Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year: Be a Tiger

Now I tell ya, there's always a New Year somewhere!

Happy New Year and may it be the Best Ever.

2010 will be opened with a Blue Moon, something of a rather rare happening. The next Blue Moon will not happen again until August 31, 2012. And the next after that on July 31, 2015. Just for the heck of it, the next December Blue Moon will be on December 31st, 2028.
Many people will celebrate Chinese New Year on February 14th, which ushers in the Year of the Tiger. It could make for an interesting Valentine's Day. (and yes, I did double check, it is the Year of the Tiger, not the Rat).
Chinese New Year is a good time and is similar to our Christmas celebration; a time for family and friends, gift giving and plenty of good foods. Any friends who will be celebrating this New Year, feel welcome to comment(Sadeep, what can you say?).
I wrote an article about last minute Christmas Gift Shopping a week or so before the holiday. Then, after further thought, realized, the article is good for any and all gift shopping regardless of Blue Moons. So, I figured might as well plug it. Click here on gift ideas.
The Year of the Tiger on February 14th, a good day for florists and candy makers, is a time to start thinking about getting some plants started for the season. In a Zone 5, it is a tad early except for some pepper varieties which require a lot of time to reach maturity. But it is time to get potting soil, pots, and seeds together along with a garden plan.
The Year of the Tiger might be a good omen for backyard gardeners; be aggressive, adventurous and determined to get what you want.
On the subject of calendars. Not even the Mayan Elders believe the world will end in 2012. That's a nice money making story but hardly real.

Tomatoes can save money in the Year of Tiger

Tomatoes are easy to grow with few problems despite what happened last year with the late blight. With a few aggressive and determined gardening steps, tomatoes should be like zucchini, plentiful.
There are some common blights which can raise some problems; briefly, Septoria, Early and Verticillium. Basically, all three of these are marked by discoloration in the lower leaves. These are fungal diseases which can be controlled or eliminated.
The first step is to start out with home grown seedlings or seedlings purchased from a reputable grower. The fungal diseases mention can overwinter in the ground so it is best not to plant tomatoes where they grew last year; pick a new spot.
Give the plants the required space; don't overcrowd. Stake or cage the plants; sprawling on the ground tomato plants are an open invitation for trouble. Use mulch, preferably compost mulch and avoid overhead watering. The blight can splash up from the soil and on the plants.
Pay attention. At the first sign of trouble, get rid of the discolored leaves (burn them if possible or place in the garbage) and spray. Good sprays would be a mix of baking soda or manure tea. There are some good organic sprays available commercially.
A few simple, common sense gardening practices will result in huge yields of tasty tomatoes and perhaps, even enough to give away or sell for some extra cash.

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Where will the road lead in 2010?

New Years Resolutions for January 1st or February 14th or Both

There are a lot of ideas but how about a storm kit for the home. It's inexpensive to put a storm kit together and it could be life saving. With global warming comes more violent weather, so it is best to get prepared.
Plant native wild flowers this year and help out the bees, both the honeybee and native populations. They are in trouble from a number of diseases and the populations are declining. Honeybees are amazing and real work horses of the insect world. That we even have honey is a true feat.
Vincent di Fondi's new book Blessed Abduction, would be another good choice for a resolution. Vincent is now retired and enjoying life in Costa Rica. Or the books by Sam Hossler which portray the history of northwestern Pennsylvania. Sam now lives in Florida but was a long time resident of the Canadohta Lake area where enjoyed the winter weather.
Read more blogs like those listed below and if an ad catches your eye, click and find out more. Bloggers work hard and generally get paid when folks get interested enough to click an ad. No ads, leave a comment, your insights and observations are always welcome by bloggers.

Good Blogs

Vincent di Fondi - Vincent was also featured in the December issue of International Living Magazine. His book is available at Amazon and Indie Books.

On Your Way to the Top - Kathleen has a good, homespun blog. The latest post is about the family trip from upstate New York to Ohio for a family visit.

