© 2017 by Ronda Roaring Communications, LLC.

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • LinkedIn Social Icon

Writing Samples

Birding in the Finger Lakes

Finger Lakes Region Summer Guide
Messenger Post Media

Summer 2012

 

I live in a town called Danby in Tompkins County. It's so small it doesn't even have a post office and often doesn't show up on New York State maps. Several years ago I was in the parking lot of the Linday-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve in my town where I met a fellow and his car full of passengers who had come all the way from Ontario, Canada to see a tiny pale brown bird called a Worm-eating Warbler. They had heard about the bird on a rare bird alert and, being die-hard birders, had hopped in the car. What the heck, it's only hundreds of miles!

 

More cars pulled in and more expectant birders gathered in the parking lot. Finally, someone who knew where the bird would be, led the way. After some trudging to a part of the preserve I'd never been to, we got to the spot. Evidently our group leader had made an appointment with the bird, and we were right on time. So was he. He sang, flew around, gave us all good looks and made us all happy, especially the birders from Canada. We in the Finger Lakes aim to please.

 

Birding in the Finger Lakes is excellent no matter what time of year. And with its varied habitat--lakes, hills, gorges, woodlands and open fields--you can find a wide variety of birds from waterfowl to owls.

 

The article goes on to talk about the Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Sapsucker Woods, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, Montezuma Audubon Center, the Olga Fleisher Ornithological Foundation, Braddock Bay Raptor Research Center and more.
 

The Rural Pond

Life in the Finger Lakes
Summer 2006

 

"And they whirl and they twirl and they tango" goes the refrain from "Muskrat Love," a popular 1970s song by the Captain & Tennille about the lovemaking of Muskrat Suzie and Muskrat Sam. As fate would have it, I found out one day while "Muskrat Love" was high on the charts that that really is what muskrats do when they make love.

The setting could not have been more romantic: a warm, sunny, early spring day at a six-acre pond in Wayne County. Over the years, I spent hundreds of hours at that pond, watching muskrats do their thing, the coots, grebes, and great blue herons feeding in the pond's shallow water, turtles sunning on a small island, a woodcock sitting motionless on her nest under a bush near the pond's edge. I wonder now if that pond is still there or if it has been turned into a shopping center as planned. If it's been turned into a shopping center, I don't think I want to know. I want to go on believing that Muskrat Suzie and Muskrat Sam are still whirling and twirling.

 

As more and more people move into rural areas, the number of ponds increases, partly because a pond serves as a reservoir that can be used in case of fire and partly because it can be used for recreation and attracting wildlife.

Before You Dig In

If you're thinking of creating a pond, there are many things you need to consider before you start digging.  The most important consideration is the site. Most ponds have a least 6 feet of water at their deepest point. Therefore, you must be able to dig down at least that deep and still have a base that will retain water. It makes sense to have soil cores drilled and analyzed before starting a large digging operation. When I tried to dig a decorative pond in the backyard of my home in Tompkins County, I hit shale at 18 inches. The shale allowed the water to leak out through its thin layers while leaking in small, dark blobs of oil that floated on the water's surface. So much for that idea.

Besides being fairly deep, the site needs to be fairly flat. Building a pond on a hillside, though not impossible, is rather difficult and limiting. It can also require a dam construction, which will increase its cost. When locating your pond, remember too that a pond should never be placed where it will come in contact with run-off of chemicals like pesticides and road salt, near septic leach lines, or near grazing animals. If the pond  is fed by a creek or stream, make sure upstream water is pollution free....

Unexpected Company--Is Your Pantry Ready?

My Home Life
Winter 2004

 

The phone rings. It's your best friend. She and her husband are in town and would love to stop by for a visit. The catch? They'll be arriving in 10 minutes. You'd like to serve them something to eat, but self-admittedly, you're  not Martha Stewart. Here's our tip: What you serve depends on what you drink.

With a semi-dry dessert wine, serve lychees, rambutans, or longans--sweet roundish fruits from Asia that can be found at specialty grocers. Drain the syrup from the can and serve as finger food in a colorful bowl.

If beer is what you want, serve salted cashews or wasabi peas. Cashews have a buttery taste, whereas wasabi peas (dried peas coated with Japanese wasabi sauce) have the hot tang of horseradish. Both come in pressurized cans. 

If hot or iced tea is your thing, try the small six-sided Tam Tam crackers dipped in either hummus or tehina dip for a taste of the Middle East, or the extra -wide Chinese noodles dipped in duck sauce.

For coffee and latte lovers, you can't go wrong serving Piroulini--rolled Viennese wafers filled with chocolate or vanilla.

Serve all the above with cocktail napkins. They'll think you've been expecting them for weeks.

Can you Cut It, and When Should You?

Easy Lawn & Garden
June 1994

 

The Japanese consider pruning an art. American horticulturists consider it a science. I consider it serious business.

Cutting live wood is equivalent to cutting off a finger; it opens a wound through which a variety of occasionally fatal pathogens can enter and, if not done properly, pruning can deface an otherwise good-looking plant.

If you don't do it right, in most cases your plant is far better off if you don't prune it at all. A cut is final; the branch can't be clued back on.

If all this sounds terribly negative, it's because I've seen far too many plants that have been hacked at to the point of disfigurement. Your landscape adds value to your property. Improper pruning can turn you landscape into an eyesore. Pruning is a skill gardeners need to cultivate. Quality pruning requires three things: proper tools, a knowledge of basic pruning principles used in conjunction with common sense, and practice.

Tools

The basic tool is a pruner, a small hand tool designed to cut branches up to half an inch in diameter. There are two types of pruners--the anvil and the by-pass. The anvil pruner has a sharp blade that is drawn down onto the surface (anvil) of the other blade. The by-pass operates like a scissors with a slicing action. The anvil pruner provides more leverage than the by-ass, but the by-pass allows for a flusher cut. The very best pruners have replaceable brass anvils. The best by-pass pruners have steel blades and replaceable parts. Gardeners who prune a lot of small branches should own both types.

Hedge shears are long-handled, long-bladed cutting devices with a scissors-like action. Designed for cutting only the smallest branches, use hedge shears only on bushes with lots of fine branches, privets for example, when you want to prune to a uniform shape. Look for tempered blades and forged bevels....

When Cold Bites Your Lips

Men's Health
January/February 1994

 

No woman, be she your devoted wife or the lovely ski patroller you met this afternoon, wants to kiss lips that look like fish scales. It's winter, bub. You've got to take care of your lips. We'll tell you how, but first a little anatomy lesson. Lips, believe it or not, are mucous membranes, extensions of the soft skin inside your mouth. But unlike the rest of your skin, they lack a tough outer layer. So they can be easily damaged by winter sun and the desertlike humidity of indoor heating. Also, exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays can sprout fever blisters and even cause skin cancer. We asked Neil Sadick, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York Hospital--Cornell Medical Center, to offer up some suggestions for keeping your lips feeling , and looking, good. His advice:

  • Smooth some petroleum jelly over your lips every day in winter. Make it a morning ritual, something you do right after you brush your teeth.

  • Before going outside, coat your lips with a lip balm containing a sunscreen with an SPF of 15.

