Remembering Extinct Humans

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

As the forty-third anniversary of the first Earth Day approaches, I’ve been thinking about endangered species – those species on the brink of becoming extinct. Extinct. Such a final word we apply to the animal kingdom.

But did you know there’s a group of humans who lived in north Florida who became extinct in a mere 200 years? It’s true. The disappearance of an entire nation of people could be a story from the pages of a science fiction book. However, in the case of the Timucua, the story leaps from the pages of history.

When the Spanish landed near St. Augustine, Florida, in the sixteenth century, the Tumucua occupied several hundred villages in one-third of Florida. Most historians agree they lived from St. Augustine to west of Tallahassee, and south to Tampa Bay. Much of what we do know about this group of Native Americans comes from Fr. Francisco Pareja, a Franciscan priest who served at a mission north of Jacksonville. Some estimates put the Timucua population at 100,000 in 1500 A.D., according to Florida’s First People by Robin Brown.

However, by “1800 A.D. all aboriginal Floridians were gone,” Brown states.

The artist, Jacques Le Moyne, left behind his renderings of the physical description of the Timucua, which actually consisted of many different factions, according to Lars Anderson’s book, Paynes Prairie. However, from the paintings and drawings and written descriptions a common picture emerges of a people who no longer exist.

Accounts show the Timucua to be tall and sturdy. The women wore their hair straight, but the men drew their hair up into knots on the top of the head. Anderson writes, “This was considered not only attractive but also a handy place for the warriors to stick their arrows for quick access during battle.”Timucuan

A striking feature of the Timucua comes from the scratches or tattoos etched over the entire body of the male. Le Moyne’s paintings depicted a male warrior’s body covered with pricks in the skin made with a sharp point.

Despite their ability to withstand such a tortuous practice as poking holes in the body, the Timucua could not withstand the onslaught of the European invasion and the disease it brought.

Within 200 years of the Spanish explorations into northeast Florida, the last vestige of the Timucua strain had vanished. Some folks suspect the few remaining by 1763, the year the Spanish turned over Florida to the English, fled the state for Cuba.

Thanks to the writings and artistic renderings, the history books can recount the lives of the original Floridians whose name most likely meant “enemy.” When the Spanish asked about this tribe of tattooed natives, another group of Native Americans used the word Timucua, which may have meant “enemy” to describe the large group of people who spoke the same language but had separate tribes. The Potano and Utina tribes of Timucua were the most prominent ones.

Excavations by archaeologist Brent Weisman in 1989, showed remains of the mission, San Martin de Timucua near the settlement of Aguacaleyquen located near the banks of Mission Springs on the Ichetucknee River in 1608. Historians believe the Timucuans living near there helped build the mission at the spring.

To the Spanish, they may have represented the enemy, but to the Catholic priests who arrived to set up missions, evidence points to a more friendly relationship, which has left at least some form of a legacy of those who live here now.

I’ve always been intrigued to think a whole body of people could simply disappear. In the novel I’m currently writing, I’m dabbling with the possibility they didn’t disappear, but went underground in the Everglades, watching and waiting for the right moment to emerge. Here’s an excerpt from the first draft of Safe Harbors when one of the main characters discovers a familiar tattoo on two teenagers she meets on the beach when she comes to inspect a dead sea turtle (yes, I’m writing about sea turtles again – and panthers, alligators, and pythons – oh my!).

“Barbara, this is Sam McDonald and his sister Lori,” Jack said. “Their stepfather is Eric Dimsdale, another county commissioner.”

“Nice to meet you,” Barbara said as she shook both of their hands. “Daniel spoke of your stepfather several times.”

Barbara walked closer to the nest to inspect its size. She glanced back at the three young people now sitting on a blanket nearby. Sam turned toward her with his swimming trunks hiked up high on his thighs. She noticed the tattoo immediately. Her eyes drifted to Lori who sat facing the ocean, her bare back to Barbara exposing a similar tattoo.

“Are your tattoos identical?” Barbara asked.

