Tuesday, September 30, 2014

FAA should consider the age of private pilots

The skies over Upstate New York have been anything but friendly to small aircraft in recent months.  In July, a small plane crashed in Parma claiming the life of the 88 year-old pilot. That same day, a plane crashed in Royalton and the 79 year-old pilot died from his injuries days later. Last month saw a 77 year-old man die when his plane crashed in Stillwater Reservoir in the Adirondacks while a man age 78 died, along with his teenage passenger, when his plane clipped another one in the Alden.

All four events were tragic and had one common denominator – the pilots were over 75.

We as a society, collectively and individually, do a significant amount of hand-wringing over taking the keys to the car from older senior citizens. It’s painful when you know that your loved ones aren’t who they used to be physically or mentally and you have to take from them one of their last vestiges of personal freedom – their wheels.

Despite the numerous private and public conversations around this matter when it comes to the roads (proposals have ranged from a mandatory date of license expiration to age-related tests), almost no one is talking about focusing that same attention on the sky.

Although driving a car ranks among the most dangerous things that your average person will do in his lifetime, piloting a small plane ranks right up there. While the traffic and therefore statistical probability for any sort of accident are minute, the ramifications could be considerably more significant.

What if the plane that crashed in Royalton went a mile further north and plummeted into the hamlet of Gasport? What if the Adirondack crash occurred at Stillwater’s busy boat launch? What if any of these crashes happened at one of those popular fly-in/drive-in breakfasts? We would be talking about mass casualties in every one of those scenarios.

Some will chalk this up to fear mongering, but I’m only being a realist. Bad things can and do happen and such events are always closer to occurring than one might think. That said, we cannot discount the very real relationship that exists between plane crashes across Upstate this year and last, some fatal some not, and seniors at the controls.

This is a situation, conversation, and regulation that should be best managed by the Federal Aviation Administration. But, the FAA is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when it comes to this issue.

In 2009 the FAA set the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots at 65, proving that they understand the link between safety and the loss of energy, reaction time and memory that come with increased age.

Yet, on the other hand, the FAA doesn’t view all aircraft in that way.  There is no “retirement” age for air hobbyists. They could fly till they’ve entered their second century of life. God bless them if they did…or, more rightly, could.

The FAA shouldn’t be able to indiscriminately force someone to give up their private pilot’s license on age alone. I know many 80-somethings who have more vigor and vitality than folks one-third their age. But, at the same time, for every budding Jack LaLanne, there’s someone of that age who can barely move, see, or react.

If the FAA were serious about maintaining safety in the skies and accommodating our ever-aging population (Baby Boomers, anyone?), they should modify their standards and periodically conduct age-related tests. The FAA could use flight simulators or more detailed renewal exams to test the reactions, strength, and mental acuity of older fliers.

But, the FAA is actually heading in the other direction.

In April, the FAA announced that they were in the process of expanding the medical examination exclusion currently provided to light sport aircraft. Under the new rules, the FAA would allow most all private pilots to never have to take again what is called a third class medical exam. Going forward, the new rules would allow pilots of small planes to show their medical fitness only by producing a valid driver’s license. Their thought: If it’s good enough for the DMV, it’s good enough for the FAA.  

There are certain inevitabilities that come with age. We should not ignore them and we should manage them and their impacts accordingly, especially when it comes to public safety. If we don’t, you can’t help but worry about the areas around our rural and suburban airports in the years to come.

From the 06 October 2014 Lockport Union Sun and Journal

Friday, September 26, 2014

Exploring the Niagara Frontier: Poison ivy -- a plant everyone should know

Here is a photo of one variation of poison ivy. The old adage is "leaves of
three, let it be." (PHOTOS BY BOB CONFER)
I’ve led dozen of nature hikes through the years and invariably, on each and every one of them, one of the first questions posed to me was: “What does poison ivy look like?”

I’ve always been amazed at how many people are unfamiliar with the plant. I find it odd given that the plant is so bothersome and has sent many a person to the doctor or ER. To me, especially in rural Niagara County, it should be one of those dangers you educate your kids about at an early age – like crossing the road and talking to strangers.

So, here’s a primer about poison ivy...

Where to find it

Sadly, poison ivy is one of the more abundant plants in Eastern Niagara County’s woodlands.

