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Country Cousin

Fimbulwinter...

Hi Folks!

Never mind the snow. Never mind the cold. Spring is coming. The calendar says so. In less than a month it will be here.

Meanwhile, Easter is coming too. Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent for most Christians, is on Wednesday, March 5.

In New Orleans they’ll be celebrating the Mardi Gras this week. In Rio de Janeiro they’ll be reveling in Carnivale. And we’ll be here, shivering in the cold!

We set the clocks ahead on the night of Saturday, March 8, for the start of Daylight Savings Time the next day. That means we lose an hour of sleep, but we gain an hour of daylight each evening. Of course early risers may find getting up on cold mornings a lot harder when it’s still dark outside.

EASTER DATES

Incidentally, Easter comes this year on Sunday, April 20, awfully close to the latest possible date, which is April 25.

For the first time in nearly 100 years Easter came at its almost earliest on Sunday, March 23, 2008. The last time Easter Sunday fell on March 23 was in 1913. The next time Easter occurs on March 23 will not be until 2160, and a March 22 Easter will not happen until the year 2285.

The Easter date is set around the time of the vernal, or spring, equinox, when the length of day and night is nearly equal in every part of the world. This happens twice a year, around March 21 and Sept. 23, which is known as the autumnal equinox.

Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts that do not fall on a fixed date. Some of these holidays include Palm Sunday, Holy or Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Ascension Day and Pentecost, which is also called Whitsunday.

Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred around the time of the Jewish Passover, which was celebrated on the first full moon following the vernal equinox. Early sources showed that Christians around the world began celebrating Easter on different dates. At the end of the second century, some churches celebrated Easter on the day of the Passover, while others celebrated it on the following Sunday.

In 325 AD the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox (the first day of spring), which generally is about March 21, but this year falls on March 20. Easter is delayed one week if the full moon is on Sunday, which decreases the chances of it falling on the same day as the Jewish Passover. The full moon closest to Easter this year is on Sunday, March 16.

GIVE IT UP

We should be thinking this week about what we plan to give up for Lent, or what special things we can add to our lives to prepare ourselves for the joy of Easter - and incidentally get ourselves ready for the trip to eternity that every one of us will take some day.

Will you pray more often? Give more to the poor? Fast, as Christ did on his 40 days in the desert? Go to church more often - and really pray when you get there? Spend time with a lonely neighbor just because you care?

Give up a favorite treat - candy, alcohol, soda pop, whatever?

Will you observe meatless Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent.

And will you remember you are doing these things to please God, to improve the quality of your immortal soul? Lenten sacrifices only count if you are doing them for you and God, not to impress a spouse, a pastor, a friend or a parent. If you can’t seem to get the right attitude, pray that you will have a change of heart.

God always answers our prayers you know. Sometimes we don’t like His answer, but He always has a reason. We just need to accept that. And when we ask Him what to do, we really need to listen for the answer.

ON THE SOAP BOX

BAN WOOD HEAT?


While we’re shivering from the cold, our pocketbooks are suffering from the propane shortage and other high energy costs, and the State of Wisconsin is urging folks to apply for energy assistance rather than risk their lives by using other ways to keep warm, some of those geniuses in the EPA are at it again!

What is their problem???

Apparently there never can be enough regulations to satisfy the EPA. They’ve proposed some new rules cutting the allowable emissions from new wood burners by an estimated 80 percent, and giving manufacturers five years to meet the new standards. The existing rules have been in place since 1988 and apparently do not apply to all the wood burning stoves now in use.

Some manufacturers say there is not a stove in the United States that can pass the test right now, and others say the new rules would cause higher production costs that would either force them out of business or raise prices so high that many consumers could no longer afford to buy their products.

Scientists have confirmed that wood ash (and one assumes the smoke) has an alkaline content that reverses the acid exhaled by gas-powered vehicles, so it seems reasonable that the smoke is actually beneficial to the environment.

And as we, who actually live and work in the woods, know, wood comes from trees which are a renewable resource that can last indefinitely as long as we plant as many as we harvest each year.

So you have to wonder who is behind this latest push, and why? Could there be some big money interests eager to have all of us more dependent on their products?

To be fair to the EPA, this may not be all their fault. Seven states - chiefly New York State- have filed a lawsuit that seeks to compel the EPA to adopt new emission limits on wood-fired boilers, which heat water that then is piped into home radiator systems.

