Tuesday, December 30, 2008

January Bible readings

Here are the daily Bible readings for the month of January. Follow our monthly Bible readings and you’ll have read the whole Bible through by this time next year.

1: Isaiah 28-29; Luke 6:1-26
2: Isaiah 30-31; Luke 6:27-49
3: Isaiah 32-33; Luke 7:1-30
4: Isaiah 34-36; Luke 7:31-50
5: Isaiah 37-38; Luke 8:1-25
6: Isaiah 39-40; Luke 8:26-56
7: Isaiah 41-42; Luke 9:1-17
8: Isaiah 43-44; Luke 9:18-36
9: Isaiah 45-46; Luke 9:37-62
10: Isaiah 47-49; Luke 10:1-24
11: Isaiah 50-52; Luke 10:25-42
12: Isaiah 53-55; Luke 11:1-28
13: Isaiah 56-58; Luke 11:29-54
14: Isaiah 59-61; Luke 12:1-31
15: Isaiah 62-64; Luke 12:32-59
16: Isaiah 65-66; Luke 13:1-22
17: Psalm 1-3; Luke 13:23-35
18: Psalm 4-6; Luke 14:1-24
19: Psalm 7-9; Luke 14:25-35
20: Psalm 10-12; Luke 15:1-10
21: Psalm 13-15; Luke 15:11-32
22: Psalm 16-17; Luke 16
23: Psalm 18-19; Luke 17:1-19
24: Psalm 20-22; Luke 17:20-37
25: Psalm 23-25; Luke 18:1-23
26: Psalm 26-28; Luke 18:24-43
27: Psalm 29-30; Luke 19:1-27
28: Psalm 31-32; Luke 19:28-48
29: Psalm 33-34; Luke 20:1-26
30: Psalm 35-36; Luke 20:27-47
31: Psalm 37-39; Luke 21:1-19

Monday, December 29, 2008

January is good time to start new habits

By Delaine Litman-Hohenfeldt

With the beginning of a new year many people make New Year’s Resolutions, many of which pertain to the breaking of bad habits. But January is also a great time to begin a new, productive habit that will be fun and free.

If you are a gardener, either indoors or outside, or a bird watcher, this activity might just be for you. Get a wall calendar or dated journal for 2007. Many companies give away nice calendars this time of year, so there’s no need to have the expense of purchasing one unless you want something special.

Bird watchers who feed the birds around the home can make a note on the calendar or in your journal of the birds you see at the feeder each day. If you do not know the types of birds you see, you can look them up in a bird field guide such as one published by the National Audubon Society or an excellent book called Birds in Missouri that is available from the Missouri Department of Conservation. The MO Dept. of Conservation also publishes a poster called Feeding Backyard Birds that can be picked up at their office for free. The poster has information on when, where and how to feed backyard birds plus habitat information and colored illustrations of 34 birds found in Missouri.

Gardeners can use a calendar or journal to keep track of weather information, insect activity, garden plans, seeds started, when plants bloom, and how much is harvested from a veggie garden. The calendars are easy to store from year to year and may provide valuable information when planning gardens in future years.

Birding information will allow you to see if numbers of certain species have increased or decreased from year to year, what time of year to expect migratory birds, and what type of feed attracts certain types of birds.

Since there is not much to do outside in the garden in January, you can use this time to plan for spring, read gardening books and seed catalogs, and take care of our feathered friends. When you put out feed for them, remember to give them a supply of fresh water as water is often in short supply during the winter.

Have a great January.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Something to cook on a winter weekend

From the December 2005 issue of The Ozarks Chronicle, a recipe shared by Christy Ryan, of Rolla:

Bow Tie Pasta with Chicken and Colorful Fontina Cheese Sauce


Bow Tie Pasta (Farfalle), 1 bag (usually 1 lb., uncooked)
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, 1 package (usually 4-6 breasts)
Red Onion, Small, 1 each
Butter, as needed
White Wine, optional 2 cups
Farm Fresh Heavy Cream, 3 cups
Fontina Cheese, cubed, 1 cup
Red Peppers, medium 4 each
Green Peppers, medium, 4 each
Olive Oil, as needed
White Pepper, To Taste
Salt, To Taste
Parmesan Cheese, To Taste


1. Clean peppers and cut length wise into small thin strips. Set aside
2. Dice your red onion and set aside
3. Clean the chicken breasts and cut all the way through, as if you would butterfly them.
4. In a large pan add some olive oil and a little butter and get the pan hot.
5. Sautee the chicken breasts in the pan getting a nice golden brown color on both sides. Be sure to cook all the way through.
6. Once the chicken is cooked, cut it into strips and set aside. DO NOT GET RID OF THE PAN!!! It has a lot of good juice and flavor called Fond that we will use for the sauce.
7. Get a large pot of hot water on the stove to get ready for your pasta.
8. Take the pan that you cooked the chicken in and dump the left over oil, but do not wipe out the pan. Just get the excess oil out.
9. Take the pan and add a small amount of butter and get it hot and then add your red onion.
10. Cook out the onion a little and then add 1 cup of white wine to the hot pan. Be sure the scrap the bottom of the pan to get the entire flavor from it.
***If you do not want to use wine you can substitute with chicken broth and still have a tasty sauce!!
11. Add the heavy cream to the pan and let it reduce a little by letting it simmer.
12. Throw your pasta in the pot to cook!!
13. Once the heavy cream has reduced some add the Fontina cheese.
14. Continually stir the sauce until it is smooth. If you find your sauce a little thick you can add some more white wine to it or some chicken broth.
15. Add salt and white pepper to the sauce if you find it needs some seasoning.
16. Once the sauce is too your liking, put the chicken and peppers in and stir them up to get them hot.
17. Put your pasta in a large bowl.
18. Spoon the sauce over the pasta for a beautiful presentation.
19. Shave some Parmesan on top for a little added touch!
20. Serve and enjoy!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

January Gardening Calendar

Christmas is over, so now our attention turns to gardening. We've already received some seed catalogs. Particularly impressive was the printed catalog from our friend Jere Gettle at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. That's an Ozarks company and it has grown tremendously since young Jere founded it about 10 years ago.

