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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Which Direction Does a Wren House Face?

“I was given a new wren house. I know that it has to face in a certain direction; what is it?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff enjoys these interesting questions about birds. Many of us didn’t realize that birdhouses had to hang facing in certain directions.

The Birder’s Miscellany: a fascinating collection of facts, figures, and folklore from the world of birds by Scott Weidensaul states that the overall dimensions of the nest box of a house wren should be 8”H X 5.5”W X 4”D with an entrance hole of 1.25”. It should be placed head-high in the yard or garden [p. 125]. Edward A. Baldwin’s Birdfeeders, Shelters & Baths has some very creative bird houses and feeders including ones which would be excellent projects to make with children. He also has ideas for keeping predators at bay.

The Audubon North American Birdfeeder Guide by Robert Burton and Stephen W. Kress has a chapter on nest boxes: selecting ones to attract certain birds, box design, positioning, cleaning, maintenance, building, and garden threats. Burton and Kress state that house wrens are hole-nesters who like enclosed boxes attached to garden fence posts or in or near shrubbery or the edge of a forest, rather than open nesters like robins. They also have good suggestions for making your garden bird friendly, including protecting them from threats. For bluebirds and tree swallows they suggest that box entrances face east in order to be warmed by the morning sun, but say nothing about the placement of house wren boxes. The Audubon North American Birdfeeder Guide has an excellent chapter on house wrens. This bird with the cheerful song is friendly to gardeners, eating many insects including grasshoppers, gypsy moths, cabbage butterflies, ticks and flies. The wren usually bears two clutches of eggs each year, so it is still not too late to get a house up in time for the laying of the second clutch.

While we’ve learned a lot about wrens, the patron’s question still has not been answered. It is time to search the Internet. The website, has books which can be read online for free. Carpentry and Mechanics For Boys by A. Neely Hall has a chapter on Wren Houses []. This has very detailed information about wrens and their choice of house. It also states that they prefer that the opening of the house to face east. The patron had the information she needed and was heading outside to put up her new house.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Car Trouble

“I’m having trouble with my car. Where are your auto repair books?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff instructed the patron in the use of our online catalog to find the location of the auto repair manuals.

There is a large selection of repair materials in the books numbered with 629s, but these did not have the information needed by the patron. After discussion with her, she said, “The problem isn’t with the engine, the wiring, or the body. The problem is with the seat arm; it has begun tilting downward and it is driving me crazy.” The library has purchased the use of the online database, AllData, which provides comprehensive automotive reference for domestic and foreign cars, trucks, and vans from 1982 to the present. Maintenance information, technical service bulletins, schematics and diagrams are included. Since access to the database is only available within the library, the patron ‘borrowed’ a computer using her library card.

All Data is accessed by going to “Library Databases” on the library’s homepage. Then from All Data, she selected the year, make, model and engine of her vehicle. It is possible to do a component search in All Data, but we first went to the Technical Service Bulletins. There was nothing of interest listed under Recalls, but there was an extensive list of things under Customer Interest. A bulletin was issued for “Armrest Angled Down on Front Driver or Passenger Seat When Seat is in Upright Position.” This was exactly the problem the patron was experiencing with her vehicle. She printed a copy of the information, including the instructions on how to correct the problem. Since the vehicle was still under warranty, the dealership repaired the armrest for her free of charge. It was interesting looking at all the noises reported by other customers who own the same vehicle. Apparently hissing, squeaking, whistling, squealing, fluttering, shuddering, vibrating, whining, clunking, popping, rattling, and itching noises have been reported to dealerships. This is a useful tool in understanding one’s vehicle, and learning what may be a concern which should be dealt with by a mechanic

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Salt-free Rubs and Grilling

“I’ve been watching cooking shows about barbecue. They are always using a rub on the meat. I’m not allowed to have much salt, and salt seems to be a main ingredient. Can you find me a rub recipe with no salt in it?” The warm days we’ve been having, and the smell of grilling in the evening has the Newton Falls Public Library staff thinking about what could be a healthy replacement for salt laden rubs. Rubs are mixes of spices which flavor, tenderize and cure the meat before it is grilled. Salt has long been used as a major ingredient in the preservation and seasoning of foods.

