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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween has its origin in Europe and has become a major U.S. celebration

(Found this Halloween column I wrote back in 2006. Thought I would post it on the blog. Have a happy Halloween.)

Outdoor Halloween decorations are nearly as prevalent these days as Christmas decorations. Drive through any neighborhood and you’ll find lighted pumpkins, strings or orange lights and more.
As a youngster growing up a half century ago, I remember when people would hollow out pumpkins, carve out a face, and place a lighted candle inside. They were displayed in windows, on front porches or along the sidewalk leading to the house. Over the years, Halloween displays have become much more elaborate and expensive.
Celebrated primarily on Oct. 31, Halloween is an observance for youngsters dressed in costumes who go door-to-door collecting treats. But it isn’t just a kid thing. Plenty of adults enjoy celebrating Halloween with parties and office decorations.
As youngsters, we looked forward to trick or treating. We would dress up in homemade costumes. As we walked the neighborhood, homes were decorated with candlelit pumpkins. The smell of burning leaves filled the air. If we were lucky, we returned home with a bag of candy.
Halloween was celebrated in Europe long before the U.S. The holiday didn’t come to this country until the 19th Century. Before the 1800’s, people with Puritan traditions hardly celebrated Christmas let alone an event like Halloween, which had a combination of both religious and pagan backgrounds.
However, the great migration of two million Irish due to the Potato Famine in the 1840’s. The Irish brought with them the tradition of Halloween and many of its customs.
Halloween didn’t begin to be commercialized until the 20th Century. Mass produced masks and costumes began appearing in the 1950’s, and has led to today when the holiday has become one of the most profitable for retailers next to Christmas.
I’m amazed at the effort people make to decorate their lawns and homes with pumpkins, ghosts, goblins', spiders, vampires, Frankenstein characters and other ghoulish figures. I don’t really understand it, but must admit I enjoy seeing the decorations on fall evenings.
# # # #
Here are several suggestions related to Halloween Trick or Treating...
-- Feed the kids before they go out so they will be less likely to eat the treats before they return home and you can inspect them. (Isn’t it a shame we live in a world where we have to inspect the candy?) Tell them you must inspect the candy before they eat it.
-- Have kids trick or treat with friends or with adult supervision. They shouldn’t go out alone.
-- Tell kids to never enter the house or car of a stranger.
-- Kids should stay on streets that are well lit, and only cross at corners. Watch for cars.
-- Kids should carry a flashlight  and/or wear reflective tape so drivers can see them.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Persimmons not only make good pudding, they also make a fine wine

Persimmons make excellent pudding, pies and wine. They are very tasty, but make sure they are ripe before including in a dessert.

        Fall is a great time of the year to enjoy nature’s fruits. It’s also a great time to enjoy a leisurely country  drive and the season's beautiful scenery. And, it’s time for a walk among the falling leaves in the woods.
This fall there seem to be plenty of persimmons, walnut and hickory nuts. My observations aren't scientific, but I've seen what appears to be good crops. 
On a hike, you can pick up persimmons or nuts for a tasty dessert. It's wise to carry a couple sacks with you in which to place your findings.
Persimmons are one of the most popular items harvested in the fall, although other fruits of interest include the pawpaw, wild grapes, elderberry, and wild cherry. These can be picked while on a fall hunting trip for squirrels or a fishing trip, or they can be hunted and picked on any fall outing.
The persimmon tree has gray, fissured bark. Once you learn the tree, they are easy to identify.
Persimmons should be picked from the ground and not the tree. If picked from the tree, they may be what we always have called “puckery”. One not fully ripe will leave the inside of your mouth with an awful taste and make the inside feel as though it puckers. Some people shake the persimmons from smaller limbs, but there is a danger of getting some puckery ones included in your picking.
Once ripened persimmons hit the ground, they usually don't last long. Wildlife love them.
Persimmons can be used to make wine. To process them is easy. You just look them over in the kitchen. Wash them off and make sure they are clean. Then squash and drop skins, seeds and all into the container where you make your wine.
(I'm told elderberries make a fine wine as well, but I've never tried it. I recently found several recipes on the internet. Ehow is one site with a recipe.)
If you plan to use persimmons to make pudding, cookies or pies or to save and freeze for later, much more work is involved. 
The biggest problem is getting out the seeds. They are sizable, but difficult to easily remove. The skins and stems also must be separated. They need to be run through a colander or Victoria strainer,  and that is a work of love, but one well worth doing. I love persimmon pudding. It is always a part of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Here is a persimmon pudding recipe::
Ingredients -- 2 cups persimmon pulp, 2 cups sugar (granulated), 2 cups milk, 2 cups flour, 3/4 stick of margarine or butter, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
Melt the butter and stir it into the pulp. Then stir in flour, sugar, cinnamon in that order and stir it well.
Pour the mixture into a nine by 13-inch cake pan, and bake for one hour in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees. It can be served with whipped cream, or it can be cut into squares and eaten with the hands, although you may have to lick your fingers afterward.
There are a number of other recipes. My mother-in-law always made a pudding that was less like a cake and more like a soft pudding to be eaten with a spoon. Either way it is delicious.
If you want to enjoy eating a few raw persimmons while on a hike or baking a tasty pudding, give them a try.

