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Friday, December 23, 2016

RPA Does it Again

The Rensselaer Plateau Alliance (RPA), under the leadership of Jim Bonesteel, has done it again, Quoting their Facebook post this morning, "Yesterday RPA acquired 927 acres of working forest with support from The Conservation Fund and NYS DEC. A bargain sale from the Gundrum family has allowed us to conserve one of the most ecologically significant parcels on the Plateau. This parcel will eventually almost double the size of the Pittstown State Forest. It is now open to the public for hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, mountain biking, hunting and fishing."

Click here for the full news release.

This is fabulous news for the Plateau.  Thank you to all involved in making it happen!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bird Feeder Field Test

Below, is a video of a field test of our new Woodlink Absolute Squirrel Resistant Bird Feeder (Model 7533).  Overall it  passed, although the rascal did get a nip of seed when he was hanging upside down. Since I put up this feeder, I've noticed the little buggers stay away from my car.  I'd rather have them bottom-feeding bird seeds than chomping on my engine cables like they once did to the tune of a $300+ repair!

Stay with it, since it gets interesting toward the end.

Field Test (video)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

New Bird Feeder

I just installed this new bird feeder that I'm very happy with.  It's a Woodlink Absolute Squirrel Resistant Bird Feeder Model 7533.  It's big and it's relatively heavy, so I picked out a thick hemlock branch, that was hanging low with this week's heavy snow, climbed up my 12-foot step ladder, and tied a strong pulley -- a chrome, 1-1/2" swivel pulley -- I picked up at Ace Hardware -- around the branch.  For rope, I used 3/16" black Dacron Polyester rope. This is terrific rope to have on hand.  I buy it on eBay in 500' spools for about $40 since I'm a morse code amateur radio operator and I use it to support wire dipole antennas up in the canopy of our hemlocks.  This rope will resist the moisture, ultraviolet radiation and wind pressures we experience here on the Plateau.  It's great for using with boats, tarps, and many other applications.

Swivel Pulley off hemlock branch
The bird feeder can be raised to a height of about 15 feet -- high enough to protect it from any stray Chicago bears.  They say 10-12 feet is high enough, so that's added insurance (see Do Bears Eat Rigid 2" PVC?). We now store the seed in several 6-gallon galvanized trash cans we picked up at Home Depot and store these cans in a walk-in closet in the center.  The bird feeder is squirrel resistant, but they can't get to it now anyway.  They're content to bottom-feed off the droppings on the ground.  With the rope through the pulley, one end is tied to a Nite Ize dual-spring, size 3 s-biner.  These are nice for a lot of applications.  They're essentially s-hooks with spring-action "doors."  I put the other end of the rope through a zinc-plated eyehook attached to the tree.

Eyehook at base of hemlock

VIDEO of Chickadees enjoying the new feeder

This feeder also comes with sections that comprise a 5-foot pole, along with mounting hardware.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Clark Library

We visited the newly refurbished Manton Research Center at The Clark Museum. My library friends, would especially enjoy a walk through the library. The Clark offers free admission on the first Sunday of the month from October to May.  Click here for the library's website.

Everything about the library has a nice touch, including the workstation area.

The Allan Sekula collection: 10,600 books aesthetically shelved.

The beautiful Scott Opler Reading Room.  Scott received his M.A. degree from the Graduate Program in 1987.  He died in 1993 from Aids-related complications while pursuing his Ph.D. at Harvard University. 

Looking out to the grounds from a window in the Scott Opler Reading Room.

Tadao Ando's architecture -- inside and out -- is drop dead gorgeous.

Find peace, walking one of the trails on The Clark's Grounds -- 140 acres of beauty.

Click here for more information on the grounds and trails.

The Clark Musuem - Williamstown, Massachusetts

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The First Congregationalist Church of Bennington, VT

Several weeks ago, we visited The First Congregationalist Church of Bennington, VT -- the "Old First Church."  We had been at Robert Frost's Stone House Museum in nearby South Shaftsbury, VT and learned that Frost was buried in the cemetery behind this church and decided to check it out.  It was worth the visit to soak in the history that exudes this place.  The church is in Old Bennington visible from Route 7 just as you swing into Bennington at 1 Monument Circle.  This day was good timing, since we were able to take the tour.  The church is a short distance away from the Battle of Bennington Monument (click here for the Old Bennington Walking Tour)

A stunning example of architecture from the Federal period.

Click here for a pew rental agreement (I said hey, you, get off of my pew!)

Each column was made from a single pine tree and hand-planed.  There's a Wicks pipe organ.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Robert Frost said "I don't go to church, but I look in the window."

Don't be like the turkeys who dropped coins on Frost's grave.  Instead, emulate Charles Dewey.

David Redding (1754-1778)

The cemetery contains the graves of about 75 Revolutionary War patriots, as well as British and Hessian soldiers killed in the Battle of Bennington.   

Old First Church, Bennington (VIDEO)

Find a Grave - Old Bennington Cemetery
New England: True Northeast; Cemetery; Bennington, Vt.
The Old First Church
Robert Frost's Grave
Robert Frost Museum in Shaftsbury, Vt.
Stopping by a Bennington cemetery on a spring morning

Saturday, October 22, 2016


We visited Arrowhead, Hermann Melville's home in Pitssfield, this week, enjoying the fall foliage and the wonderful tour of this historic author.  Meville named this place Arrowhead due to the many arrowheads he found when he plowed his fields.

Melville's study was in the corner room over the porch. He built the porch and later wrote a short story about it, "The Piazza." The house was built in 1780. Herman bought it in 1850 and lived here for 12 years, though the house remained in the family until 1927.

