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 http://www.samhosslerwriter.com/authors-page.html
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


Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Wolf Opens 2013



The first Full Moon of 2013 is traditionally called the Wolf Moon. The Wolf Moon will dominated the night sky on January 26. 
The name likely derives from the experiences  of the early pioneers and the First Peoples; January, at least in the north is the coldest month and food is scarce in the woods. The hungry wolves would then approach villages, settlements and pioneer trapper camps in search of food.
But wolves share some human traits; the wolf is a family oriented animal much like humans. The pack would work together to make sure everyone was safe and well fed. It was a matter of survival. For many of the First Peoples, the wolf was a sacred animal ; some believed the wolf taught humans how to hunt and forage for food, for others, the wolf was a spiritual guide with supernatural powers.
Over time, and conflicts with sheep and cattle and ranchers,  the wolf became the “bad guy”. The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood, along with other more recent literary works and movies, helped to re-enforce the bad-wolf stereotype.
 For those in northwestern Pennsylvania, there will be a Full Wolf Moon Walk the night of January 26 at Pymatuning State Park, for more information, Wolf Walk.
Now wolves haven't been seen or heard lately at the State Park, but a very unusual bird for this region was observed recently during the Christmas Bird Count. Learn more about the bird, here.
Special Note: The picture above was sent by author Sam Hossler. The wolf picture is the cover for a three book series, the Silversmith Chronicles. It is a fictional account about two people and werewolves. 
Sam is an established author and has published numerous other historical novels, many based on historical incidents in the pioneer days of northwestern Pennsylvania. For some additional information on Sam and his books, here or here.

Boneset and the Flu
By all accounts, the flu is widespread nearly everywhere. There are a lot of sick people; vaccines and medicine are running low in some areas. It does help, according to health authorities, to eat well, get plenty of rest, wash hands frequently and, according to many, get a flu shot.
I stumbled across an alternative flu treatment one day when I met a logger (he never met or heard a wolf in the woods). He pointed out a white flowering plant and said it was the native herb,boneset pictured above. It can be brewed into a tea and it will help alleviate flu symptoms. It is an herb that the early settlers and First people's knew well for it's curative actions (long before aspirin, flu medicines and flu shots).
The next day, according to the logger's directions, I harvested some of the plants and dried them. Weeks later, feeling somewhat “yuk”, I brewed some of the tea. It has a very bitter taste, so I added honey and some black tea bags. The brew worked, or something did, and I felt better the following day. I have tried the brew twice since then and was “cured” of whatever bug decided to give me a hard time.
As always, consult with a medical professional before using any home remedy and/or at least search it out on the internet. More information, Boneset.
Maple Syrup and Jack Wax

The 97 Pennsylvania State Farm Show was held earlier this month from January 5 – 17. One of the notable winners among local Crawford residents was Janet Woods from Hurry Hill Maple Farm and Museum in Edinboro. A member of the northwestern PA Maple Association, Woods won three of five possible blue ribbons for her maple syrup. More information on her showing and other winners here next week.
The maple association. will have their annual Taste and Tour Open House weekend March 16 and 17. The same weekend will be the annual Edinboro Maple Festival at the Edinboro Fire Department. Pictured above is the annual pancake and maple syrup breakfast held during the Edinboro Maple Festival each day. Special thanks to Allan Montgomery of the Edinboro Historical Society for his photo above. More information will be posted here in the upcoming weeks or visit their Web site Northwestern Pennsylvania Maple Association.
Make plans to attend and visit your local sugar shack and enjoy the Festival. Chances are you'll be able to enjoy some Jack Wax.
Here is a good opportunity for anyone in the region who wants to learn how to make their own maple syrup. The event will be held at the Woodcock Creek Nature Center; it is free and open to the public.
“Backyard Maple Sugaring,” Tuesday, January 29, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., Join Laura Dengler, Crawford Conservation District, and Mark Lewis, DCNR Bureau of Forestry, to learn all the basics of making pure maple syrup in your backyard! Dress for the weather, some activities will be outdoors. Enjoy special treats after the program!
For more information, Conservation District

Good Blogs to Read

Corning New York Step by Step

Uncle Sam's History

Crawford County