Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dear Hillary Shamers, I'm So Over You

It's very upsetting. I'm a Bernie Sanders supporter, and I'm sick to death tired of being shamed by the Clinton supporters.

And sadly, the latest in this line is a renown journalist from my own home town, who I respect a great deal, Connie Shultz. She just posted this column, and I feel compelled to reply.

I am only a year younger than Connie, and I grew up in a household filled with staunch Republicans. Imagine my father's dismay when I began, at the tender age of 14, to become filled with a passion for social justice. And all because of our church youth group, which was headed by an amazing woman, Frannie Milward.

In 1972, the United Farm Workers were again protesting the conditions of workers who picked lettuce and grapes. And our youth group decided we would join in a march in downtown Cleveland. I don't remember the exact date, it was warm, so sometime in summer. We marched with picket signs, to a fair amount of derision. And I was lucky enough to be interviewed for one of the Cleveland television stations (long before the days of YouTube, so I am sure there's no record of it.)

I spoke passionately about how all people should be treated fairly, regardless of nationality, job, or economic status. I truly felt that then, and I feel it now, some 44 years later. From then on, I was a die-hard Democrat.

In the spring of my senior year in high school, I worked for Jimmy Carter's campaign (thank you Margaret G. for bringing me along with you!) It was sometimes boring, it was sometimes hard (not everyone I spoke to on the phone liked Carter, not hardly.) But it taught me the value of persistence, and how to make a cold call, a valuable skill.

And ever since then I have been a Democrat. I've done some volunteer work here and there, nowhere near as much as I'd like, but some.

When Barack Obama stood on the DNC stage in 2004 and gave his speech, I turned to my husband and said "that man, should he choose to run, could be President." And he did, and he was.

And earlier today, after a harrowing night watching the results come in in Kentucky where I live, I mused on my Facebook wall about the conundrum I felt I was in. I just don't know if I will be able to bring myself to vote for Clinton, should she be the nominee.

I am, to my deepest core, a Sanders supporter. I've never done anything rude, I've never shouted at anyone (online or otherwise), I've never done any of the things that the "Bernie Bullies" get shamed for.

But shamed I have been, and frankly, I'm tired of it. I do not feel Sanders needs to give up. It ain't over 'til it's over, and I personally think he should go all the way to the Convention, regardless of the results of the remaining primaries.

I'm not asking Clinton supporters to change their views. I haven't posted anything negative about Clinton, not once (there are enough people who do that and then some.) I am disgusted with the DNC and how they're handling things, I think there has been demonstrated interference and mishandling of caucuses and votes. But I'm not blaming Clinton for that.

But I do wish that Clinton supporters would stop with the tut-tutting. It's unseemly, and I really hate seeing it being done by people I respect. Don't blame Bernie for the actions of some people over whom he has no control. That's hardly fair.

And don't color those of us who don't indulge in that behavior with the same brush. That's just unacceptable.

In the immortal words of my mother, "Rise above it."

Monday, May 2, 2016

Messages You're Missing on Facebook

Did you know there was a whole section of your Messages area on Facebook which has things in it you may not even know about? It's called "Filtered" and it contains messages which FB decides that you may not want to see, and won't see, unless you go look in there. Who knew?

This is not a farm-related topic, but a friend asked me to explain this, and this is the easiest way to do so.

Start by going to the Home page on Facebook, which should look like this:

Hover your mouse over the Messages menu, and click on it to go to your Messages.

Once you're in your Messages area, you'll see three options; Unread, Filtered, and Archived:

Click on Filtered, and be amazed at what shows up at the left, messages you've never seen and had no idea were there! Apologize profusely to anyone who was inadvertently ignored, and delete the conversations you don't want.

Thanks Facebook, for being my nanny. #eyeroll

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Animals Will Tell You, If You Listen

This morning as I took the dogs out, I heard Old Crow. He was sitting atop the big Black Locust tree in the west pasture by the barn, cawing like mad. I knew he was upset about something, but couldn't see what it was. Sometimes it's just me, or me and the dogs. But today his voice was particularly strident, and sure enough, out from behind the barn sauntered Coyote.

