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CURRENT PANDEMIC PUZZLE CRAZE

 

BY CHRISTIE SMITH

Valley Voice Contributor

 

Jigsaw puzzles have been making a major comeback lately. Demand has surged with people needing to shelter-in-place during the novel coronavirus pandemic and sales have gone up by 300 to 400%. Historian Anne Williams, in speaking to CNBC about the surge in puzzling, explained why puzzles can be so appealing in times of great societal upheaval: "It's something you can control...It's also a challenge over which you can prevail."

 

A poll on behalf of the game company, Ravensburger, in 2018, found that 59% of people surveyed found working puzzles relaxing and 47% felt it relieved stress. Working on puzzles involves active brain work, sometimes even strategy, and is engrossing because it taps into challenging oneself and finishing a project in order to feel a sense of accomplishment.

 

But there are also frustrating moments while working on a challenging puzzle. There are times when it seems impossible to find even one piece. In an essay on puzzling, English professor Tim Morris writes: “…indifference gives way to despair, and you get up and see what’s on Nickelodeon. But you come back the next day and---hello, what’s this? You recognize that hook on that piece, it fits right in that one over here!”

 

We’re in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression. But now, not only have many been laid off, we’ve also had to stay at home and limit contact with people outside our own households. This makes inexpensive, indoor activities like working puzzles particularly attractive, especially during the winter months.

 

AN EXTENSIVE HISTORY OF JIGSAW PUZZLES

 

Beginning in the 18thcentury, jigsaw puzzles were originally created by someone painting a picture on a flat, rectangular piece of wood, and then cutting that picture into small pieces.  London cartographer and engraver John Spilsbury is credited with commercializing them around 1760. The earliest puzzles and other English table games were geographical, and the publishers were often map engraver and sellers. Jigsaw puzzles have been described by librarian and historian Jill Shefrin as “often beautiful pieces of craftsmanship---engraved, hand-colored, carefully mounted, folded, cut or otherwise assembled---and very expensive. The wooden boxes for the puzzles were made from mahogany or cedar, and the puzzles themselves backed with thin mahogany board.”

 

As researched by historian Joseph Wachelder, “dissected maps” in the early nineteenth century belonged in the category of “intellectual toys” and were often advertised alongside “fancy goods for adults” in order to appeal to women. He also stressed the moral component of children’s toys during this time, which were advertised as being both instructional and amusing. However, by the mid-nineteenth century, the children’s toy industry had greatly expanded and non-didactic games began to outsell educational games (like puzzles) when the market began to shift. Librarians started seeing the importance of attracting younger children to libraries and children’s rooms became more common, filled with toys and puzzles.

 

Beginning in the 1870s, puzzles gradually shifted from being associated exclusively with children to an adult form of amusement as well. A May 1908 New York Times headline proclaimed “New Puzzle Menace in the City’s Sanity. Young and old, rich and poor, all hard at work fitting cut-up pictures together. Solitaire is forgotten. Two clergymen, a supreme court justice, and a noted financier among the latest converts to the craze.” Famous puzzle lovers included President Theodore Roosevelt, Czar Nicholas II of Russia, and financier J.P. Morgan.

 

However, puzzling wasn’t accessible to all. It was an activity associated with the wealthy, who did puzzles at vacation homes and during lavish house parties. At the time, a 400-piece puzzle cost $4; the average American worker earned only $12 a week. In response to this economic inaccessibility, puzzle clubs and rental libraries sprang up. Puzzling had a strong psychological pull in that it offered a distraction from life’s problems.

 

Jigsaw puzzles soared in popularity during the Great Depression as they provided a cheap, long-lasting, recyclable form of entertainment. Around this time, puzzles became more complex and more appealing to adults. They were also given away in product promotions and used in advertising, with customers completing an image of the product being promoted. The activity became more accessible for everyone as a 300-piece puzzle cost only around 25 cents. Skilled workers who were out of work got into the puzzle manufacturing business, hand-cutting wooden puzzles at home. By 1933, manufacturers were making 10 million puzzles a week, the majority of which were advertising puzzles. Amy Pepe wrote: “Some of the jigsaw puzzle images were in and of themselves advertisements for the company, some featured a pleasing image with the name of the company on it, like the one for the Geneva Baking Company. Still others were double-sided.”