Poison ivy grows best in direct sun, so it can be found in waste areas (the edges of parking lots, roads, railroad corridors), thickets, open woods, orchards and lawns. Young forests without a major canopy will be especially riddled with it.

In many spots, it can blanket forest floors and hiking trails, which is why I always tell hikers to wear pants, not shorts, in Niagara’s wilds. Compare that to a place like Allegany County where in many forests at slightly higher elevations (say, 1,200 feet. plus) you will never find a single poison ivy plant.


Poison ivy grows in two different ways.

A plant often confused with poison ivy is the 
attractive Virgina Creeper.
It can be a ground-based plant. A perennial, it will take root and come back the next year. These adult plants can then send runners, where their root system expands and more plants pop out in the adjacent area, hence the really dense growth that can occur.

Poison ivy will also climb up trees and create some pretty impressive vines. Whereas wild grapes might have a shaggy-barked vine that is freely hanging from limbs, poison ivy holds tight to trunks and numerous small but strong hairs, almost like stems, emanate from the whole length of the vine and grab onto the trunk like fingers.

Poison ivy has three leaflets, each two- to four-inches long with the middle one having a slightly longer stalk than the outer two. The plants are green and will remain so till late-September or early-October when they start to turn red like other forest dwellers (some folks wrongly believe that poison ivy can be told by red-green leaves all year).

The leaves can be slightly variable in shape...some can be smooth-edged, some can have a few teeth or deep lobes. Pretty vague description, eh?

What I always tell folks to do is notice the two outside leaves. On many ivy plants, one or both will have one or two large teeth on the outside edge. Once you see that, you know its poison ivy and you can look at the neighboring ivy plants in that colony to understand their slight variations.

Before killing what you think is poison ivy, be such to really familiarize yourself with it. It should not be confused with other three-leafed plants (like wild strawberry, jack in the pulpit, and trillium) or other vines (like the five- or six-leafed Virginia creeper).

What it does

Poison ivy has an oil within it called urushiol which is released when the stems, vines, or leaves are broken or bruised.

Eighty to 90 percent of people are susceptible to urushiol and it causes an allergic reaction — more properly known as contact dermatitis -- which presents itself as a rash with hard bumps or blisters, usually within 2 or 3 days of the initial contact.

Each person develops the symptoms differently. Some will rarely break out and may have only one itchy bump, while others may experience numerous bothersome boils.

That’s bad enough, but some folks are even more sensitive: my gym teacher in elementary school missed work for quite a while as he had been burning brush and the sooty smoke caused uroshiol aggravation in his throat and lungs! How do you scratch that itch?

It should be noted that if you get bumps the day of contact with a variety of plants when you are doing gardening or ranch work, that rash is more likely caused by the hairs of stinging nettles, which present themselves almost immediately. Poison ivy takes a little time. We will discuss nettles in a future installment of this column.

First aid

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” really rings true with poison ivy. An even better one to follow until you’ve mastered plant identification is “leaves of three, let it be.”

Not all three-leafed plants are dangerous. This is 
If doing yard work or collecting firewood, wear gloves.

If you’ve come in contact with poison ivy, immediately wash your hands to get the oil off. You must use soap and water and if you are really allergic to ivy, use rubbing alcohol to wash your hands. An old remedy is to use juices from jewelweed or touch-me-not (we will also discuss this flower in a future installment).

If you haven’t washed well enough or didn’t know you touched poison ivy and have gotten blisters, apply wet compresses, calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone cream to the skin to reduce itching. You can also take an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) to relieve the stress. Some swear by oatmeal baths.

Many people develop so powerful of a reaction they have to seek medical attention and take a steroid prescription.

Despite urban legends to the contrary, poison ivy blisters are not contagious. You will not get a rash from someone else’s rash, you will only get it from the plants and oils themselves.

Hopefully, you are not among those who really get socked by poison ivy. If you are or may be genetically predisposed to be so, take the time to familiarize with poison ivy. If you take a few minutes to do a Google image search of the plant, you can become really familiar with its appearance and maximize your enjoyment of the Niagara Frontier’s wilds.

Bob Confer lives in rural Gasport where he’s had minor poison ivy flare-ups on only five occasions. Even so, you will never see him wearing shorts outdoors – it’s against his religion. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer or email him at bobconfer@juno.com.

From the 25 September 2014 East Niagara Post

NFL debate ignores reality of domestic violence

The ongoing interest for -- and coverage of -- the National Football League’s handling of domestic violence shows everything that’s wrong with popular culture.

