On January 4, 2022, Earth reaches perihelion, which is the point in the planet’s orbit where it is closest to the Sun at 91,406,842 miles.
Hypothermia is a condition when the body temperature falls below normal. If we’re too cold the body starts shivering. When shivering, our muscles are trying to generate heat to keep the body at the normal 98.6 degrees.
The albedo, or reflective property, of fresh snow is typically around 87 percent which can cause snow blindness. Wear your sunglasses even on a snowy day!
January is the best time to start planning your garden for the upcoming season. Send for seed and nursery catalogs and start sketching your garden on paper including what to grow, spacing, arrangement and number of plants needed. Order early for best selection.
Cardamom is a member of the ginger family with a warm, spicy-sweet flavor. It is great in desserts, baked goods and gingerbread, but also curries and pickled foods. Cardamom contains limonene, an antioxidant that’s believed to slow tumor progression and detoxify cancer promoting agents.
When it’s especially cold out, your door locks might stick. Hand sanitizer is always a good thing to keep on-hand to prevent the spread of germs, but it’s also super useful for heating up frozen locks. The alcohol in the gel acts as a natural de-icer.
Plantains and bananas are two separate species, but they belong to the same genus, Musa. Combined, the two are the world’s largest fruit crop.
To avoid a stray dog, walk away from it slowly and quietly. Never run away. Do not stare into the dog’s eyes. If attacked by a dog don’t run and scream. Stand still with your arms at your side. Don’t make eye contact or talk to the dog. If you are knocked over, curl into a ball and put your hands over your ears.
Spray your dustpan with furniture wax. As you dump the contents of the dustpan, the dust will slide right off.
Patents for the first fax machine dates back to 1843; thirty years before the telephone was invented.
On December 21st, 45 minutes after sunset the two largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, will be so close to one another in the sky that they will appear to be fused into a single point of light. This “Star of Bethlehem” was last seen 800 years ago in 1226.
Look to the southwestern sky. Jupiter will look like a bright star and will be easily visible. Saturn will be slightly fainter and will appear slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21, when Jupiter will overtake it and they will reverse positions in the sky.
This miraculous phenomenon will not be repeated again until March 15, 2080 and then it will not happen again until after 2,400.
Protect shrubs, such as junipers and arborvitae, from extensive snow loads by tying their stems together with twine. Carefully remove heavy snow with a broom to prevent limb breakage.
When shopping for a Christmas tree, check for green, flexible, firmly held needles and a sticky trunk base. Lift the tree then hit it against the ground. If the outside needles don’t fall off in clumps, the tree should be fresh.
The fastest gust of wind ever recorded on Earth was 253 miles per hour.
One of the first decorated trees appeared in 1832 in Boston adorned with gilded and colored eggshell cups, paper cones filled with nuts, crystallized fruit and candy, moss, seven dozen wax candles and “dolls and whimsies”.
As a result of the pandemic, Americans are both cooking (54%) and baking (46%) more.
Mincemeat pie is filled with rich and exotic spices representing the treasures the Three Wise Men brought to Christ.
An ancient legend states that forest animals can speak in human language on Christmas Eve!
The first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France, in 1924.
As a means of communicating and storing ideas, knowledge, art, and culture, paper is one of the most important and consequential artifacts of human civilization.
In the 10th century, men in Europe wore high heels to make it easier to ride their horses. Adding heels to their boots made it easier to stay in their stirrups.
According to weather folklore, a heavy November snow will last until April.
Keep mowing your lawn for as long as it grows. Pests such as voles and field mice will damage your lawn and plants if they have long grass to hide in.
Add mulch to flower and bulb beds after the ground freezes to help prevent winter damage.
If fingers and toes become chilly, wiggle them instead of rubbing them. If exposed skin (including that of your face and ears) becomes cold, cover it with a warm hand until it feels better.
"Jingle Bells" was an 1857 song titled "One Horse Open Sleigh," and its composer, James Pierpont, intended it to be a Thanksgiving Day song.
What is a snood? The loose skin under a male turkey's neck or a hat worn by a Pilgrim.
Hand sanitizer is to prevent the spread of germs, but it’s also useful for heating up frozen car locks. The alcohol in the gel acts as a natural de-icer.
Stash a pair of socks in the glove compartment in case your car gets stuck. Put the socks over your shoes for added traction if you need to push it out.
Elwood Haynes, from Kokomo, Indiana created the first successful vehicle powered by gasoline in 1894.
According to the Journal of Affective Disorder, babies born during winter months are less likely to have irritable temperaments.
In recent years the importance of Rare Earth Elements (REEs) has become increasingly critical in this age of high tech consumer products from cellular phones to hybrid vehicles. What are Rare Earth Elements and what role have they played in the past and in the world’s future?
The REEs are a set of seventeen metallic elements including fifteen lanthanides on the periodic table plus candium and yttrium. Although originally thought to be rare, many of the minerals are actually common in the earth’s crust. Rare Earth Elements are spread evenly over the earth but it is hard to find a lot in one place. They are also difficult to extract from the earth because REEs are usually found within other minerals, making them costly to mine.
