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The Story Behind Your Christmas Wreath

Robin Sweetser gives us the background story behind the Christmas Wreath for the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

What Does a Wreath on Your Door Symbolize?

This time of year, Christmas wreaths are hung in every place imaginable—from doors and fences to lampposts and windows—even the front grille of the car! How did a round bit of greenery come to symbolize the holidays?

Wreaths are part of many ancient traditions dating back to the earliest civilizations. The circle is a symbol of immortality; throughout history, wreaths have been associated with life, rejuvenation, and renewal. Originally, wreaths were worn around the head, neck, or waist.

The Greeks awarded laurel wreaths to their triumphant athletes; in the Persian Empire they were worn on the head as a symbol of importance; and ancient Romans wore them like crowns. In Sweden, candles were incorporated in the wreaths to celebrate the return of light after the winter solstice. Nowadays we use them in a window or on a door as a sign of welcome during the holidays.

They can be used flat on a table for decoration or as an advent wreath, which also contains candles, one for each Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Yule Love This Wreath

Every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my local library has a wreath-making workshop. The library supplies the greens and wire and you bring your own wreath form, gloves, clippers, and enthusiasm. All the wreaths that are made that day are beautiful and all are different. Luckily, there are no hard and fast rules for wreath-making. Whatever pleases you is a success!

Every wreath starts with a base of some sort; it can be wire, straw, vine, or wood. Stalks of woody herbs like rosemary, lemon verbena, artemisia, or summer savory can be wrapped into a circle to make a fragrant base. Gather small bunches of evergreens together and wire them to the base. Overlap the bunches to hide the stems. Tuck small bunches of herbs and other interesting greens into the base using more wire to hold them, if necessary. Using greens of different colors and textures will give your wreath its richness. Add cones, dried flowers, berries, and fruit for accents. Don’t forget the bow!

Herbs can add symbolic meaning to your wreath:

  • Rosemary for remembrance
  • Sage for good health
  • Thyme for bravery
  • Lavender for purity
  • Rue for virtue
  • Juniper for life and hope
  • Hawthorn berries for protection and joy

Throw in cedar for strength, holly for immortality, and pinecones for long life and prosperity.

Whatever your family traditions are, at its very core, a wreath celebrates the cyclical nature of life.

Everything You Should Know About The History Of Thanksgiving

Emily VanSchmus for Better Homes & Gardens on the History of Thanksgiving.

Each November we gather with our families and chow down on roasted turkey, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. It’s a decades-long American tradition with a complicated and controversial past, but there are a few things everyone should know about the holiday—such as why we eat pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner. And while you might have learned that it began with the landing of the Mayflower, we actually have Abraham Lincoln to thank for making Thanksgiving a holiday.

While this year we may still be celebrating turkey day while wearing Thanksgiving-theme face masks and scaling down our traditional Thanksgiving menu, there’s still plenty to be thankful for. Brush up on the history of the holiday and quiz your family members on a few fun Thanksgiving trivia facts as you spend the day together.

When Is Thanksgiving 2021?

The actual date of Thanksgiving changes every year because it’s celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. This year, Thanksgiving is Thursday, November 25, 2021.

The History of Thanksgiving

It’s a common misconception that the first Thanksgiving was held the same year that the colonists came to America, but history tells us that’s not the case. The Mayflower arrived at Cape Cod on November 11, 1620. After a long and difficult year (which included deathly illness and conflict between the colonists and the Indigenous people), the Plymouth colony experienced its first successful harvest in the fall of 1621. The first Thanksgiving in 1621 was a three-day-long feast shared by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe to celebrate that harvest. They ate duck and deer meat roasted over a fire, corn ground into porridge, seafood, cabbage, and squash. The event included activities such as ball games, target shooting, singing, and dancing.

Everything we know about the first Thanksgiving comes from the only written account of this first meal, which was a journal written by William Bradford in 1651. According to his accounts, Turkey, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes were not included on the menu.

Many well-known people attended the first Thanksgiving celebration, including Wampanoag leader Massasoit, Squanto (a Native American of the Patuxet tribe who taught the Pilgrims to plant native crops), Governor William Bradford, Captain Myles Standish, and religious leader William Brewster.

For more than 100 years, American settlers celebrated Turkey Day informally. An official Thanksgiving Day occurred in 1777, when George Washington declared December 18th a day for “solemn thanksgiving and praise.” It wasn’t until the 19th century, however, that the modern Thanksgiving holiday took shape. Following a 36-year letter-writing campaign by magazine editor Sarah Hale, Abraham Lincoln finally made Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in 1863.

