State Parks accept new camp reservations Monday, June 8

ALBANY—New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) will begin accepting new camping reservations June 8 for check-in beginning June 22. Campers are reminded to practice social distancing, bring and wear a face covering, respect the rules, and do their part to keep the campgrounds, parks and beaches open and safe for everyone. Camping capacity is limited and visitors must make an advance reservation before arriving at a campground.

New York State Park campsites, cabins and cottages are currently open only to those with existing
reservations. New reservations for all available sites – including tents, trailers, RVs, cabins, yurts and cottages–will be accepted at 9 a.m. June 8, for camping stays beginning on June 22. Reservations are expected to fill quickly. Reservations can be made in advance by calling toll free 1-800-456-CAMP or http://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com. Online reservations are encouraged.

State Park Police and operations staff are patrolling campgrounds to ensure compliance with social distancing and crowd control measures. Anyone who does not adhere to this guidance will be requested to leave the facility, and will not receive a refund. Read more…

THROUGH THE WOODS: Painted turtles

Painted turtle. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

NEAR OUR FARMHOUSE was a small rocky pasture with a shallow pond where the horses could drink. Our father said that he and his father used a team of horses and a drag scraper to deepen a small marshy area to create this pond to water livestock. It took days to finish it plus a lot of handwork too. It was a great place for us kids to play, explore and get into the mud, and especially to catch turtles.

That old pond taught us so many things about nature and about ourselves. Our mother always had an excellent reference library for us to use, and if we couldn’t get information about a creature there, we went to the Chatham Library. The books said our turtles were shy, fast swimmers and pretty slow on land, and told how to identify them.

As far as we could tell there were only painted turtles in the pond, and are one of the most common turtles in New York State. Wading into the mud was an experience and often resulted in bloody legs covered with leeches. For some reason this didn’t seem to disturb us, probably because we were used to seeing blood from skinned knees, and numerous other minor mishaps from outdoor farm activities. Leeches produce an anesthetic with their anticoagulant so they didn’t hurt, and we just pulled the squirming, blood swollen things off and shook them off fingers before their suckers attached there. They were only about an inch or two long, not like the monster leeches that Katherine Hepburn encountered in the “African Queen” movie. One of those would have stopped our hearts. Read more…

GREEN THOUGHTS: Thanks for your support

LIKE MANY GARDENERS, I find growing tomatoes an essential rite of summer. I was asked (forced, really) from an early age into helping my dad with his plants. Summer trips to see my grandparents meant admiring grandpa’s towering tomatoes—somehow his plants always topped eight feet, despite being in a small city backyard. And then there’s the legend of an ancestral great-great-grandmother who was the first to grow tomatoes in Norway, on a small island called Stangholmen, where her father was a lighthouse keeper.

This tomato plant has luxury accommodations. Photo contributed

With this much tomato sauce in my veins, you’d think I’d be an expert, but I’m still tinkering with my techniques, searching for that holy grail full of tomato juice.

A lesson I learned early is that laziness doesn’t pay. One year, dad decided to rototill the garden, plant the tomatoes and let nature take its course. Between the tomatoes, which were allowed to clamber and crawl everywhere, and 10-year old me, in charge of weeding and maintenance, this vegetable cart was hurling toward disaster. While we picked a few off the tops of the plants, the voles and mice fattened on the fruits of my lackluster labor underneath, and the weeds grew taller than my little blonde head, producing a trauma of rank growth, rot and rodents which haunts me to this day. I probably should seek counseling.

Most seasons dad pounded an eight-foot wooden stake next to each plant and periodically tied up the growth with ripped up bedsheets. It gave the garden a “Grapes of Wrath” sort of look, but was inexpensive and effective in growing great tomatoes. Then we moved to tomato “cages,” cone-shaped contraptions of wire with thin legs which are installed on each plant like an upside-down dunce cap. These work, although a large variety plant may topple its coop by late summer, so I recommend adding a supporting stake. Cages boost yields too; a Texas A & M University study found caged ‘Celebrity’ tomatoes produced 49% more fruit than those left to sprawl, one reason you’ll never hear tomatoes singing Roy Rogers’ tune, “Don’t Fence Me In.”

Once you decide to give your tomatoes a lift, the options for doing so are boundless. Square tomato cages are now available, which fold down for easy storage. Concrete reinforcing wire, five feet tall and heavy duty, can be fashioned into indestructible cages that are durable enough to pass down to tomato-growing grandchildren. Or, forgo cages for the “Florida Weave.” This system entails driving a stake between plants and at the end of each row, and weaving heavy twine in rows parallel to the ground eight inches apart among and up the stakes and plants. While it sounds like a TV solution for hairless Southerners, it might work well for your New York ‘Big Boys.’

My tomato garden is a complete high-tech system this year—raised beds, tomato cages with stakes, black plastic mulch, drip hose irrigation. Here’s to great fruit and a healed psyche.

To contact David Chinery, horticultural educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rensselaer County, email

COMMUNITY BRIEFS: Pomeroy, Sacred Sites, Turtles, Young wildlife, Clav. Srs., Hidden gardens, Strawberries & tag sale, Summer gala

Apply for grant to support history organizations

TROY—The Pomeroy Fund for New York State History, a partnership between the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and the Museum Association of New York (MANY), will provide an additional $50,000 in grants to assist 501(c)(3) history-related organizations with general operating expenses in 2020. MANY is now accepting applications on its website as of Thursday, May 28.

An organization must meet the following criteria to be eligible for a Pomeroy Fund grant during this second round:

*Based in New York State

*Mission must include history

*An annual budget of $150,000 or less

*Have no fewer than 250 open hours/program delivery hours in 2019. Read more…

LIBRARY NEWS: Roe Jan

What does social distancing mean to you?

COPAKE—With its new Community Art Project, the Roeliff Jansen Community Library wants to know what social distancing looks or feels like to you.

Send images of photos, paintings or other artwork, along with a title of your choosing, to . The library will share the images on its website and social media pages, and looks to hold an exhibition when the building re-opens. Read more…