Friday, October 18, 2013

So what was pretty little Susie doing down in the pawpaw patch?

What’s a pawpaw? Most old-timers know. Most youngsters never heard of it, or maybe they have heard of PawPaw, Michigan.
The pawpaw is a tropical-like fruit that grows in the wild. Several communities and a number of lakes have been named after it, and one town in Pennsylvania even has a pawpaw festival.
Many old-timers (I’m one) remember a song about a pawpaw patch. It seemed everyone learned it. The catchy little tune apparently game from the Appalachian mountains, and eventually spread elsewhere.
“Where oh where is pretty little Susie?”, began the tune.
“Pickin’ up pawpaws, puttin’ ‘em in a basket.”
“Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.
Pawpaw trees usually are found in groves and are relatively small. The trees are no larger than two or three inches in diameter and don’t grow more than 20 to 25-feet tall. The bark is gray and smooth. There aren’t many lower limbs, but upper limbs usually produce a canopy effect.
The pawpaw fruit  normally is less than five inches long and an inch-and-a-half to two inches in diameter. Early in the season, it is green in color and later turns more yellow and often has black spots. Inside are usually found large, dark brown seeds.
The fruit is called by many names besides pawpaw. It is called American custard banana, West Virginia banana, Indiana banana, and probably a dozen other names.
As far as i know, you can’t buy the fruit in stores, however it may be found at a few festivals or farmer’s markets. The trees now may be purchased from nurseries, and in the future the pulp or fruit may become available commercially.
Pawpaw fruits are said to be rich in minerals, including magnesium, copper, zinc, potassium and iron. It also contains Vitamin C.
The pulp may be eaten raw, made into ice cream, or made into pie filling and custard. My outdoor writer friend Bill Scifres used the fruit to make a tasty white wine.
While many people today may never have heard of the pawpaw, it has quite a history.
President Thomas Jefferson had pawpaws at Monticello. And when he was minister to France, he for some reason had pawpaw seeds shipped over to friends there. 
And, according to journal records, Lewis and Clark wrote that they were quite fond of the pawpaw. Once during their expedition, they relied upon pawpaws growing along the way when other provisions ran low.
Some cooks make a custard out of yellow, sweet fruit. 
A recipe suggests seeding them, mash them, add milk, a little sugar, an egg and some allspice. Pour the batter into custard cups and set those in a bread pan with some water in the bottom of the pan. Bake at a medium heat. Stick a toothpick in, and when it comes up clean it’s done. 
The pawpaw is sensitive to ultraviolet light, thus, paw paw seedlings may not grow back after forests have been clear cut, and there are very few virgin forests left in the United States. 
Unless you know where a pawpaw patch or grove  is located, these days they are hard to find. You may stumble upon them when hunting. Doyle Coultas and I found a patch in Breckenridge County one year, but in the following years someone always found and harvested the fruit before we could pick it.
Bill Scifres in the fall always carried mesh type potato sacks with him in the event he happened upon a pawpaw grove.
If you come across pawpaws in the fall, give them a try.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