  • Don't lick your lips to moisten them. That'll hasten drying, because you're licking off any oil that might be on them.

  • If your chapped lips become infected, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment.

Octopus Under Glass

Cornell Alumni News
November 1991

 

In the late 1950s, Thomas Eisner, the Schurman Professor of Biology, became intrigued by the contents of a set of dusty glass cabinets across from his office in the old Roberts Halls. Unable to locate the cabinets' key, Eisner and an assistant forced the lock with a paper clip. Inside they found more than 500 glass models of marine invertebrates, some broken, but all anatomically correct. Colleagues expressed little interest in the exquisitely detailed teaching tools. But Eisner photographed several and used the pictures as illustrations in his first book, Animal Adaptation.

Years later it was discovered that these delicate specimens were the creation of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, the father-and-son team of German lampworkers whose unique botanical models comprised Harvard University's Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants.

Before the Blaschkas began their fifty-year exclusive relationship with Harvard, they produced squid, jellyfish, sea cumbers, sea anemones and other marine invertebrates that were sold to universities and museums. No one has ever duplicated the Blaschkas' work. Cornell bought its specimens in 1885 from Ward's Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, New York, paying between $2 and $10 for each piece. Today many people consider them priceless.

Assistant professor C. Drew Harvell, who teaches invertebrate zoology and marine ecology in the university's Section of Ecology and Systematics, is curator of the invertebrate collection, which is now being stored at the Corning Museum of Glass. Harvell hopes to oversee the restoration of the figures, as soon as the university finds funds to cover the cost, and to display them in the atrium of Corson Hall, in glass cases designed by Ithaca architect Peter Demjanec '87.

Carousel Heaven

Connoisseur
May 1991

 

Only about eighty carousels still operate in the United States, and of these, six are in one county--Broome--in upstate New York. They were purchased between 1919 and 1930 from the Allan Herschell Companies, in North Tonawanda, New York, by George F. Johnson, a New York State shoe manufacturer.

Believing that a healthy, happy work force would increase productivity, Johnson instituted social and health programs and built houses to sell to employees. His desire to provide them with recreation--especially carousels--stemmed from a childhood of such poverty that he had no pocket money for a ride to the sound of a military-band organ on gaily painted horses bobbing up and down. He vowed that, if ever he had money, no other child would experience that disappointment. Since the day the carousels began arriving in Broome County, rides for children of all ages have been free.

There is one carousel in each of six Broom County municipal parks. The Ross Park and the Recreation Park carousels still use their original, Wurlitzer military-band organs. Except for the carousels in highland and West Endicott parks, which have a dog and boar each, all the carousel figures are horses and all are  jumpers. It is related that, once, George F. (as they called him) saw a little girl crying because she had not gotten to ride a jumping horse. He decided then and there that all his horses must be jumpers.

Although the carousels have been well cared for over the years, the horses have been painted the wrong colors, lights removed, brass poles painted over. All six are being considered for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and several are being restored. At Recreation Park, not only the figures but the entire structure will be restored at a cost of approximated $250,000.

Last July, a carousel museum opened at Ross Park. Until recently an ugly, windowless utility building, it has been painted with trompe l'oeil windows, doors, and climbing vines.

All six of Broome County's carousels are enclosed and operate from Memorial Day to Labor Day. (Broome County Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 995, Binghamton, NY 13902; 607-772-8860.)

Glass Menagerie

Connoisseur
July 1991

 

Genius takes many forms, but the father-and-son team of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka shared a particularly unusual kind of aesthetic brilliance. Between 1863 and 1936, these Bohemian craftsman created minutely detailed models of flowers and marine animals--made entirely out of glass. Their unique creations, ranging from pollinating bees, to sea cucumbers, to a series on the life cycle of  a common moss, are currently on view at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York.

Working near Dresden, Germany, the Blaschkas developed a mastery of the technique of lampworking--a glass-shaping process that involves softening rods of glass over a flame, then molding them with such simple tools as pincers and tweezers. Museums and universities bought their models of sea creatures, including squid, jellyfish, and anemones, for an average of three dollars each through a Rochester, New York, scientific-supply company. Cornell University purchased more than 500 of these sea animals--some of them under two inches in length. Eventually Harvard's Botanical Museum offered the Blaschkas an exclusive contract to make a variety of glass models of flowers. Over a forty-six-year period, the Blaschkas (principally Rudolf) produced nearly 850 full-size plant models and 3,200 magnified details for their Harvard patrons.

With hindsight, one can see that the Blaschkas were possessed of the same taxonomic urge that motivated photographers such as Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932), who magnified the forms of plants, and Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), whose famous motion studies first revealed that a running horse at one period of his stride has all four hooves off the ground. Like the work of these pioneers, the Blaschkas' glass objects fuse science and aesthetics, creating works that transcend categorization. Today the Blaschkas' masterful mimicry of nature resembles an especially advanced form of postmodern "appropriationist" art. The viewer is left to wonder what kind of poetic urge propelled the Blaschkas to capture living forms in such frozen perfection. 

Small is Beautiful

Connoisseur
June 1989

 

June is popping up miniature roses--not just the better-known, artificial variety on the slipper of the designer Romeo Gigli or in the hair of brides, but the real ones, the kind that grow and bloom. Little roses are making big news, in fashion as well as gardening circles.

For the first time in its fifty-year history, All-American Rose Sections (AARS), a nonprofit organization of rose growers and producers, has selected miniature roses, Debut and New Beginning, for commendation. Miniature roses range in height from six inches to three feet, at maturity. Flowers vary from half an inch in diameter when open to about one and a half inches, for the larger minis. Bred in Antibes, France, Debut has velvetlike double flowers, deep crimson with a creamy white spot at the center. The dark red petals are complemented by the mahogany hue of the plant's new foliage, which turns glossy green as it matures. Debut grows to about eighteen inches high. And its stems are long enough to be cut. New Beginning, bred in Rowley, Massachusetts, has silky petals that blend brilliant orange and yellow accented by grass green foliage.

Because of their smaller size, miniatures are more versatile than the larger roses. They are suitable for rock gardens, troughs, hanging baskets, and window boxes, and as low-growing borders and hedges. Miniroses can be grown indoors in greenhouses, sun-rooms, and conservatories, on windowsills, and under lights.

So, why not get the real thing? Both Debut and New Beginning are available from Nor'East Miniature Roses, Rowley, Massachusetts.

The Wire King of Cortland

New York Alive

November/December 1989

What do you do when someone owes you money and can't pay? Chester F. Wickwire, owner of a Cortland hardware store, had to make that decision in 1873 when Rowland D. Hall of Elmira owed him for some plant stands. Thinking something was better than nothing, Wickwire allowed Hall to pay in goods rather than cash. So on April 23 of that year, Wickwire became the owner of two dozen dog muzzles, three dozen egg beaters, two rat traps and a carpet-type loom.

What Wickwire did with the dog muzzles, egg beaters and rat traps can only be left to conjecture. But with the loom, he brought prosperity to Cortland, making himself a millionaire in the process.

Cortland, a small rural city midway between Syracuse and Binghamton, was never a boom town, but it managed to roll with the economic punches, and Chester Wickwire was for many years the principal figure in its financial picture.

