Sunday, July 5, 2009

DEC, APA Remind Shoreline Owners About Regulations

Shoreline property owners and contractors who plan to construct, replace or expand structures located within shoreline setback areas or repair or install seawalls, riprap, docks, cribs and/or boathouses on waters within the Adirondack Park, are advised to contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) before undertaking any work according to the following press release from the state agencies, published here for your information:

Among the most valuable resources in the Park is the land along its thousands of streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. The shoreline is an important ecological feature that defines the transition zone between land and water. All levels of the food chain – from forage fish to large mouth bass, shorebirds to waterfowl, and amphibians to mammals – benefit from a “healthy” shoreline.

DEC and APA staff can determine if permits or variances are required and provide information on ways to minimize environmental damage associated with construction in and around protected waterways. The laws the APA and DEC administers protect wildlife habitat, water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions.

“Shorelines are a valuable natural feature of the Adirondacks. The application of appropriate standards for shoreline structures protects the aesthetic character of our landscape as well as associated habitats for a variety of wildlife.” said Betsy Lowe, Regional Director for DEC Region 5

“Every year, our law enforcement officers encounter project sites along the water where work is underway without proper permits,” said Judy Drabicki, Regional Director for DEC Region 6

“Due to the 2008 APA rule changes pertaining to shoreline structures within the Adirondack Park, the public is strongly encouraged to also contact APA staff for regulatory advice before constructing, replacing or expanding shoreline structures,” said Curt Stiles, Chairman of the APA.

DEC has recently identified “Preferred Methods” for shoreline stabilization. These include preserving as much natural shoreline as possible; use of vegetation plantings, where feasible, to stabilize the shoreline, create habitat and reduce pollution from stormwater; and bioengineering which utilizes a combination of natural materials (sticks, logs, root wads, etc.) and applied engineering to correct shoreline problems.

More information on shoreline stabilization, including preferred and traditional methods, is available on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/42519.html.

Contacts for shoreline projects in the Adirondack Park:

• All locations within the Adirondack Park – Adirondack Park Agency, in Ray Brook at (518) 891-4050

• Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Ray Brook at (518)897-1234

• Fulton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Warrensburg at (518)623-1281

• Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Watertown at (315)785-2245

• Herkimer and Oneida counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Utica at (315)793-2555


Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Importance of Weeding

To me weeding ranks right up there with housework: it’s one of those chores that just never go away. As soon as you clear out a patch of weeds, it seems to grow right back, like a gecko’s tail. After a while you begin to wonder if it really is all that important to do. Afterall, many books and garden gurus espouse the benefits of “green manure” and “living mulches” – what makes those different from your average weeds?

I have yet to resolve this question with any real satisfaction.

Green manure, perhaps, is easier to rule out. This is the name given to plants/crops sewn that will later be tilled into the garden bed. These plants are usually those that provide nutrients to the soil and are usually planted in off years when you don’t put any food crops in the bed. Green manure plants include things like fava beans and buckwheat. They are also great for attracting pollinators.

Living mulches, on the other hand, are plants you stick in the ground in and among your food plants, like clover. In theory they stay low, shading the soil from the harsh rays of the sun and the sharp patter of raindrops. Additionally, they are supposed to smother out “weeds.” I tried some of the clover last year…it did very well, grew quite tall, and took over a section of the garden. Hm…seems like it became just another weed.

So where do you draw the line between weeds and living mulches? Maybe it all comes down to the species of plant. Clovers, afterall, do help provide nutrients to the soil. “Weeds,” on the other hand, steal the nutrients and water from your crops, reducing your yield, sometimes monumentally. Does the clover not do this, too? Enquiring minds want to know.

