Christmas has come and gone and my Christmas Cactus helped make the holidays very colorful by blooming big time on Christmas. It gives me a thrill every time I look at it, especially when I think of its history. This beautiful plant is a family "heirloom" being as it is a plant started from one my Great Grandmother Moore had in her house. I always loved it and before she died she made sure all of her relatives that loved her and it had a shoot to start their own plant. Unfortunately, I killed mine in my younger days during a move. My grandmother had one and gave a start to my Dad. Now, I have my own plant going beautifully. l love it and when I look at it, it brings back many happy memories of my Great Grandmother and my Grandmother, both of whom loved plants and bright colors, especially pink--the color of the Christmas Cactus blossoms. Hopefully, everyone had a great holiday and is looking forward to the New Year for another great holiday and a great year!
Christmas is almost here and that means in about a week we will be checking into a new year with all of its bright prospects before us. We could talk about New Year's Resolutions today, but we will save that topic for another day. Today we will talk about calendars. Maybe you have always wondered why many religious holidays seem to track through the calendar, never being on the same date and sometimes not even the same month year after year--examples are Ramadan and Hanukkah. To my western eye, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when they occur. This week while reading an article, the reason came to light. I, as a typical westerner, assumed most of the world used a calendar based on the sun like our Gregorian calendar. Apparently, many religions and countries still use lunar calendars. A typical lunar calendar can lose as many as 11 days a year and therefore the dates for celebrations and holidays move around through the year. Fascinating! How on earth do we manage to travel from one place to another without getting totally confused. Enough about calendars. Happy Holidays to all of you, customers and readers! Have a great time and be safe!
Greenery! It sounds like something we decorate our house with at Christmas time, or maybe plant around the yard to enhance the landscape. Perhaps it is both, but today we are talking about it as a color--Pantone's 2017 color of the year. Pantone sees greenery as a bold color that refreshes and heals. It is the shade of spring. Pantone comes close to getting into politics by saying we have had a rough, divisive year with two colors for 2016. They feel that the new color will pull people together. Pantone also associates it with a lot of bold movements. These aren't clear to me, but green is one of my favorite colors. Greenery isn't my favorite shade, but I do like it. They say that Kermit the Frog should love it and maybe he is this color, but I have never seen a "greenery" frog in my pond or garden. However, even though we are nearing the official beginning of winter, the color of the year can make us start thinking about spring and all the plants we want to put in our garden. The ball of yarn in the bottom picture is the closest I could find to greenery--keeping in mind of course that all of these colors are subject to the vagary of computer colors.
Pictures from the harvest this fall. We saw three trailers full of corn--an amazing amount of food for someone or something--driven off the field to wherever they go. Deer and turkeys have been enjoying the kernels and cobs that were dropped or missed, so they must have had a happy Thanksgiving. Hopefully, all of you had a Happy Thanksgiving!
One of the many things I have learned during my life is that blue is the favorite color of many people--maybe even most people.
It is the favorite color of most of my family and most of our customers. ( I have to exclude myself from this august group, because I only like it in small doses. Too much, and for some reason, it depresses me.) Nevertheless, I do like some blues. One of my favorite blues is indigo ( the other is a very pale blue/purple, sort of a periwinkle). But I am digressing. Today I want to write about indigo.
Indigo is a very old color. The oldest known indigo fabric was found in Peru and is approximately 6,000 years old. It was also known and used in many other ancient civilizations, although there were different sources for the color. India and other Asian countries used dye derived from the Indigo tinctoria plant (the pink flowered plant in the first picture), which produced a true indigo. Another source used in Europe and Asi was the murex sea shell. Dyes from this source contained a mixture of indigo and dibromoindigo (a red color). The combination resulted in beautiful purples, although exposure to light converts the dibromoindigo blue resulting in a purple-blue and colors like royal purple. The source of indigo in Europe was, and still is in some cases, woad. Woad (the yellow flowered plant in the third picture) contains the chemical containing indigo in very low doses and fabrics dyed with it sometimes have a greenish hue. Again, exposing it to sunlight brings out the true blue indigo everyone loves.
The process for deriving indigo from plant sources requires fermenting leaves, then using a strong basic solution to extract the dye. It is usually yellowish green at this point and can be fixed to the fiber without a mordant (usually a metal salt). Exposure to sunlight after dyeing brings out the blue. (This seems to be the opposite effect of leaving most dyed fabrics or fibers in the sun.)
Today, most indigo dyes are synthetic and the favorite use is for denim. The environmental consequences of manufacturing denim can be extreme--some streams and communities in China run blue (picture of the Pearl River, 4th picture below). It is almost enough to make one give up their jeans. (The second picture shows indigo dyed fabric.)
