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Folklore, moonlore, flowers and tomatoes

From a touch of humour to the mystique of folklore and taking a look at brown-eyed Susan (also known as black-eyed Susan). Why I’m growing Tall Tree tomato again this year… it’s all right here!

HE LOVES HORSES, I LOVE GARDENING

My 16-year-old grandson Kirk is an avid horseback rider. He lives on a farm surrounded by horses and loves them. What else would I expect? As for myself, I’m no horseback rider so I can’t say I’m back in the saddle again. But I’m into seed catalogues and dreamin’ away, waiting for seed orders to arrive. I imagine growing rich from the fortunes made by being a gardener. Then I suddenly awaken from my dream and realize it’s only an illusion. The reality is I’m rich because the garden keeps me in tune with Mother and Father Nature and not because gardening generates a big income. Reminds me of a time when I stood before an audience and one of the attendees said to me: “Hey Ted, I see you’re wearing your golf socks.” I replied: “Wait a minute now Sir. I’m no golfer. I’m a gardener. I’m an executive in overalls. What do you mean I’m wearing my golf socks?” Then came his reply: “Why the socks you’re wearing with the 16 holes in them!”

FOLKLORE AND MOONLORE ARE FASCINATING

I, Ted, enjoy studying old-time traditions and find many just as unique and applicable today as they were way back when. Some folks may of course take them with a grain of salt. It doesn’t bother me if someone says, “so what,” or, “I told you so.” There’s always an element of the population that might say they’re only legends or something like “nay it’s shilly-shally” meaning an utter denial or refusal. Don’t you just find such an old, archaic expression singular in its kind of excellence?

Regardless, a lot of almost long-since-forgotten techniques and skills from the past still mystify and impress many a layman, gardeners and keepers of the soil. Even some weather people and higher-ups have taken notice. There are still hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of gardeners and farmers who associate planting their gardens and seeding crops in conjunction with the moon’s phase and watching for other signs.

THE MOON LAST CHRISTMAS

December 25, 2012 came during the second quarter of a waxing moon following the arrival of the new moon at 2:42 a.m. central standard time on December 13, 2012. Depending on where you live in Canada, Christmas Day arrived during the signs of Taurus and Gemini, whose natures are productive, earthy, moist and feminine; or barren and dry, airy and masculine, respectively. Folklorists and gardeners from previous generations said if Christmas comes when the moon is waxing, that is, increasing in light, “we shall have a very good year to follow.”

On another note, moon signers from previous generations said when a new moon falls on a Saturday, the following three weeks will be mostly wet and windy on and off nine times out of 10. I don’t see such a new moon in my region until Saturday, June 8, 2013 phasing in at 11:56 a.m. central daylight time. Another widely held belief relates to the position of the new moon during February (it begins Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 1:20 a.m. CST) and forecasts whether or not the upcoming growing season shall be wet or dry. It is said that if the moon’s horns point downward at this time, it is emptying its water and the spring and summer to follow shall be wet. A dry February moon occurs when the horns are pointing upward retaining its water. This indicates that garden and field crops should be planted ASAP as it could be dry. A good pair of binoculars or stargazing equipment will help you decide. Keep in mind that lunar gardening is not some hocus-pocus or type of magic, nor a cure-all for lazy (is there such a thing?) or poor gardening practices. Although old sayings and beliefs are good to know, we shouldn’t rely on them totally, but that’s for each individual to decide. The long and the short of it is we all aspire to a good gardening and crop year. Here’s a ray of hope that says: When the new moon falls on Monday, or “Moonday,” it is thought to be a good sign and favourable and pleasant weather is at hand. Guess what? Our next “new Moonday moon” begins on March 11, 2013, a Monday. Something else to ponder! An infirmary in Britain reported that between 1997 and 1999, there was a threefold increase of emergency room patients suffering from animal bites whenever there was a full moon. An average of 40 patients a day rose to 120 whenever the moon was full.

PIG SPLEEN READINGS MADE FAMOUS

Do you ever watch “The National” on CBC TV? Just before the end of each newscast there’s a segment called: Only in Canada. One evening in December, 2012 it featured Jeff Woodward of Regina who has a passion for predicting the weather by observing, feeling and touching the bumps, bulges, indentations, fatty deposits and texture of fresh spleens taken from mature hogs about four to six years old. Jeff is a bit of a pig spleen-reading expert and learned the art of interpreting future weather six months down the road from his late Uncle Gus Wickstrom of Tompkins, Sask. Gus was known as “King of pig spleen reading” and would even bite into one. Gus sometimes claimed an accuracy rate of 90 to 95 per cent with predictions extending over a radius of about 200 kilometres beyond the region from which pig spleens were harvested. His ancestors brought the unusual tradition to Canada from Sweden well over 100 years ago. Today, his nephew Jeff Woodward carries on the tradition and follows in his late uncle’s footsteps by providing January to June weather readings according to pig spleens. Jeff hinted on TV it could be a wet one.

RUDBECKIA

Marsha Kusisto sent a picture with the following in mid-December, 2012. Ted — always enjoy reading your column in the Grainews. Thought you might be interested to see the attached picture of some rudbeckia that is still looking good. I picked them when I was cleaning up the yard before Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it. Do you know the secret to their longevity? Merry Christmas, Marsha Kusisto, Beechy, Sask.

Ted’s feedback: There are numerous members in the rudbeckia family including brown-eyed Susan (sometimes called black-eyed Susan) and are referred to as both an annual that self-seeds readily and as a pay-me-no-mind perennial. Either way it’s tough enough to withstand competition from meadow grasses and weeds. Black-eyed Susan has also been dubbed a North American native wildflower growing from Mexico through to Canada. Butterflies love the three-inch, long-lasting flowers that generously appear atop metre-tall (three-feet) plants. The blooms appear generously from midsummer right through to freeze-up. Seed sources for black-eyed Susan and other close cousins include: West Coast Seeds, Delta, B.C., phone 1-888-804-8820; Early’s Garden Centre, Saskatoon, Sask., phone 1-800-667-1159 and Dominion Seed House, Georgetown, Ont., phone 1-800-784-3037.

TALL TREE TOMATO

… planting time is coming up in a couple months. Oh I’m lovin’ my tomatoes, Tall Tree tomatoes, my tomatoes where they grow. I like carrots and potatoes, but how I love my tomatoes, Tall Tree tomatoes, indoors I’ll sow (on March 19, 20 and 21, 2013 according to the moon). I kinda wangled my way to accomplish harvesting a few hundred Tall Tree tomato seeds. It was a rather time-consuming task. I planted three seeds as a germination test and two came up. Now I have a couple Tall Tree seedlings on the go since December. I’m keeping them cool in maximum natural light and on the dry side to avoid getting spindly. Tall Tree plants come by their name honestly, easily grow five or six feet high and definitely require support on a strong trellis, but worth the effort. Well-cared-for plants produce solid, red fruits that are juicy, tasty both for fresh eating and home canning. Each fruit can weigh up to a pound (454 grams) and more. One thick slice of Tall Tree tomato between two pieces of bread definitely makes a sandwich. †

About the author

Columnist

Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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