Friday, July 31, 2009

Recipe File: Scandinavian Burgers

From Burgers: Comfort Food by Charles Pierce. Andrews and McMeel, 1997

Beet greens, which have a delicate, spinachy flavor, are a colorful garnish for these savory hurgers speckled with diced beets. Serve these burgers with a Russian salad -- tiny cubes of cooked carrots and potatoes, tiny green peas, and sliced cooked green beans -- all bound together with a little mayonnaise. It's a winning combination.

Mustard Dill Sauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Salt & freshly ground pepper

Burgers

1 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground veal
4 medium-size beets, cooked, peeled & cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 small scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped capers
Salt & freshly ground pepper

8 thick slices Russian black bread
1 cup well-washed beet greens, thinly sliced

Prepare the mustard dill sauce: In a small bowl, combine the oil, sugar, vinegar, and lemon juice. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the mustard and dill, and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate. covered, until ready to serve. (The sauce can be made up to
day in advance.)

Preheat a grill to medium-hot or preheat the broiler.

Prepare the burgers: In a large bowl, lightly knead together the chuck, veal, beets, scallions and capers.
Use wet hands to form 4 patties about 3/4 inh thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Grill or broil the burgers to the desired degree of doneness.

Place the burgers on 4 of the slices of bread. Top each with a spoonful of sauce and sprinkle with the beet greens. Cover with the remaining bread. Serve ot with the remaining sauce on the side.

Serves 4.

Recipe Archive

Good Weight: Top 10 Consumer Complaints

Complaints about cars, homes and credit the top concerns of consumers across America in 2008, according to a survey of state and local consumer agencies. Debt collection topped the list of the fastest growing complaints.

Following are the complaint categories that most frequently appeared in the agencies’ top ten lists. Their ranking in the top ten in 2007 is noted in parenthesis.

Top Consumer Complaints for 2008

1. Auto: (1) Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes

2. Home Improvement/Construction: (2) Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job

3. Credit/Debt Collection: (3) Billing and fee disputes, mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt settlement, predatory lending, illegal or abusive collection tactics

4. Utilities: (5) Service problems, billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas services

5. Retail Sales: (4) False advertising, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, nondelivery

6. Services: (9) Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure
to perform

7. Household Goods: (6) Major appliances and furniture, problems with nondelivery,
misrepresentations, faulty repairs

8. Landlord/Tenant: (10) Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide
promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics

9. (tie) Internet Sales: (7) Misrepresentations, nondelivery in online purchases; Home
Solicitations: (8) Misrepresentations, nondelivery in door-to-door, telemarketing and
mail solicitations, do-not-call violations

10. Health Products and Services: (not in top 10 in 2007) misleading claims, failure to
deliver.

The survey was conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Farm Kitchen: Breakfast in Baghdad

Breakfast in Baghdad is often preceded by tea or coffee served in bed. The morning meal itself usually consists of tea or coffee, khubz or bread, cream, date sirup, and honey. The Western menu of fruit, eggs, cereal, meat, jam, and coffee is gaining popularity with Iraqis who have traveled or who live where Westerners mingle with them in business or social life.

from Good Food from the Near East: Five Hundred Favorite Recipes From Twelve Countries
by Joan Rowland

Rural Delivery: Harnessing an Instinct

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1994. All rights reserved.

As Patrick Shannahan's stock dogs work a herd of sheep they are quiet and serious. No movement is wasted. No turn escapes their attention.

Shannahan's voice is soft but authoritative as he calls out commands to his trio of border collies. Meg and Spud and Hannah respond immediately, and sometimes earlier, running wide arcs around the sheep, driving them forward in a straight line and shedding them in orderly fashion.

"With gathering breeds like the border collie it's their instinct to herd animals and bring them to you. What I teach is how to develop that instinct," Shannahan explained.

A sheep rancher in Caldwell, Idaho, Shannahan started breeding and training stock dogs in the 1980s. His first border collie, a cross-bred dog, was acquired to help him with his herd of 250 ewes. When she died he replaced her with two purebred dogs and started seriously working at breeding and training. That led to requests for training classes and seminars.

