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Hunting the Wild Parsnip

Have you ever gone on a hike, only to later discover an angry blister on your ankle? If the blister transformed into a dark purple blotch, chances are you came into contact with wild parsnip. The discoloration can last for a year or longer—probably not the kind of memento you want from a carefree trek in the countryside. Wild parsnip was once domesticated, but it escaped cultivation and now is a familiar sight along our mountain roadways. In its first year, the plant forms a rosette of leaves and a tasty taproot. It’s difficult to identify at that early stage. In its second year, the parsnip produces a 5-foot stem topped with small yellow flowers in umbrella-shaped clusters. In this easily identifiable stage, the taproot has become tough and inedible. Can you harvest wild parsnip as food that first year? You certainly could, but it would be safer to eat the roots of plants you’ve grown from seed so that you know for sure you’re not getting hemlock. Yes, the plant that was used to kill Socrates is related to parsnip. When it’s in bloom, it’s easy enough to tell the difference since hemlock has white flowers and is taller. Foraging books shy away from recommending a meal of wild parsnip since it would be dreadfully—fatally—easy to confuse the two plants in their rosette stage,. In addition to being an invasive European plant that crowds out native species, wild parsnip can cause a world of hurt. The issue is the sap. It’s phototoxic, meaning it causes irritation when exposed to sunlight. If you were to handle the leaves and shoots of a parsnip at dusk and take a shower before daylight, no problem. But if [...]

By |September 3rd, 2019|Environment|0 Comments
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The Archaeological Record of Route 28

Rather than sit in the cramped office space at H&H Motors for the estimated hour it would take my car to be repaired, I decided to walk to Main Street Margaretville, which is under a mile away and offers many more possibilities in the way of things to do—and also doesn’t smell like axel grease. I crossed Route 28, which fortunately had rather light traffic that August morning, and I immediately came across a discarded aluminum can, so naturally, I picked it up. A few steps later, here was another piece of trash, and looking ahead, I could see some more, so I popped into the nearest establishment, the Country Cutting Gallery, to ask for a bag. The hairdresser was in the midst of sudsing up a client’s head, but she gladly donated a plastic shopping bag and said with a puzzled air that she’d seen me pick up a piece of trash. Sadly, that is rather unusual behavior, isn’t it? I thanked her for the bag and left the women to their beauty ritual. I had another kind of beautifying ritual in mind because I had decided to pick up all the trash I found between that point and the entrance to Margaretville. Humans thrive when we feel a sense of purpose. My previous goal of simply “looking around Margaretville” was too vague. Now I felt focused and happy that my idle time would be spent on a meaningful task.: assembling the archaeological record of this patch of road. Villages in the Catskills each have a distinct character, but that particular stretch of Route 28 is about as close to a clone town as you get, and the garbage was disappointingly generic, too. My [...]

By |July 8th, 2019|Environment|2 Comments
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Plastic-Free EcoChallenge

July 1st - July 31st online at https://plasticfree.ecochallenge.org/ We all hate plastic and what it does to our oceans and landfills, but it’s hard to break the habit. The Plastic Free EcoChallenge is a month-long effort to shift away from our single-use plastic dependency, offering each other encouragement and support along the way. Go to the link above, choose Team Catskills (or another team of your choice), then select one or more actions to take during the month of July. It can be a daily action (if you're trying to instill a new habit) or a one-time challenge, such as visiting a waste management facility or planting a garden. This is an opportunity to align your actions with your values, to take one or more actions that you've been meaning to take, to share what you've discovered with others, and to be as plastic-free as possible for 31 days. Join us!

