Author: Kara Bonsack

Rineicha Otero in Colombia – Day 3

Monday 8/19/2013


The day has finally arrived; I was able to visit the San Jorge community. San Jorge is a community composed of displaced families. The community is comprised of 400 peoples, 125 being youth of diverse ages.  Ginna has been working with this community to empower the women and children economically. There are three lines to Ginna’s project Amarte (Women), Panita (Youth), and Historia (History of Community). Amarte focuses on the economic empowerment of the women in San Jorge. They have been receiving the support to become entrepreneurs of a community artisanal company. So far, they have created bracelets, bags (using recycled materials), and sandals.

During my visit, I was able to meet a group representing the National University of Colombia. The group was composed of students and professors of the school of business, focused in marketing. The marketing team is teaching the women how to use recycled materials for the packaging of the products.

The women are so proud of their work and put a lot of detail, care, and patience into each of the products made. “Quality versus quantity, and great customer service is the goal,” Doña Erminia states. “However, it is very important to understand that we are not looking for riches but for a better way of living”, she says.


San Jorge is such a giving and humble community. At lunchtime, they begin to gather spoons, plates, and cups from all of the houses in the community. They begin a community sancocho. Sancocho is a meat stew with plantains, cilantro, potato, and yucca. Delicious!

Everyone completed a task to make the amazing stew; some chopped cilantro, others peeled potatoes and plantains.  Once done, they mixed them into the large pot already placed on the high flame.

RO5After lunch, it was time to burn some calories. I prepared a team-building workshop for the youth of the community. It was a diverse age group, and once the balloons came out, I had their attention. I went prepared with the expectation that the children would learn from me, but I was so wrong. I learned so much from observing their interactions and listening to their conversations. I asked what they had learned, and they spoke about leadership, communication, and the importance of working together to achieve the task at hand. It was very rewarding to work with such a wonderful group.

RO6I learned so much about this community. The people that make up the community are resilient, unique, rich in culture, warm, and welcoming. This community hopes to be the model for other displaced communities in the country. Sustainability is the mission for the community, and all are working strongly towards accomplishing their hopes.

A New Pear Disease in Connecticut

By Joan Allen

Pear trellis rust is a new disease of pear and juniper in Connecticut this season.  The fungus that causes pear trellis rust is Gymnosporangium sabinae.  It requires two unrelated host plants, pear and juniper, to complete its life cycle.   This disease is common in Europe and has been present for some time in parts of Canada including British Columbia and Ontario. In the United States, it was reported in California and Washington by 1997 and in Michigan in 2009.  Symptoms of pear trellis rust were observed on pear in southeastern New York from 2009 to 2011.  It was confirmed to be pear trellis rust in 2011. Pear trellis rust was identified in Fairfield County, Connecticut in 2012.

Photo: Cornell Extension

Both ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana) and edible fruit pear (Pyrus communis) are susceptible.  Pear trees sustain more damage and have much more obvious symptoms than the junipers.   In the spring, spores are produced in orange gelatinous masses on galls on the juniper host.  These spores infect newly expanding pear leaves.  Young fruit and twigs can also be infected.

Symptoms on pear begin as yellow to orange spots on the leaves.  Spots may enlarge and become bright orange-red during the summer.   By midsummer, tiny black pimple-like dots will appear in the center of the spots on the upper surface of the leaf.  In late summer, brown blister-like swellings will appear on the lower leaf surface just below these.   Acorn-shaped fruiting bodies called aecia arise from these swellings.  The sides of the aecia split open forming a trellis-like structure that gives this disease its common name.  Spores (aeciospores) from the aecia are released until leaf drop and cause new infections on susceptible junipers.  Juniper twig infections result in small, spindle-shaped galls that often cause little damage to the juniper.  Galls produce gelatinous masses of spores each spring for several years beginning the second spring after infection and these spores infect pear, completing the life cycle.

Photo: Joan Allen

The most effect management tool for pear trellis rust is to avoid growing pear and susceptible juniper near each other.  References suggest a spacing ranging from 100 feet to 1000 feet.   The greater the space, the fewer spores will reach the alternate host, reducing severity of disease.  In the landscape, if juniper will be added where there are existing pear trees, choose a resistant juniper species.  Those that are resistant include Juniperus squamata, J. horizontalis and J. communis.

In addition to plant spacing, infected plant parts can be removed before spores are produced that will spread to the alternate host. To protect pear trees, juniper galls should be pruned out before April 1st.   To prevent or reduce infection of juniper, remove infected leaves, fruit and twigs from pear by mid August.  This will be impractical on a large or heavily infected tree.   Severely infected pear trees may develop galls at the base of twigs that can serve as an additional overwintering site for the fungus and these should be pruned out.   Fungicides are not specifically labeled for this disease.  Those labeled for rust diseases in general on pear or fruit trees may offer some protection.  When using pesticides, always read and follow the label instructions carefully.