Chester Franklin was the second of five children born to Raymond and Elmira Wickwire, who lived on a farm in the small town of McGraw in Cortland County. In 1865, at the age of 22, the clean-shaven, brown-haired young man moved to Cortland to open a grocery and hardware store on Main Street. A year later he gave up the grocery end of the business to deal exclusively in hardware--gas fixtures, stoves, glass, nails and the like.

Although it was not uncommon in those days to accept payment in goods, Chester probably didn't know what he was in for  when he took the loom, which was designed to weave wire not thread. As he tinkered with the loom, his mind was doing some weaving of its own. Ideas of how to use the loom and its wire cloth prompted him to form, with his younger brother Theodore, the Wickwire Bros. Manufacturing Company that same year. The following year, more looms were purchased and the brothers began to produce wire cloth in a shop behind the hardware store. Chester developed a line of household products--corn poppers, meal sieves, and dish covers--all using Wickwire Bros. wire cloth....

The Last Peony

Connoisseur

March 1989

Plant explorers have always been drawn to the remote, rugged regions of Tibet in search of botanical treasures, but few of these are as precious as the tree peony collected by Dr. Joseph Rock. Rock, an Austrian-born American, spent twenty-seven years exploring China's border provinces and sent to the United States over 60,000 plant, mammal, and bird specimens.

In 1927, as leader of the National Geographic Society's Yunnan expedition, he traveled from Yunnan to Kansu Province. Outside the Tibetan village of Choni, Rock visited a lamasery, where he found a beautiful, white tree peony, which he had never seen before. He quickly fell under its spell. The plant's deeply cut leaves spread out like upturned hands, cradling saucer-size, snow-white flowers whose crepey petals were accented at the base with a velvety maroon flare, surrounding golden stamens. The Buddhist monks told Rock the plant grew wild in nearby mountains.

The following spring, Rock's expedition returned to the Choni lamasery only to find that its buildings and gardens have been destroyed by Muslims. The lovely tree peony was gone. Luckily, Rock had collected some seed from the plant, which he eventually sent to the Arnold Arboretum, in Boston.

Today, Paeonia suffruticosa 'Joseph Rock' is one of the rarest of tree peonies. Because the seed is often infertile, the peony 'Joseph Rock' is propagated either by grafting or by layering....

Jade Plant Blooms

Flower and Garden

October/November 1988

Jade plant (Crassula argentea), is one of the most widely grown house plants. This rugged native African is so versatile it can be used in the humid, low-light conditions of a terrarium or in a dry, sunny office. But rarely is the jade plant given an opportunity to live up to its full potential.

This succulent shrub sports a thick trunk with thin, smooth bark. When allowed to grow to maturity, it can reach three or four feet tall and wide. Leaves are round and thick with no visible veins. In strong light, the outer edges of the leaves tend to turn an attractive dark red. During its blooming season (yes, it really does bloom), the jade plant is covered with clusters of small, star-shaped, pinkish-white, unscented flowers.

For best growth, the jade requires either a minimum of four hours direct sun or 12 hours of bright, indirect light. It tolerates temperatures as low as 45 degrees and as high as 100 degrees F., but temperatures more toward the middle of this range are preferable.

Jades will grow and bloom with very little care. Two elements are necessary. First, the plant must be mature--usually ten years or older. Second, it must have naturally decreasing amounts of daylight. This is easy to accomplish if the plant is kept outside, in a greenhouse, or in a room where artificial lights are not used at night.

 

Jades spend spring and summer growing and should be watered regularly during this time. Allow only the top of the soil to dry out between waterings. Continue to water regularly and in late fall or early winter, if your plant is old enough and had had the right amount of light, it should bloom. Flowering lasts for three to four weeks.

Once your jade has finished blooming, it begins a period of rest. Water less often at this time, but don't allow the soil to dry out completely. Resume regular waterings when new leaves begin to appear in the spring. Apply a standard house plant fertilizer one as it begins to put out new leaves and again in the middle of its growing season....

Peonies--Perfect Perennials

Weekend Gardener Journal

September/October 1988

A number of years ago, my husband and I decided to spend a week in Maine. Puffin watching was the primary reason for the trip, but I also wanted to see the Maine Audubon Society's new headquarters in Falmouth, a solar building with a composting toilet.

Maine Audubon headquarters is at Gilsland Farm, a nice piece of property with fields, woods and a lake. We decided to follow one of the trails through the area to check out local birds and plant life. As we came out of the woods into the sun, we saw the most amazing sight.

Thousands of pink peonies bloomed among the field's grasses and wildflowers. Evidently, Gilsland Farm's previous owner enjoyed both birds and flowers. The peonies, I was assured by a Society staff member, had self-seeded from the garden into the field.

Peonies, more than most garden plants, fit my person definition of perennial. They are long-lived, rarely need dividing or other maintenance and produce beautiful flowers for a short time during the growing season, spending the rest of the season growing and storing energy for the next year.

Their short blooming season may seem like a drawback, but with careful selection of a mixture of those plants that bloom early, mid-season and late, peonies can be blooming in your garden for about six to eight weeks.

Although there are many species in the genus Paeonia, all peonies fall into one of two categories--herbaceous or tree. Tree peonies are deciduous sub-shrubs that grow about six feet tall. Their leaves die each winter, but their branches survive from year to year. Herbaceous peonies reach about three feet tall and die back completely in the winter....

Time to Order Tree Peonies

The New York Times

August 7, 1988

Although it will be next spring before tree peonies are in blossom, now is a good time to consider adding them to the garden. Tree peony tops will begin to grow as soon as the soil warms up in spring, so fall planting is preferred to get roots established. Nursery orders can be mailed now for shipment when the summer heat subsides.

Depending on the cultivar, most tree peonies range in height from three to seven feet. Unlike their herbaceous cousins, they do not die back in the fall, and require only enough pruning to remove dead wood or improve their shape.

Tree peonies survive best in hardiness Zones 5 to 8. They need a bright location where they will get several hours of sun each day. But they also appreciate being shaded from the hot afternoon sun, which can wilt blooms and decrease flowering time. A site with good air circulation will help prevent botrytis, a fungus that thrives on peonies grown in stagnant, moist sites.

Since tree peonies do not require dividing or transplanting, it is well to take some trouble with the soil preparation. Use a porous soil containing a high percentage of organic matter like peat or leaf mold. The plants will tolerate a neutral or slightly acidic soil, but they do best in an alkaline soil. If the soil tends to be acidic, mix in a handful or two of lime.

When planting tree peonies, leave the grafting tape on and use it as a guide to position the plant so that the union of the scion and the  understock is at least five inches below ground level. Fill in the hole, then water deeply to force out any air pockets from  around the roots. Do not tamp the soil with your foot; the pressure could break the roots or the eyes from which new shoots will emerge....

Bring Beauty of Orchids Into Your Home

Weekend Gardener Journal

May/June 1988

The closest many people come to owning an orchid is when they by a corsage for a special occasion. Despite the fact that many orchids are native to the United States, they all look exotic and this has stereotyped them as difficult to grow.

