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Issue Home December 1, 2010 Site Home

HEADLINES:
Civic Association Honors Veterans
Art Inspired By Nature
High Tunnels Help Extend Growing Seasons
Be A Savvy Holiday Shopper
Susquehanna Co. Reads A Success
Safety Reminders For Dressing, Processing Deer
Scholarships Available For Nursing Students
Sebastien Scarecrow Visits Schools, Libraries
Turnpike Terrace Update
An Economical Way To Help Heat Your Home
For Future Generations

Civic Association Honors Veterans

The Starrucca Civic Association honored veterans with a luncheon on Veterans Day. Attending were over 50 veterans and friends from Susquehanna, Thompson, Lakewood, Lake Como and Starrucca. Pictured above with guests, is Marie Swartz (at right) who suggested and carried out the luncheon.

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Art Inspired By Nature
Submitted By Kathryne Ogrod

Many “city-folk” can be easily excited by the prospect of green grasses, rolling hills, and a cow or two grazing in the background. For the farmers of the Northeast Pennsylvania region, this ethereal beauty is a common sight. Lush pastures, colorful sunsets and yes, even cows are all part of the beauty painstakingly created by farmers. Curt Hepler is one such farmer who is continuously working to improve the health of his land. His farm was featured in the Niche Marketing Grazing Days in September. One artist, Bruce Baessler, has strived to capture this illustrious beauty of the Hepler landscape.

Pictured (l-r) above: Bruce Baessler, Curt and Shirley Hepler.

It was easy for artist Bruce Baessler to spot his next great portrait on the Hepler Farm; within seconds, paint was flying onto a blank canvas stretched for Bruce’s creative vision. The subject of his painting is the rolling hills of the Hepler Farm and nothing will slow the artist from capturing his masterpiece. Applying passion to his paintbrush, Bruce proceeds to capture the vision of beauty reserved only for the hardest working farmer.

In the age of high speed internet, connecting people at speeds faster than light, is it any wonder we are starting to lose that vital connection we have to the Earth? After all, there are only so many plates we can balance at once before one gradually begins to slow, sometimes even crashing to the floor. Yet one piece of canvas, filled with the colors nature has provided, can pick up that plate which has been smashed against the floor. It can put the pieces back together and even fill in the cracks. Sometimes, if you are very fortunate, that plate might even begin to spin once again with a new fervor - all from stopping to smell the flowers which inspired a local artist to cover a blank canvas.

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High Tunnels Help Extend Growing Seasons
Submitted By Kathryn Ogrod

A current trend in the farming community is taking hold in Northeast Pennsylvania called high tunnels or hoop houses. These unusually shaped buildings are popping up all over farmlands, allowing farmers to extend their growing season. The Agricultural Management Assistance program offered through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services is giving aid to farmers interested in building these high tunnels. “High tunnels are structures that modify the growing climate, allowing for tender, sensitive, and specialty crops like certain varieties of vegetables, herbs, berries, and others to grow where they otherwise may not (USDA NRCS Website).” Similar to greenhouses (but designed to not use a commercial heat source), high tunnels can help farmers grow more of a certain crop or simply increase their yields of a currently grown crop.

Rena Scroggins, one of the participants of this program learned about high tunnels from her volunteer work with WWOOF (World Wide Organization of Organic Farmers). For her, the thrill comes from being able to push the growing season using a relatively simple building structure. “It took about 4-6 weeks of planning and building. There was a lot of labor put in by myself and friends; having prior building experience really helped a lot. But with the use of a potluck dinner and 5 pages of building instructions, my friends and I were able to put it all together.”

Rena Scroggins was asked about her experience with the USDA - NRCS. “They were wonderful; full of great ideas and a lot of patience for the project. I was surprised because when I went to apply for the program, I thought it would be installed in 2012. I was shocked when I was told I would have a high tunnel before the end of this year. I am very happy with the help provided by the USDA, by NRCS District Conservationist Ain Welmon and Program Assistant Marlene Bailey here in Montrose. Although some people might think the USDA is just handing out money, a lot of planning went into this project. I want people to understand that we worked very hard with the USDA to see this project through. The USDA is here to work with people, not to throw money around. I am very grateful for this help!” This high tunnel is located on the Montrose Borough/ Bridgewater Township border.

