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


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Adirondack Music Scene: Bluegrass, Musicals, Folk and a Brass Quintet

Starting tonight at the Waterhole in Saranac Lake, The Route 73 Back Porch Society is playing. The show starts early during the Art Walk which runs from 4:30-7 pm. I’m sorry to say I haven’t heard these folks yet but from what I’ve been seeing they play around quite a bit. I love their name and I’m looking forward to the day I catch up with them.

The Horseshoe Lounge Playboys are doing a little Adirondack tour and you can see them in 3 separate locales. On Friday they will be in Elizabethtown at the Cobble Hill Inn. On Saturday they will be at The Waterhole and on Sunday they will be in Old Forge for The Lake Front Concert Series – the show starts at 7 pm.

On Friday in Essex, After Five Brass will be performing at 7:30 pm. This is part of the Essex Community Concert Series. These concerts are held in the Community Church and are followed by refreshment and a chance to meet with the performers. There is a $10 cover.

Also on Friday in Tupper Lake at P2’s Aiseiri is playing Irish music starting at 7:30 pm. It’s a good place to have a pint and enjoy some tunes. These are the folks who are putting on the Irish Festival Labor Day Weekend in Lake Placid.

Starting Friday, in North Creek on Route 28 the Upper Hudson Bluegrass Festival is on! There are so many acts that it’s important to check out the line up on their webpage, I’m listing just a few. It looks to be a pretty big deal with plenty of camping space. Starting at noon numerous bands play throughout the day including Don’t Quit Your Day Job and The Warren County Ramblers continuing until 10 pm. Saturday starts at 9 am. The White Mountain Bluegrass Band is in the line up of the day, the founders of that group have been dubbed “Pioneers of Bluegrass” by IBMM. The Seth Sawyer Band is also on deck this weekend and the few YouTube videos I checked out were pretty nice – I’d like to see this band. Saturday ends with Tim Graves Band and Cherokee who start at 10 pm. and Sunday starts nice and early with a gospel sing at 8:30 am and finishes up with Smokey Greene from 4:30 until 5:15 pm.

I also want to mention that a performance of Smokey Joe’s Cafe starts Friday at The Depot Theatre in Westport. It will run thru September 6th with some special ticket price evenings (this Monday for instance) look at their website for details. The revue consists entirely of Lieber and Stoller‘s music – approximately 35 pop standards. I saw it on Broadway many years ago and was amazed at how many of the songs I not only recognized but could sing a long with.

At noon on Saturday in Lake Placid the LPCA presents the musical The Princess and The Pea. 50 children form the area will be part of this Missoula Children’s Theatre.

On Saturday in Lake Clear at Charlies Inn, local favorite, Steve Borst will be playing starting at 6:30pm.

In Jay on the 23rd Roy Hurd, Frank Orsini and Meadow are going to be presented by JEMS. Roy and Frank are seasoned performers and true Adirondack favorites. Meadow is Roy’s daughter – they sing beautiful harmonies together.

Photo: Horseshoe Lounge Playboys


Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Book on Paul Smiths: the Hotel, College and People

Appollos Austin “Paul” Smith was born on this date in Milton, Vermont, in 1825. A new book from Arcadia Publishing‘s “Images of America” series provides a pictorial history of Paul Smiths, the place, which is also largely the history of Paul Smith, the man.

Smith came to the Adirondacks in his early 20s to pursue a love of hunting and fishing and to work as a guide. He convinced his family to move to Loon Lake and start a guest house. A wealthy visitor was so impressed with his managerial and guiding talents he financed Smith’s purchase of land on Lower St. Regis Lake to establish a new resort for the enjoyment of families, not just hunters.

As author Neil Surprenant details, Paul Smith’s Hotel was a huge success, and the charismatic owner became famous for his hospitality, entrepreneurism and bonhomie. Surprenant, who is also library director at Paul Smith’s College (on the site of the former hotel), has assembled a well-chosen, well-captioned collection of more than 200 photographs showing the opening of the hotel in 1859 through its heyday and expansion in the late 19th and early 20th century, to fire and hard times during the 1930s, to its conversion into a college specializing in resort management and forestry in 1946, to the present-day four-year institution offering a variety of related degrees.

