Posts Tagged ‘Franklin County’

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A New Franklin County History Blog

There’s a new blog from the Franklin County Historical & Museum Society. Executive Director Anne Werley Smallman has been making regular posts on county history and the collections of the society, which was founded in 1903 and is located in Malone. I asked Ms. Werley Smallman a few questions about the society and the new online presence:

AA: Could you tell me about yourself? How did you come to be the Executive Director of the Society?

AWS: Although I did not do most of my growing up in the North Country, I did graduate from Franklin Academy in Malone and subsequently married a Malone boy. We lived ‘away’ for a goodly while, but have been back for a little over five years now. I’m a museum professional by training and by wont, and have been the Executive Director of the Franklin County Historical Society since we returned. In fact, the position was one of the many catalysts for our return to the North Country. My husband and I are building a log home by hand, which makes us feel very superior – and poor.

AA: What is the Franklin County Historical and Museum Society all about?

AWS: The Society was initially founded in 1903, and was reinvigorated in the 1960s. It is housed in the 1864 House of History museum in Malone, with a recently renovated carriage house behind that which is now the Schryer Center for Historical & Genealogical Research.

The collections are comprehensive and specific to Franklin County history and we are bursting at the seams with everything from silver tea service to dental equipment to wooden water pipes. We attempt to collect equally from all parts of the county, but there was an unfortunate collecting bias toward the northern end for many years, most especially on Malone, and that is reflected in our overall collection. We have an annual (print) historical journal The Franklin Historical Review that has been published since 1964.

Fourth graders from all over Franklin County have been visiting the House of History for Museum Day tours and hands-on activities (like spinning and candle-dipping) for over 35 years. We currently have one half-time staff member (me) and a strong corps of volunteers (50+). The museum and Schryer center are open Tuesday and Thursday 1-4pm (and by appointment). The Society is funded by a combination of membership dues, federal and state grants, county funding, and private donations.

AA: What is your plan for the Society’s blog? How does it fit with your mission?

AWS: The blog attempts to mitigate our lack of extensive open hours and exhibit space and to provide a platform to showcase the collections of the Society by taking advantage of technology. I view the blog as a sort of ‘virtual exhibit’ — a way for the public to be able to peek into the historic collections of the museum and take away some Franklin County History in manageable bites. The collections are extensive and many wonderful items will likely not be put on exhibit soon; through the blog I hope to give access to the public to these items, at least virtually and in small measure.

Photo: The Franklin County Historical and Museum Society’s House of History, 51 Milwaukee Street, Malone.


Monday, November 30, 2009

A Saranac Lake Christmas Story

On Sunday December 13 Historic Saranac Lake will present “A Franklin Manor Christmas,” a tea hosted by Ann Laemmle and author Paul Willcott at their home, a former cure cottage and monastery on Franklin Avenue in Saranac Lake. The house is the centerpiece of Paul’s book, A Franklin Manor Christmas.

This novella was published last year too close to Christmas to get the attention it deserves. So here goes: it’s an old-fashioned, tenderhearted, improbable and snowbound tale, everything a Christmas story should be. The book is also true to Saranac Lake and its people. Many of the characters are based on real folks who share some history with the erstwhile nunnery, having either lived there or attended Mass or helped the sisters maintain the rambly building on a prayer.

Paul Willcott is a wonderful writer, but even better than reading him is listening to him read from his own book in his honest Texas drawl. The Historic Saranac Lake gathering begins with mingling, from 3 to 5 p.m. Ann, the most gifted baker in town, will provide holiday cookies, tea biscuits, homemade marshmallows with hot chocolate, and teas. Then Paul will present a history of the house, followed by a reading from his story. The session ends with a carol or two around the tree.

Tickets are $25. A limited number are available. Call Historic Saranac Lake (518) 891-4606 to reserve.

