April 4, 2012

TST BOCES survives

You probably weren't worrying too much about whether TST BOCES, which most people think of as its campus on Warren Road in the Town of Ithaca, would survive. As Dryden Daily KAZ reports, the state is fine with its continuing as is, and isn't pressing for a merger.

Posted by simon at 12:01 PM Comment

How's Fall Creek doing?

I'm glad someone's watching our creeks carefully. The watersheds for Fall Creek and Virgil Creek together probably include about two-thirds of the Town of Dryden.

Fall and Virgil Creeks - What's in the Water?

Volunteer stream monitors from the Fall Creek Watershed Committee and the Community Science Institute will be presenting their findings on the health of the Fall Creek watershed. This presentation will be held at the Dryden Town Hall meeting room on Tuesday, April 17th from 6:30-8:30 PM.

Join us for a lively panel discussion to learn about the connection between Fall Creek and Dryden's drinking water, where phosphorus comes from and why it matters, what kinds of aquatic life are supported in Fall Creek, and what is being done to keep the creek healthy. Panelists include volunteer monitors and representatives from the Dryden Planning department, Tompkins County Soil & Water Conservation District, Cornell University and the Community Science Institute.

The Fall Creek Watershed Committee is a group of volunteers that partner with the Community Science Institute's certified water testing lab and have been monitoring Fall and Virgil Creeks since 2002. Volunteers sample the creeks from 14 locations ranging from Groton to downtown Ithaca. All results are published in the CSI database online at http://communityscience.org/database. CSI is supported by the Town of Dryden, Town of Ithaca, City of Ithaca, Finger Lakes-Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance and Cornell University.

For more information about volunteering with the Fall Creek Watershed Committee or about the Community Science Institute contact Becky Bowen, Outreach Coordinator, at 607-257-6606.

Posted by simon at 12:09 PM Comment

The mystery memo

I mentioned a while ago that Anschutz attorney Tom West was crowing about a memo he'd dredged up in the state archives. As was reported then:

A lawyer involved in the attempt to scuttle the Middlefield ban on natural gas extraction said Thursday he has uncovered documents from three decades ago that support his contention that state lawmakers wanted to stop local governments from enacting land-use laws impeding drilling activities.

As usual, reality is less exciting than Tom West claims it is. You can find the whole Governors Program Bill Memorandum (78KB PDF) at his site, but the relevant paragraphs seem to be:

Local laws relating to regulation of the oil, gas and solution mining industries are superseded by Article 23 of the Environmental Conservation Law, as are local laws imposing fees similar to that created herein. However, local taxing authority remains unaffected....

The provision for supersedure by the Oil, Gas, and Solution Mining Law of local laws and ordinances clarifies the legislative intent behind the enactment of the oil and gas law of 1963. The comprehensive scheme envisioned by this law and the technical expertise required to administer and enforce it, necessitates that this authority be reserved to the State. Local government's diverse attempts to regulate the oil, gas, and solution mining activities serve to hamper those who seek to develop these resources and threaten the efficient development of these resources, with Statewide repercussions. With adequate staffing and funding, the State's oil, gas and solution mining regulatory program will be able to address the concerns of local governments and assure the efficient and safe development of these energy resources.

There is, as always, no mention of land-use regulation here at all. There's a bit of "go energy!" shouting, and a bit of grousing about "diverse attempts to regulate". I can't say I'd want to hang the entire case on the word "diverse" as magically including land-use issues that aren't specifically mentioned, especially since the bill wasn't passed in the manner normally required to modify home rule powers.

They aren't planning to try to re-open the Dryden case with this not-really-new bit of evidence. By my reading it pretty much recapitulates an argument that didn't go over well here. They hope, though, to insert it into the parallel Middlefield proceeding:

In the Middlefield case, Judge Cerio noted the absence of any clear indication in the legislative history to the 1981 amendments to the Environmental Conservation Law to support a finding of broad preemption. Subsequent to receipt of his decision, The West Firm combed the state archives based upon the tip from a retired DEC employee, which indicated that there may be archived documents shedding light on the legislative history of the supersedure provision.

I suspect this memo adds as little to that case as it does to the Dryden case, but it certainly gives Tom West another opportunity to bluster.