We're working on garden planning and seed ordering now. How about you?

Here, from the University of Missouri, is the January Gardening Calendar.


• Weeks 1-2: Quarantine new gift plants to be sure they do not harbor any insect pests.

• Weeks 2-4: Amaryllis aftercare: Remove spent flower after blooming. Set the plant in a bright sunny

window to allow the leaves to fully develop. Keep the soil evenly moist, not soggy. Fertilize occasionally

with a general purpose houseplant formulation.

All month

To clean heavily encrusted clay pots, scrub them with a steel wool pad after they have soaked overnight in a solution consisting of one gallon of water, and one cup each of white vinegar and household beach.

Some plants are sensitive to the fluorine and chlorine in tap water. Water containers should stand overnight to allow these gases to dissipate before using on plants.

Wash the dust off of house plant leaves on a regular basis. This allows the leaves to gather light more efficiently and will result in better growth.

Set the pots of humidity-loving house plants on trays filled with pebbles and water. Pots should sit on the pebbles, not in the water.

Allow tap water to warm to room temperature before using on houseplants.

Fluffy, white mealy bugs on house plants are easily killed by touching them with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol.

Insecticidal soap sprays can be safely applied to most house plants for the control of many insect pests.


Weeks 2-3: Sow pansy seeds indoors now.

All month

Gently brush off heavy snows from tree and shrub branches.

Limbs damaged by ice or snow should be pruned off promptly to prevent bark from tearing.

Check stored summer bulbs such as dahlias, cannas and gladiolus to be sure they are not rotting or drying out.

To reduce injury, allow ice to melt naturally from plants. Attempting to remove ice may damage plants further.

Use sand, bird seed, sawdust or vermiculite to gain traction on icy paths. Avoid salt or ice melters as these may injure plants.

Make an inventory of the plants in your home landscape. Note their location and past performance. Plan changes on paper now.


Week 1: If you didn’t get your bulbs planted before the ground froze, plant them immediately in individual peat pots and place the pots in flats. Set them outside where it is cold and bury the bulbs under thick blankets of leaves. Transplant them into the garden any time weather permits

Weeks 1-2: Seed and nursery catalogs arrive. While reviewing garden catalogs, look for plants with improved insect, disease and drought-tolerance.

Weeks 1-2: Old Christmas trees can be recycled outdoors as a feeding station for birds. String garlands of peanuts, popcorn, cranberries, fruits and suet through their boughs.

All month

Avoid foot traffic on frozen lawns as this may injure turf grasses.

Make a resolution to keep records of your garden this year.

Store wood ashes in sealed, fireproof containers. Apply a dusting around lilacs, baby’s breath, asters, lilies and roses in spring. Do not apply to acid-loving plants. Excess ashes may be composted.

Check all fruit trees for evidence of rodent injury to bark. Use baits or traps where necessary.

Cakes of suet hung in trees will attract insect-hunting woodpeckers to your garden.

Brightly colored paints applied to the handles of tools will make them easier to locate in the garden.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

By Franklin Graham

An angel joyously proclaimed to the shepherds, "There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11, NKJV).

I love the word savior. If God sent a Savior, someone must have needed saving from something. An angel explained that to Joseph in a dream. The angel told Joseph that the baby to be born was conceived not by natural means, but by the Holy Spirit, and that "He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).

The world and all its people are infected with sin. We have absolutely no way on our own to escape judgment for sin. But the wonder of Christmas is that "the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world" (I John 4:14). Not just as a savior, but the Savior. "There is no savior besides Me" (Hosea 13:4).

At the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, our one purpose is to tell lost people everyone, every day, about the "Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas memories

I did a search on "Ozarks Christmas" and came up with this compilation of memories of long ago. I enjoyed it and think you will, too, so click and read. Here's a brief excerpt, but I recommend clicking and reading the whole essay (note: UU stands for "unmarried uncle"):

At some point before Christmas Eve, a UU would cut a table-sized cedar, we'd wedge it on the table with the battery-powered radio and granny would pull out ornaments and icicles from a cedar chest. A floor-sized tree was impractical, what with grandchildren, grandchildren's kittens, the UU's hunting dogs that managed to sneak in occasionally to enjoy the heat, grandpa's patients and whatever children they brought along.

