A New Cat
Published on March 25, 2014 by Sara Foss

I got a new cat!

And I wrote about it.

Here's an excerpt:

"After my cat Paul died last November, my surviving cat, Clem, began to seem increasingly neurotic. He would stand by the door and meow until I let him into the hallway. When I left for work, he was despondent. And when I came home he seemed especially needy. As time wore on, it occurred to me that Clem might be lonely.

Some time ago, my father suggested that my mother’s cat Sammy might benefit from having a kitten “to mentor.” Of course, I laughed uproariously when I heard this idea. 'Cats don’t mentor,' I said, as if only a fool would believe such a thing.

Meanwhile, my mother informed my father that she didn’t want another cat. 'I want the cats to dwindle,' she explained. Which I thought was an interesting euphemism for die — one that I now employ with some frequency. In any case, when Paul dwindled I found myself becoming less contemptuous of the idea of feline mentorship. 'Maybe Clem needs a little mentee,' I said. 'Maybe he needs a companion.'

A few weeks ago, I learned about a 6-month-old cat living in a colleague’s basement. I was told the cat had initially lived in the rafters, avoiding human contact. But she had become friendly over time, and my colleague’s children adored the cat. But they were also allergic, and the time had come to find the cat a new home."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Sliding Down a Mountain
Published on February 26, 2014 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about winter hiking and the pleasure of being able to slide down a mountain.

Here's an excerpt:

"I’ve always wanted to get into winter hiking, but I never knew exactly how to go about it. Part of the problem was my lack of winter hiking partners. Finding people to accompany me on hikes is a bit of a challenge, and when it’s cold it’s an even bigger challenge. Another problem is that I had no idea how to prepare for hiking in the winter. Did I need snowshoes? Microspikes? How many layers should I wear? What if I got too cold, or if it started to snow?

Thanks to a friend who really enjoys winter hiking, I’ve started getting answers to these questions. A month or so ago we hiked Blackhead Mountain, a 3,940 foot peak in the Catskills. The trail was more icy than snowy, so I wore my Microspikes — a lightweight, plastic-and-metal traction control system that can be pulled on over your hiking boots. On any icy hike, Microspikes are invaluable. The spikes grip the ice, preventing falls, and we especially appreciated them on our descent, while navigating a steep ice formation that resembled a waterfall. Dangerous as this formation was, it was also quite beautiful, and I was glad we had ventured deep into the woods to see it. Overall, hiking felt terrific: I did get a little chilled near the summit, but I wasn’t nearly as tired and sweaty as I would have been on a hot summer day. When I got home, I took a warm shower, which made me feel even better.

My friend and I returned to the Catskills last weekend to hike Slide Mountain, the highest peak in the Catskills at 4,190 feet. ('The Mt. Everest of the Catskills,' my friend called it.) We weren’t sure what to expect, as it had snowed quite a bit since our last trip to the area. In fact, we had tried to get to the mountain one week earlier and encountered a snowstorm, as well as a slick, snow-covered mountain road that was too much for our little car. (We ended up turning around and going snowshoeing at the Ashokan Reservoir instead.) But this week it was much warmer and clearer, and our drive to the trailhead was uneventful."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Enough Snow
Published on February 13, 2014 by Sara Foss

I'm officially sick of the snow, and I wrote about it at the DG.

Here's an excerpt:

"OK, enough. Uncle. Today’s snowstorm is the last straw. Winter officially has me screaming for mercy.

I like snow. Not too long ago, I went skiing at the Pine Bush and found myself wishing for snow. The trails were patchy and icy, and I began to worry that it would never snow again and I would have to pack up my skis and wait until next winter to get out again.

But last week it snowed. A lot. And I was pleased. 'Now I can ski again,' I thought. I spent the weekend in Maine, where it snowed about six inches on Sunday night. A friend and I drove out to a local golf course and broke trail for about an hour, and it was nice. In my opinion, the Northeast had plenty of snow. It didn’t need any more."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Looking For the Northern Lights
Published on January 14, 2014 by Sara Foss

I did not see the northern lights last week.

But I wrote a little something about my attempt to find them.

Here's an excerpt:

"Last week a friend and I decided to take a late-night drive and see if we could catch a glimpse of the northern lights.

Also known as the Aurora Borealis, the northern lights are a natural light display. Though rarely seen south of New York’s northermost counties, astronomers reported that a massive solar had shaken up Earth’s magnetic field, expanding the reach of the Aurora Borealis. The big question, then, was weather the northern lights would be visible, or obscured by clouds — a strong possibility, according to the weather reports. Having never seen the northern lights before, my friend and I decided to err on the side of caution, and headed out to Thacher Park shortly after 11 p.m. on Thursday. We’d heard that the northern lights wouldn’t be visible until about midnight, and didn’t want to get there too early.

When we got to Thacher, we were surprised by two things: The crowd that had gathered by the side of the road, and the bright flashing lights of the four or five police cars that had pulled onto the shoulder. I liked the idea of joining a large, spontaneous gathering of amateur astronomers, but not if it meant skywatching under police watch. So we decided to drive around for a while and circle back later, as it would be hard to find a better vantage point than Thacher’s long, steep escarpment."