As temperature drops, fishing picks up

Another page has turned on the calendar, leaves are making their downward exit from trees, walnuts are hitting the ground, making a green minefield for the mower.
The squirrels are busy figuring out where to hide nuts, fall festivals are everywhere, and I’ve gotten out a long sleeve shirt to don when drinking my morning coffee overlooking the lake.
After a warm, relatively dry summer, I look forward to fall. It probably is my favorite season. However, I have very little enthusiasm for what follows. Winter. 
It is true, Winter has some virtues, although the old mind struggles to enumerate many. It seems the number shrinks as the number of candles increase to the point of having to alert the fire department before attempting to light them all.
       There will be more warm days and the water temperature is still warm. It is a time when big catfish are feeding prior to winter months. There isn’t a better time to land a big catfish. Their feeding frenzy, especially in rivers and big lakes, usually lasts well into October when the water begins to significantly cool.
And when the water cools, it marks a time for crappie fishing action to pick up.
Once the leaves begin to turn color and drop, many anglers are ready to put away their rods and reels for the year, but if they do they will miss a lot of good fishing.
Crappie fishing can be goof in the fall as it is during the spring spawn. In fact, it can be just as much fun and productive as there are fewer people and boats on lakes and streams making noise and spooking the fish.
Fall crappie fishing can be a bit more challenging than spring action because often the fish are more scattered. They are harder to find. They also may be more unpredictable.
During the fall, the water temperature eventually becomes about the same at all levels and crappie can be found at most any depth. However, once you find them, they can be caught.
In the fall, crappie seem to prefer minnows over artificial baits as they starting feeding themselves for the coming cold-weather months--at least that is my experience.
If you decide to use artificial baits, it is a good idea to keep them smaller. One-to-two inch artificial minnows seem to work well.
If you are fishing clear water, crappie plugs, small jigs, bladebaits like Road Runners, work well. Often combining a lure with a live minnow will attract fish faster and more often.
Night fishing works well during early fall. Lights which attract bugs also attract fish.
A cookout with fried squirrel and fried crappie and homemade slaw; well, eating doesn’t get much better.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Good fall foliage viewing predicted, but then who really knows

Leaves should be colorful this fall in Kentuckiana.

According to the calendar, fall has officially arrived, and coming closely behind should be fall foliage. And, this year should be a colorful one.
Many of those who predict fall foliage say based on this year’s relatively mild temperatures and the amount of rainfall this summer, vivid leaf colors can be anticipated.
At the time of this writing, not a lot of color is showing, but change has started. What mostly is being seen now are dogwoods and sumac.
Predicting when the leaves will be most colorful as well as the amount of brilliance  isn’t easy. Moisture, temperature and light are primary factors. but even the best forecasters don’t always get it right and sometimes aren’t sure why.
Last summer and early fall were terribly dry and few people thought leaves would be colorful, but most people were fooled. The leaves were much more colorful than anticipated.
It seems there is a lot known about what causes color in the leaves, but predicting its intensity isn’t easy.
       Abby van den Berg, University of Vermont plant biologist, who has done research on leaf colors, said some data suggest a small amount of physiological stress can result in more brilliant colors.
"The real bottom line is that there's no great way to predict these things," she said. "It's pretty much impossible, especially over a large scale."
As to the timing, the Farmers Almanac says leaves in Southern Indiana usually reach their peak from Oct. 12-28. 
According to the Weather Channel, “Temperature, light, and water supply have an influence on the degree and the duration of fall color. Low temperatures above freezing will favor anthocyanin formation, producing bright reds in maples. However, early frost will weaken the brilliant red color. Rainy and/or overcast days tend to increase the intensity of fall colors. The best time to enjoy the autumn color would be on a clear, dry and cool (not freezing) day.
“Every autumn we revel in the beauty of the fall colors. The mixture of red, purple, orange and yellow is the result of chemical processes that take place in the tree as the seasons change from summer to winter.
“During the spring and summer the leaves have served as factories where most of the foods necessary for the tree's growth are manufactured. 
“This food-making process takes place in the leaf in numerous cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. This extraordinary chemical absorbs from sunlight the energy that is used in transforming carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch.
“Along with the green pigment are yellow to orange pigments, carotenes and xanthophyll pigments which, for example, give the orange color to a carrot. Most of the year these colors are masked by great amounts of green coloring.
But in the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Toasted maple nut goodies; a find at the Morton General Store

