Koyote Hill is a journal about the issues, concerns and quality of rural life primarily in northwestern Pennsylvania including such topics as: the vegetable gardens,timber and agriculture, hunting, trapping, fishing, and the rich history of the region. At times, I'd like to include some politics and some lighter material for variety sake. Koyote Hill is a collection of brilliant insights, collected writings, published and unpublished, both fiction and non-fiction, by the author.
February Snowpocalypse...It's been a
long, frigid and snowy winter, not just here in northwestern
Pennsylvania but throughout most of North America. The snow depth
here is over three feet and drifts are, well, over my waist.
hear cheering when the temps get above zero.
It's been a brutally
cold week, Wind chills have been in the minus twenty to thirty range
most of this last week. Actually, most of February has been a deep freeze.
Be sure to check in on neighbors, those
who are older and those with health problems. Keep an eye on pets
when they are outside. This is serious weather and the upcoming
weekend promises more of the same. The upcoming weekend will see more
moderate temps, hopefully. Beyond the weekend, well more cold and snow.
Be very careful with space heaters, a leading cause of many winter fires. For some safety tips, BE SAFE.
There are some hopeful signs. Daylight
is increasing and March 21, the first day of spring is about a month
Maple Syrup Open House Taste and Tour
The Northwestern Pennsylvania Maple
Producers Association is sponsoring the 10th annual Maple
Taste and Tour Open House the weekend of March 14 and 15. The
association covers five counties including Erie, Crawford, Warren,
Mercer and Venango.
Each participating Sugar House will
have a wide range of activities, such as horse or tractor driven hay
rides, maple demonstrations, information on backyard sugaring and
much, much more. Each will also have a wide variety of maple products
to sample and for purchase.
It's a fun time for people of all ages
and a great family to do activity.
Even if you are not from this region,
there are motel and hotel accommodations at special prices.For more
information on the individual sugar houses who are participating,
directions and activities scheduled, as well as overnight lodging,
Taste and Tour.
As mentioned earlier, myself and two
others are planning on getting several bee hives this spring. It's a
fascinating hobby and or business venture (and somewhat costly).
Winter has had something of an upside - time for reading. We bought three
different books to read, and have been spending time online with
various bee keeping sites as well as watching numerous You Tube
We have been attending various bee
workshops and talking with much more experienced bee keepers.
And doing a lot of planning.
One thing discovered is the herb, or to
many the weed, Plantain. It is used to make a save to help with bee
stings, which are going to happened raising bees. Plantain is a rather common weed
throughout most of North America and particularly in the vegetable
garden. It's hard to eradicate where it's not wanted because of it's
large tap root.
However near the bee yard, I am going
to plant a patch of it just so there is access to it promptly. Along with other First Aid helps.
For the bees ( and us), we are also planting a
variety of blueberry bushes and a rather large, wild flower bee
garden. Along with milkweed for the Monarchs, borage, called the bee
herb will be sown.
I've always planted the borage and once
it begins to bloom in early summer, the flowers are literally covered
with so many bees, you can hear the buzz.
The final post below is about borage from a
re-written version of one which I published several years ago, if you
want to discover more about this valuable herb.
Honeybees have an amazing sense of
smell. They communicate, find their way home (each hive has a
specific odor), and locate food using their 170 odorant receptors.
a little known herb in North America, is a good plant, almost of hero
status in the vegetable or flower garden. An attractive herb with
blue, star shaped flowers, it attracts many gentle pollinators such
as honeybees and bumblebees.
many bees can be attracted to this flowering herb, also called the
bee plant, one can even hear the buzz. It is an important herb, food
source, for the pollinators, a population of insects which have been
in serious decline for several years because of a lack of nutrients,
pesticides and habitat.
herb, Borage is said to make tomatoes even taste better for some. But
with all the bee activity around the flowers, which can open in late
spring in many northern areas, it is sure to increase pollination and
consequently more vegetables, like tomatoes, squash and peppers.
which originates from the Mediterranean region, is a highly regarded
herb particularly in Spain. In many regions, the honey produced from
fields of Borage is highly regarded for it's taste and light color.
