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Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas' past bring back memories

In recalling Christmas pasts, there are many fond memories. Most aren’t about gifts, but there are a couple of presents that helped spark this old writers interest in the outdoors.
One Christmas there was a shinny red bike, and another year Santa left a Red Ryder BB gun. There were many other thoughtful gifts over the years, but these two top the list and expedited outdoor exploration.
Money was scarce when I was growing up. We always had plenty to eat and a warm house, but not a lot more. I didn’t know we were poor.
Somewhere, my dad found a used Western Flyer bike. He cleaned, painted and polished the old bike, It also had new tires, It looked brand new, beautiful. And to me, it was my ticket to the world. It was my transportation to frog ponds, fishin'’ holes, woods, and other neighborhood kid’s homes  and outdoor games.
I was blessed, electronic games had not been invented. There was no Twitter, Facebook, or other computer stuff I don’t understand. What we had was capture the flag, kick the can, hide and seek, and when we could find a new kid, we let him participate in a snipe hunt.
Besides the bike, another year’s special gift was a Red Ryder BB gun. It came with a package of BB’s.
I spent many hours shooting targets and cans down by the old railroad tracks. It was where I learned some of the early fundamentals of target shooting and hunting. It also helped teach me the value of saving money so I could make trips to Goodwin’s store to purchase more BB’s.
For many old-timers like me, Christmas is a special time -- a time for nostalgia about bikes, BB guns, Christmas Eve church services and trips to Grandma’s house.
Growing up, Christmas Eve started with a trip to a little German country church in rural Clark County, Illinois. The kids of the church practiced  for weeks in advice on a special Christmas program.
The programs were short, probably no more than an hour. But, they seemed an eternity as we had fun things to do afterwards at grandma’s house.
There was a big valley and hill near the church, and it always seemed like it was slick with snow and ice. One farmer kept his tractor at ready to help pull stranded cars up the hill after leaving the church
After the service, our family all gathered at Grandma and Grandpa Junker’s house. It was small, but we all managed to pack inside.
There was oyster soup and chili, plus sandwiches and homemade Christmas cookies. As a youngster, I disliked (mild words) the oyster stew, but would love to have a bowl today.
Kids were later told to be quiet and listen for Santa’s sleigh bells. Hearing the bells, we were told that Santa had made an early visit to the closed off living room. There we found gifts under the tree One for each youngster. There also were gifts for adults, who following Thanksgiving dinner had drawn names. Later, we kids received the remainder of our Christmas gifts at our homes.
My Christmas memories still fill my head at this time of year, and I have a special recollection of that red bike. It was my access to the wonderful outdoors.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Florida's Polk County sets aside land for rehab, future generations

Guide Steve King explains about swamp land and the important role it plays in the ecosystem.
Historically, in the early part of the last century, people choose to drain swamps and marshes. It made better land for growing crops and raising livestock.
While the drained land was better for some crops and livestock, it also had a negative impact on water quality and much wildlife. It happened in many places like the Kankakee Marsh innorth-central Indiana, other places in the Midwest, and significant parts of Florida.
While all of the original marsh and swamp land will never be returned to its undisturbed status, there are places where people of have seen the benefits of returning the land to its original status. There are some good examples in the area of central Florida where I spend cold weather months.
Polk County is a large county in central Florida. It roughly is the size of Rhode Island, and currently has 544 lakes. Many were sink holes that filled with water, and about one-third are natural lakes, including those in the Kissimmee chain of lakes which lead to Lake Okeechobee and eventually through marsh and swamp land to the Gulf of Mexico.
Polk County Environmental Lands Program oversees the management of Polk’s Nature Discovery Center and 16 natural areas in the county. The program exists to protect the water, wildlife and wilderness, and when appropriate, provide nature-based recreation.
A number of years ago, voters in Polk County approved a property tax levy that created the Lands Program. Since that time, many environmentally sensitive areas are being protected.
One of the areas being protected and rehabilitated is the Circle B Bar Reserve, The 1,267-acre wilderness area between Winter Haven and Lakeland, boasts large numbers of wildlife, and attracts visitors from throughout the United States and numerous foreign countries.
One of the earliest property maps showing the Circle B dates back to 1927 and shows it as a wet area., connected to Lake Hancock. Over the next 70 years, actions were taken to drain the area and make the land more suitable for cattle ranching.
In 2000, the land was purchased by the Polk County Commissioners and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, to restore the main wetland now known as Banana Creek Marsh.
Since the purchase, the restoration of the marsh and upland has been ongoing. The changes are creating habitat and providing new food source for thousands of resident and migrating birds and other wildlife, including wild turkey, eagles, bobcat, grey fox, otter, coyotes, and gopher tortoises. 
And, there are plenty of alligators. Lake Hammond and the surrounding are are estimated to house abut 4,000 gators.
Circle B has a dozen well maintained trails for hiking and biking. It seems to be a paradise for photographers, and despite the sizable alligator population, there doesn’t seem to be any significant disagreeable encounters between visitors and gators.
Circle B also offers guided leisurely tram tours through the Banana Creek Marsh with narrative provided by volunteer guides. However, the tram tours are popular and reservations are required. There is no charge. Reservations may be made at the Discovery Center reception desk or by calling 1-863-668-4673, ext 205. Reservations usually need to be made several days in advance.
The Circle B is well worth a visit on any trip to Florida. It is located about 50 miles southwest of Orlando. The facilities are open daily, and there is no charge, although there is a donation jar at the registration/information desk.
One word of caution, pets are not allowed on the property.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Thoughts on gun carry law, safety

