Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Out There: Bugs Aren't Gay, Just Confused

 Scientists studying homosexual behavior in insects - courting, mounting, and trying to mate with members of the same sex - have concluded that homosexuality in insects and spiders is just a case of mistaken identity.

In their haste to produce offspring, bugs do not take much time to inspect their mates' gender,

"Insects and spiders mate quick and dirty," says Dr. Inon Scharf of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology "The cost of taking the time to identify the gender of mates or the cost of hesitation appears to be greater than the cost of making some mistakes."

Continued... Out There

Out There: Scouting the Frontiers of Science
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Artwork: Seven-spot Ladybirds Mating

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Home Grown: Preparing a Lawn for Winter

When it's time for the last cutting of your lawn, how low should you cut? Your area's winter snowcover should help you decide whether to cut it short or leave it long.

If you live in a heavy snow area, cut the grass to about 1.5 inches in fall to prevent it from matting down beneath the snow and forming a haven for the snow mold fungus.

In areas with little snowcover, grass dries out and the crowns may be injured from a lack of insulation. In those areas, leave the grass long over the winter to help protect the crowns from drying out.

Continued at... Preparing a Lawn for Winter

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Artwork: Walk-Behind Broadcast Spreader

Monday, October 21, 2013

Growth Spurts: Waterhemp Becoming a Superweed

Studying the first known case of waterhemp with resistance to HPPD-inhibiting herbicides such as Callisto, weed science researchers at the University of Illinois have identified two unique mechanisms in the plant that have allowed the weed to “get around” these herbicides.

“Waterhemp is very diverse, which you can see in the field. There are red plants, green plants, tall, short, bushy—basically a germplasm pool. If you  keep spraying the same herbicide over and over, eventually you’re going to find that rare plant that can resist it,” said Dean Riechers, a U of I Professor of weed physiology.

What the U of I researchers find alarming is that waterhemp resisted the herbicide in much the same way that corn naturally resists HPPD-inhibiting herbicides.

Continued in Growth Spurts

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Artwork: Warterhemp

Home Grown: Fire Ant Control in the Fall

When you think of fire ants in the fall, "vulnerable" isn't the first word that pops into your mind. But it should be.

If you are going to treat fire ants only once a year, do it in the fall. Fire ants are easier to kill in the fall.

Continued at... Fire Ant Control in the Fall

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Artwork: Fire Ant

Rural Delivery: How to Make a Jack-o-Lantern.

First, you start with a pumpkin seed, but not just any pumpkin. Seek out seeds of a Halloween or Jack-o'-Lantern or Spookie variety. You want a pumpkin that matures to the size and shape of your own head.
Sow your seed just before the last frost in mounds of soil and manure. And as you plant, reflect on how deeply the roots of pumpkins sink into history. Native to the Americas, pumpkins fed Indian tribes before Columbus landed and gave white settlers in frontier cabins sustenance through cold, dark winters.

Grow pumpkin vines in full sun with plenty of water. When they sprout small pumpkins, pinch off the tips of the vines. When the pumpkins are six inches across, pick all but one pumpkin per vine.

Continued at... How to Make a Jack-o-Lantern

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.
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Artwork: Jack-o'-lantern

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Here's How To... Build With Straw

Straw-bale construction is not a new technology, but it is getting more recognition as consumers and builders look for more efficient and economic forms of construction.

Straw is a renewable resource in plentiful supply that can offer simple construction and great versatility. Approximately 200 million tons of straw that would otherwise go to waste is available each year for use in construction. This waste straw is left over from crops such as wheat, oats, barley, rye, rice and flax, after all the food has been extracted.

The straw is gathered and baled using a baling machine. Sizes of straw bales vary from 18"x14"x36" to 24"x18"x48" and weigh between 50 to 90 pounds. The straw is compressed by the baler and tied together with wire or string.

Follow the link to... Build With Straw

Here's How To...
How To Do It
Artwork: Straw Bale House

Home Grown: Autumn Tree Planting

Late summer and fall is a great time to take advantage of end of season sales at nurseries and plant some trees and shrubs. With the heat of summer over, plant water needs are less and roots make good growth in the warm soil. Just be sure to plant early enough that plants get a head start before the ground freezes.

It takes less than a minute in bright sunlight for small feeder roots to die, so protect the roots before planting. Without these, the plant must struggle to absorb moisture; transplant shock will be greater and survival lower. Make the planting hole at least a foot greater in diameter and six inches deeper than the plant's rootball. If your soil is heavy, loosen it on the inside of the hole.

Continued at... Autumn Tree Planting

Home Grown
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Artwork: Planting a Tree by Sir George Clausen

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rural Delivery: Signs of the Weather.

Bad weather is on its way -- ferocious storms of rain and maybe snow. I see it clearly in the night sky: that ring around the moon -- a sure sign.

The brighter the stars, of course, the better the weather, but when a cat begins to wash its face a storm is coming fast. And when smoke drops in a chimney, rain soon follows.

