The time has come to declare one day in the Adirondack summer calendar free from the holding of festivals. It seems the suffix –fest or –stock is being added to random things: rutabagas, green, no-see-ums, hobos, sitting in a chair, storytelling (only one of these is made-up). Field days and fireworks ensue.
Every Adirondack chamber of commerce must have read the same destination-marketing playbook. The theory goes: People who come to canoe don’t drop a lot of money on hotel rooms or restaurants. But people who come for a canoe festival? Cha-ching. We get it. Still, isn’t the essential charm of the Adirondacks that it’s a place to get away from people? Maybe visitors like to drive into town for a day of local food and music, sure. But can’t they also sense the difference between a genuine celebration and a manufactured event?
The proliferation of “community” happenings is becoming exhausting to some of us who live here year-round. The Merriam-Webster definition of “festival” mentions “often periodic” and “special observance.” When so many events are crammed so close together, they sap those characteristics from each other. There are plenty of things worth celebrating: harvest time, the dead of winter, ice-out, the return of migratory birds. But a word here in defense of doing nothing, especially summer nothing.
There are no inspiring quotes about inaction, only invocations against it. But there is value in just sitting in the garden, drifting in a boat, not driving somewhere. Summer’s short. Let it be its own celebration.
Credit goes to Ned Rauch, a founder of Ten Dollar Radio Show as well as a charter participant in Hobofest—which OK I might attend except it conflicts with Irishfest—for letting me vent and for adding “stock” to “fest.”
Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center on Route 28N in Newcomb is hosting the Summer 2009 Huntington Lecture Series. Each lecture on Thursdays at 7:00 PM. Here is the remaining schedule:
July 23 – Wilderness Pioneer Bob Marshall’s Adventures in the Adirondacks Phil Brown – Adirondack Explorer
July 30 – Where, How Fast and How Far do Adirondack Deer Move? Exciting New Insights from GPS Collars Matthew Smith – Graduate Student, SUNY-ESF August 6 – Coyotes, Deer, and the “Landscape of Fear” Dr. Jacqueline Frair – SUNY-ESF Faculty and Robin Holevinski – SUNY ESF Graduate Student
August 13 – Minerals of the Adirondack Highlands Michael Hawkins – New York State Museum
August 20 – Vernal Pools: Teeming with Life and Mystery Mary Beth Kolozsvary – Biodiversity Research Institute at NYS Museum
The purple triangles seen hanging on trees along Adirondack roads are traps designed to lure and capture emerald ash borers (Agrilus planipennis). Emerald ash borers are small (half-inch long) metallic green insects that are coming to us from Asia via Michigan and wreaking havoc on the ash trees of North America.
Recently I wrote a piece on the American elm and its decline thanks to an insect and a fungus. The same thing is happening today with the American beech. But the emerald ash borer (EAB) acts alone. This insect overwinters under the bark of the ash tree (black, green and white ash are all susceptible) and emerges as an adult in the spring. After mating, the female lays her eggs in the crevices of the bark and about ten days later they hatch. The larvae now begin their devastating work, tunneling under the bark, eating as they go. When winter comes, the larvae become dormant, waiting for spring to arrive, at which point they emerge as adults and the cycle begins again. » Continue Reading.
One of the great gems of the Adirondack region is the North Creek Railroad Station at North Creek in the Town of Johnsburg, Warren County. Listed on the State and National Historic Registers the railroad line hugs the western shore of the Hudson River and includes the restored station, freight, and engine houses currently occupied by the Upper Hudson River Railroad, a sand tower, and a ninety foot turntable.
Throughout the summer they offer an unique series of lectures called “Platform Talks” about the history of the area and its relationship to the railroad. There are an number of other events as well: July 23 Platform Talk, “Sleeping in the Cellar.” Bert Miner recounts his younger days of hosting skiers.
July 30 Platform Talk, “The Adirondack Peddler.” Milda Burns and Ray Flanigan amuse with tales of the Adirondack peddler.
August 13 Platform Talk “Getting Started in Model Railroading.” Bill Bibby educates us on scenery, scale, and material sources for building your own model train.
August 14 The Depot Museum Hoe Down! Fun-raiser event of dinner and square dancing. Ticket information to be announced.
August 15 10-12pm Spring Chidlren’s Workshop – Allie Rose leads a hands-on demonstration about wind energy and participants will build a wind turbine model. This workshop is free and open to children age 7 and older. Adults are encouraged to attend with their children.