John Benscoter, of Auburn Twp., a participant of this program, has been fascinated by high tunnels since the first time he saw them. “The difference in the atmosphere of these High tunnels is simply amazing. Imagine farming in the early morning hours when it is still so cold that you can see your breath; then, stepping into one of these high tunnels where the temperature can be a 20 degree difference. It is simply incredible.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with local farmers to come up with effective methods of conservation. “This is a really great program,” says John Benscoter. “It gives an incentive to farmers so they can try something new; this will help promote land conservation but also improve crop yields.” Mr. Benscoter has gone above and beyond with his high tunnel by using the “no-till” system to plant his strawberries. “I just used a little glyphosphate herbicide to kill the existing vegetation, planted the strawberry plugs and fertilized with alfalfa pellets. The ground is so much softer, which made digging holes faster! Every hole I created had a fist full of worms; a great sign for healthy soil. I am anticipating a good crop of strawberries early next summer!”

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Be A Savvy Holiday Shopper

(StatePoint) Holiday shopping can be fun. But it can also be tiring and consume time better spent with the family. If you're looking to maximize your holiday enjoyment, try employing a few savvy tips that will make you a smarter consumer.

Take Inventory

Before setting out to the mall or visiting your favorite shopping Web sites, take inventory of what's left over from last year. This may include gift wrap and trimmings, but you may also come across gifts you bought but never actually gave.

In addition, make a list of people you must buy for and those you'd like to buy for. Then establish your budget and determine how much you'll spend on each person on your "must" list before moving to your "maybe" list.

Know Before Buying

Conscientious shoppers know their bank balance before buying anything. Nowadays, this is easy to do with text messages from your bank at your request.

Look for sales on things you need, but avoid buying discounted items you don't need; it's a notorious trap for blowing any holiday budget. And know the refund and exchange policy for gifts that you're not sure about.

You should also get a receipt for your records and a gift receipt. This makes exchanges and refunds easier for you and less awkward for your recipients.

Have Back-up Plans

Savvy consumers know things don't always go as planned. Consider buying extended service contracts, especially for technology and appliance items. Some consumer publications warn against these without fully understanding the benefits. Unlike basic warranties which only cover defects in workmanship and materials, extended service plans cover normal wear and tear and protect against failures due to environmental factors like heat, dust and humidity.

"Unlike manufacturers, which only provide support during normal business hours, most extended service plans offer service and troubleshooting support 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says Jamie Breneman, contributor to TheSavvyShopperBlog.com and spokesperson for N.E.W. Customer Service Companies.

Service contracts also cover things warranties don't, such as damage from power surges. And when repairs are needed, service plans guarantee all technicians coming into your home are well-qualified and fully screened. The plan also pays for itself since it only costs 10 to 20 percent of retail price.

To learn more about the difference between warranties and extended service plans, visit TheSavvyShopperBlog.com or newcorp.com.

Post-Holiday Savings

Black Friday and cyber Monday aren't the only days to save. Get a jump-start on birthdays and holidays like Valentine's Day by scouring bargain bins for returned and discounted merchandise. Electronics and other boxed merchandise that's been opened cannot be re-sold at full price, and you might just find that gift you wanted for half price.

Keeping these tips in mind while shopping this holiday season can not only help you save money, but gain peace of mind. And isn't that really what the season is all about?

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Susquehanna Co. Reads A Success

The Susquehanna County Library and the Susquehanna County Literacy Program once again collaborated on a community reading program. Stephen Crane's “The Red Badge of Courage,” a short but powerful novel set during the Civil War, had particular resonance for our area. Special events included readings on WPEL, a bus trip to Gettysburg, participation in Old Mill Village's Civil War Living History weekend, a workshop on PTSD, showing of the movie and a biographical teleplay, and a panel book discussion with local scholars. About 170 people registered for the program, which was supported in part by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities' We the People initiative.

The organizers plan on continuing the program, and have begun talking about ways to further involve teachers, schools, students, and other groups. For more information and opportunities to help select future books, please visit www.susqcolibrary.org/susqcoreads.

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Safety Reminders For Dressing, Processing Deer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For hunters lucky enough to bag a deer in the upcoming seasons, a food-safety specialist in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences offers some advice to properly field dress and store the carcass, and then process the meat.

"The time from when the deer is downed until it is processed can have the largest impact on the safety and quality of the meat," said Martin Bucknavage, food safety extension associate in the Department of Food Science. He warns that it is important for hunters to follow these guidelines:

1. Eviscerate the animal as soon as possible. This helps the carcass dissipate heat and removes internal organs where spoilage can occur more quickly.

2. Wear a pair of rubber gloves when field dressing the deer. Deer carry pathogenic bacteria, and so precautions are needed to prevent cross contamination. If you get blood on your hands or clothes, be sure to wash thoroughly in soap and water.

3. Be sure to avoid cutting into the internal organs, especially the intestines. There are large numbers of bacteria - including pathogenic bacteria - in the intestines. Tie off the anus. This can be done with a string or rubber band.

4. If the outside temperature is greater than 40º F, you can help to chill the carcass by inserting plastic bags of ice or snow into the body cavity. Once out of the field, get the carcass into a cooler or refrigerator as soon as you can. If the temperature is below 40º F, prop open the cavity with sticks to promote cooling. Don't tie the deer to the hood of your car. This will serve only to heat the carcass.

5. Do not age the deer if the temperature is greater than 40º F. While experts don't agree on the need for aging, it is certain that hanging a deer at temperatures greater than 40º F will probably lead to unwanted spoilage. The greater the temperature above 40º F, the quicker spoilage will occur.

6. Remove all visible hair, dirt, feces and bloodshot areas from the internal cavity. Wipe the inside of the body cavity with a dry cloth or paper towel. If you rinse the cavity, be sure to dry thoroughly. Excess moisture will encourage bacterial growth.

7. Clean residues from knives and equipment, and then sanitize with a chlorine bleach solution. It is wise to carry sanitary wipes with you to clean knives in the field.

"Most importantly, if during field dressing, any of the internal organs smell unusually offensive, or if there is a greenish discharge, black blood or blood clots in the muscle, do not consume the meat," Bucknavage warned. "If you kill a deer and question the safety and quality of the meat, immediately contact the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The agency has policies for authorizing an additional kill."

Processing Your Meat

After field dressing and transporting the carcass, hunters have to decide what to do with the meat. "While some leave the choices to their local butcher, many are finding that they can save money and increase their personal enjoyment by butchering their own deer," Bucknavage said.

"It certainly is easier to turn your trophy deer into a pile of ground meat, but if the hunter is willing to learn proper butchering and cooking techniques, the possibilities for preparing your venison are endless."

Bucknavage urged hunters to keep a few general rules in mind when planning how to butcher their game.

"When it comes to cooking whole cuts of meat, it is important to remember that as we move away from the hooves and horns, the cuts of meat become more tender," he said. "These tender cuts, such as the tenderloin, should be cooked quickly at a higher temperature. For tougher cuts, use low, moist heat to cook the meat more slowly. This helps break down the connective tissue within those cuts."

Because of the possibility of E. coli O157:H7 contamination of the meat, it is important that the venison cuts reach a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit or higher - which is a major issue, Bucknavage said, when making the always-popular venison jerky.

"One of the biggest concerns when making jerky is that people don't heat the meat to the proper temperature," he said. "It is important that jerky be heated just until it reaches at least 160 to 165 degrees. This can be accomplished by dipping the slices into a hot marinade for a minute or so before beginning the drying process."

Canning is another option for venison. "Preserving venison through canning is a little-used practice that can turn tougher venison cuts into a ready-to-go ingredient for a favorite stew recipe," he said. "It is important to follow standard USDA guidelines to safely preserve your venison."

The USDA guidelines are available online through Penn State's Food Safety website at http://www.foodsafety.psu.edu/.

Penn State's Department of Food Science offers hunters a wealth of information on the preparation of wild game from the field to the table. The "Field Dressing Deer Pocket Guide" - a free, 12-panel publication - explains how to field-dress a deer safely. Extensively illustrated in full color, it explains the process of field dressing and also covers important food-safety information for hunters. It is available online for downloading at http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/uk100.pdf.

"Proper Field Dressing and Handling of Wild Game and Fish" is for hunters and anglers who handle animals, fish and birds in the field. It details the potential risks involved in contaminating the meat or fish while dressing, handling and transporting it.

This free, 12-page, illustrated publication describes the importance of temperature control and gives detailed instructions for safe field dressing and transporting of deer, small animals and game birds. It can be downloaded from the Web at http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/uk071.pdf.

A companion booklet, "Proper Processing of Wild Game and Fish" is a free, 20-page publication that describes safe processing techniques for wild game and fish. Aging, cutting, curing, smoking, canning, and jerky and sausage making are detailed. The importance of temperature control is discussed, and various types of meat thermometers are identified. A final section includes recipes for game birds, fish and venison. It can be found online at http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/uk072.pdf.

