North Country


Summer really begins in the North Country on the Fourth of July. It ends on Labor Day. Cruel as that may seem to someone living south of here, most of us have learned to adapt….Summer is precious to us, so we cram lots of fun things into a few weeks. Some of the special things of summer for me are food treats we can’t get any other time of year. I’ll share some of my favorites.

“Local Sustainability in the Battenkill Valley”

“Sustaining Culture: A Regional Conversation” was the topic for the historic Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Folklorists Retreat in Saratoga Springs, May 22–25, 2012, in partnership with Folklorists in New England, the Folk Arts Program of New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York Folklore Society. Participants hailed from as far away as Washington, DC, up to northern New York State and east through the New England states.

Growing Community in the Courthouse Community Garden

Currently in its fourth season, the Courthouse Community Garden’s evolution into a community fixture in Salem, New York, started more than four years ago from an idea tossed around for at least a couple of years before the seed of the idea took hold. The mission statement reads in part: The Courthouse Community Garden (CCG) includes an enthusiastic group of individuals that have come together… to plant a garden on a parcel of land adjacent to the Courthouse Community Center campus in Salem…[to] offer opportunities to teach youth of all ages to grow, process, and market food, developing intergenerational community relationships.

May Baskets

Come springtime, generations of children in the greater Glens Falls area spent weeks making May Baskets to distribute to friends and neighbors on the first of May….The custom traveled to America, noted in the late 19th century by Lina and Adelia Beard in their 1887 book, The American Girls Handy Book: ‘A May-day custom, and a very pretty one, still survives among the children in our New England States. It is that of hanging upon the door-knobs of friends and neighbors pretty spring-offerings in the shapeof small baskets filled with flowers, wild ones, if they can be obtained; if not, the window-gardens at home are heavily taxed to supply the deficiency.’


[T]he sounds from our surroundings carry many stories: the rivers’ roar in spring; the brooks’ summer babble; the songs of chickadees, jays, and white-throated sparrows; the call of the loon; the chilling howl of coyotes; and the mysterious, everchanging voices of the trees.

Miller’s Mills’ Ice Harvest

As many of us in the Northern parts of the country push
through the winter’s chilly wind, sleet, and snow with the same
determination our ancestors did, looking back at history reminds us that our ancestors had “harvest” on their minds. An ice harvest.
Unadilla Lake in Miller’s Mills, where the ice comes from. For two centuries in the winter, the people of Miller’s Mills have come to Unadilla Lake with long saws, pikes, and tongs to cut pond ice, and then store it for refrigeration needs in warmer months

Voices in New York

Certain places grasp hold of hearts and imaginations of the people who live there. The cadence of language, the rhythms of daily life, the particular way the universal dramas of life, love, and death are played out in a place can lodge themselves under the skin, into the souls of a people. This intense experience of place is shared through the music of the Fraser family on their CD, Home of Our Hearts. For the Fraser family, two locations are “home”: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and the foothills of the Adirondacks in upstate New York.


TAUNY (Traditional Arts in Upstate New York) was awarded a grant to document, with oral histories and photography, changes that have occurred in work on dairy farms in northern New York in the last few decades. Eventually, 13 farms from four counties participated. TAUNY folklorists recorded over 30 hours of interviews with farmers and their employees on farms ranging in size from 35 milkers to one with well over a thousand.


For one long-awaited weekend, beginning
May 30th, they came—from Albuquerque and
Albany, Boise and Brooklyn, Wiscasset and
Watertown. Those travelling farthest flew in
from Alsace, the Channel Islands, and Alaska;
others are as close as Potsdam, Madrid, and
Canton. The 50th reunion for St. Lawrence
University’s Class of 1963, my own class, was
a great homecoming.

Advocating for Sunday Rock

Sunday Rock, a large boulder on the roadside of New York State Highway 56, just west of the hamlet of South Colton in St. Lawrence County, is an important landmark for locals and travelers alike…. Many places, however, still deserve national recognition and protection for their long-standing —and continuing— value to their communities, as part of the living heritage of life there. Such recognition may contribute to a sense of place not only for visitors but for local residents as well. To recognize that a place can be more than an example of an architectural style or site of a political or economic event really matters.


compares with being in the midst of a group,
singing with good courage. From my soprano
days in a boys’ choir to leading audiences
on choruses, it’s the most fun that I’ve ever
had and continues to be so.

Good Read

Until the publication of Tahawus Memories, this old titanium town seemed as though it was destined to end up in the dustbin of history.


Just as those of us who live up north like to protest that “there’s more to New York than New York City,” I like to say there’s
more to Upstate than wild rivers and rugged mountain peaks. There’s plenty going on culturally as well…. pancake breakfasts during maple syrup season, fish fries during Lent, chicken barbecues all summer long, harvest
dinners in the fall, and chicken and biscuit suppers and spaghetti dinners in the winter months. There are outdoor events all year long—maple festivals in the spring; firemen’sfield days, fireworks, parades, and county fairs in the summer; college homecomings and hunting club gatherings in the fall.