DIY: Sachets

I found this idea on The Pioneer Woman’s website, and it’s simple, easy to do and great for your drawers, your car, or anywhere you’d like a nice scent. And YOU control the density of the fragrance.

I’m thinking about making some in Christmas fabrics and maybe using cinnamon or pine scent!

You’ll need:

fabric scraps

needle

thread

rice

your favorite dried flowers or spices

essential oil

ribbons

scissors

pinking shears

clear nail polish

Step one: Choose your fabric and start by making a pouch. Fold over a rectangular piece of fabric so the pattern is on the inside. Sew the two outer sides together. Use whatever stitch you want as long as it’s going to hold! If you’re not a strong sewer, fabric repair adhesive works well too. Just go light on the application; the adhesive spreads as you smooth the edges.

(Note that if you don’t want to worry about seams at all, you can just make a circle and gather it and tie it to make it easy!)

Step two: Turn the pouches pattern-side out and set aside. Mix together your rice and dried flowers or herbs. We used lavender and it was nice and potent, but try eucalyptus, rose, vanilla—just follow your nose. If you’re looking for a scent you might not be able to find in a dried plant, use a drop or two of essential oils mixed in with the rice until you reach your desired level of scent.

Step three: Fill your pouches with the scented rice concoction and be extra careful! Those tiny pieces of rice spill easily and get everywhere.

Step four: Once the pouch is at your desired level of plumpness, tie the top with a colorful ribbon. Finish the fabric at the top with the pinking shears. To prevent the top from fraying, gently coat the edge with a thin layer of clear nail polish. And you’re done! The beauty of not sewing the top closed is that you can refresh the inside as needed if it’s starting to lose its scent.

Source: https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/home-lifestyle/crafts-diy/a85361/diy-drawer-sachets/

When Life Hands You Lemons…

Lemons are not just for lemonade!  They can be used in a variety of places for cleaning and deodorizing, and they even have some medicinal uses you may not be familiar with!

Freshen the Fridge
Remove refrigerator odors with ease. Dab lemon juice on a cotton ball or sponge and leave it in the fridge for several hours to absorb odors. Make sure to toss out any stinky items that might be causing the bad smell and improve the effectiveness of the lemon juice.

High Blood Pressure
Squeeze half a lemon into a glass of water and drink three to four times per day to lower your blood pressure. For best results, you can squeeze the lemon into a warm cup of water and drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Drinking the lemon water can reduce the effect of nausea and dizziness.

Prevent Cauliflower from Turning Brown
Cauliflower tends to turn brown with even the slightest cooking. You can make sure the white vegetables stay white by squeezing a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice on them before heating.

Refresh Cutting Boards
No wonder your kitchen cutting board smells! After all, you use it to chop onions, crush garlic, and prepare fish. To get rid of the smell and help sanitize the cutting board, rub it all over with the cut side of half a lemon or wash it in undiluted juice straight from the bottle.

Respiratory Problems
Lemon water can reduce phlegm; and can also help you breathe properly and aids a person suffering with asthma. The vitamin C in lemons can also help with long-term respiratory disorders.

Prevents Kidney Stones
Regular consumption of lemon juice mixed with water may increase the production of urinary citrate, a chemical in the urine that prevents the formation of crystals that may build up into kidney stones.

Keep Insects Out of the Kitchen
You don’t need insecticides or ant traps to ant-proof your kitchen. Just give it the lemon treatment. First squirt some lemon juice on door thresholds and windowsills. Then squeeze lemon juice into any holes or cracks where the ants are getting in. Finally, scatter small slices of lemon peel around the outdoor entrance. The ants will get the message that they aren’t welcome. Lemons are also effective against roaches and fleas: Simply mix the juice of 4 lemons (along with the rinds) with 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water and wash your floors with it; then watch the fleas and roaches flee. They hate the smell.

Fruit and Vegetable Wash
You never know what kind of pesticides or dirt may be lurking on the skin of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Slice your lemon and squeeze out one tablespoon of lemon juice into your spray bottle. The lemon juice is a natural disinfectant and will leave your fruits and vegetables smelling nice too.

Treat Infections
Lemon water can fight throat infections thanks to its antibacterial property. If salt water does not work for you, try lemon and water for gargling.

Deodorize Your Garbage
If your garbage is beginning to smell yucky, here’s an easy way to deodorize it: Save leftover lemon and orange peels and toss them at the base under the bag. To keep it smelling fresh, repeat once every couple of weeks.

Keep Guacamole Green
You’ve been making guacamole all day long for the big party, and you don’t want it to turn brown on top before the guests arrive. The solution: Sprinkle a liberal amount of fresh lemon juice over it and it will stay fresh and green. The flavor of the lemon juice is a natural complement to the avocados in the guacamole. Make the fruit salad hours in advance too. Just squeeze some lemon juice onto the apple slices, and they’ll stay snowy white.

Make Soggy Lettuce Crisp
Don’t toss that soggy lettuce into the garbage. With the help of a little lemon juice you can toss it in a salad instead. Add the juice of half a lemon to a bowl of cold water. Then put the soggy lettuce in it and refrigerate for 1 hour. Make sure to dry the leaves completely before putting them into salads or sandwiches.

Oral Health
Lemon juice can relieve pain from toothaches, stop bleeding gums, and eliminate bad odors caused by gum diseases or conditions. Massage lemon juice on bleeding gums or directly onto the area of the toothache. If the acidity from the lemon begins to burn in your mouth, be sure to rinse your gums and mouth quickly with water.