"When I got started training stock dogs seven years ago there were only a handful of people doing this," Shannahan pointed out.

Today stock dogs are increasingly popular not only on farms and ranches, but also among pet owners and people who enter their dogs in stock dog trials -- an event during which dogs gather, drive and pen sheep on command.

Shannahan is one of the leading stock dog trainers in the Northwest, regularly conducting classes and seminars at his home ranch and elsewhere. He writes a column called "Patrick's Place" for the American Border Collie News and is regularly called upon for advice and instruction.

The majority of his students are newcomers to stock dogs. Ranchers and dairy operators training a work dog are outnumbered by hobbyists preparing their dogs for trials and pet owners taking the class for recreation.

Training begins in an arena and the dog is taught to position itself on the opposite side of the stock from its master. Good stock dogs will instinctively gather the herd and bring it toward their master, wherever he or she goes or stands.

Part of the training is focused on getting the animals to fetch stock in a straight line and to perform "out runs" properly, which means running a wide arc around a corner of the herd to keep the stock together.

Further training includes teaching the dogs to gather stock from an open field and to drive stock away as well as bring it into a pen. They can also be taught to split stock into groups and to drive them through gates. These are skills the dogs are graded on in stock dog trials.

It can take 18 months to two years to fully train a stock dog, according to Shannahan, but most dogs get far less.

"There are a lot of good working dogs that aren't trained," he admitted.

Most livestock owners only use their dogs to drive, Shannhan pointed out. With some training, they could be sent into a pasture to round up and pen a herd. A single well-educated dog could handle a small dairy herd.

"Without some training you probably aren't utilizing all the potential that the dog has," Shannahan pointed out.

Traits to look for in a stock dog include an eagerness to please and a naturally wide arc in their out runs.

"Some are certainly more talented than others," Shannahan said.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rural Delivery: The Dog Days of Summer

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.

These are the dog days of summer, a time of year when creeks run dry, the air stands still and the sun beats down relentlessly, day after day, or so it seems.

These are the days when we rediscover shade, pools, and the contents of our freezers. Cooling off becomes an obsession.

Over-heated hounds do lounge beneath porches and trees on hot afternoons, but it is not for them that "dog days" were named. Instead, this parching period pertains to Sirius, the "Dog Star," which rises and sets with the sun from mid-July until September. Sirius is also called "The Scorching One." Its lurid presence on the horizon evokes desperate memories of withered crops, raging wildfires and infernal droughts.

August brings "the great scourge of days canicular," wrote the poet Dante, a time of terrible heat that causes "fever in men and madness in dogs."

I remember Augusts in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states: 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity. For a person from the arid West, it was like living in a sauna. Without air conditioning, I don't know how I would have survived. I doubt I ever would have slept at night.

But people survived dog days before electric air conditioning, and quite comfortably, thankyou. Their cooling methods were simple, but well proven, like planting trees on the east and west flanks of a home, and carefully placing windows so they are shaded from the full force of the sun.

Dog days have inspired thousands of inventions, from fans and ice cubes to convertibles and matinee movies.

In ancient Persia, someone invented draft towers. These are tall chimney-shaped columns that rise up through a building. Water is pumped to the top of the tower and sprayed in a fine mist -- pssst, pssst -- at the opening. The mist evaporates immediately in the hot sun, of course, and the cold air from that evaporation drops down the tower and comes out vents inside, just like an air conditioner.

In modern-day Miami, I've heard of homes built with roof ponds. The pool of water soaks up solar heat during the day that would otherwise cook the building. At night, evaporation and radiation from the pond helps cool things down.

My own summers are a often a time of relentless experimentation and refinement. I get by without central air, so I'm forever tinkering with household shading and air flow, seeking the optimum conditions for cooling:

What will happen if I open the basement windows and close off the upstairs? Will it make a difference where I place the fans? How about a west side awning for extra shade?

