Auld Lang Syne, My Dear!

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.

photo by Niels Noordhoek via Wikimedia Commons

• 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.

photo at the Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery by Michelle via Wikimedia Commons

• 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?

vintage new year’s wishes via Wikimedia Commons

cork stamps

I don’t care that it’s everywhere.

Yes, yes, it is tactlessly thumbtacked with to-do lists and flyers.

Photo by Benjamin Stone via Flickr

It is perfunctorily plugging bottles from here to farfoodle.

Photo by Ccyyrree via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Photo by cPinoB via Pixabay

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.

Sound fun?

Come on, I’ll show ya the way …

DIY: Cork Stamps by SweetSpotCards.com

Just promise you’ll send some cork-stamped mail our way, k?

 

sun hive

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.

The latest?

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:

And, by all means, do tell the bees

 

here’s looking at you

“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.”

Yup.

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.

photo by Shelby H via Wikimedia Commons

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 enoughthere’s a looker.

photo by Steve-h via Wikimedia Commons

Zoiks.

Young, old, male, female … kitty-cat.

Doesn’t matter.

The point is: you knew.

How?

“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, butamazinglynot when the observer’s gaze is averted just a few degrees to the left or right of you (then different cells fire instead).”

Who knew?

You knew.

Photo by Ksnordstrand via Wikimedia Commons

 

help the monarch

If you farm in the Midwest, you may be able to help monarch butterflies next year and get paid in the process.

Photo by Kenneth Dwain Harrelson via Wikimedia Commons

Monarchs make their way to the United States in the summertime, and in recent years, these ecologically important (and oh-so-pretty) pollinators are having trouble surviving the season due to a lack of food.

Seems strange, especially during the summer months, when green things abound, but one of the monarchs’ main food sources is the native flowering milkweed plant, and it is rapidly disappearing in the wake of herbicides.

Photo collage by Pixeltoo via Wikimedia Commons

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is taking action to target milkweed restoration and management on private farms and ranches in 10 states that provide critical habitat for monarchs (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin).

“We’re focusing efforts in the southern Great Plains and Midwest—two regions at the heart of the monarch’s migration,” announced the USDA last month. “In the southern Great Plains, our work will focus on rangelands and ways to improve the health of pastures so they provide good forage for livestock and food for monarchs. In the Midwest, we’re focusing on integrating plantings into croplands and making improvements to wetland areas.”

As with its other cost-share programs, the NRCS will offer financial assistance, incentives, and technical guidance to landowners whose property meets the specifications for monarch habitat establishment and/or improvement. The agency’s goal is to partner with farmers and ranchers “to voluntarily establish habitat for the monarch on working lands while ensuring America’s farms and ranches stay productive.”

Pollinators, as we know, are a vital factor in that equation.

If you’d like to get a jump on establishing healthy monarch habitat this spring, get in touch with your local USDA service center for details.

12 Days with MaryJanesFarm

On the first day of Christmas, a farmgirl sent to me:

A full year of MaryJanesFarm!

MJF-cover-dec15

On the second day of Christmas, a farmgirl sent to me:

Two Mossy Wreaths and a full year of MaryJanesFarm.

On the third day of Christmas, a farmgirl sent to me:

Three Rag Dolls, two Mossy Wreaths, and a full year of MaryJanesFarm.

On the fourth day of Christmas, a farmgirl sent to me:

Four Jars of Jam, three Rag Dolls, two Mossy Wreaths, and a full year of MaryJanesFarm.

ChillOver-Box-jamOn the fifth day of Christmas, a farmgirl sent to me:

Five Felt Cupcakes, four Jars of Jam, three Rag Dolls, two Mossy Wreaths, and a full year of MaryJanesFarm.

felt-artful-IMG_0019

On the sixth day of Christmas a farmgirl sent to me:

Six Yo-Yo Pillows, five Felt Cupcakes, four Jars of Jam, three Rag Dolls, two Mossy Wreaths, and a full year of MaryJanesFarm.

yo-pillows575W6578

On the seventh day of Christmas, a farmgirl sent to me:

Seven Orchard Farm soaps, six Yo-Yo Pillows, five Felt Cupcakes, four Jars of Jam, three Rag Dolls, two Mossy Wreaths, and a full year of MaryJanesFarm.

