These unique holiday gift ideas have a First State focus

December 17, 2012 under CANR News

blanket_yarnHaven’t finished your holiday shopping yet? You’re not alone. Only 47 percent of Americans have their shopping wrapped up by the second week of December, according to the National Retail Federation. But the clock is ticking.

No worries. We’ve rounded up some great gift ideas. Best yet, many of these choices have a uniquely Delaware focus. Some – like soil test kits and garden gloves – are tailor-made for outdoorsy types. Other gifts – like Delaware wool blankets — work equally well for couch potatoes who just gaze at the landscape from their windows.

Sure-fire way to get owls in the backyard

The young – and young at heart – will love Hoot the Owl, a chubby creature made from sunflower seed, with apple and apricot rings for eyes and an almond for the mouth.

“I stuck one in my backyard and set up a time-release camera,” says Charles Shattuck, who, with his wife Kathy, owns Wild Birds Unlimited in Hockessin. “I’m getting a wide variety of birds feeding at it. By late December, I expect ‘Hoot’ and my other feeders will be attracting white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatches; downy, red-bellied and hairy woodpeckers; and yellow-bellied sap suckers.”

At $9.50, Hoot the Owl is a good choice for a stocking stuffer or gift exchange at work.

Wild Birds also stocks black oil sunflower seed in bulk that is grown locally, by Jamie Hicks of Kennett Square, Pa. Buy a pound or several pounds for the birdwatcher on your list.

Most serious birdwatchers prefer black oil seed. It has a higher oil content than other varieties so it provides the birds with more calories. Plus, small birds have an easier time cracking its thinner shell.

Or, consider a $22 hand-painted ornament by Dover artist Marcia Poling. Choose images of bluebirds, woodpeckers and warblers, as well as deer, rabbit and other mammals.  “They’ve been selling well,” says Shattuck.

Warm and woolly choices

The University of Delaware’s flock of Dorset ewes are sheared every spring before going out to summer pasture. Previously, their wool was sold at a regional auction to wool processors. Then farm superintendent Scott Hopkins and Lesa Griffiths, professor of animal and food sciences, put their heads together and, soon after, Blue Hen Blankets and Yarn was born. Now, after the sheep are sheared, the wool is sent to a Canadian mill to create cozy blankets.

A lap throw style, the blanket has plenty of heft — each requires four pounds of wool. Get one for $100 at the UDairy Creamery on UD’s South Campus. For creamery hours go to the website.

Hori hori knives and other garden gear

When it comes to garden tools, Carrie Murphy is a minimalist. A UD Cooperative Extension horticulture agent, Murphy gets by with a few common tools plus one that’s a bit more exotic. “I use my hori hori knife all the time,” she says.

In Japanese, the word “hori” means to dig and that’s exactly what Murphy does with her knife, plus pruning and weeding and a whole lot more. It’s the Swiss army knife of gardening.

At Gateway Garden Center in Hockessin, the hori hori is usually just called a soil knife, says owner Peg Castorani. She likes it for dividing perennials. A stainless steel version in a case costs $39.99.

Finding garden gloves that fit well can be hard, especially for women, but Castorani likes Womanswork brand. “They make form-fitting, athletic style garden gloves,” she says. The $25 gloves come in purple, lime green and other bright colors.

A plastic bag sounds like an odd present until you learn what that bag can do. Gateway stocks test kits from the University of Delaware Soil Testing Program. The $10 kits include plastic bags to obtain the necessary samples. After UD analyzes the samples, your gardener will know whether pH or fertility problems are making it more difficult to grow plants.

Bring the outside in

Native Americans used birch bark to make canoes and cover their wigwams. Today hobbyists continue to take advantage of birch’s flexible nature to craft household items, ranging from baskets to picture frames. Wilmington resident Danielle Quigley makes handcrafted wood items when she’s not working as a photographer for UD. (Quigley regularly shoots the photos for this column.) One of her best-selling items is a $325 table light featuring a birch bark shade mounted on a vintage glass base. Quigley’s personal favorite is a $150 luminaire made from silver birch bark. Check them out at the website.

