Sunday, December 26, 2010
This holiday derives from the Old English custom of giving Christmas "boxes" to tradesmen, postmen, and servants. The original boxes were usually made of earthenware and contained money, which could be retrieved only by breaking the boxes open. These days, a gift of money is usually contained in a greeting card and given before the holiday. Where celebrated (Great Britain, Canada, and Australia), Boxing Day is welcomed as a quiet day of recuperation from the season's hectic festivities. It is also the biggest day of the year for soccer playoffs.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Dimmest and brightest month am I;
My short days end, my lengthening days begin;
What matters more or less Sun in the sky,
When all is Sun within?
The solstice arrives today at 6:38 PM. Oh hurray for the shortest day and onwards to more sunlight each and every day thereafter!
Sunday, December 19, 2010
It's been snowing every day here for a week. Yesterday I had the chance to go for a walk in the woods. It was really quiet in there with the light and fluffy snow falling. It was also very beautiful. It reminded me of this old poem I remembered reading as a school girl. I knew it was probably a Robert Frost poem... and so I went to search for it via the google. Here it is;Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
-Robert Frost – 1923
And isn't that a mention of the winter equinox in this poem?
Thursday, December 16, 2010
The sun is directly overhead on the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere during the December solstice. It also marks the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours for those living south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Those living or travelling south from the Antarctic Circle towards the South Pole will see the midnight sun during this time of the year.
On the contrary, for an observer in the northern hemisphere, the December solstice marks the day of the year with the least hours of daylight for those living north of the Tropic of Cancer. Those living or traveling north of the Arctic Circle towards the North Pole will not be able to see the sun during this time of the year.
Me, I can't hardly wait for the solstice. Why? Because we will have finally passed the shortest day and each following day brings more daylight. Which matters a lot when you live where I do!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The tradition is an old one, going back to the Druid custom of choosing a large log from an apple or oak tree, lighting it afire, and praying that it would burn forever.
In England, the log was selected months before Christmas day. Because it was believed that all who brought it in from the woods would be protected against harm for the ensuing year, everyone lent a hand, making the event itself a festive time.
AND ON THAT NOTE;
• One large log lasts two to three times longer than the same volume of smaller logs.
• To avoid insect pests, never store firewood on the ground touching your house.
• Burn only seasoned wood (seasoned logs seem light in weight and have dark ends with cracks).
• Wood-burning stoves are three times more efficient than standard fireplaces.
• For the prettiest flames, burn birch or maple.
• Ash makes great firewood. According to an old saying, “Ash new or ash old is fit for a queen with a crown of gold.”
• Add a handful of pine or hemlock needles, rosemary sprigs, or sage branches to your next fire to add natural incense to the room.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Since it's been cold here (-12 C with wind chill down around -22), I dressed up warm and stepped out into a world of white. Yup, you got that right. White.... snow that is. Both nights I went out with a thought to view showers they were obscured in the white stuff. Last night I could barely see my hand in front of my face with all the snow coming down.
I am sad to report I got bupkus here.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
The Geminid meteors should perform well after nightfall on Monday, December 13. They will continue into the next night, December 14 th. Hopefully, the full moon's (Dec. 21st) light won't interfer too much with the viewing of this spectacular show.
No other meteor shower boasts more meteors than the Geminids—with 75 per hour in a dark sky. Plus, viewing is all night (whereas most meteor showers are predawn)!i
- Where to look? The "point of origin" is where the flight course starts from. This is a good place to start. The bright and fast Geminids will appear to come from the northeast out of the Geminid twins.
- You don't need any special equipment! To enjoy, just find a dark place free from man-made lights, spread a blanket (if you live up north where I live, bring extra blankets and a thermos of hot chocolate) on the ground, and look up in the dark night sky!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I just wanted to get everyone ready for the next upcoming nighttime show. And, since it's Christmas and everyone is busy at this time of year..... I thought I should forewarn you so you can make the time to see the Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse.
An exceptional total eclipse of the Moon is visible throughout North America very early on the 21st ET (and begins on the 20th PT). The partial eclipse begins at 1:32 A.M., with totality starting at 2:40 A.M. Winter arrives the same day, with the solstice at 6:38 P.M. If you live in the Northeast, drag out a lawn chair and a couple of blankets. Don't forget the hot chocolate!
The total eclipse of the Moon in the early hours of December 21 will occur on a celestial canvas of superb beauty. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon. In this alignment, the shadow of the Earth falls upon the Moon, dimming the Moon and giving it unusual coloring, ranging from muted gray to coppery orange.
While every eclipse is special, this one is attended by many stars and constellations that are beautiful in their own right. The prominent constellations of Orion (The Hunter), Gemini (The Twins), Auriga (The Charioteer), and Taurus (The Bull) frame the Moon on eclipse night.
Sky Map for December 21, 210: Click to Expand (74.34 KB PDF)
No fewer than six stars of First Magnitude or brighter lie in the region around the Moon; they are labeled on the map. Lunar eclipses are slow motion events, lasting several hours. Your best viewing strategy will be to check the Moon every 20-30 minutes, starting at about 2:00 a.m.
