Solar Eclipse | Images | Not Mine

Originally posted on JAR Blog...:

I was hopeful the sky would clear enough to the west to let me see the eclipse. It was not to be. Better luck next time. Instead of sharing my own photos, I visited Slooh which had a telescope trained on the Sun from Prescott, AZ. Slooh covers many live astronomy events in partnership with observatories. They covered this entire event and have a recording available for you to replay. In addition, there is commentary about aspects of the eclipse that is helpful. Visit their website linked above for the replay. Scroll down their page for highlights such as these.

That big sunspot group just below center was the subject of a story by Astronomy Picture of the Day. Follow the link to see it up close and in great detail.

Image Credit & Copyright: Randall Shivak and Alan Friedman

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Solar Eclipse | Safe Viewing Methods

Originally posted on JAR Blog...:

The current visible satellite images show many areas of the country will have clear conditions late this afternoon. Click on this link to see what might be in store for you. Online viewing is available at Slooh, and at several sites listed here by Sky & Telescope.

Here are two completely safe viewing methods for this evening’s solar eclipse. Push a thick pin, thin toothpick, or pencil point through an index card or piece of foil. Try to make the hole very round and not too big. Hold the pinhole two or three feet from a white surface so it projects sunlight onto it. Tape the card onto something so it is not moving.

Make a box viewer with the same pinhole technique. This will improve the contrast of the image. The link in the caption of the picture above has an…

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Solar Eclipse | 23 Oct | Partial Near Sunset

Originally posted on JAR Blog...:

Late in the day on Thursday October 23rd, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun and obstruct part of it. This partial eclipse will occur at sunset on the east coast. Nearly all of the states will have the opportunity to see a crescent shape to the Sun. Southern states will see about 40% of the Sun eclipsed. Northern will see over 60% eclipsed.

Below this graphic is an excellent video from the staff of Science@NASA which explains more about the eclipse and some interesting things to try to see. Now all we need is good weather. I will talk to my sources to see if it can be arranged.

Additional details can be found at this article from the editors of Sky & Telescope. I suggest you take a look.


Sky & Telescope | Leah Tiscione

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Chicken Posole Stew

Loosely based on traditional posole recipes, my rich chicken stew takes advantage of summer ingredients. But because so many summer ingredients freeze well, you can enjoy this hearty soup any time of year.


When I cook soup, I have ONE rule: use approximately as much liquid as solid. That has a fudge factor, of course. Use less liquid when you want it thicker and more when you want it thinner. This simple rule has served me very well, and served my household many years of delicious soups.

The “recipe” below is very loose, filled with approximations and guesses. I did not measure anything here. Using the rule above, it has somewhat less liquid than solid.

Chicken Posole Stew
3/4 – 1 pound cooked chicken, diced into small bites
4 – 6 cups chicken stock
(I roasted my chicken on Tuesday and made my stock from the carcass.)
1 carrot diced
1 onion diced small
(My onion was a summer CSA onion, diced and frozen.)
1/2 zucchini diced
1/2 yellow squash diced
2 medium tomatoes peeled, seeded, and diced, with juice if possible
(My tomatoes were from our garden, processed and frozen. You could use a can of diced tomatoes instead, including the juice.)
1 cup corn and black bean salsa
(This was also from the summer — fresh from the field sweet corn and tomatoes. You could substitute jarred salsa, or frozen corn separately. Or leave it out.)
2 hot peppers seeded and diced tiny
(I used a jalapeno and a Hungarian pepper, both from our garden and frozen. You could use a bell pepper but you’d lose the zing.)
1 can white hominy, drained

In large pot heat fat (I used bacon grease and a little canola oil) to saute carrot. Add onion, zucchini and squash, tomatoes, corn salsa, and peppers. Add chicken stock and let it hang out, simmering until the vegetables soften. Add diced chicken and drained hominy. Heat until hot through.

Note — I didn’t add any other seasonings. I didn’t add salt. I didn’t add pepper. I didn’t add cumin or oregano or cilantro or anything. You could. But taste it first to see if you really want it. If you like it hot, you might want another jalapeno, or even two.

Serve with corn bread. Make sure you have lots of butter and honey available for the corn bread. You may want a beer with it, too!

Milkweed | Seeds Harvested

Milkweed plants are disappearing according to Monarch Watch and other sources. The Monarch butterflies rely upon them for survival. I decided to gather a few seed pods so I can plant some in my backyard and along a trail near my house. I cruised around some places on my bike looking for patches of milkweed that had extra pods I could harvest and bring home. I only took seven and left the rest for nature. I placed them on the deck for a month to dry out. That worked well. They split open and revealed their many seeds with attached coma.


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Each pod had dozens of healthy brown seeds. The challenge was to remove them without getting coma fuzzies all over the place. The garage seemed the best place to do that job.


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I grasped each pod firmly by the end opposite the seeds. That is where the coma tails were bundled. Then, I ran a small stick along the seeds to make them fall onto this plate. Almost all of them came loose so I could set aside the pod and detached coma fuzzies without any trouble. One source I read said to put the contents of the pod into a paper bag and shake it vigorously. Cut a small hole in the corner and dump out the seeds. The fuzzies remain in the bag. I never tried that. Here is my crop of seeds for the spring.


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They are now stored in a paper bag in the refrigerator until April. At that time, I will vernalize them. They get exposed to very cold temperatures for several weeks before planting them in May when ground temperatures are above 70˚. Vernalization increases the germination rate. I will layer them between moist paper towels and put them into a freezer for several weeks.

More on this story in April and May.

Dead Trees | Impressive Removal Job

Originally posted on JAR Blog...:

Two elm trees died on the property line between our house and our neighbor. We decided to split the cost and have them removed before they dropped dead branches and damaged our houses or injured a person. Their trunks were 14″ and 24″ in diameter. Equipment could not get to them between the houses. They couldn’t be dropped into a yard due to lack of space. In came the heavy duty 80 ft crane to my driveway. Because of its size, I had to sign a waiver for possible damage to the concrete. Nothing happened to the concrete.


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Castor Bean | Bigger | Update 5

Good News: Lots of frost in the open areas. Castor is close to the house and was not damaged.

We are nearing the dates of our first killing frost and hard freeze in Iowa. Here is the latest forecast this afternoon. We live one mile north of interstate 80. Bad news for Castor.



The plant does not appear to care. It is bigger and stronger than ever. The last update 4 was September 14. Since then, we went to Oklahoma, New Mexico, back to Oklahoma, and now home. It continues to amaze.

After our walk yesterday, I took this picture from the same vantage point as most of the previous ones.


It didn’t give a good sense of perspective and size. So, I asked Melanie to take another. Can you can spot me in the photo. I am 5 ft 10 in tall in my shoes.


A closeup of the seeds shows them still green. The entire bunch is 2 ft tall. I will need a chain saw and tractor to remove the plant before winter.