Q: I came across some interesting stamps. They are larger than regular postage stamps and bear these words: "Georgia Inspection Tax. 100 pounds. Feed Stuff. This stamp must be attached to the Guaranteed Analysis. One Cent." They also have the signature of "T. G. Hudson, Comm. of Agriculture" printed on them. Can you tell me anything about these stamps?
A: The stamps you found are a little piece of Georgia agricultural history. T.G. Hudson was our fifth commissioner of agriculture. He was in office from 1905 to 1912. The stamps are classified as “revenue stamps” by philatelists (stamp collectors). Revenue stamps are issued by state or by federal governments or agencies to show taxes or fees have been paid on legal transactions or on various items, especially tobacco and alcohol. They also may show, as yours do, that inspections have been paid for. In the past, the Georgia Department of Agriculture issued different revenue stamps including ones to show that payments had been paid for inspections of animal feed, insecticides or fungicides, eggs and “oleomargarine.”
For general information about revenue stamps check out this website: www.revenue-collector.com. To see other revenue stamps and to get a feel for the value and variety of these stamps, here is a link to Eric Jackson Revenue Stamps of Leesport, Pennsylvania, a revenue stamp dealer: www.ericjackson.com. Prices depend on rarity, condition, and what a collector is willing to pay.
Q: Do we raise any poinsettias commercially in Georgia?
A: We currently produce about half a million poinsettias annually in Georgia. Many of the poinsettias sold in Georgia come from other states.
Q: Do pecan halves stored in the freezer need to be thawed or brought to room temperature before using?
A: You can use them (or eat them) straight from the freezer.
Q: What are some evergreen trees and shrubs I can grow that can be used in making wreaths and decorating the windows inside the church?
A: Georgia winter gardens may make Northern gardeners “evergreen with envy.” You have many choices. Here are a few: pines, Southern magnolia, red cedar, junipers, deodar cedar, Arizona cypress, arborvitae, rosemary, yew, boxwoods, bay, English laurel, hollies, osmanthus, Leyland cypress, China fir and Norway spruce. Light or moderate judicious pruning of these in the winter will not harm them. However, be careful not to destroy the shape of the trees and shrubs, especially conifers. Variegated and gold-leaved varieties will add brightness for your decorating.
You can also decorate your wreaths and windows in the Della Robbia style with seed pods and fruits from your garden such as pine cones, seed pods of Southern magnolia, lotus seed pods, pomegranates, apples, crabapples, trifoliate orange, sumac, pyracantha, nandina and hawthorn.
Muscadine vines make good wreaths. They are pruned in late winter or early spring and fashioned into wreaths at that time and saved until Christmas.
Q: Are pop-up timers in poultry reliable as an indication of safe internal temperatures?
A: The pop-up timer is an indicator device that pops up when a specific temperature has been reached, not necessarily when the bird has been fully cooked. The pop-up timer helps provide an indication of when to actually start verifying the product's internal temperature, instead of conducting temperature checks before they are necessary. Checking the internal temperature of the food with a conventional food thermometer is recommended. Poultry should be heated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. for 15 seconds.
Q: What is a ‘Carolina Sapphire’ tree? I saw it mentioned many times on Christmas tree growers’ lists.
A: ‘Carolina Sapphire’ is a variety of Arizona cypress. It is popular with Georgia Christmas tree growers because it performs well in our soils and climate, and is popular with Christmas tree buyers because of its beauty, durability and versatility. As its name suggests, its needles are silvery blue. It has a nice fragrance.
Georgia Christmas tree farms grow numerous species and varieties of trees. Eighty-three farms from 56 Georgia counties are represented in the current list in the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin. Among their offerings are white pine, Virginia pine, Leyland cypress including ‘Naylor’s Blue,’ ‘Murray’ and ‘Silver Dust’ varieties, Arizona cypress including ‘Carolina Sapphire’ and ‘Blue Ice’ varieties, red cedar, Scotch pine, Norway spruce and Fraser fir.
Georgia Christmas tree growers do an excellent job producing beautiful Christmas trees and the happy memories that come with them. Besides the cut-your-own option, some growers have trees already cut or trees you can plant in your yard after the holiday.
