Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fall in Paradox Creek Valley

It is getting toward that time when when we have to think that snow cover will come in and blanket the North Country until the second week in April. It doesn't happen that way every year, but it is prudent to plan for it starting sometime the first week in November. What does that mean?

Planting Garlic: This year I'm planting my garlic about a month later than last year. Last year's September planting was a little too early for some varieties which seemed to get too much of a head start before hard winter and presented to the extreme cold of the Adirondacks a little too much green stem and were too vulnerable. Most of the varieties did just fine and I enjoyed a great harvest this summer, giving away a lot of luscious smoldering garlic. I've planted as late as the second week in November in some years and had good results - although I had to move the snow aside to to the planting.

End of season for summer rentals: Our Summer rentals end at Columbus Day. The rental business was great this year. We met lots of wonderful people from all over the country and even some from Europe. The Internet has been great for our business. We used to have most people from the NYC metro area, but the Internet has opened up the rentals to folks from all over the country, Canada and England. With the end of the season the valley becomes much more sparse and private. This is good, but not something we would like to have all year long.

Once people are no longer in the buildings, we have to arrange for routine repairs that come with use of normal wear and tear. Chimneys have to be replaced. Plumbing upgraded. Roofs fixed. Screens repaired. Internet sites need to be updated for the next year. A lot of this work is done by local business people and craftsmen.

Cleaning up the garden: We pick the last vegetables - kale, rutabaga, lettuce, beets, carrots, broccoli, some herbs. We pull away the weeds. Clean up the Asparagus ferns to make the bed ready for next year. Cut the corn stalks and chop them up some so they will compost. Refuse goes in the compost pile for next year's plants. We've already picked the dry bean plants and thrashed the beans and stored them in jars in the house. Onions, squash, garlic, potatoes in the basement. It is time to make some horseradish sauce - dig up some roots and blend them with some vinegar and pop it into the freezer. It is great with Kefilta fish on Friday night Sabbath meal.

Butchering chickens, eggs, undeveloped eggs, cooking pullets and hens: This is a big topic. This year we cared for 4 Wyandottes as laying hens from our niece Ilana Nilson. They provided us with eggs from about mid April until mid September. There were a couple of times when we had to buy a dozen eggs because we had company. The two dozen New Hampshire Reds we had delivered as day old chicks in April began laying in mid September. At that point we butchered the Wyandottes and put them in the freezer. Subsequently we cooked one of them with very satisfactory results in a Joy Of Cooking marinade. They tasted good and were relatively broad of breast and thick of thigh. Coq au van worked well as long as you marinaded longer and cooked longer than the modern recipes in Joy of Cooking

During the course of the summer we butchered several of the New Hampshire Reds. They were thin in the breast and clearly don't provide the best kind of meat bird. They do range really well on pasture which is nice and organic, but, if you want to eat chicken, better to raise some other variety of bird. In the middle of September they began to lay eggs - wonderful eggs with rich orange yolks that stood high above a firm egg white. We let them lay for about a month and provide us with enough eggs to get us well into January. Eggs can be kept in the fridge for about 100 days.

So, now at the end of Oct. we are butchering the remaining New Hampshire Reds. They are broader in breast and thicker in thigh than they were a couple of months ago, and have made some very good eating - again very much in the tradition of slow cooking in a covered dish with nicely flavored sauces. We slowly realized that we are cooking more like our grandparents cooked chickens. Both Naomi and I have memories of grandmothers using parts of the chicken we no longer have any familiarity with- feet and heads used to make soups, internal organs used to make pate', undeveloped eggs to make soups. It is clear to us that, not so long ago, much more of the chicken was used for food and chickens were not slaughtered at such a young age - 8 weeks is now the average. Something has surely been lost with the industrialization of raising chickens for food. We have a memory of what was lost. That should not be forgotten.

As the days shorten, we find ourselves sleeping later. The evenings are longer with more inside activities - reading. When we do venture out we see the amazing winter stars. I often think about the fact that most Americans who live in large metropolitan ares no longer have the same skyscape we do. I wish I could bring them all here for just one glorious night to see the milky way.

Puttin' up the wood is another big fall job. I had the logger, who did our harvest last year, leave a couple of twitches for me to cut to size and split for our firewood. It is a big job and my arthritis in my hip doesn't make it any easier. Almost any amount of chain sawing or splitting gives me a sleepless night with hip pain. Oh well! The orthopedist says I need a new hip. I keep hoping that I can find a way to schedule it so that it doesn't interfere with my life. Looks like next fall at this time will be the time. I'm scared of it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy (Naomi) visits Maria and Jenna

Naomi visited Jenna and Maria in their new apartment in Oak Park for a long weekend Oct. 16 -19. Here are some pictures.

