Sunday, February 15, 2015
Sunday, February 08, 2015
In the latest edition of the National Wildlife Federation magazine, an article discusses the northern shift in winter birds, changes in bird ranges due to climate change and other factors. It's an engaging and depressing article, but the information sources for all the data collection are citizen science events including the Christmas Bird Count, Project Feederwatch, and the Great Backyard Bird Count. I've participated in all of these projects, submitted checklists and so forth, and I'm really pleased that someone has synthesized all of that data and discovered such trends. To be expected, yes, but these three primary citizen scientist projects serve as a goldmine of data.
From the Great Backyard Bird Count website:
Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time. Since then, more than 100,000 people of all ages and walks of life have joined the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds. We invite you to participate! Simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, February 13-16, 2015. You can count from any location, anywhere in the world!
If you live near Columbia, join the Columbia Audubon Society for the 2nd annual "feeder crawl" where we visit designated homes with feeders to count their birds, eat cookies, and submit checklists. The event will start at Songbird Station where we'll count birds at their feeders; from there we'll 'crawl' to various backyard bird feeders in and around the Columbia area and count birds for at least 15 minutes at each backyard, then submit each checklist to eBird. The trip will last 3-4 hours and return to Songbird Station for coffee and donuts. Saturday, Feb 14, 2015 • Depart: 8am, Songbird Station 2010 Chapel Plaza Ct #C, Columbia, MO. The event is free and open to the public.
Monday, January 19, 2015
It's tempting, it really is, to break ground on my garden to set out lettuce and kale seeds during these warm days in January. We have yet to see the brunt of winter, but we're experiencing what is, in some states with highly regular patterns like this one, called a January Fakeout. Winter has only just begun, but this week is proving to be ideal for hauling all of my tropical houseplants to the porch for a good, thorough soaking. And the short spate of warmer temperatures and sunshine has made for ideal hiking weather.
Winter hiking in the Ozarks tends to allow for the viewing of all of the incredible geologic formations: Gasconade dolomite boulders perched on a ledge, limestone cliffs covered in ice forming veritable swords, sandstone benches that wrap around a contour line, invisible during leaf on.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
In the past ten years, Norton has come a long way in the wine world, garnering the attention of wine writers and securing its own Reidel stemware (a must-have if you really want to learn Nortons and the subtleties of the wine). Todd Kliman's book A Wild Vine is a fun read that traces the history of the varietal and takes on the tone of a travelogue through Norton territory in America. Kliman conducted significant research in Missouri and sets the stage for a local author to expand on this lead to cover the grape's rich history in Missouri.
The Missouri Wine Passport program inspired thousands of Missourians to visit wineries all over the state in a terrific incentive program. Wineries popped up all over the place, cashing in on what came to be a continuous flow of visitors. The program ended a couple of years ago, and while visiting Missouri wineries remains a pastime for interstate and intrastate traffic, I've talked to winemakers from several of the lesser known, smaller, and off-the-beaten-path wineries who have felt the direct result of this lost guaranteed audience. I've met some very earnest folks trying to make ends meet while producing a wide range of quality wine, from dry fruit wines to sugary grape wines to Nortons and other dry varietals, winemakers who have noted ratcheting back production of the dry wines to increase their bread-winning sweet wines which serve as gateway wines for many Missourians. But convince the sweet wine lovers to taste the dry wines and often they'll make the switch, slowly, slowly phasing out their ordering of Concord-based wines and opting instead for a Chambourcin...which can lead to an appreciation of Norton.
As president of the International Norton Wine Society (because we have a member from England), I have great hopes this year for more well-deserved acclaim for Missouri Nortons. While there exist a couple of websites that are promoting the Norton grape, I will be working on developing a site for the society which will include a notes section for members to post their comments on new discoveries, on the ageability of Nortons, and all things Norton. In the meantime, especially with Oregon pinot noir now virtually out of my price range, I have hopes of bolstering my dwindling Norton collection. What better time to start than Norton Month!
