Tag Archives: Farming

Spring Ahead! Daylight Saving Time Begins Tonight for Many

When Benjamin Franklin wrote An Economical Project, his 1794 discourse in which he proposed the idea that would become our current Daylight Saving Time, it probably didn’t occur to him that the world would be using his system of adjusting human activities to maximize natural daylight more than 200 years later.

It also probably didn’t occur to him that others would take so long to embrace it. Attempts to legislate Daylight Saving were still widely ridiculed at the beginning of the 20th century. (It took the energy needs of WWI for many to finally enact them.) Standard times, brought about in the U.S. and Canada by the needs of the railways, which straddled various locales, also took a few decades to eventually pass into law.

This is a wonderful article on the history of Daylight Saving Time and time zones, which includes all kinds of quirkiness and variations. (One year, 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates were used in Iowa alone.) Indeed, cities and countries around the world begin, end and practice Daylight Savings at a variety of times and in a variety of ways.

Most of the U.S. begins Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. (local time) on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday in November.

How does Daylight Savings Time impact safety, particularly on the roads? Apparently the first dark evenings in Fall, when the time changes back, see an increase in pedestrian and auto accidents, as some people readjust to driving in darkness. In 2007, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. was moved to the first weekend in November, in the hopes of getting more  Halloween Trick-or-Treaters out during daylight and presumed safety, which may be good for the youngest Trick-or-Treaters.

Sleep deprivation is an issue that can affect people just after Daylight Saving Time kicks in in Spring. Cows, too, can be a little flummoxed, say Indiana dairy farmers — to the degree that their milk production suffers. Interestingly, Indiana only adopted Daylight Saving Time in 2006. Arizona is the only state that currently opts out of Daylight Savings, although the Navajo nations within it opt in — are you confused yet? In addition some Amish communities, particularly in Ohio, remain on Standard Time, which they (wonderfully) call Slow Time.

Here’s hoping you enjoy your Slow Time, your sunlight, and the wonder of time in general, whether you practice Daylight Savings or not.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Fall Begins Tonight with a Big Harvest Moon

The Autumnal Equinox will occur overnight tonight at 3:09 Universal Time (7:09 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, 10:09 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time), officially ushering in Fall. In a rare occurrence, a big, full Harvest Moon will be in the sky to greet it.

According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune: Typically, the Harvest Moon arrives within days or weeks of the Autumnal Equinox, but rarely does it align within hours. There hasn’t been a comparable coincidence since Sept. 23, 1991. Such an alignment won’t happen again until 2029.

As I wrote last year, the Harvest Moon is quite a magnificent, miraculously timed occurrence. It traditionally shines its all-night beacon at precisely the time farmers are gathering their crops. Because it’s close to the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere, October’s full moon is also particularly large and bright — quite helpful in the days before electricity, and perhaps even now.

Here is a good explanation of the how the September Equinox works.

Happy Fall!

You might also enjoy:

The Wheel of the Year: Summer Turns to Fall
Walt Whitman’s Ode to the Harvest
Fall Foliage at its Peak
Enjoy October’s Full Harvest Moon
Celebrate May’s Full Moon

Photos: Mattias Kobel, Susan Sachs Lipman

Sonoma Marin Fair: The Animals

County and state fairs are wonderful, traditional summer events. They offer down-home fun for people of all ages — rides, carnival games, contests, shows, and farming and animal exhibits. If you’re in California, which has a whopping 58 counties, chances are there’s a county fair near you right now. Even the California State Fair is happening now.

For me, the animal exhibits and contests are at the top of the list of things that make a great fair what it is. As a non-farmer, I can get educated about farm animals and the work and culture of breeding, caring for and showing them. Farmers, breeders and interested youth can also showcase their skills and work. In very rural areas, fairs offer rare opportunities for busy farmers to interact, to show and to see what others are doing.

