Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Food for New Year's Day

It is said that during the Civil War and the march from Atlanta to Savannah, General Sherman told his troops to burn and destroy everything and anything in sight.  The troops obeyed the orders and did so with the exception of the black eyed peas, or field peas, that weren't even worthy a second look, much less the first.  It was planted in the South to feed pigs and cows, but in most cases they wouldn't even touch the fodder.

Black eyed peas came from Africa with the slaves who planted, cared for, and cooked the black eyed peas along with pork fat as their own food.  The black eyed peas are legumes full of vitamins, potassium, calcium, and iron.

The black eyed peas have become the symbol for good luck and prosperity and as such are the first food to be eaten on New Year's Day in the Southern part of this country.

The peas must be eaten with collard greens (or cabbage) that represents green money and cornbread that represents gold.   To take this a step further to ensure good health and wealth, these foods are to be eaten with stewed tomatoes.

To Cook Black Eyed Peas:  I planted black eyed peas as a cover crop a summer ago, harvested and shelled the peas, blanched them and put them into the freezer.  For this New Year's Day, I cooked two (2) cups of peas in slightly salted water for two hours.

To dress up the black eyed peas, I stir fried a few slices of bacon, half an onion (diced), a stalk of celery (diced), and for added color I also tossed in some green pepper (diced).  Finally, I added stewed tomatoes to the rest of the stir fried vegetables and added the black eyed peas to the mix.

To Cook Collard Greens:  From the garden, I picked the collard greens, de-veined them, and chopped them up.  For flavoring, I cooked the greens with smoked hog jowls that I bought from the country store up the road.  I cooked the greens for a good two hours:  this is roughage!  I served the collard greens with the water melon rind pickles that I made last summer.

To Make Cornbread:  I followed the recipe for Southern Cornbread on the Martha White's package for Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix.  It came out with a nice golden color.

Sweet Iced Tea:  To continue in the Southern tradition, I served Iced Tea with the peas, the greens, and the cornbread.  (Still waiting for the pork chops).  I boiled a quart of cool water and then poured it over five (5) tea bags to steep for five (5) minutes.

 I filled up my tea jar with two trays of ice, poured a cup of sugar over the ice, and then added the freshly hot brewed tea.  (Some Southerners add a pinch of baking soda into the tea that supposedly will take away bitterness in the tea if steeped too long.)

Sheridan Alexander has written a delightful article about the New Year's tradition. I Goggled Black Eye Peas for New Years.  Thanks, Sheridan, for the information.

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Planting Potatoes

I did a little bit of gardening between the holidays by planting potatoes.  It might be a tad too early but the potatoes were ready.  The time for planting potatoes on the Back Forty in NE Florida is towards the end of next month, but what are a few weeks between potatoes?

I had covered the garden plot with leaves that I had raked up earlier.  I turned the soil to mix in the leaves and the mulch from the compost pile.  They grow best in loose and well-drained soil.  After turning and blending the soil, I made a trench for planting the potatoes.  I actually needed two trenches to plant what I had in the basket.  I also raked up pine straw to blend with the soil to loosely cover the potatoes

The potatoes like a slightly acidic soil and are heavy feeders; meaning they need food to grow, mostly a good dose of garden fertilizer with nitrogen and potassium.  I usually wait until I see greenery before I fertilize letting the potatoes have a chance to establish themselves without the shock of food.

Usually I wait for garden centers to have the potatoes that are specific to the north east Florida.  I don't remember names only that the white and red potatoes are thin skinned.  The potatoes I planted were raised in the Lakeland, Florida, area.

This time, I had bought potatoes from the Farmer's Market on Beaver Street in Jacksonville.  I stored them n newspaper in a basket in the kitchen and they sprouted.  They resemble Russet potatoes but are much smaller and the taste is different, too.

These potatoes did not lend themselves to be cut before planting:  the sprouts were most apparent at one end of the potatoes.

I also bought Kennebec (Maine) potatoes from Orr's Farm in West Virginia and left three (3)
potatoes to sprout.  They sported good sets of eyes all around the potatoes and I also planted them whole.

It is not recommended to use store brought potatoes in the home garden because they may carry diseases and they are also sprayed with "growth inhibitors".  You may have noticed that these potatoes do not sprout, no matter how long they are kept in the crisper in the fridge?

