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Depending on the variety, irises bloom late spring to midsummer. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

Autumn is the time to plant your new spring flowering bulbs. They can be planted up until the ground freezes, usually in December. Buy the best quality you can afford and you will be rewarded with a great garden next spring.

Snowdrops. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Snowdrops. Photo by Ellen Barcel

• Don’t overlook the tiny bulbs. They’re not as showy as tulips and daffodils but are ideal in small areas and rock gardens. Crocuses, of course, come to mind, but I have windflowers in my garden coming back for decades. Other small bulbs include the super early white snowdrops, just four to six inches high, and anemone with their daisy-like flowers. There are also tiny varieties of the standards. ‘Lilac Wonder’ is a miniature tulip, lilac and bright yellow in color. ‘Pipit Daffodil,’ another miniature, is white and pale yellow. A unique, and small, daffodil is ‘Golden Bells,’ which produces a dozen or more flowers from each bulb. It’s just six to eight inches high and blooms in late spring to early summer.

• If you’re looking for very fragrant flowers, consider hyacinth. Although, like most spring flowers, the bloom is short-lived, their perfume is exquisite. ‘Gipsy Queen’ is a soft apricot color, ‘Jan Bos’ is a carmine-red, and ‘Woodstock’ is maroon. Some daffodils are also very fragrant. Check the package or the catalog description.

Daffodils. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Daffodils. Photo by Ellen Barcel

• If you do go with daffodils and tulips, consider at least some of the more unique ones. ‘Mount Hood’ is a daffodil that has gigantic white flowers, and ‘Green Eyes,’ also a white flower, has a green cup. ‘Exotic Mystery’ is almost completely a pale green while ‘Riot’ has reddish-pink cups. Among the tulips there are double flowers, a wide range of colors and even stripped ones. ‘Ice Cream’ is a really unique tulip. It has white center petals, surrounded by deep pink and green ones. It’s really exquisite. ‘Strawberry Ice Cream’ resembles a peony flower, in deep pink and green.

• Try some new (to you) and unusual bulbs. For example, ‘Candy Cane’ sorrel (oxalis) has white flowers tinged in red. They bloom in spring and even into summer. Another really unusual flower is the dragon flower. The bloom is maroon with a spathe that grows up to three feet. This is a big one and really unusual.

Tulips. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Tulips. Photo by Ellen Barcel

• Remember that certain bulbs are very attractive to squirrels, particularly tulips. There are several ways of handling this problem. One is to surround the tulip bulbs with daffodils. Squirrels don’t like daffodils and will generally stay away from them and the tulips they surround. A second way of dealing with this problem is to plant the tulip bulbs in wire cages. A third possibility, one I heard a planter recommend, is to overplant, that is, plant many more, possibly up to 25 percent more, bulbs than required. That way, the squirrels get some and some survive to grow in the spring.

• If you miss this planting window and the ground is frozen, there are several things you can do. The usual recommendation is to put the bulbs in the fridge until the ground thaws enough to plant them. You could also try planting them in pots and storing the pots in an unheated garage.

• The bulbs you plant this autumn will produce gorgeous flowers next spring. This is based on the professional growers’ treatment of the bulbs. They’ve grown them under ideal conditions, watered and fertilized them. To have them flourish in future years there are several things you need to do. One is to leave the green leaves on the bulbs after the blooms have faded. This is providing food for next year. You also need to add some fertilizer, again to help the bulbs for the following seasons. Make sure you water them in times of drought, even though by midsummer the leaves will have disappeared.

• Because spring bulbs basically disappear from the landscape by midsummer, they are ideal for beds where you intend to plant annuals. Plant the annual seeds in spring and by the time the bulbs have bloomed and faded, the annuals will have started to thrive.

• While you’re planting your spring flowering bulbs, consider also planting lilies, daylilies, peonies and hostas. All are perennials and will reward you next growing season.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

Whether you’re a fitness junkie, busy parent, sleep-deprived student or diehard sweet tooth, peanut butter is an ingredient that sticks for all of life’s moments. With a healthy boost of protein and energy, peanut butter is perfect as a reliable family meal. Try these delicious winning recipes from Southern Peanut Growers’ 2016 annual PB My Way recipe contest.

