Ghosts of the Palisades

My wife Dallas and I are standing beneath an old stone archway that we encountered during a Sunday walk along the Long Path, the hiking trail that runs along the top edge of the cliff of the majestic Hudson Palisades. The arch, and the grey stone foundation of which it is a part, are incongruous in this strip of wild land. Yet they have become so shaded by tall trees and so shroud with bushes and vines, that in summer, when the vegetation is lush, one might walk past them without noticing. Oddly, some ornamental plants of a bygone era survive. Forsythia, yew and ivy hint at a time when this spot was within civilization.

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The Zen of Woodpiles

Expecting to read up on the Beatles, I pulled a book called Norwegian Wood off the shelf at the Birch Bark Bookstore in Minneapolis several years ago, only to discover that it was literally a book about chopping, stacking, and drying wood. Good information, coming from a nation where the holiday broadcast of a crackling fireplace draws the Norwegian TV network’s highest volume of complaints every year. Thousands of flustered viewers feel that the logs are not being placed onto the flames correctly.

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Debunking Myths About Wildlife Gardens

1.Wildlife gardens attract pests, like snakes, ticks, and rodents

2.Classic sod lawns are prettier, while “messy yards” reduce property values

3.Native plants are unruly weeds, and spread uncontrollably

4.Pollinator gardens are dangerous because they attract stinging bees

A Maryland lawyer made these four claims in court on behalf of a homeowners association after a resident couple defied the HOA’s rules by planting a pesticide-free wild garden instead of installing flat sod/turf in their yard. A single neighbor complained, and boom, $100,000 in litigation. In this case, the gardeners won, and the state of Maryland ended up passing legislation last spring that requires HOAs to allow habitat gardens and prohibits turfgrass mandates.

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Landscaping and Nature in the Hudson Valley

Who is cutting your grass?

Who has time to mow the yard anymore? In our zip code, the odds are good that a local contractor handles your lawn care, while landscape architects and tree removal experts take on specialized tasks. Google tells us that to maintain resale value on a house, you are supposed to budget ten percent of your home’s assessed value for landscaping, a tithe many people dutifully render to the gods of real estate each year. What does this money go to?

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How Does Your Garden Grow

Fall has arrived. The humidity has finally dropped and there’s a chill in the air. It’s time to tuck your garden in for a long winter sleep. We have put together a check list to help you accomplish this task.

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Palisades Park Conservancy turns 20

One of the joys of living in Palisades is having access to amazing parks for walking, hiking and biking. Considerable credit goes to the Englewood Women’s Club which, in 1895, fought for the protection of the Palisades cliffs against the popular business of quarrying the cliffs. This movement attracted the attention of N.Y. Governor Theodore Roosevelt and N.J. Governor Foster Voorhees who together commissioned a study that put an end to dynamiting the N.J. Palisades on Christmas day in 1900.

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Pandemic Walks

December 1, 2020. I am sitting on a rock ledge at what I call the South Overlook, in Tallman Mountain State Park (Sparkill, New York), painstakingly pecking this essay, or at least the start of it, into my cell phone. The majestic Hudson River is spread out beneath me. On other recent visits to this spot, a hawk landed in a nearby tree, and a Bald Eagle with its white head and tail blazing in the sun flew by, and a noisy group of Canada Geese took off from the marsh at the river's edge, and a Screech Owl called from the woods behind me, but today all is quiet.

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Fishing the Spring Run

The Hudson River has been romantically referred to as America’s Rhine by many writers. Spending a warm day watching it gently flow (north or south depending on the tides) with a fishing pole in the water is both relaxing and exciting. Many of us see the fisherman, sometimes with entire families in tow, set up along the pier starting in mid-March, but few are aware of the trophy fish they are trying to land.

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All About Gardens

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW

It’s that time of year to start planning your garden. If you’re searching for seeds you will want to check out It’s It's that time of year to start planning your garden. If you’re searching for seeds you will want to check out Seed Savers EXCHANGE. This nonprofit organization works to keep diversity strong by collecting, growing, regenerating and sharing endangered heirloom vegetable, flower, herb and grain seeds and plants. The Exchange was started in 1975 by Diane and Kent Wheatly with two plants (a morning glory and a tomato) that Diane’s great grandfather brought over from Bavaria in the 1870s. Word of the Exchange spread and soon a network of gardeners was formed. The Seed Savers Exchange, headquartered in Decorah, Iowa, is now the largest seed bank of its kind with 13,000 members.

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Riverkeeper Weighs In on the Battle of the Phragmites

The following are excerpts from a letter sent from Riverkeeper Patrol to Betsy Blair, the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve Manager, concerning plans for the Piermont Marsh.