 

Sales of wooden jigsaw puzzles fell after World War II as improved wages led to price increases, while at the same time improvements in manufacturing processes made paperboard jigsaws more attractive.

 

MODERN CONSTRUCTION OF JIGSAW PUZZLES

 

Most puzzles are now made of paperboard. An enlarged photograph or printed reproduction of a painting or other two-dimensional artwork is glued onto the cardboard before cutting. This board is then fed into a press, and the press forces a set of hardened steel blades of the desired shape through the board until it is fully cut. This procedure is similar to making shaped cookies with a cookie cutter except the forces involved are tremendously greater. A typical 1000-piece puzzle requires a press than can generate upwards of 700 tons of force to push the knives of the puzzle die through the board.

 

New technology has now enabled laser-cutting of wooden or acrylic jigsaw puzzles. Now a puzzle can be custom cut into any size, any shape, with any size (or any number) of pieces.

 

VARIATIONS OF JIGSAW PUZZLES

 

Modern puzzles come in a variety of sizes. Among those targeted to adults, 300, 500, and 750 pieces are considered “smaller.” More sophisticated, but still common, some puzzles come in sizes of 1,000, 1,500, 2,000, and upwards to 32,000 and 40,000 pieces. Puzzles geared towards children usually have many fewer and typically much larger pieces. They are usually made of wood or plastic to maintain durability and make cleaning without damage easier.

 

Some puzzles are made double-sided so they can be solved from either side. I just finished one of those – quite an interesting and challenging experience. It was sometimes difficult to determine which side was which.

 

Other types of jigsaw puzzles include:

 

FAMILY PUZZLES that come in 100—550 pieces with three different-sized pieces from large to small. The pieces are placed from large to small, going in one direction towards the middle of the puzzle. This allows a family of different skill levels and different-sized hands to work on the puzzle at the same time.

 

3-D PUZZLES require the puzzle to be solved in a certain order. Some pieces will not fit in if others are already in place. Another type of three-dimensional puzzle is a puzzle globe. Like a 2-D puzzle, a globe puzzle is often made of plastic and the assembled pieces form a single layer. But the final form is a three-dimensional shape. Most globe puzzles have designs representing spherical shapes such as the Earth, the Moon, and historical globes of the Earth.

 

PUZZLE PIECES

 

Many puzzles are termed “fully interlocking,” which means that adjacent pieces are connected in such a way that if one piece is moved horizontally, the other pieces move with it, preserving the connection. Sometimes the connection is tight enough to pick up the solved part by holding one piece. I’ve been able to do that several times when it was necessary to move parts of a puzzle.

 

Most jigsaw puzzles are square, rectangular, or round, with edge pieces that have one side that is either straight or smoothly curved to create this shape, plus four corner pieces if the puzzle is rectangular or square. However, some have edge pieces that are cut just like the rest of the interlocking pieces with no smooth edge, to make them more challenging. Other puzzles are formed so the shape of the whole puzzle forms a figure, such as an animal.

 

The designer Yuu Asaka created “Jigsaw Puzzle 29” which had not four corner pieces but five, and was made from pale blue acrylic without a picture. It was awarded the Jury Honorable Mention of 2018 Puzzle Design Competition. But many puzzlers had solved it easily so he created “Jigsaw Puzzle 19” which was composed of ONLY corner pieces as revenge. It was made with transparent green acrylic pieces without a picture.

 

WORLD RECORDS AND INTERESTING STUFF

 

As of this writing, the largest puzzle is “Travel by Art,” by the Grafika Company and has 54,000 pieces. The world’s largest commercially available jigsaw puzzle (Nov, 2018) is produced by Czech company MartinPuzzle and contains 52,110 pieces showing a collage of animals.

 

The world’s largest-sized puzzle measured 58,435 sq. ft. with 21,600 pieces. It was assembled on November 3, 2002 by 777 people at the former KaiTak Airport in Hong Kong. The puzzle with the greatest number of pieces had 551,232 of them and was assembled on September 25, 2011 at Phu Tho Indoor Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by students of the University of Economics.

