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...for discerning weeders April, 2012

LET’S GO BIRDING Part 1 Inside this issue:

Photos from the


Garden Coming Events


Victory Garden


Field Trip


A Walk on the


Wild Side Be Happy!


Book Review


We Need You!


Last Word


DON’T FORGET! You have to log your hours onto the VMS system!

by Linda Meyers

It’s Spring and you’ve always wanted to learn about bird watching. There are lots of benefits to this wonderful and rather inexpensive hobby. Besides just being great fun for the whole family, you will learn more about the natural beauty of our area, enjoy many spectacular creatures, and benefit from the fresh air and exercise. For us older folks these sensory workouts will also help to develop better visual and hearing acuity, and generally we will become much more observant than the average person. Florida has the 5th largest number of different bird species in the US. With practice and patience you will become a tuned-in and very appreciative nature watcher. The only equipment you will need to get started are binoculars and a field guide, and you can begin watching right in your own back yard! Good binoculars play an important role in the enjoyment of birding, last thing you want are headaches induced by blurred images, double vision and eye strain. A fairly good quality pair of binoculars can be purchased for around $100, you can always upgrade later as your experience grows. Make sure the magnification is at least 7-power, and the second number which is the diameter of the lens is 4 to 5 times larger than the power number - for example “7 X 35” or “8 X 40.” Choose a pair that are comfortable to carry and hold steady, you don’t want them to be too heavy. Other key things to look for are: make sure the barrels are flexible but don’t slip or fall, look for color-coating to reduce internal glare, make sure they “fit your face” comfortably and the eyepieces are aligned so the image is clear. If you wear eyeglasses or sunglasses your binoculars should have rubber eye cups that twist up and down or fold back, so that you can put your eyeglasses up close to the eyepiece. You will want to be able to focus on an object as close as 15 feet away, or as far as 2 blocks away with clarity and minimal image distortion. Now practice using your binoculars. Adjust each lens separately so they accommodate the differing strengths of your two eyes. Spend time developing hand-eye coordination by first spotting a bird with your naked eye and then lift the binoculars to your eyes without taking your eye off the bird. Practice by setting your binoculars to focus on an object about 30 feet away. Next look for birds at that average distance and follow them around a while, lowering and lifting your binoculars every so often. Practice focusing your binoculars in and out as you watch what the birds are doing. Before you know it you will be able to spot and focus like a pro. Continued on next page 1



Next you will want to get a good field guide to help you accurately identify the birds. A wide variety of field guides are available, including those for certain regions of the country, as well as individual states or specific groups of birds. As a beginner birder consider a comprehensive guide when choosing your first guide book. It is recommended to start with a guide that displays paintings of birds rather than photographs. Paintings will include all distinguishing features called “field marks” that help with the bird’s identification. Due to lighting and positioning of the birds, photographic guides often are unable to show all the field marks but can be a good companion reference, especially when studying a bird’s shape. Four of the most popular comprehensive guides available are: 1. Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America, Sixth Edition 2010, Roger Tory Peterson 2. Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America 2005, Kenn Kaufman 3. National Geographic Field Guide to the birds of North America, Fifth Edition 2006, Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer 4. The Sibley Guide to Birds, First Edition 2000, David Allen Sibley Once you get your guide, read through the introduction and familiarize yourself with the location of some of the common birds you recognize. Field guides have an order or system that determines where different birds are located in the book. A majority of guides are organized by a “phylogenetic order.” Birds having similar physical appearances will be found together in the book. Most guides covering Eastern North America will contain 400-450 species, grouped by genera, then into different families, and then grouped into different orders. For the beginner the most logical classification level to focus on is the “family” of birds. Spend time learning how your guide is organized and the way it groups families of birds. Learning the general shape, size and appearance of the different families, will help you develop the powers of observation that characterize a good birder. Birds having similar physical appearances will be found close together in a field guide. It will be helpful to divide your guide into four sections using tags or sticky notes. The first quarter contains the families of large water birds, the second quarter the large land birds ending with woodpeckers, the last two quarters will contain the small land birds, commonly called the passerines or perching birds. Your goal is to locate and identify birds quickly and with the least amount of frustration. You are now ready to sit out in the back yard or go to your local park and enjoy getting better acquainted with the wonderful feathered creatures that are welcoming the Spring. Next month we will learn about identifying birds. Also, you may want to check out the Choctawhatchee Audubon Society which meets in Niceville. Their website is: Source of information: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Bird Watching Basics written by Jim Cox, revised 2010 by Mark and Selena Kiser