The only glitch in Thanksgiving celebrations occurred in 1939 when President Franklin Roosevelt changed the holiday from the last Thursday in November to the next-to-last Thursday to extend the Christmas shopping season. After public outrage, he signed legislation in 1941 to change it back. Since then, we’ve carved the turkey and devoured green bean casserole on the fourth Thursday of each November.

 

INDIAN SUMMER: WHAT, WHY, AND WHEN?

WHAT IS AN INDIAN SUMMER?

Ever wonder what Indian Summer was all about?  The Editors of The Old Farmer’s Almanac update on the origin of this term.

In the fall, it seems that almost any warm day is referred to as an “Indian summer.” What is an Indian summer and where did the term come from? Find out…

WHAT IS AN INDIAN SUMMER?

You may hear the term used to refer to any period of unseasonably warm weather in autumn, but traditionally, “Indian summer” referred to something more specific. Here are the criteria for a true Indian summer:

  • As well as being warm, the atmosphere during Indian summer is hazy or smoky, there is no wind, the barometer is standing high, and the nights are clear and chilly.
  • A moving, cool, shallow polar air mass is converting into a deep, warm, stagnant anticyclone (high pressure) system, which has the effect of causing the haze and large swing in temperature between day and night.
  • The time of occurrence is important: The warm days must follow a spell of cold weather or a good hard frost, but also be before first snowfall.
  • The conditions described above also must occur between St. Martin’s Day (November 11) and November 20. For over 200 years, The Old Farmer’s Almanachas adhered to the saying, “If All Saints’ (November 1) brings out winter, St. Martin’s brings out Indian summer.”

We rather enjoy this description written by Sandy Griswold for the Omaha Sunday World-Herald in November 1922:

I am enabled to say, however, that the characteristics of the season, when it appears in all its glory, are a mild and genial temperature, gentle southwestern breezes, unusual brightness of the sun, extreme brilliancy of the moon, a clear, blue sky; sometimes half hidden by a veil of gray haze; daybreaks redder than the splotch on the blackbird’s wing, and sunsets laden with golden fleeces, the wooded valleys aglow with the fires of richly tinted leaves, still clinging to the listless limbs, or lying where they have fallen….

 

WHY IS IT CALLED AN “INDIAN SUMMER”?

In parts of Europe, a similar phenomenon is known as an “Old Wives’ Summer” or “St. Martin’s Summer,” but how did the term “Indian summer” come to be? There are many theories, but none is confirmed.

Some say the term comes from the Algonquian people located in what is now the northeastern United States, who believed that the condition was caused by a warm wind sent from the court of their southwestern god, Cautantowwit (“great spirit”)

 

Similarly, another origin states that Native Americans would routinely use this brief period of warm fall weather to gather a final round of supplies before winter’s hold set in. November is the time to get one’s last harvest in before winter truly shows its head, so a short period of warm weather would be of note around this time.

Yet another claim involves European settlers in New England. Each year, they would welcome the arrival of cold, wintry weather in late October when they could leave their stockades unarmed. But then came a time when it would suddenly turn warm again, and the Native Americans would decide to have one more go at the settlers. “Indian summer,” the settlers called it.

 

 

 

Why Are Leaves Changing Color So Late This Fall? Experts Explain Why Trees Are Still Green

Leanne Potts explains why the leaves are changing so late this Fall season for Better Homes & Gardens.

Warmer temperatures and extreme weather are delaying and diminishing the reds, golds, and oranges of autumn.

You’re not imagining it. Trees have been acting like it’s not fall yet. The red, orange, and gold hues that light up forests and our yards in autumn are showing up later than usual across the nation this year. Peak color is a week behind in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, trees are staying greener longer across New York, and it’s still unseasonably green in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains. The famed aspens of the Colorado Rockies turned gold a week to 10 days later than usual this year. The reason? Climate change, say experts. And it’s not a new phenomenon. Warmer air temperatures and an increase in extreme weather are making fall leaf season arrive later across the nation each year, and last for a shorter duration.

“Fall’s changing colors have been delayed up to four days per decade in North American forests since the early 1980s,” says Andy Finton, a forest ecologist who is the landscape conservation director with The Nature Conservancy in Boston. This year has been particularly pronounced due to a long hot summer in much of the country, followed by an unusually warm fall.

