50 in 50: Delaware: Muskrat, Moon Suits and Mint Jelly? Oh My.

On December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, and has since promoted itself as "The First State." Thanks, Wikipedia. I'd always thought of Delaware as The Incorporation State. I stand corrected.

More than one million businesses take advantage of Delaware's incorporation services.

In researching the 49th smallest state in the Union, I feared the worst. Would I again find myself waxing poetic about quilts? Not that there's anything wrong with quilts, quilting or quilters, but thankfully a few other Delawarean items caught my eye:

MUSKRAT "The last muskrat dinner of the season at the Blackbird Community Center in Townsend is set for March 18," says delawareonline. "Eaters looking for the heirloom meat, also known as marsh rabbit, can find it from 4 to 6 p.m. at the center at 120 Blackbird Forest Road." If I book a flight to Delaware now I might just make it to the Blackbird Community Center in time for a bit o' muskrat. I've always wondered what it tastes like. Okay, that's a lie. I've never thought about muskrat. Unless Captain & Tennille's Muskrat Love pops into my head and I can't make it stop. Strangest song ever.

A Muskrat

In case you were wondering, Delaware's muskrat trapping season just closed. It runs from December through mid-March. In 1993 the Los Angeles Times interviewed folks dining at Mary Etta's Family Restaurant, a then-thriving Delaware eatery known for its delicious muskrat. Satisfied customer David Simpler said: "Muskrat's a tender meat and it's sweet. You'll never find a tough one. It's better than squirrel. Squirrel can be a little tough." Thanks, Mr. Simpler, I'll keep that in mind. But wait, there's more: Leon Powell, who'd eaten muskrats for more than 40 years, told the Times he could say without hesitation that "muskrats are better aphrodisiacs than oysters." Doubt anyone would say that about squirrels.

SPACE SUITS Every astronaut in our nation's Apollo program, including the twelve that walked on the moon, has worn a space suit made by ILC Dover, an American special engineering development and manufacturing company based in Frederica, Delaware. According to its website, ILC is "a world leader in the innovative design and production of engineered products employing high-performance flexible materials. We leverage our vast materials, engineering, process, and design experience to create high performance systems for a wide range of industries."

Astronaut Space Suit manufactured by ILC Dover, Delaware, for International Space Station

Among ILC's many impressive products: respiratory protection equipment and environmental safety solutions to the industrial, pharmaceutical, and healthcare markets; rapidly deployable flood protection systems to the commercial and municipal markets; space inflatables to the space market; and airships, aerostats and unmanned aerial vehicles to the aerospace market. But astronaut space suits? ILC's coolest product ever.

BABY WIPES If you're a new parent, baby wipes are must-haves--right up there with sleep. Turns out that tiny Delaware manufactures a whopping 40 percent of the baby wipes products sold in the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico. Dover Wipes--a subsidiary of Procter and Gamble--makes Luvs Wipes and Pampers Wipes.

Pampers Baby Wipes

"The Dover Wipes plant was built in 1971 by the Scott Paper Company on what had been 86-acres of farmland west of the city proper," the Dover Post reported in 2013. "Scott Paper merged with Kimberly-Clark in December 1995, prompting the U.S. Department of Justice to order Kimberly-Clark to divest itself of its baby wipes business. This resulted in the June 1996 sale of the Dover wipes plant to Procter & Gamble."

Procter & Gamble, inventor of disposable diapers, saw an opportunity to get into the wipes business. It spent more than $120 million to upgrade the Dover wipes operation and to expand its production capability. Dover Wipes / P&G has added $25 million annual payroll to the city of Dover and donated more than $91,000 in community and charitable contributions.

HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS / DOW CHEMICAL The word "chemistry" often evokes images of deadly toxins in lakes and streams. For me, reading the 2012 book Make It in America by Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris helped improve that perception. Founded in 1897 by an immigrant, Dow Chemical is "about as quintessentially American as you can get," writes Liveris (himself a dual citizen of Australia and the USA). Dow Chemical now employs over 50,000 people globally.

The Dow Chemical Company

Liveris believes the world is on the cusp of another Industrial Revolution, "entering a golden age of manufacturing...an incredibly exciting time in manufacturing--perhaps the most exciting in history." The future belongs to countries who invest in "highly advanced, highly specialized, high value-added manufacturing." Liveris worries our country might pass up this opportunity. "For generations to come, economic success will be a direct product of the things we build. The question is, who will build them?"

Dow--the world's fourth largest chemical company and a key component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average--continues to grow and develop the products we need and use daily. In the Delaware Valley, Dow employs 2,500 workers. "For more than 100 years, chemistry has played an integral part in the growth of this region," Dow's website explains, "The Delaware Valley has been the birthplace of solutions and home to some of the greatest minds in history. This is still true today."

Dow manufactures paints we can safely use in our homes.

"When we work or play on computers, paint a wall or piece of furniture in our homes, polish our floors, and caulk our bathrooms, Dow in the Delaware Valley plays a crucial role in the products that help us do these things. People at Dow harness the power of chemistry every day to make the world safer, cleaner and greener for generations to come."

BACKYARD JAMS AND JELLIES Enough with the chemicals. We need 'em but--sorry, Mr. Liveris--we'd rather not think about how they're made. Let's talk backyard gardens. Let's talk food and yummy jams and jellies made in Delaware by Krista Scudlark and family. Begun 25 years ago with a friend's recipe for green hot pepper jelly, Backyard Jams and Jellies uses ingredients grown in the Scudlark's backyard or purchased from local growers.

Backyard Jams and Jellies Green Hot Pepper Jelly

From that first batch of green pepper hot jelly, Krista was hooked on the jelly-and-jam-making process. Since her husband loves to garden, Krista began using "whatever was in season in the backyard."

Beach Plums in Krista's backyard, ripe for picking, to be used in her popular Beach Plum Jelly.

"At the time my neighbors owned Franklin Hardware Store in Lewes," Krista explains on her website. "One afternoon, while picking grapes, my neighbor suggested that I put a few jars in the hardware store. They flew off of the shelves--especially the Beach Plum Jelly, a local favorite. I guess that is when my hobby started to turn into a business. Now I make over 85 flavors, including fourteen award winners!" Check out Krista's website, then give her a call if you'd like to order. Backyard Jams and Jellies can be shipped anywhere in the USA.

Backyard Jams and Jellies

Happy St. Paddy's Day! Next up: Florida. Suggestions welcome!