Potatoes in the Trench
Don't hold me to this but I read that one 100-foot row of seed potatoes may produce 150 - 300 pounds of mature potatoes depending on variety, weather condition, and soil condition.  Elsewhere I read that a one square yard may yield 20 pounds of potatoes under the best of growing conditions.

Depending on the variety and growing conditions, it will take 14 days for Irish Potatoes to germinate and 60 to 90 to maturity.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Second Day of Christmas

The Second Day of Christmas is also called Boxing Day.  The house is still neat and tidy and the fridge is full of left-over food.  It is a quiet morning the the mouse is still not stirring.  The tractor cat, aka Marmalade, has checked out the Christmas tree and she finally got her reward and her fill of catnip.  The weather is not exactly sunny today and venturing out is not an option.  Who wants to go out in those returning gifts and those still on hunts for bargains.

So, I am waiting to go out into the garden and start to dig and weed again.  I am a bit bored today so let me liven this page up and ask you:

What is the difference between a snow man and a snow woman?

With a joke like that, I deserve to be pelted with a big snow ball.  Believe me, this one is aimed at me.  But apparently it is not yet big enough.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


This song was written by the Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen who struggled with it for many years.  It achieved little success and less recognition; however, it later found its acclaim through John Cale and Jeff Buckley.  Many cover versions have been performed by various singers such as Bon Jovi and k.d. lang to name a few.  The song has been used in numerous recordings and concerts.  How about over 300 (!) versions?  The song is also the subject of the book The Holy and The Broken.

The CBS Morning News talked about Hallelujah this morning and it inspired me to check it out and share it with you.

Take a listen:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today, the fourth and last candle of Advent is lit.  All four candles are burning bright as the long winter begins.  Again I take a moment to reflect on the upcoming Season, a moment to pause.  Whatever meaning you attach to Advent, I wish you peace and happiness.  This is also a time to rejoice and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  He is the reason for the season.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Peace on Earth and Good Will to All


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fancy Pumpkin Bread

This fancy pumpkin bread is full of fruit cake mix and pecans which make it an excellent treat to go along with eggnog, hot chocolate, and the morning coffee.  It is a hearty bread made from this year's pumpkin that I put in the freezer not so long ago.

This pumpkin bread is based on the Appalachian people's baking in the the Carolinas as written by students in The Foxfire Books back in the 1970's.

Preparation:  Combine a cup each of shelled pecans and fruit cake mix with 1/2 cup of flour.  Grease two loaf pans and dust with flour.

Wet ingredients:  Beat four (4) eggs, add 2 cups of sugar, 1 and 1/2 cups of canola oil, and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Add two (2) cups of pumpkin.

Dry ingredients:  In another bowl, combine three (3) cups of all-purpose white flour, 2 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder, 2 tsp of pumpkin mix (or cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves--whatever is available).  Also add 1 tsp of salt.

All together now:  Add the wet ingredients and the flour mixture together, stir and fold.  What did I forget?  Oh, yes.  Add the fruit cake mix and the pecans, too.

Finally, pour the batter into the two greased loaf pans and bake in a 400 degree F oven for one (1) hour.  To check to see if the bread is ready, insert a wooden pick, and if it is clean when pulled out the bread is done.  Let cool before removing the loafs out of the pans.  Enjoy!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Full Moon in December

The December moon has been full the last few days.  It has been so bright and beautiful and I wanted to share this picture with you.  The moon is in the west and before too long the sun will come up over the ocean.  A new day is dawning.

This is the season, such a special time, to enjoy the holidays.  It is the last day of autumn.  The winter solstice is early in the morning.  Floridians may wear flip flops and shorts while picking out the Christmas tree.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Oregon Sugar Pods in NE Florida

The Oregon Sugar Pods are the most popular peas and highly productive even after several pickings.  These peas perform best in cool weather which to us northern Floridians is a temperature hovering around 60 to 75 degrees F during the winter months.  In Florida, there are the bigger pods available known as "Mammoth Melting Sugar" with 4 to 5 inches long pods.  I have not seen them and I don't know if they are edible when raw.

