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The end is near

Photo: Herbalizer, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: Herbalizer, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

The number left to reach our fundraiser goal is down from six digits to five, and the number of days left to do it is down from two digits to one. The end is near. Thanks to all of you who have taken us this far down the road.

I spent yesterday going far down the road myself–on the way to Boston for a family visit. I had a chance to listen to the new “quiet drive” or “warp drive”–whatever you want to call this new take on radio fundraiser that doesn’t interrupt programming–the way a regular listener might experience it. As I heard a variety of messages over the course of the three hours I was range of NCPR transmitters, I was struck by a couple things.

First–this was a way better listening experience, not really distinguishable from regular programming–sort of like if we had bought up most of our own underwriting spots.

But the second thing that struck me was that our mindset hasn’t really gotten fully to that new place yet, where we remind you that this is the time to give, remind you why you listen to and value the station, and remind you why your participation matters–and that’s it. We still sound a little tentative. “And if we reach our goal by April 13, we won’t have to go to…”

Of course we’re going to get there. You’re a reliable bunch of folks. You know the deal. But what we are not saying is that April 13 is a totally arbitrary date. We could end this today, or tomorrow. And when we reach our goal of $250,000 we stop the giving messages right then. I cancel the emails already scheduled to go out. We start running the thank-you messages instead of please messages.

There aren’t any extra drawings to find out about later, no advantage to waiting. We have no surprises to pull out of the hat later to entice your support. There’s the drawing Monday for the Yoga 3 convertible laptop (what I call the Swiss Army laptop), and the drawing the Monday after that for $2,500 in airfare anywhere, but waiting will not increase your chance to win one iota.

The end is near–as near as you want it to be. Let’s stick a fork in it.

End this thing with your gift right now to NCPR.

If we could not only “do this thing,” but do it a week early–heads would explode in stations all across the country. Messy, but sweet.

Wake to a “Blood Moon” on Saturday

The full moon comes once every month, but this month, it brings something unusual. This full moon will be a “Blood Moon.”

According to Dr. Tony Phillips of NASA’s Science News, there will be a total eclipse of the moon visible from North America this Saturday, April 4. East of the Mississippi River, the eclipse will occur during sunrise, and will be a partial eclipse. West of the Mississippi, observers can expect to see the full moon illuminated by coppery red light as it hangs in the sky like an orb.

In his article “Total Eclipse of the Moon” Dr. Phillips explains why the moon appears red by asking viewers to imagine they are witnessing the eclipse from the surface of the moon, facing the Earth and the Sun behind it. Dr. Phillips writes

You might expect Earth seen in this way to be utterly dark, but it’s not. The rim of the planet looks to be on fire! As you scan your eye around Earth’s circumference, you’re seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once. This incredible light beams into the heart of Earth’s shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb when viewed from Earth (Dr. Tony Phillips 2015).



Weather provided, we Earthlings will get to see every sunset and sunrise that occurs this Saturday reflected simultaneously against the surface of the moon.

During the eclipse, light from the sun will pass through the Earth’s atmosphere, interacting with air molecules. As it does so, the red and copper-hued light released from their exchanges will be angled inward, around the earth in a phenomenon called refraction. Some of this light will hit the moon as it moves directly behind the Earth, causing it to be illuminated.

The setting of the moon will allow us to see only a fraction of this event. In fact, this eclipse will be relatively short, as Dr. Phillips notes, because in our view, the moon is only passing through the periphery of Earth’s shadow.

Total eclipses occur when viewers witness the moon in its “umbra,” or the inner portion of the Earth’s shadow and partial eclipses occur when the moon is in the “penumbra,” or outer portion of the Earth’s shadow. Although this eclipse will eventually pass fully into the umbra, it will not be visible in this stage on the East Coast.



Here in the North Country, we will witness the eclipse at its fullest just before moonset, at 6:31 am. The eclipse will begin at 5:01 am and end at 10:59 am, well after the sun has risen and the moon has set from our viewing position. Weather provided, early risers will see about half of the moon lit up with copper tones just before sunrise. Unlike a solar eclipse, this is a spectral delight that won’t hurt your eyes if viewed directly.

Fortunately, this event is part of a “tetrad” of total lunar eclipses. A tetrad is a series of four complete lunar eclipses separated by six month intervals. The next full lunar eclipse occur on September 28, 2015. On this occasion, Northern New York will have front row seats and we will see the moon fully illuminated.