I've discovered, or re-discovered, the "stack effect" in ventilation. Since hot air rises over cool, the cooler air will be found in the lowest and shadiest corners of a home. Cracking open a low, shady-side window and a high, sunny-side vent will encourage the warmer air to rise up and out of the house while drawing cooler air inside.

And when there's a breeze outdoors it's a good strategy to open a low-lying window facing the wind and an upstairs window on the opposite side. This gets air moving through the house, sometimes at a pretty good clip.

It would be easier to turn on an air conditioner, I suppose, than to trim my windows to catch a breeze or adjust blinds and awnings to provide more shade. But I would rather be an active participant in summer than a passive prisoner in an electrically chilled box. And besides, its cheaper.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gamesmanship: Top 10 Tecmo

The Game Guys of KXTV/News10 in Sacramento, California have selected the Top 10 video games released by Tecmo since 1981. They are, as follows":

10. Ninja Gaiden Sigma (PS3 - 2007)
9. Rygar (NES - 1987)
8. Monster Rancher (Playstation - 1997)
7. Dead or Alive: Xtreme 2 (Xbox 360 - 2006)
6. Mighty Bomb Jack (NES - 1986)
5. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (PlayStation 2, Xbox - 2003)
4. Ninja Gaiden Black (Xbox - 2005)
3. Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore (Dreamcast/PlayStation 2 - 2000), Dead or Alive 2: Ultimate (Xbox - 2004)
2. Ninja Gaiden (NES - 1989)
1. Tecmo Super Bowl (NES - 1991)

In Season: Hermiston Watermelons

The watermelon harvest in the famous Hermiston region of Oregon is going well and demand is solid, according to a report in the Northwest farm newspaper, Capital Press.

The crop is running about two weeks behind the ideal start of harvest, according to George Clough, research horticulturist at the Hermiston Agricultural Research & Extension Center.

Hermiston is known for its super-sweet watermelons because of the northeast Oregon area's hot days and cool nights -- a contrast produces an enhanced sugar content. About 650 acres in the Hermiston area are growing melons.

Most Hermiston melons are sold in the Northwest region. Export is difficult for watermelons because the fruit is so perishable.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Good Weight: Sustainable Market Index

Walmart has announced plans to develop a worldwide sustainable product index for evaluating the sustainability of products.

“Customers want products that are more efficient, that last longer and perform better,” said Mike Duke, Walmart’s president and CEO. “And increasingly they want information about the entire lifecycle of a product so they can feel good about buying it. They want to know that the materials in the product are safe, that it was made well and that it was produced in a responsible way.

“At Walmart, we’re working to make sustainability sustainable, so that it’s a priority in good times and in the tough times. An important part of that is developing the tools to help enable sustainable consumption.”

The company will introduce the initiative in three phases, beginning with a survey of its more than 100,000 suppliers around the world. The survey includes 15 questions that Walmart’s suppliers will use to evaluate their own sustainability efforts:

Material Efficiency: Reducing Waste and Enhancing Quality
1. If measured, please report the total amount of solid waste generated from the facilities that produce your product(s) for Walmart for the most recent year measured.
2. Have you set publicly available solid waste reduction targets? If yes, what are those targets?
3. If measured, please report total water use from facilities that produce your product(s) for Walmart for the most recent year measured.
4. Have you set publicly available water use reduction targets? If yes, what are those targets?

Natural Resources: Producing High Quality, Responsibly Sourced Raw Materials
1. Have you established publicly available sustainability purchasing guidelines for your direct suppliers that address issues such as environmental compliance, employment practices and product/ingredient safety?
2. Have you obtained 3rd party certifications for any of the products that you sell to Walmart?

People and Community: Ensuring Responsible and Ethical Production
1. Do you know the location of 100 percent of the facilities that produce your product(s)?
2. Before beginning a business relationship with a manufacturing facility, do you evaluate the quality of, and capacity for, production?
3. Do you have a process for managing social compliance at the manufacturing level?
4. Do you work with your supply base to resolve issues found during social compliance evaluations and also document specific corrections and improvements?
5. Do you invest in community development activities in the markets you source from and/or operate within?

