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Spring is perfect time to catch up on reading

March 28, 2018
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

It seems like spring may be settling in, and with the loss of snow comes the opening of the Adirondacks' famous mud season. And with the onset of mud season, skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking and hiking all pretty much get put on hold.

In a difficult time of year to enjoy the outdoors, one new book offers some history and potential trips to unconventional destinations; while another will get you thinking about the garden and summer's bounty.


Article Photos

Fruitful Labor: The Ecology, Economy, and Practice of a Family Farm

Author: Mike Madison

PAGES: 156


Graves of Upstate New York

"Graves of Upstate New York," by Chuck D'Imperio is more of a grazing book, akin to a paperback-sized coffee table book. Organized by region, Graves takes a look at notable resting places across the state, including several in the Adirondacks and surrounding counties.

D'Imperio provides a location and photo for each grave, along with a few pages of biographical information on each subject. Although short, D'Imperio's writing is pleasant and fun, in spite of the topic.

John Brown's grave in Lake Placid is included in the book, as are a few that may be surprises. For instance, NASA astronaut Gregory B. Jarvis, who perished in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, is buried in his hometown in Herkimer County.

Another familiar name included in Graves is Frederic Remington, the famed artist who is buried in Canton.

"While near Santiago, Cuba, he witnessed future president Theodore Roosevelt leading his group of Rough Riders up San Juan Hill in a dramatic frontal attack on the enemy," D'Imperio writes of Remington. "Remington's depiction of this exciting event became his most famous painting as well as one of the great iconic images of Roosevelt as a courageous and daring leader.

"Remington became an international celebrity through his paintings, sculptures, novels, and articles published in some of America's most popular newspapers and magazines of the day. Following the painter's death, his widow, Edith, moved to Ogdensburg that home is now a museum to Remington's work."

Closer to the Tri-Lakes is the resting place of singer Katie Smith, who, according to D'Imperio, spent about four decades as a summer resident of Lake Placid.

Buried in St. Agnes Cemetery, Smith faced vocal trouble when she was young, but rebounded to have a singing career that spanned 50 years.

"After beginning her career as a featured Broadway singer and dancer, where her three-hundred-pound frame would not only shake the theater rafters but would also bring her a torrent of nasty and hateful remarks from critics, Smith sought refuge in the nascent and semi-anonymous medium of radio," D'Imperio writes. "Smith's songs sold in the millions all across the heartland of Depression America.

"She became an overnight legend when she introduced Irving Berlin's immortal 'God Bless America' on Armistice Day in 1938."

Graves of Upstate New York, while not the kind of book that reads like a novel, is a great addition to any Adirondack library.


Fruitful Labor

As the days get longer and the snow recedes, thoughts can turn to the garden. And with growing interest in homesteading and eating local food, a new book from Mike Madison offers some insight into how to run a small farm.

"Fruitful Labor: The Ecology, Economy, and Practice of a Family Farm," is packed with information gleaned from Madison's years as a farmer. While more of a technical guide to aspiring small farm owners, Labor can also serve as a guide to homesteaders as well.

Madison's way of farming is different from conventional farms, and he readily admits that what has worked for him may not work for everyone. But the approach he takes - inclusive and holistic - could be transferred to any property with someone willing to put in the thought and work.

"The current layout of my farm is not my original vision," Madison writes. "When I started out I proceeded with the idea of parallel rows of trees, the rows 50 or 60 feet apart, with herbaceous annual or perennial crops in the intervening valleys. The trees would be able to send roots without competition and the herbaceous crops, being shallow-rooted, would interfere with the extensive roost systems of the trees.

"As it turned out many small birds and rodents will not venture into a large open area that lacks cover to which they might flee if a predator appears, and so they confine their foraging to areas close to trees. I eventually had to admit failure."

Through Madison's own experience and experimentation over 30 years, he has developed ways of solving farm problems that large, commercial operations often won't engage in.

"I should point out that my approach to farming is a contrary one," Madison explains. "And my ideas of a good way to farm are at odds with main-stream farmers. There are other farmers with philosophies similar to mine, but all of us are operating at a small scale, and our collective acreage is miniscule in the big picture of American farming.

"Each year, thousands of people, mostly young, mostly inappropriately educated, start small farms with hope and courage. Most of these farms fail, some quite rapidly, but I imagine that regrets are few."

Madison isn't seeking to provide a comprehensive education on running a farm. But he does explain his rationale on how to evaluate and assess issues that arise on all farms, regardless of what plants are grown or animals raised.

"Fruitful" isn't for everyone, but for the casual gardener who's looking to expand or the homesteader thinking about how to make a living doing what they love, the book is worth the read.



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