August 22, 2016

Black Bears in Missouri

   In the early 1800s, travelers often saw black bears along the Missouri River. On June 7, 1804, in what is now Howard County, a participant in the Lewis and Clark expedition wrote:
    "we were met by the party that went hunting; One of which, (G Drewer,) kill'd a She Bear, and her two Cubbs & brought them to the opposite side of the River where we were encamped"
     Early settlers dined on hominy and bear bacon, accompanied by sassafras tea. With money scarce, settlers paid their debts in bear meat and raccoon bacon.
    By the 1850s, with the rapid growth of settlements and the demand for bear meat, hunters had reduced bear numbers considerably, and, as time went on, bears virtually disappeared from the state. Around 1959, Arkansas reintroduced bears captured in Minnesota and Manitoba. The offspring of those bears began to show up in southwest Missouri.
    Biologists believe that the current population of 350 bears descends from both the bears reintroduced in Arkansas and the remnant Missouri population. The reintroduced bears often carry a white blaze on their chest, not the solid black, brown, or cinnamon coat thought to be characteristic of the Missouri native bear. DNA from archived bear bones or pelts might help sort this out.

January 17, 2016

The Hickam Cabin

   In the fall of 1816, John Hickam, his wife, Christiana (Comer), and his large family arrived at Head's Fort on Moniteau Creek, about four miles north of Rocheport, Missouri, after a long journey from Washington County, Virginia. In the spring of 1817, they came to what is now Boone County, possibly settling first in Perche Bottom, and, around 1819, taking up residence near what is now known as Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, south of Columbia. Sometime in the 1820s or early 1830s, John built a log cabin on the northernmost boundary of an 80-acre tract, later owned by his son, Ezekiel Comer Hickam.
  In 1829, Ezekiel married Nancy Ann Sims, whose father, William Sims, came to Missouri from Kentucky in the early 1820s and purchased land near Cedar Creek. Ezekiel and his wife began their married life in the cabin. Extrapolating from birth dates, their first two children, Lycurgus and Lysander, may have been born there. 
   In 1848, John died. He passed on to his family 10,000 acres of land. His remains lie in the Bethel Hickam Cemetery on the south side of Columbia. In 1855, Lycurgus, and his sister Cornelia, helped found the Bethel (Missionary) Baptist Church at the same location. Lycurgus served as deacon and many of the Hickam family members rest in the cemetery there.
   There are some disputes about the cabin; does it stand in its original location, and is it, in fact, the original or a replica built in 1964? Due to its deteriorating condition, the Friends of Rock Bridge dismantled and rebuilt the cabin in 2014, giving it a new foundation, roof, and entrance door.

   From Columbia, head south on Highway 163. At the traffic light at the intersection of Route K and Highway 163, turn left onto Highway 163 S. Go about a mile and turn right at the first park entrance. Follow the road .3 miles and the Hickam Cabin will be on your left.

January 15, 2016

The Easley Country Store

    A reconstruction of the Easley Store sits on the northwest side of the street in the historical village, Boone Junction, at the Boone County Historical Society in Columbia, Missouri. In 1890, William Greene Easley established the store in the town of Easley in the river bottom of southwest Boone County. 
    The store served the surrounding community as a post office, gathering place, and general store. It remained within the Easley family for three generations and was in continuous operation for over a century. After train service through Easley ended in 1986, and the floods of 1993 and 1995 damaged the building and its contents, the store closed.
   The Society decided to reconstruct the store, a well-known landmark in Boone County, as an anchor to its new historic village. The Society completed reconstruction in 2007 and the replica officially opened in June of 2008. 
   Items from the original store include the pine flooring planks, five of the six windows, some of the trim, many of the roof boards, a sign painted in 1952 with the words "Raymond Easley General Store", and a part of a Coca-Cola advertisement painted on the north wall. A potbelly stove in the middle of the store provided the only source of heat in winter. 
To see the replica of the Easley Country Store, start at the Boone County Historical Society (3801 Ponderosa St, Columbia, MO 65201). You will find the historical village, Boone Junction, on the south side of the museum. The store is open during some special events. Tours can be arranged for four or more from April through October ($5 each) Call 573-443-8936 for current information.

September 18, 2014

What is the future for our dairy farms?

Painting by Linda Jacobs

" 1947 there were over 11,000 dairy farms dotting Vermont’s landscape. When we began farming in 1998, that number had dropped to 1,815, and in 2011 the number dipped to under 1,000 remaining dairy farms for the first time in the state’s history. Of those remaining, more than 200 farms are organic operations. "

September 16, 2014

The decline of the small farm - The Washington Post

Painting by Linda Jacobs    A  Backroad in the Ozarks
"As of 2011 — as is true with much of the country's wealth — the vast majority of America's farm land was controlled by a small number of farms. The top 10 percent of farms in terms of size account for more than 70 percent of cropland in the United States; the top 2.2 percent alone takes up more than a third."
        To see a chart of this trend over time, follow this link.
The decline of the small American family farm in one chart - The Washington Post

Genetically Modified Organisms in Agriculture - GMOS

    Crop scientists in the constant struggle to increase crop production have in recent years waded into new methods of engineering the genetic components of plants, beyond the techniques of what we have always considered to be traditional cross-breeding. This has happened under the radar of American consumers, who woke up to discover that about "70% of processed foods contain at least one ingredient from a genetically engineered (GE) plant—largely due to the widespread adoption of GE corn and soybean by farmers." 
     Proponents claim no evidence exists that these genetically modified plant derivatives are "less safe than their non-genetically engineered counterparts."     Consumers are not so sure, and the issues related to genetically engineered plants are much more complex. These include seed ownership, genetic drift into adjacent non-engineered or organic crops, effects on the environment of possible increased herbicidal application, effects on other invertebrates and animals when insecticidal properties are embedded in plants, and incidents when new untested strains are grown in insecure locations. 
    If consumers, for whatever reason, want to avoid genetically modified crops, they are often advised to purchase organic items or avoid purchasing anything that contains corn, soy, or other ingredients from plants that are genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Consumers are asking for more clarity, and are asking for GMO labelling laws. However, the food industry is pushing back.

"Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo’s bill seeking to preempt state GMO labeling efforts and codify FDA’s GMO-free food labeling standards has added two new co-sponsors. Republican Reps. Chris Collins of New York and Anne Wagner of Missouri signed on to the bill, HR 4432, Sept. 10, bringing the total cosponsors up to 34."

    Since there are so many ways in which researchers could invent new GMOs, I actually think we need to go one step further and ask that any ingredient that derives from a GMO patented plant should be so indicated. Although a simplistic idea, if you can patent it, we should be able to ask that you label it.  Only then will we begin to be assured that what we eat is truly safe.