Until I can find a satisfactory answer to these burning questions, I guess I will just have to resolve myself to pulling the weeds. And, if you are like me and keep putting it off, let me give you some hard-learned advice: don’t. Get out there and pull those weeds as soon as you see the buggers sticking up between your plants. If you don’t keep on top of them, they will take over and before you know it, those lovely gardens that you sweated and strained over, digging by hand, planting with loving care, will once more become part of your lawn and you’ll stand there looking at your strangled flowers wondering what happened. Yep. And then you’ll find yourself back at square one, having to redig those beds, only this time you have to be careful not to damage the surviving flowers and shrubs as you thrust your spade into the soil to uproot the weeds and grasses. Uh-huh…the hard-won truth is that you must keep up with the weeding every week.

They say converting your yard to gardens will save you time. Maybe they just meant you cut back on the time you mow (which is a good thing in my book; mowing is too much like vacuuming). And the time you save not mowing can now be put to good use elsewhere, like weeding.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lake Placid: Olympian Anders Johnson Wins Summer Ski Jump

Olympian Anders Johnson made the two longest jumps of the day to claim the annual 90-meter Summer Ski Jump at the Olympic Jumping Complex on Friday. Johnson, hailing from Park City, Utah, conquered the wet and rainy conditions without a hitch. He laid down a first round jump of 98.5 meters, and followed that with a 100.5-meter jump in the second round to earn a total of 267 points.

“Other than being wet, it was good, and it was as fair as it could have been,” stated Johnson. “It was quick, short and sweet, so that’s always nice.”

Second place went to Nick Fairall of Andover N.H., who made jumps of 93.5 meters and 94.5 meters for 243.5 points. Alex Haupt, also from Park City, claimed the bronze medal with jumps of 88.5 meters and 87 meters for 212.5 points.

“I’ll be here in October for Nationals, but I won’t be here for New Year’s – it’s not one of my top priorities,” said Johnson, the three-time Art Devlin Cup winner about trying to gain a fourth Devlin trophy. ”My goal is the Olympics in Vancouver (February 2010). And also the World Cup circuit – getting some experience and getting some World Cup points would be a nice bonus.”

The Art Devlin, Sr. Memorial Cup is awarded to the jumper with the most combined points from three events: the Summer Ski Jump, the Flaming Leaves Ski Jump, and the New Year’s Masters Ski Jump. The winner of the Art Devlin, Sr. Memorial Cup receives a cash prize of $1,000.

In the junior division, lone female jumper Tara Geraghty-Moats of Fairlee, Vt., took the gold medal. The NYSEF jumper made jumps of 93.5 meters and 86 meters, earning 222.5 total points. Silver went to last year’s summer ski jump champion A.J. Brown, jumping 93 meters and 83.5 meters for 207 points. Zack Daniels and Brian Wallace each earned 197 points. Daniels landed jumps of 86 and 83 meters, while Wallace made jumps of 85 and 83.5 meters.

Here are the complete results:

Open Division

1. Anders Johnson, Park City, Utah, 98.5 meters, 100.5 meters, 267 points
2. Nick Fairall, Andover, N.H., 93.5, 94.5, 243.5
3. Alex Haupt, Park City, Utah, 88.5, 87, 212.5
4. Cooper Dodds, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 86.5, 87, 212
5. Andrew Bliss, Lake Placid, N.Y., 87, 85, 209
6. Chris Lamb, Andover, N.H., 86, 86, 206
7. Pete Frenette, Saranac Lake, N.Y., 93.5, 77.5, 201.5
8. Krzysztof Kowalczyk, Chicago, Ill., 86, 78.5, 187.5
9. Nick Johnson, Eden Prairie, Minn., 73, 84.5, 173
10. Colin Delaney, Lake Placid, N.Y., 75, 72.5, 151.5
11. Dan Englund, Iron Mountain, Mich., 66, 68, 121.5

Junior Division

1. Tara Geraghty-Moats, Fairlee, Vt., 93.5 meters, 86 meters, 222.5 points
2. AJ Brown, Fox River Grove, Ill., 93, 83.5, 207
3. Zack Daniels, Louden, N.H., 86, 83, 197

3. Brian Wallace, Woodbury, Minn., 85, 83.5, 197

5. Connor Jacobson, Woodstock, Ill., 86, 85, 196

6. Spencer Knickerbocker, Brattleboro, Vt., 78.5, 73, 157.5


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ode to the Elm – a Fourth of July Tribute to an American Icon

I am easily impressed, I admit it. Still, the sight of a mature American Elm (Ulmus Americana) can send me into transports of delight. This stately tree, once ubiquitous east of the Rockies and synonymous with street side plantings, was nearly exterminated by the 1970s thanks to the fast work of an invasive insect and its associated fungus.