“Lori’s has a female protector over the heart. That’s the only difference,” Sam said.

“Our mom has one identical to mine,” Lori said. “She said it was a tradition in her family.”

“What about your father? Does he have one?” Barbara asked.

“He died when we were young,” Sam said. “We don’t remember him.”

Barbara asked no more questions, but as the rest continued talking about protecting the sea turtle nest, Barbara wondered how old Mike’s lost children might be.

Mangrove Mike did not speak of years and dates. He was the age of the seasons that ruled the moments of his life.

He often said life had no beginning; life had no end. It only existed now.

“I’d like to meet your mother,” Barbara said to the tattooed siblings.


Garden Odds and Ends

First signs of spring

First signs of spring

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

It’s been a long winter, which makes us all the more appreciative of all the signs of spring. These daffodils came out last week, and then were beaten down by a ferocious rainstorm within the first day of blooming. But with a little sun and some warmer temps, they rebounded in a yellow bursts of hope.

peas reach for the sky

peas reach for the sky

The peas are growing steadily. The other plantings are also starting to show themselves, while others wait for their time in the soil.



A Note on Raised-bed Gardening

Excerpt From Seed to Table (to be released in May 2013)

S2T-6Robert has been gardening using the raised bed method for several decades. I’ve come to appreciate its benefits as well. He rakes the soil into eight-inch mounds in three- to four-foot wide rows. He forms the raised bed from soil raked into a mound. The space left forms the paths between the raised beds and is an excellent place for mulch application.

The mulch we place on the garden serves as its own compost bin. We use straw from a local farm – we buy six-eight bales total in summer and fall. They cost approximately $6 each. I use them as decorative items in the yard until Robert’s ready to pull them apart for use as mulch. We also use mushroom manure, grass clippings from our lawn, leaves from our trees, compost from the bin, plants that have bolted, remains of vegetables, such as cornhusks, pea pods, or bean ends and strings. This material goes into the valleys between the raised beds to form a path between rows. It’s very easy to reach all the plants in our garden from the mulched paths without walking on the beds.

When we first married, I was cautious about going into Robert’s sanctuary because I didn’t want to do something wrong or step on anything. After the first year of working with him in the garden, I realized his way of laying out the garden made it extremely friendly for me to go out and pick vegetables. Also with the heavy layers of mulch between the rows, there’s very little weeding to do in the garden.

Raised bed gardening provides several benefits over regular garden beds. Because the plants are above the ground, drainage from the beds is very good. It also helps in aeration of the soil and the plant’s roots. It increases the depth of the bed. And my personal favorite, it provides excellent demarcation of the plants and the walking paths.

raised beds

raised beds

Great News as Earth Day Anniversary Approaches

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Environmental stories usually leave me frustrated and disappointed – with both sides. But not today. Finally, I read something that gives me hope for civil discourse in this country on the issues that matter most. If we’re all shouting at one another to make our point, who’s listening?

In western Pennsylvania, where fracking for natural gas is becoming commonplace, a group has formed to help raise the standards of the fracking industry so the practice is sustainable and safe for humans and the environment.

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development, formed on March 20, is comprised of a combo of representatives from energy companies vested in fracking and representatives from environmental groups dedicated to safe practices. Their goal is to adopt higher performance standards for fracking companies in the areas of air quality, water resources, and climate. Folks from Consol Energy, Chevron, and Shell are sitting at the same table with members of the Clean Air Task Force and the Group Against Smog and Pollution. Even better than sitting down together – they’re getting something done without shouting.

By September, they will begin certifying companies following exemplary practices. The certification will be a badge worn by companies to show they are practicing safe and sustainable methods of fracking. So if a company comes knocking on your door offering you a lifetime of riches for drilling on your property, you can ask for their CSSD badge. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the “CSSD endorsement will be similar to the LEED certification given to energy-efficient buildings.”

I love it when we participate in civil discourse, particularly in areas of great diversity of opinion. I applaud both sides for coming together to find a way to get natural gas out of the ground without wrecking our water and future.

