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Friday, December 27, 2013

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Predatory Control

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (Photograph credit:
Chris Evans, The University of Georgia
I've posted previously on the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid.  It hasn't hit our area yet, but we need to be vigilant and react quickly should it appear since it has the potential for devastating the hemlocks that are probably what most of us think of when we envision the beauty of the Plateau.  The video below, put out by the National Park Service, offers some advice on identification of this problem bug and provides hope for its eradication in focused areas.

Click here for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Hemlock Woolly Adelgid webpage.

Learn how to identify the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and report it to the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation if you spot it.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Project
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

St. John Francis Regis

St. John Francis Regis Church - Grafton, New York
Sometimes posting ideas come to me in an unusual way.  This post is a prime example.  Last Saturday, I made my usual trip to the Town of Grafton Recycle Center.  I asked Nate where the closest clothes drop-off point was and he told me to go to the Catholic church parking lot.  Sure enough, nice big shiny new bin.  So I dropped off my annual "clothes not worn in the last 365 days" pile.  

I noticed the a sign on the bin and found it confusing.  I thought this was St. John Francis Regis Church, yet the bin indicated Our Lady of the Snow Parish.  A check of the Our Lady of the Snow website clarified things.  So the Church in Grafton is St. John Francis Regis but it belongs to Our Lady of the Snow parish along with Sacred Heart church in Berlin.

Sacred Hearth Church - Berlin, NY

I decided to do a bit of research on the history behind these Grafton and Berlin Catholic Church names.  I knew about the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  There are many Sacred Heart Churches, Grafton and Wynantskill being two close-by.  In fact, my great uncle, Rev. Maxime E. Sarrault, was pastor of what had been Sacred Heart Church in Schenectady years ago.  That church was established specifically to serve the French Catholics of Schenectady.  However, I had never heard of Our Lady of the Snow or St. John Francis Regis.  I was surprised to learn that there are actually quite a few Our Lady of the Snow churches.  There's even a large National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois.  Devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Snows is traced back to a legend about a snowfall in Rome in 352 A.D.  The Roman patrician John and his wife, who were wealthy and childless, made a vow to donate their possessions to Our lady. They prayed to her that she might make known to them in what manner they were to dispose of their property in her honor. On a hot, morning on August 5, Esquiline Hill was covered with snow. All Rome proclaimed the summer snows a miracle, and a beautiful church to honor Mary was built on the hill, now the magnificent Basilica of St. Mary Major, which still stands today as the seat of devotion to Our Lady of the Snows in the Catholic Church. 

So that brings me to St. John Francis Regis (Jean-François Régis).  He was born on Jan. 31, 1597, in southern France. He entered the Society of Jesus at age 19, and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1630.  A tireless worker, he spent most of his life serving the marginalized. He walked from town to town, in rough mountainous areas where travel was difficult, especially in the winter. He would remain in a parish several days giving sermons that were simple, but sincere, and flowed from the heart. He also visited prisons and collected food and clothes for the poor (thus, as logic would have it, the clothes collection bin in Grafton).  Regis is most famous for his work with at-risk women and orphans, for whom he established safe houses and found jobs. He helped many become trained lace makers, which provided them with a stable income, and an opportunity to maintain their humanity under the threat of exploitation. For this service he is known as the patron saint of lace makers.  Regis passed away in 1640 while serving a mission and was declared a saint in 1738. Regis Societies were formed throughout France and focused on outreach to the poor and teaching in rural areas.  Regis University in Denver is named after him. 

Very relevant names for a Grafton church and parish.  Snow, mountainous region, and synergy with those of French-Canadian descent.  Jean-François Régis, he was a saint.  He was a someone we can all learn from.

St. John Francis Regis
(Jean-François Régis)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bobcat Tracks

Bobcat Tracks
I took this photo on our property.  I've never spotted one, but will now be checking for more tracks like these.  According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Management Plan for Bobcat in New York State, 2012-2017, they do have a presence in the Taconics (along with the Adirondacks and the Catskills)It is estimated that there are 5,000 bobcats in the entire state.

