March-April 2018

Herbal Hand Scrubs

by cathym on March 23, 2018

by Cathy Monrad

After a long day of gardening, these homemade scrubs will exfoliate and pamper your hands like an expensive brand, at a fraction of the cost.

Rosemary Lemon Salt Scrub
1 ½ cups of Epsom salt
½ cup olive oil
2 Rosemary springs, finely chopped
2-3 drops Lemon Essential Oil
2 tbsp. lemon zest

Lavender Mint Sugar Scrub
1 ½ cups coarse sugar
½ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
2 tbsp. dried lavender
2 tbsp. dried mint
15-20 drops Lavender Essential Oil

To Make Each Scrub
Using a wooden spoon, mix ingredients together in a large bowl. Scoop into an airtight pint-size jar. Scrub will last 1-2 months.

Using Your Scrub
Wet your hands. Scoop out a small amount of the scrub. Rub it all over your hands. Rinse and pat dry. Scrub may also be used on elbows, knees, and feet, which are prone to dryness. These scrubs are not recommended for use in the tub.

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and the self-proclaimed garden crafter for the Upstate Gardners’ Journal.


Birds of Prey

by cathym on March 23, 2018

by Liz Magnanti

American kestrel. Photo courtesy Flickr: Chris Parker

Stealthy and deadly, birds of prey can be an unwelcome sight to other birds, small mammals, and even homeowners who fear the songbirds at their feeders may soon be dinner. In fact, the word raptor comes from an old word meaning “to seize and carry away.” Birds of prey, however, are a good sign. They are not only interesting to watch, but they are a sign that your landscape is diverse enough to sustain multiple levels of the food web. Often, birds of prey are at the top of their food webs, with other birds of prey being their only potential predators.

The American kestrel is the smallest and most colorful falcon we have in the area. With a maximum length of eleven inches, they can often be misidentified as a songbird or dove. Male kestrels have beautiful blue-grayish head and chestnut orange back. They are easily identified by the two sets of vertical lines they have running down their face. Kestrels can often be seen perched on telephone wires overlooking open fields where they have a great view of their prey, which includes insects, small rodents and birds, and reptiles. Birds can easily find small mammals in large fields due to their ability to see in UV light. The urine from voles, a common prey animal, glows yellow in UV light, making them easier to find.

Sharp-shinned hawks are notorious for hunting songbirds at feeders. Usually a woodland bird, they often come to back yards and are easily spotted in the winter when there are no leaves on the trees for cover. Sharp-shinned hawks are the smallest hawk in the U.S., being about the same size as a blue jay or mourning dove. They can be identified by their bluish-gray back, rusty barring on their breast, and a long, squared-off, striped tail. Sharp-shinned hawks are acrobatic flyers, making it simple for them to catch birds in mid-air.

Cooper’s hawks look like the sharp-shinned hawks’ older brother. They have very similar color patterns and are only slightly larger. Cooper’s hawks have a rounded tail, which is the factor most often used to differentiate them from the sharp-shinned hawk. Cooper’s hawks are also very common in backyards, where they will hunt songbirds. Cooper’s hawks are skillful flyers and can reach high speeds flying through woodlands in pursuit of prey. They were once known as the “chicken hawk” due to their repeated raids on poultry.

The red-tailed hawk is the most common hawk in the area. They are often seen along highways on posts and light poles, perched in search of prey. Red-tails are a large hawk, measuring up to 25 inches in length. They have a distinctive chestnut-reddish tail that is especially visible while in flight. Red-tailed hawks can be found in many habitats and eat a wide variety of foods. Fields, forests, backyards, and cities are all areas they are commonly found. They are known to eat reptiles, small to medium sized mammals, birds, fish, bats, and more! Red-tails have a very distinct call—a long, high-pitched scream that is often used on TV and in movies as the sound effect for any bird of prey.

Arguably our most recognizable bird of prey, the bald eagle is one of the largest birds you will find here. Bald eagles can be found by water, where they actively hunt for fish. They are also known to hunt for mammals and other birds, mainly waterfowl. Bald eagles have a distinct white head and tail, but they do not get this coloration until they are four to six years old. Bald eagles have a spectacular mating ritual, where the male and female will lock talons with each other mid-air, and spiral downwards toward the ground, breaking away before hitting the ground. They are known for their huge nests, which they enlarge each year. Sometimes the nest of a bald eagle can reach up to 1,000 pounds!

During the DDT pesticide years (1940s-1972), many birds of prey were in huge declines and in risk of extinction due to eggshell thinning. Once the pesticide was banned, populations of raptors began to increase. One of the success stories belongs to the bald eagle, which is becoming common to see once again along many waterways. Still, some raptors such as the American kestrel and sharp-shinned hawks are still in decline. Some of this due to direct environmental factors such as loss of habitat, but other reasons remain a mystery. One thing is for sure—birds of prey are magnificent hunters that make a great addition to any landscape.

Liz Magnanti is manager of The Bird House in Brighton. 


Upstate Pairing: March-April 2018

by cathym on March 23, 2018


The Lucas Vineyards story begins in 1974 when Ruth Lucas and her family moved from the Bronx of New York City to a 60 acre farm in Interlaken, New York. Rooted in the family was a common dream of creating a successful family business through grape growing in the Finger Lakes region that was just starting to thrive.

For close to four decades the Lucas family has taken pride in the business of producing outstanding wines that have been an integral part of many celebrations and special times. At Lucas Vineyards, hard work and history are honored while improvements and innovative ideas are encouraged. Old and young vines, like family members and friends, come together to add depth and maturity while promoting growth and freshness. Come taste some of Lucas history and be part of our future.  — Lucas Vineyards

Pasta and Bean Salad with Lemon, Sage, and Walnut Dressing 

Pair with Lucas Butterfly white wine

 Yield: 6 servings

1 tbsp.parsley, chopped
½ cup red onion, diced
1 orange or yellow pepper, diced
1 (15 oz.) can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
8 oz. Ditalini pasta (½ box)

¾ cup walnuts
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tbsp. fresh sage (approx. 20 leaves)
½ cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cracked black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange walnuts in single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in oven for 8 minutes. Allow to cool. Rough chop.

2. Bring large pot of water to boil and cook pasta until el dente. Drain, rinse and cool.

3. In large bowl, combine pasta, red onion, beans, pepper and parsley.

4. In food processor combine dressing ingredients. Pulse until well combined and sage and walnuts are finely chopped, about 30 seconds.

5. Just before serving, combine dressing into pasta mixture.

Note: If mixed too far in advance, the salad will absorb too much dressing and some browning will occur to the sage.)