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Cultural Influence


Fuel-efficient cars are nice, but there are things you can do to save on fuel even without buying a new car.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the problems with the electric cars and at the end, I suggested that there are ways that we can conserve fuel without everyone driving electric cars.

One of the reasons that energy conservation related to driving is so important has to do with what is currently happening in Europe and in other parts of the world. Some countries’ economies are being held hostage by other countries simply because most of the petroleum products that they use come from countries that could soon be at war especially if they were to follow their own convictions.

Because the United States produces more petroleum than any other country in the world, but also because of our consumption of oil products we also import a lot of it as well, we could do a lot here to conserve energy produced by petroleum products and share more of that oil with other countries than what we do.

So many ways exist for us to conserve our use of petroleum products especially here in the States, and one of the ways that we can do it is in how we travel around. Conservative ways of getting from place to place will not only assist Europe but by doing so will save you money in the long run.

If you doubt that conservation would make a difference in petroleum product usage, look back on what happened at the beginning of the pandemic when we all stopped traveling and stayed home. The price of fuel dropped to rock bottom prices because we weren’t using oil like we had been. The reason the price of oil went up at first was that we were using it again. Now with that war in Eurasia, the prices are at an all-time high. Supply and demand. If we cut our demand, supply will be less of a problem than it had been.

This doesn’t mean that we all need to stay home and never go anywhere, however. What it does mean is that we need to get smart about how we travel. Let’s start with getting smart with how we travel to work.

Traveling for Work

This is a lesson that we learned during the pandemic. We don’t always have to go to a job to get a paycheck. We might be able to work from home at least part of the time. Hybrid work situations can work for many people and now is the perfect time to do this especially since there is a worker shortage.

In some situations, skype or other conference calling situations could be used for meetings with associates, colleagues, or potential customers. Customers can also be found just as easily and possibly even more quickly by email, phone, or webinar than by visiting them in person.  

Not every job is set up for every person in the country to work from home, of course, nor do we necessarily want to. However, what we may want to do is try to get together with others that we work with and carpool when possible.

You might also be able to take mass transit like the bus, train, or subway to work. Biking is also an option as well.

With so many people renting rather than buying homes, it might be in your best interest to live closer to your job and perhaps walk to work rather than driving or taking mass transit or riding a bike.

When You Have to Drive

There are times when not driving is not an option and there’s no one to carpool with. For those of us who live in rural areas, it is often not possible. Therefore, learning how to drive more economically is most beneficial.

First, if possible, consider getting a more fuel-efficient model of vehicle.

Second, if that isn’t possible, make sure that the vehicle you do have is properly maintained. Be sure that your car’s tires are inflated to the right tire pressure for your car. Check your tires when they are cold. Also be sure that your car has routine oil changes, and the air filter is changed when needed. In addition, be sure that your fuel firing system is properly functioning. Replacing a fuel filter, cleaning injectors, and changing plugs and points will offer improved gas mileage. Check with a trusted mechanic to see what options might benefit your vehicle at this time.

Next, change some of your driving practices. Accelerate gradually and smoothly, especially from a stop.  Use a light touch on the gas pedal until you’re going about 25 miles per hour. Then continue to accelerate until you reach the speed limit. Don’t exceed the speed limit. When driving on a level highway, use your cruise control, but avoid using cruise control on hilly parts of the highway because you’ll use more gasoline rather than less.

Anticipate traffic and traffic lights. Try to maintain speed. As much as possible synchronize with the traffic lights so that you don’t have to stop and wait for red lights. Pass only as necessary and don’t slam on the brakes any more than necessary. If traffic is stopped for more than thirty seconds, turn off your vehicle and restart when traffic resumes. Take the route with the fewest stops and lefthand turns. Turn off the car whenever you are stopped and waiting for someone or something.

Remove excess items from the car that weigh the car down.

When using the air conditioner less is better. When starting out and driving at lower speeds, drive with the window open then close and use only as much air conditioning as you need to feel comfortable.

Plan Your Trips

Batch errands that need to be done at the same time in the same part of town. Go shopping when you have an appointment. Pick up the dry cleaning when you pick up the kids at school.

When Traveling on a Vacation or Get-Away

Plan activities that don’t require driving at all! Consider hiking, canoeing, kayaking, or camping near your home.

Plan other destinations where you don’t have to drive much.

Consider how you can incorporate walking into your vacation plans.

Eat meals at locations within walking distance of your hotel or wherever you are going. Eat at home more often rather than going out to eat.

Take mass transit at your destination location whenever possible during vacations. My daughter and I went to Pennsylvania from Missouri by Amtrak several years ago and another time my family visited St. Louis and took the train from downtown where our hotel was to the zoo on the other side of the city.

Make it Fun!

Whatever you do, plan every trip you take as much as possible. Give yourself enough time to go where you want to go without rushing. This includes to work, running errands, or while on vacation. Challenge yourself to reduce the amount of gasoline you’re using every day. Make a game of it. It doesn’t have to be a drag. Imagine the pleasure you’ll get by not supporting the oil industry.

Now it’s your turn. How do you save on fuel when driving?


Two hundred and forty-seven years ago this week on April 19, 1775, was the shot heard around the world. No one knows who shot the musket that started the American Revolution, but that shot was discharged on Lexington Green, Massachusetts. It was just the first shot of many that lead to the birth of The United States in a war that would continue until its formal end in 1783.

Several years ago, I started researching for my books in The Locket Saga series and several of the books in this series including Soldiers Don’t’ Cry, A Coward’s Solace, and Sailing Under the Black Flag are all based during the American Revolution.

