Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Seeds of Dreams

Catalogs are for the home bound, people who live in rural areas, and those elderly enough to be uncomfortable ordering online. Pocket wise they are much safer to pursue because you can turn down the corner of a page, mark items that attract your fancy, and keep it by your chair for later consideration without running the risk of hitting the wrong key to place an order for something you don't want or need.
    After the holiday dream books stop flooding our mailboxes the seed and plant catalogs arrive to take their place with their lovely pictures to entice our visual pleasures. It doesn't matter that a huge garden may now be beyond our capability to handle. We may no longer preserve quantities of vegetables for the winter months or have an extensive family to feed, but our imagination still runs wild with vivid pictures of rows of delectable vegetables ripening in the sun.
     Tucked away in Osburn Roy's collection of old almanacs is a seed catalog from the D.M. Ferry & Co., of Detroit, MI for 1901. It is also an almanac with short articles on germination, planting, and yes, tried-and-true techniques for killing precious seeds. Who hasn't lived through the experience of sowing a drill of fresh seeds, waiting, and watching, yet nothing happens as we exercise our brown thumbs.
    "A seed is a wonderful casket, locked and sealed, and which holds that which may have greater value than kings' jewel cases. Were all of the latter dropped into the sea how much poorer would the world find itself?"
     The names of the varieties of vegetables have changed in the last 100 plus years, as is evidenced by a recent catalog from R.H. Shumway Co., of Randolph, WI, Yet the descriptions of a plant's growth, ability to produce, its size, and stamina to withstand summer heat has not. Those read almost the same.
     The inter pages look alike as if both the 1901 and 2015 were produced the same year.  I did find an advertisement for Flat Head Dutch cabbage in both catalogs, but neither had Bibb lettuce which is beloved by many Kentuckians,
     Bibb lettuce was developed in Frankfort, KY in the 1920s. My mother always had a special bed she covered in mid-March with tobacco canvas to protect her lettuce, spinach, early onions, and radish garden from late frosts. Nothing tasted like ambrosia as the first cutting of these delicate greens after a bleak winter.
    So many choices and so little sunny space makes the dreams of seeds catalogs fuel for the soul during the long winter months.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The World Almanac

The greatest almanac of the all is The World Almanac and Book of Facts, which has been published since 1868. Each year it grows thicker and the print becomes a mite smaller or I need new glasses.
     It is advertised as the best selling reference book in the United States. Without a doubt this volume should reside beside every author's computer as it is easy to use and accurate when you just want the facts in a condensed version. You have no need to open another window when you want to be accurate in describing the time of day the tides move in and out of Boston's harbor.
     It isn't even necessary to replace it every year. I bought a new 2015 to replace the 2007 on my shelf, but as yet I haven't disposed of the old edition.
     Each year when I was working as a librarian I designated its purchase price as the first item of the new book budget. It was an investment that repaid itself many times over as the first reference tool I'd used to answer patron's questions. Seldom did its pages let me down and by the time arrival of the new edition the pages of the old volume were held together with a rubber band.
     When I was teaching GED classes in a night school I used The World Almanac to teach research and essay writing skills by having each student pick a state or a country to develop their outline. I told one young man he did a perfect job, he looked at me and said, "Miss Black, you taught us to do that in the sixth grade." The adult had no physical relationship to the little boy who was in my earlier class, but it's wonderful to learn skills you taught stayed with someone for a lifetime.
     This valuable writing tool is available from Amazon and other online sources, besides being nearly everywhere books are sold.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

January in History

Events and Birthdays that occurred in January.
1/3/1892 -- J.R.R. Tolkien was born.
1/8/1851 -- The rotation of the Earth was proven.
1/10/1776 -- Common Sense by Thomas Payne was published.
1/15/1929 -- Martin Luther King, Jr. was born.
1/15/1967 -- First Super Bowl was played.
1/19/1825 -- First patent for a tin can was issued.
1/19/1809 -- Edgar Allen Poe was born.
1/19/1807 -- Robert E. Lee was born.
1/23/1849 -- Elizabeth Blackwell received her medical degree.
1/25/1924 -- First Olympic winter games were held at Chamonix, France.
1/27/1832 -- Robert Lewis Carroll was born.
1/28/1782 -- Great Seal of the United States was authorized.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Weather is a Changing

Pale January lay
In its cradle day by day
Dead or living, hard to say.
     Alfred Austin

Almanacs were kept ready to hand to gain an idea of what the next day's weather would bring because of its influence on the health, and welfare of livestock, crops, gardens, and chores.
Kentuckians and Ono Countians, in particular, lace their conversations with remarks about or references to the weather, even greetings may begin with, "How's the weather treating you?" This is not from lack of things to discuss when friends meet, but from the fact that changes in the weather are frequent and extreme. It depends on which way the wind blows.
Ono County lies where two climate zones intersect at the far western edge of Mid-Atlantic (Region 9) and the northern section of the Southern (Region 7) according to the map in the Harris Farmers Almanac.
This makes predicting the weather unpredictable. The Weather Chanel agrees as they have announced on more than one occasion that weather forecasting for Kentucky is 'impossible.'
On a recent trip back from town when Nash Black passed over Greasy Creek the temperature on the digital thermometer in their Jeep rose five degrees. A sure indicator of the sharp climate dividing line between the northern and southern areas of the county.