Discussions about domestic violence really didn’t come to the fore until it ruined the sanctity of a sport, never mind the sanctity of our communities. Even then, we really aren’t having discussions about domestic violence. Instead, the masses are talking about what Roger Goodell and the owners did or didn’t know or do. No one is really talking about the greater issue, the real problem of violence that occurs outside of the NFL.    

Beyond the love affair with sports, it may be because your average person thinks that domestic violence (in either the verbal or physical form) won’t happen in their neighborhood or homes. They’re only kidding themselves because chances are it has happened or will happen in one or both of those environments. Domestic violence is more common than most people think. It’s not being only committed by millionaire football players -- it’s also being committed by the Average Joe.
Listen to a police scanner on any given evening or weekend. It seems that the calls for domestic situations are endless. Our officers have to be peacekeepers in homes as much as on the streets. They are called to calm altercations playing themselves out before young children, they have to keep women from verbally abusing their men, and they have to prevent husbands from following through on threats to their wives.
According to data provided by the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services, all police departments within Niagara County reported 1,673 arrests for domestic violence in 2013. Among them were 1,428 cases of simple assault and 45 sexual offenses against a family member, 33 of which were not the intimate partner.

What makes these numbers even more disturbing is the fact that the total number of arrests represents a 12.5% increase over that from just 4 years ago. We have a declining population, but acts of violence against those who are allegedly loved by the perpetrators is on the rise.

Now mind you, those are just the cases recorded as actual arrests. There were thousands of 911 calls and tips for domestic arguments and other forms of verbal abuse (victims will tell you it is just as painful as hitting). The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office alone responds to 4,000 such calls every year. There were thousands more covered by the city police in Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, and Lockport. And, remember, most victims and witnesses remain silent; there are tens of thousands of situations that go unreported.

In a bit of morbid irony, the honeymoon capital of the world -- the City of Niagara Falls – far and away leads the all of the county in domestic violence arrests. In the latest copy of the Criminal Justice Services green book, it was reported that through July of this year there were 240 aggravated assaults and 897 simple assaults in the domestic violence category for the Cataract City.
It’s sad. If you’re human, you can’t help but feel for those affected by such monstrosities, especially the kids raised in such unloving homes. The vitality and morality of a society can be measured by the strength of the family unit and how it treats its children. Everything begins and ends with family.

One cannot help but wonder where we as a people are going if we allow such abuses to widely occur or broken homes to fester, because, more often than not, a child raised in such misery repeats the same later in his or her adult life. It’s a never-ending cycle of hate in environments that should create and inspire love and respect.

So, the next time you find yourself blasting the NFL, stop and think about the more important bigger picture. Think about what’s happening in your own community. Count yourself lucky that it’s not a reflection of your life or that of people close to you. Hopefully it’s not; but if it is, ponder – and act upon -- what you, your family and friends can do to change tomorrow and bring violence to an end.

From the 29 September 2014 Greater Niagara Newspapers

Fracking debate full of hot air

Hydrofracking ranks among the most contentious issues in New York. For each person clamoring for the jobs and economic development it will bring to the state, there’s another who strongly opposes the method of natural gas extraction for its potential to damage the environment.

I can see the points on both sides.

I’m 100 percent confident that the economic benefit to the counties that border Pennsylvania will be absolutely astounding. They are among the poorest regions in our state and it would be good to see their residents finally do well.

Yet, I also see considerable risk in the consumption of vast reserves of fresh water and the disposal thereof after it has been tainted by chemicals. The Allegheny foothills and the waters that flow from them are unique, home to equally unique plants and animals. It would be horrible to see them forever altered as a consequence of Man’s actions. Our predecessors already did that with the Niagara River in the name of progress.

So, I see benefit in the moratorium on fracking (which would be improved dramatically if it had an end date, which it does not). The state Department of Environmental Conservation must be able to approach hydrofracking from a reasonable, thoughtful and well-informed perspective. If we grant the DEC some time to assess such development in other states, we can maximize our successes and minimize our failures.

That’s difficult, though, with all of the one-sided propaganda thrown its way.

Consider one of the most sensationalized talking points that dominate the conversation against hydrofracking (and ultimately does a great disservice to the meaningful aspects of the environmental movement): The belief that the process can set your drinking water on fire.