Happy viewing and as the late Jack Horkheimer used to say as he closed his show Star Gazer.... Keep looking up!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, 1916
Do they still teach or, even read poetry in schools?
Friday, December 3, 2010
Now majestic December bends,
In flakes, o’er hills and dales descend;
With icicles his head is bound,
The tempest breaks—winds bellow round.
Did You Know?
Many countries in Europe celebrate the Feast of Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, on the eve of December 6. After dinner, families hunt for their presents, following clues in funny, anonymous poems. They also eat candies and cookies, especially spicy crispy ginger-cookie figures formed in a traditional wooden mold.
St. Nicholas is credited with saving three sisters from lives of ill repute by throwing bags of gold into their house (some say down the chimney, others say through the window) to provide for their dowries. In many places children still hang their stockings by the chimney or place their shoes by the window for St. Nicholas to fill them with presents and sweets on the eve of his feast day. He is considered the patron saint of children.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Composting is a method of recycling naturally decomposing matter. Ingredients, size of the pile, local weather conditions, and your maintenance habits will affect the outcome. Note that shredded leaves, chipped wood, and chopped food scraps generally decompose more quickly than whole or large pieces.
Hot, or Active Composting
The quickest way to produce rich garden humus is to create a hot, or active, compost pile. It is called “hot” because it can reach an internal temperature of 160°F (140°F is best) and “active” because it destroys, essentially by cooking, weed seeds and disease-causing organisms. The size of the pile, the ingredients, and their arrangements in layers are key to reaching that desired outcome.
Size: A hot compost pile should be a 3-foot cube, at minimum; a 4-foot cube is preferred. The pile will shrink as the ingredients decompose.
- One part high-carbon materials (shredded, dry plant matter such as leaves, twigs, woody stems, corn cobs)
- One part high-nitrogen green plant matter (green plant and vegetable refuse, grass clippings, weeds, trimmings, kitchen scraps—but avoid meat, dairy, and fat) and good-quality soil
Pile the ingredients like a layer cake, with 2 to 4 carbon materials on the bottom (twigs and woody stems here will help air to circulate into the pile). Next, add a layer of soil. Add 2 to 4 inches of nitrogen-based materials, followed by soil. Repeat until the pile reaches 2 to 3 feet high.
Soak the pile at its start and water periodically; its consistency should be that of a damp sponge.
Add air to the interior of the pile by punching holes in its sides or by pushing 1- to 2-foot lengths of pipe into it.
Check the temperature of the pile with a compost thermometer or an old kitchen thermometer. A temperature of 110°F to 140°F is desirable. If you have no heat or insufficient heat, add nitrogen in the form of soft green ingredients or organic fertilizer.
If a foul odor emanates from the pile, flip the compost to introduce more air. And consider: Did you add meat or dairy products? Remove and discard them, if possible.
Once a week, or as soon as the center starts to cool down, turn the pile. Move materials from the center of the pile to the outside. (For usable compost in 1 to 3 months, turn it every other week; for finished compost within a month, turn it every couple of days.)
Cold, or Passive Composting
Cold, or passive, composting uses many of the same type of ingredients as hot composting and requires less effort from the gardener, yet the decomposition takes substantially longer—a year or more.
To cold compost, pile organic materials (leaves, grass clippings, soil, manures—but avoid dog, cat, and human waste) as you find or accumulate them. Bury kitchen scraps in the center of the pile to deter insects and animals. Avoid adding meat, dairy, and fat. Also avoid weeds; cold compost piles do not reach high temperatures and do not kill weed seeds. (In fact, weeds may germinate in a cold pile.)
In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, any of these items may be added to a compost pile:
- Coffee grounds and tea bags
- Dry goods (crackers, flour, spices)
- Pasta (cooked or uncooked)
- Shredded paper/newspaper
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Thanksgiving became a national holiday in 1863. In that year, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln made his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. He asked citizens to “to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise . . . .”
It was not until 1941 that Congress designated the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day, thus creating a federal holiday.
Turkey became the traditional Thanksgiving fare because at one time it was a rare treat. During the 1830s, an 8- to 10-pound bird cost a day’s wages. Today, they still remain a celebratory symbol of bounty. In fact, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin ate roast turkey in foil packets for their first meal on the Moon.
November 23 (1989)
Low pressure across the Carolinas brought record snow to the East on Thanksgiving Day.
November 25 (1983)
The Great Thanksgiving Blizzard hit Denver, Colo., with 21.5 inches of snow in 37 hours.
November 26 (1987)
On this Thanksgiving Day, snowfall totals in Maine ranged up to 20 inches at Flagstaff Lake. A second storm, over the southern and central Rockies, produced 13 inches at Divide, Colo.
