July 28, 2014

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Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 9:54 PM

HOPPIN’ DOWN THE BUNNY TRAIL

By Nancy Whitaker

Kids look for the Easter Bunny almost as much as they do for Santa Claus. The thrill of hiding an Easter basket filled with goodies never gets old.

Easter is the second most important candy-eating occasion of the year for Americans who consume 7 billion pounds of candy a year, according to the National Confectioner’s Association.

Now there are some parents who are concerned that their children might eat too much Easter candy. Recently while shopping, I saw a display of Easter toys. One of those toys really enthralled me and I really wanted to buy it.

 
Was your garden winter strong?
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:09 PM

By Kylee Baumle

Gardening is an exercise in patience. Ours has already been tried for nearly the entire year so far. So much of gardening depends on the weather and we know how that’s been.

Lots of snow to move, school delays, cars that won’t start, spring that won’t come. Then it does and we go on walkabout through the gardens to assess the damage. Before we can find out what’s made it and what hasn’t, we give ourselves the standard pep talk to bolster our hopes.

 
Look in The Bible
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:08 PM

LOOK IN THE BIBLE

By Nancy Whitaker

I was raised in a home where Bible reading and teaching was a part of our every day routine. Lots of times in the evenings, we sit in a circle listening to Grandma read the scriptures. So many of those Bible stories and scriptures have not only stuck with me, but they have been my rock and support through the years.

There is always some type of program on television which tries to discredit biblical teachings. They debate the validity of Noah and the ark; the parting of the Red Sea; David killing Goliath and now they are even speculating that Jesus was married.

 
Cover up with cover crops
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:08 PM

By Mark Holtsberry

Education specialist

Paulding SWCD

Cover crops have been enjoying a national rediscovery in the past few years. Healthy plants hold valuable soil in place. Cover crops are plants seeded into the soil in agricultural fields and gardens, either within or outside of the regular growing season, with the primary purpose of improving soil health. Cover crops are unique in that most are planted primarily to boost soil health and not for their seed, fruit, or forage.

 
Angels with names appear at the right time
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:04 PM

By Jim Langham

Every so often seeming “angels with names” appear at just the right time. The last time this happened to me was this past Saturday morning. When I arrived for an Indiana 5K, parking lots were rapidly filling up, so I joined several other cars in a grassy area right beside the parking lot.

I first realized that there could be a problem when I approached the grassy area following the event and noticed that two cars were stuck and a third was churning mightily in an attempt to spin out of the wet quagmire where we had parked.

My first thoughts were, “Surely not.”

 
Tapping and sapping maple trees
Tuesday, April 08, 2014 8:40 PM

 

By Kylee Baumle

If I could name one thing that I enjoy most about gardening, it’s that it is a venue for always learning and experiencing something new. Become a gardener and you’ll never ever be bored. Even if you don’t like some of the activities that tending a garden involves (weeding, anyone?), the perpetual classroom in the great outdoors more than makes up for it.

I suppose there are people who don’t crave knowledge, maybe because they didn’t have a good experience trying to absorb facts in high school, so that they could pass their exams. But so much of life isn’t a test as much as it is learning at our own pace, in the subject matters of our choosing.

Gardening is more than planting seeds, hoeing weeds, and pruning shrubs. It’s an opportunity to see nature at work and the miracles that happen every day if we choose to slow down and observe them. It invariably leads us down related paths, such as watching the insects we encounter while harvesting the vegetables or hearing a bird song that we never noticed before while deadheading the perennials.

An example of related activities occurred for us in late winter and early spring this year, when my husband and I decided to take advantage of the fact that we have maple trees and live in a part of the country with a climate that allows us to tap them for sap.

 

We’ve been around for about six decades now and neither of us had ever even thought to do this before. I’m not sure why we didn’t, because much to our pleasure, we found the whole process to be quite easy and rewarding.

Several weeks ago, we made use of a tree-tapping kit that I was given at one of the trade shows I attended last summer. Using a 1/2-inch drill bit, we drilled a hole two inches deep into one of the larger maple trees we have (probably a silver maple), and immediately the sap began dripping down the side of the tree.

We inserted the spile (that’s what the tap is called) and hung a 2.5-gallon bucket on the attached hook below, to collect the sap as it dripped from the tree. In order for sap to flow, night temperatures need to be below freezing and day temperatures above freezing, creating pressure that causes the tree to draw up groundwater through the roots.

Sugar that the tree stored there the year before is added to the groundwater and then it’s delivered as nourishment to the branches and developing leaves.

If you’ve never tapped maple trees for their sap, you might be thinking that it’s golden and sticky, sort of like pine sap. But it’s clear and thin, just like water, and in its natural state, tastes like it too. It has a very slight sweetness to it, and it’s very healthy to drink it this way, due to its antioxidant qualities and the micronutrients it contains.

