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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rensselaer Plateau Nordic

Rensselaer Plateau Nordic's Website Banner
The Troy Record recently featured interview Dawn Bishop, founder and director of Rensselaer Plateau Nordic: "Five Questions for Nov. 18, 2011: Dawn Bishop."  I think the mission of this organization is terrifiic:

"Rensselaer Plateau Nordic, Inc. (RPN) is a not-for-profit; volunteer run organization dedicated to providing Nordic recreational opportunities and wellness education that result in improved health outcomes for New York’s Capital region children and their families. Our unique program offers children ages 5-12, the opportunity to learn cross country skiing and engage in other outdoor winter activities, while helping families to understand the impact of good nutrition and physical activity on health outcomes now and in the future."

Today's kids have really become couch potatoes. I remember growing up exploring frog ponds and playing sandlot baseball and hockey in the canal. Parents: put a strict time limit on your kids computer game playing and get them out there cross-country skiing!  Combat the obesity epidemic.  Bravo Dawn Bishop!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Small Town or Big City Life?


On Thursday, December 26th, 1946, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., the American Broadcasting Company presented an episode of America's Town Meeting of the Air from TV station WRGB (GE) in Schenectady, New York entitled "Would You Rather Live in a Small Town or a Big City?" This debate, moderated by George V. Denny, featured Granville Hicks of the Town of Grafton who authored Small Town. Other participants were Charles Jackson, author of The Lost Weekend and The Fall of Valour, and Reagon (Tex) McCrary, radio commentator and his wife Jinx Falkenburg.

This 15 minute clip (cut from the full hour broadcast), includes Granville Hicks's "argument" on the virtues of small town life. The first four minutes of the clip provide an interesting trip back to the pioneering days of TV as the announcer states "We are experimenting with a new type of production designed to bring you the images, as well as the voices, of the participants in our nationwide town meeting.... this 454th session of America's most popular radio forum will be witnessed by several thousand owners of television sets...." The moderator then states "Let's hear first from Granville Hicks, resident of Grafton, New York, population 850,* author of a celebrated new book called Small Town."

America's Town Meeting of the Air was a public affairs discussion program broadcast from 1935 to 1956 mainly on the NBC Blue Network and its successor ABC Radio. It was one of radio's first talk shows and was originally an experiment with no expectations of longevity. The program became extremely popular. The studio audience was encouraged to express their feelings, booing, hissing or clapping as the mood struck them. This episode, unlike most, was broadcast on television rather than radio.

A Life Magazine article, "City vs. Country," in the March 17, 1947 issue provides a report on this debate and includes photos of the Town of Grafton at that time.


*The 2010 population of Grafton was 2,130.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grafton VFD "All You Can Eat" Breakfast


Like the annual Berlin 4th of July Parade, the monthly (last Saturday of each month from 8 to 11 am) Grafton Volunteer Fire Department and Grafton Ladies Auxiliary "All You Can Eat" Breakfast (with a capital "B") is a slice of pure Americana. It's held at the Grafton VFW/Fire Hall on South Road/County Road 85.

Menu: Belgian waffles, coffee, eggs, french toast, home fries, milk, orange juice, pancakes, sausage, sausage gravy & biscuits, and toast.

Price: $8/adult; $4/kids (6-12 years old); free/5 and under

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hezekiah Coon Inn

Hezekiah Coon Inn
New York State Historic Marker
Beautiful Hezekiah Coon Inn is on Coon Brook Road in the Town of Petersburgh. The New York State historic marker reads:

First Town Meeting Held here
April 5, 1791. H.
Coon Moderator; J. Odell
Supervisor; J. Greene Clerk

The History of Petersburgh, New York provides some additional detail on the town's leaders during this event: "Moderator, Hezekiah Coon; supervisor, Jonas Odell; town clerk, John Greene; assessors, Benjamin Hanks, Randall Spencer and John Nichols; commissioners Abel Russel, Luke Greene and Matthew Randall; poormasters, David Randall and Hezekiah Coon."