Click here to read more.

Garden Update
Published on August 29, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write a little update on my garden, which has produced melons and tomatillos in the past few weeks.

To read it, click here.

Looking For Quiet
Published on July 15, 2013 by Sara Foss

In her weekly column Greenpoint, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the elusiveness of real quiet.

Here's an excerpt:

Trying to find some true quiet, the dog and I took a walk before the sun was up last week. A few birds were already awake, but the full morning chorus had not yet started. One of our roosters was working on a solo.

Down by the pond, a bullfrog was clanking. Across the street in a poplar tree, the nest of baby woodpeckers was silent, which meant that the parents were still in bed instead of flying in and out with breakfast.

A car passed, the lovely woman who brings me my newspaper every morning, and we waved.

No other vehicles were out — no logging trucks, no commuters, not even the early morning fisherman who stops first at the beach and then at the point around 6 every morning, casting for about 10 minutes at each place. I don’t think he’s looking for dinner. I think he’s looking for quiet.

Quiet and darkness are two things we don’t have enough of in our modern world. And by darkness I mean dark enough to view the light show of the night sky — the absence of artificial light.

Same with quiet. I don’t mean silence, the lack of all sound, but the absence of human-created noise. I’ve been thinking about how hard it is to find a place where no motors hum, where no trucks rumble, where no TVs or radios blare, where no airplane interrupts the bird song. A place where you can just listen to the natural world: a running stream, last night’s rain dripping off the trees, the gurgle of a turkey or the splash of a landing duck.

I guess it’s noisier in the summer, with Jet Skis on the lakes and generators in the woods. Traffic picks up as visitors drive around for the scenery, or to bring boats to the lakes, or to head to their camps. They come for the quiet, maybe not knowing they are stealing the quiet as they come.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Food Bags From Feed Bags
Published on July 1, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about her latest craft project in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"My neighbor has been making garden art, stacking old glass light fixtures, glued together, onto broom handles and planting them in the garden to reflect and refract the light.

'It’s pretty dorky, but I’m having fun,' she said. 'I mean, I wouldn’t put it in my house, but in the garden it looks pretty nice.'

We were taking our weekly Insanely Long Walk — seven miles around the lake — and our conversation had turned to various reuse projects we’ve been working on.

My friend likes redoing old furniture — end tables or small chests — by painting them bright colors. She’s been doing mosaics too, on the tops of the tables and on old flower pots, using various broken plates and crockery. She makes fun of her finished projects, but they really are beautiful.

And we both like finding new uses for old stuff."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Gardening Without Pesticides
Published on June 10, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about gardening and living without pesticides in her column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"We live in a hilly place, naturally forested enough that an unmowed field will turn to brush, then pines, then mixed woods within a decade.

Where we live, you have to work hard to keep a field. My husband does some of that work, haying some of the little fields around us. That gives us some fodder for our animals and helps the neighbors keep some land from growing to forest.

This place is not considered good agricultural land, but it’s ideal for us. In fact, we moved to the Adirondack foothills on purpose to garden, just because it’s not prime for agriculture."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Into the Garden
Published on May 28, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about how gardening is still a few weeks away in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"Riding up an elevator at Albany Med last week, I noticed my traveling companion had a jar full of garden flowers.

'Where do you live?' I asked her. 'Nothing is blooming up my way.'

That’s not exactly true. The daffodils are done and the lilacs and flowering crab apples are blooming. But lilacs are a little overpowering for a hospital room, and the crabs are at my neighbor’s house. My elevator companion was from Guilderland, and her bouquet was mostly flowering herbs, purple chive flowers and wild tarragon.

The chives in my garden are still in bud, but I picked some anyway last weekend, to dress out a tiny bouquet of purple catmint and the two last daffodils. I put them all in a little creamer for my dad, who is laid up with some broken ribs. I was hoping the chives would open before the daffodils faded, but the daffodils went first.

I’ve got bleeding hearts, pink and white, just starting to blossom in the garden in front of the house, and lots of irises getting ready to bud. I wish I had more flowers to bring to my dad, but I wish more that he’d get out of the hospital before everything is in bloom up north where I live."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Back to the Garden
Published on May 16, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about returning to the garden.

Here's an excerpt:

"My landlord and I have decided to give gardening another go.

Last year we were first-time gardeners, and I’d probably give us a C-plus ... if I was grading on a curve. We did OK until about August, and then things sort of fell apart. We were both away a lot, and it was extremely dry. By September, our community garden plot was a wild, jungly tangle of weeds, tomato plants and zucchini. I kind of enjoyed finding new ways to use the zucchini, like making zucchini bread, but my landlord was less enthused. 'I’ve had enough zucchini,' she said."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Moose on the Move
Published on May 8, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about moose in her column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"The phone rang on a Monday evening. The 12-year-old boy down the road was calling to tell our 12-year-old boy that there was a moose in his yard.