For more information about lunar eclipses and why they happen when they do, check out this video from NASA’s ScienceCast series.

If you find yourself seeking a soundtrack to your lunar viewing experience, Dave Parkman of LA Weekly has generously created a playlist of the top five songs to listen to as you view a lunar eclipse. It should come as no surprise that Van Morrison’s “Moondance”, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, and Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” all made it onto the list.

Don’t flee from these fleas

Snow fleas. Photo: Per Verdonk, inset Natalija, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Snow fleas. Photo: Per Verdonk, inset Natalija, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

If you’ve been tromping around in the woods lately, especially if it’s a mild day, you may have noticed dark specks collecting in depressions in the snow. If you look closely you’ll notice these little pepper flakes bouncing around. They’re called snow fleas, but don’t panic—they’re not real fleas.

They’re not especially fond of snow, either, but other than that, snow fleas are aptly named. On sunny days in late winter they often congregate near the bases of trees or collect in footprints. While snow fleas are the size of actual fleas, they haven’t the least interest in you or your pets (but please don’t take that personally). Try not to step on them, as they may give us the means to improve both organ transplantation and ice cream.

Snow fleas, a type of ‘springtail,’ were classified as insects until recent DNA sequencing pegged them as another type of arthropod called a hexapod. Apparently there’s now heated debate as to whether springtails constitute a hexapod class or merely a sub-class. You have to love scientists. First they study an obscure organism to develop life-saving technology, then come to fisticuffs over what to call it.

Whatever their label, snow fleas are beneficial in many ways. As decomposers of organic matter, they help create healthy topsoil. They and their hexapod cousins are one of the most abundant types of soil ‘animals,’ numbering around 100,000 individuals per cubic yard of topsoil.

Besides eating algae, fungi, nematodes, protozoa and a wide range of organic matter, they consume organisms and spores that cause damping-off wilt and other plant diseases. In fact, springtails are being studied for their potential to control plant diseases in greenhouses.

Snow fleas also produce a unique glycine-rich protein that keeps ice from forming inside their cells even at very cold temperatures. This newly discovered molecule is unlike any previously known protein, and is the basis for research on more efficient storage of transplant organs. Organs could be stored for much longer if this protein allows them to be kept at below-freezing temps without damage.

A slightly less important application, but a welcome one to many, is that snow fleas could improve ice cream. Eventually we may see ice cream that never forms ice crystals no matter how long it sits neglected in the freezer.

Springtails lack a respiratory system and must breathe through their skin. As a result, they’re quite vulnerable to drying out, and hop around to find moist, sheltered places as well as things to eat.

A true flea uses its tarsi, or toes, to vertically jump as much as seven inches, which is roughly the equivalent of a person jumping 500 feet straight up using only their toes. A snow flea, however, is not nearly so athletic. It can use its two tail-like appendages to bounce a fraction of a flea-jump, perhaps equivalent to a human leaping a mere dozen feet in the air. (I feel so much less inadequate now.)

During warmer months snow fleas and other springtails are even more active than they are in winter, although without a snowy background for contrast they’re hard to see. They forage extensively in the humus layer and move throughout the soil profile, even deep down. Springtails can be found up in the forest canopy as well as on water, where surface tension keeps them from sinking. If you go out with a flashlight some June night you can see springtails bopping about on standing water.

Just hearing the word ‘flea’ can set folks on edge and start them scratching, so it’s unfortunate about snow fleas’ name. Try thinking of them as springtails, and keep an eye out on bright winter days for these jittery critters that help make topsoil, and could one day help save our life. Or at the very least, our ice cream.

Paul Hetzler is a horticulture and natural resources educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County.

Bring in the new

While NCPR wants to end traditional public radio fundraising as we know it by eliminating the on-air week-long beg-fest that steps all over your favorite programs, that means we have to work our other “channels” pretty hard, including this one. You’re getting lots of email. Our Facebook feed is heavy with giving messages.

Since the Listening Post subscriber list is mostly made up of people who have donated to the station in the past, we assume that you have already “done the thing,” or are about to do it at any moment. This one, perhaps?

They listen, but do they give?

They listen, but do they give?

We give you our thanks–possibly in advance, but thanks–for your giving, and thanks for your patience with our evolving business model. We count on you, and we are confident that we can continue to do so.

