Saturday, December 31, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
AT the top of Plattekill is something every skier should like to see. A giant hole 60 feet deep. Now partially filled with water. “Welcome to the Grand Canyon,” Laszlo says and waves his arms behind him. He’s dwarfed by said Canyon and the Komatsu excavator behind him. (This was back in November when Macker and 3 others were busy welding pipes to the Canyon.)
This Canyon is Platty’s new snowmaking pond. They’d wanted a bigger one for years and then came Irene and want became need. The original pond at the top of the hill suffered from erosion as did some of the trails. Repairing one meant repairing the others. The rock hauled out of the pond was used to stabilize trails and build a new, bigger parking lot by the lodge. (No more walking up the road on busy days). And, to get the construction crews to the top, one of the hardest hit trails – Powder Puff – was widened and some of the hairpin turns made a tad less steep. A bonus for beginner skiers.
Perhaps the sweetest benefit? The rock is also going to help with other Irene recovery efforts. It’s being used by local road crews and even on the Gilboa Dam.
The project is so big it will take two years to complete. Blasting the rock took 100,000 pounds of explosives, and the wires are still hanging out of the rock walls. But while we’re waiting for the final pond, it will still be in service this year. Given the weather so far, that’s the best news of all. As is the fact that Platty has just bought another 45 new snowguns.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
A friend, Cindy Dunne of design company Blue Farm Graphic Design in East Meredith, recently posted to her Facebook page (photos included here) her success in creating 2 Holz Hausens for her winter firewood storage. The Holz Hausen is one of the most unique forms of storing firewood, and a tried and true method at that. They look like a beehive made out of wood and are very pleasant to gaze upon. Almost like a prehistoric form, or modern art in the manner of Andrew Goldsworthy.
No matter what form you choose to stack your cordwood, situate it with a southern exposure where there are no trees to block the sun and in a place that is easy to transfer it indoors.
Historically, the dimensions of a Hotz Hausen are a 10-foot-diameter circle with a center pole 10 feet high. You may want a shorter one if this is your first try with say… a 7-foot-diameter base, stacked to a more reachable height of 7 feet. Place a splash of paint or other dryness indicator at the 5 ft. 8 in. level. 80 percent of the 7-foot pole's height.
1. On level ground, lay out pieces of split firewood, end to end, to form the base circle (you can use other things like bricks or other lumber). Some folks like to build on top of a tarp. Beginners may want to put a measuring pole in the center of the circle to use to measure against as the pile shrinks or seasons.
2. Place wood in a spoke-like manner (perpendicular) with outer edge resting on the base circle. Keep pieces with good bark on them for your top (#6)
3. As the height increases, place some pieces as shims across outside edges of these spokes to keep wood tilted toward the center
4. The interior space is filled with the wood standing on end (upright). This acts as a chimney as it pulls air in and up through the pile, aiding the drying process.
5. Continue this stacking process until you have reached a height of about 5 feet. For the top 2 feet of stacking, don't use any shims. This will allow the wood to begin to slope down toward the outside.
6. Place the top layer with the bark side up. Like a tile or thatched roof, this prevents rain and snow from entering the mass of the Holz Hausen.
As the wood dries, it shrinks and the stack settles, losing 20 percent of its height. More and more of the pole is exposed above the top of the Holz Hausen. When you can see that patch of paint at 80 percent of the pole's height, the wood is ready to burn.
Be patient if you try this – do a little research online to see other styles. Some create an actual roof like profile for a real “wood house”. Building a beautiful wood storage system is kind of like giving a gift to yourself - twice over!
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Okay so we’re looking on the bright side here at WITC. There isn’t much snow on the ground, but that makes it easy to pick (and cut) your own Christmas tree. We went up on our land with a saw—not even a chainsaw and hiked half a mile in and half a mile out with two trees, including one that was more Charlie Brown’s Christmas than perfect. Now you could do that too, or go to places like Robson’s tree farm in Bovina, or out on your own piece of land and pick one, but there are some tips I’d follow:
1. Check out the size of your space. Or read this from last week’s NY Times. The truth is sobering, and the article's name says it all: The Holiday Gaffes That Keep On Giving.
2. Bow saw. Christmas is a time when no one wants to visit ER. Unless you know how to use a chainsaw stick to a bow saw. Slower = safer. No need to act all macho in the woods.
3. If you can’t find a small enough tree (It can be tricky out there, and in the wild, they're bigger than they appear. No ceilings for one. Or walls.), then cut it further up and it might even regrow. Think of it as two-for-one.
4. When you’re picking your tree, remember that pack-it-in, pack-it-out rule. Aka, the tree has to get to the street to your car. Remember that if it’s heavy. And you have young children with you who might be getting cold. Or restless. For that matter bring some cocoa along too. In case you get cold.
5. Get it in water as soon as possible and keep watering it often. This keeps the needles on the boughs.
6. Pride yourself on your savings. Just remember the tree you’ve cut in the woods costs a fraction of that $300 tree in the City. And this being the spirit of the season, maybe donate the savings to a good cause. Like flood victims.
7. Remember to feel good about yourself for another reason: Picking your own Christmas tree is an awesome moment of family togetherness, witness this week’s pictures. Thank you to Nick and Shyama, David and Norm and Miriam.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
This weekend Platty is getting into the Christmas season. Giving. Giving and skiing (or if you must, snowboarding). As the mountain gears up for winter, they are trying to get new skiers in gear—a big part of the mountain’s advances this winter. And as such, for the giving and gearing (up that is, I don’t think there is any free gear being given away…) they are doing free lesson for beginners, and as always those under seven get to ski free. Lesson are at 10 and 1, so come early….
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
That’s what I’ve been thinking about winter – the snow gods are having some big bad practical joke. It’s December 7th and the only snow of any consequence came
for Halloween which now seems more trick than treat. Though Plattekill opened for a day (check out the picture by Bri George) and I went snowshoeing…
But now that winter is kicking in today, tonight, with some 7-10 for the Western Catskills. So, WITC is officially in action. This season we will be talking about how to make your own ice skating pond, ice fishing – and following my quest for cocoa. The search is a bit like Lord Of The Rings but less dangerous and unfortunately come with no Viggo Mortensen (though none too shabby Alan Cumming does ski Platty). My search is also more tasty than LOTR. Last year it took me to Alta where I had great cocoa and saw a sundog (a feat of nature worthy of Lord of the Rings).
This year Platty, which is redesigning its menus focusing on local homemade food in the cafeteria and bistro/bar upstairs is also adding a cappuccino machine, has promised me fancy cocoa. Nagging sometimes pays off. Belgian chocolate, here I come.
I recently asked Macker what he was doing to get ready for opening day. His answer? "Drinking a lot of beer." And not the craft ale you find in the bar. He's a Bud and Marlborough man through and through. I've also seen his long lists of things to do, pipes to lay and pumps to move, but there will be more on this in my next post as Platty builds the Grand Canyon of the Catskills.
With snow expected tonight I assume everyone will be out this weekend. Except, um, me. I will be celebrating my mom’s b-day. Mom WITC does not live near a ski hill – perhaps why I was a late-adopter. Also this year for WITC I will learn to snowmobile, but that is in part for the pursuit of fiction. There are a number of snowmobiles in the start of the novel I’m working on. Better I learn to snowmobile than how to kill someone which is also at the start of the book. Welcome to WITC 2011-2012.
Me snowshoeing on Halloween Weekend. Note the bright colors. I am not small game...