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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last summer I grew some amazing sunflowers – they must’ve reached ten or more feet in height and over a foot across the blossom! I also grew some smaller sunflowers, in all shades from a chocolaty red to a brilliant yellow. My sunflower bed became one of my favorite gardens, especially last fall when the chickadees came to steal the seeds (afterall, I planted the flowers to provide food for the birds). Then I discovered The Great Sunflower Project (http://www.greatsunflower.org). This outfit’s goal is to sign up folks around the country to plant sunflowers and monitor them for bee activity. It’s kind of like the Lost Ladybug Project I wrote about earlier, except this time it’s bees that are in the spotlight. (The photo is from their website, by the way, taken by Ginny Stibolt.)
Most of us have heard about the crashing honeybee populations, better known as Colony Collapse. There are many theories out there as to why it’s happening, but I don’t think anyone has nailed down THE reason yet. Honeybees, however, are non-native insects, brought over to this part of the world for their honey-making skills and pollination efforts. That said, North America is home to many native bees (over 4,500 species of bees, according to the Great Sunflower Project’s website), most of which are important pollinators in their own right.
But even many our native bees are having some difficulty surviving these days. One reason, according to the website http://nature.berkely.edu/urbanbeegardens, is how we are gardening. The latest gardening fad is mulching, either with natural materials like wood chips or with synthetics like plastic or landscaping cloth. Mulching is touted for its weed-suppressing, water-conserving qualities, something every gardener appreciates. These ground covers, however, make it nearly impossible for ground nesting bees to find ground in which to nest. And in urban areas, which already have a surplus of impenetrable ground, thanks to roads, driveways, parking lots, lawns, etc., this can spell doom for some species of bees.
So, the Great Sunflower Project is recruiting gardeners, students, teachers and general nature nuts like me to survey our gardens for bees. If you sign up early enough, they send you a free packet of seeds (this year it was Lemon Queen Sunflower seeds). It’s too late now for the freebie seeds, but you can find Lemon Queens at many seed shops or catalogues. You plant your seeds, they grow and bloom, and then you watch for bees, timing how long it takes for five bees to show up at your plant(s). You send your data to them and that’s about it. But they aren’t looking for just any ol’ bee. Specifically, the sunflower folks want to know about bumble bees, carpenter bees, honey bees and green metallic bees. A quick buzz through their website will provide you with ID info for these species – it doesn’t get much easier than this!
Perhaps you don’t have sunflowers, or maybe you aren’t a sunflower fan. Not to worry – you can also monitor bee balm (if you need some, see me – I have a surplus of the stuff), cosmos (great companion plant for your veg garden, by the way, because it attracts these important pollinators), rosemary, tickseed and purple coneflower.
Maybe you are hesitant because you are afraid of getting stung. Did you know that bees are really quite shy and mostly are just too busy going about their own business to worry about you? About the only time most bees “attack” is if their nests are threatened (and by the by, male bees lack stingers). So if you are just puttering around your garden, taking notes on bees, they will happily ignore you and continue collecting pollen, sipping nectar, or looking for mates.
Need more reasons to participate? The Urban Bee Garden website has some great tips for bee watching, including interesting bee behaviors you can witness. For example, some male bees actually sleep overnight inside flowers; if you get up early enough you can catch them snoozing in their blossom bowers. Other males are very territorial, protecting “their” flowers from other males. In truth, they are on the lookout for females and spend most of their time driving away potential rivals.
This weekend I will probably plant my sunflower seeds and brace myself for the influx of bees. I’ve already noticed bees of many stripes about my gardens, some at the flowering shrubs, others hovering over bare ground, no doubt testing its potential for a nest site. I know that my yard is a great bee haven, thanks to the many flowering companion plants I scatter among the veg, but also thanks to my lax gardening standards: mulch is spotty at best these days. Watching the flowers for specific bees will give me just one more excuse to stay outside and learn something new about my fellow earthlings; the vacuuming and dishes will have to wait for another day.
What more could you want? Well, how about starting tonight with an open mic held from 7 to 10 pm at P2’s in Tupper Lake. Bring your instruments and enjoy the pub atmosphere in this friendly establishment.
The Elvis festival returns to Lake George and Lake Luzerne today and runs through Sunday. There are shows and attractions at several venues around Lake George and Lake Luzerne, but the event is based at the Painted Pony festival grounds in Lake Luzerne — seats are covered but it might be chilly so bring a jacket. Friday night JEMS in Jay is having what looks to be a very interesting event: DJ Peanutbutterbreath Ambient Tea Party. This is a multi-age non-alcoholic gathering. Here’s what they say about it: “You can chill to artsy classical and soft soundscapes or jump up to bouncy party beats in the same mix”! I’m intrigued. The party kicks off at 7 pm. Admission is $5 with no charge for children under 12. Teas, coffees and pastry will be available. This new spinner hails from Plattsburgh.
Also this Friday Aiseiri will provide Irish music at O’Reillly’s Pub in Saranac Lake. The music starts between 8:30 and 9 pm. O’Reilly’s is located at 33 Broadway below Morgans 11 (which, by the way, has very good pizza). For more information call (518) 897-1111.
This weekend is the last chance to see Fiddler on the Roof at LPCA. I highly recommend this great production. Everyone does a spectacular job. Jason Brill is wonderful as Tevye and Sunny Rozakis‘s gorgeous voice deserves extra kudos.
The Adirondack Bluegrass League’s 2009 Round-Up is this weekend, May 29th & 30th. The Siver Family of Crown Point will take the stage at 8 pm Saturday. They will be playing songs from their new CD Almost Home. The festival is happening at McConchies Campground in Galway. If you play an instrument, put it in the car and bring it along . . . plenty of jamming all weekend.
At P2’s in Tupper Lake Steve Borst is playing 7-9 pm Sunday. Steve is a popular local musician who’s at home singing all sorts of requests in the rock/pop/folk arena. P2’s is looking to create a Sunday night music scene so they welcome any input you can give them. For more information e-mail P2sPub@aol.com
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