In my leaflet from the Standard Feed it states that peas in general will germinate in about 8 days and mature in 60 to 120 days, keeping in mind the four months of temperature below 75 degrees F.  I bought a bag of Oregon Sugar Pods from the very helpful gardener at the Standard Feed store down town in Jacksonville.

I planted the seeds a few inches apart and a few inches deep in well-drained soil with black gold from the compost pile added.  The location for the peas is in full sun for most of the day.  The peas have come up and doing nicely.  They don't grow very tall; however, I have provided four conduit poles with strings/cords running horizontally from pole to pole and up and down for climbing.  The poles measure three feet tall from the surface.  Letting the peas climb makes for easier harvesting.

The mature Oregon Sugar Pods retain their color after a quick blanching, dunking in cold water, put in bags and in the freezer, pods and all.  I may skip the blanching this year and put the peas directly into bags and into the freezer.  I feel that I loose the vitamins and other nutrients when blanching and pouring the water into the drain.

The peas do well stirred fried and cooked with other vegetables as in a medley.  They are also very attractive in salads.  In prior years, I have not found any powdery mildew on the pods or leaves nor have they been eaten by insects.  They are a hardy lot, delicious, and nutritious.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, December 16, 2013

O, Christmas Tree

Over the years we have had many different kinds of trees for the Holidays:  fresh cut, live, and plastic.  We started out with freshly cut trees and ended up with plastic mainly for the convenience that was not necessary
an ecologically sound decision.

Once we found out about live trees, we bought five spruces in five years and planted them in our front yard to shield the house from the afternoon sun.  The house was eventually sold and the trees cut down.  

With our first live tree, I remember that we had a difficult time finding a suitable container for the tree.  When we brought the tree inside, Sir Henry, our stubborn wire haired terrier, found the tree to good use; cocked his leg and marked it.  (See more about Sir Henry in my blog on May 7.)

In Florida, we used cedar trees and we planted them in front of the house to protect it from the blazing sun. While Christmas trees grow, they also absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.  While our house was rented out, one cedar tree was cut down and removed while the other two were severely trimmed.  Some people were afraid that ghosts and goblins might hide amid the cedar trees' lovely branches.  

Now we have an artificial Christmas tree with plastic and lots of metal parts that require valuable resources and energy to produce. The Montreal-based consulting firm Elipsos with expertise on sustainable developments maintains that an artificial tree would have to be re-used for twenty (!) years before it becomes the better environmental choice between live and plastic.

Whatever kind of Christmas tree you have, 
enjoy its lovely branches covered with small bright lights. 
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent

For this Third Sunday of Advent, I am lighting yet another white candle.  Now there are three out of four candles lit in the traditional copper candle stick holder decorated with cedar greens and red berries from the Park on the Back Forty.

The afternoon is dark and cloudy but warm and humid.  It is quiet around the house--not even a mouse is stirring.

However, this is the Christmas season, a time for the celebration of the coming of Christ and His redemption. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given," Isaiah 9:6.  'O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!'

Take a listen to the joyous movement in Handel's majestic Messiah appropriate for the King.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
I am ahead of schedule.  I will not be in the garden tomorrow.
Still your heart and light your own special candles.
Enjoy the Season.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Food for the Birds

The wild birds are always visiting the Back Forty Garden and Park although we have never made an effort to feed them but we try very hard to provide a safe place for them.

I don't wish for the birds to become dependent on our feeding them because we are not always going to be here and feed them on a regular basis.

The birds seem to have enough natural foods available for them with a variety of seeds, fruit, insects, and grub.  They don't bother the garden, not even the sunflowers.

The cardinals are my favorite birds because they mate for life.  What a commitment!  The bright red male is so protective of his mate.  He seems to be scanning the area to check if it is safe for her to join him.

If you live in a cold climate and want to feed the birds, here are a couple of recipes that kids may even want to create:

Melt two (2) cups of Crisco or any other fat such as bacon grease and add three (3) cups each of cornmeal, cracked corn, and sunflower seeds.  Place in a container and when cool, remove from the container and place in your bird feeder.

The following is another recipe that does not involve any heating of fat.  Here it goes:

Collect a few pine cones and fill them with peanut butter and roll them in oats, cracked corn, and sunflower seeds.  At this time of the year, tie bright red ribbons around the pine cones and hang them up in the trees.

