WHAT IS BOXING DAY?



If you have been brought up in an English speaking country, then the chances are that you would be very familiar with the bank holiday - Boxing Day. However, how many of us actually know what Boxing Day represents or the history behind it.

Well, Boxing Day is traditionally the day after Christmas day when wealthy people in the United Kingdom would give a box containing a gift to their servants. Today, Boxing Day is better known as a bank or public holiday that occurs on December 26 - as it does in the United Kingdon, or the first or second weekday after Christmas Day, depending on national or regional laws of the country in which it is being celebrated. It is observed in this tradition in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

In South Africa, Boxing Day was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994. In Ireland it is recognized as St. Stephen's Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Stiofáin) or the Day of the Wren (Irish: Lá an Dreoilín). In the Netherlands, Lithuania, Austria, Germany, Scandinavia and Poland, December 26 is celebrated as the Second Christmas Day.

In Canada, Boxing Day takes place on December 26th and is a federal public holiday. In Ontario, Boxing Day is a statutory holiday where all full-time workers receive time off with pay.

Where does the term Boxing Day come from?

The exact meating behind the term "boxing" is unclear, and there are several competing theories, none of which are definitive. However, the tradition of Boxing Day has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions. The most likely theory of how the term Boxing Day came about has its roots in English history. For centuries it was a custom for tradesmen to collect "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is even mentioned in Samuel Pepys' famous diary, notably his entry for 19 December 1663. This custom is linked to an even older English tradition where in exchange for ensuring that wealthy landowners' Christmases ran smoothly, their servants were allowed to take the 26th off to visit their families. The employers gave each servant a box containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.

Even today, it is still an accepted tradition in England for dustman and paperboys/girls to knock on the doors of their 'customers' to ask for and collect their 'Christmas Box'.

For more information click onto:
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Christmas Tree
Cloves and Cinnamon - Spices with the Sweet Scent of Christmas
Gardenofeadenxmas
Gardening Jobs For December
History of the Allotment
How Does Mistletoe Grow
How to Care for Your Cut Christmas Tree
How to Choose a Christmas Tree
How to Grow Mistletoe from Seed
How to Prepare for the Christmas Holidays
How to Propagate and Grow Mistletoe
How to Stop Christmas Trees from Dropping their Needles
Jack Lantern
Merry Christmas - From Where I Live
Poinsettia History and Tradition Story
Recipe for Traditional Christmas Cake
Recipe for Christmas Pudding
Sissinghurst Gardens - a secret history
Traditional English Christmas Pudding Recipe 
The History of Christmas
The History of Mistletoe Tradition
The History of the Primula Auricula
Types and Varieties of Christmas Tree
What has the Christmas cactus got to do with Christmas?
What is Boxing Day?
What is Christmas?
When is Boxing Day?
When is Christmas?
Who was Father Christmas?
Based on an article by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day

SCOTCH BROTH


My Grandmother – although she spent most of her adult life in England – was born and brought up by Spey Bay in the north east of Scotland. Perhaps most famous for it production of ‘peaty’ whiskey, the area was also endowed with excellent arable farmland. This turned out to be a lucky coincidence as my Nan was fortunate enough to be born into the Watson family who owned large tracts of land in the area. Specialising in the production of ‘nips’ and ‘taties’ (parsnips and potatoes to the rest of us), the wealthy Watson family had one of the largest farms in the area – larger still than the Baxter family who are now well-known for their up market brand of ‘Baxters soups’. Although farming rivals, my Nan was briefly engaged to be married to the young Mr. Baxter, but uunfortunately this engagement was not to last. Why? Because she choose a life of love over privilege by marrying my Grandad Bert.

But this isn’t a story about my Nan, this is a story about my Nan’s Scotch Broth, or as she would have called it – broth! Now traditionally lamb is used for Scotch broth, but my Nan usually used chopped chicken breasts. However, the recipe is basically the same for both meats and so I have incuded both in this recipe - just go by the sections that are relevant to you.

