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Archive | Awesome Autumn

Fresh Market: The Pumpkin—a Halloween tradition

HAL-FreshMarket-Pumpkin

By Vicky Babcock

Google “pumpkin” and you will find everything from riots in (Keene) New Hampshire to Ichabod Crane’s unfortunate encounter with the headless horseman, to pumpkin scones. We have pumpkin festivals, pumpkin carving contests, smashing pumpkins, pumpkin tossing, pumpkin baking and biggest pumpkin contests.

A true Native American, the pumpkin has been embraced by our cultures as both an important food source for people and livestock, and an excellent medium for carving. Something about these colorful canvasses really stirs the creative juices in artists of all ages! Throw in a candle and you have a lovely Jack-o-lantern. With its growing season complete from early to mid October, is it any wonder that this vibrantly colored fruit has become synonymous with Halloween? Yet pumpkins have a relatively short history with the holiday known as Halloween, which is believed to have evolved from the ancient festival of Samhain. It has its origins in European culture. Samhain was the Celtic harvest festival, a time to stock up supplies for the winter. The ancient Gaels believed the final day in October to be a time when the two worlds (the living and the dead) overlapped allowing the dead to return to Earth and cause havoc among the living. Offerings from the harvest were left outside their doors to appease the spirits in an effort to prevent them from bringing sickness and blight to the crops. Door to door begging, or “souling,” (a precursor to our modern day trick-or-treat) came much later and was associated with All Souls Day.

Our native pumpkin entered into the holiday when Irish immigrants brought the tradition of the Jack-o-lantern—originally a carved turnip or gourd—to the U.S. during the 1700s. Turnips had their drawbacks; they were relatively small and dense, with no pre-formed cavity in which to place a lit coal. With its broad base and large capacity, the pumpkin quickly became the preferred medium for the practice. Today, a large percentage of fresh bought pumpkins lends itself to this Halloween tradition, decorating our porches and giving young artists a chance to stretch their creative wings. Once used as a welcoming light for the spirits of our loved ones and to ward off any malevolent spirits, the Jack-o-Lantern has become a Halloween fantasy, a joyful pastime and a profitable market for farmers of the crop. Unfortunately, few of us these days consume pumpkin that does not come out of a can.

Unfortunate, because pumpkin, one of the winter squashes, is an excellent source of dietary nutrition. Pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene, an important antioxidant, which the body uses to convert to vitamin A. Foods rich in beta-carotene have been linked to lower risk of certain cancers and offer protection against heart disease as well as an aid in the degenerative aspects of aging. Pumpkin is high in potassium and dietary fiber as well, necessary nutrients for the heart and digestive tract respectively. A cup of cooked pumpkin contains about 49 calories, a dieter’s dream!

So, as you carve your pumpkins this year, consider using the cut outs (minus the rind) in soups, stews or rice dishes. Or try some pumpkin chili. Any way you slice it, it comes out deliciously nutritious.

Like pumpkins—and despite its ancestry—Halloween is a true American treat. With the mix of cultures that make up today’s Halloween, what greater place to celebrate than the Great Melting Pot of the world? Have a safe and happy Halloween. And happy “souling.”

 

Pumpkin Chili

1 ½ pounds lean ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, diced

2 large carrots, washed and diced (ends removed)

2 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled and diced

1 jar salsa—medium heat

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Chili powder (to taste)

In a large skillet, brown beef. Drain most of the oils and remove beef to a Dutch oven. In saucepan in remaining oil, cook and stir onion, garlic, carrots and pumpkin for about two minutes, until onion is tender. Drain the rest of the oil and add to the beef. Add remaining ingredients except for the chili powder. Cook and stir until boiling. Reduce heat and add chili powder to taste. This will gain some heat as it cooks, so start lightly. Cook over med to low heat about 30 minutes or until pumpkin is tender and flavors have mixed. Add additional chili powder about 15 minutes into the cooking process if you wish.