This goes back to the popular anti-fracking documentary Gasland. In a famous moment from it, Colorado property owner Mike Markham puts a lighter to his running tap and a huge fireball erupts. What the film did not say is the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission found that the methane in Markham’s drinking water was naturally occurring and not a result of fracking. The COGCC also notified Markham and others with similar complaints that they should be venting their private wells to prevent the entrapment of excess levels of gas in them. In short, Markham’s problems are the doing of Mother Nature and himself.

It should also be noted that flammable water can be found throughout the United States, even in areas far away from the typical hotbeds of past and future gas extraction. Case in point, my hometown. It’s called Gasport for a reason. The hamlet once known as Jamesport had its name changed in 1826, when an engineering team working on the Erie Canal found gas emanating from the ground and water.

Most of those sites have long since been built over, but one remains on our farm. The shore of a stream froths white, stinky methane-loaded compounds, and, most interestingly, the water itself bubbles non-stop from gas. There, I can repeat Markham’s experiment, although in a more natural setting (sans tap). If I place a match over the bubbles, the flame expands and puffs. If I lay a plastic bag over the water and allow the gas to build up within it and then light it, the bag “explodes.

Decades ago when hoboes traveled the land they set pipes in the water to create eternal flames for cooking. And, believe it or not, this is naturally-occurring. Hydrofracking has never happened here.

The moral of the story is that we, as good citizens – and the agencies that oversee our public welfare – should proceed intellectually, not emotionally, when it comes to hydrofracking. We must ignore the hype from both sides and proceed in a manner that best serves our people, economy and environment. We have but one chance to get it right.

From the 22 September 2014 Greater Niagara Newspapers

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Welfare and the destruction of fatherhood

Social welfare programs are some of the most divisive topics in American politics. That should be expected when one considers that 35.4% of all American households take some form of welfare which, by Census Bureau standards also includes Social Security, Medicare and unemployment. 

When discussing what most people consider classic welfare (food stamps, housing, Medicaid) – not the things that they pay into and ultimately receive benefit from like SSI -- single moms are regularly put in the crosshairs as they and their kids are recipients of vast amounts of it.

Their burden on the welfare rolls is an outcome of being among the most impoverished members of our society. 41% of single mother households are living in poverty, while only 9% of dual parent homes fall in that same category. When you look at specific races, the poverty rates for single moms are mind blowing across the board and invariably higher for minorities: 60% for Native Americans, 49% for Hispanics, and 33% for whites.

When you consider those circumstances, it’s no wonder that 38% of all children under the age of 5 get one or more kinds of welfare and single mother homes receive 90% of all TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).

Because of the benefits they receive, they are often looked at in any number of derogatory terms. Leeches. Scum. Losers. Prostitutes.  

That’s unfair given that two-thirds of single moms work while being a mom is a full-time job unto itself. It’s not as if they aren’t trying.

On the other hand, those who actually deserve derisiveness, those who helped put them into that situation and helped to make a family but do absolutely nothing to maintain it – the so-called “fathers” – are left relatively unscathed when we address society’s woes.

In the good old days, a real man accepted his role in the development of a family. If he brought kids into this world, he was there for them. He married or stayed with the mother. As a functioning couple, through better or worse, they made the best life that they could for their children on their financial efforts alone --- not the taxpayers’. Men were men and families were stronger and healthier because of it.  

It just so happens that those “good old days” were 50 years ago. The abandonment of fatherly roles commenced in earnest with the War on Poverty. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of that war and you would think that after 5 decades we’d be winning the war. But, as made evident by the numbers above, we’re treading water, even losing it.

That’s because the very tools implemented in that war have contributed to today’s living conditions faced by young ladies and their kids. With Uncle Sam and state governments being able to provide to the women and children all of life’s requirements from food to shelter to heat to health, the dads-by-name-alone can shirk their duties to them and instead put it on the greater population to handle his responsibilities, no questions asked.

Welfare has been in complicit in the decay of the moral fiber of many a man and the destruction of many a family. The proof is in the pudding: In 1964, when the War on Poverty began, 93% of all American births were to women with marriage licenses. Today, 41% of all births are by unwed women; for mothers under the age of 30, that rate jumps to 53%.    

Single mother homes have become the norm because we’ve allowed it to happen by rewarding their men. But, are they really men? There’s little more disgusting that someone who claims to be a man but lives his life like a carefree boy. Yet, we as a society do little to change their ways and we make it too easy on them.