Ingredients

200 g (7oz) pearl barley
1.5 litre (2½pts) chicken stock, or lamb stock if you are cooking with lamb shoulder.
4 large skinless chicken breasts, chopped - or 1.15kg/2½lb lamb shoulder
1 onion, sliced
1 turnip, sliced
1 parsnip, sliced
1 leek, sliced
1 large potato, diced
2 carrots, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
parsley, chopped
a pinch of salt
loads of freshly ground black pepper (that's how she made it, but I recommend you add small amounts at a time to suit your taste.)
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of time

How to make Scotch Broth

Serves 6

Put the pearl barley into a bowl of cold water, then set aside to soak.

Meanwhile, place the chopped chicken or lamb into a large saucepan or flameproof casserole dish and cover with the appropriate stock. Bring to a simmer and skim off the scum. Now add the onion, bay leaf and thyme to the pan. Return to a gentle simmer and cook for one hour, skimming occasionally.

Add the carrots, turnips, parsnips, leeks and celery to the broth. Season with the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a very gentle simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 30 minutes.

After the vegetables and  chicken/lamb have been simmering for 30 minutes, rinse the pearl barley in a sieve under cold running water. If you are using chicken then give the broth a good stir, if you are using the lamb - turn the lamb over. Add the pearl barley and potatoes to the casserole. Cook gently for a further 45 minutes, uncovered. If you are using the lamb make sure that it is lamb is very tender and is falling off the bone and that the barley is softened. At ths point, remove the pan from the heat

If cooking with lamb, lift the lamb out of the pot with tongs or a large fork and put on a board. Carve off all the meat, slicing or tearing into largish chunks and discarding any skin and bone. Season the broth with more salt and pepper to taste and spoon into large, deep plates. Divide the lamb between the plates and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.

If cooking with the chicken then serve evenly into suitable bowls. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.

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Photos care of http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/popular-cuisines/british/mutton-vegetable-and-barley-stew-recipe and http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Scotch-Broth-Soup

HOW TO MAKE STOCK FROM TURKEY BONES



When cooking hearty meals over the winter period you can't beat the flavour of a good old, home made stock. So with that in mind, don't waste your old turkey bones once Christmas meals are over, put them to good use by making a proper stock put of them. You can be as fancy or as simple as you like. My Nan just used to chuck the turkey bones by themselves in as she would put any extra ingredients in the main dish. I like to add some celery and an onion/a few shallots, but that is through force of habit.

However, if you want to get really fancy then try this recipe, but my Nan - God rest her soul - will probably tell me that all I have made is rubbish soup. I will leave it to you to decide.

Ingredients
1 x turkey carcass
2 x carrots, scrubbed or peeled, and cut in half
2 x large onions, halved
2 x stalks of celery
The green tops of 1 or 2 leeks
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
Salt and ground black pepper
Cold water

How to make turkey stock

Place turkey carcass (broken up slightly if possible) into a large saucepan. Add the vegetables, season, then cover with cold water.

Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of hours until all the flavour has been drawn from the turkey bones.

Pour through a sieve and discard the bones and vegetables. Cheat! Of course you can always do what I do, which is to remove all the bones and large pieces of anything my slotted spoon can drag out. After that I attack what's left with a hand held blender.

Allow to cool for a while and if there is any fat floating on the top of the stock, skim it off and discard.

Taste the stock - it should have a good flavour. If you want it a bit stronger, just reduce it down a bit. Use what you need and freeze the rest of it until required.

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Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-1101830/Rachel-Allens-luxury-Christmas-leftovers-recipe-Homemade-turkey-stock.html#ixzz1gtyH0WLk

LEFTOVER TURKEY RECIPE: Turkey and Mayonnaise


Who hasn't bought a stupid sized turkey for Christmas, had most of it left over from the Christmas dinner, and then sat boxing day scratching your head to come up with both interesting and exciting meal recipes to save throwing the rest of it away or feeding it to the dog?

Well, after that 'longest sentence ever' I have at least one excellent recipe for you and - at least in my opinion - is one of the best left over turkey recipes I have ever cooked or tasted, and full of creamy, savoury goodness!