I hope this group can put a stop to things such as what happened in Ohio a few months ago when Hardrock Excavating illegally dumped thousands of gallons wastewater from a fracking operation into the Mahoning River. A mishap of miscommunication occurred, and no one let us folks know just across the border here in Pennsylvania. (Beaver County Times, March 31, 2013) The Mahoning River feeds directly into my beloved Beaver River where my husband and I spend many summer days kayaking and boating.

Beaver River

Beaver River

Lupo owns Hardrock Excavating. Lupo also owns D&L Energy, the company that operated the injection well that caused the 2011 earthquake near Youngstown, Ohio.

It’s time companies, such as Lupo are stopped, and companies who practice exemplary fracking operations are rewarded. We need to encourage the good guys and put the bad guys out of business.

When we do, all sides win. Our communities get much-needed jobs, we receive cheaper methods to heat our homes, and we protect our water from harm.

Finally – the Garden Grows


First sign of spring – the daffodil

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Robert worked outside from early morning until the light faded from the yard over the weekend. Each night, he came inside with hands covered in dirt and a bent back after hours of leaning. But the smile on his face told me the physical hardships did nothing to dampen the sheer joy of planting the garden for 2013.

As with the rest of the country, we’ve had a very long winter. March saw temperatures dipping below the freezing point nearly every night. The last few weeks, we’d been scrounging for firewood for our Buck fireplace that heats our family room on cold winter nights. We had enough wood put up for a typical winter – more if you count the four weeks we spent in Florida. But a typical winter here in southwestern Pennsylvania usually lasts until the end of February or early March. Onions should have been in the ground weeks ago. The pea sprouts almost went too long. He finally put the first batch in last week despite predictions of 25 degree nights. His bet paid off. When he checked on Saturday, peas were popping out of the soil.

seedlings waiting for next planting

seedlings waiting for next planting

He planted more peas, spinach and some members of the “cole” family. Parsley went in the herb planter in the yard.

parsley planted

parsley planted

Now the only enemy here in the second week of April are the mallard ducks that don’t know better than to find water to live. Once again they’ve come back to our yard to nest and love walking through the garden ignoring the paths in between the raised beds. (See post on the Mallard Ducks of Raccoon Township).

DSC02543Robert’s last act before ending his work  Sunday night was to cover all the newly planted seedlings, except the onions, with Reemay. Here’s hoping it keeps out the ducks.


The Pasty – A Handful of Food with a Smattering of History

???????????????????????????????By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I love foods with a history, especially a functional one. The Cornish pasty not only qualifies, it touches my life history as well.

The pasty originates in Cornwall, England. The first mention of it in written history occurs in 1150 by Chretien de Troyes, who wrote Arthurian romances. The recipe migrated to the United States in the 1800s – to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Filled with meat and vegetables, the pasty’s invention came of necessity to the miners of Cornwall who spent long days in the copper and coal mines of southwestern England.

The pasty starts with pastry dough wrapped around whatever might have been leftover from dinner the night before. After baking, they wrapped it in warm towels for the miners to carry down into the mines. At lunchtime, a miner pulled out the pasty – still slightly warm – and enjoyed a complete meal that could be eaten with one hand. The crimped edges of the pasty were thick enough for grubby fingers to grab. The miners tossed the crust away after eating the innards. Legend says the crusts satisfied the ghosts that haunted the mines. In retrospect, it was probably the wisest thing they did because arsenic filled those mines.

When the Cornish miners emigrated to the mines in Michigan, they were revered for their expertise because mining in Michigan was in its early stages. The Michigan miners emulated everything Cornish, including the pasty. Today, if you travel through the U.P., you’ll see a sign on every diner window professing to offer the best and authentic “Cornish pastry.”

I grew up hearing my mother’s “oohs” and “aahs” whenever someone mentioned the pasty of her father’s homeland in Cornwall. She didn’t make them for some reason, but she nearly fainted in ecstasy at the mention of the food. I didn’t understand her affinity because my mother never made them. Maybe my father, a lover of liver and succotash, disliked them.

