Posted on May 30, 2016
Rotten eggs, stinky cabbage, putrid sulfur – these are smells sometimes associated with towns that have paper mills. But this is Turners Falls. Only the sweet aroma of innovation and progress waft from this 175-year old pulp manufacturing plant.
Ken Schelling, mill manager of Paperlogic, provided my producer and I with an exhaustive tour of a facility that dates back to 1839 producing some of the first commercially available paper in the U.S. Notably, Abraham Lincoln used their paper for important correspondence during the Civil War.
But, Paperlogic has evolved too, keeping up with new trends, development and technology. At 60 hands strong, their orders serve specialty niches, from water-resistance paper made of cellulose nanofibers to tree-free paper.
Suffice it to say, the tried and true manufacturing processes of bleaching, beating and finishing still remains but there’s now an emphasis on the environment. Buzz words like mill broke, pre-consumer and post-consumer recycling get tossed around quite a bit during a tour.
Schelling likes to reflect on the history of the industry citing the old donkey roads that weave close to the canal or the underground cisterns that still collect water.
Updated on May 29, 2016
It’s spring and that means my parents migrate from Florida back home to the Northeast. But they aren’t the only ones who make great travelers. So too can be said of spawning fish like the shad, salmon, sturgeon and sea lamprey.
For thousands of years, if not longer, these anadromous fish have taken a remarkable journey from the Gulf of Mexico, up the Atlantic, to Long Island Sound, into the mouth of the Connecticut River, and finally reaching Turners Falls, Massachusetts hundreds of miles later. All the while never once complaining about weirs, dams or sluices: industrial-age barriers that helped build our country but impeded natural habitats.
Lucky for them (and us), a series of lifts and ladders built in 1980 at the Turner Falls Fishway and Holyoke Dam have improved their chances of survival and, especially for the American shad, are flourishing as a result.
The shad swim over a series of rising pools in much the same way they would have overcome the natural rises in the river before dams were built. The height of spawning season is goes from mid-May to mid-June, same time as the delicate white blossoms of the shadbush tree.
I was on “mill” assignment in this quaint, historical village on Wednesday and stumbled onto this wonderful vestige before leaving. Like a kid in a candy store, I stood mesmerized by “the fish that fed the nation’s founders” at the free underwater viewing windows in the Fishway building.
Insight was provided by Fishway Guide, Charlie Sampson, who stood vigilant over two mounted cameras counting every spawning fish that successfully made that last hurdle upstream.
A follow-up visit along the bike path to the Great Falls Discovery Center is anticipated this summer. Not to be forgotten are the fishing poles.
Updated on May 25, 2016
Tropicals, perennials, ornamental grasses – playing in the dirt with these varieties might be fun stuff for some but for Oglesby Plant International, Inc. it’s not child’s play. The “cutting” edge company has been around since 1947 and doing plant tissue culture propagation since the 1970s – supplying horticulture centers around the world with unique flowers and foliage.
I was on assignment near Tallahassee last week and got the rare opportunity to stand in a greenhouse surrounding by millions of Venus Fly Traps. Watch your fingers! Laboratory Director, Ray Gillis reveals that with nearly 500,000 in the greenhouse at any one time, it’s likely the largest collection in the world.
These young starter beds will be shipped to the best growers in the U.S. long before they bud and bloom. Gillis admits that it’s hard not to get a little sentimental when he sees his little seedlings leave the facility. But the aim at Oglesby is not necessarily to enhance the aesthetic quality of the plant but rather boost its insect resistance hence eliminating the need for nasty pesticides.
My grandmother worked her heart out for over 50 years in several dilapidated greenhouses behind her house. I have to wonder what she’d think of the cyber-like science that goes into reproducing her favorite fern now.
Posted on May 22, 2016
Caverns in the Sunshine State? No, can’t be. Amusement parks, beautiful beaches, airboat tours, that makes sense but limestone stalactites and stalagmites?