This pathogenic pair lived harmlessly in Asia, where the native elms were resistant to the effects of the fungus (Graphium ulmi). Somehow they made their way to the Netherlands, where in short order they did in the elms that held that country’s famous dykes (and hence the disease was named Dutch Elm Disease, or DED). From there DED migrated to England, taking out the stately English elms. Still, the US was protected; we were an ocean away and all ports of entry were watched and imported woods were thoroughly inspected. Or so we thought.

Suddenly in 1930 an outbreak occurred in Ohio. The “sanitary forces” were called in and the outbreak was eliminated. But in 1933, 3800 diseased elms appeared in New Jersey, and another 23 in Connecticut. The DED sleuths fanned out and the source was finally located: a load of English elm veneer wood, swarming with Scolytus multistriatus, the elm bark beetle. Forty years later, millions of elms across the US had succumbed to the disease.

Here’s what happens. The beetle (there is a native elm bark beetle as well as the invasive Asian species; both are now known to be carriers) snacks on the tree, chewing through the bark at the crotches of the twigs. Through these wounds the fungus’s spores, carried by the beetle, enter the tree. Once in the inner bark, they germinate, spreading fungal threads throughout the tree’s vascular system, essentially clogging it and preventing the transport of water and nutrients. Before long, the tree dies.

Mature trees were hit first, but folks were hopeful because seedlings and saplings were plentiful. Unfortunately, once saplings reached 4” dbh (diameter breast height, a measurement taken at 4.5’ above ground), they succumbed as well. So how is it possible that today I find mature trees?

It turns out that there were isolated pockets of mature trees that were never exposed to the disease, and other individuals exhibited resistance (a benefit of sexual reproduction). Today you can purchase varieties of resistant elms, such as “Valley Forge” and “New Harmony,” from various nurseries and breeders.

But what I enjoy is finding that lone wild elm, with its classic vase-shaped form. We have one here in Newcomb, prominently located at the Memorial Garden by the town’s Scenic Overlook. It is a breathtaking sight, this tall, graceful tree. Sadly, few people who see it probably realize what it is. Now that elms are few and far between, the specter of Dutch Elm Disease has been relegated to the halls of learning, where forestry and horticulture majors are about the only ones who learn of it.

This hit home for me about ten years ago when I worked at a zoo that had a magnificent specimen in one of its enclosures. No one else knew what it was and one day they decided to cut it down so they could expand the exhibit. I had to step in, crying “NO! It’s an elm – they are almost extinct!” It had a stay of execution that day, but by now it may be gone.

When American elms were plentiful, they played an important role in our history. Famous speeches were made under elms; treaties were signed; states were formed. So many historical events have been associated with elms that Donald Peattie wrote in A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America:

“If you want to be recalled for something that you do, you will be well advised to do it under an Elm – a great Elm, for such a tree outlives the generations of men…”

Elms can grow to over 100 feet in height, with diameters exceeding four feet and crowns stretching up to 150 feet! If it avoids DED (or elm yellows, the other major disease that affects elms), it can live for several hundred years. In the classic form the tree resembles a fountain: the lower trunk exhibiting no branches, then suddenly splitting into multiple stems from which the branches fan upwards and outwards. This arching, vase-like form made it the perfect street tree, for its branches would meet those of the elm across the street, uniting over the pavement and shading the cars below in a tunnel of green. Likewise, it was perfect for planting in the yard: no lower branches would hit you in the face for all the branches were up high, reaching over your house to cool it in the heat of the summer with its dappled shade.