Christmas supper was varied: if a UU had had the time to hunt between going to school and farming, there might be raccoon or squirrel. If all else failed, granny could sacrifice a beloved leghorn for chicken and dumplings. And of course there were always the many kinds of pickles made and canned all summer, along with the canned green beans and corn and peas and maybe topped off with a blackberry pie or cobbler from the previous summer's gathering and canning. When the last patient had left we hauled out our gifts, and waited while granny wrapped the last of hers in last year's paper stored in a cedar chest. Grandpa was easy to shop for; he got a big long box of Star plug tobacco, without which he couldn't survive. Granny was equally easy; whatever she was given was much too valuable to be used, so she put it away in a cedar chest. Gifts were opened one at a time and suitably admired, with the recipient very carefully smoothing out the paper and giving it to granny for her collection.

Granny might play a few carols on the out-of-tune upright and we'd sing along, just as out of tune. The youngest UU would play "Silent Night" on his trumpet. By that time it was nearly midnight. Granny put the sadd irons on the living room woodstove for a good warming, wrapped them in old towels and we all hurried to bed with nice warm irons at our feet. We went to bed by twos and threes. We were better off than most and kept two coal oil lanterns burning-one for the living room, the other for grandpa's office, or kitchen meals, or lighting some group to bed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More farmers markets; more money made

There were more farmers markets in Missouri this year, and overall they made more moeny, according to a report from KSMU public radio in Springfield. Here are excerpts from that report:

According to the MO Dept. of Agriculture, profits at farmers markets in the state rose nearly 20% in 2008. Donald Bauer, president of the Greater Springfield Farmers Market, says, for a very fickle year, vendors did well.

"Spring was so wet. People couldn't plant on time, and the fuel combined with the fuel cost and problem kept people from traveling including our vendors. It still turned out to be a good year, a decent year."

According to Bauer, there wasn’t necessarily an increase in customers, but the demographics changed somewhat.

"More younger people. I don't know that we saw increased traffic, per se, but a different, a more diverse demographic, and that was encouraging."

According to the MO Department of Agriculture, 17 new farmers markets registered in the state this year. Bauer says that’s encouraging.

We have two farmers markets each Saturday in Rolla and one on Tuesday.

These are good places to find fresh, homegrown vegetables if you don't have a garden. They'll start reopening across the Ozarks in April, so keep watch in your community and support local growers.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Missouri falls behind in population growth

There's some good news today--at least, it's good news in my viewpoint. Missouri has lost ranking in population. Now, we keep gaining population, don't misunderstand me; but, we aren't gaining people as rapidly as other states.

So maybe our farmland and hunting lands aren't being depleted as rapidly as elsewhere.

The Kansas City Business Journal reported this morning:

Kansas and Missouri each have fallen a notch in the rankings of states by population since the 2000 census, according to estimates released Monday.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Missouri’s population as of July 1 at 5.911 million, up nearly 315,000 or 5.6 percent from April 1, 2000. Missouri now ranks as the 18th most populous state, down one spot from the last census.

The percentage growth in both states lagged the nation’s 8 percent increase in population from 2000 to 2008. Nevada had the largest percentage increase in population during the period, at 30.1 percent.

Texas showed the biggest population increase during the period in terms of numbers, gaining more than 3.475 million. Texas and California each recorded population increases from 2000 to 2008 exceeding Kansas’ total population.

So the Califoreigners and the Florimmigrants are choosing Texas and other states over Missouri. Thank goodness! That's great news. Here's a link to the Census Bureau spreadsheet on state population, so you can check your own state.--RDH

Weather and birds

The temperature was missing when I got up this morning. By that I mean it was null, void, zero on my front porch. The digital readout actually said -0.2.

The sun is out and it is no warmer. What happened to that global warming the Democrats were talking about? I'm going to have to do a little internet research on that deal. I was counting on global warming to get me through my old age.

The birds are congregating at my seed and suet feeders. There's a beautiful cardinal on the black sunflower seed feeder right outside my window, and he is eating as fast as he can. I'm going to have to bundle up, go outside and replenish those feeders. I see one safflower seed feeder was emptied yesterday.

If you're not feeding the birds, you should. They can use the help during this cold weather. My wife and I enjoy the birds so we feed year-round and watch them. They're highly entertaining.

That cardinal in the morning sunlight is gorgeous. The Lord did a good job in that design; well, the Lord did a good job in all His designs (except for snakes). Now a tufted titmouse has landed on the feeder with him. Whoops, the cardinal just ran the titmouse away.

I'm going to have to get out there and get some more seed to them. I also need to put some water in the birdbath, although it won't be any time at all before it's frozen. Still, they need water, so maybe they can get to it quick before it freezes.--RDH

