Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Daylight Saving thieves

The morning people are about to exact their revenge.

Each April, Daylight Saving Time steals an hour from their favorite part of the day. On Sunday at 2 a.m., when we revert to Eastern Standard Time, the morning people will gain back that lost hour. The sun that broke the horizon around 7:10 Saturday will do it about 6:10 Sunday.

Alas, the gain will be fleeting. As the days slowly shorten, that extra hour of lightness will wane. By the Winter Solstice on Dec. 21, sunrise will be at 7:10 again.

But, say the ever-optimistic morning people, the Winter Solstice marks when we begin winning back bits of the morning. By March 7, sunrise will be at 6:10 again, and by April 2, the day before the Daylight Saving thieves return, dawn will break around 5:20. So the next day, when sunrise is at 6:20, the morning-lovers have lost only 10 minutes from the 6:10 they celebrate this Sunday.

Crazy thinking? Perhaps. But, as evening people say, that's the way morning people are.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The pill on a plant

Conservationists are in a tizzy about Autumn Olive. This native of Asia was introduced here by, of all people, the state government, which 30 years ago was offering bundles of it practically free of charge. Excellent for fixing nitrogen in poor soil and prodigious at producing berries that birds love, Autumn Olive was once considered a conservationist’s delight.

Oops. Lacking natural enemies and other controls, Autumn Olive took off, and is now pushing out natives as it covers countless acres. The berries that were supposed to feed birds also often ferment, and wind up getting them drunk.

But wait! Scientists have also discovered that those berries contain up to 17 times the lycopene found in tomatoes. The anti-oxidant is said to fight cancer and heart disease. “This berry has more lycopene than any other food that we know of in the world,” said one farmer, who now harvests and sells the berries for jams and jellies. The berries also contain phytoene, beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, and lutein – all good for your health.

So instead of mowing down Autumn Olives, maybe we should be reining them in and eating them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

50 years ago…

Nature seems know. With day after day of showers and downpours, she must be celebrating the 50th anniversary of her big 1955 show when nearly 14 inches of rain fell on an already water-logged town - a three-month supply in three days. The result was the worst flood our area experienced in the 20th Century.

The flood of ’55washed away roads and bridges, destroyed homes, damaged factories, and killed three people. It also opened eyes. A new kind of care was needed in dealing with the land.

In the past half-century, flood zones and regulations restricting development in them have been adopted. The state has purchased many hundreds of acres to preserve natural “sponges” like swamps and pond watersheds. The Army Corps of Engineers has built a flood dam in Ridgefield, and plans others.

Much has been done, and 14 inches of rain might not do the damage today it did in 1955. But we should never be complacent; continued care, control measures and even an early-warning system are necessary.

After all, New Orleans thought the dikes would hold.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Farmers convention


In the 1800s, when farming dominated local industry, this was the season of the agricultural fair.

The Ridgefield Fair and Cattle Show was a typical 19th Century fair, with exhibits of products, produce and livestock, plus awards. The fair offered 31 categories for ribbons, ranging from crops, grains, vegetables, and fruit, to cakes, wines, musical instruments, fine arts, and “ladies' industrials.”

Agricultural markets were booming with new machines, tools and seed varieties in the 19th Century, and farmers got to see the latest products and hear lectures on improved farming methods. They could also chat with a wider group of farmers, discussing and critiquing modern-day advances as well as time-tested techniques.

At a fair, “they saw, gathered up in a small compass, what was going on in the farmer’s world, and this within a single day or two,” said an 1860s book on farming. “Thus, they accumulated a fund of knowledge which they could not have acquired had they remained at home.”

Thus, old-time country fairs were a time to learn as well as play -- the precursor of the modern convention.