Monday, March 19, 2018

Last Day of Winter

Please note: Effective with my next post, the web address of this blog will be changing to .  Please come back to visit soon.
     On this final day of winter, the Handsome Husband and I drove over to the Round Lake Preserve in the Town of Malta. Although the sky was beautifully blue, near the water, it was blustery and quite chilly. We could see a large beaver lodge out among the rushes and both saw and heard lots of Canada geese throughout the marsh.
    The HH and I both belong to our local Rotary club, which is proposing to install some additional benches in our town's recreational areas. We were at Round Lake to check out where a bench might be useful there. There seemed to be a good spot for one near the canoe/kayak launch area. Next step: get permission to put it there later this spring.
     We decided to keep heading east and drove through Mechanicville, then crossed the Hudson River/Champlain Canal into Hemstreet Park in the Town of Schaghticoke. There, we parked and walked in to Lock 3, currently closed for the season. The water was quite open so it won't be long before boat traffic returns to the canal.
    We were on a road neither of us had ever been on before, so we turned left to go north and explore along the east side of the Hudson. It was a lovely road but there was one problem: the Hoosic River appeared, with no bridge to get across it there. 
     No matter. We kept going, following the Hoosic through beautiful cropland, along fields still covered with snow and corn stubble. We passed the Knickerbocker Mansion, which neither of us was familiar with. With the help of Google, we now know that it is a local historic site, open on Sundays from May-October, 11:00 AM till 3:00 PM. We will have to go back in warmer weather and check it out.
      Eventually, we came to the Village of Schaghticoke, where we stopped so that I could buy a new bluebird nesting box from a roadside display. The maker, a young woodworker, said he had just put out his first batch, and that he made them every spring. I will have to remember that.
      As we turned to head home, my HH commented that it must be tough for school kids growing up in that village. Learning - and remembering - how to spell "Schaghticoke" in "Rensselaer" County would not be easy, he thought. I have to agree, since I had to look up both names in order to get them right here. 


Friday, February 23, 2018

Knitting in good company in Malta, NY

Many knitters love company and if you are a Malta-area knitter who does, come check out the monthly gathering at the library. The next Knit & Stitch meeting will be on Tues, Feb.  27, 2018, at 4:30 p.m. Have questions? Contact Roberta Ambrosino, Library Staff, Round Lake Malta Branch Library at 518-682-2495. The library is located at 1 Bayberry Drive, Malta, NY 12020. All are welcome!

Another welcoming group of knitters can be found at the Round Lake Methodist Church. They meet every Monday afternoon from 1 to 3. Find the church at  34 George Ave., Round LakeNY 12151. 

Do you know of other knitting groups in our area that welcome newcomers?  Please feel free to leave information in the comments. 

Happy knitting! (or crocheting or quilting or embroidering or whatever kind of handwork it is you love to do.)

Thanks for stopping by Round About Malta.


Monday, February 19, 2018

A new name for this blog and a Presidents' Day outing on snowshoes.

This blog has a new name: Round About Malta.
Since July of 2009, I have been writing occasional posts here as Bee Balm Gal. I had thought back in the beginning that I would write mostly about gardening, and since bee balm is one of my favorite flowers, I chose to write as Bee Balm Gal.

But even in 2009, I was a tad embarrassed by the too-cutesy name. Now, nearly nine years later, it's time for a re-boot. Beginning today, this blog is changing over to Round About Malta. I am keeping the same (former) Bee Balm Gal web address so that I am still connected to what I have written here before. I hope that won't be too confusing, but we will figure it all out as we go along.

Why this particular new name? Well, I want to focus more on what's going on in our neck of the woods, in Malta, New York, and in Saratoga County. And in case you've never been to our town, may I add that Malta has LOTS of roundabouts. The name just seems to fit.

And now to today's adventure.

On my bucket list for some time has been a plan to venture into the back corners of the 188 acre Ecological Park in Malta. This park, located on Malta Avenue, just west of the Northway near Exit 13, has trails on only a small part of its land.

I thought this mild February day, while there was still snow on the ground, would be a perfect time to do some exploring. So, I persuaded two of my favorite hiking companions, my Handsome Husband and our friend Larry, to accompany me.

What I really wanted to find this day was a beaver pond and heron rookery that I had heard lay at the very back of this parkland. 

The HH and I met up with Larry at the parking lot. Before setting out, we studied a map I had brought of the park's boundaries. Then, we donned snowshoes, and set off. 

Larry, who is an engineer, sussed out a good likely route around the park's wetlands to get us to our destination without wet feet. And before too long, we found the beaver pond.