Remember maple nut goodies candy. The little maple coated nut goodies candy has been around as long as I can remember. 
Maple nut goodies usually are sold in bulk or sometimes in a bag where bulk candies are sold. (Fewer places theses days.) As I recall, Brach’s made the goodies. There probably were others.
During a recent auto drive, I stopped by the Morton (IN) General Store on U.S. Highway 36 east of Rockville. The od store has a great selections of fishing and hunting grear. It also has a wonderful selection of meat and fish as well as cheese. I usually stop when I am in the area. The cheddar bacon cheese is wonderful. It makes great grilled cheese sandwiches.
Anyway, on the way to the cash register, I noticed the bin of bulk candy. And there were maple nut goodies. I picked up a bag and headed to the cash register with my bologna, ham and cheese.
The lady at the cash register asked if I had even heated the maple nut goodies.
I told her, “no”. It had never crossed my mind.
“Put them on a plate and place them in the microwave for about 20 seconds. It softens them and they are wonderful,” she explained.
That evening at home, I decided to put a few in the microwave. Wow, she was really right. Delicious. And, into the microwave went more.
Now, I need to buy some more maple nut goodies.
I learn something new every day. Imagine a store with great outdoor gear and maple nut goodies. And, yes, there are chocolate covered peanuts.

Hoosier hunters and wildlife viewers can expect plenty of deer this fall

Indiana  hunters may not see a record number of deer, but should have a good year.

It doesn’t seem possible that summer is gone, fall has arrived, and so has deer season.
This year’s overall deer hunting season began Sept. 15 with the opening of the urban deer zone season. It will continue through Jan. 31. The state’s youth hunt weekend is Sept. 28 and 29.
Archery season starts Oct. 1 and runs through Jan. 5. Firearms season starts Nov. 16 and continues through Dec. 1 Muzzleloader season is Dec. 6-22.
 For more information on seasons and regulations, visit or checkout this year’s state hunting guide.
There is good news this year for deer hunters. Plenty of deer will be available to hunters. Another exceptional harvest is anticipated, although it probably won’t be another record year. And, that’s not a bad thing. 
        The Hoosier herd is being managed to ensure the animals are healthy, there are plenty to hunt and view, and farmers and automobile drivers and their insurance rates are considered.
Hoosier deer hunters in 2012 harvested 136,248 deer. The deer harvest record has been broken in four of the last five seasons, a trend that Department of Natural Resources deer research biologist Chad Stewart doesn’t expect to continue in 2013, according to information provided by the DNR.
  “It wouldn’t surprise me if it was down a little this year,” Stewart said. “But I don’t expect the harvest numbers to fall off a cliff. There will still be plenty of deer out there.”
  The main reason Stewart thinks a dip in the harvest might happen is because hunters in 2012 harvested a record number of does. As a result, reproduction was likely down this year compared to previous years.
  Stewart emphasized that reducing the deer population to a more balanced level has been the DNR’s goal in recent years. Changes to hunting regulations that went into effect in 2012 were geared toward that goal. The changes included extending archery season, allowing crossbows for all archery hunters and creating a “license bundle” that saved hunters money.
  “A reduced deer harvest would mean we are making progress,” Stewart said.
  The 2013 license bundles give the additional option of harvesting either two antlerless deer and a buck or three antlerless deer. 
While it may not produce a new record harvest, 2013 will be a good one for deer hunters. More and bigger isn’t always best.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Indiana DNR reports Hoosier state recreational facilities open

      Indiana's Department of Natural Resources has issued a news release indicating all Hoosier state parks remain open despite the federal government shutdown.
     However, several federal facilities are closed.
     The IDNR release follows:

No need to worry, Hoosier outdoor lovers.