Doing what we need to do to right the ship won’t be easy. How do we change the modern man and encourage responsibility of fathers? It took 50 years to ruin him and the American family – will it take 50 years to bring them back?  

From the 15 September 2014 Lockport Union Sun and Journal

EXPLORING THE NIAGARA FRONTIER: Help bring the nighthawk back to Niagara County

The common nighthawk is an interesting creature. At just over nine inches in length, a little bit smaller than a blue jay, it is a medium-sized bird that can be seen at dawn or dusk, flying at great heights in search of the insects on which it dines.

You may have seen nighthawks before and probably remember them quite well: The brown birds can be frightening at first glance as they look almost like giant bats in flight. They are quickly told apart from the flying mammals by the white stripes on their wings and the call of "peent" that escapes their beaks.

Unfortunately, the common nighthawk is quickly becoming anything but common. The NY Department of Environmental Conservation calls it "a species of special concern," an animal the population of which merits attention and consideration. An argument could easily be made that nighthawks deserve to be classified as "threatened" as they are in imminent danger of becoming endangered in the Empire State.

It wasn’t always like this. Historically it was a very common bird, nesting on rocky areas so common to New York’s vast shorelines along and in our borders. But, as Man conquered the wilderness they built homes on the nighthawks’ nesting sites and, making matters worse, they brought with them domestic cats which wandered about and/or became feral, in turn feasting on the ground-nesting birds. Nighthawks soon became a rare sight.

They saw a resurgence in the early 1900s and actually became quite abundant in urban areas until only recently, adjusting to the growing human population by living atop buildings – skyscrapers, apartments, schools and factories – that had flat, tar and gravel rooftops which provided fine places to nest. The gravel most commonly used was perfect for the birds’ needs and, save hawks and crows, the high rooftops were predator-free.

But, the times have changed and so have roofing technologies. More and more contractors are going with rubberized, PVC, or stone ballast roofs that — through no intentional fault of the roofers — have eliminated the gravel so key to the birds.

Because of that, nighthawk populations have seen a drastic decline in recent decades.

The NYS Breeding Bird Atlas that was compiled in the years 1980 to 1985 noted countless nests throughout the state, especially in urban areas. The most recent version of the Atlas (which uses data amassed from 2000-2005) shows a pitifully small number of nests. The difference between the two studies is quite disturbing.

Looking at Niagara County specifically, contributors to the older atlas found 10 different nesting in our county. Naturalists who assisted in the newest version? They found just 1.

When I was a kid I saw them in good numbers in the evening skies over the hamlet of Gasport and almost took them for granted. Now, if I see one, I marvel at the rarity.

This trend does not have to mean that nighthawks are a lost cause destined for near-extinction in Niagara County. Commercial property owners and government facility managers can easily help bring back the nighthawks by turning their buildings — apartments, office complexes, schools — into homes for our avian friends.

You will need a large flat rooftop. Put down some gravel on the roof. Stone ballast won’t cut it; it’s much too large. Nighthawks need peastone, wee pebbles with a diameter of 3/8 to 1⁄2 of an inch. The stones should be laid down in a 9-foot by 9-foot patch that is about 2 stones deep. An area that size will require 6 to 8 sheetrock buckets of peastones.

You could just set that atop the roof but it is strongly suggested by some birders that you build a border around the stones to prevent the gravel from moving around (which also helps in alleviating the fears of maintenance personnel) and you should first lay down some landscaping fabric to protect the roof. Before commencing with your project you must also be cognizant of other factors like shade, drainage and — if it’s a commercial property — worker traffic.

Among the best resources available for developing such projects is the Project Nighthawk guidebook available at: http://nhbirdrecords.org/bird-conservation/library/Nighthawk-handbook.pdf 

If such a deed interests you, the nest site should be in place by May 1, the approximate day the migrants return to Niagara County. By building a nighthawk site at your place of work, whether you’re a businessperson looking to do something for the environment or a teacher wanting to educate his pupils about the world around us, you can easily have an impact on one of nature’s creatures that so desperately needs our help.

