By Bernadina Lucia
You may have heard of mulching to keep a plant from freezing, but have you ever heard of mulching to keep a plant frozen?
There's actually a compelling reason for winter mulching: the mulching holds the cold in and keep the perennial thinking it's still winter. During a warm spell, your plant may try and sprout new growth, only to have it all killed during the next cold spell. The plant may be damaged if the new growth is suddenly killed off, the plant's energy is wasted, and it may not be as prolific during actual spring.
Put your mulch down after the ground has become throughly frozen.
There are other reasons to mulch. One of these is to prevent heaving. As the ground thaws and then freezes again, it cracks, and can expose your plant's roots, or the bulbs or tubers. Mulching will reduce heaving and protect your tender bulbs.
It will also prevent erosion, if yours is a wet winter.
The rule of thumb for removing the mulch to let the ground thaw around your plant is when the danger of last frost has passed. This can be difficult to judge, especially in a world of increasingly uncertain climate. The best way to tell, so I've heard, is when the air smells like mud, and the whole ground has thawed. Then you can rake the mulch away.
Sweet mercy, it's good to be back. You may have noticed that in addition to the announced hiatus, the Farm was offline for a bit longer than that. There was also a format change promised.
Well, we were supposed to change to a whole different website format. It had templates, and all the bells and whistles.
I started working on it, and wouldn't you know it, I hated all the little boxes. There was no freedom, you had to adhere strictly to the template, which just didn't work for me. That isn't how I am, and that isn't how Resilience Farm is.
This is the age of the internet. It should be easier now than ever to be creative, and spread it to the most people. Yet I see all these little cookie-cutter sites, and the domain managers at the behest of Google, our supreme overlord, trying to homogenize and standardize all of the websites.
Resilience Farm doesn't need to fit a mold, because the media we have SHOULD be used to create a unique expression.
So, after a few weeks of trying and failing to make the templates work for me, I decided to just go back to the old way, this way, the one I've been working on for the last two years.
The Farm is back, everyone!
A Sunny Topic
By Bernadina Lucia
Today we'll be talking about solar panels and solar power. Currently, only 1% of the world's total energy is provided by solar panels. 98.4 percent of that comes from PV, or photovoltaic, which are the traditional solar panels on roofs or in big fields, which you are likely familiar with.
The other type of solar energy is CSP, or concentrated solar power. This only accounts for 1.6% of solar energy, though.
A brief history:
PV solar pannels: these work through a cell inside the panel that converts light into electricity through the photovaltaic effect. The first solar cell was created by Charles Fritts, in 1884. He set up the world's first solar array on a New York rooftop in 1884. At the time, though, only 1% of light taken in by the cell was converted into energy.
By the 1950's, they could convert about 6% of light into energy, and today 40% of light taken in is converted to energy, in the best silicon based cells. However, the average for solar panels today is only 17% effectiveness.
CSP: a large field of reflective material channels large amounts of light to a single point to drive a heat engine, usually a steam engine. It's a similar idea to solar ovens, and Archimedes' death ray.
Unfortunately, though solar energy is becoming more and more efficient, it still only accounts for 1% of energy.
All the Colors of Death
The title may be a bit over-dramatic, but we're gearing up for Valentine's day, and I must prime my pump, so to speak.
I was originally going ruin conversational hearts, you know, those little heart-shaped candies with cutesy messages on them. But upon looking at them, I found they were disgustingly non-offensive in the ingredients. Except, they contained something I often overlook when going after other big baddies in ingredients lists, like TSP and high fructose corn syrup. This little thing, often at the end of the list where you're too tired of reading big complicated words to notice. It's food coloring.
Synthetic food coloring, that is. I've no trouble with coloring made from beets and other natural plant dyes (unless made from toxic or otherwise harmful plants.) The food colorings in question are: Blue 1 and 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Red 3 and 40, Yellow 5 and 6.
The most commonly used of these are Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40. One article I read stated that they contain benzidine, and 4-aminobipheny. This is not strictly true.
We'll start off on benzidine. Benzidine is a known carcinogen, and was once widely used in many fields, including food dye. However, due to the dangers, selling it has been banned in the U.S since 1970. It still is brought into the country, but is not found specifically in dye. However, some dyes (the aforementioned ones) can contain impurities that can break down into benzidine once inside the human body. So consume at your own risk.
Next is 4-aminobipheny. This chemical causes bladder cancer. It is used in some hair dyes, though this is under discussion, because testing is still being done on the absorption rate, and the actual likelihood of getting bladder cancer from long-term use. It's also found in in cigarettes in varying levels.
It is, however, found in food dye. It has to be under a certain level, but I am still extremely wary.
I deem feed dye an eat at your own risk type of food.
There are other issues with synthetic food dye, they are primarily made from petroleum, and have been linked to hyperactivety in children. Though, that seems to pale when compared to bladder cancer.
Valentine's Day: A history
By Bernadina Lucia
Valentine's day, the day when you buy expensive and chemical filled candy for your mate, and you see lots of anatomically-incorrect pictures of hearts and a fat, armed child threatening to shoot people with a bow and arrow.
But how did it begin? Everyone has heard the story of the Christian man Saint Valentine being killed by the Romans. He befriended the daughter of a judge, and before he was executed, he sent her a letter signed: your Valentine. Then he was martyred and the rest is history. It started off as a holiday of general platonic love, and somehow became a bloated greeting-card fueled romantic holiday.
How did all this happen? Let's begin with the saint:
There were more like a dozen or so Saint Valentines, that we know of, including a woman. Each were martyred in some or another painful way, between the years of 307, and the 5th century. Only seven of these died on days other than th 14th of February, according to the Roman Martyrology list (the logistics of this, someone in charge must have said, 'that dude is named Valentine? I have an idea.')
So we have lots of potential Saints.
Now, how did it become a romantic holiday? We can blame Chaucer for this. Though it was supposedly linked to the Roman holiday of fertility, Lupercalia, which was celebrated for about three days, on the 13-15 of February every years. Supposedly Gelaseus I had abolished Lupercalia and replaced it with Valentine's day, which when he set it up, was a celebration of the Purification of the Virgin Mary. However, this doesn't fit because of the different calenders used, and because at the time, Lupercalia was only celebrated in Jerusalem. And the calenders used had about a three week difference.
Most scholars blame 14th century poet Geoffery Chaucer for the romanticization of Valentine's day, because of his work, Parlement of Foules, which has the first-ever record of Valentine's day being associated with romantic love.
Now, the commercialization: in Brittan in 1797, a publisher issues The Young Man's Valentine's Writer, which contained lots of sappy verses that creatively un-inclinded men could send to their sweeties. It was hugely popular. Paper Valentines were soon being printed, and they were absurdly popular. In 1835 Brittan, despite the high price of postage, 60,000 paper Valentines were sent. In 1840, when the penny stamp was invented and postage suddenly became cheaper, 400,000 Valentines were sent. From then on, people have been trying to one-up themselves from last year on their extravaganza, especially as candy, toy, and flower companies started getting in on the action.
Basically, if you don't like Valentines day, you can blame a dozen dead saints, one writer, and the whole British greeting-card industry.