Serve with grated cheese, crushed corn chips (I like Frito’s™ Chili Cheese) and sour cream if desired. Other additions include chopped fresh onions or chopped bell peppers. This is even better the next day.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

 

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Fall clean-up tips for your lawn and garden tools

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(BPT) – As the temperature drops, your lawn and garden will start settling into a dormant state. As you prep your landscaping and garden for a winter’s slumber, it’s a good idea to review the tools you used all summer. Taking care of this task now will ensure they’re in good shape come spring when it’s time to use them again. From sharpening edges of blades to making certain the tool is still doing the job it was designed to do, put all your lawn and garden tools through a thorough fall cleaning. Here are some tips:

* Lawn mowers – Check your owner’s manual for information about sharpening the mower deck blades and what to do with any unused gasoline before putting the mower into storage. It’s a good idea to keep the mower in a dry location where moisture won’t collect and potentially rust the blades.

* Hand trimmers – Hand clippers, tree trimmers and saws all take a beating during the summer. Check these tools to make certain the handles are still secure, the cutting blades are sharp and the locking mechanisms all work. If anything isn’t up to par, replace the tool so you have it ready for the first sign of spring.

* Chainsaws – These heavy machines get put through their paces, and they can be taxing on people, too, after extended use. If you’re ready to upgrade your chainsaw, the Husqvarna low-weight 436Li is quiet, easy to operate and has the same power as gas machines. The 536LiXP and the T536LiXP models are also available, and they come with low maintenance and high-performance delivery. All battery-operated chainsaws come with two rechargeable batteries that can be interchanged with any Husqvarna hand tools you might already have in your collection. The batteries have a 40-minute charge time, helping to keep the tools lightweight and quiet.

* Weed trimmers – These tools are invaluable for keeping the grasses and weeds trimmed around trees and garden edging. In the fall, be sure to replace the string so you’ll have a fresh spool come spring. Also check the air filter on the tool. If it is dirty, replace the filter to allow your machine to perform at its best.

* Hoses – When it’s time to store your hoses for the winter, check all the connections to make certain nothing leaks; replace the connectors if you notice water spraying or dribbling from a connection. And if the hose itself is leaking, put it on your list to be replaced. Make certain you’ve drained all the water out before putting the hoses away for winter. If you have a hose cart, roll up the hose neatly without any kinks. Otherwise, you can just roll the hose into a neat pile of loops for storage in a dry place.

With all of your lawn and garden tools safely stored for the winter months, you’ll know they’ll be ready the minute you need them in the spring.

 

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Fresh Market: The Pinecone

AWE-PineconeBy Vicky Babcock

 

Consider the pinecone. While not a viable food source for humans, pinecones are invaluable to birds and mice that eat the tender seeds when other sources of food are scarce. Dried pinecones make great fire starters, with or without candle wax. They are a crafters choice for wreaths, picture frames and candle rings. I’ve even seen them used to create charming baskets. A pinecone, a milkweed pod (split in two halves) and an acorn make a rustic angel for your tree.

Pinecones added to your greenery create interesting focal points and pinecones are the main base in many winter potpourris. Pinecones open when they are dry and close when they are wet, allowing them to distribute seed at the most opportune time for maximum travel. This phenomenon is the base for an interesting puzzle. While a pinecone is wet (tightly closed), push it into a narrow necked jar and allow it to dry. As it dries, it will open and expand, making it impossible to remove from the jar whole. Ask your kids if they know how you managed to get it into the jar.

Pinecone cows were a popular toy back in the day. These were made simply by sticking matchsticks into pinecones for legs.  In parts of the world they are still popular. In Finland there is a fairground with statues of pinecone cows for children to play on.

Nest a candle in a bowl of pinecones for a charming centerpiece. For an added touch, add a few glass ornaments or a string of dried cranberries. Never leave a candle unattended, as pinecones are extremely flammable.

An unopened pinecone is a symbol of virginity. Conversely, pinecones are symbolic with fertility and were often carved into bedposts as an aid to conception. The pinecone is considered a luck charm, favorable influences, protection from harm and sexual power. There are those who believe it promotes healing and inhibits negative influences.

Pinecone Firestarters

Pinecone Firestarters are easy to make and create charming gifts for those who have fireplaces. Gather pinecones and allow them to dry. Collect old candles or crayons for the wax.