 

On the eighth day of Christmas, a farmgirl sent to me:

Eight Milk Cow Kitchens (pass ’em all around!), seven Orchard Farm soaps, six Yo-Yo Pillows, five Felt Cupcakes, four Jars of Jam, three Rag Dolls, two Mossy Wreaths, and a full year of MaryJanesFarm.

On the ninth day of Christmas, a farmgirl sent to me:

Nine crocheted snowflakes, eight Milk Cow Kitchens (pass ’em all around!), seven Orchard Farm soaps, six Yo-Yo Pillows, five Felt Cupcakes, four Jars of Jam, three Rag Dolls, two Mossy Wreaths, and a full year of MaryJanesFarm.

snowflakes1On the tenth day of Christmas a farmgirl sent to me:

Ten Clothespin Apron Patterns, nine crocheted snowflakes, eight Milk Cow Kitchens (pass ’em all around!), seven Orchard Farm soaps, six Yo-Yo Pillows, five Felt Cupcakes, four Jars of Jam, three Rag Dolls, two Mossy Wreaths, and a full year of MaryJanesFarm.

clothespin-apron

On the eleventh day of Christmas, a farmgirl sent to me:

Eleven Scrappy Hotpads, ten Apron Patterns, nine crocheted snowflakes, eight Milk Cow Kitchens (pass ’em all around!), seven Orchard Farm soaps, six Yo-Yo Pillows, five Felt Cupcakes, four Jars of Jam, three Rag Dolls, two Mossy Wreaths, and a full year of MaryJanesFarm.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, a farmgirl sent to me:

Twelve Tin Can Snowflakes, eleven Scrappy Hotpads, ten Apron Patterns, nine crocheted snowflakes, eight Milk Cow Kitchens (pass ’em all around!), seven Orchard Farm soaps, six Yo-Yo Pillows, five Felt Cupcakes, four Jars of Jam, three Rag Dolls, two Mossy Wreaths, and a full year of MaryJanesFarm.

tin-can-orn

 

Turkey work

Nary a farmgirl can deny romantic inclinations toward redwork.

Va-va-va-vintage, right? (The schoolgirl was my mother’s work.)

As the name implies, redwork is a form of embroidery that uses red floss to trace simple line drawings on white fabric (think dishtowels and quilts, my dear). Like so many lovely traditions, redwork flourished during the Victorian era. In Europe, it was called “Turkey work” because the cotton floss was dyed with Turkey red, a colorfast pigment made from the root of the Turkish rubia plant.

Jiminy Christmas, how fun is this one?

Photo by Jennifer H via Flickr

Speaking of Christmas, since it’s right around the corner, I’m guessing that if you’re new to redwork, you’d love to start with something seasonal.

(Isn’t it nifty how I read your mind, like, ALL the time?)

Well, it just so happens that I know of a perfect pair of patterns to launch your new passion (trust me, it WILL become a full-fledged passion). Not only are these patterns adorable, featuring charmingly classic girl and boy elves, they’re also free.

You can download the Elf Stitchette patterns on the Wee Wonderfuls website of Hillary Lang, author of Wee Wonderfuls: 24 Dolls to Sew and Love.

After the elves, keep right on stitching your snowy days away with Redwork Winter Twitterings by Pearl Louise Krush.

Not surprisingly, the Farmgirl Connection is flush with redwork enthusiasts, and the Stitching & Crafting Room: Redwork thread has several handy tips for beginners.

Then … as Valentine’s Day rolls around, you might want to try this cute-as-can-be Redwork Valentine from craftstress Rebecca Boysen-Taylor in the February 2014 Sister Issue.

Seems you have your redwork cut out for you.

angel sighting

Just had to share an e-mail we received this week from shopgirl Patsy in our Coeur d’Alene store:

Patsy says,

“This morning on my way into the Plaza, I held the door open for a beautiful older woman and we talked as I unlocked the store. I commented on the rainy day, and she said how happy she was to be out in it because she had just turned 90! With that, she pulled down her hood and showed me the bright pink streak she’d put in her hair to celebrate. I hugged her and asked her what her secret was, and this is what she said:

‘Honey, remember everything in life has a positive and a negative side … YOU get to choose. Choose positive!  Everything that happens is an opportunity to learn. Take it.’