I never ate a pasty until I visited Cornwall in 1993. My cousin Marian made them for my family and me to take on our journey from her home in Newquay on the Cornish coast of England to London.

She made them the night before with leftover chicken and vegetables from our evening’s meal. When we readied to leave, she handed them to us in warmed tea towels. On the way back to London we stopped along the roadside and pulled out the still warm pasties.

Enjoying pasties and the landscape

Enjoying pasties and the landscape

When I bit into the crust and tasted the insides, I knew exactly what my mother meant.

Last night, I attempted to make pasties culled from various recipes and my memory of a sweet lunch on a hill overlooking the whole of England. It wasn’t as good as I remembered, although my husband, who’d never eaten one before, didn’t complain. Maybe that’s why my mother never made them – she couldn’t ever replicate the taste of a true Cornish pasty.

With my Cornish cousins in front of the former church my grandfather helped build in the 1890s

With my Cornish cousins in front of the former church my grandfather helped build in the 1890s

I dedicate this post to my mother – whose ninety-ninth birthday is today as I write this post. I also dedicate it to my grandfather, a man I never met, but who brought the pasty to my family when he left his homeland to work in the mines in Michigan.

Finally, I dedicate this recipe and post to the memories of twenty-nine miners who lost their lives in the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster on April 5, 2010. May they all rest in peace.

Pasty Recipe from a One-Quarter Cornwall Prodigy???????????????????????????????

Pastry Dough

3 cups flour

1 ½ tsp salt

¾ tsp baking powder

1 cup vegetable shortening

¾ cup very cold water (you might need a little more)

Mix together the dry ingredients. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly

Add cold water slowly, mixing with a fork as you pour

When the mixture can be made into a ball without crumbling apart (add water as necessary), press it together firmly and wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.

The Filling – be as creative as you’d like

1 chicken bouillon dissolved in ½ cup hot water or 1 TBSP melted butter

½ – ¾ pound of meat of your choice (or none – I used some turkey sausage patties leftover from breakfast the other day)

5 medium potatoes, cubed

2 carrots sliced

1 chopped onion

Any other vegetables you like (many recipes for pasties call for rutabagas and/or turnups

Mix the vegetables with bouillon water or butter.

Add salt and pepper to taste

Cut the chilled dough into six pieces. Roll out each piece to 8-10” circle. Place a cup or so of filling in center and fold over. Crimp the edges with fingers or fork. (I used both)

Make holes with knife or fork in top of each pasty.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 40-60 minutes at 375 degrees. (Recipes varied on time so I started at the least – it wasn’t enough for my oven so they probably baked for nearly an hour.

Serve warm or room temperature. They freeze very nicely, too.

Enjoy your food knowing you’re participating in an honored and historical practice.

New Release from P.C. Zick

 Trails in the Sand covers both the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster of 2010. I use the description from my grandfather’s journal to describe his entry to the United States at Ellis Island in 1900. When he made it through customs he headed to northern Michigan’s mines. Later he became a Methodist minister and traveled the state with his large family, including my mother born on April 4, 1935.

Where Have All the Bees Gone?

bumble bee hard at work

bumble bee hard at work

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

“Mankind has gone very far into an artificial world of his own creation. He has sought to insulate himself in his cities of steel and concrete, away from the realities of earth, water, the growing seed. And intoxicated with a sense of his own power, he seems to be going farther and farther into experiments toward the destruction of himself and his world. . .I do believe, that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and the realities of this universe about us, the less taste we shall have for its destruction.”

Rachel Carson, From A Sense of Wonder, a PBS documentary

April is the time of year when nature comes alive. Growth blossoms in living color in our front yards, in our gardens, and on our farms. We emerge from hibernation and venture outside to breathe in the essence of rebirth and our mouths water in anticipation of the fresh foods soon to grace our tables from our gardens, farmers markets, and grocery store produce departments.

Most of the plants beginning to grow right now, both edible and aesthetic, depend on one little step in the process – pollination by those stinging little buzzers, the bees.

