Dauber

September 07, 2021

I have noticed a long tube-like structure above the entrance where I work for several weeks.  I was unsure of what this was as I had never seen one before.  My curiosity finally got the best of me over the weekend, and I did a google search with my phone on the tube.  I found it belonged to a type of mud dauber.  The mud dauber nests that I am used to are a single cell, but this one was about seven inches long.  I have never been fond of wasps as I have found they are aggressive when guarding their nests.  When I was director of the rural camp, I was constantly trying to get rid of wasp nests and the angry wasps that guarded them.  Luckily there are spray cans that shoot a spray twenty-seven feet to take out the wasp nests that seemed to accumulate under the eaves of our buildings.  

When I went online, I found the Organ pipe mud dauber (Trypoxylon politum) is a predatory wasp in the family Crabronidae that ranges from Southeastern Canada to Eastern US.  These are large wasps, ranging from 1.5 to 2 inches (3.9 to 5.1 cm) that are active from May to September.  The female and male are similar in color, being a shiny black with pale yellow to white hind tarsomere.  The Organ pipe mud dauber feeds on various species of the orb-weaver (Araneidae) spiders.  The female dauber forms a long mud tube consisting of multiple cells, each fortified with a paralyzed spider.  The female then lays an egg in each cell, and when the egg hatches the larvae feed on the spider.  The larvae then pupate until they become adults.  The female generally constructs 5 to 6 pipes in a cluster, either side-by-side or on top of each other.  A newly hatched adult female will usually begin building her new nest within 48 hours of leaving her birth nest.  Interestingly, our nest had only one pipe.

The Organ pipe mud dauber is said to be an exceedingly docile species of wasp.  They also serve to keep down the spider populations that thrive in and around buildings.  Stings to humans are only in self-defense, such as if a wasp is squeezed (whose bright idea found this out?).  The tufted titmouse (Parus bicolor) is a known predator of the mud dauber and may feed on them more commonly than previously thought.  The holes made by the titmouse are similar in shape and size to those made by a mud dauber leaving the nest after pupation.  The mud tube I found was located near an abandoned paper wasp (vespid subfamily Polistinae) nest under the portico at the entrance of our building.  A barn swallow nest is located against the light in the center of the portico.  It made me wonder if the barn swallow that lives in the nest had feasted on both types of wasps before they could complete building their nests.

Thoughts:  While I have never been too concerned about the mud dauber nests, I cannot say the same for the paper wasps.  I once walked into a bathroom at the lake where I worked and was immediately stung five or six times by the wasps who had taken up residence there.  Then it became my job to get them out, so it did not happen to other campers.  I could have used one of the spray cans on that day.  The single Organ pipe mud dauber tube reminded me of the interrelated cycle of life.  The orb spiders create spiral webs to capture small flying insects.  The mud dauber captures the spider and leaves it as food for its larva.  The dauber is caught and eaten by the swallow.  Usually, all three nests would be destroyed by the humans who live in the building.  While the nests were created to continue the cycle of life, their destruction by humans occurs for aesthetics.  The different nests serve as a reminder for me to respect the creatures who live around me.  If I do not get stung.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Labor

September 06, 2021

Labor Day is a federal holiday in the US celebrated on the first Monday in September in any given year.  The day falls anywhere from September 1 through September 7.  The day was created to honor and recognize the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers.  Beginning in the late 19th century, trade unionists proposed a day be set aside to celebrate labor.  “Labor Day” was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, which organized the first parade in New York City.  In 1887, Oregon was the first state of the United States to make it an official public holiday.  By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty states in the United States officially celebrated Labor Day.  Canada’s Labor Day is also celebrated on the first Monday of September.

While the US and Canada celebrate in September, more than 80 countries celebrate an International Workers’ Day on May 1, the ancient European holiday of May Day.  May Day was chosen for recognition by the Second International of Socialist and Communist parties to commemorate the Haymarket affair (riot) which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886.  The Haymarket affair, or the Haymarket massacre, was the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on May 4, 1886, at Haymarket Square in Chicago, Illinois.  It began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour workday, the day after police killed one and injured several workers.  An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at the police as they acted to disperse the meeting, and the bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians.  Dozens were wounded.