Over the river, and through the wood,
Now grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
(from “The New England Boy’s Thanksgiving Poem”)
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Hi friends, I'm not usually a fan of large emails. However, Camilla and I have put our blood sweat & tears into this project. Music & Video ( we wrote the music) to "In Flanders Fields". We really wanted to breathe new life into the Remembrance Day message. The McCrae House here in town is on board, several schools are using it for assembly, and Rogers wants to air it. This is great but the rest of Canada needs it too. First just take a 3 minute look to remember our vets, after that if you know anyone/organization I should send it to please let me know, and I'm equally more than happy if you fwd, Facebook or do whatever to share it with more people - as a matter of fact I'll even just ask you to. I really believe in the message here. Enough said - pls enjoy the video. Your friends, Paul and Camilla Cook
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
St. Martin’s Day, November 11, is considered the beginning of Indian summer, a period of warm weather following a cold spell or hard frost.
Although there are differing dates for Indian summer, for more than 200 years The Old Farmer’s Almanac has adhered to the saying “If All Saints’ (November 1) brings out winter, St. Martin’s brings out Indian summer.” Indian summer can occur between St. Martin’s Day and November 20.
If we don’t have a spell of fine weather during that time, there’s no Indian summer. As for the origin of the term, some say that it comes from the early Native Americans, who believed that the condition was caused by a warm wind sent from the court of their southwestern god, Cautantowwit.
Our predicted weather for the 11th is: (hope you will get something better than this!)
Monday, November 8, 2010
This blog entry is dedicated to those with birthdays this month.
A joyous Happy Birthday to some of those special people in my life who are celebrating their birthdays this month;
Mark, Karen, Heather, OO and, Elizabeth
And, I know better than to divulge ages!
History of Birthday observance can be traced back before the rise of Christianity. In pagan culture it was believed evil spirits visited people on their birthdays. To protect the person having birthday from the evil effect, people used to surround him and make merry. A lot of noise used to be created in such parties to scare away the evil spirits. In those times there was no tradition of bringing gifts and guests attending the birthday party would bring good wishes for the birthday person. However, if a guest did bring gifts it was considered to be a good sign for the person of honor. Later, flowers became quite popular as a Birthday gift.
Some of the popular Birthday traditions and symbols that we see today originated hundreds of years ago. Some believe the tradition of birthday cake was started by early Greeks who used to take round or moon shaped cake to temple of Artemis - the Goddess of Moon. Others believe the custom of Birthday cake initiated in Germany where people used to make bread in the shape of baby Jesus’ swaddling cloth.
The popular custom of lighting candles on the cake is said to have originated because Greeks used to light candles on the cake taken to Artemis to make it glow like a moon. Some though believe that custom originated because of a religious belief that gods lived in the sky and lighted candles helped to send a signal or prayers to the god. Germans are said to have placed a big candle in the centre of the cake to symbolize ‘the light of life’. Even today people make silent wishes as they blow out candles. It is believed that blowing out all candles in one breath brings good luck.
HOPE ALL OF YOU WITH NOVEMBER BIRTHDAYS... ENJOY THEM!
Thursday, November 4, 2010
November 4—Will Rogers Day
This holiday is celebrated in Oklahoma to honor the trick-roping cowboy and all-around entertainer, who was born in that state in 1879.
"I don't make jokes. I just watch government and report the facts.”.–Will Rogers (1879–1935)
November 6—Sadie Hawkins Day
Not a typical holiday, this holiday is the invention of Al Capp, creator of the Li'l Abner comic strip. On this day, unmarried ladies could pursue (literally) their men; if caught, marriage was unavoidable. The idea took off in real-life. In 1938, the first recorded "girls-ask-boys" Sadie Hawkins dance was held.
November 7—Daylight Saving Time Ends at 2:00 A.M.
In 2010, Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 7, at 2:00 A.M. Remember to “fall back” by setting your clocks back 1 hour. Did you know? Benjamin Franklin suggested the idea of a time change in 1784. Daylight Saving Time was first observed in the United States during World War I and then again during World War II.
Weather FolkloreIf the first snow sticks to the trees, it foretells a bountiful harvest.
If sheep feed facing downhill, watch for a snowstorm.
Thunder in November indicates a fertile year to come.
If there be ice in November that will bear a duck, there will be nothing thereafter but sleet and muck.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I woke up this morning to a temperature of - 6 C. The weather site I use called it "uncomfortably cold". No kidding! The ground is all white. Not from snow but, from frost. It freezes the bird seed to the feeders making it hard for my feathered friends to eat. And, when I walk on the grass I can hear it breaking. Breaking grass? It's an odd sound but, once heard you will remember it.
It's already snowed. But, just a tiny bit, barely covered the ground for more than an hour. My friend, twice has gotten well over an inch or, so. But, then again she lives an hour away and is in a higher elevation than I am.
Yesterday DH and I pulled the snow blower out. Wanted to give it the once over and make sure all was ready for our first big snowfall before it caught us unaware. It's been sitting patiently awaiting us all summer long in the back of the garage. We couldn't get it started the first time with the pull cord. We had to resort to starting it electrically. Which it did beautifully. Then there after the first time, it started every time with the pull cord.
The pellet stove we had installed this summer seems to be doing a good job keeping the house warm. The money we have spent on the stove and the pellets for this entire winter season... get this... have cost us less than what we paid last year in oil costs for the furnace.