It is easy to make your own suet balls or squares by using Crisco or any other fat from your cooking.  Rolled oats, cornmeal, dried and crumbled bead will adhere nicely to the fat.  Furthermore, chopped nuts (crush them with your rolling pin or a hammer but use a towel to catch the bits and pieces) and chopped raisins fill out the making of the suet balls or squares.  Sometimes food is hard to find in real cold weather so our winged messengers will love the extra food for them.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The New Lawn Mower

We were off to the home improvement centers to find out about manual lawn mowers at the end of October and the assistants were skeptically looking at us.  They told us that the grass mowing season was over in NE Florida.  We agreed.   But what are you supposed to do when you are in the middle of a project that had to be finished before company arrived and the winter, too?

We use a 20-inch manual lawn mower to cut the path in the Labyrinth.  My husband was in the middle of cutting it when the old lawn mower conked out.  The motor was still running but the chassis came apart into bits and pieces.  We have had the mower a long time and made minor repairs to it over the years, but this time it was beyond repairing.

At one of the home improvement centers, I was ready to carry off a reconstructed lawn mower.  The price was very attractive and I was assured that it was in excellent condition; however, my husband wanted to continue the search.

At the next center, my husband found a mower that he liked.  It had tall wheels in the back for easy maneuvering and it does not have to be primed before starting.  A willing assistant was ready to help him put the boxed up mower into a cart.  Before I knew it, my husband was on his way to the cashier while I was still thinking about the reconstructed mower.

The cashier told my husband that there were less expensive mowers available and that some were reconstructed.  "I know.  I know."  "Think of the money you could save," the cashier continued.  "Yes," I chimed in, "we could have a scrumptious dinner at a fancy restaurant.  We could even have a nice bottle of wine."  The cashier knew what I was talking about but we were both ignored by my husband who apparently did not mind spending money on a new lawn mower.

It is time consuming and labor intensive to cut the Labyrinth.  The Labyrinth is the reason for wanting only`a 20-inch lawn mower because that is the width of the path in the Labyrinth.  The path is constantly turning and it is kind of tight in the middle and once the center is reached, we have to go back the same way.

One good thing about the new lawn mower is that I have yet to use it.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Festival of Lights--Saint Lucia's Day

The Saint Lucia Celebration symbolizes the return of light and hope in the coming birth of Christ, the Light of the World.  Saint Lucia's Day is celebrated on the 13th of December in the Scandinavian countries, predominantly in Sweden.  Saint Lucia, or St Lucy as she is also known as, was born in Syracuse, Sicily, around 283 AD.

Sankta Lucia

The legend has it that Saint Lucy secretly brought food to the persecuted Christians in Rome who were forced underground into the catacombs.  Lucy would carry a crown of candles in her hair so that she could have both hands free to carry food items.

Lucy came to Sweden on the darkest night of the year to bring light to the darkness and serve coffee, saffron buns, and gingersnap cookies to everyone she met.  She is now known as Saint Lucia or Sankta Lucia in Swedish.  On this day she still brings coffee and goodies to sick people in hospitals and to children in schools. in churches and various organization.

Sankta Lucia still carries a crown of seven white candles in her hair.  She is dressed in a long white gown with a red sash.  Sankta Lucia is followed by young girls also dressed in white and carrying a candle in their hands.  Most often there are also young boys in the procession.  They are also dressed in white and wear a conical hat.

There is Lucia Celebrations going on in the Nation's capital as listed on the Internet and I am sure other places with a large population of Swedes.

There is also a Lucia Celebration in Winters Chapel United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Lucia is celebrated on the 13th December at 7.30 pm followed by coffee and goodies.  There are also other Swedish celebrations in Atlanta.  Check it out on the Internet.

Often Lucia will make an appearance in the home while it is still dark.  It is usually the mother in the household or the young girl(s).  Lucia will carry a pot of coffee and sweet buns on a tray and serve it in bed. My husband would be shocked if I should appear in the bedroom dressed in a white gown and serve him coffee and sweets in bed while it is still dark.