Serve with rice.

Ingredients

Serves 6

Approximately 750 grams of turkey, but really its what ever you have left over - within reason

1 x large onion
600g of mayonnaise
600g of chopped tomatoes
1 small pack of mange tout, but this can be substituted for peas or French beans
3 x tbsp of olive oil




How to make Turkey and Mayonnaise




To begin with pick off all of the good meat and place into a suitable container. Next, chop the onion and cut the mange touts in to 1cm lengths.

Warm up a large sauce pan, then add the olive oil and chopped onions. Just as the onion start to turn clear add the turkey, mayonnaise and chopped tomatoes. Stir periodically and allow the mixture to just come to boil. Turn the heat down and allow to simmer for 20 minutes - again, stirring periodically.

Put your rice on, add the mange touts to the Turkey and Mayonnaise and continue to simmer until the rice is done. The Turkey and Mayonnaise will be ready once you see that the turkey has broken down into large fibres.

Add salt and pepper to taste then serve on a bed of rice.

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HOW TO STOP CHRISTMAS TREES FROM DROPPING THEIR NEEDLES


For most people, the thing they tend to worry about most with a cut, live Christmas trees is how long the needles are going to last before they either fall off, get trampled around the house or get stuck in the soles of your feet. The trouble with cut trees is this, over half of a Christmas trees weight is down to the water inside it. So when its roots are cut off for sale, the tree is no longer able to replenish the water it loses through evaporation and transpiration (the emission of water vapour in plants).

A Christmas tree will lose water naturally through its needles, but without roots it will be unable to replace that which is lost. Once this water loss reaches a critical level the trees natural defence system will kick in and it will try to shed as many needles as possible before it dies of dehydration (desiccation) in an attempt to save itself.

There are techniques you can use that will slow their water loss down, and this will prolong the time that the needles will stay on the stems and branches, but you need to start treatment as soon as possible after the tree has been cut.

The problem that occurs here is that most trees you buy would have had their roots removed a week or two earlier – sometimes more – before they even reach a shop, and each shop generally stops buying new stock during the second week in December. By that time, and particularly if the weather has been warm, they would have been drying out for a week or two and will probably be dropping leaves as soon as they are out of their protective netting. If you are the type of person who looks for a bargain just one or two days before Christmas day then you really are going to get what you pay for.

With all trees slightly differing some are worse for drying out than others, but with a little attention, you can maintain the quality of your display trees until the twelfth day itself. Check out our top tips for Christmas tree care.

How to prevent a Christmas tree from dropping its needles

1. The first thing to do with your chosen tree is to make a fresh cut 1-2 inches back from the base, quite often this is a service that your retailer will provide, but you may have to ask first.

Try not to bruise or dirty the cut surface otherwise you may need to give it another cut when you get home

2. Once you return home place the fresh cut into a container of water as this will allow some uptake of fluid back into the plant. If you intend to put you tree up in the home straight away, then your choice of Christmas tree stand then become important.

There are many on the market now that come with an in-built reservoir. I would advise purchasing one to keep your tree in peak condition. Remember to keep it topped up though as you will be surprised at how much water it will use. If you intend to wait before you decorate your tree then it will probably be best for your tree to leave it outside in the cold. The colder it is the less water will be lost through evaporation and transpiration.

3. With regards to Christmas tree stands make sure that it is of a suitable size for your tree. If you think that you can get away with a smaller size you will end up having to whittle away its base to make it fit.

By doing this, you will be removing the cambium layer responsible for water intake. This negates the point of having a stand with a reservoir. Your tree is also more likely to fall over!

4. Use small LED or low voltage lights as they will produce little or no heat. Larger lights will warm up where they touch the branches causing water loss.

5. If possible, keep your tree in a cool room, out of draughts and direct sunlight as this will all help in reducing water loss. If this isn’t possible then remember to keep your tree away from direct sources of heat such as electric or open fires.