Veggie Sammies with Peanut Butter Satay Sauce

Grand Prize Winner: Take lunchtime to a new level by smothering your sandwich with a savory PB satay sauce. Save the extra sauce for a healthy veggie dip at snack time. Recipe courtesy of Ben M., San Francisco, California

Veggie Sammies with Peanut Butter Satay Sauce
Veggie Sammies with Peanut Butter Satay Sauce

YIELD: Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

4 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons water

4 teaspoons hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons sriracha sauce

2 French baguette rolls (6 inches each)

1/2 cup sliced cucumber

1/2 cup sliced white onion 1

/2 cup sliced red bell pepper

1/2 cup sliced purple cabbage

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

DIRECTIONS: In small bowl, combine peanut butter, lime juice, water, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and sriracha sauce. Mix well. Spread sauce on both sides of bread; then layer with cucumber, onion and bell pepper. Top with cabbage and cilantro leaves.

Peanut Apple Chicken Curry

Family-tested Winner: A grown-up twist on the classic peanut butter and apple pairing, this new take on a traditional Indian dish is a total palate pleaser. It’s easy enough for a weekday meal that the family is sure to love. Recipe courtesy of Jess A., Berkeley, California

Peanut Apple Chicken Curry
Peanut Apple Chicken Curry

YIELD: Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS:

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/4 cup scallions, chopped

1 cup creamy peanut butter

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1 3/4 cups apple juice

1 3/4 cups coconut milk

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Chicken:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small yellow onion, chopped

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch strips

1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped

salt, to taste pepper, to taste

cooked rice (optional)

DIRECTIONS: To make sauce: In medium to large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, curry powder and scallions. Saute 1 minute. Add peanut butter, vinegar, apple juice, coconut milk, brown sugar and cayenne pepper. Bring to simmer, reduce heat and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat oil. Add onion and stir fry about 2 to 3 minutes until onions start to become opaque. Add chicken and apples, and stir until chicken is cooked completely. Add peanut sauce and cook until heated evenly, about 2 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm over rice, if desired.

Source: Southern Peanut Growers

By Linda Toga

THE FACTS: As part of their Medicaid planning, over 10 years ago my parents transferred their house to my brother Joe. They did not put my name on the deed because I had filed for bankruptcy. However, the understanding was that at some point after their deaths, Joe would sell the house and give me half of the net proceeds. My parents died two years ago without ever applying for Medicaid. Joe did not try to sell the house because he said the housing market was soft. Instead, he rented the house to a friend. Unfortunately, Joe and I did not have a good relationship, and he recently died without having sold the house. His will provides that his entire estate, including the house, passes to his wife and son.

THE QUESTION: Can I contest Joe’s will to get my share of the proceeds from the eventual sale of my parents’ house?

THE ANSWER: The short answer to your question is “No.” You cannot contest the probate of Joe’s will because you lack standing. The only people in a position to contest a will are those people in line to inherit under the intestacy statute. In other words, only those people who would inherit if there was no will have standing to contest the probate of a will. Under the intestacy statute, spouses, children and parents of the decedent have priority over siblings. Since Joe was married at the time of his death and had a child, they would inherit his entire estate even if he died without a will. Since you are not in line to inherit, you cannot contest Joe’s will.

However, you may be able to approach this from a different perspective. If you have evidence that your parents’ intent was that you receive a share of the proceeds from the sale of their house, and that they transferred it to Joe alone because of your bankruptcy, you may be able to claim an interest in the house under the theory of a constructive trust. You would not be contesting the probate of Joe’s will but, instead, trying to show that the transfer of the house to Joe was not an outright gift.

If you can show that your parents transferred the house to Joe with the expectation that he hold an interest in the house in trust for your benefit in the future, you may be able to recover from Joe’s estate the value of your share of the house.