Sure, there were some folks with a utilitarian eye who claimed the tree was useless. C.A. Sheffield wrote in the Atlantic Monthly in 1948:

“They are the most useless piece of vegetation in our forests. They cannot be used for firewood because they cannot be split. The wood cannot be burned because it is full of water. It cannot be used for posts because it rots in a short time. It can be sawed into lumber but it warps and twists into corkscrews and gives the building where it is used an unpleasant odor for years.”

Yet despite this, the American elm (aka: white elm and water elm) was plenty useful. Early settlers learned from the Natives that the bark could be easily stripped and made into cordage, baskets, and even canoes. Whips were made from the braided bark to urge recalcitrant oxen to their duties. Because the wood is so strong, supple, and shock resistant, it was ideal for the hubs of wagons used to carry heavy loads. It was also used to make agricultural tools, sporting goods, flooring, and was even used in ship building. Barrel staves and chopping bowls were routinely made from its wood. And, because it held screws better than any other wood, it was ideal for making boxes and crates.

Young elms can be found where mature elms once lived. I have an elm sapling that reaches into my yard. Learning to identify the asymmetrically heart-shaped and toothed leaf, with its sandpapery texture, is fairly easy. Scope out places where historic elms once grew (like The Elm Tree Inn in Keene), and you will likely find some youngsters growing quietly nearby. If you want to add an elm to your yard, then hop on-line and do a search for nurseries and breeders who have resistant varieties for sale. Every home should have an elm grace to grace its yard…and maybe a revival in street trees will take root, restoring the elm to its coveted place in our towns and cities.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Emily Hughes, Jason Wong Headline Saturday Night Ice Show

The Citizens Bank Summer Skating Series resumes this weekend with Freaky Friday and the Saturday Night Ice Show, presented by North Country Community College, this Friday and Saturday, July 3-4 at the Olympic Center. Olympian Emily Hughes, the younger sister of 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes, placed seventh in Torino during the 2006 Olympic Games. She won the silver medal during the 2007 U.S. National Championships and has skated in many national and international events, including Grand Prix events.

Jason Wong is the 2008 U.S. Collegiate National Champion and recently competed in the 2009 World University Games in China. Wong has won the New England Regionals in the junior, intermediate, novice and senior divisions and also earned the silver medal at the U.S. Junior National Championships in 2004. Wong skates for the Skating Club of Boston.

Joining Hughes and Wong on the famed 1932 Rink Jack Shea Arena ice will be skaters participating in the 77th Annual Miracles of Gold summer skating program. The skaters will perform their individual and group numbers during this entertaining event. Showtime is at 7:30 p.m. Admission to the show is $9 for adults, $7 for juniors and seniors. Children six and under may enter for free.

The ever-popular Freaky Friday show is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in the 1932 Rink Jack Shea Arena. Students in the Miracle of Gold summer skating program create their own unique routines for this event. The skaters have come up with wonderful costumes and ideas, such as baseball players playing in Fenway Park, girls dressed in Poodle skirts, hula hoops and much more. This free event is a great way to support the figure skaters.

To learn more about the Lake Placid Summer Skating programs visit www.lakeplacidskating.com.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Adirondack Weekly Blogging Round-Up


Friday, July 3, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Adirondack Music Scene: Fourth of July Fix

Shamim Allen is away this week, at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, so I offered to cover for her and she e-mailed me some live music suggestions.

If Shamim is there, the Jazz Fest is obviously the place to be, only about two hours from the northern Adirondacks and featuring a 12-day schedule so ridiculously packed it might be easier to list who’s not playing. The price of entry to various venues ranges from free to about $80. On the Fourth of July Dave Brubeck, who is 88, will perform “Take Five,” which is 50.

Closer to home, there’s an open mic tonight at Grizzle T’s in Saranac Lake. It starts at 7:30 p.m.

On Friday, July 3, the holiday weekend gets rolling with Lake Placid’s annual I Love Barbecue festival, featuring amazing local musicians all weekend, including Stoneman Blues Band, Sven Curth and Lowell Bailey. If you like the Ramones, you’ll especially appreciate Loud and Stupid, which takes the stage at 3 p.m. Sunday.