 

The logo of Wikipedia is a globe made out of jigsaw pieces. The incomplete sphere appears to have some pieces missing, symbolizing the room to add new knowledge. In the logo of the Colombian Office of the Attorney General, there is a jigsaw puzzle piece in the foreground, It is named “The Key Piece: The jigsaw puzzle piece is the appropriate symbol for visual representation of the Office, since it includes the concepts of searching, solution, and response that the institution pursuits through its investigative activity.”

 

SQUARED ROOTS FARM

Garlic Growers

BY CHRIS SMITH

Valley Voice Contributor

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Last week a friend suggested I write an article about garlic growers in Alsea. Since I’d just finished devouring some delicious garlic bread with my spaghetti lunch, I liked the idea.  When I asked around, several people told me about Squared Roots Farm, owned and operated by Jeremy and Dana Wilson on Honey Grove Road. So I called them and arranged for an on-site interview at their farm. Little did I know I’d be on my way to becoming an amateur garlic connoisseur.

THE OWNERS

Jeremy and Dana live on a 25-acre farm in Alsea where they moved from Colorado, not only to grow more of their own food and live closer to the land, but to raise their two young sons to appreciate getting dirty while working and playing together.

Jeremy is a trained chef with 13 years of experience working in some of the finer restaurants in Denver.

 

According to Dana, they met at the restaurant, and while they were dating, Jeremy always had to run home to water his garden. She said his garden was quite impressive, with giant sunflowers and lots of vegetables. He also has a degree in engineering, which comes in handy with the machinery and problems on the farm. He is “the get it done guy” who designs recipes for soil nutrition and amendments and knows that “nothing comes without hard work.”

Dana has a degree and lots of experience in photography, providing the beautiful photos for their website and blog posts. She loves working hard, shuffling the kids and animals around while trying her hardest to keep up with the constant weeding. According to Dana, she is “allergic to negativity” and will have none of that on the farm.

 

They are a very congenial couple who home-school their sons and welcome many visitors to the farm. While I was visiting, their four dogs raced around playing while Jeremy, Dana, and I talked with two new neighbors at their back fence. The neighbors offered to let the boys ride their horses, with parental permission, of course.  Then it was time to learn a little about growing garlic.

GARLIC GROWING

We wandered outside and Jeremy and Dana showed me the various large planting beds. Because it’s the middle of December, the beds are covered for the winter. One of them is for family use – an actual food garden. Others are for the many types of garlic they grow.

Garlic is planted in the fall after a few light frosts and before the ground freezes. They break the garlic bulbs down to cloves, leaving the skin on, and plant them 2” deep, spacing the cloves 6” apart and keeping the rows 9” apart. Garlic loves nitrogen, so they mix some nitrogen supplement into the soil before planting. They plant the garlic in full sun and well-drained soil, applying 6” of mulch, using leaves or pasture grass if available.

TYPES OF GARLIC

There are hundreds of strains of garlic from all over the world, all with their own unique characteristics, flavor and preferred method of preparation. There are two basic types of garlic: hard neck and soft neck.

SOFT NECKS

The soft necks have dominated the commercial garlic market in the United States. They are more popular with farmers because they don’t produce scapes, the tender flower stalk that grows bulbils, tiny garlic seeds. Scapes take energy from the bulb and need to be removed. That requires labor and specialized equipment, both of which cost money.

 

Soft necks are harvested earlier than other varieties and spend less time in the field. And they have many more wrappers, which protect the bulb from damage and increases shelf life. That longer shelf life gives farmers more of a chance to sell the bulbs over the year. Squared Roots Farm grows the Artichoke variety of soft necks, which have a mild flavor and can be stored as long as eight months.

HARD NECKS

The hard neck varieties have an array of flavors, from mild to hot and sweet to savory, that “tantalize the tongue.” Top chefs and foodies alike swear by the exceptional and unique flavor characteristics of different varieties of hard necks. Within the universe of hardneck garlic, there are a number of subgroups, including Porcelain, Rocambole, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe, Asiatic, Turban, and Creole.