If your parent’s plan was that the house be sold after their deaths and the proceeds split between you and Joe, they should have transferred the house into an irrevocable trust, rather than outright to Joe. Such a trust would have addressed your parents’ concerns about Medicaid without creating the problem you now face. Language could have been included in the trust to address your bankruptcy and protect your share of the proceeds from your creditors. An experienced estate planning attorney could have easily insured that your parents’ wishes were honored and that both you and Joe benefited from the sale of their house.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of estate planning, probate and estate administration, real estate, small business service and litigation from her East Setauket office.

We should dedicate 33 percent of our lives to sleep to improve brain health. Stock photo

By David Dunaief, M.D.

The brain is the most important and complex organ, yet what we know about the brain is inverse to its prominence. In other words, our knowledge only scratches the surface. While other organs can be transplanted readily, it is the one organ that can’t, at least not yet.

The brain also has something called the blood-brain barrier. This is an added layer of small, densely packed cells, or capillaries, that filter what substances from the blood they allow to pass through from the rest of the body (1). This is good, since it protects the brain from foreign substances; however, on the downside, it also makes it harder to treat, because many drugs and procedures have difficulty penetrating the blood-brain barrier.

Unfortunately, there are many things that negatively impact the brain, including certain drugs, head injuries and lifestyle choices. There are also numerous disorders and diseases that affect the brain, including neurological (dementia, Parkinson’s, stroke), infectious (meningitis), rheumatologic (lupus and rheumatoid arthritis), cancer (primary and secondary tumors), psychiatric mood disorders (depression, anxiety, schizophrenia), diabetes and heart disease.

These varied diseases tend to have three signs and symptoms in common: they either cause an alteration in mental status — cognitive decline, weakness or change in mood – or a combination of these.

Probably our greatest fear regarding the brain is cognitive decline. We have to ask ourselves if we are predestined to this decline, either because of the aging process alone or because of a family history, or if there is a third option, a way to alter this course. Dementia, whether mild or full-blown Alzheimer’s, is cruel; it robs us of functioning. We should be concerned about Alzheimer’s because 5.2 million Americans have the disease, and it is on the rise, especially since the population is aging (2).

Fortunately, there are several studies that show we may be able to choose the third option and prevent cognitive decline by altering modifiable risk factors. They involve rather simple lifestyle changes: sleep, exercise and possibly omega-3s. Let’s look at the evidence.

The impact of clutter

The lack of control over our mental capabilities as we age is what frightens us the most since we see friends, colleagues and relatives negatively affected by it. Those who are in their 20s seem to be much sharper and quicker. But are they really?

In a recent study, German researchers found that educated older people tend to have a larger mental database of words and phrases to pull from since they have been around longer and have more experience (3). When this is factored into the equation, the difference in terms of age-related cognitive decline becomes negligible. This study involved data mining and creating simulations. It showed that mental slowing may be at least partially related to the amount of clutter or data that we accumulate over the years. The more you know, the harder it becomes to come up with a simple answer to something. We may need a reboot just like a computer. This may be possible through sleep and exercise and omega-3s.

Sleep

I have heard people argue that sleep gets in the way of life. Why should we have to dedicate 33 percent of our lives to sleep? There are several good reasons. One involves clearing the mind, and another involves improving our economic outlook.

For the former, a study shows that sleep may help the brain remove waste, such as those all-too-dangerous beta-amyloid plaques (4). When we have excessive plaque buildup in the brain, it may be a sign of Alzheimer’s. This study was done in mice. When mice were sleeping, the interstitial space (the space between brain gyri, or structures) would increase by as much as 60 percent.

This allowed the lymphatic system, with its cerebrospinal fluid, to clear out plaques, toxins and other waste that had developed during waking hours. With the enlargement of the interstitial space during sleep, waste removal was quicker and more thorough because cerebrospinal fluid could reach much further into the spaces. When the mice were anesthetized, a similar effect was seen as with sleeping.

In a published follow-up study, the authors found that sleep position had an impact on glymphatic transport in rodents. Sleeping in a lateral position, or on their sides, was more effective at clearing waste than prone or supine positions. Of course, the authors note that for rodents a prone position is similar to their awake positions. It would be most like a human sleeping while sitting upright (5).

