01 October 2013

( flaming foliage for all this fall )

portraits of nature
( flaming foliage for all this fall )
by “porcupine pat” mckinney

you stared in disbelief when you tore off yet another month from your calendar to reveal that the great engine that turns our earth is shifting into the autumn gear. yes, a new season has arrived, and with it the visual stimulus which is a main ingredient of autumn.

each month has its own personality, too, and this time of year seems befitting of a split one ! we start out with warmer days but end up with light jacket weather, that is, from cool to cold at night.   

some swear that the cooler temps are the reason why leaves change color. over the course of late summer, you probably glimpsed some leaves that were already expressing their true colors. most likely, this is due to stresses from drought and hot temps. the major reason for fall color is the length of sunlight available during the day. 

according to www.sciencemadesimple.com, “leaves are nature's ‘food factories.’” plants siphon water from the ground through their roots and absorb a gas called carbon dioxide from the air. plants use sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose.

oxygen is a gas in the air which we need in order to breathe. glucose is a kind of sugar. plants use glucose as food for energy and as a building block for growing.

the way plants turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugar is called photosynthesis, which means "putting together with light."

a chemical called chlorophyll helps make photosynthesis happen and is the stuff that gives plants their green color. as summer ends and autumn arrives, the days get shorter, and this is how the trees just "know" when to begin getting ready for winter.

trees have to shut down for the winter because there is not enough sunlight or available water, due to the ground being frozen. if a tree still had sap in its wood, most likely the tree would shatter due to the extreme cold. this is akin to when your pipes burst due to ice expanding inside the pipes from a home that has lost its heat during winter. 

but, we are getting ahead of ourselves ! the key to remember is that green chlorophyll masks the true color of each leaf.  as a tree shuts down for the season, the green chlorophyll fades away, unveiling that leaf’s true colors.

we all know that there are several ways to identify a tree from its shape, bark, leaves, etc. leaf color is yet another way to do so.

most common tree colors include: bronze for american beech, red for red maple, orange for sugar maple, yellow for tulip poplar and slippery elm, and the list can go on. we are very fortunate in having such a variety of trees to enjoy in our little nook and cranny of pennsylvania, especially when in some places on this same planet of ours, the change of seasons is less authentic and visible for appreciation station efforts.

as you traipse around the environs here in southeastern pennsylvania, keep a sharp eye out for peak foliage that usually occurs around mid to late october. experts predict that this year will be a doozy, so be sure to take time to enjoy the sights.

some of the best sites for the act of “leaf-peeping” include: anywhere along the schuylkill river, route 100, and oley valley’s back roads. in fact, places like monocacy hill in douglassville feature walkable trails and enjoyable views of autumn leaves crisply responding to each footfall you offer the ground.    

remember that folks who enjoy glimpsing fall foliage are sometimes called “leaf-peepers.” so, be sure to take time this fall to peep at some leaves !

( madelyn fudeman: an early advocate of justice )

by jennifer hetrick

few could say their days of delivering justice to the people literally began in their single-digit years, early in childhood—but this is an integral detail in the career of attorney madelyn fudeman.

on tuesday, november 5th, fudeman is running for judge of the berks county court of common pleas.

“my mother, my aunts, and my brother and sister have always said i was born to be a lawyer,” notes fudeman, beaming. she joined the world at her birth in berks county’s reading hospital in 1956. “she has always been an advocate for people she knew weren’t being treated fairly or justly,” says fudeman’s aunt virginia, who at 91, lives with fudeman.

when fudeman was nine-years-old, she had to have an emergency appendectomy in the reading hospital. at the time, she found herself visiting her aunt bert moscirella in sinking spring. after the surgery, fudeman’s surgeon came to tell her aunt virginia and aunt bert, “your niece should consider becoming an attorney because she asked so many questions about the surgery, what it would entail, how long i have been performing surgery, etc.,” the surgeon said with a smile. he told her family that her words and delivery were incredibly effective.

and fudman’s commitment to justice continues to resonate with her even more poignantly today.

“i always had a strong sense of fairness,” fudeman reflects.

one day during third grade, her mother—julia moscirella-fudeman—attended a meeting her teacher had requested. assuming the teacher arranged the meeting in order to compliment her daughter’s schoolwork and good grades, mrs. moscirella-fudeman reacted in surprise when the subject of discussion veered in an altogether different direction.