Before it was a federal holiday, Labor Day was recognized by labor activists and individual states.  After municipal ordinances were passed in 1885 and 1886, a movement developed to secure state legislation.  New York was the first state to introduce a bill, but Oregon was the first to pass a law recognizing Labor Day on February 21, 1887.  During 1887, four more states; Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York passed laws creating a Labor Day holiday. By the end of the decade, Connecticut, Nebraska. and Pennsylvania had followed suit.  By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.

Thoughts:  While Labor Day was created out of a long struggle to acknowledge the rights of workers, the only thing most now seem to remember about the celebration is that they get a day off during the first part of September.   This began as a day of revolt when workers simply refused to come to work.  When enough workers refused, it was acknowledged by states and then the federal government.  A similar action occurred when Blacks Lives Matter activist took to the streets during 2020.  The movement demanded the government recognize police needed to provide the same rights to Black citizens that was shown to others.  Somehow this is seen as controversial.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Cats

September 04, 2021

The Kansas State Wildcats kicked off their football season today with a home game hosting the Stanford Cardinal.  Well, sort of a home game.  The Cats chose to open at a neutral location in Dallas’ AT&T stadium.  The Cats were originally scheduled to host Stanford this year at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, but athletics director Gene Taylor decided to move the game to the home of the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for $2.8 million.  The Cardinal only played six games last year and went 4-2 but ended the season winning their last four.  The Cats went 4-6 but ended losing the last five.  The game will be treated as a K-State home game and the Cats will have a significant fan advantage as the Cardinal travels from the West Coast.  The Cats were a 3-point favorite, but won 24-7.

The Cats’ mascot (Willie the Wildcat) is patterned after the bobcat (Lynx rufus), also known as the red lynx.  This is a medium-sized cat native to North America, and ranges from southern Canada through most of the contiguous US to Oaxaca in Mexico.  This wide range and large population place it as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2002.  It has been hunted extensively for both sport and fur, but populations have remained stable even if declining in some areas.  The term bobcat comes from a stubby (“bobbed”) black-tipped tail.  A wildcat is a species complex comprising two small wild cat species, the European wildcat (Felis silvestris) and the African wildcat (Felis lybica).  The European wildcat inhabits forests in Europe and the Caucasus, while the African wildcat inhabits semi-arid landscapes and steppes in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, into western India and western China.  Neither is found in America, but their similar size and appearance led to the American species being mistakenly called a wildcat.

Stories featuring these cats are found in Indigenous cultures of North America and have parallels in South America.  One story of the Nez Perce depicts the bobcat and coyote as opposed, antithetical beings, while another version represents them as equal and identical.  In a Shawnee tale, the bobcat is outwitted by a rabbit, which gives rise to its spots.  After trapping the rabbit in a tree, the bobcat is persuaded to build a fire, only to have the embers scattered on its fur, leaving it singed with dark brown spots.  The Mohave believed dreaming habitually of beings or objects would afford you their traits as supernatural powers.  When you dreamed of two deities, the cougar and lynx, the belief was it would grant the superior hunting skills of other Tribes.  European-descended inhabitants of the Americas also admired the cats for their ferocity and grace.  It is this ferocity that earned Willie the title of mascot.

Thoughts:  Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss argued the opposing depictions of the cats in Nez Perce stories are a later adaptation resulting from regular contact between Europeans and native cultures.  The concept of twins representing opposites is an inherent theme in New World mythologies, but that they are not equally balanced figures.  The animals represent an open-ended dualism rather than the symmetric duality of Old World mythologies.  The earlier version of the Nez Perce story is of much greater complexity, while the version of equality seems to have lost the tale’s original meaning.  It seems when different cultures meet and interact, crossover of ideas can go both ways.  Europeans embraced bobcats into their tales and Indigenous altered the story to reflect world changes.  Adjusting to a new reality does not have to be one sided.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Loaf

September 03, 2021

Earlier in the week Melissa had asked me to make my meatloaf.  After she asked it became so hot outside that she did not want me to heat up the house by turning on the oven for an hour.  While it finally cooled down last night, this was our usual date night and Melissa wanted to go out instead.  That was when we hit our dilemma, where to go.  The covid rates have skyrocketed now that the children have gone back to school (nearly 8,000 cases in the state’s schools, along with closures) and this meant our choice had to be both what we wanted to eat, and in a location where we could safely dine.  After struggling for an hour to find a solution that met both criteria we gave up and opted for meatloaf.