“The questions aren’t complicated but we’ve never before systematically asked for this kind of information. The survey is a key first step toward establishing real transparency in our supply chain,” said John Fleming, chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S.

Walmart will ask its top tier U.S. suppliers to complete the survey by Oct. 1. Outside the United States, the company will develop timelines on a country-by-country basis for suppliers to complete the survey.

As a second step, the company is helping create a consortium of universities that will collaborate with suppliers, retailers, NGOs and government to develop a global database of information on the lifecycle of products -- from raw materials to disposal. Walmart has provided the initial funding for the Sustainability Index Consortium, and invited all retailers and suppliers to contribute.

The final step in developing the index will be to translate the product information into a simple rating for consumers about the sustainability of products. This will provide customers with the transparency into the quality and history of products that they don’t have today.

In Season: Strong Start to California Melon Harvest

The Packer reports that the California Westside melon harvest is off to a strong start, with large sizes and good sugar content.

"The melon harvest at Perez Packing Inc., Firebaugh, began July 3, said Atomic Torosian, managing partner at Crown Jewels Marketing & Distribution LLC, Fresno.

"'The fruit's beautiful. It has a nice golden finish, is heavily netted and has good sugar,' Torosian said.

"Sizes are peaking on 9s and 12s."

Prices for San Joaquin Valley cantaloupes have been trending substantially lower than last year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported half-cartons of 9s at $5.95-6.95 with 12s fetching $6.45-6.50.

At the same time last year, the USDA reported prices for half-cartons of 9s at $10.45-11.45 while the range for 12s was $10-10.45.

"There had been speculation that high temperatures in early July would accelerate the germination of second plantings, which could lead to a late-summer glut. Not so, grower-shippers said."

Open Market: Licensing and Inspection of Scales

As in other states across the U.S., commercially used scales in Colorado are tested and licensed annually by the Colorado Department Agriculture Measurement Standards Section. This includes goods sold at a farmers market.

"Vendors who offer commodities for sale by weight must do so over a legal-for-trade scale," advises the Colorado Division of Inspection and Consumer Services.

"All vendors who operate a commercially used device (scale) must obtain a scale license for that device. All vendors whom at the time of inspection do not have their scale(s) licensed, will be required to license their devices at the time of inspection. Vendors operating a commercially used device without a valid license, may be subject to regulatory action."

For more information:
Colorado Department Agriculture Inspection & Consumer Services
2331 W. 31st Ave. Denver, CO 80211
Phone: (303) 477-0076

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Selling Points: Getting Repeat Buyers

While most retail marketing focuses on increasing visitor traffic and converting visitors into buyers, it is important to give equal attention to customer retention. Repeat buyers are the mainstay of many a small producer and critical cushion in an economic downturn.

Encourage visitors and customers in your Booth to register, join, preorder, or vote so that you have their name and contact information. This will allow you to alert them to special sales, new products, harvest dates or changes in your location.

The goal, of course, is to convert one-time customers into regular shoppers who will frequent your Booth often and allow you to personalize the shopping experience.

Here's four effective marketing strategies for attracting repeat customers:

1. Newsletters. A successful newsletter should have interesting or useful content related to your products, such as recipes or topical news bits. Ask shoppers to subscribe at your Booth. Offer a discount or a chance at a prize when subscribing.

2. Preorders. With preorders, you have first chance at a second sale to the customer.

3. Subscriptions. Customers subscribe to or sign up for an ongoing round of purchases that the producer can act on without further permission. Community Supported Agriculture farms operate on this method.

