Thursday, February 26, 2009

March Maddness: Get Ready

The Grange, a longtime staple in rural living, is alive and well throughout the northwestern Pennsylvania region. Crawford County alone has over a dozen active Grange Halls including the Hayfield Grange, the oldest and the largest Grange Hall in Crawford County.
On Saturday, March 7th, the Hayfield Grange will host a Pomona Grange (the county wide Grange). The meeting opens at noon with a luncheon.
Membership in the Grange is open to all, you don't have to live on a farm or even a rural area. There seems like an unending list of different activities for the entire family always going on in the organization as well as a wide range of community service projects. The Hayfield Grange Hall is located in Hayfield Township, Crawford County at the intersection of Grange Center and Broadford Roads.
If your interested in the Grange, just show up. It's a good starting point for the entire family and individuals.
The weather seems to be breaking, though certainly there will be some more nasty weather. But winter is just about gone. Already we have just over 11 hours of daylight (Note: Clocks go ahead March 8th).
There is a lot to do in March, maybe more so this year than in the past several years. Winter is a good time to prune the blueberry bushes,to get a good crop later this summer. Until now, the snow has been too deep to get that job done. Winter this year was messy and there seems to be a lot of clean-up work to do. How is your yard/garden?
Apples trees and other fruit tree should also be pruned now before the weather gets too warm.
And I may as well note this important date: March 1st is National Pig Day, a day designated to celebrate one of our most intelligent farm animals.
For some added insights and information of spring garden tips, go to Rosy Reds, the Frogs and the Vegetable Garden.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rosy reds, the Frogs and the Vegetable Garden

I'd like to take a post here to mention a new web site I have: Rosy reds, Frogs and the Vegetable Garden at Helium. Please, click on the title to view it. The site is still under construction to some degree and I am cleaning up some dumb erros, so there will be some changes here and there. I'd appreciate any comments and/or suggestions.
The new, larger site will have more diverse and detailed information but will not replace Koyote Hill which is more focused on the quality of rural/country life,events, the issues and concerns of northwestern Pennsylvania.
Rosy Red's are minnows, actually a variation of flathead minnows.I put a couple hundred of them in the Frog Bog, a small pond which is rapidly becoming the center of the backyard vegetable garden. My friend Jeff and I netted the minnows out of his dad's pond one day in early October.
The Frog Bog has been there for a long time and one section of it was deepened in late September. It was always a neat place for frogs, like spring peeps, leopards and bull frogs, salamanders, turtles and dozens of native bog type plants. Any suggestions for plants?
On one side of the Frog Bog is the veggie garden and on the other side is a new and enlarged herb garden. Suggestions on herbs to plant also welcome. And in both place, several pollinator gardens to attract native bees, butterflies and other insects. A wooden footbridge connects the two areas.
So there is a lot of bio-diversity back there and a lot of interaction. Besides, it is just neat to listen to the bull frogs when weeding and swatting gnats. But Rosy Red's will be the story/journal of what is happening, how things are growing, and living.
One day this winter, we saw the Rosy reds swimming under the ice which was like a piece of glass that day. They are a brilliant orange color. Hopefully, the clear ice conditions happen again so I can grab a photograph. It really was an amazing sight. So the picture is a friend and neighbor, Mike. We were checking the thickness of the ice. It was thick enough to walk on, thankfully. The other photos are of some iris blooming and the dog on the footbridge, the first snowfall of the year.
Check Rosy Reds
And here are some additional articles to look at:
Early Spring Vegetables

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eat healthy: Eat Peas, Plan Now