Here’s a blog post about The Locket Saga

Although the events in this book occurred prior to the American Revolution, I would be remiss if I failed to mention When God Turned His Head. I posted about the first book of this book series which started from an idea that I got the idea of Soldiers Don’t Cry even though When God Turned His Head was the first book in the series.

Over the past several years, I have done a lot of research and written several articles and blog posts about this time in American history. Here are a few.

The Boston Massacre-Powder Keg of the American Revolution

https://hubpages.com/education/The-Boston-Massacre-Powder-Keg-of-the-American-Revolution

The Unsung Hero: Lucy Flucker Knox

This is the story of the wife of Henry Knox. She is a patriot in her own right.

https://discover.hubpages.com/education/An-Unsung-Heroine-Lucy-Flucker-Knox

The Hidden Cause for the American Revolution: The Thirst for More Land

This article explains how the French and Indian War brought about limitations on land attainment and forced the British to limit forts on the American frontier.

https://hubpages.com/education/The-Thirst-for-Land-The-Unseen-Reason-for-the-American-Revolution

How Changes in English Farm Practices Influenced the Colonization of the Americas

See how the change in weather patterns brought changes in the British agricultural system and caused migration to the Americas.

https://hubpages.com/education/Changes-in-English-Agriculture-Brough-About-American-Colonialization

Songs of the American Revolution

Music has always been an important thread in the American fabric. So exactly what tunes did Americans sing during the American Revolution?

https://hubpages.com/education/Songs-of-the-American-Revolution

The French Intervention

How the French intervened to win the American Revolution-We Americans talk about our independent spirits, but we couldn’t have pulled off the revolution without our friends the French.

https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/the-french-intervention-cf6a5c8f0da

Even though I went to dusty old books for information, I loved it when I discovered actual members of the Eighth Pennsylvania when I was in Waterford, Pennsylvania. Here’s an article I wrote about the event where I meant the Eighth Pennsylvania regiment of the American Revolution.

When Historical Writer’s Research and Re-Enactors meet

I hope you enjoy these articles, and they help you appreciate the value of the freedoms that we have in this country that started with that shot on Lexington Green on April 19, 1775. If you have any questions about my articles and blog posts or if you have any comments, please do so in the comment section below.

Also, be sure to check out The Locket Saga series all books are available in paperback and on Kindle!


Eating fresh vegetables from the garden can save energy in so many ways.

Last week we discussed how we could save energy in the home. This week we are going to talk about saving energy in food production. I bring this up because how we get our food is one of the ways that decrease the increased cost of energy that we are facing.

My thoughts are that if everyone could have a garden, grow it, and utilize their gardens in the most thoughtful manner, we could save an amazing amount of energy in the process.

Your Food Travels Farther Than You Do

The average meal in the United States travels about 1500 miles before it hits our dinner plate. This long-distance, large-scale transportation consumes large quantities of fossil fuels. We currently put almost 10 kcal of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every 1 kcal of energy we get as food.

Long-distance transportation requires huge quantities of diesel fuel Some forms of transport require more than others. Airfreight requires more energy than sea shipping per pound. But sea shipping is slow, and in our increasing demand for fresh food, food is increasingly being shipped by faster and is more energy-consuming.

In order to transport food long distances, much of your food is picked while still unripe and then gassed to “ripen” it after transport, or it is highly processed in factories using preservatives, irradiation, and other means to keep it stable for transport and sale. Scientists are experimenting with genetic modification to produce longer-lasting, less perishable produce.

Cutting the Energy Consumption of the Food We Eat

To cut down the number of miles that the meals that my husband and I eat, we purchase many of the things we cannot grow ourselves in bulk when possible. We purchase sugar, different types of flour, oatmeal, coffee, tea, dried beans, spices, salt, vinegar, canning supplies, and herbs that we can’t grow. By purchasing them in bulk I not only save money, I am also saving the energy needed to process the food before it gets to my home.

I then have started making more of my food from scratch. The bread that I make is the freshest bread I have eaten in a long time, and it doesn’t have any preservatives. I also make things like pies, cookies (that for six months out of the year I sell at Farmer’s Market allowing those who live locally to cut down on their energy usage as well), and granola.

I also produce and use my own garden produce to decrease even more fossil fuel energy. That fresh produce is not traveling all those miles because I am growing as much as possible in my own backyard. I am also eating as much of it as possible from the fresh state as well. The less processing that I do, the less fossil fuel I am consuming. I’m not canning, freezing, or dehydrating any more than I must. I eat my fruits and vegetables in season as much as I can.

The energy savings I have from gardening isn’t just in growing what we eat either. We save energy in the gardening process. Instead of using a gas-hog of a tiller, I use a broad fork to work the soil. I am keeping down weeds by using recycled cardboard and sawdust from a local sawmill. (a broad fork doesn’t expose weed seeds that would sprout if brought up by tiller either.) I sell excess produce directly to the local population. I do have one gardening tool that is gas-powered. I  use a grass-catching self-propelled push-lawnmower so that saves some of my own personal energy. It uses far less than a riding lawnmower and saves me quite a bit of time in the process.

Harvesting of garden produce is done by hand. We eat fresh seasonal foods as much as possible. I tell about how we can produce vegetables all season long in my book The Four Seasons Vegetable Garden.

What we don’t eat fresh or sell, we store as fresh food whenever possible. I tell about the vegetables that you can store over the winter without processing in my book The Survival Garden. Available in Kindle Edition or in Paperback

Preserve or Not Preserve?

Contrary to what these two latest books might suggest, however, I do not believe that preserving food has no place in our home garden setup. We do utilize canning, freezing, and dehydrating, but we first try to eat our foods fresh as much as possible. The less we process food ahead of time, the less energy we will be using in the end.

