Thursday, February 19, 2015

February Snowpocalypse

 February Snowpocalypse...It's been a long, frigid and snowy winter, not just here in northwestern Pennsylvania but throughout most of North America. The snow depth here is over three feet and drifts are, well, over my waist.
You can hear cheering when the temps get above zero.
It's been a brutally cold week, Wind chills have been in the minus twenty to thirty range most of this last week. Actually, most of February has been a deep freeze.
Be sure to check in on neighbors, those who are older and those with health problems. Keep an eye on pets when they are outside. This is serious weather and the upcoming weekend promises more of the same. The upcoming weekend will see more moderate temps, hopefully. Beyond the weekend, well more cold and snow.
Be very careful with space heaters, a leading cause of many winter fires. For some safety tips, BE SAFE.
There are some hopeful signs. Daylight is increasing and March 21, the first day of spring is about a month away.

Maple Syrup Open House Taste and Tour

The Northwestern Pennsylvania Maple Producers Association is sponsoring the 10th annual Maple Taste and Tour Open House the weekend of March 14 and 15. The association covers five counties including Erie, Crawford, Warren, Mercer and Venango.
Each participating Sugar House will have a wide range of activities, such as horse or tractor driven hay rides, maple demonstrations, information on backyard sugaring and much, much more. Each will also have a wide variety of maple products to sample and for purchase.
It's a fun time for people of all ages and a great family to do activity.
Even if you are not from this region, there are motel and hotel accommodations at special prices.For more information on the individual sugar houses who are participating, directions and activities scheduled, as well as overnight lodging, Taste and Tour.

The Bees

As mentioned earlier, myself and two others are planning on getting several bee hives this spring. It's a fascinating hobby and or business venture (and somewhat costly). Winter has had something of an upside - time for reading. We bought three different books to read, and have been spending time online with various bee keeping sites as well as watching numerous You Tube videos.
We have been attending various bee workshops and talking with much more experienced bee keepers.
And doing a lot of planning.
One thing discovered is the herb, or to many the weed, Plantain. It is used to make a save to help with bee stings, which are going to happened raising bees. Plantain is a rather common weed throughout most of North America and particularly in the vegetable garden. It's hard to eradicate where it's not wanted because of it's large tap root.
However near the bee yard, I am going to plant a patch of it just so there is access to it promptly. Along with other First Aid helps.
For the bees ( and us), we are also planting a variety of blueberry bushes and a rather large, wild flower bee garden. Along with milkweed for the Monarchs, borage, called the bee herb will be sown.
I've always planted the borage and once it begins to bloom in early summer, the flowers are literally covered with so many bees, you can hear the buzz.
The final post below is about borage from a re-written version of one which I published several years ago, if you want to discover more about this valuable herb.
Please email questions or comments to

And Just For the Heck of It.

Honeybees have an amazing sense of smell. They communicate, find their way home (each hive has a specific odor), and locate food using their 170 odorant receptors.