Hoping for a mild winter and an early warm spring.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
We have started feeding the birds for the winter. We were starting to get worried since it's gotten so cold quickly this year, we figured starting sooner than later was for the best.
This year we got smart. Do you know how expensive bird seed has gotten? Don't buy bags of mixed birdseed. They contain a lot of filler, such as red millet. Most birds won't eat it. It gets kicked onto the ground, where stays until it rots. (Look around the base of your bird feeder come Spring, you'll see what I mean.) Mixed birdseed is not a bargain. Buy the seeds you know your birds want.
To maximize the number of species that visit our feeders, we offer a variety of food. And offer it at different heights. We have feeding stations on fence posts, on the pole that holds a very tall bird feeder and DH has mounted old satellite dishes on poles. We can see the bird feeding station from any window on the back side of the house and from the back breezeway mud room.
Most birds that stay in cold regions in winter eat seeds. They have to. Insects are hard to find in freezing weather. Here is a selection of seeds that attract a wide variety of birds;
The over all favorite is sunflower seeds. It attracts cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches. It's good to put most of your sunflower seeds in hanging feeders. It's safer from squirrels and raccoons that way. For the past two days we starting seeing our first cardinal... it was Mr. Cardinal... didn't see the Mrs. until the following day. What a joy to see those two.
Get black sunflower seeds, sometimes called oil seeds, rather than the grey-and-white-striped sunflower seeds sold for people to eat. They're higher in oil content, softer shelled, and cheaper.Nyger has replaced thistle as the most popular seeds to feed goldfinches. Goldfinches adore nyger. Dozens of goldfinches will be visiting your nyger feeder at once, which is quite a sight on a winter day. Niger is a black seed, so tiny and light you can blow away a handful with a gentle breath. Niger is also expensive, over a dollar a pound! We don't want to waste this precious seed. We bought a hanging tube with tiny holes, designed especially for nyger.
Safflower is a white seed, slightly smaller than black sunflower seed. Chickadees, titmice, chickadees, and downy woodpeckers eat it.
The great thing about safflower seeds is that squirrels don't like them! (We have one grey and one black squirrel who have started visiting the bird feeding area... DH got out his slingshot to scare them away.) Neither do grackles, blue jays, or starlings. I bit into a safflower seed myself once and bout gagged me!
Oh and once you start feeding the birds, don't stop till Spring. Some birds may become somewhat dependent on your feeder for food, especially some migrants that might have traveled farther on to a more dependable food supply. By feeding birds, you are also concentrating many of them in a small area. If you suddenly stop feeding, the birds will have to look for natural food sources which may result in overtaxing the available supplies in that area. Hungry birds will move on in search of food and it may take some time to lure other birds to your feeder. Keep your feeder filled at all times.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Tonight is the night
Tonight is the night
When leaves make a sound
Thursday, October 28, 2010
This day was known as Samhain to the ancient Celts—the death night of the old year. It was a turning point that marked the end of summer (life and light) and the beginning of winter (death and darkness).
This is the day when all the saints are honored—especially those who do not have a day of their own. The idea probably began in the 4th century as a way to honor Christian martyrs whose names were unknown.
Traditionally, All Saints’ Day features chestnuts, gingerbread, and doughnuts. The round shape of the doughnuts was said to symbolize eternity, a nod to the saints whose lives are celebrated.
The changing time when we are most alone.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
– William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)
This is the time for Scorpios, those born between October 23 and November 22. Some of this week’s birthday people include;
artist Pablo Picasso (25th)
game show host Pat Sajak (26th)
inventor Isaac Singer (27th)
Microsoft founder Bill Gates (28th)
hockey player Mike Gartner (29th)
actor Henry Winkler (30th)
poet John Keats (31th)
Scorpios are considered passionate, intuitive, emotional, and determined. They excel at analysis and research. Scorpio’s ruling planet is Pluto.
PS Some of my very best friends are Scorpios.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
In pioneer days, after the vegetables were stored for the winter, it was time to go farther afield looking for wild game. Deer were fattening up, and Native Americans and farmers sought a store of good venison for the cold winter days to come.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The Orionids Meteor Shower has already started to produce activity in the morning skies around the northern hemisphere. It started October 2nd and will be active until early November. The Orionids has a few days before and after the peak that are more active than other days. This is a unique feature called a “submaxima”. Viewers can anticipate the strongest activity to take place in the morning of October 21st, but the period of days that lead up to the peak and after the peak called “submaxima activity” means that strong outbursts may occur between October 18th and October 24th at any time.
So who would have guessed it that I would be outside on the night before the strongest activity of the Orionids Meteor Shower? If it's a clear night... go outside and watch the showers. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the show.
As Jack Herkimer (of the Miami Planetarium) was fond of saying as he closed his show... "KEEP LOOKING UP! "
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Look for seven major stars: four in the "bowl" and three in the "handle." The two stars on the outside of the bowl are called the “pointer” stars. They always show the way to Polaris, a bright star that is also called the North Star, which lies in the handle of the Little Dipper.
