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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rensselaer County Map - 1880

Click image to enlarge

Working in a library can be fun. Yesterday, the archivists in the Fixman Archives at RPI's Folsom Library gave me a hand digging out some old books on Rensselaer County history. I copied chapters from two books on the Town of Grafton which should prove interesting reading. This map is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York, With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers; by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published by Everts & Peck in Philadelphia in 1880. I love maps. My office is plastered with them.

Remember, you can always click on photos like the above map to enlarge them.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wildflowers & Raised Bed Septic Systems

We are in the process of installing a raised bed septic system (link is an excellent article on these systems). Given a ground water table that is only 18-24 inches below grade, a standard system is "iffy" for us (and the lake we live on). Incidentally, just as you can determine the soil types on a given area of land (like your property), so can you determine the ground water table depth fairly accurately at the USDA Soil Survey website.

While our design calls for the mound to be well-hidden behind trees, we still thought it would be nice to plant wildflowers on the mound. But is that OK? Some research points out that it is. I found this very useful article, Landscaping Plants for Mound Systems. The key to planting anything on top of traditional septic systems or raised bed septic systems is to only go with shallow-rooted plants -- which, as this article points out, most wildflowers are. We obtained a nice large packet of wildflower seeds from the Rensselaer County/DEC Arbor Green program that we'll use. However, we now think we'll need more and it looks to me like The Vermont Wildflower Farm, Eden Brothers and American Meadows are three good sources.

While researching raised bed septic systems, I also came across an article, Septic Systems: Doing Your Part, that provides very useful information on proper maintenance -- including what not to allow to enter your system. Some of the "no-no's" have been incorporated into our "Cider House Rules" tacked to the bathroom wall.

You Don't Bring Me Flowers
Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Taconic Mountains

The Taconic Mountains orogeny is geologically distinct from those of the Green Mountains and the Berkshires. They cover a stretch of about 150 miles from southwest Vermont near Brandon to southeast New York, cutting into northwestern Massachusetts in the process. Go to Google Maps, search for "Brandon, Vermont," then put your mouse cursor on the map view icon to the right of your screen, change the map view from to "Terrain" and zoom out a bit to see the Taconic Mountains beginning just south of Brandon and working their way down the border between Vermont, Massachusetts and New York.

The highest peak in the Taconics is Mt. Equinox in Manchester, Vermont at 3,816 feet. (Interesting factoid: the average base to summit temperature change is 10 degrees.) The Taconic Mountains formed in the Late Ordovician (a mere 450-500 million years ago) when an Island Arc collided with eastern North America.

Taconic Orogeny - Collision of Island Arc and Proto North America

Map of the main mountain ranges of the northeast Appalachians

The Mountain
Steve Earle - Live at Montreux

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Small Town

 Small Town 1st edition cover

I'm a big fan of Granville Hicks, author and critic, who lived in the Town of Grafton at the end of Shaver Pond Road from the mid-1930s until just before his death in 1982. I have all his many novels and non-fiction books -- many signed by him.  Future postings will tell more of his story but his most famous book is Small Town, a non-fiction book based on his own experiences about living in a small town in upstate New York called Roxborough, a pseudonym for Grafton (Grafton was actually called Roxborough in the late 1700s). This book, supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, is considered a pioneering classic on the sociological aspects of small town life to this day. Small Town was the first authoritative work written by someone who was a small town resident, it received great critical aclaim and popularity.

 Small Town signed by author

Small Town Fordham University Press reprint
(A project of Lansingburgh resident and Town of Grafton landowner Warren Broderick who also wrote the preface.)

Street Sign in Grafton Center

Read More:
Granville Hicks (Wikipedia)
Books': Hicks Town. Time Dec. 23, 1946
Small Town (Fordham University Press reprint full-text available online at DigitalResearch@Fordham)
Small Town (Fordham University Press reprint offering)