         Borage, a little known herb in North America, is a good plant, almost of hero status in the vegetable or flower garden. An attractive herb with blue, star shaped flowers, it attracts many gentle pollinators such as honeybees and bumblebees.
              So many bees can be attracted to this flowering herb, also called the bee plant, one can even hear the buzz. It is an important herb, food source, for the pollinators, a population of insects which have been in serious decline for several years because of a lack of  nutrients, pesticides and habitat.
              The herb, Borage is said to make tomatoes even taste better for some. But with all the bee activity around the flowers, which can open in late spring in many northern areas, it is sure to increase pollination and consequently more vegetables, like tomatoes, squash and peppers.
              Borage, which originates from the Mediterranean region, is a highly regarded herb particularly in Spain. In many regions, the honey produced from fields of Borage is highly regarded for it's taste and light color.
              The herb, Borage, is edible; the leaves and stems can be used in salad and have a mild cucumber flavor. Dried it can be used as a relaxing tea. The brilliant blue flowers can also be used in salads and are often used as a cake garnish or frozen in ice cubes and used to decorate drinks. The leaves can also be dipped in a batter and fried like a fritter for an unusual gourmet delight.
              Borage is an easy herb to grow. The large black seeds can be planted in the spring and they usually sprout rather quickly depending on weather conditions.  The herb is a rapid grower and can produce vibrant blue flowers in the matter of a few weeks.
              Borage has another useful habit. It readily reseeds itself and new sprouts appear the following spring. These sprouts can be readily transplanted to areas where they are needed. Or, as Jack Frost threatens, the plant, which can reach upwards of 24 inches, can be cut down, and placed in an area where it can grow the following year.  The seed will germinated. (I’ve been doing this for several years now, just place the plant on the ground during the fall. Presto, it’s magic, new borage plants readily sprout in the spring)
              Borage is a useful herb to consider in either the vegetable or flower garden. It is easy to grow, rather carefree and provides a stunning display of blue flowers. As many farmers, gardeners, researchers and scientists become increasingly concerned about the decline in our native pollinators, this is one good herb to plant and grow.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

February Snow Fun - Outdoors and Indoors

This upcoming weekend will bring some brutally cold air into the northwestern Pennsylvania region with temps hardly at zero. Wind chills are expected to be in the -20 to -30 degree range. Some snow is also expected and the same pattern could persist until mid week. Be careful, dress properly and take the necessary safety steps. Be careful of pets and check in on neighbors, old and young, healthy and sick.
Saturday, Valentines Day, there is an ice fishing tournament at Canadohta Lake (it was once called Washington Lake) and a Winter Festival at Pymatuning.
For others, I'd imagine the weekend will be spent indoors, feeding wood stoves and checking out gardening catalogs, watching movies and playing games.

Both gardens, one large and the other a raised bed, are still buried under three feet plus of hard packed snow. It's next to impossible to get anywhere near the fruit trees and berry bushes which need to be pruned. However, we are doing some planning for the upcoming spring.
We are planning on getting at least two bee hives and are currently working (well planning) on a wildflower garden for them which will be about a ¼ acre and adjacent to the larger vegetable garden. The native plant garden will include milkweed, a native plant needed by the monarchs and good for the bees.
Another project is our worm farm. Luckily, there are two old refrigerators which will be used for the worms and in turn there will be plenty of good garden compost and worms for fishing.
Last year, I really wanted to make my own mustard from our own home grown mustard seed. But, ran out of time. But this year, it's going to happen and have been searching for the best mustard plants/seeds to plant to make a hot and spicy mustard.

Here at Koyote Hill there will be plenty of searching, reading, planning and games all weekend. If you have any comments or insights, we would appreciate hearing from you, Thanks.

As mentioned in the last post, Feb. 22 is usually celebrated as George Washington's Birthday. Washington traveled in northwestern Pennsylvania when he was in the British Army and re-named the “River of Beef” - French Creek.
Today, the creek and it's watershed area are recognized nationally for their environmental importance.
Below is an article to discover more about this amazing waterway. Pictured below is a summer photo taken last year by the French Creek Conservancy. (Enough of snow and ice photos)