Melissa knows I do not use recipes and am willing to try to make nearly anything, so she asked if we could put other things in the loaf, like perhaps corn.  I got a funny look on my face as I thought about it and that prompted her to say, “Never mind, I just wanted something different.”  Rather than different, what I heard was fancy.  I went online to find a fancy way to make meatloaf and hit on an Italian stuffed meatloaf.  The recipe centered around combining hamburger and sausage (which I always do) and then stuffing the mixture with vegetables.  It also spoke of coating the loaf with flour along with other steps that would transform the dish from the “dry bland traditional serving” to an exquisite meal.  While it sounded interesting, if they were making dry meatloaf, they were doing it wrong in the first place.

Rather than follow the recipe, I improvised and made my own stuffed meatloaf (surprised?).  I chopped up a priscilla pepper we had been given by our gardener friend and added an orange pepper from my garden.  I combined these with chopped carrots and black olives and blanched the mixture for five minutes to soften.  I made my usual meatloaf mixture with a pound of hamburger and upped the sausage to a pound.  Then I crushed half a sleeve of crackers, two eggs, and chopped half an onion, and mixed them together.  I laid out half the meat mixture on the bottom of the pan, then added the vegetables, feta cheese, and Italian spices.  The other half of the meat mixture formed the top as I shaped it into a loaf.  I popped it into the oven at 375F for 40 minutes, then covered the top with marinara for another five.  It was different (Melissa), fancy (me), and really tasted good.

Thoughts:  While we usually have baked potatoes and corn with meatloaf, that did not seem right for my stuffed loaf.  The loaf already had veggies and baked potatoes did not seem fancy enough.  I did have a bag of new potatoes that I had been trying to figure what to do with.  I quartered and spread them alongside the loaf, spritzed them with olive oil and dashed on dried parsley.  In the end this became a meal that satisfied all the criteria we had set; the loaf was different, fancy, good, and safe.   While it is at times hard to meet all the goals we set, it is satisfying when we do.  Like my Italian loaf, we need to be willing to adjust and even improvise.  That is also true with facing the pandemic.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Connected

September 02, 2021

When I visited with the mayor several weeks ago, I noticed city hall had a drug disposal box located in the lobby.  It made sense since city hall also houses the police department.  We had left over drugs since Melissa’s dad died two years ago.  I did not know what to do with them, but I did know better than to either flush them or throw them into the landfill.  These dangerous chemicals tend to “travel,” especially when put into the water system.  Drop off facilities and businesses are registered with the US DEA to collect unused or expired medicines.  The collection sites safely and securely gather and dispose of unused or expired medicines and controlled substances.  There are various collection locations depending on the community.  Dropping our drugs in the collection box kept them out of the system.

As I was leaving city hall, I noticed the beautiful array of flowers blooming along the front of the building.  The vibrant colors of the Cockscomb (Celosia argentea var. cristata) made a dramatic display.  The species was likely originally native to India, where it was saved from extinction in cultivation by the religious significance attached to the variety by Indian, Burmese, and Chinese gardeners who planted it near temples.  The name cockscomb is used as the flower looks like the head on a rooster (cock).  The plants are resistant to most diseases and grow equally well indoors or out.  The perfect place is one with no shade and a well-drained soil, as the plant is susceptible to fungal diseases.  The front of city hall is an east facing building.  The cockscomb was doing well.

When I looked closer, I noticed a large bumble bee busily gleaning the flower for nectar.  The Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens) is the most encountered bumblebee across much of eastern North America.  They can be found in the temperate forest regions of the eastern US, southern Canada, and the eastern Great Plains.  They are highly adaptable and can live in the rural areas, suburbs, and urban cities.  This adaptability makes them a great pollinator species, leading to an increase in their commercial use by the greenhouse industry, causing them to spread far beyond their distribution range.  They are considered one of the most important species of pollinator bees in the US.  North America’s bees are under attack from the Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia), the world’s largest hornet.  The “murder hornet” is native to temperate and tropical Asia, but individuals were found in the Pacific Northwest in 2019.  The first nest of 1500 hornets were located and eradicated last week.