Pleased to see Grandma Happy!

One of the pleasant surprises is that Maria, at four and a half, seems to have taught herself how to read and write. Here is her self written Christmas wish list: Tea set, Pillow, Jack in the Box, Playdoh.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tovah visit for her birthday - three years old!

Tovah, Mitch, and Bekah visited for the Columbus Day Weekend and we celebrated her birthday. Here are some pictures.

Everybody's favorite activity - looking at pictures of Tovah on the Computer!

Tovah, with the help of Mitch and Bekah, playing with a Ballerina stage set.

Tovah and her Mom playing!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Guidance for Snowmobile Construction and Trail Maintenance on Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack Park: Comments

The following are my comments on the Adirondack Park Agency's proposed Guidance for Snowmobile Construction and Trail Maintenance on Forest Preserve Lands in the Adirondack Park. Items highlighted are links to background materials.

I am very concerned about the basic framing of the task for creating the "Guidance for Snowmobile Construction and Trail Maintenance on Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack Park"

In the memorandum to Terry Martino(Executive Director of the Adirondack Park Agency APA) it is stated that "Snowmobiling is an allowable recreational use in the Forest Preserve when occurring in compliance with APSLMP(Adirondack State Land Master Plan) guidelines". I believe that starting this statement with the phrase that "Snowmobiling is an allowable use" leads to the development of guidelines that try to accommodate modern snowmobiles. The memorandum could have begun with the statement that: "Article xiv(This is the 'Forever Wild Clause' of the NY State Constitution) and the SLMP govern the allowable use of Snowmobiles in the Adirondack Park'. This might have gotten us off on a better footing. In fact, modern snowmobiles are tremendously different in character from the snowmobiles that were allowed in the original State Land Master Plan.

  • They are almost a foot wider. The standard width is now 4 ft.
  • They are vastly more powerful and capable of speeds in excess of 100 mph.
  • Trail grooming techniques have changed to accommodate the higher speeds and greater size of the machines.

There seems to be an assumption that no matter how much the machine morphs, the SLMP must flex to permit its use. I argue that the new guidelines regulating the use of snowmobiles are based on the technological advancements of the machine rather than on the basis of Article XIV of the NYS constitution and the APSLMP. Technological development of the snowmobile should not be the basis for guidelines. The APSLMP should be the basis for the guidelines.

There are two keys in the APSLMP that are most important:

  • Snowmobile trails must maintain the character of a foot trail.
  • Snowmobiles are the only allowed vehicles on snowmobile trails.

Pages 9, 10 and 11 of the proposed guidelines indicate guidelines for improvement of Class II trails that:

  1. Make them 9 ft. wide.
  2. Remove rocks and tree stumps protruding in such a manner to interfere with the operation of snowmobiles using landscaping equipment such as small backhoes and skidsteers.
  3. Allow for the leveling of humps and dips in the trails.
  4. create 'benches' with 9 foot wide areas level enough for operation. This means some beveling of the up slope and down slope areas from the bench and will inevitably result in the opening up of the forest canopy.
  5. Curves in the trails will have a radius of at least 25 ft and the trail is up to 12 feet wide at these curves.
  6. bridges over wet areas and streams will be 9 ft wide.

Trails with features such as these in no way resemble foot trails. They do not pass the 'common sense test' as a foot trail. They are in fact Snowmobile highways. I do understand that there are all sorts of mechanisms put in place by the guidelines to try to ensure a minimization of the impact of these improvement methods, but they do not change the essential nature of the new trails in a way that could possibly be conceived of as a foot trail.

I have also heard, verbally, of justification for these trail modifications on the basis that there are old roads in the Forest Preserve that have been converted to foot trails that were extensively graded and benched when they were roads. The argument proceeds: "Therefore creating new trails with those features merely mimics those already established foot trails". This, as you must be aware, is faulty logic. The fact that old roads have been abandoned and converted to foot trails, does not provide justification for creating what are essentially new roads to be converted to snowmobile trails - it just does not make sense. Using that logic we could build roads anywhere in the preserve and call them foot trails and it would be approved. This clearly violates the intent of the SLMP.

I think that the idea of Community Connectors is a sound idea. I think that it is also very positive to move trails from the interior of the Forest Preserve to the periphery, but I feel that two miles from the nearest highway is two far into the Preserve to consider being on the periphery. One half mile is closer to the ideal. If the intent is to provide a trail from one town to another, what is the problem with running the snowmobile trails along the shoulder of the road in places where there is no suitable trail location further into the forest? The shoulders of many Adirondack highways have recently been widened to a point where they could accommodate such use. Using these road shoulders would keep the trails off of Forest Preserve Lands.