By |July 1st, 2019|Environment, Event|0 Comments

Going, Going by Philip Larkin

I thought it would last my time— The sense that, beyond the town, There would always be fields and farms, Where the village louts could climb Such trees as were not cut down; I knew there’d be false alarms In the papers about old streets And split level shopping, but some Have always been left so far; And when the old part retreats As the bleak high-risers come We can always escape in the car. Things are tougher than we are, just As earth will always respond However we mess it about; Chuck filth in the sea, if you must: The tides will be clean beyond. —But what do I feel now? Doubt? Or age, simply? The crowd Is young in the M1 cafe; Their kids are screaming for more— More houses, more parking allowed, More caravan sites, more pay. On the Business Page, a score Of spectacled grins approve Some takeover bid that entails Five per cent profit (and ten Per cent more in the estuaries): move Your works to the unspoilt dales (Grey area grants)! And when You try to get near the sea In summer . . .        It seems, just now, To be happening so very fast; Despite all the land left free For the first time I feel somehow That it isn’t going to last, That before I snuff it, the whole Boiling will be bricked in Except for the tourist parts— First slum of Europe: a role It won’t be hard to win, With a cast of crooks and tarts. And that will be England gone, The shadows, the meadows, the lanes, The guildhalls, the carved choirs. There’ll be books; it will linger on In galleries; [...]

By |January 1st, 2019|Environment|0 Comments
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Solarize Stamford

Thursday, Nov 8th, 5 to 7 pm at the Stamford Village Library Come join us for an information session about Community Solar and the Clean Energy Communities program. The Village of Stamford has already completed 1 of the 4 high-impact actions required to be a Clean Energy Community. Running a Solarize program will be action number 2. In this presentation, you will learn about the Solarize program and about Community Solar, which is a solar farm in Sullivan County that ties into the grid. You can opt to receive your electricity from clean energy and receive a 10% discount off the NYSEG rate at the same time. The Stamford Village Library, 117 Main St., Stamford, NY  12167

By |November 6th, 2018|Energy, Environment, Event|0 Comments
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EcoDriving Saves Gas, Money, and the Earth

Regardless of where your vehicle lies on the fuel-efficiency spectrum, you can still significantly reduce your CO2 emissions by altering the way you drive. Every gallon of gas burned equals 22 lbs of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The best way to reduce greenhouse gas pollution is to drive less—plan your trips, carpool, bike or walk. If you must drive, EcoDriving significantly decreases your carbon footprint. EcoDriving is a set of learned habits behind the wheel that, with a little vigilance, add up to more money in your wallet and less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Idling Damages Your Engine One of the leading misconceptions in fuel efficiency is that restarting your car uses more gas than letting it idle, when in fact, idling your car for just 10 seconds uses more gas than turning the key and emits 80% more pollution than driving. Idling generates partially combusted gases that accumulate in the engine and do lasting damage EcoDriving is Easy By adopting a few simple habits, you could save an average of 20% on fuel expenses each week (as much as $500 per year): Drive slower. In the 1970’s, Federal Law reduced highway speeds from 75 mph to 55 mph, which conserved gasoline by as much as 30%. Be gentle on the pedals. Vehicles use the greatest amount of gas while accelerating. When possible, coast to slow down, rather than braking. For every 10,000 miles driven with cruise control, the savings can amount to $200. Keep your vehicle maintained: Changing the air filter, changing lubricants, and keeping tires inflated can increase fuel efficiency by 19%. Plan your outing – Wandering aimlessly wastes over 350,000 tons of fuel every year. Drivers waste about $59 million [...]

By |February 9th, 2017|Energy, Environment|0 Comments
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Calling All Gardeners!

The 2nd annual Countywide Seed Swap is on at all Delaware County Public Libraries, now until June 1st. Bring in your partially used seed packets and file them in the designated card catalogue drawer under the appropriate letter (B for Beans). Then find some seeds you might want to try (H for Heliotrope) and use one of our nifty envelopes to help yourself to the number of seeds appropriate for your garden. It's an excellent way to expand your garden without having to spend a fortune. To get the party started, Transition Catskills has donated heirloom vegetable seeds to each library. Library addresses and hours are as follows: Andes Public Library, 242 Main St., Andes, NY (845) 676-3333 Monday, Tuesday: 1 pm - 6 pm Wednesday: 11 am - 4 pm Thursday: 5 pm - 8 pm Friday: 1 pm - 5 pm Saturday: 10 am - 12 pm closed Sunday Bovina Public Library, 33 Maple Avenue, Bovina Center, NY  (607) 832-4884 Tuesday, Thursday: 10:30 am - 3 pm Wednesday: 1 pm - 7 pm Saturday: 9 am - 2 pm closed Sunday, Monday, Friday Cannon Free Library, 40 Elm St., Delhi, NY  (607) 746-2662 Tuesday, Thursday: 9:30 am - 7 pm Wednesday, Friday: 9:30 am - 5 pm Saturday: 10 am - 1 pm (till March 31st) closed Sunday closed Saturday from April thru October Skene Memorial Library, 1017 Main St., Fleischmanns, NY  (845) 254-4581 Tuesday - Friday: 1 pm - 5 pm Saturday: 10 am - 2 pm closed Sunday, Monday Franklin Free Library, 334 Main St., Franklin, NY  (607) 829-2941 Tuesday: 9 am - 12 pm; 1 pm - 5 pm; 7 pm - 9 pm Wednesday: 10 am - 2 pm Thursday: [...]