The book and audiobook A Franklin Manor Christmas are available here and here or in local bookstores.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One Adirondack Turkey Gives Thanks

This is George, a turkey who lives down the hill. She’s so cute and sociable she’s been granted a Thanksgiving reprieve. She was hatched this summer in Standish and brought to Saranac Lake by a family who intended to fatten her up for a November feast. George endeared herself so much that she’s the one who’ll be feasting.

She lives with eight peacocks and probably thinks she is one. Have a happy Thanksgiving, George.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cross-Country Ski Centers of the Adirondacks

These aren’t little rascals, they’re good Dewey Mountain kids, helping get their cross-country ski trails ready for winter. The Harrietstown ski area, run by Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters, hosts a volunteer work day 9:30–3:30 Saturday to build a bridge and finish drainage work that’s been ongoing all autumn. (All welcome!) Dewey’s just one of many Adirondack ski centers preparing for opening day.

The park of course has limitless free backcountry skiing on Forest Preserve, but a midwinter thaw can reveal the beauty of more civilized gliding. Most x-c ski centers pack the base so it holds up better after rain or heatwave. For races and growing legions of skate-skiers, trail grooming is a must. Plus, it’s just nice to have a hut when kids are learning to ski—a warm place to change boots or have a cup of cocoa. At night the lodges become the hub of ski parties.

Alan Wechsler gave us the rundown of downhill areas earlier this month, and we featured Tug Hill ski destinations this morning. So below are links to Adirondack cross-country ski centers. Some have lodging, some have food, some link to larger trail networks; no two are alike but each has something to make it worth the price of admission.

Garnet Hill Lodge, North River, 55 kilometers of trails

Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center, Northville, 38 km

Dewey Mountain X-C Ski and Snowshoe Recreation Center, Saranac Lake, 15 km

Cascade Ski Touring Center, Lake Placid, 20 km

Mount Van Hoevenberg Verizon Olympic Sports Complex, Lake Placid, 50+ km

Whiteface Club and Resort, Lake Placid, 15 km

Lake Placid Crown Plaza Resort, 25 km

The Jackrabbit Trail is a town-to-town trail linking all the way from Keene to Paul Smiths. Definitely not a ski center, but we love it, and volunteers take great care of the trails. The Adirondack Ski Touring Council, the donor-supported organization that maintains it, reports up-to-date trail conditions for the Jackrabbit, the High Peaks backcountry and several Lake Placid-area ski centers.

The Paul Smiths and Newcomb Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Centers (VICs) have well-kept trails as well as warm buildings, and they’re free.

Time to bookmark the snow-depth map!

Photograph taken and enhanced by Jason Smith, co-manager of Dewey Mountain


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities:Paul Smiths Visitor’s Interpretive Center

This morning a mob of deer casually gather in our yard. My husband makes the comment that the word has gotten out that we are non-hunting household. It seems like one has told another and soon the neighborhood has not gone to the dogs but to the deer. So while the deer spread their news we humans have our own version of meeting places during hunting season.

Since 1989, the Adirondack Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) at Paul Smiths has offered a safe option during hunting season. The 2,885-acre preserve is owned by Paul Smith’s College and leased by New York State to operate as a public facility. The many trails are available for the enjoyment of children and adults of all ages. The paths are clearly marked, mulched and cleared of debris.

We choose a combination of the Heron Marsh and the Shingle Mill Falls trails. Each trail is about a 0.8-mile loop. Together it forms a 1.5-mile figure eight with easy access and plenty of seating along the way.

My son runs ahead, the guide in our mission to successfully circumnavigate Heron Marsh. My daughter would rather spend a bit more time inside studying the interactive displays, dioramas and touch table.

We continue on another hundred yards to a boardwalk that extends out into the marsh. Signs of beaver surround us and we search for their lodge. I sit to observe the last passing moments of autumn while the rest of the family walks to the observation deck. We come to a crossroads where we can either loop back to the Interpretive Building or continue across the marsh.