Article by Margo McDonough

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Native Gifts for the Holidays

December 15, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Gift certificates for UDairy Creamery ice cream make a great holiday treat.

The holiday season is right around the corner. Some folks wrapped up their shopping on Black Friday but plenty haven’t finished the task – and some haven’t even started.

No worries. We’ve rounded up some great gift ideas. Best yet, these gifts have a uniquely Delaware focus. Some choices – like landscape design classes – are tailor-made for outdoorsy types. Others gifts – like Delaware wool blankets — work equally well for couch potatoes who just gaze at the landscape from their windows.

From spices to vines 

A few years ago, New Castle County Master Gardeners began offering winter workshops in addition to their regular fall and spring classes. “The response was overwhelming,” says Carrie Murphy, the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension horticultural agent for New Castle County. “January and February aren’t good for gardening but they’re perfect for learning new ways to garden and planning for the season ahead.”

Winter workshop topics include vines and espaliers, downsizing your garden, and the origin of cooking spices. For the complete list, go to this website.

To purchase a gift certificate for a Master Garden workshop, call 302-831-COOP.

Keep warm with Delaware wool

UD’s flock of Dorset ewes get sheared every spring before going out to summer pasture. Previously, their wool was sold at a regional auction to wool processors. Then farm superintendent Scott Hopkins and animal science professor Lesa Griffiths put their heads together and, soon after, Blue Hen Blankets and Yarn was born. Now, after the sheep are sheared, the wool is sent to a Canadian mill to create cozy blankets in two styles — a lap throw and a queen-size version.

The blankets have plenty of heft — each lap throw requires four pounds of wool and the queen-sized contain 12 pounds.  The lap size is $100 and queen-size $175. Buy them at the UDairy Creamery on UD’s South Campus. For creamery location and hours, see the website.

A gift that lasts all year

Surfing at Indian River Inlet and swimming at Fenwick Island. Hiking at Alapocas Run and biking at White Clay Creek. Pond fishing at Killens Pond and surf fishing at Cape Henlopen. Give them an annual pass to Delaware’s state parks, where they can enjoy their favorite outdoor activity — or try something new.

Annual passes range in price from $12 for a senior citizen to $54 for an of-state resident. For more info, or to buy a pass online, go to the state parks website.

UD profs and other experts at Longwood

Don’t let “Tips for Turf Diagnosis: Insect and Disease Management” scare you. Sure, Longwood Gardens’ continuing education program has serious classes for pros. But there’s also “beginning bonsai” and “orchids for beginners.” Your gift recipient doesn’t even have to be a gardener — birding, photography, art and flower arranging classes also are offered.

UD prof Sue Barton teaches the fundamentals of sustainable landscape design in a five-session class; UD adjunct instructor Jon Cox presents the secrets to photographing water in an all-day session. For the full schedule of classes go to the Longwood website and click on “education.”

Longwood gift cards can be purchased on Longwood’s website or at the Kennett Square, Pa., gardens.

Give ‘em Delaware River Mud

Mud pie ice cream, that is.

Delaware River Mud Pie is the most popular flavor at the UDairy Creamery, according to manager Melinda Litvinas. This ice cream pairs vanilla and chocolate cookie with swirls of fudge.

Plus, the creamery offers seasonal selections, including peppermint bark, eggnog, gingerbread and peppermint hot chocolate. Gift certificates are available in $5 denominations, perfect for stocking stuffers.

You may want to pick up All Nighter for yourself. This concoction of coffee ice cream and cookie dough chunks, crushed cookies and fudge swirl won a recent flavor creation contest. It was concocted by UD senior Kate Maloney. According to her contest entry, “Every college student has to pull an all-nighter at some point… [this ice cream] gives you the sugar rush you need to survive a 24-hour cram session.”

All Nighter could be just thing for assembling toys late on Christmas Eve, too.

The UDairy Creamery is located behind Townsend Hall on the Newark campus. The creamery closes on Dec. 23 at 5 p.m. (and re-opens Jan. 3). For more information, see the UDairy Creamery website.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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CANR Holiday Gifts

December 6, 2011 under CANR News

Need a holiday gift for someone that’s distinctively Delaware? Think about a blanket or skein of yarn made from the wool of University of Delaware sheep.

