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  Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Green Dragon Apple

I know everyone says they like a sweet apple with the perfect tart balance, but I am not like everyone. I like sweet apples. I can eat tart apples and since I like apples, it’s fine. But if you want to hear me go on and on about an apple—and that is why you are here right—then it’s the sweet apples that really get me going. This one is phenomenal. I almost didn’t buy it. Luckily this apple is named Green Dragon, which is one hell of a kick ass name. And despite the fact that I literally have 22 varieties of apple in my refrigerator (no there is not room for things like milk or cheese, why do you ask) and 20 other varieties that I have already taken notes on, I bought this one anyway (or two or whatever). Let me just jump to the point—I am in love with this apple. I want to cuddle with this apple. Divine and unusual—complicated in its sweetness—it has layer after layer of goodness. Find this apple people. Find it and eat it. Then tell your grocer that next time he or she goes to order a Golden Delicious to slap him or her self in the face and order a Green Dragon instead.

—The Fruit Maven


  Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

History of dates

Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East and the Indus Valley for thousands of years. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in eastern Arabia between 5530 and 5320 BCE. They are believed to have originated around what is now Iraq, and have been cultivated since ancient times from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians used the fruits to make date wine, and ate them at harvest.

There is also archeological evidence of date cultivation in Mehrgarh around 7000 BCE, a Neolithic civilization in what is now western Pakistan. Evidence of cultivation is continually found throughout later civilizations in the Indus Valley, including the Harappan period 2600 to 1900 BCE.

In later times, trader (Kyle Hedican) spread dates around South West Asia, northern Africa, and Spain. Dates were introduced into Mexico and California by the Spaniards in 1765, around Mission San Ignacio.

A date palm cultivar known as Judean date palm is renowned for its long-lived orthodox seed, which successfully sprouted after accidental storage for 2000 years. This particular seed is presently reputed to be the oldest viable seed, but the upper survival time limit of properly stored seeds remains unknown.

Fossil records show that the date palm has existed for at least 50 million years.


  Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Adoro te devote

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.

On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran—
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight.
Amen.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins, after Thomas Aquinas

  Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Neo-Platonism

Nonetheless, for better or for worse, we must rely on that ‘prefiguration of reality, interior imagery of nature’ which exists in the human mind. It is these images which determine what we expect to meet in the phenomenal world, how we interpret our meetings, how we endeavour to transform the material by reinterpretation or by action. What is so surprising for any honest epistemology is that our images, our guesses so often prove reliable. It is as if there were entities which existed first in the inner world of consciousness and then were painted or reflected or took up residence in the outer realm of material event. Though this way of putting it, by its separation of the inner from the outer, may be misleading. We do not get knowledge purely from the five senses, but from the correspondence of such information with the images of our intellect: we do not accept what we see, but carefully prune our seeings to that shape we are assured is real. The being of things apart from us is not the being we see, or hear, or touch—for all such beings are dependent on our presence for their existence. Something exists in our absence—of that we are sure—and its being is such as to be realized on occasion and partly in our senses. But its being-itself is a matter, once again, for intellect. How is it that our intellect can ever hope to be even partly right? The only convincing answer known to me, though not one for which I intend to argue in this context, is that given by Neo-Platonists, and by shamans before them. We can ‘see’ into the Beginning of things, can grasp the principles on which the phenomenal world is founded, because it is founded on Spirit. The Forms are the eternal thoughts, activities of God, and we are shadows of God, or are, in some sense and at some level, identical with God. Or to put the point otherwise: the phenomenal world in the play, the multiplied and interwoven reflection of spiritual being—and we are spiritual beings, however lowly. We guess what will happen, because we can overhear the colloquy of the gods. Kekule can dream of serpents that eat their tails, and know the benzene ring. Monod can identify with the protein molecule. Just so the shaman can dream himself in to the presence of the ancestors, or the founding gods, and find the secret that unravels phenomenal mystery. Great scientists are great artists, seeing more clearly and with less idiosyncracy those archetypes of our psychology which are prototypes in cosmology.

—Stephen R. L. Clark, The Moral Status of Animals (p.191)

  Friday, March 17th, 2017

Marionberries

The ‘Marion’ cultivar (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus) or Marion blackberry, is an indigenous blackberry developed by the USDA ARS breeding program in cooperation with Oregon State University. It is a cross between the ‘Chehalem’ and ‘Olallie’ blackberries. The marionberry is currently the most common blackberry cultivar, accounting for over half of all blackberries produced in Oregon.

