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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.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Good fishing remains before winter

Fall offers many fishing opportunities from catfish to crappie and walleye.

As fall arrives, many outdoors types turn their attention to hunting. Archery season for deer is already here, but there still is good fishing left before the water turns to hard stuff, ice.
As the water of lakes and streams begins to cool, 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 good 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 start 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 freshly caught crappie , plus fried potatoes, homemade slaw, and biscuits. Uhmm...Fit for a king or an old outdoor writer. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Numbers of women hunters increasing

Several years ago, Connie Bender of Spencer County, IN, was one the first women
 to shoot a NWTF world slam. This tome was taken in Mexico.

What do Eva Shockey, Melissa Bachman, Katniss Everdeen, and 1.5 million women in the United States have in common? 
A news release from Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources says the difference is, “They’re hunters.”
Shockey and Bachman are hosts of TV hunting shows, and Everdeen is the main character in the “Hunger Games” movie franchise.
They represent a wave of female hunters, whose numbers increased by 85 percent from 2001 to 2013, according to the National Sporting Goods Association’s annual participation survey.
In Indiana, the number of hunting licenses sold to women increased by 93 percent from 2006 to 2014, and female youth hunters – those under age 18 – skyrocketed 114 percent from 2006 to 2014. 
As an outdoor writer, I’ve been fortunate to write about a number of excellent and enthusiastic female hunters. Many come to mind, but in particular I recall Connie Bender of Spencer County who was one of only a handful of women to shoot a wild turkey world slam, (I’ve long sensed the numbers of women hunters and shooter has been increasing, but now research data confirms it.)
“Two major reasons come to mind,” said Mary Zeiss Stange, author of “Woman the Hunter,” a study of women’s cultural and historical relationship to hunting. “One is that women have gained sufficient ground socially and economically and have disposable income comparable to men's. 
And very importantly, among younger women ¬– the ‘millennials’ and whatever  this next upcoming generation will be called – there is very little patience with the idea that an activity like hunting is ‘unfeminine.’ Indeed, they thrive on the idea of adventure.” 
Stange, a professor and director of religious studies at Skidmore College in Pennsylvania, also said: “It's reasonable to assume that women’s growing participation in hunting mirrors our increased participation in the entire array of social and cultural activities that were formerly masculine territory. That's the ‘scholarly’ answer. The practical reason, of course, is that hunting is fun and deeply rewarding.”
Indiana’s DNR has played an active role in opening the door with events specifically geared to women: 
--    Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, an annual weekend workshop near Lafayette that offers training in a variety of outdoor activities, including game cleaning, bowhunting, and introduction to deer, turkey and small game hunting 
-- Women’s days at DNR-managed shooting ranges
-- Women’s special hunts at DNR-managed fish and wildlife areas
The DNR’s online video series “CookIN Gone Wild: Field to Table” has a female host, which is by design. DNR Hunt, Fish, Eat workshops and National Wild Turkey Federation’s Women In The Outdoors (WITO) programs are additional examples of low-pressure events that help get women into the field.
Outdoor events for women appear to gain in popularity when the instructors are women, according to Responsive Management, a Virginia-based research firm specializing in natural resource and outdoor recreation issues.
Responsive Management also seems to have discovered a difference between male and female hunters. In a nationwide survey, researchers asked hunters if their primary reason for hunting was for the meat, to be with friends and family, for the sport or recreation, or to be close to nature. The researchers found significant differences between men and women in every category:
--  Hunt for meat – females 47 percent, males 22 percent
--  To be with friends and family – females 27 percent, males 11 percent
--  For sport or recreation – females 20 percent, males 45 percent
--  To be close to nature – females 7 percent, males 22 percent.  
Female firearms ownership also is rising. From 2012 to 2014, gun permits issued to women in Indiana increased by 42 percent. 
The DNR is reaching out to those wanting to learn firearms safety and shooting techniques. The shooting ranges at Atterbury, J. E. Roush, and Kingsbury fish and wildlife areas offer onsite instruction at events through the spring and summer that accommodate women and families in a safe, friendly environment. 
“Our motto is that if you want to hunt, we want to help,” said Amanda Wuestefeld, assistant director of the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife. “As Hoosier hunters, if we are going to keep the tradition of hunting strong in Indiana, it looks like female hunters may very well play a key role in our success.”