Monday, November 25, 2013

November Trapping, Hunting, Lettuce and Garlic


Monday, October 21, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Winter Predictions, Fall Gardens, and 1859 Just Doesn't End

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August - Some Fall Projects and Winter Predictions

Saturday, August 3, 2013

August a Month to Harvest and Plant - and Enjoy the Pickerelweed

 Pickerelweed is blooming in many wetland areas of northwestern Pennsylvania. It is an impressive and important native plant to North America. It has blue flowers on a spike which can rise three feet above the water level. Native bumblebees and honey bees are attracted to this water plant as are species of butterflies and even an occassional humminbird.
Amazingly, there is even one species of native bee which lives simply on this plant. Pickerelweed also provides a habitat for several aquatic species. It is generally accepted the plant, well unofficially, get it's name from the pickerl fish or more commonly called, the water wolf or the northern pike.
It can be purchased in many garden centers and is a great addition to any water garden or pond.
For more information on this important native species, Pickerelweed.

Think Mediterranean

Rosemary is one of the most healthy herb in any garden. Once a native of the Mediterranean regions (think healthy diet), it is now grown around the globe. It is a flavorful herb and an easy plant to grow, best of all, it can be harvested at just about anytime of the year.
In northwestern Pennsylvania, it needs to be brought indoors during the winter months because, well, winter's can be a little brutal. But, no worry. The herb does just fine in a sunny window sill. Another plus, it really doesn't like a lot of water or fertilizer. The herb goes well with fish or wild game and there's something special about rosemary roasted potatoes.
It is a well known and respected medicinal herb and recent research indicates it could help brain power and memory. 
Rosemary also makes a good tea and other garden herbs, honey or maple syrup, can be added to it to personal tastes.
What I just write?
For more details and an overview on this ancient plant, Herb for All Seasons

Home Garden

June and July were really, really, wet months. Hopefully August will see drier conditions. August is a good month to re-plant many crops for a later fall harvest. The growing season is far from over. For some hints and tips, August Garden.
NOTE: Cyclospora is the latest food illness making headlines. Hundreds of people have fallen sick after eating infected packaged lettuce. While not present just yet, in NW PA, the warning lights are once again flashing about foods we consume. For some medical info on this parasite, Cyclospora.
Lettuce is one of the simplest crops to grow in the backyard and it's very healthy. There is plenty of time to plant it in August to enjoy in late September and August. 
Garlic, at least in my garden, is ready to be dug and dried for winter, and re-planting again in October. It is best to take the largest cloves in the garlic bulb and save them for planting sometime before Halloween.

On the Wild Side

Both blackberries and blueberries are ripening fast, both crops seem to be good this year. Here, the apple crop is also very heavy as are the acorns. I have heard it said several times now that those heavy crops are a sure sign of a bad winter. I'm not so sure, all winters get hard after the first few storms.
But back to acorns and oak trees, grow your own this fall. It's a fun, easy and cost free family project which could last for hundreds of years. Plant an Acorn.

Good Blogs to Read:


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bats, Bees, and Mid-Summer Stuff


Monday, July 15, 2013

Get the Blues for Health

 It is now the Blueberry Harvest season in much of the northern areas of the USA and Canada. It's no secret that blueberries are one of the top rated native foods for health and flavor. As a native American bush, the blueberry has quite a long history both in the kitchen and in the medicine cabinet.
They are hardy bushes and can be used attractively as a hedge row in the yard or as a garden border. Why not grow your own?
For some more information and details on the medicinal benefits and how to grow blueberries, Get the Blues.

Mid Summer Harvests

Borage is a beneficial herb to have in any vegetable garden. The dazzling star blue flowers are attractive to the eye and attract many pollinators. The bees enjoy the herb so much it is often call the bee plant. It is hardy, easy to grow, and readily self sows. More details and information on Borage, Get the Blues.

The first Garlic harvest also is ready for harvest in mid-summer, from late June to mid July. The twisting scapes on the hardneck varieties of garlic are flavor and healthy. For more on the scapes, First harvest.
Garlic is usually planted in the fall, usually during October here in Northwestern PA. Check with local growers to see what grows best in your neighborhood. Many roadside stands and farmers markets will be selling garlic bulbs soon. The largest of the cloves in the bulb can be planted for a future harvest in 2014. Gardeners should be aware that the supermarket garlic is generally a softneck garlic which does not produce a scape.





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The md-summer fish kill - the bad blues

Northwestern Pennsylvania had a lot of rain during June as well as some powerful storms, one in Union City and the other in Canadohta Lake. Thankfully, there were no injuries reported in either storm.
The fish in French Creek just below the spillway at the Union City, however, were not so lucky. The rising waters of French Creek trapped hundreds of fish in a hole about 200 feet downstream from the spillway.
When the water receded, the fish died.
The picture above was taken by Brandon Ploss Canadohta Lake who was fishing the spillway area the afternoon of June 17. It is unclear if there have been previous kills in the past and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), responsible for the dam, was unaware of the kill until contacted.
Jason Bowers, the newly appointed USACE manager of the Union City Dam, said he will look into the matter after being informed on July 13.
For some more information and details on the Union City Dam, Flood Control

Political Blues at mid-summer

Last week, food stamps were removed from the 2014 Farm Bill. Food Stamps help to provide nutrition and food to many of the poor, the elderly and the sick. The action is the result of several conservative members of the US House of Representatives.
Many of these same politicians work very hard for special interest groups who don't like paying taxes and have the money and the votes to fund rich American loopholes. Many of these same conservatives preach the Bible – well, the verses they can twist that benefit their agendas. Disgusting.
Please forward a copy of the New Testament Beatitudes to your favorite Representatives.

