Lady Bug, Lady Bug, Fly Away Home

The last warm days of the fall brings swarms of ladybugs.  They invade houses, seeming to get through every tiny space.  Not 10 or 20 – hundreds.  They are an invasive species –the Asian Lady Beetles – up to 22 spots on an orange back with a distinct “m” on their pronotums.  Native to China, they were introduced in 1988 to control aphids.  I don’t know if that worked but they did displace and destroy the three species of ladybugs native to Blackstone Valley –  Parenthesis Ladybugs, the Convergent Ladybug (most common) and the Nine-Spot Ladybug, now an endangered species.

Asian Lady Beetles, while carnivorous, do not prefer human flesh but they will bite.  They are a major nuisance, finding their way into everything.  If crushed or vacuumed up, they release a foul odor and leave spots on objects.

So how do we bolster the populations of native Ladybugs and send the Asian Lady Beetle packing?  There are sprays and dusts available from commercial sources that will prevent the Asian Lady Beetle from entering the house.  Non-toxic methods include traps placed near windows and other entry points that use lures to attract and trap the insects.  Caulking cracks, installing weather stripping and repairing broken screens are all useful solutions that will also reduce energy bills.

Thirty Years Ago

It was November 10, 1986 when Public Law 99-647 was passed and signed. What an impact that had on our Blackstone Valley! That was the day that Congress created the second National Heritage Corridor in the country – the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. From that day forward, the role that our watershed played in shaping the future of American Industry was federally-recognized: we became known as the Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.

So has it made a difference to have a National Heritage Corridor here in Massachusetts and Rhode Island? The Corridor has brought a federal investment into the region of more than $10 million. It has been able to assist partners – nonprofit, municipalities and state agencies – with scores of projects to preserve our history, our culture, and our natural resources. It has created a unique identity for the 25 towns and cities that make up the geography of the National Heritage Corridor. It has given birth to a new National Historical Park.

That’s 30 years of great work! Here’s to the next 30!

Volunteerism on the Rise in Blackstone Heritage Corridor

                                                                                                    

 Press Release              

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Charlene Perkins Cutler, Executive Director

508-234-4242

ccutler@BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org

 

Volunteerism on the Rise in Blackstone Heritage Corridor

BHC Releases Inspiring Year-End Volunteer Report

Blackstone Valley (October 27, 2016) – A year-end report filed by Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) for its National Park Service Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP) program reveals that volunteerism is on the rise in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.

For fiscal year 2015-2016, a total of 1,283 volunteers donated their time to a number of programs for a total of 13,431 hours, a significant increase from the previous year with 6,651 hours recorded for 146 volunteers. The dollar value of a volunteer’s time for fiscal year 2015-2016, at $23.56 per hour, came to the considerable sum of $316,434.

“We are thrilled to see the increase in volunteerism here in the Blackstone Heritage Corridor,” remarked Charlene Perkins Cutler, BHC’s Executive Director. “Since our relocation to Whitinsville, MA, this past spring, interest in our organization has spiked considerably.”

BHC manages the Volunteers-in-Parks program for the National Park Service. Nationally, VIPs work side-by-side with National Park Service employees and partners in parks across the nation to help preserve the nation’s most precious natural, historical, recreational and cultural treasures. Locally, volunteers are placed throughout the 25 communities of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and the historic nodes of the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.

With the launch of its Trash Responsibly™ program last fall, volunteer numbers started to increase with the cleanup events BHC spearheaded and partnered with throughout the National Heritage Corridor. With this program alone, 907 volunteers signed up as one-day volunteers for 22 cleanup events and gave 4,066 hours of their time. BHC also launched a corporate “Day of Service” program, working with local companies and employees to make a difference in the communities that they live or work in. From cleaning historic sites inside and out, to landscaping the grounds, 58 employees from five companies gave 203 volunteer hours.

According to Suzanne Buchanan, BHC’s Volunteer Coordinator, many of BHC’s long-term VIPs incorporated the Centennial celebration of the National Park Service into popular programs including weekly paddles with the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club, exploring many tributaries of the Blackstone River. In partnership with the VIPs, three National Park Service Ranger interpretive paddles were held this past season, highlighting Slatersville Reservoir, Hopedale Pond and the Blackstone Canal. In addition, there were weekly bike rides with the Blackstone River Bikeway Patrol, exploring all the bikeways within the boundaries of the National Heritage Corridor, including three “Ride with a Ranger” interpretive tours on the Blackstone River Bikeway highlighting the historical significance of the Blackstone River and Canal.

“This was an exciting year for the volunteer program,” remarked Buchanan. “Several people came forward wanting to offer new programs, including “Birding on the Blackstone” by VIP Rosanne Sherry offered in the spring at the Blackstone River State Park in Lincoln, RI, and in the fall at Blackstone River & Canal Heritage State Park (River Bend Farm) in Uxbridge, MA. Volunteers from Trout Unlimited Chapter 737 in Rhode Island partnered with the Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone and offered a day-long fly fishing school along the banks of the Blackstone River.”