August 20 Platform Talk, “Stories from the field.” Steve Engelhart of Adirondack Architectural Heritage offers his expertise on the architecture of the area.
The North Creek Depot Museum is open Wednesday 1-3pm Thursday & Friday 12-5pm Saturday & Sunday 12-4pm. Call for information about private tours at (518) 251-5842 www.northcreekdepotmuseum.com.
It’s finally here. The book Historic Tales from the Adirondack Almanack is now available to pre-order from Amazon.com.
The book, published by The History Press, is a compilation of history essays from the last four years of the Almanack. It’s the Adirondack region’s first blog-to-book and a great way to help support the Almanack.
On July 23rd, 2009 The Adirondack Public Observatory will host famed comet hunter David Levy at The Wild Center in Tupper lake for his presentation “A Comet Discoverer and Starwatchers Journey” in the Flammer Theatre at 6:30 pm. David H. Levy is one of the most successful comet discoverers in history. He has discovered 22 comets, nine of them using his own backyard telescopes. With Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker at the Palomar Observatory in California he discovered Shoemaker-Levy 9, the comet that collided with Jupiter in 1994. David Levy is the science editor for Parade Magazine and regular contributor for Sky and Telescope and Skynews Magazine. He is the author or editor of 35 books including David Levy’s Guide to the Night Sky and Guide to Discovering and Observing Comets. He won an Emmy in 1998 as part of the writing team for the Discovery Channel documentary, “Three Minutes to Impact.” He has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, PBS, the National Geographic special “Asteroids: Deadly Impact”, and hosts a weekly radio show Let’s Talk Stars which is available worldwide. David Levy is currently involved with the Jarnac Comet Survey, which is based at the Jarnac Observatory in Vail, Arizona. Reception and book signing begins at 6 pm and again following his lecture. Weather depending, star gazing with the Adirondack Public Observatory will follow in The Wild Center parking lot. This evening event is free and open to the public.
Photo: David and Wendee Levy with the Palomar 18-inch Schmidt camera used to discover 13 comets.
The Herkimer County Progressive blog’s post A Local Stimulus Wish List got me wondering what folks in the Adirondacks would want to do with stimulus money. It’s a question our politicians didn’t bother to really ask – so here’s your opportunity to sound off. New or improved trails? Light rail? Sewer system installations or upgrades? Educational upgrades? Rooftop highway? Invasive eradication? Property tax relief? Additions to the Forest Preserve? Energy projects?
The question is basically if you had unlimited money, but had to prioritize, where would you put it?
Fly-fishing enthusiast Tom Coe will demonstrate the art fly tying at the Adirondack Museum from July 23 through July 27, 2009. The demonstration will be held in the Mark W. Potter Education Center from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and is included in the price of general admission. Coe will tie flies and display hand-tied flies including saltwater patterns and those suitable for bass, trout, and panfish. Visitors will discover the specialized tools and varied materials needed to tie flies as well. Coe will also offer environmental displays of fish habitats. Games, activities, and a hands-on tying station will help youngsters learn more about fish and create a fishing fly of their own. Tom Coe has taught fly tying classes through extension offices, at nature centers, and at Morrisville State College – where he managed the Campus Aquaculture Facility for eighteen years. He has done fly tying demonstrations at outdoor shows, and has been the focus of television features that highlighted his fly tying. Coe was photographed fly-fishing on the AuSable River many years ago for an article about the Adirondacks by Dr. Anne LaBastile.
Fly tying is part of a summer-long series of craft and trade demonstrations at the Adirondack Museum. To see a complete listing, visit the museum’s web site www.adirondackmuseum.org and click on “Special Events.”
Shakespeare in the Park is a city summer tradition. People pack a picnic and a blanket and go to their local green space to watch live drama under the trees. Now the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts has taken the concept to state park scale.
The Arts Center will present 45-minute outdoor productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at parks and beaches in twelve Adirondack towns. This regional adaptation of the play is as Elizabethan as Elizabethtown. “In the original version the nobility of a town go into the woods for a night and strip away the trappings of society and find out what it’s like to be a human being,” says Arts Center Director Stephen Svoboda. “In our production the young lovers are going to be sophisticated summer people who come up to the Adirondacks in their Gucci shoes, not expecting this rustic world. The male faries will be romanticized lumberjacks and the female fairies have a Sixties hippie feel with long flowy fabric, and really they’re sort of the embodiment of nature. Then the Mechanicals are the acting troupe in the play; in our version they’re going to be these Beatnik actors from New York City all in black with their bug spray, and since a lot of these performances will be on a lake, they’ll show up in a canoe, lost in the wilderness.”