4. Exclusive Offers, and Promotions. Offer customers an opportunity to get advance notice or special discounts when they join your "club."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Good Weight: 10 Best Gluten-Free Kitchen Gadgets

Examiner.com's Gluten-Free Food Examiner Jen Cafferty ranks the top 10 kitchen gadgets for gluten-free cooking:

1. Mandoline
2. Food Dehydrator
3. Microplane Grater
4. Washable Cutting Boards
5. Comfortable and sharp paring and chef's knives.
6. Measuring cups and spoons.
7. Parchment Paper.
8. Good tongs.
9. A gas grill.
10. Waffle maker.

Rural Delivery: Where Oliver Found His Place

Oliver Wendell Douglas finds the Haney Place advertised in The Farm Gazette, which he picks up from a news stand while on a business trip to Chicago. Compelled by a deep-rooted urge, he decides to go have a look. To get there, he changes planes twice, takes a bus from the county seat to Pixley, then hops on a train known as "The Cannonball" for the last leg of his journey. When he gets off in the town of Hooterville, he breaks into song:

Green acres is the place to be, Farm living is the life for me.

Dressed in an expensive three-piece suit, the Manhattan attorney with a Harvard Law School degree purchases the 160-acre farmstead and is determined, at last, to be the farmer of his dreams.

Land spreading out, so far and wide...

Back home in his Park Avenue penthouse, where his wife Lisa waits for him, Oliver has been growing crops in containers on the terrace. Earlier, he was fired from his first law firm appointment when he was caught growing mushrooms in his desk drawer.

Keep Manhattan, just give me the countryside.

Lisa is a glamorous socialite with a thick Hungarian accent. She's quite at home in the big city, with its bright lights and fashionable restaurants. She sings:

New York is where I'd rather stay.

Oliver's mother agrees. Her son has obviously lost his mind. She tells Lisa to leave Oliver and come live at her penthouse. Lisa is tempted.

I get allergic smelling hay. I just adore a penthouse view.

Where, in Hooterville, will she find people to talk to about fashion, about movies, about museums and culture? Lisa was raised to be an urbanite, not a farm wife. She can't even cook!

Darling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue.

Oliver isn't listening. He's too enamored of country life. He just loves pitching hay and riding around the farm in his Fordson model F tractor. In his elation, he raises his pitchfork and cries out:

The Chores!

Lisa was made for shopping Macy's and Saks 5th Avenue. Where will she shop in Hooterville? Sam Drucker's store?

The Stores!

Oliver the gentleman farmer is blinded by his obsession. He can't see what a shambles of a farm he's purchased from an insatiable con, Mr. Haney. He's pestered into hiring a live-in farmhand, Eb, who works slowly and calls him "Dad." The neighbors are a bunch of wacky eccentrics, led by the Zwiffels and their multi-lingual television-watching pig, Arnold. Even the scatterbrained country agent, Hank Kimball, is more than a bit peculiar. And almost everyone in town is in a betting pool to see how many days it takes before Oliver moves back to New York.

Fresh Air!

Lisa cannot imagine what life will be like on the Haney Place. She is the daughter of the former King of Hungary, after all, and used to opulence and privilege. The city is her birthright .

Times Square!

This is still the 1960s, however, and a wife's place is at her husband's side, as Oliver testifies:

You are my wife!

Lisa had forgotten about the Hungarian Parliament's "Big Dumb Law of 1924," which stated: "All Hungarian women have to do whatever their husbands want them to do, no matter how dumb it is."

Goodbye city life.

And so the Haney Place becomes the Douglas Farm -- with all its clutter, fallow fields, and telephones mounted atop telephone poles -- for six television seasons. Oliver struggles gamely to make his farm a success while Lisa brings some graciousness and finer things of life to their rural experience. They stand side by side, in a parody of American Gothic, and declare:

Green Acres, we are there!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rural Delivery: The Natural

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved.

My yearling climbs stairs, again and again and again. His little boy face all set in concentration, he lowers one leg deliberately over the step, collects his balance, and then brings down the second.

He’s been going up and down this three-step entryway time and again for at least fifteen minutes. And unless I break him off from it, it seems, he may go on all night.

