Monday, 2 March 2015

The World Has Got A Problem

The world has got a problem,
That politicians just wont face.
The world has got a problem,
That concerns the human race.
The world has got a problem,
That business men ignore.
The world has got a problem,
That affects us more and more.

We're burning those natural resources,
I tell you that we've got to hold our horses,
Cos we're making too much carbon dioxide,
Thats a waste we just can't hide.
Too much carbon dioxide,
Is a problem spread worldwide,
Too much carbon dioxide,
Will destroy our precious jewell.
Too much carbon dioxide,
Comes from burning fossil fuel.

We've got to leave the coal in the ground,
And let the oil stay where its lying.
Just leave the natural gas where 'ere its found,
Or very soon we'll all be dieing.
We've got to keep the atmosphere really clean,
Or the climate will get deadiy mean,
And life on Earth will end,
You've got to listen to me friend.

Youv'e got to leave the coal right in the ground,
And let the oil stay where its lying.
Just leave the natural gas where 'ere its found,
Or very soon we'll all be dieing.
We've got to keep the atmosphere really clean,
Or the climate will get deadly mean,
And life on Earth will end,
Our selfish ways we now must mend.

We'll soon be reaching Rubicon,
That's the point of no return,
We've got to make our minds up,
A lesson we must learn.
We're acting like a cancer,
We're commiting suicide.
There must be something we should do,
Cos we cannot run and hide.

We've got to leave the coal in the ground,
And let the oil stay where its lying.
Just leave the natural gas where 'ere its found,
Or very soon we'll all be dieing.
We've got to keep the atmosphere really clean,
Or the climate will get deadly mean,
And life on Earth will end,
You've got to listen to me friend.

Youv'e got to leave the coal right in the ground,
And let the oil stay where its lying.
Just leave the natural gas where 'ere its found,
Or very soon we'll all be dieing.
We've got to keep the atmosphere really clean,
Or the climate will get deadly mean,
And life on Earth will End

A Song for Ecology - grateful thanks to David Warbey

Help Greenpeace Save The Arctic & Polar Bear from Global Warming - click here; 

''Despite what some in the “mainstream” media assert, there is no “debate about global warming not amongst informed scientists, anyways. Scientists knowledgeable about climate change debate only the finer details, such as: how much CO2 increase will double surface temperature (known as the Climate Sensitivity Equilibrium), or, the role of aerosols in slowing or forcing atmospheric warming (seems different aerosols can have different impacts, and depending on where in the stratosphere they reside).

The only “debate” in mainstream society is a pseudo debate between far-right conservatives (and their proxy pundits in the media) who remain in denial about human-caused (or human-accelerated) climate change — despite a growing mountain of supporting evidence — and a shrinking population of hold-out skeptics and those who sadly receive their science news from limited and/or disingenuous sources.'' (source)

Global warming is primarily a problem of too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere which acts as a blanket trapping heat and warming the planet, in turn creating Climate Change. As we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas for energy or cut down and burn forests to create pastures and plantations, vastly increased ammounts of carbon accumulate and poison our atmosphere, killing plants-wildlife-agriculture and ourselves, the trapped heat melts our ice caps releasing water and further gasess into the atmosphere, sea levels rise flooding both farming and urban land areas...

Moreover, since the atmosphere is absorbing more energy than before, the increase energy will also make storms more violent, more powerful. This is an application of a very basic laws of physics - the law of conservation of energy. Since the atmosphere has more energy, it will use it. The atmosphere will not simply absorb more energy forever. Think stronger hurricanes, stronger thunderstorms, more windy days, etc on an esclating vortex without end. Venus is a fine example of what happens if the 'Greenhouse Effect' goes too far. Venus is covered in clouds and super hurricane storms hurtling around the planet. Venus' high concentration of 'Greenhouse' gases also absorb infrared radiation well, making the planet very hot.

The Three Stooges Of Climate Change - Ignorance, Avarice and Inertia
 Climate change is also making snowstorms stronger and more frequent - US scientsists have stated '' the Earth gets warmer and more mositure gets absorbed into the atmosphere, we are steadily loading the  dice in favour of more extreme storms in all seasons, capable of causing greater impacts on society'' ( source ).

At the same time, because less of a region’s precipitation is falling in light storms and more of it in heavy storms, the risks of drought and wildfire are also greater. Ironically, higher air temperatures tend to produce intense drought periods punctuated by heavy floods, often in the same region. These kinds of disasters may become a normal pattern in our everyday weather as levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere continue to rise.

What would be the effects of an increase of CO2 on agriculture and plant growth in general?  
The following points make it clear;

“Both climate change & climate variability are relevant drivers for plant disease epidemiology” (Maynard et al, 2003).
1. CO2 enhanced plants will need extra water both to maintain their larger growth as well as to compensate for greater moisture evaporation as the heat increases. Where will it come from? Rainwater is not sufficient for current agriculture and the aquifers they rely on are running dry throughout the Earth. On the other hand, as predicted by Global Warming, we are receiving intense storms with increased rain throughout of the world. One would think that this should be good for agriculture. Unfortunately, when rain falls very quickly, it does not have time to soak into the ground. Instead, it builds up above the soil then floods causing damage to the crops. The water also floods into creeks, then rivers, and finally out into the ocean carrying off large amounts of soil and fertilizer.