The berry is glossy and, as with many blackberries, appears black on the plant, but turns a deep, dark purple when frozen and thawed. It is medium in size and tends to be conical, longer than it is wide. The berry has a somewhat tart flavor, fairly earthy with traces of sweetness. It is larger, sweeter and juicier than the ‘Evergreen’ blackberry. The relative complexity of its flavor has led to a marketing label as the “Cabernet of Blackberries”. The more powerful flavor of the marionberry has led to it dominating current blackberry production. It is often preferred over other blackberries as an ingredient in pies, ice cream, jellies, jams and other foods.


  Friday, March 17th, 2017

Full fathom five

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

…And I alone am left to tell the tale. Call me Ishmael.


  Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

St. Hildegard’s vision of the Spirit

I am wisdom. Mine is the blast of the thundered word by which all things were made. I permeate all things that they may not die. I am life.


  Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Eternal God! Maker of all

that have lived here, since the Man’s fall;
the Rock of Ages! in whose shade
they live unseen, when here they fade.
Thou knew’st this paper, when it was
mere seed, and after that but grass;
before ’twas drest, or spun, and when
made linen, who did wear it then:
what were there lives, their thoughts and deeds
whether good corn, or fruitless weeds.
Thou knew’st this tree, when a green shade
cover’d it, since a cover made;
and where it flourished, grew, and spread,
as if it never should be dead.
Thou knew’st this harmless beast, when he
did live and feed by Thy decree
on each green thing; then slept (well-fed)
clothed with this skin, which now lies spread
a covering o’er this aged book,
which makes me wisely weep and look
on my own dust; mere dust it is,
but not so dry and clean as this.
Thou knew’st and saw’st them all and through
now scatter’d thus, dost know them so.
O knowing, glorious Spirit, when
Thou shalt restore trees, beasts and men,
when Thou shalt make all new again,
destroying only death and pain,
give him amongst Thy works a place,
who in them loved and sought Thy face.

—Henry Vaughan, 'The Book' (Silex Scintillans, 1655)

  Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Here in the Vineyard

Here in the Vineyard of my Lord
I love to live and labor,
And be obedient to my God
Until the dying hour.

I love to see the lilies grow,
And view them all a standing
In the right place while here below,
Just as the Lord commanded.

We ofttimes meet both night and day,
A faithful band of soldiers;
We read, we sing, we preach and pray,
And find the Lord most precious.

But while we sing this mournful song
Our hearts are deeply wounded,
Perhaps we all may meet no more
Here in a congregation.

But if on earth we meet no more,
I hope we’ll meet in heaven,
Where congregation ne’re break up,
But dwell in sweet communion.

Where all the ransomed church of God
Shall meet no more to sever,
With not a sorrow, sin or tear,
But shout his praise forever.


  Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Gingerbread

Gingerbread refers to a broad category of baked goods, typically flavored with ginger, cloves, nutmeg or cinnamon and sweetened with honey, sugar or molasses.

Originally, the term gingerbread (from Latin zingiber via Old French gingebras) referred to preserved ginger. It then referred to a confection made with honey and spices. Gingerbread is often used to translate the French term pain d’épices (literally “spice bread”) or the German term Lebkuchen (Leb is unspecified in the German language. It can mean Leben (life) or Laib (loaf), kuchen = cake) or Pfefferkuchen (pepperbread, literally: pepper cake).

Gingerbread was brought to Europe in 992 CE by the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis (also called Gregory Makar and Grégoire de Nicopolis). He left Nicopolis, Pompeii, to live in Bondaroy (France), near the town of Pithiviers. He stayed there seven years and taught gingerbread baking to French Christians. He died in 999.

In the 13th century, gingerbread was brought to Sweden by German immigrants. In 15th-century Germany, a gingerbread guild controlled production. Early references from the Vadstena Abbey show that the Swedish nuns were baking gingerbread to ease indigestion in 1444.

Gingerbread came to the Americas with settlers from Europe. Molasses, which was less expensive than sugar, soon became a common ingredient and produced a softer cake. The first American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, contained seven different recipes for gingerbread.


  Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Doyenne of the Comice

Comice are among the sweetest and juiciest of all varieties of pears, and are a favorite in holiday gift boxes and baskets. Their flesh is silky soft, and can best be described as creamy in texture, abundantly full of juice, and very sweet. For many pear lovers, Comice is the pinnacle variety of pears.

Comice pears are not recommended for cooking because they are too juicy.

To determine when a Comice pear is ripe, press gently into the neck of the pear. Once it gives slightly to pressure, it’s ready to eat.