I reached back in the house and grabbed my husband's rifle. Loaded, cocked, shot, missed. No surprise, it's not my gun, and I'm not used to the sighting system. Coyote ran off down to the east pasture, where he sat on his haunches and looked at me, bold as brass. Far too far for me to hit, but I tossed another shot at him anyway, just to run him off. Into the woods he went.

Looked down and two dogs were by my side, the third missing. I hollered, I called, I yelled. No Jethro. So I brought the other two inside (who all but knocked me over to get in), and then went to the front door. There he was! Jethro doesn't think much of shooting.

I then went upstairs so I could look out A's bathroom window, which shows the west pasture much more clearly. And the horses told me where Coyote was, slinking through the woods to the southwest of them. I didn't see him again, but watched the horses until they began to eat once more.

The animals will tell you, if you listen. That's all you have to do.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Flower Jellies in the Spring

Today as I drove into town I saw that the Redbud trees in our area are starting to bloom. And I remembered the delicious jelly I made from them, and later from the Black Locust trees on our farm. Redbud trees in full bloom are gorgeous. They are a member of the Legume family, which means their flowers are edible, and because of their lovely color, make a gorgeous jelly!

I cannot tell a lie, I did not develop the recipe I used myself, I found it online here:
Frugal Like Grandma

Clearly, this blogger has her stuff together, and not just because we have the same taste in blog backgrounds.

At any rate, I went out last spring and spent quite a long time picking redbud blossoms (the most tedious part is the picking and cleaning of the flowers.) I rinsed them and then followed the recipe exactly.

I am lucky, I have a large water bath canner left over from the days when we had dairy goats and used it to pasteurize the milk.

Once finished, the jellies were a gorgeous shade of pink. I will note however, that even in a dark pantry they lost their pretty color by Christmas time (I had saved some to use as gifts for loved ones), so use them sooner rather than later.

Once I got started and did more research, I found you can make jellies from any number of flowers and trees, who knew? I then made some jelly from our Black Locust trees, which have a pretty white blossom and which make a lightly yellow-tinged jelly. Equally delish, of course.

Later this year I want to branch out into even more floral jellies. I found another blog which listed a whole host of things that can be used to make tasty jellies, the only limit is your energy and time. This has Sixteen Flower Jellies listed. (No, I am not a "prepper" but that's a pretty cool list, so check it out anyway.) But in the meantime, consider making some of these pretty and tasty jellies.
You'll be glad you did!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Tips for Aspiring Beekeepers

Last year was our first year keeping bees. We did pretty well (knock wood) and made it through winter with three out of three hives. We have two hives of Italian bees, and one of Carniolan.

We had four hives at the end of summer, but lost one to robbing in the late fall. Italian bees tend to rob a lot, and I learned from the experience, so won't let it happen again.

A number of people are interested in getting into bees it seems, so I put together this list of tips for the aspiring "beek."

In no particular order:

1) Order your supplies/hive components in late fall. This will allow you to assemble and paint etc. with plenty of time. If you haven't ordered things yet, do it right now, this minute.

2) Plan on having at least two hives. That allows you to compare them and their progress, which will help ensure your success.

3) Order your bees in Dec/Jan, depending on your location. Don't wait until spring when bee supply houses are crazy busy. Again, do it now if you haven't done it already.

3) Get at least one good book (I liked Beekeeping for Dummies.)

4) Watch videos on YouTube! You can't watch too many, really.

5) Join a local beekeeping club, take a class, see if you can find a local mentor. They will be invaluable when you have questions and need to see things hands-on.

6) Having done both, I suggest buying a nuc. Packages are slightly cheaper, but nucs will put you farther ahead in less time, and are more than worth it.

7) Plan your apiary location based on local weather. You want some basics: facing east/southeast, easy to work around, raised to keep predators at bay (skunks and the like). Far better to get the location right the first time than have to move the bees.

8) Learn when your local main nectar flow is. Ideally, get your bees well established before it is over, if you can.

9) Learn about what trees and plants provide nectar in your area. You'll want to think about planting some (especially trees) if you can.

10) There are a lot of good online groups and forums about bees, many of which are filled with helpful people. But also, be aware of the adage "Ask ten beekeepers a question and be prepared for at least twelve answers."

Good luck to you! I have found this a wonderful project, and bees fascinate me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Birder Ethics and Etiquette

I'm in a very bad mood today. Yesterday something happened that I had feared would happen for about a week.

