Saturday, January 10, 2015


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (11/22/2014)

          Question:  Dear Answer Man, Abigail here.  I hate to bother you, but I need to talk to someone.  I’m nearly out of my mind these last few days what with Rusty bugging me about my Brussels sprouts.  I’ve been planning the menu for Thanksgiving, and he’s raised a fuss about my plans for salad of Brussels sprouts.  I’ve always thought that Brussels sprouts were traditional on a Thanksgiving menu, but he tells me that they nearly killed a man in Scotland last year at Christmas.   I’ve already promised all the relatives that we’re having a salad of Brussels sprouts.  My family loves them.  As for his, most of them never got beyond cheeseburgers, fries, tacos, chips, and something called “Manwich” which sounds like a testosterone enhancer.


Answer Man:  Dear Abigail, I’m surprised that Rusty would know about that story.  It was in the Scottish Western Isles edition of the BBC, and from what you said; I would guess that Rusty gets his news from Fox News, not the BBC, especially the Western Isles edition, like the Isles of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides.

It’s true that a duffer almost died from gorging on Brussels sprouts.  He had to be taken to the hospital, or he would have died.  Too much of a good thing.

Indeed, Jill Young, chief executive of the Golden Jubilee Hospital, said: "Whilst we think this is possibly the first-ever festive admission to hospital caused by the consumption of Brussels sprouts, we were delighted that we were able to stabilise his levels."

Brussels sprouts are filled with vitamin K which thickens blood if eaten in large quantities.  Sometime before he ate the sprouts, he’d had a heart attack and surgery.  After stuffing himself with the sprouts, he needed his blood thinned so that it wouldn’t clot and kill him.



Question:  Thanks, Answer Man. I’m sure going to enjoy setting Rusty straight on that, but he doesn’t just stop there.  He also said that they stink, something like urine or something foul.  I kinda know what he means.


Answer:  That’s easy.  Either steam or roast them.  Boiling them until they’re soft releases a sulfurous odor that everyone finds offensive.  Or just cook them the day before.  Let them cool.  The next day, they’ll be ready for your salad with no odor.  You can either use them cold or heat them up with a little butter and bread crumbs.


          Question:  Thanks again.  One final thing.  What about the flatulence?  Sometimes, Rusty says that he feels like he’s “just going to bloat up and float right outside through the front door.”


          Answer:  It’s hard to imagine Rusty levitating, especially since he’s porked up.  As for the sprouts, I’m sorry there’s not much to be done about that except open the windows and bring in the fan which may be a little difficult on a cold November’s day.  Even Benjamin Franklin in 1781 wrote an essay on the problem but offered no solution.  He even had a recipe using a pound of sprouts.  He called it, “Rabbit Stew Adagio” which I assume means “slow cooking.”  The problem is a sugar named riffinose in the sprouts.  The bacteria in the stomach can’t digest it.  Actually, it serves as a kind of defense mechanism for the plants because animals find it offensive.  It just stays there, rotting, like a swamp, gassing up, until it’s passed.

          Beano, a commercial product that contains an enzyme (α CAL) that will digest riffinose, is about the only solution of which I know.  You might set out a few tablets on the table for the guests with a little smiley card.  They’d probably appreciate it.

Besides all this, sprouts are really good for you. 1-cup serving of cooked sprouts has only 56 calories and less than 1 gram of fat, but contains plenty of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as foliate and dietary fiber.  One final thing.  Thank is a transitive verb and needs a direct object so don’t forget to thank God before you eat.  Atheists, secularists, and other spiritual flatliners may not know it, but ingratitude is bad form.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2014

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona daily Sun.  Smith emails at and blogs at









Monday, January 05, 2015


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (12/3/2014)


As a young soldier, really an adolescent, near the end of World War II, I was trained in counter-intelligence, covert operations, and close combat.  Part of the training involved surveillance, a vigilance for espionage and sabotage.  Such training has been invaluable in gardening.


I can still hear my captain. "The quiet ones, the ones to whom no one pays mind, the ones that slip by unnoticed, they'll bear watching."  Aphids don't call attention to themselves, slipping by unnoticed.  They bear watching.  Sucking the life out of a plant, they're found on the underside of the leaves, not on top where they can be easily seen.


          He also talked about tics, twitches, furrowed brows, and squints, the small signs of stress.  In gardening it's a leaf's curl, a slight discoloration, and a stem's canker.  Signs of a far deeper and far more devastating threat are eyes turned glassy and pupils narrowed or leaves dropped, stems withered, and plants suckled dry by parasites.


          Surveillance is one of the gardener's first responsibilities, every morning and evening patrolling the garden with eyes peeled, looking for the quiet ones.  On these patrols through the garden, it's best to poke underneath the leaves while sniffing out lurking culprits.  Check litter, such as small piles of leaves or pieces of wood.  Scatter them, bend over to peek underneath, and then dispose of them.  A principle task for a gardener is to snoop.  Enjoying a garden isn't enough.  Inspecting it is crucial because only an inspected garden will thrive to be enjoyed.


          At the first hint of sabotage, don't hope the problem will take care of itself.  It won't.  It'll get worse which means that the gardener on patrol must come prepared, as in well-armed with a spray gun and a hose equipped with a nozzle.  Never allow the enemy an avenue of escape.  Ne pas faire de quartier.