Animal exhibits have been a part of American county and state fairs ever since 1807, when farmer and mill owner Elkanah Watson showcased his sheep in the public square in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. According to StateFairRecipes.com, he clanged an old ship’s bell to attract attention. His goal was to encourage local farmers to raise Merino sheep, so that his mill would receive superior quality wool. By the late 1800s, county and state fairs were occurring all over the U.S.

Each fair bears the unique imprint of its geographic area. My favorite local county fair is the Sonoma-Marin Fair, which occurs in Petaluma, CA, in late June. I recently posted a pictorial of the fair rides and games. Now it’s time to highlight the animal exhibits.

Of course, the cows are a favorite. We appreciate our weekly delivery of local Straus Creamery milk.

The chicken coop was moved to a bigger, breezier area. It’s always fun to see (and hear) the regal roosters, hens and chickens.

Hog races were a new addition this year. The caller and operation came all the way from Arkansas.

We spent a long time in the sheep and goat barn.

And we took in a Sheep Showmanship competition of 4H and Future Farmers of America youth. We were impressed with the participants’ diligence and sheep handling, as well as with the seriousness of the competition, the obvious work and skill involved, and the sheep themselves. This site explains sheep show judging.

See photos of last year’s fair’s pig showmanship competition and more.

Watch for the final installment about the Sonoma Marin Fair: The Food.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Celebrate May’s Full Moon

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According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, today is the night and day of May’s full moon. The May Moon is known as the Full Flower Moon, in the moon naming tradition that was used by the Native Americans, largely Algonquins, who lived in the Northeast U.S., from New England to Lake Superior in the Midwest.

The Full Flower Moon received its name because of the abundant flowers that carpeted the land during its time. It’s also been called the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.

I’ve long been quite entranced with the full moon names and their variations. Of course, they reflect both the need to mark passing time and the way that time was experienced by people who were living close to the land. Lunar time-keeping pre-dated our modern calendars (and some calendars, like the Jewish and Chinese calendars, are still lunar-based.) The Farmer’s Almanac has a good list of Native American full moon names and how each came to be.

Other, even older, cultures have had moon naming traditions, too. This site lists full moon names from Chinese, Celtic, Pacific Island, Native American, Pagan, and other cultures.

Lots of people garden using the phases of the moon. The good news is that there isn’t one best time to plant — Each aspect of planting has an associated moon phase, based on how much moisture is pulled up through the soil by the monthly pull of the moon (much the way the moon influences the tides.)

The time just after the full moon is an especially good time for planting root crops, as the gravitational pull is high (adding more moisture to the soil) and the moonlight is decreasing, contributing energy to the roots. For this reason, the waning moon is also a good time to plant bulbs and transplants.

One great moon is known to all farmers, late September or early October’s Harvest Moon (also known as the Blood Moon, Blackberry Moon, or Hunter’s Moon), which traditionally shines its all-night beacon to help farmers gather their crops. In the Northern Hemisphere, it happens to be an especially close, bright moon, in addition to sometimes lighting up the sky for days. I wrote about the Harvest Moon here.

The Farmer’s Almanac offers a wonderful moon phase calendar for the U.S. that allows you to plug in your location and get the exact time of your local full moon.

Enjoy the Full Flower Moon!

Photo: Matthias Kobel

Quince Dubbed “Poster Child of Slowness”

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Folks in various Slow Food circles are suddenly rallying around the quince, which I featured on my site just a week ago.

Possibly with us since Biblical times, the quince was traded at middle eastern crossroads before making its way around the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic to Thomas Jefferson’s garden, only to become relatively neglected in more recent eras.

That seems to have changed, as the somewhat homely fruit has recently become the improbable star of cookbooks, restaurants, and home cooks.

Ben Watson, an author and food activist with Slow Food USA, proclaimed, “The quince is the poster child of Slowness. It’s lovely and fragrant but pretty much inedible unless transformed by peeling, coring and cooking. I think it is poised for a comeback.”