But you are among only 10% or so of regular listeners who donate to support the station. If your back is a little sore, it might be because you carry the weight of ten. All of you know someone whose “weight” you are carrying, and if you have ever asked them why they listen to but don’t support public radio, there are as many reasons as there are for giving. However, many of them are ill-informed:

  • They get my tax dollars. What more do they need?
    NCPR gets only 16% of its budget from federal and state government funds. We have to raise the rest.
  • They get money from businesses, why do they need mine?
    Underwriting by local businesses is an important part of our budget, but the largest piece of our budget comes from individual listener contributions–4,740 of them in the last fiscal year.
  • I can’t stand listening to the on-air fundraiser. 
    The solution is obvious. Support our effort to end them forever.
  • If I have to watch that Three Tenors special again I will scream! 
    Public television and public radio are separate operations. We don’t take credit for Big Bird, so don’t blame us for the Three Tenors.

For extra karma credit, you might help us to bring in new donors. Whenever you begin a sentence with “I heard on NCPR this morning that…” you could mention somewhere in the following that you support the station that gives you the information you are sharing. Don’t do it every time, all the time, but now during our fundraiser. If they respond with commonly-held misinformation, set them straight. You could even mention prize drawings.

The generous enthusiasm of  NCPR listeners is our secret weapon. Now is the time to deploy it.

Pinball machines, the scattering of light, and glorious North Country sunsets

Evening sun just outside of Canton. Photo: James Chandler

Evening sun just outside of Canton. Photo: James Chandler

This past week I spent an evening driving across the North Country.

Though January puts up a good fight, I find that March is the month which most often tries my Northern patience. Unending white and indefinite snow I can deal with, but the greys and browns of soggy in- between seasons have long stoked my annual excitement for summer.

The first day of spring marks a nebulous time in the North Country. March thaws allow rivers like the Grass and Ausable to erupt out of their frosty cages, only to refreeze in the wintry nights to follow. Hikers and dog walkers face unreliable combinations of slush, snow, and ice, and skiers gamble for mashed potatoes over corny ice crystals on the slopes.

Then, practically over night, the last of the snow is gone. It sneaks into the ground and runs into the rivers when it’s had enough of that. It permeates lawns and houses, trails and roads, making rivers burst anew from their icy sources, high above in cold mountains or far north in the St. Lawrence.

Sunrise from Azure Mountain. Photo: Eric MacIntyre

Sunrise from Azure Mountain. Photo: Eric MacIntyre

This is, in my opinion (and now I can say NOAA’s too) the best time of year to watch the sun set. It is precisely the contrast of vibrant color against grey brambles and twiggy tree stems that makes this so. As I watched the glow of the sunset from the passenger seat of my car, sunbeams cut speckled shadows on gently rolling corn and wheat fields still covered with snow. Though the horizon bore just a hint of pink, the sky lingered on, blue as a cartoon bird.

I have seen some pretty fantastic sunsets in some beautiful places. A sepia tone evening on Azure Mountain this fall sneaks to the top of the list, as well as countless happy dusks spent lounging on sun-warmed rocky island slabs in Cranberry Lake. Though these memories are lovely, there is just something about the sun setting on the true North Country landscape that elicits an unparalleled warmth of color. This spectacle is made all the more beautiful when the tones of the land itself are muted during mud season.

Just what causes this dreamy phenomenon? As science would have it, there is a reason for everything, and Stephen Corfidi, a meteorologist for NOAA, has it.

The sun, our closest star, is constantly showering the earth in radiation and light. When light radiation hits an air molecule, it “scatters”. This is essentially what it sounds like: light traveling as a wave hits a particle and bounces off in another direction and with a different wavelength. The tiny particles absorb some of the energy from the approaching wave, and the light bounces off more slowly than when it came. The unique size and stature of the molecules that make up air on earth allows them to scatter light from the sun as blue light. Hence, we see bluebird skies when the sun is at its height.

Different colors in the sunset are the result of light radiation being scattered as it pushes through our atmosphere. Each color corresponds to a different amount of energy and a different wavelength of light. The more air between the sun and the observer, the more particles a beam of light is prone to bounce off of before it reaches the human eye. With each collision, the light loses some energy and thus begins to change color for the observer (Stephen Corfidi, NOAA). Light ricochets through the atmosphere like a pinball in a machine, gradually losing speed and aggravating the particles it nudges along the way.