Half an hour later, our daughter called from New York City to tell us we had a moose in our neighborhood. Apparently her buddy, who lives next door to the 12-year-old down the road, had texted her when the moose strolled over to his yard.

News travels fast. So do moose.

The next day, several people in the next town over had reports and photos of the moose — it was seen walking down the sidewalk toward the high school, swimming in Lake Luzerne, strolling by the music camp on the other side of the lake. If it was the same moose as the one in our neighborhood, it probably had taken another swim, across the northern tip of the Great Sacandaga Lake, on its way to town. Or maybe it took the South Shore route and crossed nearer to where the Sacandaga meets the Hudson."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Less Waste in the Cafeteria
Published on April 30, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about how some schools are taking steps to cut down on food waste.

Here's an excerpt:

Shortly after my son gets on the bus in the morning, we find his empty breakfast dishes on the table.

For a while, we thought the boy was doing an excellent job of eating every last morsel. Then we thought the big dog was casually stretching her neck up to table level to lick off the plate as she walked by. Then we found the true culprit: the little dog, who first climbs on the chair to wash the plate for us, then climbs right onto the table to drink whatever milk the boy neglected.

My son says it’s fine, because he likes to share.

We try to share all our food waste. What we don’t eat, and the dogs don’t finish, goes to the chickens. They might get old rice, the leftover seafood chowder, bread crusts, sour milk. The chickens get the pre-meal waste too — the carrot scrapings and lettuce ends, the seedy middle of the peppers, the apple cores.

What no one can eat — orange peels, coffee grounds and egg shells, for example — goes into the compost. The kids have been trained to bring their lunch scraps home for the chickens or the compost, rather than dropping them in the trash can at school where they would invariably end up in a landfill.

It’s easy to eliminate food waste on a micro-level. The problem is the bigger places — those school cafeterias, for instance.

Click here to read the whole thing.

It's Still Earth Day
Published on April 22, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about Earth Day.

Here's an excerpt:

Coming into April, my inbox was inundated with messages about Earth Day events and ideas. Some were hikes and planting days, seed-sharing ideas and energy-savings tips.

Far more were what I would classify as lightly greenwashed advertising campaigns. For Earth Day, I was told, I should use wheat-based natural kitty litter, wear appliquéed recycled T-shirts and eco-friendly bracelets, purchase sustainable wooden toys and become gorgeous with Earth Day-inspired beauty products.

Or I could just drink. “In celebration of Earth Day, raise a glass to the environment and enjoy these eco-friendly cocktails,” one email said, offering some recipes. I think it was from the same company that pushes cocktails for other big drinking holidays, like Father’s Day and Arbor Day.

I’m all for using Earth Day as a reminder about how to take care of the only home we have, just as fire departments use daylight saving time to remind us to check our smoke detectors. But just as we need smoke detectors every day, we need to care for our world every day.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Snow Or Not, It's Spring
Published on March 26, 2013 by Sara Foss

It's spring, whether it snows or not, according to my colleague Margaret Hartley, who writes about the transition to a new season in her column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"The last day of winter had us shoveling around 10 inches of new snow. The first day of spring saw the shovels out again, cleaning up another 2 inches or so that had fallen overnight.

So what? Spring is here anyway.

I have proof. Not only is the sun a little higher every day, but the chickens have started laying again. Spring means eggs.

Chickens are light-sensitive. With no artificial light source they will stop laying in the winter and start up again in spring. In nature, this makes perfect sense, allowing chicks to be born in spring and summer when their chances of survival are far better.

For people who raise chickens, the winter shutdown is not particularly welcome. I made fun of some people I know, fairly new to chicken raising, who gave away their whole flock last month. They were fed up with the lack of eggs.

'We need a different breed,' they said, and I thought, 'They need a better light.'

Maybe they’re just like us and keep forgetting to turn the light on. Or maybe, like us, they have a henhouse light that’s just not strong enough.

And maybe, being new to chicken raising, they don’t realize that even chickens who stop laying in the winter will start again in the spring.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Not Yet Spring
Published on March 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about how it's not quite spring in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"Up in the still-white north where I live, we are watching seedlings spring up, impossibly green, on the window sill. We are sorting our seed packets, admiring the bright drawings and photographs of vegetables that come in colors we have forgotten over the long winter. In black and gray we draw out our own garden plans, as if we can’t really believe in kale green or tomato red. It’s hard enough to remember what a warming ray of sunshine feels like.

At dinner time, it’s down to the ice box to dig around for something green from last year’s garden — string beans, broccoli, a bag of curried cabbage. The best is finding a mix of early season vegetables, with baby summer squashes, wild and cultivated greens, tender herbs and tiny peas. It tastes like spring, and I think we’ve eaten the last one.

So we are waiting. My husband is designing improved hot frames in his sketch book, talking about using the stored window frames and getting early broccoli. My son interrupts, complaining that the whole world looks gray, then laces on his new red sneakers for a run. He comes home complaining some more, this time about wet feet and icy roads.

'When will it be spring?' he whines. Some early broccoli might help that boy."

Click here to read the whole thing.

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