How dry we are _ I'm thirsty just thinking about the wicking, howling winds we had last week and no moisture in the form of rain or snow for a long time. Be sure to get the hoses out on an above-freezing day and give things a deep watering.
Christmas tree bucket — After I wrote about the benefit of an official Christmas tree stand last week (my tree is now safely ensconced in one), I heard from Judy Young with a warm — and helpful — Christmas memory:
"When I was little ... we sat our tree in a galvanized bucket. Pieces of broken bricks were kept from year to year to set down in the bottom so as to leave space for the trunk to nestle in between so the trunk did not touch the bottom or a brick so it could easily drink ... and yet give the trunk the support it needed to stay upright. We then filled the bucket with sand then added water just to cover the sand.... Our house always smelled soooooooo good. Plus the gingerbread that was often in the oven."
Of radishes and the hottest of peppers — Winter may have arrived with some pretty intense cold, but the harvest of the past season keeps showing up at my doorstep. First I received e-mails from Jim and Becky Denning of their enormous fall radish harvest — 359 pounds from their backyard. Then Jack Rea brought me not one but a whole bagful of the hottest pepper: the Naga jolokia, aka ghost pepper, hailing from India. On the Internet I'm reading that the Scoville heat level for this pepper has tested out variously at 850,000 and 1,041,427 Scoville units, as compared to 100,000 to 350,000 for a Scotch bonnet. Such peppers are not meant to be eaten, surely.
I can feel the waves of heat from the peppers moving through my nose and tickling my skin and eyebrows even though they're all sealed up in plastic on my desk.
Not quite sure what to do with this "gift," other than just breathe it in. That alone will probably keep me from getting any colds this winter.
Cold potatoes — Remember playing Hot Potato? How about eating cold potato? Well, it's best not to. Potatoes stored below 40 degrees have the advantages of not sprouting and of remaining firm for a long time, but their starches can convert to sugars, giving the tubers an undesirably sweet taste, Ward Upham of K-State says. Luckily the condition is reversible.
"Placing potatoes at room temperature for two to three days will allow sugars to be converted back to starches and remove the objectionable taste," Upham says.
Botanica alight for Christmas — The meadow light and sound display has been expanded this year at Botanica during Illuminations, the annual holiday event that continues today and next Friday and Saturday. In addition to seeing the gardens alight, you can have a chance to win prizes for a $1 donation to Botanica, shop at the gift shop, buy gift memberships, buy fresh greenery arrangements from the gardens for $5 to $30, shop for poinsettias and other Christmas plants from Dutch's Greenhouse, visit Santa, and enjoy warm drinks and holiday treats. Tickets are $7 for adults ($6 for Botanica members) and $3 for children ages 2 to 12. They can be purchased in advance at all area QuikTrip stores or at Botanica. Members must buy their tickets at Botanica to receive their discount.
Spaghetti With Santa — Botanica is having a new event this year, Spaghetti With Santa. It will include dinner with Santa and Mrs. Claus, festive stories of the season, decorating a sugar cookie for dessert and seeing the lights of Illuminations. The cost is $12 for adults ($10 for Botanica members) and $7 for youth ($5 for Botanica members). The event will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday. To reserve a spot, call Botanica at 316-264-0448.
Last night for arboretum Luminary Walk _ Tonight is the last chance to catch Dyck Arboretum of the Plains' Luminary Walk in Hesston. The gardens will be aglow with real candles along the paths and thousands of electric lights. The walk is from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and also features s'mores around the bonfire, refreshments inside and making free take-home gifts from nature for children and adults. The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for students, $2.50 for children, and free for children 4 and under.
K-State offering British garden tour _ Kansas State University is taking reservations for a May 16-30 garden trip to England. Stops will include the Royal Horticulture Society's flagship gardens and new, huge three-climate-zone glasshouse in Wisley, the Chelsea Flower Show, and more than a dozen renowned gardens in England and Wales, just as they reach the peak of spring bloom.
Stu Warren, head of K-State's horticulture department, will be one of the tour's two faculty guides.
Participants can reserve a spot with a $1,000 deposit, refundable (less a $20 handling fee) until Feb. 17, 2011. The total registration fee is $4,500 per person, due that same day. The trip brochure is online at www.dce.k-state.edu/conf/gardens.