I hope this post has given you something to think about. If you have a garden, make it a little bigger this year and eat produce as it ripens. Don’t have room for a garden? Grow a few herbs under lights. Can’t grow herbs? Visit your local farmer’s market and get your produce there. At least your food won’t be going more than a few miles to get to you.

For more on gardening, check out my other blog The Perpetual Homesteader.


We may not be able to produce more oil on a dime, but we can easily cut back on what we are using!

As the price of gasoline at the pump rises, we are told that there really is nothing that we can do to alleviate the problem other than extracting more petroleum than we have and according to the oil producers, because they can’t just turn on the spigot to get more, we either have to pay what they say and have increased prices at an alarming rate.

However, what they are telling us doesn’t make sense. Why should the prices be going up so much? According to statistics, the United States only used four percent of Russian oil. The question becomes why is it that if the United States is the biggest producer of the world’s oil that we need to import any oil in the first place and what can we do to fight back to avoid paying those prices.

This increase in price has little to do with the manufacturing sector because our country’s manufacturing sector has been decreasing over the past several decades. Yes, we use plastics and other petroleum products, but much of it is made in China, so we can’t blame manufactured petroleum products for that. Much of what we use is based on personal energy consumption. If we want to fight back on the price of energy, let’s start in our own homes where we have at least some control.

What we can do is something that we learned two years ago. At the beginning of the pandemic, we learned a very important lesson concerning our use of petroleum products that we learned that we can utilize now. Stay home or at least close to home and decrease the demand for oil and price will come down.

But most people are tired of staying home. Are there other alternatives to not being able to travel?

Over the next several weeks, I will be addressing these issues in some very practical ways that if more people in the US does them, the demand for crude oil will go down and we’ll pay less at the pump.

There are numerous ways we can save money on energy, and they are not necessarily as painful as the American oligarchy would suggest. All we need to do is develop a few habits that decrease our need for petroleum through the decrease in energy use to make it so that we wouldn’t need to ever use that source of foreign oil.  This week we’ll be discussing how you can save on home energy costs.

The Use of Energy in Our Homes

Many areas to save energy exist within our homes and this is a good place to start decreasing our dependence on petroleum. First, we must learn how we actually use energy. Here’s the breakdown of the average usage of energy in the home. Here in the United States, we use 47% of our home energy for cooling and heating, 14 percent for water heating, 13 percent for clothes washing and drying, 12% for lighting, 4 percent for running the refrigerator. The other 10 percent is used in cooking and entertainment.

Decreasing Energy Use at Home

Heating and Cooling-We can decrease our energy use at home very easily if we just start changing a few small habits. We can turn down the thermostat by a few degrees in the winter and raise it a few degrees. If you were to adjust your temperatures when you’re not there and at night, you’ll cut energy costs by one percent for every eight hours for every degree you adjust the temperature up or down.

If you have some money to invest, and you own your own home, insulation will also improve the efficiency of the energy used as will getting a high-efficiency furnace.

Living in a smaller home that has good insulation and a high-efficiency furnace is a better investment than a large home of equal efficiency.

Water heating can be improved by finding ways to use less hot water. This can be done by timing your showers to make them as short as possible, not running hot water any longer than possible. If you have some money to invest in your energy, consider insulating your pipes, getting a more energy-efficient water heater, or better yet, getting an on-demand water heater where you’re not dragging hot water down yards of pipe.

Washing and Drying Clothes-The cost of washing and drying clothes can be decreased by using cold water to wash only full loads of clothes and using a clothesline to dry your clothes.

Lighting can be decreased by turning off lights that we’re not using and using the most energy-efficient light bulbs that we can. Use a flashlight instead of a nightlight. Turn off the porchlight when you’re not expecting anyone to need it. Use solar lighting instead of on-grid power for outdoor lighting. Use motion sensing light instead of constant lighting.

The Refrigerator-though the refrigerator only uses a small 4 percent of our home energy bill, there are ways to decrease the cost of refrigeration. First, purchase an energy-efficient refrigerator and only have as big of a refrigerator as you need. Second, don’t open the refrigerator any more than you have to, and don’t keep it open longer than necessary.

The Final Ten Percent-Numerous things can be done to decrease that last ten percent of energy usage. First, decrease fantom energy usage. Unplug appliances that you’re not using. Use smaller appliances rather than using the cooking range when possible. Smaller appliances often use less than half what the range uses because the range runs on 220 current (if electric) whereas the appliances use 110 current. Use the cooktop instead of the oven, when possible, as well. If you are using the oven, do all the baking all at once.

What Suggestions Do You Have for Saving on Home Energy Costs?

I’m sure that this one article has not been all-inclusive regarding how I can save energy used in my home. What have you done to decrease the energy usage in your home?

Next week, I’ll be talking about how we can decrease energy usage regarding how we get our food. Be sure to like and follow this blog to explore how we can save energy on an individual level.


Hundreds of people going in different directions.
Many Americans said goodbye and good riddance to their jobs when the pandemic hit.

Twenty million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in the second half of 2021. This occurred because many Americans had time to get off the treadmill long enough to realize that they didn’t want to and didn’t have to work as slave labor to support someone else’s dream. They decided that they wanted to decide for themselves where they wanted to work or whether they wanted to work at all. I am a part of this great migration from working for “the man”.

I Am Part of the Great Resignation

Since March 2020, I have been away from the nine to five grind and living on our acre and half. At first, I was putting the house in order. While I lived in a travel trailer on our property, I had our trailer set up and painted it on the inside. I worked the garden area and canned what I could. I set up shelving to hold our home-canned jars and the store-bought items I bought in bulk. We picked blackberries.

