August 2, 2014

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Local Columnists

Easy ways to get green outside
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 9:56 PM

By Mark Holtsberry

Education specialist Paulding SWCD

As springtime approaches, here are some recycling tips for your lawn and garden and outside leisure.

Out in nature:

Spring surprises in the woods
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 9:55 PM

By Kylee Baumle

Since spring and winter decided to call a truce, it’s the perfect time to take a break from your garden chores and enjoy the show that may be going on right now in a woods near you. If you’ve never taken a stroll through the woods at this time of year, you’re really missing out.

Ohio has an abundance of native wildflowers and Mother Nature can be a real show-off. Don’t wait too long to get out there though, because just like the crocus and daffodils and other spring bulbs in your garden, the spring wildflowers won’t last forever.

Celebrate Creation and the earth around us
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 9:54 PM

By Jim Langham

Some of my earliest memories are the sounds of doves, cardinals and chirping birds singing their morning chorus when I accompanied my mother and grandmother to the garden early to avoid the heat of the summer sun.

I recall getting off the school bus in late April or early May and the aroma of blossoming cherry trees, crabapple tree, lilacs and the spring flowers from our nature-cultured yard surrounding the 100-year old country home where I was raised.

Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 9:54 PM


By Nancy Whitaker

Kids look for the Easter Bunny almost as much as they do for Santa Claus. The thrill of hiding an Easter basket filled with goodies never gets old.

Easter is the second most important candy-eating occasion of the year for Americans who consume 7 billion pounds of candy a year, according to the National Confectioner’s Association.

Now there are some parents who are concerned that their children might eat too much Easter candy. Recently while shopping, I saw a display of Easter toys. One of those toys really enthralled me and I really wanted to buy it.

Was your garden winter strong?
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:09 PM

By Kylee Baumle

Gardening is an exercise in patience. Ours has already been tried for nearly the entire year so far. So much of gardening depends on the weather and we know how that’s been.

Lots of snow to move, school delays, cars that won’t start, spring that won’t come. Then it does and we go on walkabout through the gardens to assess the damage. Before we can find out what’s made it and what hasn’t, we give ourselves the standard pep talk to bolster our hopes.

Look in The Bible
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:08 PM


By Nancy Whitaker

I was raised in a home where Bible reading and teaching was a part of our every day routine. Lots of times in the evenings, we sit in a circle listening to Grandma read the scriptures. So many of those Bible stories and scriptures have not only stuck with me, but they have been my rock and support through the years.

There is always some type of program on television which tries to discredit biblical teachings. They debate the validity of Noah and the ark; the parting of the Red Sea; David killing Goliath and now they are even speculating that Jesus was married.

Cover up with cover crops
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:08 PM

By Mark Holtsberry

Education specialist

Paulding SWCD

Cover crops have been enjoying a national rediscovery in the past few years. Healthy plants hold valuable soil in place. Cover crops are plants seeded into the soil in agricultural fields and gardens, either within or outside of the regular growing season, with the primary purpose of improving soil health. Cover crops are unique in that most are planted primarily to boost soil health and not for their seed, fruit, or forage.

Angels with names appear at the right time
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:04 PM

By Jim Langham

Every so often seeming “angels with names” appear at just the right time. The last time this happened to me was this past Saturday morning. When I arrived for an Indiana 5K, parking lots were rapidly filling up, so I joined several other cars in a grassy area right beside the parking lot.

I first realized that there could be a problem when I approached the grassy area following the event and noticed that two cars were stuck and a third was churning mightily in an attempt to spin out of the wet quagmire where we had parked.

My first thoughts were, “Surely not.”

Tapping and sapping maple trees
Tuesday, April 08, 2014 8:40 PM


By Kylee Baumle

If I could name one thing that I enjoy most about gardening, it’s that it is a venue for always learning and experiencing something new. Become a gardener and you’ll never ever be bored. Even if you don’t like some of the activities that tending a garden involves (weeding, anyone?), the perpetual classroom in the great outdoors more than makes up for it.

I suppose there are people who don’t crave knowledge, maybe because they didn’t have a good experience trying to absorb facts in high school, so that they could pass their exams. But so much of life isn’t a test as much as it is learning at our own pace, in the subject matters of our choosing.

Gardening is more than planting seeds, hoeing weeds, and pruning shrubs. It’s an opportunity to see nature at work and the miracles that happen every day if we choose to slow down and observe them. It invariably leads us down related paths, such as watching the insects we encounter while harvesting the vegetables or hearing a bird song that we never noticed before while deadheading the perennials.

An example of related activities occurred for us in late winter and early spring this year, when my husband and I decided to take advantage of the fact that we have maple trees and live in a part of the country with a climate that allows us to tap them for sap.


