Archive for December, 2010

Prepared for Christmas… or at least I thought I was

I attended a Christmas breakfast with some co-workers the other morning- it is the same one I have attended every year, for more years than I even like to admit to. Because of the overall scheduling of the department, we are forced to have this celebration and fellowship very early in the morning. Now, 6:30am is a time of the morning I am up anyway, it is just that I am not necessarily in the mood to get out of my farm clothes and go out to a restaurant and have to be social. But there I was, sitting at a table of familiar faces, most of us yawning and getting to our first cups of coffee of the day. When there seemed to be momentary lull in the conversations that were starting around the table, the question was poised by one of my co-workers as to who was actually “ready” for Christmas by now. On of the gals answered back, ” I’m not- Christmas just came so fast this year!” she groaned.   I said (without thinking) “But it comes on the same day EVERY year.” It will be 364 days since last Christmas, why is it then that it sometimes seems to take us by surprise?  This year Christmas did not take me by surprise, but I did have a setback that would soon make me think back on those words I had blurted out at breakfast nearly two weeks before. I had my cards, I had my gifts, I even had the wrapping paper and tape and bows- so I was sure that nothing could go wrong with “plan A” this year…I was wrong.
We have been having problems with various rodent populations this year. Both storage sheds, the garage, and even the kitchen have been invaded by an abundance of vermin. Our kitty Lucy, has done a beautiful job policing the feed shed, and our livestock guard dog has gotten her fair share of moles, ground squirrels and rabbits in the field. Still I have had to set numerous traps and bait stations around the farm to keep these critters at bay, as we store thousands of pounds of grain here every month.
I am one of those people who always packs bait pouches in the boxes every year when I repack my Christmas ornaments, as mice have built nests in the boxes in years past, but I have never really thought to do the same with my artificial tree. I have always wondered what is that makes some animals chew the plastic insulation off of wiring. I don’t imagine it smells very good, and I don’t think it makes very good nesting material- but in talking to a few people about it, it is more common then I had first thought. One person said she had a house bunny that use to like to chew their stereo cords. Another friend told me that animals have completely ruined  wiring in the engine of his car. I myself have watched farm kitty chew the cord to the computer mouse -more then once- so I should not have really been all that surprised when I pulled down the heavy plastic zip-up bag from the rafters that stored my 4 foot tree.
I noticed the two large holes in the side of the bag first, and hoped it was just chewed from the outside- no such luck. When I unzipped the bag I was hit with an overwhelming smell of rodent pee, and realized the tree might be ruined  before I even saw the actual damage done. The rats/mice/squirrels had not only chewed all the lights off but had stripped about 20% of the branches bare of their  plastic needles – leaving just the wire skeleton. I mumbled my curses at them and put the whole of what was left of my beloved little tree into the recycle bin.  Ok, on to “plan B”- go buy a new tree. My Christmas plans would not be thwarted by this setback. I would be on vacation the week before Christmas, the stores would be filled with trees-not a problem.

I was up bright and early Saturday morning, sales papers in hand and ready to go find my new tree. First stop Michael’s (where my former tree had come from 6 years back). I knew I was in trouble when I found plastic bamboo in pots where the trees normally are.  Ok, sold out here. On to Lowe’s where there was nothing left but giant 10 footers-my ceiling is not that tall- next. I then tried the Green Thumb nursery where they were also sold of of that size plastic trees.  I made two more stops in town, and the only choice I had at these locations was feathers or pink plastic trees that looked like something that belonged in Barbie’s Dream House. Foiled in my search I drove back to the farm, treeless and pouting.

Still determined to have a tree this year, I moved to “plan C” mode. Ok- It’s Christmas time. I don’t have a Christmas tree. I want a Christmas tree. I can’t get a Christmas tree. I must now look to the heavens for divine inspiration and ask myself that age old question “WWMD” – what would Martha do?! I started to search all around the house for the “shape” of a pine tree. No luck in the house, so I opened up the front door and stepped out onto the porch- and then I saw it. The iron obelisk in the front yard that I grow my sweet peas on every spring, now standing there bare for the winter. Just the right size and shape! A quick rinse with the hose and a dry with a hand towel, and my “tree” was in the house! ! A fast run to Rite-Aid for a length of green tinsel and it looked just like a tree (well for the most part-if you stood back a ways). I was happy. It even came with the black iron bird on the top, and that inspired me to do an “all bird” theme this year. I had my Christmas- I was happy! I adorned my little tree with all my favorite bird ornaments, little nests and feathers, and one ornament where Santa happens to be in a hot air balloon (not a bird I know, but I thought he deserved a place in there this year).

Even though it was a deviation from my normal practice this year (and those who know me know how much I hate change) I think it came out kinda cute after all was said and done. And I would love to think that somewhere out there, Martha looked up from what ever she was doing for a moment and smiled, and she did not even know why~

Merry Christmas to all!

Winter Solstice/Lunar Eclipse 2010

December 21st is the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere. With the Winter Solstice comes the longest shadows and the day with the fewest daylight hours – this is due to the northern hemisphere being tilted farther from the sun then at any other point in the year. This day in 2010 is a landmark for a few other reasons going on in the heavens as well. There will also be a full moon in Cancer on this date, at 12:15 am (PST) and to top it all off, there will also be a full lunar eclipse. It might not sound like a big deal, but the last time this happened was over 400 years ago, so I think it is noteworthy. The full moon is very much at home in the position of Cancer. The energy is feminine, fruitful, moist and very strong. It is a very good time when you want to grow things – flowers, fruits and vegetables for example will all do well now. It is also the moon associated with mothering, so make sure you check twice on that overdue goat, sheep, horse or cow that has been holding out on you this fall.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon, earth, and sun are all lined up with the earth in the middle. Lunar eclipses occur twice a year, but some are only partial, like the last one we had in June of this year. This will be the first total eclipse of the moon in nearly 3 years, the last one being in February of 2008.  The total lunar eclipse will begin at 11:41 pm (PST) and will last over 70 minutes. The moon will reach the earth’s umbra (the dark center of our planet’s shadow) at 12:17 am, and slowly begin to glow orange (there will still be light from the sun bouncing off the other planets, so the moon will still be somewhat visible.) Thousands of years ago, full eclipses of the sun and moon used to weird people out (to use the technical term) and there was much ancient folklore and strange happenings associated with them. As fascinating as they are, these days we understand them to be just the rhythmic events in the grand celestial choreography that plays out in our universe, and nothing to be frightened of.

On the other hand, if you find yourself locked up in a house full of cranky kids and relatives because of the inclement weather right about now, or you have been standing in long lines of impatient Christmas shoppers – you have a good excuse to blame the moon for all the bad behavior. Tonight, gather everyone around together in the kitchen to bake a big batch of Christmas cookies. That should get everyone back into the holiday spirit!

No humbugs allowed!