We opt to cross the bridge leading over Heron Marsh. The leaves are slick from previous rain so be careful around the shoreline and bridge edge. We cross a bridge, setting leaf boats on the open water to shoot the rapids of the Heron Marsh dam. This was the original site of a gristmill then a shingle mill. It was last used in the 1920s by Paul Smiths Hotel as a source for water.

We loop back and follow the signs to the Interpretive Building because we have yet to identify correctly each birdcall to each bird. Lastly I sit for a bit of the sun while the kids expel any energy they have left on the playground.

Trails are open from dawn to dusk every day. There is no camping or fires allowed. Dogs are only welcome on the trails during the summer months. Located 12 miles north of Saranac Lake on 8023 State Route 30, the VIC building is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WWI Exhibit to Be Open Free on Veterans Day

Tomorrow, November 11, Historic Saranac Lake will open its exhibit on World War I in Saranac Lake to the public 2 – 4 p.m. to commemorate Veterans Day. The community is invited to a free viewing in the John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory at 89 Church Street. Light refreshments will be served.

Following is a press release from Historic Saranac Lake describing the origins of Veterans Day:

Veterans Day marks the date of the armistice between the Allied nations and Germany. On this date in 1918, WWI, the “War to end all wars” finally came to end. It was a war that took the lives of over 9 million military men, and left an indelible mark on the Village of Saranac Lake. Almost 300 residents of Saranac Lake served in some capacity in World War I.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words (quoted from the website of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs).

“Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

“Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

“Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday:

“Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”

Photo: WWI officer John Baxter Black, provided to Historic Saranac Lake by his family.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sea Serpents in the Adirondacks? You Bet!

Scandinavian folklore has described eskers as being formed by large sea serpents crawling inland to die. Celtic lore describes eskers as being formed by monks carrying baskets of sand inland from the sea as a form of penitence. What are eskers?

They’re glacial features that kind of look like an up side-down riverbed. As a glacier retreats, it leaves behind outwash deposits of sand, gravel, and stone that may form long, interrupted, undulating ridges. Sometimes, just like a river, they branch off and there may be two or three in a roughly parallel arrangement. Colloquially, they have been called horsebacks, hogbacks, serpent ridges, and sand dunes.

Luckily, these interesting features are commonly encountered while paddling (and carrying) in the Adirondacks. Most Adirondack eskers run in a NE to SW arc, starting near the N. Br. of the Saranac and extending to Stillwater Reservoir, with the highest concentration within the combined St. Regis/Saranac basin. Others are found in the drainages of West Canada Creek and the Schroon, Moose, Hudson, and Cedar Rivers. The Rainbow Lake esker bisects that lake; A. F. Buddington, an early geologist, says this is one of the finer examples of an esker and considers it to extend (in a discontinuous manner) for 85 miles.

There is a long discontinuous esker from Mountain Pond through Keese Mill, passing between Upper St. Regis Lake and the Spectacle Ponds, and continuing to Ochre, Fish, and Lydia Ponds in the St. Regis Canoe Area. Other very interesting eskers are found on the lower Osgood, at Massawepie Lake (you drive on the esker to get to this lake), near Hitchins Pond on the Bog River/Lows Lake trip, and along the Saranac River near its namesake village. An esker in the Five Ponds Wilderness can be paddled to (though is usually hiked to). It bisects theses ponds and, at 150 feet high, is among the tallest.

Examples of twin or double eskers are those at Rainbow and Massawepie Lakes and there are triple ridges near Jenkins Mountain and Cranberry Lake. Eskers make for great hikes. They generally support tall stands of white pines. You can often see related glacial features such as kames, kettle holes, and kettle ponds. If you’re lucky, you might also find some sea serpent scales. If you can’t find these, put on your penitent face and bring along a basket of ocean sand on your next paddling trip.