In another study, done in Australia, results showed that sleep deprivation may have been responsible for an almost 1 percent decline in gross domestic product for the country (6). The reason is obvious: People are not as productive at work when they don’t get enough sleep. Their attitude tends to be more irritable, and concentration may be affected. We may be able to turn on and off sleepiness on an acute, or short-term, basis, depending on the environment, but it’s not as if we can do this continually.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 4 percent of Americans report having fallen asleep in the past month behind the wheel of a car (7). I hope this hammers home the importance of sleep.

Exercise

How can I exercise, when I can’t even get enough sleep? Well there is a study that just may inspire you to exercise.

In the study, which involved rats, those that were not allowed to exercise were found to have rewired neurons in the area of their medulla, the part of the brain involved in breathing and other involuntary activities. There was more sympathetic (excitatory) stimulus that could lead to increased risk of heart disease (8). In those rats that were allowed to exercise regularly, there was no unusual wiring, and sympathetic stimuli remained constant. This may imply that being sedentary has negative effects on both the brain and the heart.

This is intriguing since we used to think that our brain’s plasticity, or ability to grow and connect neurons, was finite and stopped after adolescence. This study’s implication is that a lack of exercise causes unwanted new connections. Of course, these results were done in rats and need to be studied in humans before we can make any definitive suggestions.

Omega-3 fatty acids

In the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study, results showed that those postmenopausal women who were in the highest quartile of omega-3 fatty acids had significantly greater brain volume and hippocampal volume than those in the lowest quartile (9). The hippocampus is involved in memory and cognitive function.

Specifically, the researchers looked at the level of omega-3 fatty acids, called eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, in red blood cell membranes. The source of the omega-3 fatty acids could either have been from fish or supplementation. This was not delineated. The researchers suggest eating fish high in these substances, such as salmon and sardines, since it may not even be the omega-3s that are playing a role but some other substances in the fish. It’s never too late to improve brain function. You can still be sharp at a ripe old age. Although we have a lot to learn about the functioning of the brain, we know that there are relatively simple ways we can positively influence it.

References: (1) medicinenet.com. (2) alz.org. (3) Top Cogn Sci. 2014 Jan.;6:5-42. (4) Science. 2013 Oct. 18;342:373-377. (5) J Neurosci. 2015 Aug 5;35(31):11034-11044. (6) Sleep. 2006 Mar.;29:299-305. (7) cdc.gov. (8)J Comp Neurol. 2014 Feb. 15;522:499-513. (9) Neurology. 2014;82:435-442. Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management.

By Ernestine Franco

Find your new best friend at the 5th annual Sound Beach Civic Association Pet Adopt-A-Thon on Saturday, Sept. 24 in the Hartlin Inn parking lot, 30 New York Ave., Sound Beach (across from the Post Office) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Eleven animal rescue groups from Suffolk County will be on hand to show off their lovable, adoptable pets including The Adoption Center, Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Compassionate Action, Volunteers for Animal Welfare, Grateful Greyhounds, Happy Tails Dog Rescue, Last Chance Animal Rescue, Long Island Bulldog Rescue, New York State Retriever Rescue, Sav-A-Pet and the Town of Brookhaven Animal Shelter. Adoption fees will vary by group.

Saving one animal will not change the world, but for that one animal the world will change forever.

Created and run mostly by volunteers, many of these groups take unwanted, abandoned, abused or stray animals into their homes and care for them — training them, playing with them, handling medical issues and solving behavioral problems — until a suitable permanent home can be found.

“Last year twelve ‘furever’ friends found new, loving homes at this event,” Bea Ruberto, president of the Civic Association, said, “and we’re looking to do even better this year. We hope a lot of people will stop by to meet their new best friend.”

The New York State Retriever Rescue will be bringing Alice and Trixie whose owner recently died. Happy-go-lucky dogs who love other dogs but have never been around cats, they just need someone to love them again. The group will also be bringing Buck Hope, a 9-year-old lab who is described as being kind of goofy and loves to swim, and Elsa, a 10-year-old very sweet lab mix who is a big mush of a girl and loves both dogs and cats.

Happy Tails Dog Rescue will be showcasing Georgie and Porgie, two yorkie mixes, and Nana, a 3-month-old female plott hound/lab mix in hopes that they will find loving homes.

