Thursday, April 1, 2010

Adirondack Music Scene: Open Mic and Jazz

April is a quiet month around the Adirondacks and music events are harder to come by. Many folks use the school breaks and in between weather as an chance to get away. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the Blackbird Cafe which seems to be stepping it up in it’s musical offerings. It’s a bold move to make a CD of your best open mic talent. It is a very good bargaining chip to get talent out of the living rooms and onto a stage.

Thursday, April 1st:

In Canton, First Thursday of the Month Open Mic at The Blackbird Cafe. Hosted by Geoff Hayton sign up is at 6:30 pm and it runs from 7 – 9 pm. The best performances will be collected for a CD to be released
later this year.

In Schroon Lake, Mike Leddick will be at Witherbee’s Carriage House Restaurant. The address is 581 Route 9 and the guitarist singer starts at 6 pm.

Friday, April 2nd:

In Canton, A Fine Line will be at The Blackbird Cafe. Bill Vitek on piano and Dan Gagliardi on bass make up this jazz duo. They will be playing from 5 to 6:30 pm and admission is free.

Saturday, April 3rd:

In North Creek, Fingerdiddle will be at Laura’s Tavern. They start at 9 pm. This is a local band and unfortunately that’s all I can find on them. Has anyone seen them and can you give us a hint as to what they are about? They play quite a bit so someone must like them.

Tuesday, April 6th:

In Canton, Rhythm and Roots Concert will be held from 8 – 9:30 pm at The Underground at St. Lawrence University. Admission is free and it’s open to the public.

In Saranac Lake, a rehearsal for The Adirondack Singers will be held at 7:15 pm. They are looking for new members and you can call Val at 523-4213.

Wednesday, April 7th:

In North Creek, Tony Jenkins Jazz Trip will be at barVino. They start at 7 pm.

Photo: Blackbird Cafe in Canton,NY


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Entomology: Tracking Adirondack Insects

As many of you have probably figured out by now, two of my passions are tracking and books. A few weeks ago a fellow blogger, who is also a field guide fanatic, wrote to me about a new field guide that is just hitting the market: Tracks and Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates, by Charley Eiseman and Noah Charney. Well, what right-minded tracking bibliophile could pass up such a title? I had to order it. The book is so freshly off the presses that there was a small delay in shipping, but this morning it arrived.

Now I know what you are thinking. She’s gotta’ be nuts if she thinks she’s going to follow beetle footprints! And you’d be right – that would be nuts, at least here in the woods it would be nuts. But tracking isn’t strictly looking for the proverbial footprints in the sand. A “track” is a footprint, but “tracking” involves looking for all the other “signs” animals leave behind: droppings, eggs, nests, dens, feeding sites, shed fur/skin/feathers, etc. So, in the case of insects, one can certainly look for footprints (especially if sand is around), but one should also look for insect cases, holes in trees, chewed leaves, cocoons, nests, and so on. It is for these clues that I bought the book. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Why I’ll Never Be A Winter 46-er

I was driving over Cascade Pass with a friend recently when we noticed all the cars parked near the trailhead to Cascade and Porter mountains, the two easiest of the 46 High Peaks.

Was there a party going on? There must have been hundreds of people climbing that peak on this warm Saturday in mid-March.

Then my friend hit upon it: it was the last day of winter. Anybody wanting to gain the honor of “Winter Forty-Sixer” needed to climb these peaks by the end of today, or have to wait another season. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Almanack Celebrates Five Years With History And Humor

The month of March marked the fifth year anniversary of Adirondack Almanack. In the past five years the site has grown to include over a dozen regular contributors. We’ve hosted hundreds of discussions (a few of them heated, others enlightening, some even funny), but through it all I think it’s safe to say the Almanack has offered its readers a unique look at life in the Adirondack region from inside the Blue Line.

I thought that on this occasion I’d take a look back at how regional online media has changed in the last five years. You might recall a similar look at the local blogosphere that I did in 2006, and again in 2008. Looking back on the events since Adirondack Almanack was launched in 2005, I think the last few years might be considered the beginning of a new micro-era in local media, one that follows the movement of local media online between 1997 and 2003.

First a little history, setting aside the earlier digital communities like Usenet, GEnie, BiX, CompuServe, e-mail listservers, and Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), widespread availability of news and commentary online is now a 15-year-old phenomenon. You can see some great historical moments at the detailed Timeline of New Media History at the Poynter Institute, and a look at early newspaper online failings at Gawker’s Valleywag blog by Nicholas Carlson.