In 2021, while continuing to garden, I started selling my books and several kinds of cookies at the local farmer’s market. I have also been working part-time as a substitute teacher and last September, I started collecting early social security. About the same time, I published another book about gardening and have had some decent success. In September I published my book The Survival Garden. I was surprised at how many sales I was able to make between September and December.

Coming Back from a Small Set Back

The forward motion slowed, however. This past winter, I have started cutting into my savings a little. Between the fact that I have had to spend more on our heating fuel (we heat with wood) and for groceries and gasoline, things have cost me more than I expected. In addition, my computer started falling apart. It happened first in November and then the screen fell apart again in December. I waited for the entire month of January for the repairman to let me know that it was ready, but that never happened. At the beginning of February, I decided to purchase a new computer which is what I am working on now. I probably shouldn’t have waited even that long.

 Now that spring is in the air, I am hopeful about the future. We have already been getting ready for next year’s gardening season. Last fall I planted regular garlic and elephant garlic and it is up and growing. We have planted our potatoes in three different ways and have pepper and tomato plants growing nicely. Soon we’ll be planting onions, peas, and shortly after that corn.

My book sales have also started to grow again after just a few sales in January and February. I have started experimenting with marketing methods and have found some benefits to those methods. I will be giving more later as time goes on.

In March, I finished writing an eBook I call The Four-Seasons Vegetable Garden in which I tell about the various ways that I am developing a vegetable growing system in which I can grow all of my own vegetables throughout the year. Check it out! And while you’re at it, check out my other books-fiction as well as nonfiction at my Author Central Page.

Is Being Part of the Great Resignation Worth It?

It’s not like I couldn’t go back and do what I was doing before the pandemic hit. I still could, but I have decided that I don’t want to go back to the way things were. I like the fact that I don’t have to punch a time clock every day. I like the fact that I can greet the morning on my own terms. That’s not to say that I’m not working. I have probably worked harder over the past two years than any time in my life and I am happy with what I am doing. I love gardening and I love writing. I feel fulfilled and that is a great feeling.

Now It’s Your Turn!

How about you? Did the pandemic make you re-evaluate your life? If so, how has your life changed over the past two years? Feel free to comment below!


Our island in the sky is trying to tell us something, are we listening?
Our island in the sky is trying to tell us something. Are we listening?

An Unseen Virus

Now we have the effects of Covid-19 which have been devastating to us humans. It has shut down all the things that modern society have until a few weeks ago took for granted as necessities in our lives. Our extracurricular activities are being put on hold. Even our education and our jobs are being curtailed as day by day the numbers increase.

“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”

Bill Mollison

One of the principles in permaculture is that the problem is part of the solution, especially when you’re dealing with nature. The reason that nature does what it does is to create that balance that we talking about. The answer to the problem of being able to deal with Covid-19 is in understanding what nature is trying to tell us.

With major upheaval in our lives almost on a daily basis right now, it seems to me as though nature is unleashing her fury on humankind to bring herself back into balance.

The unprecedented floods and wild fires weren’t enough to get our attention. Current economic policies haven’t helped matters, in fact, in many ways they have made it worse. In the quest for the almighty dollar, regulations have been lessened allowing for land to be stripped of its trees to make way intensive farming practices that strip the soil from the earth. Air regulations have been lessened so that industries can reduce the cost of pollution containment. The effects on nature however, have been positive in that in places like China and Italy where air pollution has been noticeably diminished. This virus however serves as only a warning.

“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from Heaven and heal their land.”

I Chronicles 7:14

Our answer is in reconnecting with our creator and his creation. We were created to tend the garden called Earth. We were made from the dust of the earth. In the cool of the evening, God would come and commune with Adam as he tended the garden. My suggestion to all of us is for us to take time of quarantine to reconnect with nature and God. If there’s any way for you to get outside, plant a garden and talk to God. If you’re not able to because of the quarantine, take the time to learn about how to naturally tend the earth, then start after quarantine is lifted. Go to a park. Go to a local farm. Do something to reconnect with what God gave us. And pray. Prayer is just talking with our creator.

What I am Doing

I am not just suggesting something that I wouldn’t do. The area where I live hasn’t been impacted much yet so I am taking this narrow window that I still have to get out to my property in the country so that I can start my gardens. Today I am packing up and tomorrow actually moving to what will be The Jerjoboch Permaculture Learning Center.

Please, even if you can’t get out, take the time to read my gardening book.

AND PLEASE STAY SAFE


Week before last, we talked about Santa Claus. (Here’s the Link to this post). Last week I showcased candy canes. Here’s a link to that post (put in link to this post). Because this is Christmas Eve, I am finishing this short series by sharing some more Christmas traditions.

December 25th for Jesus Birthday

Dixie-Stampede-Nativity

The idea that the choice of December 25 for Christ’s date of birth does not come from Pagan holiday traditions as many people believe. A major pagan holiday was celebrated around the winter solstice called Saturnalia. However, Saturnalia wasn’t on December 25th. It ran from December 17-23. Another festival happened on New Year’s Day which started back in 153 B.C.

Celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25th started in A.D. 204 with the writings of Hippolytus of Rome. He figured the date by guessing that Jesus death March 25th which had been the accepted date of Jesus’ death since 200 A.D. In addition, according to Jewish Talmudic tradition, all righteous men died on the same day they were conceived, and Jesus’ conception must have occurred around March 25th. Based on this assumption, by counting the days, nine months after conception would be December 25.

The Three Wisemen Visiting the Stable

The wisemen were mystical priests and astrologists. These men saw something in the starts that they needed to check out. It is highly unlikely that these men arrived at the manger, but rather they came some time later. Based on the Biblical accounts, these men came to the ‘house where the child was.” This could have happened any time after Jesus was born. Herod asked the men when they saw the star in the sky and then asked them to show him where the child was so that he too could worship the child. When the wisemen didn’t return to Herod, Herod sent men to kill every boy child in Bethlehem under the age of two.