In my opinion though, one of the best things about maple sap is boiling it down into maple syrup. We did this in small batches on our stovetop, but because of the amount of steam the process gives off, it would be best to do it outside, if possible. We have a good exhaust fan over our stove that vents to the outside, so it works for us to process it inside.

The maple sap collecting season varies from year to year, both in length and in the sugar content of the sap. The length can be anywhere from two to six weeks long, depending on the weather. This year, the season, which has come to a close for us, lasted about four weeks. Sugar content varies from 1-4%, depending on the type of maple.

Trees need to be 12 inches in diameter before tapping and we tapped three trees. In the end, we collected 42 gallons of sap and ended up with 1.5 gallons of syrup. We’re calling it good and the spiles and buckets are now cleaned and stored for use again next year. The trees will repair the holes by then with no help needed from us, not even plugging.

Until then, we’ll enjoy the maple syrup - nectar of the gods, really. I think it tastes better than honey and I really like honey. If you have maple trees, you should try it.

Read Kylee’s blog, Our Little Acre, at www.ourlittleacre.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OurLittleAcre. Contact her at PauldingProgressGardener@gmail.com.

 

 
A birthday tradition
Tuesday, April 08, 2014 8:39 PM

 

By Jim Langham

Last week, I carried out a very special birthday tradition that I have done for many years.

In the small Indiana town where I was raised, dear friends suffered a heartbreaking tragedy many years ago. They were on vacation in the south. One evening, as they were taking a walk, a driver under the influence crossed the road, went off the road and struck one of two 9-year-old boys, taking his life immediately.

That was many years ago. The remaining twin is now in his mid-20s, had an extremely successful wrestling career, has served our country with honor and is engaged to marry a girl from Scandinavia, a beautiful girl who has warmly been received by the family.

Over the years, the family has suffered emotional lows and lowers as they have sought to grieve and put their late son’s tragedy in some type of perspective. During that time, we have experienced a deep friendship, embracing each other many times in prayers and tears.

 

The twins share my birthday; they were also born on April 1. Each year on that day, the family gathers and takes balloons to the son’s grave in a cemetery just east of Geneva, Ind. There, after a time of meditation, and a placement on the grave of some of the lad’s favorite toys, the balloons are released with the hope that they will ascend towards heaven where they are fully certain that their son is with Jesus and they will some day be reunited with him.

Many years ago, they asked me to join that activity and we would all celebrate our birthdays together. Following the visit to the graveyard, we return to their home for pizza and birthday cake.

Ironically, the mother, especially, is a “cardinal heart” person all of the way. Each year when I visit the family for our special celebration, I take her a cardinal. These days, an entire cabinet in the family home is full of pictures of the son and cardinals. One day when I was visiting with her, we stepped on to their front porch and a beautiful cardinal swooped to us and kept circling us as we were talking.

“That is so comforting,” she said at the time. “I know that our son is okay.”

One day in a stroke of cardinal inspiration, she wrote a poem as though the son had written it to her. I feel it is appropriate to share that at the end of this column. In her scrapbook, a beautiful cardinal is pasted above her poem:

Song Of The Cardinal

For Mom

I sang outside your window today

Telling you it was going to be a wonderful day

I know you miss me I miss you too

But here in heaven the birds sing all day

And every day is a wonderful day

Jesus and I are waiting for you

Tell my brothers and Dad I want them to come too

Heaven is such a wonderful place...

Everyone can come here by God’s amazing grace

So Mom every time you shed a tear

Remember Mom I am still near

Until then I’ll sing you a song

Walking with Jesus till you come along

 

 
Ode to my jeans
Tuesday, April 08, 2014 8:38 PM

 

ODE TO MY JEANS

By Nancy Whitaker

Do you have something that you just can’t get rid of? We all have a favorite pair of shoes, a favorite shirt or a favorite pair of jeans that may be old and holey, but parting with them would be like losing a part of yourself.

If you are like me, I have a pair of jeans that appears like they have seen their better days. However, I love them and intend on wearing them till they fall apart. The old blue jeans are tattered and faded, lost their crispness and they fit a little too tight. However, when I put them on I feel comfortable, at ease and am ready to wear them on my next adventure.

They have been with me when I played the keyboard, attended fairs and festivals, worked in the yard, went on vacation and cleaned the house. They have heard my laughter, felt my hands wiping off flour as I baked a pie, and caught any dripping tears I may have shed through the years.

While attempting to put on these jeans just the other day, I heard a big rrrrrip. I looked down at the front of my leg and sure enough that big hole had just ripped a little bit more. I tugged and pulled to get them over my waist and I said, “Come on old blue-jeans, we are both getting old and tattered, but we still have some life left in us.”

 

I do know that people pay big bucks for the worn look holey jeans. However, these old jeans have had the holes put in naturally by the wear and tear of everyday life.

I see some grass stain on them. I recall that I got that stain one day as I was trying to get in from the rain and slipped and fell. Ouch!

Another thing I see is a paint stain that I received a long time ago when painting an old picnic table. Oh what good family picnics we had.