Lighten Age Spots
Why buy expensive creams when you’ve got lemon juice? To lighten liver spots or freckles, try applying lemon juice directly to the area. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then rinse your skin clean. It’s a safe and effective skin-lightening agent.

Create Blonde Highlights
For salon-worthy highlights, add 1/4 cup lemon juice to 3/4 cup water and rinse your hair with the mixture. Then, sit in the sun until your hair dries. To maximize the effect, repeat once daily for up to a week.

Make a Room Scent/Humidifier
Freshen and moisturize the air in your home on dry winter days. Make your own room scent that also doubles as a humidifier. If you have a wood-burning stove, place an enameled cast-iron pot or bowl on top, fill with water, and add lemon (and/or orange) peels, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and apple skins. No wood-burning stove? Use your stovetop instead and just simmer the water periodically.

Clean and Whiten Nails
Pamper your hands without a manicurist. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon to 1 cup warm water and soak your fingertips in the mixture for 5 minutes. After pushing back the cuticles, rub some lemon peel back and forth against the nail.

Cleanse Your Face
Zap zits naturally by dabbing lemon juice on blackheads to draw them out during the day. You can also wash your face with lemon juice for a natural cleanse and exfoliation. Your skin should improve after several days of treatment. Lemon water is also a cooling agent, best way to beat the heat.

Freshen Your Breath
Make an impromptu mouthwash by rinsing with lemon juice straight from the bottle. Swallow for longer-lasting fresh breath. The citric acid in the juice alters the pH level in your mouth, killing bacteria that causes bad breath. Rinse after a few minutes because long-term exposure to the acid in lemons can harm tooth enamel.

Treat Flaky Dandruff
If itchy, scaly dandruff has you scratching your head, relief may be no farther away than your refrigerator. Just massage two tablespoons lemon juice into your scalp and rinse with water. Then stir one teaspoon lemon juice into one cup water and rinse your hair with it. Repeat daily until your dandruff disappears.

Get Rid of Tough Stains on Marble
You probably think of marble as stone, but it is really petrified calcium (also known as old seashells). That explains why it is so porous and easily stained and damaged. Those stains can be hard to remove. If washing won’t remove a stubborn stain, try this: Cut a lemon in half, dip the exposed flesh into some table salt, and rub it vigorously on the stain. But do this only as a last resort; acid can damage marble. Rinse well.

Remove Berry Stains
It sure was fun to pick your own berries, but now your fingers are stained with berry juice that won’t come off no matter how much you scrub with soap and water. Try washing your hands with undiluted lemon juice, then wait a few minutes and wash with warm, soapy water. Repeat until your hands are stain-free.

Soften Dry, Scaly Elbows
Itchy elbows are bad enough, but they look terrible too. For better looking (and feeling) elbows, mix baking soda and lemon juice to make an abrasive paste, then rub it into your elbows for a soothing, smoothing, and exfoliating treatment. Rinse your extremities in a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and water, then massage with olive oil and dab dry with a soft cloth.

Headaches
Lemon juice with a few teaspoons of hot tea added is the treatment of a sophisticated New York bartender, for those who suffer with hangover headaches–and from headaches due to many other causes. He converts his customers to this regimen, and weans them away from drug remedies completely.

Disinfect Cuts and Scrapes
Stop bleeding and disinfect minor cuts and scrapes by pouring a few drops of lemon juice directly on the cut. You can also apply the juice with a cotton ball and hold firmly in place for one minute.

Soothe Poison Ivy Rash
You won’t need an ocean of calamine lotion the next time poison ivy comes a-creeping. Just apply lemon juice directly to the affected area to soothe itching and alleviate the rash.

Remove Warts
You’ve tried countless remedies to banish warts and nothing seems to work. Next time, apply a dab of lemon juice directly to the wart using a cotton swab. Repeat for several days until the acids in the lemon juice dissolve the wart completely.

Bleach Delicate Fabrics
Avoid additional bleach stains by swapping ordinary household chlorine bleach with lemon juice, which is milder but no less effective. Soak your delicates in a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda for at least half an hour before washing.

Clean Tarnished Brass and Polish Chrome
Say good-bye to tarnish on brass, copper, or stainless steel. Make a paste of lemon juice and salt (or substitute baking soda or cream of tartar for the salt) and coat the affected area. Let it stay on for 5 minutes. Then wash in warm water, rinse, and polish dry. Use the same mixture to clean metal kitchen sinks too. Apply the paste, scrub gently, and rinse. Get rid of mineral deposits and polish chrome faucets and other tarnished chrome. Simply rub lemon rind over the chrome and watch it shine! Rinse well and dry with a soft cloth.

Boost Laundry Detergent
For more powerful cleaning action, pour 1 cup lemon juice into the washer during the wash cycle. The natural bleaching action of the juice will zap stains and remove rust and mineral discolorations from cotton T-shirts and briefs and will leave your clothes smelling fresh. Your clothes will turn out brighter and also come out smelling lemon-fresh.

Eliminate Fireplace Odor
There’s nothing cozier on a cold winter night than a warm fire burning in the fireplace, unless the fire happens to smell horrible. Next time you have a fire that sends a stench into the room, try throwing a few lemon peels into the flames. You can also burn some lemon peels along with your firewood as a preventive measure.

Neutralize Cat-Box Odor
You don’t have to use an aerosol spray to neutralize foul-smelling cat-box odors or freshen the air in your bathroom. Just cut a couple of lemons in half. Then place them, cut side up, in a dish in the room, and the air will soon smell lemon-fresh.

