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.

Do You Remember the Song “Polk Salad Annie?”

Written and performed by Tony Joe White, and other artists like Elvis, it describes the lifestyle of a poor country girl from the South.  Sally’s Polk Salad refers to the pokeberry plant, all parts of which are poisonous. Pokeberry has been used as a food staple in the southern states for years.  Experts at Medline Plus, a website of the National Institute of Health,  point out that even then there is no guarantee that pokeberry is safe to eat and they emphasis that the roots should never be eaten, as they contain the most toxins, Phytolaccatoxin and Phytolaccigenin.

It is easy to glimpse the tall colorful forms of pokeberry this time of year along roadsides or in the scrubby areas between field and forest in the Blackstone Heritage Corridor.  They are distinctive bushes with their long bunches of grape-like fruits.  Pokeberry is a dramatic perennial and native of most of the Americas; also called inkberry, pokeroot and pokeberry. Its botanical name Phytolacca Americana is derived from the Latin word, lacca, meaning “red dye,” an obvious fact is you have every gotten squished berries on hands or clothing.

The plant has redeeming features.   It is an attractive addition to a landscape of native plants.  The berries are usable as both an ink and dye.  They do provide a food supply to the wildlife in the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, ourselves excluded!

BHC Announces 2017 Calendar Contest Winners & Release Party

Whitinsville, MA – (September 6, 2016) – In celebration of its new 2017 Blackstone Heritage Corridor Calendar featuring the work of 10 local photographers, Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) is hosting a Calendar Release Party on Wednesday, October 19 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at its offices at Linwood Mill, 670 Linwood Avenue, Whitinsville, MA. Guests can meet the photographers and purchase calendars on site.

“The emphasis of our 2017 Calendar is on our industrial heritage,” notes Charlene Perkins Cutler, executive director of BHC. The Calendar is “2017: The Innovative and Industrious Blackstone Heritage Corridor.” Carefully curated facts about the region’s contribution to the American Industrial Revolution punctuate the pages. On each month’s page, there are facts celebrating the innovation that had been fostered in the National Heritage Corridor from hundreds of years ago to the present. For instance, in the 1830s, the Knowlton Hat Factory in Upton, MA, was the largest manufacturer of straw hats in the world.

“The Blackstone Heritage Corridor is one of the Nation’s richest and best preserved repositories of landscapes, structures and sites that recall a neglected era of the American past:  the Age of Industry,” Cutler points out. “Thousands of structures and whole landscapes still exist which represent the entire history of the American Industrial Revolution and the complex economic and social relationships of the people who lived and worked here.”

The photos for the 2017 Blackstone Heritage Corridor Calendar where chosen in a blind contest and offer a mix of scenes showcasing the National Heritage Corridor’s natural, historical and cultural resources.

The new year begins with a beautiful snowy scene, taken late in the afternoon with the sky lit by stunning pink tones cast against what looks like a carefully hand-painted landscape. January’s photo was submitted by Frances Guevremont of Lincoln, RI, who revealed that the scene lasted only about 10 minutes as she photographing it. February follows with another snow-filled landscape taken along the canal tow path below the Ashton Dam in Quinville, RI. David Newton of Cumberland, RI, shared his photo that beckons one to cross the wooden bridge with snowshoes or cross country skis. Carol Dandrade of Uxbridge, MA, spent some time along the rail trail in Millbury, MA, and captured a reflection of a metal bridge that was cast onto the track. The picture offers a unique perspective that one might never see.

Cormier Woods, a property in Uxbridge, MA, preserved by Trustees of Reservations inspired Wendy A. Henschel of Linwood, MA, to pack a camera. She captured an historic homestead along the trail with beautiful stone work and complementary colors in the roof and wood siding. It sits in surrounded by lush landscape just calling out for spring. The month of May is ushered into the 2017 Blackstone Heritage Corridor Calendar with a captivating photo of two cygnets whose sudden movement cast a spiral around them, offering the light an opportunity to dance around the new creatures. Tiny beads of water on the swans make one think the calendar is wet. Ernest Berube of Lincoln, RI, captured May’s photo along the banks of the Blackstone River in Lincoln, RI. Further north in his hometown of Douglas, MA, Scott Harwood stopped along the Southern New England Trunkline Trail on Wallum Lake Road and zeroed in on aging stone arch bridge that beckons the admirer to continue on down the lush green path.

An iconic symbol of freedom, the American Bald Eagle, graces the page in July, submitted by Don McKenzie of Worcester, MA. Titled “Papa Bald Eagle Fishing in the Blackstone River,” the powerful image was taken in Riverdale, a village of Northbridge, MA. It is no secret that the Blackstone River offers photographers a wide variety of subjects. For the month of August, a photo submitted by Allan Siuzdak of Cumberland, RI, of a trio of painted turtles walking up a fallen log also captured their reflection being cast in the water below. With the sun shining off their backs, one can almost feel the August heat pulsing off the page. The golden hues of September inspired Wendy A. Henschel to submit a photo taken at River Bend Farm at Blackstone River & Canal Heritage State Park in Uxbridge, MA. Henschel captured a Fritillary butterfly resting with its wings wide open, appearing to be having a conversation with a nearby pencil dragonfly. River Bend Farm was also the scene for October’s picture taken by Robert William Mielke of Uxbridge, MA. Miekle spotted a picnicking couple enjoying the view of a stone arch bridge embellished with autumn color. Carol Dandrade visited the Hannaway Blacksmith Shop in Lincoln, RI, and submitted a vignette of blacksmith tools with a roaring fire in the background, appropriate to offer some warmth to November’s calendar picture with a nod to history. The month of December is celebrated with a picturesque winter scene of the Blackstone Canal at the Capt. Wilbur Kelly House Museum in Quinville, RI. David Newton captured the shot after a snow squall had moved on and the sun started to break through the clouds casting a reflection on the water below.

The coveted cover shot, “Pond Mist Sunrise,” was submitted by Leon Droby of Uxbridge, MA, at Voss Farm (River Bend Farm), also in Uxbridge. Standing near the shore looking at the tow path in the distance, Droby captured the daybreak with the sun’s citrus-colored hues reflecting into the canal through a layer of fog dancing above it. The barren trees are reflected in the canal creating a captivating photo at a very popular visitor location in the National Heritage Corridor.

“I look forward to this calendar contest every year because I get to see hundreds of photos that capture the uniqueness of the National Heritage Corridor,” Cutler explained. “They are all submitted by local photographers, and it’s always inspiring to see what they discover and choose to submit to help us tell our story through the months of the year. We are grateful for the passion and generosity.”

BHC’s 2017 Calendar will be available at the Calendar Release Party on October 17 and can be purchased for $10 each. The calendars will also be available for sale on BHC’s online shop. To learn more, 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.

Lots of Snap!

The snapping turtle (Chelydra s.serpentine) is the largest freshwater turtle in Blackstone Heritage Corridor.  It can grow to over 18 inches in length and weigh more than 40 pounds.  The snapping turtle has a keen sense of smell and primarily eats fish, amphibians and other water creatures.  It has a greenish cast to its otherwise brown shell (carapace) due to algae growth.

Rarely seen on land, snapping turtles usually inhabit shallow lakes and streams with lots of plants.  When in water, the snapping turtle is shy of humans and will swim away quietly.  It will come onto land in June and July to lay eggs.  Since the underside of its body (plastron) is smaller than the carapace, the snapping turtle cannot protect itself by drawing completely into its shell.  Snapping turtles have a powerful, beak-like jaw with an agile neck and head.  So when it is out of water it can be dangerous.