The disruption in fall color is happening in several ways: Summer droughts are making leaves turn brown and fall off before they can take on those desirable shades of red, orange, and yellow. Hurricanes and their rainy, windy remnants strip the leaves off the trees entirely. And unseasonably warm weather keeps the trees from knowing when it’s time to trade their green leaves for fall colors. “This is a climate-driven phenomenon,” Finton says. “We’re seeing trees track with the changes that we’re seeing in the weather.”

Finton says as the average temperature in the United States has risen over the last two generations (it’s more than 3 degrees higher than it was in 1970), fall color has been appearing progressively later. As a result, peak leaf season now arrives in some areas more than two weeks later than it did in the 1980s. “It’s never been easy to predict peak leaf season, but climate change is making it harder,” Finton says.

Peak leaf season usually occurs in mid- to late-October for much of the Eastern United States, and in mid- to late-September in the Rocky Mountain West. This year it was later in most places in the United States. Finton says to expect the trend for later falls to continue in the future. “Most studies show that fall color change will continue to move later and later.”

What makes leaves change color later?

To understand why warmer weather is bad for fall color, you must understand how nature paints a forest in autumnal hues. Shorter days and cooler air temperatures cue trees to change their leaves from green to red or gold. They’re shutting down their food-making operation (photosynthesis) for the season and preparing to go dormant for the winter. If the air stays warmer longer, the color change will be delayed.

Heather Alexander, associate professor of forest ecology at Auburn University, agrees that late fall leaves are a sign of climate change. “Changing temperature is something that we’re seeing, obviously, and it’s getting warmer on average across the globe,” Alexander says. “The trees are sensing this.”

It doesn’t take much to throw the leaf change cycle off-kilter, Alexander says, because trees are super sensitive to air temperature. She says there’s a three-day delay in leaf color change for each 1.8-degree increase in air temperature. That’s why the warm fall weather that’s affecting much of the nation right now has trees staying green and leaf peepers feeling disappointed.

It’s not just abnormal fall weather disrupting the trees’ leaf cycle. Summers of extreme heat and drought are also stressing trees, which delays and diminishes fall color. In Washington, a summer of record-breaking heat and a 51-day drought made many leaves fall off the trees early, before they could change colors. The leaves that remain have a duller color due to environmental stress.

Too much rain can disrupt fall color, too. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation blamed a summer of unrelenting rain (thank you, Hurricane Ida) for the late fall foliage there. The storm pulled down many leaves too early, so the remaining leaves on the trees had to work overtime doing photosynthesis to feed the tree. That means they stayed green longer, and that there won’t be as many leaves to peep at when they do turn color.

Colorful trees equal a healthy forest.

Fall leaves aren’t just pretty to look at. They’re also an important indicator of a forest’s health, Finton says. Those vivid fall colors are a sign that trees are getting the rainfall and temperature they need to thrive. Finton sees later, paler fall leaves as an omen.

“It’s a challenge for forests to keep their resilience and vigor in the context of climate change,” Finton says. “But there’s a hopeful message. Forests have a lot of inherent resilience. They can adapt. If we’re successful at protecting and conserving large, intact forests, we can help them cope with climate change.”

 

Make Sure To Look Out For The Full Hunter’s Moon Later This Month

Jennifer Aldrich discusses Wednesday night’s Hunter Moon for Better Homes & Gardens.

Now that we’re well into October (yes, Halloween is just a couple of weeks away, so you better have your costume ready), there are a handful of items to check off on your fall bucket list. It just isn’t autumn without baking a few delicious apple desserts and carving jack-o’-lanterns with the family, but there’s another activity that’s kid-friendly and educational you should try. Plus, adults will enjoy it, too. On Wednesday, October 20, you’ll be able to see the Hunter’s Moon, the full moon of October.

The Hunter’s Full Moon will reach its peak brightness at 10:57 a.m. EST, according to the Farmers’ Almanac ($8, Amazon). Of course, you won’t be able to see the event during the day very well, so you’ll have to wait until sundown to get the full effect. Although the full moon won’t technically be at its peak, it will still be plenty big and bright for you to see.

Like the Harvest Moon, the full moon in September, the Hunter’s Moon isn’t tied to folklore, but the autumnal equinox, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac ($9, Amazon). It’s thought that the term Hunter’s Moon, also called the Sanguine or Blood Moon, comes from the fact that this period of the year is when it’s time to hunt for animals for the winter. Like all full moons, there are alternate options to call the celestial event. The Dakota call it the Drying Rice Moon, the Anishinaabe refer to it as the Falling Leaves Moon, the Ojibwe say it’s the Freezing Moon, the Haida call it the Ice Moon, and the Cree refer to it as the Migrating Moon.