Last Chance Animal Rescue, which has participated in this event every year, is bringing Dutchess, a 3-year-old female pibble who is crate trained, house trained and loves dogs (no cats please). They will also be offering Madilynn, a tortoise shell cat, who has been with the group for six months. Her first birthday has come and gone and no forever family has picked her. She is great with other cats and dogs and people of all ages and loves to play and snuggle. What more could you ask for?

Nadia, a young gray and white shorthaired cat, will also be there, courtesy of Last Chance, and would love to find her home soon. She’s kid tested, cat tested and dog tested and ready to start a new life.

Sav-A-Pet will be featuring three cats this year — a pure white beauty named Valke, an 11-year-old diabetic female who just needs some tender loving care, and Miracle and Angel, two pastel calico kittens who had a rough start in life.

The Adopt-A-Thon will also offer information on responsible pet care, face painting for the kids, live music by Gina Mingoia and Sal Martone along with a raffle auction and 50/50 with all the proceeds going to the participating animal welfare groups.

Raffle prizes include a one-year subscription to Times Beacon Record Newspapers, brass candlesticks, Christmas baskets, Dr. Who memorabilia, electric wine opener with a bottle of wine, fall harvest baskets, granite and marble cutting boards, handbag with scarves and gloves, handmade blanket and pillow, hand-painted wine glass, home and kitchen baskets, Italian cheese-making kit with a bottle of wine, Lenox bowl, pet gift basket, Sky Zone passes, spa baskets, a framed silver record signed by Christina Aguilera, Clint Black, EVE 6, and Tyrese, Theatre Three tickets and much more.

Echo Pharmacy will provide some free give-aways, and Miller Place Animal Hospital will be offering a free exam for any newly adopted pet. So, whether you want to help the great work the animal welfare groups do or are looking to adopt your new best friend, stop by for a great family-friendly event.

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Unfortunately, dogs don’t consult the ‘Field Guide to North American Mushrooms’ before choosing which to eat and which to leave alone.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

After a hot, dry August, we’re starting to get some late summer/early fall rain, and the rain brings the mushrooms. Some wild mushrooms are edible (and quite tasty); however, some can be downright toxic. Both classes of wild mushrooms grow right in our backyards and flourish at this time of year.

Names like toadstool, death cap and destroying angel make me want to make sure I don’t eat the wrong type. Unfortunately, dogs don’t consult the “Field Guide to North American Mushrooms” before choosing which to eat and which to leave alone.

The most common toxic genera of mushrooms are Amanita, Galerina and Lepiota. These genera carry a specific toxin called cyclopeptides. Cyclopeptides interfere with the nucleic acids RNA and DNA transcriptase, and these compounds are integral for cell replication. Therefore, cyclopeptides affect organ systems that have a large cell turnover (the GI system, liver and a portion of the kidneys). Other toxic mushrooms can affect the central nervous system, but they are not as common in this part of the country.

Above, the destroying angel mushroom is toxic to dogs.
Above, the destroying angel mushroom is toxic to dogs.

The initial symptoms usually start within 6 to 12 hours of exposure and affect the gastrointestinal tract, causing serious vomiting and diarrhea. The diarrhea many times becomes bloody, but dehydration secondary to vomiting and diarrhea is a bigger concern than blood in the stool. If untreated, the dehydration alone can lead to shock and organ dysfunction.

If the patient recovers from the initial GI signs, they can still develop liver and kidney dysfunction. If the exposure is small (this depends not only on the amount of mushrooms eaten but also the size/weight of the dog), the patient can make a complete recovery over a period of weeks to months. However, if the exposure is large, this can lead to complete liver or kidney failure.

Initial treatment involves hospitalization for decontamination and supportive care. In severe cases it is recommended to lavage (or pump) the stomach in conjunction with activated charcoal (to prevent further absorption) and IV fluids.

When I still worked emergency full time and we had a known or suspect mushroom toxicity, as long as we were able to control the vomiting, administer activated charcoal and support with IV fluids, the patients were discharged without any long-term damage.