If you are not a Market Bulletin subscriber, you can view the list of Christmas tree farms by visiting the website of the Georgia Department of Agriculture at www.agr.georgia.gov. Click on “Market Bulletin” and then click “Articles of Interest.” You may also wish to visit the website of the Georgia Christmas Tree Growers Association at www.gacta.com to learn more about the many growers in Georgia.
Q: What are winter squash? Do they grow in the winter?
A: Winter squash is a term used for various squashes that are harvested and eaten when they are mature instead of when they are young and tender. Winter squash will store for a long time into or even through the winter, hence the name. Different types of winter squash include butternut, buttercup, acorn, kabocha and spaghetti. Winter squash grow in the summer and are cultivated like summer squash such as yellow crookneck, pattypan or zucchini types. Depending on the type, winter squash can be used in various ways from roasting to baking to making soups.
Q: Can pecans be frozen? I was given a gallon of shelled pecans and want to keep them fresh.
A: Freezing is one of the best ways to store pecans. Put them in an airtight freezer bag or other container. They will keep for up to two years in the freezer.
Q: I was heavy-handed when I sowed my radish seeds. Now the seedlings are too thick to properly develop. When I try to thin them, I disturb and pull up more plants than I want to. How can I thin them without doing more damage than good?
A: Try thinning the crowded seedlings by using a sharp pair of pointed scissors. Snip the unwanted seedlings at the soil line. This will provide room for the remaining seedlings to grow and not damage the developing roots. You don’t need to throw the snipped seedlings on the compost pile, however. Wash them and put them in a salad. This same “snip to thin” method can be used on carrots and other crops.
Q: I want to give a gift basket of Georgia foods for Christmas. Do you have any suggestions about what is in season or what is possible? I do not want anything that requires refrigeration as I will be traveling several hours to deliver it.
A: What a great idea! Besides fruits, vegetables and nuts grown here in Georgia, there are many fine food products made with what we grow. Here are some suggestions of some Georgia products you can assemble for a colorful, tasty, useful gift that is sure to be appreciated: apples, winter squash, sweet potatoes, peanuts, pecans, jellies (especially Georgia favorites such as muscadine and mayhaw), jams, pickles, jerky, sorghum, honey, granola, flavored salt, cider, wine, olive oil, grits, corn meal, barbecue sauces, salsa, candies, cookies, cakes and fruitcakes. Many crops such as peaches, blueberries and Vidalia onions are not in season now, but there are numerous products such as syrups, jellies and relishes made with them and that make excellent gifts. Although we don’t grow coffee here, there are coffee roasters in Georgia. For more ideas, visit your local farmers market or www.georgiagrown.com where you can also find Georgia Grown caps and T-shirts.
Q: What are some good holiday potted plants for decorating besides poinsettias? I want to try something different this year.
A: Consider these options for winter blooms: Christmas cactus, florist cyclamen, white phalaenopsis orchid, heather, kalanchoe, paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) and amaryllis. Some florists or garden centers may have forced azaleas. Although they are not in bloom, pots of rosemary shaped into cones or spirals are attractive. You may also find some potted hollies with berries or variegated leaves. Norfolk Island pine is a popular houseplant Christmas tree that is easy to grow.
However, don’t write off poinsettias without seeing some of the newer and more unusual varieties. If you think of poinsettias as only red, there are many more colors and forms available now including pink, hot pink, salmon, white or cream and some that could be described as orange. Some are speckled or marbled or have other patterns on their bracts (the colorful structures that look like petals.) A few even have variegated leaves. Some have serrated bracts that resemble a coleus or curled bracts that make the poinsettia look like a giant rose or chrysanthemum.
Q: When will the Christmas tree list appear in the Market Bulletin?
A: The list of Georgia farms where you can purchase your Christmas tree will be published in the November 14th issue of the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin. This year there are more than 80 growers listed. Look for the list and the accompanying article in your Market Bulletin or online at www.agr.georgia.gov. For more information about Georgia Christmas trees, visit the Georgia Christmas Tree Association at www.gacta.com.
Q: I need an easy recipe for baking apples. What apple varieties are best?
A: Baked apples are one of the simplest desserts/side dishes. Core or slice apples in half. Add a drizzle of honey or some brown sugar, dabs of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg and bake at 350° F. for about 20 minutes or until soft.