Watson has been involved with Slow Food’s Ark of Taste project, which is an extremely exciting effort to catalog and promote all kinds of delicious foods that are in danger of extinction as we move toward mass production of fewer varieties of foods. I urge you to visit the Ark of Taste web site to see tantalizing photos and learn about wonderful heirloom fruits and other foods, and where to find them.

More on quince’s comeback, history and harvesting can be found in this delightful Los Angeles Times piece.

Also just in, courtesy of Food News Journal: “French foodie Stevie Parle turns to Provence for a perfect quince crumble.” This from the Guardian. (His crumble actually looks and sounds to me like a crisp, which coincidentally is my favorite dessert. I’ll have to try to make some!)

Quinces Ag Research

No Impact Week Starts Today

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The Huffington Post and Colin Beavan, No Impact Man, have announced a No Impact Week, starting today. A lot of folks are taking a pledge to go on a week-long “carbon cleanse” in order to reduce our individual impacts on the planet, both for its sake and for ours. According to the HuffPo:

The week is not about strict rules or precisely replicating No Impact Man (unless you want to!) it’s about thinking about your environmental impact in a new way and picking the goals that are right for you.

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You can download a terrific guide to No Impact Week, or any week. It’s packed with simple suggestions that will really get you thinking about small changes you can make immediately to lower your impact on our planet’s store of natural resources and help your own budget and health in the process.

Ideas include: Making your own cleaning products to cut down on toxins and packaging waste, kicking bottled water and getting involved with the Take Back the Tap campaign, driving less and also differently with the Hypermilers to reduce fuel consumption, and following specific ideas to help you shop less and eat sustainably and locally, including ways to make the food you do buy last longer.

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To that last point, the processing and transporting of food around the globe uses tremendous amounts of water, energy and chemicals. By eating organically and locally, when we can, we each can shrink our own carbon footprint in this area, and probably eat more healthfully (and support local farmers) in the process.

The National Resources Defense Council has created a terrific and fun-to-use site that lets you plug in your state and one of 24 times of the year to find out what you can eat that’s relatively local. Some cold-weather states offer a surprising amount of food choices for year-round eating. In other cases, there’s not as much grown locally, but there are fresh offerings in neighboring states.

This Planet Green site on 50 Ways to Reduce Food Waste is another practical site that will not only get you thinking, but offers ways to change your habits today.

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I signed up for the No Impact Project. I didn’t sign a big, intense pledge. I just volunteered to give it a go and receive updates about the project. I committed to myself that I would follow the guide for the week, which will take me through gradually making some changes — perhaps strengthening or deepening practices I already have. If you’re inclined, join me, and we’ll talk about how it’s going.

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Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman: Pedal-powered smoothies at the Mill Valley Eat In for healthy school lunches, Rainwater harvesting at Fairfax EcoFest and Parade, salad at M.V. Eat In, sign at San Francisco Ferry Building, composting and plastic waste display at Fairfax EcoFest and Parade, produce at City Market in Portland.

Enjoy October’s Full Harvest Moon

Gaisberg_and_rising_full_moon

Songwriters have crooned about it. Farmers have counted on it. A Chinese festival honors it with special mooncakes. It’s the Harvest Moon, which traditionally shines its all-night beacon to help farmers gather their crops. In addition to being timed well for the job, the October full moon travels particularly close to the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere, so that it appears larger and closer than do other full moons throughout the year. It’s also visible for a longer amount of time than other moons — often all night — so that, especially before electricity, the harvesting needn’t stop at nightfall. And, if that weren’t enough, it also brightens the night sky for many successive days in a row.

All this week, those in northern latitudes will be able to go outside on clear nights and witness the Harvest Moon. It’s due to be at its absolute fullest at 1 am, Central U.S. Time, on October 4, so you’ll get good full moon shows all weekend, and fine shows throughout the week, whether you’re harvesting food, memories, or one of the last possibly warm full-moon nights.

Photo: Matthias Kobel