Map of the Rainbow Lake esker (to come) by A. F. Buddington, 1939-1941. Esker ridges are indicated by yellow shading. Source: Geology of the Saranac Quadrangle, New York, a 1953 New York State Museum bulletin (# 346)


Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Paul Smiths: Owls Of An Adirondack Winter

With a full, November “beaver” moon overhead we plodded along on the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center trails. The crisp leaves of maple, birch, and beech that crunch underfoot seamlessly drowned out all sounds. We need to periodically stop and listen. I give a hooting call mimicking our native Barred Owl. Nothing on this first try. We walk through the woods some more, onto the other trail. “I heard something that time!” one of our listeners calls out. Just a distant dog barking. I move us farther down the trail to my lucky spot. Lucky because this is where I always find the owl we seek tonight.

Who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-allll is what my hoot sounds like as it echos off the frosty forest that is as still as the inside of a church. The bright moonlight allows for somewhat easier watching of the silhouetted trees as we look up at them after every hoot is given. Finally a response. But it’s not the normal barred owl call that I expect. It’s higher in pitch and squeaky. I run through the archives of owl calls in my head but nothing clicks. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: The Pines

To us, Big Game Season means something other than hunting. I’ve never been hunting and make an active choice not to be part of the hunted. With that decision comes the autumn neon wardrobe introduction and fashion faux pas but I am doing what I can to keep my family safe. Our lovely orange vests are kept conveniently in the car so I can cloak child or dog in festive array. In the Northern Adirondacks, Big Game Season starts this Saturday (October 24) and runs through December 6th.

The first of many safe walks I’ll be posting is the 12-acre lot in the heart of Saranac Lake called The Pines. The Pines is an area dedicated to the memory of Dr. Lawrason Brown, a pioneer in tuberculosis in the late 19th Century. The 12-acre plot is owned by the Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association (SLVHA) and was deeded in 1937 to the organization while it was still called the Saranac Lake Tuberculosis Society, Inc., hence the connection to TB and Dr. Brown. SLVHA is a not-for-profit organization established in 1897 that continues to provide healthcare initiatives and scholarships for Saranac Lake residents.

Their property, known as The Pines, consists of a network of trails and old roadways easily accessible from any of three points. The first entrance is on Pine Street diagonally across from the railroad track crossing. Entrance two and three are on Forest Hill Road and Labrador Lane, off Moody Pond.

The trails are a mild walk with the most challenging hill being the entrance on Pine Street. The Pine Street entrance is a moderate incline to a then flat open path that runs along as esker. There is no view along these wooded paths, just a beautiful trail under a canopy of trees.

Somewhere hidden in the forest is the stone foundation of an old social club. There is no trail map or marked path available, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Each path seems quite short, less than a ¼-mile, intersecting and weaving together. The wide, flat path is easy enough to maneuver a jogging stroller or even the toddler venturing out on his/her own.

Volunteers maintain the trails so please carry out what you carry in, even the half-full coffee cup set carefully to the side of the trail.

The Pines is open to the public, though some restrictions do apply like no camping or motorized vehicles. Please be respectful of other people’s land as private property surrounds The Pines. Please heed the No Trespassing signs. For more information contact SLVHA at 518-891-0910.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saranac Lake Community Store Closer to Funding Goal

Last week we received word from the people behind the Saranac Lake Community Store project that a recent fundraising surge has brought investment capital to $395,000. They need to sell $500,000 worth of shares to launch the store.

If organizers don’t reach half a million by the initial offering deadline of December 17, board vice-president Gail Brill said they will apply for an extension on the offering. “We are so close,” she said in an e-mail, “and light years ahead of Greenfield, MA, which started well before we did.”

Shares cost $100 each and may be purchased by residents of New York State only. Individuals may buy up to $10,000 worth of shares. Organizers had hoped to have the store open by this summer but the economy appears to have rescheduled those expectations. When $500,000 is reached, backers will choose a location, hire staff and purchase inventory.