How do we prevent mushroom exposure? Mushrooms are fungi and grow better under certain conditions. Some mushrooms require low amounts of light, but many do not. All mushrooms need a lot of moisture and decaying plant material. Therefore, making sure there is adequate drainage and removing any leaves, branches and other debris on a regular basis can reduce the amount of mushrooms grown.

Also, reduce watering (if you water regularly) to portions of your lawn prone to mushrooms. If you see mushrooms, remove them immediately at the base to prevent the aeration of spores. Then use a sharp shovel in an “up and away” fashion to remove the soil. If you can’t do that, use a garden rake or hoe to aerate that area and provide better drainage.

If you know that your dog has eaten mushrooms, bring him or her to your veterinarian immediately and follow their instructions. If your vet recommends hospitalization, IV fluids, inducing emesis (vomiting) and activated charcoal, then follow their instructions. Although it may be a little more expensive, it is better to be more aggressive early than to play catchup later. Also, treat your yard. Remember, “An ounce of prevention …”

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office.

By Michael Tessler

Covered in ash, crawling through rubble, debris and fire — we found hope. Watching as brave heroes marched into towers set aflame — we found courage. Seeing an American flag rise above a hellish landscape of melted steel, blood and death — we found unity.

Our nation, at least for a moment, stood as one. Though shattered, our hearts pounded together in perfect rhythm. We knew that we would overcome the horrors seared into our memory that dreadful September day. Americans, by nature, do that — overcome. We rebuild, we remember and we defend our great American experiment. For more than two centuries we’ve fought for that noble concept, despite all odds and adversities. No enemy foreign or domestic has ever been able to change that simple and profound truth.

Thomas Butler from Kings Park, right, made the ultimate sacrifice while saving others on 9/11. Photo from Michael Tessler
Thomas Butler from Kings Park, right, made the ultimate sacrifice while saving others on 9/11. Photo from Michael Tessler

My memory of that day is the clearest of my entire childhood. For so many years I’ve loved heroes I’ve never met. Mourned at the reading of names: the mothers, fathers, daughters and sons. They often come to mind, especially their families, whose loss remains profound and ever present.

Fifteen years later we’ve strayed far from that national singularity, that special comfort knowing that even in the chaos, we have one another. Today it feels that we are torn so far apart that I can barely recognize the America I love.

In this time of darkness, I’m reminded of wisdom bestowed upon us by the greatest generation, in a time not so dissimilar from our own: “… the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Perhaps our nation is still reeling in forgotten grief. Or maybe we’ve lost our national innocence and have given into the cynicism. Perhaps a decade of violence with no end has rendered us apathetic to the world at large, but I refuse to believe that is true or permanent. There will never be a clear path forward, but it must be clear that there is a path forward.

We do not have to agree with one another to show civility, we do not have to hate to protect ourselves, and we must not allow fear to dictate our lives. Those who perished represented nearly every facet of the American people. Their religions, race, sexual orientation, gender, hopes, dreams and aspirations in no way diminished the gaping hole we felt from their loss. They were people, they were our American kin, and we must ensure that “never forget” is not just a Hallmark slogan but an eternal call to action.

We are Americans. We will crawl through ash, rubble, debris and fire to give one another hope. We will march up towers aflame to give one another courage. We will raise an American flag above a landscape however hellish to let the world know that we are the UNITED States of America and that “a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

In loving memory of Thomas M. Butler, the hero I never knew.

Michael Tessler is the Special Projects Manager for TBR News Media.

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Courtesy of the Erie Canal Museum An 1852 Abbot map of the Erie Canal.

By Beverly C. Tyler

Farming on Long Island has changed significantly over the past 350 years. The early settlers in Brookhaven used horses and oxen, raised cows, pigs and sheep and grew a wide variety of crops including wheat, Indian corn, barley, rye, flax, grasses, apple and pear trees. As wheat and Indian corn were the largest and most important crops, the local gristmill became the vital connection between the farm field and table.

For farmers, the miller and the blacksmith were the vital craftsmen. Brookhaven’s colonial blacksmiths worked in iron to produce farm tools and hardware. They made horseshoes and shod horses, oxen and occasionally cows. In 1681, John Thompson, Brookhaven’s blacksmith, made all the iron and steel work for a new Setauket gristmill run by John Wade.