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Scholarships Available For Nursing Students

Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania (NAP), a non-profit foundation created to recognize and retain nurses in Pennsylvania, announces the availability of scholarship funds for individuals pursuing an education in nursing. The scholarships will be awarded in Spring 2011 and are available to be used for tuition, books, and/or educational fees for that same term.

To qualify, an applicant must 1) be a resident of Pennsylvania, 2) be admitted to a nursing school in Pennsylvania which prepares the student to become a licensed practical nurse, a registered nurse or working toward an advanced degree in nursing to practice in a new, advanced role in nursing, 3) have a current minimum grade point average of “B” according to the school’s standards, 4) have completed or be currently enrolled in at least one course designated as “Nursing” and 5) have not previously received a Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania scholarship.

Scholarship recipients will be selected based on their academic achievement, leadership potential as evidenced by special honors and/or special recognition, community service, and personal commitment to the profession of nursing.

The deadline for applying for a scholarship is January 31. For more information, or to download an application, view the NAP website www.nightingaleawards.org or contact the Nightingale Awards office.

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Sebastien Scarecrow Visits Schools, Libraries

Sebastien Scarecrow made his debut at the Susquehanna County Library early in October. He entertained families and teachers with poems, interactive songs, and the reading of the book, “Tucker Took It” by Bruce Van Patter. Those who attended enjoyed making a scarecrow and eating scarecrow face cookies.

The delicious face cookies have been transformed into beautiful fused glass sun catchers at the Tingley Glass Studio. Cindy Reynolds, who is Sebastien’s driver, was talking with Jan Winemiller, lead artist and owner of the studio. Jan became very interested in the character and his visits with and the entertainment of children. She graciously volunteered to make a dozen of the sun catchers and will donate all of the money to support the Susquehanna County Library Association. The sun catchers will be available at any of his presentations.

Since his opening in Montrose, Sebastien has visited the kindergarten classes at Mountain View and Blue Ridge Elementary Schools. He also made an appearance at Timmys Town Center, a children’s museum at the Steamtown Mall in Scranton and visited two graduate classes at Marywood University. Upcoming visits will include Angel Beginnings Preschool in Montrose and a preschool in Clarks Summit. On Tuesday, November 30, he will do an interactive reading event for children, parents, and educators at the Tunkhannock Public Library beginning at 6:00 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Reading Association. Those interested in attending the free event can make reservations at NPRAreading@gmail.com.

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Turnpike Terrace Update
Submitted By Mary Heesh

Hello from Turnpike Terrace.

We are all shocked and saddened by the death of one of our tenants, Jimmy Carpenter. He always had a smile on his face and he loved to make jokes. He took such good care of his wife; he was a good guy.

Marin Glower and I dressed up as clowns and took balloons to Rena Rood for her birthday. It was a lot of fun.

Some of the seniors are having a Christmas bazaar and bake sale on Saturday, December 4 in the dining room up here. It will be from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We hope to see some of you there. Free refreshments will be available.

Elfreida Lee is recuperating after having knee surgery. We hope she is up and about soon.

We had a nice surprise recently - the master gardener showed up! We put bulbs in Santa mugs and maybe they will be flowering by Christmas.

We have a new tenant. I hope she likes it here - it is a nice place. And Flo Flynn is home from the hospital. We are hoping she is feeling a lot better.

The center recently had its Thanksgiving dinner. It was very good.

Take care and see you next time.

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An Economical Way To Help Heat Your Home

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At today's fuel prices, burning wood remains a wise and viable option to reduce home-heating bills, according to a forest resources expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

"Burning firewood for heat is environmentally friendly and economically smart," said Michael Jacobson, extension specialist and associate professor of forest resources, who focuses on socio-economic and policy issues related to forest land. "Unlike coal, oil and gas, which are nonrenewable fossil fuels that contribute greenhouse gas emissions, wood - if sustainably harvested - is a local and renewable energy resource."

Pennsylvania forests are dominated by high-density hardwood species, which are among the best-burning firewood available, Jacobson noted. Denser woods weigh up to 3 tons per cord, while the lighter woods are 1.5 to 2 tons per cord. Beech, birch, some maples, hickory and oak are among the most common species in Pennsylvania, and also among the densest.

"Pound per pound, softwoods have more heat value; however, softwood has half the heating value per unit volume of these hardwoods," he explained. "In the East, consumers prefer hardwood species for firewood because they offer more heat per volume, and when dry, they are less likely to result in creosote build-up problems.