According to the online article How To Make Herb Grilling Rubs by Annette Gallagher
[] there are two types, the dry rub and the wet rub. The dry ones are mixtures “of herbs, spices and salt that are rubbed on foods. Sometimes they contain a little oil or have prepared mustard mixed in so that they are damp rather than truly dry. Wet rubs are a cross between a marinade and a dry rub and sometimes contain vinegar or other tenderizing agents.” Vinegar would be an excellent substitute to use in place of salt for tenderizing.

There is no shortage of cookbooks about grilling in the library. Beginning with what seems to be the largest of the books, The Barbecue! Bible by Steven Raichlen; we were able to find a few recipes that do not include salt as an ingredient, Herbes de provence (French); Israeli rub; Indian roasted spice powder; and Colombo powder (French West Indian) which contains an unusual ingredient, toasted rice. Weber's Big Book of Grilling by Jamie Purviance and Sandra S. McRae also has a Southwestern rub recipe to tempt those watching their salt intake.

In our Internet search, we discovered a plethora of recipes for our patron and an interesting alternative to rubs called Mediterranean salt roasting. With this method, the salt never penetrates the food and is a perfect hybrid of steaming and roasting, ensuring no loss of aroma and flavor. The Salt Institute [] instructs that “salt roasting combines the nutritional benefits of gentle steaming with the flavor-generating properties of roasting. When the food is encrusted in salt, the salt fuses together to form an almost impenetrable barrier sealing in moisture and flavor. In addition, the contact of the food with the fused salt ensures a dry heat roasting on the surface, in much the same way as conventional roasting, except that the flavor is completely sealed in the salt casing.”

Friday, May 8, 2009

Is 44444 Unique?

“Someone told me that Newton Falls wasn’t the only place to have a single digit zip code. Is that true?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff went directly to the United States Postal Service’s [USPS] website [] to check each single digit zip code and learn more about zip codes.

ZIP stands for Zoning Improvement Code. They began to be used on July 1, 1963 and were introduced by Mr. Zip. The trademark was designed by Harold Wilcox, son of a mailman and a member of the Cunningham and Walsh advertising agency, for use by Chase Manhattan Bank in New York for their bank-by-mail campaign. The first number in the code designates a general area, from zero for the Northeast to nine for the far West. The next two numbers refer to one of the Sectional Center Facilities used for processing the mail. The final two are for smaller post offices or postal delivery zones. The zip codes + 4 were implemented in 1983. The extra numbers help carriers deal efficiently with the many mailers sent out by companies. The USPS website has a great deal of useful and interesting information including about how mail has been delivered by steamboats, rail, Pony Express, air, missile, pneumatic mail tubes, and motorcycles. Two of their most memorable deliveries were the Hope Diamond and a chameleon sent from Fostoria, OH to Orlando, FL. The USPS has strict guidelines on the mailing of valuables and living creatures, so be sure to check their rules and instructions before placing items such as these into the mail.

Newton Falls is the only community to have a single digit zip code. The only other single digit codes are 22222, the Marine Corps Institute in Arlington, Va. and 55555, a post office box for Norwood in Young America, MN. As Young America, MN is often the address on rebate forms, we wondered if perhaps it is for a company. When the city was first given this zip code, it created the slogans Newton Falls has Zip 44444 and Zip City 44444, and the community celebrated Zip Day. We believe that our zip code has been used as both Jeopardy [television show] and Trivial Pursuit [board game] questions. Other interesting zip codes are 12345, General Electric in Schenectady, NY; 23456, Virginia Beach, VA; and 45678, Scottown, OH.

In the summer of 2001, David Rosdeitcher was named the Guinness World Record holder for the most consecutive zip codes identified at random. He can remember all the places connected to the 48,000 zip codes in the United States and many foreign countries [].