No one asked him to climb stairs. I doubt anyone even showed him how. Driven by a compulsion I am trying to understand, he practices his climbing with a relentlessness only an OIympic athlete could match.

There is much about my firstborn I would not have imagined. Like how he points at butterflies and trucks and fence posts and asks me — “Eh?” — for an explanation. Or the way he comprehends the meanings of words which he has not yet spoken.

No one had to teach him how to empty drawers or open books or pursue kittens. Something deep inside compels him to grab and pull and scramble and run headlong into the unknown.

Perhaps parenting always prompts questions of nature and nurture. But as I watch my boy turn for another go at the stairs I wonder how much of our walk through life is by choice and how much is by innate urge. Can we keep still or are we driven, like he is, to keep moving? Do we choose our course or are we programmed?

A quick look around the neighborhood provides other examples of instinctive behavior. No one teaches the young colt to run or calves to suckle. Chickens naturally peck at the earth and otters are compelled, it seems, to swim and swim and swim.

In the peanut-size brain of the squirrel are wordless directives sparking across tiny synapses for scrambling up and down trees and balancing body weight along narrow limbs. From somewhere along that curving spine comes the urge to scrounge for nuts, to finger and turn, to nibble and nick, and to dig and bury.

The brown thrasher’s skull is smaller still, yet it can hold a repertoire of 1,200 different birdsongs and the compulsion to sing from briar patches and thickets. In its mind are built-in controls for navigating its body at high speeds between tangled tree limbs and coming to sudden stops clinging to bouncing branches.

Given a cerebral cortex and 3 billion neurons to play with, my son’s conceptual capabilities are many times greater than those of birds or squirrels. He may use that brain power to build bridges or write symphonies or collect stamps. The choice will be his, depending on what influences and opportunities he pursues.

But at his most basic level my little boy also runs naked with the animals. He digs and tosses and climbs. His hand reaches up for a finger to steady him.

And he already knows more than he or I can ever say.

Good Weight: Go Online for Coupons

Manufacturer's coupons are increasingly available online. They can be printed at home and used at most stores.

Look first at the manufacturer websites of your favorite brands. Many print-from-the-web coupon sites are also available, offering coupons from dozens of manufacturers. These issuers often have a cap on the number of coupons they distribute, so its a good idea to act quickly on any that are of interest and to browse for new offers frequently.

Five top online coupon sites:
Couponmom.com
Smartsource.com
Redplum.com
Coolsavings.com
Workingmom.com

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Out of the Past: Backtracking on the Oregon Trail

A surprising, and as yet not fully explained, phenomenon took place about 1840, just as the era of the Mountain Men was coming to an end. Even though there was abundant cheap land available throughout the prairies and plains of latter-day Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and more, thousands of Easterners took a sudden passion to carve new homes for themselves on the Pacific coast, first in the Oregon territory, and soon thereafter, with the discovery ofgold, in California.
Frontier Skills by William C. Davis

More than 160 years have passed since the first of some 300,000 emigrants started a massive migration across the heartland of North America to the continent's Pacific shores. Beginning in Independence, Missouri, and ending in Oregon City, Oregon, the "Oregon Trail" stretched for 2,000 miles across six states.

Tracks from this passage are still embedded in the Snake River Plain not far from here. I've walked in them several times, pressing my feet where wagon wheels and oxen and well-worn boots once tread, and it continues to astonish me that so many people would give up their homes back East and travel so far with so little assurance of a better life at the far end of their seven-month journey.

This was no pleasure cruise, nor a mere "Adventure in Moving," as U-Haul used to advertise its rental vans and trailers. The folks who followed the Oregon Trail met violent winds, quicksand, floods, buffalo stampedes, disease and Indian attacks. Nearly 10 percent, or roughly 30,000 of them, lost their lives on the trail. Of those that survived, many suffered the loss of livestock, personal fortunes and prized belongings.

What's also hard to fathom is the fact that precious little of the land that the survivors laid claim to at the end of their arduous journeys remains with their ancestors today.