WARNING! Pine sap can be highly volatile if accidentally ignited, and if a tree catches light you can lose more that just your prized Christmas ornaments, you may end up losing your home! Remember the the longer the tree has been without roots, the drier it becomes and this increases the risk of it all going up in flames!

6. Finally, the oldest trick in the book. Spray the underside of you tree with hair spray as this will block the stomatal pores in the needles that allow water to escape.

Unfortunately this will also make your tree more flammable, although nowadays you can buy cans of Xmas tree 'needle-fast' spray. You generally find them next to cans of Christmas tree pine fragrance - perhaps the most ridiculous product on the market today as it can end up making your room smell like a 1970's toilet!

For more information click onto:

THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS


The Christmas holiday is arguably the most awaited and celebrated holiday in the Christain world. However, Christmas as we know it today is a relatively modern affair having almost died out in England during the 17th century. Why? Because it was banned by Oliver Cromwell in 1644 in the belief that it was a wasteful festival that threatened core Christain beliefs. Consequently, all activities relating to Christmas, including attending mass, were forbidden. Not surprisingly, the ban was hugely unpopular and many people continued to celebrate Christmas secretly in their homes!

Of course the Christmas holiday is stronger than ever after being re-invented and then given a new lease of life by the genius that was Charles Dickens. This Christmas renaisannce was solely down to the publication of his most famous book 'A Christmas Carol' that was introduced to the English speaking world in 1843.

The History of Christmas

You may not have realised it but Christmas has always been a strange combination of Christian, Pagan and folk traditions. In fact, as far back as 389 AD, St Gregory Nazianzen (one of the Four Fathers of the Greek Church) warned against 'feasting in excess, dancing and crowning the doors'. The Church was already finding it hard to bury the Pagan remnants of the midwinter festival.

Of course, Christmas is not only a Christian festival as this celebration can trace its roots in the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the festivals of the ancient Greeks, the beliefs of the Druids and the folk customs of Europe. This is because Christmas comes just after the middle of winter when the sun is strengthening and the days are just starting to grow longer. Throughout history this has been a time of feasting and celebration.

Our ancient ancester were hunters and spent most of their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in their lives and because of this they had a great reverence for, and even worshipped, the sun. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word yule (another name for Christmas) is thought to have come. At Winter Solstice the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank sweet ale.

The Romans also held a festival to mark the Winter Solstice. Saturnalia (from the God Saturn) ran for seven days from 17th December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved processions, decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles and giving presents.

During the medieval period (c.400AD - c.1400AD) Christmas was a time for feasting and merrymaking. It was a predominantly secular festival but contained some religious elements.

Medieval Christmas lasted 12 days from Christmas Eve on 24th December, until the Epiphany (Twelfth Night) on 6th January. Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means 'to show', meaning the time when Jesus was revealed to the world. Even up until the 1800s the Epiphany was at least as big a celebration as Christmas day.

Many Pagan traditions had been brought to Britain by the invading Roman soldiers. These included covering houses in greenery and bawdy partying that had its roots in the unruly festival of Saturnalia.

The Church attempted to curb Pagan practices and popular customs were given Christian meaning. Carols that had started as Pagan songs for celebrations such as midsummer and harvest were taken up by the Church. By the late medieval period the singing of Christmas carols had become a tradition.

The Church also injected Christian meaning into the use of holly, making it a symbol for Jesus' crown of thorns. According to one legend, the holly's branches were woven into a painful crown and placed on Christ's head by Roman soldiers who mocked him, chanting: "Hail King of the Jews." Holly berries used to be white but Christ's blood left them with a permanent crimson stain.

Another legend is about a little orphan boy who was living with shepherds when the angels came to announce Jesus' birth. The child wove a crown of holly for the newborn baby's head. But when he presented it, he became ashamed of his gift and started to cry. Miraculously the baby Jesus reached out and touched the crown. It began to sparkle and the orphan's tears turned into beautiful scarlet berries.

Bans on Christmas

From the middle of the 17th century until the early 18th century the Christian Puritans suppressed Christmas celebrations in Europe and America.