( madelyn fudeman enjoys time with the fur kids in her home
– photo courtesy of madelyn fudeman ) 

“your daughter is a staunch advocate for other students, and she certainly delivers her objections quite effectively and assertively. however, i did tell her this isn’t a courtroom, and we can discuss her thoughts and ideas collectively,” her teacher stated with a big smile.

today, fudeman is president of her legal practice for the past 20 years, while her work in law spans 25 years overall, including her time spent out of state.

“i began practicing in miami as a prosecutor in janet reno’s office, and then for several years, i did legal reporting, including covering the trial of manuel noriega,” she explains.

today, fudeman is the president of essig, valeriano, & fudeman, p.c., in wyomissing, with one of her specializations in zoning and real estate law.

she also mentors young attorneys and served as a director of the berks county bar association. twelve years ago, she took on the job of chairperson of the berks county bar association’s alternative dispute resolution program. her website notes that the program “provides an alternative to the overwhelming expense and uncertainty of litigation.”

the family mediation program in the berks county court system is also something fudeman’s efforts helped to shape as a way to somewhat alleviate the often painful, ugly particulars in custody battles between divorcing or separated parents and the children who don’t usually have a choice or a much of a voice in such traumatizing times.

the program is set up to offer supportive mediation to parents or guardians as a way to benefit them, but more importantly, the children. and fudeman points out that if the mediation helps at all and sets a good example for the children, it is an enormous benefit to the family and the court system.

fudeman also spent more than a decade on the board of directors for mary’s shelter, a nonprofit based in the city of reading, supporting women and children during times of crisis situations related to pregnancy, and presently serves on the board of prospectus berco, which helps mentally challenged individuals find work and live productive and fulfilling lives.

reflecting on why she is running for judge, fudeman says, “judges have an even greater ability [than lawyers] to make sure the law works the right way.” fudeman believes the county deserves forward-thinking, fair-minded public officials serving to improve the quality of justice and living in local communities.

to find out more before november, email info2013@fudemanforjudge.com or go online to visit www.fudemanforjudge.com.

23 July 2013

( floating along in beautiful waters with schuylkill river outdoors )

by jennifer hetrick
since the summer of 2009, water-ready folks have had the opportunity to float down the schuylkill river in douglassville through the hardworking warm weather efforts of pat turner and her family. today, their labors involve helping locals—and even those visiting from out of state sometimes—to shimmy a slow pace along the river’s surface by single tube, double tube, raft, party float, or kayak.

and turner found this a likable choice of a business endeavor after having worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 15 years, becoming laid off with about 600 others several years ago. so turning toward the river as a form of livelihood while bringing something recreational and nature-sly served as a welcome change of pace from her former career.

turner had a neighbor who had run a tubing business in the past, and recalling his conversations about it, knew it might be a unique community-geared calling, especially given that it helps people to stop their racing minds for a bit to instead appreciate the beautiful and lesser-seen view of riverbanks and our area from the middle of the schuylkill river. too often, people only see the landscape from the road or from one side of the river to the other. or not at all.

turner and her children erica, zach, and daemon blaszczyk are a part of schuylkill river outdoors, running the operation together when weather conditions cooperate. the early months of summer so far this year have been quite a challenge, as the nearly constant rain and higher river water make it difficult to safely allow people to venture their way down the river when they’re anxious to get their float on.

( photo courtesy of schuylkill river outdoors )

one of the funniest details about running this water-hugging business is that the most common answer people give to saying how they found out about schuylkill river outdoors is that they saw it advertised on a placemat in some restaurant. but turner and her family have never once done advertising on any placemats in any restaurants. “we always sort of shrug and smile,” turner says about how she and her family react after hearing the placemat relation. and then they move on with getting their guests to the river’s edge, but not before some routine safety instructions and smarts for navigating their float well and problem-free.

schuylkill river outdoors sits on 17 acres, with 16 of it wooded and the rest as the parking area, office, picnic grove, and where equipment is kept.

their main offering is a three-and-a-half mile float down the river, which normally lasts about three hours, at a floating rate of one mile per hour.

turner says that one couple told her spending time on the river away from the stress of their lives at home and with work literally saved their relationship, which is quite the compliment but speaks something very strongly in showing how time separate from modern norms and instead closer to nature’s whimsical gifts can bring a much needed balance into the lives of people today. getting away from the ieverything culture of daily buzzing is something floating down the schuylkill river makes easily opportune. we all need to slow down and float on, nowadays.