Truth is, a great number of those who followed the Oregon Trail to Oregon did not stay. Promoters failed to mention the rain and swindlers and privations associated with homesteading. Some folks moved on to California. Others returned to the homes they left behind, throwing themselves at the mercy of their relatives and friends.

"Settlers" is an inaccurate description of most who made these journeys; "unsettled" is a fairer adjective and "backtrackers" is what others on the trail called them. Some used the trail three or four times, following their dreams back and forth, back and forth.

Backtracking is so common among Americans, in fact, that it's almost a cultural trait. Nearly a third of us will change residences in the next two years and many others will feel they should have. In every move, there's one overriding reason like a better job or bad neighbors or a longing to return to someplace familiar or a pining for someplace new.

We get tired of the old haunts, but once we've moved we miss them. We run from the provincialism of rural life only to be repulsed later by what we find in the city or suburb.

Like young Huck Finn, we fear being "sivilized" by Tom Sawyer's Aunt Sally and are determined to "light out for the Territory" if anyone starts making demands.

This is the urge that blazed the Oregon Trail, I believe. It prompted a goodly portion of 19th century Americans to leave their farms and friends and families for an uncertain future in the Territory. By its energy a continent was populated. Because of its endurance our souls remain unsettled.

Growth Spurts: New Leaf Lettuce Shows Corky Root Resistance

Three new leaf lettuce breeding lines with resistance to corky root, a serious disease of lettuce, have been released by the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Corky root is caused by a bacterium called Sphingomonas suberifaciens which lives in the soil and attacks the plant's roots, causing them to enlarge and develop yellow to brown lesions and longitudinal cracks, taking on a cork-like appearance. Once infected, the roots are unable to effectively absorb water and nutrients, resulting in smaller lettuce heads and yield loss.

Cultural practices and fumigation techniques used to treat corky root are costly and labor-intensive. Developing lines with genetic resistance is still the most common and preferred method to combat the disease.

The new leaf lettuce breeding lines -- one red leaf lettuce and two green leaf lettuces -- have plant weight comparable to or higher than commercial cultivars. The breeding lines have also showed little to no tipburn in test trials. They can be used commercially for production of fresh lettuce or to develop new cultivars.

Source: Agricultural Research Service

Monday, July 6, 2009

Rural Delivery: Full Bloom

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

"O, ay; as summer flies are in the shambles,
That quicken even with blowing. O thou weed,
Who art so lovely fair and smell'st so sweet
That the sense aches at thee, would thou hadst ne'er been born!"
-- Othello, Act IV, Scene II

As spring gives way to summer, most of the blooms of April and May wilt before the feverish efflorescence of June and July. Gone are the tulips and daffodils and lilies of cooler days and longer nights.

Tlup in BloomHave you ever wondered why the tulip drops its petals just as orchids are unfolding and while pansies and petunias go on blooming? Is it the heat of summer that makes them fade? Or some aversion to longer days?

Blame it on plant genetics. Flowers don't die off; they are deliberately strangled by the rest of the plant.

A tulip's bloom, however beautiful, serves one purpose to the plant: pollination. A lingering flower saps the energy a plant needs for bulb and seed development. Once pollinated, its beauty is a useless distraction from unpollinated flowers, and so it dies like Desdemona at the hands of Othello, its life tragically cut short.


Horticultural researcher William Woodson of Purdue University questioned how a plant knows when its been pollinated and found that it emits hormones that spread along its tissues. When a flower is cut or pollinated, the flower produces a hormone called ethylene which causes flower petals to shrivel and the plant's ovary to grow.

Orchids and other plants with long-living flowers keep their blooms longer because they are difficult to pollinate, often requiring visits by a certain species of bird or insect. Self-pollinating plants, on the other hand, usually have very short-lived blooms.

Supported with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Woodson is now looking for ways to genetically interrupt the plant's "kill the bloom" message. He wants to bypass Iago, if you will, and keep Othello enamored of his Desdemona.