10 Tips for the September Gardener

  1. Mid to late September is a great time to plant accent plants, like mums and asters, that will provide autumn colors in the landscape.
  2. Rake up leaves, twigs, and fruit from crabapple trees and throw them in the garbage to help control apple scab disease.
  3. Wood ashes contain potassium and calcium and can be used as a limestone substitute in vegetable and flowerbeds if the soil pH needs to be raised and these nutrients are recommended.
  4. Watch for frost warnings and cover tender plants.
  5. Wait until after a light frost to harvest peas, cabbage and beets from your fall garden to obtain the best flavor.
  6. Early fall is a good time to plant trees and shrubs and allows time for the root systems to get established before the ground freezes.
  7. Continue weeding garden and shrub beds.
  8. Continue to re-seed bare patches on your lawn and prepare the ground for sowing a new lawn, while the earth is still warm.
  9. Take cuttings of begonias, geraniums, coleus, etc. to grow as houseplants.
  10. Stop by Cornucopia Fest at UConn-Storrs on September 29th from 11 to 4 with 1⁄2 cup of soil for a free 
pH test, free “UConn Compost Tea’ bags and for answers to your gardening questions.


Rineicha Otero in Colombia – Day 2

Sunday 8/18/2013

RO1I wake to find another gorgeous day in Cali. The clear skies and fresh air made it for a great day to have a walking tour. Ginna and I walk over to a near by lake known as Humedal El Cisne La Babilla Tomasa, where you can sit and feed the ducks or simply enjoy a good book. I watched families take strolls and ride their bicycles on this early Sunday morning. Families rode their bicycles on the road, since some of the roads were closed every Sunday for physical activity.

We later joined our friend, Cesar, in Colseguros, his hometown, where the homes were decorated with marble tiles, smooth stones, and large window openings with railing, instead of glass. The living room area has constant fresh air coming through, rain or shine. His home was decorated with artwork created by his family—once again, echoing the creativity of the Colombian people. The artwork focused on religious interpretations, objects, and nature; they were breathtaking.


At about 1 p.m., we visited Alameda where the “Galleria del Mercado” buzzed with shoppers. There were fruit, vegetable, meat, poultry and flower stands.  As we walked around, vendors would scream out “a su orden,” as you order.  We purchased some ingredients for lunch.

We later walked to “La Loma de la Cruz,” known for its steep hills and beautiful views of the city. La Loma led to San Calletano, where you can see colonial homes. We then moved on to San Antonio, a barrio that has conserved its traditions. The San Antonio Church reflected a typical barrio and Sunday afternoon.


Today I had the opportunity to experience Cali as a local would. I walked and ate my way through the city. I can totally get used to this!

5 Tips for a Successful Home Canning Season

Photo: PSU Extension
  1. Start with a research-tested recipe. Just because a recipe is in print, doesn’t mean it’s safe for you and your family. Start with a recipe that has been tested to make sure that the product is safe and high quality. A great place to begin is with the recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation Some states, such as Wisconsin, have recipe books that have been developed to ensure safe canning no matter where you live in the state:
  2. Use recipes that are up to date. We all want to continue with those tried-and-true recipes, but canning recommendations have changed dramatically over the last 15 years. If you are using recipes that date before 1994, then it’s a good idea to set those aside and find an up-to-date recipe that has been tested for safety.
  3. Start with equipment in good working order. A boiling water canner should have a flat bottom, so that it fits nicely on the stove top, and a tight-fitting lid. A pressure canner will have either a dial- gauge or a weighted gauge. Dial gauge canners should be tested every year for accuracy. Most county extension offices will test dial gauge canners for free! (This is certainly true in Wisconsin.) If you have a Presto dial gauge canner, contact the company if your county extension office does not offer this serve – 715-839-2232. Replace canner gaskets every 2-3 years. At this time, a steam canners is not recommended as a replacement for a boiling water canner. There is information to help you successful use your pressure canner: Using Pressure Canners one final note on canners, don’t use a pressure cooker, sometimes called a pressure saucepan, as a pressure canner. A pressure canner holds a minimum of 4-quart jars and has a pressure regulator capable of measuring up to 15 pounds of pressure.
  4. Assemble jars and other items. Use only standard home canning jars, not old mayonnaise jars, and check these to make sure they are not chipped or cracked. Always use 2-piece lids; purchase lids new each year (the sealing compound will break down on storage) and sort through screw bands to make sure they are not rusted. It’s fine to reuse canning jars, as long as they are not chipped or cracked. Garage sales can be great places to locate used canning jars, just make sure they were designed for canning. Other items that come in handy for home canning include jar fillers, tongs, and lid wands.
  5. Leave your creativity behind! Home canning is one area where being creative can lead to food safety disasters. So begin with an up-to-date, research-tested recipe and carefully follow the directions. Don’t make ingredient substitutions, unless they are allowed, and follow the recipe directions through all the steps. Don’t substitute dishwasher canning, oven canning, or open-kettle canning for an approved canning method – boiling water canning or pressure canning.