In addition, it was unlikely only three of these men showed up. They likely came by caravan. The reason we say three wisemen is because of the three gifts that were given—gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Shepherds and Angels

According to the Bible, angels told shepherds in the field that the Messiah had been born.

Holly

Legend says that one of the earliest connections of Holly with Christmas occurred back when early Roman Christians adopted holly as a sacred plant. They believed that the wood for the cross was made of holly wood and the crown of thorns was holly leaves with white berries stained red by Christ’s blood.

The Christmas Tree

Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

Christmas Tree Lights

The tradition of lighting the darkness goes back to the Yule, a midwinter festival celebrated by Norsemen. The festival boasted nights of feasting, drinking Yule, the Norse god Odin’s sacrificial beer and watching the fire leap around the Yule log burning in the home hearth.

The lighting of the Yule log spread throughout Europe. Many believed the log’s flame summoned the sun’s return and drove away evil spirits. Over time Christianity adopted this tradition and the light from the Yule log came to represent Jesus as Light in the darkness.

Santa Claus

Santa Claus is based on St. Nicholas, born around 280 AD in what is now Turkey. Nicholas was known for helping the poor. By 1600, he was a popular saint, especially in Holland, where he was known as Sinter Klaas. By 1800, Dutch emigrants had introduced him to the United States, later helped by the writer Washington Irving passing on their stories about him, and by Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”.

Reindeer

Reindeer are deer species found in the Arctic regions and are well-adapted to living in cold and under rugged conditions, thus a perfect animal symbol to use during the winter season — the season most associated with Christmas. But other than that, reindeer came to be popular in contemporary Christmas lore because of the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which was written by Clement Moore, and the song “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Moore’s poem, also known as “The Night Before Christmas,” talks of Santa Claus and his little sleigh, driven by eight flying reindeer. Moore’s poem was published annually during the Christmas season.

Mistletoe

The tradition of hanging it in the house goes back to the times of the ancient Druids. It is supposed to possess mystical powers which bring good luck to the household and wards off evil spirits. It was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology and that’s where the custom of kissing under mistletoe originated.

The name mistletoe comes from two Anglo Saxon words ‘Mistel’ (which means dung) and ‘tan’ (which means) twig or stick! So you could translate Mistletoe as ‘bird dung on a stick’! This name came from the fact that mistletoe spread on trees from bird feces to bird feces.

During medieval times, people believed that mistletoe had magical powers. This plant could ward off evil spirits and the devil. It was used in ceremonies and burnt once Christmas was over.

When the first Christians came to Western Europe, some tried to ban mistletoe as a decoration in churches. York Minster Church in the UK used to hold a special Mistletoe Service in the winter, where wrong doers in the city of York could be pardoned.

Mistletoe was also hung on the old English decoration the Kissing Bough.

The custom of kissing under Mistletoe comes from England. The original custom was that a berry was picked from the sprig of Mistletoe before the person could be kissed and when all the berries had gone, there could be no more kissing!

Gifts for Christmas

One of the main reasons we have the custom of giving and receiving presents at Christmas, is to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the Wise Men: Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh.

Frankincense was a perfume used in Jewish worship and, as a gift, it showed that people would worship Jesus.

Gold was associated with Kings and Christians believe that Jesus is the King of Kings.

Myrrh was a perfume that was put on dead bodies to make them smell nice and, as a gift, it showed that Jesus would suffer and die.

Christmas itself is really about a big present that God gave the world about 2000 years ago -Our Lord Jesus!

Merry Christmas!


Did you know that the candy cane has had a long history?

candy canesThe classic peppermint flavor of the candy cane has been around for 600 years, but the original candy canes didn’t have the now iconic hook but were just straight sticks. In 1640, a German choirmaster decided to change things up by curving the shape to look more like a shepherd’s staff, resulting in the candy cane shape we all know and love today.
About this same time, Christmas trees became popular Christmas decorations and candy canes were part of those decorations. If your family is like my family, there’s a good chance that you have candy canes on your own tree today. (We put up our tree on Thanksgiving weekend.) That hook in the candy cane makes it easy to hang those candy canes on the tree.

The candy cane was first introduced to America in 1847 by a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard.

One legend suggests that an Indiana-based candy-maker shaped the peppermint stick into a “J” shape to represent Jesus, with the white stripe symbolizing the purity of his birth and the red stripe later added to acknowledge the blood he shed on the cross. This origin claim has been debunked, because white candy and peppermint sticks existed in Germany since the 1600s. It may be possible though that this Indiana-based candy-maker attached this symbols to the candy cane to make a deeper connection with the holiday season.

Since candy canes were originally made by hand, they were sold out of local candy shops. It wasn’t until the 1950s a Catholic priest named Gregory Keller invented a machine that could make candy canes that curve automatically. Once automated, candy canes became a popular Christmas confection. Every year, 1.76 billion candy canes are sold and ninety percent of them are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In 2012, Geneva pastry chef Alain Roby broke his third Guinness World Record by creating the world’s longest candy cane. This candy cane was 51 feet long. The previous record had been 38 feet.

Though other flavors do exist, the most popular flavor is remains peppermint flavored ones with red stripes on white.

Do you have candy canes around your house this holiday season?


MandanSince I did Black History Month during February, I thought that it was only right that I should also commemorate Native Americans this month. This week, I am sharing what I learned about the Mandan while I was researching for The Locket Saga.

In my upcoming book Two Rivers (Book VII of the Locket Saga), my fictional character, Isaac Thorton, joined the Lewis and Clark expedition as far as the Mandan tribe where they spent the entire winter of 1804-1805 before going west into uncharted territory.