Thank you for visiting my blog. 
Please visit a Festival of Lights with Saint Lucia in attendance.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Fall Garden

For the fall garden, I had the most difficult time with the broccoli.  After eagerly waiting for the plants to appear in garden centers, I must have blinked one time.  There was no broccoli to be found.  I asked how come there was no broccoli and was told that it had been too wet, too dry, or too hot and so on for the supplier to grow and bring broccoli to the centers.

Eventually I was able to obtain some broccoli plants but I also decided to sow seeds in small containers.  It took a long time for the seeds to germinate and when they finally appeared, the plants were stringy.  I planted them out into the garden any way and they are struggling.    Needless to say, there will be no broccoli to put in the freezer this season.
Red Cabbage

I did not have any better results with the cabbage.  Worms, bugs, and insects feasted on the cabbage plants.  I am glad to oblige although I twice replaced the plants.  The last cabbage plants looked like small rosettes.  The are doing well so far and I am curious to see what they will look like when they become fully headed up into large round balls.

Last year, my red cabbage did poorly but this year the red cabbage is doing much better. It may be because we planted them in the wooden box.  Maybe they could have done just as well outside the box.

We did get a good crop of green beans.  Roughly, I brought seeds for about $1.50 and if I had bought the mature snap beans in the grocery store, I would have paid almost $25 for the crop.  I consider that a sound investment; however, this does not include compost and fertilizer, and the cost of material  for making the wooden box where they grew.

We sowed radishes and they matured to the largest radishes I've ever seen.  The green tops grew dark, thick, and tall.  I was surprised that size of radishes were rather mild.  We also sowed red and green lettuce near the radishes.  The green lettuce is still doing well but the red lettuce was stumped in its growth.  Next time, we'll sow them in the box.

So far this year, we have been able to harvest some vegetables from the garden and I am looking forward to close out the fall season and start a winter garden.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Second Sunday of Advent

This is such a busy time for all of us but it is also a time for reflection.  It is a time to still our hearts.  As we light the Second Candle of Advent, let us remember the world's loss of a great leader and a principled man.  Let us also remember Pearl Harbor and its aftermath that still linger with us.

Second Sunday of Advent

In the hustle and bustle, I try to make the Advent special by lighting white candles.  I think they bring serenity to the Season--a little on the somber side, perhaps.

I hope that you will have a chance to listen to "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" as sung by Renee Fleming with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  It is just beautiful and so appropriate for the Season.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Magical Morning

I woke up late thisyesterday morning, got dressed, and looked out the window.  Ahh!  What I saw was magical.  The scenic creek was still.  It was quiet and peaceful.  The birds held their twitter and the squirrels behaved.

The dew was heavy on the ground and the sun was breaking through the fog.  It was a beautiful morning.  It filled me with joy and anticipation.  What will the day bring?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Satsuma Orange Marmalade

The other afternoon, I made marmalade from the sweetest and juiciest Satsuma oranges that I had picked from the trees in the Park on the Back Forty.  They were so easy to peel, slice and dice, and simmer with sugar. It filled my kitchen with such a wonderful aroma.

I made a batch of marmalade last week and used too much sugar, much too much.  I also cut the orange rinds into strips and simmered them in two cups of water for ten minutes.  This proved to be unnecessary.

In my second batch, I cooked/simmered the chopped up Satsuma oranges and julienned rinds in six cups of water.  The cut up rinds will come back in the finished marmalade; hence, I cut them accordingly.

Altogether now:

2 and 1/2 lbs peeled Satsuma oranges, sliced and diced
2 cups loosely packed orange peel, thinly sliced (julienned)
2 cinnamon sticks (2 and 1/2 in each)
2 and 1/2 hefty cups of sugar
6 cups of water
(In my book, 1 cup = 2 dl and 2 lbs ~ 2 kg)

Cook/simmer the oranges, peels, and cinnamon in six (6) cups of water.  When the concoction has reached a boil, remove foam. and let it simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 40 minutes, bring to a boil and add the sugar.  Bring the marmalade to a boil again and then let it simmer for at least one (1) hour, remembering to stir.  Note that this marmalade is made without commercial pectin.

For additional flavoring at the end of the simmering cycle, I added a generous teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.  For extra sizzle, I added 1/2 cup of Black Velvet whisky.