Thoughts:  Like many things in life, today’s stories are connected.  Going to city hall led to the disposal box, going to the disposal box led to seeing the cockscomb, seeing the cockscomb led to the bee, and the bees are under attack by the hornets.  This is an illustration of how we are all connected by the increasing globalization of our planet.  Being connected has its drawbacks, as the virus spread to a pandemic less than two months after being identified.  Being connected also has benefits, as digitization and the internet provide research avenues impossible two decades ago and in part led to the rapid development of a vaccine.  Humans developed as social animals who need to feel connected.  Whether we do this by touch and intimacy or through social media, being connected is critical to our understanding of self.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Levees

September 01, 2021

One of Melissa’s bucket list ventures was to attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  We were finally able to do so in 2016.  Even though this was eleven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, the aftermath was still evident in the quarters along the river where the levees had failed.  When Hurricane Katrina came ashore in August 29, 2005, there were over 50 failures of the levees and flood walls protecting New Orleans and its suburbs.  The levee and flood wall failures caused flooding in 80% of New Orleans and all of St. Bernard Parish.  I recalled our visit and the devastation still evident as Ida tested the levees over the weekend. 

When I looked online, I found the Army Corps of Engineers had assured the city the new $14 Billion fortified system would hold.  The new levees and retaining walls had come into question as early as 2017.  “These systems that maybe were protecting us before are no longer going to be able to protect us without adjustments,” said Emily Vuxton, policy director of the environmental group Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.  The cost for needed repairs could be hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly paid for by federal taxpayers.  Vuxton believes the work and cost are necessary to protect the people of New Orleans.  The protection system was rebuilt over a decade and was finally finished in 2016 with installation of the last pumps.

After the work was completed, the Army Corps projected the system will “no longer provide [required] risk reduction as early as 2023.”  This projection illustrates the rapidly changing conditions brought on by sea levels rising faster than expected and erosion wipes out protective barrier islands and marshlands in southeastern Louisiana.  The primary concern are the earthen levees that form the backbone of the 350-mile maze of protection that includes concrete floodwalls, pump stations and gated structures.  The levees are losing height as they start to settle.  This is a natural phenomenon but is exacerbated by the soft soils in southern Louisiana.  Some floodwalls are built into the levees, so they are sinking as well. 

Thoughts:  Much of the flooding during a hurricane comes from the storm surge as winds push sea water inland.  Fortunately, estuaries can help protect the coast from some of the harmful effects.  The wetlands surrounding an estuary act like sponges, soaking up the storm surge and reducing the impact on coastal communities.  Sand dunes help absorb much of the energy of lashing waves, and salt marshes help reduce erosion caused by heavy rains accompanying a hurricane.  Unfortunately, the marshes along streams and estuaries are disappearing fast.  Nitrogen from fertilizers and sewage makes marshes grow faster, but the roots grow smaller so the soil can’t hold the bigger plants, causing soil banks to collapse and marshes to turn to mud.  Nature works as a system that we have placed in precarious balance.  We need to move beyond the band-aids and address the real issues of climate change.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Fatigue

August 31, 2021

We had a conversation on our family’s weekly zoom call where the issue of computer fatigue came up.  It seemed some have been claiming that computers get “tired” after being kept on for long periods of time and needed to be turned off to let them “rest”.  I have always heard that computers get slower when they are left on for long periods of time, but I wondered if technically that is true.  Often when people claim this, they refer to “electron buildup.”  My question became, does this really exist?  Do computers really get fatigue?

When I checked online, I found electronic devices do experience fatigue, but it usually happens after more than just a few days.  In the IT world, this is called “mean time between failures” (MTBF) and is used to determine product reliability.  MTBF is usually given in units of hours, and the higher the MTBF, the more reliable the product.  Typical MTBF values for parts of a computer vary with different vendors, but on average a CD-ROM (read only memory) drive is about 15,000, while hard drives are rated at 500,000 MTBF (57 years).  The MTBF is a calculated average and should be used as a prediction and not an exact number.  The concern is several days, not months.  For personal computers, the problem is more often related to misbehaving applications, heat, and related issues.  I wish I could work for 57 years before I experienced fatigue.  Then again, maybe that is not such a good idea.

One common factor of computer fatigue is memory consumption.  If an application does not release the memory space allocated to it and keeps repeatedly doing so, the computer’s RAM (random access memory) will be fully occupied.  That means additional applications will be sent to the swap space or will fail.  Another factor is related to temperature.  Electronic devices are designed to operate optimally in an environment that is usually too cold for humans.  If they are not kept cold enough, they malfunction.   Computers that work for several days may accumulate excessive heat and might have problems getting rid of it without being turned off.  I have been told newer operating systems are designed to run constantly, but the science suggests doing so will cause fatigue.