The business is expected to be about 5,000-square-feet, located downtown and carry department-store-type retail items not currently available in Saranac Lake. Organizers say they will ask local people what they want the store to sell. The village has been without a department store since Ames closed in 2002 but citizen groups have thwarted efforts by Wal-Mart to open a big box. Hardware and drug stores have been filling some of the retail gap.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Schroon Lake Resort, Gas Pipeline Get Stimulus Funds

Governor David Paterson announced this week (in Malone) that $17.5 million in Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund stimulus grants will be spent on 15 projects across the state. According to a press release issued by the governor’s office the funds are expected to support “projects that help provide a framework for future growth in regions with stymied development.” This first round of funding includes two Northern New York projects, one inside the Blue Line.

Schroon Revitalization Group, LLC received nearly a million dollars for “the initial development of an 81-room resort in Schroon Lake for year-round access to the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain.” The development is being put forth as a cornerstone of the revitalization of the Town of Schroon Lake, Essex County.

The St. Lawrence Gas Distribution Project received $2.5 million for the construction of a 48-mile natural gas pipeline from St. Lawrence County into Franklin County. According to the governor’s office the new line has the potential to benefit 4,000 North Country residents. Richard Campbell, President and General Manager of St. Lawrence Gas, said new line will was “vitally important.” “Bringing natural gas to this new market area will provide an economic and environmentally preferred fuel choice to residential, commercial and industrial customers,” he said.

State Senator Darrel Aubertine, Chair of the Senate Majority’s Upstate Caucus, says that the pipeline will create jobs, pointing specifically to expected growth at Fulton Thermal and MaCadam Cheese.

Grant applications and awards were overseen by Empire State Development (ESD). More information about the Upstate Regional Blueprint Funds and application forms can be found at www.nylovesbiz.com. Applications for round II funding are being accepted until October 15, 2009.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities:Pendragon Theatre goes to the LPCA

We are huge fans of live performances whether musical or theatrical in nature. My children dress up and put on long, sometimes arduous, routines where we usually have to break for intermission. They are not formal in their script. They only require an avid audience because that is what they give when they go see a performance.

For our household watching a professional performance has many additional benefits to the live show. The scripts are reenacted for days after highlighting the favorite bits. Questions are asked about stages, costumes and lightening. Conversations are initiated about the story line. Even the music or soundtrack make guest appearances in our house. The children are entertained and feel the need to continue to entertain long after the curtain has closed.

For the month of October Pendragon Theatre is in residence at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts for what is being billed as Fall Foliage Theatre. The three remaining performances are not all for the very young. If a good babysitter is available then there is no reason to forego these last few remaining performances.

Time is running out to see the Pendragon’s production of Bus Stop. Theatre Reviewer Connie Meng of North Country Public Radio says, ‘Artistic Director Susan Neal has done a fine job of staging and directing this unclassifiable play. Bus Stop is part gentle comedy, part small tragedies and wholly human. This is a good evening of theatre and a solid production of an American classic.” On a scale from one to five Meng gave Bus Stop 4 1/3 pine trees. (Click here for the full transcript.)

The Wizard of Oz is a beautifully streamlined production that allows the audience to focus on the various characters and dialog. The theme is still relevant today that “there is no place like home.” If children have seen the classic film there will be differences. This is not a musical, the sets are simple and the journey is one of imagination. There are still plenty of quests for a heart, a brain and some courage and least I forget, the best-loved message that there really is, “no place like home.” That still holds all the power with a simple click of Dorothy’s ruby slippers.

Lastly the comedy Candida is performed in its entire original Victorian splendor as two men vie for the love and loyalty of Candida. Written by playwright George Bernard Shaw, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925, Candida must choose her husband or the much younger poet. Clever and witty dialog stands the test of time.

So bring the children (to OZ) or take a much-deserved night out and enjoy a Pendragon performance, the Adirondack’s only year-round professional theatre.

All evening tickets are $14.00 for adults and $12.00 seniors and students. Oz tickets are $10.00 for adults and $8.00 for children ages 15 and under. Call LPCA for reservations at 518-523-2512.