The Puritan movement began during the reign of Queen Elizabeth in England (1558-1603). They believed in strict moral codes, plenty of prayer and close following of New Testament scripture.

As the date of Christ's birth is not in the Gospels the Puritans thought that Christmas was too strongly linked to the Pagan Roman festival and were opposed to all celebration of it, particularly the lively, boozy celebrations inherited from Saturnalia. In 1644 all Christmas activities were banned in England. This included decorating houses with evergreens and eating mince pies.

Victorian Christmas

After a lull in Christmas celebrations the festival returned with a bang in the Victorian Era (1837-1901). The Victorian Christmas was based on nostalgia for Christmases past. Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843) inspired ideals of what Christmas should be, capturing the imagination of the British and American middle classes. This group had money to spend and made Christmas a special time for the family.

The Victorians gave us the kind of Christmas we know today, reviving the tradition of carol singing, borrowing the practice of card giving from St. Valentine's day and popularising the Christmas tree.

Although the Victorians attempted to revive the Christmas of medieval Britain, many of the new traditions were Anglo-American inventions. From the 1950s, carol singing was revived by ministers, particularly in America, who incorporated them into Christmas celebrations in the Church. Christmas cards were first sent by the British but the Americans, many of whom were on the move and away from their families, picked up the practice because of a cheap postal service and because it was a good way of keeping in contact with people at home.

Christmas trees were a German tradition, brought to Britain and popularised by the royal family. Prince Albert first introduced the Christmas tree into the royal household in Britain in 1834. He was given a tree as a gift by the Queen of Norway which was displayed in Trafalgar Square.

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Who was Santa Claus?
Photos care of http://www.craftypod.com/2007/12/20/a-brief-history-of-christmas-ornaments/  and http://most-expensive.net/charles-dickens-book http://www.virtual-shropshire.co.uk/towns/clun_town.shtml
and http://www.inspirationline.com/Brainteaser/AprilFool.htm and http://catsmeatshop.blogspot.com/2010_12_01_archive.html

SAVED FROM EXTINCTION - THE MAMMOTH?




Although extinct now for around 4500 years, the woolly mammoth was one of the most magnificent animals ever to walk the earth. Closely related to our modern day elephants, they were a much larger species often equipped with long curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long, course hair.

The largest known species, the Songhua River mammoth (Mammuthus sungari) , reached heights of at least 5 metres (16 ft) at the shoulder. Mammoths would probably normally weigh in the region of 6 to 8 tons, but exceptionally large males may have exceeded 12 tons. However, most species of mammoth were only about as large as a modern Asian elephant.

However, it may now be possible for mammoths to once again, roam the Earth. Why? Because scientists from from the Siberian mammoth museum and Japan's Kinki University are undertaking a Jurassic Park-style experiment in an effort to bring the woolly mammoth out of extinction. These scientists claim that a thigh bone found in August 2011 contains remarkably well-preserved marrow cells, which could form the starting point of the experiment. From there they plan to extract a nucleus from the animal's bone marrow and insert it into the egg of an African elephant. If succesful, the cloning could be complete within the next five years!

The Roslin Institute, famous for cloning Dolly the sheep, has published some thoughts on the possibilities of bringing extinct species back to life.

It said it was extremely unlikely such an experiment would be successful, especially using an elephant surrogate:

'...first, a suitable surrogate mother animal is required. For the mammoth this would need to be a cow (as best biological fit) but even here the size difference may preclude gestation to term.The success rate for such an experiment would be in the range of 1-5%. The second issue would be the need for viable whole cells.If there are intact cells in this tissue they have been 'stored' frozen. However, if we think back to what actually happened to the animal - it died, even if from the cold, the cells in the body would have taken some time to freeze. This time lag would allow for breakdown of the cells, which normally happens when any animal dies. Then the carcass would freeze. So it is unlikely that the cells would be viable...'