Although Poynter’s timeline cites a Columbus Dispatch deal with CompuServe in 1980 as the first online newspaper, suffice it to say that newspapers and other media outlets began going online in large numbers beginning in the mid to late 1990s. According to Chip Brown in the American Journalism Review, there were just 20 newspapers online worldwide in 1994, and some 5,000 by 2000 (almost 3,000 in the US).

That trend holds true in the Adirondack region as well. According to the Internet Archive (which is probably close to accurate), the Glens Falls Post Star was first out of the box locally when they launched their online site in 1997.

North Country Public Radio went online the following year (1998), just in time for the arrival of Brian Mann, who moved to the area to help start the station’s news bureau.

The Plattsburgh Press Republican didn’t arrive online until 1999.

Apparently the laggard of the local daily news bunch was the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Archived pages of that paper only stretch back to 2003, although it’s possible they had a simple site up before that. [Do let me know if any of these dates are wrong].

Right behind the newspapers were an early corps of online citizen journalists, diarists, and commentators. According to a short history of blogging written by Rebecca Blood, at the beginning of 1999 there were just over 20 known “weblogs” (remember that word?). By the end of 2000, there were thousands of newly dubbed “bloggers” keeping various permutations of online diaries, lists of links, and commentary.

The rise of blogging platforms like Blogger (1999, Pyra Labs; sold to Google in 2003, the same year TypePad was released), and WordPress (released in 2005), helped popularize the idea that anyone with basic internet and computer skills could publish their own content easily. In today’s new media environment everyone can be a producer of online content (print, audio, and video).

By the time Adirondack Almanack was launched in 2005 there were about 10 million active bloggers (in others words, those still publishing three months after launching their blogs). There was just two local blogs then, Dale Hobson’s Brain Clouds, begun in 2002, and Mark Hobson’s (no relation) Landscapist, begun in 2003. Adirondack Musing began on the same day as the Almanack in March of 2005. Although some purists might differ as to whether or not it qualifies as a blog, Mark Wilson began regular postings of editorial cartoons at EmpireWire.com in 2001.

Today, local media have legions of mostly unread bloggers with NCPR’s The In Box blog, begun last year, being the notable exception.

Blogs have grown in popularity in the last few years in particular with studies showing that about twenty-five percent of Americans now turn to blogs at least weekly.

In 1995 Newsweek ran an article by Clifford Stoll (hat tip to Dick Eastman), on why the internet will fail. It’s a hilarious look at the what the naysayers were offering in the early years of widespread internet access. Here are a few excerpts:

Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.

Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works…

How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure…

That was good, but here’s my favorite:

We’re promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet—which there isn’t—the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

Wonder what Stoll is up to these days? Turns out not much. His 1995 book Silicon Snake Oil is now available for 75 cents plus shipping from Amazon.com.

Here’s a prediction of my own; something I’ve been thinking about lately. Network news and cable TV in general will be dead before newspapers. The reason? The high cost of cable TV service compared to the readily available access to online video from sites like Hulu, YouTube, and Netflix. An increasing number of people are looking for TV programming “outside the box” and that trend is expected to grow dramatically in the coming year.

Another prediction: desktop computers will shift from their current look to the iPad model. Horizontal touch screens will shift our gaze from the monitor to the actual desktop, so sell your traditional computer monitor maker stock now. This shift will also hasten the end of newsprint as consumers shift to these more portable (and more ergonomic) readers.

Nine out of ten Americans now access the internet. Fifteen years from now, the way we encounter media will have been dramatically transformed.

What are your predictions?


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Adirondack Fish Hatchery

After being closed for the coldest months, the Adirondack Fish Hatchery is once again open for tours. Though fishing with children is a wonderful activity, having the ability to see the rearing of landlocked Atlantic salmon is well worth the trip. Most children, and adults, don’t realize that a good portion of the fish they catch in the Adirondacks have been raised in one of New York State’s 12 fish hatcheries. Each hatchery specializes in producing a select few species of fish.

The Adirondack Fish Hatchery facility in Lake Clear, located about 12 miles from Saranac Lake, produces 30,000 pounds of salmon yearly for release into regional lakes and rivers.

“There are two sources for eggs,” say Adirondack Fish Hatchery Manager Ed Grant. “The wild fish we catch from the pond and those we harvest from captive fish. That is about 500,000 eggs from wild fish and another 700,000 eggs from captive fish for 1.2 million eggs a year. That is the goal and we usually make it.”