I was enchanted. The pond, of course, was still frozen. Can you spot the beaver lodge in the photo above?  We didn't wish to disturb any of the critters so we stayed well away from it. (This photo was taken on a zoom setting.) And though we didn't see any beavers, we did spot a handsome otter slipping along the reedy pond edge.

And as for the rumored heron rookery? Yup, it's there. I counted eight old nests that I could see, just in this one area.
I hope one day the town can find a way to build a trail down to this pond and create a viewing area of the rookery. What a treat that would be for local nature lovers and photographers.

But for today, this magical spot was all ours.

After a week of so much sadness and angst in our world, it felt good to be out of doors, moving through the woods, being with people I love, quietly appreciating the beauty around us.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Weaving Excuses

On a day when I should have been at home doing things, I wasn't. We have passels of beloveds coming to town for the Thanksgiving holiday and I should have spent the day baking and vacuuming. But I didn't.

Instead,  I tiptoed out of church early and drove north on Route 9N. I meandered through Greenfield Center, up to Corinth and into the Adirondack Park, and then followed the Hudson River into the village of Lake Luzerne.

It was a bit of a sentimental journey for me. Many years ago, maybe thirty-eight or so, my very first job as a teacher was in Luzerne, teaching in the Hadley-Luzerne elementary school, in a classroom that overlooked the lake. I worked there for six years, before taking some time off to be at home with my own children. And when I returned to work, I moved to a different school district, so it had been some time since I'd been back to Luzerne. I have to say, it was looking lovely today, despite the blustery November weather.

But this day, I was headed to another school there, the Adirondack Folk School.  Our Malta Rotary Club had recently had as a guest speaker Scott Hayden, the director of the Folk School. Scott had brought samples of some of the crafts they teach there and I was intrigued. So, I signed up for a one-afternoon class on weaving. We would weave simple rugs from rags.

The class size was limited to four. Floor looms take up a lot of space and beginners need a lot of help. My fellow students and I fell into a certain demographic: we were all grey-haired ladies of a certain age. Carolyn, our instructor, will probably sleep well tonight. We kept her hopping.

Looms are tricky things and one of ours was not behaving. Fortunately, my loom had only a few idiosyncrasies, and four hours later, with a good deal of help and advice,  I had made a rug.  In fact, we all managed to produce rugs.

It was really a lot of fun. The studio overlooked the beginning of Rockwell Falls on the Hudson, and although it was a blustery day, we were cozy and companionable in our classroom. Other classes were going on at the Folk School that afternoon, too. I saw a basket-making class and heard some tap tap tapping going on in the basement. Not sure what they were making, but it all sounded like Santa's workshop.

I still had a few finishing details to do on my rug when I got home this evening: tying off the fringed edges and tidying up loose ends. But when I laid it out to appraise the final product, Shea, our small dog, gave the rug her full approval. No, it won't win any prizes, but I had fun.

So to my dear family arriving soon to a far less than perfectly tidy house, um, well... can I show you the cool rug I just made?

The Adirondack Folk School is located at  51 Main Street in Lake Luzerne, NY.  Find out more about their classes and programs at their website here:


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

My Handsome Husband quoted Keats as we walked along a branch of the Zim Smith Trail in Malta this week.

It is late in the season for woodland wildflowers. Most of what remains are asters, although a few other plants still valiantly bloom in an occasional sunny spot. But fruits and brown seed heads abound to provide their own beauty and add interest to the landscape.

And it was a beautiful day.

Nature is such a healer. Being outdoors, moving, observing, admiring, breathing: it all feels so good, so healthy, so peaceful. In a season when our country has lately witnessed so much destruction and human misery, both natural and man-made, it is good to have a place to go to walk quietly, to be quiet.

We live in a town where development is gobbling up the open spaces. I worry that there is not enough attention being paid to preserving land for future parks and nature areas. 

Here is what lured many of us to come live in this town in the first place: the sense of community, the grazing horses, the great blue herons, the wild turkeys, the views across the upper Hudson Valley. All of these things are rapidly disappearing in Malta. It makes me sad. Many of us grouse about development and increased traffic,  but I wonder: do we have the energy and enough consensus to push back, to advocate for land preservation, safe sidewalks, biking lanes, historical preservation, and a healthy environment? I hope so.

Today, I picked up a knitting project that has been lying around undisturbed for far too long. My notes tell me that I started this sweater in September (cough) of 2015. I know that I am not the only knitter/sewer/crafter who sometimes sets things aside for long spells, for any number of reasons. But it aggravates me when I think about how close to finishing this project I was when I pushed it aside. Grrr. (For you knitters, the pattern is the Ramona cardigan, found on Ravelry.)