In the beginning
In 1788 a miner in Ytterby, Sweden found an unusual black rock. The ore was called “rare” because it had never been seen before and “earth” which was the 18th century geological term for rocks that could be dissolved in acid. By 1794 this previously unknown “earth” yttria was named after the town where it was discovered.
Carl Auer von Welsbach in 1880 became the first person to develop a commercial use for the Rare Earth Elements. Welsbach found a way to mix rare earth wastes with iron, creating a “flint stone” that sparked when struck. Ferrocerium was widely used in cigarette lighters and ignition-devices in automobiles. Welsbach also recognized the incandescent properties of REEs and developed an incandescent lamp that produced a bright light and could be mass produced.
Rare Earth Elements took on a new scientific and, then, geopolitical importance during the 20th century.
In 1939 Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner and Fritz Strassmann discovered nuclear fission of uranium and identified REEs in fission products leading to the atomic bomb.
The arms race between the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War (1945 to 1991) led to increases in government-funded research and development in many areas, including Rare Earth Elements.
Corporations and industrial research generated new products for consumers. Until 1965 the major applications for REEs included using mixtures of Rare Earth Elements oxides for polishing lenses and as flints for lighters. One of the first major commercial uses for Rare Earth Elements came in 1965 when they were used in color television tubes.
The 1970s and 1980s saw the development of the nickel-metal hydride battery which became popular for use in portable electronics and later in hybrid cars. The use of Rare Earth Elements in magnets is a rapidly increasing application for computer hard disks plus automotive systems such as power steering, electric windows, power seats and audio speakers.
Because they have abundant magnetic, luminescent, electrochemical and thermal properties, Rare Earth Elements have made possible smart phones, electric cars, light-emitting diodes, wind turbines, medical imaging, fiber optic cables, defense systems and much more.
Where on the earth can Rare Earth Elements be found?
China has been the leading producer of Rare Earth Elements for decades and since the late 1990s, it has accounted for more than 90% of global production on average. After China, the world’s largest REEs reserves are in Vietnam, Brazil, Russia, India, Australia, the United States and Greenland. REEs mining projects within the United States are located in Bokan Mountain, Alaska; La Paz, Arizona; Diamond Creek, Idaho; Lemhi Pass in Idaho and Montana; Pea Ridge, Missouri; Elk Creek, Nebraska; Thor Mine, Nevada; Round Top, Texas; and Bear Lodge, Wyoming.
Rare Earth Elements are not exchange-traded like gold and silver which makes their prices hard to monitor and track. Pricing on REEs can vary based on the quantity and quality required by the end user.
The future of Rare Earth Elements
As China began restricting the distribution of REEs through quotas, licenses and taxes, the world rare-earth industry has changed by encouraging stockpiling, increased exploration and development of deposits outside of China. New efforts are being made to conserve, recycle and find substitutes for REEs as demand for these elements is higher than the supply of them. Potential disruption in the Rare Earth Elements supply chain could be a critical world crisis and disastrous to the United States’ long-term economic and national security.
Get rid of ants with small piles of cornmeal. Ants eat it, take it home but can’t digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so to work especially if it rains.
Leaves are a rich source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and more. They are a great way to improve soil structure.
Mid-fall is a good time to plant wildlife-friendly bushes and hedges such as winterberry for birds and pussy willows for butterflies.
Acorns and oak trees symbolize patience, strength and long labor.
Candy Corn was originally marketed as "Chicken Feed" when it was first popularized around the end of the 19th century. Consumers voted candy corn the worst Halloween candy in the country in 2019 and 2020.
The tradition of creating pumpkin lamps for Halloween comes from the Celtic tradition. The Celts created lanterns that helped souls find their way to purgatory.
Reuse wine and champagne corks as plant markers. Write the name of the plant on the cork with permanent marker, push it onto a metal skewer or chopstick, and place it in the soil next to the appropriate plant. Start saving corks throughout the winter for spring plantings.
Prevent ash from spreading through the air when cleaning out a fireplace by using a water-filled spray bottle. Lightly mist the ashes before you shovel them.
The night before freezing temperatures, rub half a potato over your car’s windshield. The sugar from the potato creates a barrier over the window and prevents ice from forming, so you’ll come out in the morning and won’t have to scrape. Worth a try!
Pumpkins labeled “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins” are the best varieties of pumpkin for cooking. They are smaller than traditional carving pumpkins and have a sweeter, less-watery flesh. Select a pumpkin with a stem at least one to two inches long. Stems shorter than this will hasten the pumpkin’s decay.
During most of the 1930s, the Great Plains region of the United States was devastated by drought and high winds. This area became known as the “Dust Bowl”. Howling winds also whipped up the topsoil of over-farmed land creating “black blizzards” that were so thick and blinding that daylight seemed more like dusk. It is estimated that these “black blizzards” displaced over 300 million tons of topsoil from the prairie area. These horrendous storms also forced 2.5 million people to migrate west only to encounter extreme disappointment and discrimination.
Why did these storms happen?