 

Some are difficult, if not impossible, to grow indoors. But many are not. If you stick to those that are easy, you should be able to grow many lovely orchids indoors without a greenhouse.

In the wild, orchids generally fall into one of three categories, parasite, epiphyte, or terrestrial. Of the more than 30,000 species or orchids worldwide, relatively few are parasites (plants that take their food from other plants); and those that are, are unsuitable for home growing. That leaves epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) and terrestrials (plants that grow in the ground).

It's important when you buy an orchid to know in which of these categories your plant falls, because the two categories have different growth habits and potting requirements. Epiphytes grow in rotting leaves that accumulate in the crotches of trees. Their roots cling to the tree's branches and, when it rains,  water flows along the branches and feeds the orchids. 

Many of the epiphytes send out new growth a short distance from the parent plant. The new growth then sends out roots that cling to the branch at its new spot.

Terrestrials, on the other hand, can send up new growth from the crown of the plant or start an entirely new plant at the base of the old one. Ground-dwelling orchids can be found in a variety of substrates from rotting vegetation in forests to cracks in limestone rocks.

The leaves and roots of many orchids are thick and fleshy. They are designed to hold water during times of drought. Other orchids, particularly those with thin leaves, have thick, above-ground food and water storage parts called pseudobulbs from which their leaves emanate....

Rhododendrons: Versatility and Splendor Accent Your Landscape

Weekend Gardener Journal

May/June 1988

Rhododendrons and their siblings, the azaleas, are in the genus Rhododendron. They are closely related to heaths, heathers and mountain laurels, all of which are in the family Ericaceae. 

We usually think of rhododendrons as being evergreen and azaleas as being deciduous; and although this is true for the most part, there are some exceptions particularly with the azaleas.

I grow many shrubs, but none give me more pleasure than my rhododendrons. I have them almost everywhere: under the picture window, in the perennial bed, the rock garden and the woods on the north side of the property.

Rhododendrons can grow in just about any part of the country, from warm, sunny Florida to the cold tundra of Alaska. Besides being able to survive in a variety of climates, rhododendrons are useful because they provide many variations on the same theme.

Some rhododendrons have large leaves, some small; some are tall plants, some short. Leaves can be dark green, light green, blue-green. They can be hairy or not. Flowers can be tubular, bell-shaped or in between. They can be red, yellow, orange, white, pink, green, blue or purple; and a few are even fragrant. If you haven't tried growing these lovely evergreen, perhaps it's about time you did.

Rhododendrons occur naturally on several continents, including North America. They are most numerous, though, around the Himalaya Mountains in the regions of Nepal, Burma and China.

For the most part, rhododendron habitat tends to be rocky to mountainous. The land is sloping rather than flat and drains quickly. The substrate is thin, loose and acidic. Temperatures, partly because of the elevation, are cool in summer and cold enough in winter to produce snow....

Oil Plan Threatens Environmental Treasure

The Daily Gazette (Schenectady, N.Y.)

February 5, 1988

Lines are being drawn and sides taken as Congress gears up for an environmental fight that could have nearly as great a climatic impact as the decimation of the equatorial rain forests. The battle, which pits environmentalists against the oil conglomerates, is over the 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge is located in the northeast corner of Alaska and borders Canada's Yukon National Park. Of the 19 million acres that make up the refuge, 8.8 million have already been designated wilderness and another 1.5 million-acre tract along the Arctic Ocean is called the Coastal Plain. Ninety-nine percent of the Coastal Plain region is classified as wetland. Much of the rest of the refuge is either mountains or tundra. The harshness and remoteness of the area has worked in its favor, keeping out most humans except for a few small, isolated villages of natives.

Despite outward appearances, the refuge is considered by many environmentalists to be one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. The wealth of wildlife living in the refuge, either permanently or seasonally, is amazing: the Porcupine caribou herd, brown (grizzly) and polar bears, Dall sheep, wolves, wolverines, Arctic fox, musk oxen, more than 130 species of birds, at least 12 species of fish in 10 inland streams, and off the coast, 14 species of marine mammals like the ringed seal and a number of whales. Fish also abound in the Arctic, which accounts for 10 percent of the world's annual fish catch.

Oil conglomerates want to explore the Coastal Plain for oil, which is not permitted in the refuge at this time. (Canada prohibits oil drilling in the Yukon National Park.) Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate, which would permit drilling on the Coastal Plain despite the fact that the Department of the Interior's "Draft Coastal Plain Resources Assessment" estimated only a 19 percent chance of finding oil on the Coastal Plain....

A Stone Fence for Your Garden

Early American Life Gardens

1988 (annual)

For thousands of years, people have been building stone walls. The ancient Greeks were proficient wall builders, as were the Incas. China's Great Wall is so wide that five horsemen could ride abreast on it. In medieval Europe, massive stone walls surrounded entire cities to keep out enemies. During that time, too, many devout Christians lived in monasteries and cloisters where they grew herbs, vegetables, and fruits in walled enclosures called garths or yards. These words are related to the Anglo-Saxon  term geard from which we get our word garden.

When settlers came to this country, they found vast forests. The trees were cut down, and the wood was used for building homes and churches. Rocks, unearthed by the settlers while clearing fields, became building foundations or were piled in long, wide rows at the fields' edges. These "fences," as they were called, effectively marked property boundaries and kept cattle from getting into crops.

Today stone walls are built more for decoration than necessity. They can be used as retaining walls or as free-standing landscape accents. Either way, they add charm and beauty to any garden.

The most common stone wall is the "dry" wall, so called because it has no mortar or other material between the stones to hold the wall together. There are three types of dry walls: laid, thrown, and chinked. Laid walls, common to Vermont and other New England states, consist of large, rounded rocks fixed tightly together. Thrown walls are constructed of rocks of varying sizes piled haphazardly in the shape of a wall. Chinked walls, like those of central New York State, are made of flat rocks with smaller stones (rubble) filling the spaces or "chinks" between the rocks.

Getting Started

Building a stone wall does not require the talents of a stone-mason, but it will take some time and a strong back. Begin by collecting lots of rocks. The easiest shape of rock to work with is naturally flat, square or rectangular rock like field stone....

Basil Any Way You Like it

Weekend Gardener Journal

January/February 1988

Basil. Just the thought of it makes me hungry for a luscious tomato sauce poured steaming hot over fresh pasta.

Basil is a tender annual native to Africa, Asia, India and Thailand. It is in the genus Ocinum, which contains 150 species, the most popular of which is O. basilicum, the herb we commonly use in tomato sauce.

For the most part, basils are short, shrubby plants whose leaves vary in shape, size and color. The basils are cousins of the lavenders and mints and, like them, have square stems and scented leaves. Their delicate flowers are short and semi-tubular, with upcurved stamens protruding beyond the flower's upper and lower lips.

The earliest use of basil is thought to have been in Greece to which it was brought by Alexander the Great around 300 B.C. Its name is related to the Greek word basilikos and the Medieval Latin word basilicum both of which mean royal or kingly.

The seeds of basil tend to become mucilaginous when wet and can work their way out of the soil during heavy rains. This is probably why ancient Greeks believed that the act of sowing basil should be followed by "abuse," and Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder went so far as to add cursing and railing to ensure that the basil grew. From this comes the French phrase semer le basilic (to sow basil), which means to slander someone.