“you get a whole new perspective on the river,” turner adds. “out there, it forces you to have no phones or computers in front of you, and instead, you’re forced into talking to each other.” but many of those who venture out onto the water see how beneficial and needed time like this is, with no technology-savvy screens in front of them for three hours straight. and then family and friends connect again, mid-floating.

“the water calms you down. the stress just goes, and it even brings your heart rate down,” she says. “the water soothes.”

the idea of water carrying a healing effect fits well in here then, too. and its influences are quite poignant with some, as turner and her family have seen people head out onto the water in a grumpy mood. but but by the time they are picked up in the business’ school bus a few miles away, they’re positive and happy.

visit www.schuylkillriveroutdoors.com to learn more, and look for coupons on rates, too.

13 June 2013

(pennsylvania outdoor lighting council (polc) sheds curiously thoughtful night-light in chester county & beyond)

by jennifer hetrick

working on behalf of the whole state of pennsylvania when it comes to being environmentally, healthily, and financially intelligent about night illuminations in manufactured form is the pennsylvania outdoor lighting council based in chester county.

the board members for this council are from chester, berks, and montgomery counties in our little nugget of southeastern pennsylvania.

“it started in 1995 with a group of amateur astronomers who were concerned about light pollution,” explains stan stubbe who serves as the council’s president.

stubbe elaborates that the council focused primarily on two major goals in the early days, ones that are a still a strong point in their attention today: both public and municipal awareness. he and fellow council members often also find themselves at environmental and sustainability fairs, offering educational handouts about the impacts of light pollution and how there are great and often more affordable choices to dulling down the irritating, distracting way of unnatural light in the nighttime hours.

“light that’s excessive and shines into people’s eyes and into the skies or causes an annoyance and reduces their ability to see” is what stubbe describes as the definition of light pollution.

“homeowners often don’t know the consequences of light pollution and don’t equate it to wasted money, but it is similar to letting a sink faucet run all night,” stubbe says. “and many times, people who move from the city out into this area think they need as much light here as they needed in the city, so it is a tough sell,” he says about trying to help people to see that some light at night is excessive, harmful to vision, distracting, and even a wallet-killer.

in terms of commercial and industrial businesses and their influence on contributing to light pollution, stubbe notes that they usually want their properties to be glimpsed before anyone else’s, with an example being two competing gas stations on opposite sides of an intersection.

stubbe suggests using lower wattage lamps as one way to reduce light pollution and wallet straining.

“a 40-watt lamp for a porch or post light is plenty adequate,” stubbe says. “you can also use a timing device so that the light shuts off sooner, or use a motion sensor.”

( above, a parshield; below, scenes of neighbors being considerate to each other 
with their outdoor lighting choices - courtesy of the POLC & RAB lighting

stubble also recommends using properly shielded lighting which aims the lighting on the ground or at least away from the windows of houses in a neighborhood so that sleep can be more naturally appreciated.

stubbe notes that par shields, made for just this purpose, are for sale at the national historic site known as hopewell furnace in elverson, as it in line with supporting beautiful sweeps of views of the nighttime sky and also keeping light pollution at bay.

but some may not realize how unneeded light impacts human even more. “when people don’t get enough darkness every day, the flow of melatonin decreases,” stub says. melatonin is a hormone related to healthy regulation of proverbial zzz’s, produced in the brain. and on top of that, lighting interference adversely impacts animals in their migration and reproduction habits as well as the growth habits of trees and plants.

in the beginning of the council’s efforts, members tried to reach out with a push for state legislation about this topic they’re so passionate about, but they soon realized how far from feasible it was. so instead, they started to concentrate their energy on trying to help make a difference at the local level with municipalities across local counties. and in fact, with the lighting pollution ordinance language available on their website, they’ve seen further off, not so local townships out of the tri-county range adopting their prepared wording, which shows that this impact is really making a difference.