Fall Foliage Theatre Schedule
Bus Stop by William Inge: October 16 (Friday) and October 17 (Saturday) at 8:00 p.m.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: the classic L. Frank Baum story adapted by Michelle Vacca: October 18 (Sunday) at 2:00 p.m.
Candida by George Bernard Shaw: October 23 (Friday) and October 24 (Saturday) at 8:00 p.m.

Photograph of a performance of Candida performed at the Pendragon Theatre


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Adirondack Music Scene:Folk Music, Early Music and Coffeehouses

For most of the musical events happening this week – besides JamCrackers at BluSeed tonight – one has to travel a bit. With a little effort you can listen to some interesting music just outside the park. Saratoga, Burlington and Potsdam all have performances this week. Of course, if you’ve been hoping for some down time this might be the weekend. I, for one, will probably be checking out the play Greater Tuna again, this time at LPCA, because the acting was so brilliant.

Thursday October 8th:

In Saranac Lake at BluSeed Studios, Jamcrackers gets going at 7:30 pm. This is an evening of Adirondack folk music featuring Dan Duggan, Peggy Lynn and Dan Berggren. Dan Duggan is a renown dulcimer player and composer you can even hear his work on Paul Simons CD, “You’re The One”. Peggy Lynn and Dan Berggren are both singer/ songwriters. These three have a wonderful time performing together and BluSeed loves them. For reservations call 891 -3799.

Also a reminder that in Jay at the Amos and Julie Ward Theatre every Thursday at 7 pm, the Acoustic Club, sponsored by JEMS, meets. For more information call, Janet Morton at 946-7420.

Friday October 9th:

In Colton -exciting just because they so rarely have any event for me to post – the Zion Episcopal Church is starting their Fall into Fall Coffee House series. This one will feature a Brian Nichols and Keith Galluchi a high school musical duo and Chase Simmons comedian from the 6th grade. Sounds like something wonderful to support. It’s free and you can call (315) 353 – 2427 for more information.

In Saratoga – if you must see professionals – The Gibson Brothers are pretty sweet. They’re playing Lillian’s Restaurant at 8 pm and tickets are $20. Advance sales only. Call (518) 581-1604 to reserve.

Saturday October 10th:

In Potsdam at 1 pm at The Roxy Theater, The Metropolitan Opera will Broadcast Live a performance of Tosca. You can call (315) 267-2277. Tickets prices range from $18 to $12.

In Canton at 2 pm at St. Lawrence University, there will be an Early Music Singers Concert : “Salve Regina”. Here is part of the description I was sent by the Director of Music Ensembles, Barry Torres: Four varied settings of the Salve Regina (Hail, Queen of mercy), the most popular, and arguably the most beautiful of the great anthems to the Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic liturgy. Each of the settings is based on the chant, which is believed by scholars to have been written by Hermann of Reichenau (1013-1054). Interspersed between these works will be songs by Antoine Busnoys (c. 1430-1492) and other instrumentals played by a recorder trio consisting of Laura Rediehs, Lynn Waickman and Barry Torres. For more information call: (315) 229 – 5184.

In Glens Falls at the Charles R. Woods Theater a Tribute to Bette Midler and Barry Manilow called “You Gotta Have Friends” will be performed. There are two shows one at 3 pm and one at 7:30 pm. For more information call (518) 798-9663.

Also in Potsdam at 8 pm, the New Hope Community Church holds it’s Second Saturday Coffeehouse. For more information call (315) 566 – 9413 or email: [email protected]

Tuesday October 13th:

In Burlington, VT at the Fletcher Free Library, Robert Resnik is performing from 11 – 11:30 am. I’ve been reading up on this man and he sounds great. He’s the director of the library and hosts a weekly folk and world music show on VPR. This is for all ages, if I were in Burlington on Tuesday I’d go in a second. Call (802) 865 – 7211 for more information.

In Saranac Lake at 7:30 pm until 9:15 pm, The Adirondack Singers are holding rehearsals for their Holiday Concert on Dec. 4th. The rehearsals are open to anyone who wants to sing. No auditions and any ability is welcome. It’s happening at St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church every Tuesday night. Call 523 – 4213 for more information.

