older 7/16.

An average sugar bush has 50-60 taps per acre (about 30% of the basal area is maple), easy access, and a gentle slope with water and power at the bottom. Roads should be as few and as straight as possible with grades 3-10%; try to keep keep water off your roads.

Tapped maples don’t die sooner, but they do grow considerably slower. Regeneration of the sugar bush should be considered – that requires protection of seedlings from browsers (like deer!), freedom from species competition, and adequate sunlight. Conifers attract squirrels, which can be a problem – they love to chew on taps and tubing.

Tubing is more environmentally friendly, produces a greater yield, and is less work than taps and buckets. It should be run tight, straight, and downhill. Vacuum systems add up to two to three times the yield to gravity systems. They can be left in place, but they still have to be maintained and annually flushed (use a power washer and plain water – chlorine can build up salts in the line and encourage pests). Tubing costs about $8 per tap to install.

Options for landowners include leasing to a producer, collecting and selling sap to a producer, or producing your own (most work, and profit). Setting up your sugar bush may make you eligible for an New York property tax agricultural assessment.

What about saw timber? There is a nice market for tapped maple butt logs (previously not usually accepted by local mills for saw timber and generally only used for firewood) because the wood is stained and has a natural look (the more tap holes, the more money a board can be worth). Butt log boards can fetch $3 a board foot by marketing it as a specialized wood product.

Check out www.mapletrader.com for used equipment and the New York State Maple Producers Association for information on setting up a maple syrup operation.

 


Friday, May 15, 2009

Dredging the Hudson: An Illustrated Timeline of Delays

When the first bucketload of oily Hudson River muck rises today, ten miles south of the Adirondack Park Blue Line in Fort Edward, it will mark the end of a quarter century of preparation, study, legal skirmishing and no small amount of foot-dragging. Throughout, the goal has remained consistent: the removal of approximately 2,650,000 cubic yards of Hudson Riverbed sediment laced with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Here is a timeline of the delays:

September 1984 EPA formally places the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site on the National Priorities List. EPA chooses to take no remedial action, citing possible environmental risks posed by stirring up the PCB deposits. Babies born around this date will have graduated with advanced degrees in environmental sciences by the week clean-up actually begins. Unfortunately, considerably more babies will have graduated with degrees in law and public relations.

December 2000 After more than a decade of study and advances in remediation technology, EPA proposes a dredging plan to remove PCB pollution from a 40-mile long stretch of Hudson River between Hudson Falls and Troy NY. A final act of the Clinton Administration’s EPA.

(image right: In a last-ditch effort to derail the inevitable multi-million dollar expense of dredging, GE launches a PR campaign to convince the public and lawmakers to just let the PCBs be.)

August 2001 Following an extended public comment period EPA administrator Christine Whitman agrees to go ahead with the plan.

(image right: The decision by Whitman to back the dredging plan exposed a rift in the traditionally pro-industrial GOP. On the Hudson, the future of the river ran between Governor Pataki and his one-time protege Congressman John Sweeney.)

February 2002 EPA issues its official Record of Decision for a phased dredging project. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2005.

(image right: In March 2002 the EPA gets off to an impolitic start, siting the project field office in Saratoga Springs, 21 miles from the dredging site in Fort Edward. The decision is hastily reversed, prompting delays.)

October 2002 The war over cleaning up the Hudson River is eighteen years old, over twice the length of The War for American Independence.

(image right: Reenactors celebrated the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Saratoga at a Fort Edward farm belonging to a cousin of Fort Edward Supervisor Merrilyn Pulver, a dredging opponent.)

March 2003 EPA issues an adjustment to the dredging schedule to accommodate negotiations with GE on payment for and conduct of the dredging operations. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2006.

October 2005 EPA and GE reach an agreement on payment for and conduct of the dredging operations. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2007.

July 2006 EPA Region 2 Administrator Alan Steinberg cites delays in the delivery of specialized dredging equipment. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2008.

November 2006 EPA and GE agree to a Consent Decree that will begin dredging.

2008 EPA approves design of Phase I implementation plan.

Jan 2009 Modification to 2006 Consent Decree stipulating payment for clean water supplies for affected communities during the dredging operations. Dredging scheduled to begin May 2009.

May 15, 2009 In time for the 400th anniversary of the first chronicled exploration of the Hudson by Europeans, the innovative minds that helped build General Electric into one of the mightiest industrial empires in human history have finally run out of excuses to not clean up the river. Or so we believe. . .

(Cartoons originally appeared in the Glens Falls Post-Star, and Hill Country Observer)


Friday, May 15, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories