Month: February 2021

16 Feb 2021

Emily Pickett – Saturday Stream Snapshot Organizer

Emily Pickett – Saturday Stream Snapshot Organizer

Emily has been an Environment Educator at Greenacres since 2019. She took over Saturday Stream Snapshot in 2020 after participating in the program many times herself. She has been working on building awareness of the efforts to protect the watershed ever since.

Why is it important for people to get involved with programs like Saturday Stream Snapshot?

Protecting the water quality of our rivers and streams is incredibly important for both human health and the health of the plants and animals that make the watershed their home. Clean water is one of the most important resources on the planet! There are just too many bodies of water for one person or organization to protect, so we are absolutely dependent on our volunteers to make sure we are doing our part.

What is your favorite part of the program?

I love working with our volunteers who are passionate about caring for the environment. Even though we all have different backgrounds we are all coming together over this shared goal. The time spent running chemical tests is a great opportunity to get know and learn from each other.

What are you looking forward to with the program this year?

Watching the program grow with the support of our volunteers! The pandemic really slowed down our efforts in 2020 as we worked on a plan to resume the program safely. We’re fortunate enough to have plenty of room to spread out and I’m looking forward to getting samples collected and tested again.

 

Emily will be leading a Virtual Kickoff and Training session on February 20 for those interested in volunteering this year. You can sign up to attend here.

09 Feb 2021

Cold Weather Garden Preparation

Cold Weather Garden Preparation

With the snow and cold arriving, it’s a great time to stop and think about what it means to eat fresh, local produce in the winter. Believe it or not, we start growing produce for the winter in May. It begins with sweet potatoes, moves to winter squash and root crops (carrots, beets, and radishes) in August and ends with greens planted in October. None of this process is easy, but the reward of having crisp winter carrots, tasty sweet potatoes and sweet winter greens is worth it!
The part of our winter production that is the most work is our winter greens. Many of the greens you see in our farm store during the winter months are what we call cold hardy. Cold hardy means that they can survive a range of cold temperatures and conditions, each to a varying degree. Things like spinach can handle freeze and thaw with no issue, while crops like arugula need special protection to be harvested throughout the winter. That’s where farming ingenuity comes in!

By using plastic-covered structures (tunnels), we are able to protect these cold hardy, yet not invincible, crops from the harshest winter conditions. These tunnels help capture heat, keep the rain, ice, and snow off the crops as well as protect them from bitter winter winds. When the temperatures really drop, we also use something called row cover, which is a bedsheet-like material, that helps keep the plants insulted from the cold even more! The greens you have been eating from our farm store this winter were seeded in late October and have been babied all winter long, so we can harvest them fresh for you weekly.

No matter how much we prepare, Mother Nature is still the undisputed champ. She takes her share of the harvest every winter and seems to be especially fond of using February’s cold weather to make sure we remember who is really in charge!

05 Feb 2021

The Magic of Maple

The Magic of Maple

Have you ever wondered about the origin of maple syrup? Before it was that sweet, sticky, delicious flavor puddled on your favorite breakfast dish—before it was bottled on a shelf in the store—before it was boiled down into a more sugary liquid—before it was dripping into a bucket—back when it was just a watery sap, flowing in a maple tree in the forest. You may have heard of some stories of how people discovered and came to use maple sugar: a sap surprise from a tomahawk into a tree; observing animals licking sap from holes in trees. There are many versions of stories and myths, but they all revolve around the relationship between humans and trees.

The first part of this relationship is getting to know your trees, specifically the sugar maple. At a glance, the tall, drab-colored trees all look the same during the leafless, winter months. Many maple trees have a somewhat pinkish hue, but the bark and color change depending on age. If you’re new to maple tapping, we recommend planning ahead and identifying your trees when they have their leaves or buds-it’s much easier! Once you have found your sugar maple trees on your land, it’s important to keep the trees healthy, because healthy trees are happy, sap-flowing trees. A few key tips to keep your trees healthy are: a tappable tree must have at least a 10 inch diameter (the size of a basketball); sanitize your equipment; mark your drill with tape at 2 inches to make sure your hole is the right depth; spread out tap holes so the old ones can heal.

Maple season relies on optimal sap flow, which happens when there are freezing temperatures at night and above freezing during the day. We all know Ohio weather keeps us guessing, so this temperature pattern can occur anywhere from January to March. Our animal friends like ants, flying squirrels, or woodpeckers will lap up sap straight from the tree. You may find yourself doing the same after you encounter sap dripping out of the spile of your first tapped maple tree. However, it’s actually only 2% sugar and 98% water! The key to making syrup is concentrating the sugar, and this is done by removing water through evaporation. Humans have used a number of tools over the centuries to boil down the sap- from hot stones in a carved out log, to metal pots over an open fire, to our modern day evaporators.

At Greenacres, we use a small-scale evaporator in our ‘sugar shack.’ The evaporator is fueled by a wood-burning stove, kept as full and hot as we can get it. We haul our buckets of sap from the maple trees and pour them into the evaporator. As you can imagine, it takes quite a bit of sap for the water to evaporate and turn from 2% sugar to approximately 66% sugar. In fact, it takes 40 gallons of sap to create 1 gallon of maple syrup! It also takes a lot of time and effort for the whole process, but luckily it involves the sugar shack. 

The Sugar Shack

Can’t you just smell the heavenly scent wafting around the sugar shack? It is one of the best wintertime experiences that we can think of. The cozy warmth of the fire, steamy room, and sugar molecules dancing under your nose simultaneously trigger your brain into daydreams of maple cookies, pancakes, and drizzled maple popcorn.

What a special relationship and process, straight from the trees. If you don’t want to dabble in your own maple tapping, come to the Greenacres Farm Store and try the syrup we make from our trees. It is available each year typically between late February to early March. Thank a maple tree the next time you see one!

01 Feb 2021

Asian Jumping Worms

Asian Jumping Worms

Asian Jumping Worms have been recently found in Ohio, with confirmed sightings in Franklin County. This invasive species poses a threat to Ohio’s naturally rich biodiversity.

The Asian Jumping Worm (AJW) life cycle is similar to the European Earthworm (EE) life cycle. Both hatch in the spring from their cocoons, mature in the summer, mate and lay cocoons in the fall, and the cocoons over winter. Unlike EE which live several years, AJW are an annual species and will die after the first frost. The cocoons of AJW are very hard to see compared to EE cocoons because they are much smaller and roughly the same size as mustard seeds (Fig. 1). AJW only dig a few inches below the surface, whereas EE dig deeper. AJW feed on organic matter much more aggressively than EE and can alter the soil much faster. In addition, they excrete hard pellets that look like coffee grounds and change the texture and structure of the soil (Fig. 2). The changing soil composition results in fewer native plants and reduces biodiversity. With the reduction of native plant competition, invasive plants have a much higher chance of success.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Management and Prevention

  • Only buy materials that have been heat treated to 40–55 degrees Celsius (104–131 degrees Fahrenheit). This heat treatment kills cocoons.
  • Never buy or move any materials that may be suspected to have AJW or AJW cocoons.
  • Make sure to always clean any soil and debris from all equipment before leaving an area suspected of having AJW. Cocoons could be attached to you and your belongings.

If Found

If you find AJW on your property, please report it immediately:

  • Remove as many as you can and put them in a bag. Sun the bag for at least 10 minutes, longer is preferred, and throw it in the trash.
  • Submit reports on the EDDMaps website or phone application.
  • Visit this link and submit a report to the Ohio State University.
  • You can also send an email, with photos, to your county extension agent.