Keep an eye open for the Red-tailed hawk

By Lorraine McFarland
Past President
Ozark Rivers Audubon

Each December when my husband and I head out to visit the relatives in Oklahoma City for the holidays, we enjoy what we have dubbed the “holiday hawk count”. The open fields along I-44, especially in Oklahoma, are always graced by many Red-tailed hawks, Buteo jamaicensis, regally perched in bare trees on the roadside, keeping an eye out for any little creature in the field. My husband keeps watch on the driver’s side (very carefully, since he is the driver) while I watch on the passenger’s side. But the hawks can probably see us better than we can see them. Their eyes are almost the size of ours and their vision is 8 times more powerful than humans! Their ability to judge distance is also very good. Most raptors have bony projections above the eyes that shade them from the glare of the sun and protect the eyes in the struggle of the kill or while flying through trees and brush in pursuit. This bone structure is what gives them their ferocious look.
Buteos are bulky hawks with broad wings. The tail is spread fan-like when the bird soars. They are often seen perched on dead trees, power poles or fence posts. The Red-tailed hawk, our most common and widespread buteo, is 18-25” in length with a wingspread of 48-58”. Field marks for identification include a dark band of streaks across the pale belly and the red tail. The red-tail’s familiar cry of “kee-eeeer” is a favorite of Hollywood, often used inappropriately to represent any bird of prey.
Red-tail parents are monogamous and share nest-building duties, using sticks and twigs to fashion a large platform with a wide view, usually in the crotch of a tall tree. In Missouri they prefer mixed forest with open fields interspersed. The interior of the nest is lined with evergreens and fresh deciduous leaves. If you find a nest and monitor it you will see that the birds are diligent about decorating. The greenery will be replaced over the nesting season as it browns. The female will usually lay 2-3 eggs in mid-March and will do most of the incubating for 30-35 days. The babies are semialtricial (immobile, downy, eyes open, fed by parents) at hatch and remain in the nest for about 45 days.
Buteos, including red-tails, have many adaptations to help them stay well fed, not the least of which are their powerful, sharp talons; actually more formidable than their beaks. The feet are used for defense and to kill prey, the beak is used for tearing flesh. Although their favorite food is small mammals, they also eat other birds, reptiles and insects. They use a “swoop” foraging behavior, gliding smoothly and quietly from their perch with wings spread and snatching prey with their powerful talons.
So the next time you are traveling west on I-44 keep your eyes peeled because the Red-tailed hawks will be in the trees and on the fence posts with their eyes peeled too, preparing to swoop!

Lorraine McFarland is past president of Ozark Rivers Chapter of the National Audubon Society.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weather report

When I got up at 6 this morning, the thermometer was measuring 1 degree on my front porch, while the weather service out at the Rolla airport was measuring 2 degrees, according to the internet.

Now here at 9:30, I'm getting ready to go to Sunday School and the sun is out giving us 5 degrees both on my front porch and at the airport.

I wonder what the newcomers to the Ozarks, especially the Califoreigners and the Florimmigrants, think of this part of the country now?

Sunday sermon

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter chores plentiful if you have fruit trees

By Patrick Byers
University Extension

My idea of a good way to spend a cold winter afternoon is curling up with the latest nursery catalogs, sipping a hot mug of spiced cider and enjoying strawberry jam on warm muffins.

However, these delicious fruit products do remind me that there are winter chores to be done in the home fruit planting. Besides, what better activity is there to shake off cabin fever?

An important winter chore in the home fruit planting is dormant season pruning.

Apples, pears, and grapes may be pruned before January 1, but wait until February to prune stone fruits. Fall bearing raspberries may be mowed in late February. Other brambles and gooseberries may be pruned after the first of the year.

Specific information on pruning can be found in MU Extension guides available at the nearest MU Extension center or online at extension.missouri.edu.

Winter and early spring are also good times to repair and maintain the various structures associated with home fruit production.

Rotted or broken trellis posts should be replaced. Repair and tighten sagging or broken wires. Damaged stakes should be replaced. Repaint signs and other wooden structures such as arbors, gazebos, tables, and seats. Cold frames should be made ready for the spring. Check the sides of planters or raised beds for signs of damage.

Organic fertilizers should be applied in fall or early winter to allow for decomposition before spring.

Organic matter tends to tie up nitrogen as it breaks down, leading to temporary nutritional problems. This problem can be avoided if sufficient time is allowed for the material to break down before plants start growth in the spring.

Mulches for winter protection of strawberries should be applied after the soil is cold, usually after December 1. Be sure to replace any mulch that the wind has removed from strawberry beds.

Rodents can feed on fruit plants in the winter and cause extensive damage or plant death. Plastic, wire, or paper protectors may be placed on the trunks of young trees.

A general cleanup of brush, weeds, and debris will make the planting less attractive to rodents. Do not place mulches, which provide cover for pests, close to trunks or stems. Cats, traps, and baits are other ways of reducing rodent damage.

Pest control is another winter chore. Remove the egg cases of tent caterpillars during pruning. Prune out and destroy any diseased or dead plant parts such as cankers, fireblight strikes, and fruit mummies.

Dormant season pesticide applications are an important part of pest management. Dormant oil sprays are effective controls for mites, scales, and other insects. Dormant season fungicides are important in controlling several fruit diseases. Be sure to follow all label directions.

For more information, consult the "Home Fruit Spray Schedules" available from MU Extension.

Winter chores set the stage for a bountiful harvest the following season.

For more information on home fruit production, contact MU Extension Horticulture Specialist Patrick Byers at the Greene County Extension Center in Springfield at (417) 862-9284.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What are frankincense and myrrh?

The Bible says wise men travelled from afar to visit the young Jesus, and they brought him gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

Frankincense and myrrh are both sweet smelling gum resins -- dried tree sap -- that come from trees of the genus Boswellia (frankincense) and Commiphora (myrhh), at the time of Christ, grew in Arabia, India, Somalia and Ethiopia.

The way that people collect the sap is similar to the way people collect rubber-tree sap or pine-tree sap. Cutting the tree's bark causes the sap to ooze out of the cut. The sap used to create both frankincense and myrrh comes slowly and is allowed to dry on the tree. The hardened sap is collected and used as frankincense and myrrh.