Good Blogs to Follow



Friday, July 5, 2013

A Grin and Bear It Growing Season

 Spring 2013 was wet and rather turbulent in NW Pennsylvania. The wildflowers, however, haven't seemed to mind the soupy conditions. With the summer solstice on June 21, weather conditions haven't changed much locally. It is like everyone is in a Grin and Bear It attitude.
However, for home vegetable gardeners and commercial farms, the wet weather has created some setbacks. Some corn was not able to be planted because of the wet conditions and some farmers did switch to soy beans and other crops. In some cases, the corn fields were washed away. Very few corn fields were even knee high by the Fourth of July.
Hay, another important crop, has been growing nicely, however, it has been a chore to try and get it off the fields.
Grin and Bear IT time.
Some strawberry fields were simply just lost due to the cool, wet weather.
At home, gardeners without raised beds, are literally sinking up to their knees in mud. There is a developing problem locally with black leaf spot blight in many regions because of the wet conditions. Mulch, such as cedar or grass clippings from lawn mowing helps to control this blight, but be sure to destroy any blighted leaves. There are also copper based sprays which can be used. These sprays need to be re-applied every time it rains.
There is one bright spot in the home garden: Scaps

Like clockwork, the last week of June or so, the scapes begin to develop on the flower stock of fall planted hardneck garlic. By the end of July or thereabouts, the underground garlic bulbs will be ready to harvest.
Scapes are very tasty and are a powerhouse for health.
The odd and twisting scapes are a sign that the underground bulb is nearing maturity. Grow your own and learn more about the benefits of scaps,click Eat Healthy.


It is no secret that the honeybees, both domesticated and feral colonies, are having a tough go lately. There are mites, a mysterious disease dubbed CCD and pesticide sprays.
Nor is it any secret that the bees are essential to agriculture. Scientists claim the bees are responsible that nearly one third of the food we consume.
The bees are also essential for wildlife. The insects help to pollinated many wild nuts, wild apples and other fruits used as food by native wildlife.
Earlier this spring, at least in the NW PA regions, there was a growing concern about the lack of honeybee swarms. A swarm is a natural division of a honey bee hive. Kirk Johnson, the president of the Northwestern BeeKeepers Association was worried and concerned around Memorial Day.
However, the bees started swarming, according to Johnson, and by July 4 he had answered the normal amount of swarm calls and captured his normal amount of swarming bees.
But the recent heavy rains, according to Johnson, have washed much of the pollen and nectar needed by the bees out of many flowers.
Here's a few steps that can be taken to help these important insects, HoneyBees.

Borage is a good herb to help the bees and the vegetable/flower garden:

Get in on the buzz about borage in more detail, Good Herb.


Another valuable herb, Boneset will soon start to bloom. Once used widely before aspirin were available, it is generally used as a medicinal herb. As always, before using a home remedy, check the facts and a medical professional.The herb works wonders for me. For more information, Boneset.

Additional links to what is happening in NW PA:

 Fish Cribs

Bats in Trouble

Well, it's raining again here, Grin and Bear It,  but the water lilies seem to enjoy it.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Coyotes and Groundhogs - Open Season


Saturday, Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day. There is some interesting history about the day such as the Groundhog Meat Packaging Company which was located in Punxsutawney, PA. For a brief overview of some lesser known facts not made known in thousands of magazine and newspaper articles or movies, Groundhog.
What many people may not know, and not included in the link above, is that in Pennsylvania, there is an open season on groundhogs - basically, see one, go shoot it.
Another creature which has an “open season” placed on it's head, is the coyote. Now certainly, theeastern coyote, which is a different animal than the western coyote, can be troublesome. They are secretive and opportunistic; they can and will attack small farm animals, deer and other wildlife, as well as small household pets.
Last weekend in my neighborhood was a coyote hunt which was sponsored by a local organization. In my neighborhood, the hunt attracted a rather large number of hunters and dogs. They traveled in a 12 pick-up truck caravan up and down the back roads to hunt.
It was a nice, mild day in the woods after a week of bitter cold and blowing snow.
No one (landowners, residents) were informed, or even asked, if the property could be used for the hunt. That January thaw day, I was walking my dog, talking to several loggers when shots rang out and dogs began to howl. A white pick-up truck raced up my driveway as the driver was talking on a walkie-talkie.
The somewhat excited driver stopped, jumped out of the truck and told me and the loggers to “Get out, our dogs are chasing a coyote back in those woods”.
Needless to say, the hunter was asked to leave immediately, which he did after a short discussion about, landowner rights, safety and guns. This event was not government organized, nor a government regulation – it was done by a private group of so called citizen “sportsmen”.
I'm a hunter, I enjoy hunting, I don't post our property. But this coyote hunt made me “coyote mad”. This hunt was totally unsafe, a gross violation of the rights of those who pay taxes on the land, and of questionable value to anyone. Now, I like hunting with a dog for birds or rabbits, but I am uncomfortable with using dogs to hunt dogs – why not just leave the dog home and actually “hunt”?
There is a nice hill back where they were hunting where we often take small children to go sledding. Thankfully, that activity was planned for that day. There is also a popular trail for snow mobiles in the immediate vicinity, thankfully at that moment no one was using it. Over the last several days, I have discovered some neighbors were not impressed with this coyote hunt either largely because of safety issues and an apparent lack of respect for others.
I suspect next year's hunt will be properly conducted for the safety of everyone.
Oh, (on the lighter side of things), did you know it was the coyote who made the stars? It's a fun story.

