Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Weather Myths: Jack Wax and Dandelions

Global Warming and Snowstorm Myths

January is doing what January is suppose to do – snow, cold, wind, dead batteries, frozen water pipes, shoveling sidewalks, driveways and roofs. And it doesn't look like it's going to ease up anytime soon, if the forecasts are on target.
There's been a lot of comments about the cold and global warming. A comment heard frequently all week goes like: “What happened to global warming?” or a similar version of the question with some added political comments included.
The cold weather doesn't mean global warming is some sort of giant trick or a myth being played on the world community. Quite the opposite; the cold weather is an indicator that our weather is changing. The hard facts of science are real, our climates are changing; the myth is actually trying to debunk global warming, or pretending it doesn't exist.
Perhaps, a better phrase instead of global warming, would be “freaky weather changes”. Overall though, the changes are getting more and more dramatic if one looks at the long term instead of a particular cold frontal system.
A good article from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Co. has an interesting perspective on what appears to be contradictions in the weather. Basically, according to the report, the record high temperatures are far out pacing the recorded low temperatures throughout the US. Facts are facts; myths remain myths.
Sure, we have occasional bouts with cold weather, but one has to look a little beyond the present, and delve into our ancient past. Besides, winters use to be a lot more ferocious than they seem to be now. That is no myth.

Jack Wax and the Groundhog

Groundhog Day is Tuesday, February 2nd, something of a sign of approaching spring. But the real indicators are when the sap begins to flow in the sugar maples trees and the fires are lit in sugar shacks all across the north.
Jack Wax is rustic maple sugar candy and one of the best candies ever made. It's pretty simple to do and can even be made at home. Basically, boiling the sap until it is close to being syrup, is poured on the clean snow or in a hole in the snow. It quickly hardens like a taffy. Nothing better on a chilly winter day and much better tasting than some other spring related celebrations.
Maple producers work hard and are generally family owned and operated. In northwestern PA, the big event of the year is a “Taste and Tour” weekend. It is an open house where everyone is invited to dozens of participating sugar shacks to learn about maple syrup, how it is made (pictured above) and to taste free samples of maple products.
If you get a chance to talk to a producer or two, the conversation will likely lead to the subject of the earlier and earlier runs of the sap. For the sap to run, the trees need warm days above freezing, and cold nights when the thermometer dips below freezing. It use to be the run happened in mid-March, nowadays it's more like mid-February. Someone say “global warming”?
The weekend for the event is March 20 and 21st, and there will be the first ever Maple Festival organized by the association at the Edinboro Fire Hall the same weekend. For more information, Northwest Pennsylvania Maple Association.
If you can't make it, or are looking for unique gifts, there are links in the Web site with listing of sugar shacks and products available.

Wild Horses

Thanks to Linda Nickerson for the information and the protest regarding the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) round-up of wild horses in Nevada. The government sponsored helicopter round-up began on December 28th and is expected to continue for the next two months during the harsh winter weather (no, I won't mention global warming).
Protests over the cruel winter round-up and the use of helicopters are beginning to spread across the nation and Linda has an article with some more information, click here.
If your concerned about our wild horses, or interested in the BLM adopt a horse program, Linda is a great resource. For her article Linda used the photograph above which is from the BLM. It's a nice photograph, wish the round-up was a little nicer.
One of Linda's blogs, “Simply Snickers”, is posted below in “Good Blogs”. Thanks, Linda for sharing. Maybe we can get you some, Jack Wax.


We are all familiar with these early spring bloomers. Kathleen Richardson, who is also listed in “Good Blogs” below, contributed these photographs, after reading a Helium article “Defending Dandelions”.
Kathleen's son took these photo's while he was stationed in Alaska. Dandelions are a global plant and are good eating and considered an herb. A friend from Portugal says they call them dentes de leano (thinking means tooth of the lion). Read Kathleen's blog, “On Your Way to the Top” listed below about how she remembers them.
Dandelions don't make Jack Wax, but they can be used to make wines, jellies and tea.
Many times, the dandelion is considered a weed, another myth, and is sprayed with deadly chemicals. The flowers, however, are an important food source for our native bees, and the gentle honeybee and their populations are in serious decline. For more information read, Defending Dandelions.
A special thanks to Kathleen for contributing the photographs, bet a piece or two of Jack Wax won't tip any scales.

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Good Blogs

Vincent di Fondi – Vincent is retired, enjoying the good life in Costa Rica and has just published his first novel. Lucky, Vincent, doesn't have to shovel.

On Your Way to the Top – Kathleen's homespun insights and adventures.

Veggie Garden – Dan is a backyard gardener in nearby Ontario. He is listing some insights about seed companies and getting his spring garden ordered.

Simply Snickers – This is a great blog with a lot of fun things, insights and projects by Linda

Travel Destination – Kathleen also writes a Helium Zone blog about New York's Southern Tier.

You may also be interested in some of these links at Associated Content. Thanks.