Christmas Eve 2015

Today is December 24, 2015. Here in northern New Hampshire the average temperature for this month is usually 34 degree Fahrenheit. Today’s high (for southern NH at least) is projected to go into the 60’s exceeding the old record set in Concord back in 1871 of 57 degree Fahrenheit. Usually snowfall by this date is usually about six inches or more (it varies from year to year of course.). Today – nada. When I went for my morning walk today, I found one dinky little patch of snow by the side of the road (likely thrown up by a plow) in a shaded area which given how warm it felt will probably be gone by the afternoon.


After doing a bit of last minute grocery shopping (yes, I know, I’m crazy to go out there today), I drove through Main Street just before noon today. I stopped only long enough to snap this picture.

Fifty four degrees Fahrenheit is definitely above the norm for up here and since we tend to be about 5 to 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the state with the White Mountain range close by, it’s a safe bet the southern half of the state is pushing 60 easily.

My snowdrops are clearly confused by the gyrations in temperature. I snapped this picture today when the warm temperature prompted me to take a peek and see if they were doing anything.

I planted them a little too close to the foundation of the house so the warmth of the concrete makes some of them bravely poke up in early March or mid-February, depending on the weather. I have even seen them push the envelope in mid-January (usually the coldest month up here, followed by February). But never, NEVER have I seen them start to emerge in late December. They have been growing in this spot for nearly twenty years and this is a first.

Climate change deniers can huff and puff and bloviate all they want but the oscillations in temperature we have been seeing recently show no sign of going away. In fact some troubling reports indicate things may get worse in the near and far futures. The Climate Change Summit in Paris this past month with its “Paris Agreement” promising yet again to begin implementing reductions on green-house gas emissions ended with the usual rounds of praise, mutual back patting and other forms of congratulations on this ‘historic’ meeting. However as many of us are sadly aware, very little of what was agreed to will be implemented or amount to a hill of beans if it is.

John Michael Green pointed out in his latest blog posting that many of the changes the Paris Summit was supposed to address and find solutions for, are already occurring and will continue to accelerate while bureaucrats fumble and procrastinate as they have always done. Mother Nature feels no obligation to wait while we mill around trying to make up our minds what to do. Given this disheartening prospect, what are we to do?

Well, we do what living organisms have always done. We adapt. This won’t be easy of course given that the countless unknowns of climate change make it difficult to precisely anticipate what’s to come. However today’s living organisms (which includes us by the way) are the heirs to millions of years of perpetually adapting on the fly to unexpected circumstances such as previous climate changes, continental drift and the occasional asteroid strike or methane burp. All this was done without the benefit of large brains. Are we with our 1.5 kg brains really going to sit around wringing our hands because we don’t know what kind of future to plan for?

There is enough information out there to give us a rough idea of what to expect even if there is no real certainty. Human ingenuity, not in the form of high tech gimmicks that break when you look at them cross-eyed, but in the form of what our hands can build, our minds think up, is what will help us muddle through whatever Nature tosses at us. It will mean junking many of our treasured toys and simplifying our life style in a way a fair number of people might find hard to swallow. This does NOT mean going back to caves but it DOES mean living at a slower, lower-tech, less complex pace. One that, while it will not allow us to fly to the stars or zoom around wearing jet packs, will allow us to live in modest comfort, help us get the exercise we’ve always been meaning to get, eat locally produced food that, not having lost its nutritious qualities, has the surprising side-effect of producing better health. Oh, yes and rediscover the myriad benefits of direct social interaction that our current madcap life style has deprived us of.

Change is going to happen whether we do anything or not. To paraphrase a quote from All About Eve: Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy future. How bumpy it will be depends on how well we can adapt.

Soup – Plain and Simple

The weather has been unusually mild here in northern New Hampshire this month with temperatures in the forties and fifties instead of the low thirties. One can certainly welcome Old Man Winter holding off for a brief spell, though now and then he has sent a reminder he is not far off. Last week, several nights had heavy fog coupled with temperatures just below freezing. This triggered the formation of what is known as hoarfrost. The following mornings as I went walking, I was treated to the sight of branches, leaves, berries and other objects suddenly having what appeared to look like crystal thorns growing out of them.

It was quite a striking sight, not one you see very often. They melted quickly once the sun rose high enough to shine on them. On some mornings puddles that had collected during the day froze on their surfaces overnight and since the ground underneath was not frozen, the water would drain away leaving a shell of ice supported only at its edges. For years (starting when I was a child) I called this ‘krickle ice’ because that’s the noise it would make when I put my foot slowly down on top of it. I have since found out this type of ice formation is called cat ice. Personally I like krickle ice better.

With the onset (or not) of cold weather, thoughts turn to the making of soup to warm you on chilly winter days. Both cook books and the Internet abound with countless recipes of varying complexity. I avoid those with a long list of ingredients. The making of soup is not rocket science and shouldn’t require a dictionary to decipher what some of the items are. Soup can be hot or cold. It can be clear or thick. Meat and/or vegetables can be used to create the broth. Every region on the globe has its own variation of this ancient comfort food which some evidence suggests dates back to the Stone Age.

The latest food fad is the making of bone broth soup which advocates are touting as a cure-all for what ails us. While much of the claims for bone broth and its health benefits are fairly over-blown, broth made from animal bones or vegetables does deliver a nutritious boost to any diet. Elderly people who have difficulty chewing, sick people who don’t feel much like eating or even just picky kids all benefit from this easy-to-make food.

I don’t waste a moment of my time with the prepared or condensed soups sold in the grocery store. Their heavy load of sodium and overcooked ingredients makes a pretty feeble excuse for soup. They simply can’t compare with home-made soup using fresh ingredients. The easiest method is to collect left-over beef, chicken or turkey bones after dinner. If you aren’t going to use them right away, you can put them in the freezer to keep until you are ready.


Then using a stock pot, toss in the bones, fill with water, bring to a boil then turn immediately down to a simmer and leave for about an hour. Pull out the bones, clean off any meat (which should drop right off) and put the meat back into the broth. Chop up whatever vegetables you desire (I use carrots, celery and onions and occasionally add a chopped zucchini or summer squash). For turkey and chicken soups I add parsley and thyme. You can use whatever herbs or spices you prefer. I often toss in pasta. Then cook for an additional twenty minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste in the last five minutes or so of cooking. That’s it!

The nice thing about soup made this way, is that you can add leftovers, like peas or beans or rice, which you don’t quite have enough of to make a meal with, so they don’t go to waste. You can also freeze the soup to thaw out as needed for a meal or a side dish. I like to use mason jars, filling them about two thirds full to allow for expansion so the jars won’t crack. Plastic freezer containers tend to get a greasy feel to them if you use them to store soup and then want to reuse them afterwards.

Once your soup is ready, add a few crackers and enjoy!