Here's how to find north:
1. Find the Big Dipper.
2. Find the pointer stars.
3. Find Polaris.
4. Look straight up.
5. Turn your body toward Polaris.
6. Now, you're facing north!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The hollow winds begin to blow,
The clouds look black, the glass is low;
The soot falls down, the spaniels sleep,
And spiders from their cobwebs peep.
– Dr. Edward Jenner (1749–1823)
Did you know that the jack-o’-lantern dates back to medieval Ireland? Its legend involves an Irishman named Jack who was too stingy to go to heaven and too mischievous to go to hell.
Jack had to wander Earth until Judgment Day with a lantern made from a hollowed-out turnip with a live coal inside. Children started making these lanterns on Halloween; in the New World, people switched from turnips to pumpkins.
Riddle: How do you fix a jack-o’-lantern?
Answer: A pumpkin patch!
Thursday, October 7, 2010
- Gather some vines, dried sunflower heads, herbs, tall grasses, and flowers with seed heads.
- Start with a straw or vine wreath base, or make your own using grapevines, Virginia creeper, or branches from weeping willow.
- Attach medium-size sunflower heads all around the wreath, securing the flowers to the base with floral wire, if needed.
- Stick assorted flowers (coneflowers, zinnias, black-eyed Susans, or any others with a good supply of seeds) in between the sunflowers. Baby corn is another great addition.
- Finally, stick herbs and grasses all around, and you are ready to hang the wreath where the birds will find it and you'll enjoy watching them eat.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
■ Much rain in October, much wind in
■ For every fog in October, a snow in the winter.
■ Full Moon in October without frost, no frost
till full Moon in November.
Consists of culture, including stories, music, dance, legends, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, customs and so forth within a particular population comprising the traditions (incl. oral traditions) of that culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those express genres are shared. The academic and usually ethnographic study of folklore is sometimes called folkloristics.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Frost Chart for United States
Frost Chart for Canada.
What's the difference between a frost and a hard freeze? A frost refers to the conditions that allow a layer of ice crystals to form when water vapor condenses and freezes without first becoming dew. A hard freeze is a period of at least four consecutive hours of air temperatures that are below 25 degrees F. Many plants can survive a brief frost, but very few can survive a hard freeze.
TIP: The chill of a moderate frost or light snow improves the flavor of brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, kale, leeks, parsnips, and turnips.
I saw this and had to share.
It's so whimsical, beautiful and lyrical.
I hope you enjoy it too.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Garlic is a perennial bulb and garlic is grown as a hardy annual—hardy because the cloves are planted in the fall and must survive the winter; annual because it is harvested during its first year of growth. There are three secrets to growing garlic: the first two—planting and picking—have to do with timing; the third is all about careful drying.
Unlike other vegetables, garlic (Allium sativum) goes into the ground in late summer or early fall, any time from mid-September to mid-October. When you buy garlic to plant, you receive full intact bulbs, no different from the garlic that sits on your kitchen counter for cooking. (Except the kitchen variety maybe treated to not grow.) You then split the bulbs into individual cloves for planting; each clove you plant can yield a full bulb—or head—the following summer. Unless they are tiny, size is of little consequence; as you separate cloves, try to keep the protective papery husk around each one.
Garlic is best planted in full sun, in a bed about a metre wide. The soil should be well drained, and dug to a depth of at least 20 centimetres, then raked to a smooth, level surface. Draw out furrows of about four to six centimetres deep across the bed with the corner of a hoe. Leave 20 centimetres between the rows. Push single cloves into the furrows, about 15 centimetres apart, until the tips are barely visible, then draw in the ridges of soil from the furrows over the planted cloves to a depth of five centimetres.
Planted early, garlic may show a few points of green growth the same fall. In regions where snow cover comes and goes, mulch the garlic bed just before the first hard freeze. A layer of dry leaves (10 centimetres) is enough to keep the earth from freezing and thawing repeatedly.
Very early the following spring, garlic's broad blue-green leaves begin to grow solidly and by the end of May will reach a surprising height. Insects aren't interested in garlic plants, and spring rains are often enough to see them through to maturity.
A double yield: Garlic scapes in June
In mid-June, curly green pigtails emerge from the center of each plant. These scapes are hard stalks topped with tiny bulbils. All experts agree that it's best to nip garlic in the bud, as it were, snapping off the scapes after they have made a loop or two, to send more energy to the developing bulbs. The scapes' tender tops (as opposed to the hard fibrous bottom portion) are loaded with flavor. Peel and thinly slice them and add to a pesto, stew or frittata.
Careless harvesting can ruin a fine crop of garlic, however, and timing is all-important. Left in the ground, the bulbs grow overly large, and can split their papery casing. Garlic is harvest-ready usually sometime in July or early August, when the lowest three or four leaves have died back; that is, when the plant is about half green, and the rest is withered and brown. Loosen the earth with a trowel or spade to release the plants.