New York's Southern Tier - Kathleen also does a travel destination blog for Helium Zones which features many events in the western and central New York region. If your traveling in that area over the holidays, check it out.

Veggie Garden Blog - Dan in Ontario has some terrific photos and great veggie garden insights. He is feeding the birds this season and thinking hard about next year's bounty. Thanks, Dan and I forgot to send a Merry Christmas, so have the Best new Year Ever wish!

Simply Snickers - Linda writes an exciting blog here, well worth the visit. She is an avid and prolific writer and knows an awful lot about horses, just ask her in a comment section after you have enjoyed her writing. She also wears funny hats at times! (had to get that int here, Linda)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

May all the readers, both old and new, have a great and happy Christmas! I would also like to express my thanks to the many readers who have contributed to Koyote Hill over the past year. I know I have made many new friends and have received a lot of support from old friends.
The picture is an old wren's nest, I think. It was discovered during the just past Pennsylvania deer season (rifle). Some little creature, a chipmunk or maybe a squirrel, stored several acorns in the abandoned nest. We'll be watching to see if they hatch! That be a real Christmas miracle!

On the Subject of Miracles:

A nice whitetail from this past season shot by a good friend and neighbor. Some people have all the luck! Thanks for sharing Al and have a great Christmas. I know there'll be some good meals.

Christmas Storm Approaches:

Be careful driving over the upcoming weekend. Already some readers are living through a pretty good winter storm. The Christmas is expected in northwestern Pennsylvania over the next several days. It is Christmas Eve night and already the winds are starting to howl here.
In case your snowed in,and the weather is ugly outside, here is some reading you might want to do. I write for Associated Content here and also write a blog for our local newspaper at GoCrawford. I have been following the bankruptcy story of Penn Traffic which operates Quality Market stores found in many small towns in western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania.

I also appreciate your comments, suggestions and insights, feel free to get in touch or comment.

Pumpkin Shortage

For weeks now, people have commented about how hard it is to find pumpkin pie filling for holiday pies. It seems that Morton, Ill., the proclaimed pumpkin capital of the world, suffered through a real rainy season and most of the pumpkin crop was destroyed. Learn more, here.
Pumpkins are relatively easy to grow and worth considering in next year's garden if you have the space. They do like to sprawl.
We'll pick back up on tomatoes and the blight next post.

Wildlife Photos These photos are from a very good friend who lives in Calgary and I thought I would share them with all. They were taken within the last several months about an hour away from that great city.
Thanks to Saskatoon Phil!

There has been a lot of writing about last minute Christmas shopping ideas. Even I wrote one, here. But then I got to thinking, we buy gifts all the time regardless of the season and these ideas can be used throughout the year. Check it out.

The Blogs

I wanted to thank the folks who also write blogs which I recommend on this site. A special Christmas wish to Vincent, Kathleen, Linda, and Dan. Scroll down to the next post for their links.

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Again, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Growing Season 2010

Growing Season 2010

Plants are part of the Christmas season just as much as the yule tree. Holly is one which comes to mind almost immediately, so does the Christmas cactus and the poinsettia.
Poinsettia plants have a lot of nostalgia but have a bad reputation as being poisonous; in reality though, that attribute is a big myth. Not even the family cat is going to croak after nibbling on a few leaves.
Mistletoe, however, is sort of an odd plant to use as a Christmas decoration. It is usually hung in doorways or from the ceiling. According to long held traditions, a person standing under it, can be freely kissed.
But the plant is a vampire of sorts, a parasite. It sucks the blood out of trees and shrubs. Granted it might be a good looking plant with pretty berries with an ancient history steeped in folklore, but it is a parasite.
Then there is the native Christmas Fern found in woodlands throughout much of northern North America. Perhaps, because they are not tropical or colorful, the Christmas Fern is often overlooked and forgotten today. Except for moss, the ferns are the only remaining green-ery in a woods in December and throughout the rest of winter.
Some ferns are still collected today and used for Christmas decorations; it was much more common, however in the early 1900's. So many plants were harvested from the woods back then that concerns were raised about over harvesting.
Today, the plants are readily available online, in many garden centers and nurseries. There are many landscaping possibilities around the home for the Christmas Fern because they are hardy (zones four through nine), evergreen and enjoy shady. moist areas. Additionally, for the most part, they are generally disease and pest free and are not eaten by deer or other wildlife.
Go native and plant a living Christmas decoration for the 2010 growing season.

