Monday, December 23, 2013

The Ice Storm

As we continue to break all weather records, let us recall winters of the past and remind ourselves this too shall end with the arrival of spring. Saturday was the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest and darkest day of the year. All of our days commencing now will be a little longer until the Summer Solstice arrives and once again our days gradually shorten. There is comfort in the order of our natural world.

The current ice storm is reminiscent of the one in 2000 when many towns were without power for weeks on end. Admittedly it has not seemed quite so cold since the terrible lingering winter storms of 1986 with weeks of ice and snow all of January and into February. This pattern indicates we may expect an ice storm every 13 or 14 years… another sign of predictable order.

Saturday morning the electricity went off and remained off. Housebound by icy roads, we listened to the clocks tick while watching the antics of the Blue Jays, who squabbled with a hungry squirrel at the birdfeeder. As the darkness deepened, we lit candles and reminded ourselves our forefathers braved elements such as these without central heat or electricity… ever.

*Poor Rajah... his crown had ice all over it and was covering his eyes. I opened the window and used a hair dryer on him before the power went off.

The wind arrived on Sunday, ice-brittle branches were whipped and they began to break. The jarring sudden crack and ensuing slow drop of large tree limbs throughout the forest was depressing to hear. Mature trees may have minor flaws at their branch bases and with the ice, this flaw has proven fatal.

I have hugged my ancient Black Walnut on many occasions and it has been substantially damaged. The heirloom English Ivy ‘tree‘, which had been carefully trained to frame the front door, is now a collapsed mass of broken branches and crushed leaves. We have said goodbye to the Apricot who gave us 20 years of her delicious fruit. Things will be quite different in many gardens this coming year.

However since gardeners are the eternal optimists, we must wipe our tears, embrace the present, clean up the spoils of war left by Old Man Winter, and look to the positive. Perhaps the trees had grown to shade flower beds and the elements have ’trimmed’ them. The trees that were ill perhaps needed to be removed as a safety precaution. And many lawns will have sunlight they have perhaps been lacking for decades. There is always a positive to every disaster… and we have the promise of spring.

Merry Christmas, have faith, and stay warm!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Christmas Tree

The lovely evergreens have begun their seasonal show and it is always impressive that they chose winter, as the world is encased in frosty slumber, to appear their finest. Bearing fruit or berries despite the cold of winter, they have always been considered quite remarkable and were an important aspect of ancient pagan rituals.

The Romans considered evergreens symbols of fertility and used them to trim their homes for the new year while northern Europeans hung them over doors to ward off evil spirits that were believed to stalk the winter landscape. German and Scandinavian people had long made evergreen wreaths to celebrate the Winter Solstice and over time were included in their celebrations of the birth of Jesus.

It is said that Martin Luther began the German tradition of decorating trees. In about 1500 as he was walking through a snow covered forest, he was struck by the beauty of dusted evergreens shimmering in the moonlight. So enamored was he by the natural beauty that he placed a tree inside for his children, decorated with lit candles symbolizing the starry sky and honoring Christ's birth. Following this tradition, the church began to include a tree for Christmas and by the mid-1600’s it was decorated with apples to symbolize Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden.

About this time German Christians began bringing trees into their homes and soon they began to decorate them. Their tradition arrived with Hessian immigrants to the colonies and overcame the austere (and unpopular) Puritan belief that ‘all work and no play’ included banning Christmas celebrations.

In 1832 Charles Follen, a German immigrant and professor at Harvard, decorated the first American Christmas tree to share with his family and friends. And in 1846, a young German Prince Albert presented his new bride Victoria with her first tree and thus the English Victorian Christmas was born. Word of decorated Christmas trees spread rapidly and was embraced by almost all Christian cultures; it remains today a universal symbol of the holiday season.

*Snow Covered Photo Credit: Tanya Ivey

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Results of the Oil and Gas Industry in Oklahoma

Regardless of arguments either for or against, it needs to be noted this is a nasty business. It is noisy, intrusive upon the land, and difficult for residents who dwell nearby. What is left after the rig has been removed are the 'ponds', which according to the industry contain non-toxic waste. Do you want to eat beef that has been drinking and wading in that muck? I don't.