Careful drying means good long-term storage. An hour or two in the sun does no harm, but after that lay the bulbs (tops and all) in a single layer—a propped-up window screen works well here—in a dry, shaded spot, such as an airy garden shed, open garage or barn; it's best if the bulbs don't get wet. In 10 to 14 days, they should be completely dry. Then, using secateurs, trim tops back a few centimetres from the bulbs, and gently rub the bulbs to remove dirt and loose skin. Store the bulbs at room temperature or lower, somewhere not too humid (and not in the fridge). Homegrown garlic is good stuff, miles away from pallid imports, and you'll be reaching for it often—for both flavor and health.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Tonight's weather is rain and more rain. We have battened down the hatches in preparation for the 2 to 4 inches of rain predicted for overnight. Our rain barrels which we had started to disconnect, we had to reconnect to keep this amount of rain away from the house foundation.
The moving of the three smaller raised garden boxes had to put on hold. The soil was covered so it wouldn't wash away as it's out of the boxes as they are getting reassembled.
While we fretted and waited on the rain, I went apple picking. Have I ever told you how fresh and sweet an apple is right off the tree? That first crisp crunch...mmm. I sampled over 4 different varieties of apple trying to decide which kind to bring home for applesauce, apple pies and crumbles. I will probably pay for this tomorrow! I did decide on snow and spartan apples. Neither of which I have done anything with before. It's always been the standard, the MacIntosh I have bought. But, I threw caution to the wind today and was adventurous. I'll let you know how things work out with these new types for me.
Oh I did make applesauce to go with the roast pork loin I made for dinner. Was it ever tasty. I used the lobos I had previously purchased. They made a fine applesauce without any added sugar. Sweet and cinnamony, because how can you have applesauce without adding cinnamon to it? (Thank you Joy for that cinnamon!)
I was told by my next door neighbor it was "because you don't work" our garden did well. Don't work? Geez Louise don't you think I already put my time in the 9-5 work a day world? I did 25+ years doing the daily grind on the night shift at that. And, I am 20 some odd years older than you whose house looks like a disaster area and should be condemned and who harvested only a dozen decent tomatoes from 30 plants. (Though whose counting here?) I am not neither sitting on my laurels nor, not working in some way daily. I guess she got my back up a bit with her indiscriminate statement.
Our big plans are to start a CSA garden. To become self employed and help others to learn how to eat locally and organically. Everything I did in the garden this past year was a learning experience to make this dream of ours come true. I planted so many different types of tomatoes I lost count, new crops of different sorts, different ways of trellising plants and tried new organic pesticides on those bad buggies who were chomping on the plants. (Did you know a strong vacuum cleaner will clear the beetles out of your squash and cucumber plants amazingly well?) All of this in preparation for next year's garden. And, I didn't work you say?
I look with great pleasure at all the food stuffs I put by this year. I hotwater bathed canned, I continued to learn more on how to pressure can, I dehydrated all sorts of veggies and I froze as much as I could for our winter consumption. I am proud of what I was able to accomplish. It should lighten our grocery bills this winter quite a bit. Oh and you said I didn't work?
I hope all you who continued to read this blog had a good experience with your gardening too. Are you ready for next year?
Thursday, September 23, 2010
–Charles G. Eastman (1816–60)
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
It's been quite a while (almost a full week) since I last posted here. I have been running non-stop canning, dehydrating and freezing all and everything out of the garden. Plus, have been dealing with DH who is having a severe gout attack and can hardly walk. So all things being equal or, unequal in this case..... the blog suffered from my absence.
I am going to be short and succinct and just post photos for you to enjoy. Garlic jelly, zuke soup, spaghetti sauce, tomato water and some of the bounty of the garden are shown.
Hope everyone is well (dearest Katie who isn't well - get better soonest Honeypie) and enjoying their last month of summer.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
These past couple of days it's been all about the produce coming out of the garden. You can see by the pictures I have been a busy little bee.
The single canning jars you see are filled with salsa and a variation of Boston baked beans. Also in the picture showing off all the jars are some roasted pepper in a vinaigrette.
Then yesterday when I took my trip through the garden I was pleasantly surprised to find a laundry basket's worth of different veggies needing to be picked. There's corn, green beans (which you can't see), eggplant, cucumbers, yellow crookneck and zucchini squashes, one lone pepper and more tomatoes in the basket. Which all lead to my canning again late last night.
I got to use my brand new steam juicer last night. The steam juicer by means of hot steam breaks down the cell wall of a fruit, veggie or, meat product in the steamer basket. Allowing you to collect the delicious and mostly under used liquids of anything you can think of to steam. Think chicken = chicken broth and the most tender chicken meat due to the steam. Fruits to steam gives you clear juice for the making of jellies and the pulp to make fruit leathers from. Or, tomatoes (which is what I did last night) steamed = tomato water and tomato pulp for the making of sauce. This works to free you up without the long process of cooking down the tomatoes forever to get a thick sauce. Plus, you get this almost clear liquid to use in soup bases, cook rice in or, just to drink with a bit of Worcestershire sauce added in. This liquid during conventional cooking would have gone up in steam in the room. Now it is being saved and utilized. Can you tell I like this new gadget, my steam juicer?
After picking more tomatoes yesterday I realized something had to be done with said tomatoes. Late into the night I worked to process the pounds and pounds of tomatoes I had. I now have to add to my shelves which are definitely getting full; tomato water and spaghetti sauce.