Last week a Snowy Owl was seen in southeastern Ohio, and the birding community in the area was hugely excited, naturally so.

While Snowys aren't really rare, they are unusual to find this far south, and when they are it's called an irruption. Irruptions of birds are when they're found outside of their normal range. When there is an irruption of Snowys, it typically is linked to the availability of their usual prey, lemmings.

When the lemming population booms, adult Snowy Owls will raise more young. That means more juvenile birds competing for food and territory when winter arrives. Which leads to them ranging further south than they normally do, and some lucky birders getting to see them who normally would not.

As well, being a huge, gorgeous raptor, these birds have major eye appeal, and that's not even taking into account the popularity of Hedwig, the owl from the Harry Potter series.

So it's natural that people are excited when a Snowy is spotted locally, and birders will "twitch" to see the rarity. Twitching means dedicated birders will travel quite a distance to see the bird which is out of its normal range. Often distance, money, and time are no object to the Twitcher, with the goal being to a) add the bird to a Life List, and b) take a fabulous photo (which you can then post online and earn the accolades of all your friends.)

I have been interested in birds since I was a young child. I have early memories of lying on the floor of the living room of my childhood home, listening as my mother played records of bird songs so that she could learn to identify birds by their songs alone. My mother was an avid birder ever since I can remember, and she and I both come from a long line of conservationists.

As well, my grandfather was known for his love of owls, (he had one as a youth), so much so that over the years, all anyone gave him were owl-themed gifts, and he even named his country cottage Owl House.

So the owl as a genus is near and dear to my heart, even more so than other birds. And when I heard there was a Snowy in SE Ohio, the message filled me with dread rather than joy.

Why? Because I knew that Twitchers would be coming from near and far to photograph the bird and view it. I knew that despite the best efforts of responsible birders, the bird would likely be harassed. You see, these birds who are far out of their normal range are usually under or malnourished, and need to be left alone so that they can hunt in peace. Every time the bird flies it's using energy that could be saved, and over time this can lead to illness and even death.

This is not an unknown problem, especially among birders. I mean, even the Huffington Post did an article about this just six days ago. So my fears are far from unjustified.

Did I go see the bird (which would have been a lifer for me)? No. Did I go to photograph it (I am a professional photographer, among other things.) No. Why? Because I felt my very presence would have the potential to harm the bird. In science, the term Observer Effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed. And so I decided not to go join the crowds who were observing the bird, despite wanting to see it very badly.

I also took one further step. I am the founder and an Admin of the Kentucky Birders group on Facebook. As such I posted the link to the article above in the group, and told members that I did not want posts giving the location of Snowy Owls in the group, as I didn't want to add to the throngs already doing so in other Facebook groups. And I didn't want photos being posted in a competition of sorts, to see who could get the best close-up shot of the bird.

Yesterday, to my extreme dismay, what I and others feared came to pass. The owl was killed by a car. Now, no one can say for sure that it was killed because of all the people who were watching it day after day. It may just have been a young, dumb bird which roosted and flew about in a dangerous place. That's Nature, and I get that. But we do also know that on Sunday there were people who were harassing the bird, getting too close, and ignoring other birders who pleaded with them to stop.

Is one bird dead really a big deal in the overall scheme of things in the world today? Of course not. But the intense desire of humans to capture a trophy (photo) and bragging rights of seeing a "lifer" does disturb me. There was quite a lot of discussion online about it last night, and I finally wound up leaving one group because my point of view wasn't overly popular, and I didn't feel like having to defend myself. I hope that if nothing else, I was able to get the Admins of that group to consider their policies about allowing posts and photos of this type.

I don't really know what the answers are. Do I think everyone should have an opportunity to see a magnificent bird outside of its usual range? I will answer with a qualified yes, because clearly we can't all control the environment, and ultimately the bird pays the price when things go wrong. People can post teary emoticons all they'd like, but that doesn't bring the bird back.

Perhaps all birders, new and experienced, need to think long and hard about their ethics and behavior, and consider Cornell University's eBird's Guidelines For Reporting Sensitive Species. It's what I follow, and I encourage other birders to do the same. I think we should all consider whether adding a life bird to our list is worth endangering the bird itself's life. I know I don't think so.