The EPA has scheduled a public hearing Wednesday, March 5 in Boston on the proposed new rules. Naturally, Boston, a big city where no one heats with wood. Good choice!

Meanwhile, Missouri has come out strongly against the new rules, so strongly that more than three dozen legislators there co-sponsored a bill that declares, “All Missourians have a right to heat their homes and businesses using wood-burning furnaces, stoves, fireplaces and heaters,” and a Missouri House committee endorsed a proposal that would ban state environmental officials from regulating residential wood heaters unless authorized by the legislature.

Think it’s time to write our legislators?

We could use a law like that!

GROWIN’ THINGS

EARLY MARCH OR APRIL


It may still be slightly early, but very soon now consider potting up tender bulbs like tuberous begonias, caladiums, dahlias, and canna lilies in well-drained soil rich in organic matter and get them growing for the summer we hope will come.

If you have been storing geraniums in cool, dark conditions, it’s time to pot them up, cut them back and start watering again. Geraniums and coleus that you have kept growing indoors through the winter should be cut back to only a few buds to stimulate new growth and produce a fuller plant by the time summer arrives.

“FIMBULWINTER”

Have sometimes mentioned that Norse mythology includes a prediction about a winter when Spring never comes, but never knew it had a name. It does. Learned recently that the “Fimbulwinter” has its roots in Scandinavian mythology, and is used in those countries today to describe an unusually cold and harsh winter. Means the “great” or “awful” winter.

In Norse mythology and Asatru, “Fimbulwinter,” three successive winters with no intervening summer, is the immediate prelude to the end of the world, “Ragnarok.”

Wonder if this could be it for us?

Anyway, looked up this information because a friendly reader named Sabin H. Rosenbaum (address unknown) sent an e-mail the other day. Rosenbaum, who describes himself as a historian at heart, wrote: “Thought you might like some additional information on the Norse folk-tradition “Fimbulwinter.” I once came across a paper by a Scandinavian scholar who suggested that, while later tradition puts Fimbulwinter at some undetermined date in the future, the earliest references speak of it in past tense, as if it already happened. There are some academics who suggest this legend is based in part on the so-called “climactic event of A.D. 535-6.”

For anyone who wants to learn more, he said there is a book, “The Years Without Summer: Tracing AD 536 and Its Aftermath” by Joel Gunn. “The author is a fine chap with whom I have exchanged letters many times, and though the book is a bit scholarly, it is worth a read. Can you imagine winter lasting for three years as it may have in the Scandinavian countries? Burrr!!”

Yes, indeed, my friend, Mr. Rosenbaum. Thank you for writing, and thanks for a brand new word and new things to think about.

ICE AGE?

Incidentally, Wikipedia agrees the years 535-6 were extremely cold, but adds “There have also been several popular ideas about whether or not this particular piece of mythology has a connection to the climate change that occurred in the Nordic countries at the end of the Nordic Bronze Age dating from about 650 BC. Before this climate change, the Nordic countries were considerably warmer.”

Wikipedia doesn’t mention that before the Bronze Age was the Ice Age, when things were considerably colder. Obviously there was a bit of global warming going on in the interim. No cars or industrial smokestacks to blame that on! So what caused it? Maybe the cycles of nature, created by God, for purposes we puny humans still do not understand?

COOKIN’ TIME

Time to think Lent and meatless meals, but we do need to eat. Thank goodness it is no longer like it was in the old days in some countries when they couldn’t have meat, eggs, milk or cheese for all of Lent. That’s why pancakes were eaten on Shrove Tuesday - to use up all the things they couldn’t enjoy for a while.

LENTEN PRETZELS

Soft pretzels are traditional Lenten fare of ancient origin. Early Christians made the bread from flour, salt and water only, shaping it to represent the folded arms in prayer, just as they are made to this day. The German tribes who invaded Rome called the bracell “brezel’” or “prezel”. Pretzels are traditionally eaten throughout Lent, and in some places are especially associated with Saint Joseph’s Day , which is March 19. Funny, isn’t it, that we have major celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day and St. Valentine’s Day, and hardly observe St. Joseph’s Day at all? And he was the one who cared for Mary and Jesus through the tough years in Bethlehem and Egypt and then got them safely back home. Anyway in some parts of central and eastern Europe, they make a point of eating the soft pretzels in his honor. They’re not very hard to make and definitely are a treat to eat.