          French Creek in northwestern Pennsylvania snakes through scenic rolling hills, aging small villages,  and a patchwork of neat family farms. The journey begins begins  in rural Chautauqua County in western New York before it wanders into Pennsylvania through the counties of Erie, Crawford, Mercer and Venango.  After it's 117 mile journey, it meets it's destination, the Allegheny River and eventually the Ohio River, and the Mississippi.
              The waterway is steeped in history because of it's north south route. It was a pivotal transportation route for the Native American peoples between the Ohio River basin and the Great Lakes, and later for the European  explorers who were discovering and trapping the North American wilderness.
              The early French settlers called “River of Beef”, because of the presence of water bison, and erected several supply forts, including one called LeBoeuf, which is located at present day Waterford, Pennsylvania in Erie County. The French built the forts to help firm their grip on the western territories they claimed as par of their colonial empire.
              The French presence did not sit well with the the British. In 1753, 21 year old George Washington, then a British military officer,  canoed the creek upstream to the LeBoeuf Fort to warn the French to leave the territory which the the British governor of Virginia believed belong to the Crown and the British Empire.
              The diplomatic mission failed and the result was the bloody French and Indian War. Washington during that pre-war journey, renamed the River of Beef to French Creek, as recorded in his journal written during December 1753, a name which remains centuries later. It would be decades later, that Washington spent time on another river in December, the Delaware.
              In 1922, a statue of Washington, dressed in a British military uniform was dedicated in Waterford which still remains. It is believed to be one of a few unique statues which depicts America's first president in a British uniform.
              While the creek was important in early American history, it's environmental qualities are almost unsurpassed. Many environmental organizations and religious, civic and educational groups have long recognized the important natural qualities of the waterway and it's importance to the vitality of the entire region.
              French Creek is often called an “old river” by environmental organizations because of the lack of man made disturbances. Many sections of the creek remain much the same as they did centuries ago.
              Mussels are a good indicator of  pristine water quality. Some 26 species of freshwater mussels have been identified in the old river; 13  of these species are ranked on either federal or state rare and endangered lists. Amazingly, some mussel beds are believed to be over 1,000 years old.
              Eighty species of fish have been documented in the old river including some rare and endangered species of darters found nowhere else in Pennsylvania. Numerous species of birds, including a re-emerging bald eagle population, are common sights in the region as well as numerous unusual aquatic insects. Native flora and fauna still flourish along the the river area; some colonies have remained undisturbed for centuries.
              Since French Creek remains a very healthy creek, it has attracted a large number of diversified groups of people. Several times a year there are canoing events down portions of the still pristine creek. These events help to raise environmental awareness as hundreds of people are able to view eagles and the hellbender salamanders, the largest amphibian found in Pennsylvania, numerous song birds and several species of turtles, numerous white tail deer and uncommon colorful and ancient wildflowers.
              The economic impact of the healthy creek is important to the local area, as visitors stop to get gas, groceries or shop in the small businesses, in home based operations from quilt shops to fish bait, in the small towns and isolated crossroads.
              Many who participate in the organized “floats” down the creek, return often with families for a weekend or vacation, filling local campgrounds and visiting the historical sites and museums and historical organizations, which dot the area.
              Because the creek remains environmental healthy, fishing is excellent throughout the entire watershed and hundreds of anglers visit the area on a year round basis. There has been trophy muskie and northern pike harvested, as well as, a number of other game fish species, including walleye, perch and bass.
              School districts throughout the region use the area as a living classroom for local students. There are classes in water quality testing and related water issues; classes on the natural environment which focus on stream bank restorations and tree plantings, and wildlife studies and research projects. The regional colleges and universities also cooperate with other groups and individually in research projects.
              Senior citizens groups are actively involved in research, monitoring projects and volunteer work. Frequently, they work together with high school and college students and other civic organizations. The environmental vitality of the watershed has a direct impact on an improved quality of life.
              The region attracts a number of state and national environmental groups which have purchased property and have constructed research facilities. It is not uncommon to see birders from hundreds of miles away observing the wide variety of birds which live in the area, archaeologists and historians, geologists, botanists and biologists.
              For the locals, the creek offers countless possibilities for recreation and simple enjoyment; there are hot summer days and a favorite swimming with an inner tube, or personal fishing hole, hiking trails and camps sites.
              A healthy, clean river means a better quality of life, a renewed vitality for it's people, and can be an economic resource and a national treasure.                     
And Just for the Heck of It

Thinking about warm weather and rainbows, again. The 7 colors in a rainbow are: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. However, the human eye can see over 100 color variations in a rainbow.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

February: Washington, French Creek, Bison and well, maybe Onenge

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hey Wojak? Shadow or No?