Mandan Origins

The English name Mandan is derived from the French-Canadian explorer Pierre Gaultier, Sieur de la Verendrye, who in 1738 heard it as Mantannes from his Assiniboine guides, which call the Mandan Mayádąna. He had previously heard the earth lodge peoples referred to by the Cree as Ouachipouennes, “the Sioux who go underground”.
The Mandan referred to themselves as Numakaki (Nųmą́khų́·ki) (or Rųwą́ʔka·ki) (“many men, people”) was inclusive and not limited to a specific village. This name was used before the smallpox epidemic of 1837-1838. Nueta (Nų́ʔetaa), the name used after this epidemic (“ourselves, our people”) was originally the name of Mandan villagers living on the west bank of the Missouri River. The name Mi-ah´ta-nē recorded by Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden in 1862 reportedly means “people on the river bank”, but this may be a folk etymology.

The Mandan language belongs to the Siouan language family. It was first thought to be closely related to the languages of the Hidatsa and the Crow. However, since the Mandan language has been in contact with Hidatsa and Crow for many years, the exact relationship between Mandan and other Siouan languages (including Hidatsa and Crow) has been obscured. For this reason, linguists classify Mandan as a separate branch of the Sioux. Mandan has two main dialects: Nuptare and Nuetare. Only the Nuptare variety survived into the 20th century, and all speakers were bilingual in Hidatsa.

The exact origins and early history of the Mandan is unknown. Early linguists believed the Mandan language may have been closely related to the language of the Ho-Chunk or Winnebago people of present-day Wisconsin. This idea might be confirmed in their oral history, which refers to having come from an eastern location near a lake.

Ethnologists and scholars studying the Mandan subscribe to the theory that, like other Sioux people (possibly including the Hidatsa), they originated in the mid-Mississippi River and the Ohio River valleys in present-day Ohio. If this was the case, the Mandan would have migrated north into the Missouri River Valley and its tributary the Heart River in present-day North Dakota where Europeans first encountered the historical tribe. This migration might have occurred possibly as early as the 7th century but probably between 1000 CE and the 13th century, after they started cultivating maize during a period of a major climate change where warmer, wetter conditions favored their agricultural production.

After they arrived on the banks of the Heart River, the Mandan constructed several villages, the largest of which were at the mouth of the river. Archeological evidence and ground imaging radar reveals changes in the defensive boundaries of these villages over time. The people built new ditches and palisades circumscribing smaller areas as their populations declined.

The Double Ditch Village was located on the east bank of the Missouri River, north of present-day Bismarck. Rupture Mandan occupied it for nearly 300 years. Today the site has depressions showing evidence of their lodges and smaller ones where they created cache pits to store dehydrated corn. The name comes from two defensive trenches built outside the area of the lodges. Construction of the fortifications here and at other locations along the Missouri has been found to have correlated to periods of drought, when they raided other villages for food.

At some point, the Hidatsa people also moved into the area. They too spoke a Siouan language. Mandan tradition states that the Hidatsa were a nomadic tribe until the Mandan taught them to build stationary villages and cultivate agriculture. The Hidatsa maintained a friendship with the Mandan and constructed villages north of them on the Knife River.

Later the Pawnee and Arikara moved from the Republican River north along the Missouri River. They were Caddoan language speakers, and the Arikara were often early competitors with the Mandan, although both grew crops. They built a settlement known as Crow Creek village on a bluff above the Missouri.

The Mandan all practiced extensive farming, which was carried out by the women and included drying and processing corn. The Mandan traded crops and other goods were traded from the Pacific Northwest to the Tennessee River, Florida, the Gulf Coast, and the Atlantic Seaboard.

The bands did not often move along the river until the late 18th century, after their populations plummeted due to smallpox and other epidemics.

European Encounter

The Koatiouak, mentioned in a 1736 letter by Jesuit Jean-Pierre Aulneau, are identified as Mandans. The first European known to visit the Mandan was the French Canadian trader Sieur de la Verendrye in 1738. The Mandan carried him into their well-fortified village. He learned that about 15,000 Mandan lived in nine well-fortified villages along the Heart River. According to Vérendrye, the Mandan were a large, powerful, prosperous nation who could dictate trade on their own terms.They traded with other Native Americans both from the north and the south, and from downriver.

Mandan acquired their horses from the Apache to the south. They used them both for transportation, to carry packs and pull travois, and for hunting. The horses helped the Mandan expand their hunting territory on to the Plains. Their encounter with the French in the 18th century created a trading link between the French and Native Americans. The Mandan served as middlemen in the trade in furs, horses, guns, crops and buffalo products. Spanish merchants and officials in St. Louis (after France had ceded its territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain in 1763) explored the Missouri and strengthened relations with the Mandan.

The French wanted to discourage trade with the English and the Americans, but the Mandan carried on open trade with all competitors. They would not be limited by the Europeans. French traders in St. Louis sought to establish direct overland communication between Santa Fé and their city; the fur trading Chouteau brothers gained a Spanish monopoly on trade with Santa Fe.

A smallpox epidemic broke out in Mexico City in 1779/1780. It slowly spread northward through the Spanish empire, by trade and warfare, and reached the northern plains in 1781. The Comanche and Shoshone had become infected and carried the disease throughout their territory. Other warring and trading peoples also became infected. The Mandan lost so many people that the number of clans was reduced from thirteen to seven; three clan names from villages west of the Missouri were lost altogether. They eventually moved northward about 25 miles, and consolidated into two villages, one on each side of the river, as they rebuilt following the epidemic. Also affected by smallpox, the Hidatsa people joined them for defense. Through and after the epidemic, Lakota Sioux and Crow warriors raided them.

