The Wild Potato or Indian Potato Vine – Desirable or a Pesky Weed?

Food, Plants
[caption id="attachment_26946" align="alignright" width="480"] Ipomoea pandurata on fence. Image by Kevin Ternes[/caption]Also called the wild sweet potato or the man-root, this tuber-producing vine is viewed by some as the free source of tubers that smell like sweet potatoes and have a tasty, unique flavor. By others, it is viewed as a pesky, invasive weed. Which will it be for you? Although these "potatoes" are free, it takes a little work to gather them. Many hands make the work light. One thing about these natural treats is, they are certainly easy to identify. [caption id="attachment_26951" align="alignright" width="200"] Ipomoea pandurata root. Image by Kevin Robertson, Pebble Hill Plantation, 2015[/caption] The wild potato can grow quite large, one lone potato weighing as much as an entire 20-lb. bag of grocery-store potatoes. But, as…
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War, France, and Chicory – The Little Blue Flower Along the Road

Food, History
Perhaps you've seen along the roadside, some plants rising above their surroundings with pert little blue flowers that look like the cross of a dandelion with an aster. This is the common chicory, Latin name Cichorium intybus. They are considered weeds, and to be honest, the stalk that supports the flowers does little to improve their appearance. Yet, this unobtrusive plant is of positive interest historically. France! In France for instance, chicory, for the coffee drinker, was welcome. In his conflict with England, Napoleon wanted to wreak havoc on their economic system. He, with the cooperation of some other countries, enacted a blockade. There were ramifications that led to a shortage of coffee. [caption id="attachment_26921" align="alignright" width="400"] Amazingly large roots![/caption] It was already known that properly processed root of the…
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The Dandelion – What Is It Good For? A Lot

Beauty, Plants
When my firstborn son was very young, I took him out in the backyard and showed him a dandelion¹ gone to seed. We called 'em puff-puffs. He was awed. He was excited. We'd pick up one after another and blow them (if a neighbor had seen us, he might've been aggravated). The floating white parasols were a joy to see. Images The dandelion flower is a remarkably bright yellow, symmetrical, even beautiful. The flower can be used to make... you guessed it... dandelion wine! Strange as it is, an older kid in high school once saw me on the road, hopped out of his car (drunk as a skunk) and poured some dandelion wine on my head. Ever since, I've wanted to try the stuff. The white fluffy "blowball" consists…
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Spanish Flu Developed for Germ Warfare? By the Allies?

Health, History
[caption id="attachment_26871" align="alignright" width="480"] Death certificate - Warren Larue Torbert[/caption] Worrisome influenza pandemics of the 20th Century included the Spanish Flu (1918), the Asian Flu (1957), and the Hong Kong Flu (1968). There was also an anticipated pandemic that never really reached that status, the Swine Flu. Of these, the Spanish Influenza Pandemic was in a ballpark by itself. It is estimated the Spanish Flu sent half-a-billion people to bed and killed perhaps half-a-million of them. Burials in mass graves were part of the times. To many of us, the names of these viral illnesses seem to suggest their point of origin, the place of the first occurrence of illness. However, this is not the case for the Spanish Flu. So where did it first appear? [caption id="attachment_26874" align="alignright" width="400"]…
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What’s the Difference Between Static Electricity and ‘Regular’ Electricity?

Electrical, Meteorology
[caption id="attachment_26762" align="alignright" width="480"] A thunderstorm - Image by Felix Mittermeier[/caption]Is static electricity different from regular electricity, or is there simply something different about how it is formed and how it behaves? What, for that matter, is electricity? Obviously it involves electrons. Electricity, Your Ordinary Household Variety A household circuit is just that. It's a circuit - a kind of conductive circle that allows electrons to flow through a device that uses some of them to function. Flow is the key. Flow is the word. Consider a water hose. When you turn the water on, does it trickle out or burst out? The amperage, like the water in the hose, represents the amount of electrons. The voltage is comparable to the pressure of the flow. Finally, flow suggests dynamic energy,…
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My Very Irish Ancestor – He Had Two Names?