The facility is open for free guided tours. The indoor visitor center contains a self-guided tour with a pool containing salmon, a monitor showing brood fish in a pond, and other exhibits on fish propagation. There is also a video in the Visitor’s Center showcasing the method necessary to produce all that yearly landlocked salmon. Inside the hatchery are 16 tanks holding approximately 275,000 fish; each tank is about 31’ in diameter and holds 8,000 gallons of water. Three of the tanks house the brood stock, the fish used to produce the eggs and milt for the next year’s stock, while the other 13 tanks hold the fingerlings that will be released into the wild now that it’s spring.

According to Grant tours are given throughout the summer and fall as well as certain times during the spring. He recommends that individuals call first during the spring if a tour of the whole facility is requested. Otherwise drop by the Visitor’s Center and Hatchery starting April 1 from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The springtime is a busy time as the staff is preparing to release the yearlings and fry into lakes and rivers.

“We have different ways of stocking fish,” says Grant. “The yearlings smolts go right into Lake Champlain. They are able to find a healthy habitat but they are not able to imprint. We also stock about 300,000 non-feeding fry in the Boquet, Ausable, and Saranac Rivers each year. A fry is a fish that first hatches from the egg and has lived off its yolk sac for a while and then it will start looking for natural food. Fry are placed and will stay in the river’s water stream until reaching the smolt stage. The fry then leave the stream environment for lakes but it has imprinted on a section of the river by its keen sense of smell. By requiring a certain number to imprint, we hope to recreate that natural process.”

For children it may be an opportunity to view a salmon for the first time. The next occasion that child and fish may meet could be in a match of wits over a hook and line.

The Adirondack Fish Hatchery is located off Route 30, approximately one mile south of Lake Clear. Call 891-3358 for more information.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Let’s Eat: Prohibition and the Burris Whiskey Jug

In 1918, Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, banning “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States …for beverage purposes.”

The new law was widely unpopular. One Adirondack camp owner asserted, “We looked upon Prohibition as a great disaster. There was no sense of guilt in breaking this law. Everyone we knew shared our sentiments.”

During the “dry decade,” some Adirondackers found their isolated homes and camps made perfect spots for defying the ban on alcohol. Rumrunners smuggled booze from Canada through the Adirondack Park, finding it easier to hide from or outrun Federal agents in the woods. Adirondack neighbors looked out for one another, storing contraband and secretly gathering to enjoy a variety of smuggled or home made brews.

Clyde Adelbert Burris (1883-1957) lived on Pleasant Lake. Like many Adirondackers, he engaged in a variety of work to make ends meet. He worked as a painter and carpenter throughout the year. In the winter he cut and stored ice to sell to campers in the summer and made rowboats which he rented for fifty cents a day, on the honor system. During Prohibition, Clyde Burris made alcohol.

He owned and operated two stills near Pleasant Lake in Fulton County. One was located off the present-day East Shore Road “behind a big rock.” He sold whiskey by the gallon or in teacups to neighbors at “tea parties.” His granddaughter, Joyce Ploss, recalled discovering Burris’ hidden liquor bottles: “At the top of the stairs [there] was a panel which covered a secret room under the eaves. The whiskey was stored in this secret room, and we found many gallon jugs there, waiting patiently to be put to use.”

Ploss also discovered some of her grandfather’s handwritten recipes for making beer (in 6 and 20 gallon batches), and Tokay, alder berry, dandelion, and black sherry wines. His recipe for “Elder Blossom Wine”:

1 quart of blossoms with stems picked off and packed down

Pore 1 gallon of boiling water over them, let stand 1 hour then strain

Add 3 pounds sugar and let it boil a few minutes

Skim well and let stand until luke warm or about 70 [degrees]

Then add 1 grated lemmon and ½ yeast cake

Let stand in warm place for 24 hours and strain again

Then bottle but do not cork tight until it is through fermenting or the bottles will break

When it does not work any more it can be corked tight

On March 23, 1933. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which permitted the sale of certain types of alcoholic drinks. In December that year, Congress passed the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition altogether.

Come see Clyde Burris’ whiskey jug (2004.21), and more, in “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Open for the season on May 28, 2010.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Adirondack Bracket 2010: The Round of Eight

A few surprises to report as the 2010 Adirondack Bracket winnows itself down to the round of eight.