Other optional ingredients:

Sawdust

Salt—yellow flame

Salt substitute—violet flame

Borax—green flame

Directions:

Melt wax in the top of a double boiler. This is necessary as wax is extremely flammable—do not heat directly on the stove. If you would like to create colored flames, mix sawdust with desired color ingredient (see above). Dip dried pinecones in the melted wax, then dip into sawdust mixture. These can be given in a pretty basket or a recycled onion or orange bag. Add a bit of greenery and a bow, and you have a charming gift for a housewarming or for Christmas. Just be sure the recipient has a fireplace.

The Pueblo story of the pine tree as told by the Quères is a detailed (and somewhat disturbing) tale in which a witch is tricked into eating magic pine seeds. The seeds sprout in her belly and turn her into a great pine tree that sways in the wind and moans and sobs forever—as all her pine children do to this day.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

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Beware of poison ivy

Richard Cone, of Sparta, cut down this tree with a large poison ivy vine growing on it.

Richard Cone, of Sparta, cut down this tree with a large poison ivy vine growing on it.

Richard Cone, of Camp Lake, near Sparta, found out the hard way that getting rid of poison ivy can be a tricky business. Cone recently cut down a tree in his yard, and attached to it was a poison ivy vine that he said measured 8 inches in diameter. The woody vine looked like a tree branch on top of the tree. He said he was using a chainsaw, and woodchips were flying everywhere, which meant he got the poison ivy oil on his clothes and hands.

“I used some Dawn dish soap to scrub the oil off, and the rash was gone in a couple of days,” he said.

We sent the photo of the poison ivy vine to Ranger Steve Mueller. He said that if it was poison ivy, then it was larger than he had seen before. He couldn’t positively identify it from the photo. “It looks like it might be ivy covering a woody stem of something else but I can not tell from the picture,” he said.

“I have seen large ivy vines that are about three inches in diameter and climb high into trees. Ivies in southern Michigan grow larger than I typically see in our area. I have seen quite a large one but do not recall if I have seen any 8 inches in diameter.”

This photo from WebMD shows the leaves of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.

This photo from WebMD shows the leaves of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.

The Post did, however, find similar photos of poison ivy vines in an online search.

Mueller said that he would cut the ivy vine at the base of the tree with branch pruners and not remove the vine from the tree. It will grow from the ground again. “After cutting the ivy, it is good to wipe the cutting blade with some bleach. Wear disposable protective gloves,” he cautioned.

Mueller said he uses poison ivy herbicide on poison ivy and some other exotic plants. “I do not encourage use of chemicals but there occasions where I do use chemical treatments sparingly,” he explained.

How do you recognize poison ivy? Mueller said most grow as vines, though some can be free standing plants, under two feet tall. “The plant has leaves divided into three leaflets. The leaflet has three lobes and the margin has a few scattered teeth. The leaflets on the common Box Elder Trees look a lot like Poison Ivy so people can compare the two. Box Elder usually has more leaflets. In the fall the ivy may have white berry clusters,” he explained.

If you do come into contact with poison ivy and develop a rash, the American Academy of Dermatologists recommends the following:

Immediately rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water. If you can rinse your skin immediately after touching poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, you may be able to rinse off some of the oil. If not washed off, the oil can spread from person to person and to other areas of your body.

Wash your clothing. Thoroughly wash all of the clothes you were wearing when you came into contact with the poisonous plant. The oil can stick to clothing, and if it touches your skin, it can cause another rash.

Wash everything that may have the oil on its surface. Besides clothing, the oil from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can stick to many surfaces, including gardening tools, golf clubs, leashes and even a pet’s fur. Be sure to rinse your pet’s fur, and wash tools and other objects with warm, soapy water.

Do not scratch, as scratching can cause an infection.

Leave blisters alone. If blisters open, do not remove the overlying skin, as the skin can protect the raw wound underneath and prevent infection.

Take short, lukewarm baths. To ease the itch, take short, lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation, which you can buy at your local drugstore. You can also draw a bath and add one cup of baking soda to the running water. Taking short, cool showers may also help.

Consider calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. Apply calamine lotion to skin that itches. If you have a mild case, a hydrocortisone cream or lotion may also help.

Apply cool compresses to the itchy skin. You can make a cool compress by wetting a clean washcloth with cold water and wringing it out so that it does not drip. Then, apply the cool cloth to the itchy skin.

