Field and Forest, by Richard Gast

Knee high by the Fourth of July?

As we get together with family and friends to celebrate Independence Day, an old farming adage comes to mind, one that has been used for generations to help benchmark the progress of corn crops: “knee high by the Fourth of July.” The saying appears to have roots in the Farmer’s ...

Are there cougars in the Adirondacks?

Before the 19th century, cougars were abundant across the American continent. In fact, the cougar was the most widely distributed land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. They were found in forests from tropical to boreal, from Chile to the Canadian Yukon. A lion living in the Arizona desert ...

It’s hummingbird season

I’ve always been fascinated by ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris), the only hummingbird species to regularly breed in eastern North America. They’re small hummingbirds with slender, slightly curved, black bills, fairly short wings that don’t reach all the way to their ...

Exploring hemp production in New York

“American farmers are promised a new cash crop ... that will not compete with other American products ... (and) will provide thousands of jobs for American workers ...” “Hemp ... has great tensile strength and durability. It is used to produce more than 5,000 textile products, ...

American robins — harbingers of spring

“The early bird catches the worm.” It’s an old adage that most likely refers to the American robin (Turdus Migratorius). This year, I first saw robins in late March, right around the time that maple sap started running. As I write this, they’re still showing up, almost daily, apparently ...

Exploring the history of maple syrup

I don’t think there’s a more magnificent forest tree or more glorious shade tree than the sugar maple (Acer saccharum). The deciduous tree, which matures in 30-50 years, generally grows to between 70 and 90 feet tall, with a crown that turns a brilliant, fiery yellow, orange, or red at ...

Sugarhouse/sugarbush tours during Maple Weekends

Spring is almost here. At least, according to the calendar. And, although I realize that winter isn’t nearly ready to completely relinquish its hold on the earth, the days are getting longer and the frigid arctic conditions that have put the resolve of even some of the most winter-loving ...

Birds of a feather

Birds of a feather flock together. It’s a metaphor dating back to the 16th century; used even then in alluding to people with similar interests, motivation, loyalties or like minds. It’s also a straightforward reference to the fact that birds congregate with others of their own species. So, ...

Coming to terms with solar energy development

Perhaps the most significant energy question in the North Country in the coming year will be the potential long-term advantages and/or disadvantages of advancing industrial-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) project development in the region. Solar power represents a significant opportunity for ...

The politics of cheese

I enjoy a wide variety of dairy products. And I especially like cheese. All sorts of cheese: hard, soft, sharp, mild, pungent, curds, sliced, shredded, cubed, balled, spread, powdered, creamed and whipped. A little tossed into my breakfast omelet; a slice, perhaps two, on my sandwich at ...

After a lifetime of service, Rick LeVitre is retiring from Extension

After seven years of executive directorship at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County and two years of double-duty as executive director at CCE of both Franklin and Essex counties, Rick LeVitre is retiring. I remember the apprehension I felt when Rick arrived at Franklin County ...

Poinsettias have a long, colorful history

Poinsettias are among the most popular potted flowering or foliage plants of the Christmas season. They have been for decades. According to the most recent United States Department of Agriculture statistics available, the wholesale value of U.S. grown poinsettias was roughly $140 million in ...

Make houseplants part of your home’s winter decor

In winter, when we spend most of our time indoors, houseplants can add beauty, color, warmth, and contrast to living spaces. Several scientific studies indicate that they improve indoor air quality, too. Successful houseplant horticulture doesn't have to be difficult. You need to start ...

Wild turkeys face an uncertain future

The wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, is one of only two domesticated birds native to North America. The Muscovy duck is the other. Five sub-species make up the entire North American population. The most abundant is the eastern wild turkey — sub-species silvestris, meaning forest — ...

Septic system care and maintenance tips

Septic systems are used to treat and dispose of wastewater. When properly used and maintained, they safeguard human, animal, and plant health by breaking down wastewater and removing potential contaminants. It’s a two-step process. The septic tank allow solids in the wastewater to ...

The legend of jack-o-lantern

Perhaps the single-most-recognizable symbol of the Halloween season is the traditional hollowed out pumpkin carved into a smiling or ominous, illuminated-in-the-dark face. But, “Why,” I’ve often been asked, “is it called a jack-o-lantern?” While much of what’s known is ambiguous ...

Prepare next year’s garden beds now — without digging or tilling

If you’re thinking about a new garden bed for next spring, you need to start preparing now. You need to select an appropriate site, keeping in mind that adequate sunlight is essential, as is good air circulation and, in most cases, relatively level ground. Good soil is essential, too. In ...