The first concert of the season at Meadowmount School of Music will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Meadowmount is boot camp for classical music’s future string stars, and the location is remote, pastoral and camplike, complete with screens and mosquitoes. The summer school is located at 1424 County Route 10, in the town of Lewis. There’ll be another concert Sunday July 5. $7 adults, $4 seniors/students. See www.meadowmount.com for a full schedule.

Also Friday a trio from the Celtic band Inisheer will be playing at O’Reilly’s Pub in Saranac Lake 8-10 p.m.

SATURDAY, July 4

There’s free music pretty much anywhere you can find a parade or fireworks. Here are just a few suggestions:

From 1-3 p.m. Inisheer plays the bandshell at Mid’s Park on Mirror Lake, in Lake Placid.

Long Lake will be hosting an open acoustic jam at the town beach at 2 p.m. (The North Country Preservation Jazz Band will play in the evening.)

Atlantic Crossing, a Vermont-based band playing Celtic roots music of New England, Canada and the British Isles, will perform at Bolton Landing’s Rogers Park at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Puttin’ on the Ritz plays pre-fireworks in Raquette Lake, at the school.

Shamim will return to play with the Dust Bunnies in Saranac Lake’s Riverside Bandshell at 7 p.m., before the fireworks. The Bunnies’ friends Big Slyde are playing the Waterhole patio, about 100 yards away, at the same time.

There’ll be square dancing in the North Country Squares Building of the Clinton County Fairgrounds at 7 p.m. in Morrisonville.

If you like your Fourth of July fix of patriotic marches, the 45-piece Floyd Community Band will be playing at the waterfront park in Old Forge at 7 p.m. Saturday, before the fireworks.

The heavy (in a good way) blues trio Crow Party will rock the annual boogie fest at the Recovery Lounge in Upper Jay, starting at 8 p.m.

Mathematicians, a band with a strong Adirondack following, will be playing at HOTSHOTS on South Street in Glens Falls on the Fourth of July with Beware the Other Head of Science. It’s an 18+ show, doors open at 9 p.m., and show starts at 10 p.m.

Aiseiri is playing at O’Reilly’s Pub after the fireworks over Lake Flower, in Saranac Lake.

SUNDAY, July 5

Inisheer plays at 6 p.m. on the Peru Village Green.

Artwork: Mathemeticians


Thursday, July 2, 2009

FUND for Lake George 2009 Annual Meeting July 10

The FUND for Lake George, a not-for-profit, privately funded organization dedicated to the protection of Lake George that was formed in 1980, will hold its 2009 Annual Meeting on July 10th at the Lake George Club, beginning at 10:00 AM. The meeting will include an overview of the major issues confronting Lake George and the major programs and projects of the FUND, the Lake George Waterkeeper, and their partners.

This year, the FUND will honor the Lake George Land Conservancy with the James D. Corbett Award. Since its creation, the LGLC has protected over 12,000 acres around Lake George, including over three miles of undeveloped shoreline areas. The LGLC’s work has helped landowners protect their lands, increased public access to wild areas, protected priceless undeveloped shoreline areas, helped protect the lake’s upland scenic beauty, and helped to protect water quality around the lake through preserving land in a natural state.

Past recipients include Lake George Mayor Robert Blais and past Chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors Bill Thomas for their leadership in organizing the West Brook Conservation Initiative, Dr. Carol Collins for her leadership on Lake George protection efforts over the past 25 years, and the RPI Darrin Fresh Water Institute for its long-term commitment to scientific study of Lake George.

In honor of Jim Corbett, The FUND for Lake George established an award in his memory. The Corbett Award recognizes an individual or organization whose work to protect Lake George continues the tradition of Jim Corbett’s passion and commitment to the lake. James Corbett had a tremendous passion for Lake George. He spent part of all of his 89 years here on the lake. As a senior partner with Merrill Lynch, Jim’s business career was on Wall Street where he was known as “Gentleman Jim.” Due to his integrity and sound thinking, upon retiring in 1970, Jim and his wife Amy became permanent residents of Huletts Landing. Jim’s passion for the Lake got him heavily involved with the Lake George Association and later he was the founder of The FUND for Lake George. Not only did Jim give endless hours of his time to preserve Lake George, he shared his treasures. He was a man of action dedicated to this lake.