Posted by simon at 12:19 PM Comment

April 5, 2012

Fatal accident on Pinckney Road

I'm not sure what it is about the area near the Lower Creek / Pinckney Road intersection, but it seems to get more than its share of accidents. The most recent, Tuesday night, killed a Freeville man and injured four others.

In brighter news, I was glad to see TC3 honoring our Civil War nurses, and to read that Tompkins County is the second-healthiest county in New York State.

The Journal had a great piece on Finns in Dryden, with a picture of the Eight Square Schoolhouse class of 1935 or 1936.

Bears are out - I really need to finish setting up the electric fence around my beehives. That project's been in the works since, er, July.

Our trees seem to have done okay with the warm weather and deep frosts, but those ups and downs are taking their toll on many farms.

Posted by simon at 9:00 AM Comment

April 6, 2012

Dryden, 1940

The 1940 census data is available online. You can find an intriguing 1937 map of Dryden "prepared by the technical staff of the Tompkins County Development Association", and lots of data on Dryden individuals as well in the census schedules.

In Enumeration District 55-10 (Varna through Bethel Grove), unfortunately, they didn't indicate addresses, so it's hard to know who, for example, lived in my house. (I don't find a name matching the owner at the time, so I'm guessing it was rented.)

The map, though, has all kinds of great things. Dryden Road (then 13, now 366 and 13) was Ithaca-Cortland Road. The north end of what is now Hanshaw Road used to be called Zeman Road, and Ellis Road and Stevens Road followed a course much like the western end of current Route 13. Stevenson Road was Reed Road, and Ellis Hollow Creek Road was just plain Creek Road. Quarry Road continued past Snyder Hill Road to the Catskill Turnpike, better known now as Route 79. Fulkerson Road used to connect the current Sheldon (then South) Road to Wood Road. Schultz Road connected Mill Street in Freeville to Caswell Road, and Johnson Road used to be Wickiam Road and Cotrell Road.

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp SP-48 was along the west side of Turkey Hill Road between Ellis Hollow and Ellis Hollow Creek. Its enumeration is two blank pages, and its population is listed as zero. I'll have to find out what happened there - someone certainly lived there, as the Wikipedia entry for Cornell Plantations reports that "From 1935 to 1940, the federal government's Civilian Conservation Corps Camp SP 48 devoted 170 to 200 workers to planting trees, constructing dikes, and building trails in order to develop the Arboretum." They seem to have pulled that from this Cornell Daily Sun article of November 7, 1940. Maybe the census simply didn't count these "imported" residents as living here.

Update: And here's a Journal article from Carol Kammen on the census.

Posted by simon at 10:24 PM Comment

April 7, 2012

Keeping bears away from bees, and more

Last summer, I heard of a bear sighting at Turkey Hill and Mount Pleasant Roads, and immediately knew the bears were moving in. Those bears apparently moved on through the City of Ithaca, but my beehives were in danger. I ordered some additional electric fencing and a bear-worthy charger. I tore down an old fence for chickens and put up a new garden fence to keep the kids away from the electric fence.

And then, I didn't do much. Last summer's heat crushed me, as did travel, work, and the basic challenges of construction projects around beehives. My parents surprised me for my birthday with 60 watts of solar panels, which was wonderful. Of course, it suddenly inspired ideas of larger infrastructure to take advantage of that power to fuel some of my further-out ideas.

Eight or nine months later, I finally have the solar cells charging a battery, which powers a fence charger, which keeps the fence on.

Yard with fences, beehives, solar panels, control box.
Yard with fences, beehives, solar panels, control box

The electric fence around the beehives.
The electric fence around the beehives.

The fence is a movable fence. It increases the risk that bears will get through, but also makes it possible for me to mow around the hives. All of this should also keep skunks away.

The power source for the fence is in a box a short distance away, with the energizer itself mounted on the outside of the box. The energizer can work on either 110V AC, which would have meant my originally planned long extension cord, or 12V DC, which the solar panels and batteries provide. I thought the fence charger would only run at night, but its "night setting" runs it faster at night and slower during the day. Eventually I'll add something like this Lumatrol photocell so some projects can run only at night while others run all the time.

Solar panels to power it all.
Solar panels to power it all

Battery, charge controller, and room for a lot more.
Battery, charge controller, and room for a lot more.