 

Each of these garlic families have favorable growth tendencies or exhibit unique flavor profiles. Squared Roots Farm grows Escaroles, Porcelains, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, and Turban.

MORE ABOUT SCAPES

Scapes are the first taste of garlic in early June and have a wonderful sweet spring flavor similar to chives, with a garlicky punch. They are the tender flower stem that forms on heirloom hard neck varieties in late spring.

 

A blossom forms at the tip of the stem and eventually will make a beautiful purple flower. If left unattended, the flower will produce garlic seeds that look like miniature garlic cloves called bulbils. In June, Squared Roots snap the tender flower stems at the base to focus the energy down for maximum garlic bulb growth. What’s left is a culinary delight!

SCAPE PESTO RECIPE

1 pound of fresh garlic scapes

1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

2 cups walnuts

1 lemon, juiced

Small amount of salt

Remove the scape blossom and coarsely chop the scapes.

 

Add to a food processor with the olive oil and process until smooth. Add walnuts, lemon juice, and salt and process further until it’s a smooth, light green paste.

 

Taste and add salt if needed.

 

Makes 1 quart of pesto.

Sometimes they add basil or honey. Store in mason jars in the fridge or freeze in plastic containers.

ROASTED GARLIC

Garlic

Extra virgin olive oil

Cast iron skillet

Foil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and discard the papery outer layers of the whole garlic bulb, leaving the skin of the individual cloves of garlic intact.

 

Cut ¼” from the tops of the garlic, exposing the cloves. There are several options of what to bake the garlic bulbs in, such as a small cast iron skillet, an oven-safe baking dish, muffin tin, or wrapped in foil. Drizzle with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, cover and bake for 30-40 minutes.

 

The cloves turn into a smooth spread.

I tried this last night, spreading it on small pieces of toasted bread. Delicious!

 

TAKING CARE OF GARLIC IN THE SPRING

After planting in the fall, garlic spends the fall and winter making long, strong roots, and by spring, rapid leaf growth happens at the same time as large bulb growth underground. Springtime also makes the weeds grow, so Jeremy and Dana, and sometimes their sons, spend a lot of time weeding because weeds will take nutrients from the soil that are better used for plant growth.

HARVEST TIME

It’s time to harvest the garlic when several of the lower leaves turn brown while five or six up top are still green. Each green leaf equals one bulb wrapper that protects the cloves. Fewer wrappers make for shorter storage.

 

Squared Roots Farm typically harvests on July 4th. They brush off the extra dirt and bundle no more than ten garlics together, hanging them out of direct sunlight in an airy place. Sometimes a fan is needed to create the best airflow. They let them cure for four weeks.

THE HEALING BENEFITS OF GARLIC

According to an article by Anthony William, https://www.medicalmedium.com/blog/garlic, garlic has many healing benefits.

 

Among those benefits, it has very high levels of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C and B-6, as well as minerals such as selenium, calcium, and iron.  

 

It contains a compound called allicin which has been shown to help significantly lower cholesterol and blood pressure by inhibiting the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme within liver cells and blocking platelet clot formation in the blood vessels. One raw clove of garlic contains the antibiotic equivalent of 100,000 units of penicillin and has been proven to be more effective than both penicillin and tetracycline in suppressing certain types of disease carrying agents.

 

It is very good for the digestive tract and has a very strong ability to eliminate toxic matter from the lymphatic system. It can help eliminate lead and other heavy metals from the body and is also a good remedy for removing parasites and worms from the colon.

 

A FINAL WORD FROM THE GROWERS

JEREMY AND DANA WILSON

“Do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions. We love talking garlic!”

https://www.squaredrootsfarm.com

P.S. They have a Garlic of the Month Club. Members receive one pound from a different garlic family each month while in season.

 
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If you cruise down many a side road in Alsea you can take in the idyllic scenery of majestic forests, winding rivers, clear blue skies or perhaps a backdrop of misty hills draped in a patchwork of clouds. The beauty of the countryside is something we all benefit from and perhaps a reason that people decide to stay. We live on a quiet road that we enjoy on walks, jogs and bike rides with our family. The ability to spend time in the outdoors, go on carefree family bike rides without worrying about traffic and breathing clean air are all priceless to me. It is a natural tendency to get used to things always around us. We take the many services provided for us by nature for granted and assume that they should be free. Things like pollinators that enable your old apple tree to provide you with fruit for the occasional pie or the trees and bushes that hold our soil in place so that salmon can swim, breathe and spawn in our rivers.