Thoughts:  I took a computer repair class many years ago where we dismantled and then restored a computer.  This gave me the confidence to preform many repairs and upgrades on the older computers I worked with.  Like new models of cars, repairs now seem to require sophisticated equipment.  One idea I learned does still work.  If your computer or device freezes or has a glitch, turn it off, wait ten seconds, then turn it back on.  If the problem is resolved, do not worry about it.  Now I realize the glitch was probably caused by heat or fatigue.  During the pandemic many workers have reported the undue stress of their jobs has led to mental fatigue.  We all need to find a way step back, take our “ten seconds” to shut down, and then reboot.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Ida

August 30, 2021

Most of the drive while I go to work is along parts of three interstates.  Yesterday I passed a convoy of eight bucket trucks and the two support vehicles headed east.  As I turned north along another interstate there were two other bucket trucks that passed headed south.  It looked like the utility companies were gearing up for the loss of power that Ida was predicted to bring Louisiana later that evening.  I realized the long drive these workers had ahead of them was going to be followed by even longer days and nights as they worked to repair the damage caused by hurricane Ida.

Ironically, Ida hit Louisiana on the 16th anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.  When Ida hit as a Category 4 hurricane it knocked out power to the entire city of New Orleans.  Late Sunday night Mayor LaToya Cantrell tweeted, “We have now lost power, citywide!  This is the time to continue to remain in your safe places.  It isn’t a time to venture out!!”  The area’s utility company reported all eight transmission lines that deliver power to New Orleans were out of service.  At least one person died, and power is out across Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday.  Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said virtually no one in the state has electricity and many water systems are also out.  That is the reason for the bucket trucks making their way to Louisiana.

As Ida crashed ashore Louisiana was already reeling from a resurgence of covid-19 infections that has strained the state’s healthcare system.  There are an estimated 2,450 covid-19 patients hospitalized statewide and many are in intensive care units.  Hospitals are required by law to store at least 24 hours of diesel fuel onsite to counter a power outage.  Still, at least one hospital was reported without power last night.  During Hurricane Katrina, some hospital staff evacuated New Orleans when they were expected at work, and hospital administrators have since better communicated emergency plans to reassure all staffers that their safety is of prime importance.  Patients, staff, staff families, and even pets were put at risk when Ida hit and will remain so during the aftermath.

Thoughts:  I found another report on the effect of Ida while I researched online.  When Hurricane Irma hit Florida thousands of line workers streamed into the state to repair the damage.  While this is a noble service, it is also greatly rewarding.  As the monstrous storm was expected to knock out power to half of the nation’s third most-populous state, the workers had been told to expect at least a month of straight 16-hour days, with no breaks, trying to restore power to millions of homes.  Many of the journeyman linemen savored both the financial opportunity and the adventure of racing into a historic hurricane.  “I’ll probably make 30 grand this month,” one worker commented.  “Of course, you’re dealing with something that could kill you any minute.”  Another pro and con of being an essential worker.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Gas

August 28, 2021

I always thought it odd when Melissa cooked a hotdog over the gas burner on our stove.  I usually pop the dog in the microwave and zap it for a minute.  The dog is hot, and I do not have to mess with it during cooking.  Melissa instead swears by the gas burner.  She likes her hotdogs with the sear marks the gas flame makes.  We have a meat fork with a long handle so she will skewer the dog and then toast it over the flame.  While I prefer to cook my dogs outside on the grill, it seems silly to fire up the grill for just one dog.  Even when I do grill outside, I tend to cook both dogs and burgers, saving the leftovers to later zap in the microwave.  Last week I decided to give the gas stove a whirl.

When I looked online, I found there are two types of gas commonly used in homes, and our house uses both.  We use natural gas inside (cooking and heating) and propane gas outside (grilling).  The difference between natural gas and propane can be confusing since propane is one of the fuels that make up natural gas, along with butane, methane, and ethane.  Propane becomes a fuel on its own when it is separated during processing.  Both fuels are highly flammable but natural gas can be more dangerous as it is connected to wide-spread gas lines monitored by utility companies.  When the lines rupture it can be catastrophic.  Propane is generally stored in individual tanks.  While these tanks can be quite large, there is a limited amount of gas in each tank.  The real difference comes in cost.  While prices vary, natural gas is about one fourth the coast per BTU as propane.