It's a deep-cycle battery, though the fence energizer consumes enough power (and the solar panels generate enough) that I probably should have bought a bigger battery. Instead, I think I'll buy another battery at some point, as I add more projects here. I certainly provided enough space - the box is 2' x 2' x 4'.

I need to finish waterproofing the box. Cedar boards and drain holes keep the equipment above water that may come in and let it dry. I also plan to put doors on the top gaps under the metal roof to have easy storage for things like garden and beekeeping tools.

What's next? Probably a flag with a downward pointing LED light, one that works more reliably than the underpowered and rusting piece of solar-powered junk I bought a few years ago. In more complicated possibilities, a set of radar guns and a weather camera pointed at the road are also on the "would like to do this year" list, though given the time it took to get this far, that may be 2013 or 2014.

Want to see a bit more? I've posted a small gallery of pictures.

Posted by simon at 11:15 AM Comment

April 10, 2012

Thoughts on Empowered: The Movie

I mentioned this movie a few weeks ago for its Dryden roots, but only got to actually seeing it last night.

Its creators have been organizing group showings around the area, which I think is great for starting conversation, but there's also some real benefit to seeing it in your own house. You can watch what people are doing in their own houses, while looking around at your own and considering what options you have.

I was a little worried about watching it, to be honest - earnest documentaries don't always work that well. This one does, I think mostly because it pushes harder on concrete things people are doing to address energy challenges instead of just offering a list of "50 things you can do to reduce your footprint" or similar. None of the many different things these people are doing is easy, but it's still within reach.

I try sometimes to do similar things here, especially about the work I've done on this house and land, trying to make clear that readers can do things too. It doesn't take a massively expensive Passivhaus, LEED certification, or a farm to do useful things. Sometimes that's even worked, as a few of the queries I've had about contractors indicate. Still, Empowered goes to a level of project and commitment that I haven't shown here, and it's pushing me to consider taking things further.

It is definitely possible to make a difference, even on a small scale. It's not easy, but there are so many things we can do...

There's a lot more about the movie, including clips, at the Empowered: The Movie web site.

(And yes, I I know the producer, director, and many of the other folks who created or appear in the movie. I was a little startled to see someone I'd only met on Sunday afternoon in the movie, even - I had no idea. I don't think any of that changes my take on the film, however.)

Posted by simon at 10:49 AM Comment

Bordoni motorcade through Dryden tonight

I just got this from Varna Volunteer Fire Company President Wendy Hoose:

Hello all VVFC members,

To honor our fallen hero, Chris Bordoni, Varna has placed our flag at half-staff and well as Duane has placed a nice message on the Road Sign. Vince, Sam and others will be driving down in 1901 on Thursday for the funeral.

If you would like to show your support today, Dryden Chief Mark Bell has invited us to help line the streets of Dryden to show our support and respect for Chris giving his life in the service of his county. The motorcade will be going from 81 to 281 to 13 to Stewart Park into Ithaca. If interested meet at the the Dryden Fire Station at 1830 tonight!

God Bless you all!


VVFC honors Christopher Bordoni with message and half-staff flag.
VVFC honors Christopher Bordoni with message and half-staff flag. (Photo by Duane Testut.)

There's more general information in the Ithaca Journal report this morning:

Ithaca -- Cpl. Chris D. Bordoni will be brought home to Ithaca on Tuesday in a motorcade including the Bordoni family, several Marines, patrol vehicles from several police agencies, Bangs Ambulance, the Ithaca Fire Department and a motorcycle escort group called the Patriot Guard Riders....

Cpl. Bordoni, 21, died on April 3 at San Antonio Military Medical Center. He had been receiving treatment since January for severe injuries received while serving in Afghanistan.

Update: more from the Journal:

High above the roadway, a huge flag draped from the ladder of a Dryden fire engine. The flag was a way to honor the service and courage of Cpl. Bordoni, said Fire Chief Mark Bell. "I got nothing but e-mails from the members asking us what we could do. Everybody had the same vision," he said of the flag.

Posted by simon at 2:43 PM Comment

April 11, 2012

Yep, the Journal's moving behind a paywall

I really wish they hadn't titled this Major changes coming to your Ithaca Journal, because if there's anything the Journal has taught us over the years, it's that it doesn't belong to readers or to the community. It belongs to Gannett, the chain that constantly shrinks local staffing while paying its executives the cash that might have gone into local coverage.

