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.