since beginning their light-kind endeavors in education, the council has helped to enact more than 40 ordinances with townships, boroughs, and cities, with the wording in each pushing forward the idea of more earth, people, and wallet-friendly lighting choices for outdoor settings. most of the municipalities the council assisted with guidance on these ordinances were in chester county, but several were in other surrounding counties. a few were east vincent, east pikeland, uwchlan, upper uwchlan, west whiteland, north coventry, south coventry, east coventry, warwick, east nantmeal, london grove, west brandywine, west bradford, robeson, maidencreek, union, and amity townships.

in most instances, the council contributed not only their time but gave their two cents about how to customize the ordinances to fit the settings and backdrop of each individual municipality.

and thankfully for the council members, officials from those townships expressed gratitude for their insights and efforts in helping not only to draft the language of the ordinances but also throwing a good amount of thoughtful kindness to the residents of these communities as well because of the knowledge tucked into caring about this subject.

stubbe encourages people to talk to their neighbors about lighting annoyance, and while it may seem like a potentially sore subject, he has his own success story of a neighbor’s floodlights shining toward his own house, on the road, and at another neighbor’s windows. when stubbe approached his neighbor about it, the response came across with respect, and with a few adjustments, that light is now aimed downward and bothers no one. this shows that if people practice patience and understanding toward each other, workable solutions that benefit more than one person can be brought into the mix.

seeing the progress made since the council formed almost two decades ago is what stubbe considers most rewarding about being a part of such light-smart efforts.

in addition to visiting the council’s website for moer information at www.polcouncil.org, stubbe also highly recommends checking out the international dark-sky association at www.darksky.org.

11 June 2013

( oley valley organics hosts early summer-swept farm open house on saturday, june 15 )

by jennifer hetrick

tucked into the stretch of the oley valley known as pike township, oley valley organics is hosting a farm open house on saturday, june 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

the day's festivities and deliciously grown local eats, along with live stringed instrument music and plenty of educational components, will pepper the hours of the open house. 

dr. elaine ingham, chief scientist at the rodale institute in maxatawny township will be offering compost extract and tea demonstrations at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the farm as a way to help teach people how compost used to be for centuries before commercialized pesticide treatments took over the norm in our culture. ingham will explain the fascinating facts behind how these ancient arts of approach to agriculture help crops to be stronger, more resilient against disease, more flavorful by the bite, higher in yield, and with less neighboring pesky weeds in the way of the soil.

barb dietrich who farms the land with her family explains that old-fashioned soft pretzels will be served from the historic bake oven at the farm around 12 p.m. the bake oven on the property dates to around 130 years ago and takes several hours to heat up to the appropriate temperature, but it is a rare and heritage-rich asset on the land.

other local farmers will be at the event as vendors as well, sharing their naturally raised foods that are from the heart of berks county. organically raised meats and cheeses are just a few of what will be on the table through friends of the farm. 

with farming weaved well into dietrich's childhood, she and her family purchased their historic farm property in 2006. having grown up in stonersville, dietrich notes that her father worked as a crop farmer. and while she and her husband and children lived abroad as a military family for a long time, they always wanted to come home to berks county to settle down and become close with the land again.

"we like the farming way of life, and we like the pace of it," dietrich says about what draws her so strongly to a life based around agricultural labors.

her farm spans just under 13 acres, and her primary foods of focus are asparagus, strawberries and raspberries. but since adding two hoophouses in the past few years, she and her family also raise a lot more now, including all sorts of salad greens, tomatoes, garlic, zucchini, rhubarb, and more.

( photographs courtesy of oley valley organics

"nothing tastes better than fresh produce," dietrich says with a heartful smile evident in her voice. she has even talked to pennsylvania dutch men many decades older than her who live in the area and say her asparagus is some of the best they've ever had.

and dietrich explains that when a person goes from store-bought asparagus, likely from far beyond the borders of pennsylvania, and then tries her asparagus, the stark difference in flavor persuasion in what she grows has all its own delectable lure on gustatory cells: in other words, it tastes phenomenal and knocks non-local asparagus right out of the picture.     