Down at the end of the pants leg are some frayed strings hanging down. Those were put there by our old deceased weinie dog, Brownie, who loved chewing and tugging on pants legs.

My pockets have partial holes in them, but I can stick a dollar bill in them and a penny for good luck and know they will be secure.

My old jeans have been sweaty, dirty, clean, and new. They have been washed, dried, held grandkids and yes, they have even been to a church function.

They are just like me and a lot of us now, I suppose. As we age, our good looks may fade away, we may look frazzled and torn and we may have holes in us which were put there through the emotional scars of our past.

I am not ready to retire my old jeans, and even though I, too, am getting faded and older, I think I still have a few good years left in me. Let’s go old jeans and find our next destination. Our trip has just begun!

Do you have any old jeans, shoes, shirts or something that you dearly love and would not part with? Let me know and I’ll give you a Penny for Your Thoughts.

 

 
Interesting facts about the American Coot
Tuesday, April 08, 2014 8:38 PM

 

By Mark Holtsberry

Education specialist Paulding SWCD

For my daily walkers and building renters, have you noticed some different bird and duck activitiy? The nature center has a pair of American coots temporarily living here. Although commonly mistaken to be ducks, the American coot belongs to a distinct order. Unlike the webbed feet of ducks, coots have broad lobed scales on their lower legs and toes that fold back with each step in order to facilitate walking on dry land.

Coots live near water, typically inhabiting wetlands and open water bodies in North America. The American coot is a plump, chicken-like bird with short wings, visible on the rare occasions they take flight. Their dark bodies and white faces are common sights in nearly any open water across the continent, and they often mix with ducks.

They are closer relatives of the gangly Sandhill than of mallards or teal. The American coot is listed as “least concern” under conservation ratings. Hunters generally avoid killing American coots because their meat is not as sought after as that of ducks.

 

You’ll find coots eating aquatic plants on almost any body of water. Coots generally build floating nests nd lay 8-12 eggs per clutch.

Females and males have similar appearances, but they can be distinguished during aggresive displays by the larger ruff (head plumage) on the male. The American coot measures 13-17 inches in length and 23-28 inches across the wings. Females are smaller in size, averaging 1-1/2 pounds, while males average 1-3/4 pounds. Juvenile birds have olive brown crowns and a gray body. They become adult color around four months of age.

The American coot can dive for food but can also forage and scavenge on land. It is carnivorous, eating plant material, arthropods, fish, and other aquatic animals. Its principal source of food is aquatic vegetation, especilly algee.

The American coot is a prolific builder and will create multiple structures during a single breeding season. It nests in well concealed locations in tall reeds. There are three general types of structures; display platforms, egg nests and broad nests.

So on your travels to the nature center, you can take a sneak peak at the centers newest arrival, the American coot.

 

 
The saga of the tomato hornworm
Tuesday, April 08, 2014 8:37 PM

 

The saga of the tomato hornworm

By Bill Sherry

Late last summer as I harvested a bumper crop of tomatoes I noticed several tomatoes and the leaves of the plant had been partially eaten. Upon closer examination, I noticed, or should I say I was startled by, several large green worms feasting on my tomato plants. I found that my moth identification book called these worms the tomato hornworm because of the large, horn-like growth at the rear of its body and noted that the tomato hornworms are a common large caterpillar that defoliates tomato plants. Their large size (3-4 inches long) and voracious appetite allows them to strip a tomato plant of foliage in a short period of time, so they frequently catch gardeners by surprise.

I took one of these monster worms to church the next Sunday. I used it for my children’s message about things God has made that we don’t often see. One young lady was fascinated with this monster worm, played with the worm and asked if she could take it home. I had brought some extra tomato leaves and we talked briefly after church about putting a couple inches of dirt in the bottom of the gallon jar and feeding the monster tomato hornworm until it didn’t want any more to eat.

 

The next Sunday, the young lady brought the jar back and informed me that the worm had stopped eating and that she could not see it any more. That’s because the tomato worm had borrowed under the soil and had formed a pupa. This is how the tomato hornworm pupa will remain until winter is over. I put the jar with the tomato hornworm pupa and buried in about 2 inches of garden soil in my unheated garage for the winter. This morning I was reminded that winter is almost over and something is about to happen.

I retrieved the jar from the garage this afternoon and the pupa is still buried in the garden soil inside the jar. It’s time to bring the jar out of the garage and expose it to some of the upcoming springlike weather and give the tomato hornworm a chance at changing from the ugly worm and pupal stage of life into a beautiful sphinx moth that loves to sip on the nectar of the spring flowers as it prepares to lay eggs on my tomato plants later in the summer.

In my opinion, the eggs will hatch and later in the summer I will find a some large green worms eating my tomato plants again this year.

I do hope to see you in church this Sunday; we need to talk because we have something in common.

William W. Sherry is a correspondent for the Paulding County Progress.

The opinions stated are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.

 

 
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