Photo: Dan Berggren, Peggy Lynn and Dan Duggan


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Potato News: Late Blight Spares Some Crops

Tucker Farms in Gabriels is in the midst of what’s being described as a good potato harvest. According to co-proprietors Steve and Tom Tucker, the 300-acre farm’s crop seems to have escaped late blight.

Less important but surprising: the tomatoes in a shared Saranac Lake garden plot were turned to brown mush by the blight, but untreated potatoes in a mound surrounded by those plants produced lots of apparently healthy tubers.

Steve Tucker has heard similar reports from other gardeners. “Tomatoes are a little more tender to the blight apparently,” the farmer says. The airborne fungal pathogen has destroyed fields of tomatoes and potatoes around the Northeast this year, introduced on shipments of tomato plants to big box stores. Cornell Cooperative Extension reported in July that an unidentified commercial field of potatoes in Franklin County “was completely lost and has been mowed down.”

The Tucker brothers took precautions, spraying the foliage as often as once a week with fungicide. If invisible late blight spores ever reached the Gabriels farm, the fungicide probably killed them. Once the blight enters the plant, however, fungicide won’t help, Steve says.

Because this region is remote, high and relatively pest free, the Adirondacks is a source of seed potatoes for the rest of the state. Tucker Farms sells seed potatoes as well as table stock. Tom Tucker explained that Tuckers’ eating potatoes can also be planted because, unlike most supermarket potatoes, they’re not treated with sprout nip, a chemical that inhibits eye growth. The potatoes in the Saranac Lake garden, by the way, were Tucker Farms’ Adirondack Blue variety, and they were delicious.

Photograph courtesy of Richard Tucker


Friday, September 25, 2009

Hickory Ski Center and Big Tupper on Track to Open

Adirondackers will have two new old places to ski this winter. Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg will hold a volunteer work day Saturday to get the hill in shape for its re-opening. Another group of volunteers is trying to get a chairlift running again for skiing at Big Tupper, in Tupper Lake.

Hickory Hill has been closed for four years, so it won’t need an Adirondack Park Agency permit to resume business; however, Big Tupper has not been operational for more than five years, so it will need approval from the state land use agency.

“Everything seems to be falling into place,” Hickory president Bill Van Pelt said this week. A previous volunteer work day on Sept. 12 attracted about 30 people, who repainted buildings, tuned lifts, drilled a new well and created a new drop-off area, he said. Hickory’s new owners, a group of mostly local shareholders, are also pursuing snowmaking, he said, and they expect to have at least a partial system in place this year, but details are still being worked out.

Ticketing will be electronic, Van Pelt said, so when a skier passes through an archway to get on a lift, sensors will keep a tally of how many vertical feet the person has skied this season. Ticket prices are now available here.

To volunteer at Hickory Saturday contact operations manager Shawn Dempsey at [email protected] Dempsey advises: plan to come prepared with a lunch, hiking boots, gloves and any brush-clearing equipment, shovels, rakes.

Van Pelt said Hickory’s opening date will depend on snow and snowmaking. In Tupper Lake, volunteer organizer Jim LaValley said Big Tupper’s opening date is set for December 26. The mountain will go without snowmaking for now, LaValley said, but he’s optimistic about the forecast. “It’s going to be a good year because you’ve got El Nino spinning and the sunspot cycle has made its shift.”

APA staff made a site visit Wednesday, and LaValley said he expects to receive the operating permit by November or December. Volunteers are working continuously on getting a chairlift ready for inspection, improving the base lodge and electrical systems. There will be a call for a volunteer work day in the next few weeks, LaValley said, but in the meantime people who wish to pitch in can contact him at [email protected] or (518) 359-9440. Ticket prices have not yet been set. For future information a Web site is being developed at skibigtupper.org.

You can read more about Hickory’s and Big Tupper’s years of limbo here.