SOFT PRETZELS

This recipe makes a chewy soft pretzel, like those the hot pretzel vendors sell. They aren’t quite the traditional recipe because they do contain a little butter and sugar. But they are good, contain no meat, and go very well with Cream of Tomato Soup. Or just about anything else.

In a large bowl mix:

1 cup warm water

1 package (1 1/2 T) active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

Add and beat at least 3 minutes:

1 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour

2 tablespoon soft butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

Stir in 1 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour and knead until the dough loses its stickiness. Let the dough rise in a covered greased bowl until it is doubled in bulk. This is called “proofing” the dough. Punch down and divide it into 12 pieces. Sprinkle some flour on a large table or pastry cloth. Then, using your hands, roll each piece into a long rope and form it into a pretzel shape. (This is a lot like the way kids play with clay.) Place the pretzels on a greased baking sheet and let them rise until almost doubled in bulk. The length of time depends on how warm the room is, but probably about half an hour.) Preheat oven to 475F.

In a large non aluminum kettle, prepare a solution of

4 cups water

5 teaspoons baking soda

Once this gets to boiling merrily use a slotted spoon to carefully lower each pretzel into the water. Boil about 1 minute or until they float to the top. Return them to the greased sheet. Sprinkle them with coarse salt. Fresh ground sea salt or Kosher salt is good.) Bake the pretzels until they are nicely browned, about 10-12 minutes. Pretzels are best when eaten while still warm, but they may be stored in an air tight container for up to a week, or frozen. (Makes twelve 6-inch pretzels).

SRIRACHA BUTTERED SHRIMP

Sriracha Sauce is the latest flavor craze. Look for it at the supermarket. It’s hot, but not too hot. Mixes well with sour cream for a dip, or try this fantastic shrimp recipe. Serve these on Ash Wednesday and going meatless will be no sacrifice at all! Not much work, either. If you want a real feast, as in company’s coming, serve with baked potatoes and buttered broccoli.

2 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons Sriracha

3 cloves minced garlic

1 pound head-on shrimp (Just shells and tails on is okay

too)

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons minced fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried

Melt butter in skillet. Stir in Sriracha until it sizzles. Add minced garlic, stir around a bit and toss in shrimp. Cook about five minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque all the way through. Just before they’re done, add lemon zest, mint and basil and cook until the herbs wilt.

SHROVE TUESDAY PANCAKES

“Shrive” means to confess all sins and have them forgiven. Past tense means you’ve done that, so you can truly enjoy the pre-Lent pancakes. This is a recipe from England, where they are said to be mightily enjoyed. They are thin and delicate, more like a crepe than our idea of a pancake, but very good.

1 cup flour

2 large eggs

Pinch salt

2 teaspoons melted butter plus extra for cooking

2 1/2 cups milk

2 teaspoons melted butter

More melted butter for cooking

Frying pan the size your pancake will be

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. Beat well until smooth and lump free. Add half the milk and the two teaspoons butter and beat well again. Add the remaining milk and stir. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes. Lightly grease the frying pan with some of the butter and swirl it around so the entire bottom is buttered. Heat until very hot, add a spoonful of batter and swirl pan so the batter evenly and thinly coats the base of the pan. Cook until set and lightly golden. Turn and let the other side cook for approximately 30 seconds. Slip pancake from the pan onto a warm plate, cover with a napkin and keep warm while you fry the next pancake. Do this until all the batter is used or you have as many pancakes as you want, adding a bit of butter each time. On Pancake Day in England these are traditionally served sprinkled with sugar and a squeeze of lemon. However, they are good also with jam, maple syrup, honey or whatever, just as regular pancakes. They also work well folded over any crepe filling.

Thought For The Week: William Arthur Ward once said, “Flying off the handle sometimes causes hammers and humans to lose their heads, as well as their effectiveness.” I’d rather not lose mine. Lord, let me control my temper. Let me never open my mouth in thoughtless anger to say words that wound deep but cure nothing. But if anger is justified, help me handle it cooly, wisely and well. Amen.

(This column is written by Shirley Prudhomme of Crivitz. Views expressed are her own and are in no way intended to be an official statement of the opinions of Peshtigo Times editors and publishers. She may be contacted by phone at 715-927-5034 or by e-mail to shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo. com.)

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