Thursday, December 8, 2011

Caring for Evergreen Decorations

The smell of a fresh evergreens, whether from a wreath or swag on your door, or a live Christmas tree, is a wonderful greeting during the long, dark winter.

As with any cut plant materials, your greens have a certain life expectancy.  Happily, evergreens need very little care. Following these quick tips will make the most of your evergreens:

Choose Fresh Greens: Check the needles. They should be bend easily and not fall off with a gentle tug. If the needles are stiff or brittle, the greens are too dry.

Cutting your own Greens?
  • Always start with the freshest greens. Ideally you would cut the tips of evergreens AFTER a hard frost and several consecutive cold nights to ensure needle retention. If so, your greens would keep their needles until March or April in our Northern climate.
  • While you are pruning, look for small branches that can be cut off to cleanup the look of your evergreen plants.
  • Holly, Boxwood and Needle-Leaved Evergreens can spare the interior branches, since the plant doesn't need them as much as the outer branches.
  • Proper pruning time is not too important when you are just snipping off a few branches. However, use the right pruning technique whenever you cut branches. For a new branch, cut the stem back to a side branch or a bud. Don't just snip it off leaving a stub. This is especially important on pines and spruces since the cut branches will not send out new growth from the cutoff ends of a branch.
  • Perennials which are dying back at this time of year are more forgiving — you can remove them at the ground level or at any desired height.
Berries? Watch out for berries that might fall off and stain the floor if they are stepped on.

After cutting the evergreens, give them a good soak in water (overnight if possible). Allow them to dry off. A spray of Wilt-Pruf, or another plant protector, is a waxy coating to hold in moisture. (Finished wreaths can also be sprayed with Wilt-Pruf.)

Freshen your greens and wreaths with a good watering. Depending on the base material and decorations, you may be able to dunk, hose, spritz, or spray them. Caution: A metal base may rust, be sure to dry off any metal parts to avoid rust and staining.

Sunlight? When you hang your greens, hang them in a shady spot, avoiding the hot afternoon sun.

Indoors? If you choose to keep your greens inside, wait until the last minute to do so.

Heat? Don't hang greens near any heat sources that will dry them out. Dry greens are extremely flammable. You can keep them fresh with a spritzing of water from time to time, especially important if your home has dry heat like forced hot air, a fire place or wood stove. Try holding it over the sink or tub, and spraying the back. If you can water it every other day, it will last the longest.

Flammable? Very. Don't allow any candles or open flames near any fresh greens.

Outdoors? Easy. Outside wreaths shouldn't need water, especially if in a sheltered area away from direct sunlight. Cold temperatures should keep it fresh.

Hopefully these tips will help you get the most from your holiday greens.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December Night, Longest Nights to see Star Light...

December days are shortest, which gives us extra hours to gaze heavenward for the Full Cold Moon and a Lunar Eclipse.

Full Moon on the 10th. Early Native American tribes called it the Full Cold Moon. For equally obvious reasons, it is also known as the Moon Before Yule and the Full Long Nights Moon.

A Total Lunar Eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)

  • December 13, 14 - Geminids Meteor Shower. This awesome event is considered to be the best meteor shower, known for producing up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour at their peak. Some meteors should be visible from December 6 - 19. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Gemini. Look towards the east after midnight from a dark location.

  • December 22 - December Solstice. The December solstice occurs 05:30 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the southern hemisphere.

  • December 24, the New Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:06 UTC.

  • Wintertime Bird Attractions

    When planning a bird garden, don't forget the wintertime attractions. Evergreens, such as holly, pine, and spruce, provide shelter from weather and predators. Winter fruit from American cranberrybush, serviceberry, holly, crab apple, and other plants offer tempting treats on a cold day. Leftover seed heads of sunflowers, asters, or other flowers can offer an avian smorgasbord. If there is no natural water source, a heated birdbath may do.

    from the old farmers almanac

    Libby's Pumpkin Roll Recipe

    This is one of my favorite recipes! Debbie insists that it is easy.

    Libby's® Pumpkin Roll with Cream Cheese Filling

    Cook Time: 15 Minutes.   Makes 10 Servings
    1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3 large eggs
    1 cup granulated sugar
    2/3 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
    1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
    1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
    6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)

    1. PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees F.
    2. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper.
    3. Sprinkle towel with powdered sugar.
    4. COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. 5. Beat eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl until thick.
    6. Beat in pumpkin.
    7. Stir in flour mixture.
    8. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts.
    9. BAKE for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched.
    10. Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.
    11. BEAT cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth.
    12. Carefully unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake.
    13. Reroll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.