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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

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

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).

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.

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.

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....

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 Trails
Grafton Lakes State Park Trails
Hopkins Forest
The Long Pond Environmental Education Center
Mattison Hollow
Merck Forest & Farmland CenterPark McCullough House and Trails
Robert Frost Stone House and Museum and Trail
RRR Brooks Trail
Snow Hole
SVC Hikes

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hike to the Snow Hole

Most of the Trail to the Snow Hole is on Hopkins Forest Land

We took a long overdue hike to the Snow Hole located in the Taconic Mountains Monday.  An easy hike since you are already almost at the highest point when you park and simply follow a well-marked, well-worn trail.  Click here for a map of all the Hopkins Memorial Forest trails, including the one to the Snow Hole.

1. Drive east on Route 2 as though you were headed to Williamstown, Massachusetts to the highest point on the Petersburgh Pass, just before the Massachusetts state line.  The parking area is 5-1/2 miles east on Route 2 from the intersection of Routes 22 and 2 in Petersburgh.

2. Slow down when you get to the hiker's road sign on the right.

 3. The parking area is right after the sign below (on your right):

3. Pull into the large, and safely off Rt. 2, parking area on your right.

4. Carefully cross Route 2.  The start of the Taconic Crest Trail is directly across Rt. 2 from the parking area.  There's no sign, simply the start of the trail shown below.  The first 100 yards present a moderately steep -- but quite doable -- climb.

The Snow Hole is 2.7 miles from here -- 5.4 miles total.  With our various stops and slow pace the total hike took about 3 hours.
Always a good idea to sign in.  Note the Taconic Crest Trail marker.  This is a well-marked trail
Most of the trail looks like this.

I spotted a good number of moss-covered white quartz outcroppings.
You will walk through the remnants of a very old apple orchard, an exposed area that was hit by a blow-down, and you will leave the Hopkins Forest in the state of Massachusetts and enter New York State Forest land.  Multiple signs indicate that the trail is closed to mountain bikes, ATVs, four-wheelers, dirt bikes, etc.

After the blow-down area, you hit a grassy area with a fork.  I suspect the break to the right loops around,  but I know going straight ahead (left fork), gets you to the Snow Hole.

And then.... an opening with a fabulous view to the southwest...

You're almost there when you reach these signs.  The arrows point in two directions because there's a loop around the Snow Hole.

One more stretch and then... I've never seen anything like it before.... the Snow Hole!

"The rocks are cleft in several places, and in one to such a depth that the snow and ice remain there through the year.  The snow hole is about 30 feet long and nearly as deep at the east end, ascends to the west or toward the summit of the ridge and is from 10 to 20 feet wide.  When I visited in June the snow was 6 feet deep on ice of unknown depth."

Prof. Chester Dewey of Williams College
American Journal of Science and Arts, 1818, vol. I, page 340

No sign of snow that I could see, but I played it safe and didn't get too close.  I can't imagine what some pioneer thought when he/she came across this thing for the first time!  Whoa!!!!  What the ?????

A very nice hike.  Not difficult, good trail markers, nice path, gorgeous scenic vista, and then this Snow Hole thing!
Other Hikes
Fitch Trail Hike
Grafton Lakes State Park Hiking Trails
Grafton Lakes State Park Trails
The Long Pond Environmental Education Center
Hopkins Forest
Mattison Hollow
Merck Forest & Farmland CenterPark-McCullough House and Trails
Robert Frost Stone House and Museum and Trail
SVC Hikes

See also
Snowhole - Snow in August?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

North Berkshire Panorama

Berkshire Panorama off Bee Hill Road
Take a drive to Williamstown across the Petersburgh Pass on Route 2 and keep your eyes posted for Bee Hill Road on the right just before you come all the way down the hill that would normally take you to the intersection with Route 7.  Turn left onto Bee Hill Road -- a narrow dirt road -- drive a short ways and turn into the parking area on the right to enjoy Sheep Hills a fabulous view in a very bucolic setting.  There are two scenic walking loops on the property. Just a tad further down the road is a pull-over area to access the Fitch Memorial Woodlands trail.

Bee Hill Road, Williamstown, MA

Parking area off Bee Hill Road

North Berkshire Panorama Plaque
You are overlooking Sheep Hill, the former home and dairy farm of Arthur E. and Ella M. Rosenburg and their four children, now a conservation property of the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation.  The steep and open meadows below showcase the panoramic view to Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts' highest point and one of the first state reservations in the country, and other geographic landmarks.  Popular destination points are depicted in the panoramic drawing....

A bit hazy the day we visited.  I'm looking forward to returning when the autumn colors peak.

Very Cool Wooden Bridge on Bee Hill Road