Here's the key piece:

We will continue to publish our printed newspaper. All subscribers will receive full digital access to our content through www.ithacajournal.com and through special apps designed for such devices as iPads, iPhones and Androids. They will be able to use our e-Newspaper, an electronic replica of our printed newspaper, allowing readers to read page by page on their computers. Nonsubscribers will have access to a limited number of digital stories per month, outside of key landing pages such as the home page, section fronts, obituaries, Cars.com and Careerbuilder.com.

I'm not really looking forward to "an electronic replica of our printed newspaper", but mostly wonder if I'll have to subscribe to the print edition to get it. They also promise:

We will be focusing more content on topics you've told us you're passionate about: local taxes and public spending, the region's arts and cultural scene, efforts by your neighbors to improve the community as well as economic development and new opportunities for better jobs.

They forgot local sports, crime, and the obituaries, which so far as I can tell, are the main fields where their customers seem happy with the paper. I also worry about "the region", because while I'm interested in what happens in Corning, the "regional" coverage blurring the Elmira, Ithaca, and Binghamton papers pretty much dilutes the local coverage.

We'll see. The Journal's been declining for a long long time, and this isn't new or unexpected.

If any Cortland Standard folks are reading this, could I ask you to expand your delivery area a bit further west? I suspect this may also be good news for the Dryden Courier and its sibling papers, though they've been a bit light on Dryden-specific news lately.

Posted by simon at 8:53 AM Comment

April 12, 2012

Examining the redistricting debacle

Well, they called it something nicer, but...

Redistricting Discussion Scheduled

Do you know the new boundaries of your assembly district? In what congressional district will you vote this November? Are the new districts fair and balanced, or are they manipulated and politicized? On Wednesday, April 18, the Issues Committee of the Tompkins County Democrats will sponsor a program entitled "Redistricting in New York State: Where Are We, and Where Are We Going?"

The headline speaker will be Bill Samuels of the Citizen's Committee for an Effective Constitution (EffectiveNY.org). Samuels chairs the New Roosevelt Foundation, an organization devoted to reform in Albany. Following the 2000 census, he helped to finance the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of New York State's gerrymandered redistricting. Common Cause recently awarded Samuels the Democracy in Action Award for his commitment to government accountability.

The program will run from 7 to 9 PM Wednesday, April 18, at the Beverly Livesay Conference Room in the Tompkins County Human Services Building, 320 West Martin Luther King, Jr./State Street. It is free and open to the public.

You don't have to be a Democrat to attend - this seems likely to appeal to anyone with an interest in little-d democracy.

Posted by simon at 8:11 AM Comment

April 13, 2012

Exploring Parke-Dabes Natural Area

I dropped our car off at Varna Auto Service for inspection this morning, and set out on a walk home by a different route. I walked up Route 366 to the driveway across from 1176 Dryden Road, and then turned south - and up - into the woods.

Finding the Parke-Dabes Natural Area.
Finding the Parke-Dabes Natural Area. (Click for Official Town of Dryden Map (1.5MB PDF)).

There aren't any signs here (though I think I stayed in the boundaries), but this is the Parke-Dabes Natural Area, more than 50 acres of land owned by the Town of Dryden. The entryway is fairly open, though there isn't any parking. This was the entrance to a set of logging roads. There are signs of logging throughout the woods, and the old roads make convenient trails, but it's still a pleasantly quiet escape from Route 366 below. (It gets quieter as you go up.)

Old roadway going up the hill.
Old roadway going up the hill.

I pretty much went up and up and up the roads, coming down for an occasional picture. (Sorry - these are all cellphone pictures, so not great.) There's a stream through the middle of the preserve with steep banks, but it's easy to cross higher up the hill where the road crosses it.

Stream near the top of the area.
Stream near the top of the area.

The woods are mostly younger hardwoods, with a few pines mixed in and some older probably pasture trees still sprawling. There wasn't very much undergrowth, especially compared to my land just to the east, which makes me wonder if deer have demolished it. Birds and squirrels seemed to be having fun, and you can see to the airport through the trees in spots this time of year.

A typical look downhill through the woods.
A typical look downhill through the woods.

