SOFT PAWS: Find dog control officers, services during ‘Pause’

Meet Bailey, a 5-year-old Dutch shepherd who loves to run! She wants to be the queen of the household as she doesn’t get along with other animals… but she loves her people! Bailey’s favorite pastime–aside from hanging out with CGHS Adoption Counselor Alexa Caunitz–is playing with tennis balls for hours. Photo contributed.

 AS SPRING BLOSSOMS BEAUTIFULLY, not all of our or our neighbors’ pooches understand what “stay in place” means! Below, you’ll find valuable contact information for dog control officers in each municipality across the two counties we serve. If you have a lost dog or have spotted one, these are the folks to call. A reminder that cases of abandonment, neglect, abuse or cruelty are not under the jurisdiction or authority of dog control officers, and must be reported to law enforcement authorities.

A special note: It is with deep regret that we must send our best wishes to one of our finest dog control officers in Columbia County, Wes Powell, who laid down his official leash and duties at the end of March. The animal savvy, expertise, and caring that he exhibited during his many years of tenure as a DCO for multiple municipalities was unparalleled and appreciated beyond measure. There are so many people who can never be replaced… and Wes, you are one of them! Thank you!

Below the list you’ll find some new information pertinent to our ongoing services at the shelter during the current restrictions. Read more…

THROUGH THE WOODS: Golden spring

SPRING IN COLUMBIA COUNTY abounds in the color yellow, which is a perfect welcome for a season of joy. Winter, we hope, is finally gone. The yellow flowers to be found along the roadsides and in wet ditches now are spice bush, dandelion, coltsfoot and marsh marigold (cowslip) to name a few.

When we were kids we scouted the wet areas in our south meadow until we found the emerging marsh marigolds, commonly called cowslips. Our mother told us that years ago there were few or no greens to eat during winter, so people looked forward to eating cowslips in spring. If there were enough of them and would not deplete the source she would cook up a batch for us to eat. They contain a toxin (glycoside protoanemonin, which is destroyed by heat) so cowslips must always be cooked well to be eaten. We didn’t try this, but the buds can be cooked, pickled and used as a substitute for capers. Read more…

GREEN THOUGHTS: Two yellow Bettys

I LIKE WHEN PLANTS MAKE ME do a double-take. The enormous weeping beeches at the Vanderbilt Estate, an entire field ablaze with sulfurous dandelions and the giant witches broom in a white pine along a central New York road all had me putting on the brakes for a prolonged investigation. So last week when a small front yard tree in Rensselaer appeared to be filled with yellow canaries, I came to a complete stop, then rejoiced over a yellow magnolia.

Afterward, I rather sheepishly decided that I shouldn’t have been so surprised, since I have a yellow magnolia in my front yard, too. While such a thing might seem like a horticultural myth, akin to a truly blue rose or lawn grass which stays green but doesn’t need mowing, the real story goes back to 1977, when the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (BBG) patented what is generally acknowledged to be the first yellow magnolia, a hybrid called ‘Elizabeth.’

I saw a plant of ‘Elizabeth’ for the first time in the early 1990s, when it was truly rare, at BBG’s Kitchawan Research Center in Westchester County, and I vowed that someday I would have a tree of my own. The woman behind the tree, Elizabeth Van Brunt, was a friend and benefactor of the BBG who donated the Kitchawan site for the research facility. Read more…

COMMUNITY BRIEFS: April 30 – May 7

Image contributed

Weeds have some good points

CLAVERACK—Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties (CCE) announces free resource for farmers and gardeners on how to use wild edible plants in cultivated soils. Edible Weeds on Farms: Northeast farmer’s guide to self-growing vegetables is a free resource that demonstrates that edible weeds are nourishing, resilient, powerful, culturally rich, ecologically essential, economically useful, and much maligned. Weeds can compete with cultivated vegetables in some spaces, but to consider them a nuisance is to disregard the ecological, social, and economic benefits they contribute to a farm or garden.

Consider the benefits and use this free guide to learn more:

*To the farmer, edible weeds provide supplemental income, diversify production, abate biological risks, offset labor costs and fossil fuel input, and open new markets Read more…

THROUGH THE WOODS: The swallows are back!

TODAY WAS A HAPPY DAY; I spotted my first tree swallow flying above a pond. I hope they survive until the more hospitable May weather. Every year when the first few swallows arrive I wonder what makes them head north before the rest. Maybe this is their first northern migration and they just go for it without the experience of the older and wiser adults, the rebellious teenager types of the flock.

Tree swallow in flight. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

When the intense spring sun warms the earth, the insects emerge and are ready to provide food for our returning birds. While we are swatting mosquitoes and worrying about ticks and Lyme disease, the birds, like the swallows, are gobbling them up by the thousands. As the water warms there are hatches of insects and our swallows follow the Hudson River north and skim the surface of the water to feed before branching out inland. I love to watch the river for them and when they arrive in full migration there may be thousands of birds. It is amazing that as they zip and dart they can be side by side and crossing near other birds and never run into each other.

It is impossible and dizzying to try to follow one bird. The tree swallow, like the one in my photo, is usually the first species of swallow to reach our place here in the Town of Austerlitz. They catch the insects over the field and ponds and then check out our bluebird boxes. Tree swallows intimidate the bluebirds and usually get most of the boxes for themselves. Caution is needed when cleaning out a box because some of the mice may still be in their nest. One fall I found seven deer mice snuggled in a nest of milkweed silk with nuts and seeds stored in the bottom of a bluebird box. One started wriggling around and leaped out on my chest and ran down my leg. Fortunately I am not afraid of mice. Sometimes a snake will take up residence in warm weather. Read more…