While on brief assignment on the pan handle of Florida last week I found myself exploring a hidden gem called Florida Caverns State Park. Located in the tiny town of Marianna, 60-miles west of Tallahassee, is a one-of-kind natural oddity with hundreds of dazzling rock formations millions of years old. Underground passages built by the Civilian Conservation Corps workers in 1937 help visitors navigate past a prehistoric world of wonder.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for the 45-minute tour (Central Standard Time threw me for a time crunch) but the Park Ranger was happy to accommodate my limited schedule. He instructed me on a few other reasons for visiting like the Bluff Trail leading to a tunnel cave where rare plants grow wild and a beautiful blue springs that harbors large gators.
Word of advice: given this is a floodplain don’t even think of visiting without bug repellent. I was in a hurry anyway so sprinting through the upland pines worked in my favor but any slower and the mosquitos would have eaten me alive.
Updated on May 13, 2016
A seagull brazenly eyeballs me as I step out onto the steep cliffs of a wonderfully gloomy Bodega Bay. Made famous by Hitchcock’s 1963 horror/fantasy film, The Birds, the local community was immortalized when fictional feathered friends of all kinds attacked innocent town folk.
The seagulls I watch, swoop, glide and aggressively torpedo each other – no different than the movie. The Pacific has the minty green hue of mouthwash but the birds fly clear of the drink.
This tiny coastal tourist town is where locations like The Tides Wharf restaurant, Bodega Head peninsula and Bay Hill Road (remember Tippi Hendren in the Aston Martin?) made the movie a cult classic. It’s not unusual to experience a low lying ceiling of dense fog when you visit, but that’s okay too, since it was cause for another scary hit: The Fog .
A couple of brave surfers dressed in wet suits practice on on small waves on the sandy beaches of Bodega Dunes Campground. The park vista is so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes.
Bodega Bay extends 17-miles and my hosts Lisa and Don explained to me that the San Andreas Fault runs directly underneath it. As if haunting memories of a scary movie under an ominous sky in an empty parking lot isn’t cause enough already to worry.
For dinner, I’m lured by a full parking lot and a poster board that reads “Fresh chowder, Raw oysters and Craft beer.” This is the Lucas Wharf Restaurant & Bar and as I approach the entrance, “Good Grief,” it’s another Charlie Brown statue in Sonoma County. This one is wearing SCUBA apparel with a conch in his hand. Cartoonist Charles Schultz penned the comic strip from his home in Sonoma County.
Overlooking the bay I order a plate of spicy fish tacos with a side cup of chowder. In less time than it takes to properly spell “Daphne du Maurier,” both dishes disappear in record time.
Visit Sonoma County Tourim to learn more about the B&Bs, hotels, motels and rentals available this summer.
Posted on May 11, 2016
For car buffs of vintage vehicles, especially Fords, Santa Rosa, California is the place to be. I returned to wine country this week to follow up shooting a historical documentary about the town. To make things interesting, the producer tossed me into the passenger seat of a buffed and waxed 1937 Ford Phaeton convertible to shoot an interview with the driver. (Many thanks to my Top Gear boyfriend that I even know that.)
We cruised past dozens of beloved historical landmarks, many in the heart of “Old Town,” like Railroad Square, the Hotel La Rose, grammar and elementary schools and department stores. We even stopped at a number of Victorian mansions where classic movies were filmed like Walt Disney’s “Pollyanna,” Alfred Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt,” and Kathleen Turner’s best “Peggy Sue Got Married.”
After several hours of showboating the owner’s restored antique a strong engine oder reminded us that she might be getting tired and due for a break. The Northern California sun was also getting the best of my driver and producer so we turned for home, but not before gathering a few creative shots with the GoPro cameras and drones. The nostalgic time capsule makes its’ debut later this summer but, alas, you have to fly to Santa Rosa to see it, an adventure in itself.