Consider taking antihistamine pills. These pills can help reduce itching, however use with caution. You should not apply an antihistamine to your skin, as doing so can worsen the rash and the itch.

If your rash is not improving after seven to 10 days, or you think your rash may be infected, see a board-certified dermatologist. A dermatologist can treat your rash and any infection and help relieve the itch.

 

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Fresh Market: Is there fruit after August?

AWE-fresh-marketBy Vicky Babcock

 

 

Now that the kids are settled back into school and we are pushing into October, it’s time to address a few misconceptions. I’m frequently asked how long the (Solon) Market runs. People are quite often surprised when I tell them we are open through October. The question most commonly asked is this, “What kind of fruit (or vegetables) can you get in October?” Our minds take a turn once school starts. Our lives are consumed by back-to-school chores and football. For teachers, principals and other school staff, it is back to work. It’s like turning a switch. We forget that summer is not defined by the school schedule. Is there fruit (or vegetables) after August? I’m glad you asked.

Our state enjoys a fairly long growing season, spanning early May through late October and into November. Some of the most nutritious (and delicious) vegetables and fruits come late to the plate. Tomatoes are a popular fruit that can be harvested until the first frost. Most root vegetables enjoy a long sojourn into the fall season. Potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, parsnips and horseradish are some of the more common choices for fall roots. Winter squash—which should be harvested before the frost—will keep throughout much of the winter when stored properly.

Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers are other examples of fall favorites. Kohlrabi and rutabaga are less common, but equally delicious.

It’s not just about pumpkins. Apples and pears, both popular Michigan fruits, make their debut in October. And cranberries are just beginning their bid to maturity. Cackleberries (produced by happy hens) are available year round. With the variety of produce yet available, there’s no excuse not to eat fresh.

Easy as—well, pie—Crustless Cranberry Pie

1 cup flour

½ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

1 cup sugar

½ cup melted butter

¼ tsp. salt

2 beaten eggs

2 cups fresh cranberries

1 tsp. almond extract

 

Preheat oven to 350◦. In a medium to large bowl, combine first three ingredients. Gently stir in cranberries and nuts. Add butter, eggs and almond extract; combine. Spread in a 9-inch pie plate. Bake about 40 minutes or until golden and toothpick inserted in center is clean.

 

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

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Colors In the Wind

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Red Maples in swamplands are the first to show fall color. It is typical for stressed plants or weak dying plants to change color earlier. Difficult growing conditions in swamps are demonstrated by the red appearing first on the maples in standing wet conditions.

Sassafras trees show red or yellow depending on the amount of sugar, anthocyanin, and carotenes present in the leaves. Sumacs change early to become a beautiful crimson. At the equinox, color change picks up speed. Green still dominates the landscape.

Uppermost tree leaves change color first. Treetop leaves are exposed to chilling cold before more protected inner leaves. This results in color changes at the top first and is usually followed by leaf color at the tree canopy edge.

Fall breezes rustle leaves and we get to see the first colors in the wind drifting to the ground, as leaves break free. A few fall until a gust of wind fills the air with a couple hundred leaves. Cherries begin shedding leaves before many other species. Their leaves are not cherry red like the fruits but are yellow.

Aspen colors draw our attention as green and amber leaves quake in the slightest air movement. The leaves have a flat petiole that holds the blade to the stem. The flat petiole makes them quake easily. The movement captures our eyes and the sound of wind among the leaves draws attention. As fall progresses, aspens become beacons of reflected amber light in the setting sun. Amber aspens are like massive streetlights beginning to glow in the dimming evening woods.

Closer to the ground, dogwood shrubs are a deep dark maroon and raspberries are a rich red. Among the most brilliant fall colors are the Virginia creeper vines clinging to trunks of dead trees. They are exposed to full sun and have more sugar in the leaves. The exposure to sun aids pigment richness. The creepers that are more shaded from full sun are usually yellow.

Watch trees in various nature niche situations to discover subtle variations occurring where individual plants work to survive in their unique location. Discover trees of the same species with one growing in less ideal conditions and notice it changes color before others of it kind growing in better conditions.