To prepare for the event, make sure you have a telescope ready to go, such as the top-rated Gskyer Telescope ($90, originally $130, Amazon). (One 5-star reviewer writes, “Looking through the telescope in person is wayyyy more beautiful and so many more details that the camera just did not catch!”) If watching celestial happenings is on your must-do list, the Hunter’s Moon is one you won’t want to miss.

 

The Fall Colchicum

Martha Stewart https://www.themarthablog.com/ talks about the beauty of the fall perennial Colchicum.

Wherever you live, I hope you’re able to enjoy the beautiful blooms of those fall perennials called Colchicum.

I love Colchicum and have grown them in my gardens for many years. Colchicum produces such cheerful colors when most other plants have faded and are going dormant. Many of mine are from Brent and Becky’s in Gloucester, Virginia. I am so happy these plants are flourishing and have multiplied in numbers.

Here are some photos of my colchicum and some of the other blooms and interesting plants growing in the garden right now, enjoy.

Guests that come around this time of year often ask, “what are those flowers that look like crocus?” The common name for Colchicum is autumn crocus, but they are not true autumn crocus because there are many species of true crocus which are autumn blooming. Also, Colchicum flowers have six stamens while crocuses have only three.

Colchicum is a member of the botanical family Colchicaceae and is native to West Asia, Europe, parts of the Mediterranean coast, down the East African coast to South Africa and the Western Cape.

Colchicum corms are pretty large, with waxy, dark-brown, leathery skin. When selecting Colchicum corms, look for ones that are firm, dense, and heavy. We planted a number of colchicum corms several years ago at the edge of my Stewartia Garden. I also have them growing along my front carriage road and a few in my White Garden.

The scientific name comes from Colchis, a region on the coast of the Black Sea. The name Colchicum alludes to the poisonous qualities of the species. The plant contains an alkaloid known as colchicine, which is found in all parts, but mostly in the seeds. Colchicum typically blooms from September to November. This is among the largest of colchicum varieties, ‘Giant,’ with its bright lilac colored flowers and white centers.

Once open, Colchicums produce goblet-like blooms in shades of pink, violet, or white. They are large striking flower heads, with white at the base leading to pale pink at the apex.

Some of the varieties we’ve planted at the farm include ‘Lilac Wonder’, ‘Waterlily’, ‘Dick Trotter’, Colchicum byzantinum, and Colchicum bornmuelleri. This one is “Waterlily” – a double petaled cultivar in soft pink.

Here’s a closer look at ‘Waterlily’. ‘Waterlily’ is a hybrid resulting from a cross of Colchicum autumnale ‘Alboplenum’ and Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’. Each flower resembles the form of a water lily, hence the cultivar name.

When the weather is mild, colchicum’s flowers begin to unfurl. Most Colchicum plants produce their flowers without any foliage. This is why these flowers were first known by the common name “naked boys.” In the Victorian era, they were also called “naked ladies.”

Colchicums are quite delicate but spread nicely in the autumn garden. Colchicum is a good pollen source for bees in fall when little else is available for them. And, because Colchicums are toxic, they provide a natural way to repel animals such as deer, mice, squirrels, and moles. This variety has reddish violet flowers and is one of the darkest colors of this group.

The white variety is growing in my White Garden just outside my Winter House. It’s called ‘Album’ and has large, bright, vase-shaped blooms.

Another variety is called Colchicum byzantinum. It is an early fall-blooming Colchicum which bears up to 20 small, funnel-shaped, soft lilac flowers that are four to six inches long.

Colchicum is best grown in a sheltered spot that enjoys afternoon sun because this encourages a good succession of wide-open flowers.

Colchicum corms should be planted six to nine inches apart, but don’t worry – look how plentiful they grow once established.

Colchicum looks great clustered together. Planting in groups will create many colorful patches.

Over the years, they’ve multiplied in numbers here at the farm. These line the carriage road near my front gate. I love how they dot the garden with pops of bright pink. And If we’re lucky, some of these blooms will last into November.

 

7 Stunning Stargazing Events To Add To Your Fall Calendar

Stacey Leasca reporting on the Fall celestial sights that can be seen for Real Simple.

As Henri Poincaré, a French mathematician and theoretical physicist once wrote, “Astronomy is useful because it raises us above ourselves; it is useful because it is grand… It shows us how small is man’s body, how great his mind, since his intelligence can embrace the whole of this dazzling immensity, where his body is only an obscure point, and enjoy its silent harmony.”