What do bobcats eat?  Click here

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"It doesn't change..."

I tend post to this blog a lot more in late spring and summer.  The rest of the year, I try to do at least one per week.  This week, I'm a bit low on ideas so I've decided to rip off a post from my good buddy Dave's Bleecker Mountain Life blog.  I think it's perfect for Thanksgiving.

Dave and I grew up three doors from each other in Waterford.  We built forts and explored frog ponds together.  We endured four years of Miss Filer's math classes together.  We ran cross-country together.  We went to Plattsburgh State together, where everyone was convinced we were brothers.  Now, we both have beards and wear baseball caps because, as Dave says, "Show me a guy with a hat and a beard and I'll show you a bald guy."  Then... like so many guys do, we had virtually no contact with each other for almost forty years.  Now we've reconnected.  We're Facebook friends and enjoy each other's blog.  We have similar views on most things, to the point where it's scary.  We're both liberals living in conservative rural areas.  Anyway, I digress.  Dave recently posted about Jack English and I loved it.  From Dave's blog:

"Jack English, 93 years old, lives in an off grid cabin that he built himself, hewing the lumber from his land in central California’s Santa Lucia Mountains. He's five miles from the nearest road.

Favorite quote- "It's not that I don't like people.  I do.  But I don't like swarms of 'em."

Second favorite- "She told me you go down there and live there now if you want to, and that's what I done."

Third favorite - “I’m just different than most people. I’d rather go back than go ahead.”

Jack English is a curiosity and and oddity to most people.  He seems pretty normal to me.  I don't get it."

He seems very normal to me Dave, he knows what it's all about -- thanks for sharing!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Shed Man Delivers!

Well... it was tight!  Fortunately, Colby and Tristan from The Shed Man's New Lebanon, New York facility were highly skilled and up to the challenge of getting our new Elite A-Frame Dormer shed through some rather tight turns, low hemlock branches and antenna coaxial cable.

The shed is quite large at 10'x16'.  We went with dark brown and forest green shingles, the optional work bench, the door upgrade and transome window.  Delivery was one month from order.  I'm very pleased with the quality and value of the shed and extremely impressed with the installation skill of the crew (Colby and Tristan).  The shed blends right in with the environment.  The color and shingles match a historic Taconic Lake Association building.  The forest green shingles are also a perfect match to those on our house.

Duane Goodermote Excavation prepared this stone base.
Duane Goodermote and his assistant, Jarod Bouchard, did a fabulous job constructing the base.  I was delighted with the wall he created from the boulders dug out while preparing the base (how did the Manor of Rensselaerwyck renters ever farm up here?).  We had been very impressed with the work Duane and Jarod did on our raised bed septic system last year.  We also had them put in a base for a new garage that will go in next Spring.  I highly recommend Duane. 

Shed Man headed for the driveway.  Just under the phone line...

Coming down the driveway.  Some pruning required!

Cab adjustment for driveway "L"...

Tristan: "It's gonna be a tight fit Colby!"
"Get her under the hemlocks!"
"Raise that cable!"
"Comin' in for a landing!"

The trailer is amazing: up and down, back and forth....

"Perfect!  Let her down!!"
I'm glad we went with the optional transome window.  Beautiful view of the lake from the workbench!

Give those guys a nice tip, they earned it!

Friday, November 8, 2013

It's Not Dark Yet.... but it's gettin' there...

What's up with changing the time twice yearly?  Twice a year I have to reset my biological clocks.  And they're starting to get rusty!

