Late one January afternoon, my husband and I stood on the shore of a frozen pond below the summit of Camel’s Hump, admiring the view. Suddenly we heard familiar calls, and a flock of robins flew over. Robins? In winter? In the mountains? I was perplexed.
Later, I talked with a birder friend, who informed me that robins from Labrador and other northern regions migrate south to the Green and White Mountains in winter, where they feed on mountain ash berries. Indeed, during our snowshoe trek to the pond, we had noticed clumps of bright red fruit in the small mountain ash trees, topped with powdery snow. » Continue Reading.
There are several types of cultivated berries grown in Northern New York. Among the most popular are strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, although several other minor fruits (e.g. currants, gooseberries) are grown, as well.
Starter plants are relatively inexpensive and, once established, the plantings are reasonably easy to maintain. They last for years and the fruit is incredibly flavorful when picked fresh. » Continue Reading.
The next Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District Farm Talk is “Sustainable Berry Production in the Adirondacks – Reasonable Approaches to an Unreasonable Venture.”
The presentation, by Laura McDermott of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture Program, will include sustainable methods for growing blueberries, brambles, honeyberries, and juneberries. » Continue Reading.
The Altona Flat Rock is a rare and spectacular site I’ve referenced here in the past, and was the subject of my first book written long ago (it was updated in 2005 with new glaciology information). Besides details on the unusual topography, glacial remnants, an incredibly persistent fire, and one of the world’s largest dams when it was built in the early 1900s, there was also a human history to tell.
The forbidding landscape, similar to expanses in Maine, was conducive to the growth of blueberries, the harvest of which evolved into a phenomenon. Entire families established temporary villages of tents and shacks on the Flat Rock from July into September, picking thousands of quarts for sale to local customers and East Coast markets, including Boston and New York City.
A similar business was conducted at the same time on what today is known as Fort Drum in Jefferson County. It was originally known as Pine Camp, located on a several-thousand-acre area that historically bore the name of Pine Plains. While the Altona site in Clinton County was known locally as the Blueberry Rock, Pine Plains near Watertown was known for producing great quantities of huckleberries, a close “cousin” fruit that provided the nickname for our subject, Charles Sherman. » Continue Reading.
As a kid fidgeting at my grandmother’s Thanksgiving table, I often wondered, what’s the point of cranberries? She had a live-in Irish cook who insisted on serving whole cranberries suspended in a kind of gelatinous inverted bog. If I ventured to eat a berry I experienced the power of my gag reflex.
How times change! The humble American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, in my opinion, is worthy of a downright homage. I am a fan. Yes, cranberries are tart, sour, and even bitter, but that makes them both good food and strong medicine. The Wampanoag called them ibimi, meaning sour or bitter berries. They crushed them into animal fats and dried deer meat to make pemmican, a food full of energy and vitamin C for long winter trips. Mariners brought them on sea voyages to fend off scurvy. According to passed down knowledge, the Algonquin used the leaves of cranberry to treat bladder infections, arthritis, and diabetes-related circulation problems. » Continue Reading.
“I’ve got a botanical question for you,” my friend said as he came into my classroom the other day. “Is black nightshade edible?” He’d found some growing near his chicken coop. “I took the tiniest bite,” he said. “I’m not sure if I felt funny because of what I ate, or because I was nervous.”
I told him that black nightshade is edible, if what he had was actually black nightshade (note: there is also an unrelated plant called deadly nightshade, which is toxic). I asked him to describe the plant, and after some discussion, he asked if I had ever eaten it. I never had. “Why not?” he asked, and I had to pause. At least partly, I haven’t eaten it because of fear. » Continue Reading.
Another regional attraction has just opened, and for the next few weeks you can see the show at innumerable open-air venues across the Northeast. The performance is free, although only matinees are available.
The new event is the blossoming of a widespread, though strangely little-known, early-flowering plant. It is either a small tree or a shrub, depending on who you ask, which makes me wonder if it’s hiding something. In fact, this thing has more aliases than one of America’s Most Wanted. Variously known as serviceberry, shadbush, shadwood, shadblow, Saskatoon, juneberry and wild-plum, it is a small-to-medium size tree that also answers to amelanchier canadensis, its botanical name. Of those options, I prefer juneberry even though its fruit may ripen in early July in northern New York State. » Continue Reading.
The farmer-led Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has posted a new report on establishing New York’s first Juneberry research nursery. The planting at the Cornell Willsboro Research Farm in Willsboro, NY, will be one of the largest nurseries of its kind for studying this ‘superfruit.’
Juneberry, scientifically known as Amelanchier, has the potential to be a major novel fruit crop in northern New York, and perhaps the Northeast, say researchers Michael H. Davis, Cornell Willsboro Research Farm Manager, and botanist Michael B. Burgess of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. » Continue Reading.
Noting what visitors appear at a bird feeder in winter can provide some revealing information on the status of the local populations of the feathered creatures hardy enough to remain in the Adirondacks after cold weather becomes established. Aside from the regular flocks of black-capped chickadees, a pair or two of red-breasted nuthatches and blue jays, there may be juncos, redpolls, evening grosbeaks, pine siskins, purple finches and other closely related seed eaters.
This year, at least around my house in Saranac Lake, there has been a healthy number of American goldfinches, which is not surprising considering this past summer’s weather. From mid May through the first week in July, record setting rains soaked the region, and cool temperatures made conditions difficult for birds attempting to incubate eggs and care for a nest full of recently hatched offspring. However, after the 4th of July, the weather improved substantially. Bright skies, warm temperatures and moist soil created ideal growing conditions for plants, which was noted by people who attempted to keep their lawn properly mowed, individuals who maintained flower and vegetable gardens, and those souls that enjoyed harvesting our crops of wild berries. » Continue Reading.
The growing season two years ago was considered to have been excellent. There were numerous periods of mild weather in the spring along with a lack of a late hard frost which allowed for an abundance of flowers to successfully begin their initial stage of developing our crops of seeds and berries. Summer that year provided ample sunshine and an adequate supply of rain to bring to maturity the numerous wild fruits and mast that can grow in this region.
Whenever an abundance of nutritious edibles develops in nature, there is an explosion in the population of mice, voles, chipmunks and other small creatures that utilize such items as their principle source of food. By the end of autumn, it became evident that the number of small herbivores, especially mice, was near or at an all time high for many areas throughout the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
The time of migration for some birds, and their eventual destination, are very predictable. For others, however, it is impossible to say when they exit the general region and where they are going, other than somewhere south. One bird in this last group, illustrating the individualistic behavior patterns of the members of a single species, is the robin.
Along with being a harbinger of spring and ranking as our nation’s number one backyard bird, this orange-breasted songster has no set response to the lessening daylight and the onset of cold, other than to fatten up for the coming winter and eventually travel to a more hospitable climate. » Continue Reading.