I'm not sure what the Town's plans are for this place. I suspect the neighbors below would like it to stay pretty quiet, but it's a nice fit with the Cornell Plantations Monkey Run Natural Area across the highway. I've heard occasional rumors of a parking area to come, though it's been a while.

If you have a chance and a place to park, it's definitely worth a hike, maybe combined with a hike through the Plantations land. For me, walking the logging roads up and up pretty much took me to the corner of my property and I went down that steep slope, but it probably makes more sense for visitors to plan to wander through the area and come out the same way they went in. Going up the road for a way should get you away from the houses along the road, and it's nicely quieter up there anyway.

If you'd prefer to explore photographically, I've posted a gallery of pictures from this morning.

Posted by simon at 11:13 AM Comment

Dryden Lake Nature Study tomorrow

Well, tomorrow and May 5th.

Town of Dryden Recreation Department
Dryden Lake Nature Study

Join Cornell naturalist, Charlie Smith, to see and study the birds, wildflowers, and other natural history subjects around Dryden Lake this Spring.

Who: Ages 16 and over
When: Saturday's April 14 and May 5
Registration Deadline: April 12 for first session May 3 for second session Time: 7am-10am
Fee: $15.00 per session, sign up for 1 or both
Where: Meet @ Dryden Lake Pavilion. West Lake Rd, Dryden

In April, we'll concentrate on early Spring wildflowers along the Jim Schug Trail and look at waterfowl on the Lake. In May, we'll focus on migrating songbirds and their sounds, along with the wildflowers of late Spring.

*Bring your binoculars *The program is limited to 10 participants

Posted by simon at 12:34 PM Comment

April 16, 2012

Solar power talk Wednesday

One flip side of not wanting more fossil fuel extraction is promoting use of renewable energy.

This Wednesday at the Dryden Fire Hall (on Rt 13 just on the Cortland side of the 4 corners) John Schwartz will talk about his solar system, how well it functions in our cloudy weather, how much he feeds back to the grid, and other nitty gritty facts of living with solar power.

JOIN US PLEASE! and bring your friends.

April 18th
7:30 p.m.
Dryden Fire Hall

Sponsored by the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition

Posted by simon at 8:53 AM Comment

Healthy Food for All talk Tuesday

Lots and lots of good happening this week in Dryden...

Healthy Food For All!

Affordable farm fresh food. Food Stamps accepted!

Join us Tuesday April 17 at 6:30 pm for our lucky 13th Grow Your Own! class at Dryden Community Center Cafe, 1 Main Street at the light in Dryden.

Learn about:
  • Half priced Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares of farm fresh food delivered in Dryden!

  • Using Food Stamps at Farmers Markets.

  • How to get a 15% discount at Ithaca's natural food store each and every time you shop, on nearly everything you buy!

  • The truth about labels on food packages: What do "Organic" "Natural" "Fair Trade" etc. really mean?

Healthy, chemical free fruits and vegetables should not be only for the wealthy. Low income should not mean poor health and low quality food. You and your family have a right to quality, healthful, environmentally friendly foods. Please join our discussion to learn how to get this 15% discount on all your groceries and how to get fresh locally grown half priced CSA shares delivered right to Dryden.

To help people get started we will give away a 1 day TCAT bus pass for the first 10 people who sign in. You can use this pass to apply for the 15% FLOWER discount at GreenStar in Ithaca. Thanks to Dryden Community Garden.

Posted by simon at 9:00 AM Comment

April 19, 2012

I'll be talking about the weather

next Thursday night at Dryden Village Hall:


Unusual weather seems prevalent this year but as the old saying goes, "the more things change the more they stay the same." Over the years Dryden has experienced notable periods of extreme weather: floods, tornados, fifteen foot snowdrifts, repeated temperatures of minus 35 degrees, and a year without a summer.

These events will be the focus of the next meeting of the Dryden Town Historical Society where Simon St. Laurent will present his research entitled "Weather Wise: Memorable Weather in the Town of Dryden." The meeting will be held in the Dryden Village Hall (corner of South and George Streets) on Thursday, April 26th starting at 7 PM. The doors will open at 6:30 PM and, as always, this program is free and open to all. Dryden residents are encouraged to attend and share their own weather related stories and photos.