2009 FUND for Lake George Annual Meeting Agenda

10:00 Welcome & Refreshments
10:15 Introductions and Agenda
10:20 Board of Trustees Business
10:30 FUND Treasurer’s Report
10:45 Program Reports: Lake George Waterkeeper
11:45 Break
12:00 Lunch: James D. Corbett Award to the Lake George Land Conservancy
12:30 Program Reports
2:00 Adjourn


Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Adirondacks: Gateway for Quebec Hydroponic Marijuana

Quebec, with its cheap hydropower and proximity to a porous section of the U.S. border, produces massive amounts of warehouse-grown high-THC marijuana.

A billion dollars worth of this weed funnels through Clinton, Franklin, and St. Lawrence counties annually, according to Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne. A look at the map is all it takes to see that much of it travels through the Adirondack Park on its way to Albany, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and as far south as Florida.

Adirondackers are mostly oblivious to this traffic, with its high stakes and organized crime, including the Russian mob, Irish mob and Hell’s Angels. But the lure of big money has attracted some North Country residents to sideline in the business, including a store owner/construction contractor from St. Regis Falls, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Every other week for at least the past two years, a hundred or so pounds of marijuana valued at around $500,000 per shipment would leave northern New York and be transported by car to Cleveland, Ohio, authorities say. At first, police in the Cleveland area identified Daniel Simonds, a 31-year-old resident of Stockholm, in St. Lawrence County, as the deliveryman. But then Simonds was shot and killed in his home a year ago.

Investigators continued to watch Cleveland drug-ring suspects believed to have connections with the Russian mob. They got in touch with North Country law enforcement, confirming that shipments were still coming from this region, specifically from Franklin County. Police would not give details on their surveillance methods, but they say that suppliers from Cleveland would rent a car every other weekend and drive to their pick-up spot, a rustic camp on the St. Regis River in St. Regis Falls belonging to Harold Fraser, a 43-year-old St. Regis Falls resident who also owns the Hill Top Stop market and construction business in that Adirondack hamlet and whose arrest on drug possession charges was announced Wednesday.

The Cleveland drivers would wait at Fraser’s camp for a shipment of Quebec marijuana, which would cross the Canadian border via several entry points, but usually through the Akwesasne Reservation, according to David Leu, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s resident agent in charge for Northern New York. Jurisdictional ambiguities inside Mohawk nation land, which straddles the U.S.-Canada border on the St. Lawrence River, have fostered a smuggling economy. After a few hours at the St. Regis Falls camp, the drivers would receive the hydroponic, hand over the cash (hidden inside a computer hard-drive shell in at least one instance) and be on their way back to Cleveland, sometimes supplying other areas in New York State and the Northeast, Champagne says.

“In this case, in a one-year period, in excess of 18 loads were confirmed between Franklin County and Ohio with the average load having a street value in excess of $500,000. The organization has been operating in excess of 2-3 years allowing for an approximate street value of 18 to 27 million dollars during the known period of operation,” a press release states.

Eight operators described as “mid-level” have been arrested, five in Northern New York and three in Ohio so far. Leu says, “There are definitely going to be other arrests.” St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole Duve says the drug network is linked to the killing of Daniel Simonds but she would not elaborate because an investigation is ongoing. She says seven defendants are under indictment in the homicide case, two of them in Canada, and one remains at large.

The arrests resulted from search warrants executed June 15 in Cleveland and at three North Country residences and at the Hill Top Stop. Police would not comment on the convenience store’s role in the case. The warrants netted $1.3 million in cash as well as a pound of cocaine and another $700,000 in assets, including 14 vehicles, two utility trailers, three ATVs, a snowmobile and a boat. Leu says any day police take $1.3 million in cash out of the illegal-drug loop is a good day, and he expects the money to support further North Country drug interdiction efforts.