I had to look up what a "poormaster" is. A poormaster is a supervisor of the relief of the poor. They would validate those who applied for relief and issue funds. "Moderator" refers to one who presides over a meeting -- similar, I imagine, to a meeting "facilitator" in today's parlance.

I find historical markers interesting and hope to eventually have a posting on all that are on, or near, the Plateau.

Hezekiah Coon Inn

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blue Benn Diner

Blue Benn Placemat
I had a posting on the Blue Benn Diner in Bennington, Vermont back in April, but breakfasted there this morning and decided it warranted another one. 

Linda ordered Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes. I resisted my usual Shiitake Mushroom Omelet and went for the Egg Nog French Toast. Both were excellent, but I must say the pancakes were outstanding.

The Blue Benn attracts a truly diverse clientele (attorneys, lumberjacks, students...). Twenty-five cents into the  jukebox of yore provides two song selections. "Let's see, two Bob Dylan's or a Hank Williams?"







Saturday, November 19, 2011

Petersburgh Public Library

Petersburgh Public  Library
69 Main St. (Rt. 2)

As pointed out in the last posting, Petersburgh, at a population of 1,525 per the 2010 census, is the least populated Plateau Town. That doesn't stop them from having a wonderful library.


I love the old Germanic Fraktur (Gebrochene Schrift)!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rensselaer Plateau Town Populations

Having completed a posting for each of the ten Rensselaer County towns having some of land on the Plateau, I thought it would be interesting to list, in descending order, their 2010 census populations. Of course, with the exception of Grafton, only a portion of the population figures shown below reside within the confines of the Rensselaer Plateau. I expect to eventually see a Google Map feature that will allow us to determine the population within the geographic boundary of the Plateau.

Brunswick    11,941
Sand Lake     8,530
Hoosick          6,924
Pittstown       5,735
Nassau          4,789
Poestenkill     4,530
Stephentown  2,903
Grafton          2,130
Berlin            1,880
Petersburgh   1,525
Total           50,887

Total of all Rensselaer County towns:   159,428

Monday, November 14, 2011

Brunswick, New York


The above, grayed out area, roughly outlines the location of the Brunswick within the Rensselaer Plateau. Ten towns comprise parts of the Rensselaer Plateau.

The Town of Brunswick was incorporated in 1807. Prior to that, it was a part of Troy. A detailed map of the Town of Brunswick is available as part of a Rensselaer County map at the GIS & Mapping section of the Rensselaer County Online. The elevation at the Brunswick Town Hall at 336 Town Office Road is 495 feet. The 2010 census population of Brunswick was 11,941 -- an increase of 2.4% from the 2000 census. Brunswick is serviced by the Averill Park Central School District, Brunswick Central School District, Enlarged City School District of Troy, and Lansingburgh Central School District.

Cropseyville, which comprises most of the thin slice of the Town of Brunswick that is on the Plateau, was a hub of industry in much of the 18th century: Paul Smith'sgrist mill, Green's fulling and carding mills, and Daniel Rockenstyre's wagon shop.

As one drives east on NY Route 2 through Cropseyville, one can note stone quarries on each side of the road -- Valente's to the south and Callanan's to the west. I think it's instructive to see what a quarry looks like from the sky. Click on this link, and then click the "Bird's eye" tab to get a eyeful of Callanan Industries' aggregate pit in Cropseyville in the Town of Brunswick. Click the "+" to zoom in further.

Check out the Brunswick Then and Now historic photographs.

Links
Brunswick Community Library
Brunswick Historical Society
History of Brunswick, New York
History of the Seventeen Towns of Rensselaer County from the Colonization of the Manor of Rensselaerwyck until the Present time
Landmarks of Rensselaer County 
Map of Brunswick, NY
Sand Lake Historical Society
Town of Brunswick, NY
Town of Brunswick, NY - Wikipedia
2010 Census Data

Friday, November 11, 2011

Where Do They Go in the Winter?

I hate snakes and I'm glad to see that guy who hangs out on an old abandoned dock I frequently paddle by is gone for the winter. I like turtles, but they're gone too. And no fish are jumping. Where do these guys go in the winter?