Tradition says that frankincense was presented to the Christ Child by Balthasar, a black king from Ethiopia or Saba. The frankincense trade was at its height during the days of the Roman Empire. At that time this resin was considered as valuable as gems or precious metals. The Romans burned frankincense on their altars and at cremations.

Both in the time of the wise men and today, frankincense and myrrh are commonly used to create incense. You mix frankincense with things like spices, seeds and roots to create different aromas. Traditionally, you burn the powdered incense with charcoal in a censer or on a small stand.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas at Camp Rolla, 1861

The railroad had been laid to Rolla when the War Between the States began. The Union army moved in and took over the place because of the importance of controlling the railroad.
Here's an excerpt from a soldier's diary:

Until two weeks before Christmas the weather was relatively mild, but now the cold set in and two to three feet of snow covered the ground. We could not stand it any more in our tents. We four tent mates decided to build for ourselves a better house. Three fellows went into the nearby woods and felled trees which they carried to the building site. In the meantime, I quarried stones for our fireplace and in five days we had a spacious warm house. The walls were daubed with clay and the roof was covered with corn stalks and made so tight that it did not rain through. Others followed our example and soon threw up a new town which we called Camp Fremont. We celebrated Christmas in style. One of our housemates was a St. Louisian. His folks sent him a few flasks of wine, a small keg of the best beer, fifty cigars, a few packages of tobacco, sausages, ham, cheese, and other delicacies.

From “The Civil War Diary of John T. Buegel, Union Soldier”

Missouri Historical Review, July 1946

Cited by John Bradbury in Newsletter of the Phelps County Historical Society, January 1985

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Northern Flicker is a handsome woodpecker

By Lorraine McFarland
Past President
Ozark Rivers Audubon

Recently I had a call from someone asking me to identify a bird based on his verbal description. Often when this happens the description is much too general for me to be able to come up with a confident answer – I usually ask the caller to e-mail me a photo.

This time there was no need for a photo and I was glad because my ego suffers a little when I have to say, “I don’t know!” The bird was our very distinctive and recognizable Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus, a member of the woodpecker family. The caller was surprised to learn it was a woodpecker, because, unlike its relatives, this bird forages most often on the ground, where it finds the ants that it favors.

We have many colorful and entertaining woodpeckers here in the Ozarks but this one is very handsome! Northern Flickers (NOFL) are about 12 inches bill tip to tail tip. The brown back and wings have black bars and the lighter-colored breast and belly have obvious black spots. Also obvious is the black crescent on the breast. In flight the rump is bright white and the undersides of the wings and tail are either yellow or red.

The male of the yellow-shafted race has a black “mustache”; the male of the red-shafted race has a red one. Both sexes of the yellow-shafted race have a red crescent on the nape of the neck. Wouldn’t it be nice if all birds were so easy to identify! The song is a loud wick-wick-wick-wick or fast flicka-flicka-flicka-flicka. You can hear it on line at http://www.all-birds.com/Flicker.htm .

Courtship for these birds is a raucous affair with 3 or more birds of both sexes calling, drumming, chasing, and flashing those colorful wings and tails. NOFLs are not efficient as others in the woodpecker family when it comes to carpentry and it takes a pair 1 to 2 weeks to excavate a nest cavity in a tree or post. Some will nest in Bank Swallow cavities or even in haystacks or nest boxes.

NOFLs will often return to the same nest location year after year. A clutch consists of 5-8 eggs that will hatch in 11-14 days, and the young will leave the nest about 25-28 days later. Both parents tend to the young throughout the breeding season.

Flickers hang around the Ozarks year-round, so if you see a large, colorful bird drilling the ground with its powerful beak, you can bet it is a Northern Flicker.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is intelligence declining with each generation?

By R.D. Hohenfeldt
Managing Editor, Ozarks Almanac

The screen at the do-it-yourself checkout lane at Wal-Mart beeped at me one afternoon and informed me I'd have to have some help from someone in authority. All I had done was scan a spray can of polyurethane that I was going to use to seal a bird feeder.

"What did this thing beep for?" I asked the woman who showed up to fix the machine so I could scan some more purchases. "It's just a can of spray paint."

"Well," she said. "Young people buy this stuff and sniff it, so I have to monitor it."

"They sniff spray paint?" I said. "Are young people stupider nowadays?"

"Yes, sir, they are," the clerk said, knowing that the customer is always right.

I told my wife what had happened when I got home, and she told me to make sure the spray nozzle was on the can. She know something I didn't, which is that stores often remove the nozzles of spray paint so kids can't come in the store and sniff the paint.

You know, it's a dadburn shame that stupid kids make shopping inconvenient for those of us who are older, smarter and wiser.

It's sad to note that these little paint-sniffing peckerwoods are going to grow up to drive, vote and pass their genetic material on to the next generation.

Monday, December 15, 2008

From Our Kitchen to Yours

By Delaine Litman-Hohenfeldt


Christmas is the time of year for making recipes that are traditional family favorites and for trying recipes shared by friends.

Here are three recipes that have been highlights on our family table for generations.

I hope you will enjoy making one or more of them this holiday season.


I normally do not like fruit in Jello, but this is YUMMY! Kids love it too. It makes a nice presentation on the Christmas table since it is really red!


2 cans (20-oz. each) dark pitted cherries - Drain cherries and reserve juice.

1 package (3-oz.) cherry Jello gelatin

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese - soften to room temperature

1 can (20-oz.) crushed pineapple

1 cup Coca-Cola

1/2 cup chopped pecans


Boil juice from cherries.

