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New Year’s Eve … a time to ring in hopes for a prosperous and happy year to come. Last year, I shared a fun post about the tradition of dropping things on New Year’s Eve (think Times Square, then add pickles). This year, I thought you might like to hear some fun facts about last night/first night festivities.
Did you know …
• Julius Caesar declared Jan. 1 an official holiday more than 2,000 years ago. Before that, the start of the New Year didn’t happen until the first new moon following the vernal equinox (in late March), and later, on March 1.
• Americans alone consume 360 million glasses of champagne on New Year’s Eve.
• And here’s an odd one … more cars are stolen on New Year’s Day than on any other holiday. (Does the previous night’s reveling make people forget to lock up? Or maybe the thieves merely need to get to the big games?)
• In Japan, Buddhist temples across the country ring bells and gongs 108 times at midnight on New Year’s Eve to symbolize the 108 human behaviors Buddhists consider weaknesses. They believe the bells repent for the bad behavior of the year before.
• In many South American countries, revelers wear colored undergarments beneath their finery: red for love; yellow for prosperity.
• In ancient Persia, people gave gifts of eggs on New Year’s Day to symbolize new beginnings and productiveness.
• Many traditional New Year’s Day meals are thought to bring good luck and prosperity throughout the year; auspicious ingredients include grapes, greens, fish, pork, legumes, and cakes. What are your lucky New Year’s dishes?
I don’t care that it’s everywhere.
Yes, yes, it is tactlessly thumbtacked with to-do lists and flyers.
It is perfunctorily plugging bottles from here to farfoodle.
Again, I don’t care.
Cork is cool, my friend—cool with a capital C.
I mean, really, just the whole cork tree harvest situation is pretty awesome in terms of sustainability. (When the World Wildlife Fund says, “The harvesting of cork oak offers one of the finest examples of traditional, sustainable land use,” you know it’s a good thing.)
But, when you stop to look at a simple bottle cork, to examine its little woody intricacies and feel its once-living, spongy-soft texture, you come to appreciate this marvelous (yet often cast away) material.
We have a thriving community of mail-art enthusiasts on my chatroom (you must get in on the movement!). Mulling over myriad ideas, I started thinking about ink stamps because stamps are an easy way to add creative touches to any loving letter, dontcha think?
A quick online search of DIY stamps led me to corks (you knew I’d eventually come full circle here), and I stumbled upon the sweetest little stamp tutorial, complete with corks.
Come on, I’ll show ya the way …
Just promise you’ll send some cork-stamped mail our way, k?
We toured a bevy of beehives around the world …
and found the variety to be voluminous (good word, eh?).
Yet, there always seems to be a glorious stroke of genius cropping up among the ever-inventive community of conscientious beekeepers.
German apiarist and sculptor Guenther Mancke presents the Sun Hive, which brings beekeepers another step closer to hives built by bees in nature.
“The underlying idea is that by tailoring hives to bees’ natural tendencies, they are apt to thrive and thus, be bolstered against factors causing bee colony collapses,” explains Kimberly Mok of Treehugger.com. “The Sun Hive is meant as a conservation method, rather than for lots of honey production. It’s a beautiful, bee-friendly, and even bee-therapeutic design, made with the bees’ natural inclinations at its very heart.”
Take a peek:
“You know that feeling you get when you’re being stared at?”
This question, posed by social psychologist Ilan Shrira of the Loyola University in Chicago, is one we can all relate to, right?
“Out of the corner of your eye, even outside your field of vision, you can just tell someone is checking you out, sizing you up, or trying to make eye contact with you.”
Let’s say you’re out grocery shopping,
perusing the produce,
when you suddenly feel as if someone is looking at you
(and it’s not one of those heirloom potatoes).
Now, don’t get jumpy.
I don’t mean the creepy kind of looking—just, you know, looking.
And you know they’re looking without even looking to see that they’re looking.
Maybe your neck prickles a bit,
your cheeks feel a slight flush,
or you just KNOW, but you don’t really know why.
Then, you dare to glance around,
and sure enough—there’s a looker.
Young, old, male, female … kitty-cat.
The point is: you knew.
“Sometimes it almost feels like ESP, this ability to detect another person’s stare, because it often comes at the fringes of our awareness. But far from being ESP, the perception originates from a system in the brain that’s devoted just to detecting where others are looking,” Shrira explains in a blog post on PsychologyToday.com. “This ‘gaze detection’ system is especially sensitive to whether someone’s looking directly at you (for example, whether someone’s staring at you or at the clock just over your shoulder). Studies that record the activity of single brain cells find that particular cells fire when someone is staring right at you, but—amazingly—not when the observer’s gaze is averted just a few degrees to the left or right of you (then different cells fire instead).”
Farming has inspired all manner of amazing feats in this world, and here’s another jaw dropper that can be traced back to the seat of a tractor: the “monumental earthwork” of Kansas artist Stan Herd.
More than a mere master of crop circles (amazing in their own right), Herd has spent the past 40 years honing a technique of actually planting his enormous artworks, which are best viewed bird’s eye, from high above. The crops, in essence, create the image—with considerable input from the weather, as you might imagine.
“I have gravitated to the idea that the earthworks need to be more than just something to look at … that the background story of mankind’s relationship to the earth, in agriculture, and in stewardship of pristine nature, is what the act of creating the work is about,” Herd explained to Modern Farmer.
The latest of his many creations, completed this year, is a 1.2-acre reproduction of Van Gogh’s Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun in Eagan, Minnesota, comprised of native plants, gourds, oats, and other various natural materials.
For comparison, here’s the original Van Gogh painting (oil on canvas):
Now, watch in wonder the video below, which follows Herd’s fascinating method of cultivating Van Gogh’s classic as a commission for the Minneapolis Institute of Art:
He is now drumming up funding for his in-progress collaborative earthwork, Young Woman of Brazil, in São Paulo, Brazil. You can contribute to this sustainable community garden for people who reside in the surrounding favela (urban slum) by becoming a “Root Supporter” via the Herd Arts website.
“I want to see if an image of this sort can add something to the community for the long run,” Herd says. “All art doesn’t have to have a utilitarian purpose, but at their best, I believe my earthworks do.”