It will be a little bit like the talk I gave the Varna Volunteer Fire Company in January, but with far more photos, a more historical bent, and hopefully a lot of stories from the audience.

Posted by simon at 12:33 PM Comment

April 20, 2012

Journal repeats mercenaries, mercenaries ignore it

I was really hoping the folks at Energy in Depth would have something to say about the Ithaca Journal repeating their claims with a slightly calmer take and more context, but they seem content to let Gannett's Albany bureau do their work for them.

I've written about their mercenary nature before, but after the breathless Gannett report that:

Since 2009, the Park Foundation has quietly spread around more than $3 million to dozens of advocacy groups and other institutions that oppose hydrofracking or to those that have produced research on the technique, according to a Gannett Albany Bureau review of tax filings and information on the non-profit's website.

I'd really love to know what the budget for Energy in Depth Marcellus and friends is. The Gannett article does mention "$2.9 million in 2010 alone," just for lobbying in New York State.

I'm guessing that even with the Park Foundation's help, those of us opposed to hydrofracking are getting outspent ten or twenty to one. And yet, somehow, that seems to be working pretty well, so far.

Posted by simon at 6:22 AM Comment

Dryden schools offer budget, lack candidates

Well, a 2.86% tax levy increase is lower than I would have expected, given the challenges of the past few years. Somehow, though, only three candidates have signed up to run for four school board seats.

Dryden High School will be holding its Jazz and Dessert Night next Friday, April 27th in the high school gym at 7:00pm.

If One of Nine isn't enough conservatism for you, you can get an extra dose of Tracy Marisa, writing on her opposition to a minimum wage hike.

On the other hand, if you're looking for someone to defeat Tom Reed (R) in our new Congressional district, you might be happier attending a candidates forum at 7:00pm next Wednesday, the 25th with all three primary contenders: Leslie Danks-Burke, Nathan Shinagawa, and Melissa Dobson.

Posted by simon at 6:35 AM Comment

Chicken BBQ in Bethel Grove April 21st

Updated again: You can buy barbecue there even if you don't have an advance ticket. Enjoy!

It's the season for barbecues to fire up again! (Well, actually it was fine a couple of weeks ago, but that was at least theoretically adventurous.)

East Ithaca Preschool is hosting a Chicken Barbecue on Saturday, April 21st!

For $8.50, you can get a meal of a grilled 1/2 chicken, coleslaw, salt potatoes, roll and a homemade dessert. The meals will be available for pick up at the school from 11:30-noon on April 21st, at East Ithaca Preschool/Bethel Grove Community Center, 1825 Slaterville Road.

Update: Whoops! I left out something important. Tickets need to be purchased in advance.

Posted by simon at 12:06 PM Comment

April 21, 2012

"Supportive communities" to get fracked first?

I hadn't realized it was possible for the DEC to do this, but apparently there's discussion of allowing hydrofracking in places "that want it". (You can also see that article in Binghamton, where it doesn't repeat every paragraph.)

In particular, I'm surprised to see Binghamton State Senator Thomas Libous, who I'd seen as the strongest supporter of the gas companies drilling everywhere, saying:

"I believe [DEC is] going to look at areas of the state where there is Marcellus Shale, where there is potential for drilling in areas of the state that are going to be open to it," said Libous, the Senate deputy majority leader. "It just doesn't make sense for them to do it elsewhere, and I think there are enough areas of the state that would be open to it."

Nothing seems especially clear, but I'd suggest it's a sign that the DEC may be heading to the kind of compromise I'd suggested would fit the legislature.

How would this work? Details aren't clear, but the seed of an approach is already in the draft SGEIS:

DEC already signaled that it would allow some local involvement in the permitting process. A draft version of the agency's hydrofracking review lets municipalities "raise a flag with DEC" if a permit application doesn't follow its local land and zoning laws, DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis wrote in an email.

"If high-volume hydraulic fracturing moves forward in New York, local governments will get advance notice of all applications and can comment on compatibility of such application with local land use laws and policies," DeSantis wrote. "DEC will consider this in its review of the permit application and can deny or condition a permit based on this information if it deems such action is appropriate based on the impacts."

That does still leave everything up to DEC and the executive branch, however. If New York takes this route, I'd we'd see the courts, legislature, and DEC settle on something more stable.