So what does this have to do with golden North Country evenings?

Sunset Diagram. Image: Stephen F. Corfidi

Sunset Diagram. Image: Stephen F. Corfidi

At the beginnings and ends of the day, the sun is at a lower angle in the sky. The light it emits must travel further through the atmosphere, bumping into particle after particle, scattering and re-scattering until it reaches the eye of the observer. At this point, the light wave is much longer than when it first hit an air molecule, its energy has been sucked up by the collisions it undergoes and we are left with long, sluggish red and orange hues.

As Corfidi put it during an interview with National Geographic’s Amanda Fiegl,

The blues could be somewhere over the West Coast, leaving a disproportionate amount of oranges and reds as that beam of light hits the East Coast, (Stephen Corfidi)

So essentially, we here in the North Country experience lovely winter and springtime sunsets because we get the dregs from the bottom of the light barrel, churned up somewhere between here and the Rockies, the sun and our eyeballs. Minimal haze and seasonal slow circulation of air (it’s all cold) helps to produce pure tones that radiate against the familiar hushed tones of the spring landscape.

Alas, mud season is nearly upon us, but we have ethereal late winter sunsets and lingering blue skies to cling to like the light at the end of the tunnel.

Some surprising Canadian connections to Richard III

King Richard III, by unknown artist, late 16th century. National Portrait Gallery

King Richard III, (1452- 1485) by unknown artist, late 16th century. National Portrait Gallery

King Richard III was reburied today, in Leicester England.

Back in February of 2013, the announcement that the body unearthed in an ordinary parking lot was that of Richard III made quite a splash.

The many events surrounding this month’s reburial in Leicester included gobs of the sort of ceremony and fuss that makes some swoon and others roll their eyes. (Or turn it all into social media fodder, as with Richard III live tweeting his own funeral.)

Even if you think the concept of royal anything belongs on the dust bin of history, many aspects of this story – as a mystery to be solved, if possible – have been pretty remarkable.

Richard III was famous/infamous to begin with, of course. He was the last English King to die in battle, when he lost to a Tudor challenger who then became Henry VII (father of the even more famous Henry VIII). Richard III may or may not have killer his two nephews, the princes in the Tower, but no less than Shakespeare gave him theatrical immortality as a hunchbacked villain.

So, besides reminding readers of why this corpse has gravitas, the other angles of the find, and the reburial, have been fertile ground for all kinds of coverage.

I suspect the hullabaloo has been a fairly small item in passing for the American press. It’s a bigger deal in the UK because this is their country’s story. And it’s been getting extra attention in Canada, because of the surprising number of Canadians who helped make it happen.

Writing for Maclean’s, Patricia Treble (that magazine’s actual royal watcher) drew many interesting threads together in “Canada’s connection to King Richard III: The inside story“.

Treble describes how a key researcher in proving the body’s identity was (Canadian) geneticist Turi King. And that another Canadian, Michael Ibsen, provided the mitochondrial DNA that clinched the discovery.

Ibsen is a cabinetmaker who lives in England.  After being asked, Ibsen hand-crafted an oaken coffin for his uncle of 17 generations back. From Treble’ account:

The order for the coffin came from Leicester Cathedral. “It’s very special,” Ibsen says, “discovering that you are related to Richard III and then being able to use your natural abilities to be part of the whole reinterment.”

Ibsen felt the coffin should be made of oak and had the bright idea to see if that could be sourced from the Duchy of Cornwall

Since its creation in 1337, it has had one primary purpose: to provide income to the prince of Wales. Today, its holdings are run on a commercial basis for the 24th duke, Prince Charles.

Last December, Ibsen made the trek to the sawmill, which saws and stores wood for the duchy. Sawmill owner Bullough [Will Bullough, yet another Canadian living in England] had picked boards from a duchy tree felled four winters before: six oak planks, each four metres long, half a metre wide and 1.5 inches thick. It took two men to budge one. For Ibsen, there is a symmetry in using duchy wood, and it extends five centuries. “The timber for Richard’s coffin is coming from the estate of the next king,” he says.

Really, you couldn’t make this stuff up. The long persistent interest in reconsidering Richard III’s standing and reputation. The eerily successful hunt for his body. The DND trail, not as easy as you might think. And the way it all seemed to come together, with hardly any hanging threads.