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FOR THE BIRDS

Each morning, from frosty fall into spring, my husband heads out to our backyard no matter the weather, weather, dressed in robe, slippers and knit hat, to feed his birds. As he sprinkles seeds about, he whistles and within minutes a handful of blue jays appear followed by mourning doves, sparrows and a small army of squirrels.

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Cellen Wolk, Our Garden Guru, Talks about Gardening

“My mother was obsessive about gardening but it wasn’t until I lived in Los Gatos, California, with its perfect garden weather, that I became interested in gardening. Afterwards, in places along the way, I found myself tutored by like-minded women sharing a spirit of collaboration and experimentation,” Cellen states. In 1995 she opened Hey Hoe Garden Design with Neal Harris and when Harris retired in 2013 she continued on her own.

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Changes to Piermont Marsh Coming

In January, a draft of the Piermont Marsh Reserve Management Plan was released by NY State Department of Environmental Conservation and NY State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation/ Palisades Interstate Park Commission. Here is a condensed version of the report.

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One Gardener's Thoughts

Hannes Brueckner’s vegetable garden, which lies amid a spacious lawn behind his Route 340 home, is seldom from his thoughts. A scientist by profession, Hannes is a geochemist and geochronologist. After an undergrad degree at Cornell, followed by a masters and a Ph.D. from Yale in 1969, Hannes joined the faculty of Queens College of the City of New York, where he remained until retiring in 2010. He also became part of Lamont Doherty’s research staff in 1969 and continues there as an adjunct senior research scientist.

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Native Plants of the Palisades

If you walk along the roads in Palisades, or through Tallman Mountain State Park this spring, you may see a smattering of wildflowers such as the odd jack-in-the-pulpit, or a stray trillium and feel as though something magical has been revealed to you. Imagine, though, what it was like not even a century ago.

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Love Nest on the Tappan Zee Bridge

The peregrine falcons have returned to their “love shack” on the main span truss of the Tappan Zee Bridge, as they do every year. In fact even as I write this, one of them appears to be sitting on a clutch of eggs. “Appears?” you say. Yes, because there is a falcon cam trained on their nesting box 24/7 year in and year out, and you can see one of the pair sitting for long stretches, unperturbed by all the racket going on around him or her.

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A Woodland Plant That Deserves More Respect

Around the end of March signs of spring start appearing as snowdrops, winter aconite and wild crocus pop up their welcome heads. It’s also time for the arrival of skunk cabbage. Walking by the swampy area just west of 9W on Oak Tree Road, you should be able to spot clumps of them stretching a few inches above the murky surface. Funny, in their early stage, they bring to mind Audrey II, the man-eating plant in the 1986 cult pop musical film, A Little House of Horrors.

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Tales from the Tail

Overheard near the triangle across from the Post Office by three of our own locals…

Local #1…. I see we have some new tail in town. A big redhead called Ginger.

Local #2 – Oh yeah that bitch- you should have seen her a when she first got here, just a bag of bones, frankly she looked like something the cat dragged in, but now- well va va voom - totally transformed. Heard her family, the Cohens, take her rock climbing and for long runs. Wouldn’t mind sharing her crate if you know what I mean.

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The Other DEC Project in Our Backyard

The permit for the New NY Bridge (the new Tappan Zee Bridge) issued by the DEC contains a three-part compensatory mitigation plan. The most well known part of this plan, the Wetlands Enhancement at Piermont Marsh, has been highly publicized. However, in comparison, very little has been made public about another part of this plan actively happening in our area. The plan in the permit originally called for local oysters to be harvested and transferred to a marine hatchery while creating thirteen acres of new oyster habitat that is to be seeded with the stock from the harvested oysters. By mid 2013, 200,000 oysters were harvested using dredges and moved to adjacent beds where they are to be kept out of the way of the construction equipment that is currently in place.

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Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home

It was two days before Halloween, and there was the seasonal spirit of ghouls and witches impatient to descend. I was busy carving pumpkins in the late afternoon sun when I looked up to an even more nightmarish vision: the full side of my house darkened and writhing. With a closer look I realized I was witness to thousands upon thousands of ladybugs swarmed all together on the usually bright white clapboard siding, and more were coming, in my hair, up my nose. I shrieked, feeling like a Hitchcock blonde under attack, and rushed to open the back door to get inside. The ladybugs had the same idea. Great clouds of the creatures swarmed into the house, taking up positions by the hundreds and thousands in the corners of every room, in each recessed lighting socket, in the hems of my curtains - literally every nook and cranny of the house.

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