Deodorize a Humidifier
When your humidifier starts to smell funky, deodorize it with ease: Just pour 3 or 4 teaspoons lemon juice into the water. It will not only remove the off odor but will replace it with a lemon-fresh fragrance. Repeat every couple of weeks to keep the odor from returning.

Alpacas…More Warmth, Less Itch

We have several alpaca farms sprouting up in our area and I thought I’d find some amazing facts to share about them.

There are two breeds of alpacas, the huacaya and the suri. The huacaya have fluffy hair, much like a teddy bear. The suri have long wavy hair that hangs off its body.

Alpacas have soft pads on the bottom of their feet which don’t dig into the ground like the hooves of a horse or a cow.

Much like llamas, alpacas are known to spit when they’re annoyed with someone or angry with someone.

When they sit, they fold their legs under their body, which makes them very easy for transporting.

When they eat grass, they cut off the top of the plant rather than pulling it by the root. This is why many farmers use alpacas like a lawnmower.

Alpacas use their tail to express their feelings towards one another. If they don’t like something they will move it back and forth. If it’s being submissive, it will move its tail over its body and crouch down.

Alpaca mothers will always have their offspring in the morning. By having their offspring in the morning, the offspring will have the whole day to dry off, begin walking around and go back to its mother for nursing before the temperatures begin to drop at night.

Female alpacas have an 11-month pregnancy period and in 90% of the cases, don’t need help in delivering their offspring.

Alpacas were domesticated by the Incas more than 6,000 years ago. They were mainly raised due to their incredible fleece. The fleece is known for its quality and elite characteristics.

Alpaca fiber is a lot like a sheep’s wool but it’s much warmer and not as itchy. It doesn’t have lanolin, which is what makes it hypoallergenic and it’s able to be processed without high temperatures or harsh chemicals.

Alpaca fiber is flame resistant and water resistant. It can wick away moisture because it has a unique ability to mimic cotton in the moisture region.

Due to their close genetic makeup, alpacas and llamas can cross breed. The offspring that they create is known as “huarizo”.

Alpacas are known for using a communal feces pile. Due to preferring to use a predetermined spot for feces, many alpacas have been successfully house trained.

When they’re breeding, the male alpaca emits a unique and throaty vocalization called “orgling.”

Alpacas can be found in many different colors such as fawn, grey, brown, black, white and any different combination of these.

Due to their small size, it only takes an acre of productive pasture to sustain as many as 8 alpacas.

Alpacas are known to be very friendly with human children and very sociable with dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, sheep and goats.

Alpacas can live to be 25 years long and they’re able to survive in almost all climates.

While content alpacas tend to hum, when an alpaca wants to show friendly behavior, it will make a clucking or clicking noise.

Alpacas need a lot less food than most other animals their size. On average, one alpaca will consume two pounds of hay each day with about a cup of any other supplemental food.

Alpacas are usually about three feet at shoulder height when full grown. Some can reach four to seven feet in length at adulthood.

Alpacas are herbivores and they have a three chambered stomach. They will mostly eat grass but some have been known to eat wood, bark, leaves and stems.

Baby alpacas are called “crias” and they can weigh up to 20 pounds at birth.

Next to mohair, alpaca fiber is considered to be the second strongest natural animal fiber.

Fonthill Castle, Doylestown, PA

Fonthill Castle was the home of the archaeologist and tile maker Henry Chapman Mercer. Built between 1908 and 1912, it is an early example of poured-in-place concrete and features 44 rooms, over 200 windows, 18 fireplaces, 10 bathrooms and one powder room. It is modeled after a 13th-century Rhenish castle, with Gothic doorways, 32 sudden stairways, dead ends and the 44 rooms are each in a different shape. It’s said that Harvard-educated Henry Chapman Mercer built his storybook stone mansion, with its turrets and balconies, from the inside out and without using blueprints.

The interior was originally painted in pastel colors, but age and sunlight have all but eradicated any hint of the former hues. One room in the Terrace Pavilion (built on the site of the former home’s barn), has a restored paint job so visitors can view the home’s former glory. The castle contains built-in furniture and is embellished with decorative tiles, made by Mercer at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement. The castle is filled with an extensive collection of ceramics embedded in the concrete of the house, as well as other artifacts from his world travels, including cuneiform tablets discovered in Mesopotamia dating back to over 2300 BCE. The home also contains around 1,000 prints from Mercer’s extensive collection, as well as over six thousand books, almost all of which were annotated by Mercer himself.

The Castle was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and was later included in a National Historic Landmark District along with the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works and the Mercer Museum. These three structures are the only poured-in-place concrete structures built by Mercer. The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works is located on the same property as Fonthill Castle, and the Mercer Museum is located about a mile away.

Henry Chapman Mercer, an expert in prehistoric archaeology, a homespun architect and a writer of Gothic tales, built three memorable structures, including Fonthill Castle, the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works and the Mercer Museum. These historic attractions make up what’s now known as the Mercer Mile.  Each of the buildings was constructed with reinforced concrete using a technique perfected by Mercer in the early part of the 1900s.

Mercer’s collection of books, prints and Victorian engravings are preserved in this grand home, whose stark concrete exterior belies the ornate and eccentric style of the interior.

Interior pictures:

National Lobster Day!

In honor of National Lobster Day, here are a few fascinating lobster facts according to Maine Lobster Now.  (If you visit their website, you can order your own!)

