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The Sundial - Garden Ornament or Exotic Timepiece?
Most of us regard a sundial as an attractive ornament for a park or garden. Their effectiveness as time keepers is highly variable
That's unfortunate, because it is not at all difficult to ensure that your garden sundial will be an accurate timepiece, provided, of course that the sun is shining.
But that will be covered in another article. For now, let's see what a sundial is, and what it is capable of.
We forget in this modern age that accurate, affordable watches and clocks have been around for much less than 200 years.
Before then, sundials were one of the few ways to tell the time with reasonable accuracy.
Shadow clocks dated at 1500BC are known from Egypt, but the first dials appear to have been Babylonian. The Greeks adapted the idea, the Romans developed it further, and by about 100BC had perfected the horizontal sundial (and placed it in their gardens).
Even in ancient days some people had schedules to keep, and both agriculture and religion required knowledge of the seasons and the movement of the sun to determine planting and the timing of ceremonies.
The sundial was an important means of providing that information, and considerable advances in mathematics, geometry and astronomy were made while it was perfected. The knowledge gained forms part of the foundations of modern science.
Types of Sundial
There are four reasonably common types of sundial.
They all have two things in common. Each consists of a raised structure, called the gnomon (silent "g") which casts a shadow onto a plate called the dial. The dial is divided into hourly or shorter time divisions and may also show other information.The part of the gnomon whose shadow indicates the time on the dial is called the style.
The most abundant form is the horizontal sundial, happily sitting on its pedestal or column and adding beauty and interest to the home garden.
Related is the equatorial sundial, with its dial oriented at the same angle as the latitude. It works slightly differently, and is easier to use when properly calibrated.
Thirdly, there is the vertical sundial, ideally located on a wall facing due south in the northern hemisphere, and north in the southern hemisphere. The principle is much the same, but the sundial only occupies a semicircular area. Vertical sundials displayed the time to the public, and were used to correct unreliable public clocks.
And the most elegant of all, the portable sundial. George Washington had one - at that time pocket watches were most unreliable. Modern examples can be a work of art. They combine a compass with an adjustable dial. The dial is tilted to correspond to local latitude, and the compass defines north. Pretty neat!
A properly designed and installed sundial can be a very accurate means of telling the time, down to intervals of less than a minute.
I won't go into the mathematics, but on a sundial 16 inches (40cm) in diameter, the shadow of the gnomon will move about 1/30th of an inch, or just under 1mm, in a minute. This may be small, it's enough for our eyes to see.
Two Major Problems
Apart from the frequent absence of sunlight (Problem 1), all sundials show time by calibrating outwards from the position of the sun at noon. If you live east or west of me, your noon is different to mine.
Although the earth moves around the sun, we see it the other way. The sun appears to move from east to west across the sky, and local noon is when it's vertically overhead. But if you live 100 miles west of me, my noon is still your late morning, and your noon is my early afternoon. This would be inconvenient if we used our sundials to arrange a lunch date, but a real problem if I had a plane to catch in another city.
Solar Time and Official Time
People managed to live with this problem until communications and transport became faster. Imagine calculating train timetables when Boston, New York and Buffalo all worked on different local times.
The answer was the development of local time zones. US Railways did this in 1883, but in 1914 the world's governments agreed to divide the globe into 24 zones, each 15 degrees of longitude in width, and each one hour different in time to its neighbours. Boundaries were altered slightly to account for state and national borders.
There are four time zones in the contiguous 48 states of the USA: Eastern, centred on 75 degrees W longitude; Central, on 90 degrees; Mountain, on 105 degrees; and Pacific, on 120 degrees. Noon was identified astronomically for each of these meridians (now it's done by atomic clocks), and accepted everywhere else in the zone.
Noon on sundials in places very close to these longitudes will correspond to official noon. For every degree east or west of the central meridian, for 7.5 degrees either side, you will need to add or subtract four minutes respectively to correct your sundial.
A few other adjustments are necessary to compensate for irregularities in the earth's path around the sun - not too difficult to make but the theory is beyond this article.
They add to the inconvenience, and that's why sundials have been superceded by more convenient and reliable forms of time keeping. But problems with time zones and orbital paths can be corrected, and there's no reason why you can't find the correct time from your sundial.
