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All posts for the month October, 2009

My name is John.  I am 90 years old, and I have been 90 for a long, long time.  I am by myself in my home, Cooch-Dayett Mill.  I have been here by myself, mostly on the third floor, since the 1980’s when the mill closed.  I witnessed the fires that struck the Mill in 1933 and 1916.   In fact, I was here when the Mill was built in 1838, although I was alive then.  My grandfather was alive when former Governor Sir William Keith owned this land, 666 acres south of Newark, in 1725.

 

 

 

The upper floors of Cooch Dayett Mill.

The upper floors of Cooch Dayett Mill.

I usually roam the mill after dark, and not once have I been interrupted in the past 25 years…until last Saturday night.  On this night, I was contacted by several groups of people in the mill.  They were asking me questions.  I answered. 

 

The strange wands they held I recognized from when my father found water in the backyard.  They were dousing rods.  The other equipment my visitors held, I did not recognize.  My how times have changed.

The strangers asked me to respond to their questions with the dousing rods.  Yes to cross them.  No to wave them back and forth.  “Is there someone here with us?”  they asked.  I responded by crossing the rods. “Are you a man?”  I crossed the rods again. “Will you speak with us tonight?”  Again, I crossed the rods.

 

 

 

After 25 years alone at night in the Mill, I finally had visitors.  I hate company.

After 25 years alone at night in the Mill, I finally had visitors. I hate company.

My visitors wanted to know if I could touch them.  I crossed the rods, then blew on either side of one visitor’s face.  This certainly surprised my visitor, and perhaps scared her.  The lights were off.  Yes, it scared her.  Good.

 

 

 

 

I made this mirror move back and forth ever so slightly.  Only one of my visitors noticed.

I made this mirror move back and forth ever so slightly. Only one of my visitors noticed.

To another who was wearing a fancy camera around his shoulder, I pulled on the strap.  This was in the basement of the mill, which is a dark, dank, old place.  Scary even in daylight.  This young man was not deterred, but I know he felt it.  I heard him whisper so to another.

 

At one point, I believe this person caught a photo of me in my orb form.  Some thought it was a dust particle in the flash.  No.  It was me.  In my orb form.  I sat on another man’s head while he tried to contact me with the dousing rods.  I lied to this man, saying I was a woman and wanted to talk.  Sometimes it is fun being a ghost!

 

 

 

Look at the man in the back right.  I was caught in my orb form on his head as he used the dousing rods to speak with me.

Look at the man in the back right. I was caught in my orb form on his head as he used the dousing rods to speak with me.

After midnight is when my fun really started.  I didn’t think they would realize it, but I moved an old nail several times in the dank basement.  Even I don’t like to go down there.  My visitors did in fact find that the nail was moved.  They placed it on a railing, and when they left the room, I moved it to the floor.  I did this multiple times, but it seemed to only amuse my visitors, not scare them. 

 

 

 

 

I was caught on camera again.  I like this corner of the Mill's first floor.  This is where I travel in my orb state.

I was caught on camera again. I like this corner of the Mill's first floor. This is where I travel in my orb state. You can see me against the dark wood to the left of the window.

My favorite place after midnight is the old sewing shop.  Many of my late-night visitors feared this room.  I am able to start a severe headache in certain people who enter.  Over the years, others who enter the room start crying for no reason.  I try to make anyone who enters the sewing shop feel horrible.  It works on some people.  Stay out.  This is my Mill! 

Story from John the ghost’s point of view on a recent Delaware Nature Society ghost tour of Cooch-Dayett Mill, run by Delaware Ghost Tours.  Join us next year if you dare!

By Michele Wales, Farm Program Coordinator

 The Spanish call it Azafran, to the French it is Safran, the Japanese named it Safuran, and the Portuguese identify it as Agafrao.  No matter how it is translated, saffron is the most exotic, mysterious and possibly the oldest spice used by man.  And it is growing at the Delaware Nature Society’s Coverdale Farm!

This beautiful fall-blooming crocus, crocus sativus, has found great fame through its three pollen receptors known as the stigma.   Saffron is the “empress of spice” boasting a trinity of actions: a colorant, a flavoring agent, and an aromatic.  The color of the scarlet red stigma (or threads) mellows to a gorgeous yellow as a natural dye and in culinary preparations; the flavor of the dried threads is vibrant, earthy, and metallic; the aroma is pungent and somewhat rosy. 

A Saffron flower spread open.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani

A saffron flower spread open. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Emerging from the garden soil in early-October, thin chive-like leaves, with a slight silvery streak down the center, fan out…to my ultimate delight.  From the first appearance, I count the plants daily to see how many have survived their summer hibernation.  Mid-October approaches and my heart quickens as I make my daily journey to the garden in hopes of feasting my eyes on the voluptuous purple petals and prized scarlet-red stigma.  Harvesting each morning of first bloom, I carefully pull the petals aside; follow the stigma to the pistil (which supports the stigma) and remove them at the base of the flower leaving the petals intact.  The threads are then taken to a dark, cool shelf where they are dried for approximately two days then jarred with a tight-fitting lid.  This yearly ritual takes place for about two weeks and leaves my finger slightly stained a pale yellow.  As winter arrives these lively green, silver-streaked leaves rest atop the straw, braving the chilly months.  As spring approaches and temperatures warm the leaves begin to yellow and by June the saffron bed appears vacant.  Below those prized corms rest, full of energy awaiting the cooling temperatures of October.