Recent terrorism attacks in this country and abroad have ramped up emotions, questions, and interest in guns.
Not all of the attacks have been with guns, but those are the ones that seem to garner most of the attention. There are those who hope, want, believe or wish passing legislation would end the violence. Don’t we all, but that isn’t the reality.
Yes, there may be laws and regulations that can be tweaked and make a bit tougher for bad guys to get guns, but for the most part such legislation just make some folks feel better, feel like they are doing something positive.
Up front, I am a supporter of the “right to bear arms”. I have been a hunter all my life and am retired military. But when I sat down at my old laptop, the purpose wasn’t to start a debate of guns vs. no guns. My goal was to offer some information about carrying a gun.
There is no question that recent events have prompted much interest from people who are or think they are interested in carrying a weapon. The interest has been particularly strong among females.
I myself have had thoughts about carrying a weapon. I own guns, but have chosen not to carry one. My personal choice.
A number of people have raised the question about whether or not to obtain a weapon and carry it.
Some words written by fellow outdoor writer Glenn Wheeler provide a much better response than my old mind has produced.
Glenn is an EMT, and owner of Wheeler Photography and Media Group, Harrison, Arkansas. He has been putting words about the outdoors, including hunting and shooting, for many years.
Glenn graciously consented for me to pass along his words of the subject of handgun carry.
“Lately. I have been getting quite a few texts, calls and Facebook messages asking about what handgun a person should get, what ammo is best, how to best carry a firearm, etc.
“I appreciate the questions and try to answer each as best I can. But, I'll put this out here, too.
“Carrying a firearm is a right as long as you qualify. It is also a responsibility. Don't just get a gun and start carrying it. Have a knowledgeable person (or more than one, independent of one another) help you choose the right gun and learn how to safely handle it.
“Get good training. I don't mean Uncle Joe in the back yard with a box of ammo, I mean a good, qualified instructor. 
“Go beyond getting a Concealed Carry permit, get additional training. Set aside some money for that purpose in addition to what you spend on your gun, ammo, holster, etc.
“Also, if you make the decision to carry...Carry. Don't think "well, I'm just running to town, I won't need it." If you are going to carry, carry any time you can.
“It is our responsibility to protect ourselves and our loved ones. If you feel you want to live up to that responsibility, then do so. But, do so in the right way so you don't put yourselves and others in additional jeopardy and give the anti gunners more "ammo" to use against us. Carry responsibly, carry safely and carry always.”
To own a gun or not own a gun is your right. To carry a gun or not carry a gun also is your right. But if you choose to carry, do it right. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Trash can turkey cooking finishes a bird golden brown in about two hours