First off, mushrooms topped pond hockey. Actually, not too much of a surprise with ice-out at hand and the damp woodland floor being exposed by receding snow drifts. If you are new to identifying mushroom varieties in the Adirondacks, there’s probably no better place to start than Mushrooms of the Adirondacks. It’s a start because the book covers only a relatively small portion of the hundreds of varieties to be found (go chanterelles!). And do we really need to remind you that it is always a wise move to double and triple-check the edibility of some mushroom varieties before trying to impress your friends with your outdoor culinary skills. Mushrooms will now take on Triclopyr, vanquisher of Black Brook, for a chance at the final four.

John Brown got by birders—a surprise to nobody—becoming the only individual person to advance (Au revoir, Sammy Champlain, see you in 2109!). The craggy-faced insurgent will now face the even craggier cairns of Krumholtz and cairns. They caught Yellow Yellow still hibernating.

And the team that lived by the upset, Talk of the Town were out of talk and/or out of town (always a risk during spring break), getting sunk by Lows Lake—that deep Adirondack treasure and essential destination for canoe campers. Lows now faces the only endangered species to survive into the round of eight: the Adirondack logger. Which, of course, is our way of saying buh-bye to the Bicknell’s thrush. With breeding season approaching, it is best you stay focused, anyway. This little bird was beaten by Planning Boards, who will meet Backyard Sugarin’ as it looks to extend its run a little longer (with the help of cold nights). Given recent moves by local Adirondack planning boards to outlaw small flock poultry raising (Backyard Chickenin’) and outdoor wood boilers, this next round might not be all that sweet for these sugarin’ saps.

Join us later in the week as we reveal the final four and work toward the thrilling conclusion of the 2010 Adirondack Bracket this coming weekend.


Monday, March 29, 2010

After 30 Years, Some Adirondack Rivers Are Still in Limbo

Peruse the colorful Adirondack Park Agency land-use map and you’ll notice that many of the region’s rivers are overlain by strings of big black circles, small black circles, or open triangles. These rivers are part of the state’s Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers System (WSR).

And then there are the eight rivers overlain by open circles. These are “study” rivers, candidates for the WSR system.

The legislature first asked the APA to study these rivers in the 1970s—more than thirty years ago—and the APA did recommend that all eight be added to the system, but apparently for political reasons, they never were.

The rivers are the Osgood, North Branch of the Saranac, North Branch of the Boquet, part of the Oswegatchie, Main Branch of the Grass, Pleasant Lake Stream, East Stony Creek, and the Branch.

In addition, the APA identified in the 1970s at least eight other waterways as potential study rivers: the Chubb, Little, Jessup, and Miami rivers, Hays Brook, Otter Creek, and Fall Stream.

WSR rivers receive an additional measure of protection from development—something that doesn’t always sit well with local politicians and landowners. This, no doubt, is the reason that no river has been added to the system since the late eighties.

The Adirondack Explorer brought attention to this issue in a series of articles five years ago. The articles inspired the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) to deploy a team of volunteers to paddle a number of rivers in the Park to ascertain whether they should be added to the system.

ADK Executive Director Neil Woodworth told me he hasn’t given up on the WSR initiative. As a matter of fact, the club has drafted a bill to declare the Chubb—a lovely stream that winds through the High Peaks Wilderness—a Wild river. This is the most protective designation.

Yet Woodworth said this isn’t the right time to introduce the legislation, not with environmentalists fighting to restore cash to the Environmental Protection Fund and waging other battles as well. “The bill is certainly important, but we have other issues and other priorities right now,” he said.

Although WSR provides some protection against development, critics say the restrictions need to be strengthened.

Consider the Chubb. The proposed Wild stretch passes through one parcel of private land where there used to be a small hunting cabin. Several years ago, the cabin was replaced by a large house. Even if the Chubb had been in the system, that would not have prevented the construction of the house. APA regulations allow landowners to replace an existing structure with another. The new structure can be bigger, taller, and more obtrusive, as long as it’s not closer to the water.

As of today, all or parts of fifty-one rivers in the Park—totaling more than 1,200 miles—belong to the system. It looks like we’ll have to wait till next year, or longer, to see if the Chubb becomes the fifty-second.

Photo by Phil Brown: a paddler on the Osgood River.


Monday, March 29, 2010

NYS Comptroller Reports on Economic Benefits of Open Space Conservation

NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report late last week that argues for the economic benefits of open space conservation [pdf]. According to John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, “this is the first attempt ever by the state’s top elected financial officer to quantify the value of undeveloped forests and open farm lands.”