Bakers Almanac for 1903
"If the temperature falls suddenly there is a storm forming south of you; if it rises suddenly, a storm is forming north of you. The wind blows from region of fair weather toward where the storm is forming.
"Cirrus, or curl clouds, move from where the storm is in progress. Cumulus, called Ball of Cotton, Day or Summer clouds, move from a region of fair weather to where a storm is forming. Where cirrus clouds are moving rapidly from north or north-east, there will be rain inside 24 hours; when these curl clouds are moving rapidly from south to south-east, there will be a cold rain on the morrow, if in summer, and if in winter there will be a snowstorm.
"The wind always blows in a circle around a storm, and when it blows from the north the heaviest rain is east of you; if from the south, the heaviest rain is west of you; if from the west the heaviest rain is north of you.
"The wind never blows unless rain or snow is falling within 1000 miles north or north-west of you.
"These rules were issued by the Farmer's Club of American Institute. Study them and be your own weather prophet."

Elroy Harris suggests that the most accurate method of learning of current weather conditions is to walk out on the porch and stick out your hand.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Melancholy is a Victorian term for depression, which effects many people during the holidays and winter months.
"Got the blues," is another phrase we often hear batted about. It has been attributed to a lack of  hormones in the brain or to the fact that natural light is in limited supply. These two factors maybe connected.
January in Ono County is both cloudy and windy with few shafts of sunlight breaking the bleakness. People in the middle ages were advised to avoid fried meats and overly salty foods from one source we read. It reads like this was written from a modern pen who had little knowledge of mediaeval cooking methods, which were stewing and on special occasions roasting.
We are not talking about chronic depression, but for those who are just a little down we are firm advocates of changing habits and how you do things.  
This writer suggests developing a new skill that can be accomplished indoors to take your mind off yourself. This reinforces the old adage, God helps those who help themselves.
Take a walk if at all possible. If walking is not an activity you've developed, then start small and build up your endurance. This is the single most physical and mental health medicine that only you can apply for yourself.
Sneaking up on a new activity is much more likely to produce long term results than going at it whole hog or flat out as you will soon abandon the effort.
Stephen King, that last sentence is filled with adverbs, which we refuse to edit. Laughter will also banish the blues. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Plow Monday

A custom carried over from mediaeval England, Plow Monday, is held on the first Monday after the Epiphany (January 6th). It was a signal to go back to work after the holiday festivities.
     Parades of decorated plows were held in tiny hamlets and the plowmen went door-to-door begging gifts.
     Early American farmers were content to fire up the forge to make or repair their tools in anticipation of the coming planting season. These winter chores kept the entire family busy as few farming implements were purchased when they could be made at home.
     Celebrations of the lights, are over for the year, it's back to work for everyone.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

It's a New Year

"We look before and after..." B.P. Shelly, To a Skylark
A line from a poem that is frequently used at funeral services, but it also fits our conception of the Old/New Year.

     There are nine hours of daylight on January 1st as the sun began its slow climb on December 21st. The season is winter, which is the only one that spans two calendar years.
     The month of January was named for the Roman god, Janus (Janus Bifars) or Janus with two faces. He was the god of beginnings, which were sure to have good endings.
     Janus is said to have invented the use of money as the oldest Roman coins had an effigy of Janus on one side and the prow of a boat on the other.
     The beginning of the calendar year in January (Janvier) is a civil function. Early Christians declared it a fast and meditation day. They did a lot of fasting and it may have coincided with an effort to conserve food during the harsh winter months. Three or four hundred years-ago this began to change and it evolved into a time of celebration.
     Barbara Appleby does the creative illustrations for this blog. She takes our vague ideas and designs jim-dandy pictures. Thanks Barb, you have no idea how much we appreciate your work.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Ono Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Ono in Russell County, KY.

Isaiah Young explains how Ono County got its name in the mystery novel, Sandprints of Death by Nash Black on page 95.
"When the Corps of Engineers built the dam the county was cut in half by the lake. You have to go through two other counties to get from one part to another.
"After almost thirty years the state decided to clean up the mess for extra votes in their camp. They took bits of land from other counties and created a new county. The Board of Supervisors were to select a new name and no one could agree. Everyone kept say 'Oh, no!' to any suggestion. The judge lost his temper after hours of listening to their wrangling and ruled the most popular name was Ono."
Fiction is fun and Nash Black took wide writer's latitude to create an entire county from a small community on the shores of Cumberland Lake that sports a few homes, a church, and a wide entrance ramp to the lake.
On the road to Ono you veer to the right of the country store that still has benches on the porch for customers to sit while having a cold soft drink and sharing the latest news.
If you travel the back roads of any rural community you will find Nash Black's characters having breakfast at the local eatery, going to the same functions, having a greater interest in local politics than in the state machine except during elections, and like a famous resident of St. Mary Meade they are seldom surprised at the actions of people who expect to solve their problems with murder. 
The geography of the fictional Ono County was broaden to include all of the land enclosed by five great rivers, the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Cumberland. It is an area that has seen many changes and yet the customs of the residents still extend a friendly smile and it isn't unusual to be called "Honey" by a waitress. Nothing is meant by this, except as greeting so don't get your dander up.
Enjoy Ono Almanac as it unfolds on this blog. The writers have no idea what will be added in the coming year after getting off to a rough start.
We'll be talking to you.