Tradition says: There will be loads of apples next season, if the sun shines through bare apple tree branches on December 25. But… where I live in southern Manitoba, there wasn’t the slightest hint of sunshine on Christmas Day, 2010. Skies were completely grey and overcast, but no snowfall. If this old adage holds true, there may be slim apple pickings for some of us next season. More on weather coming up, (I’m beginning to sound like radio and TV) but first… (ah shuffleboard; no commercial).
WHO CAN FORGET
… the late tomato blight that was so rampant in many gardens last year! You may want to try the following varieties if you had to deal with blight issues in the past.
Mountain Magic hybrid is a new large cherry tomato with super-sweet flavour for 2011. It’s moderately resistant to early blight and highly resistant to late blight. Although Mountain Magic doesn’t produce large slicers, there are some positive spinoffs, including crack resistance and vigorous foliage on indeterminate (require staking) plants.
Fifty-five-gram (two-ounce) cherry tomatoes are uniformly red inside and out and appear in large clustered trusses, facilitating easy picking. Firm textured fruits are ideal in salads or for fresh eating early in the season, about 66 days after setting out transplants. During 2010 trials, Mountain Magic was noticeably green and growing while other tomatoes were dying.
Got a roadside stand or a farmers’ market venue? You’ll be glad to know Mountain Magic has good keeping ability, making it a frontrunner for early-market tomato sales. Seed packets are available from William Dam Seeds, Dundas, Ont. L9H 5E1; phone (905) 628- 6641; www.damseeds.com and Veseys Seeds, Charlottetown, P.E.I. C1A 8K6; phone 1-800-363-7333; www.veseys.com.
I was talking with Vicky Berg, garden seed department manager at Early’s Farm and Garden Centre in Saskatoon. She’s really excited about Rocky Top tomato that’s listed in Early’s 2011 catalogue. Phone 1-800-667-1159 or go to www.earlysgarden.com to request a copy.
Rocky Top was best tomato during 2008 Canadian trials and well adapted to our climatic conditions. Fruits are large to extra large [225 grams (eight ounces)] with exceptional quality; “very firm and a really nice slicer,” according to Vicky. Rocky Top is an early main-season determinate tomato with lots of vine. Short staking is recommended.
LET ME REMIND
… longtime and newGrainews readers that I have some garden-related giveaways to be drawn for in March. The lot consists of credit vouchers/certificates to be applied toward any catalogue item from various seed houses across the country and some Bluebell grape plants.(See my Jan. 10, 2011 Grainews column for more details.) Everyone is welcome to enter, so include a garden tip if you wish with your entry. Send your name and complete mailing address to:
Singing Gardener Draws, c/oGrainews,
1666 Dublin Ave.,
Winnipeg, Man., R3H 0H1
AN EMAIL ABOUT WEATHER
… from Didsbury, Alberta prompted me to devote space to that most talked-about subject. The email says: “Some time ago you related a method of determining the weather at Christmas that you might have talked about and I cannot recall. If so, would you please be kind and relate all the details. With appreciation.” CA (name withheld by request)
Ted says his answer is based mostly on folklore traditions.
WEATHERING THE WEATHER
We have no choice when Mother Nature throws her full force of fury and superiority at us. When I began writing this in mid- December, an intense weather system had paralyzed a large section of southwest Ontario from Sarnia to London. Hundreds of motorists were trapped in snow, waiting for roadside rescue. One of them told a TV reporter: “We’ll just have to batten down the hatches until it passes.” That’s a nautical expression to fasten down a ship during a storm.
Meanwhile at the same time, many of us here on the Prairies awaited the approach of an Alberta Clipper, a fast-moving system that doesn’t produce heavy snowfall, but can bring gusty winds and surges of colder air. If conditions are favourable, some clipper systems slow down, intensify and get stalled before moving on and petering out. On the east side of the nation, weather woes and travel nightmares were even worse many times over throughout December in the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador. Ah the weather! We all like to talk about it, but who can do anything about it?
CHRISTMAS WEATHER FORECAST FOR 2011
Wouldn’t you know! This past Christmas, 2010 fell on a Saturday. Are we in for a good summer? According to old Irish folklore, if Christmas falls on Saturday it will be a windy, snowy winter and a good summer.
In Poland, Christmas Eve weather forecasting has always been popular. December 24 was a day to mark new beginnings. It was always a good sign when a man was the first to cross the threshold of any house he entered. Polish people are famous for their warm-hearted hospitality. A family tradition was setting an extra set of plates and silverware for a stranger.