The report comes at a time when the Legislature is negotiating the 2010-11 state budget, including the Environmental Protection Fund and its Open Space Account. This year’s budget contains $212 million for the EPF and $59 million for open space protection — land acquisition and conservation easements (purchase of development and recreational rights on private lands).

The Senate has proposed a $222-million EPF for the fiscal year that begins April 1, with little detail yet available on specific categories. The Assembly yesterday proposed an EPF of $168 million, with $44.3 million for land. The Governor — whose proposal came out first, back January, had proposed a $143-million EPF, with zero for land.

“Open space can provide a variety of public benefits, including storm water drainage and water management,” DiNapoli said. “Open spaces also provide a more direct economic benefit through tourism, agriculture and the forestry industry. All these benefits should be a factor in land use decisions from Montauk to Massena.” Here is an excerpt from Dinapoli’s press release on the report:

Agriculture is among New York’s largest and most vital industries, encompassing 25 percent of the state’s land and generating more than $4.5 billion for the state’s economy each year. In 2007, the income generated directly by farms, combined with income generated by agricultural support industries and by industries that process agricultural products, totaled $31.2 billion.

The study noted that open space contributes to the state’s economy by providing opportunities for outdoor recreational activities. DiNapoli also noted that open space often requires fewer municipal services than lands in other use and tend to generate more in municipal tax revenue.

Open space helps control storm water runoff, preserves surface water quality and stream flows, and aids in the infiltration of surface water to replenish aquifers. When lands are converted to other uses, the natural benefits provided by open space often must be replaced through the construction of water treatment facilities and infrastructure to control storm water, all paid for through local tax revenue. A series of studies have found the preservation of open space to be a more economical way to address storm water requirements.

DiNapoli’s report recommends that New York State consider:

* Allowing municipalities to establish community preservation funds
* Evaluating the adequacy of protections for lands providing benefits for municipalities
* Improving state-level planning for open space to address long-term funding needs
* Improving the administration of funds for open space programs
* Encouraging private land conservation

Map: 2009 APA Land Use Map


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bank Swallows: Thurman, 1955

O swallows, swallows, poems are not
The point. Finding again the world,
That is the point….

From “The Blue Swallows,” Howard Nemerov

In the mid-fifties, when I was four or five, I started visiting an old bootlegger’s hideout in the woods of Thurman with my friend Dinah, Dinny, who was a year and a century older than I was, and infinitely wiser, and whom I admired and adored. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Newcomb VIC Offers Family Bluebird Nest Box Workshop

On Saturday, April 3, from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m., the Visitor Interpretive Center at Newcomb will host a Family Bluebird Nest Box Workshop. This will be an opportunity to learn about bluebirds, their lifestyles and their habitat.

Bluebirds can be found in the Adirondacks and are attracted by some open grassland such as a yard and a nest box or two. Participants will learn about bluebirds, how to make your yard “bluebird friendly” and join with VIC staff to build a nest box. Nest box kits are available to purchase for $10.00 each. Pre-registration is required by Thursday, April 1st.

For information and to register call the Newcomb VIC at 518-582-2000.

The Newcomb VIC is located on NYS Route 28N just west of the Hamlet of Newcomb, Essex County.

The Adirondack Park Agency operates two Visitor Interpretive Centers at Newcomb and Paul Smiths. The mission of the Agency, which is headquartered in Ray Brook, is to protect the public and private resources of the Adirondack Park through the exercise of powers and duties as provided by law. For more information on the Adirondack Park Agency, call (518) 891-4050 or visit www.apa.state.ny.us.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Return of the Black Flies

According to my friend Edna, black fly season has begun. Edna is one of the fine folks who participate in our local Bti Program, and it is through the efforts of her team, and other Bti teams around the Park, that our black fly populations are greatly reduced.

A couple weeks ago I stopped to talk to Edna as she was roping off the muddier parts of her driveway. I wanted to give her photographs of our “new” beaver pond because the Little Sucker Brook, which is now Little Sucker Pond, is one of her treatment sites. She told me she hadn’t been in there yet, but the test sites she had visited were still full of larvae in suspended animation – it was too soon to treat. » Continue Reading.


Friday, March 26, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, March 26, 2010

Going Solar:Another Way to Help Save the Adirondacks?

If global warming is ever to be reversed, or even slowed, Americans must consume less of the energy produced by coal fired power plants.