herb, Borage, is edible; the leaves and stems can be used in salad
and have a mild cucumber flavor. Dried it can be used as a relaxing
tea. The brilliant blue flowers can also be used in salads and are
often used as a cake garnish or frozen in ice cubes and used to
decorate drinks. The leaves can also be dipped in a batter and fried
like a fritter for an unusual gourmet delight.
is an easy herb to grow. The large black seeds can be planted in the
spring and they usually sprout rather quickly depending on weather
conditions. The herb is a rapid grower and can produce vibrant
blue flowers in the matter of a few weeks.
has another useful habit. It readily reseeds itself and new sprouts
appear the following spring. These sprouts can be readily
transplanted to areas where they are needed. Or, as Jack Frost
threatens, the plant, which can reach upwards of 24 inches, can be
cut down, and placed in an area where it can grow the following year.
The seed will germinated. (I’ve been doing this for several
years now, just place the plant on the ground during the fall.
Presto, it’s magic, new borage plants readily sprout in the spring)
is a useful herb to consider in either the vegetable or flower
garden. It is easy to grow, rather carefree and provides a stunning
display of blue flowers. As many farmers, gardeners, researchers and
scientists become increasingly concerned about the decline in our
native pollinators, this is one good herb to plant and grow.
This upcoming weekend will bring some
brutally cold air into the northwestern Pennsylvania region with
temps hardly at zero. Wind chills are expected to be in the -20 to
-30 degree range. Some snow is also expected and the same pattern
could persist until mid week. Be careful, dress properly and take the
necessary safety steps. Be careful of pets and check in on neighbors,
old and young, healthy and sick.
For others, I'd imagine the weekend
will be spent indoors, feeding wood stoves and checking out gardening
catalogs, watching movies and playing games.
Both gardens, one large and the other a raised bed, are still buried
under three feet plus of hard packed snow. It's next to impossible to
get anywhere near the fruit trees and berry bushes which need to be
pruned. However, we are doing some planning for the upcoming spring.
We are planning on getting at least two
bee hives and are currently working (well planning) on a wildflower
garden for them which will be about a ¼ acre and adjacent to the
larger vegetable garden. The native plant garden will include
milkweed, a native plant needed by the monarchs and good for the
Another project is our worm farm.
Luckily, there are two old refrigerators which will be used for the
worms and in turn there will be plenty of good garden compost and
worms for fishing.
Last year, I really wanted to make my
own mustard from our own home grown mustard seed. But, ran out of
time. But this year, it's going to happen and have been searching for
the best mustard plants/seeds to plant to make a hot and spicy
Here at Koyote Hill there will be
plenty of searching, reading, planning and games all weekend. If you have
any comments or insights, we would appreciate hearing from you,
As mentioned in the last post, Feb. 22
is usually celebrated as George Washington's Birthday. Washington traveled in northwestern Pennsylvania when he was in the British
Army and re-named the “River of Beef” - French Creek.
Today, the creek and it's watershed
area are recognized nationally for their environmental importance.
Below is an article to discover more
about this amazing waterway. Pictured below is a summer photo taken last year by the French Creek Conservancy. (Enough of snow and ice photos)
Creek in northwestern Pennsylvania snakes through scenic rolling
hills, aging small villages, and a patchwork of neat family
farms. The journey begins begins in rural Chautauqua County in
western New York before it wanders into Pennsylvania through the
counties of Erie, Crawford, Mercer and Venango. After it's 117
mile journey, it meets it's destination, the Allegheny River and
eventually the Ohio River, and the Mississippi.
waterway is steeped in history because of it's north south route. It
was a pivotal transportation route for the Native American peoples
between the Ohio River basin and the Great Lakes, and later for the
European explorers who were discovering and trapping the North
early French settlers called “River of Beef”, because of the
presence of water bison, and erected several supply forts, including
one called LeBoeuf, which is located at present day Waterford,
Pennsylvania in Erie County. The French built the forts to help firm
their grip on the western territories they claimed as par of their
French presence did not sit well with the the British. In 1753, 21
year old George Washington, then a British military officer, canoed
the creek upstream to the LeBoeuf Fort to warn the French to leave
the territory which the the British governor of Virginia believed
belong to the Crown and the British Empire.
diplomatic mission failed and the result was the bloody French and
Indian War. Washington during that pre-war journey, renamed the River
of Beef to French Creek, as recorded in his journal written during
December 1753, a name which remains centuries later. It would be
decades later, that Washington spent time on another river in
December, the Delaware.