Posted by simon at 7:39 AM Comment

April 23, 2012

Sorry about that

If you were driving down Route 366 in this morning's heavy wet snow, you may have had an unpleasant surprise from my property - a red maple gave way under the weight, crashed through my fence, and landed on the road.

I didn't realize anything had happened until I heard a chainsaw buzzing and went down to look, and sure enough, there was a tree-size problem on the road. They'd already cut a lot of it.

VVFC cutting fallen tree out of the road.
VVFC cutting fallen tree out of the road.

Fallen trees are always a headache because they're leaning on the ground at strange angles, but Varna Volunteer Fire Company Chief Roy Rizzo clearly had done this before. Though I don't think drivers were happy, they at least seemed cooperative, and Wendy Hoose kept things moving as best as possible with a one-lane stretch in front of my house.

Managing traffic.
Managing traffic.

I'm a supporting member of the Varna Volunteer Fire Company, but I try not to become a customer. I guess there are many worse ways to need their services, but even this apparently mild need is more than I was planning on.

Update: Lots of power outages and school closings, too.

Posted by simon at 7:35 AM Comment

April 24, 2012

Republicans can vote today

Yes, that's a weird headline, and I suspect I'll have a similar one for Democrats on June 26th, when there will be a Congressional primary. The Democratic primary for President had one candidate, so there won't be voting, but the Republican primary, despite what you might think from the news, still has multiple candidates on the ballot.

Polls will be open today from noon to 9:00pm. Remember, as always, that you can't campaign inside of the polling places, and that this includes things like T-shirts, signs, and buttons in addition to trying to actively convert everyone around you.

Everyone is now on the new machines, paper with an electronic scanner.

Depending on which district you live in - see the district map (597KB PDF) - you can vote at:

  1. Etna Fire Station - 26 Wood Road, Etna (map).
  2. Freeville Fire Station - 21 Union Street, Freeville (map).
  3. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  4. Varna Community Center - 943 Dryden Road, Varna (map).
  5. Etna Fire Station - 26 Wood Road, Etna (map).
  6. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  7. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  8. Bethel Grove Church Activity Center - 1749 Slaterville Road, Bethel Grove (map).
  9. Varna Community Center - 943 Dryden Road, Varna (map).
  10. Reach Out for Christ Church - 318 Johnson Road, Freeville (map).
  11. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).

If you'd like to see a sample ballot before going in, the Board of Elections has them (PDF).

Posted by simon at 12:05 PM Comment

Ultraviolet upgrade

Just in time for my local weather talk, I've upgraded my weather station.

If for some reason you want a local report on ultraviolet exposure, my weather station now reports the UV index in the left-hand table, with updates every minute. Today, the UV index is floating between 0 and 2, so you probably don't need sun cream.

The archive records (linked from the bottom of the page) also work now. Next, I just need to work on making that weather page a lot more readable.

Update: Bonus! The UV index also turns up on the Weather Underground page for the station.

Posted by simon at 3:38 PM Comment

April 25, 2012

eNewspaper on its way

I'm not really sure what the Journal is up to. They report the arrival of an eNewspaper, a "digital replica" of their print edition, which is free until 6:00am Saturday. You can explore it here and see what you think.

(Why six in the morning? Maybe more important, why a digital replica of the whole print paper? Should I invest in a really massive monitor?)

They also say:

This format will not replace The Ithaca Journal's website, but will be an additional feature. Coming soon, The Ithaca Journal also will introduce iPhone and Android apps and a new site specially designed for tablet users.

They don't say it explicitly here, but it certainly sounded earlier like that website would also be for pay shortly. I'm definitely not eager to read my news through a cluster of applications either. We'll see...

Posted by simon at 10:21 AM Comment

April 27, 2012

Last days for Dryden raw milk

Just saw this on the Facebook page for Jerry Dell Farm Store:

Now for the sad news......If you don't already know we are giving up our RAW Milk License and will no longer be able to sell raw milk as of Monday April 30 :(. I would like to thank all of you for the support and to continue supporting raw milk ond its health benefits. If you can not find raw milk I would encourage you to buy Wegmans Organic as that is what our milk will be packeged in Through Upstate Niagara Coop. They do not use ultra pasturize.