Dissolve Jello in juice.

Blend cream cheese with small amount of the Jello mixture until creamy.

Gradually add all of the Jello mix to the cream cheese, stirring to prevent lumps.

Add pineapple, juice and all.

Stir in cherries, Coke and nuts.

Pour into oiled 6-cup mold.

Let cool, then refrigerate at least 2 hours or until set.

Serves 4 to 6.


This pecan pie alternative is a long-time family favorite. Making it is a snap since you do not have to bother with making crust.


3 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup white sugar

20 Ritz crackers, crushed fine with rolling pin

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup chopped pecans


1/2 pint whipping cream

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup pecans, chopped


Beat egg whites well with cream of tartar.

Add white sugar.

While beating, fold in crushed Ritz crackers, 3/4 cup pecans and vanilla.

Mix well.

Pour into well-greased pan (9 inch or 2 small aluminum).

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

While pie bakes, mix whipping cream and brown sugar together well and chill for topping.

Before serving, place a dollop of topping on each slice of pie and sprinkle with pecans.


This crunch-topped casserole is so much better than the old marshmallow topped candied sweet potatoes. It is good to take to covered dish dinners too since it does not have liquid to spill.


* 5 medium sized sweet potatoes

* 1/4 teaspoon salt

* 1/4 cup butter

* 2 eggs

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

* 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

* 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

* 1/2 cup white sugar

* 2 tablespoons heavy cream

* 1/4 cup butter, softened

* 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

* 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

* 1/2 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Bake sweet potatoes 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until they begin to soften.

Cool slightly, peel, and mash.

In a large bowl, mix the mashed sweet potatoes, salt, 1/4 cup butter, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, sugar, and heavy cream.

Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup butter, flour, brown sugar, and chopped pecans.

Mix with a pastry blender or your fingers to the consistency of course meal.

Sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture.

Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until topping is crisp and lightly browned.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

You'd better get down on your knees and pray

By R.D. Hohenfeldt
Managing Editor, Ozarks Almanac

Hard times are coming. In fact, they're here for a lot of people. Well, listen, you may think you've got it rough now, but just wait, according to this forecast by a guy who is allegedly one of the top economic forecasters in the country. Here's what he says:

America's most prescient trend forecaster, Gerald Celente, has a grim forecast for America's future. He predicts a complete collapse in the economy sparking squatter rebellions, food riots, tax rebellions, job marches, and unparalleled social upheaval in a mere four years. By December 2012 the consumer Christmas will be a memory only and getting enough food will be top of people's minds rather than buying presents. He says the precipitous slide the USA has entered over the last few years will culminate with America plunging to the status of an undeveloped nation.

Are you ready if this happens? You'd better get down on your knees and pray, plant a garden and learn to hunt and fish.

Oh, and also start reading the New Testament.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Scientist teaches students to think as astrophysicists

By R.D. Hohenfeldt

Managing Editor, Ozarks Almanac

For many of us, the only time we think about the stars is at Christmas when we hear sermons that include the story of the Star of Bethlehem.

Dr. John L. Schmitt thinks about stars every day.

“I’m the astronomer for the university,” says Dr. Schmitt, associate professor of physics at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla.

He also is the director of the MST Observatory, teaches two astronomy classes and their companion labs and conducts research in cloud physics.

Astronomy is far more than stargazing, as the students in Physics 9, the introductory course, soon find out.

“Some students are disappointed to find out that they aren’t going to learn all the signs of the zodiac and the constellations in the first two weeks of classes,” Dr. Schmitt laughs.

Moreover, the students in Physics 10, the lab that goes with the introductory course, don’t use the observatory. Instead, they use computer simulations as they become well-grounded in the mathematics, physical chemistry and forces of the heavenly bodies.

“When you talk about astronomy here, you’re really talking about astrophysics,” Dr. Schmitt says. “General Physics 9 could be called Astrophysics 101, because we’re interested in how things work.”

The advanced class, Physics 305, “is an entirely different animal,” he says. Students in that class need a solid background in higher mathematics, because one of their requirements is to construct a numerical model of a star.

Advanced students use the MST Observatory’s 16-inch telescope for some of their assignments and research.

“We ask a lot of questions about temperature and structure of a star—what happens to it, where did it come from, where is it going,” he says. “We study nuclear reactions because you don’t have a star without nuclear reactions.”

Dr. Schmitt acknowledges that the MST Observatory is in a less-than-ideal location.

“Viewing would be better 10 miles south of town, but the university built an observatory so it can be used,” he says. “That’s why it was decided to put the observatory on campus.”

The observatory is also used by the public, in addition to students.

“We’ve had school children and church groups ask to visit it,” Dr. Schmitt says. “We have Visitors Nights every semester.”

It was a university observatory that piqued Dr. Schmitt’s interest in astronomy (or astrophysics).

“I was a student at Michigan Tech, which was like this campus. It was the school of mines up there. Missouri has lead; Michigan has copper.”

As an undergraduate in, Schmitt had the opportunity to spend a summer at the observatory of the University of Michigan.

“It was a very good observatory,” Schmitt says. “It had the largest spectrograph in the world. That summer included work in optics, which I like, so it looked like a very good area to get into.”

Schmitt earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Michigan in 1968 and came to MST in 1974.