Surprenant also shows less-historical moments of life in Paul Smiths, including how big lawns were mowed before motors (see page 61 for the answer) and how students pass time in their dorm rooms.

The 127-page book costs $21.99 and is available at local stores, online bookstores and through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Study Reveals Mercury Contamination in Fish Nationwide

According to a just-released U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study, scientists detected mercury contamination in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country. About one fourth of the fish sampled were found to “contain mercury at levels exceeding the criterion for the protection of people who consume average amounts of fish, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” according to USGS. More than two-thirds of the fish exceeded the U.S. EPA level of concern for fish-eating mammals.

Mercury contamination of fish, ospreys, loons, and other aquatic-feeding animals continues to be a concern in the Adirondack region where the problem is the most acute of all New York State. New evidence in the Northeast shows mercury contamination in animals that only feed on land, spreading the concern from water based ecosystems to terrestrial ones as well. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fall Webworms: Our Invasive Insect Export

It almost seems too early, but there they were, web and all, clinging to my Royalty Crabapple: fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea).

For most folks, the sight of a webby mass clinging to the branches of a deciduous tree brings on thoughts of tent caterpillars. I learned early on in my youth that if you see this mass in the spring, it is tent caterpillars, but if it is late summer or fall, you are looking at fall webworm, an entirely different insect. If you’re still not sure, you can verify which insect it is be monitoring the movements of the caterpillars. Fall webworms stay within their webby nest all the time, eating and sleeping there. They do not leave until they are ready to pupate. Tent caterpillars, on the other hand, only use their webby nest for shelter at night and during inclement weather. When they get hungry, they must leave the nest to forage on nearby leaves. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Locals Elected to Adirondack Architectural Heritage Board

For your information comes the following press release issued by the Adirondack Architectural Heritage on the recent election of their Board of Directors:

On June 13, 2009, Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) held its annual meeting at the Boathouse Theater in Schroon Lake, during which time the following individuals were elected to serve their first three-year term on AARCH’s Board of Directors: Willem Monster (Northampton), and Albert Price (Piseco Lake); Jane Mackintosh (Queensbury), and Howard Lowe (Plattsburgh), were elected to serve their second three-year term; William Johnston (Westport), Jay Higgins (Lake Placid), and Phebe Thorne (Keene Valley), were elected to the AARCH Advisory Council. And, at the July AARCH Board meeting, Stewart de Camp (Thendara) was elected to serve on the AARCH Board for a first three-year term.

Adirondack Architectural Heritage is the private, non-profit, historic preservation organization for New York State’s Adirondack Park. AARCH was formed in 1990 with a mission to promote better public understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Adirondack’s unique and diverse architectural heritage. For more information on membership and our complete program schedule contact AARCH at (518) 834-9328 or visit our website at www.aarch.org.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

PROTECT Sponsors 7th Annual Clean Waters Benefit

Protect the Adirondacks! will host the 7th Clean Waters Benefit on Saturday, August 22, 2009 at Hornbeck Boatworks off Troutbrook Road in Olmstedville, in the Town of Minerva to raise funds for its programs and services in the Adirondack Park. The event will begin at 11:30 AM with a canoe/kayak paddle on Minerva Stream, concluding at the historic Olmstedville dam.

Participants are asked to bring their own canoe and be prepared to pull over several beaver dams. Tours of Hornbeck Boat Works and of the owner’s Forest Stewardship Council certified forest will begin at 12:30 PM. A Reception begins at 3:00 PM and features author Bill McKibben as the event’s guest speaker along with Adirondack singer-songwriter Dan Berggren. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: Long Lake Opera

We have no set standard for musical appreciation in our family. We have always run the gamut from Broadway soundtracks to jazz, classical to rock. We are (thankfully) well past the refrains that require an “oink, oink here and an oink, oink there.” Though each childlike step through those mind numbing repetitive refrains did serve its purpose whether to learn what happens as the wheels turn on a bus or learn all the sounds the animals at Old MacDonald’s Farm.

As parents of young children we do have ultimate control of the car stereo and able to intersperse nursery rhymes with an eclectic mix of music. From The Grateful Dead to Marcia Ball and Cole Porter to Pavarotti, our kids are being exposed to a variety of musical tastes. I’ve always used music as a means to set the mood whether we are dancing around the house, quietly working or keeping the peace.