Bob Confer lives in rural Gasport. When he makes it to the Big City (Lockport) at dusk, he probably looks creepy scanning the nighttime skies for nighthawks. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer or email him at bobconfer@juno.com

From the 11 September 2014 East Niagara Post

EXPLORING THE NIAGARA FRONTIER: Catnip -- help your cat roll his own

Catnip has small white flowers with purple-pink
Niagara County is chock full of cat lovers. One need only see the outpouring of activism when the SPCA had its issues a few years back or the love thrown at felines that are found in filthy conditions or large feral communities.

So, it’s only fitting that Eastern Niagara has an abundance of catnip.

What catnip looks — and smells — like 

A transplant from Europe, which may have originally had its roots in Asia, catnip is a member of the mint family. Like all mints — including those more commonly ingested by humans — it has a square stem.

It has small white flowers with purple-pink spots that can be found in mass on spikes emanating from the stem. The leaves are somewhat ovate with heart-shaped bases and a little fuzz on the underside. The plant stands one to three feet tall when mature.

When you break the leaves or stems it has a distinct, unmistakable smell — it’s not so much minty as it is musky, kind of like cheap cologne.

Where to find catnip

Now is the perfect time of year to find catnip, as it is in bloom from late-July through September. Niagara County is a perfect place to search for catnip because of the nature of the plant. It prefers full sun and drier soils and is one of the first plants to “reclaim” soils when plant life is removed. That means you can find it in good numbers on most farms around here, as they will grow on field edges, in pastures, and in barnyards.

Those who don’t live in the countryside should also give a look at lawn edges, the outsides of abandoned parking lots, or at construction sites throughout cities and villages.

Catnip leaves are ovate with heart-shaped bases. They do not look like
marijuana leaves — no matter what the Journal of the American Medical
Association may have said in the 1960s. 
Catnip for your cat

If you want to give your cat a good time and act like a drug dealer for her, pick her some catnip.

Rather than the dry, wimped-out mix that is found in pet toys, wild catnip, of course, will be more potent and your cat will love you for it.

You can pick a whole plant and give it to a cat. She will roll around on it and become euphoric. It is the smell that does it — it binds to their olfactory receptors and gives them incredible pleasure (there is no known plant that has that same effect on humans). The “high,” if you will, will typically last no more than 10 minutes as the cat’s sense of smell actually becomes overwhelmed, even fatigued.

If you notice your cat eating and licking the stems and leaves, don’t worry. She won’t O.D. or get sick; she is only doing that to break the plant and release more smells.

If your cat has no interest in catnip, don’t worry about that either. It does not mean she has no sense of smell. Appreciation of or resistance to catnip is hereditary — only two-thirds of domesticated cats dig the weed.

If you want to save catnip for later use, you can do that. Pick it, dry it in shade and then crumble and save the leaves and stems in a Ziploc bag, away from moisture.

Catnip for your consumption and use 

Humans have long had an affinity for catnip, though it is only a fraction as popular as it once was.

People cannot get high off the plant, even though the Journal of the American Medical Association said otherwise in the late-1960s. That controversial article was proven to be bunk as it featured photos of marijuana (identified as catnip) and described catnip’s appearance as looking like marijuana (not even close). The scientist who did the study had no working knowledge of botany.

The reason that catnip is here is because enterprising Europeans brought it here in the 1700s as a commercial crop for human consumption. As with all mints, it has its use in tea. You can steep the leaves (green or dried) for a powerful, maybe pungent tea, almost like the citrus-based bergamot oil used in Earl Grey tea.

Over the centuries, people have attributed its herbal magic to these and other powers:

  • Romans used it to treat leprosy 
  • It helps with sore throats and colds
  • It may have slight calming, sedative effects
  • Catnip can increase menstrual flow
  • The leaves can serve as an after-dinner digestive aid

Beyond ingesting the plant and its oils, people have use for catnip as an insect repellent. Many old-fashioned mosquito repellents featured catnip and some folks will walk around with a sprig of it in their shirt pocket to keep biting insects away.

Hardcore all-natural gardeners will plant catnip around and in their gardens as it allegedly keeps insects off their crops. As we get away from GMOs and pesticides, this use for catnip is actually seeing a major resurgence.

Catnip is an interesting plant and one of the few alien species that is a welcome, unobtrusive addition to our local environment. Give it a try — for your cat, for you, for your garden.

Bob Confer lives in rural Gasport where catnip is abundant – and so are high cats. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer or email him at bobconfer@juno.com 

From the 07 September East Niagara Post