In 1796, Welsh explorer John Evans visited the Mandan. He hoped to find proof that their language contained Welsh words. Evans had arrived in St. Louis two years prior, and after being imprisoned for a year, Spanish authorities hired him to lead an expedition to chart the upper Missouri. Evans spent the winter of 1796–97 with the Mandan but found no evidence of any Welsh influence. British and French Canadians from the north carried out more than twenty fur-trading expeditions down to the Hidatsa and Mandan villages in the years 1794 to 1800.

The Mandan and their language received much attention from European Americans, in part because their lighter skin color caused speculation they were of European origin. In the 1830s, Prince Maximilian of Wied spent more time recording Mandan over all other Siouan languages and prepared a comparison list of Mandan and Welsh words. (He thought that the Mandan may have been displaced Welsh.) The theory of the Mandan/Welsh connection, was also supported by George Catlin, but researchers have found no evidence of such ancestry.

Visited by Lewis and Clark Expedition

By 1804 when Lewis and Clark visited the tribe, the number of Mandan had been greatly reduced by smallpox epidemics and warring bands of Assiniboine, Lakota and Arikara. The nine villages had consolidated into two villages in the 1780s, one on each side of the Missouri, but they continued their famous hospitality, and the Lewis and Clark expedition stopped near their villages for the winter because of it. In honor of their hosts, the expedition dubbed the settlement they constructed Fort Mandan. Here, Lewis and Clark first met Sacagawea, a captive Shoshone woman. Sacagawea accompanied the expedition as it traveled west, assisting them with information and translating skills as they journeyed toward the Pacific Ocean.

Upon their return to the Mandan villages, Lewis and Clark took the Mandan Chief Sheheke (Coyote or Big White) with them to Washington to meet with President Thomas Jefferson. He returned to the upper Missouri. He had survived the smallpox epidemic of 1781, but in 1812 he was killed in a battle with Hidatsa.

In 1825 the Mandan signed a peace treaty with the leaders of the Atkinson-O’Fallon Expedition. The treaty required that the Mandan recognize the supremacy of the United States, admit that they reside on United States territory, and relinquish all control and regulation of trade to the United States. The Mandan and the United States Army never met in open warfare.

Why did some Mandan have Bluish Eyes and Lighter Skin?

18th-century reports about characteristics of Mandan lodges, religion and occasional physical features among tribal members, such as blue and grey eyes along with lighter hair coloring, stirred speculation about the possibility of pre-Columbian European contact. Catlin believed the Mandan were the “Welsh Indians” of folklore, descendants of Prince Madoc and his followers who emigrated to America from Wales in about 1170. This view was popular at the time but has been dismissed as not true.

Hjalmar Holand had proposed that interbreeding with Norse survivors might explain the “blond” Indians among the Mandan on the Upper Missouri River. In a multidisciplinary study of the Kensington Runestone, anthropologist Alice Beck Kehoe dismissed, as “tangential” to the Runestone issue, this and other historical references suggesting pre-Columbian contacts with ‘outsiders’, such as the Hochunk (Winnebago) story about an ancestral hero “Red Horn” and his encounter with “red-haired giants”. Archaeologist Ken Feder has stated that none of the material evidence that would be expected from a Viking presence in and travel through the American Midwest exists.

The Locket Saga

The Locket Saga 5 books

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Chief CornplanterA few years ago, I met a young man was a descendant of Cornplanter. His family had moved from the tribal lands to the nearby Seneca reservation probably for economic reasons. He gave me a CD of his people’s music. It was beautiful. It is sad that our culture had almost wiped their culture from this country.

Another memory that I have related to this chief is that I remember back when I was a teenager at the nursing home next door where I sometimes worked, one of the residents had been one of the people who helped move a graveyard off land that would be at the bottom of the lake above what was to be Kinzua Dam in Warren County, Pennsylvania. Later I learned that this had been land that was promised to the descendants of Chief Cornplanter. If they lived on the land, it would always be reserved for them. The last member of the Cornplanter Tribe left the land sometime before the US government whisked in and took possession of the area and flooded the area and built the dam for electricity production.

Cornplanter’s Early Years

Cornplanter was born sometime between 1732 and 1746, in the village of Conewaugus on the Genesee River in New York, the son of a Seneca woman and a Dutch trader named John Abeel (O’Bail). Lewis Henry Morgan erroneously states that it was Cornplanter’s mother who was white rather than his father. This is important because the Seneca, like other Iroquois people, are matrilineal. This means that tribal membership comes to individuals through their mothers. Cornplanter had two half siblings who were born to his mother and a Seneca father: a brother, Handsome Lake, the Seneca prophet; and a sister who became the mother of Governor Blacksnake, the Seneca political leader. Little is known about Cornplanter during his early years, although many scholars contend that he was a warrior during the French and Indian War at the defeat of Edward Braddock in 1755 while he was in his early teens. One letter to the governor of Pennsylvania noted that Cornplanter, while playing with the other Indian boys, noticed that his skin color was lighter than that of the other boys, whereupon his mother told him of his white father who lived in Albany. As a prospective bridegroom, he visited his father who treated him kindly, but gave him nothing in the way of either material goods or expected information, particularly regarding the coming rebellion of the colonists against the British. This rebellion played a major role in Cornplanter’s life.

This Role during the Revolutionary War

Cornplanter played a major role in Iroquois Confederacy politics before and during the American Revolution and the subsequent political adaptation of the Seneca to the new government of the United States. The Iroquois Confederacy began as an alliance of five northern Iroquoian-speaking tribes: the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca. This alliance was formed to harness the strength of these five groups in fighting common enemies as well as to foster economic cooperation among them. The confederacy was governed by the Grand Council of Fifty Chiefs.