“as a nation built by farmers, many people today don’t really know where their food comes from,” dietrich says. she explains that certain crops like soy and corn are subsidized by the government, which means the cheaper food in grocery stores often has these products in them. and while they’re less expensive and usually very processed, they aren’t necessarily very healthy for the human body compared to fresh, whole, local food raised free of the toxic and damaging way of insecticides. 

“and commercially grown strawberries are bred for shipping with bright color for looks, not to taste good,” dietrich says.

she continuously hears this line during strawberry-growing season: “these are the best strawberries we’ve ever had.” and in fact, she recently had people driving from allentown, lehigh county, and frackville, schuylkill county just to be able to pick their own organic strawberries because they had such trouble finding this opportunity in their own communities. the gracious way of these far-traveling strawberry-devourers brings a satisfaction to dietrich’s hard work that is understandably unparalleled. 

“every day, i have somebody say, ‘thank you for what you do,’ and that makes it easier to get up and do this all again the next day,” dietrich says. “and i’d much rather have my hands in the soil than at a computer.”

and in appreciation of farm life, dietrich also adds, “nothing beats seeing a couple of kittens being born.”

oley valley organics is located at 516 oysterdale road, oley, pa 19547. also be sure to like the farm on facebook.

01 May 2013

( in gratitude of trees )

portraits of nature
( in gratitude of trees )
by “porcupine pat” mckinney

some are tall and stately, while others are short in size.  a few are narrow in nature, while some bulge in shape. like people, trees can be as same or as different, depending on what you want to look for in their beckoning trunks and limbs.

you will glimpse that there are several key factors to know about when identifying a tree. the most significant is by size, with tulip trees and white pines holding a regal standing in our local forests. the dogwood keeps guard at ground level. other common ways to aid in identification include: bark, leaf bud, leaf shape, smell (scratch and sniff !), type of fruit or nut, flower type, and needle amount/shape. there are trees who enjoy wetlands, while others find refuge in the dry, rocky soil commonly found on hilltops.

of course, pennsylvania means “penn’s woods” and is world-renowned for being a leader in the global economy for its hardwoods such as cherry, walnut, and oak. we acknowledge the importance of trees on a national level through celebrating arbor day. the last friday in april is arbor day in our commonwealth, with communities planting even more trees and school students learning about their importance in nature and the environment.

( “porcupine pat” mckinney holds a japanese tree lilac in front 
of his home, dedicated in memory to his mother, katie mckinney. 
also nearby is a partner tree for his dad, edward mckinney. )

we should show gratitude to all trees all the time, and here’s why. besides providing natural beauty, no matter where you are or what you are doing, you are always within two feet of a product made from a tree !             

more than 5,000 products come from trees. obvious products include lumber, paper, and furniture, but other lesser-known ones include chemicals and ingredients in plastic filler, varnishes, toothpaste, shoe polish, foam rubber, and the list goes on !

specific parts of a tree, such as bark, can produce mulches, soil conditioners, medicines, and cosmetics. it's no wonder people have used wood products for centuries. wood is durable, renewable, recyclable, biodegradable, energy-efficient, and environmentally friendly.

trees cool our cities by reducing heat generated from buildings and paved surfaces. trees in residential areas increase property values by 10 to 15 percent and help to soften harsh building lines and expanses of pavement, making urban environments more livable. habitat for birds and other wildlife through the gift of trees and their limbs also push forward a sense of balance with nature.

air is purified by trees, and water-borne pollutants are significantly reduced through the efforts of trees, too. people are affected by the proximity of trees in that trees speed healing and nurture more positive attitudes in hospital patients who can see them from their rooms. trees even reduce levels of domestic violence and foster safer, more sociable neighborhood environments.

do your part to help the environment by both caring for the trees on your property and also planting more. you can contact your department of conservation and natural resources and bureau of forestry to inquire about the forest stewardship program.

enjoy the spring-green of the newly opened leaves while walking  footfalls along the kind land of area state parks or the schuylkill river trail. you can visit communities, such as boyertown—which is listed as a tree city usa hometown !