Plants shed leaves in preparation for winter by producing an abscission layer between the petiole (leave stem) and the branch. This is a layer of large cells that seals fluid movement from leave to stem or stem to leave. If weather conditions prevent leaves from shipping sugars from the leaves before the abscission layer forms, sugar gets trapped and fall colors become more beautiful.

Large cells of the abscission layer create a weak area where the leaves separate from the tree to create colors in the wind when they fall.

Sugar maples hold leaves well and then suddenly drop them in a few days. Karen’s parents often visit for her October 20th birthday. When they arrive, the two maples by the house still have many leaves. Her parents are always amazed by the time they leave three days later that most of the leaves have been shed.

Oak trees do not form a good abscission layer. The result is many of the leaves remain on the tree into winter or even spring when new growth pushes the old leaf off. Sometimes oak leaves turn red but it is usual for them to simply brown. Enjoy the flitting and fluttering of colors in the wind, while taking notice of individual trees.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net

 

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Lawn care tips for Fall

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(Family Features) Taking time in the fall to prepare your lawn for the colder months ahead will pay dividends come spring and allow you to enjoy lusher, greener grass when temperatures rise again.

Fertilizing

Providing nutrients to your lawn before cold weather strikes is good for strengthening roots and increasing the nutrients stored for an earlier spring green. While the top growth of grass stops, grass plants are storing nutrients and energy for the following season.

To determine the best ratio of fertilizer for the soil in your yard, you should utilize a soil test. Otherwise, look for fertilizer with a nitrogen-phosphate-potassium (NPK) ratio of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2.

When applying the fertilizer, make sure that you follow the application instructions and rate information on the package and use a calibrated spreader to apply the correct amount. It is also a good rule to apply the fertilizer in the fall about 2-3 weeks before the ground freezes so the plant can start to take up some of the nutrients.

Instead of pacing the yard with a push spreader, consider a tow-behind spreader attached to your riding lawn mower or garden tractor. An attachment, such as a pull-type spin spreader from John Deere, can quickly distribute fertilizer evenly across your yard.

Aerating

Aerating, the process of removing plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn, is ideal in cooler months. It encourages deep rooting, improves water and nutrient penetration, and promotes growth of beneficial soil microorganisms. There are a variety of techniques you can use to penetrate the soil such as spiked shoes or spray-on liquids, but to most effectively aerate soil, attach a dethatcher, or a plug aerator behind a riding mower or tractor to remove plugs of soil from two to three inches deep.

Mulching

If you prefer not to rake or bag grass or leaves, mulching with a mower is an ideal alternative. Be sure to mulch leaves only when they are dry to avoid damp and wet leaves clumping or building up under mower decks.

Remember that grass needs sunlight in the fall to help store food for winter, so don’t wait until your lawn is completely matted down with leaves to mulch. A thin layer of mulched leaves is ideal and helps add nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer.

Selecting the right mower with mulching attachments or features can save a great deal of time and help ensure a consistent layer of mulch across the yard. For example, John Deere 100-Series lawn tractors have three-in-one mowing decks, which allow you to choose to mulch, bag or allow side-discharge.

Composting

Creating a compost pile allows you to turn organic material into rich soil. The fall season is a good time to create a compost pile with decaying yard matter, such as vegetables, grass clippings and leaves, which can provide nutrient-rich soil for spring planting. For best results, alternate layers of “brown,” or high carbon materials, with grass clippings.

Using a rear bagger with your lawn mower or tractor will help make collecting grass clippings a breeze, and adding to your compost pile is as simple as backing up to the spot and unloading. Another optional mower attachment, the lawn sweeper, brushes leaves into a hamper, much like a broom and dustpan.

 

Taking these steps will prepare your lawn for the winter and help it come back strong, healthy and beautiful in the spring. Learn more about the tools you need to care for your lawn at JohnDeere.com/Residential.

 

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Fresh Market: Horseradish

 

By Vicky Babcock

 

AWE-horseradishWelcome to the American Bottoms, a Mississippi River basin carved out by glaciers during the ice age.  The soil here is rich in potash, a nutrient on which horseradish thrives. According to promoters, it is here where 60 percent of the world’s supply of horseradish is grown. It is home to the International Horseradish Festival in Collinsville, Illinois. Celebrated the first weekend in June each year, events include root tossing, recipe contests and horseradish eating contests. Please see more information at www.horseradishfestival.com. Yet horseradish is not native to the U.S. and was probably introduced to the Americas during European colonization. Horseradish is happy where winters are cold and has a wide range from zones 2 to 9.

