Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year

'My chair' in Paradox is at the table that serves us for dining and is my office. It is the location for my virtual tours of the world both on the internet and in my day dreams. As I sit there, I look out due North across Paradox Creek valley toward the ridge line of Owl Pate, Bald Pate, and Moose Mountain. The valley, itself, in the view from my chair is mostly open fields and marsh. The soils are a complex mosaic of sands, gravels, and clays with a mineralized hard pan varying in depth but averaging about 20 inches down. The soils were mixed at the bottom of a lake probably about 20,000 years ago at the end of the last great Ice Age. Given the addition of plenty of organic material and some manure, I have created a nice productive family garden at the foot of the side hill that has held our home for the last four decades. Before we arrived, the place was a small dairy farm supported by the farmer's cutting of the forest and selling the logs and pulp. They lived simply with no running water.

The mountains surrounding the valley are mostly incredibly old granite ledges with. Numerous large open smooth places and precipitous drop offs provide great views of the Eastern Adirondacks and even some views of the High Peaks to the North and East. They have been scoured and sculpted by the great glaciations of the last few hundred thousand years. The soils on these ridges are primarily thin and rocky and support blueberries, red pines, and red oaks on the south sides and some some hemlock and cedar on the north slopes. Where soils are deeper, further down the ridge lines, there are some nice pines and even in some of the gentler places some maples, yellow birch, and beech. Between the ridges there are lots of marshes, bogs, swamps, beaver meadows, streams, small ponds, fish, bears, deer, and even some moose. Sometimes it feels like half of our land is under water.

These mountains are composed of incredibly old rock that was heated, compressed, fractured, folded, and buried under 30 kilometers of earth's crust. This process went on for several hundred million years during a geological event called the Grenville Orogeny when parts of North West Africa and Western Europe collided with North America creating a mountain range rivaling the current great Himalayans of Asia. As the continents separated, the mountains over what was to become our Adirondacks eroded and were eventually covered by the ocean during which time they received a layer of sedimentary rock. Then, in the last 50 million years or so, the Adirondack area began to rise in its dome shape and the sedimentary rock layer eroded away assisted in the last few hundred thousand years by several episodes of glaciation giving it it's current form. The last glaciation left a lake in the Paradox Creek valley, at the bottom of which, my garden soils were formed. It has now receded leaving several smaller lakes - Paradox Lake being the closest to where we live - about 2 miles from our house.

I like to run a little quick time video in my head starting with the 'Big Bang' of 10 or 11 billion years ago and continuing with condensation of various gases into stars and planets including our sun and earth of 4 billion years ago or so, through various geologic ages to the Grenville Orogeny of a billion years ago, where I can slow the process down with some more detail and then continue to the uplift of the Adirondacks and glaciation and ending with me digging some manure into my garden and thinking I'm doing something significant to save the planet?

All that said, this process does give me some comfort and sense of my place in the universe. It puts my life in some perspective and helps me set realistic expectations - a little important humbling and good thoughts on the New Year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wharf at Santa Cruz

On Christmas Eve Day, Naomi, Micah and I spent some time on the wharf shopping for seafood for dinner. The wharf is a tourist place with lots of 'schlock' shops for out-of-towners, but, also, with several fresh seafood vendors. And then there are the seals and occasional sightings of sea otters.

There is a platform where the seals gather. They are very noisy and smelly, but a treat to see, still, for a landlubber like me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Cruz and Birthday!

We arrived in Santa Cruz late on the 17th. It was 15 below zero Fahrenheit when we left and in the mid 60s when we arrived. What a welcome relief. The trip was uneventful, except for some confusion on Southwest's part getting a serviceable plane for us at Las Vegas. Micah and the family are great. We have a new apartment this year which is a little farther from town and results in us doing some more walking - not a bad thing. The day before yesterday, 12/22, we celebrated my 64th birthday! I started the day by playing "When I'm 64" by the Beatles. Just click on the highlighted text.

For my Birthday, Naomi and I took a drive on US Highway 1 North along the spectacular California Coast. We stopped in Pescadora for lunch and some shopping. It is a little upscaled tourist town featuring a highly rated seafood restaurant and an organic goat dairy and cheese factory. As always, a trip along the coast is reflective and centering.

Later, that evening, we had a little birthday party for me. Sorry I cut off Juan's head. I feel very given to.

And there was the obligatory Birthday cake. Delicious! carrot cake.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More Holiday Season visits - Mom, Vern and Steve and Sharon

In the week before leaving for California, we also visited my Mom and Vern. My Brother Steve and His wife Sharon were also there. It was a good reunion. I only get to see Steve once or twice a year because he lives in Alaska where he operates a Mahay's Riverboat Service on the Susitna and Talkeetna Rivers out of Talkeetna, Alaska. Here are some pictures of the visit:

The two brothers with their mother.