Hindus revere the herb and believe it is good luck to build a house on the spot where basil has grown. In Tudor England, a pot of basil was customarily given to departing house guests, who kept the plants in their kitchens to use in cooking and as a fly repellent.

Today we grow basil as an ornamental and to use in cooking, vinegars and potpourris. The short varieties make excellent pot plants if kept in a sunny place.

Ocinum basilicum or sweet basil is the species most commonly used in cooking. Plants are 14 to 16 inches tall with fairly large, rich green leaves with serrated edges.

When crushed, the leaves emit that typical "basil" smell, which is somewhat reminiscent of anise or cloves....

Orchids, Orchids, Orchids: Jim Rice grows, buys and sells orchids from Homer to the world

The Finger Lakes Magazine

Winter 1987-1988

Many people have never seen an orchid, but Jim Rice stand among 15,000 or so every day of the year. Rice grows and sells orchids. His three greenhouses at 10 Franklin Street in the Village of Homer in Cortland County are nearly obscured now by the trees and shrubs he planted years ago when he ran a landscape business. Rice sells about one orchid for every resident in Homer--4,500 to 5,000 every year.

Rice moved to Homer in 1948. For almost twenty years, he operated a landscape service and tree nursery. In a single greenhouse, he sold seasonal plants like geraniums, poinsettias, petunias and lilies. "Then twenty years ago," says Rice, "all those plants started going to the mass market, to the grocery store." Business declined.

To supplement his income, Rice subcontracted his landscaping services, planted trees for municipaities and, instead of closing the greenhouse, switched to African violets and other houseplants until they, too, began to be sold in chain stores. "We had wonderful houseplants," says Rice, "but, again Kmart destroyed it. They can get a palm tree and sell it for a profit at $3 or $4 less than I can. I hated to have the greenhouses operating at a loss, depending only on the trees. My wife, Grace, and I talked about trying orchids. I had four or five for a hobby."

The Rices started a small but responded gradually to an ever-increasing demand. Now they sell orchids to customers all over central New York, in Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton and Ithaca, and to orchid lovers in other states and countries. Besides the fact that Rice's orchids are reasonably priced--most sell for between $12.50 and $25--Rice thinks his popularity is due to his wide selection of plants. "Nobody else has the species I do. Sixty percent of the plants I sell go out with no bud on them. People call from far away. They've got a want list. They come up when they can, leave a few hundred dollars. And when they leave, their want list is longer than when they came up."....
 

Proper Pruning

Weekend Gardener Journal

November/December 1987

Pruning--The word strikes terror in the hearts of some, dread in others, and those who are left are usually resigned. Pruning is a skill that must be learned through experience. The way to avoid disaster is to prune cautiously and to use common sense.

A certain amount of pruning is done by nature, but it is usually  haphazard and doesn't always produce the best results. Your pruning should be done with purpose and to the benefit of the plant being pruned. In other words, don't prune you apple tree just because your neighbor prunes his. His may need pruning; yours may not.

Equipment Selection Is First Step To Success

Before you start pruning, acquire the proper tools for the job. For small stems and branches up to about .5 inch in diameter, you will probably want to use pruning shears, although some old timers are skillful with a pruning knife.

There are two types of shears: the bypass and the anvil. The blades of bypass shears are opposite each other and work with a scissors-like action. The anvil shears work with its cutting edge pressing against a flat surface called an anvil. I use both types of pruners because they cut differently. 

The bypass works best on soft woods, but is not able to prune close to a trunk or vertical branch, whereas the anvil pruners seem to work best on hard wood (it can crush soft woods if the blade is not sharp),  and gets pretty close to trunks and vertical branches.

For large branches up to 1.5 inches in diameter, use loppers. Branches larger than 1.5 inches should be cut with a saw. Buy the best equipment you can afford. Poor quality tools don't last and cost more money  in the long run....

The Finer Points of Tool Buying

Flower and Garden

October-November 1987

Quality gardening tools are an investment. You will probably pay more for them initially, but in the long run, the best quality tools will cost less, look nicer, and do a better job with less work. Here are some of the points you should consider when shopping for tools.

Handles are your contact point with your tool. Like a pair of work shoes, a handle needs to be sturdy, yet comfortable. Quality handles are made of top-grade, even-grained northern ash (chosen for its resiliency, strength, and smoothness), except some British tools that offer aluminum handles. On occasion, you will find tools equipped with tubular steel handles and interchangeable heads.

Shovels are the principal digging tools for most American gardeners. Europeans find this a bit odd because they rarely use a shovel in the garden. Instead, they opt for the spade, which has a shorter handle than the shovel and a rectangular blade with a straight or slightly rounded tip.

Shovels have long, straight handles which, unfortunately, encourage gardeners to use them like crowbars, putting great pressure on the handle to heave the plant or bush. Finally, the pressure is too much for the hand, and it snaps. Many handles could be saved if gardeners would use shovels for scooping and spades for digging.

In addition, to the length of the handle, the "lift" of a shovel or spade has a lot to do with how well it works for a particular job. Lift can be measured in terms of blade lift or handle lift. Either way, the tool's neck (containing the bend of the tool) and the blade (angled to the correct degree) are designed to create the lift. Shovels and scoops have higher lifts and greater ease of moving materials, while spades have lower lifts for easier digging....

Keepers of the Newfield Covered Bridge

The Finger Lakes Magazine

Fall 1987

There were once 250 covered bridges in New York State. Today just 25 can be found and a number of these are on private land, subject only to pedestrian traffic. Of the 25 bridges, only one is in the Finger Lakes region. It is the Newfield Covered Bridge, the oldest one in daily use in the state.

Spanning the west branch of Cayuga Inlet in Tompkins County's Town of Newfield, it is also the most westerly of the state's "original" covered bridges. Cayuga Inlet, tributary of Cayuga Lake, was once the site of numerous mills and factories, including tanneries, woolen mills and saw mills.

In 1809, Eliakim Dean owned a saw mill just above the site of the Newfield Bridge. In Dean's day, Newfield was named Florence and was  part of Tioga County. The first such bridge had only just been built in Philadelphia in 1805, so the Newfield bridge, at the time when Dean operated his mill, was made of logs and was uncovered.

In 1822, shortly after Florence became part of Tompkins County, it was renamed Newfield. Work began on the new bridge in 1851.

The structure of a covered bridge is interesting because both the bridge's floor and supports (trusses) are unexposed, being covered by two walls and a roof. The assumed purpose for covering a bridge is to protect it from the weather to help it last longer with less maintenance.

There are many truss styles, but by far the most popular was designed by Ithiel Town, an architect from New Haven, Connecticut. Town designed a series of diagonally criss-crossing beams held together with wooden pins called treenails (later corrupted to trunnels) that formed a lattice the entire length of the bridge. It was this truss style, the Town Lattice, that was used to support the Newfield Bridge....

Pamper the Plants: Summer Care of Houseplants

Weekend Gardener Journal

July/August 1987

Now that summer has arrived and the family is outdoors enjoying the garden, don't forget your houseplants. Summer is the time when most houseplants grow and bloom. Even houseplants that don't bloom in the summer like the Christmas cactus and jade plant, do most of their growing at this time. Just a little bit of attention now can help your plants stay healthy and happy for the rest of the year.