On the left, a friendly frog who visited Carol Rose’s pond. On the right, grapefruit blooming in Karen Harper’s garden. Do you have pictures you’d like to share of your garden? Send them in! We’d love to see them!


Seminar How to Grow Tomatoes in Florida April 6th 9am to 12noon Extension Office Crestview

APRIL FIELD TRIP! CONTACT STACEY TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT! SPACE IS LIMITED SO HURRY! April 26th @ Mobile with a tour of 5 Rivers in Mobile and then a boat ride. Lunch in Fairhope



Early History and WWI

It's England in the 17th century and the drumbeat of war is being heard as the citizenry prepares for a possible invasion by Spain. A man named Richard Gardner (appropriately enough) produces a book called Victory Garden, encouraging cities to provide for their residents through home gardening with this advice: “...if any citie or towne should be besieged with the enemy, what better provision for the greatest number of people can be than every garden to be sufficiently planted with carrots?" Thus was born the concept of self-sufficiency during times of dire need, through simple grass roots gardening efforts, a concept that has seen America and Europe through the ravages of two great wars and may someday be needed again to salvage our way of life if war, population growth, climate change and other as yet unforeseen circumstances cause massive disruption in the global food supply. Fast forward 300 years from Mr. Gardner's day and the planet is engulfed in WWI, the Great War, the largest war the world had ever known. It was the first time in history that more countries were at war with each other than were at peace. Canada joined the war with the Allied forces when it began in the summer of 1914. America remained neutral for three years and then her hand was forced when a German submarine attacked and sank the luxury liner, Lusitania, in the spring of 1917. Throughout the war, Europe had serious problems getting sufficient food for its population. All the farmers in Europe had gone off to war during the summer of 1914, leaving their crops ripening in the fields, some never to be harvested. Since that time, much of the land in Europe had fallen into the war zone, making it impossible to farm. There was no meat to be found and, in England, dairy products were so restricted that a doctor needed to certify that it was necessary for the recipient's health. In some cities, bread was in such short supply that, many days, it was not available. Food shipments to Europe were threatened by German submarines that lurked and menaced beneath the seas. It fell to North America to help meet the burden of providing food for the 120,000,000 people in the countries of the Allied Forces. And so the U.S., though it had not yet joined the war, had to cut consumption greatly as well. Prices increased for foods such as butter, eggs, and coffee. There were meatless and wheatless

by Karen Harper

days to try to cut consumption of highly valued food products. The situation grew increasingly dire. Victory gardens to the rescue! Also called war gardens, liberty gardens or 'food gardens for defense', these were vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and Australia during the great World Wars, to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort. In addition to indirectly aiding the war effort these gardens were also considered a civil "morale booster" — in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown. This made victory gardens an important part of daily life on the home front. Having seen the nation's Allies suffer with food shortages, civic and political leaders wanted to prepare this country for hard times. They also wanted to keep both troop and citizen morale high by cultivating a sense of patriotic selfsufficiency. Efforts were understandably concentrated in larger cities since the more rural areas regularly relied on gardening for sustenance. Through a publicity campaign of posters, slogans and pamphlets ("Our food is fighting," “Will you have a part in victory?,” “Every war garden a peace plant,” “Can the Kaiser,” “Sow the Seeds of Victory,” and “Put the slacker land to work”), the U.S. War Department convinced residents on the home front that the produce from their gardens would help to lower the price of vegetables needed by the Department to feed the troops, thus saving money that could be spent elsewhere on the military. Both government and private entities (including businesses, civic groups and schools) promoted gardening as a civic virtue. It was often noted that none other than Thomas Jefferson had seen a direct relationship between gardening and good citizenship. Continued on next page