( deep roots & deep dedication )

by taryn shillady

in a bustling busy world filled with ipads, imacs, and automatic everything, it’s refreshing to take a step back to see that some people really can avoid the average hectic life, instead truly leading a unique and meaningful one that doubles as a career while bringing local, caringly raised food to neighbors in the tri-county region. and no doubt, farmers work harder than many today but are often on a whole other level of gratitude about their labors in the world, compared to the rushed way of many in jobs so far from the whims of nature. one couple in centre township has taken on the challenging lifestyle of running and living on a fifth generation farm with their three young children, all in order to deliver fresh produce tucked well with a uniquely satisfying nommm-factor.
this spring, kelly and will smith, (ages 27 and 35, consecutively and also respectively) will be embarking on their third season at deep roots valley farm, which is set back from irish creek road, along with their three children hannah, 8, emma, 6, and carter, 3. in the most frank of honesty, will gleans that he and kelly were sort of “interns” during the first two seasons, operating the farm and striving to make a kind profit this year. the pair picked the name “deep roots valley farm” in 2010, which represents kelly’s family’s roots weaved well into the land. her great-great grandfather, howard phillips, purchased the farm in 1911. since then, it has been passed through her kin. though her ancestors had established the acres as a diversified farm and later a dairy farm, kelly and will raise mostly eggs, chickens, beef, pork, and turkey.
in the days of howard, kelly explained that the family farm beckoned of a very diversified agricultural setup and that there was a little bit of everything on the farm, much like the family farms and heritage of many with close ties to land between stretches of their hearts and souls, across the region. after howard, james and his wife annie took over the farm, using it to raise and sell chickens. this particular pair were kelly’s great-grandparents. kelly’s grandfather, paul, who is currently 91 and still lives within walking distance of the farm, used the land to raise dairy heifers, various crops, and to sell hay. cathy and larry, both 55, are kelly’s parents, and took over the farm from paul and raised the dairy heifer count from 40 to 60. the heifers were sold in 1991, and larry worked the land since then; he labors alongside kelly and will today in managing the animals.     

the challenge that kelly and will had to overcome weaved into the picture as learning how to run and maintain a farm, since neither of them really knew what type of farm they wanted. but kelly’s childhood growing up on a farm and even making her own organic babyfood years ago, when it wasn’t available in stores, helped them to see what healthy choices they wanted to bring to eating options around the region. they considered a certified organic operation, but to license everything properly is a more than a costly contest. it helps that locals are learning to trust the accountability of the farmers in their own communities now more than labels, since many farmers are striving to raise their food as naturally as possible on stretch after stretch of farmland in berks county. so instead, the husband and wife duo took to reading a plethora of texts. they found that calling themselves a “natural farm” would be the best fit for their dream. they use non-g.m.o. corn and crops, and they develop true relationships with all of their animals, giving them the best life possible while they are here on this earth.
their main focus right now is getting their produce to the community, while finding their niche. they want their produce to be as accessible as possible. currently, kelly and will have a few different routes to delivering their products. customers always have the option of picking up their orders at the farm for the lowest cost. for a little bit more, the customers are able to access deep roots’ crops at several different CSA pick-ups, which are spread in and outside of the berks county area. the third option is visiting the deep root valley farm’s brand new stand at the phoenixville farmers’ market.
kelly and will are ecstatic about this opportunity, and will even seemed slightly surprised that the opportunity came through a feed producer friend and not through his vigorous online marketing through facebook and the deep roots valley farm website, which still boasts of plenty of success for the farm. before the two embarked on the challenge of running a farm, will received his economics degree and managed restaurants, along with running an online ebay business which sold pop culture items; he still keeps up with the side business. kelly also came from the restaurant industry. will now uses what he learned with his degree and business experience to benefit the farm’s growth, keeping friends and customers updated through facebook by asking trivia questions, holding contests, and posting notes of days when friends and customers can visit for curious happenings at deep roots valley farm. they offer home-school field trips, since their children  are home-schooled; visits can feature hayrides and farm tours, along with seed-planting and petting the sweet-hearted animals.
deep roots valley farm uses the method of rotational grazing to keep the land as healthy as possible. (will noted that they utilize 65 to 70 acres of their land with the animals’ footfalls.) their belief is to “heal the soil.” so it’s easy to see that they believe it all begins with the soil. “we definitely go with the philosophy that everything comes from the soil,” kelly says. “if you have healthy soil, you’ll have healthy grass. if you have healthy grass, then you’ll have healthy animals. if you have healthy animals, you’ll have a healthier you. and this is all to produce more nutrient-dense food.”
kelly and will depend gratefully on the kind hearts of other local farmers for advice on how to run the farm with best efficiency. will explains, with a glimmer of joy in his voice, that everyone in the farming community is very willing to share insights. he also says that a good way to network and meet new farmers is to go to the agriculture center for classes. and even being so new to the farming scene, kelly and will says people have already been coming to them for advice, too.
kelly mentions that one of her daughters once went up to a pig before a scheduled butcher visit and told the oink-ready creature that because it was such a nice pig, it was going to make very nice bacon. and from there, she knew even her young child understood the food cycle better than some adults who are often so detached from where food really comes from, in the end, before it meets the dinner plate. kelly really wanted to clarify the question that people ask the most—“how can you butcher that cow ?” kelly says it’s simple. “we know that this animal had a wonderful life. i’d rather send to butcher an animal that had a wonderful life than one that had a horrible one.” the nature-swept goal of deep roots valley farm is to brush away the disconnect between people and the very sources of their food, helping them to appreciate the efforts of all farmers who keep us nourished.
visit www.deeprootsvalley.com; search for the farm on facebook.

