HOW TO GROW HERBS FROM SEED





We read and hear of herbs being used in most of the recipes we come across, but do we really need them? Surely the main cooking ingredients carry enough flavour without the need of artificial enhancement? Unfortunately the answer - at least in my opinion - is no! Used correctly, the right varieties and amount of herbs can drag a blandly tasting meal from a base of utter tedium to the level of a veritable culinary masterpiece. And I for one know exactly which one I would prefer.

What are culinary herbs?

Many culinary herbs are perennials such as thyme or lavender, while others are biennials such as parsley or annuals like basil. Some perennial herbs are shrubs (such as rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis), or trees (such as bay laurel, Laurus nobilis) – this contrasts with botanical herbs, which by definition cannot be woody plants. Some plants are used as both an herb and a spice, such as dill weed and dill seed or coriander leaves and seeds. Also, there are some herbs such as those in the mint family that are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

For the majority of everyday herbs, propagation from seeds is a relatively straightforward affair. However, due to the differing parts of the world - and therefore differing environments - that herbs originate from, there cannot be just one single foolproof way of germinating them all. However, I have listed below the propagation techniques required to germinate seed from the most popular herb varieties.

If I have missed out your favourite herb then leave me a message in the comments section and I will endeavour to add it to my list.

All you need to do is click onto your required title below and it will take you to your chosen article. 
Basil

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Photo care of http://www.thegardeningbible.com/the-herb-garden

HOW TO GROW AVOCADO FROM SEED


Article by Lee Reich
 
After eating an avocado, it is hard to resist planting its seed. However, to get the seed sprouting quickly you need to be quick as the seed will need immediate planting. Luckily there is a tried and tested method when it comes to growing avocados from seed. This is done by poking three toothpicks into the side of the seed so that it can perch, halfway immersed in water, on the rim of a drinking glass. The seed could also be avocado planted in potting soil, but this misses some of the fun of watching the roots and the shoots grow.

Avocado roots, like those of most other plants, need oxygen to grow, so the seedlings would actually grow better in soil than in water. When growing a seedling in water, the water should be changed at least every couple of days to prevent it from getting dirty and depleted of oxygen. One way to speed germination in soil is to remove the parchment like seed coat and slice a thin layer from both the top and the bottom of the seed before planting. In water or in soil, set the seed with its base (the wider portion) down.

Indoors, avocado plants are often gangly and sparse with leaves. One reason for the plant's gawky appearance indoors is lack of light. Lack of sufficient light causes stems to stretch for it, a phenomenon know as etiolation. Another reason is that avocados shed many buds along their stems, buds that might have grown into side branches. The result is a plant stretching out for light, sending out new growth mostly from the tips of the branches and shedding old leaves.

There are several things indoor gardeners can do to keep their plants more attractive. Most obvious is to give your avocado tree brighter, stronger light. Also, the stretch for light is exaggerated when warmth stimulates growth, so the ideal spot for the plant is at the brightest window in the coolest room. Beyond that, pruning back a stem or pinching out its growing tip stimulates branching by awaking dormant buds (not all are shed) further down the stem. There is nothing that can be done about the shedding of older leaves.

Every indoor avocado grower holds out hope for fruit from his or her plant. This is always a possibility, but realistically it is not likely to happen. The time from seed to fruiting under good growing conditions is about a decade. Indoors, this time period is lengthened and plants may never experience good enough conditions to ever flower, let alone ripen fruit.

Lack of fruit on an indoor tree is no great loss, because seedling trees rarely produce fruits as tasty as those on commercial trees, which are grafted to good-tasting cultivars. Indoors, avocados are best looked upon as a houseplant that is inexpensive, fun to grow and somewhat attractive.

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TERRA NOVA - Dinosaur trailer




With the production for Jurassic Park four finally getting the go ahead earlier this year, appetites for a block busting dinosaur series have never been stronger. Luckily for us, Fox has invested a large fortune in a new dinosaur based series that began filming in late 2010. It will now premier around the globe over the next few weeks. This new series is called Terra Nova.

What is Terra Nova?