The trees on this property are beautiful. Again, Melville's study is the room on the left corner, second floor. 

Melville wrote Moby Dick here on a table like this. The actual table is in the Melville Room in the Pittsfield Athenaeum, which we also visited. (lots of Melville archival material and books). He purposely arranged his chair and desk so he could gaze out onto Mount Greylock, highest peak in Massachusetts and featured in the wizardry story in J.R. Rowling's latest book.

The view of Mt. Greylock. Unfortunately a hazy day when we visited this week. 

A close-up of the window with the view to Mt. Greylock -- again, too hazy of a day to catch the mountain in the distance.

The chimney bears painted inscriptions from 1868 of text from Melville's story "I and my Chimney." written about Arrowhead.

Meilville's barn. Melville's writings, especially Moby DIck, never achieved much commercial success in his time. He gave up writing and worked in a customs house for most of his working life. A real shame, though a familiar pattern for many creative people. 

Spectacular trees. We saw photos of these trees from Melville's days there and they were tiny: 10-15 feet. Most of the area then was relatively deforested.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

RRR Brooks Trail

RRR Brooks Trail head sign off Bee Hill Road
The RRR Brooks trail is a nice 2.5 mile hike through the Hopkins Memorial Forest, a 2,600 acre reserve in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  It is accessible from either the parking lot at the top of the Petersburgh Pass (see Hike to the Snow Hole, which uses this same lot), or use the access point on Bee Hill Road -- driving from Route 7 in Williamstown, turn off onto Bee Hill Road and proceed a short ways; cross the wooden bridge for Flora Glen Brook and the trail head sign will be on your right (approximately 1.3 miles from Route 7).  We used two cars, starting at the Bee Hill Road trail head and finishing at the parking lot atop the Pass.  By combining the RRR Brooks trail with the Sara Tenney Trail, you can use one car though the total hike then approaches 5 miles.

Click here for a trail map.  See also Trail Mix: Hopkins Forest Tour.  You also have the option of taking the Fitch Trail to where it intersects with the RRR Brooks trails (See Fitch Trail Hike)

RRR Brooks Trail head is on Bee Hill Road near this classic bridge

Petersburgh Pass from the RRR Brooks Trail (Video)

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 Center
Park-McCullough House and Trails
Robert Frost Stone House and Museum and Trail
Snow Hole
SVC Hikes

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington

Oldcastle Theatre - 331 Main St. Bennington, VT
Last night we attended the premier performance of Arthur Miller's The Ride Down Mount Morgan at Oldcastle Theatre Company in beautiful downtown Bennington.  After enjoying Shakespeare's The Lion in Winter last year, we knew, minimally, we would be attending a performance a year.  The Ride Down Mount Morgan did not disappoint.  Nigel Gore as Lyman was simply outstanding and the supporting cast admirable as well.  This show runs through October 23rd.  Click here to order tickets online and pick them up at the window to enjoy live professional theatre in an intimate setting with very comfortable seating.  Click here for an article in the Vermont Guide on the production.

Theatres around world are celebrating Arthur Miller's 100th birthday.  Oldcastle Theatre Company can be proud of the terrific production of The Ride Down Mount Morgan.

The Oldcastle Theatre Company cast discuss their roles in The Ride Down Mount Morgan

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Clark's Walking Trails

The Clark in Williamstown, Massachusetts is first and foremost a world class art museum.  However, especially for those of us within driving distance, its 140-acre campus also provides wonderful grounds with walking trails that provide spectacular views of Williamstown and the Green Mountains of Vermont -- particularly attractive at this time of the year.  Click here for their trail map.

Other Hikes
RRR Brooks Trail
Snow Hole
SVC Trails

See also

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Robert Frost Stone House and Museum and Trail

I visited the Robert Frost Stone House and Museum in Shaftsbury, Vermont (121 VT-7A) just north of North Bennington.  The grounds are beautiful and it's fun to walk around and imagine the revered poet living there and tending to his orchards.  He lived there from 1920 to 1928 and penned his famous Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening there on a hot June day in 1922.

However, I'll be honest and say, unless you're a real Robert Frost or history buff, you might want to save the cost of admission to the house.  There isn't all that much inside other than placards to be read.  I was annoyed that photos aren't permitted inside the house, which is a bit weird.  Instead, you might want to just take a stroll around the outside and, if you're a walker, take the short hike along The Robert Frost Trail (click here for trail guide).

My visit did inspire me to purchase the American Library edition of Robert Frost: Collected Prose, Poems and Plays and Robert Frost: A Life.  Frost is highly regarded for his depictions of rural life and command of colloquial speech.

Robert Frost's grave in nearby Old Bennington Cemetery

Robert Frost Museum (VIDEO)

Other Hikes
Merck Forest & Farmland CenterPark-McCullough House and Trails
RRR Brooks Trail
Snow Hole
SVC Trails

See also

Friday, September 23, 2016

Community Forest Trails

I've had the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance's Community Forest on my to-do list for almost a year now. Yesterday, Linda and I finally took a drive over and hiked several of their beautiful trails.  This is a recently acquired 350-acre forest, located at 200 Legenbauer Road, Averill Park (East Poestenkill) that the non-profit Rensselaer Plateau Alliance purchased.  It has a wonderful mix of bogs, creeks, meadow and forest.  The trails are well-marked and have a soft, hemlock needle base.

Click here to access the trail map.

Big Beaver Bog

Community Forest Creek
Crank up the volume and enjoy a brief, zen-like experience!

Other Hikes
SVC Trails

See also