By the end of the 18th century, increased agricultural productivity was becoming vital to Long Island farmers. By enriching the soil with seaweed, shells and manure, Suffolk County farmers increased the yield of each acre of wheat and other grains by two to three times. However, the dominance of wheat in Long Island agriculture was soon to change.

At the start of the 19th century, New York City had a number of tidal gristmills along the East River to grind grain. Grain and flour came from Long Island and as far away as Ohio. Grain from the west, transported by wagon, was more expensive than Long Island grain. This, however, was also soon to change.

With the end of the War of 1812, trade with Europe and Great Britain resumed. Europeans remained willing to pay high prices for American cotton and wheat. Great Britain passed the “Corn Law of 1815,” placing a tax on the import of grains. This was to keep the price of grains up and preserve the profits of the “landed gentry” (the British noblemen who owned most of the land).

In 1812 the United States exported 1.3 million barrels of flour to Britain. In 1816 that fell to about half (620,000 barrels). Long Island farmers still earned their living by raising grain and herding livestock, as they had since the 17th century. Now they began to have a wider market through New York City.

The Erie Canal forever changed Long Island’s relationship with New York City. Begun in 1817, the Erie Canal was fully completed in 1825 from Buffalo to Albany — a distance of 363 miles — establishing a water commerce route between the Hudson River and the Great Lakes.

The effect of the canal on Long Island and New York City population and commerce was dramatic. By 1826, 42 barges a day carried 1,000 passengers, 221,000 barrels of flour, 435,000 gallons of whiskey and 562,000 bushels of wheat. Shipping costs from Lake Erie to Manhattan plummeted from $100 a ton to less than $9.00.

By 1830, due largely to the Erie Canal, New York, which had always been behind Philadelphia and Boston in exports, was exporting four times as much as Philadelphia. By 1850, New York’s exports had grown another 160 percent.

On Long Island, wheat, barley, corn and rye proved unable to compete with cereal grains from the West. By 1836, with a population that more than doubled to over 275,000 since 1820 and shipping that tripled over the same period, Long Island farmers, seeing their market disappear, switched to raising potatoes, cabbage, peas, beans, asparagus and tomatoes for booming Manhattan and Brooklyn.

To be continued next time: A trip on the Erie Canal.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket, NY 11733. Tel: 631-751-3730. WWW.TVHS.org.

Hydrangeas need plenty of water to survive. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

If you’ve checked lately, you’ve seen that in some of the prime growing months (March, April, June and July) we’ve had less rain than we usually get. June in particular registered just over one inch at Brookhaven National Laboratory, while the average is almost four inches. This situation happened last year as well. The U.S. Drought Monitor (www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu) noted that as of the end of July, central Suffolk is in a severe drought and the rest of Long Island in a moderate drought. Riverhead Town has even asked residents to cut back on water use.

On average, Long Island gets about four inches of rain per month. On average, it rains once every three or four days. This is generally ideal for most plants grown here including lawns. But, we could get a week of rain followed by three weeks of virtually no rain. On average, we’re doing just fine but many plants will not make it through those three weeks of drought. So, gardeners need to be aware of not only the current weather but their plants’ requirements.

10 things to consider:

1. Is this a time of even mild drought? If it is, you need to make sure you water plants as needed. Follow local restrictions and recommendations on when to water.

2. Sandy soil lets excess rain drain quickly — if all the rain comes at the same time, there will be days or weeks when your plants are drying out.

Hydrangeas are literally “water vessels,” growing natively where they receive plenty of water. In times of even mild drought, they dry out quickly. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Hydrangeas are literally “water vessels,” growing natively where they receive plenty of water. In times of even mild drought, they dry out quickly. Photo by Ellen Barcel

3. Consider what are the ideal conditions for the plants you have selected. Geraniums are very drought tolerant, for example, while hydrangeas are not.

4. Native plants are more adapted to changing conditions. They are more accustomed to heavy rain or times of drought. This doesn’t mean that you can ignore them completely, but if you are away for a week or two, you don’t need to worry that your garden will be burned to a crisp when you return. Nonnative plants with similar requirements should do well here as well.