At the Christmas Eve meal grandfathers or the senior man of the house always insisted that some fresh hay be placed under the crisp white tablecloth. A traditional meal would consist of 12 dishes. Candles were blown out and the direction of the smoke observed. If it moved toward the window — the harvest would be good.
A prominent expression was: “As goes Christmas Eve and the Christmas season; so goes the year.” Hoping for a favourable growing and harvest season during the next 12 months, everyone was polite and generous toward one another. Christmas was the time to forget old ill feelings and to exchange good wishes.
Weather during the Christmas season, according to folklore is an indication of what’s to come. Examples: When it snows on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, it is a sign of happiness. But if it rains at Christmas, the following year will be a wet one.
Another tradition: “A sunny Christmas Eve and sunny Christmas Day mean fair weather shall follow all year long and the sun will shine a lot during January.” If there’s no snow at Christmas, or if outdoor-growing evergreen trees sink or stand in water on December 25, then Easter will get the white stuff instead. Thus was born the statement: “eggs will roll on ice at Easter.”
If you have laying hens, this is a good one: “Stars that shine bright on Christmas Eve will make hens lay a lot more eggs in future and guarantee plenty of filled nests.”
Looking ahead to next October. If the breastbone of a turkey cooked at Thanksgiving is purple or dark blue; expect a hard winter. Just for curiosity, do you recall the breastbone colour of your turkey on Christmas Day? Another weather sign is the wind direction. If it blows from the east on New Year’s Eve, fruit trees will bear much fruit.
I, Ted, regularly look at bubbles… rising on the surface of my fresh perked coffee and various brewed teas. When bubbles settle on the surface of coffee or tea and hold together for a half-minute or longer, good weather is coming. If the bubbles break up right away, weather we don’t want is close at hand. Not everyone treats old traditions seriously, but talking about them makes for good family conversation, or at the coffee shop among friends.
SPLITTING PERSIMMON SEEDS
… is not a common tradition in our country for predicting forthcoming winter weather according to the image inside (either a spoon, fork or knife). Split open a persimmon seed, holding it parallel to the flattened side. Be very careful when using a knife, as people have been known to cut themselves in the process.
A little whitish sprout is revealed inside. Look closely to determine whether it resembles a spoon, fork or knife. A spoon is said to foretell lots of heavy, wet snow. If you see a fork, it means you can expect a mild winter with powdery, light snow. But — if you view what appears to be a knife — it indicates an icy, windy and bitter cold winter. About 50 to 90 per cent of the time, the persimmon seed is right! This fruit is not commonly available, although I’ve seen it at some fresh produce displays.
THE HUMAN BODY AND WEATHER
Often, someone tells me their aching joints can foretell wet or damp weather. A patient who had surgery stated the following: “My right knee can always tell when weather is changing. Sharp pains like an ice pick begin striking my knee. The more it hurts; the worse the weather will be. Fibromyalgia also warns of impending not-so-kind weather.”
A mother who has given birth by C-section reports the following: “When the weather is going to be bad, incisions from my C-section itch like crazy.” Another mother said: “My incision tends to itch every now and then, but I never paid any attention to the weather. I will watch for that from now on and compare.”
ThisisTedMeseytontheSingingGardenerand Grow-ItPoetfromPortagelaPrairie,Man.A tipofmycapandsolonguntilnexttime.Well afterallthat,Icandowithagoodnight’srest. Here’sashortbutterrificbreathingtechnique, especiallyifyouhavedifficultyfallingasleep. Pressthetipofyourtongueagainstthebaseof yourtopteethandholdinplace.Tothecount offour,takeadeepbreath;holdtothecount ofsevenandbecomefullypresentduringthis stillmoment;thenexhaletothecountofeight. Repeattwoorthreemoretimes.Breathenormal inbetweenrepetitions.Practisejustbefore bedtimeorwhileinbedandfallasleepwithin 10minutes.Ah…verygoodtonic!Myemail addressis [email protected]
Love HearingFrom You
Do you have a story about a farm or home-based business? How about some household management tips? Does someone in the family have a special-diet need? Share some of your recipes and some meal ideas.
Send them to FarmLife, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3H 0H1. Phone 1-800- 665-0502 or email [email protected] Please remember we can no longer return photos or material. — Sue