No reason, that is, provided it has been properly installed in your garden. And that's the subject of another article.
Copyright 2005, Graham McClung.
A retired geologist, Graham McClung has had a lifelong interest in the outdoors. And where there's outdoors there's weather. He is the editor of http://Home-Weather-Stations-Guide.com, where you can find reviews and advice to help you choose and use your own home weather station. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Home for a Gnome?
Kitsch is defined by several dictionaries as relating to poor quality or gaudy art objects that appeal to "low-brow" taste. But in the garden, kitsch categorizes folksy or commercial art that's viewed condescendingly by some, and with irony by others. It's this irony (this stuff is so bad it's good) that has made items such as pink flamingos and garden gnomes more widely popular in recent years.
A Storage Bench Provides Much Needed Outdoor Space
If you are like most of us, there are two things that you cannot get enough of: storage and outdoor seating. What if I told you that I have the perfect solution to solve both of these problems and that it comes in a stylish, hard to resist package?
When you want to create a beautiful and functional landscape, the task may be overwhelming. Before the first shovel of soil is turned, close your eyes and picture your dream garden. Begin by asking what are your landscape goals. Some of the common reason to landscape include:
An important addition to any British back garden, the greenhouse is firmly established in the British way of life. It's probably the inclement weather that drives the british gardener 'inside'. If you are visiting this site then you are probably thinking about obtaining a new greenhouse. It is possible you don't know the type of greenhouse you need or even how to decide on the type of greenhouse. This site has a series of articles on many of the different things to consider when installing a greenhouse.
Growing Organic! Herbs, Flowers and Fruit
Creating no dig gardens on top of the soil gives you many immediate advantages over the usual garden. It is quick and easy It will improve the soil underneath the bed It is weed free and organic
Garden Sheds - More Than Just Storage
You may already have a garage or shed in your garden or backyard and its possible that you haven't even considered the prospect of adding a garden shed at all. Any garden implements could easily be stored in the garage or utility area. However, a garden shed is so much more than just an every day storage area, as it can have a character all of its own. It can serve many purposes other than practical ones.
What You Should Know About Miniature Roses
Miniature roses are exactly what they sound like. They have all of the fragrance and beauty of a regular rose, but they have smaller blooms. These particular roses are great for indoor planting.
Organic Roses in the Flower Garden
Many people believe growing their flowers and vegetables organically is healthier for them and their environment. It is natural that you may wish to grow your roses this way also. Using the pesticides and insecticides that are usually considered to go along with growing roses and keeping them healthy can cause many people have to health problems . Maybe you just don't want those kind of chemicals in your garden and around your children. This article will give some pointers in using more natural methods of growing your roses.
Mustard: The Greatest Among The Herbs
Mustard plants have been used for thousands of years for their pungent flavour in condiments, spicy greens for side dishes and salads, and in traditional folk medicine and Chinese herbal medicine to treat a variety of ailments. The name mustard comes from the Latin mustum ardens, or "burning must." It was so named because as the seeds were pounded with unfermented grape juice, or must, their pungent qualities developed, hence "burning." Mustards seeds are mentioned in ancient Sanskrit writings dating back about 5,000 years ago and the Bible calls mustard "the greatest among the herbs." Valued for their intense flavours and healing properties, mustard seed and the plant itself have been grown for its beautiful yellow flowers and spicy seedling leaves. Members of the Brassicaceae family, mustard is a cruciferous vegetable related to cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, rutabagas, turnips, radishes, horseradish, cress, and broccoli with the attendant phytochemicals properties.
Why Teak Furniture is the Better Choice
For centuries, it has been known that teak has qualities unlike any other wood. With an average lifespan of 75 years, teak wood has long been commended as the ideal choice for outdoor furniture.
The Heralded Teak Furniture Manufacturer: Kingsley-Bate
With an average lifespan of 75 years, teak wood has long been commended as the ideal choice for outdoor furniture. It has qualities unlike any other wood in its ability to withstand the rigors of adverse climates, yet weather attractively.