VICTORY continued As he once commented: “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to it's liberty and interests by the most lasting bands" (23 August 1785). Thus, for a year prior to and throughout America's involvement in WWI, gardeners were encouraged to grow, store and preserve food using canning and drying techniques. In March 1917, Charles Lathrop Pack organized the National War Garden Commission which was comprised of civic and business leaders, and launched the war garden campaign. The commission strove “to arouse the patriots of America to the importance of putting all idle land to work, to teach them how to do it, and to educate them to conserve by canning and drying all food that they could not use while fresh.” Pack vigorously promoted his vision that the supply of food could be greatly increased without the use of land and manpower already engaged in agriculture, and without the significant use of transportation facilities that were needed for the war effort. And America responded. Vegetable gardens were established in a variety of places--from front yards to vacant lots to the White House. The campaign promoted the cultivation of available private and public lands, resulting in over five million gardens and food production exceeding $1.2 billion by the end of the war. Pack wrote a book in 1918 titled The War Garden Victorious and it is a fascinating contemporary account of how the Victory Garden effort was mounted and how it met the tremendous need for more food production so that the Army could be fed without the rest of the population starving as a result. According to Pack, the U.S. Army of 4,000,000 men required an annual quantity of 46,704,000 pounds of butter, 48,000,000 cans of corned beef, 48,000,000 cans of corned beef hash, 96,000,000 cans of beef, 115,200,000 pounds of coffee, 144,000,000 pounds of sugar, 288,000,000 pounds of bacon, 1,104,000,000 pounds of frozen beef, and 1,800,000,000 pounds of flour. It was also very necessary for America on an ongoing basis to export large quantities of food to Europe, where farm lands continued fallow and unproductive as they were devastated by the war. The full text of Pack's book can be found at this website: WarGardTitle.htm President Woodrow Wilson called for “every American to contribute in the war to establish democracy and human rights.” In a proclamation, the President said to Americans, “Everyone who creates or cultivates a garden helps…This is the time for America to correct her unpardonable fault of wastefulness and extravagance.” The US Department of Agriculture formed a committee on pubic information to help plant “a million new backyard and vacant lot gardens.” Victory gardens would not only feed Americans so that more food could be sent abroad, but also there would be savings in fuel, transportation and middleman jobs- all to help with the war effort. Rationing was a way of life, neces-

by Karen Harper sary because foods high in calories such as butter, meat, cheese, eggs and grains were sent to feed the troops fighting in Europe. Victory Gardens helped ease the privations of rationing. Schools and children were an important part of the effort and those gardening efforts were under the auspices of the U.S. School Garden Army, established within the United States Bureau of Education (which at that time was part of the Department of the Interior). Serving under President Woodrow Wilson, P.P. Claxton, the United States Commissioner of Education, approached the undertaking with a broad vision. Under his guidance the School Garden Army mobilized and swung into action under the direct leadership of J.H. Francis. In a letter to the Secretary of the Department dated February 25, 1918, Wilson expressed the hope that “this spring every school will have a regiment in the Volunteer War Garden Army. “ More information about the U.S. School Garden Army can be found at: http:// A field manual was published, detailing how the USSGA was to be organized, including the administration staff and their salaries. It seems that even in those days every program required a certain amount of government overhead! The program guidelines are believed to be the first time any kind of national curriculum was developed for the U.S. public school system. The scale of the war gardening effort during WWI was enormous and had far-reaching benefits. In Dallas in 1918 there were 20,000 gardens that produced over 17,500 cans of vegetables in just a few weeks. The town of Marian, Indiana had just 29,000 people and 14,081 gardens- thus almost ever other person in Marian had a garden! Nationwide there were 3 million garden plots in 1917, according to the National War Garden Commission. In 1918, that number increased to 5,285,000 plots. Plots were cultivated intensely. Over 528.5 million pounds of produce were harvested that year. When the war ended in 1919, the war garden effort dropped off, but many people kept their gardens and would use them again in the victory garden movement of the second World War. Between the wars, school gardens kept the concept of gardening as a form of patriotic self-sufficiency. There was also a fair amount of urban gardening during the Depression, with many people seeking to relearn homesteading skills in order to survive. Next month, Victory Gardens in WWII and beyond! 5