Jeff DeRitter (top) lifts trash can from turkey. Kathy (Jeff's wife)
and Jeff prepare to cut up the turkey.
Thanksgiving brought together a number of friends and neighbors, and a part of the get-together is turkey. The same happens for Christmas and turkey is a part.
These are the plump domestic variety, not the lean dark meat wild variety taken during spring or fall hunting seasons.
My friend Jeff DeRitter utilizes a special method of preparing a turkey for our gathering. It is not only turkey cooking, it is fun and socialization. 
In Jeff’s case, it is a way to cook a big bird and pass time, while the ladies are preparing the rest of the meal inside.
Jeff calls it trash can cooking. It requires a clean large metal trash can. -- the type most people used before plastic versions began to take over the world.
On a level site where you can make a bit of a mess, drive a large metal stake vertically into the ground. The stake must be able to hold a turkey, and the portion above the ground can be no longer than the trash can is tall when the can is turned upside down.
At the base of the stake place a couple of bricks wrapped in aluminum foil. When the turkey is placed on the stake it may slide down to the aluminum foil, but will be protected from touching the ground. 
Another option Jeff used this year was to place the turkey on a bundt cake pan and a deep fryer pan with holes to drain any liquid. A can of beer (just the beer, not the can) goes into the bundt pan.
Jeff does very little seasoning of the turkey, but it can be seasoned to taste.
The trash can is placed upside down over the turkey, fitting evenly to the ground.
A sizable amount of charcoal is started burning in advance. Coals are placed on top of the trash can much like they are placed on the top of a dutch oven. Coals also are placed surrounding the base and touching against the can.
Surprisingly, it takes only a couple hours to completely cook a 20-pound turkey. It will be delicious.
Once the charcoal is placed on the can, another important function takes places. With lawn chairs in place, it is like sitting around a campfire.
Tales are told, coffee sipped, and maybe even a touch of adult beverage consumed.
The weather may be nippy, but the wait for turkey is fun while enjoying the outdoor experience.
Jeff cooks his holiday turkeys at the Harbor RV Resort on Lake Rosalie in Florida where a number of us winter, but he also has done the same at deer camps in Michigan during cold weather.
Eating a turkey from a trash can initially  sound unappetizing, but meat is mighty tasty.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Trip to Fisherman's Candy Store results in new rod and reel

It doesn’t take a lot to make some outdoor folks happy. It doesn’t take a stringer of big fish. Sometimes just a little lure casting is enough.
And when casting, if a fish connects with the lure, that’s a plus. And if the angler is successful in landing the fish, that’s another plus.
Recently, after arriving from our Northern abode to our little central Florida home at Lake Rosalie, I developed a need for casting. My boat wasn’t ready for the water. It had been “summerized”. In the north you winterize a boat, but in the south you summerize before you head north for the warm weather months.
Numerous rods and reels sit in the corner, but most are for crappie. However, I selected a casting rod and reel and headed to the dock. Several casts were made, but the rod and reel were really designed for bass. Seems I needed a new lighter weight rod and reel. 
A few days later on a trip to town (Lake Wales), a visit to the Fisherman’s Candy Store was in order. The fishing store is a true treasure. It is a great independent fishing store. There aren’t many like it remaining. 
When it comes to fishing, if the Candy Store doesn’t have it, you really, really don’t need it.
Like a kid in a candy store, I looked through the fishing candy, a hundred or more rod and reel outfits. An inexpensive Zebco outfit caught my eye. It felt good. It was a six-foot rod with a different reel.
There are dozens, hundreds, thousands of new things, gizmos, colors for fishermen. This reel was new to me, but likely has been around for a white. It is called a Zebco QuickCast and claims to be “the worlds only spinning reel that allows you to cast without ever touching the line.”
Is it a gimmick? Does it work? Is it something I need? Well, the fishing gear caught this old fisherman. The outfit was very reasonably priced, and felt good in my hand. Yes, the rig hooked me and my billfold.
At home, I rigged the rod and reel and added a lure, a blue and silver A.C. Shiner, an excellent bass lure.
A.C. Shiners have been made for more than 45 years in Ohio. A friend told me about them several years ago and I ordered several via the internet. They are a bit expensive, but they work.
       They are good lures for bass, stripers, muskie, and all other sport fish. All A.C. Shiners lures are handmade and painted from carefully selected balsa or cedar wood and requires 22 to 39 separate hand operations. It takes approximately ten days to complete each lure. 
The company says “A. C. Shiner” stands for Action Certified Shiner because each lure is individually tested in water and adjusted to produce the best action.
Anyway, I walked down to the dock with the new rod and reel and an attached A.C. Shiner. It took a couple casts to get comfortable tossing the lure without touching the line using the QuickCast.
Cast number five resulted in a strike and catch of a two-to-three pound largemouth. So, I can give high marks to the QuickCast. Frankly, I still through habit tend to touch the line, but the reel works.
# # # #
BACON DEER BURGER - My friend Patrick “Gomer” Robinson is an avid hunter and outdoorsman from Pikeville, Tennessee. He passed along a recipe for bacon deer burger.
“My recipe for deer bacon burger is twenty five pounds of deer meat to be ground, ten pounds of bacon ends and pieces, chopped into small pieces, mixed in with the deer meat. grind and pack,” says Gomer.
“The bacon adds enough fat to keep burger moist and not falling apart and also makes the entire burger taste like bacon”, adds Patrick.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