Terra Nova is a show based in the year 2149, a time when all life on planet Earth is threatened with extinction due to dwindling worldwide air quality and overpopulation. Scientists discover a rift in space-time that allows people to travel 85 million years back in time to the Late Cretaceous period on the prehistoric Earth of an alternate reality, offering a chance to save humanity. The Shannon family (father Jim, his wife Elisabeth, and their three children Josh, Maddy and Zoe) join the tenth pilgrimage of settlers to Terra Nova, the first human colony on the other side of the temporal doorway.

Terra Nova Production

The series is based on an idea by British writer Kelly Marcel. Alex Graves signed on to direct the pilot. Brannon Braga serves as showrunner.

Australia was chosen after producer Steven Spielberg vetoed Hawaii because he wanted a different filming location from his 1993 film Jurassic Park.

The two-hour pilot was filmed over 26 days in late November to December 2010. It was shot in south-east Queensland, Australia, with locations in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Gold Coast Hinterland. The shoot was plagued by torrential rain and additional material had to be shot in 2011, with a total estimated cost between $10 to $20 million to be amortized over the season. More than 250 sets were constructed. An episode takes eight to nine days to shoot, like most television dramas, but six weeks in post-production, twice the television average. The average episode budget is about $4 million.

Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly stated:

'...this thing is going to be huge. It's going to take an enormous production commitment...'

Let us all hope he is right.

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REMBRANDTS HOUSE



Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 – 1669) - was in his time a well known Dutch painter and etcher. He is in fact generally considered to be one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history!

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, his later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. However, his etchings and paintings proved popular throughout his lifetime, and his reputation as an artist remained high.

Rembrandt's greatest creative triumphs are exemplified in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. Furthermore, his contributions to art came in a period that historians now call the Dutch Golden Age.

You can get to know a little of Rembrandt personally by visiting the home and studio on Jodenbreestraat in Amsterdam. In this once fashionable, jewel of a house many of his famous masterpieces were made. But, unlike other local museums such as the Ann Frank house, the interior of the house has been restored to its former 17th-century glory and the rooms have been refurnished with works of art, furniture and other objects from Rembrandt's time.

How was this achieved? Well, in order to finance the property Rembrandt took out a rather large mortgage of 13,000 guilders. Unfortunately, Rembrandt had a tendancy to live beyond his means, buying art (including bidding up his own work), prints (often used in his paintings), and other historic rarities. However it was reckless acts such as these which probably caused his financial downfall resulting in a court arrangement to avoid his bankruptcy in 1656. 

During this period of financial hardship he was no longer able to keep up the payments on his house on Jodenbreestraat and as an attempt to stave off bankruptcy had an inventory made of all of this possessions prior to auctioning them off.

Realistically, if Rembrandt hadn't wasted much of his money he should have easily been able to pay the house off with his large income during the early years. But it appears - like so many of us - that his outgoings always managed to keep pace with his income.

It was this inventory of his huge collection of paintings, sculptures and art treasures that enabled the Rembrandt museum to sympathetically refurbish his property to the standard that you see today.

The prices realized in the sales of Rembrandts possessions in 1657 and 1658 were disappointing so Rembrandt was forced to sell his house and his printing-press and move to a more modest accommodation on the Rozengracht in 1660.

 The authorities and his creditors were generally accommodating to him, except for the Amsterdam painters' guild, who introduced a new rule that no one in Rembrandt's circumstances could trade as a painter. To get round this, Rembrandts son Titus set up business with his wife as art-dealers in 1660, with Rembrandt as an employee.

Rembrandts work


Few artists of any period were as renowned for the use of light and shadow as Rembrandt. His seemingly limitless variations of bold and subtle shadings cast him as a ‘magician of light and shadow.’ In a letter to Huyghens, Rembrandt offered the only surviving explanation of what he sought to achieve through his art:

'....the greatest and most natural movement...'

translated from de meeste en de natuurlijkste beweegelijkheid. The word 'beweechgelickhijt' is also argued to mean emotion or motive. Whether this refers to objectives, material or otherwise is open to interpretation; either way, Rembrandt seamlessly melded the earthly and spiritual as has no other painter in Western art.

Etchings and prints

In addition to his extensive oeuvre of paintings and drawings, Rembrandt van Rijn also produced around 290 prints. His mastery in this field is undisputed, and he is generally acknowledged as one of the great etchers - if not the greatest - of all time. Rembrandt acquired a European reputation in his own lifetime precisely because of his graphic work, which, because it could be reproduced, was much more widely known than his paintings or drawings.