If you’d like to see Ibsen and the simple wood shop where the coffin was made, that’s included in this feature from CBCs “The National“.

And for all the pomp of “he was King, King of England!” there’s something rather humble and human about that hands-on task. Imagine contemplating human remains – to which you are related – and building a dignified coffin from some really nice oak, so bones that were hacked and mocked when they last walked the earth, 530 years ago, can go to rest in dignity.

Richard III doesn’t care. He’s long, long dead. And geneticist Turi King hasn’t let it go to her head, saying her detective work on this was nothing “like curing cancer”. But it was (is) an exciting combination of history, mystery and humanity, as depicted in Treble’s fine article.

Luggage follies: where’s my moose meat?

Don’t you just hate it when the airline loses your suitcase full of …frozen moose meat?

This Rotterdamn scup[ture,  ‘Lost Luggage Depot’ was made by the Canadian plastic artist Jeff Wall (1946-). It is made of cast iron and symbolizes the goodbye of the many emigrants to their former lives. Image: Rotterdam 'Kop van Zuid', Creative Commons

This Rotterdam sculpture, ‘Lost Luggage Depot’, was made by the Canadian plastic artist Jeff Wall (1946-). It is made of cast iron and symbolizes the goodbye of the many emigrants to their former lives. Image: Rotterdam ‘Kop van Zuid’, Creative Commons

OK, that’s not a daily occurrence for most travelers. Or for most airlines. But the feeling could be universal. You know, trying to bring back a healthy supply of beloved food that’s hard to find where you live now?

That was the story for Liam English, whose suitcase on an Air Canada flight only completed part of his journey. As recounted for the CBC:

What was inside the suitcase? Eleven kilograms of frozen moose meat, including four moose roasts, four steaks, three packs of ground moose and four packs of moose sausages.

English, originally from Newfoundland but now living in Ottawa, says he decided to stock up while visiting his family.

“It’s like gold to anyone in Newfoundland,” he tells As It Happens host Carol Off. “It’s one of the best things you can eat.”

This story broke when the meat went missing and the hunt was on. Early theories included the possibility that security screening may have diverted that suitcase. Or a fellow Newfoundlander may have tripped to the contents and been unable to resist that temptation.

The lost bag was eventually found in Toronto. But that took 4 days, by which time the meat had thawed into an unhappy state, ruining everything inside, as detailed in follow-up coverage:

“I opened it up and sure enough, the moose meat was spoiled in my bag,” English told CBC News Thursday.

“The smell was probably the most putrid thing I’ve ever put to my nose.”

“Me and the Air Canada rep were gagging — it was pretty bad,” he said.

If English had made it back with his haul intact, he could have found moose recipes at this “All about Moose” website.

(I think I’ll stick to bags of raw macadamia nuts for my “taste of home” re-supply. Much safer.)

If only moose will do, here’s a heritage recipe from Parks Canada for Marm Bailey’s Moose Muffle Soup:

This 200-year old recipe is attributed to Marm Bailey, who served the soup in Annapolis Royal in the 1800s. Marm Bailey’s husband, Thomas Bailey, was an officer posted at Fort Anne. After his death, she opened a boarding house and dining establishment on Lower Saint George Street. It was there that she started serving her world-famous Moose Muffle Soup. Folks came from miles around to have a bowl, and Marm Bailey even bottled the soup and exported it to England.

The original recipe (below) appears in “The Romance of Old Annapolis Royal,” written by Charlotte Isabella Perkins and published by the Historical Association of Annapolis Royal in 1934. It has been adapted by Alan Melanson, a Parks Canada interpreter at Fort Anne National Historic Site.

1 moose nose

1 knuckle of veal

12 meatballs (use your own meatball recipe to put your signature on the recipe)

2 – 3 onions, chopped

Yolks of 12 hard boiled eggs

2-3 tbsp catsup

Marjoram, cloves, cayenne, thyme, and salt (to taste, depending on size of moose nose)

1 bottle of port

Remove all hair off the moose nose, using pliers to remove larger bristles. Thoroughly rinse and clean the moose nose, and place moose nose in a large cauldron (size of cauldron depends on size of moose nose). Add water to cauldron so that it rises 3 inches above the moose nose. Bring the water to a boil and let it boil vigorously for 45 minutes. Reduce to a simmer for the morning and most of the afternoon. In this manner all the juices, flavours and gelatinous substances will combine to make a wonderful broth.