FIELD TRIP The last field trip to Dave Gordon’s property, from all accounts, was amazing, gorgeous and is definitely on the list for perhaps several repeats. After a scenic detour into Alabama (yes, Stacey you were told on) and our intrepid Joe Michetti tracking down our errant travelers...everyone arrived and enjoyed the trip immensely! Special thanks to Jane Montgomery for providing the photos. To see all of the photos go to


A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE By Linda Meyers Strange as this Spring has been, it has arrived. Short as the season is in our area, I don’t think anywhere else could top the beautiful blooming trees, shrubs and flowers that we get to enjoy in the Panhandle. Spring activities among our diverse wildlife are also in full swing. Here are just a few that you may see. Birds Bobwhite quail nest now through September. Migrant warblers concentrate on coasts after cold fronts. Watch for hummingbirds feeding on blooms of columbine, buckeye, and others. Grosbeaks, warblers, tanagers, orioles, and thrashers begin returning to north America. Mammals Black bears begin moving after winter’s inactivity. Long-tailed weasels, minks, and river otters will be born April through May. Endangered Gray Bats return to Florida caves to raise young.

Amphibians Pine Barrens tree frogs begin calling. (Found in Florida only in the Panhandle, usually within 100 yards of breeding sites. Breeds in hillside seepage bogs.) Reptiles Most Florida snakes begin mating rituals. Beginning of Sea Turtle nesting season on Florida beaches. Alligators begin moving about, seeking new territories and mates. Fish The cobia migration is in full swing in the Panhandle. Insects Plant extra parsley for black swallowtail butterfly larvae to eat.

BE HAPPY! PLAY IN THE DIRT! By Marg Stewart We all enjoy working in our gardens. And even on those frustrating days when the weeds seem to be winning and the insects are irritating, we still like being out there. It may be more than just our enjoyment of nature and plants in general that is helping our mood. It could be caused by a lowly bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae. That’s right, bacteria. Don’t go running for the sani-wipes just yet. This little organism increases serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain and acts like an antide-

pressant once it gets into your system. Discovered during research for a treatment for lung cancer, Dr. Mary O’Brien at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London discovered that patients inoculated with M. vaccae not only had a boost to their immune system but also improved “emotional health, vitality, and general cognitive function.” Thank you Ed Smith for sharing this article. To read the rest go to http:// -boosting-bacteria-found-dirt7

213800904.html Ed. Note: Now when my other half asks why I get so dirty I tell him that it’s not’s happy dust!!!!


by Marg Stewart

When I was a kid, I was fascinated when my grandmother made a chocolate cake using Coke®. She had found the recipe in the farmer’s almanac (unknown year). My mother found this book and gave it to me for Christmas. Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola by Elizabeth Candler Graham and Ralph Roberts. Mrs. Graham just happens to be the great-greatgranddaughter of Asa Griggs Candler, the founder of CocaCola. She started out just trying to get some family history together and ended up amassing an amazing array of recipes that utilize Coke® products! In the introduction you get information on the products themselves, what they contain (no not the secret formula)

bottle of Coke®). I also found it fascinating that the other Coke® products, Minute-Maid® to name one, are included. So grab a Coke®, this book and start cooking! I’ve tried quite a few of these recipes and can attest to their ease and yummy factor!

and a brief history of Coke® itself. That part of the book is fascinating in itself, but the recipes! Chapters are broken down into sections including everything from soup to nuts (try pouring salted peanuts into a