BHC’s second annual GO! program in September gave the opportunity for 66 volunteers to lead experiences throughout the National Heritage Corridor, ranging from a full moon walk, guided tours through historic cemeteries, interpretive walking tours at places like the Millville Lock and Triad Bridges, and much more.

A big jump in volunteer numbers came by way of a youth service project sponsored by Youth Unlimited of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Volunteers, 104 in total, were hosted by the Pleasant Street Christian Reform Church and registered as VIPs for a week of service in the communities of Northbridge, Uxbridge, Millville, Douglas and Grafton, MA. A total of 3,168 volunteer hours were tallied as they tended to site maintenance at the Millville Lock, trail work at Blackstone River & Canal Heritage State Park/River Bend Farm, and more. This was the first of a three-year commitment from Whitinsville Serve, with more volunteers returning the summer of 2017.

The VIP program also benefitted financially from one volunteer’s former employer. Joe Richer, a Woonsocket, RI-resident, worked for Pfizer prior to his retirement and when he decided he wanted to volunteer to stay active, he remembered the Pfizer Foundation Volunteer Program which encourages volunteerism among Pfizer colleagues and retirees and helps them obtain grants for non-profits where they regularly volunteer. Richer volunteered at Blackstone River & Canal Heritage State Park/River Bend Farm and at the Capt. Wilbur Kelly House Transportation Museum, and after meeting Pfizer’s requirements (employees must volunteer for at least six months and serve an average of six hours per month for a minimum of 72 total hours) Richer worked with Buchanan to apply for the grant. BHC received a check for $1,000 from Pfizer in October, which will be applied to the volunteer program for supplies.

“We are also pleased to play a part in helping volunteers move along their career path by way of volunteering with us,” Buchanan added. “I just got an email from one of our volunteers, Blake Stone, letting me know he was just accepted into a Geoscientists-in-the-Parks (GIP) program at Death Valley National Park. He used his experience volunteering this summer with Coes Zone in Worcester, MA, helping with water quality programs.”

“I knew that practicing skills in water resource management would be beneficial to both myself and the watershed,” Blake Stone said. “I enjoy researching water quality, and having the opportunity to volunteer as a citizen scientist in the Blackstone River Valley helped me in preparing my application to the Geoscientists-in-the-Parks (GIP) program at Death Valley National Park.  I am proud to have begun my VIP experience with the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, and I recommend getting involved with your local park no matter what your background and interests may be.”

BHC hosts monthly Volunteer Open House events with the next ones scheduled for Monday, November 14, 2016 at 6:30 p.m., and again on Monday, January 9, 2017 at 6:30 p.m., at its offices at Linwood Mill, 670 Linwood Avenue, Whitinsville, MA. To register, call Suzanne Buchanan at 508-234-4242 or email volunteer@BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org. To learn more about BHC, visit BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org.

 

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.

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Watch Your Trash Cans!

October 27, 2016 – The raccoon (Procyon lotor) was once very common throughout the Blackstone Valley but populations have declined in recent years due to the spread of rabies. While the raccoon adapts well to a wide range of habitats, it is most often seen in mature woodlands, along streams, near ponds and beside marshes. From these habitats, the raccoon finds a variety of food sources including frogs, crayfish, bird eggs, acorns and wild berries. Due to its adaptability to man-made changes in their habitat the raccoon also lives in close association with human developments. So their food sources now include those found in a human’s waste receptacle!

Raccoons have short pointed ears, long pointed snouts and grayish-brown fur covering the body that is between 22 and 26 inches long.  The most identifiable features are the black “mask” around the eyes and black “rings” around the long, bushy tail.  Raccoons can stand on their hind legs so they can investigate items held between their front paws.  Those paws are quite developed with five “fingers” that allow the critter to be very dexterous.  In fact, touch is the most important sense that a raccoon possesses and it is hyper-sensitive and extremely quick.  Raccoons are excellent climbers.  They can move forward or backwards on their way up a tree trunk and are one of only a few animals that can descend head first.

The face mask has assigned the raccoon a reputation for being a thief.  They possess great visual acuity, particularly night vision.  Zoologists suspect they are color blind although their eyes are good at picking out green light.  Raccoons have an especially keen sense of smell.

Raccoons will “den-up” for the coldest months of the year.  They are not true hibernators because during warm spells in the winter they will come out of their den to search for food.  They are not too particular about their dens and will use any suitable cavity, be it the hollow of a tree or someone’s attic!

Squapple Muffins

October 20, 2016 – Although it is early in the fall, I’ve noticed that many people have turned their attention to the foods of the season and the particular comfort ones that will get us through the winter months.  I have been involved recently in various conversations about pies (pumpkin, apples, mincemeat, squash, custard…), pumpkin bread and cookies, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, apple cider (sauce, brownies, and Squabble muffins).  I love this season and its culinary traditions.

So here is a recipe Squapple Spice Muffins.  This has lived on an index card in my Mom’s and now my recipe box for years and I don’t know its origin.  Combine 2.5 cups of flour, 2 cups of sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, .25 teaspoon salt, .5 teaspoon of cinnamon, .25 teaspoon of cloves and a dash of nutmeg.  In a separate bowl, combine 2 large eggs, 1 cup of cooked squash, .5 cup of vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Stir in 2 cups of peeled and chopped apples and .5 cup of chopped walnuts.  Spoon into muffin tins.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.  If you want a little more sweetness, you can add an optional streussel topping on the batter before baking, made by combining 2 tablespoons of flour, .25 cup of brown sugar, .5 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of softened butter.