That Picchu and Machu came into their stall this week for their evening meal and were covered with burrs--the horrible most sticky
kind of burrs ever--burdock! Poor little Machu's tail hair has a burr about every inch. It looks like some sort of plant there are so many--not to mention the rest of their bodies. They are covered and they really bother them. Picchu has been pulling his own hair out trying to get rid of them. Will they eventually fall out? Picking them out will be next to impossible, so I get to look forward to next spring, cleaning up the fiber after their haircuts! Oh, boy! In the meantime, I thought I would do some research on that pesky weed, burdock, the source of all these burrs. After pages of articles on which herbicide to use, etc. I stuck gold (?). What a shock! It is actually a very beneficial plant. Its roots and leaves can be eaten (when the plant is younger than two years and it is a biennial). The roots are used in Chinese and Japanese cooking--soups, stir fry, and sushi--although it has fallen out of favor in Europe and never eaten that much in the US. (Could burdock be an invasive species? More research is necessary.) The leaves and roots have medicinal properties. AND finally, the most amazing thing, the burrs were the inspiration for Velcro. A Swiss inventor, George de Mestral was out walking his dog when he noticed both of them were collecting a lot of burrs. He went home and instead of complaining and whining like I do, he got out his microscope to examine the sticking mechanism--presto the idea for Velcro. So now, because of his curiosity and scientific leanings we have a product none of us could do without. Some of Machu's burrs show up in the picture. Poor boy!
We were sitting in our sun room the other morning watching our ducks duckpin (is that a word) across the yard when there was a sudden streak with a touchdown and a quick flap back up into the air and away. After the shock of it passed we realized that a hawk had dived down to get a duck and changed plans at the last minute. Probably, the ducks were too big for it? It wasn't a big hawk. The ducks didn't get excited, or move, or quack, of anything! They just dabbled on oblivious to the whole episode. But we were puzzled--what kind of hawk was it? It wasn't a Redtailed hawk, which is what we normally see. We are thinking maybe a Cooper's hawk. They are apparently fairly common in Ohio.
NO! NO! NO! Not cheap, cheap, cheap! CHEEP! CHEEP! CHEEP! The distress call of a little chick. It was very loud and disturbing. Last night when we went out to do the chores all I could here was a loud and very unhappy CHEEP! CHEEP! going on and on and on. I thought sure a baby chick had gotten out of its pen. Mama was already settled for the night and had the chicks tucked in, so I couldn't tell how many were with her. CHEEP! CHEEP! No chick appeared to be anywhere on the outside of the pen. Mack looked! CHEEP! CHEEP! Mama did look uncomfortable when I went back to look. CHEEP! CHEEP! The sound was desperate. I looked in the pen again and thought I saw a shadow in the feeder. Low and behold one of the little black chicks had flown up and then fallen into the feeder. It was trying so hard to get out. I reached in to get it, but it thought I was up to no good. I finally got it out and set it on the straw. It was a little chilled and totally collapsed. Its little head went straight out. Its wings were straight out to the side and its little legs were sticking straight out. Mama was starting over to check things out, so I picked it up and set it as close to its mama as I could reach. Mama clucked at it and swooshed it under her in a lightning fast move. Then she backed back to her other babies and peace reigned in the chicken coop. I hope its adventure doesn't make it sick. It looked fine this morning.
Several weeks ago we noticed that one of our Australop hens wasn't laying an egg a day as usual. I figured she was hiding them somewhere to keep me from getting them. Then, she disappeared. Monday afternoon Mack came in announcing that we had work to do because we had a surprise out in the barnyard. I ran out to see what it was! There was the black Austrolop hen with seven little black babies. (Actually several of them have little red heads--because there daddy is a beautiful red rooster--1/2 Buff Orpington and 1/2 Buckeye.) We put them in the baby pen with their mother and they seem to be doing fine. They are 4 days old in the picture and 4 times as big as when they hatched. The mother is excellent. She tucks them right in under her when it is wet, cold, or there is a threat. It is late for babies, so we have our fingers crossed. Dad ( Bomber, the rooster, is good too. He runs around the outside of the pen trying to keep cats and dogs away.)
Our dogs have been antsy the last few nights. They run to the door like someone or something is there and show signs that they are not happy. Barking seems to be sporadic and unrelated to anything we could see or hear. Mack was giving the dogs their last walk before bed and Libby was absolutely in a barking mood. She ran to the fence and was barking her head off. Mack decided to go over to the fence to see if he could see why she was barking. There, strolling down the middle of the road, as if he owned the place was a coyote. Yes, we have been hearing them every evening yowling at the moon or whatever--one night to the north , the next, to the east and mostly to the west. No wonder the dogs have been uneasy. Those beast have probably been sneaking into our field and picking off geese and guineas. Maybe that is what happened to poor Protector. Sadly, he did not make it through the first night after he was wounded. It was a very sad end for a good gander and nothing benefited. The culprit didn't get a meal and Protector died totally unnecessarily. Very, very sad!