WE NEED YOU! Nursery—The nursery needs help. There are plants that need to be divided, up-potted and taken care of. You don’t have to be there EVERY Friday but even once a month would be a help. Stop in and lend a hand! Speaker’s Bureau—Currently our President is handling this but we need a dedicated person to handle this. The job would entail (1) You’re the one that the requests for speaker would come to. (2) Upon receiving a request, email the membership or specific master gardeners (you’ll have the updated resource list) (3) You then give the master gardener who agrees to do the speaking all the contact information. You can also simply telephone folks. Easy job that can be done from home. Outreach—Les is doing a great job but he will need help to set-up, tear down, transport and man any of the events we do. Make sure that you sign up to help. Extension Landscape—Yes, we are getting a new building but we aren’t there yet. When there is a scheduled work day (usually once a month) try and put in even one hour. All we are doing is maintaining the landscape until we move into the new building. Fund raising—we have a committee but there are a lot of folks who have some personal commitments that limit what they can do. Have an idea? Keep in mind, you don’t have to be the one to run the fund-raiser! We have enough volunteers that we can pull off amazing things when we work together! In other words, folks, we need some HELP!

The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed straw hat and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell someone else where to dig. ~ Texas Bix Bender


Marg Stewart—Editor Shari Farrell, Karen Harper and Linda Meyers—Co-Editors

Have pictures or an idea for an article? Send it in! Articles and pictures are always welcome.

Your member site:

The Foundation for the Gator Nation.....An equal opportunity institution.

LAST WORD Funny how some thoughts or ideas get started. Late last year I noticed a plant growing in the expansion joint just outside of my garage door. It amused me so I let it go just to see what would happen. In spite of never being watered, a few freezes and living in a very hostile environment, this little vinca has bloomed several times and is still going strong. To me that is the picture of determination. Contrast that with a carpenter bee in my back yard. Every morning I go out and there he lays on the patio, exhausted, stunned and who knows what else. Why? Because he/she is determined to create a nest in the soffit...the vinyl soffit of my house. As I sit at my desk I can hear the tap, tap, tap of his/her efforts. All day long, tap, tap, tap never getting anywhere but determined nonetheless. So is that really determination or is it just plain stubborn hard-headedness? That bee really wants a home and there is plenty of yummy fencing and who knows what else out there, but no, the vinyl soffit is where he/she wants to be. I decided to look up the word ‘determination’ and after sifting through 7 definitions (yup, 7 for just one word) I settled on determination—firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end. Miriam Webster Keep in mind that definition says nothing of the sanity of the intention nor the ultimate success that will be 9

Marg Stewart achieved. Just a firm or fixed intention to achieve. From my point of view, the bee has a mental problem. He/she is beating himself up, day after day and not accomplishing anything. The vinca on the other hand, has accomplished what it set out to do. How often do we do the same thing? We are determined to do something and keep at it, even when we know darned well that it just isn’t going to happen. Why? Why do we beat ourselves up like the bee? Instead of futility is it more like hope? I mean, the bee MAY just succeed (although unlikely) but he might. That plant we’re determined to get to grow, year after year, this just MIGHT be the year that it finally works. This MAY be the month that I actually get organized and stay organized. If I try just one more time...that may be the key to success? How does the old saying go? “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Notice that it doesn’t say “try again.” It’s “try, try again.” When you get asked why you’re still trying to do something, remember, determination isn’t always seen as being sane or logical. This might just be the time that it works! Don’t let a set-back or failure dim your determination—try, try again. You just never know when you will succeed like the vinca. Even if you’ve spent a while beating your head against the wall in order to get there.

April 2012 Newsletter  

Birding, field trips and victory gardens. Check out what critters are coming to our area during this month. Find out all about how playing...

April 2012 Newsletter  

Birding, field trips and victory gardens. Check out what critters are coming to our area during this month. Find out all about how playing...