The idea of daylight saving time was dreamed up by Benjamin Franklin in 1784.  Old Ben wrote an essay titled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” that proposed to economize the use of candles by rising earlier to make use of the morning sunlight.  Thank you very much Ben.  And ah... how many of you readers are burning candles for anything but your fancy dining pleasure?  I don't think 'ol Ben had a backlit iPad or Kindle.  Then, Daylight Savings Time was first adopted to replace artificial lighting in order to save fuel for the war effort in Germany during World War I.  Great Britain and the United States thought this was a "super" idea and quickly followed suit.

Let's get over it.  Please join the "End Time Change Nonsense" movement.  Last time I checked,  changing the time didn't change the amount of time in a day or the amount of sunlight in a day.  Kind of like a mathematical equation.  Why are we continuing to do it?

Click here to read the full history of this cruel joke. 

Hmmm.... maybe I'll write to Congressman Chris Gibson requesting his support of the nascent "End Time Change Nonsense" movement.  He'll at least be happy to read it isn't another one of my rants on gun control or what to do about Ted Cruz.  And, who knows, maybe it'll be the bipartisan issue that turns the corner on dysfunctional Washington politics. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Birch Tree Down!

I awoke at 4 a.m. to the sound, outside in the distance, of our emergency generator and a howling wind.  I instinctively reached for my cell phone and notified National Grid of the power outage.  This is the first power line slaughter of the season.  What kind of joke is that?  The photo above was taken at 5:52 a.m. on the dirt road about a hundred yards from our driveway.  Oh well, I've been through this before.  It's "fate on the lake," I told told myself in my pre-coffee stupor.  No reason to get excited, there must be someway out of here so I can get myself to work, the hour is getting late.  And, indeed, I found relief from all this early morning confusion.

I knew we were in for trouble when I received a storm alert notice from National Grid in my e-mail last night.  Click here if you're a National Grid customer and would like to subscribe to their storm notification feed.  Rensselaer County also has an RSS feed that is helpful for things like storm and highway closing notifications (Click here).

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Ghostberry (Symphoricarpos albus)

Also called Snowberry or Waxberry.  The flowers are pink in the spring.

Friday, October 25, 2013

How Many Acres is That?

Ever want to calculate acreage?  Our lake association's insurance carrier recently wanted to know the acreage of our lake.  I'd heard figures ranging from 19 acres to 35.  Pondering the problem, I was reminded of a cool tool I've used to calculate mileage from Google Maps -- a Google Map Pedometer.  with this tool, I've measured the dirt road around our lake and distances I run or walk on a periodic basis.  If figured there must be something similar for measuring acreage, and sure enough:  the Google Planimeter.  With this tool, I was able to measure Taconic Lake to be 33 acres.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Moon Illusion

I was driving down Route 2 toward Troy at 6:30 a.m. this morning and observing a harvest moon as I came over the crest in Cropseyville.  Why did it appear so large to me? Answer: "moon illusion."  To the naked eye, the moon appears larger when it is near the horizon than it does while higher up in the sky (the zenith moon).  It is described in early Greek and Chinese writings. Aristotle mentions it in 350 BCE.  The most likely reason?  Why oculomotor miropsi/macropsia of course.  Not convinced?  See The representation of perceived angular size in human primary visual cortex.  

Take a look tonight... should be pretty much the same story.

The photo above was not taken by me with my iPhone camera.  If it had been, it would look much smaller.  I used it under the creative commons license from Wikipedia.  If you're interested in moon photography, see How to Photograph the Moon.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Good Year for Brilliant Autumn Colors?

Fall 2012... will this year be more colorful?
I've been surprised that we haven't had much in the way of a hard frost so far this year.  Yesterday, while driving back from Saratoga Apple (it's a good year for them!), and pondering the foliage, I got to thinking it should be a good year for brilliant colors.  Here's why...

