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Lilacs and Old Houses At Gypsy Camp, Sugar Camp and on our country roads nearby.
Adirondack Photographs: Our changing seasons. The passing moods of the natural community in the timeline of new life, reseeding and decay. (Images that give you the feel of the High Peaks, along with the information you need to find it on your own.) CLICK & GO! (On this page.) Adirondack Letter #15: "A Lilac Story." Lilacs and Old Houses in nearby Jay and AuSable Forks, NY Lilacs at Fourpeaks Perkins Farm (Sugar Camp) and Melvin Farm (Gypsy Camp) Lilacs and Old Houses in Essex, NY Lilacs and Old Houses on Vermont's Lake Champlain Islands More stuff in An Adirondack Miscellany. (On the next page.) More Adirondack Nature Photographs (13 photo galleries). List and Links to all the Adirondack Letters in this series.
"A Lilac Story: Lilacs and Old Houses." Adirondack Letter #15
Dear Fourpeaks Visitor,
Driving along our country roads late Spring we look with interest
for each old farmhouse as it appears before us, alone in an open
field, now fresh green, or by some ancient trees and subsidiary
We're looking for purple lilacs, the most common, the easiest, the
most persistent decorative plant in our Northern climate. Always
right in front, occasionally a bit to the side, sometimes so big
it all but covers the entranceway. The oldest of them reach the
second story. The more vigorous fill the earth around with young
shoots. The air is sweet and heavy with perfume from them.
Lasting longer than the houses they were planted beside, we see
them sometimes abandoned on the roadside by themselves, grown old
and unruly now, a cellar ruin not far away.
When we got this place years ago we found them at Sugar by the old
foundation, coming out after bloodroot and trillium. Popple (our
quaking aspen), an agressive volunteer, had started to overtop
them, so we cut them out. We took out a pine too, and trimmed back
a nearby maple to give them more sun. When they're in bloom, we
think about the Perkinses, who built the place, planted
everything around, and lived on the land here over a hundred
years. Their aster bed comes alive late August.
We heard their story from Burt Williams who had the next farm up,
right where our jeep road crosses Stonehouse Road (named Perkins
Road those days) and heads up to Ridge Camp below Rattlesnake.
Their sugarbush was extensive. It ran a quarter mile up the brook
to where the largest, the most ancient maples may still be seen at
Logging Camp. We tapped those trees for years and made syrup not
far from their old Sugar House. The pans are still there. We have
Burt on two hours of tape from a tour he gave us in the early
70's. I'll transcribe it and get it online soon.
There's another lilac by the old cellar at the Melvin Farm just
below. We never noticed it till we moved in Gypsy Camp and started
clearing around the old maples and butternuts there. We chopped
out the undergrowth and cleaned around to give it room. It lives
now just under a big maple and will probably fill in toward the
cellar in years to come.
There's a substantial lilac growing high on the river bank by
the flats at the bottom of Stonehouse Road. Never was a house
built there as it's a flood plain. But it extends over fifty feet
along the bank and it almost ten feet high so it must be very
old. Someone had to have planted it there as lilacs only propagate
by root sprouting underground. Or maybe, like Paul Johnson's
rare irises that made it there floating downriver two miles
in the torrential flood we had in '99, our river lilac may have
gotten there the same way from someone's front yard years ago.
Choosing a lilac? First Summer we had The Cabin, I came back from
a trip to Maine, the pickup loaded with stuff for the new place.
Handmade cedar furniture (still there) and many plants in small
tubs. Several red pine and blue spruce, a single larch (all
still there and doing well) and some lilac. The lilacs struggled
beside the camp porch for over thirty years, got no bigger than a
few feet high and hardly bloomed at all. I mowed them down just
last year and killed the roots. A fancy variety of French
lilac--they just weren't right for our all too brief Northcountry
season. This Fall I'll dig some plants from over at Perkins
farm. Look for them to bloom in just a few years.
The old-fashion purple lilac grows where people built homes and
planted them around for beauty. We enjoy their blooms still.
Sweet-smelling and vigorous, they say (much better than any
gravestone), "We lived and worked here and loved this land.
Thanks for reading this. If you've ever been a guest here, go to
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again. If you've never been--check our up-to-date Availability
Calendar http://4peaks.com/femail0.htm and make some time. There's
a lovely quiet season coming up.
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Your Adirondack Guide,
Member Whiteface Mountain Visitors Bureau
Member Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau
This is #15 of a really occasional Letter, "Hints of
Balsam and Pine from our Corner of the Adirondacks," for
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