Two Strong Front Claws

The first thing to know about Maine lobsters and what visually distinguishes them from other types of lobsters is that they have two strong front claws. All lobsters have eight walking legs they use to crawl forward.

Wild Lobsters Are Colorful

While we commonly imagine the iconic bright red lobster, lobsters in nature are a wide range of colors, but not red. Wild lobsters can be green, blue, yellow, grey, calico, multi-colored or even albino. Most commonly, lobsters are a dark greenish-brown, and the more unique colors are the result of a genetic mutation that causes a color of pigment to be missing. When a lobster is cooked, only the red pigments in the shell can withstand the heat, resulting in the bright red shell most people are familiar with. Only albino, or white, lobsters retain their natural color after they are cooked because their shell does not contain any color pigments.

Lobsters Have Clear Blood

Unlike humans and other mammals whose blood is red, lobsters have clear blood. When cooked, their blood oozes out of the lobster meat, producing a thick opaque white substance. You can see this jelly-like substance along the inside of the shell when you crack it open.

Lobsters Have a Dominant Claw

Each lobster has two different claws, a larger crusher claw and a smaller pincher claw. The crusher claw has a ridged edge that resembles molars and is used to break up hard food such as clams and crabs. The pincher claw, or ripper claw, is used to tear apart softer prey such as worms or fish. These claws can be on different sides of a lobster’s body, as the crusher claw is always on the lobster’s dominant side.

Lobsters Can Regenerate Their Limbs

If a lobster loses a claw, antenna or leg, it is able to grow it back. However, it typically takes about five years for a lobster to regenerate a claw that is the same size as the one it lost. Lobsters that are missing a claw are referred to in the industry as “cull.” Cull can still be caught and consumed, and are often marked down in stores. However, if you are serving lobster a fancy dinner party, you may want to wait for its limbs to grow back.

Lobsters Smell with Their Legs

Lobsters use small chemosensory hairs on their legs and feet to identify their food. This is particularly useful for small creatures or food that is dissolved into the water. Lobsters also use the antennae on the front of their heads to smell food that is further away. Combined, these features make their sense of smell so precise that they can seek out a single amino acid just by smelling. When consuming their prey, the hairs on a lobster’s front walking legs allow them to taste the food.

Lobsters Have Poor Vision

Members of the lobster species have poor vision. They probably don’t see objects but can detect motion in dim light in the depths of the sea. They may be blind in bright light.

Lobsters use their excellent sense of smell to locate their prey. Their longer antennae and tiny hairs over their whole body are sensitive to touch. The shorter antennae detect odors and chemical signals in water. Those shorter antennae also help lobsters to find their food.

Lobsters Chew with Their Stomachs

Lobsters do not have teeth, but instead have a structure called a gastric mill that is located in their digestive track. The gastric mill has three grinding surfaces that break down food as it moves from the lobster’s mouth to its stomach. A lobster’s stomach is located right behind their eyes and is about the size of a walnut.

Lobsters Grow by Molting

A lobster’s shell does not grow, so they must molt their shell and grow a new one as they age. When lobsters molt, they wiggle out of their hard exoskeleton, leaving them vulnerable to predators. The molting process itself puts a lot of stress on a lobster’s body, and about ten to fifteen percent of lobsters die naturally while shedding their shell. As the lobster grows, each new molting requires even more energy. Lobsters molt very frequently in the first few years of their life, and then about once a year after they have reached a mature size. Typically, lobsters molt about 25 times in the first five to seven years of their life. After lobsters molt, they are starving and deficient in nutrients, so they often eat the shell they have just molted to replenish their calcium levels.

Lobsters Live on the Ocean Floor

Smaller lobsters typically live in rocky habitats or seaweed where they can find protection and food. Larger lobsters may explore further offshore in coastal habitats. Most lobsters do not migrate, and will only travel about a mile. Some larger lobsters that live in deeper waters are known to migrate closer to the shore in summer.

Lobsters Can Swim Backward

While lobsters most commonly swim or crawl forwards, they can swim backward just as easily. If a lobster feels threatened or startled, it will dart backward by curling and uncurling its tail. This allows it to keep its eyes on the predator or threat in front of it while escaping.

Lobsters Cannot Process Pain

Before dropping a lobster into a pot for the first time, many people find themselves wondering, “Do lobsters feel pain?” While it is impossible to come to a completely conclusive answer to this question, most scientists would agree that lobsters are not able to process pain. Lobsters do not have a cerebral cortex, which is what gives humans our perception of pain, so it is unlikely that lobsters can feel pain. The hissing noise that occurs when a lobster is boiled can often be mistaken for crying or screaming but is just steam escaping from the lobster’s shell.

Lobsters Are Cannibalistic

Lobsters typically dine on fresh food such as clams, crabs, snails, mussels, sea urchins and small fish. However, when these food sources are not available or are scarce, they will also eat other lobsters. Other lobsters are the biggest threat just after a lobster has molted when it is an easy target for all predators, including other hungry lobsters.

Lobsters Have a Fascinating Reproductive Process

Lobsters are only able to breed seasonally, right after the female lobster has molted. Once she sheds her hard shell, she releases a pheromone to attract male lobsters for breeding. This has the bonus of protecting her from being eaten by other lobsters before her new shell has grown because male lobsters would rather mate with her than eat her. Once the female lobster has mated, she can carry the sperm in her body and choose when she wants to fertilize her eggs. If the water is warm and conditions are fair, she can hold the sperm for up to a year. Female lobsters can produce more than eight thousand eggs which may be fertilized by several different males. Lobster eggs are carried under the female’s body in her swimmerets until they hatch nine to twelve months later.