What causes this phenomenon?
As for the primary cause, the Science Made Simple website posting Autumn Leaves and Fall Foliage: Why Do Leaves Fall Colors Change? explains "The bright reds and purples we see in leaves are made mostly in the fall. In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool nights of autumn cause the leaves turn this glucose into a red color. The brown color of trees like oaks is made from wastes left in the leaves"

Why are the colors more brilliant some years than others?
From the USDA Forest Service's Why Leaves Change Colors, "A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions-lots of sugar and lots of light-spur production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson. Because carotenoids are always present in leaves, the yellow and gold colors remain fairly constant from year to year."

The exact opposite of what I had thought -- I had it in my head that the "good" years were caused by an early hard frost. According to this explanation, this should be a good year for brilliant colors.

From The Science of Color in Autumn Leaves (The United States Arboretum), "Temperature, sunlight, and soil moisture greatly influence the quality of the fall foliage display. Abundant sunlight and low temperatures after the time the abscission layer forms cause the chlorophyll to be destroyed more rapidly. Cool temperatures, particularly at night, combined with abundant sunlight, promote the formation of more anthocyanins. Freezing conditions destroy the machinery responsible for manufacturing anthocyanins, so early frost means an early end to colorful foliage. Drought stress during the growing season can sometimes trigger the early formation of the abscission layer, and leaves may drop before they have a chance to develop fall coloration. A growing season with ample moisture that is followed by a rather dry, cool, sunny autumn that is marked by warm days and cool but frostless nights provides the best weather conditions for development of the brightest fall colors. Lack of wind and rain in the autumn prolongs the display; wind or heavy rain may cause the leaves to be lost before they develop their full color potential."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Discover Your History

Click here to access this front page

I recently came across a website -- Old Fulton, New York Post Cards -- that will allow you to access over a hundred years worth of New York State newspapers.  Don't let the title fool you.  Yes, you can access images of old Fulton, New York post cards, but you can also access so much more. 

I was hunting down some history for my lake association when I quite literally stumbled on it. What's most amazing to me, as a librarian somewhat familiar with required skills and technology, is that it's all being done by one amazing individual, Tom Tryniski of Fulton, New York.  Click here to read about this guy, who apparently is disciplined, persistent, technologically literate and.... has a lot of time on his hands!

I've been able to answer the mystery of who changed our family's last name from from Maheu to Mayo.  I've also been able to dig out that article on the two doubles I hit off Bobby Leonard in 1966!  Sometimes, of course, history can be sobering, like the Berlin propane disaster in 1962 or, in my case, researching news on my grandfather who drowned in the Mohawk River when I was six-years-old -- not something my mother was comfortable in discussing.  History provides answers to questions, information and a way of making sense out of that information.  I applaud Tom Tryniski for making it possible for us to discover that history.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

RPA Conservation Plan

Rensselaer Plateau

Congratulations to the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance on the release of their new Conservation Plan!

I'm a member of this organization and encourage you to join as well.  Its voluntary staff are doing fabulous work to benefit all who live on, or simply visit and enjoy, the Plateau.  Click here to access membership information.

                                                Rensselaer Plateau Alliance Website

Monday, September 9, 2013

Red Alert!

How much development is too much?  Do Poestenkill residents want their bucolic town to turn into Clifton Park?  Do Rensselaer Plateau residents and visitors want New York State's fifth largest contiguous forest (118,000 acres) and a U.S. Forest Service Legacy Area threatened by 204 acres of development?  The 2010 census population of Poestenkill was 4,530 -- an increase of 12% from the 2000 census and, by far, the largest increase of townships on the Rensselaer Plateau.

Read up on the Planned Development District application submitted by JEM Company, Incorporated.  You have an opportunity to weigh in on this by addressing comments to the Town Board through the Supervisor by writing to:

Dominic Jacangelo, Town Supervisor
Poestenkill Town Hall
38 Davis Drive
Poestenkill, NY 12140

Alternatively, he can be e-mailed:  Public comments are due by September 19th.

