99¢ for the first month
99¢ for the first month.

Sailing into 2020


The Shawnee News-Star Weekender January 11 2020

Early January Winter Sunset

Becky Emerson Carlberg

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love gave to metwelve drummers drumming.  This Christmaspoem was first published in 1780 in the children's book 'Mirth withoutMischief.'  Kids tried to remember allthe verses during a game played on the twelfth night. If they messed up thelyrics, a sweet or kiss had to be given. Older similar poems have been found in Northern England, France andScotland. The Twelve Days were not put to music until the 20thcentury. 

The value of the 364 gifts would cost $170,298 today.  The twelve drumming drummers are now worthnearly $3,000, but the most expensive are the 10 lords-a-leaping at$10,000.  Keep this mind next year.  Of course, you may prefer the 2001 SouthernChristmas version by greeting card designer David Price.  It's much more entertaining and cheaper.  It begins with a Cardinal in a Magnolia Tree,2 Delta Darlings, 3 Smokin' BBQs, 4 Plucked Banjoes, 5 Golden Hushpuppies, 6Cotton Plants Growing, 7 Footballs Flying, 8 Racecars Racing, 9 ChickensFrying, 10 Grits-a-Grinning, 11 Hounds a-Howling and finishes with 12 KudzusCreeping!

Tropical Milkweed bloom

Some of my friends in England believed all the decorations and tree must be down by the twelfth night or bad luck to you.  Then again, if you took down your tree too early this too could be bad luck because the spirits that hid in the holly and ivy would become upset and they would tank your autumn harvest.  I played it safe.  On Monday, January 6th, the cards came down, the white tree with soft needles was taken outside and placed behind the storm cellar and the boxes of decorations were put back into the attic.  Not to upset by sprites or fairies, I ate the last pieces of peanut butter fudge and polished off the cranberry salad and ham.  Won't tell them about the fudge and other cookies still hidden in the cool closet.

The balmy January weather has turned on us despite the clearsunsets and star-filled nights earlier this week.  The full 'Wolf' moon rose very early Fridaymorning, if you saw it.  Years ago, thehowling of wolves during the cold, crisp nights could be the signal for wolves togather for a hunt, mark the territory or locate other pack members.  The wolf deserves our respect.  Before 1850, Oklahoma had a substantialpopulation of red wolves, the offspring of coyotes and timber wolves.  In 1980 the last red wolves were caught bythe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but the attempt to save them fromextinction failed. Timber wolves were completely eliminated in the 1930's dueto severe depletion of deer and bison. We must be better stewards of Oklahoma wildlife.    

Radiant Cosmos

Joel Sartore founded Photo Ark, an ambitious project torecord vanishing species on earth.  Thecontributor to National Geographic, NBC and PBS was on CBS Sunday Morningshowing some of the nearly 9,000 species of plants and animals he hasphotographed.   His goal: 12,000 speciesin human care around the world despite the ongoing destruction of ecosystemsand habitats.  'When we save species,we're actually saving ourselves.'  Sartoreadvocates preserving or restoring vast tracts of rain forests, lands andwaters.  These wildlife habitats are justlike human cities and towns.  You can makea difference.  Attract more butterflies,native bees and plants where you live by changing the way you maintain yourgardens and yards.  'By doing the bestyou can, your very diligent existence will improve the world.  Imagine that.'

Or envision being pelted with rocks from the sky.  The first meteor shower in January were the Quadrantids"faint little streaks of light.  The parent body may be the small planet 2003 EH that is possibly a descendant of the disintegrating comet which caused the Ch'ing-Yang Event in 1490.  Three ancient records reported 'stones that fell like rain' causing numerous casualties.  This may have been an air burst (exploding meteor) over Qingyang District in southwest China.  Today, the Quadrantid asteroid takes 5.5 years to orbit the sun.  Meteors seemingly originate at the end of the handle of the Big Dipper.  I managed to see two short streakers early in the asteroid's 3 week passage.  Peak night was January 3rd-4th.  I slept through it.  Probably the best meteor show of the century.

My plants in the greenhouse have appreciated the milderweather, up until now.  Orange Cosmoscontinue to bloom.  Tropical milkweed seedsstowed away in the Hibiscus happily germinated.  They now regularly bloom and set seeds whichexplode from the seedpods, sending fluffy dandelion-like umbrellas throughoutthe Hibiscus.  Tiny yellow aphids have alsodiscovered the milkweed.  Much to theirchagrin and mortality, I frequently wipe clean and spray the leaves, stems andflowers. 

The pineapple is nearly full grown. I watch for subtle color changes to yellow and keep a nose out for pineapple odor.  Pineapple pros say let the fruit fully ripen because once picked it won't get any sweeter even though the outer skin keeps turning yellower. 

Northern China and the Korean Peninsula are the ancestralhomes for this cold-tolerant citrus tree that can withstand snow and frost, butdislikes drought. Yes, the small fuzzy, seedy, really bitter fruits areedible.  I collected several from myparent's tree and put them in what I thought was a safe spot.  A marauding rodent discovered my stash and atethem. Europeans once dried and candied the golf-ball sized orbs.  One person likes a slice or two of the fruitin gin and tonic. Marmalade can be made from the zest and pulp. The flavor is across between lemon and grapefruit.

The pineapple. Is It ready?

On the 12th day the pine tree was carried out ofthe house to go behind the cellar, except it couldn't get there. The Trifoliateorange hypodermic needle trees (Poncirus trifoliata) growing along the south sideof the cellar rebelled against having a pine tree enter their midst.  The hardy orange trees were such cute littlespindly spikey things I neglected them for years.  Well, on their own they not only expanded butgot an attitude and conquered.  I could nolonger access two sides of the cellar.  Thornybranches reached out.  My oranges are themost common type with straight formidable (wicked) 1 to 2-inch thorns.  The Flying Dragon Bitter Orange tree thornsbend backward, making the tree look even more contorted.  Makes a cool Bonsai tree.

Wicked Trifoliate Orange thorns.

The tree has become naturalized and somewhat a pest fromPennsylvania to Texas.  Reaching 12 to 20feet tall, a line of Trifoliates form an imposing impenetrable fence.  Bees and butterflies adore the creamy whitefragrant blooms in spring.  Birds nestwithin the protective thorny branches.

I had to prune my grove to allow passage of the Christmastree..and they retaliated.  One stabbedmy gluteus maximus with a long (had to be at least 6 inches) thorn thatperforated three layers of clothing.  Otherstout spikes punctured my arms in the shapes of various constellations.  You have to respect a tree with an interestin the stars.