If that’s not enough inspiration to look toward the stars tonight, we don’t know what is. But if you happen to need more of a reason, here are a few not-to-miss astronomy events occurring between October and December of 2021 that you should absolutely add to your fall calendar. Watching these glorious meteor showers and eclipses are guaranteed to fill you and your family with awe.

1 October 7: Draconids Meteor Shower

According to SeaSky, the Draconids is a minor meteor shower that produces about 10 meteors per hour. While it’s not the largest meteor shower on the list, it’s a great one for families with small children to enjoy because it’s one of the few that’s best viewed in the early evening instead of early morning hours. Keep an eye on the sky from October 6 to 10, with the peak display on October 7, thanks to a new moon.

Visible from: Best viewed from the northern hemisphere, but those in the southern hemisphere could still get a show.

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.

2 October 21, 22: Orionids Meteor Shower

For a bit heftier of a show, wait for the Orionids, which produces up to 20 meteors per hour. The meteor shower is actually grains of dust left behind by the Halley comet, which EarthSky describes as “arguably the most famous of all comets, which last visited Earth in 1986.”

The annual event actually takes place between October 2 to November 7, but peaks on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22.

Visible from: Anywhere on Earth

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.

3 November 4, 5: Taurids Meteor Shower

Like the Draconids, the Taurids is not a major show, producing just five to 10 meteors per hour. However, it’s a unique one to view because it’s made up of two separate streams rather than one. The first, SeaSky explains, “is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke.” The event will peak this year on the night of November 4 and the early morning of November 5. It may also be a good show as it’s another new moon event.

Visible from: Anywhere on Earth

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.

4 November 17, 18: Leonids Meteor Shower

Like the others, the Leonids doesn’t pack as big of a punch when it comes to the quantity of meteors, producing just 15 per hour at its peak—but it more than makes up for it in the quality of its meteors. According to Space.com, this annual shower is “responsible for some of the most intense meteor storms in history. Sometimes, meteors fall at rates as high as 50,000 per hour.”

The shower peaks on the night of November 17 and the morning of November 18. A full moon will be hanging overhead, but you still may be able to see a few flickers as they come down.

Visible from: Best viewed from the northern hemisphere, but those in the southern hemisphere could still get a show.

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.

5 November 19: Partial Lunar Eclipse

The moon will pass through Earth’s shadow on November 19, causing a partial lunar eclipse. It’s an event that’s slow and steady: perfect for setting out a blanket and watching the sky for as long as you can. Though, you may end up taking a nap in the middle, as the eclipse is set to last more than three hours.

Visible from: Eastern Russia, Japan, the Pacific Ocean, North America, Mexico, Central America, and parts of western South America.

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.

6 December 4: Total Solar Eclipse

The big player of astronomy events—a total solar eclipse—will take place on December 4, 2021. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves to completely block the sun. However, because of the moon’s small stature compared to the sun, this event will not be visible to the entire planet. That just means you need to start planning your trip now to somewhere in its path and see it in all its glory.

Visible from: Antarctica and the southern Atlantic Ocean. According to NASA, a partial eclipse will be visible across much of South Africa. (You’re likely not in Antarctica, so don’t forget to look up photos of this sensational solar event after the fact.)

Equipment you need to view it: Solar eclipse glasses. Careful: Do not look at the eclipse without the right equipment.

7 December 13, 14: Geminids Meteor Shower

This year is going out with a bang. The Geminids Meteor Shower, which SeaSky calls “the best shower in the heavens,” will take over the sky on December 13 and the morning of December 14 when it’ll rain down up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. The sprinkling from the stars is actually produced by debris left behind by the 3200 Phaethon asteroid. There will be some significant light from the moon, however, SeaSky notes, the Geminids are so “numerous and bright that this could still be a good show.”

Visible from: Best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, but those in the Southern Hemisphere could still get a show.

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.

 

Queen Anne’s Lace: More Than A Wild Carrot

Amber Kanuckel writes about Queen Anne’s Lace, a cousin of the carrot, for The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

This wild cousin of the carrot with its beautiful white flowers is steeped in legends and lore and has a very interesting history. Learn more!

Even if you never knew its name, you’ve almost certainly seen this plant with its lovely white flowers. Queen Anne’s Lace is an American classic and can be found growing wild across the entire continental United States, from early spring to fall. The wildflowers’ scientific name is Daucus carota but is sometimes referred to as wild carrot, bishop’s lace, or the bird’s nest flower because as the flowers ripen to seeds, the stems curl upward and form a cup-shaped basket that looks like a bird’s nest.

Whichever name you prefer, this wild cousin of the carrot is steeped in legends and lore and has a very interesting history.