Lobsters Never Stop Growing

As far as scientists know, lobsters continue to grow throughout their entire lives. Lobsters will continue to eat, grow and molt indefinitely until they die of natural causes or are caught. The largest lobster recorded so far was caught in Nova Scotia in 1977. The monstrous lobster was 3.5 feet long and weighed over 44 pounds. Since then, many Maine lobsters weighing nearly thirty pounds have been pulled out of the Atlantic Ocean. Theoretically, there could be massive lobsters living in the deeper ocean that we simply have not yet discovered.

Lobsters Are Biologically Immortal

As lobsters get older, they show no signs of aging. Older lobsters continue to eat, have a stable metabolism and have high energy. Lobsters also continue to mate and reproduce with equal vigor. In fact, older and larger female lobsters can carry more eggs than younger, smaller lobsters. This has caused scientists and lobster-lovers alike to ask, “Are lobsters immortal?” Because lobsters do not show characteristics of aging, or senescence, they are said to be biologically immortal. Most lobsters die from external causes, including predators, humans and disease, but it is still possible for a lobster to die from old age. This typically occurs when an aging lobster is unable to continue molting and rots inside of its shell.

Lobsters Can Live to Be Over 100 Years Old

Scientists do not have a method to accurately determine the age of a lobster. When lobsters molt, they also shed their gastric mill and digestive tract along with their shell. This means that no hard parts are left for scientists to sample to determine age. However, scientists can estimate the age of a lobster based on its size. Lobsters purchased in stores are typically about five to seven years old, but scientists estimate that lobsters can live to be over one hundred years old.

The First Lobster Catch Was Over 400 Years Ago

The first Maine lobster catch was recorded by James Rosier in 1605, but the lobster industry truly took off in the 1700s when lobster “smacks” were introduced. These traditional fishing boats continued to be used by lobstermen in the Northern Atlantic through the 1900s.

Lobster Was Once Poor Man’s Food

When lobster was first consumed, it was by servants and prisoners. Lobster was plentiful in oceans around New England, making it an extremely cheap food source. In fact, servants and slaves were forced to eat lobster so often, that prisoners in a town in Massachusetts fought to have a rule passed so they only had to eat lobster three times a week. Extra lobster was fed to pigs or used as fishing bait or fertilizer.

Lobster Used to Be Caught by Hand

Because lobster was so plentiful, they would wash up on the seashore in large piles after storms. Lobsters were then gathered by hand from tide pools and beaches. Lobster fishing and trapping did not develop until much later.

Egg-Bearing Lobsters Are Legally Protected

After the creation of smacks and trap fishing, the number of lobsters in the ocean began to decline. Lobster also became popular as a canned good in the mid-1800s, leading to a rapid decrease in population. In 1872, the first law was passed in Maine to ban the capture of egg-bearing females. This conservation is still in place, and lobster-fishers are required to cut a small v-shaped notch in the tail of an egg-bearing female lobster so other fishers can identify it. Female lobsters with a v-notch are illegal to catch and consume. These conservation methods have helped lobster populations grow again, so we can continue to enjoy this delicacy.

Lobsters Can Be Purchased Soft-Shell

While many people associate soft-shell with crabs, lobsters can also be purchased with soft shells. Soft-shell lobsters are caught just after molting, typically in July and October. While not as common as hard-shell lobsters, soft-shell lobster is said to have sweeter and more tender meat.

Lobster Meat Is Healthy

In addition to its rich and delicious taste, lobster is good for you too. Lobster is high in protein and low in fat. Three ounces of lobster contains about 76 calories, 16 grams of protein and less than one gram of fat. Lobster also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids and iron. If you avoid smothering it in butter, lobster is a great addition to any diet and a healthy way to build muscle. When shopping for lobster, seek wild caught lobster that was not raised on a farm. Farm-raised lobster often contains antibiotics or hormones that many people want to avoid.

Maine Lobster Is the Best Lobster

While we may be a little biased on this “fact,” Maine’s massive lobster industry attests to the quality of our catch. Lobster represents 75 percent of Maine’s commercial fishery value and hauls in hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The largest catch on record occurred in 2016 when Maine’s 6,000 lobster-fishers landed more than 130 million pounds of lobster. This massive catch was valued at over $533 million. Maine lobster is iconic, not only for its economic value but also for its delicious meat. While spiny lobsters caught in the southern Atlantic and Caribbean are only eaten for their tails, Main lobsters boast large meaty claws as well as delicate and delicious tails. Some people will even crack into the delicate legs of Maine lobsters to enjoy every last bite of tender meat. Over the last 400 years, Maine’s long history of lobstering has shaped both the culture and cuisine of the state and thrilled taste buds across the country.

Will Wonders Never Cease

Tucked away in the rolling hills of Potter County is one of the oddest natural wonders in Pennsylvania: The Coudersport Ice Mine.  The mine is located on a hillside, shielded from the sun and wind. Ice begins to form in April and continues to build up as the weather warms. Then, starting in September, the ice begins to melt, with only a residual amount remaining during the winter months.