Champagne says marijuana-importing networks on this scale are not unusual in the North Country anymore. “Unfortunately we know a dozen groups that move that kind of volume,” he says.

Photo: The St. Regis Falls camp where marijuana transfers allegedly took place – the photo was supplied by law enforcement officials. To see more of their photos click here.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Hover Fly: A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing

There you are, enjoying a pleasant stroll among the flowers, when your eyes suddenly land on a black and yellow banded insect getting a meal on a flower. “A bee!” your mind screams, and you hastily blunder your way out of the garden in full panic mode. When you reach the safety of the house, you contemplate grabbing a can of Raid and eliminating the unwanted insect. If, however, you had taken the time to look at the insect, you might have noticed two things. One, the “bee” only had two wings (most insects have four; flies have two), and two, the body was not fuzzy. This is no bee. It is a beneficial insect called a Syrphid, or Hover, Fly.

Syrphids are nifty, harmless flies. Although they may look like a bee or yellowjacket, they have no stingers. Their cryptic coloration fooled you, though, as it was supposed to. By looking like a bee or wasp, this insect is able to trick predators that might otherwise want to make it a meal.

Like our friend the housefly, Syrphids are equipped with sponge-like mouthparts, which they use to mop up meals of pollen and nectar. As such, they are very important pollinators, flying from blossom to blossom and transferring pollen as they go. But the benefits of these boldly colored insects don’t end here. Their larvae are also important.

The larvae of some species of Syrphids feed on decaying vegetation and fungi, making them important cogs in nature’s recycling system. Others seek out the nests of ants, termites and bees. But the ones that are dear to the naturalist’s (and gardener’s) heart are the ones that seek out and destroy aphids. In these species, the female adults lay their eggs singly near a herd of aphids. In days the egg hatches and the legless, slug-like larva oozes its way towards its prey. When an aphid is encountered, the larva raises its head, clamps onto the juicy body, and sucks it dry. Over the course of its short life, the larva can consume upwards of 400 aphids (provided their ant protectors don’t evict it first), providing relief to the host plant the aphids were draining.

The next time you find yourself walking through a field of flowers, along a roadside, or in your garden, keep your eyes peeled for these bright, bi-winged insects as they hover over the blossoms. Take a few moments to observe their behavior. You never know what else you might discover.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"In Search of the Picturesque" at Adirondack Museum

Nineteenth century armchair travelers and well-to-do American tourists eagerly read published travel guides and narratives, which often featured paintings reproduced as engravings. These images helped advance an artist’s reputation and marketability, and also shaped travelers’ expectations of the Adirondack wilderness. The Adirondack Museum‘s Chief Curator Laura Rice will lead visitors in search of the picturesque through the museum’s paintings, prints, rare maps, and photographs, many of which have never been exhibited during an illustrated program entitled “In Search of the Picturesque: Landscape and Tourism in the Adirondacks, 1820-1880” at the Adirondack Museum on Monday, July 6, 2009.

The first offering of the season in the Adirondack Museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

Rice will discuss how guidebook authors reinforced visual messages by using painterly language to describe scenes travelers would encounter along a given route. The visual and descriptive imagery promoted the Adirondacks as a public treasure, contributed to a national understanding of wilderness as evidence of God’s hand in creation, and fostered the development of wilderness as a national icon and reflection of the American character.

The Adirondack Museum introduced a new exhibit in 2009, “A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks,” that showcases paintings, maps, prints, and photographs illustrating the untamed Adirondack wilderness discovered by early cartographers, artists, and photographers.

Laura Rice joined the staff of the Adirondack Museum in 2003. She had previously served as a Curator, Museum Educator, and Consultant at a number of other museums. Ms. Rice holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in American Civilization with an emphasis on Museum Studies. She is the author of the award-winning book Maryland History in Prints: 1752 – 1900, a history of the state of Maryland based on selected images in the Maryland Historical Society Print Collection.