"Firewood is best for burning when it has 20 percent or less moisture content, which takes a year or more of drying under roof and off the ground."

The moisture content for wood varies, Jacobson pointed out. Green (wet) wood can have a moisture content of well over 50 percent. Green wood can contain more weight in water than it does weight in wood, depending on the species. Air-seasoned wood, by contrast, is 20 to 25 percent moisture, and wood for furniture is 4 to 6 percent.

"Burning unseasoned wood wastes energy as the moisture has to be driven off before combustion can occur," Jacobson said. "Split wood dries out faster."

He advises consumers to consider three things when buying firewood: price, quantity and quality. Firewood prices differ across regions and generally are higher in urban areas more distant from the woods. Prices in central Pennsylvania this fall have been hovering around $150 per cord.

"Normally, these prices are for wood delivered to the house, but check to see if there is an additional transportation cost," Jacobson said. "Find out whether it will be stacked or just dumped in a pile, and if the wood is split and cut to length to fit your heating appliance.

"The firewood market is fairly robust these days," he added. "My local newspaper today has six vendors selling firewood. This is an industry that provides part-time work and extra cash for families this time of the year. Many landowners also enjoy cutting firewood for their own use. Wintertime is fast approaching, which means acquiring firewood and stoking the fire."

Jacobson offered a word of caution about the wood you buy or transport for your heating needs, noting that much of Pennsylvania is under quarantine for the emerald ash borer, an insect that threatens ash trees. If you buy or collect your own firewood, don't move it outside of the local region, he warned. Burn it close to its source - doing this will help protect our forests against invasive pests.

How much money will burning wood save you? One way to measure this is to look at the equivalent prices per heating unit for alternative fuels. With firewood at $150 per cord, heating oil going for about $3 gallon, and natural gas over $1 per thermal unit, burning word is the wise choice because it is less expensive.

"Coal is still the most cost-efficient heating fuel, with wood a close second," Jacobson said. "But before you buy firewood, check that you are getting a cord worth of wood, make sure it is dry, is high-quality hardwood cut to your needs and is stacked upon delivery. It will make for a happier and warmer winter."

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For Future Generations
Submitted By Kathryne Ogrod

Students from the Blue Ridge High School Envirothon Club had a very unique field trip this September. They visited the Hepler Beef Farm during the Niche Marketing Grazing Field Days. Designed to promote healthy grazing practices for farmers, the Niche Marketing Grazing Field Days provided local farmers the chance to discuss new practices and view real life examples of such practices.

The field day was attended by 50+ people, of which, 25 were students from the Blue Ridge High School Envirothon teams. The students are all excited to one day operate their own farm and implement the practices they are currently learning in school. Having the opportunity to visit a farm which has implemented practices prescribed by the USDA is a rare treat for these students. According to their advisor, Lew Price, Blue Ridge High School teacher, “this was a great opportunity - visiting a local active farm which has many implemented soil and water conservation practices and get hands on soils work with a real Soil Scientist, this is a rare treat indeed.“

The students spent an hour and a half learning about various in-depth aspects of soil from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil Scientist John Chibirka. The students and the other adult attendees also heard from NRCS grazing specialist Theresa Krall as she talked about different types of grazing systems and demonstrated the use of a pasture grazing stick.

The Hepler Beef operation has worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Services for 20+ years to build and install numerous soil and water conservation practices. The farm has installed seven different pasture watering systems, a concrete barnyard to cover heavy use areas, two manure storage facilities, water control structures, several stream crossings, thousands of feet of high tensile fencing and subsurface drainage. These conservation practices, as well as good farm management, ensure that this land grows quality forage for quality beef.

Curt Hepler lead the group on a pasture walk where different types of vegetation were discussed, along with the importance of timely animal movement, as well as the need to have water available at every pasture paddock. Curt, with his son Brian and grandson Ben (a senior at Blue Ridge High School and one of the Envirothon students), talked to the assembled group about their beef operation and where each of them fit into making the beef operation work successfully. Curt and his wife Shirley also provided a lunch of Hepler grass fed beef burgers, fresh Susquehanna County apples, and drinks to the group.

Keep in mind that in a few short years these students will be making decisions which will directly impact our environment. The lessons they learn, even from a simple field trip, will stay with them as they begin working on their own farms. It is extremely important that they learn from the real world as well as the classroom to ensure the best conservation and farming techniques are learned. This way, are farmlands will be healthy for future generations.

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