Although he is an astronomer or astrophysicist, Dr. Schmitt’s research has been closer to the earth. He conducts experiments and investigations into cloud physics, studying how pure vapor condenses into drops of liquid.

“I build cloud chambers,” he says. Those chambers allow physicists to simulate clouds and study their structure and changes.

It’s evident that physics includes a wide range of study and research, and Dr. Schmitt says a student who earns a bachelor’s degree in physics at Missouri S&T is well-prepared for a number of careers, including continuing study in astrophysics.

“You need to go on to a good grad school to be an astrophysicist,” he says, and MST has a cooperative arrangement with the University of Missouri-St. Louis for graduate students wanting to focus on astronomy or astrophysics.

Dr. Schmitt works with CERN, the world’s largest particle physics lab, which is located outside Geneva on the border between Switzerland and France. CERN is a French acronym, and the lab is the European organization for nuclear research, looking at cosmic rays, clouds and climate.

The Star of Bethlehem

Because he is a scientist who has a worldwide reputation in physics, Dr. Schmitt keeps his faith and his scientific research separate.

There have been several theories advanced by scientists, historians and theologians, who say The Star of Bethlehem could have been a comet, an alignment of planets or a miracle.

Dr. Schmitt says the book The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi has “one of the best-supported arguments I’ve read.”

In that book, Michael R. Molnar, who earned a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin in 1971, advances the theory that The Star of Bethlehem was the planet Jupiter as it was eclipsed by the Moon during its move through the constellation of Aries, the zodiacal sign associated with the Jews.

Molnar says an eclipse of Jupiter occurred on April 17 of 6 B.C. when the planet, or star as ancient stargazers would have thought of it, was “in the east.” Jupiter then slowly moved across the night sky until Aug. 23 when it became stationary and “went before,” or through Aries where it became stationary again or “stood over” on Dec. 19, 6 B.C.

This, Molnar says, explains why King Herod and the people of Jerusalem did not see the Star. They weren’t astrologers. Modern astronomers also don’t see anything unusual about the movement of Jupiter, “but for ancient stargazers this configuration was truly awesome,” Molnar writes.

Dr. Schmitt says Molnar’s book, published by Rutgers University Press, can be taken seriously by scientists because it is backed up with scientific evidence.

“Evidence, we deal with evidence,” Dr. Schmitt says of science. “Simply saying, I think it’s this way, or I believe it is this way, is not enough. You have to have evidence to back up what you say. And that evidence is examined by everybody.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Are poinsettias poisonous?

Probably no other houseplant has been tested for toxicity as much as the poinsettia.

All research results have found all parts of the poinsettia to be non-toxic when ingested. Even so, it is still widely believed that ingestion of the plant is poisonous.

Research conducted by Ohio State University and POISINDEX (for the U.S. Poison Control Centers) found that a fifty-pound child would have to eat more than 500 poinsettia leaves to exceed the experimental doses found to be toxic.

While poinsettias may not be toxic, mistletoe berries and holly berries are toxic and should be avoided when small children or pets are around.--Delaine Litman-Hohenfeldt

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Early Ozarks settlers gathered ferns for Chistmas decorations

By Dr. Lynda Richards

Christmas fern is a wild native Ozarks plant, growing best on north-facing slopes and other shady sheltered sites. Anyone who spends time in the woods has probably seen Christmas fern. It looks like a modest relative of the fluffy Boston fern on a stand in Grandma’s parlor, in an east window with lace curtains. But Christmas fern is no escapee from the parlor or immigrant from another continent, it’s right at home in woodlands throughout eastern USA.
Each leaf or frond is a foot or more long, with a stem and several dozen pairs of 2-inch-long leaflets. The fronds start out upright, then arch outwards, and end the season lying more or less on the ground, but still bright green. Certain fronds (so-called “fertile” fronds) bear millions of rusty-colored spores on the undersides of the terminal leaflets.
Christmas fern was named by early European settlers who gathered the green fronds for Christmas decorations. In the dead of winter, there wasn’t much else green. It seems strange to us now, since lots of us grew up with cedar trees for Christmas trees. But as a real old-timer will tell you, cedar trees were not always as common as they are today. In fact, before the 1930’s cedars were rare in the Ozarks, mostly confined to rocky bluffs where fires could not reach them. So for Christmas greens, settlers made do with what they could find, and making fern garlands and wreaths for the mantle and doorways.
Ferns, like mosses, liverworts, and lichens, are non-flowering plants. Instead of flowers and seeds, ferns reproduce by tiny spores which are transported by wind and/or water. In ages long past, ferns and their relatives were the dominant plants on earth. When they died off, their carbon-containing stems and leaves, buried under water and mud, became the coal that helps power our industrial age.
The scientific name of Christmas fern is one of those that give scientific names a bad name. Polystichum acrostichoides doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Fortunately scientific names can be “sounded out” as we were instructed to do as children, and every syllable is sounded.
In springtime, new fern fronds emerge as “fiddleheads” from the perennial root at the base of the old leaves. Whitetail deer like to eat these fiddleheads. And they can be collected and steamed like asparagus. The Christmas fern was also used medicinally. Most of the references are for treating rheumatism.
Any time of year, Christmas fern is nice to see—the spring fiddleheads, the summer and fall leafy fronds in the dappled shade, and especially the welcome and promising spots of green on the drab winter forest floor.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nutritious, easy-to-cook winter squash

By David Burton
University Extension

Winter squash can add to the nutritional value of any meal. However, many people do not purchase them because they don’t know how to prepare them according to Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

Some of the more common winter squash include acorn, buttercup, butternut, calabaza, delicate, Hubbard, spaghetti, sweet dumpling and Terk’s Turban.