Although national parks and national wildlife refuges are closed because of the federal government shutdown, Indiana’s 24 state parks and eight reservoir properties remain open for business as usual—if you call the burst of fall colors usual.

There is an Indiana state park or reservoir property within a one-hour drive of every Hoosier.

The properties offer an array of recreational activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, boating, canoe and kayaking, mountain biking, picnicking, and wildlife watching.

Daily gate fees for in-state residents are only $5 per carload at most properties. Those who want to stay overnight will probably need to do some planning. October is one of the most popular camping months of the year, with autumn- and Halloween-themed events happening at many properties. Reservations can be made at camp.IN.govor 1-866-6CAMPIN (1-866-622-6746).

“October has become like the busy month of July for our parks and reservoirs,” said Ginger Murphy of the DNR Division of State Parks & Reservoirs. “If weekends are full at your favorite state park or reservoir, camping on weekdays during your fall break is a great way to enjoy the outdoors.”

Information on state parks and reservoirs is at Information on programs and special events is at

Information on all DNR properties, all of which remain open during the federal government shutdown, is at

Kentucky seeks increases in some fishing and hunting fees and licenses

Kentucky’s Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources says an increase in license fees is needed. 
None of us want to pay more for anything. Most everyone tries to live within their budget, unless it’s the federal government. And now, KDFWR is building a case for increases.  It says it needs a bigger budget.
Most of the proposed increases won’t involve basic hunting and fishing licenses.
Many people still believe state tax dollars are used to fund KDFWR. However, the department doesn’t operate on state tax revenues. 
    Funding mainly depends on hunting and fishing license/permit fees, boat registration fees, and federal funding. (That’s one reason more outdoor folks are pushing for fees for non-hunters who use state wildlife areas for wildlife viewing, hiking, etc.)
  According to KDFWR, the amount of federal funding the Department receives depends on the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold in Kentucky.  
  KDFWR contends a  license and permit fee increase is necessary every 5-7 years in order to keep up with rising operational and infrastructure costs, such as fuel, materials, maintenance of equipment, and required services. 
The department says without a fee increase, it will be forced to cut important programs and services, such as law enforcement, fish stocking, fish and wildlife habitat improvement, conservation camps, and maintenance of public lands and lakes, to name a few. 
Most of the proposed increases are planned for nonresident fees to align them with other states. 
  Prices of basic resident hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses will not change under the current proposal.
  Senior and disabled licenses are proposed to increase from $5 to $11. Without the increase to $11, a pending federal rule change may result in the loss of nearly two million dollars each year of federal funding to the Department. From 1999 to 2012, the number of these licenses sold increased from 69,000 to 118,000.  
With an aging population, in the next five years more than 20 percent  of license buyers will be buying this heavily discounted license, rather than standard licenses that cost $20-$95.      
The current $5 license fee has been in place since the license was created 14 years ago.  The $11 fee for this license would still represent an 87 percent Senior/disabled discount when compared to the resident Sportsman’s License at $95.  
  Resident elk quota hunt permits (currently $30) are proposed to increase to $60 for cow permits 
and $100 for bull permits, comparable to other elk hunting states. 
   The other proposed resident fee increases are modest:  Deer permit ($30 to $35); migratory bird & waterfowl permit (currently $10 and $15, respectively; to be combined and set at $15); Youth hunting license ($5 to $6); Youth sportsman’s license ($25 to $30). 
 Two new licenses will offer added convenience and discounts for some customers:    
-- A 3-year fishing license ($55).  
-- Senior lifetime sportsman’s license ($82). 
The proposed changes were developed after a series of inputs were sought by the department, and written comments still can be provided, but must be sent no later than Sept. 30.
Internet comments can be made to:, or mailed to: Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife, %public comments, #1 Sportsman Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601.
Additional information about the proposed increase can be found online