I have today off as we are going on what we call a "road rally" to the big city. But, once I get home and if, I am not exhausted.... I am canning tonight too. Just maybe this garden is a bit big this year?
Sunday, August 15, 2010
It's time to pull the canner back out. And, I will finally be using my steam juicer too.
It pulls the water out of whatever you are steaming.
So should make the cooking and canning of the tomato products much simpler this year as the water will be gone (saving as this is wonderful drink to can also) and the thick pulp is all that is left in the steamer's basket.
I was just out in the garden and there are a ton more ripe tomatoes and peppers.
Today's the day to can I am thinking.
Tomato sauce and roasted peppers.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I can watch the sun change shadows from deep purple to gold to bright sunlight. I can hear the birds calling back and forth to each other. The cidada are humming away and peepers are quieting.
Life unfolds out there. Day by day, season by season and by paying attention, I get to know my world better. I connect in some way; my inner world meets that outer space and it's in those moments all the creating of a garden fade into the joy of being in one.
There's no way I can begin to tell you of the changing tones of the light as it slashes and unravels the night's work. Those small hints of light pushing through trees. To lengthen, to change shape and color. To dance in the wind of a moving branch.
It's a joy that goes deeply into my soul that can indeed call tears on a good day and a calm, weary smile on a bad.
Oh, I don't see the magic every morning because sometimes my head is full of other things. Of life and it's worries and cares. It is those days I regret as I grow older. It is the giving away of those precious moments to others instead of being in the now and enjoying.
This sense of soul is easily disturbed by in rushing thoughts or ideas, a sideways thought can cause me to see a cloud has gone over the light and the magic is gone. In reconnecting with the outer world, the moment and magic disappears. How sad that can be.
It's mostly OK. I know the magic is there, we've connected and life is good. That brief moment in the morning is why I garden. To breathe - in my world.
And I celebrate. In my garden, my heart and my soul.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The vegetable garden is likely to require daily harvesting now. Cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers should be picked as soon as the fruits are ready. This not only captures the best flavor, but it also makes way for new fruits.
Maximum flavor of herbs for drying is achieved by cutting them just before their flowers open.
Make sure that potatoes are not escaping into the sunlight. Hill or mulch them if they are.
Trenches of new asparagus beds should receive their final filling in this month.
Remove dead pea vines, bolted lettuce, and other plants that have gone by and add them to the compost pile. If they show signs of disease, however, burn them.
Separate melons from the ground with a thin board to prevent decay or damage from wireworms.
Cut out raspberry and blackberry canes that have just finished fruiting.
After the vines die, harvest winter squash and pumpkins.
The list goes on and on. I know I have forgotten a few things but, then again, I am not perfect.
Have a wonderful day.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Had another haul of blueberries... gosh can you say, plentiful? Didn't know what I was going to do with them. The freezer is full and I have a couple of months worth of jam made for DH. Thought about pie filling. But, that means that would be the only thing to do with them. Then did some research and looking around at the USDA site for home canning and choose instead to pressure can them in a 10% syrup. Aren't they beautiful in the jar. What a glorious colour. With the blueberries canned this way I can use them in different ways including using them to make pies for DH who says blueberry pie is his fav.
The tomatoes have started ripening in bunches now. Look at what's on my window sill and there's a whole slew in the garden which are just this side of ripe. I will be looking for a good sauce recipe so I can start canning them. I for years just threw a sauce together, you know a little of this and a little of that but, have found with canning if you want to replicate something the next year.... you should record your recipe. Also depending on how I am canning it, I have to make sure the ratio of low acid veggies to high acid veggies are safe to can using a BWB (Boiling Water Bath) canner. If I choose to BWB can vs. PC (Pressure Can) I have to be right on the money. With PC it's not a problem as the water temperature is much higher and you are "pressure" canning. Damn canning is a science, don't ya know? I do now have a huge file of recipes for canning. But, not a dang one for tomato sauce.
With the extra maters will also be doing some of the salsa I did last year. I only have a single 4 oz. jar left of the over 18 I did last year. DH loves my salsa plus, I use a pint jar in my slow cooker vegetarian chili.
I did a count of what I have canned so far these past 2 months. I know compared to others it's not a whole lot but, to me and DH it represents quite a bit of our winter food. And, I am going to have to look into scoring some more free jars. Or, if not... go to the stores and find some cheap. The outlay in money isn't too bad when you figure you can in them forever but, 500 ml jars are going for ~ $8/12. I have way more than enough liter jars.... those will be for soups and what little meat we do eat. Oh yeah back to the count..... my count up to today is; 103 canned jars of food!!!!! Pretty awesome numbers to me.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Even today, lemon’s uses are numerous:
• Lemon juice cleans piano keys and copper pots, brightens porcelain, absorbs odors, and removes lipstick and wine stains.
• Half a lemon makes a fresh cleaning pad for sinks. Use it with a little salt as an abrasive.
• Undiluted fresh lemon juice cleans water spots and stains from your car's chrome.
