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…

THE CATSKILL GEOLOGISTS: Unplanned views at Olana

MOZART DIED while still in his 30’s; how much wonderful music did the world lose? Frederic Church’s talented hands developed rheumatoid arthritis while he was still in his 50’s; how many great paintings do not now hang in museums because those hands could not paint them? Church was the greatest of the many Hudson River School of Art landscape painters and he lived and worked in his mansion, “Olana,” just south of Hudson. In his later years, even though he saw his painting skills fade, he would persist as a practicing artist.

Photo from Crown Hill looking north at Olana. Photo by Robert and Johanna Titus

Church became a landscape architect at a time when the field was being invented. His Olana estate of 250 acres became the canvas for this, his new art. Church made fine art of his many acres by planting thousands of trees exactly where each one would enhance the landscape. He planned all the many twists and turns of his long driveways so that each bend would open up a new grand vista. But mostly Church employed the concept of the “planned view.” Every one of his architectural strategies was aimed at creating spectacular visions. With the Hudson River, the Hudson Valley, and the Catskill Mountains as backdrops, he was enormously successful; Olana is a milestone in the early history of landscape architecture.

The two of us have long recognized that it was the glaciers of the Ice Age that first shaped this landscape and we have been, for years, documenting how each of his planned views had an unplanned ice age ancestry. On May 1 we will be visiting Olana and are scheduled to lead a two-hour walk exploring its ice age origins. If you go to you can sign up to join us. But today let’s describe one unplanned view we won’t have time for. That’s the view from Crown Hill, south of the mansion (see photo). Read more…

GREEN THOUGHTS: Getting schooled on soil

WE’RE A SOCIETY that believes in testing. We test our cars for emissions, our food for safety, and goodness knows many of us have experienced the Covid-19 test. So it may seem natural to test our garden soil, but before we put spade to earth, perhaps we should start with the why and how.

Why should we care? The most common type of soil testing horticulturists speak of, nutrient analysis, tells us the elements available to the plant, the pH of the soil (relative acidity or alkalinity) and the organic matter content. These measurements provide one part of the picture of soil health (we’re ignoring important factors such as soil structure, texture and biology here) and we can then estimate which nutrients are lacking or even in excess for optimal plant growth. That last bit really gets to the point – we want to know about our soil so that we can help plants grow to their full potential. In this way, gardening is like parenting a child or raising a puppy. Read more…