Start by cleaning up after your plants. Remove any dead or dying flowers and leaves. If you haven't already repotted your plants, consider doing so now.  Most houseplants, because their roots are confined to a small space, use up the nutrients in the potting soil in a year or two. The composition of the soil breaks down, causing it to become less porous. Root rot is more likely to occur at this time. If, on the other hand, your plant needs to be watered more frequently than usual, it could be an indication that the plant is pot bound. It will also need repotting.

To repot a houseplant, carefully upend the plant and knock it out of its original pot by tapping the pot rim on your work counter. Shake off any loose dirt from around the roots and gently loosen them from the soil. Repot in a clean container using a sterile, commercial potting mix or make your own. Most plants do well in a mixture of 1/3 top soil, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 Perlite or course sand. For pot-bound plants, be sure to repot in a container at least 1 inch larger in diameter than the original pot and 1/2 and inch taller.

Summer is also the best time to propagate plants. African violets propagate easiest from leaf cuttings, but most other houseplants like begonias, fushias, and wandering  Jews propagate best from stem cuttings. Boston ferns and their relatives send out subsurface stolons, which create new plants. Propagate these ferns by division when you repot.

The warm weather also provides a good opportunity for bringing plants outdoors to be hosed off. Dust on foliage of plants that have been inside all winter reduces the amount of light that hits the leaves, decreasing photosynthesis and, ultimately, growth. Don't be afraid to hose off blooming plants either outdoors or in your kitchen sink or bathtub. But do make sure that once you spray them that you keep them in the shade until they are dry or they might get sun scald....

Everlastings: Flowers That Bloom Year 'Round

Weekend Gardener Journal

March/April 1987

When the snow is knee-deep and the skies are gray, I need a little refreshing. Some flowers perhaps. I open my closet door and survey my petaled collection.

Like newly picked blossoms from a lush and fragrant garden, the flowers on my closet shelves are bright and cheerful. You, too, can have bouquets of lovely flowers to brighten your world throughout the year if you grow everlastings.

Everlastings are flowers that, when air dried, look almost as they did when growing. Many of these plants have papery bracts that take the position of petals in other flowers. When this happens, the true flowers of everlastings tend to be tiny, nearly insignificant and clustered tightly together, encircled by the plant's colorful bracts.

 

Many everlastings are from the hot dry Mediterranean region and prefer full sun and loose, neutral to slightly alkaline, soil. Other everlastings come from Australia, where it is equally hot and dry.

 

In New York, where I live, everlastings do well even though our growing season is not as hot and dry as most of these plants would like, and the substrate tends to be fairly heavy. The only trouble I have is with annual varieties. If I don't get them in the ground right after the last spring frost and protect them from our cool spring nights, they usually don't produce well and get caught in full flower by the first of fall.

 

All everlastings can be started from seed and should be planted outside as seedlings as soon as all danger of frost is passed. Keep your seedlings moist, but don't overwater. Perennial varieties may not bloom until the second season, but annuals should start producing flowers by mid or late summer, depending on your climate.

Gather the flowers of everlastings when they are in bud or just before they reach their peak. Arrange the flowers in small bundles, tie with some string and hang upside down in a fairly dark, airy place to dry. Sunlight can fade flowers, and humidity can cause them to mold, so choose your drying area carefully....

Photographic Memories

New York Alive

January/February 1987

The photographer's cheekbones stood out above a neatly trimmed handlebar mustache as he bent over the box camera, his long, thin fingers on uncalloused hands appeared as logical extensions to the rest of his frail body. But, as Verne Morton gazed through the lens, he dark-brown eyes lent a softness to his otherwise sharp features. And after some moments, he exposed the glass plate and recorded forever his subject, a sleepy-eyed screech owl.

A quiet man who had spent much of his life photographing nature and rural life within walking distance of his life-long home on Old Stage Road in the Finger Lakes town of Groton, Verne left a legacy of more than eleven thousand glass plate and nitrate negatives and 35 mm. transparencies of such quality that some critics consider him to be one of the best photographers of life in rural New York State of his day and perhaps one of the state's better nature photographers as well.

Verne Morton was born shortly after the Civil Ware, in 1868, to Porter and Dorothy Morton, who farmed less than one hundred acres in Groton. With horse-drawn plows, farmers like Porter Morton dug up the Groton soil. But the ground was so rocky that even after having used the rocks to build houses and barn foundations, there were still plenty left over for a farmer to create miles of chest-high drywalls between fields, many of which still stand today.

The Mortons had invested in stocks and bonds and did not depend to as great an extent as other farmers on selling apples, maple syrup, honey and eggs. Their two-story frame farmhouse was neat and well furnished, their income secure.

As a child, Verne spent much of his time learning about plant and animal life around the family farm. Sometimes he would bring wild animals home to keep as pets--it is said he kept a squirrel in a cage by the kitchen door. Verne enjoyed reading the books and essays of Hudson River Valley naturalist John Burroughs--although they probably never met--and taught himself botany and natural history. He preferred to spend his time alone collecting and classifying plant specimens rather than playing with other boys. He was also known as a whiz with wooden puzzles and loved to tackle puzzles others weren't able to finish.

Verne didn't follow his father into farming. (Some say he constitution couldn't have taken it.) Instead he taught school for more than ten years in several of Groton's one-room schoolhouses....

Weekend Projects: Build a rock wall

Weekend Gardener Journal

January/February 1987

Stone walls throughout the U.S. were often built by farmers as they cleared rocks out of their fields more of necessity than for decoration. Today these walls lie hidden in the young forests that have reclaimed those fields.

Stone walls are not difficult to build and can be used as either retaining walls or a free-standing landscape accents. Materials can be, as many gardeners will attest, locally abundant. If you have space, why not try building one?

You can use "found" rocks or quarried rocks. Quarried rocks cost money, found rocks take time and energy. Look for found rocks at the edges of fields. There you may discover either old walls (sometimes covered by layers of dead leaves) or rocks piled in heaps. Property owners will sometimes give you permission to dismantle these old walls or to pick through rock heaps. Old building foundations offer another possible source of rocks, but the rocks here are usually harder to remove because they have either been mortared together or have become imbedded in the earth that surrounds them.

There are certain qualities to look for in the rocks you choose for your wall. For the most part, rocks should either be square or rectangular. Those with round surfaces or of varying thicknesses are nearly impossible to work with. The rocks you use should be sturdy and should not crumble. Slate or other stone that tends to split into thin layers is unacceptable.

As you collect your rocks, keep your eyes open for rocks with lichens or interesting colors or patterns. These should be turned to the outside of your wall for appreciation. Look also for nice finishing or top-row rocks....

Christmas Cactus: They're not just for Christmas

Weekend Gardener Journal

November/December 1986

I've grown hundreds of house plants over the years and can honestly say that one of my favorites is my Christmas cactus. You've probably heard all kinds of tales about these plants, like they are so long-lived that they are often passed on from generation to generation. (Mine was about 50 years old when it was given to me 10 years ago.) They grow to be enormous. (Mine is over three feet in diameter.) They can produce hundreds of flowers. (Mine probably produces 350 or more flowers in its three- to four-month blooming period.)