'...assuming that viable cells are found it becomes a numbers game. Let's say that one in a thousand cells were nevertheless viable, practical issues come into play. Given that we have an efficiency of 1% cloning for livestock species and if only one in a thousand cells are viable then around 100,000 cells would need to be transferred...'

Charles Foster, a fellow at Green Templeton College, Oxford, seemed more optimistic.

'...the idea of mammoth cloning isn't completely ridiculous. How the resultant embryos would fare beyond the stage of a few cells is more or less unknown. While most of the genetic coding of the embryo would come from the mammoth, some would come from the elephant ovum. We really don't know what the contribution of that cytoplasmic material is, or how it would interact with 'alien' DNA. It would however mean that, even if successful, the clone would be a hybrid rather than a pure mammoth...'

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based on an article by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammoth and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16068581

Photos care of http://www.amnh.org/science/papers/mammoths.php and http://true-wildlife.blogspot.com/2011/04/woolly-mammoth.html

CHRISTMAS COOKIE RECIPE



We all know that Christmas is a busy time and most people feel pressured to throw a huge spread of food for any guest or family that manage to make it round. So if you have a need for Christmas cookies than a quick, simple and tasty recipe has got to be a winner. In my opinion, if it is going to take too long to make then it probably won't get made. Besides, not only will this Xmas cookie recipe make biscuits to any shape or design you like (so long as you have the cutter) you can also use your Christmas cookies as Christmas tree ornaments! It just keeps getting better!

Ingredients

100g/3½oz unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
100g/3½oz caster sugar
1 free-range egg, lightly beaten
275g/10oz plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract

Decoration

400g/14oz icing sugar
3-4 tbsp water
2-3 drops food colourings
Edible glitter


How to make Christmas Cookies

1. Before you start, preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Next, line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale, light and fluffy. See note below for technique for creaming butter

3. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, a little at a time until well combined.

4. Stir in the flour until the mixture comes together as a dough.

5. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of 1cm/½in.

6. Using biscuit cutters or a glass, cut biscuits out of the dough and carefully place onto the baking tray. To make into Christmas tree decorations, carefully make a hole in the top of the biscuit using a straw.

7. Bake the biscuits for 8-10 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to harden for 5 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

8. Now for the icing. Sift the icing sugar into a large mixing bowl and stir in enough water to create a smooth mixture. When finished, stir in the food colouring.

9. Carefully spread the icing onto the biscuits using a knife and sprinkle over the glitter. Now set aside the cookies until the icing hardens.

10. Once hardened the cookies are now ready to serve.

Note.'Creaming' means combining sugar with a solid fat, such as butter, shortening or margarine. Ensure the fat has softened to room temperature before you start. Beat the fat with the sugar to a light and fluffy texture. Start mixing quite slowly and, as the mixture becomes softer and well combined, you can mix faster. As you beat it, the mixture should increase in volume and take on a paler colour.

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HOW TO GROW VEGETABLES?


Go back far enough in time and you will find that the human race lived the nomadic existence of hunter gatherers. Following natures seasons and collecting wild grown food, when that precious food availability dropped off, the nomadic family groups up-rooted and moved on to where different foods were becoming available. For tens of thousands of years their lives followed this natural and sustainable pattern from season to season and year to year, learning from hard earned knowledge passed down through the generarions. It was only when man began to farm and harvest crops, and then go on to develop increasingly viable and nutritious crops, that early human civilisations were finally formed.

The vegetables that we eat today - which unfortunately many of us take for granted  - are solely the results of the endevours of our ancesters. Without their knowledge and ternacity we just wouldn't have the range of 'all-year-round' food that we have available to us today and better yet, we can still grow them using those same skills that were developed by our ancesters too far back to remember.

Obviously, with so many crops to choose from it would be impossible for you to get all of the information you would need from a single article, but luckily I have done a lot of the hard work for you as you can see below.

So, if you have a vegetable garden just ready and waiting, or you just want to learn about growing vegetables just click on your selected article to find out specific information on growing your preferred vegetable crops. And if you can't find what you are looking for then drop me a request using the comments option at the bottom

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