Fish: Unlike the following critters, fish slow progressively down and stop eating as the water gets colder and they head for "the deep." They are cold-blooded, so their bodies are the temperature of the water. Should the fish "blow it" and become frozen solid in the ice, they will usually thaw out later and survive.

Frogs and toads: Leopard frogs and bullfrogs typically head for mud under deep water that doesn't freeze. Green frogs burrow under debris at the bottom of the lake. Their respiration slows down and they go into a state of dormancy. The produce a type of glucose in their bodies that essentially allows them to freeze for the winter. Toads, burrow into mud for the season.

Snakes: They burrow down in places like large decayed tree root systems, beaver lodges, caves, wood piles, and  rock crevices. Sometimes hundreds or thousands of them hunker down together in to hibernacula -- hibernation dens below the frost level. I'll be avoiding any hibernacula I come across.

Turtles - Most turtles burrow under mud at the bottom of the lake, while some simply lie at the bottom, remaining motionless and experience a rather lengthy period of meditation.


Black Bear and Cubs in Hibernation
BBC Wildlife

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What Side of the Road Are You On?

Grafton Town Hall
I voted at the Town of Grafton Town Hall this morning and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I grew up, and voted for several years, in smallish Waterford, New York. After college, I lived in New York City and voted there for seven years. I also lived, among other places, in rural Town of Tioga, NY for about eight years where the 2010 census population was 4,871. But I moved to Grafton last December and Grafton, with its 2010 census population of 2,130, is a whole 'nother experience.

I'm an early bird, so I ventured into the Town Hall at approximately 6:35am. One person was in one of the voting booths, and I'm going to estimate eight poll officials were seated at a table. Sixteen eyes looking at me with an almost audible reaction "Who... is this guy??" We don't know him!"

"Good morning!" I greeted the officials. "Good morning. What side of the road are you on?, they asked."

That... I must say, caught me off guard. "What side of the road am I on??"

"Yes, are you on the north or south side of Route 2?"  "Oh... Ohhhh, of course, I'm on the south side of Route 2." "Okay, you sign on this side of the table" one of the officials said. So sign (and be observed) I did. I was then given my cardboard encased ballot and a Sharpie marker and pointed to a bank of black, stand-up voting booths where I proceeded to use the Sharpie to darken the circles of my choices... carefully... following written instructions not to veer outside the circles, for Town of Grafton Supervisor, Councilpersons, Supervisor of Highways and Town Justice... and several other less important state officials like the State Justice of the Supreme Court and State District Attorney. I then exited the booth, turned my ballot over and fed it into a machine that looked like a high tech shredder. The LCD readout confirmed receipt. I thanked the officials and left feeling good about exercising my obligation and privilege to vote in my new, Small Town.

 
Bright Side of the Road
Van Morrison

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nassau, New York


The above, grayed out area, roughly outlines the location of the Town of Sand Lake within the Rensselaer Plateau. Ten towns comprise parts of the Rensselaer Plateau.

The Town of Nassau was formed from portions of Schodack, Stephentown and Petersburgh on March 31, 1806.  Its original name was Philipstown, in honor of Patroon Philip Van Rensselaer.  The name was changed to Nassau on April 6, 1808.

A detailed map of the Town of Nassau is available as part of a Rensselaer County map at the GIS & Mapping section of the Rensselaer County Online. The elevation at the Nassau Town Hall at 80 Church Street is 412 feet. The 2010 census population of Nassau was 4,789 -- an decrease of .6% from the 2000 census. Nassau is serviced by the East Greenbush School Central District , the Averill Park Central School District and the New Lebanon Central School District.