But now that this sweater has returned to active duty, so to speak,  I  have finished one sleeve and am "well begun" on the second. ( I can hear Mary Poppins in my head as I write this. She was fond of the expression, Well begun is half done. I believe  she was quoting Aristotle. Really. Look it up.)

The wool I am knitting is heavy and warm and still has bits of straw in it. It comes from neighboring Washington County sheep and the Battenkill mill there. I am happy to report that in Washington County, there is still room for grazing sheep and wading herons and preserved history and amazing views. Long may those things thrive there.

Wishing you peace on this fall weekend.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
                             ~John Keats

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Company in the garden

Giant Swallowtail
Io moth caterpillar (?) on Carolina moonbeam baptisia

Cabbage butterfly on lavender 

cricket or katydid (?) on a Sweet Sammie daylily

Silver spotted skipper moth on beebalm

Bumblebee on beebalm

Everything sure goes to pot quickly in a garden when you go away for a week. But today wasn't too hot so I hauled tools and receptacles out to a section of the garden and got busy. 

Weeds got pulled, daylilies were deadheaded, spent plants were cut back and add to the compost pile.

I don't mind weeding when it isn't too hot or humid and one side benefit is meeting the creatures who keep me company there. A few, like a monarch butterfly,  were too quick for my camera, but here above is a sampling of who was working along side of me today. I am not a hundred percent sure of my identifications. Feel free to correct me where I may be wrong.

If I am right about the Io caterpillar and if you should also find one, please don't pick it up. The spiky bristles on Ios can cause a sting-like reaction. But they sure are handsome, nonetheless.

It's nice to see more bees this year. They were sparse in 2016, but more pollinators and a greater variety of them seem to be hanging out here this summer. 

What is missing from my garden in 2017 are toads and snakes. I think I have only seen two toads and not a single snake this year. I suspect the two things are related. Garter snakes eat toads and with almost no toads around, I guess there wasn't much to entice the snakes to hang out here.  I don't miss the snakes, thank you very much, but changes in my garden's ecosystem always make me worry and wonder why they have occurred. 

What changes have you noticed this year?


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Isn't she lovely? The produce of our weekly Malta Ridge CSA

We are lucky to live in an area  where a few farms and small rural agri-businesses are still surviving, despite tremendous development pressures.  Just up the road from us is Malta Ridge Orchard and Gardens.  This spring, I bought a CSA share from them, or more precisely, a half-share.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When you become a member of a CSA, you are purchasing a “share” of the fruits and vegetables from a local farmer.  (Malta Ridge also sells egg and chicken shares, but I just bought the produce option.)

In addition to being close and convenient for us, Malta Ridge offers lots of choices, which makes their CSA program work well for me. Because they also have a farm store, I can pop in on "my" day and choose from among the fruits and vegetables on offer. For my half-share, I can take home eight items per week.  "One item" may be designated as three tomatoes, for example, or a bunch of carrots.

So what did I take home this week? 

  1. A large head of lettuce.
  2. A bunch of carrots.
  3. A bunch of radishes.
  4. Two onions.
  5. Three tomatoes.
  6. A head of cauliflower.
  7. Two yellow summer squash.
  8.  A pint of blueberries.
Plus, I still have a few potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions left from last week.

This is week four of my (half) share, which will run until the first week of November. It has taken me a couple of trips to the farm to work out a smooth routine, but I have it all down pat now. 

I carry the produce home in my market baskets, wash and trim things like the carrots, then add the trimmings to my compost bin. The baskets get a quick wash and I am all set until next week. 

Malta Ridge is in the process of selling its development rights, with the help of grants from New York State, Saratoga County, and the Town of Malta. This means the owners are ensuring that someone will always and forever be able to have a farm on those 132 acres. That is quite a blessing for those of us who live near by. 

Fresh, local, healthy, delicious, and forever a farm. What's not to like?

Find the Malta Ridge Orchard and Gardens store at 107 Van Aernem Rd. in Malta. They are off Malta Avenue, near Route 9, not far from Northway Exit 13. Their telephone number is 518 229-1255. They also have a Facebook page.

Want a few other suggestions for Saratoga and Washington County farm-related business you should check out? These are a few of my favorites.

Smith Orchard Bake Shop  (You will never bake another pie.)
4561 Jockey Street
Ballston Spa, NY 12020

Battenkill milk - sold in many places locally. Check their website. It's really good.

And did you know?  ALL of Stewart's milk, ice cream, and eggs are produced locally, from local farms. 

Please comment and share your favorites, too. Let's support our local farms and orchards!