The production is appropriate for all ages and is free. “It’s really accessible to the audience, something that our summer residents and year-round residents can relate to,” Svoboda says.
July 25th 2 pm THENDARA July 25th 7 pm TUPPER LAKE July 26th 2 pm BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE July 26th 7 pm LONG LAKE July 28th 7 pm OLD FORGE July 29th 2 pm RAQUETTE LAKE July 30th 2 pm MINERVA July 30th 7 pm INDIAN LAKE July 31st 2 pm Hudson River Pavilion, NORTH CREEK July 31st 7 pm PAUL SMITHS/SARANAC LAKE August 1st 2 pm INLET August 1st 7 pm SPECULATOR
The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that Greenhouse gas emissions will be included in New York’s environmental review of large-scale projects under a new policy that becomes effective August 17th. The new policy will apply where DEC is the lead agency under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). SEQRA requires that a “lead agency” identify and assess actions for their potential adverse environmental impacts, and in certain cases, develop an environmental impact statement and propose mitigation strategies. “This initiative builds on Governor Paterson’s commitment to continuing New York’s fight against climate change,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said in a press release. “DEC anticipates that, more and more, the public will raise the issue of climate change in the SEQRA process, and this policy will ensure that climate change impacts are considered in a consistent and fair manner. It includes a menu of design measures that can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, such as energy-efficient construction, use of renewable energy technology and waste reduction. While helping guide DEC staff, the policy also will help raise awareness of all the actions that can be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
DEC has also started a process to redesign the environmental assessment forms which used in SEQRA reviews. The update of this form will include the addition of questions related to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, among other issues according to Grannis.
The Adirondack Nature Conservancy has been the 2009 ‘Conservationist of the Year’ at their 25th Annual award ceremony at Woods Inn in Inlet. The award was presented at the Adirondack Council’s annual Forever Wild Day celebration. Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal stresses that while the Adirondack Council is a “vocal, politically active environmental advocacy organization that presses federal, state and local government officials to protect the Adirondack Park’s natural resources. The Conservancy is an international science-based, conservation organization that often buys land to protect it for nature and people.” » Continue Reading.
In gardening parlance, manure is pure gold. It has all the necessary ingredients for successful plant growth: nitrogen (helps plants produce the proteins necessary to build green stems, sturdy roots, and lots of leaves), phosphorus (facilitates energy movement within the plants), and potassium (regulates photosynthesis, helps move nutrients within the plants, and helps make plant proteins). In addition to the big three (NPK), manure also contains humus, a mixture of plant and animal remains that form a bulky and fibrous material that is not only nutritious for your garden, but also makes the soil a better growing medium by fluffing up heavy clays, providing food for the critters that live in the soil, and retaining moisture during times of water shortage. And yet, while some farms can’t give the stuff away, others of us have the devil’s own time trying to acquire it.
For example, I live in a very small rural town here in the mountains. If I walk down the street a few hundred feet from my house, there’s a family with a bunch of horses. I called one day to see if I could relieve them of some of their no doubt copious piles of manure. Sure…that’ll be $300 a load. Oh, and the “load” is mostly “topsoil” with a little manure throw in. I decided to look for other options.
There’s the bison farm about half an hour away, with all the free bison doo that you can cart away. Likewise, there’s the goat farm down towards Thurman – nannyberries galore, yours for the taking. Sounds great! But how do you cart away a load of manure when all you have is a Prius? Another acquaintance of mine, who raises sheep and chickens, has offered me a load of dung…sometime. I think I’ll follow up on this lead while I’m on vacation next month, maybe offering an exchange of labor for this largesse.
As I made the rounds trying to find a good source of poo for my nutrient-starved garden, I was struck by the variety of manures available within a short distance of my home: horse, bison, sheep, chicken, alpaca, goat. About the only types we don’t have nearby is cow and pig. I started to wonder, then, just how much of a difference there is between each type. I’d heard that goat droppings are a “cool” manure that can be put on the garden right away without danger of “burning” the plants, unlike horse or cow manure, which is “hot” and must age for at least six months before use. So I decided to do a little homework to see which type was best. Here are my findings.