Queen Anne’s Lace And Carrots: Are They Related?

This plant gets the “wild carrot” name for a good reason. Queen Anne’s Lace and the carrots we eat today are related. The flower produces a carrot-like taproot, and in fact, modern (and much more delicious) carrots were originally developed from Queen Anne’s Lace; they were simply bred to produce a tastier root. Both carry the scientific name Daucus carota, though Queen Anne’s Lace is considered the “feral” version of the plant while today’s carrots are considered selectively bred cousins.

If you’ve ever picked the flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace, you’ve probably noticed a very carroty smell on your hands. And that large, starchy root certainly looks and smells like a carrot. But unlike carrots growing in your garden, a Queen Anne’s Lace “carrot” is a pale yellowish-white shade. You can eat it, but it’s not very tasty. The roots tend to be tough and stringy and if you choose to give them a try, they must be harvested early in the year. By the time the flowers bloom, the root becomes much too woody to eat.

Queen Anne’s Lace Legends And Lore

How did Queen Anne’s Lace get its name? You probably guessed that it has to do with Queen Anne, but like most tales and legends surrounding flowers, there are many.

One tale claims that the origin of the name “Queen Anne’s Lace” comes from the lace that was popular during the days of King James I and his wife, the first Queen Anne, who lived between 1574 and 1619. Another states that the name comes from her headdress, which was lacy enough that it resembled the tightly-knit showy white flowers.

But historians claim it’s more likely that any legends associated with the flower refer to Queen Anne II who lived between 1665 and 1714. She had only one surviving child in all of her 18 pregnancies. Because of that fact, the flower is often associated with the loss of children.

Some believe the flower got its name because while Queen Anne II was tatting white lace, she pricked her finger with the tatting needle, causing a drop of blood to fall on the lace. This is why the white flowers have dark red flowers in the center.

In the 18th century, English courtiers referred to this flower as “living lace.” According to this legend, the “living lace” name came from a contest that the second Queen Anne II hosted for her ladies-in-waiting. She challenged them to produce a piece of lace as delicate and beautiful as the flower—but none could make lace that could outshine the real thing.

Queen Anne’s Lace As Medicine?

Queen Anne’s Lace also has a history of medicinal use.* More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates prescribed crushed Queen Anne’s Lace seeds to prevent pregnancies. Modern research today suggests that there may have been some merit to this, so it is recommended that women who are pregnant or hoping to conceive should avoid both the flower heads and seeds.

Over the years, this flower has also had a variety of other uses. Herbalists historically used it as an antiseptic, to soothe the digestive tract, and as a diuretic. Flowers can also be used to make a natural pale yellow dye.

*This information is not intended as medical advice.

Watch Out For These Queen Anne’s Lace And Lookalikes!

If you’re planning to pick Queen Anne’s Lace, learning to identify the lookalikes is crucial because some of them are dangerous. The most common lookalikes you’ll find in the wild are:

  • Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
  • Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum L.)
  • Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris).

Both poison hemlock and giant hogweed are poisonous to humans, pets, and livestock when ingested. It’s best to avoid cow parsley as well.

Giant hogweed and cow parsley also have a sap inside the leaves and stalks that causes burns to the skin. Additionally, even touching the poison hemlock plant may cause a skin reaction in some people.

So how do you tell the difference? Here are some tips:

1. Check the flowers

If the plant is in bloom, the flowerhead will be a sure indicator. Queen Anne’s Lace flowerheads are tightly packed with lots of tiny white flowers—and sometimes a dark red or purple one in the center. The flowerhead is also always cup-shaped like an umbrella turned inside out. Giant hogweed flowers look very similar to this, but the flower heads are in reverse—dished outward rather than inward. Both poison hemlock and cow parsley do bloom with tiny white flowers, but the flowerheads are sparse and fragmented rather than tight clusters.

2. Look at the leaves

Queen Anne’s Lace has ferny leaves, just like a carrot plant, with a hairy underside. If you rub them, the scent will be similar to carrots or parsley. Poison hemlock has larger leaves, and they’re shiny without small hairs, while giant hogweed has large leaves with coarse hairs on the underside.

3. Examine the stems

Queen Anne’s Lace stems will sport fine white hairs, and they’ll be a uniform shade—no purple spots. Both poison hemlock and giant hogweed have purple spots. Hemlock has smooth, waxy stems, and giant hogweed has stems with coarse white hairs.