My daughter knows our wedding song while I am, much to my chagrin, prolific at singing and performing the Hannah/Miley “Hoe-down/Throw-down.” Listening to classical music is one thing but going to the opera is not an everyday occurrence for this family. Perhaps it should be.

George Cordes, an operatic bass, has performed a variety of roles while with the New York City Opera, Metropolitan Opera and other operatic companies. He will be accompanied by his wife and pianist Elizabeth as they perform at the Long Lake Town Hall at 7:00 p.m. this Saturday. The husband and wife team are of the newly formed High Peaks Opera Studio of Tupper Lake. The Cordeses will perform musical cocktail ranging from the Great American Songbook to scores from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Operettas.

Admission for the event is only $5.00 while children 12 and under are free. If the low cost doesn’t get you to come then the offer of dessert and refreshments should. My children are excited to see someone who performed on stage. I’m glad to oblige.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The 4 x 4 Waverunner – Shape of Things to Come?

Even though the State Land Master plan didn’t address them specifically, in the mid-1990s the Adirondack Park Agency acted early on the use of Mountain Bikes on state land. Gibb Technologies’ new 4 x 4 waverunner combination, dubbed the Quadski, is a motorized vehicle that Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the Fund for Lake George and former head of the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, believes needs to be addressed early as well. Check out the video.

“[Mountain Biking] was a case of the APA acting on an issue before there was resource degradation, widespread established use, and where the SLMP had not contemplated an issue,” Bauer recently told the Almanack by e-mail. “[This] is an issue where the APA and DEC should act quickly and proactively or the trails and waters of the Adirondack Park will be changed forever.” The Aquada, another amphibious sport vehicle, has also been gaining ground after Sir Richard Branson became the first to cross the English Channel in one in 2004. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

4th Annual Whiteface 5K Downhill Mountain Bike Race

The 4th Annual Whiteface 5K Downhill Mountain Bike Race, part of the 2009 Gravity East Series, will take place on August 29-30 at the Whiteface Mountain Bike Park. The race, which also doubles as the Pro GRT Final, will be the first Gravity East event to feature a pro qualifying and seeding run. The pro men’s race will include a $2,000 purse for the winner. The weekend will also feature a round of Gravity East’s inaugural e.thirteen Dual Slalom Series and a chainless downhill after the main event for fun.

The Whiteface 5K is almost three miles long, and an eight-plus minute downhill course that is the longest mountain bike competition in the East, with 2,456-vertical feet from the top of Little Whiteface. The main event is sponsored by High Peaks Cyclery who will offer a $5,000 overall purse. Last year’s winner Geritt Beytagh finished with a time of 7 minutes, 24.47 seconds and only seven competitors finished the race under eight minutes.

The race course will be marked five days prior to the event, and is available for training seven days a week including race day. There will be one course for all categories. Participants can register online at www.active.com until August 27 at 12 p.m. for just $25. Riders may also pre-register by phone at 877-228-4881 (option #2 then #3), event 177-1411. Racers can register at Whiteface from August 28 until 11 a.m. on August 29 for $35. The competition will be professionally timed by All Sports Events.

Interested participants can check out bike and stay packages, beginning at $59 per person including lift ticket and hot breakfast, at www.downhillmike.com. The website also offers specific race info, and video and photos from last year.

The Whiteface Downhill Mountain Bike Park is open daily from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Free guided tours are available weekends at 1 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Lift tickets, mountain bike rentals, lessons, clinics and more are available right on site.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Making Your Land Pay Program at Cornell Cooperative Ext

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren and Saratoga Counties will be offering an educational program on Saturday August 22, 2009 – “Making Your Land Pay” for forest and farmland. Those looking for new income opportunities to offset some of the costs of owning land will find plenty of suggestions. Some of the topics that will be covered include the importance of soils, natural resource enterprises, and places to find additional resources for land owners. During the afternoon attendees will be going into the field. The cost is $15 per person. For further information and to register for this program, please call Cornell Cooperative Extension Saratoga County at 885-8995.