A few varieties recommended for baking include Arkansas Black, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Jonathon, Limbertwig, Albemarle Pippin, Stayman Winesap, York Imperial, Detroit Red and Ozark Gold. The farmer at a Georgia orchard or farmers market may offer more suggestions for their best varieties for baking.
You may want to visit a kitchen store to look at some apple cookers – specially made pottery bowls that enable you to cook individual apples in the same dish you serve them in. They make for easy cleanup and an attractive presentation. There are even some microwave cookers.
Q: Will keeping my hummingbird feeder up late in the fall prevent hummingbirds from migrating?
A: You will not keep hummingbirds from migrating by leaving your feeders out. Their schedule is determined by day length, not food supply. As the days get shorter in the fall, the birds begin to leave for their wintering grounds.
While the ruby-throated hummingbird (the only species of hummingbird that nests in Georgia) arrives in the spring and departs in the fall, ornithologists and amateur hummingbird researchers have discovered that other species sometimes spend the fall and winter in Georgia. These hummers could benefit from having a feeder. Wildlife experts now are telling hummingbird lovers they can keep their feeders up all year to increase their chances of seeing one of these rare fall-winter visitors. Some of these include the rufous, calliope, black-chinned and broad-tailed hummingbirds. However, as with any bird feeder, if you begin feeding please continue throughout the winter and keep the feeder clean.
You can also increase your chances of seeing one of these rarer species by planting some long-blooming, fall-blooming and winter-blooming plants that are hummingbird favorites. Here are a few: pineapple sage (Salvia rutilans), Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii), autumn sage (Salvia greggii), topical sage (Salvia coccinea), Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), hybrid coral bean (Erythrina x bidwillii), anise-scented salvia (Salvia guaranitica), rosemary, winter jasmine, witch-hazels and single-flowered varieties camellias (Camellia japonica) and sasanquas (Camellia sasanqua) such as ‘Yuletide’ and ‘Apple Blossom.’
With a combination of evergreen trees and shrubs to provide cover and protection, flowers, feeders and luck, you may have some fall and winter hummingbird visitors.
Q: Someone gave me a dogwood tree. Can I plant it now?
A: Yes, you can and you should plant it now. With the soil still warm enough to allow root growth and the cool air temperatures discouraging top growth, a tree planted in the fall is better established when summer’s heat and drought arrive than its spring-planted counterparts. You might say that a fall-planted tree receives a better foundation. Indeed, fall is the best time to plant most trees, shrubs and perennials in Georgia.
Q: Should I sell the timber on my farm on a "per ton" basis or "lump-sum" up front?
A: Here is some advice from the Georgia Forestry Commission: Lump-sum sales are best suited for mature timber sales that are either clear cut or marked select harvests. Successful lump-sum sales are usually quality timber sales that are in relatively short supply and that usually involve lengthy cutting periods of at least one year. Plantation first thinnings are not very suitable for lump-sum sales, and are customarily sold "per ton." Other common "per ton" sales are low volume and/or low value and/or poor quality sales, sales with short cutting periods and operator select thinning sales. Per ton sales can be sold through negotiations or by sealed bid, and lump-sum sales are often sold through a sealed bid process. It is advisable to interview a few consulting foresters, and hire one of them to assist you with the sale process. If you sell directly to a timber buyer, request bids from multiple area timber buyers. No matter whom you deal with, thoroughly check references and verify their liability insurance coverage. Also, do not make your decisions solely on the consultant’s fee or the buyer’s price; you should consider who you feel will deliver the best work quality and service.
Q: How can I disinfect cotton dishcloths I use in my home kitchen?
A: Wash dishcloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine to keep them from becoming potential sources of bacteria.
Q: Is it possible to use sheared white pine as a hedge?
A: Most people never think of pines when considering plants to use for hedges. The white pine (Pinus strobus) gives a different texture and color to enjoy than standard broadleaf hedges. Generally, one shearing a year when the new growth is about half expanded in the spring will be adequate to keep the hedge shaped. White pines would really only perform all right in north Georgia, however. A better choice for all of Georgia would be the Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana), also known as the scrub or poverty pine. Its needles are shorter and darker green than those of white pine, and it has fewer problems with root rots.