4. Check the plant’s height

When plants are young, height may not work so well to help you tell the difference, but late in the summer when plants are maturing, Queen Anne’s Lace will be much shorter than both poison hemlock and giant hogweed. Queen Anne’s Lace tops out at around four feet maximum while poison hemlock can grow up to eight feet, and giant hogweed can be truly giant between eight and 20 feet tall!

Growing Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace is a biennial, which means that has a two-year cycle. In the first year, the plant displays leaves and shoots. In the second year, it begins to form clusters of small white flowers, which can self pollinate or get help from bees and other pollinators. Each plant can produce up to 40,000 seeds, one for each of the tiny white flowers (but not for the dark red or purple flower, if present—this one is sterile). While flowering times vary from region to region, you can usually spot the white flowers around mid to late summer.

This flower grows in 48 states—but it’s not native to North America. It was brought here by early European settlers who grew it for medicinal purposes, and it has since spread across the country to grow wild. It’s listed as a weed rather than as a native plant, and 14 states list Queen Anne’s Lace as an invasive species. You’ll often find it growing in abandoned fields and lots, burned areas that are starting to recover, and other places where the ground has recently been disturbed.

Today, Queen Anne’s Lace is occasionally used in floral arrangements—and it’s a great flower to pick if you’re hunting wildflowers to make your own bouquet. Just take care to steer clear of the lookalikes!

WHAT IS THE HARVEST MOON?

SHINE ON, HARVEST MOON! FACTS AND FOLKLORE

Here’s a good article on the Harvest moon by Fred Schaaf for The Farmer’s Almanac.

In 2021, the Harvest Moon rises on Monday, September 20! The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Sunday morning through Tuesday morning. Why does this phenomenon happen? Learn more—and shine on, Harvest Moon!

WHEN IS THE HARVEST MOON?

This year, the brilliant Harvest Moon will appear in the evening of Monday, September 20, reaching peak illumination at 7:54 P.M. EDT.

One thing that sets the Harvest Moon apart from other full Moon names is that it’s not associated with a specific month, as the others are. Instead, the Harvest Moon relates to the timing of the autumnal equinox (September 22, 2021), with the full Moon that occurs nearest to the equinox being the one to take on the name “Harvest Moon.” This means that the Harvest Moon can occur in either September or October, depending on how the lunar cycle lines up with the Gregorian calendar.

The Harvest Moon does typically occur in September, taking the place of the full Corn Moon. However, it occasionally lands in October instead, replacing the full Hunter’s Moon.

WHY IS IT CALLED THE HARVEST MOON?

For several evenings, the moonrise comes soon after sunset. This results in an abundance of bright moonlight early in the evening, which was a traditional aide to farmers and crews harvesting their summer-grown crops. Hence, it’s called the “Harvest” Moon!

There are just a little over 12 complete Moon cycles every year, on average (there being about 29.53 days in a synodic month). The Harvest Moon isn’t like the other Moons.

  • Usually, throughout the year, the Moon rises an average of about 50 minutes later each day.
  • But for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the northern USA, and only 10 to 20 minutes later farther north in Canada and Europe.

Additionally, the Harvest Moon rises at sunset and then will rise very near sunset for several nights in a row because the difference is at a yearly minimum. It may almost seem as if there are full Moons multiple nights in a row!

MORE ABOUT THE HARVEST MOON

If interested, here is more detailed information about the Harvest Moon. (Warning: Scientific explanation below!)

The Moon’s orbital motion (combined with the larger orbit of the Earth around the Sun) carries it farther eastward among the constellations of the zodiac from night to night. At any one moonrise, the Moon occupies a particular place on the celestial sphere (the great dome of the heavens), but when the Earth turns toward that point 24 hours later, the Moon has moved off to the east about 12 degrees, and it takes an average of 50 minutes longer for the Earth to rotate toward the Moon and for the Moon thus to “rise.” Think of it as a giant Slinky in which each loop, representing one lunar orbit of the Earth, advances the orbit a bit farther along the spiral path. The result of all this is that the Moon doesn’t rise at the same time everyday.

But around the date of the Harvest Moon, the Moon does rise at about the same time for several days in a row. Why? Remember that the zodiac is the band of constellations through which the Moon travels from night to night. The section of the zodiac band in which the full Moon travels around the start of autumn is the section that forms the most shallow angle with the eastern horizon. Because the Moon’s orbit on successive nights is more nearly parallel to the horizon at that time, its relationship to the eastern horizon does not change appreciably, and the Earth does not have to turn as far to bring up the Moon.