We’ve been around for about six decades now and neither of us had ever even thought to do this before. I’m not sure why we didn’t, because much to our pleasure, we found the whole process to be quite easy and rewarding.

Several weeks ago, we made use of a tree-tapping kit that I was given at one of the trade shows I attended last summer. Using a 1/2-inch drill bit, we drilled a hole two inches deep into one of the larger maple trees we have (probably a silver maple), and immediately the sap began dripping down the side of the tree.

We inserted the spile (that’s what the tap is called) and hung a 2.5-gallon bucket on the attached hook below, to collect the sap as it dripped from the tree. In order for sap to flow, night temperatures need to be below freezing and day temperatures above freezing, creating pressure that causes the tree to draw up groundwater through the roots.

Sugar that the tree stored there the year before is added to the groundwater and then it’s delivered as nourishment to the branches and developing leaves.

If you’ve never tapped maple trees for their sap, you might be thinking that it’s golden and sticky, sort of like pine sap. But it’s clear and thin, just like water, and in its natural state, tastes like it too. It has a very slight sweetness to it, and it’s very healthy to drink it this way, due to its antioxidant qualities and the micronutrients it contains.

In my opinion though, one of the best things about maple sap is boiling it down into maple syrup. We did this in small batches on our stovetop, but because of the amount of steam the process gives off, it would be best to do it outside, if possible. We have a good exhaust fan over our stove that vents to the outside, so it works for us to process it inside.

The maple sap collecting season varies from year to year, both in length and in the sugar content of the sap. The length can be anywhere from two to six weeks long, depending on the weather. This year, the season, which has come to a close for us, lasted about four weeks. Sugar content varies from 1-4%, depending on the type of maple.

Trees need to be 12 inches in diameter before tapping and we tapped three trees. In the end, we collected 42 gallons of sap and ended up with 1.5 gallons of syrup. We’re calling it good and the spiles and buckets are now cleaned and stored for use again next year. The trees will repair the holes by then with no help needed from us, not even plugging.

Until then, we’ll enjoy the maple syrup - nectar of the gods, really. I think it tastes better than honey and I really like honey. If you have maple trees, you should try it.

Read Kylee’s blog, Our Little Acre, at and on Facebook at Contact her at


A birthday tradition
Tuesday, April 08, 2014 8:39 PM


By Jim Langham

Last week, I carried out a very special birthday tradition that I have done for many years.

In the small Indiana town where I was raised, dear friends suffered a heartbreaking tragedy many years ago. They were on vacation in the south. One evening, as they were taking a walk, a driver under the influence crossed the road, went off the road and struck one of two 9-year-old boys, taking his life immediately.

That was many years ago. The remaining twin is now in his mid-20s, had an extremely successful wrestling career, has served our country with honor and is engaged to marry a girl from Scandinavia, a beautiful girl who has warmly been received by the family.

Over the years, the family has suffered emotional lows and lowers as they have sought to grieve and put their late son’s tragedy in some type of perspective. During that time, we have experienced a deep friendship, embracing each other many times in prayers and tears.


The twins share my birthday; they were also born on April 1. Each year on that day, the family gathers and takes balloons to the son’s grave in a cemetery just east of Geneva, Ind. There, after a time of meditation, and a placement on the grave of some of the lad’s favorite toys, the balloons are released with the hope that they will ascend towards heaven where they are fully certain that their son is with Jesus and they will some day be reunited with him.

Many years ago, they asked me to join that activity and we would all celebrate our birthdays together. Following the visit to the graveyard, we return to their home for pizza and birthday cake.

Ironically, the mother, especially, is a “cardinal heart” person all of the way. Each year when I visit the family for our special celebration, I take her a cardinal. These days, an entire cabinet in the family home is full of pictures of the son and cardinals. One day when I was visiting with her, we stepped on to their front porch and a beautiful cardinal swooped to us and kept circling us as we were talking.

“That is so comforting,” she said at the time. “I know that our son is okay.”

One day in a stroke of cardinal inspiration, she wrote a poem as though the son had written it to her. I feel it is appropriate to share that at the end of this column. In her scrapbook, a beautiful cardinal is pasted above her poem:

Song Of The Cardinal

For Mom

I sang outside your window today

Telling you it was going to be a wonderful day

I know you miss me I miss you too

But here in heaven the birds sing all day

And every day is a wonderful day

Jesus and I are waiting for you

Tell my brothers and Dad I want them to come too

Heaven is such a wonderful place...

Everyone can come here by God’s amazing grace

So Mom every time you shed a tear

Remember Mom I am still near

Until then I’ll sing you a song

Walking with Jesus till you come along