Monday, March 8, 2010

March: Clocks, Cougars, Potting Soil and Bats

Spring has Sprung!

Last week, the geese were back, honking and the next day the black starlings, sure signs that winter is about to flee. The days have been cool with bright sunshine, followed by nighttime temperatures in the teens, a sign the time has arrived to practice the ancient art of maple syrup making. Buckets were hung in many woodlands this past weekend.
If your in the northwest Pennsylvania region on March 20th and 21st, be sure to check out the Taste and Tour open house at dozens of maple sugar shacks throughout the region. It is fascinating - and lot of history; watch some amazing old-time skills and enjoy good tasting natural products. It is free and the price of products usually very inexpensive compared even to large discount chains. For more info on the Taste and Tour Open House, click here.

A few other dates to keep in mind:
1.Johnny Appleseed Day is March 11
2.March 14 -Daylight Savings Time begins! Established originally during World War I and then again re-established during World War ll to conserve energy and it has been observed ever since. Longer hours of daylight at the end of the day are sort of nice but not too sure how much “energy” is actually saved.
3.March 20th First Day of Spring.
4.March 29th – Full Worm Moon also called the Full Sap Moon.

Potting Soil and Seedlings

With sunny days and warmer than zero wind chill factors, a lot of people are thinking veggie gardens and starting their own plants. The biggest expense is potting soil, hands down. However, there have been generations of gardeners who never had the expensive convenience and who grew some pretty darn nice gardens.
There is no secret to making your own potting soil with most of the material readily available. Spring is a good time to start for next year if you don't already have a compost pile. Good mature compost is essential as is well rotten sawdust or leaves and a handful or two of sand.
It does help to pasteurize your homemade potting soil to kill bad bacteria which can harm tender seedlings. This can be done easily by placing the homemade potting soil in a black plastic bag in the sun or under glass (as in a cold frame or primitive solar panel). The soil mixture should be heated, according to many garden writers, to about 160 degrees for a half hour or so.
This piece on “How to Make Your Own Potting Soil”, is a good start but there are others as well. The advantages of making your own potting soil are numerous. It is by far more eco-friendly than using commercial mixes and some mixes do contain harmful chemicals. If the compost and the soil used in the mixture are also from the veggie garden, the plants right from the get go are adjusted to the soil and nutrients available. For those who have container gardens or houseplants, the homemade mix saves considerable amounts of money and ensures some pretty healthy plants.
Potting soil was made for hundreds of years before the packaged mixes. It takes a little time, perhaps some experimentation, but the end result will be more success and makes for a great family project.

The Bats

Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, is a mysterious and serious problem with honey bee colonies throughout North America. Currently, another mysterious disease is impacting the bats particularly in eastern sections of North America. The disease, an unknown white fungus, has killed thousands of bats during hibernation.
Bats are really very beneficial and eat literally thousands of bugs during the night. Without the large colonies of bats, a buggy year can be expected; many of the insects are not only common pests and disease carriers, they can damage our forests and woodlands if left unchecked.
Halloween and vampire stuff aside, the bats are needed in the environment. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette had a good run down on the problem this past Sunday.


Maybe it is the end of the winter blues but there have been some rumors about cougar sightings in this neighborhood in the last several weeks. Naturally, according to the rumors, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is stocking the animals to control the coyote population, which they also introduced to control the deer herds.
Good Grief! There was once a rumor the Game Commission stocked rattle snakes to control the turkey population!
The latest sightings have ZERO evidence to back up the claims despite the heavy snow cover and despite the fact that even a 1 pound squirrel leaves tracks in the snow.
Now, there are likely some animals out there that few people have seen or heard, and yes, there might even be a cougar or two – somewhere. But 99.9 percent of these stories don't hold water.
Certainly, there are coyotes. They were howling last night for the first time in quite a few months. If the truth be known, it is doubtful they do as much damage as some say.
There is a lot of complete nonsense every now. Thanks BW for the nice photo of the house cat getting ready for a free meal.

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