The Town of Nassau History website has a nice section on Nassau historical markers. One of which I find particularly interesting and ties into a previous posting Anti-Rent War: "Tin Horns and Calico":

Big Thunder Site, Central Nassau Road

From the History of Nassau, NY:
"It was in the town of Nassau that the Anti-Rent War in Rensselaer county had its centre for many years. The farmers of Nassau are said to have been the first to resist in an effective manner the attempts of the proprietors of the land in that section to collect their ground rents, and when Colonel Walter S. Church of Albany came into possession of the title to these lands it was in the town of Nassau that he met with the greatest reverses in his endeavor to enforce his claims. As early as 1843 an anti-rent society was organized at Hoag's Corners, and while its first members were confined principally to the farmers in that immediate locality it was not long before many farmers in all parts of the town, and even some from other towns, became secretly identified with the organization. The meetings were generally held at the old Martin tavern. It is said that efforts were frequently made by agents of the landlords to secure admission to these meetings. It might have been easy for some daring spirit to enter the inner circle on some occasions, for as a rule the anti-renters seldom appeared in a body in public without disguise. These disguises were generally those which caused the rebellious ones to take on the appearance of Indians, and those actively engaged in the fight were frequently referred to as Indians. In their meetings they addressed their leaders by high sounding Indian titles, and a member of the society was seldom addressed by his right name at meetings of any kind for fear that an enemy might be within hearing.

But in spite of the precautions that were always supposed to be taken by the anti-renters the neutral public, and finally the friends of the landlords, then the landlords themselves, obtained the names of some of the leaders in the movement and the information thus obtained was employed in the prosecution of the offenders. After the greatest excitement caused by the insurrection had begun to subside it became known that in the town of Nassau the recognized head of the organized movement was Frank Abbott, whom the conclaves of the anti-rent society knew as Little Thunder. Dr. Smith A. Boughton of Alps was called Big Thunder and Thomas Thompson of Hoag's Corners enjoyed the distinction of being known in party councils as Tuscarora.

Gideon Reynolds of Hoosick, who served as sheriff for one term, having been elected to that office in 1843, about the time of the organization of the anti-rent society in Nassau, though himself reputed to be an enemy of landlordism, at once took an active part in the attempted suppression of the disorders brought about by the conflict between the anti-renters and the authorities. Mr. Reynolds was a staunch adherent of the law, and though he felt that the odds were against him, he summoned a posse of twenty-five men and proceeded to the vicinity of the village of Alps, where he had been informed a body of anti-renters were abroad. When he reached the scene of the disorder he and his posse were overpowered, their horses turned loose and Sheriff Reynolds and his band of deputies were marched to the village of Alps. The deputy who had been entrusted with the legal papers was tarred and feathered and the entire body of men ordered to return, which they did. Soon afterward Deputy Sheriff Lewis, while attempting to serve warrants upon some of the "Indians," was also tarred and feathered and sent back to his home. From time to time similar proceedings were had by the anti-renters, until the troubles were settled by the courts and Colonel Church obtained his legal rights."


Links
History of Nassau, NY
History of the Seventeen Towns of Rensselaer County from the Colonization of the Manor of Rensselaerwyck until the Present time
Landmarks of Rensselaer County 
Map of Nassau, NY
Nassau, NY Free Library
Town of Nassau History
Town of Nassau, NY
Town of Nassau, NY - Wikipedia
2010 Census Data

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Forest Legacy in New York

On December 27th, 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service designated the Rensselaer Plateau as a Forest Legacy Area. The New York State Department of Environment Conservation issued a press release on this.

From: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Forest Legacy Program webpage:

"The federal Forest Legacy Program (FLP) (16 U.S.C. Sec. 2103c) was initiated in the 1990 federal Farm Bill. The program recognizes that most forested lands in the United States are held in private ownership and that forest landowners are facing growing financial pressure to convert their lands to uses that would remove them from the forested land base. Much of this pressure arises from the demand for residential and commercial development.

The FLP is a federal grant program that protects forest lands from conversion to non-forest uses. The FLP provides funding for conservation of important forest lands.

Participation in the program is entirely voluntary. The primary method of protection is with conservation easements in which landowners sell a portion of the property rights and retain ownership of the land. The use of conservation easements allows the land to remain in private ownership and ensures that important public values such as wildlife habitat, natural areas, forest resources, and outdoor recreation opportunities are protected. Participating landowners may prefer to sell the property outright in which case the land would be owned by the State and managed as State Forest land."


The Rensselaer Plateau Alliance has a webpage with additional detail on this


The US Forest Service webpage on the Forest Legacy for the Northeastern Area.