12/20/2009

Global Warmer


I'm pretty sure all those folks who refuse to believe global warming is happening, are not gardeners. My belief is, if you have a connection to plants, soil, seasons - a garden - then you can't help but notice the way the climate has changed. I'll grant, maybe there's an outside chance, that some of the changes can be attributed to a cycle, a thousand years of this or that, heating up or cooling down. The earth's been through that before, but even if that's so, it's serious and we have some input as humans. There's too much evidence to be ignored and it may not be too late to fix it. I believe in cause and effect. If you burn down the rain forest, kill the animals and trees, suck all the oil out of the earth and turn it into smog, burn up billions of tires a year, and pollute everything in sight, there will be a result. I've gardened in this exact same spot for the past 30 years and I've seen some rather significant changes.


When I started gardening here, May 1, 1979, there were no nine-banded armadillos in my garden. There were none closer than half a state away in Arkansas, to the south. (I live right on the line that divides Missouri from Arkansas, in the Ozarks mountains). In 1991, I saw my first armadillo in my yard and even though the Missouri Department of  Conservation said it wasn't possible, it was, and soon people were seeing armadillos digging up their yards and gardens all over the Ozarks. Since that time, armadillos have moved northward the entire length of the state of Missouri, and are now seen in Des Moines, Iowa, several hundred miles away, according to friends there). Global warming, or just adventurous armadillos?

When I first arrived here, figs were impossible to grow. Now I grow two varieties quite successfully, along with muscadines, which also shouldn't be growing here. And this year there were reports of fire ants being discovered in the Bootheel of Missouri. Those nasty little ants' bites are hard on livestock and humans. We've long had bans on nursery stock being shipped into our state from other places which have fire ants, requiring that the soil of the plants be treated first. Evidently the little pests hid in hay and now that the climate is warmer, they're on the heels of the armadillos and are pioneering new settlements northward into an area they've not been seen before.

In all my years of tromping the woods and forests of the Ozarks I have never once seen mistletoe growing. In my knowledge, the nearest sightings of this hemiparasitic plant (that means it attaches itself to a tree branch and lives there, partially dependent on the tree, but not totally, for its survival) was about an hour's drive to the south. But lo and behold, right there in a couple of oak trees about 4 miles from my farm, there's a little colony of mistletoe alive and thriving.

You'll remember that mistletoe is poison (unlike poinettias, the other plant associated with Christmas, which aren't poison). At least the European variety is poison, although I don't know anyone who's actually eaten any of our dozen or so varieties of American mistletoe. Phoradendron flavescens. It has traditionally been used for medicinal purposes under controlled conditions. Birds eat the berries, especially cedar waxwings and cardinals, and that's the way the plant spreads, through bird droppings, dropped on high tree branches. (The name, mistletoe, apparently springs from two Anglo-Saxon words, "mistel" for dung, and "tan" for branch; "mistletan" is Old English for mistletoe). In California, the Extension Service puts out bulletins showing how to eradicate mistletoe from the landscape, while the state of Oklahoma declared it the official flower.


Tradition holds that when a man and woman find themselves accidentally under a sprig of mistletoe, hung in the house at Christmas, they must kiss. The tradition comes from Celtic rituals and Norse mythology. In Gaul, the Druids considered it a sacred plant. Mistletoe is also said to be a sexual symbol, because of the consistency and color of the berry juice as well as the belief that it is an aphrodisiac, the “soul” of the oak from which it grows. Sp here is mistletoe, almost in my backyard. Global warming, or adventurous plants/insects/mammals, you be the judge. The United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Denmark is a beginning in the right direction, but rather timid in its outcome so far. The problems are great, the decisions should be, as well.

Our Friday Night Dinner Group had its annual Christmas gift exchange last night. All of us, 11 in all, are like minded, similar in age, and many in the group either have no other family, or are estranged or distant from them. So we are all our own adopted family and this ritual of silly gifts and a dinner in someone's house, is always looked forward to by us all. The holiday season for many people who are older, is a time of everything from melancholy to downright depression and our little party is meant to bolster all of our spirits. Our night out is our single celebration for the season. We eat and laugh and open presents, some bought, some from last year's gifts, some homemade, then we eat some more.


I was responsible for the appetizers before the main course. I took an assortment of fresh vegetables and dips. Here's the dip I made, from my book, Great Dips, Using Herbs:

Beach Party Shrimp Dip (it works just as well for the holidays)

2 cups cooked, shelled shrimp, finely chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 green onions, diced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, or 1 small, hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon dill pickle, chopped fine
1 tablespoon Dijon or good, brown prepared mustarrd
2 teaspoons, or more, horseradish
2 tablespoons catsup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.

The easy way is to put everything into a food processor and pulse for 3 or 4 times, but you can also chop and dice everything by hand then combine them. Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Serve with fresh vegetables or chips.

Regardless of who you are or where you live, I hope you find peace and happiness. This may not be a holiday season in your country, or it may, either way, consider this, from my little collection of quotes, mine and other people's:

It doesn’t cost anything to love others. Do it freely, love is never wasted, even when it appears it is....Jim Long

4 comments:

Steven Anthony said...

are there still people who dont believe in global warming...do they live in bubbles?


love the dip recipe...thanx;)

Josie said...

Its interesting to hear your observations on how global warming has changed your area. thank you for sharing. its something i think about also.

Jim Long said...

Yes, there still are people who think it's all a big hoax. Sarah Palin for one, and her followers. They see the whole idea as a fast left-wing conspiracy to hurt big business and promote tree-hugging. It's amazing how someone can lead ignorant people with more ignorance.

Anonymous said...

I'm just a few miles south of you in Benton county Ar. We've been here since 1989 & have pretty much had problems with armadillos within a few years after moving here, especially in our woods. I've also noticed the mistletoe growing here & in northeast OK all these years. It's definitely cooler & wetter here now than it was just a few years ago. I've really enjoyed my garden more with rain in the summer where the 15 to 17 yrs here everything was dead by the end of June if we didn't water it. I haven't seen any fire ants though the phone company seems to treat around their equipment for them often enough. It looks like I'm on the opposite side of the fence than you when it comes to global warming.

I'm also new to reading your blog. I think I found you through a link from Larrapin. I'm glad to find a local gardening blog. I like seeing what someone in my area is doing. Jen