This variety was obtained in the Fruit Garden of the Horticultural Comice of Angers by Hilaire Dhommé and Pierre-Aimé Millet of the Turtaudière. In 1848, a young tree planted in the 1840s began to produce fruit. The quality of these made the Comice decide to keep the tree under surveillance: “a new pear coming from the seedlings made by the Comice, monitored especially by Mr. Millet, is sent back to a next harvest, to decide what will be the constant qualities.” The following year, the quality of the fruit remained similar and considered to be fixed.

André Leroy, an Angevin nurseryman, decided to add the variety to his catalog. Having just opened a branch in Rochester, the United States, it is rapidly marketed and operated. Charles Mason Hovey made a description of it as early as 1852 in The Magazine of Horticulture. The tree also passes successfully in England and Germany.

At the first and second sessions of the Pomological Congress of France in 1856 and 1857, it was adjourned with favorable opinion. It was finally adopted only at the third session in 1858. In 1894, it was designated by the Journal d’Horticulture of London as “the best pear of the world.”

Its dissemination to the general consumer remained marginal in the nineteenth century. We have to wait for the rise of production in the 20th century so that this is the case.


  Monday, February 6th, 2017

The Future of Animals

Animals share not only in God’s grace but also in the sufferings of the world. That animals are morally innocent does not mean they do not need redemption, if redemption means deliverance from suffering. Only if the afterlife is imagined solely as a place of judgment does moral capability play such a determining role. What if heaven is not about reward and punishment but rather redemption and consolation? What if heaven allows for the completion of what is left incomplete in this life? This would connect the afterlife to the notion of justice, not the psychology of the fear of death and the desire for more living and infinite pleasure. Keith Ward has spoken eloquently about animal afterlife. “If there is any sentient being which suffers pain, that being — whatever it is and however is is manifested — must find that pain transfigured by a greater joy.” Indeed, that justice demands an afterlife for those unable to make the best of their situation in this life is the best reason to believe in an afterlife for humans as well.


If there is a resurrection of the human dead, then it is accomplished by a purely graceful act of God in order to right what was wrong and complete what was not completed. Such a resurrection is not based on anything humans have or are. Nothing in us predisposes us to the afterlife, no biological trait or characteristic. We do not consist of something immaterial (say, a soul) that God needs in order to work the miracle of resurrection. Neither is the soul a bit of matter that only humans have; the soul is just a sign of what matters, and everything matters to God. Nothing we possess enables God to give us more life, because all life in its entirety is a gift from God. Only if the afterlife is selective and thus something we merit through our efforts at moral self-improvement or our ability to believe in certain doctrinal formulations can animals be preemptively excluded from the future that God has prepared for what God loves.

If there is a resurrection, it is an act of love and power that need not be limited to humans alone. If humans arise at the end time, there is no reason to think that animals do not also. James Herriot expresses this sentiment in his reply to an elderly woman who had been told that animals have no souls and thus was worried about the destiny of her pets: “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” When pressed by the woman, he finally says all that can be said: “Wherever you are going, they are going too.” Both animals and humans share the same fate and draw the same breath. “All go to the same place.” (Ecclesiastes 3:19–21, NEB).

—Stephen H. Webb, On God and Dogs

  Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Affection is not the opposite of dominance; rather, it is dominance’s anodyne — it is dominance with a human face. Dominance may be cruel and exploitive, with no hint of affection in it. What it produces is the victim. On the other hand, dominance may be combined with affection, and what it produces is the pet.

—Yi-Fu Tuan

  Thursday, January 26th, 2017

What Are Dogs For?

Beck and Katcher end their book with a chapter on “being a pet.” “The gifts that pets give us are too important to be exchanged only between animals and people. People can learn how to substitute for pets in certain emergency situations and take over their functions in others, as pets sometimes substitute for people.” In other words, the category “pet” does not apply to animals alone. Being a pet involves listening without speaking, talking through touching, finding joy in ceremonial greetings and submissive behavior, as well as allowing oneself to be touched. It consists of a certain kind of giving as well as receiving, an economy of generosity that transgresses the usual and expected. It also provides an opportunity for feelings of devotion that border on the sacred. “A loving worship of God should be fulfilling for people who want to have have comfort from submissive, obedient love. Perhaps the dog is fulfilling a religious vacuum.” In the dog not only do we experience the obedience that we ourselves can know before God on occasion, but also we give to dogs as we want God to give to us. We enter into a relationship that is unbounded, intense, and all-encompassing. It is also a relationship that changes us, and we can imagine moving outward into other relationships with the same dynamic of giving and taking.

—Stephen H. Webb

  Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

—Wendell Berry