24 March 2013

(spring is an adventure for the senses )

portraits of nature 
( spring is an adventure for the senses ) 
by “porcupine pat” mckinney 

an introduction: portraits of nature is a new feature to this publication, kindly contributed by patrick mckinney who is known to many across berks county as “porcupine pat” of the schuylkill county conservation district where he serves as an environmental education coordinator. mckinney does environmental programs for the berks county parks & recreationdepartment in the warm season as well. he is also involved in schuylkill vision and schuylkill on the move. as an avid lover of the outdoors and a fine appreciator of all things nature-swept, mckinney readily advocates time spent soaking up the good of life-minutes spent enjoying all of our earth’s gifts. portraits of nature will be included here for readers as often as mckinney is able to contribute the valuable messages of his words southward into this nugget of pennsyvlania. 

the switch has been thrown on the great engine that powers the transition of the seasons. our area’s forests, fields, and various water habitats—such as ponds, creeks, and rivers—rev up with natural events that make up the tapestry of winter transitioning to spring. 

( “porcupine pat” mckinney sits in gratitude of his space & the opportunity
 to rest here near the roots of the sacred oak tree in oley, pennsylvania ) 

late winter brings sap rising with its warmer days and still cold nights. our state is well-known for its tasty syrup boiled from gallons of sugar maple sap. in a bit of doctor-speak, if you by chance happen to have access to a stethoscope, listen to the sap rising from below the frost line as it gushes to the far reaches of the tree’s bud tips. it sounds like your stomach rebelling in hunger.

soon, the calendar will say that spring has arrived, even if the weather does not feel so spring-like. every season has its own sights, sounds, and smells, with the transition from winter to spring being the most exciting for the outdoor and nature enthusiast. it seems as though we slide into spring with early signs of the season beginning even in the first days of february as the constellation leo peeks up above the evening’s horizon.     

spring heightens your sensory awareness. here are ways this stimulating season can tune up your five senses:
·    sight: see birds hopping on your lawn or landing atop the branches of trees. look for colorful sweeps of flowers such as yellow coltsfoot or purple dead nettle. 

·    sound: listen to the spring peeper announcing its name: PEEP PEEP. listen to the rain falling as the water nurtures the soil in preparation for planting. hear the beckoning calls of migrating geese. 

·    taste: try some pennsylvania-made maple syrup on a tasty stack of flapjacks. open your mouth in the rain, and go ahead—taste a drop on the top of your tongue. dust off that grill, and enjoy some delightful grub grilled outdoors.

·    smell: smell some soil and then the air after a cleansing spring shower. smell flowers. use that olfactory perception well; breathing in breaths of beauty is a plus for the body, too.

·     touch: feel spring’s blustery winds on your face. close your eyes, and face the sun to feel its warming rays. touch an earthworm who ventured out to take advantage of the wet conditions.

can you think of more spring-things to sense ? treat yourself to some time each day to connect with your natural world. you’ll feel so much more alive !