How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden
The flittering of the butterfly through your garden is no accident if you planned your garden carefully. The adult butterfly flitters from flower to flower - sipping nectar from many flowers in your gardens, while other adult butterflies search for areas to lay their larvae. It is good to take note that the butterfly garden is going to differ from other areas of your garden. Your natural instincts will be to kill off pests, larvae and creatures in the garden, but in the butterfly garden your best results are noticed when you use organic gardening: Which means no chemicals at all.
Growing Orchids as House Plants
One of the long standing myths that I still hear is that orchid house plants are difficult and finicky to grow. Well, plain and simple, the answer is No. In fact, orchids as house plants are easy to grow and will continue to bloom for years. Some orchid plants have been around for centuries.
Set Out a Feast for Your Feathered Friends
February is "Feed the Birds" month in much of North America. And what great timing! If you're going through a cold winter, you can help the wintering birds that are going through it with you. If you live further south, you'll have not only year-round feathered friends to feed, but also an influx of migrating visitors from colder climates.
Tips on How to Plant Roses
When spring comes and the ground is thawed, it is time to start planting your rose garden. Roses have been a cherished aphrodisiac since biblical times. They have been around for over 3000 years, yet they still hold a particular mystery and fascination, not to mention the fact that they just look and smell good!
The Truth About Tulips
Roses may be beautiful but Tulips are magnificent. The huge colorful blooms we associate with Holland make stunning bouquets. Did you know that Tulips did NOT originate from Holland? Actually, most species of wild tulips came from central asia and western asia. Tulips that originated in Europe were mainly from the Mediterranean. How much would YOU pay for a tulip bulb? Did you know way back in 1635, a single tulip bulb could fetch the equivalent of $35,000 in present day money. No other flower ever generated such an insane following. But why? Part of it is due to the beauty of the flower and the rarity of the tulip back in those days. It became a status symbol. People wanted to outdo one another with tulips. So the demand for tulips went sky high. The insanity that came next can be compared to the insanity in the stock market prior to stock market crashes. Investors would then buy tulips at ridiculous to sell at even crazier prices. Needless to say, when the inevitable crash came, fortunes were lost. Lessons learnt from that incident can be applied to the stock market today. Same thing happened in the dot com boom and bust. Same thing is going to happen over and over again. Greed leading to blindness. The only remedy is to keep your eyes open and look at the facts. The important thing is how much something is really worth. Not what others say it would be worth in the future. Tulips are valued for their beauty. They are treasured across nations. The Dutch crown princess fled to Canada for refuge during the world war. At the end of the war, Tulips became their gift of friendship. The Dutch gave Canada 1 million tulips in gratitude for the friendship displayed in the war. Such is the value of Tulips. Tulips are considered to be a symbol of friendship. Even today, you can see that magnificent display of Tulips in Canada. Reminding one about friendship in times of need. These days, tulips are no longer as expensive as back then. An entire garden blooming with tulips during spring time is very affordable. All you need are some great tulip bulbs. Tulips bloom after snow. So if you live where there is snow, then plant them in September. Tulips need the cold before then can bloom. If the winters are harsh, then cover the bulbs with straw or leaves. Uncover them in spring. What do you do if you live where there is no snow? Well, if you have a refrigerator, use it. Put the tulip bulbs in a paper bag and refrigerate it for 6 to 8 weeks, but keep them away from the fruit. Then plant the tulips.
What is Compost Tea?
Organic gardeners all know compost is fantastic stuff. But now, there's something even better and that's compost tea. If you start with a good compost you'll have a versatile elixir for all your garden needs. Compost tea helps prevent foliage diseases and at the same time increase the nutrients to the plant and shutdown the toxins hurting the plants. It will improve the taste/flavor of your vegetables. So why not give this tea a try either by buying it or brewing it yourself. You won't believe the results!
An Outdoor Swing is A Great Way to Relax
There is simply no better vantage point from which to view the beauty of nature, the occasional passerby and the antics of wildlife than an outdoor swing. Outdoor swings do more than provide a beautiful addition to your outdoor décor; they provide a relaxation spot, gathering place and a comfortable outdoor perch that will be greatly appreciated by everyone in the family.
Catch a Leprechaun in Your Garden
There is no mention to be found of female leprechauns in traditional Irish legend, so as to how they came to be .. your guess is as good as mine.
What Is One Flower Benefit That You Know Of?
The biggest flower benefit of all is the fact that flowers make you happy.
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