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COLUMN: Now’s the time for nesting, hot cocoa and warm food

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Well, we fell back and got a little more daylight, for a time.
As we move closer to the winter solstice, those few precious hours allow us to get ready for the long, dark nights. It’s amazing how it changes our behavior.
In the summer, I don’t think twice about popping over to the neighbors at 9 p.m. Shoot, most of us were still outside enjoying the weather and the garden. Now, as the long night moves closer, we’re probably already in our jammies by then.
As my friend Jeff says, “we start to nest” as fall moves in to winter. Hot chocolate and cider become the drinks of choice over ice-cold beverages. We snuggle in after sundown and supper.
Chili and hashbrown casserole replace salads and sandwiches. We crave warm stuff. There’s a little science behind that habit. We need more calories to stay warm, so our bodies tell us to eat more protein and carbohydrates.
Our psyche also starts to look for color inside, since we don’t have much outside. Bright colors, like red and green, find their way into the home in a myriad of forms from apples to wrapping paper to poinsettias.
The other day I was asked about the care of poinsettias from someone who had kept last year’s plant. I so love it when people do that, instead of tossing them. You can get some really big poinsettias that way.
Keeping a poinsettia alive throughout the year takes some care. Treat it like a houseplant, with a few pinchings through the summer and shady outside time. Bring it in when you bring the others and when October rolls around put it in the closet.
Poinsettias need to be in complete darkness between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. to keep it from flowering. In the daytime, keep it near a sunny window, but out of the sun. Water it like normal. Do this until Thanksgiving. Then you can keep it out of the closet and near a sunny window.
It likes 70 degrees and several hours of light. It likes water, but never let it stand in water. It does not like direct sun, high heat or breezes. Breezes make it drop its leaves.
With all this talk of hot food, cold nights, nesting and color for your mood, don’t forget to exercise. Thirty minutes of exercise each day has been found to cut your risk of getting a cold in half. If you do get one, it will make the infection less severe because exercise boosts your immune system.
Now, go check the pantry for chili beans and cornbread. I’m simmering my homegrown garlic and onions for a pot as I write. Man, does it smell good. After a brisk walk with the dogs, I think I hear a good book and the couch calling.
Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.