Sunday, August 21, 2011

The American Cheese Society Conference

This year I chose to only attend the Festival of Cheeses at the American Cheese Society Conference in Montreal. I went with daughter Meg, the cheesemonger, who attended the full Conference.

The Festival was beautiful and thrilling, as always. There were more than 1600 varieties of American-made cheeses on display and available for tasting. Wine, beer, and cider flowed too. It is an experience no cheese lover, or potential cheese lover, should miss if the opportunity presents itself...and it may! Next year the Conference will be in Raleigh, delightfully nearby for us Southerners. Check out the photos and think about next August....

A Public Meeting

On August 8, 2011 the St. Lawrence County legislature conducted its normal monthly meeting in Star Lake, NY, in the 500 seat auditorium of the Clifton-Fine Central School. (The much diminished school now has only 350 K students in K-12, down from 1,300 at its peak enrollment.) The choice of location was intended to inform the local public about the current status of efforts to clean up and redevelop the J & L (Benson Mines) industrial site.

Unfortunately, trivial, routine, and unrelated business took up most of the allotted meeting time, and attendees were impatient by the time the main topic came up for discussion.

Mining activities were terminated 34 years ago, and the mine plant was partially dismantled. As a zoned "industrial site" within the highly restricted Adirondack Park, citizens have long hoped to attract some other business to the site. It is known to suffer from pollution from spilled petroleum and other contaminants, however, and any re-use is contingent on assessment of hazards and clean-up. 

In what turned out to be a setback, an environmental consulting firm hired to conduct needed assessments failed to provide the services for which it was contracted, and moreover stuck the county for over $400,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. One purpose of the meeting was to update citizens on the status of negotiations with the company for redress.

As was said more than once during the meeting, 34 years is a long time for a problem of this magnitude to persist. The fortunes of the community have deteriorated significantly during that period, and will continue to wane while the issue remains unresolved. Unfortunately, even needed assessments have not been conducted, and there are no good prospects for a quick fix.

Ruins of the mine plant, as seen from State Route 3 in 2002

Heath Pond

Located a few miles west of Wanakena, NY, Heath Pond is one of the headwaters of the Little River, a tributary of the Oswegatchie. Probably the stream feeding it was originally impounded by beavers, although today a logging road takes the place of the beaver dam. The beavers haven't given up, however, and from time to time they manage to block the culvert that carries the overflow.

Geologists believe that in the past the larger Oswegatchie flowed through the current channel of the Little River. More than 10,000 years ago glacial moraines blocked the old outlet of Cranberry Lake and forced the Oswegatchie into its current channel.

The photo above does not do justice to the beauty of the scene; it looks in a southerly direction, and the difficult lighting does not permit the camera to distinguish the subtle difference in coloration of red and black spruces and other vegetation features.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Fiftieth Anniversary Cheese

The title of this post may be misleading; this is not a 50-year old cheese, or a cheese produced in recognition of the 50th anniversary of a cheese factory. This one is a 10 pound gouda-style cheese made in November 2010 by our friends and cheesemakers John and Nancy Mims of Cypress Point Creamery in Hawthorne, Florida. In the image above it graces the table of Roscoe and Pat Towne as they host classmates at a cocktail party celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Clifton-Fine Central High School's 1961 graduation.

The cheese and the celebration were enjoyed by all.

Save our Schoolhouse and Athletic Prowess

For the past several years civic-minded members of the Star Lake, NY community have mounted a series of coordinated volunteer events to preserve the hamlet's 1882/1892 schoolhouse and turn it into an asset for the community.

The Star Lake School in 2011
One such effort is the annual Save our Schoolhouse 5k Run and Walk. Participating for the fourth year, we were among more than 100 runners and walkers.

Tension Mounts as the Race is About to Start

Called the Adirondack Exhibit Center, the old school serves as a gallery displaying the work of local artists, an orientation center to features of the community, and a gathering place for local events. Proceeds from the 6th Annual 5k Run and Walk will help fund installation of a new roof, the last major needed structural improvement. More information about the Save our Schoolhouse organization is available here.

This year three of us who were members of the 1961 graduating class were winners in the 60-69 year age group. 

The 1961 Class of Winners

50 years and counting - Smiles and Solemnity

I'm just back from Star Lake, NY, a small and easily overlooked place on the forgotten western fringe of the great Adirondack wilderness. On the fair night of June 26, 1961 forty-seven of us graduated from Clifton-Fine Central High School. Last week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of that event. Since our graduation, nine have gone on to their eternal rewards. The attachment to us survivors remains strong, however, and about 20 of us attended reunion events in Cranberry Lake or Star Lake.

We were the largest class ever produced by our community,  and we benefited from a time of great local prosperity and promise. The intervening years have not been kind to the community, but we can look back fondly on the best of those good times.

Thanks to classmate Gary Peterson for sharing this photo, made at one of the events.