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Back in the sunny month of May, at the suggestion of my daily Organic Gardening newsletter, I turned my thoughts to cold, cloudy days in December. In an early May newsletter, the author wrote an article about an old German recipe that calls for seasonal ripe fruit and rum: Rumtopf. The recipe requires a bottle of nice dark rum poured into a crock or Mason jar and, when available, cut up fresh fruit-- the best of the season--sprinkled with brown sugar and then thrown into the rum. So, since May I've been adding fresh Missouri fruit (tossed with only a marginal amount of sugar) into a gallon Mason jar full of rum that I have kept in a cool, dark place. My Rumtopf includes: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, tart cherries, pears and apples, all soaked in a good 3-yr. dark rum. I pulled the Mason jar out of cold storage last week and started packing it into much smaller jars with ribbon around the rim to hand out as gifts. One recipient thought that I had given him a bloodied liver soaked in juice (peach taking on the color of cherries). Others were scared to try it over ice cream, which is the German tradition and quite exceptional. So I went to St. James to give it to my old German friend, Heinrich.
I last saw Heinrich in August when I brought my Dad, who is fascinated by German culture, to meet him and to taste his absolutely supple wines which he has been producing for well over 20 years on the Ozarks' Central Plateau. As is customary, we rang the bell at the door and waited for a few minutes that day for Heinrich to amble to his winery that now houses a big fluffy cat, the sweet German Shepherd having recently died. My dad knows some pidgen German and has spent a bit of time over there, and he really loved spending the afternoon talking to Heinrich about wine, Germany, the horrible state of affairs we're in now, customary conversation for old timers whose "good old days" took place during World War II. At this point in my Rumtopf experiment, I had already thrown in a ton of fruit. Maybe not a full ton, but enough to leave only a few inches of headspace in my gallon Mason jar. I told Heinrich I would bring him some. He had never made it since moving to Missouri 30 years ago, always tied up in the winemaking business during fruit season. I told him that I would cover the Rumtopf if he continued making wine. By late December, we had both kept up with both ends of the deal.
And so, setting out this week to visit some typical dry chert woods in winter after a long visit from a New Orleans friend, I stopped into St. James to deliver Rumtopf. Just as in August, I rang the bell and waited. Heinrich came out from his residence with a whole mess of firewood to stoke the coals in his potbellied stove, and some newspaper advertisements to get the fire going. My old German winemaker friend, named the King of Chambourcin by not just a few experts in the subject, is also one of the only other owners of U.P. Hedrick's original botanical prints of the Cynthiana and Norton grapes. The lovely Norton Wine Travelers secured these prints for me, knowing that I will one day own a winery and will, like every dry red enthusiast who visits Heinrich, debate the differences between Cynthiana and Norton. Are they the same grape? Is there a real difference? Oh, it's now an age-old debate that Heinrich really enjoys discussing. Heinrich's grape prints are yellowed and fading, and propped up over a small plaque a visitor brought to him that reads "Wine doesn't make you fat, it makes you lean...on tables, on couches, on the floor, on your wife..."
Heinrich was so happy about his jar of Rumtopf (which may not pass muster, but, like myself, he doesn't like sweet things, so I encouraged him to put it over walnut ice cream) that he parted with a 1999 vintage of his Cynthiana, a collector's bottle. He really didn't have to, of course, so there was some arguing about this--not a trade, but a gift, but I'm happy to have this old bottle in my collection. I sure hope he likes my Rumtopf....
Monday, December 08, 2014
Development pressure is significant in this region, with bedrooom communities for Bentonville popping up all over the place. My hopes are high for the health and sustainability of the black bears, red-headed woodpeckers, and this rich landscape that today is virtually free from all the onslaught of homogenization.
Thursday, December 04, 2014
Every month, I receive really fun email newsletters from a whole mess of Missouri and Oregon wineries. In recent months, the Missouri Wine and Grape Board's monthly email newsletters have been so engaging, visually appealing, and fun to read that I generally think that I must be working for them in some parallel universe, one in which I have kickin' graphic design skills. See below a fantastic graphic illustrating which Missouri wines pair with a variety of Christmas cookies. These people in the Department of Agriculture speak to me, and I listen.