 

Oftentimes we don’t even notice the amazing world around us until is suddenly changes or no longer provides a service for us. We are all busy and distracted. Even as a mother, biologist and educator I have found myself walking past garbage on our country road rather than picking it up. It is easy to overlook and ignore, especially if you are in a hurry or in a car.  When you slow down and take a closer look, you may be appalled at what you find hiding in the grass along the edges of your own country road.

My husband and I have had our son at home during the pandemic for a number of personal reasons. There have been times when we were desperate for activities and other times when we simply delighted in the ability to do certain tasks that have long been on the to-do list. A few weeks ago we started doing roadside clean-ups with our son.

 

Our son’s initial reaction was of course something less than euphoric when we suggested the idea. However, we have raised him to understand the importance of lending a hand at helping protect the planet. He has been known to launch some serious environmental lectures on the unprepared adult. Kids say the darndest things and isn’t it wonderful that they do?! I should also mention that bribery and coercion do have their occasional use in our household. We let our kiddo take the money earned from bringing the cans and bottles collected from the roadside to the bottle drop and he used his hard earned cash to buy himself a robot. He’ll do just about any job for a robot right now.

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My husband and I have had our son at home during the pandemic for a number of personal reasons. There have been times when we were desperate for activities and other times when we simply delighted in the ability to do certain tasks that have long been on the to-do list. A few weeks ago we started doing roadside clean-ups with our son.

 

Our son’s initial reaction was of course something less than euphoric when we suggested the idea. However, we have raised him to understand the importance of lending a hand at helping protect the planet. He has been known to launch some serious environmental lectures on the unprepared adult. Kids say the darndest things and isn’t it wonderful that they do?! I should also mention that bribery and coercion do have their occasional use in our household. We let our kiddo take the money earned from bringing the cans and bottles collected from the roadside to the bottle drop and he used his hard earned cash to buy himself a robot. He’ll do just about any job for a robot right now.

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We picked up garbage and recyclables on two separate occasions as our road is over two miles long. The three of us pitched in and separated recyclable bottles and cans from garbage. The quantity of both was really surprising. We had to pick up extra bags from neighbors along the way as we had greatly underestimated the number we would need. We also used their conveniently placed garbage receptacles along the way. Sorry neighbors if we took up prime space and thank you SO MUCH! Most of the trash we collected consisted of a diverse assortment of plastic. Plastic food wrappers, plastic bags, plastic pieces of cars, big and small pieces of plastic. We also encountered a lot of fast food packaging from McDonald's.

 

I recently learned that the wrappers used in fast food restaurants contain PFAs. These are called “forever chemicals” because they linger in air and water for thousands of years. They also cause cancer, liver damage and other health issues. So why are they in fast food packaging? They keep all of the grease (that causes all of those other health issues) from seeping through. Still seems a bit questionable if you ask me.

The biggest “aha moment” we had was that the large majority of trash on our road is made up of inexpensive beer cans. We now know that the preferred beverage of whoever is tossing them out is Hamms.

 

Apparently, this is “America’s classic premium beer born in the land of sky blue waters.” We brainstormed ideas of who and why someone would throw beer cans out the windows rather than disposing of them properly in the recycling bin. Is it a bunch of rowdy under-aged drivers that don’t want mom and dad to find out? Hunters that are trying to hide all the fun they have while driving up our road looking for deer and elk? Someone with a dark secret they don’t want to fess up to?

 

Or maybe someone who means well but accidentally drops them or loses them unknowingly out of the truck bed? It is indeed a mystery and one that may never be solved. For now, we will keep turning those empty beer cans into robots and simply enjoy spending some time outside with the kiddo. Whatever it takes, we will try our best to keep the neighborhood clean. Who knows, if everyone else chips in, perhaps we can keep beers and other things which may be born in lands of sky blue waters from finding their resting place in our own beloved ones?