The Coudersport Ice Mine is actually an ice cave located in Sweden Township, Pennsylvania. Ice appears in various shapes and forms, often as huge icicles measuring from 1 to 3 feet (0.91 m) in thickness, and from 15 to 25 feet in length; the ice is generally clear and sparkling. Discovered in 1894, the cave is about 40 feet deep, about 8 feet wide, and 10 feet long. The cave was open to the public for many decades but closed in 1990. New Ownership and renovations have led to the reopening of the mine to the general public.

The discovery of the mine was not a complete accident.  A farm owner in the area, John Dodd, had heard umpteen stories about a Native American seen carrying silver ore out of a mysterious cave on a mountainside in Sweden Valley, just east of Coudersport. Dozens of prospectors had thoroughly searched the mountain and came away empty handed. So, in the summer of 1894, with curiosity finally getting the best of him, Dodd set out to give it a try.

He asked a farm-hand, Billy O’Neil, for help. He knew Billy was handy with a divining rod and immediately Billy went searching. The divining rod, Billy said, “told him” where to find the vein of silver ore. He began to dig.  On a sweltering 90-degree day, Billy’s shovel hit something hard.

Only it wasn’t silver. It was ice!  He eventually uncovered a shaft of ice, some 30 feet deep, 10 feet long and 8 feet wide. Inside, they found not only large pieces of ice, but also human remains, a petrified fish, and fossils. While the search failed to yield the much-fabled silver, it resulted in one of the most fascinating finds in Pennsylvania history.

With winter approaching, Dodd returned to the hole in the ground and was amazed to see ice melting and warm air coming from the shaft. Winter passed. Returning to the mountain in late spring, Dodd was dumbfounded to see ice reforming. As summer progressed, it seemed the hotter the weather, the thicker the ice in the shaft!

Ice in summer. Gone in winter. How does this happen?

The mountainside consists of loose rock. Air currents travel through the mountain rocks and the mine shaft. Cold air is drawn in during the winter, forcing out the warmer air, which was drawn in during summer and the ice melts. In the spring, warmer air enters the mountain forcing the colder air out and ice forms. The cycle continues.

As years went by and word of the discovery got out, the science community took notice. In the meantime, the Ice Mine was on its way to becoming a prime tourist attraction. It’s reported that scientists from the National Geographic Society arrived at the Mine in the mid-1930s. One of them dubbed it “the eighth wonder of the world.” Despite initial skepticism, they departed Potter County saying the Ice Mine was indeed “a modern miracle”, giving credence to the “eighth wonder” label. Today, some 80 years later, The Ice Mine’s fascination continues among scientists and scholars.

What Shall We Make Today?

In honor of National Pot Pie Day, we’re making a Pillsbury classic—chicken pot pie! The recipe, pictures, and tips come from the Pillsbury website.

Ingredients

Crust

1 box (14.1 oz) refrigerated Pillsbury™ Pie Crusts (2 Count), softened as directed on box

Filling

1/3 cup butter or margarine

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 3/4 cups Progresso™ chicken broth (from 32-oz carton)

1/2 cup milk

2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken or turkey

2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

Steps

Heat oven to 425°F. Prepare pie crusts as directed on box for Two-Crust Pie using 9-inch glass pie pan.

In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened.

Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Tips from the Pillsbury Kitchens

tip 1

Make a foil collar (or pie crust shield) to protect the edges of the pastry from over browning. Place strips of foil to cover crust during the last 15 or 20 minutes of baking.

tip 2

A standard 9-inch glass pie plate works best for this recipe.

tip 3

The only complicated part of making a pot pie is the pastry. By using a refrigerated dough you’re left with making a quick, savory gravy that can be filled with leftover cooked chicken, turkey, or ham and a good handful of veggies. A dash of poultry seasoning or some finely chopped fresh sage will enhance the flavor of the sauce.

tip 4

To Make Chicken Filling Ahead: prepare as directed in recipe. Spoon into airtight container; cover. Refrigerate up to 1 day. To bake, pour filling into 2-quart saucepan, heat over medium heat 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently or until thoroughly heated. Assemble, fill and bake pie as directed in recipe.

tip 5

To Freeze Chicken Filling: prepare as directed in recipe. Cool, uncovered in refrigerator 30 minutes. Spoon mixture into 1-gallon freezer food storage plastic bag, leaving 1/2 to 1-inch at top of bag for expansion; seal. Freeze up to 1 month. To bake, thaw mixture overnight in refrigerator. Pour into 2-quart saucepan, heat over medium heat, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently or until thoroughly heated. Assemble, fill and bake pie as directed in recipe.

Bobcats

Graceful and stealthy, this North American cat is an extraordinary hunter and can thrive in regions from Canada to Mexico. And yes, their offspring are called bobkittens. Read on for more fascinating facts about bobcats.

Bobcats got their names because of their tails.

Though many felines have long, sinuous tails, an adult bobcat’s averages just 6 to 7 inches in length; the word bobcat is a reference to this stubby appendage. (In barbershop lingo, hair that’s been cut short is sometimes called “bobbed.”) Other names for these animals include bobtailed cats, wildcats or bay lynxes.

Bobcats and Canada lynx are not the same thing …

While bobcats are actually a type of lynx in North America, the term is more generally associated with the Canada lynx. On the surface, these two species look very much alike. Both, after all, are similarly proportioned, mid-sized cats with stumpy tails and pointed ears. Still, some noticeable differences do exist between them.

