The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Dec. 21 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg In case you haven't discovered it, the Christmas music station for the Oklahoma City area is FM 104.1.  If you prefer classier less contemporary seasonal music, go to KUCO Classical Radio at FM 90.1.  More and more Christmas tunes are being aired as we draw […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Dec. 21 2019

Frosty Rain Gauge

Becky Emerson Carlberg

In case you haven't discovered it, the Christmas music stationfor the Oklahoma City area is FM 104.1. If you prefer classier less contemporary seasonal music, go to KUCOClassical Radio at FM 90.1.  More andmore Christmas tunes are being aired as we draw close to the 25th ofDecember. 

This evening at 10:19 pm comes the winter solstice, shortestday of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere it is their longest day. Each day in Shawneethe sun rises later and sets earlier as it crosses in a low arc across the sky.  Tomorrow daylight increases until our summersolstice, which falls at 4:44 pm on June 20th 2020.  Something rather cool about the number444-06-20-2020. 

Speaking of astronomical events, were you able to see any Geminids?  These bits from the asteroid annually pass through our atmosphere for days in December.  It seemed every time I went out to scan the sky, clouds preceded me.  One night the clouds appeared to be rolling waves of an ocean, curling in rows from south to north.  Saturday night the stars sparkled in the cold air.  The clouds were low on the horizon and the moon was dauntingly bright, illuminating the landscape as if it were a night sun.  I walked along the road, head tilted up to catch any sudden dash or splash of light.  My mom died four years ago the next day, Sunday, and I wondered if she was up there somewhere.  The next moment this brilliant thick streak of light zoomed over my head high in the sky.  It disappeared as a second much dimmer trail of white came from a different direction.  I think I got my answer.

Pantry Moth raid

In an odd twist of events, a 3.6 earthquake rattled Stroud about10 o'clock Sunday morning.  The tremorwas felt in Shawnee.  Some of my pictureson the walls slightly listed to one side. In the kitchen another surprise awaited. Small moths had emerged from out of the blue and were clinging to thesides of boxes, walls and glassware inside one cabinet. The small step ladderwas retrieved to allow me to check out the three shelves. Where was the foodsource these moths had enjoyed as caterpillars? 

Pantry moths, commonly known as Indian meal moths (Plodiainterpunctella) were in my cupboard.   I soon located where the flock hadoriginated"the rice package.  Althoughthe grain had been purchased recently with an expiration date deep into 2020, smallcaterpillars and webbing were in the rice. The moths were the end result of eggs in the rice which had hatched intolarvae that had eaten their fill, crawled from the rice sack into crevices tospin cocoons and now were in flying mode. The moths' only goal was reproduction since they couldn't eat and theirlives would soon end.

White Pine Tree au natural

The rice and its occupants went to the compost pile.  The moths were caught in the glass peanutbutter jar and released outdoors to cavort and have fun the short time they hadremaining.  No doubt wild orgies weregoing on within the rose bush.  All foodswere checked and put into glassware before the shelves were thoroughlycleaned. 

Trees become star performers this time of year, be they artificial or natural.  People who don't give trees a second thought most the year will buy a live or artificial tree to put inside their home.  The evergreens are illuminated, decorated and serve as staging sites for gifts. 

Romans decorated for Saturnalia this time of year usingevergreen trees. As early as 217 BCE banquets were held in December.  It was a time of partying, feasting, showinggenerosity and exchanging gifts.  Thepublic holiday celebration was held at the winter solstice.  The following days then grew longer.  Winter was leaving as the sun became stronger.  The tradition carried on in ancient Europeansocieties where evergreen trees were important beacons of hope.  Winters were harsh and spring seemed so faraway.  The tree stood upright or was hungupside down in the house.  Other times deciduousplants were chosen and nurtured to bloom in winter.

Christmas later began in Rome as well.  In lieu of celebrating the return of the sun,the birth of a son of God was celebrated.  In Germany the evergreen trees, whichcontinued to symbolize everlasting life, were decorated with apples, cookiesand other foods.  Baby Jesus initially toppedtrees, but soon angels and stars became popular.  The indoor tree idea spread to othercountries. Candles transitioned to electric lights.  Handmade and glass ornaments yielded toplastic.  Yet, many of us climb into theattic and precariously struggle down the steps under boxes of decorations.  Our remembrances of past Christmases and Yulesare resurrected as we hang old trinkets passed down from generation togeneration while adding new ones.  Ourtrees become enmeshed with memories and love. 

My white pine tree stands in water in the front room.  This tree with the softest of long green needles has two strings of lights, one with the older heat-producing traditional bulbs spaced 12 inches apart and the other of smaller more closely spaced LED bulbs.  Nothing else. This weekend the tree may get strands of tinsel and a few ornaments while I watch 'The Bishop's Wife' or 'The Polar Express'.  Or not.  I kind of like the tree au naturel with colorful lights!

Oak Tree mushrooms

The oak tree by the road has its own set ofdecorations.  Not strung across thehighest bows, but tucked into the niches and crannies of roots are large vividorange mushrooms.  The blackjack died twoyears ago, but continues to give. The dazzling schrooms with cracked tops(reminds me of molasses cookies), large gills and fibrous stems are probably inthe Tricholomataceae family.  This is a'wastebasket group' of pink, white or yellow spore producing gilled mushrooms. TheTricholoma mushroom complex shares a symbiotic relationship with oaks.  The fungi are now busily degrading treetissue to return vital nutrients back to nature to support other trees andorganisms. 

Vital is a powerful word. The Bagelry in Maryland is locatedon Vital Way.  Great bagels.  Some of the best store-bought eggs I havediscovered come from Vital Farms.  Theirgirls live in 'sun-drenched fields' where the land is protected from toxicchemicals and over-use.  Inside eachcarton is tucked a small Vital Times publication.  This week: 'Holiday like a Hen!'  Graze on real food, exercise, and take timefor yourself.  If dust baths don't work,try bubble baths! 

And keep warm.  The rain gauge on Tuesday morning was criss-crossed with frost lines over the clear plastic housing due to low humidity and 23 degrees. The icy frost formed patterns that covered the cars.  Dull brown grass sparkled, hit by rays of the morning sun. 

The Little Fir tree in Maryland