Hay Shortage

Last year wasn't a good year for growing hay in this region. The weather just did not cooperate. The temperatures soared and the rains never came. Then came the army worms. These small caterpillars are rather uncommon in this region and survived in greater numbers because of last year's mild winter weather.
The shortage has led to some pretty high prices for a round bale of hay. Those bales last year sold for $35 - $45, today those same bales, if they can be found, cost $70 to $100.
While most large farms, such as dairy and/or beef, will be able to skimp through until spring, hobby farmers are beginning to feel the pinch. Many of them buy hay from the larger farms for horses and cows. However, there is no hay available. For additional information, Shortage.

February Garden

Planning during the dead of winter helps for a more successful garden. Like many others, I like to try something new every year. This year it just may be sweet potatoes.
February is also a good month to prune fruit trees and bushes such as blueberries. In the woods, this is a good month to be building brush piles on a mild days. Brush piles give the rabbits and other small animals a place to hide when the unexpected coyote hunter comes blazing away unannounced except for his dog howling. In a few short weeks, the peepers could be singing, last year, the chorus started on March 15.
While it seems like the dead of winter, there are signs of spring approaching besides Groundhog Day. It won't be long before maple syrup buckets are hung to collect the sap and sugar shacks become hubs of activity as smoke billows into a cloudless, sunny sky. Maple syrup season is a fun time of the year with many family opportunities to enjoy.



Good Blogs

Step by Step in the Kitchen - Pear-Cranberry Pie

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Hidden Kingdom of Subnivia


It was a nice day for a woods walk Sunday, January 20. There were just patches of snow on the ground and the temperatures were in the upper forties, maybe lower fifties. Subnivia had all but disappeared. 

Christmas Ferns (pictured above) were about the only green in the woods, except for some moss growing on old tree stumps. The Christmas Ferns, however, are hardy, carefree and native plants which have a lot of possibilities for homeowners who have shady and wet spots in the yard - Christmas Fern.

On the mid-January walk, we discovered the newest woodpecker tree. It appears the holes were all freshly made, particularly the bottom hole.

The following day, 1.21.13, there was about six inches of snow and it was coming down hard – Subnivia was thriving once again.

The forecast are predicting upwards of two feet of snow within the next 48 hours. More pictures of the woodpecker tree after the storm passes; currently on 1.22 it is a mere 2 degrees, there is about two feet of snow here and another foot expected tonight and tomorrow.

Dead trees are an important resource and provide both food and shelter for many insects and small animals. Some birds, such as blue birds, will use the cavities pounded out by the woodpeckers for nesting. Squirrels will also use the holes to store food. A dead tree in a woods is actually a hub of activity and can improve the quality of life in the hidden world of Subnivia

Nearby, we are building another and the newest brush pile. A brush pile provides even more protection, shelter and serves as a food source for many small animals, insects and birds particularly in the winter months. The plan is to finish the pile before spring weather arrives and then to plant wild grape vines along the edges and maybe some other flowering vines that can take some shade.

The brush is from a tree that blew over last summer and was cut for firewood. The ashes are then used in the vegetable garden and around a variety of trees, shrubs and perennials. Wood ashes are a valuable resource.

Brush piles also enhance the “under-the-snow” existence of the inhabitants of a hidden world, called “Subnivia”. This hidden and somewhat temperate kingdom exists underneath the snow and the dead brush, fallen branches and trees, as well as old stumps and rocks help to form an under-the-snow passage system for many small animals such as shrews, moles, mice, and a wide variety of insects. Learn some more about Subnivia.

Full Wolf Moon

The first Full Moon of 2013, called the Full Wolf Moon, will be on the evening of January 26. Six days later, the groundhog in Punxsutawney, PA ((Phil) will make his official forecast about the end of winter. Perhaps, wolves will eat woodchucks when they venture out of their holes, but so did people. Learn more about a groundhog meat company and that famous groundhog, Phil.
If your searching for some good winter reading, go to
Sam's books are enjoyable and while fiction, are based in historical facts in northwestern PA. Special note of thanks to Sam for the permission to use his wolf picture which is actually the book cover for a three part series the Silversmith Chronicles. The series is about werewolves – naturally.

Good Blogs to Read