Spring begins in just about a month on March 20th. It seems like all the snow will never melt but it will. That's the signal to get peas, an early and healthy spring vegetable, planted. My best luck is with a pole variety, called Alaska. The plants, which can climb 8 to ten feet, produce a bumper crop and are usually ready to pick by Memorial Day. The photo above, taken last week, shows part of the fence used for the peas which will need some repairs before planting.
The seed company's claim 50 to 55 days from planting to maturity, and in this case, it's pretty accurate, despite normal bad weather, including late snows and cold, which peas don't seem to mind. Peas can also be planted in late summer for a fall harvest. They don't mind early fall cold and snow.
Do you have a comment on those dates found on the seed packages?
On the subject of dates, March 8th begins daylight savings time. Care to comment on that change?
As February winds down though, there is still plenty of time to think about a vegetable garden. This year having a food plot will be important for many as the economy continues to worsen. Garden fresh peas, and other homegrown organic veggies, are also healthier (think health care) and just plain good.
Planting your own vegetables or buying them from local organic farmers helps the environment and the neighborhood. When more and more people plant or purchase locally, it means one or more less shipments in refrigerated trucks from hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. It is a small step in controlling energy consumption, but a lot of small steps add up. The local community benefits because the money stays local and is recycled back into the region.
Small farm operations often employ young people from the community. Okay, so the wages might be low but there's a wealth of knowledge and experience for workers on the farm to be gained which will last a lifetime.
What's your opinion?
Fresh produce obtained from local stores can be less expensive than the supermarket and can be purchased in quantity to stock up for the offseason months by canning, freezing or drying. During the winters months, check out the Meadville Market House or the Erie Whole Foods Co-op for organic and natural foods and products.

Click on the title for more information on how to grow peas, highlighted words in the posts for related information.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The birds are on the move, another sign

The signs are all around. Even the birds are on the move further northward. The migration is one conclusion of the annual Audubon's annual Christmas bird count (click on the title for the link).
On February 19th (see previous post) Ed Perry of the National Wildlife Association will be the featured speaker at the Crawford County Conservation District awards luncheon. I'm not sure of the exact details, but he will be speaking about global warming and it's effects on hunting and fishing in Pennsylvania.
Rising temperatures and wild swings in weather conditions will have a huge impact for anglers, hunters, trappers, farmers and homeowners. Unchecked, global warming will result in higher water temperatures seriously effecting Pennsylvania trout and other species.
The temperature change will impact our forests and woodland areas; food crops for wildlife, including the deer, will be diminished resulting in fewer deer and other game animals.
The deer harvested in the photo above was taken near Corry, PA. Dan and Adam helped their 14 year old sister who shot the buck, her first.
Hunting and fishing traditions are on the brink of extinction. For Pennsylvania hunters, and elsewhere, a quality of life and a culture could very easily be the victim of Greenhouse Gas Genocide.
What is your opinion? Can individuals and organizations help to change the tide of impending environmental change?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Enjoy a good lunch, learn and get involved

The Crawford County Conservation District has a featured speaker listed for their annual Awards Banquet who has a pretty important message for all sportsmen, hunters,anglers and trappers. The featured speaker for the February 19th events is
Ed Perry , the outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation in Pennsylvania.
His presentation is entitled, “The Effects of Climate Change and Global Warming on Hunting and Fishing in Pennsylvania”. Nearly everyone is familiar with the changing weather patterns, but this promises to be something of a wake-up call for anyone who gets outside to hunt or fish
While there's been some grumbling about different hunting and fishing regulations over the years, the climate changes we are facing could really alter hunting and fishing and make the regulations look like minutae.
There is a lot individuals and organizations can do. Check out some of the linksin this post. Get informed. Unchecked, the situation could lead to some pretty dramatic outdoor changes.
The Awards Dinner, which will be held at the Meadville Day's Inn at noon, costs $13. The Conservation District will also honor and present awards to other organizations and individuals who have partnered to enhance and improve our local environment.

For more information or to place a reservation, call Brian Pilarcik at the Conservation District at 814-763-5269.
For more information on the Conservation District, click the title.
For more information in how to get involved in helping solve the looming crisis go to targetglobalewarming