5. Lawn sprinklers don’t always give enough water for shrubs and trees. I have several hydrangeas that don’t get enough water from the sprinkler system. So, I need to be aware of when it rains (then all plants get watered). If it doesn’t rain for a few days, I start checking these hydrangeas and may need to hand water them even if the sprinkler was on. After all, hydrangeas are, quite literally “water vessels.”

6. Drip irrigation systems bring water to the roots, keeping leaves dry and therefore less likely to get fungal diseases. Also, less water is lost to evaporation, which can happen with sprinkler systems.

7. Plants with taproots (oak, catalpa, dandelions, etc.) do better in times of drought than plants with more surface roots. These taproots reach way down into the soil, where there’s more likely to be water.

8. Unless you have clay soil, you generally don’t have to deal with a situation of too much water. Long Island’s generally sandy soil drains quickly. If you do have a spot where water collects, consider a rain garden there, that is, plants that tolerate standing water.

Geraniums are drought-tolerant plants. Even in containers they need less water than most plants. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Geraniums are drought-tolerant plants. Even in containers they need less water than most plants. Photo by Ellen Barcel

9. Plants grown in containers need special consideration. Small pots dry out quickly. Clay pots dry out more quickly than man-made materials like plastic. If you’re going to be away on vacation, you probably need someone to come in and water your containers and hanging baskets at least every few days. Moving them out of the direct sun can also help. Look for self-watering planters that have a large water reservoir that you can fill up before you leave. Use watering crystals, which hold excess water and then release it as the soil dries out.

10. The leaves of plants grown in containers can act like umbrellas over the container’s soil. So, even if it’s rained a lot, check those pots to make sure that the rain penetrated down into the soil. I’ve seen bushy plants in containers easily dry out, even after a heavy rain. Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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Sweet 'n Sour Pork Chops

It’s hard to believe but the kids on the North Shore are headed back to school this week and fall is just around the corner. For parents, the days are just going to be busier, with sports, homework, meetings, activities, concerts — the list goes on and on…

During this time of year, your slow cooker can become your best friend, making delicious meals that are quick and easy. Get in the back-to-school swing with these delicious slow cooker recipes, Slow Cooked Short Ribs and Sweet ‘n Sour Pork Chops from Thomas H. Sarc’s “Dishing Out Delicious” cookbook, a collection of the Long Island author’s family recipes.

Sweet ‘n Sour Pork Chops

INGREDIENTS:

Sweet 'n Sour Pork Chops
Sweet ‘n Sour Pork Chops

4 boneless pork chops, 1 inch thick

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

4 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 package (14 oz.) frozen bell pepper stir-fry blend

4 teaspoons corn starch

DIRECTIONS: Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Place on high heat. Sprinkle both sides of pork chops with pepper to taste. Add to skillet and cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side until browned. Transfer to a slow cooker. In a small bowl whisk together brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and garlic until sugar dissolves. Pour over chops. Cover slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours.

Add frozen vegetables and increase heat to high. Cook one hour more or until chops are heated through (145 F) and vegetables are tender. Transfer chops to a platter, reserving the liquid and vegetables in the slow cooker. For the sauce, whisk together corn starch and 4 tablespoons cold water until dissolved. Stir in cooking liquid from slow cooker. Microwave on high for 2 minutes or until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Return to the slow cooker. Spoon vegetables and sauce over the pork chops and serve.

Slow Cooked Short Ribs

INGREDIENTS:

Slow Cooked Short Ribs
Slow Cooked Short Ribs

3 pounds beef short ribs

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 1/4 cups barbecue sauce

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons dijon mustard

DIRECTIONS: Place the ribs in a slow cooker. Top with onion. In a medium bowl, whisk together barbecue sauce, honey, flour and mustard. Pour over ribs. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours or until the meat is very tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the ribs from the slow cooker and place on a a platter. Spoon cooking liquid over ribs before serving.

dishing-out-delicious‘Dishing Out Delicious’ is available at Barnes and Noble and www.amazon.com.

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