Rembrandt's free use of line, the unique deep black of many of his etchings and his masterly use of the drypoint were very popular and his work was much sought after by the many print collectors of the time.

Etching was not a sideline where Rembrandt was concerned, and his prints cannot be regarded as inferior by-products of his paintings, which nowadays are much more famous.

Rembrandt took his graphic art very seriously for almost the whole of his working life - during the early years as a young artist in Leiden, the town where he was born, and while he was in his prime as a successful master in Amsterdam. It was not until he was approaching the end of his life that he gradually gave up etching.

Luckily, you can still purchase an 'original' Rembrandt print from the Rembrandt house using the traditional method on original plates.

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WHAT IS THE BIGGEST SNAKE IN THE WORLD?




Love them or loath them, snakes have been an endless source of fascination for as long as mankind has existed - but what exactly are they? Well, snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes. However they can be confused by similar looking legless lizards, but are luckily are further distinguished by their lack of eyelids and external ears!

As interesting as that is, most people are interested in how big they get. So, just how big is the largest snake in the world?

The Giant Green Anaconda

The world’s largest snake is also the world’s biggest snake but not necessary the world’s longest. The world’s largest snake is the Giant Green anaconda, and is found in Amazon rain forest of South America.

The anaconda is of a subfamily of non-venomous boas found in Central, South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. They can grow as long as 8 metres long, as wide as a fully grown man and can weigh as much as 250 kilogrammes.

The green anaconda is usually an olive green snake with black spots along the body. Like any other snake, the head is narrow with eyes set high on the head.

How does the Giant Green Anaconda mate?

During mating, several males are known to wrap themselves around one female in an attempt to mate. referred to as "breeding balls," in which up to 12 males wrap around the same female and attempt to copulate. The group could stay in this position from 2–4 weeks. Nature sees to it that the fittest male -  usually the strongest and largest male - should win and therefore have the privilege of mating with the female. But since females are far stronger they can sometimes be biased to this law of nature and decide on herself which male to mate with regardless of the size and strength of the male. Mating is followed by a gestation period that lasts approximately 6–7 months. The species is ovoviviparous, with females giving birth to live young. Litters usually consists of 20–40 offspring, although as many as 100 may be produced. After giving birth, females may lose up to half their weight.

Can Anacondas Swim?

Unfortunately for most of its prey, the Giant Green Anaconda is a great swimmer and will comfortably work on its prey when in water. It is also capable of finding its prey on land but is rather slow and sluggish out of the water.

What does the Giant Green Anaconda eat?

The diet of an anaconda will consist mainly of fish, birds, and small mammals like deer, antelopes, rabbit, jaguars, and snakes, reptiles, or anything smaller than itself. After breeding, a female anaconda can sometimes feed on its male counterpart.

Is the Anaconda Venomous?

Luckily for you the anaconda is not venomous but that doesn't mean it won't kill you and feed on you. It manages this by coiling itself around you, and then by using massively powerful constrictions, will squeeze you preventing breathing and raising your body’s blood pressure two to three times its normal rate. These constrictions will continue to increase until your death,  most likely caused by a heart attack, or suffocation!

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Zebra
Based on an article by http://ngureco.hubpages.com/hub/Worlds-Largest-Snake-Biggest-Snake-in-the-World-And-Longest-Snake-Ever
Photo care of http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/green-anaconda/

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DOG IN THE WORLD?


There have been a number of different dogs that challenged the title of 'Worlds Largest Dog', but only one holds the privilege of being listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. That dog is Hercules, a massive three-year old English Mastiff who made it into the hallowed pages in 2001.

Hercules is owned by Mr. J. Flynn and his wife Wendy of Peabody, Massachusetts. Flynn - not a small man himself - weighed 270 pounds, yet his dog weighed more, tipping the scales at 282 pounds with a 38-inch neck.

Flynn says that Hercules has paws the size of softballs, but is gentle as a baby and wouldn't hurt a fly. They took him on because Wendy wanted a dog larger than the one they already had living with them - another old bull mastiff, aged two years old at the time. They realised that he was big even as a puppy, which is why they gave him the name Hercules. However, they had no idea Hercules would get quite so large and Flynn claims he's done nothing out of the ordinary to encourage the growth - other then feed him a normal diet.