Photo: Untitled: Wolf Jaw Mountain, by Horace Wolcott Robbins, Jr., 1863.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shamim Allen’s Brush with the King of Pop

Our own Shamim Allen – that’s her at left while attending an all-girls high school in Dobbs Ferry, circa Bad – reports here every Thursday afternoon on the unique and eclectic Adirondack music scene. Last week she took the occasion of Michael Jackson’s death to relate the story of her poignant parlay with the mainstream pop presence, even though she was (and still is) way more into Rush.

The Ten Dollar Radio Show scooped the Almanack’s backyard, so now dutifully we bow our heads and click our mouses over to www.tendollarradioshow.com (“sounds like a million bucks and plays for free”). The site is the work of Peter Crowley and Ned Rauch, two North Country newsmen, musicians and music geeks.

If you are within range of WLPW/WRGR (105.5 or 102.3) in the Tri-Lakes, tune in 6-8 p.m. every Sunday evening. If you’re not, visit Ten Dollar’s Web site for the podcast.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Adirondack Almanack Book Coming in July

I just got word that my new book, Historic Tales from the Adirondack Almanack, should be available for purchase in mid-July; it’s being published by The History Press.

Over the past four years I’ve tried to offer a look at the modern Adirondack Park that includes historical context to today’s political, cultural, and economic news and trends. For example, when mining accidents made national news, I wrote about the mining accidents that occurred in the Adirondack region with regular frequency in the 19th and 20th centuries. When the excursion boat Ethan Allen sank in October 2005, I wrote about similar accidents on Lake George that had also taken a large number of lives. When debate raged over allowing floatplanes to continue to land on Lows Lake, I wrote a short history of development there. Local events, places, and attitudes have been source of fodder for Adirondack Almanack’s historical cannon.

Bank robberies, the Ku Klux Klan, snowmobiling, gambling, railroads, buried treasure, raising hops, rattlesnakes and earthquakes are just a few of things that inspired historical pieces about the Adirondack Park. They are all collected here, with a few whimsical historical explorations thrown in for good measure. These essays were meant to be glimpses of history, short pieces on context, not usually complete historical narratives – although a five-part history of snowmobiling in the Adirondacks may be an exception. I’ve edited them lightly trying to preserve their character while translating them from the internet page to printed page.

Thanks are due to the many readers of Adirondack Almanack, many of whom provided feedback and encouragement when these stories were first posted. I hope you’ll find the new book worthwhile. I will post information about how to get a copy in the coming weeks along with some events that are being scheduled around the book.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Adirondack Iron Ore Program in Wilmington

The Wilmington Historical Society will sponsor the program “Adirondack-Champlain Iron: Creator of Boom Towns & Ghost Towns, 1750s-1970s” with guest speaker John Moravek, Associate Professor of Geography, SUNY Plattsburgh. The program will be held at the Wilmington Community Center on Springfield Road in Wilmington, Essex County, on Friday, July 17, at 7 pm. The public is encouraged to attend. Refreshments will be served. For further information, contact Karen Peters at 946-7586 or Merri Peck at 946- 7627.

About the speaker: John Moravek has been on the faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh since arriving in fall semester of 1969. Now an Associate Professor of Geography, he teaches a variety of courses, including Physical Geography, Historical and Cultural Geography of the United States; as well as the History and Cultural Geography of Russia. He has also offered a popular and intensive two-week workshop (a 3-credit course) on the Historical Geography of the Adirondack Region every July for the past 26 years consecutively which he considers a genuine labor of love as an incorrigible “Adirondackophile”. John is also an official Forty-Sixer, having climbed the first 45 mountains solo. His doctoral dissertation, completed in 1976, investigated a number of facets of the history and geography of the Adirondack-Champlain Iron Industry. He has also presented several papers on the topic at professional meetings, with aspirations of writing a book on the topic at some future date. Currently, his publications include a number of Review Essays/Book Critiques on various topics, primarily related to the Adirondack Region.



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