And remember, at the end of the day, a sealed canning jar does not indicate that the food inside is safe. A sealed jar simply means that the jar is sealed. You can do a lot of things wrong and still get a jar to seal! Follow these easy steps for safely preserving your garden’s bounty to enjoy all year round.

B. Ingham, May 2011, Wisconsin Extension

For additional information visit USDA’s National Center for Home Food Preservation.

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Get a Look at Late Summer Tree Fruit

By Carol Quish

Most of us know the normal tree fruits we commonly eat this time of year; apple, peaches, plums, even the more unusual quince and pawpaw. Most trees produce seeds to reproduce. Some seeds are housed in unusual wrappings. Take a photo trip through this blog to view uncommon and perhaps under appreciated seed vessels of Connecticut trees.

    Cornus kousa fruit – photo by Pamm Cooper
Baldcypress cone Quish
Baldcypress cone – photo by Carol Quish
Horse Chestnut – photo by Pamm Cooper
Turkey Oak Acorn – photo by Pamm Cooper
magnolia seed pod quish
Magnolia Seed Pod – photo by Carol Quish
Pawpaw Fruit – photo by USDA Agricultural Research Service













Cloud Watching

I am amazed at just how often I check the sky to see what the weather will be for the next while. I know some people check the weather channel or local news channels to see what the weather people are forecasting, but I look to the sky. After so many decades of turning my eyes to the skies to see what is happening overhead, the observations have taught me what ‘reading the sky’ really means.
Blue sky with not a cloud in sight foretells a beautiful day with no rain. Gray sky usually means rain. Hazy sky says hot, humid weather and possibly thunderstorms. Dark sky brings a much higher chances of precipitation. Clouds are condensation which is the process of a gas or vapor changing to a liquid, water in this case. They contain minute water droplets floating in large congregations through the atmosphere. If the temperatures are below freezing higher up, the water freezes to become snow or sleet.
When clouds do appear, they can take different forms. There are four main categories of clouds:
Cumulus, which in Latin means heap. These are the big fluffy, white clouds that usually mean fair weather. These are the lowest clouds floating from the surface of the earth to about 6,500 feet high. If cumulus clouds grow vertically, they can turn into thunderstorm clouds.

Cumulus Cloud, by Pamm Cooper

Cumulus Cloud, by Pamm Cooper

Cirrus, means curl of hair in Latin. These are the high, wispy clouds above 18,000 feet.

Stratus means layer in Latin. Stratus clouds are layer, appearing from the ground up to 20,000 feet. Stratus clouds make the sky look gray causing steady rain or snow fall.

Stratus Cloud,

Stratus Cloud,

Nimbus are rain or snow clouds in Latin.

Nimbus Cloud,

Nimbus Cloud,

Fog is a cloud that forms on the ground, reducing visibility and raising humidity levels.

Fog Cloud,

Fog Cloud,

And then there are the fun games you can play just watching clouds, and seeing pictures in the shapes. When is the last time you laid in grass on your back and saw a bunny in the sky?

bunny cloud,

-Written by Carol Quish for UConn Extension

Wild Morning Glory

The showy white or light pink, funnel-shaped flowers of the wild morning glory are abundant along roadsides right now. Maybe, like me, you think to yourself as you’re driving around or on a walk, “I’d like to find out what kind of wildflower or plant that is when I get home” and then later forget about it until you see them again.   So, here to help you with at least one of those flowers, I will provide some information on this pretty native wildflower.

The scientific name is Calystegia sepium.  This comes from the Greek kalu “cup” and stegos “a covering” for the genus name Calystegia and sepium means “of hedges” or “of fences”, because of its climbing tendencies.   In addition to wild morning glory, the plant has some fun and interesting common names including old man’s cap, devil’s guts, bride’s gown, white witches’ hat, Rutland beauty, great bindweed and hedge bindweed.    It is a member of the Convolvulaceae, the morning glory family.

