It's February and hearts are abound. They have been hung in windows, on walls and plastered on bags of candy. Not real ones though, that would be gross and messy, just imagine the liability. As we well know, the hearts that seem persistently in our line of vision this time of year bear very little resemblance to our actual hearts. So, why has the ubiquitous “heart shape” become the symbol of Valentine’s Day and our preferred representation of love itself? Turns out we’re as unsure about the origins of the ideograph as you are about your upcoming blind date.
Sultry Sex Symbol?
This plant was mostly used as a seasoning but was reputed to have another use as a contraceptive. Yep, ancient Greeks and Romans seasoned their food with birth control, but don’t go looking for it to sprinkle on your Valentine’s Day surf and turf. This plant was so popular that it is now extinct.
Expression of Religious Love?
The origin story that really takes the cake (or chocolates if you will) by way of likelihood is that the heart shape we hold so close to our, uh, hearts exists solely because some medieval scientist or philosopher guessed wrong. Our ancient ancestors started performing autopsies as far back as 367 BC and scientific research of the human anatomy continued for a few hundred years. However, research stopped around 200 AD and didn't start again until 1091, leaving a gap of about a thousand years in our knowledge of the human body.
Sex symbol? Expression of religious love? Debunked science? When we get to the heart of it, does it really matter? Let’s just be glad that we have love to express and a universal method of expressing it. Happy Valentines Day!
Researched and written by Victoria Buckwash
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Ah, winter! There is an undeniable charm to be found in the beauty of ice. Icicles hanging from trees, frosted grass in the morning sun, frozen ponds, lakes, and waterfalls, even frozen castles. Ice in your pipes, however, is the antithesis of charming.
The most noticeable sign of a frozen pipe is a lack of water flow. You turn on the faucet or flush the toilet and it becomes immediately clear that something is missing. Other signs include bulging of the pipe, frost on the pipe, or even an odor coming from the faucet.
What to do About It
First thing to do is find the freeze; use the signs above to locate the culprit. If you notice evidence of damage to the pipe proceed no further without shutting off the water supply to that pipe or the entire house, you might even want to just give your plumber a call at this point. If there is damage, most of the mess is going to be the result of the thawing process. If there is no damage to the pipes, leaving the water on while you thaw can actually help move things along.
Next you’ll want to open the faucet before you start. Thawing the freeze is going to result in steam and water, meaning more pressure. Leaving the faucet opens gives this pressure an outlet and prevents a potential burst.
Now you can start thawing your pipes. Always work your way from the open faucet down to prevent a buildup of pressure. Failing to start from the faucet can lead to a burst pipe! The method you use is mostly going to be decided by where the freeze is located and how accessible it is. An exposed pipe can be pretty easy to tend to. Firstly, NEVER use an open flame to thaw your pipes, this is a fire hazard that can lead to more damage than it’s worth.
One of the easiest ways to solve your problem is a hair dryer, simply point it at the freeze and wait. A portable space heater or heating lamp will also do the trick in most instances. Same concept as the hair dryer, point it in the direction of the freeze and wait for the magic to happen. Wrapping the frozen pipe in hot towels is a slower method but can also be effective. Lastly, for accessible pipes, you can wrap them in electrical heating tape. The most convenient part of heating tape is that it can be left on the pipes and plugged in as needed, making it not only an effective way to thaw your pipes, but also an effective way to prevent a future freeze.
What if the Frozen Pipe is not Accessible?
If you cannot physically access your frozen pipe, not all hope is lost, but it does prevent you from seeing if the pipes have sustained any damage prior to starting the thawing process. What you do next is going to be determined by your comfort level. One thing you can do to thaw a pipe you can't get to is crank up the heat. If you know the location of the freeze, you can also try directing an infrared lamp at the wall behind which the pipe is located. Another DIY option for an inaccessible pipe is to make it accessible. If you have the know how, cut out the section of drywall between you and the freeze then use your desired method. Of course, never do something outside of your comfort zone and call a plumber instead.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” - Ben Franklin
If you would simply prefer to circumvent the entire thawing process your best bet is to do everything you can to prevent your pipes from catching a chill in the first place. If you have exposed, uninsulated pipes the temperature only needs to drop to 20 degrees Fahrenheit to run the risk of freezing. Keep your garage door closed and your cabinets open. If your garage houses water lines it is best to keep the door closed as often as possible. Conversely, leaving open the cabinets inside your home that house pipes will help keep them warm. Make sure your home is properly insulated, especially the basement, the attic, and crawl spaces. You can also insulate the pipes themselves. Check for cracks in the walls where pipes live and repair them right away. On the coldest nights, allow your faucets to drip cold water. Just the tiniest bit of water flow will do volumes to keep everything from freezing over. If you’re concerned about your water bill, bear in mind that the damage caused by a burst pipe can easily surpass $5,000 dollars, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. As warm weather comes to a close, be sure to drain and shut off outdoor water lines as well.
In most aspects of home ownership prevention is your best measure. It also wouldn't hurt to check with your insurance company to verify what your policy covers. Some policies will only cover the damage to the pipes and not the water damage cause by the resulting leak. Often times you will find that you are only covered if it is clear you did everything in your power to prevent the catastrophe in the first place.
Protect your pipes, protect your home, and try to stay warm this winter!
Written and Researched by Victoria Buckwash
We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth. It was told to us countless times in grade school as we sat at our desks and drew hand turkeys with crayons, and topped them with little pilgrim hats and feathers. However, what's more interesting than Thanksgiving’s sordid past is the history surrounding the dishes that make up our November feast. This post-harvest celebration is stuffed with more traditions than the turkey itself. Did you ever stop to ask yourself where all these delectable dishes came from, aside from the oven? Have you pondered the origin of your pumpkin pie as you piled it high with whipped cream? Well, even if you didn’t you’re going to know by the end of this article. Come the holiday you can be the savviest person at the table as you drizzle information over everyone’s meal in lieu of gravy. Just kidding, don’t skip the gravy.
These Turkeys Were Made for Walking
If we are going to expound upon the origins of some of Thanksgivings most popular dishes we may as well start with the main course; the turkey. Brined, fried, baked, or tofu, just about everyone has this 11 million year old bird at the center of their Thanksgiving table. It is Turkey Day after all. But, why is it the main course you ask? The answer is simpler than you would expect. Essentially it bakes down to convenience. Wild turkeys are native to North America. When Europeans first made contact with the Americas it is estimated that some 10 million turkeys were roaming the land. As settlers began raising their own livestock, cows and goats were kept for their milk and not often eaten. Chickens were kept for their eggs and also not often eaten. Pigs were the primary meat source of colonial Americans but if you’re throwing a party you don’t want to eat what you already eat on a regular basis. Enter the turkey, delicious and not really good for much else than eating, and one bird could easily feed an entire family.
In 1863 Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. By this time novelized images of the turkey as the main course had spread nationwide. The toughest part of meeting the growing demand for turkeys on this day was getting the turkeys to the people. Before refrigerated trains and trucks the only way to get them there was to take them for a walk. A very slow, long walk over several hundred miles. Vermont turkeys were marched to Boston, Kentucky and Tennessee turkeys were marked to Richmond. Turkeys dont really have a driving sense of urgency by nature, or maybe they knew they were on their death march, whatever the case, the average pace of a turkey walk was about one mile per hour. To make matters worse turkeys aren't very bright. As the sun sets, they will roost for the night in bushes and trees. The problem with this is that often times the turkeys would confuse an overcast sky, or especially shady woods with night fall and would prematurely settle down to roost. Once they decided they were done for the day “nothing would induce them to continue the march to the slaughtering pens.” Drovers would often travel miles out of their way to avoid densely shaded woods in hopes of keeping their turkeys moving. “Turkey Trots”, as they were called in Texas, remained the norm up until the 1930’s when commercialized farming and more efficient means of transportation arose.
Pumpion to Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkins have been cultivated in Central America since 5500 BC. The first known mention of Pumpkins in Europe dates back to 1536. The squash quickly took its place in English baking culture, but you're not very likely to find the custard based pumpkin pie we serve at Thanksgiving on an English dinner table. Pumpion pie, was made with pumpkins and apples, baked with rosemary, thyme, marjoram ( a type of mint), cinnamon, cloves and other spices. Early colonists brought pumpkins back with them on the Mayflower, but a lack of ovens and flower meant that it would still be some time until pumpkin pie as we know it became a popular dish. In 1796 American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons, was published. It was the first cookbook to be published here and it contains two recipes for pumpkin pie, one very similar to what we serve up today.
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Tex or Mex? How did it get here?
Trying to glean the origins of one of America’s favorite dishes mostly felt like swimming circles in a bowl of spices, meat, tomatoes, and obscure history. Though written record of the phrase “chile con carne” doesn't actually crop up until the early 1800’s, it is popularly believed that chili has been served in what is now Texas for a few hundred years before that time. But where did it come from? One thing we can be sure of is that it didn't come from Mexico. In the search for chili’s origins an account from a Spanish Conquistador in 1568 was suspected to be a potential source of chili. He wrote that unlucky Spaniards who were caught by the Aztecs ended up sacrificed, butchered and stewed along with tomatoes and chilies. It is unlikely however, that this dish resembles what we know as chili.
We do know that chili is not Tex-Mex, it's mostly just Tex and, actually, not at all Mex.
Most of us here in the North East think of chili as a cold weather dish, warm and spicy, the perfect pick me up for our winter blues; the weather turns and one of the first things we do is make an enormous pot of chili which we freeze and use to sustain ourselves for much of the cold season. However, the common consensus is that the foundations for chili as we know it were brought over from The Canary Islands, a subtropical chain of islands that rarely sees temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Under the control of Spain in the 1700’s, people of the Canary Islands were recruited to move to the part of New Spain that is now San Antonio, Texas bringing this spicy, cumin filled dish with them.
Divine Intervention? Or Chili Queens?
As far as written documentation of chili goes, the most reliable accounts of chili being served speaks of the “Chili Queens” of the Military Plaza Mercado. They made their stew at home and sold it out of colorful carts to everyone from soldiers to tourists in the 1800’s. They became a staple of the Alamo City. It was considered the end of an era when most of the “Chili Queens” were put out of business in 1937 due to their inability to keep up with new sanitary standards enforced in restaurants.
Halloween, A Brief but Ancient History
The fun, sugar filled holiday that we celebrate today has ancient origins. It began with the Celts, a people who lived in what is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Northern France 2,000 years ago. The Celts celebrated their New Year on November 1st. This new year marked the end of summer and harvest and the start of cold, dark winter, a time often associated with death. During this time it was believed that the boundaries separating the world of the living and the world of the dead became blurred allowing spirits and ghosts to return to earth. On October 31st, their New Years Eve, the Celts celebrated Samhain (pronounced sow-in), a fire festival. To ward off evil spirits that may do them harm, they lit massive bonfires, made sacrifices to their deities in the form of crops and animals, and donned costumes in hopes of fooling said spirits. Druids and priests sought to channel these forces to make predictions and seek guidance from their gods to help get them through the winter. When the festival was over they re-lit their hearths with this sacred fire for protection throughout the winter.
Did you know?
Upwards of 165,000 white blazes mark the way along an approximately 2,190 mile trail that most Central Pennsylvanians know quite well. The Appalachian Trail. It takes about 165 days to complete; an average of 5 million steps. Almost 500,000 of those steps are through Pennsylvania.
229 Miles Through PA
The Appalachian Trail enters Pennsylvania in Waynesboro, near Franklin County, and travels 229 miles to The Delaware Water Gap where it enters New Jersey. It is the 4th longest section of the trail. The difficulty ratings in our state range from 1-9, 10 being the hardest. The elevation ranges from 320’ to 2080’ above sea level. It passes through Caledonia State Park, Michaux State Forest, Pine Grove Furnace State Park, and St. Anthony's Wilderness.
Since the dawn of mankind, we’ve been kinda obsessed with apples. For tens of thousands of years apples have been a large part of our diets and our cultures. Blamed for the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, credited as the source of immortality by the Norse Gods, reproved as the cause of the Trojan war, and an all around great way to get drunk in America since the settlement of Jamestown; as it turns out, apples and people go together like, well, apple butter and smearcase for instance.
Apples, A Brief History
Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Yeah, if that name were Apple Pie. Apples are a member of the rose family. DNA analysis shows that apples originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan, where the great ancestor of today’s domesticated apple still grows. How we went from that sour, practically inedible apple to the shiny Red Delicious we know so well is a long history of finely tuned cultivation and cultural impact. Apples express extreme heterozygosity, in short, the apples grown from a seedling won't be anything like its parents. Reproducing a particular variety of apple requires a process called grafting.