Use of tracked snocats as groomers for the trail clearly violates the SLMP which states that snowmobiles are the only vehicle to be used on snowmobile trails. Calling daily, or even multiple daily, grooming runs with a tracked snocat a trail maintenance operation is stretching the language and intent of the SLMP. Trail maintenance has always been considered something that happens on hiking trails once a year or even once in multiple years, not a daily event. I'm sure the authors of the original SLMP and Article xiv are 'turning over in their graves'.


Overall, I would suggest that snowmobile trails, as originally intended and initially described in the SLMP and earlier guidelines, be the only allowed type of trail even when used as community connectors. A public education campaign and appropriate signage could indicate that this snowmobiling experience is a Wild Forest experience different from the kind of snowmobiling experience one would expect elsewhere. Speed limits could be imposed and enforced. Yellowstone National Park has a speed limit for snowmobiles of 45 mph even on highways. I would only suggest a snowmobile speed limit on Forest Preserve Trails and it should be less than 45 mph because of the nature of the trails. Natural speed bumps should be left intact. Grooming would be done with snowmobiles pulling drag groomers.

An analogy for what I am suggesting is that we typically reduce auto traffic speeds in residential neighborhoods and install many stop signs and speed bumps in these neighborhoods to preserve the quiet for people in their homes and enhance the safety for pedestrians and children. Even though one may travel through the neighborhood with a car capable of 0 - 60 in 9 seconds and capable of traveling in excess of 100 mph, one realizes that it is not appropriate in that setting. The auto industry even has cars appropriate to the suburban setting like station wagons and minivans as opposed to the little sport sedans more attuned to the open road. Likewise to provide for the quiet and wild character of Forest Preserve lands we must operate well below the capacity of the modern snowmobile. Article xiv and the People of NYS in legislation establishing the APA and the State Land Master Plan have repeatedly indicated that the State Forest is a special place requiring restraint on our activities to preserve its forever wild character.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Burned out on Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

I feel really embarrassed about this. I consider myself an environmentally responsible citizen. I was an early adopter of Compact Fluorescent Bulbs , but I'm burned out on them. They are outrageously expensive. They fail at an alarming rate - don't seem to last even as long as regular incandescent bulbs. I can't use them on my lights connected to dimmer switches. I can't use them in my recessed lights. They even fail in my vanity lights over my mirror which face downward.

Speaking of my vanity. When the bulbs were still working, every morning the light they cast over my face as I brushed my teeth and washed created the look of such a pall it made me think I had suffered some sort of heart attack during the night or was suffering from liver failure. My first impulse was to rush to my wife, wake her up and ask if I looked all right, just to reassure myself that I wasn't going to die in the next five minutes and didn't need to dial 911.

Then there is the mercury. How do we dispose of this rapidly growing pile of toxic failed bulbs. Note: since I have been using these bulbs only about 10 years, I shouldn't have any failed bulbs yet.

It is clear that we need to replace the energy inefficient incandescent bulb, but, in my opinion, compact fluorescent bulbs are actually worse than incandescent.
  • They have to be replaced more often - I know this is heresy, but I'll bet money that it is true.
  • They create a serious mercury pollution problem - I'll also bet money that most of them are disposed of improperly because it is too much trouble to find out how to properly do it.
  • And they cast a horrible light.

First Snow!

Lifted my head from my pillow early this morning to what initially seemed like moon glow. But, why the sound of drops of water dripping from the trees and plumply pinging the metal bedroom roof? In the numb grayness of my mind, moon glow morphed into the reality of first snow.

You can see that we haven't taken our Sukka down yet.

Friday, October 2, 2009

First Frost

This morning we awoke to the first killing frost of the season. The squash vines look very sad, leaving a sweet aroma of death and decay. The season moves on. I spent the morning splitting wood for the winter stove. Love the smell of new split wood. I realized, as I was picking up a freshly split piece and inhaling the aroma, that a naive looker-on might think I was some sort of weird p-rv-rt. Chuckled to myself and wearily chucked the wood onto the pile. My bones are getting old too.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Last Cucumber of the Season

It is October 1st and I just picked a fresh English style cucumber from the garden! This is the latest I can remember having fresh cucumbers from our garden. We still haven't had a killing frost, although sometime in the middle of September we did have a 'ground frost' which was quite beautiful with white crystals on the low grasses, but which didn't seem to affect any of our vegetables. There was a touch of leaf kill on some of the squash leaves, but that was all. The plants continued to produce squash through the rest of September.
So, even though it was a cold and wet summer, we had a long growing season - unusually long for our valley.