They may have same origin, but wild and tame turkeys much different

Wild and domestic turkeys much different,
although they have same origin.

There is considerable difference between the wild turkey probably eaten at the first Thanksgiving meal and the tame bird found on most holiday tables these days.
The bird most of us have with stuffing, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie was once closely related to the wild bird, but now hardly represents a distant cousin.
Few people today will have a wo;d turkey on the Thanksgiving table unless they have had it saved in their freezer, although Kentucky does have a fall turkey season, but relatively small numbers of hunters take advantage of it. As of Nov. 15, 2,747 turkeys were taken in the Bluegrass state, including 40 in Nelson County.
According to information from the National Wild Turkey Federation, Spanish explorers arrived in Mexico in 1517, and on this expedition they discovered large numbers of turkeys. 
The men took careful notes and documented every detail of their New World, but failed to tell us whether or not they found wild turkeys or domestic turkeys. Because of this oversight, some historians credit Christopher Columbus as the first European to lay eyes on a wild turkey during his fourth voyage.
Understanding this – the fact that there are two turkeys – only leads to a series of confusing questions. During the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the National Wild Turkey Federation, a conservation organization instrumental in restoring North America’s wild turkey populations, says it receives an incredible number of calls and e-mails about the differences between the two. 
Why are there two kinds of turkeys? What’s the difference? And where do domestic turkeys come from in the first place?
Both turkeys were common in Mexico in the 16th Century. Historians know that Indian tribes in Mexico, particularly the Aztec Indians, were skilled at hunting wild turkeys and capturing and domesticating some of them. Those domesticated wild turkeys evolved over time, learning to rely on humans and becoming tame. 
Domesticating plants and animals emerged, more or less, as groups of hunters-gathers evolved into farmers and stock breeders. So domesticating turkeys was a choice of convenience, a way to fence in dinner.
 How long turkeys existed in North America before European explorers discovered the New World is uncertain. It is certain, however, that North America’s native bird has five centuries of recorded history.
In spite of all the questions, one thing has always been certain – people like to eat turkeys. Its meat was once reserved for the elite; and in sixteenth-century Mexico, some towns only allowed lords to eat turkeys. 
When comparing the two birds, the wild turkey is better known for its physical attributes and attitude. Centuries ago, after seeing a turkey for the first time, an East Indian emperor was fascinated by the wild turkey’s attitude of self-importance. Tom Kelly, a longtime turkey hunter and outdoor writer, declared the wild bird the epitome of grace.
 “His neck stretched out, he looks long and lean and quick – putting every foot down as if he is walking on egg shells,” said Kelly. “When he is most impressive is when he’s coming to your call, and he gets within 30 or 40 yards and thinks there’s a girl (a hen) in sight.”
On Thanksgiving Day, you may stop to consider the domestic bird before you. Basted and stuffed, he is not the same as the wild bird often depicted, sometimes standing beside humble pilgrims, in many commercialized Thanksgiving images.
The domestic bird has been bred for more white meat and eating, however the wild turkey from a health perspective is better for you.
Whichever bird you choose, or even if you opt for a ham, have a great Thanksgiving weekend.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Second graders ask good questions

Outdoor writer Phil Junker sits and chats with a second grade class at Madison Creek Elementary, where his granddaughter, Meredith Fields is a student.

