On Saturday, I took a quick road trip up to Marion. Violet was performing in the Tabor Academy String Ensemble winter concert. I know I’ve been on the Vineyard for decades but I do know how to drive. Zipping right along at the posted speed limit of 65 MPH, I was the slowest person on the highway. Plus, it was raining and snowing. What’s wrong with people? There’s a question which could promote quite a bit of discussion.

I’m writing this on Tuesday at the end of a 50-degree day. With proper clothing and footwear, it is the perfect temperature for gardening activities. I’ve been busy covering the vegetable beds with flakes of hay. They are loaded with weeds and debris but no matter, I just covered everything up. I’m confident that spring planting will be much easier. This is my 10th year at this particular garden and I’m trying to avoid so much back-breaking in the spring.

My son, Reuben, and I have a running battle about my habits concerning the garden paths. I put down old rugs. It drives him crazy as he wants to mow and weed whack the paths for me. The rug fibers get all fetched up in the equipment. We are both brats so it remains to be seen how this is resolved.

Speaking of paths, some of mine are a carpet of cilantro seedlings. I grew it some years ago and it has reseeded ever since. Why I planted it in the first place is a mystery since I loathe the stuff. I did discover, however, that the flowers are lovely and have a wild meadow look that is most attractive with other reseeds such as Shirley poppies and bachelor buttons.

Also, I have tons of cardoon all over the place. Give me a ring in April if you would like some babies.

Upon close examination my Lacinato (aka Dinosaur) kale is covered with gray aphids. How is this even possible? It has been below freezing several nights. I do not know how they can survive.

I always soak kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts and broccoli in salted water as part of the washing and preparation. It will drive the little critters out of the leaves. This is simply a reality of organic gardening so I don’t mind.

I stopped at the Mermaid Farm stand and purchased a bag of the locally grown Red Fife wheat flour. I promptly made a couple of loaves. If you recall this paper had an article by Kate Warner (founder of the Vineyard Bread Project) in August right around the fair time. She wrote about local Dan Sternbach growing grains here on the Vineyard. The company is called Lost and Found Grains.

I hauled out my hand-powered stone grain grinder that I used back in the seventies. I’m going to clean it up and grind some wheat berries for myself. I must speak to Dan about purchasing said berries before he mills them.

By the way, the bread is delicious. I didn’t use a recipe. Warm water, yeast, honey, the fresh flour, a little salt and some walnut oil. I kneaded with white flour for quite awhile to develop the gluten.

For you folks gearing up for the annual Christmas Eve Carol sing, I came across my old Methodist hymnal. In the front are John Wesley’s directions for singing from 1761.

“1. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

2. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn them as soon as you can.

3. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find it a blessing.

4. Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half-dead or half-asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of it being heard, than when you sang the songs of Satan.

5. Sing modestly. Do no bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

6. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

7. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such at the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.”

There you have it. Happy holidays.

P.S. Way to go Alabama.