The History of Cupolas

Good Directions Cupola and WeathervaneCupolas are both ornamental and functional in design. They are placed on top of domes or roofs and provide ventilation and natural light. This natural light is great for attics and loft spaces. The word cupola comes from a Latin term “little cupo” or little dome. Cupolas are made from an assortment of materials, which include aluminum, wood, fiberglass, and vinyl. The tops of the cupolas can be covered in either traditional shingles or copper.

The Humble Beginning of the Cupolas

Cupolas began to appear in Islamic architecture around the 8th century. These first cupolas were very large and contained one or more balconies by which criers would call for prayer. These large cupolas were placed on top of minarets.

Later on, these architectural structures were not limited to government building but could be found on homes in the Middle East and India.

Later on, nomadic Moors brought them to Europe by way of Spain. Cupolas are very prevalent in Bavarian and Austrian churches where the domed roofs topped with cupolas prevented snow from accumulating and collapsing the structure.

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Celebrate Earth Hour with Earth Friendly Products from Outdora

EarthHourEarth Hour 2012 will occur on March 31, but to understand what Earth Hour really is one must understand the history.  The World Wildlife Federation of Australia started Earth Hour in 2004.  The purpose of this celebration was to make Australians aware of climate change.  While many ideas were bounced around, the WWF of Australia decided to contact an advertising agency for help.  The Leo Burnett Sydney agency was contacted and a plan was designed to get Australians engaged in issue of climate change.

Then, in 2005, a campaign of hope not fear was developed.  This campaign pushed the fact that everyone had a personal responsibility when it came to global warming.  In doing so, the WWF of Australia and the Leo Burnett Sydney agency came up with “The Big Flick.”

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What Time is It? The History of the Sundial

sundialSun clocks or sundials are the oldest device known to man that was and still are used to tell time.  The principle behind a sundial is very simple.  As the sun rotates around the earth and moves from east to west, it casts a shadow.  This shadow is then used to predict time.

Ancient Sundials

Egyptians were the first ones to use sundials.  These beginning time telling devices consisted of a t-shaped cross ban with a vertical stick.  This stick was marked with five lines that represented five hours.  In the morning, the stick was placed facing east and measured the next five hours.  Afternoon times were measured by moving the stick so that if faced the west.

Later on, obelisks were built by the Egyptians and Babylonians that were used to calculate time.  These structures were very important in the calculation of the longest and shortest days of the year.

Eventually, smaller, more portable sundials were designed that resembled smaller versions of the obelisk.

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Today’s USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map and How to Use It

plant_hardiness_zone_mapBefore you plant the first seed in your flat or plan your garden, you will need to check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.  This is a crucial step that many gardeners skip because they do not know how to use the map or do not understand the information on the map.

Past USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Maps have been divided into 10 categories.  These categories were separated by 10 degrees.  This 10-degree margin represents the average minimum winter temperature of an area.    These margins are then divided into areas labeled “a and b.”  These areas are separated by 5 degrees and add more climatic detail to a region.

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History of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

farmers_great_depressionAs gardeners prepare for the upcoming gardening season, many will be viewing incoming seed catalogues along side their morning cup of coffee.  Throughout the catalogue plant hardiness zones will be mentioned but do you really know the history behind these maps?  This tale is full of intrigue, competition, and human nature.

The story begins among one of the darkest moments in United States history and that is the Great Depression.  Two individuals working for two different agencies were honing in on an idea and that was a temperature map that could guide farmers in their plantings.  Before this idea was conceived, plantings were guided by family traditions and The Farmers Almanac.

So during the 1930’s The U.S. National Arboretum was working on a map that would divide the United States into zones that were separated by 10 degrees Fahrenheit.  At the same time, Arnold Arboretum was developing its own map.  This map was divided into eight zones that could have a temperature difference of 5, 10, or 15 degrees.

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Create a Low Maintenance Green Space with Style

579085Regardless of what type of green space you may have, there is no reason to spend your summer drudging through your garden to do list.  Utilizing a few or all of these techniques will lighten up the wheelbarrow load of garden chores while reducing ones stress and carbon footprint.

These techniques can be broken down into gardener style and level of expertise.

No Time, Brown Thumb Gardener

If you are an individual that has no time to garden or do yard work, do not despair.  There are gardening techniques that can be used that will allow you to have a low maintenance yard and garden.