The U.S. Government during WWI encouraged farmers to support the war effort by planting wheat to feed the soldiers overseas. In order to increase food production, farmers in the Midwest dug up the buffalo grasses that had held down the prairie soil for thousands of years through their extensive root systems.
With the invention of the farm tractor, farmers could plow up thousands of acres of grassland and plant wheat. Livestock grazed on the rest of the land destroying the natural system that had preserved soil on the prairies.
When a drought occurred, the deep roots grounding the prairie grass, were gone.
One powerful windstorm after another swept across the “Dust Bowl”. The dry topsoil rose in towering clouds and rolled across the land, blotting out the sun sometimes for days at a time. These “black blizzards” made life almost unbearable.
People developed “dust pneumonia” and suffered with pain and difficulty breathing, causing many people to die. Dust drifted like snow so residents had to clear it with shovels. Sometimes people had to dig out their whole homes. It went through the cracks of even well-sealed houses, leaving a dusty coating on food, skin, and furniture. Dust and sand also damaged car engines and farm equipment.
Cows and other grazing animals ate the dust-coated grass which created “mud balls” in their stomachs leading to death.
One major “black blizzard” occurred on May 11, 1934. The storm was two miles high and traveled 2,000 miles to the East Coast blotting out views of the Statue of Liberty and the U.S. Capitol. Sailors 300 miles into the Atlantic Ocean reported dust ½ inch thick on the decks of their ships.
This nightmare lasted almost 10 years when, finally in 1939, the much needed rain came, bringing hope to the prairie. A federal program encouraged farmers to utilize new farming methods that would protect topsoil from eroding. Consequently, Americans should never have to experience the horror of “black blizzards” again.
Be sure to remove any leaves, dead plants, or other plant debris from the garden. You don’t want to draw pests to your soil or leave diseased plants to compost in your garden over the winter, potentially damaging your soil.
September is a month where many annuals will begin to dry up. When this starts to happen, let them. You can collect the seed pods they produce and store them for next year. Be sure to allow the pods to dry out fully before storing. Also, be sure to store them in a cool, dry location to keep the seeds intact.
English ivy drastically reduces mold indoors. It’s a good plant for your desk at work and near your bedroom window.
According to folklore if wooly worms are more black than brown this indicates a harsh, cold winter, while more brown than black points to a mild winter.
Nicknamed the “Covered Bridge Capital of the World”, Indiana has a total of 31 covered bridges in just 450 square mile.
Forks were first introduced in Italy in the 11th Century. These spiked spaghetti-twirling instruments were seen as an offense to God because they were "artificial hands" and as such were considered to be sacrilegious.
Besides being a wrestling champ, Abraham Lincoln was also a licensed bartender and opened up a bar called “Berry and Lincoln” with his friend William F. Berry in New Salem, Illinois.
Herbs such as parsley, rosemary, chives, thyme and marjoram can be dug from the garden and placed in pots now for growing indoors this winter.
White pines normally shed old needles in the fall, usually beginning mid to late September. The yellowing and dropping of these interior needles is normal and should not cause concern.
Researchers have found that lack of vitamin D reduces fat breakdown and triggers fat storage. This lack of sunlight beginning in the fall months has more to do with the extra weight gain than all the pumpkin spice lattes.
If you really want to drink tea like they do on Downton Abbey, you will add your milk last. Inferior china cups were inclined to crack when hot tea was poured into them, but the finest china was much stronger and didn’t crack. So putting the milk in last became a way for the upper class to show they had the best china. Milk in last also lets you judge the strength more easily—too much milk can ruin the perfect cup of tea.
A group of squirrels is called a “scurry” or a “dray”.
A woodpecker tongue is up to 4” long depending on the species. It wraps around the skull when it is retracted.
August is the best time to dig and divide perennial flowers in your garden (such as hosta, lily, daylily, ornamental grasses, and bearded iris). Use a spade to lift the plant from the ground being careful not to damage the root ball. When the clump is out of the ground, use a large garden knife or spade to cut it into smaller pieces. Then, replant the smaller pieces or divisions as soon as possible.
Chrysanthemums, popular fall flowers, are available in two general categories: florist and garden. Florist mums are ideal for gift giving, but if you want color for your flower border, make sure you purchase garden mums that are tough enough to tolerate outdoor conditions.
Stop pruning perennial herbs such as tarragon, lavender, sage, oregano, and thyme at least one month before your last expected frost. Pruning encourages new growth that won’t have time to harden before cold weather hits.
Dead-head annual bedding plants and perennials to encourage them to flower into the autumn and stop them self-seeding.
Use colorful plastic golf tees to mark the location of dormant plants like spring bulbs or perennials.
Clean your grill without chemicals or a lot of elbow grease by using half an onion. Onions have natural antibacterial properties and help deep clean the grates. First, get the grill nice and hot to burn off any remaining food. Next, cut an onion in half and pierce it with a long grill fork. Scrub.
Keep critters away from trash cans by mixing 2 tablespoons dish soap, 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper, and 1-quart warm water. Spray liberally over cans. Raccoons, especially, hate the smell of many spices and oils, including mint and cayenne pepper.
Current and former staff members have contributed to our newsletter over the years. Now the articles are available to view here on our blog