Yes, they are a responsibility, and one must always remember them when one writes one's will, but they are well worth that responsibility. I have enjoyed my Christmas cactus so much, in fact, that years ago, I adopted two it its cousins--an Easter cactus and a Thanksgiving cactus. Now I am treated to their lovely blossoms for nearly half the year.

Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter cacti are all true cacti. They are members of a large class of plants called epiphytes. Epiphytes do not naturally grow in the ground. Rather, they use another object or plant as support and derive their nutrients almost exclusively from the rain and what the rain washes to their roots. Epiphytes do not get nourishment from their support plant and, therefore, are not parasites.

Epiphytic cacti are native to the warm, humid, densely vegetated tropical regions of Mexico and Central and South America. Like other  epiphytes, they have no true leaves. Instead, fleshy, succulent, usually pendulous, jointed branches carry out all the duties of leaves, including photosynthesis. Most, but not all, epiphytic cacti lack thorns....

Cold Frame

The Weekend Gardener Journal

September/October 1986
 

For many gardeners, the gardening season is coming to an end; the garden will be put to rest for another year and the season's successes and failures will soon be only memories. But the gardening season need not end when the last vegetable is picked. You can extend your season in the fall, or begin before your neighbors in the spring, with the help of a large wooden box called a fold frame.

A cold frame is an inexpensive device that allows  you to grow plants under protection. Here are just some the possibilities a cold frame provides: Grow and pick cold-tolerant vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage and carrots through the winter in southern states where it gets cold but rarely freezes; start vegetables outside in early spring in the northern states despite spring frosts; force bulbs in pots; and harden off tomatoes, peppers and other tender plants.

A 4' x 4' cold frame, like the one described here, can be built in just a couple of hours with only a few tools. No special skills are required, and the finished product is handsome enough to be given as a gift. This cold frame is designed to be disassembled and stored when not in use, which will prolong its life considerably.

Your cold frame should face south, if possible, to catch the maximum amount of light. When the sun is bright, the temperature inside the cold frame can be 20 to 30 degrees higher than the outside temperature. This is an advantage when the weather is cold, but on warm days, a closed cold frame can cook your plants. At night, cold frames will loose heat quickly. Even covered with an old blanket, they will not remain more than 10 degrees warmer than the outside air temperature. However, in some cases, those few degrees may be all that is needed to extend your season by many weeks...

A Hedgerow History

Weekend Gardener Journal

July/August 1986

Our property was once part of a field and the property line is what was the edge of the field. I've made a mental inventory of the plants that grow along this edge. Here's what you'd find: white pine, hemlock, American ash, sugar maple, northern red oak, black cherry, chokecherry, Juneberry (serviceberry), raspberry, interrupted fern and a variety of wildflowers. Sounds like 10 acres, doesn't it? Yet this vegetation covers an area of about 10 feet wide and 250 feet long.

Our house is 15 feet from the hedge. When I look out the window among the trees and shrubs I see wild turkey, grouse, a pair of Cooper's hawks, thrushes, wrens, bluejays and many other birds, woodchucks, opossum, raccoons, deer, foxes, red and gray squirrels, weasels, chipmunks, mice and voles. Not all at the same time, of course, but they appear either regularly or irregularly depending on how they use the hedge. 

Occasionally the animals venture out into the yard, but usually they prefer the protection and shade of the hedgerow. This area is important to them because it provides them with a place to eat, a place to hide and a place to live. I'm sure that without the hedgerow I wouldn't see as many animals as I do, and some of these creatures wouldn't live in the area at all.

The concept of the hedgerow dates historically to Saxon England where hawthorn trees were cut and bent to create boundaries. The haga, as it was called, marked the village limits. Creating these hawthorn hedges was an art practiced by the hedger who used special tools such as a hand-rake, billhook and mallet to create these barriers. Herbs--yarrow, comfrey, ajuga, herb robert and the like--grew up along the hedge.

Maintaining these hedgerows was a lot of work. When individual farmers began owning their land instead of renting it from a nobleman, hedgerows went untended. Bird- and animal-seeded plants such as blackberry, crab apple and burdock began to spring up among the hawthorns. Here the animals flourished....

Corn: Summer's Sweet Delight

The Weekend Gardener Journal

May/June 1986

"How sweet it is!" Jackie Gleason used to say to television viewers. If he had had a garden, he might have been talking about the first ears of sweet corn fresh off the stalk. Scientists have spent many years breeding sweet corn to be sweeter and more tender. But corn wasn't always so delicious.

The original corn, maize, was a wild grass native to Mexico and a descendant of teosinte, a tall perennial grass which still grows in the mountains of central Mexico. The remains of a maize cob in a husklike casing were found by archaeologists and are believed to date back to 5,000 B.C.

Through the centuries, four categories of corn have developed: sweet corn, popcorn, dent or field corn, and the multicolored flint or Indian corn. Sweet corn, the corn with a gene that produces sweetness, is a descendant of chullpi, an Andean maize that in prehistoric times was dried and eaten as a snack.

In 1779 the Iroquois Indians first collected sweet corn as we know it. A white-kerneled variety, it was the first sweet corn grown by the New England colonists. White corn stayed popular until the 1902 introduction of 'Golden Bantam', a sweet-tasting, yellow corn that has remained popular.

Corn is monoecious, which means that each plant has both male and female reproductive parts. The male flower is called the tassel and is located on top of the plant. The tassel can produce up to a million grains of  pollen which are carried by air--not insects or birds--to the female flowers, called the silks, on the outer ends of the ears....

Old Garden Roses

Your Home

July1985

Old garden roses were grown until 1867 when the first hybrid tea rose, named "La France," was introduced. This new rose marked the birth of modern roses and the end of the era of old garden roses. In the past few years, however, old garden roses have become popular once again. When you think about it, it's not really surprising. Their hardiness, large full shape, interesting foliage or bark and profuse (though often nonrecurrent) blooms make the old garden roses a practical choice over the modern roses, which are more susceptible to disease and insect troubles, and are less fragrant.

If you're thinking of growing old garden roses, you should know the different classes that are available. This will help you choose the appropriate rose for your taste, your garden and your climate.

Gallicas are roses that grow wild in western Europe. They are very hardy, vigorous, almost thornless shrubs 3 to 5 feet tall. They produce fragrant blooms once a year, which are often a deep red color. Large red hips appear in the fall.

Damasks fall into two categories: the summer damask (gallica X phoenicea) and the autumn damask (gallica X moschata). It is believed that the summer damask, a shrub that grows nearly 7 feet tall and has thorny, arching canes, first appeared near Syria, and that the autumn damask, a shrub only 3 feet tall, was cultivated as early as 1000 B.C. on the Greek island of Samos. Both usually produce pink flowers, although variations include reds, and whites with red stripes. The main difference between the two categories is that the summer damask, whose petals are the source of rose oil used in many perfumes, blooms only once a year, whereas the autumn damask is considered recurrent and with care will bloom into October....