Enjoy squash time in the Blackstone Valley!

The Great Blue Hubbard Squash

 

October 13, 2016 –

I do love squash.

As a child we had a big vegetables garden that included many winter varieties of squash that would eventually occupy space in our basement after the frost.  Blue Hubbard squash was one of them.  It has a wonderful blue-green-gray color that I have always loved and, when broken open, reveals brilliant orange flesh.  The outer rind was so hard that my Dad always chopped it open with an axe on the chopping block so my Mom could cook it.  I suppose that hardness related directly to its keeping quality.

Blue Hubbard can grow to weigh 30 pounds.  Its flesh has a fine texture, with a starchy, thick nature, often described as nutty.  Its excellent flavor works well in all types of squash recipes.  It’s a super food.  It is a great source of vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamin C, fiber, and manganese.  It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, calcium, iron, copper, niacin-vitamin B3, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and folate.

But put away the axe.  An easier way to deal with the hard rind is to make several vent holes in the top (larger the squash the greater number of holes needed) and I don’t discount the usefulness of an electric drill to make the holes!  Then place it in a shallow pan of water and bake at 350 degrees until it is fork tender and you can cut it up, remove the seeds and enjoy.    Of course, there may be a problem getting a 30-pound Blue Hubbard into your oven.

Remember to buy Blackstone Valley Blue Hubbard!

Trash Responsibly Summit

Join BHC, Inc. for a conversation about litter and recycling in the Blackstone Heritage Corridor. We will bring together representatives from the 25 communities of the Heritage Corridor to talk about litter in our cities and towns and create coordinated efforts to keep our Corridor clean, healthy and beautiful!

Become a part of the solution through education on recycling, organizing litter cleanups and more! Even the simplest of efforts goes a long way to spreading the Trash Responsibly frame of mind.

Summit is Thursday, October 20, 2016 from 10:30 a.m. to Noon (light lunch reception to follow) at the Singh Performance Center at Alternatives, 60 Whitinsville, MA 01588. 

RSVP by October 14 to Bonnie Combs at bcombs@blackstoneheritagecorridor.org or call 508-234-4242.

trash-responsibly-summit-invitation

What Moon is it?

We enjoy another brilliant full moon tomorrow. Did you know that each full moon has one or more special names? We’ve included many of them in the new 2017 Blackstone Heritage Corridor Calendar (see Shop).

The names of the full moons in our calendar come from a long, long list and are derived from almost every cultural tradition – Colonial American, Native American (and even by tribal nations), Celtic, New Guinea and Medieval English. It’s the Wolf Moon in January, when the wolves are howling for mates, just not here in the Blackstone Valley. March has the Sap Moon, when the trees begin to wake up. The full Thunder Moon is July for obvious reasons.

This week, it’s the full Harvest Moon. How do we know that? It’s not the full moon in September or the full moon in October; the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox. Enjoy!

Can you Recognize Witch Hazel?

While all the blooms of late summer are nearly spent by mid to late September, there is one shrub just hitting its stride – witch hazel.  Witch hazel (Hamalemis virginiana) is a plant unique to New England, with its greatest concentration in Southern New England.

Witch hazel grows to a height of fifteen feet and prefers moist shade or semi-shade areas under hardwoods.  The leaves are deciduous, of oval shape with a distinct saw-tooth pattern around the outside edge.  The fruit ripens at the time the leaves are falling.  The brown, nut-like pods open in an explosive pop, sending the seeds forth onto the ground.

Throughout centuries witch hazel was used for divining rods, as its forked twigs were ready made for dowsing.  Medicinal uses proved to be more fact than fiction.  Native People used the bark for its healing qualities.  Today, its bark, twigs and leaves are distilled into an astringent and used for home remedies as well as an ingredient in medicines.

It is an interesting plant to look for when hiking the region’s trails this month.

Scarecrows

Once a decoy used to frighten hungry birds away from crops, the scarecrow has become an autumnal decoration.  They are everywhere, in every size and configuration.

The scarecrow has been with us for a long time – historians estimate 3,000 years ago Egyptian farmers created the first decoys of framed nets to eliminate the quail from feasting on wheat crops.  Over the centuries, the scarecrow evolved to its present human form as a selection of old clothes displayed on vertical and horizontal supports to resemble a standing man.  Loose clothes, scarves or other moveable parts aided in the deceit and keep the crows on their toes, so to speak.  While a scarecrow may work early in the season, crows aren’t stupid.  The lack of movement and absence of real threat is not lost on them and they quickly ignore the scarecrow, forcing most farmers to add elements to increase the threat level like aluminum pans, rattling gourds or wind-chime-like noisemakers.

I don’t know how a soldier in the war on crows became a symbol of harvest.  But if scarecrows remind people of where their food comes from, then they are a good thing.