Public speaking is something that makes lots of people very nervous. Some people will do almost anything to avoid talking to a group.
This old writer/communicator has never been intimidated by public speaking. My work often put me in front of people, microphones and/or cameras. No big deal. The “ham” in me actually made such speaking somewhat enjoyable. But, these opportunities always were before adults or older youths.
And then, my granddaughter Meredith Fields’ second grade teacher, Monica Ingham invited me to come to her classroom to talk to her second grade class about writing and the outdoors. Now, anticipating that talk was really scary.
Meredith is fortunate to have Monica as her teacher. Monica has a strong interest in the outdoors, and she also is interested in teaching her Madison Creek (Tennessee) Elementary students to write about it.
Monica has adopted a class theme for the year. It is camping. Her classroom is decorated with outdoor pictures and materials. There also is a rabbit, two bearded dragon lizards, and I think a bird.
Last year, Monica’s class had a small python, but it grew larger and she says with a smile that the snake now is being “home schooled.”
Had I known the extent of Monica and her classes’ interest in the outdoors, I might have been less apprehensive about talking with the group.
Sitting at home in my sunroom easy chair, I kept a writing pad at home to jot down any ideas about what to tell second graders about writing and/or the outdoors. I fretted for several weeks without much being written on the yellow note pad. I even contemplated a general email distress call mailing to some of my outdoor writer friends for ideas.
I wanted something meaningful to tell the youngsters, but what? I knew I should keep it simple.
Finally, as the classroom appearance neared, I came up with a couple of ideas. Something that would last about 20 minutes.
My first thought was to tell them about writings four or five W’s. Explain that most news stories are based on Who, What, Where, When and sometimes Why. I also thought I would take in my backpack and show them some of the items I carry when hiking or going out in my boat.
It worked. And much to my surprise, Mrs. Ingham already had to W’s up on the board and they had talked about them.
We again covered the W’s, and the youngsters began to ask questions. When and how did you get started writing? Who helped you? How do you get ideas for stories? The time went by quickly.
I explained I started a class newspaper when I was in about the fourth or fifth grade, that my teacher supported and encouraged me, and that I carry a notepad to write down ideas for future columns. Today, I’m sure most writers use the cell phone or other electronic gizmos to record ideas.
Next, I showed them my backpack, and pulled out camera, notepad, hand cloth, flashlight, safety whistle, small first aid kit, disposable rain poncho, snacks, and several other items. I also carry a knife, but did not include it in the school show and tell.
Also, I emphasized the need to always let an adult know where you are going, and if that is OK with the adult. I also suggested always hiking with someone for safety reasons.
Thanks to help from my daughter, Michelle, and the teacher, the old outdoor writer enjoyed the visit, and thinks the students did as well.
If you ever have a chance to share your experiences with youngsters, do it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bobby Lanes offers topwater lure fishing tips for fall angling

Topwater lures can be productive in fall
as well as spring and summer.