Garden Getaway

American Way

March 19, 1985

Miami, Florida, is known for its blue sky and sandy beaches, but there's more than sun and surf on beautiful Biscayne Bay: There's also the gorgeous 83-acre Fairchild Tropical Garden.

Named for American horticulturist and plant explorer David Fairchild (1869-1954), the garden has more than 500 species of palms, including 2 species native only to Florida.

An electric-train ride takes visitors past the rare-plant house and into the rain forest where hidden sprinklers create the constant mist and high humidity that imitate a true tropical rain forest. The thick understory is shaded by canopied trees whose branches are adorned with bromeliads, orchids, and ferns.

The tram then heads for the arid rock garden, a startling contrast to the moist rain forest. Here many strangely shaped succulents bloom in the bright Florida sun.

White and purple orchid trees and red bougainvillaea landscape several of the garden's eight lakes, which have names like Glade Lake and Royal Palm Lake.

The garden is open daily from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM, and admission is $3 for adults, free for children under age 13. For more information, write the Fairchild Tropical Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Rd., Miami, Florida 33156, or call (305) 667-1651.

Living With Chipmunks

Organic Gardening

January 1985

They may look cute scurrying along stone walls, running through woodpiles, barking if their territory is invaded, and standing dead still if they feel threatened. But, boy, can they be a pain to the gardener. Plant a plant, they'll dig it up. Replant it, they'll dig it up again. There is a way, however, that you can live with these prodigious excavators and still keep you plants.

Chipmunks are territorial. Males and females live apart rather than in communal burrows. Each chipmunk fiercely defends the territory around its burrow. The little rodents are endowed with a keen sense of smell and a strong sense of curiosity. These characteristics, along with their intense territoriality, can lead to many a confrontation with the gardener. The gardener's scent is transferred to the plants, bulbs,or seeds planted in the chipmunk's territory. The chipmunk feels its territory has been invaded but is also curious to see what the invader has buried. Up comes the plant.

To counter this behavior, once a plant is in the ground, cover it with a piece of screen or fencing. Ordinary window screen or fencing with mesh up to 1-by-2-inches will suffice. Place the screening on top of the plant, securing it with a couple of stones. Although the plant will be slightly squashed at first. it should recover in a few days. A taller plant can be protected with a screen placed flat on the ground around its base. (Fencing which is heavier than screening, need not be secured.) The screening completely discourages the chipmunks from coming near the plant. Leave the screening in place for about a week, until your scent has dissipated and the plant has established itself.

The Orchid Solution: One Professor's Chemical Mix Makes Possible an Entire Flower Industry

Cornell Alumni News

(Cover story)

September 1984

Orchids, considered by many to have the most beautiful flowers in the world, can also be among the most expensive. Some plants may cost hundreds, and on rare occasions even thousands, of dollars. Until just a few decades ago, orchids grew only in their native habitats or in the lush conservatories  of the well-to-do. Today, however, these magnificent flowers have become so affordable and easy to obtain that they can be grown by anyone with an empty windowsill.

The man to thank for this amazing change in events is the late Prof. Lewis Knudson, PhD  1911, whose botanical research created such an enormous impact on the orchid industry that it is still being measured. Before Knudson, orchids could only be raised by dividing existing plants. After Knudson, it because possible to grow plants from the minute orchid seeds and thus produce them in commercially practical quantities.

The story of how his work altered orchid history begins in 1916 when, as a young professor of plant physiology at Cornell, Knudson and his assistant, E. W. Lindstrom, PhD 1918, were trying to grow albino corn, a genetically abnormal plant unable to photosynthesize on its own.

Knudson and Lindstrom's experiment provided the albino corn seedlings with a sugar solution instead of soil in an attempt to supply these non-photosynthesizing plants with the nutrients they would need to grow. However, the two men found that the plant could not absorb sugar solution rapidly enough to allow the plants to grow at a normal rate and the experiment failed. Nonetheless, with his attempt to grow plants in an artificial rather than natural medium, Knudson had taken an important step in plant culture....

Women's Right Park

Cornell Alumni News

March 1984

Judy Hart '63 determined at an early age that she would leave Kansas and go away to college. "I remember deciding in sixth grade that there was a bigger world outside Shawnee Mission. That was  my motivation for going to Cornell. And even when I got there, it took a while to figure out that I didn't have to go back, marry a doctor, put him through graduate school and buy a nice house. That was an immense revelation for a woman during the '60s."

Today Judy Hart is not married, she doesn't teach English, nor does she have three children. Instead hart is superintendent of the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York. She is one of 31 female superintendents in the National Park Service out of a total of 333.

The initial concept for the park was Hart's when she was working at the National National Park Service's regional headquarters in Boston as its first female realty specialist. During the Carter administration, funding for new parks was available and Hart was asked to investigate possible park sites. Realizing that there was no park commemorating the women's right's movement, she conceived the Women's Rights National Historical Park, and recommended Seneca Falls as the most appropriate location.

Seneca Falls, located on NY Routes 5 and 20 about 40 miles north of Ithaca, was the site of the first women's rights convention in 1848 and was the home of women's rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The village and the Stanton Foundation were both receptive to the idea of a park  to commemorate the convention and to honor Stanton. In 1980, an act of Congress created the Women's Rights Park. It was not until 1982, however, that the Stanton Foundation, with the help of a donation of $11,000 from actor Alan Alda, bought the Stanton home and gave it to the park....

Keeping Track of the Great Blues: Cornell's Colonial Bird Register

Bird Watcher's Digest

July/August 1982

The whitewash and small pieces of egg shell that covered the dry leaves of the forest floor indicated that we had finally found the object of our three-month search. We looked above us to see the source of  the bird waste and found a number of large stick nests high in the tops of the mature beeches. The nests were so well coated with whitewash that they seemed snow covered.

The silence from the nests was not what I had expected; they almost seemed deserted. Although it was mid-July, I knew there must still be some remaining occupants, for the whitewash at my feet was fresh. In the back of my mind I feared I might suddenly become a target from high above and was glad I was wearing my hat.

A loud grunting squawk came from the top of a nearby tree, and we knew a young great blue heron was hungry and hot and maybe even a little lonely. From another direction we heard a different type of excited squawking: a parent returning to its nest in the tree above us. Its young began to move around, croaking repeatedly; it was lunch time after all.

After five minutes of furious feeding on regurgitated fish and frogs, the nestling was quiet once more, the parent having flown off again to feed at one of the nearby ponds. The young heron, alone once more, was standing on one of the larger branches of the beech it had called home for the past two months. Flapping its wings, it tested its flying ability and cooled off at the same time.

It was July 1980, and we had found the second known heron colony in Tompkins County, New York. However, the logging in the area worried us. A colony in nearby Richford, Tioga County, had been lost to logging, not because the birds' nesting site had been destroyed, but because the activity in the area was greater than the herons could tolerate.

Great  blues are fairly common in New York State, but nationwide their numbers are on the decline. The National Audubon Society (NAS) has put them on its "Blue List," a compilation of species of special interest. The NAS also operates the Colonial Bird Register (CBR) at the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University. The CBR, which has been in existence for five years, functions as a computerized data base, gathering information from all over the country on colonial nesting birds such as herons, gulls, and terns....

Please reload