It is their neighbour's son, David Delauri, who is responsible for Hercules being recorded in the Guinness Book. One day, David was browsing through the Guinness Book of World Records and came across a dog that he was positive was Hercules. But contacting the Guinness Book of World Records, Flynn discovered that the dog in the book was a 296-pound Mastiff that had already died, making Hercules the current largest dog in the world. After faxing all the information they needed, Hercules was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest dog in the world.



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WHAT IS THE BIGGEST FISH IN THE WORLD?




If you are talking about fish - and definitely don't mean to include whales - then the answer is easy as there is only one contender - the Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus.

However, unlike the sharks you would normally think off, the whale shark is almost completely harmless. Why? Because the largest fish - and therefore the largest shark - in the world alive today is a slow-moving filter feeding shark. The largest confirmed individual was 12.65 metres (41.50 ft) in length and the heaviest weighed more than 36 tonnes (79,000 lb), however there have been unconfirmed claims reports of considerably larger whale sharks. The whale shark is found in tropical and warm oceans, lives in the open sea with a lifespan of about 70 years.

Originating from about 60 million years ago, they feed mainly, though not exclusively, on plankton, microscopic plants and animals. However, the BBC program Planet Earth filmed a whale shark feeding on a school of small fish.

But if you want to know what is the largest freshwater fish then its a different story as Whale sharks are only found in the ocean. The biggest freshwater fish in the world is the Giant Mekong catfish - Pangasius gigas.

The biggest one ever captured and measured was caught in Thailand in May of 2005. It was 9 feet long and weighed 646 pounds.


Unfortunately the Mekon catfish is in decline and although research projects are currently ongoing, relatively little is known about this species. Historically, the fish had a natural range that reached from the lower Mekong in Vietnam (above the tidally influenced brackish water of the river’s delta) all the way to the northern reaches of the river in the Yunnan province of China, spanning almost the entire 4,800 km length of the river. Due to threats, this species no longer inhabits the majority of its original habitat; it is now believed to only exist in small, isolated populations in the middle Mekong region.

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Based on an article by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_shark and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mekong_giant_catfish
Photo care of http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/photos/animal-records-gallery/ and http://waildlives.blogspot.com/2011/07/whale-shark-slow-moving-filter-feeding.html

THE SECRET LIVES OF THE KNOLE HOUSE GHOSTS



For those of us familiar with Kentish local history it is impossible to escape at least a passing knowledge of that grandest of old English estates, Knole House in Sevenoaks. As is common with all notable medieval properties, if you dig deep enough you will find that Knole has its share of Ghost stories as laid down by years of entrenched tradition.

Firstly we have the dramatically named ‘Black Knight’ or as he was otherwise known, Richard Sackville the 3rd Earl of Dorset (1598-1624). Testaments from the past have seen his ghost ‘…roaming the medieval quarters of the house whenever a misfortune is about to befall Knole…’ and presumably when things are well at Knole he can be seen ‘… riding silently on horseback among the leafy shadows…’ The pseudonym ‘Black Knight’ is probably derived from his portrait that hangs in the ballroom where he is fitted head to toe in black medieval finery. An inappropriate name as it turns out as he was in fact a most colourful figure in his day. While at Knole he lived a life of splendour and vanity, fully indulging his passion for cock fighting, greyhound racing, mistresses, and fashionable clothing.

It may have been his obsession for keeping in with the royal court that began his downfall, but it was his addiction to gambling that cost him his fortune and in magnificent style too. In one spectacular episode he lost 400 pieces of gold in a single bet with King James I. Eventually his addiction took its toll and Richard Sackville had to sell most of his inherited estates, including Knole to pay off his debtors. Unfortunately this wasn't enough and by the time when he died at the age of 35 he was bankrupt and still owing £60,000. In its day a veritable kings ransom.

However, even as a ghost Sir Richard still refused to take his responsibilities seriously. For when Knole House past from Sackville ownership for what is likely to be the very last time there wasn't even a peep from him. Whether you would consider that this was ‘…a misfortune that had befallen Knole…’ will of course depend upon your point of view. Without the financial backing of the National Trust Knole house may have been broken up leaving Sir Richards ghost once more left out in the cold!