Among his peers in professional tournament competition, Bobby Lane is best known for his skill using spinnerbaits and Carolina rigs, but when water begins cooling in the autumn, the Yamaha Pro often changes to a topwater popping plug. 
Usually considered a summertime lure, Lane actually keeps a popper tied on throughout the fall months, according to information provided by Yamaha.
Bobby is part of a bass fishing family as his brothers, Chris and Arnie also fish the tournament trail
“Topwater popping lures are more versatile than many anglers realize,” he explains, “which is why I like them so much. Not only can you fish them over and around all types of cover and structure, you can also retrieve poppers at different speeds depending on water conditions and the mood of the fish. 
“Now, as bass move into creeks and start feeding heavily, you’re going to encounter the fish in a variety of places, and with a popper you can cover them all without having to change lures.
“They’re great big-bass lures, too,” he adds. “My biggest bass on a popper weighed nine pounds, 11 ounces, but I’ve caught a lot of fish in the six- to eight-pound range with them. When bass won’t hit other lures, you can often tempt them into striking a popper.”
Topwater poppers are made by many different lure manufacturers, and all are similar in design, measuring two to three inches in length and incorporating two dangling treble hooks. The primary feature each of these lures also share is a concave face that catches water and “pops” as the lure is retrieved.
“Bass are normally active in the morning as they feed on shad near the surface, and a popper imitates those shad perfectly,” continues the Yamaha Pro. “It doesn’t really matter where the shad are, either, because you can fish a small topwater popper like this on points, over submerged vegetation and breaklines, around rocks and logs, or along riprap. 
“Depth-wise, you can work a popper out over depths as deep as 20 feet, but I usually prefer water less than 10 feet deep. Being from Florida, I’m accustomed to fishing over and around submerged vegetation, which is probably where I use a popper most often.”
Another aspect of the topwater popper’s versatility comes in the variety of ways the lure can be retrieved. A popper’s action comes from rod tip movement, and Lane normally begins his retrieve sequence by popping the lure two or three times, stopping to let the bait sit motionless for a few moments, then popping it again as he moves it by his target.
“That’s really the basic way to fish a topwater popper,” he explains, “continuing that popping and stopping action the entire retrieve, but if that doesn’t produce any results, you can pop the lure a little faster without stopping. If the water is cooler, you can try just the opposite, only popping the lure once and then letting it sit motionless a few seconds longer.
“Really, the bass will almost always prefer a particular retrieve sequence, so I keep trying faster or slower retrieves until I get a response. For instance, I’ve had good results in extremely clear, calm water by popping the bait just once, then letting it sit absolutely motionless for as long as 10 seconds. In those conditions, I think bass may actually study the lure before striking. 
“When I’m fishing where a breeze is rippling the water, I’ll use a faster popping retrieve with fewer pauses to get their attention.”
Lane fishes his topwater poppers with a long, medium-action rod and always with 15-pound monofilament line. Monofilament has only a slight amount of stretch so a bass can engulf the lure better. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Persimmons are part of autumn bounty; make good pudding, wine

Persimmons are a fall treat that make great pudding,
and also can be used for a tasty wine

When people think of dessert and Thanksgiving, most probably think of pumpkin pie. However, if you are lucky enough to have persimmon pudding available, you are in for a special treat.
For many people, persimmon pudding is as much of the holiday traditional table fare as turkey and pies. However, many younger folks probably don't know what a persimmon is let alone ever eaten one.
Morel mushroom hunting is part of the spring for many outdoors people, and persimmon and nut gathering is part of fall activities.
Persimmons are one of the most popular items harvested in the fall, although other fruits of interest include the pawpaw, wild grape, 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.
Many people have their favorite persimmon tree grove where they gather their fruit. However, one advantage the pumpkin has over the persimmon is the pumpkin in much more readily available, including at the supermarket.
Persimmons are a great source of vitamins A and C as well as of potassium and fiber, and apparently were an Oriental tree and imported to this country many years ago. Animals, including possums which love them, have helped spread the seeds in many areas.
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.
How can you determine when to eat a persimmon? One internet website offered the following thoughts: Persimmons are ready in the fall from September to the end of the year, depending on location and weather.
There are two varieties of persimmons. The astringent fruit is eaten when it has become jelly-soft. The nonastringent fruit, which is gaining in popularity, is eaten while still firm. The astringent are the type we usually find growing wild in the Midwest.
A tip on a website for dealing quickly with fruit not fully ripe is to place the fruit in the freezer overnight. Remove the fruit from the freezer and allow the cold-ripened fruit to thaw.
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.
However if you plan to use them to make persimmon 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.
The recipe my family has always followed calls for the pudding to be baked in a pan and the final product is a similar consistency of brownies.
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, this is a good year to give them a try.

Column about Tulip Trestle draws numerous comments from readers

Visitors enjoying the view while waiting to see
a train cross the Tulip Trestle.