First, the Canada lynx is slightly bigger with longer limbs and larger feet. Another key dissimilarity lies in the fur: Bobcats have short, reddish-brown coats with well-defined spots while lynx are shaggy, gray, and have faded spots. If you were to compare their hindquarters, you’d notice that a bobcat has black bands on its tail, whereas a lynx’s tail only displays a solid, black tip. Also, lynx ears have longer tufts.

Bobcat

Canada lynx

But where these felines truly deviate from each other is in their lifestyle preferences. The lynx is a cold-weather cat that lives further north and at higher elevations. Their enlarged paws act like snowshoes, enabling these hunters to pursue such game as snowshoe hares with relative ease. Bobcats, in contrast, are built for warmer environments. Also, while lynx mainly eat hares, bobcats have a more varied diet and will readily hunt birds, small mammals, reptiles, and deer. Here’s another noteworthy tidbit: Bobcats tend to be much more aggressive—in fact, some zoo keepers call them the “spitfires of the animal kingdom.”

But bobcats and Canada lynx can mate.

The Canada lynx is found throughout its namesake nation and some northern parts of the U.S. (as well as Colorado). Since bobcats and lynx belong to the same genus (which, confusingly, is named Lynx), the two species are very similar at the genetic level. Over the past 15 years, a handful of confirmed hybrids have turned up in the northern U.S. The mix-matched predators tend to display a bobcat’s general build and the pointier ears of a lynx. In keeping with the tradition of giving delightful portmanteaux names to hybrid animals, these critters are now known as blynx.

Bobcats tend to hunt at dawn and dusk.

Wild bobcats do the majority of their hunting in low-light conditions. The animals usually wake up three hours before sunset and then go back to sleep around midnight; they wake up again roughly an hour before dawn. In the early morning, the felines return to their slumber and the whole cycle repeats itself.  Bobcats are at their most active during the twilight hours, when potential targets like eastern cottontail rabbits tend to forage. In the wintertime, though, food gets scarcer, which prompts some of the cats to change their schedules: Throughout the colder months, bobcats in northern states will often adjust their sleep regimen so that they can spend more time tracking down prey in broad daylight.

Adult bobcats can bring down animals that weigh much more than they do.

Fully grown bobcats can weigh up to 33 pounds. For the most part, they eat rabbits, birds, rodents, and other fairly small creatures. However, the cats are also extremely adept at killing adult white-tailed deer. Although they generally hunt fawns, they have been known to kill adults, which can weigh 250 pounds or more. To slay such a large herbivore, a bobcat will jump onto its back and bite through the throat.

Bobcats are excellent climbers and jumpers.

When threatened by a bigger carnivore, these cats will usually head for the safety of the nearest tree. Climbing among the branches also affords bobcats the opportunity to dine on nesting birds every so often. The felines have also been known to pounce onto unwary deer from overhanging tree limbs.

They’re also incredible jumpers. Able to clear 12 feet in a single bound, the cats can easily jump across narrow waterways. One of them went viral in 2020 after it was filmed leaping across a yawning gap in a Louisiana dock that had partially collapsed. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, bobcats can jump fences over 6 feet tall.

Bobcats like to cover their kills.

Bobcats can’t always consume their prey in one sitting. Sometimes, the carnivores use dirt, snow, leaves, or grass to bury the uneaten pieces of especially large corpses, and will return periodically to dig up their leftovers. This behavior is known as “caching,” and it’s also practiced by the North American mountain lion. Unfortunately, burying a corpse won’t guarantee that it won’t be discovered or nibbled on by other carnivores. Ravens, coyotes, bears, and those aforementioned mountain lions won’t hesitate to raid a bobcat’s secret stash if the opportunity arises.

Invasive pythons are a major threat to Florida’s bobcats.

Being a hunter doesn’t guarantee that you, in turn, will never be hunted. Owls, foxes, and coyotes regularly make off with bobcat kittens. Cannibalism is another big problem for these helpless infants, which are sometimes gobbled up by wandering adults (usually males) who belong to their own species. Fully grown bobcats don’t have many natural predators, although mountain lions have been known to kill those that encroach on their territory.

But in recent years, the short list of carnivores that eat bobcats has grown one entry longer. Since 2000, a Burmese python epidemic has been constricting the Florida Everglades. For decades, exotic pet owners have released a steady stream of these Asian snakes into the region, where they now thrive. Capable of weighing 200 pounds, the pythons are large enough to consume dogs, deer, and even alligators. Perhaps unsurprisingly, at least one euthanized specimen has been found with a bobcat corpse in its stomach.

Pythons are also devouring the animals that bobcats depend upon for survival, including rabbits, raccoons, and rodents. Not coincidentally, the number of bobcat sightings in the Everglades fell by 87.5 percent between 2003 and 2011.

Bobcats can run up to 30 mph.

Lynx rufus can sprint faster than any human being, but the cats also know when to slow things down. In 1966, two naturalists reported seeing a wild bobcat take 13 minutes to crawl across just 3.28 feet of ground. At the time, the predator was sneaking up on a cotton rat—which it was able to capture thanks to its patient approach.

Bobcats make a wide range of sounds.

We’re talking hisses, snarls, and meows, to name a few. When mating season rolls around, the cats may emit a screaming cry known as a “caterwaul” in a bid to attract partners. This vocalization is very loud, with the sound traveling as far as a mile away.

Bobcats can swim.

Bobcats don’t mind getting their feet wet while hunting beavers. The felines happen to be good swimmers overall, and they’ve been filmed or photographed paddling across lakes in such places as Illinois, Maine, and the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

Bobcats and coyotes compete for some of the same food sources.