Genealogy, History
[caption id="attachment_26733" align="alignright" width="480"] Fall River, Massachusetts (Winter 1896)[/caption]My last name is Summers. However, our ancestors spelled it Sommers. Dad changed it when he enlisted in the Army. Earlier, he signed his social security application with an "o" not a "u". His father spelled it John Sommers. His father was John Sommers as well. Or, was it William Keefe? You see, my Irish great-grandfather had an alias; he had two names. Why? And how did I learn of his alias? My Irish Ancestor: the Scenario Nothing else provides the pleasure of playing detective as researching the family tree! I began the journey in the 1980s. It didn't take long for me to "locate" my father's father's father, an Irish ancestor. He was born in Fall River, Massachusetts on the 29th…
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Iodized Table Salt – How Is Iodizing Salt Beneficial?

Food, Health
[caption id="attachment_26701" align="alignright" width="480"] "Is tasteless food eaten without salt?" - Job 6:6a[/caption]Iodized table salt, for me, it is a pleasant memory... When I was a youngster, we'd all sit together at the dinner table to enjoy a home-cooked meal. Oddly, we salted the food before tasting it to see if it was salty enough already. In those days, the word "salt" referred to Morton salt just as the word "tissue" always meant a Kleenex tissue. Morton salt came in a midnight-blue cylindrical cardboard box. There was a little girl in a short yellow dress walking in the rain with a somewhat oversized umbrella, spilling the salt as she walked. The motto beneath was "When it rains, it pours." I always wondered as a kid why the girl was carrying…
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The 1793 Terror: The Yellow Fever Epidemic

Health, History
[caption id="attachment_26643" align="alignright" width="480"] Yellow fever virus[/caption]Have you ever heard of Yellow Fever? Different diseases affect human society to differing degrees. In the in the United States, one now seldom-mentioned illness severely threatened the existence of a major city with a populace approaching 50,000 (a sizeable number at the time). The famous Dr. Benjamin Rush called it Bilious Remitting Yellow Fever. Nearly 10% of the city died. In fact, the Federal government itself, including George Washington, had to quickly relocate! Some cities refused to accept refugees. The Time, The Place, The Cause The time was approximately August of 1793, and for a while thereafter. The place was Philadelphia. The vector seems to have been the female Aedes aegypti mosquito. The infection originated possibly from Santo Domingo, as a result of…
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What is a Cubeb? The Author of Tarzan Knew – Do You?

Health, History
Cubebs? I'm one of those rare guys who likes to watch musicals. One of my favorites is "The Music Man" starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, and that features Buddy Hackett and Pert Kelton. "Professor" Harold Hill (Preston) attempts to con the town of River City, Iowa into buying musical instruments. Upon arrival of the instruments, he offers to institute the 1st River City boy's band. They are an unexcitable people, however, so he warns the people their children are threatened by the arrival of a pool table. Such a vice, he advises, will lead into such bad practices as smoking cubeb cigarettes. "Ya Got Trouble" Since it is a musical, the music man sings of the danger in this song... What is a Cubeb Cigarette? A cubeb is a cigarette…
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Diamond Dust Not From Diamonds – What’s That?

Meteorology, Transportation
[caption id="attachment_26565" align="alignright" width="480"] A halo produced by diamond dust. Image by Oimheidi[/caption]The words "diamond dust" are likely to bring to mind either very tiny jewels or the industrial grinding medium. However, there is another, entirely different kind of diamond dust. It involves weather. A Weatherman Speaks For a quick description, watch the first 1 minute 15 seconds of this 3-minute video... Sounds interesting? But what does DD look like? Diamond Dust - Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder This 26-second video shows DD falling in Japan... Diamond Dust: Filling in a Few Blanks Fog is a common occurrence. It's like clouds descended to Earth's surface. It consists of miniscule liquid water droplets coating particles of dust¹. Diamond dust is somewhat similar in its description, except the droplets…
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