Recently, I wrote a piece about the Tulip Trestle in Eastern Greene County, near the  small Indiana town of Solsberry.
For years, I have heard about a huge railroad trestle in Southwestern Indiana. Numerous people have told me about taking a jaunt to see the huge bridge, which seems a bit out of place in Greene County. It looks more like something one might see across a large gorge somewhere in the mountains.
Anyway, a month or so ago, wife, Phyllis and family dog, Missy and I set out for a very enjoyable trip to view the trestle as well as the Yoho General Store in Solsberry. (It serves very good food.)
Following our visit, I wrote a column wrote my newspaper column about the outing and excellent lunch at the Yoho, and put it here on my blog as well.
I received several comments from readers, and thought I should post the following two, which readers may find of interest.
Cheryl Keen Helms wrote related to the part of the column about a marriage proposal made years ago at the bridge. “She said no to the proposal by the way. It was Marvin Hash who asked.”
Cheryl went on to write,  “We own the property the trestle spans and bought it from his grand parents. After 38 years living next to it I never get tired of capturing a new image. Check out my Facebook page Image Artist Cheryl Helms. Message me for studio hours or by appointment.”
Cheryl apparently makes attractive prints of the historic trestle as well as other art work.
In another response, Joyce Watkins West wrote, “I was born in Newark and the Watkins family always enjoyed going to the viaduct My mom went to Solsberry High S school. She was a Buffaloe.”
The high school is no longer. It fell to to school consolidation, however memories of some of its strong basketball teams linger.
Greene County now has an excellent site, complete with platform and picnic tables, to view the trestle and wait for a possible train sighting. A trip to the trestle and the YoHo General Store is well worthwhile.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Botanists, weather folks know a lot about foliage; but still hard to predict

Leaves may be turning to full color a bit earlier this year.

Leaves changing color before they flutter to the ground ahead of winter is something annually anticipated in Indiana, and there are some indications the foliage color change may be a bit ahead of the normal schedule this year.
Touring the countryside viewing leaves is something anticipated by many, including promoters of fall festivals and many shop owners.
Leaves have started turning color this fall, and in some areas may be close to their peak of brilliant colors. In Indiana, the peak of color usually spreads from north to south, and it usually is best in the south about the third week of October.
Apparently, it is difficult to predict the change. There is a lot known about what causes color in the leaves, but predicting its intensity isn’t easy. 
This summer we had an abundance of rain, followed by very dry conditions in most areas the past couple months. Some botanists believe the trees are still suffering somewhat from dry conditions the past several years, even though we had a lot of rain this summer.
       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."
Drought conditions cause trees to switch to survival mode because of the latest dry spell. Some lose their leaves before they change to the familiar red, yellow or orange, according to nature experts.
"For the trees' well-being, it's do or die," said Jim Eagleman, an interpretive naturalist. "The reaction to drought is they drop leaves to conserve water."
This spring there was plenty of rain, and trees were loaded with healthy, green leaves. They are green because they contain chlorophyll. 
According to one agriculture department website, there is so much chlorophyll in an active leaf that the green masks or overpowers other pigment colors. Light regulates chlorophyll production, so as autumn days grow shorter, less chlorophyll is produced. 
The decomposition rate of chlorophyll remains constant, so the green color starts to fade from leaves. While that is happening, increasing sugar concentrations cause increased production of anthocyanin pigments. Leaves containing primarily anthocyanins will appear red. 
Another type of pigment, carotenoids are found in some leaves. Carotenoid production is not dependent on light, so levels aren't diminished by shorter days. Carotenoids can be orange, yellow, or red, but most of these pigments found in leaves are yellow. Leaves with good amounts of both anthocyanins and carotenoids will appear orange.
Temperature affects the rate of chemical reactions, including those in leaves, so it plays a part in leaf color. However, it's mainly light levels that are responsible for fall foliage colors. Sunny autumn days are needed for the brightest color displays. Overcast days will lead to more yellows and browns.
A website called ( contains Indiana fall festival and foliage information, and includes links to several leaf webcams. They are located at Notre Dame University, Spring Mill State Park, and Brown County.
Whether or not you care about anthocyanins or carotenoids, there should still be plenty of beauty to be found yet this weekend.