“When purchasing, look for a squash that is firm and intact. It should also be heavy for its size with a dull-colored skin. A dull-colored skin indicates the squash was picked when it was fully ripe. A shiny winter squash can be an indicator that it will have less flavor,” said Roberts.

To cook winter squash, cut the squash in two and place it cut side down on a shallow baking dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or longer. It is done when it is fork tender. After it cools, spoon out the soft flesh and mash with a fork or use a blender or food processor to make a squash puree.

Small winter squash can be pierced several times with a fork or other sharp instrument and baked whole. Piercing prevents the shell from bursting during cooking. Place the pierced squash on an oven-safe dish and bake at 325 degrees for 1.5 to two hours. Test for doneness by squeezing the shell. When it gives with pressure, it is done.

“Any type of mashed or pureed squash can be used in the place of canned pumpkin in soups, pies, cookies or quick breads,” said Roberts.

Chunks of squash can be added to soups, stews and casseroles. Winter squash can also be mixed with onions, garlic and herbs as a side dish or mixed with other vegetables such as corn, tomatoes and bell pepper for a tasty dish.

According to Roberts, winter squash are a good source of potassium and vitamin A. They also contain vitamin C, folic acid, pantothenic acid and copper. One-half cup of cooked squash provides only 40 calories.
“Go ahead and buy a winter squash next time you hit the produce aisle. It will last for over a month on your kitchen counter as you decide how you would like to prepare it. If you store it in a cool place away from light, it can last up to six months,” said Roberts.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cold weather's here, have you weatherized?

By David Burton
University Extension

Bob Schultheis, natural resource engineering specialist, University of Missouri Extension, offers these top ten quick payback tips for colder weather:

1.Insulate older water heaters and set back the thermostat to 135 degrees. Cost of the insulation will be paid back in 4 to 8 months.

2.Caulk all outside joints where dissimilar materials meet, like where wood meets masonry and where pipes go through concrete. Use acrylic latex tube caulk for joints one-quarter inch wide or less, and use oakum, expandable foam or other filler material plus tube caulk for joints wider than one-quarter inch.

3.Weatherstrip exterior door and window gaps to reduce heat loss. A one-eighth inch wide gap around a door is the same as a six-inch diameter hole through it. Install foam gaskets under electrical outlet plates on exterior walls and put plastic plugs in unused sockets to reduce cold air invasion.

4.Add attic insulation if it is now less than six inches thick. If it's over six inches thick, insulating the floor and underfloor water pipes pays back quicker. Minimum insulation levels for Missouri homes are R-30 in the ceilings, and R-19 in floors and walls.

5.Install interior storm window kits on single-pane windows.

6.Put tight-fitting doors on fireplaces to slow heat loss. Don't use an open fireplace if you're serious about heating the house. Give your furnace its annual tune-up.

7.Use south-facing windows to passively collect solar heat during daytime. Close drapes at night to retain heat in the house.

8.Keep lights clean for maximum illumination. Shut them off when not in use.

9.Wear clothing in layers. Then set back the house thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. Do reading, TV viewing, etc., near heat sources and away from cold windows and outside walls. Locate furnishings for active functions, such as eating and playing, away from direct heat sources.

10.Involve the whole family in your energy management program to assure success.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Put your faith into Someone eternal

NPR'sMorning Edition, which I listen to on KMST in Rolla, had an interesting story about the burst of the housing market bubble. Lots of people have lost and are continuing to lose money in that fiasco. NPR's David Kastenbaum asked "Where did the money go?" and got a couple of experts to help him explain. You can read about it by clicking here. There's also a way to listen to the report.
What I found especially interesting was this passage (the boldfaced type is mine):

The financial world was particularly vulnerable to the drop in housing prices because of something that doesn't show up in our little game. That something is a factor economists call "leverage." Remember, we borrow money to buy houses. Lenders count on us to pay off our mortgages. The property serves as collateral, to back up the loan. When the bubble burst, that property was suddenly worth less than the amount of the loan — the backup failed.
But why can't we all just go back to believing the houses are worth more? Wouldn't that actually increase their value?
(Russ) Roberts, the economist in the group, is skeptical. "Isn't that how we got into this problem to start with?" he asks. "We all kind of pretended these prices were going to go up and up and up. And that encouraged a whole set of behavior that turned out to be dysfunctional.
"You know, it's a funny thing," he continues. "When the bubble pops, everybody says, 'Where did the money go?' ... It didn't come from anywhere other than the belief that [prices were] going to keep going up. And when that belief didn't turn out to be true, the prices came down to their original level. So in that sense, there was no harm done. The problem was a lot of people made bets along the way. And when those bets didn't pay out, the ramifications of all that money not getting paid out like it was promised to be turned out to be very destructive."
In other words, the market was built on faith--misplaced faith it turns out. Now why is it that people are so eager to put their faith into property or material goods, but not in the Lord Jesus Christ?

He is far more worthy of your belief, faith and trust than anything or anyone else. Don't take my word for it, though, for I'm just a dumb old country boy from the Ozarks. Do your own investigation by reading the Bible and looking into the Resurrection.