Where do the fish go in the winter? Do they hibernate? Do they bury themselves in the bottom of the rivers and ponds somehow? The fresh waters of Blackstone Valley have two types of fish: warm water and cold water varieties.
During the cold months, warm water varieties such as bass and sunfish slow down and lower their metabolism. They can go for long periods of time without eating, a good thing considering their food supply is extremely limited in the winter months.
Other fish such as the three Ps (pickerel, perch and pike) are still active in cold water. That means they are hungry and will go after bait. This works out well for the ice fisherman, not so well for the pickerel, perch and pike. Trout are the exception: they slow down in winter waters but can still be enticed to go for the bait of fishermen.
There is a scientific explanation. Fish are poikilothermous (cold-blooded); their body temperature follows that of the environment. While they are regulated by nutrition, photoperiod (daily length of light exposure) and water temperature, the reduction of temperature is what causes their metabolisms to slow, some species more than others. In fact, some species actually experience brief superficial freezing or super cooling (without freezing) and remain alive. Fish that are active or semi active in the winter usually seek areas of deeper water where only the top layer freezes into ice.
Come to think of it, one usually sees ice fishermen on ponds and lakes, never on a shallow stream.
Ever since New England was colonized in the early 17th century, dealing with the frigid conditions of winter has been a challenge. It was a startling change for settlers recently arrived from England to realize that their new home had more snow than they were used to but also much colder temperatures.
In February and March of 1717, “The Great Snow” covered southern New England in a series of four storms. It deposited nearly 4 feet on the ground and drifts were reported as high as 25 feet. Roads were impassable, communities were isolated and supplies did not move overland or along the coastal waterways. The only successful post runner from New York to Boston made the trip on snowshoes.
In November of 1798, the region was hit with “The Long Storm;” from Maryland to Maine nearly continuous snow fell between the 17th and 21st. Another notable storm in December of 1811, “The Cold Storm” of 1857 and the “Blizzard of ‘88” all made the record books.
Snow and how to handle it became a focus of communities large and small. In the rural towns, early snow removal depended on shoveling the white stuff out of the road. While it was not until the 1840s that the first patents were issued on snow plows, New Englanders came up with an earlier invention – the snow roller. It was a large wooden cylinder drawn by horses over roads to compact the surface and make the snow more or less uniform. It allowed sleds to proceed with fewer ruts and it was also safer for horses and riders.
Every time I look out at my yard I see juncos. They are the first ones to arrive and the last to leave. During the recent cold weather, I spent some time with a cup of tea watching these little visitors who had turned into roly poly balls of feathers accented by beaks and legs.
At first I felt sorrow for them until I realized that the temperature didn’t bother them in the least. As long as birds can feed, they will do just fine in frigid weather. Most species use the cover of evergreens or natural cavities to protect themselves and birds can lower their body temperature, heart rate and metabolism to adapt to the cold. Plus they have all that natural insulation. Juncos fluff up their feathers creating a layer of air between the feathers and the skin, a tiny down jacket that adds warmth and girth creating their ball-like appearance.
The little juncos may not have the glam of the cardinals or the audacity of the blue jays, but I think these little guys are the life of the bird feeder party. They rarely exceed about five inches in length. The dark-eyed junco, Junco hyemalis, is one of the most common birds in North America. There is much variation in color from one subspecies of junco to the other. The ones in my backyard are eastern dark-eyed juncos or the slate-colored juncos. There are dark slate gray feathers on the heads, chest and upper body and white feathers on the lower breast and abdomen. Their bills are pink and their distinctively long tails are very dark gray with flashes of white feathers on the outside edges. Of course, those are the males…the females are decked out in much less distinctive shades of brown and gray. Isn’t that always the case?
Receiving awards for volunteer service from Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) at the 2nd Anniversary celebration of the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park are (left to right): Jack Crawford and Annika Bangma, both of Youth Unlimited Serve Project; Suzanne Buchanan, Volunteer Coordinator at BHC; Benjamin Cote of Ten Mile River Watershed Council; Sarah Carr and Anne Conway, both of the Museum of Work and Culture, and Rosanne Sherry. Not pictured is Steve Emma. BHC manages the Volunteers-in-Parks program for the National Park Service and recognized these volunteers and groups for their outstanding contribution to the volunteer program in 2016. To learn more about the program, visit BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org.
Whitinsville, MA (December 14, 2016) – Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) presented awards to several volunteers for their outstanding service with the National Park Service’s Volunteers-in-Parks program that it manages. The awards were presented during the second anniversary celebration for the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.