Friday, February 6, 2009

Slugs and Snails, Snakes and Toads, Get Ready

There are more daylight hours now and the garden catalogs keep showing up in the mailbox with more frequency. Spring is really coming, about 42 days away from today.
Time is getting short to get together a garden plan, always a good idea. A vegetable garden will more important this year for many, because of the sinking economy, rising food prices and tainted and unhealthy food found in the supermarkets.
There are a lot of basic decisions that need to be made; what varities to plant, where to plant them in the garden, maybe decisions about new additions and compost.
It is also a good time to prepare a battle plan for the slug and snail pests which can create a lot of havoc and make veggies look like swiss cheese. There are a lot of control methods, without using dangerous pesticides. Beer traps, natural sprays, egg shells and coffee grounds, salt water sprays all work pretty well. But short of a scorched earth policy, slugs and snails are more likely to be kept under control.
But there are a few natural ways – make the garden a habitat for snakes and toads, both really like to eat slugs and snails.
Around northwestern Pennsylvania, your most likely to attract the well known, common garter snake. Snakes like rock piles and one in the vegetable garden can be transformed into an attractive rock garden designed for other beneficial insects, like bees, butterflies and other pollinators, as well as, being a home for the garden garter snake.
A toad house is another option. It can be as inexpensive as a decorated, overturned clay flower pot. Just be sure to have a sunken pie plate or something similar filled with water for the toad, they drink through their skin.
A few easy steps and the proper habitat can prevent vegetables and flowers from looking like swiss cheese.
For more information, click on the title and/or use the search box below.

Moths and the Full Hunger Moon

For many Native Americans the full moon in February is called the Hunger Moon. The month can be a very snowy with bitter cold temperatures; a difficult month to search for food (sound familiar in 2009?). This year the Full Hunger Moon will be February 9th, Monday.
While a lot of attention the second month of the year goes to the groundhog (allegedly, the animal saw his shadow this year, which spooked the critter back into his den), there are some even more fascinating insights and magic about moths and the moon. Well, there are no moths around during the dead of winter, but there is moonlight and a lack of food sources.
This post actually began last summer when a Luna moth flew in my window one day last summer (the photo) and landed under the light on the kitchen table.
Recently, I came across an article about moths and moonlight and light bulbs; there is still much to be discovered about all nocturnal moths, like the Luna.
What would a summer evening be without moths? They flutter around our campfires and beat their powdery wings against our lampshades. They congregate by streetlights and frequent torch-lit garden parties. But what is it about the lamp on your porch that moths find so irresistible? Is it the warmth? The pleasing glow? Why are moths attracted to light?

(NOTE: If the link doesn't work, click on Title)
It seems moths really think our light bulbs are moonlight, according to the research theory. Nocturnal moths, like the Luna, use the moonlight as part of an ancient navigational system. They get confused by artificial light. And one more quick note about the adult Luna moth, they don't eat (sounds like February), because they don't have mouths.
They do eat when they are caterpillars. Important food sources are the leaves of the American Beech, Red Maple, hickories, White Oak, Black Cherry, willows, Sumac and walnut trees.
Luna moths are fairly rare and in some areas, considered endangered. The one that landed on my table was the first I had ever seen. They are big with a wing span between four and five inches. They are colorful with yellow spots on brilliant, lime-green wings. The Luna only lives for about a week and emerges in late spring and early summer.
The Full Hunger Moon this year will see a lot of deep snow and a lot of hunger (people and wildlife) but it is a reminder about what comes next

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fun Stuff for Everyone

Here are some great events to mark on the calender which will be held at the Woodcock Creek Nature Center, at 21742 German Rd., Meadville. Thanks to Kathy Uglow, the environmental educator at the Center for sending the list along.
In case the links don't work, I'm working on it, so you might have to manually type the address in or google.
The folks at the center do a great job and there are always a lot of fun activites.
phone- 814-763-5269

March events:
“What About Rabies?” Wednesday, March 4, from 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Join Dr. Karen Martin, Veterinary Medical Field Officer, PA Department of Agriculture, to learn more about rabies. Find out what causes rabies and how to prevent it. She will also talk about the annual Oral Rabies Vaccination (ORV) program.
“Winter Tree Identification,” Wednesday, March 11, from 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Mark Lewis, Service Forester, PA Bureau of Forestry, will lead a walk through the woods identifying some of Pennsylvania’s common trees. What are the tricks for telling one tree from another when there are no leaves to help? Dress for the weather.
“Eagles of Northwest Pennsylvania,” Wednesday, March 18, from 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Join Linda Armstrong, Environmental Education Specialist for Pymatuning State Park, to find out about the history of eagle comeback in Pennsylvania, and more!
“Making a Bird Call Workshop,” Wednesday, March 29. Choose one session. Either 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Classes are limited to the first 12 registrants and there is a $2.00 fee to cover materials.

Photo: There was even a potato painting workshop last year which was fun for kids and adults. Pictured is one of the pieces of art work from the workshop