The first technique to use is to remove or do not plant a traditional lawn.  Instead, plant a perennial meadow that is native to your area.  The mix can include native grasses and flowers.  Utilizing this approach will only require one mowing a year but before you do this do not forget to tell the neighbors and check your community bylaws.

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Common Mistakes Made on the Grill and How to Avoid Them

grill-mistakesWhatever your level of experience on the grill may be no one is immune from making mistakes. There are countless little nuances to cooking, and if even a few of them are overlooked your results can be dramatically different from what you were expecting. Most errors made on the grill result from overlooking a small part of a simple technique or process. Below are some of the most common mistakes people tend to make when grilling, and some easy ways to avoid them.

Not bringing your meats to temperature before they go on the grill: That’s right, the pre-cooking temperature of your meat can be just as important as the temperature when you take it off the grill. If you are using previously frozen meat products, make sure that they are completely defrosted before attempting to season or cook them. Also, unless you are trying to sear the outside of a very rare steak, it is a good idea to allow your meat to rest at room temperature for a half an hour or so before placing it on the grill. Allowing your meat to come closer to room temperature will promote even cooking, and reduce the chances of your meat drying out the grill.

Not cleaning your grill properly: Your grill should be cleaned with a wire brush and other grill cleaning supplies every time you use it either before or after each use. Your grill grate should be cleaned while it is hot with a wire brush or other cleaning utensil. Having a properly cleaned grill will prevent sticking, help produce those nice grill lines that we are always looking to create, and insure that no remnants from your last grilling adventure make a cameo on your current one.

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The History of Rain Chains and How to Use Them

rain_chainRain chains are a wonderful addition to any landscape. They can add sound and direct water in a stylish way while meshing cultures.

Rain chains have a unique history that starts in Japan several hundred years ago.  In this culture they were called ‘Kusari doi” and were used as both a decorative element for downspouts in both temples and homes.

Later on, rain chains appeared in the American culture when the 1998 Winter Olympics were held at Nagano, Japan.

In both of these situations, rain chains were used to enhance the sound of the water running out of the gutter.  This sound element not only tied into the Japanese-style of landscape design but also utilized the vertical realm, which in many landscapes is underused.

Rain chains come in many different forms but three common styles exist.  The first style can come in two sections and can be personalized according to ones interest, zodiac or style.  The first section is referred to as the leader.  This leader tops the chain itself, which also can have a design element.  This chain can consist of simple links or can be broken down into sections that are separated by other design elements such as teacups and flowers.

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How to Grow Your Own Aromatherapy Garden

aromatherapyAromatherapy has a long history; as a matter of fact it has a history that is 2700 years old.  The literal definition of aromatherapy is aroma or fragrance and therapy or treatment.  In other words, aromatherapy means fragrance treatment.

The Chinese, Greeks, Romans and Egyptians used this treatment.  The Egyptians believed that smells could raise one to a higher power or tranquility.  The ancient Chinese used herbs to show respect to the gods by burning aromatic wood and/or incense.

The Greeks used scents in oils.  These oils were used both as a medicine and cosmetic.  Aromatherapy took a turn when Asclepius, a physician, combined herbs and surgery around 1200 BC.  He later became known in Greek mythology as the god of healing.

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A Rose by Any Other Name – The History and Meaning of the Most Popular Valentine’s Day Flower

Roses2It was Romeo who said “A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet,” but long before he pondered the meaning in a name underneath Juliet’s window, the rose already had a long established presence in the pantheon of love and the history of civilization.

In existence on Earth for 35 million years and with 150 different species to bear its surname, roses are the most popular Valentine’s Day flower gifted between friends, lovers and at times even enemies.

The Ancient Greeks believed that the rose was the flower of love, created by Chloris, the Goddess of Flowers and Roses were grown by the Roman Empire to use, among other things, as confetti during parades. And it was in the seventeenth century that roses and rose water became so valuable that they were considered legal tender. The Chinese were the first to cultivate roses and it was the Chinese who also introduced modern rose cultivation to Europe.

The language of flowers was developed in Victorian-era England. The strict social customs and conservative attitudes lead to the development of floriography, a means of communication where people used different flowers or floral arrangements to express feelings through symbol that could not be communicated in speech.

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