Among those recognized for their individual impacts were: Benjamin Cote, Rosanne Sherry, and Steve Emma. Groups recognized for outstanding service include the Museum of Work & Culture and Whitinsville Serve 2016.
Benjamin Cote, a resident of Pawtucket, RI, and also president of the Ten Mile River Watershed Council, is a new volunteer with BHC and signed on to present walking tours for BHC’s 2nd Annual GO! program this past September. Cote received the “Outstanding GO! Tour 2016” award for his “Lanterns, Ghosts and King Philip’s War” walking tour at the Cumberland Monastery in Cumberland, RI. The event drew the largest audience of a volunteer-led GO! experience with nearly 100 attendees.
Rosanne Sherry, a resident of N. Smithfield, RI, a lifelong-birder and career horticulturalist, received the “Outstanding Interpretive Program Award.” Rosanne presented “Birding on the Blackstone” walking tour series in both Lincoln, RI, at the Blackstone River State Park, and in Uxbridge, MA, at the Blackstone River & Canal Heritage State Park. “It was an exceptional program that educated people about the fauna of the Blackstone Valley and it inspired new stewards,” Charlene Perkins Cutler, BHC’s Executive Director noted.
Steve Emma, a resident of Providence, RI, has made Blackstone River State Park in Lincoln, RI, his second home and volunteers to maintain the Blackstone River Bikeway by fixing broken posts and cutting back invasive weeds such as poison ivy and bittersweet. Emma received the “Outstanding Natural Resource Volunteer” for 2016. “He is poison ivy’s worst enemy, and the Bikeway’s best friend,” noted Suzanne Buchanan, volunteer coordinator at BHC. “He is out there in all kinds of weather and has helped recruit new volunteers to our program. People see him in action and ask how to get involved.” Buchanan added that Emma has been outfitted with special orange gear for all kinds of weather and special safety signage to display that helps identify him as volunteer with the Volunteers-in-Parks program and warns passersby of the work zone.
The Museum of Work and Culture (MOWC) in Woonsocket, RI, received the “Outstanding VIP Group Partnership Program Award.” According to Buchanan, this award recognizes MOWC volunteers for their knowledge, inspiration and graciousness. Over the past year, MOWC volunteers contributed 1,437 hours of service with an in-kind donation value of $33,856.
Whitinsville Serve 2016 received the “Outstanding Special VIP Project Award” for 2016. The award recognizes the 104 volunteers who participated in the Youth Unlimited service project hosted by the Pleasant Street Christian Reform Church of Whitinsville, MA. They logged a total of 3,168 volunteer hours and volunteered in the communities of Northbridge, Uxbridge, Millville, Douglas and Grafton over the span of one week in July. Their service resulted in an in-kind donation valued at over $73,000. “They came to visit, not to stay, but their impact is felt here every day,” Buchanan commented upon presenting the award.
To learn more about the Volunteers-in-Parks program, visit BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org/doing/vipprogram or considering attending BHC’s next Volunteer Open House on Monday, January 9, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. at BHC’s office at 670 Linwood Avenue, Whitinsville, MA. To register, RSVP to Suzanne Buchanan at Volunteer@BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org or call (508) 234-4242.
About Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc.: An energetic nonprofit, the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. partners with organizations, local communities, businesses and residents to ensure the long term vitality of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. Learn more at BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org.
Horsford was a Harvard professor who, in 1856, began his experiments to develop a leavening agent that was not yeast-based. A leavening agent causes a chemical reaction – it creates gas bubbles that softens doughs and batters, increasing their volumes and lightening their texture. Horsford wanted to invent a powder leavening agent that would release carbon dioxide, raising the dough but without the taste and odor of yeast fermentation.
Horsford set up his chemical works in the Rumford section of East Providence. He tested a number of substances before settling on a combination of calcium acid phosphate, sodium bicarbonate and, eventually, corn starch. His “recipe” was that one teaspoon of the leavening agent should raise a dough/batter of one cup of flour, one cup of liquid and one egg. He first marketed this new product as Horsford’s Yeast Powder. He was very successful. In 1869, because he wanted to package the powder in a tin can, he added corn starch to prevent moisture. Over the years, bakers throughout the world have become familiar with the iconic red can of Rumford Baking Powder, whose formula has remained unchanged in 1869. In 2006, Rumford Baking Powder was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark. Rumford Baking Powder remains the leading baking powder in the United States.