Wind and solar power are among the alternatives New York State is promoting, said Adele Ferranti, a Queensbury resident who’s a project manager at New York State’s Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

“Every little bit helps,” Ferranti said. “The potential for reducing emissions is tremendous; we can make a significant dent in the consumption of energy.”

More and more people are taking advantage of alternative technologies, Ferranti said.

“They’re doing it because it’s the best thing they can do for the environment,” said Ferranti. “They’re replacing the energy made by burning fossil fuels with clean, natural power.”

Among the Lake George residents reducing carbon footprints are Rebecca and Candida Smith. The daughters of the late sculptor David Smith, they live part time at the home and studio he created in the hills above Bolton Landing.

A few years ago, they contracted with GroSolar, a Vermont company recommended by author-turned-environmental activist Bill McKibben, to install solar energy systems in the property’s three buildings.

“Global warming caused by human activities was a problem I had been aware of for a long time but it was too big, complicated and scary for me to bear thinking about for long,” said Rebecca Smith.

But after recent visits to Australia (“where I was relatively close to the ozone holes in Antarctica and actually felt how much stronger the effect of the sun was down there — it burned into my eyeballs painfully at times”) and Great Britain (“where climate change was an accepted, observable reality that government was starting to do something about”) as well as extensive reading on the subject, Smith said she became “interested and excited about the new technologies and decided to see what could be done at my family’s home in Bolton.”

Smith adds, “One person can’t do much, but there are many, many people out there doing lots of things and I am inspired by being part of that effort.”

According to NYSERDA’s Adele Ferranti, New York State offers financial incentives to homeowners like the Smiths to encourage the use of alternative energy. “Our goal is to build an infrastructure that will not only make solar power more affordable but reduce the consumption of fossil fuels,” Ferrante said.

Eliot Goodwin of GroSolar says that New York State will pay 40 to 50% of the costs of installing a solar energy system in the form of a rebate. “The homeowner is also eligible for a 25% state income tax credit and a 30% federal tax credit,” said Goodwin. “This works out to be about 60 to 65% of the costs paid for by outside sources.”

Nevertheless, the initial investment is expensive. Whether an alternative energy system is cost-effective depends upon how one determines value, groSolar’s Eliot Goodwin suggests.

“Is a car cost effective? Is a marble countertop cost effective? Is a pool cost effective? Is a hot tub cost effective? Is it cost effective to have no mountain tops left from coal mining? Is it cost effective to no longer have clean air to breathe?” he asks.

Still, Goodwin said, “With solar, no matter what, the system will pay for itself in its lifetime. You can usually expect a 7-11% return on your investment and you can also expect the house to increase in value by as much as the system costs.”

Short-term costs are offset by long-term savings, and, of course, by environmental benefits, said Rebecca Smith.

“By my calculations, it will take about 9 years to pay for the solar panels (which are under warranty for 25 years).” said Smith. “I don’t regard this as a money-saving strategy in the short run but as an investment that will pay off in dollars and environmental benefit in the long run. The satisfaction of making a difference is a really great feeling and it inspires me to do more.”

According to Fred Brown, the property’s year-round caretaker, approximately 80 flat solar panels were installed on the roofs of three buildings last spring.

“The system is comprised only of solar panels and an inverter,” said Brown. “ The panels produce direct current (DC) electricity which is steered toward the inverter where it’s converted into the Alternating current (AC) electricity, the same kind of power you get from the power grid.”

The power is not stored, but, rather, either used immediately or sent backwards through the meter, creating dollar for dollar credits in a process known as net-metering.

“We send power to the grid and the meter runs backward,” said Brown.

“During the summer solar panels create more energy than the owner can consume and the utility is required by law to buy it from you and credit your account,” said Rebecca Smith. “The power companies now depend on the small percentage of solar owners to feed in a critical extra margin of energy during the peak summer months.”

For Rebecca Smith, the environmental benefits of using alternative energy are local as well as global.

“If warming trends continue, there won’t be maple trees in the Adirondacks for our grandchildren,” she says. “I decided that it was better to be part of the solution than part of the problem.”

Every year, more New Yorkers are adopting that attitude, said Eliot Goodwin.

“We have approximately 75 installations in New York under the current programs. There’s probably another 2-300 installations in the state divided amongst 30 other installers. People care about the world they’re leaving to their children.”

Photo: A solar-powered workshop on the David Smith estate in Bolton Landing.

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