1922, a statue of Washington, dressed in a British military uniform
was dedicated in Waterford which still remains. It is believed to be
one of a few unique statues which depicts America's first president
in a British uniform.
the creek was important in early American history, it's environmental
qualities are almost unsurpassed. Many environmental organizations
and religious, civic and educational groups have long recognized the
important natural qualities of the waterway and it's importance to
the vitality of the entire region.
Creek is often called an “old river” by environmental
organizations because of the lack of man made disturbances. Many
sections of the creek remain much the same as they did centuries ago.
are a good indicator of pristine water quality. Some 26 species
of freshwater mussels have been identified in the old river; 13 of
these species are ranked on either federal or state rare and
endangered lists. Amazingly, some mussel beds are believed to be over
1,000 years old.
species of fish have been documented in the old river including some
rare and endangered species of darters found nowhere else in
Pennsylvania. Numerous species of birds, including a re-emerging bald
eagle population, are common sights in the region as well as numerous
unusual aquatic insects. Native flora and fauna still flourish along
the the river area; some colonies have remained undisturbed for
French Creek remains a very healthy creek, it has attracted a large
number of diversified groups of people. Several times a year there
are canoing events down portions of the still pristine creek. These
events help to raise environmental awareness as hundreds of people
are able to view eagles and the hellbender salamanders, the largest
amphibian found in Pennsylvania, numerous song birds and several
species of turtles, numerous white tail deer and uncommon colorful
and ancient wildflowers.
economic impact of the healthy creek is important to the local area,
as visitors stop to get gas, groceries or shop in the small
businesses, in home based operations from quilt shops to fish bait,
in the small towns and isolated crossroads.
who participate in the organized “floats” down the creek, return
often with families for a weekend or vacation, filling local
campgrounds and visiting the historical sites and museums and
historical organizations, which dot the area.
the creek remains environmental healthy, fishing is excellent
throughout the entire watershed and hundreds of anglers visit the
area on a year round basis. There has been trophy muskie and northern
pike harvested, as well as, a number of other game fish species,
including walleye, perch and bass.
districts throughout the region use the area as a living classroom
for local students. There are classes in water quality testing and
related water issues; classes on the natural environment which focus
on stream bank restorations and tree plantings, and wildlife studies
and research projects. The regional colleges and universities also
cooperate with other groups and individually in research projects.
citizens groups are actively involved in research, monitoring
projects and volunteer work. Frequently, they work together with high
school and college students and other civic organizations. The
environmental vitality of the watershed has a direct impact on an
improved quality of life.
region attracts a number of state and national environmental groups
which have purchased property and have constructed research
facilities. It is not uncommon to see birders from hundreds of miles
away observing the wide variety of birds which live in the area,
archaeologists and historians, geologists, botanists and biologists.
the locals, the creek offers countless possibilities for recreation
and simple enjoyment; there are hot summer days and a favorite
swimming with an inner tube, or personal fishing hole, hiking trails
and camps sites.
healthy, clean river means a better quality of life, a renewed
vitality for it's people, and can be an economic resource and a
And Just for the Heck of It
Thinking about warm weather and
rainbows, again. The 7 colors in a rainbow are: red, orange, yellow, green,
blue, indigo, violet. However, the human eye can see over 100 color
variations in a rainbow.
These things are always difficult but here goes.I began writing for a local group of small newspapers, then worked as a writer/editor for a local business magazine, the Erie Story, which no longer publishes.For the last several years I wrote weekly articles for the Crawford County Neighbors section of the Erie Times News, which ceased publication in late 2009. I enjoy writing and plan on keeping the art as a career, though I might die broke.
Currently, write a personal blog, Koyote Hill, another for GoErie (Erie Times News). I also contribute a variety of articles to Helium, Associated Content, and HubPages.