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.