Horseradish is not for horses. In fact, both the leaves and roots are toxic to livestock, including horses. It does, however belong to the Brassicaceae family, which includes mustard, broccoli, cabbage and yes, radish. The name, “horse” likely stems from its archaic form, meaning strong, coarse or large.

Horseradish is not for everyone. It is most often used as a condiment with beef and is closely related to wasabi. However, it gives a lovely bite to a jar of pickles and Blue Diamond™ makes a wonderful Wasabi Almond, one of my favorites. The leaves can be used in salads and have the same—though much less—bite as the root. It is often used as one of the bitter herbs eaten in observance of Passover.

The bite associated with horseradish occurs when the plant is oxidized by chopping the root. Chopping or grating the plant releases isothiocyanate, a volatile compound that when combined with oxygen, provides the heat. The plant itself uses this as protection from insects and animals and few critters are likely to taste it twice. It is nature’s own chemical warfare, but used for protection only. It is interesting to note that at least one U.S. facility uses gas masks in processing this bitter herb.

Once the root is chopped, it must be stabilized in vinegar to preserve the heat. Horseradish does not have a long shelf life, as it loses its heat rather quickly and can become bitter.  Store bought sauces are likely to be more mild than you will get if you make your own.

Fresh horseradish has antibacterial properties and it is high in vitamin C. Both its leaves and root were used medicinally in ancient times and were considered useful for urinary tract infections, kidney stones, fluid retention, cough, bronchitis, achy joints, gallbladder disorders, gout and colic.  I do not advise self-medicating, however. As always, check with your doctor before using in any sense other than culinary.

According to Greek mythology, the Delphi Oracle informed Apollo that horseradish was worth its weight in gold. It was prized in Egypt as early as 1500 BCE.

Horseradish is harvested in the spring and fall and will last for up to six weeks if properly processed, although some sources claim success up to one year. You might want to try freezing small quantities for later use. Enjoy!

To process your own horseradish, wash and peel an eight to ten inch root. Chop into pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor.* Add one to two tablespoons water and pulse until desired consistency. Add a pinch of salt and one tablespoon white vinegar.  Or try our cream sauce. Recipe follows:

Horseradish Sauce

1 cup sour cream

¼ cup grated or finely chopped fresh horseradish

1 T. Dijon style mustard

1 tsp. white vinegar

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

Whisk ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Refrigerate for at least four hours to allow flavors to blend. Store in an air-tight container for up to three weeks. Use as a condiment with roast beef. Try with a red wine to balance the flavor.

*Always use care when cutting or handling fresh horseradish. While the intact root has little odor, cutting the root releases a potent compound that can irritate the eyes and nose. Use in a well ventilated area and avoid touching your eyes.

 

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718. Like us on facebook for updates.

 

 

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Michigan vintners prepare for short crop

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Severe cold events from January through March resulted in damage to grapevines that reduced fruitfulness for many of the more cold-tender varieties used for wine production in Michigan. The state’s wine grape growers are looking to continued warm and dry weather to help ripen a smaller-than-average crop.

“We anticipate approximately 50 percent reduction in the size of the state wine grape crop compared to the record 7,600 tons reported in 2013,” said Gordon Wenk, chair of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.

The impact varies widely around the state. Temperatures hovered below minus 5 for three days in early January in the southwest counties of Berrien and Van Buren, while Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties near Traverse City escaped damaging temperatures until late February. At that time, Lake Michigan was 90 percent frozen, eliminating the lake effect benefit that Michigan growers typically enjoy.

The extended, extreme cold during the winter of 2013-2014, referred to as the “Polar Vortex,” was the coldest in Michigan since 1993-1994. More than 40 varieties of grapes are used for wine production in Michigan. Some varieties, like Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, are more susceptible to damage from prolonged cold temperatures. Growers are preparing applications for USDA federal disaster assistance programs that will help mitigate some of their financial losses.