When I decided to cook my hotdog over the gas burner, I did not want to waste time looking for the meat fork.  Instead, I placed the dog directly on the stove grill.  The dog kept rolling around as it cooked, and it was hard to get an even distribution of the flame.  While this may not have been the best choice, it did work.  One of the interesting sidelights to cooking my dog this way was watching the flame as it licked the hotdog.  Droplets of grease would sweat out of the cooking dog and catch fire, causing a constant spray of sparks.  I thought this was a good thing, as it kept the grease from dripping onto the stove surface and having to be cleaned off.  Always look on the bright side of life.

Thoughts:  I got the first gas stove I remember when I moved back to Kansas.  I never thought about the difference between gas and electric stoves until I again moved to a house with electric.  The difference was noticeable when I cooked my ribs.  The propane gas on the grill always seemed too hot so I started cooking the ribs in my gas oven.  This allows me to produce fall of the bone ribs in 4 ½ to 5 hours.  When I moved to a house with an electric stove, I found it dried out the meat, while the gas kept it moist.  Even though natural gas is considered a greenhouse gas, it burns with 50% fewer emissions than coal.  While natural gas spills are toxic to the environment, propane gas leaks do not harm the local water or soil, and again would come in smaller volumes.  Both are considered eco-friendly fuels.  Finding and using eco-friendly energy sources may not always be the least expensive in the short run, but it sure beats destroying the planet for our progeny.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Poblano

August 27, 2021

My Poblano pepper has been giving me loads of tiny peppers and my two Jalapeno peppers have slowed down now that it is so hot.  I end up watering every morning and hoping they can make it through the day.  I have tried watering at night, but it does not cool off until nearly sundown and I do not like them to sit in the damp overnight (root rot).  Yesterday I decided to harvest everything that looked ripe even if it was small.  I ended up with a pile of peppers, split about half and half between the jalapenos and poblanos.  The easy part was picking, now I had to decide what to do with them.

When I looked online, I found the genus Capsicum is native to southern North America and northern South America.  The species (Capsicum annuum) encompasses a wide variety of shapes and sizes of peppers (mild and hot), such as bell peppers, jalapenos, and poblanos.  the spiciness of a pepper is caused by the amount of capsaicin present in the pepper.  The more capsaicin, the hotter the pepper.  The poblano generally has less capsaicin and is milder than the Jalapeno.  Fresh poblanos have a mild, slightly sweet flavor, although if they are left to ripen until they’re red, they taste much hotter.  Dried poblano peppers that are fully ripe and deep red are known as ancho chiles.  A mature jalapeno pepper will also turn red, and when dried is known as a chipotle pepper.  Many of my jalapenos and poblanos had turned red, meaning they are both hotter.

Last year I received a bag of jalapeno peppers from my gardener friend.  When I cut them up to freeze along with mine, I had four one-quart zip locks that lasted through the winter.  I found out something else as well.  Never spend an hour cutting jalapenos without wearing gloves.  My hands burned for the rest of the day.  This time I did not have as many peppers to cut, but I did have the poblanos to process.  I retrieved a pair of nitrile gloves from the garage to be safe.  Thirty minutes after I finished cutting the peppers, my hands again began to burn.  It was not as much as last year, and it went away sooner, but it was still very noticeable.  At least I had been smart enough to put my contact in prior to cutting.  There is nothing quite as exciting as jalapeno eye (or poblano!).

Thoughts:  After chopping the jalapenos I divided them into two freezer bags to store for later.  Next, I tasted one of the poblano peppers to test the level of heat.  It was palatable, so I decided to make my poblano casserole.  This is a variation on stuffed peppers but uses cut up pieces of peppers covered with a sausage, rice, and cheese mixture.  When I researched the types of peppers, I was surprised to find they were all varieties of the same species.  Each variety of pepper look completely different and vary in the amount of spiciness.  Even peppers from the same plant can vary depending on the amount of water they receive and how long they are left to mature.  When dried they are given a different name, even though it is the same pepper.  It struck me that peppers are a lot like humans.  Depending on our variety, how we are raised, how we mature, and our living conditions, dramatically alter how we look and behave.  Yet we are all the same species.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.