By |March 18th, 2016|Environment, Event|0 Comments
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Possums are your best defense against Lyme disease

Lyme disease, which used to be a rare occurrence in the Catskill Mountains, is unfortunately becoming more common. As owners of cats and dogs will confirm, there has been a substantial increase in ticks over the last few summers... and ticks transmit Lyme. The consequences of misdiagnosed or untreated Lyme disease are so scary that a simple hike merits long sleeves, long pants and tube socks to cover bare skin, as well as a post-hike search for the tiny black specks that can ruin your life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if ticks had a natural foe that would keep their numbers in check? Enter the opossum: the scruffy creature with the sweet face, sharp teeth and unappealing tail. Although possums have a reputation as filthy critters, they in fact are compulsive groomers—who just happen to have a taste for garbage, carrion… and ticks. In a study published in the Royal Society’s journal Proceedings B, opossums were found to be veritable tick magnets that devour over 96% of the blood-hungry parasites. The study’s team of researchers, which included biologists, ecologists and foresters, were able to determine that the average possum is infested by as many as 5500 larval ticks each week. About 5300 ticks become snacks, while only 200 successfully feed and drop to the forest floor. That makes the opossum a very effective ecological trap for the removal of ticks. Other species that have a positive effect on tick removal are squirrels (over 80% of ticks eaten), and chipmunks and birds (over 70% consumed). Mice only ingest about half the larval ticks they harbor, which allows the other 50% to feed and go forth to make mischief. When preferred species aren’t available, ticks simply hitch a ride on whoever walks by. The research study claims that a forest's loss of [...]

By |June 5th, 2015|Environment|0 Comments

Report on the Omega conference – Where do we go from here?

Where We Go From Here Opportunities and Solutions for an Interdependent World Last weekend, I was fortunate to attend “Where We Go From Here,” a conference at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies near Rhinebeck, NY (http://www.eOmega.org). Omega is set in the hills of the Hudson valley and the campus features rolling green lawns, tall trees, and camp-style buildings linked by meandering mulch paths. The conference consisted of keynote speeches and a panel discussion, as well as opportunities to network with attendees. At the close, the audience was asked to consider three questions, which you can see if you scroll down to the very end. They’re good questions, so I hope you will consider them, too. My overall takeaway from the weekend is hopefulness. Watching world events unfold, one can easily get the impression that nothing positive is going on anywhere. It was humbling to hear the keynote speakers and realize how much has already been done to build a better future. All of the projects were extraordinary. It was inspiring to be among my fellow participants who were all determined to play a role in putting humanity on a wiser path than our current trajectory. If any of the talks summarized below spark your interest, you can view them for free until Dec. 5th (all except Clinton’s speech). Simply go to the Omega website, click on the Where Do We Go From Here panel, and register (name and email). You will receive a link, and there’s a drop-down menu with the individual speakers listed. * The Main Hall accommodates about 500 people on folding chairs, an intimate setting to hear one of the greatest public speakers of our time, President William Jefferson Clinton. Friday [...]

By |October 12th, 2013|Energy, Environment, Report|0 Comments

Climate After Growth – New Report from Asher Miller and Rob Hopkins

Post Carbon Institute Executive Director Asher Miller and Transition Movement Founder (and PCI Fellow) Rob Hopkins have released a provocative new paper making a convincing case for why the environmental community must embrace post-growth economics and community resilience in their efforts to address the climate crisis. Miller and Hopkins discuss the "New Normals" we face regarding our energy sources, our climate, and our economy, and explain how local community resilience efforts can be a key part of our response to these realities. Check out the report here.

By |September 30th, 2013|Economy, Environment, Report|0 Comments