The cool, wet summer of 2014 delayed ripening of the smaller-than-average crop. Growing degree day data indicate that heat accumulation is behind the five-year average by approximately 15 percent in wine grape growing regions, as of September 29, making 2014 the coolest growing season in Michigan since 2009. Pest pressures also increased due to the weather. “This season was one of the coolest and wettest in the recent past, and this made management of diseases and insect pests very challenging for some growers,” said Keith Mason of Michigan State University Extension.

In 2015, consumers may face a reduced selection of styles and labels from Michigan’s 2014 vintage due to the damage to cold-tender varieties. However, wine inventories are in good shape at most wineries as a result of highly productive vintages in 2012 and 2013. “Many wineries restrict their sources of grapes to within the Great Lakes State as there is strong dedication to Michigan and its sub-appellations throughout the industry,” commented Wenk. Federal and state wine laws permit wineries to source fruit from outside the state, as long as the wine is labeled correctly.

Michigan ranks in the top 10 states in wine grape production in the United States, usually landing in the fifth to eighth position in ranking.

The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council is a 12-member panel that supports the growth of the grape and wine industry in Michigan. It is housed in the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, which is the official state agency charged with serving, promoting and protecting the food, agriculture and agricultural economic interests of the people of the state of Michigan.

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Checklist for Fall Garden and Landscape Care

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by Melinda Myers

You can see and feel the change of seasons. Fall color is starting to appear, pansies, mums and asters are in the garden center and your thoughts are turning to preparing your landscape for winter.

Those in warm climates are switching to winter annuals, while those in colder regions are fortifying their landscapes for the cold winter ahead. No matter where you live, invest some time in preparing your landscape for the change in seasons. Dedicating some time now will pay off with healthier more beautiful plants next spring.

  • Continue to mow the lawn high as long as it continues to grow. There’s no need to cut it short unless that is the look you prefer.
  • Fertilize the grass with a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer like Milorganite. Fall fertilization provides the greatest benefit to your lawn and gives you the best value for the time and money invested.
  • Those in cooler regions growing bluegrass, fescue and perennial ryegrass should fertilize around Labor Day when temperatures start to cool. Then make a final application between Halloween and Thanksgiving before the ground freezes.
  • Those in warmer climates growing centipede, Bermuda and zoysia should also fertilize around Labor Day.
  • However, be sure to make the last fall application at least one month prior to the average first killing frost.
  • Shred leaves as they fall. Leave some on the lawn to add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. As long as you can see the grass blades through the shredded leaves your lawn will be fine.
  • Use the rest of the shredded leaves in your compost pile, as mulch on top of the soil or as a soil amendment. Just dig a two to three inch layer into the top 12 inches of annual or new planting beds. These leaves will break down and add organic matter. By spring the leaves will decompose and the garden bed will be ready to cultivate and plant.
  • Plant a few bulbs now for a colorful early spring display. Incorporate compost, aged manure or other organic matter into the planting area. Add a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer at the time of planting. In general, plant bulbs two to three times their vertical diameter deep. Follow specific planting and spacing directions on the package or tag.
  • Select animal-resistant bulbs to avoid squirrels digging up the bulbs and deer and rabbits eating the blooms. Daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and squills are a few to consider. Little Tommies (Crocus tommasinianus) tend to be more squirrel resistant than other crocus varieties.
  • Those gardening in mild climates need low chill bulbs that will thrive and flower after a mild winter. Or purchase precooled bulbs for winter planting and spring flowering.
  • Allow disease- and insect-free perennials to stand for winter. This will increase their winter hardiness and your enjoyment. The dried leaves, stems and seedheads provide beauty for you to enjoy, seeds for the birds and overwintering homes for many butterflies and beneficial insects.
  • Plant trees, shrubs and perennials. The soil is warm and the air is cool – perfect conditions for planting and establishing trees, shrubs and perennials. And for those lucky enough to garden in warm climates, add a few winter annuals.
  • Continue to water the landscape as needed throughout the fall. Be sure to water evergreens and new plantings thoroughly before the ground freezes.

No matter where you live or the size of your garden, get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of fall. And be sure to invest a bit of energy now to insure your landscape is ready for the season ahead.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. Myers’ web site, (http://www.melindamyers.com/) offers gardening videos and tips.

 

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