Remove moose nose from cauldron and pull the meat off the nose. Chop the moose nose meat into small pieces and place the meat in the broth. Add all remaining ingredients to the cauldron and simmer on a low heat for about 3 hours.

Ladle into large soup bowls and serve with thick homemade bread and a glass of red wine.

This bowl of soup was modified to use pork or lamb in place of moose muffle. Source: Parks Canada

This bowl of soup was modified to use pork or lamb in place of moose muffle. Source: Parks Canada

Plenty of time for a “seedy” experience

Soil is the brown stuff in the bottom. Photo: Susy Morris, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Soil is the brown stuff in the bottom. Photo: Susy Morris, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Based on recent excavations in northern NY State, archeologists have reached a stunning conclusion. Apparently, beneath layers of snow and ice there may still be “soil” in our region. It’s been so long since the presence of soil was confirmed, many people had begun to doubt its continued existence.

With the issue of object impermanence resolved, gardeners can get ready to start seeds indoors. If you’re new at this, the materials list can be perplexing. You’ll need to scrounge up the right amounts of light, warmth, drainage, timing and sanitation. Seeds would be helpful, too.

Timing is important. If you sow too early, plants will become leggy and weak-stemmed before it’s warm enough to plant them out. On the other hand, a crop like eggplant needs enough time to mature—if you’re too late starting you might end up with few or no fruit. But if it’s on your list to err in this process, better to do so on the side of late planting as opposed to early.

Many vegetables such as tomatoes do best when started indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost, which in northern NY varies from the end of April to early June depending on your elevation and latitude. You can find average last frost dates online, or call your Cooperative Extension office if you don’t have Internet access. Squash, melons, pumpkins and cukes do well with only a 3-week head start, but sow your peppers and eggplant about 7 weeks before last frost. Onions and leeks need 10 weeks.

Any container that’s at least three inches deep with large holes in the bottom for drainage will do. If they were used for plants before, immerse them in a 10% bleach solution and allow to drip dry.

Make sure your potting soil contains no soil. To clarify, a good planting medium is a sterile mixture of peat moss and absorbent minerals like perlite or vermiculite. It’s disease-free and provides good soil aeration as well as water-holding ability. Pre-moisten the mix before filling your containers.

Read each seed packet carefully—it will give tips on timing and care as well as planting depth. Most seeds are planted about twice as deep as they are wide. Very tiny seeds like cardinal flower should be pressed in to the surface and not covered up.

After planting your seeds, water the containers from the bottom—they’ll have to be in trays of some sort. An aluminum baking sheet works great if you can spare one. From experience I can say that labeling your containers is time well spent.

Temperature is critical for germination. 70-75 degrees is ideal, so don’t start them on your windowsill. Keep containers moist but not soggy, and don’t fertilize yet. After plants come up, dial down the heat. Cool-season plants like broccoli, cabbage and lettuce will thrive at 45-50 degrees, but warm-season plants like tomatoes and peppers should be kept at 65-70 degrees in the day and 55-60 at night.

Basically, plants are solar panels that make leaves and fruit instead of power, so they need good light. Full sun is best—even a big south-facing window often does not provide enough light. You can supplement lighting with fluorescent tubes. One “cool white” with a “warm white” 40W fluorescent tubes together in the same fixture are as good as a fancy grow-light, and much cheaper. Lights should be suspended just a few inches above the plants, and be kept on for 12-16 hours a day.

When the first set of true leaves develop, you can fertilize with a dilute solution (half-strength or weaker) of soluble fertilizer every 2-3 weeks. After the second set of true leaves appear, your starts are ready to transplant. About two weeks before you expect to set the plants out into the garden, begin hardening them off. Move them outside for a few hours each day to a partially shaded location sheltered from wind. Gradually increase the time they spend outdoors, and start exposing them to full sun a few hours at a time.

When it’s time to set plants into the garden make sure they’re planted at the right depth in the soil, which is usually some shade of brown, just to jog you memory. It’s been quite a while.

Paul Hetzler is a horticulture and natural resources educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County.

Your turn to bring the radio

Last fall NCPR listeners and friends helped us write a little history. In effect, you took decades of received wisdom about how to run a fundraiser and just blew it up. The goal originally was to shorten the on-air portion of our fundraiser by a day or two. But you said, “Nah–let’s just deep-six the sucker altogether.” And for all practical purposes, you got us there. We only had to throw open the microphones for a couple hours before you put us over the top.