A Plant with More Publicity for Growing 2010

The International Herb Association named Dill as the Herb of the Year for 2010. Dill is a nice garden plant and has more uses than just for pickles. It can be used in dips, salads, a seasoning for fish, lamb and breads.
Dill is attractive, somewhat ornamental and draws the attention of many beneficial insects. It is rather hardy, easy to direct sow and grow and is generally trouble free. Dill is a good choice for the 2010 growing season.
Dill attracts many good insects, like honeybees and other pollinators, to the garden. Dill can help the declining numbers of our pollinators which are in decline and necessary for food production. It is also a rich food source for the swallowtail caterpillar.
Dill is a good companion plant for onions and potatoes; however, it is not overly friendly with either carrots or tomatoes. There are smaller somewhat dwarf type plants which can be used in patio container gardens.
Next year (2011), the selected herb will be horseradish. Last year was bay laurel. Herbs, according to the Web site for the organization are chosen for their medicinal and culinary or decorative uses.

Looking for Ideas
See some of the ads for Christmas gifts at the end of this post for some ideas. Most are from local farms and organizations and there is no commissions or whatever. Just good items. The final ad is from Graden-Plantings. They contacted me about placing a link, since it is Christmas, I did. Thanks.

Tomatoes – 2010 Growing Season

Late Blight made for a troublesome year for tomatoes in the backyard. The fungal disease is fatal to both tomatoes and potatoes as way too many backyard gardeners discovered in rainy and cold 2009.
The good news is that late blight doesn't survive the winter; it needs living tissue to live. However, it can survive if the potatoes left in the ground were blighted or if infected plant material was added to the compost pile where it can stay warm.
If volunteer potatoes sprout during the 2010 spring weather get rid of them quickly. The late blight can spread rapidly from neighborhood to neighborhood.
Consider starting your own tomato plants this year or find a reputable grower in your area. Tomatoes are easy to start from seed as long as they have plenty of light and warm temperatures. Infected tomatoes from a large grower in 2009 were shipped north to many big box stores and were then purchased by many backyard growers. The infected plants and the cold and rainy weather in many areas created perfect conditions for the blight to spread rapidly.
If seeds were saved from 2009, they will not carry the blight. Your safe.
Some of the seed catalogs are already appearing in the mailbox. The five which have arrived so far did not contain any information regarding steps which can be taken to control not only the late blight, but also two other common blights which can diminish a tomato crop. There are actions that can be taken by home gardeners to control and manage next year's tomato garden. Those simple and inexpensive steps will be posted in the next several posts.
The 2010 growing season does not have to be a repeat.


Vincent di Fondi

On Your Way to the Top

New York's Southern Tier

Urban Veggie

Simply Snickers

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Gift Ideas

Gift baskets from farms in the northwestern Pennsylvania can be purchased. These unique gifts are filled with all locally produced and crafted items. For more information, hunterfarm@yahoo.com
Two local brand new cookbooks are also available. One, The Meadville Marketplace Cookbook, features local recipes with historical footnotes and photographs. The proceeds go to the old Market House.
The other was produced the Col Drake Chapter of the DAR and the proceeds go to a scholarship fund. The Heritage Cookbook is another great source for recipes and historical insights. Some of the recipes included in the 150 page book include pumpkin fudge and red pickles. There is also a recipe for homemade gingerale which I listed in another blog I write for GoErie in the GoCrawford section found here. For more information, email cchsresearch@zoominternet.net at the Crawford County Historical Society. They also have other unique gifts including a great calendar.
One more gift ad:
Garden Fountains

Pictured are the gift baskets available from Hunter Farm

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Moon Mammoth and Whitetails

Deer Season:

Rifle white tail deer season is now open in many regions. Pennsylvania opened on November 30th; New York a week earlier. It is something of a major two week holiday for many, especially in this region. In Pennsylvania, upwards of 950,000 hunters will be out; I suspect the same numbers are true for New York and surrounding states.