Products featured by Blue Hen Blankets and Yarn, established in 2009, are made with wool from UD’s flock of Dorset sheep at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

All proceeds from the sale of Blue Hen Blankets and Yarn help to support to the undergraduate large animal teaching programs of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

Two blankets sizes are available: lap throws ($100) and queen-sized blankets ($175).

The un-dyed natural wool blankets are edged in blue in true UD spirit.  Each blanket is labeled with an individual serial number.  Customers can request a specific serial number for a surcharge of $10 per item  (subject to availability based on a total of 200 throws and 25 blankets produced in 2010).

Yarn is ideal for making natural handcrafts. Four-ounce hands are available in un-dyed natural ($10), blue ($12) and yellow ($12).

Blankets and yarn are available for purchase at the UDairy Creamery store. If you are not able to visit the Creamery, visit the Blue Hen Blankets website to complete an online order form.  Shipping is available for an additional fee.

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Need a gift for a grad?

May 19, 2011 under CANR News

Know a Blue Hen who’s earning a sheepskin? Or need a gift for someone that’s distinctly Delaware. Think about a blanket made from the wool of University of Delaware sheep.

Blue Hen Blankets and Yarn, established in 2009, creates blankets and yarn, made from wool shorn from UD’s flock of Dorset sheep at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“Blue Hen Blankets make the perfect gift for graduation, special occasions of UD alumni and friends, or keeping warm during a Fightin’ Blue Hens football game,” says Tom Sims, CANR deputy dean.

Two blankets sizes are available: lap throws and queen-sized blankets. The un-dyed natural wool blankets are edged with blue in true UD spirit. Each blanket is labeled with an individual serial number. Profits from the sale of Blue Hen Blankets and Yarn help to support the undergraduate large animal teaching programs of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

The wool provided to the mill in 2010 produced 200 lap throws and 25 queen blankets.  Once these are sold, customers will have to wait until a future production date (yet to be determined).

Blankets and yarn are now for sale at the UDairy Creamery store.  Please visit the store’swebsite for store hours.

Customers can request a specific serial number from the stock (subject to availability) for a surcharge of $10 per item.

Customers who are not able to visit the Creamery and wish to buy a blanket, can complete a Blue Hen Blankets order form (PDF). Further instructions are given on the form.

A limited number of throws and blankets with prime serial numbers (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 11) have been reserved for an auction to occur later this year.  Prices may vary.

UD Dorset ewes are shorn each spring before going out to summer pasture. Each ewe produces about seven to eight pounds of wool. The wool is scoured (washed) and carded (combed) and can then be spun into yarn and woven into blankets.

The lap throws each require four pounds of wool and the queen-sized blankets each require 12 pounds of wool. Wool is a natural, sustainable fiber that is strong and durable, lightweight and breathable, but warm enough for the chilliest of days. A truly renewable resource, wool is the only fiber that is naturally fire-resistant.

For more information, visit the Blue Hen Blankets and Yarn website.

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Blue Hen Blankets and Yarn available for purchase throughout spring

April 20, 2011 under CANR News

Blue Hen Blankets and Yarn, established in 2009, creates the blankets and yarn, made from wool shorn from the University of Delaware’s flock of Dorset sheep at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“Blue Hen Blankets make the perfect gift for graduation, special occasions of UD alumni and friends, or keeping warm during a Fightin’ Blue Hens football game,” says Tom Sims, CANR deputy dean.

Two blankets sizes are available: lap throws and queen sized blankets. The un-dyed natural wool blankets are edged with blue in true UD spirit. Each blanket is labeled with an individual serial number and comes with a certificate of authenticity. Profits from the sale of Blue Hen Blankets and Yarn help to support the undergraduate large animal teaching programs of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

The products will be available through a variety of venues this spring. Once the supply has been sold, interested customers will have to wait until next year’s sales.

Read more of the story on UDaily >>

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