- For a sore throat or bad breath, gargle with some lemon juice.
- Clean discolored utensils with a cloth dipped in lemon juice. Rinse with warm water.
- Toss used lemons into your garbage disposal to help keep it clean and smelling fresh.
- Use one part lemon juice and two parts salt to scour chinaware to its original luster.
- A few drops of lemon juice in outdoor house-paint will keep insects away while you are painting and until the paint dries.
- Remove scratches on furniture by mixing equal parts of lemon juice and salad oil and rubbing it on the scratches with a soft cloth.
- To make furniture polish, mix one part lemon juice and two parts olive oil.
- To clean the surface of white marble or ivory (such as piano keys), rub with a half a lemon, or make a lemon juice and salt paste. Wipe with a clean, wet cloth.
- To renew hardened paintbrushes, dip into boiling lemon juice. Lower the heat and leave the brush for 15 minutes, then wash it in soapy water.
- To remove dried paint from glass, apply hot lemon juice with a soft cloth. Leave until nearly dry, and then wipe off.
- Rub kitchen and bathroom faucets with lemon peel. Wash and dry with a soft cloth to shine and remove spots.
- Fresh lemon juice in rinse water removes soap film from interiors of ovens and refrigerators.
- Create your own air freshener: Slice some lemons, cover with water, and let simmer in a pot for about an hour. (This will also clean your aluminum pots!)
- Fish or onion odor on your hands can be removed by rubbing them with fresh lemons.
- To get odors out of wooden rolling pins, bowls, or cutting boards, rub with a piece of lemon. Don’t rinse: The wood will absorb the lemon juice.
- Save lemon and orange rinds to deter squirrels and cats from digging in the garden. Store rinds in the freezer during the winter, and then bury them just under the surface of the garden periodically throughout the spring and summer.
- After a shampoo, rinse your hair with lemon juice to make it shine. Mix the strained juice of a lemon in an eight-ounce glass of warm water.
- Mix one tablespoon of lemon juice with two tablespoons of salt to make a rust-removing scrub.
- Before you start to vacuum, put a few drops of lemon juice in the dust bag. It will make the house smell fresh.
- Get grimy white cotton socks white again by boiling them in water with a slice of lemon.
- Clean copper pots by cutting a lemon in half and rubbing the cut side with alt until the salt sticks. Rub the lemon onto the metal, rinse with hot water, and polish dry.
- Suck on a lemon to settle an upset stomach.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
The garden continues to produce and produce and produce. I have been canning my a_s off this week. And have hardly taken a break. It's been beets, beets and more beets. And, I have pink tinged clothes now. The kitchen was pink tinged too. Floor, cupboards, counter tops and whatever else got in the way.
The tomatoes are finally starting to ripen. Which is really nice. We had BLT sandwiches a couple of nights in a row. (They were easy to fix in the midst of the mess of canning!)
Oh and the corn. Can you spell d-e-l--i-c-i-o-u-s? It's been wonderful too. I don't think we'll be able to save enough this year to freeze from our garden. But, I could buy some local corn which has finally come down in price. It's now 6 ears/$1. Think I will freeze a couple of ears for the holiday dinners, ie Christmas, New Years, Easter when they will taste very good and seem like summer is back on our plates.
Hope everyone is enjoying the bounty of summer veggies! Tonight here it's eggplant Parmesan.
Of course the eggplant is from our garden. Going to have to find out how to save some of that for winter...... hmm. Anyone know?
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I planned this year's garden to include sunflowers. I was pleasantly surprised when after planting my sunflowers to find numerous volunteer sunflowers popping up all over the yard. One of the good side effects to feeding the winged wild population. They carry the seeds every where in the yard and drop them.
You see.... I wanted to attract bees to the garden and also participate in the bee counting done by http://www.greatsunflower.org/. They are tracking the decrease in population of the bee colonies by getting people to plant sunflowers and then doing a count of the number (and types) of bees which visit the sunflowers in a set amount of time during the summer.
I can't say enough good things about them. It's a wonderful organization run by some really terrific people doing some really incredible work. You should really check it out. And, for those of you who have kids.... keep this in mind for next year. They even will send you the seeds for the sunflowers. (Did I say free seeds? Yup that's right, free!) This is my second year of contributing by counting. And, I will continue to do so for as long as I am able. We need our bees!
We finally got our much needed rain yesterday. Funny thing, it all fell within less than an 1/2 hour. The deluge with strong forceful winds and very loud thunder boomers filled our empty rain barrels in quick time. Wonderful! Then was followed by some very beautiful rainbows. Here are a couple of pictures taken by DH (who by the way is the son of a great photographer).
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Guess what? It's raining outside. It's been raining all night too. Finally! Not a day too soon either.
Only thing is we had planned and had roofers coming to redo the roof on our old garage or, what we call the out building. We just got off the phone with them as they are over 80 miles away. It was a bit hard to convince them we had had rain all night and it was continuing to come down. But, we didn't want to see any of the crew hurt by being up on a wet roof.
So I am off watering duty this morning. And, I think I will head back to bed. See you all tomorrow.
Little old me...
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