THROUGH THE WOODS: The willow whistle

MY UNCLE WAS ALWAYS GOOD at teaching us interesting things he thought we ought to know, and entertained us when things got a little slow, or when he needed a short rest from all the hard farm work. Probably it was also a good way to keep us occupied and out of his hair. I would hang out around the cow barn, or occasionally pass through on the way to find a favorite cat, and he would ask me a question that would stop me in my tracks. That day he knew I had just been given a jackknife by my grandmother, and he asked me if I knew how to make a willow whistle. No, I didn’t, and he sent me off behind the barn by the pond to cut a branch from the big weeping willow tree.

I was usually barefoot in those days, which was a good thing because it was a wet, muddy area. He said it should be about 1” thick and be straight and free of knots. That kept me looking for a while. I wasn’t that tall that year and had to stand on tip toe and pull down a thin branch to cut it at a thicker part.

I came back with quite big branch and was cautioned not to drag it through the barn and scare the cows while they were being milked. Relaxed cows were more inclined to give up their milk and less inclined to kick off the milking machines. Read more…

GREEN THOUGHTS: Boxwood back from the blight

There now are ways to control boxwood blight. Photo contributed

BOXWOOD, THOSE PLUSH GREEN GLOBES and mini-hedges popular with the highest gardening elites down to the lowliest discount garden centers, fell from grace about a decade ago with the advent of a deadly disease called boxwood blight. In the early days, photos of giant piles of dead boxwoods culled from nurseries and lush gardens browned by the blight circulated as warning stories. But what has changed since then?

First, a little review. Boxwood blight showed up in several East Coast locations simultaneously during the summer of 2011. Like Stonehenge and superconductivity, no one knows its exact origin, but boxwood starting dying of the strange fungus in the United Kingdom way back in the 1990s. The first symptoms that occur are light to dark brown, circular leaf spots with dark borders. Infected stems have dark brown to black, elongated cankers. Rapid defoliation occurs, especially in the lower canopy of the shrub.

Disease transmission primarily happens through movement of infected plant material, contaminated landscape and garden tools, and rain/irrigation splashes. Fungal spores are spread by wind, rain or sprinklers. Because spores are sticky, they can potentially be spread by contaminated clothing and animals, including birds. Spores on infected leaves that have dropped can survive five years. Warm and humid conditions cause the fungus to spread quickly. Gardeners are urged to clean their tools, never water boxwood from above and replace dead boxwoods with something else. The fungicide recipes and regimes required to keep boxwood green resemble a cross between Baked Alaska and Gateau St. Honoré and are unsustainable. Read more…

THROUGH THE WOODS: A dairy farmer “retires”

Young Holstein. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

MY FATHER WAS A DAIRY FARMER as far back as I could remember starting in the late 1940s. All the local farmers had a cow for milk, butter and possibly cheese, which was mostly for family needs and not the main source of income. Our Town of Austerlitz had been a big sheep and wool area, probably because of demand and possibly because it was hilly and rocky with clay soil suited for these animals. Sheep could graze almost anywhere and eat almost anything.

When demand for wool diminished my father decided the better paying dairy cattle farming was the way to go. He was recently married and needed to prepare for supporting a family. I remember seeing the skull of our farm’s last big Merino ram down in the corner of a pasture below the barn. It had huge, curled horns. My father said he was mean, and you couldn’t turn your back on him, or he would butt you flat on your face.

My father seemed happy to say goodbye to the sheep and start on a new career with cattle. We had a few mixed heritage cows and a big red and white Ayrshire bull, and then, when he could afford it, he bought a few registered Holsteins (the black and white cows). My mother didn’t like potentially dangerous bulls around, so when the new artificial insemination service became available there were no more bulls. Artificial insemination also gave us access to some of the top Holstein bulls in the country via their frozen semen. We used nothing but the best until we had a small, but high-quality herd of registered Holsteins with great milk production. Read more…

Valatie village hosts ZBA and Planning Board meeting May 5

VALATIE – Please take notice that the Village of Valatie Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a Joint Public Meeting on the following applications:

1) An Application from Jacob and Katy Moore to build a 3-story mixed use building and single-family home behind on an empty lot at 3004 Main Street, with need for a parking variance.

Please take notice that the Village of Valatie Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a Joint Public Hearing on the following applications:

2) Application from Margaret Calhoun for Change of Use from Retail to Residential, and Special Use Permit for Short Term Rental.

3) Any other business to come before the Boards.

Said meeting will be held at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, May 5th, 2021 at the Village of Valatie Senior Center, 3302 Williams Street, Valatie, NY, at which time all interested parties will be given the opportunity to be heard.

Additional information regarding these applications/projects may be obtained by contacting the Village of Valatie Building Department at 518 758-1729.

Due to Covid-19, everyone is asked to wear a mask and social distancing will be enforced with a maximum of 20 people.

By Order of the Village of Valatie Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals,

Stephanie Caradine-Ruchel

Code Enforcement Official

Clerk to the Valatie Planning Board

Clerk to the Valatie Zoning Board of Appeals

Submitted April 21, 2021


THROUGH THE WOODS: Color spring yellow

THE RICH GOLDEN SUN MELTS the winter snow and starts our beautiful spring season of flowers. Our first yellow flowers were the tiny aconite in the beds behind the house and they are often accompanied by white snow drops. It is so nice to see growing things again and yellow is the color of joy and happiness.

We traditionally force forsythia to bloom and brought in a few branches and placed them in water. The warmth of the kitchen tricked the buds and leaves into coming out and was the first spring bouquet to cheer me up. The daffodils are finally out of the ground on our cool hilltop. My mother always planted daffodils each fall and added more varieties to her large collection. It was so nice to take a container and knife outside and just keep cutting them. Her only rule was always leaving a few in each clump so they would still look pretty outside.

I often took bunches of daffodils to work, and we all enjoyed them. She loved to walk around the house and farm to greet and admire each clump, as if she were checking up on how her “other children” were doing. The pond in the meadow below the barn was another of her favorite spots for daffodils, and they had to be placed so hungry cattle would leave them alone and not trample them. This problem was solved by planting the daffodils on the steepest banks away from the shallow spot where the cows liked to drink. Read more…