Genetically engineered carnations in Woodson's laboratories have maintained their blooms as long as three weeks after being cut. The ramifications for the cut flower industry are, of course, enormous. Longer-lasting blooms mean more sales and more satisfied customers.

And as an offshoot, longer-lasting blossoms on crop plants could increase pollination and reproduction, resulting in potentially higher yields.
"
This is the state of man," wrote Shakespeare, "today he puts forth the tender leaves of hope; tomorrow blossoms."

Have you ever wondered why the tulip drops its petals just as orchids are unfolding and while pansies and petunias go on blooming? Is it the heat of summer that makes them fade? Or some aversion to longer days?

Blame it on plant genetics. Flowers don't die off; they are deliberately strangled by the rest of the plant.

A tulip's bloom, however beautiful, serves one purpose to the plant: pollination. A lingering flower saps the energy a plant needs for bulb and seed development. Once pollinated, its beauty is a useless distraction from unpollinated flowers, and so it dies like Desdemona at the hands of Othello, its life tragically cut short.

Horticultural researcher William Woodson of Purdue University questioned how a plant knows when its been pollinated and found that it emits hormones that spread along its tissues. When a flower is cut or pollinated, the flower produces a hormone called ethylene which causes flower petals to shrivel and the plant's ovary to grow.

Orchids and other plants with long-living flowers keep their blooms longer because they are difficult to pollinate, often requiring visits by a certain species of bird or insect. Self-pollinating plants, on the other hand, usually have very short-lived blooms.

Supported with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Woodson is now looking for ways to genetically interrupt the plant's "kill the bloom" message. He wants to bypass Iago, if you will, and keep Othello enamored of his Desdemona.

Genetically engineered carnations in Woodson's laboratories have maintained their blooms as long as three weeks after being cut. The ramifications for the cut flower industry are, of course, enormous. Longer-lasting blooms mean more sales and more satisfied customers.

And as an offshoot, longer-lasting blossoms on crop plants could increase pollination and reproduction, resulting in potentially higher yields.
"
This is the state of man," wrote Shakespeare, "today he puts forth the tender leaves of hope; tomorrow blossoms."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bite: Berry Good For You!

The four most commonly enjoyed berries -- blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries -- are all among the top 10 antioxidant-containing fruits, according to Tufts University Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

Blueberries are listed among the Mayo Clinic's top 10 healthiest foods, and the National Cancer Institute touts raspberries, particularly black raspberries, because of their high levels of cancer-fighting anthocyanins.

Blueberries

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National
Nutrient Database, a half-cup of raw blueberries has just 42 calories, but offers 2 grams of fiber, 12 percent of the vitamin C you need each day, and 18 percent of the daily dose of vitamin K. Blueberries are also a good source of manganese, offering about 12 percent of the daily recommendation.

Choose blueberries that are plump, firm, dark blue with a waxy, silvery bloom.

Strawberries

A half-cup of raw strawberries has just 25 calories, and you get about 1.5 grams of fiber, 75 percent of the vitamin C you need and 15 percent of the manganese you need in a day. Strawberries are also a good source of folate and potassium.

Ripe strawberries should be fully red with a bright luster, and the caps should be bright green. Smaller strawberries usually have more flavor than larger ones.

Raspberries

A half-cup of raw raspberries has 32 calories and offers 4 grams of fiber. It gives you 27 percent of the vitamin C you need in a day, and 20 percent of the manganese. Raspberries are also a good source of vitamin K and magnesium.

Ripe raspberries should be large, bright, firm, shiny, and uniform in color.

Blackberries

A half-cup of raw blackberries has 31 calories and four grams of fiber. Like the other berries, blackberries are a very good source of vitamin C
(25 percent of the daily recommendation), vitamin K (18 percent), and manganese (24 percent). In addition, blackberries are a good source of vitamin E, folate, magnesium, potassium and copper.

Upon ripening, blackberries become dull black and just begin to soften.

All berries are fragile; handle them carefully and refrigerate them immediately after purchase. Rinse gently just before consuming -- and enjoy!

Source; Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center