This plant is easy to grow and becomes aggressive at times, covering other plant to the point of killing them.  The vine of the wild morning glory twines around slender stems and objects in a counter-clockwise direction.  Darwin described this plant and patiently (I’m guessing) observed that the plant made two revolutions around another stem (size unspecified) every 1 hour and 42 minutes.  He even noted that completing the semi-circle moving away from the sun took 14 minutes longer than the semi-circle of growth moving toward the sun!

Wild morning glory vine growing over a shrubby plant.  Note the distinctive shape of the leaves. J. Allen photo.

Some identifying characteristics:  This herbaceous perennial vine grows up to about 3-10 feet in length and branches freely.  It can form tangled masses on structures and other plants or just freely grow along the ground.  Stems are reported as being either hairless or with hairs.  Young vines may have a red tinge to them.  Leaves are shaped like an arrowhead.  They, like the stems, may or may not have hairs on both the upper and lower surfaces.  The tips are pointed.  The leaves are about 2-4” long.  The base of the leaf is distinctly angular with lobes described as resembling dog’s ears in shape.   Flowers are produced singly and have fused white to light pink petals, forming a funnel shape.  Two large green bracts are present on the base of the flower, both in the bud stage and after the flower opens (visible at base of buds in the photo below).  Individual flowers are only open for one day.  Flowers are present in the northeast from mid-May through September.  Two to four seeds are produced in a capsule.  The dark brown seeds are shaped like little orange segments and can survive for up to 30 years.

Flower of the wild morning glory, Calystegia sepium.

Flower of the wild morning glory, Calystegia sepium.

This plant can be confused with other vines, especially field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis).  Field bindweed has smaller leaves that have a more rounded tip and bases that are rounded or pointed, but not cut off squarely like the ‘dog ears’ of wild morning glory.

While this plant is attractive, it is aggressive enough to be designated a noxious weed in some states.  It is not listed as noxious in Connecticut.  If you have a problem with the vines and need advice on how to get rid of it, the best method is just hand pulling.  This will require persistence because new plants can grow from the rhizomes which tend to be shallow but can reach 10 feet in length.  And, as mentioned above, seed can survive for up to 30 years.   A study (done in a greenhouse) reported in 1974 that wild morning glory had allelopathic tendencies, meaning that exudates from the roots inhibited the growth of other plants.   This would help explain its ability to ‘take over’.   Another, more labor intensive tactic that is reported to kill the vines is to unwind them and rewind around the stem or support in the opposite (clockwise) direction.

A number of insects visit the flowers for nectar and act as pollinators.  These include long-tongued bees such as bumblebees, little carpenter bees, mallow bee, squash & gourd bee, and the morning glory bee.  Day-flying sphinx moths may visit the flowers in the morning.  One reference mentions Syrphid flies as well.  It is thought that the flowers on the same vine are self infertile.  In a study in Japan, it was found that all the pollen was gone by noon.  The leaves are eaten by the caterpillar of the common plume moth (Emmelina monodictyla) and by several tortoise beetles.  This plant is not favored by mammalian herbivores.  The bobwhite and ring-necked pheasant eat the seeds some.

The stalks and shoots are reported to be edible and to have a sweet taste after being washed and steamed.  They should not be eaten in large quantities because of a purgative effect. Wild morning glory has been used in traditional medicines as a diuretic.   The seeds are toxic in large quantities and the roots are somewhat toxic to pigs but the pigs eat them anyway without having serious trouble.

Trees in Bushnell Park

sweet gum tree
Sweet gum looking up the trunk toward the canopy. Photo copyright 2013 Pamm Cooper

I recently went to Bushnell Park for the first time in my life and was glad I tagged along. My favorite plants since childhood are trees, especially the kinds you can climb up into and take a seat on a limb broad enough to provide a comfortable seat so you can view the world around you from a different prospective. It was while quietly sitting im trees that I first encountered many birds at close range, such as cedar waxwings, that don’t seem to mind being close to you if you are still and seem to be a part of the tree.

Bushnell Park, the oldest publicly funded park in the United States, was named for the Reverend Horace Bushnell, who conceived the idea of an open space in Hartford that would be available for people to enjoy free of charge. His good friend was the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who was involved in the designs for both Central Park in New York City and Forest Park in Massachusetts at the time but recommended Horace consult his Swiss- born counterpart, Jacob Weidenmann, who was also a botanist. Weidenmann became the first superintendent of parks in Hartford, and not only designed Bushnell Park, but also Cedar Hill Cemetery on Fairfield Avenue. Both of these parks are dotted with many notable trees, including those considered state champions.

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