Two sets of eyes are better than one so, if possible, take along another snoop while on patrol.


Never use ammunition that afflicts the garden, such as friendly fire poisons.  Human beings are singular amongst animals in that they foul their own nests, such as spraying poison on their gardens and food.  At the first sign of under-sided sabotage, turn the nozzle down to a sharp stream and wash the insects into oblivion.  If they appear again, spray them with insecticidal soap, offing the under-sided saboteurs without poisoning the garden.  If they appear again, off'em again until they are no more.  Sans merci.  


Saboteurs use surprise, striking from secluded and secret lairs, so it's important to find their hidden cells and destroy them.  Grasshoppers lay their eggs underground in the fall so that they can strike by surprise in the spring, suddenly flying out of the sun, like dive bombers in a blitzkrieg, devouring a garden.


Turning the soil with a spade helps expose the nests of eggs to the air, destroying them.  But spading is not enough.  Nests of eggs will always be missed.  Happily, grasshopper nymphs have a thing for wheat bran, and if the wheat bran is mixed with NoLo, their voracious appetite will be their undoing.  Always encounter enemies at their weaknesses.  The grasshopper's vice is gluttony.        


          NoLo is short for Nosema locustae spores which are fatal to grasshoppers but harmful to no one else.  NoLo can be purchased in the armaments section at local nurseries or over the internet.


          Finally, in the fight against sabotage, allies, such as, green lacewings, lady bugs, and praying mantises are always useful.  More eyes and mouths will find and devour more saboteurs.  These allies can be bought, but as with all bought friends, they're fickle and tend to fly away.  So release them at dusk so after a night's rest they can ravage at first light.  They can be kept in a garden with the hospitality of such plants as dill and yarrow.


          The captain, a classics scholar in civilian life, often quoted Demosthenes warning the Athenians of Macedonian perfidy, "There's one safeguard known generally to the wise.  What is it?  Distrust."  Vigilance is one safeguard known to wise gardeners keeping their gardens safe from saboteurs.  


Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2014


Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun.  Smith can be emailed at, and he blogs at




Aeliana Ricci


I am 11 years old and in 5th grade.  All my life I’ve been bored because I always get told what to do, and I’m tired of that.  If I were an adult, I would get to go all over the world without a guardian.  The first place would be Mars.  Then I would get a hot air balloon and steer it.  I would fly a jet plane and drive a neon green muscle car and drive it to school.  I would go on rides where children are not allowed.  I would build great things and own my own pizza company.  I’d get to eat free pizza whenever I wanted.  I would have my own credit cards so I could buy lots of things.  I would get to stay up all night.  And I would like to sit at the end of the bar and talk to bar flies and bums.


              One day I had a great idea.  I wanted to be a pumpkin.  If I was a pumpkin, I could change my face whenever I wanted to, friendly, mean, happy, funny and scary face to scare bad people away.  I could also light myself up inside by putting a candle inside myself so I could see what is wrong with me.  And I could finally be free and do what I always wanted to do.  I really want to live in 50ft long and 60ft wide pumpkin!


So I moved to Alaska because of how much sunlight was there.  It was perfect to grow enormous pumpkins and maybe grow a pumpkin city!


          Once I reached Alaska, I found the patch of land that got the most sun all day. I took good care of my pumpkins.  I made sure to: shelter them from wind and frost, cover them during rain, use shade tents for the summer, don't put the pumpkins in wet or dense soil, and give them a lot of water.  I found well drained soil for the pumpkin. 


I filled a peat pot with grow mix, kept the pots watered, never let them dry out.  When my seedlings have the four or five leaves, I set them outdoor in hills about the size of a pitcher's mound, one plant to a hill to get gigantic pumpkins.


I protected the seedlings for the first few weeks with plastic covered frames, spaced each hill at least 20 ft apart.  There are more than 100 leaves to each vine.  As I was growing my 300 lbs. pumpkin, each pumpkin’s leaves is responsible four lbs. of weight.  Vines put out roots at every leaf.  I tore out the root of the vine closest to the pumpkin because it will give more room for my pumpkins to grow.  When 2 or 3 fruits reached the size of the softballs, I removed all but the most promising ones.


When September came, my pumpkins grew bigger and bigger each day.  One day I chose a perfect pumpkin, carved a hole on the top, two arm holes, and two holes on the bottom. Then I climbed into the pumpkin, slid my arms to the arm holes, closed my eyes, and wished I was a pumpkin.  When I opened my eyes, I was a PUMPKIN!  I was so happy I had finally become my most favorite fruit, a pumpkin!


        One week later I saw the biggest pumpkin in my life and thought to myself, this is going to be my pumpkin house.  I worked on my pumpkin house, carving the windows which look like eyes and wide door which look like a smiling face made out of wood.  The last thing I did for my pumpkin house was empty the inside and put things inside that I wished to have, like a king size marshmallow bed and a really big candle. When night came, I lit the candle to shine for all the world to see. Finally I could do whatever I wanted to do, for now I am free.


Aeliana is the daughter of Kawissara Ricci and attends Basis School were she is studying Latin, mathematics, science, geography, language arts, music, and classics.  Kawissara and occasionally Aeliana are students at The Learning Center. 


Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun.  Smith emails at and blogs at