Good hunters have been scouting for weeks and watching the signs, but it is important even during the season to pay attention to details in woods. For a link, read this article on buck rubs here.

Pictured above are Dan and Adam with a buck they helped their younger sister get in a swamp area near Corry, PA called Tamarac. All three were pretty happy. It was the young teenager's first buck.

It is always important for hunters to get permission from property owners about using their land for hunting. Often people post property because of disputes with unethical hunters, but sometimes I think, it is more because of family or neighborhood disputes. While there are some great public game lands, at least in Pennsylvania, open for hunting, about eighty percent of the land is owned privately.
Check with the landowners; many great friendships have resulted from getting acquainted. I don't like looking at the increasing numbers of no trespassing signs lately.

I also write a blog for GoErie at the GoCrawford section and recently wrote about some of the local hunting issues and other news items Here's the link.

Tye has been a friend for a good many years, though he grew up here he now lives near MN. He went hunting up there at Chippewa National Forest, not far from Remer, MN. There he, and Alicia, some other buddies, and his dog, Haze (hi, Haze), had some good times hunting grouse and snowshoe rabbits. Seems like they were luckier at the snowshoes.

No snowshoes around here except the kind you wear on your feet in deep snow. Not too sure I want to see another rabbit family around; it's getting costly and time consuming re-planting some things in a garden.
But thanks, for sending the photos and information.

Keep Up to Date on the Flu - not a virus to fool with

The Ice Age

Winter brings thoughts of the Ice Age every year and visions of woolly mammoths, plodding through the tundra. Not far from here, at a glacial lake, Lake Pleasant, the remains of a woolly mammoth were discovered.

Further to the south, at Conneaut Lake, upwards of five woolly mammoth remains have been discovered along with evidence of mastodons and primitive elks called wapiti. Conneaut Lake is perhaps 30 miles or thereabouts from Lake Pleasant.

Both of these lake, along with five others in northwestern Pennsylvania, are glacial lakes. They were formed as the last last glaciers, a mere 16,000 melted. Sometimes they are called kettle lakes.

Woolly mammoths can weigh a lot, up to an estimated 4 tons. The one discovered at lake Pleasant was determined to be 20 years old and a fully grown, adult male by researchers at the University of Michigan where the remains where shipped for study.

One of the theories about the Lake Pleasant mammoth is that it was sunk in the lake by early inhabitants to help preserve the meat, sort of like a giant cold storage refrigerator. There is evidence that large rocks were used to weigh the mammoth 20 feet down below the surface and there are hack marks on the bones which may indicate that it was hauled to the surface and the meat periodically chopped off.

Now even if this animal weighed two tons and was 20 feet under the water, it would require a whole lot of power (hungry people?) to get it back up to the surface. And I'd be fairly certain chains weren't around 16,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Read more about the “Moon” Mammoth and what science is learning at a short article I wrote last week. The link is here.

Read a Book
Learn more about woolly mammoths Check out your local independent book store.

Shop Indie Bookstores
Blogs to Read:
Urban Veggie Blog – Dan is getting awards and seed saving cucumbers.

On Your Way to the Top - Kathleen has some good thoughts in this blog after a short break from writing and a great article on Christmas presents, here. Guys, this is a good one to read.

Simply Snickers - A great poetry blog with links to a mouth watering pumpkin bread recipe and some hints for cooking the turkey.

Vincent di Fondi– Vincent is living in Costa Rica and has recently published his first novel, Blessed Abuduction. Vincent will be featured in the December issue of International Living Magazine; more on this next post if available. Read Vincent's insights into Coast Rica and click the ad below to purchase his book.
Shop Indie Bookstores

New York's Southern Tier - Kathleen has a great blog on New York's Southern Tier. So, if you are traveling that region for the holidays, be sure to check out what to see and do.

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