A beautiful symbiotic relationship exists as the bees go from each sweet nectar-filled flower to bring us one-third of the food we put in our mouth. It may be the most important third.

Yet bees – in particular the commercially raised honeybees – have been in drastic decline in recent years. Some blame climate change; others see encroachment of habitat as the culprit; and a wide-growing number of experts wonder at a new set of pesticides called neonicotinoids – similar chemically to nicotine – as the toxic killer.

The New York Times reported on March 29, 2013, that honey bee deaths have expanded drastically in the past year. Commercial beekeepers say forty-fifty percent of their hives have been destroyed. These hives pollinate many of the fruits and vegetables in the United States. Bees in the wild are more difficult to track, but BBC News science reporter Rebecca Morelle says bees are “facing decline around the world.” She suggests that researchers are wondering if the neonicotinoids are causing some of the problem.

The European Commission is pushing to ban the pesticide, but chemical companies are protesting. In the United States, where Colony Collapse Disorder is running rampant, the pesticide industry is disputing any connection.

When Rachel Carson wrote her now famous Silent Spring that led to the eventual ban of DDT as a pesticide in the 1960s, she was labeled a lunatic by the pesticide industry. An editorial in Newsweek soon after its publication in 1962, compared Ms. Carson to Senator Joseph McCarthy because the book stirred up the “demons of paranoia.”

From Rachel Carson website

From Rachel Carson website

Fortunately, the Kennedy administration decided to come public with a report that criticized the industry and government several months after the publication of Silent Spring. That report silenced the critics and vindicated Ms. Carson. Eventually, Congressional hearings began which concluded with the decision to create a federal policy to safeguard the environment.

The verdict may still be out on the precious bee, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture urges more research into the thirty-three percent loss occurring annually to the commercial honey bee populations.

And let’s not forget the work of pioneers such as Rachel Carson who made it possible for the bald eagle and other creatures of the earth to come back from the brink of extinction – an extinction caused by humans intent on a quest to kill whatever gets in the way of profit.



New Release from P.C. Zick

Trails in the Sand by P.C. Zick follows environmental writer Caroline Carlisle as she follows a story to save sea turtles from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Along the way, she stumbles upon secrets from her family’s past that threaten destroy her marriage.

Spring(?) Garden Update

lettuce and tomatoes - March 7, 2013

lettuce and tomatoes – March 7, 2013

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Spring sprung more than ten days ago, yet we’re stymied by cold temperatures. Seeds sprouted a month ago are now seedlings growing under lights in our family room. But I can tell they are yearning, as we are, for the warmer days and nights of spring, for the sunshine to heat the earth, and for soil large enough to spread their roots.

onions - March 30, 2013

onions – March 30, 2013

Tomato seedlings - March 30, 2013

Tomato seedlings – March 30, 2013

The onions should be in the ground by now or at the very least, they should be outside getting sunlight for a portion of the day. My husband has been putting them out for brief periods but the temperatures are still too cold for any type of sustained sun bathing.

The soil for spinach needs preparation. They’ll be ready to go into the ground as soon as the weather cooperates.

But it is the peas that has my husband most churned up right now. He sprouts seeds on an old cookie sheet and covers them with several layers of damp paper towel. He has one try all ready to plant, which he intended to do this past weekend. Then we heard the weather report for the first week of April: nighttime temperatures hitting 25 degrees. He said he’d put them in the ground even with predictions of 30 degrees, but 25 is too low. He sprouted another set this past week because he’s fairly certain the ones already sprouted won’t last until he can put them in the ground. He put the tray in the basement, hoping to slow down the process.

peas ready to plant on March 30, 2013

peas ready to plant on March 30, 2013

We’re learning to be flexible with the unpredictable weather patterns of recent years. It’s not always easy, especially when we’re as eager for the warmer temperatures as the plants stretching for light right before our eyes.

garlic is the only thing growing in the garden so far this spring

garlic is the only thing growing in the garden so far this spring

How’s the weather in your part of the world? And how’s your garden growing?