MILK TODAY FROM 5-6. and 5-6 Tomorrow. The milk gets picked up mid morning some time and the afternoon milking is not cold enough for sale until 5. let me know if you would like to pick up after Sat. and I will work with you. I will inform you when I know of other Raw Milk Licensed farms.

Sorry for the inconvenience and disapointment. I know a lot of you are lost with out raw milk because you can't drink the crap in the stores, for this I am heartbroken. Maybe if some of you can convince your neighbors into sharing a a cow and the chores it won't be much work and you all can have raw milk. Thank you for the loyalty and Friendships. Hope to see you at the store.-Jeremy

They're right by the intersection of Fall Creek Road, Ed Hill Road, and Herman Road.

They also have other great things there, of course:

Finally the ORANGE BLOSSOM HONEY is jarred and ready for tasting and purchase. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. A very floral taste and thick I am told. Another NEW ARRIVAL ORGANIC SUNFLOWER OIL. Gorgeous golden color. Great flavor. Lots of FRESH EGGS and of course CHEESE.

Posted by simon at 9:40 AM Comment

Chainsaw symphony

After Monday's snow dropped one of our maples on Route 366, the Varna Volunteer Fire Company quickly cut away the pieces blocking the road. That left me, though, with a big chunk of maple on a steep hill that was still obscuring my ability to see when turning out of my driveway.

Maple tree down.
Maple tree down.

Fortunately, S & S Tree Service, of Etna, came by Monday to take a look and yesterday to do the cutting.

Cutting the tree into smaller logs.
Cutting the tree into smaller logs.

Four guys with chainsaws and a huge shredder made short work of the maple, and then reduced the strain on a large but slightly sick butternut tree.

Up in the butternut tree to remove a few limbs.
Up in the butternut tree to remove a few limbs.

They even cleared away a brush pile next to the driveway and the road that I'd been moving slowly uphill, removing a badly-placed eyesore quickly. Now I just need to plant that freshly-cleared area and move these logs to dry. Once the logs are moved, I need to call Whitmore about fixing the fence.

I've posted a gallery of photos of the work, if you're curious and want to see more.

Posted by simon at 12:49 PM Comment

Key quote on fracking from DEC's Martens

I noted earlier that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was leaning toward fracking first in places where it's wanted, but that was all pretty vague. Would the DEC actually recognize local laws banning fracking?

Today there's a non-answer answer from DEC Commissioner Joe Martens:

"I think logically where there is less resistance and less opposition and there is not a local land-use plan in place, I think those will be easier to permit than in other places," Martens said. "That's not to say that we're going to prohibit them in other places, but it's a consideration we have to carefully view."

That's a vague way of saying municipalities need to keep fighting to preserve their power to apply land-use rules to drilling in the courts (or legislature) if they want it to stick.

The state's willing to talk about maybe kind of sort of listening to local opinion, but when it comes to actual rule-making, New York's excutive branch just can't imagine giving up power. (Whether it was theirs to begin with or not...)

Posted by simon at 1:18 PM Comment

April 28, 2012

Wait - why are you quoting the mercenaries?

I'm not the only one who noticed Gannett and the Ithaca Journal re-hashing a story from the Energy In Depth folks. County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson has some hard questions for the Journal.

The Ithaca Journal should investigate where the real money is coming from and where it's going. One example I gave Campbell when he called me for this story was a mailing from Rep. Tom Reed (whose district will now include Tompkins County) that included the tagline "Paid for by the American Petroleum Institute." So who does Reed work for? Shouldn't that be the target of an exposé?...

Why is the Ithaca Journal doing the work of the gas industry? When will the Journal explore the Common Cause reports to see which politicians are getting gas industry money? That's what readers really need to see, especially in this election year.

My guess is that it's not the Journal per se. It's Gannett, the larger company, and perhaps especially the connections they've built to the Binghamton and Elmira papers, in areas that are at least slightly fonder of fracking than Tompkins County. This article came out of the Gannett Albany offices, and turned up in papers across the state.

(The Journal did publish this critical viewpoint, but it doesn't look like it turned up in the Elmira Star-Gazette or the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin.)

Hmmm... maybe next we'll see articles based on Time-Warner Cable and Verizon press releases criticizing Tompkins County for taking a Park Foundation grant to study broadband demand. (More detail here.)

Posted by simon at 10:36 PM Comment