Continued at... Signs of the Weather

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.
Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Artwork: Ring Around Moon by Alan Lenk

Home Grown: Identifying Emerald Ash Borer

As fall's colors emerge, it's hard to miss the striking gold and purple leaves of ash trees lining streets and roads in many Midwestern U.S. states. However, when emerald ash borer arrives, many ash trees planted in towns, cities and conservation plantings could be lost.
First detected in southeast Michigan in 2002, emerald ash borer, or EAB, is an exotic beetle that attacks and kills all native ash species, including white, green, black and autumn purple ash. To date, the beetle is present in 22 U.S. states as well as Canada and has killed more than 150 million ash trees.

Continued at... Identifying Emerald Ash Borer

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Artwork: Adult emerald ash borers mating

Holidays and Notable Events: World Food Day

Celebrated on October 16 each year in honor of the date the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations was founded in 1945.

Events include an annual Hunger Run, a 10K competitive race and a 5K non-competitive walk/run held to focus public attention on the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the world still live in chronic hunger and to raise funds to help hunger-affected communities meet their own food needs over the long term.

The 2013 Hunger Run will be held October 20 at Terme di Caracalla in Rome, Italy.

World Food Day
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Artwork: World Food Day Poster

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Recipe Archive: Chocolate Torte

This sweet treat, courtesy of Gordon Sample, is from the kitchen of Ruby Faye Sample, inspiration for Ruby Faye's Bar-B-Que in Clinton, adapted from The Kentucky Barbecue Book by Wes Berry.

  • Combine milk, pudding mix, and Cool Whip. Mix until smooth. Line bottom of 9 x 13-inch pan with graham crackers. Don't crush them.
  • Add half of pudding mixture, and then cover with another layer of graham crackers.
  • Add rest of pudding mixture. 
  • Cover this layer with graham crackers...

continued at Ruby Faye's Sweet Shoppe Chocolate Torte

The Kentucky Barbecue Book by Wes Berry
Recipe Archive
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Milk Chocolate Frosting

Monday, October 14, 2013

Rural Delivery: Silent Sentinel of Crop Protection

He stands alone near the fenceline staring out at the horizon. The breeze that rustles through the dried corn stalks stirs his tattered shirttails. He sways slightly, but keeps a firm grip on his rusty pitchfork with a broken tine.

Since spring planting he's been out there, a silent sentinel of agricultural defense. As the fields were plowed and fertilized, he was watching. He witnessed the first emergence of seedlings and saw the workers moving handlines during the early summer drought.

But now the crop is in and harvest done, and he's still standing there, waiting. I find him unnerving.

Continued at... Silent Sentinel of Crop Protection

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved.
Rural Delivery
Holidays and Notable Events
Artwork: Scarecrow by Susan Savad

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Rural Delivery: A Bite Most Deadly

Some folks are afraid of spiders, others snakes. Lightning puts the fear of God in many of us, and so do earthquakes, tornadoes and dark moonless nights. Living in the country presents many special worries, like the threat of wildfire or the potential for flash floods. More cars collide with wild animals on rural roads than city lanes and the chances of eating a poisonous mushroom or contracting the deadly hantavirus are much greater off the beaten path. But there is no threat so terrifying in rural places, or as fatally serious as rabies.

Growing up, I learned to keep a wary eye on grape arbors and tall, dark hedges of lilacs lest some crazed bat should emerge, grab hold of my hair, bite my scalp and infect me with rabies. Older cousins planted a terror of rabies in my pre -school mind with accounts of the terrible vaccination shots in the belly that bat bite victims had to endure and how, more often than not, the bitten person went crazy and was committed to an asylum, ranting and raving and foaming at the mouth.

Continued at... A Bite Most Deadly

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
Out There
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Artwork: Mad Dog by Mike Savad

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rain Barrels from Aaron's Rain Barrels of Massachusetts

Now available in Farm Supply:
Rain Barrels available direct from Aaron's Rain Barrels of Massachusetts in Farm Supply.

There is much more to making rain barrels than just adding a spigot to a barrel, of course, and if things are not done just right a rain barrel will begin leaking within a few weeks.

The rain barrels from Aaron's Rain Barrels are not the same as you'll find at Home Depot, Lowes or Walmart. They are expertly designed, carefully crafted and shipped direct from the workshop in Massachusetts.

Made from 100% recycled plastic or traditional oak whiskey barrels, the rain barrels are available in several different styles, including an Irrigation System popular with gardeners, a Gutterless Rain Barrel for those without gutters, and a Downspout Diverter that helps keep basements dry.

Whiskey Barrel Rain Barrel
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rural Delivery: Bird Wars

Some farmers enforce their property rights with shotguns; others use feral cats, cannons, balloons or plastic owls. If they don't, birds can eat them into poverty.

This is the time of year when sparrows, starlings, pigeons and other overwintering fowl start making a pest of themselves in barns and feedlots. Feed lines in dairy barns are black with birds and the backs of the cows are often slick with their excrement.

An adult starling, according to some reports, will eat one-and-a-half times its body weight in feed per day if given the chance. Wintering flocks numbering 2,000 birds will consume a ton of feed a month or more.

Continued at... Bird Wars

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
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Artwork: Starlings by Will Borden