Steve and Sharon

Mom And Vern,

The two brothers!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Family Visits

Over and around the Thanksgiving Holiday we visited Mitch, Bekah, and Tovah and, also, I spent a couple of days in Oak Park with Jenna and Maria. I have some pictures below.


Tovah ready to go to her dance lessons. She is totally into ballet and pink tutus! Her favorite stories are 'Angelina Ballerina'. That's me standing behind her. Note the ballet slippers!

This is a picture of Thanksgiving dinner. Mitch and Bekah are at the head of the table with Tovah that little person at the right of Bekah as we view it. Naomi and I sit across from each other next in line down the table. Then on the left side, as we view it, are Elaine (Mitch's Mom) and Tom (Mitch's Stepfather). On the right is the companion of a friend of Bekah's - Tom Knight. I just noticed that an important member of the Bekah, Mitch, Tovah household is between Mitch and Naomi and that is: Stuart the cat!


On the Monday after Thanksgiving I made a trip to Chicago to visit Jenna and Maria. I spent most of the time playing with Maria. Had a great time. Maria is very energetic and loves to run, jump and hop, and wiggle and squirm.

Maria and I made these glasses and antennae halo out of pipe cleaners.

Run! Run! Run!

Wrestling with Grandpa.

Momma watches!

Back to Northampton for a brief visit before going to California.

Tovah ready to go dancing again! Note the bow and necklace!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grouse present

Last year a Northern Pike gave itself to us as we were canoeing on Johnson Pond. This year, as I was walking down my driveway to my garden, I gave rise to two Ruffed Grouse. One flew safely off to the side into the woods. The other flew directly away from me and careened into my garden fence and lay fluttering on the ground. I gave it a chance to see if it would recover, but when it didn't, I took out my pocket knife and bled it out. I've just been through butchering about 30 chickens, so I proceeded to process this grouse. Another present from the wild! I wished I'd taken a picture like I did with the Pike. We ate the bird a yesterday. Basically followed a recipe in the One Pot & Clay-Pot cooking book. Stuffed the bird with chopped apple and shallot spiced with cinnamon and allspice and wrapped it in fresh chard and kale leaves and cooked in a tightly covered pot in a wine and butter liquid. It was great.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Snowmobile 'Showcase' trail in Vanderwacker Wild Forest - Lost Pond Trail

This posting is about the Snowmobile Guidelines for the construction of new snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve - Lands owned by the People of the State of New York and protected as Forever Wild by Article XIV of the New York State Constitution.
The first picture is of a Snowmobile 'Connector Trail' bridge on the 'Showcase Trail' called the lost pond trail in the Vanderwacker Wild Forest. This picture is of a bridge that is supposed to be 9' wide according to the new snowmobile trail guidelines. My steel rule is 10' and two inches and it is plain to see that the bridge is actually a little wider than the rule considering the over lap at the outside of the slightly raised railings. So. the 9' wide bridges are over 10' wide. I will put up several pictures demonstrating this. My walk included two bridges. One is clear of leaves and the other is not, so it will be easy to see the two bridges, both of which are the same width.

The bridges reeked of creosote. It smelled like someone had dumped a 5 gallon can of kerosene on top of the bridges!
Starting at the second bridge and returning to the road I have taken pictures of the stumps of the cut trees and of the trees that have been excavated and removed to the side of the trail that are in excess of 6" at the base of the cut. There are 63 trees that have been cut in less than one mile. I have excluded the trees that were cut that were dead at the time of the cut. If I had included them there would be more. I have included the trees that were excavated by hand from the trail and placed at the side of the trail figuring that if the warranted that level of intervention, then they were more than 6" in diameter. Those pictures follow. I realize that this may be tedious, but that is the way of documenting the destruction of the 'forever wild' character of our common heritage. I apologize for some of the pictures being out of focus. Most of the stump removal pictures are at the end.
In addition, there were numerous stones removed from the trail and placed on the side or used in the ramps up to the bridges. According to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, snowmobile trails are supposed to have the character of a foot trail. It seems hard to believe that a foot trail needs 10' wide bridges and would require the removal of 63 trees and numerous rocks in less than a mile distance. There is also 'benching' (leveling of the trails when they are on grades) which has not be done yet on this trail, so there are no pictures. But this 'benching' is also something not ordinarily performed on foot trails to provide a 9' wide level travel area.

The Photos follow. The first photo has the steel rule set at about 11", subsequent photos have the rule set at just over 6".

After this initial picture, the tape measure is set at slightly more than six inches.

This is the partial picture of a stump of a tree that was excavated from the trail.