The Moon may rise as little as 23 minutes later on several nights before and after the full Harvest Moon (at about 42 degrees north latitude), which means extra light at peak harvest time near autumn. By the time the Moon has reached last quarter, however, the typical 50-minute delay has returned.

At the start of spring, the opposite applies. The full Moon is in the section of the zodiac that has the steepest angle with respect to the eastern horizon. For several days bracketing the full Moon nearest the vernal equinox, the delay in moonrise is as much as 75 minutes (at 42 degrees north latitude).

Here is another way of expressing what happens with the Harvest Moon: It is in this part of the zodiac that the Moon’s eastward (orbital) motion has its largest northward component. For observers in Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, the farther north an object is in the heavens, the longer an arc it makes across the sky, and the longer a time it is visible above the horizon. Thus, to say that the Moon is getting rapidly farther north each night around the time of the Harvest Moon is to say that, for northern latitudes on Earth, it will keep rising distinctly earlier than would otherwise be expected—nearly the same time as the night before.

How nearly the same is “almost the same time” each night? This varies with latitude, for the farther north you are, the shallower the angle of the zodiac is with respect to your horizon. In most of the United States and southern Canada, the Harvest Moon rises 25 to 30 minutes later each night. The effect is less noticeable the farther south you go. But going north makes the Harvest Moon more extreme.

According to astronomy author Guy Ottewell, the idea of the Harvest Moon originated in Europe (average latitude about 50 degrees north), where the Harvest Moon rises only ten to 20 minutes later each night. It must have seemed a boon that just when days were getting rapidly shorter and the Sun seemed to go down all too soon, the Harvest Moon arrived to extend the hours that harvesting could be done.

CHINESE HARVEST MOON TRADITIONS

As a final note, I should add that it is not just Western civilization that has given special importance to the Harvest Moon. For Chinese people everywhere, this full Moon is the occasion for the Festival of the August Moon (the “August” is through a calendar discrepancy) or Mid-Autumn Festival (in some cultures, the equinoxes and solstices have been considered the middle of the seasons). This festival is celebrated with joyful games and the eating of “Mooncakes.”

I remember vividly being invited to one such celebration and singing songs and playing my guitar to a circle of friendly faces in the light of the rising Harvest Moon.

 

Full Moon Names And Their Meanings

 

September 20th is the next full moon.

Here’s an interesting article from The Farmer’s Almanac on full moons.

Full Moon names date back to Native Americans of North America. Tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Full Moon names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.

There was some variation in the full Moon names, but in general, the same ones were consistent among regional tribes. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names.

Here is Farmers Almanac’s list of the full Moon names.

Full Wolf Moon – January

Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January’s full Moon.

Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon.

Full Snow Moon – February

Since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month, native tribes of the north and east most often called February’s full Moon the Full Snow Moon. Some tribes also referred to this Moon as the Full Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.

Full Worm Moon – March

As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night.

The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.

Full Pink Moon – April

This name came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month’s celestial body include the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

Full Flower Moon – May

In most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time. Thus, the name of this Moon. Other names include the Full Corn Planting Moon, or the Milk Moon.

Full Strawberry Moon – June

This name was universal to every Algonquin tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. Also because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June . . . so the full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry!

The Full Buck Moon – July

July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month’s Moon was the Full Hay Moon.

Full Sturgeon Moon – August

The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.

Full Corn Moon or Full Harvest Moon – September

This full Moon name is attributed to Native Americans because it marked when corn was supposed to be harvested. Most often, the September full Moon is actually the Harvest Moon, which is the full Moon that occurs closest to the fall equinox.

In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October. At the peak of harvest, farmers can work late into the night by the light of this Moon.

Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe.

Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice the chief Indian staples are now ready for gathering.

Full Hunter’s Moon or Full Harvest Moon – October

This full Moon is often referred to as the Full Hunter’s Moon, Blood Moon, or Sanguine Moon. Many moons ago, Native Americans named this bright Moon for obvious reasons. The leaves are falling from trees, the deer are fattened, and it’s time to begin storing up meat for the long winter ahead.

Because the fields were traditionally reaped in late September or early October, hunters could easily see fox and other animals that come out to glean from the fallen grains. Probably because of the threat of winter looming close, the Hunter’s Moon is generally accorded with special honor, historically serving as an important feast day in both Western Europe and among many Native American tribes.

Full Beaver Moon – November

This was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter. It is sometimes also referred to as the Frosty Moon.

The Full Cold Moon; or the Full Long Night’s Moon – December

During this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and nights are at their longest and darkest. It is also sometimes called the Moon before Yule.

The term Long Night’s Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long, and because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. The midwinter full Moon has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun.