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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kumquats Revisited

Back in March, I wrote a blog post about kumquats in response to a question from a Meebo patron. That question was about the number of kumquats exported from Hawaii each year. Now, I have a new question from a patron who just wants to know more about this interesting little fruit.

Kumquat plants have evergreen leaves, sweet-scented white flowers, and small, orange-yellow edible fruits which are eaten fresh or in preserve are native to East Asia, probably originating in China, and are closely related to the orange and other citrus fruits. About the size of large olives or small plums, they have a bright orange-yellow color. They also have a round or oval shape.  Actually, they look a lot like tiny oranges, but their taste can range from sweet to mildly acidic. They are harvested beginning in November and have the ability to bloom several times in a season.

Kumquats, also called kinkan, can be eaten in a variety of ways. They can be cooked, candied, canned, made into preserves, and used in salads. The most common way to eat them, though, is to simply eat them whole and raw, even the peel, which is sweet. Three or four types of them are cultivated as house and hedge plants in the Gulf Coast states and in California.



Friday, May 27, 2011

Garden Pests? Try Chili Peppers!

Last year, my dad had a problem with deer and rabbits eating the squash, tomatoes, and other vegetables in his garden. To combat the problem this year, he built a wire fence around his crops. His vegetables are starting to sprout, and so far, he’s been successful at keeping the critters out. But if Bugs and Bambi somehow find a way through my dad’s vegetable garden defense perimeter, I have another possible solution for him to try: chili peppers!

Apparently, they work for farmers in certain parts of Africa. Farmers there have been in an ongoing battle with elephants, which have been known to graze on farm crops. I guess it’s pretty obvious that the farmers don’t appreciate this too much, so they’ve fought back by using chili peppers. Why chili peppers? Elephants (and other animals) don’t like the smell or spicy taste of the peppers, so they stay away. Among the chili weapons farmers use are chili fences, fences that are covered in chili-infused grease, and chili dung briquettes to keep elephants away from their crops. To make the briquettes, farmers mix crushed chili with animal dung and then ignite the resulting “bomb”, which releases an aroma that would probably keep anything with a nose away.

Okay, so maybe the chili dung bomb is a little extreme for a residential vegetable garden, but using chili peppers as a way to protect crops works. It’s been so effective that groups like the Elephant Pepper Development Trust have sprouted and are actively encouraging and enabling African farmers to join the chili pepper bandwagon. According to Loki Osborn, who is involved with EPDT, the chili pepper defense method has reduced crop losses due to animal raids by at least 90 percent. And it definitely beats alternative methods, which may result in injury to the elephants, farmers, or both. Not too shabby for an ingredient that can be found in kitchen cupboards around the world.

Sources:
news.nationalgeographic.com
www.elephantpepper.org
www.elephantpepper.com

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Hunger for Books, A Passion for Libraries

Kira-Kira. Did you read it? (If you haven't, we have it here at MLC, ready and waiting!) It came out back in 2004 and subsequently won the coveted Newbery Medal in 2005. I cried when I read it (a sure sign of a good book, right?) I've been perusing one of our new books, In the Words of the Winners, which includes the speeches for the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals from 2001-2010. Cynthia Kadohata, author of Kira-Kira, gave a speech that, when I read it, nearly slapped me in the face. She talks about a love for reading as a child:
When either second or third grade - I forget which - was coming to an end, I had fallen in love with the reader we used in school. I told my parents that I would not return the book. I loved it too much. I cried. I ranted. I raged. I wanted that book. Finally my parents decided that my mother, who'd taken typing in high school and owned an old manual typewriter she practiced on, should type up the book before we returned it. I still remember the Xs all over her typing errors.
Do you remember those books as a child? The ones you didn't want to return to the public or school library? The ones that you didn't want to end? That burning hunger for books is born young, and I had it. I dreamt up new adventures for book characters that didn't have sequels. I shirked homework and stayed up late in order to read "just one more page." My parents encouraged my reading (and made me finish my homework.) This is one of the ways they did it:
Our parents could not have afforded to buy us all the books we read as children. Our parents walked across the doorway of that first library holding our hands because they knew our futures resided in that building, as I believe the futures of my son and indeed all Americans reside in those buildings. Libraries fed our passion as children, and feed it still.
Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Dad. Thank you, all the authors of books I devoured as a child. And thank you, libraries.

Association for Library Service to Children. In the Words of the Winners. Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 2011. Print.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Veep Of All Trades

In 1927, Charles G. Dawes was the vice-president of the United States. (That's the man there on the right.) Now, Dawes made many great contributions to society in the first half of the twentieth century, none of which should be degraded. (Brigadier General-yessir! Nobel Peace Prize-indeed! Vice President, Banker, Ambassador, Author, etc..., etc...) In that vein, you really ought to skip on over here to read more about Charles Dawes's life. I, however, am going to regale you with one or two of the more interesting incidents.

While flipping through Deep'n as it Come: The 1927 Mississippi River Flood, I came across a fascinating picture and blurb:



This train was travelling from Greenville, MS on July 28, 1927. Flood waters had damaged the trestles and tracks; when the train tried to negotiate them, it plunged into a bayou near Head, MS. Thankfully, it was only travelling at 5 mph. Vice President Dawes was sleeping in the last car (in the picture) to remain entirely on the ground. An engineer was killed instantly, but Dawes slept through the entire incident. I guess he was exhausted, having given a speech in Greenville the night before.

My other choice nugget involving Mr. Vice President, Charles Gates Dawes? This politician had the ultimate one-hit wonder which he titled Melody in A Major. He played it for a friend, the friend showed it to a publisher, and Dawes's ditty was an instant hit. Forty years later, the tune was reinvented with lyrics by Carl Sigman, who called it It's All in the Game. Since then, it has been covered by Tommy Edwards (who made it a #1 song on Billboard), The Four Tops, Van Morrison, and more. You can listen to Tommy Edwards's version here.

Doesn't that just go to show that there's more to a book than its cover?

Charles G. Dawes - Biography". Nobelprize.org. 17 May 2011 http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1925/dawes.html
Daniel, Pete. Deep'n as it Come: The 1927 Mississippi River Flood. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. Print.
Kauffman, Bill. "The Melodious Veep." American Enterprise 15.4 (2004): 47. MAGNOLIA. Web. 17 May 2011.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Olé, Ole Miss!

The University of Mississippi is called simply Ole Miss nine times out of ten. A lot of out-of-state people call her Old Miss, but we know that isn't right. It's Ole. Last night, we were asked about books that would address the question "Where did the nickname Ole Miss come from?" I assumed that it was a typical Southernism--an elided consonant here, a shortened word there--and, voila! Easy Peasy.
Ah, not so fast! I checked out a few of our books here at the Mississippi Library Commission and found a few interesting nuggets. In The University of Mississippi: A Sesquicentennial History, David G. Sansing writes:
In 1897, the Greek societies established a college yearbook, which they titled Ole Miss, a name suggested by Elma Meek, a student from Oxford. The term "Ole Miss" was a title domestic slaves in the Old South used to distinguish the mistress of the plantation house from the young misses of the family. The first volume of the yearbook was dedicated to the University Greys, and within two years students and alumni were referring to the University of Mississippi as Ole Miss.
It seems that The University of Mississippi viewed itself as the college in the state. By the way, this book is available at Eudora Welty Library (part of the Jackson/Hinds Library System) and the Mississippi Library Commission.