Michele Wales, DNS Farm Program Coordinator, poses with a blooming Saffron in her garden.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Michele Wales, DNS Farm Program Coordinator, poses with a blooming saffron in her garden. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Visit Coverdale Farm during Farm Fun Days which are Wednesdays from noon to 2:30 p.m. until November 18.  If you want to see Saffron in bloom, you’ve only got a few weeks left…and the blooms last just a single day.  For information on Farm Fun Days, visit www.delawarenaturesociety.org.

A Saffron flower open in it's natural state.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani

A saffron flower open in it's natural state. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

 Please enjoy a very seasonal recipe from the south-west of France:

 Pumpkin with SaffronRecipe taken from Goose Fat and Garlic by Jeanne Strang

 12 ounces of pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and deseeded

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon cornmeal

30 saffron threads, or ½ packet of powdered saffron infused in 1 tablespoon of hot milk

¼ cup of milk

Salt and pepper

 Coarsely chop the pumpkin or winter squash.  Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed casserole or pan, and let the pumpkin sweat in it until it turns translucent and soft.  Do not let the pumpkin fry; when it is soft enough; mash it with a wooden spoon in the pan until you have a coarse puree, then stir in the cornmeal and the saffron/milk infusion.  Blend in the additional milk, season with salt and pepper, and let it simmer together for 5 minutes.  You will find you have a beautiful gold-colored light puree with a delicate flavor.

Some information taken from The Essential Saffron Companion by John Humphries

By Helen Fischel, Associate Director, Education

Once the rain subsided last weekend, I ventured out to my Delaware Nature Society-certified backyard habitat to begin the fall clean-up.  I was surprised to find several trees that were rubbed by deer in the side yard. Ugly scars in vertical stripes adorned the trees. Since the damage was only done on one side of each of the trees, there is a good chance that they will survive.   I responded to this assault by sheathing the trees in wire caging, but the damage has been done and the cambium tissue was violated.

A White-tailed Deer buck in velvet.

A White-tailed Deer buck in velvet. Photo by Derek Stoner.

Bucks rub their antlers on the trunks of small trees in late summer to remove their velvet but this does not usually result in much damage to the tree.  During the autumn rut, Bucks rub trees to mark their territory and to practice sparring, which they will do in earnest with rival bucks.  This is when you will see that your backyard trees have been molested and mangled.  Small trees up to 3 or 4 inches in diameter truly are the White-tailed Deer punching bag. 

In order to prevent deer from rubbing your backyard trees, some homeowners spray the area with predator urine while others use solar-powered electric fences to deter encroachment.  My low-tech method was to whip out some chicken wire and garden fencing to protect the individual trees for now.  Hey deer…go pick on somebody else’s trees!

My trees were rubbed by the neighborhood bucks.  I responded by wrapping them with chicken wire and garden fencing.  Hey deer...go pick on someone else's trees!

My trees were rubbed by the neighborhood bucks. I responded by wrapping them with chicken wire and garden fencing. Hey deer...go pick on someone else's trees! Photo by Helen Fischel.

Resources: Tree Injury From Deer Antler Rubbing; Branden Schiess, Graduate Student
University of Idaho and Derek Stoner, Delaware Nature Society.

By John Harrod, Manager, Dupont Environmental Education Center
 
This past Thursday was a great fall day for an outing on the Christina River with a clear sky and a light breeze. On this day, the Delaware Nature Society led a late afternoon historic river cruise. Participants were treated to accounts of the river by Sally O’Byrne, DNS naturalist and co-author of Wilmington’s Waterfront.

 

Some happy boaters by John Harrod

Some happy boaters by John Harrod

Sally O’Byrne’s details of the waterfront’s history was extensive and informative, but as a summary,  it has a very rich industrial history that includes building the first iron hulled yacht to win the America’s Cup and making significant contributions to the navel efforts of WWII. 

Christina River ship building remnants by John Harrod

Christina River ship building remnants by John Harrod

Being on the water allowed us views not often seen riverfront including Swedes landing. I am going to let the photos do the rest of the talking. Enjoy the pictorial journey!
Swedes Landing by John Harrod

Swedes Landing by John Harrod

 

 

 

 

 

Christina landing by John Harrod

Christina landing by John Harrod

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boat at sunset by John Harrod

Boat at sunset by John Harrod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justison landing at dusk by John Harrod

Justison landing at dusk by John Harrod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like to spend some time on the  Christina River, DNS has a canoe trip this Saturday, October 31st that puts in the water near Churchman’s marsh and paddes down to the DuPont Environmental Education Center. For details visit: http://www.delawarenaturesociety.org/fp09_adult.html#deec.