With that, she trucked off down the Plaza. Hmmm … we just never know who our next teacher will be. I’m definitely taking her lesson to heart.”

 

Weird Veggies

You know how, when you’re really hungry, all sorts of strange things start to look or sound appetizing?

When I lived year-round close to 40 miles from the end of a dirt road, I dreamed about all kinds of foods that were out of reach.

Sometimes, it would be hamburgers or candy, or …

boot leather.

Hmmm … jerky, anyone?

Photo by Ragesoss via Wikimedia Commons

Well, this time of year, I get such a yen for some good ol’ dirt-grown grub that I’m liable to think about nibbling on anything I can get my hands on.

(Hide the houseplants, here she comes.)

photo by James Rickwood via Wikimedia Commons

I get it, Bessie.

I really do.

I suppose that’s why a few odd foods caught my eye lately and made me say,

“I want to BITE that.”

Like, now.

To gain some perspective, I think I need to bounce my cravings off you, to see if you can relate to me the way I relate to Bessie.

So if you don’t mind, take a look and let me know if any of these peculiar crops induces the urge to indulge.

Samphire

Photo by Natalie-S via Wikimedia Commons

This succulent-looking wild veggie, common on sea coasts, is enjoyed by English enthusiasts who prefer it pickled.

Oca

Photo by Nzfauna S via Wikimedia Commons

Tangier and sweeter than potatoes, the flavor of this native Andean root has been described as almost fruitlike (I’d love to taste the “Apricot” variety, popular in New Zealand).

Fiddlehead

Photo by New Brunswick Tourism via Wikimedia Commons

One might migrate to Maine just to try these fabulous baby fern fronds (although you can probably find them closer to home). Northeasterners gather them in the woods and serve them fresh or boiled with mayonnaise and butter.

Tiger Nuts

Photo by Tamorlan via Wikimedia Commons

These tasty looking little nuggets aren’t actually nuts, they’re the tuberous roots of the chufa sedge plant. In Spain, they’re often soaked in warm water before eating and are used to make tiger-nut milk (like almond or cashew milk). I hear they have a sweet, nutty flavor … yum.

Romanesco

Photo by Aurelien Guichard via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t you just love the look of this captivating cauliflower variety? According to the folks at Mother Nature Network, the Romanesco’s spirals follow the Fibonacci sequence, which is a bit over my head, but not too sophisticated for my stomach.

Christmas All Year Long

About an hour north of my farm, folks celebrate Christmas all year long.

You would, too, if you lived in a place called Santa.

Yep, nestled in the hills and forests of the Idaho Panhandle sits a tiny town named Santa.

Santa_KLEW1

But Santa, Idaho, isn’t the only town that rustles up the holiday spirit year-round. How about

  • Santa Claus, Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana
  • Snow, Idaho
  • North Pole, Alaska
  • Silver Bell, Arizona
  • Eggnog, Utah
  • Christmas Valley, Oregon
  • Holly, Washington
  • Christmas, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, and Mississippi
  • Shepherd, Montana
  • Elf, North Carolina
  • Mistletoe, Arkansas and Kentucky
  • Bethlehem (this one’s in 18 states)

Also, nearly all of Santa’s reindeer have towns named after them. (Not to mention the 36 locations with “Reindeer” in their names.)

  • Rudolph Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin
  • Dasher (Creek), Georgia
  • Dancer (Flats), Texas
  • Prancer (WAIT, where’s Prancer? He must have been out on a mission when they handed out towns!)
  • Vixen, Louisiana
  • Comet, Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia
  • Cupid, Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma
  • Donner, California, Florida, and Louisiana
  • Blitzen, Oregon

You’ll find all these and many more in William D. Crump’s The Christmas Encyclopedia.

 christmas-encyc

Packed with everything Christmas and now in its third edition, the encyclopedia includes Christmas carols and hymns; customs; historical events; popular symbols; plants; celebrations; Christmas movies, plays, books, and TV; and more. A perfect early present for anyone who loves everything Christmas.