Pig and poultry poop are very high in nitrogen. Too much nitrogen can burn your plants. If you use pig or poultry poop, you need to let it age for several months before use. Bird droppings are often quite prized by gardeners (as are bat droppings, which are also very high in nitrogen). One of the greatest inventions for utilization of poultry poop is the mobile chicken coop. This nifty device makes garden creation a snap: you set up your chickens in a location where you want a future garden. The birds spend the summer scratching up the dirt, fertilizing it, eating the bugs in it and basically turning it into a pre-fab garden plot. Next spring you relocate the birds and turn their old run into ready-to-use garden beds.
Horses and cattle (and bison) spend a lot of time grazing, and what goes in must come out. As a result their dung is very high in the fiber department, which means you will have lots of good humus if you use horse or cow manure. On the other hand, you are also likely to get a lot of weed seeds. Horse and cow manure both need to age before you can use them. The general rule is to let it rest and decompose at least six months before use. During this time you can decrease the weed seed problem if you cover your manure pile with plastic and let it really cook for those six months. My pumpkins liked the horse manure I planted them in last year, but the books say that horse and cow manure are both rather low in those essential nutrients N, P and K. You can do better, but if this is all you have available, it’ll work just fine.
Goats and sheep are prolific poopers and their dung comes in tidy little pellets (so does alpaca poop). Because of this, it breaks down quickly and easily, which means you can make use of it sooner than you can horse and cow manure. In general they have more K than horse and cow manure, but N and P are about the same. Unless… I read that if your goat droppings come from goats that are kept indoors (like milking goats often are), then you will likely get additional nitrogen in your manure load because you’ll get the goats’ urine mixed in with the hay and droppings that are mucked out of the stalls. Can you put goat or sheep dung directly in your garden without aging? Yes and no. You really should age/compost any manure first, but because the droppings of goats and sheep are small, they break down more quickly. You can put them directly in your garden, but be sure to keep them off roots and away from stems.
After doing my research, I’ve concluded that any manure I acquire will be a welcome addition to my gardens. And if some of it doesn’t have, say, quite enough K, then I can supplement with something else, like greensand. The bottom line is that you cannot keep taking nutrients out of your garden without somehow replacing them. Manures are probably the easiest source of nutrients around. So roll up your sleeves and make friends with your local farmer. Swapping some labor in exchange for a load of poo seems like a pretty fair deal to me.
Adirondack Theatre Festival will present a staged reading of Hal Corley’s new play, Brush the Summer By on Sunday July 19 and Monday, July 20 at 8pm at the Charles R. Wood Theater, 207 Glen Street (Rte. 9) in downtown Glens Falls. Corley will actively solicit feedback from the audience during a post-show discussion moderated by ATF producing artistic director, Mark Fleischer. The public discussion will help shape the script as it moves towards a full production. Tickets are $20 plus service fees and may be purchased online at www.ATFestival.org or by calling the Wood Theater Box Office at 518-874-0800. Producing Artistic Director Mark Fleischer will direct the reading. Featured in this two person script are the New York City actors Stephen Bradbury and Peggy Scott. Local audiences may remember Scott from her performance in ATF’s 2003 production of The Unexpected Man by Yazmina Reza.
In Corley’s play, a Southern divorcee on a leaf watching trip to the Adirondacks is shocked when she stumbles across a man sunbathing in the nude. Through subsequent encounters, she reluctantly succumbs to his charms. With equal parts comedy and drama, Corley explores the joy and danger of living in the moment, the challenges and rewards of forgiveness and the power and need of memory. The script addresses mature themes.
Hal Corley has developed his plays with major regional theaters, including Atlanta’s Alliance, the Dallas Theater Center, Seattle Rep, and in NYC with The Abingdon, Cherry Lane, Ensemble Studio Theater, and Urban Stages. Two plays, An Ounce of Prevention and Finding Donis Anne, have been widely performed (Syracuse Stage, Philadelphia’s Walnut Street, NYC’s Westbeth, and in LA, Boston and Charlotte, NC). Hal’s more recent productions include: Peoria, Theatre Artists Studio, Scottsdale, AZ, where he was guest-artist-in-residence in January 2009; ODD, winner of the 2007 Premiere Stages Competition, co-produced with NJ’s Kean University; The Death Bite, Theatre Artists Studio, AZ; Easter Monday, Pendragon, Saranac Lake, NY; Legion, San Francisco’s New Conservatory Theater Center; Mama and Jack Carew, Key West Theatre Festival, and In the Charge of an Angel, Stageworks, Hudson NY.