This governing body had cardinal rules which stated that any decision made required a unanimous vote of the chiefs especially decisions regarding war. In the Revolution, the Mohawk were firmly behind the British, but the Seneca hoped for neutrality. Cornplanter and his half-brother Handsome Lake were among the leaders of the Seneca. However, Cornplanter was obliged to support his fellow clansman Joseph Brant, a Mohawk captain who supported the British and he was obligated to fight with the British against the Americans. Other members of the federation, like the Oneida and the Tuscarora remained neutral and refused to get in the middle of the fight.

Despite his original misgivings about entering the war on the side of the British, Cornplanter served as a commander for the Seneca throughout the war.

During the Battle of Canajoharie, located in the Mohawk Valley, during August of 1780. Cornplanter recognized his father, John Abeel, among the captive survivors after his men attacked and burned a village. Though Cornplanter felt slighted by his father for not having send a wedding gift, Cornplanter still respected him as a kinsman and apologize for burning his house. He also offered his father the option of returning to Seneca country with him or being released immediately. Abeel chose to be released, and, at Cornplanter’s request, the council of leaders allowed his freedom.

After the Revolution

Even before the end of the war, Americans started planning to remove the Indians from their lands and punish them for their aid to the British by destroying the political importance of the confederacy and looked at the monetary gain they would get for confiscating and selling Indian land. When General George Washington ordered an invasion of the Iroquois homeland to punish them for their role in the revolution, Cornplanter sent an urgent message in July of 1779, saying: “Father. You have said that we are in your hand and that by closing it you could crush us to nothing. Are you determined to crush us? If you are, tell us so that those of our nation who have become your children and have determined to die so, may know what to do. But before you determine on a measure so unjust, look up to God who made us as well as you. We hope He will not permit you to destroy the whole of our nation.”

Cornplanter tried to reconcile the Seneca with the Americans, but failed. He attended the treaty council held at Fort Stanwix (1784) between the Iroquois and the United States. This treaty ceded large tracts of Indian land to the new government. Because he tried to make peace between the Seneca and the Americas and because the tribe lost great tracts of land, Cornplanter became unpopular with the Seneca. Although he was not a signer of the treaty, Cornplanter agreed to the Fort Harmar Treaty (1789), ceded another great tract of land to the United States, and this only worsened his position with the tribe.
During this period of treaty-making, arguments arose over which of the newly formed states would encompass Indian territories. Robert Morris, an early colonial and American financier, purchased a right, called a right of pre-emption” from the state of Massachusetts. He eventually decided to sell this right of pre-emption to the Holland Land Company, agreeing in the bargain to extinguish Indian claim to the land by buying the land from the Indians. Finances ultimately kept him from accomplishing this, but he still attempted to extinguish Indian claim to the land through political channels. He met with Cornplanter in Philadelphia in August of 1797 to begin preliminary discussions of this issue, which led to full-scale negotiations between Morris and the Seneca at Genesee, New York. The Seneca rejected all of Morris’s offers and Red Jacket eventually proclaimed negotiations to be at an end. The Seneca finally agreed to cede the land and signed a treaty in September of 1797.

The Land Grant

In 1795 the Pennsylvania Commonwealth awarded him in fee simple 1,500 acres of land in western Pennsylvania. Cornplanter directed the survey of this land into three strategic and valuable tracts and a patent was issued in 1796. He eventually lost two of the tracts, those at Oil City and Richland. The third tract he kept, encompassing about 750 acres along the Allegany River including the site of the old Seneca town Jenuchshadago and two islands in that river. He was awarded a yearly pension by the U.S. government because of the 1797 treaty, which he collected for some time. An additional tract of land given to Cornplanter is in what is now Marietta, Ohio, and Cornplanter’s heirs continue to claim that the US government defrauded from them.

Cornplanter  raised horses and cattle and maintained his own political community. According to O. Turner in Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York, Cornplanter later quarreled with Handsome Lake over some of the religious teachings which Handsome Lake had introduced to the Seneca.

Cornplanter eventually became a Christian, and invited Quakers to build a school on his land grant. However, he became disillusioned with the white man’s effects on Seneca culture and he publicly destroyed the formal regalia and various awards that he had received from the president of the United States. He died on February 18, 1836, in Jenuchshadago at about one hundred years old.

Kinzua Dam

Kinzua Dam

Cornplanter’s last direct heir and great-great-great-grandson, Jesse Cornplanter, an artist, died in 1957. By the 1960s, Cornplanter’s indirect descendants had already moved to Salamanca, New York.

Construction of Kinzua Dam condemned 10,000 acres of the Allegheny Reservation including  the land granted to Cornplanter in the Treaty of Canandaigua. The Seneca lost a considerable number of acres of fertile farmland and forced 600 Seneca from their community within the reservation. Because he claimed the immediate need for flood control,  President John F. Kennedy denied the Seneca’s request to halt construction.

In Pennsylvania, the government condemned most of the historic Cornplanter Tract,  made by the state legislature to Cornplanter after the Revolutionary War to him and his heirs “forever”. This area included a historic cemetery that contained Cornplanter’s remains as well as three hundred descendants and followers and a state memorial monument erected in 1866.

The state exhumed and reinterred these remains in a new cemetery, located west of the north central Pennsylvania town of Bradford, about 100 yards from the New York state line. “The cemetery contains remains of white residents of Corydon, a town submerged by the reservoir. By 2009 Seneca observers and whites pleaded with the State Corps of Engineers to protect the area when they saw erosion on the bluff where the cemetery  was located. Other remains were relocated to a cemetery in Steamburg.

The Locket Saga

The Locket Saga 5 books

Read the books of The Locket Saga
In print at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/cygnetbrown
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