The second of Knole’s resident ghosts is Lady Anne Clifford, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Cumberland (1590-1676) and who is said to walk the dark avenue of chestnut and oak trees to the north of Knole’s grand gate house. Unfortunately for the Black Knight she was also his long suffering wife and is now destined to nag her wayward husband for all eternity. Perhaps this is why he inhabits different parts of the estate, an attempt to gain a little peace and quiet.

While he was alive Richard Sackville’s marriage became troubled, and his interest in his wife became based solely on how much money her own estates could generate in order to fund his lavish lifestyle. With their relationship in tatters she dealt with her husband in a way that many scorned women would recognise today. She invaded his wardrobe, removed his collection of finest velvet cloaks and cloth of gold doublets (close fitting jackets) and had her staff cut them up for furniture fabric.

After Richards death Lady Anne had to endure his shame of his indebted legacy for a further 52 years, and it’s believed that it was her hatred of the man that has kept her spirit at Knole all these years. Although the Black Knight may also be seen riding among the same leafy shadows of the chestnut avenues, this probably occurs when the ghost of Lady Anne is away haunting her Clifford estates in Yorkshire.

It is unfortunate that these stories are all that seem to remain of the ghosts at Knole as no-one has seen or heard of the Black Knight or Lady Anne in living memory. Ask anyone who works there, from the Estate’s property manager to the lady who runs the shop and you won’t come across a single piece of anecdotal evidence. As far as they are concerned, there are no ghosts at Knole! Is this some kind of National Trust conspiracy or is it that we are not talking to the right people.

Head gardener to the current Lord Sackville is Justin Wilson, and he reveals a different account taking us back to a time long before Knole became known as the ancestral home of the Sackvilles. In 1456 the original manor house was converted into an Archbishops palace after being bought by the Catholic Church from Sir William Fiennes, for just over £266. The original buildings and chapel still exist within the current property, along with a small enclosed garden which is now part of the much larger walled gardens.

“…Its here when you’re working in what was once the archbishops garden that that you begin to feel that something here is out of the ordinary. It’s particularly pronounced as you walk through the archway at the top of the garden that faces the medieval chapel. There is always that feeling of being nervous or unsettled here but strangely it’s something you get used to. However if you’re still here after dark you can get a distinct and sometimes overpowering feeling of being watched. Several times I have had to finish what I was doing to go and work elsewhere in the larger gardens…”

The thing is, this isn't a simple case of one man's imagination getting the better of him. Standing in the top half of this garden really does give you this sensation of being put on edge and Knole’s head gardener is not the only one to experience this.

The question now is this, what is the identity of this watchful spirit? Unfortunately this is an answer that Justin Wilson doesn't have but there are still some clues around this historic property that we can look at.

Few would argue that St. Nicholas church (found opposite the main entrance to Knole Park) is one of the most beautiful places of worship in Sevenoaks, but Knole’s own medieval chapel is in fact one of the oldest. Believed to pre-date St, Nicholas by at least a century, the so called ‘garden’ next to it is likely to have been consecrated ground and therefore used for burial. With this in mind the ‘garden’ is probably the last resting place for many of Sir William Fiennes ancestors and who of those wouldn’t be upset by the selling off of the ancestral home for a quick profit.

Due to the work and associated excavation being undertaken by the National Trust on the original Manor house, new information from Knole’s history is beginning to coming to light. Evidence has been revealed here that could also point to our ghostly watchers origins, notably a number of so called ‘cellars’ complete with heavy doors and iron locks. These would have been quite useful when catholic discipline needed to be maintained. How many so called heretics ended their days here after suffering the misery of forced confinement in these damp and squalid conditions?

It’s likely that we may never know the true identity of the watcher in the archbishops garden, at least not without help from the likes of Yvette Fielding, Derek Acorah and the' Most Haunted' team. What we do know however is that at least one of Knole’s ghosts is up to the job, keeping the long tradition of classic English ghosts ‘alive’ and in good spirits.

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Photo care of http://www.monster-legends.info/ghost-pictures.php and http://www.flickriver.com/groups/architecture-from-500-to-1500/pool/interesting/