The “play-in-progress” slot has been a regular part of ATF’s summer seasons since its inception in 1995. Fostering new work is at the heart of ATF’s mission. According to Fleischer, “ATF has a long history of developing new works of theatre. While some view these projects as risky ventures with unknown titles and creators, I view this commitment to new work as a research and development. Some of our new shows have become hits, others haven’t. But no matter the success of the show at the box office, providing a stage and a forum for emerging writers and artists has helped to strengthen new voices of the American theatre.” Many of the shows ATF has helped to develop have gone on to perform in theatres not only across America, but across the globe. These shows have included Becky Mode’s Fully Committed, Bill Bower’s It Goes Without Saying and Deb Filler’s Filler Up!
One of the advantages of walking with one’s eyes cast to the ground is that one is likely to find all sorts of interesting things that exist at ground level: wildflowers, fungi, snakes, scats, tracks, bodies. Bodies? Sure – things are dying all the time in the woods, and if we are very lucky we might find them. The big question, however, is: “Why don’t we find them more often?” Believe it or not, there is a lot of competition out there for dead things. You’ve got your vertebrate scavengers, like raccoons and coyotes, vultures and ravens, which sniff out and eat tasty morsels that haven’t been dead too long. Then you have your invertebrates that are looking for a good body to eat or to use for a nursery for the kids: assorted flies, ants and beetles. Underground there are soil-dwelling fungi and bacteria that would also like their share. No carcass goes unwanted, and thank goodness.
Last summer I came across a hairy-tailed mole right outside the Visitor Center. It was obviously dead, but as I watched, it seemed to reanimate! The body was moving! My curiosity piqued, I examined the body more closely and found not one, but two beautiful black and orange beetles working furiously at the body. They turned out to be a male and a female burying beetle (Nicrophorus carolinus), one of 46 species of carrion beetles found in North America. In the amount of time it took me to go inside for the camera, they had the body partially buried. Within half an hour it was gone.
Carrion beetles come in to general varieties: Silphinae and Nicrophorinae. The major differences between these subfamilies are behavior and morphology. The Nicrophorinae are the more interesting of the two (in my opinion) because they actively bury the carcasses they find.
First, the beetles must find the deceased, which they can do from up to a mile and a half away, detecting the fine chemical scent of decay (often within an hour of death) with their antennae, which can have some pretty nifty structures. Some have knobs, others fans or combs. These antennae are highly specialized to pick up long-distance scents. Once the body is found, the male and female beetles work together to bury it. Some may carry the body a short distance for burial, while others get right to work excavating beneath the corpse, which to the observer looks like it is slowly sinking into a miniature bed of quicksand. And just to show you how clever Mother Nature is, take note that the bodies of these beetles are flat, the perfect adaptation for scooting easily underneath a carcass, thus facilitating burial.
Why do these beetles bury the carcass, where as those in the subfamily Silphinae don’t? It comes down to a matter of taste. Nicrophorinae don’t like maggots. Flies are equally adept at homing in on death and for the same reason: they want to lay their eggs on the body, providing a nutritious food source for hatching larvae. Nicrophorinae will eat fly maggots, but they don’t like it when there are too many of them. In fact, they have been known to abandon a carcass if the maggot infestation gets too high. Silphinae, on the other hand, love to eat the maggots, so they are less picky and don’t bury the body. The more the merrier.
Once the body is safely secure underground, the female burying beetle lays her eggs on it and within a couple days the eggs hatch. Here is where another defining difference between the subfamilies comes into play: the adults will feed and defend their larvae. And before you know it, the larvae grow up, pupate and become adults, ready to find carcasses of their own.
As ubiquitous and common as carrion beetles are, they are not often found by the average person. This is partly because they (the beetles) are mostly nocturnal, but also because they do their jobs well and dead bodies are not around long enough for most people to encounter them. If you really want to increase your odds of finding some carrion beetles (and they are some of the largest and most colorful of our insects), you can investigate roadkills, or you can establish an abattoir on your property. I did this successfully, albeit unintentionally, the first year I began the losing battle with rose chafers. After collecting a quart of said pests (drowned in a mason jar), I left the jar out in the sun with the lid on for several days, forgotten. When I found it, I dumped the putrifying contents out on the ground. A few days later I came across the mess of rotting chafer bodies to find it alive with carrion beetles – beautiful yellow and black specimens as large as the end of my thumb. If only I could convince them to eat the live chafers…
So let’s all give three cheers for carrion beetles…and all the other creatures that work to keep our woods, waters, roads, deserts, etc. clean and healthy. If they weren’t out there consuming the bodies of the deceased, diseases would surely run rampant, or, at the very least, the world would be a smellier place. I, for one, am happy to share the planet with them.