The two carnivores hunt some of the same prey animals, meaning the coyote-bobcat relationship can be hostile. An influx of coyotes into a given habitat may result in fewer bobcats living there. However, this doesn’t always happen. In certain ranges, it appears bobcats and coyotes peacefully coexist. Interactions between them are of great interest to field biologists.

Bobcat tracks usually don’t have claw prints.

Individual pawprints are about two inches long from end to end. At first glance, they might resemble the tracks of a coyote or domestic dog. But while those canids leave claw marks behind, the bobcat usually doesn’t. That’s because the felines have retractable claws, something dogs and coyotes both lack. Other differences include the general shape of each track; dog and coyote prints are more likely to be longer than they are wide—which isn’t the case with bobcats.

Bobcats come in different colors.

In Bobcat: Master of Survival, Kevin Hansen writes that in 1978, naturalist Stanley Young “described an albino bobcat that survived four years in the wild before being captured and placed at a Texas zoo.” On the other end of the color spectrum, there are melanistic bobcats with fur that’s almost entirely black. They mostly occur in Florida, where at least 10 black bobcats have been trapped over the years.

Bobcats are part of the same cat subfamily as cheetahs.

Of course, we’re talking about the Felinae.  This group includes bobcats, cheetahs, ocelots, cougars, and domestic house cats. The only other major cat subfamily is the Panterinae, to which the really, really big species—like lions and tigers—belong.

Pumpkins

A pumpkin is, surprisingly, considered a fruit.

The name “pumpkin” comes from the German word “pepon,” meaning “large melon.”

It is believed that pumpkins originated in Central America over 7,500 years ago. Pumpkin seeds contain many health benefits as they’re filled with vitamins, minerals and unsaturated fatty acids.

Pumpkin flowers are edible.

There are more than 45 different kinds of pumpkins.

Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica.

About 90% of a pumpkin is water.

The states that produce the most pumpkins include Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.

80% of the pumpkin crop in the United States is available during October.

For pumpkins to be ready by Halloween, they must be planted between late May to early July, depending on the location.

According to the Morton Pumpkin Festival, “In 1978, the Governor of Illinois signed a proclamation that Morton, Illinois was the ‘Pumpkin Capital of the World’ since 85% of the world’s canned pumpkin was processed at their Libby’s Pumpkin plant.”

Many people think of pumpkins as orange, but they can also appear in shades of white, yellow, red, blue, or green.

Canned pumpkin is not actually just pumpkin, but made up of a variety of other squash.

Pumpkin shells used to be woven into mats.

Jack -o’-lanterns originated from an Irish myth, and before using pumpkins, people in Ireland and Scotland created these now-Halloween-staples with turnips and potatoes instead.

Pumpkins were once thought to be a cure for snakebites.

You should not carry a pumpkin by its stem, but use two hands instead.

After a pumpkin is cut, it will usually last about seven to 10 days.

Making pumpkin pies during the holidays became popular during the 1800s.

The heaviest pumpkin, according to the Guinness World Records, came from Germany in 2016, weighing 2,624.6 lb.

The largest pumpkin pie weighed in at 3,699 lb from New Bremen, Ohio, in 2010.

The current record for most pumpkins carved in one hour by an individual is 109.

The record for the most people carving pumpkins simultaneously is held at 1,060 people. This took place in New Mexico in 2013.

The Guinness World Records reports that the fastest 100 m ever paddled in a pumpkin (you read that right!) has been 2 minutes 0.3 seconds, which was set in 2013.

Color My World

Autumnal leaves in vibrant hues are a beautiful part of the season, but those leaves are also a vital part of keeping trees alive.

Trees that have leaves that change color in fall are deciduous. (Evergreen trees with needles, which stay green to continue the photosynthesis process through the winter, are coniferous.) Deciduous trees usually have large, broad leaves.

Most of the year, these leaves are green because of the chlorophyll they use to absorb energy from sunlight during photosynthesis. The leaves convert the energy into sugars to feed the tree.

As the season changes, temperatures drop and days get shorter. Trees get less direct sunlight, and the chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down.

The lack of chlorophyll reveals yellow and orange pigments that were already in the leaves but masked during the warmer months. Darker red leaves are the result of a chemical change: Sugars that can get trapped in the leaves produce new pigments (called anthocyanins) that weren’t part of the leaf in the growing season. Some trees, like oaks and dogwoods, are likely to produce red leaves.

How much and how fast leaves transform varies by location on the globe. The best colors are produced when the weather is dry, sunny and cool. Places that are cloudy, damp or warm won’t see the same degree of changing color.

Then, of course, the leaves fall. Trees start building a protective seal between leaves and their branches as the weather turns. They take in as many nutrients as possible from the leaves, but leaves wouldn’t survive the winter and would make trees vulnerable to damage if they remained. When the leaves are cut off from the fluid in the branches, they separate and drop to the ground.

In the fall, trees put on a pretty impressive fashion show. Leaves that were green all summer long start to turn bright red, orange, and yellow. But where do these colors come from?

Leaves are green in the spring and summer because that’s when they are making lots of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is important because it helps plants make energy from sunlight—a process called photosynthesis.

The summer sunlight triggers the leaves to keep making more chlorophyll. But trees are very sensitive to changes in their environment.

As summer fades into fall, the days start getting shorter and there is less sunlight. This is a signal for the leaf to prepare for winter and to stop making chlorophyll. Once this happens, the green color starts to fade and the reds, oranges, and yellows become visible.