When is the marmalade ready?  That is a good question.  To test, spoon a little marmalade on a cold plate.  If it does not run all over the plate, it is ready.  Or dip a cold spoon into the simmering marmalade to see if it will stick to spoon as opposed to running off like water.  The marmalade will also change its consistency in the simmering pot: it will become a bit thicker.

I like to pour the marmalade, using the measuring cup, into clean jars and seal them with hot wax that has been melted in double pots--one pot filled with water with the pot with the wax immersed in the pot of water.  Bring the water to a boil to melt the wax.  Use extreme caution.  The wax will be hot.

The marmalade goes very well on a toasted muffin.  A jar of homemade makes a very nice gift when dressed up with a small cloth showing from under the lid, pretty ribbon, card or fancy label.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Protecting Garden Plants during the Cold Months

The cold weather came early to Northern Florida this year and the prediction is for a cold winter.  The other night, we were carefully watching the temperature fall but the weathermen assured us that there would be neither frost nor freeze at the beaches.  At one o'clock, my husband woke me up and invited me to go outside with him to cover his two tomato plants and my newly planted broccoli.

With flashlights in hand, we stumbled our way to the shed to retrieve the frost blankets that we bought last year.  (See my blog on The Big Frost posted in March.)  We had done too much work in the garden to let the tender plants succumb to frost.  We didn't think there was going to be any frost because there was a breeze.  Still, we covered the plants.

A frost occurs when the temperature falls between 31 - 33 degrees F.  A freeze will occur when the temperature reaches 26 - 31 degrees F.  The freeze is especially damaging if the temperature remains at those degrees for a prolonged period of time.  The frost may also put a hurt on tender plants.

The difference between the temperatures, frost and freeze, depends on where the temperature is taken. If the temperature is taken 5 to 6 feet above the surface and thus it may be colder at the surface.  This means that if the temperature reads 37 - 38 degrees F, you may see frost on the ground.

The most rudimentary type of prevention is to put pine straw or leaves around the plants as mulch.  We are fortunate to have large pine trees in our Park and the needles needs to be raked up from the grass.  A gardeners's work is never done.

The plants do not retain any heat; however, the soil retains the heat, especially after a sunny day.  It helps to give the garden a deep water soak before frost or freeze.  Many times I have put plastic flower pots over the smaller plant to prevent damage from the cold.  I avoid covering plants with plastic and tarps because they will get cold and thus transfer the cold.  Bed sheets are a better choice.

Earlier this fall, I planted broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, and radish.  The cold may "burn" the leaves of these plants but they will survive.  I also sowed carrots, beets, and planted collards they should do fine in colder weather.  The lettuce may survive a cold spell, but I would cover them as well.

We didn't have frost the other night but it is better to play it safe, listen to the weathermen, and when in doubt, cover up.

Thank you for visiting my blog

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First of Advent

Advent is the season to spiritually prepare for the coming of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.  The Advent begins on the first Sunday of four before Christmas Day.  On this Sunday, the first of Advent, we light a white candle out of four to signify the Christmas season.  Many people also begin a long fast during the wait for the Nativity of Jesus, in time for the celebration of His birth.

First of Advent
At the home on the Back Forty Garden and Park, I have decorated a copper candle stick holder that was given to me by my mother a long, long time ago.

Today, I filled the holder with sprigs of fresh cedar, rose buds, and a few sea shells.  To celebrate and spiritually prepare and in anticipation of the coming of Christmas, I lit one candle and let it burn for a short time.

During this the darkest time of the season, we fill the home with lights in the windows and lights outside the home to chase the darkness away.  When we have our meals, we light a candle.  It is especially meaningful and solemn to light a candle at dawn before the hustle and bustle begins.

Some people chose to fast during this time for their preparation for the upcoming Holiday.  In Washington DC, there is a group of immigrants who have put up a tent, the Capitol Tent, and they are inviting us to join in the fast and prayer for immigration reform (Washington Post, 29 November).

This may not be the right time to go on a fast with all the party invitations from work places, organizations that we support and frequent, friends and family.

This is also a commercial time with newspapers filled with enticing advertisements and flyers from establishments wanting our time and hard earned money.  Often, we give in and join the crowds in pulling and shuffling for gifts for the special people in our lives.  We hardly have time to give much thought to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.