We were flabbergasted, and you made the whole public radio system sit up and take notice. Stations all over the country have been burning up our phone lines ever since to get the details on how it worked. And many have tried it out with good success–more than a dozen of them in their own spring fundraising drives.


“NCPR is a little like a community potluck supper.” Photo: Russ Glasson, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

But it seems too good to be true. Was this a one-off? Success through novelty? Can we sustain it? Which brings me to you–the folks who traditionally make their annual gift during our spring drive. Whether or not this will become the new way forward for public radio support depends on you now. One-time success could be a fluke. Second time, it’s a system.

So, to review, here’s the deal: For the next three weeks, you’re going to be hearing short messages from us asking for your support. They will be frequent–hourly at least–but they will not interrupt programs. We will tuck them into existing scheduled program breaks. In return, you will send us support just as you always have, but without us lighting our hair on fire for six or nine minutes at a crack in the middle of your favorite programs. If we get to our goal, $250,000, before 6 am, Monday, April 13–that’s it. No mas. Finito. If not? Well, let’s not go there.

One of the questions raised about this new method was whether it was as effective in getting new members as it was in motivating those who already supported public radio. While I can’t imagine there are that many fans of long-form improvisational mendicancy out there, here’s an analogy for those who listen but do not support:

NCPR is a little like a community potluck supper. A bunch of people bring a little something to the table, and everybody gets to eat. And people are always welcome to the table, even if they didn’t have the time or means to throw together a dish. They’ll bring a little something next time, or the time after. Eventually though, someone is going to suggest to them that they heard somewhere that they made killer brownies and since everybody likes chocolate, maybe they could bring some along next time. Just a suggestion.

Is it your turn to bring a little radio? It’s time to give.

Thank goodness! It’s spring at last!

Spring_gargoyleSorry to sound like a broken record, but phew! What a winter!

Cold as it was last night, temperatures where I live should climb above freezing by this afternoon, the first day of spring.

I have a woodland ramble scheduled for later today and one of my fellow exercise buffs claims she’ll be there in shorts and sunscreen. (Big talk, show me the pale, bare legs!)

As for who saw it coming, a lead forecaster for Environment Canada had to eat crow, according to the CBC:

The Farmers’ Almanac rarely bests the scientists at Environment Canada when it comes to weather forecasting, but it sure did this year.

Senior meteorologist Dave Phillips consulted the skies and computers in November and December, back when the world was green, and predicted a “little milder and more rain than snow” kind of winter for Eastern Canada.

Score a win for the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which Wikipedia says “…has been published continuously since 1792, making it the oldest continuously published periodical in North America.[1]

Last September, this is how the Old Farmer’s Almanac called it:

“We’re looking at the T-Rex of winters,” Jack Burnett, editor of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, said on CTV’s Canada AM on Thursday. [9/18/14]

“It’s going to be colder, it’s going to be snowier … it’s not pretty.”

According to the almanac, central Canada, in particular, is expected to experience winter’s nasty bite.

“From Calgary to Quebec, we’re going to be up to our neck,” Burnett said.

As it turned out, that grim fate went double for places like Boston and Atlantic Canada, which are still seeing snow storms. Indeed, it was the coldest February on record in many, many places, including Canada.

It was a good winter for multi-tasking, as with the Halifax TV reporter who live-tweeted his efforts to help a woman in labor who was stuck in a snow bank. (Don’t worry, it ended well.)

It was also a good winter to carry your own emergency blubber supply. As “Bubba” discovered. The 18-year-old cat from Prince Edward Island went out for a pee and didn’t come back. For 40 days. Bubba got stranded under a snowed in deck. (This ended well too.)

PEI, for one, isn’t out of the woods yet, weather-wise. That province may see 6 inches of snow and/or an inch of rain this weekend as those residents wait for more proof spring hasn’t forgotten them.

When it comes to predicting whole seasons (will this be a dry summer? what kind of winter might be in store?) do you think anyone really knows in advance? Which source (if any) do you tend to trust?

Meanwhile, I was reducing the snowbanks beside my driveway yesterday and I actually spied the wee green tips of spring bulbs in the flower bed closest to the house. Yes, indeed. Spring has sprung. I am ready!