From the application:
The parcel is 204.36 Acres in size. The parcel is bisected by Snake Hill Road with 72± Acres on the east side of Snake Hill Road and the balance of the parcel on the west side of Snake Hill Road. The majority of the parcel is wooded with mature upland deciduous forest. The parcel pitches both east and west to the low area centered between Snake Hill Road and Vosburg Road. This low area runs from north to south through the parcel and contains a serious of ponds, streams and jurisdictional wetlands.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

White Baneberry

White Baneberry

Actaea pachypoda

Also called Doll's Eyes 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mushroom Day

My weather station indicated 100% humidity and a dew point reading of 70 degrees.  We just returned from a walk around the lake and I decided to take photos celebrating Mushroom Day....

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Chicorium intybus

Chicory roots can be roasted as a coffee substitute.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife
Lytrum salicaria

An aggressive invasive introduced from Europe, that crowds out native aquatics.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Purple Coneflower

Purple Coneflower
Echinachea purpurea

The flowers of Echinacea species are used to make an herbal tea, purported to help strengthen the immune system.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace
Daucus carota

Purple clover, Queen Anne’s Lace
Crimson hair across your face
You could make me cry if you don’t know
Can’t remember what I was thinkin’ of
You might be spoilin’ me too much, love
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Bob Dylan

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

Water Hemlock

Water Hemlock

Quite poisonous -- paralysis to the respiratory nerves, leading to suffocation.  Did Socrates in.  Do not touch it.  Do not ingest it.  One root is enough to kill a cow.  Don't mess with it.

Citula Maculata

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Evening Primrose

Evening Primrose
Oenothera biennis

A biennial.  The basal leave appear in year one, flowers in year two.  Year one roots are edible.  The flowers open in the evening and wither the following day.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Hike to the Dickinson Hill Fire Tower

We took the hike to the recently refurbished Dickinson Hill Fire Tower in Grafton a couple of days ago.  To get there, turn north onto North Long Pond Road between the Grafton General Store and the Grafton Center town square.  You will pass Mill Pond on your right and come to an intersection -- across which is Second Pond -- turn right here and continue north on North Long Pond Road.  As you proceed north, Long Pond will be off to your left.   Proceed, almost to the end of North Long Pond Road, until you see the sign on your right for the Fire Tower trail.  There's a gravel area you can pull off into.

Grafton Fire Tower Trail Sign
The sign says .7 miles.  I think it's tad longer, but not a real long hike.

Most of the trail looks like this... wide, stone trail/road.  Unlike our recent, virtually bug-free hike on the Taconic Crest Trail to the Snow Hole, you'll want insect repellent with you on this hike.  Not horrible, but the mosquitoes were around.

When you come to this thingamajig, keep going straight.  It's not clearly marked here, but taking a left would take you on to the Chet Bell Trail and not to the fire tower.

Stone wall - Grafton, NY
One of a number of stone walls on the way to the fire tower - - remnants of plots of land probably rented from the 9th patroon of Rensselaerswyck, Stephen Van Rensselaer III.  They must have farmed Rensselaer Greywacke here.

A sign here would have been nice.  We thought we made an error.  Fortunately, we guessed right continuing past the house and soon got to a sign on the right point to a trail into the woods and to the fire tower.

As you pass the white house, check out this huge, gorgeous tree in their yard.

Grafton Fire Tower
There's also a large radio tower installation across from the fire tower.  Right about now, you're probably expecting a beautiful panoramic photo take from atop the tower.  Not going to happen -- I fear heights.  Fortunately, someone who didn't have fear of heights, uploaded the following video to YouTube (click here).

I can attest that the Friends of Grafton Lakes State Park's Fire Tower Project was a success.  It is well-restored and a fun hike.  Click here for the trail map to this and all the Grafton Lakes State Park trails.

Click here for a fascinating article and video on Helen Ellett, who spent 18 years as the fire tower observer here.
Other Hikes
Fitch Trail Hike
Grafton Lakes State Park Hiking TrailsGrafton Lakes State Park Trails
RRR Brooks TrailSnow Hole
SVC Hikes