Taken from my mailbox. A stop sign is 500 yards and yet they thundered by, tires and brakes squealing to a dusty halt. We ate this for over a year.

A rig is a miniature city with no rules of conduct. Tie down what you don't want to be stolen.



 Impossible to avoid!

There was no compensation for our lost cattle!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Offutt Kentucky Egg Nog

I'll put the egg nog in Grandmother Nash's punch bowl! In this picture from Dolan and Tara's Rehearsal Dinner Party it has Sangria in it.

Merry Christmas everyone!

This year, I decided to share my Great-grandmother's Kentucky Egg Nog recipe. It has been a well guarded and cherished secret for over a hundred and twenty five years, however I might as well share it before Martha, Paula, or Rachael Rae steal it... and claim it as their own!

Offutt Kentucky Egg Nog
Serves 20

You will need several large bowls.
1 dozen large eggs, divided.
Beat the yolks until they are thick and lemon colored.
While still beating add 1 1/2 c. sugar and 1 pt. whiskey, 100 proof, green label, not sour mash.
(The alcohol "cooks" the eggs) Set aside.

Beat the whites in a copper bowl. As they begin to foam slowly add 1/2 c. sugar. Beat until they are thick and almost ready to peak. Set aside.

Whip 1 quart heavy whipping cream adding 1/2 c. sugar as the cream thickens.
Stir cream into yolk mixture. Gently fold in the whites.

Get out the antique punch bowl, garnish the tray with a little fresh holly then call some cheerful friends... this stuff is Killer!

*Disclaimer: This Egg Nog will possibly clog arteries, causing holiday heart problems. Use in moderation.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Natural Christmas Decorations... Scout the Garden

    As the holiday approaches, festive decorating reaches a zenith for no other moment encompasses such a variety of celebrations rolled into one package. Included with the birth of Christ, is the Winter Solstice, the New Year, and almost every civilization has some sort of celebration at this time. Besides religious festivities, one adds gift giving, families gathering and the general feeling of kindness toward mankind, making it indeed a miraculous season.

Part of the ancient reason for celebrations was to ward off the boredom of deep winter, and so it is during this time that the miracle of evergreens appear all the more special. Always in the garden, yet often under appreciated during the summer season, many make a name for themselves now.

A simple December pleasure is crafting wreaths and holiday arrangements by scouting greenery from the garden. Using a wire or simple grapevine wreath gather traditional cedar, spruce or pine boughs as a basis, for not only will they provide a stellar aroma, but their sturdiness will anchor all else that is added. Perhaps add the merriment of holly, with the interest of magnolia boughs or patterned arbor vitae. Gather interesting vines and weeds to complete the process. Add pinecones by twisting a small piece of wire around the base of the cone, leaving a bit to tie the to the wreath. One year we sprayed the wispy weeds with gold spray paint… it was the same year we sprayed our ’holiday’ tennis shoes gold as well. And even those with seasonal allergies may appreciate a lovely outdoor decoration!

For indoor decorations, Nandina, Holly, and Ivy are perfect companions and are virtually odorless. Both the Holly and Nandina have Christmasy-red berries that will look lovely in your arrangement. Choose a large vase, add a ‘frog’ to anchor the greenery, then begin adding your selections, turning and building as you go. By the end, if you need visual interest, scout the garden for some Pyracantha or privet berries. If you have calcified spots on the berries, spray or dab a bit of olive oil on them to make them shine.

Remember that every house needs a sprig of mistletoe. For years Mistletoe was the assumed floral emblem for the state of Oklahoma so it has a special place in our hearts. (It was replaced by the ‘official’ Oklahoma Rose in 2004.) Mistletoe has a long and colorful history originating in Northern Europe, the birth place of this extraordinary plant.

All Mistletoe plants are parasitic; they attach to a host and thus take from it nutrients and water necessary to live. Over time this process may weaken or even kill the host, giving Mistletoe a rather bad reputation. In the plant kingdom, parasitism has evolved only nine times and Mistletoe has independently evolved five, making it an extraordinary species. Mistletoe is completely self-sufficient and adaptive to changes in climate and this enigma lends itself to mysticism and lore. It hangs airborne between heaven and earth, has no roots yet bears fruit, and remains green and vibrant during the winter months, all of which defy reason.

Christmas greenery is utterly fantastic!