2. Unlike Nature, modern agriculture does not self fertilize by recycling all dead plants, animals and their waste. Instead we constantly produce artificial fertilizers from natural gas which will eventually start running out. By increasing the need for such fertilizer we shorten the supply of natural gas creating competition between the heating of our homes and the growing of our food. This will drive the prices of both up.

3. Too high a concentration of CO2 causes a reduction of photosynthesis in certain of plants. There is also evidence from the past of major damage to a wide variety of plants species from a sudden rise in CO2. Higher concentrations of CO2 also reduce the nutritional quality of some staples, such as wheat.

4. The worse problem, by far, is that increasing CO2 will increase temperatures
throughout the Earth. This will make deserts and other types of dry land grow. While deserts increase in size, other eco-zones, whether tropical, forest or grassland will try to migrate towards the poles. However, soil conditions will not necessarily favor their growth even at optimum temperatures.....

CO2 Direct Impact on Human Physiology.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas that's always present in your blood. It is the waste product generated as your body uses up oxygen, and it is expelled from the lungs when you exhale. At normal levels, its presence has no measurable adverse effects on you, but if your breathing is compromised or you are exposed to large amounts of this gas, you can experience a wide range of side effects, some of which include permanent injury and death. 
Respiratory Effects;
Carbon dioxide is known as an asphyxiant, which is a substance that bonds with your blood in place of oxygen. The website notes that while most simple asphyxiants do not have any inherent toxicity of their own, cases of CO2 poisoning have been linked to central nervous system damage and permanent deterioration of respiratory functions. Because of these findings, CO2 is considered not just a simple asphyxiant, but a gas with acute systemic effects as well. 
Cardiovascular Effects;
If your blood becomes saturated with too much CO2, you develop the condition known as hypercapnia. Symptoms and signs of early hypercapnia include flushed skin, headache, confusion, lethargy, muscle twitches, hand flaps, reduced neural activity, and possibly a raised blood pressure. Increased levels of CO2 also affect the pH level of your blood, turning it more acidic. This condition is called acidemia and, if prolonged, causes acidosis, which is injury to the body's cells by a rise in acidity that leads to faltering functions of the heart. Some possible outcomes of this interference with your heart include low blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia. 
Nerve Damage; details the levels of damage your central nervous system can experience as a result of high acidity. These conditions are result of temporary or permanent nerve damage brought on by acidemia, including delirium, hallucinations, seizures, respiratory failure, coma or death. 
As an asphyxiant, carbon dioxide displaces breathable oxygen and impairs pulmonary gas exchange. While asphyxiation is commonly associated with choking on a physical object or drowning, you can suffocate on CO2 without any visible abnormality or obstruction of your breathing. If the oxygen content of the air you breathe is insufficient, you slowly suffocate due to selective oxygen depletion until you experience permanent damage or death.

Graffiti next to the Regent's Canal, in London 2009 attributed to acclaimed British street artist Banksy

Global Warming of the past 100 or so years has already resulted in:

A. More extreme weather patterns (too hot, cold, dry or wet for some); B. Less predictability
C. Melting of ice in polar regions and the retreat of glaciers in alpine regions;
D. Variable and unpredictable snowfall reductions in areas that have supported winter tourism activities (snowfall in the Alps has halved over past 30 years); Year after year ski rental figures go down as temperatures go up.
E. Desertification (the world’s tropical forests are disappearing at the rate of 13 million hectares a year – that is an amount equivalent to the size of Greece);
F. Unusual flooding and increasing storms.
Until relatively recently (the last 3-5 years), there was no scientific consensus that the planet was warming and that this increase in average temperature was caused by human activity. Now the evidence of warming is indisputable although some still argue that its cause may be more due to natural cycles than human activity. While changes in average temperature have occurred on several occasions in the past, they took place over much longer time frames (from thousands to millions of years) giving species time to evolve and adapt. Meta changes are now occurring within decades. 

An argument, made by those who deny man made Global Warming, is that the Carbon Dioxide that is being released by the burning of fossil fuels is actually good for the environment based on the logic that, if plants need CO2 for their growth, then more of it should be better. However "Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing." For example, if a doctor tells you to take one pill of a certain medicine, taking four is not likely to heal you four times faster , It's more likely to make you sick.

Nuclear's proponents do have a point that nuclear power does not directly emit GHGs. Unfortunately, there are a great number of concerns about nuclear power that should be addressed before it can be classed as a green or safe power source. The uranium/nuclear fuel cycle replaces one emissions problem, GHGs, with another, nuclear wastes. Recalling Murphy's Law-that if anything can go wrong, it will. It is prudent to remember names like Three Mile Island,Chernobyl andf Fukushima Daiichi...


Alternative Energy sources include Solar Power, Sea/Wave Power, Wind Power, Passive Heating & Cooling, plus tapping  Geothermal Energy.

ENERGY - Mural by Green-Flower
Many other alternative sources are already widely used. Hydroelectric energy plants generate a significant portion of the world’s power. Other sources, including solar energy and wind power provide a small share of a region’s power but could provide much more. Sources such as tidal power and geothermal heat are site-specific, and of use only in the right location. Some promising technologies, for example the hydrogen fuel cell, remain under development.

Unlike that from fossil fuels, energy from sunlight, wind, water, plants, and geothermal heat does not create extra carbon dioxide, and so does not add to global warming. Best of all, unlike fossil fuels, which will become increasingly scarce, these fuel sources are renewable and will never run out. One day, they may completely replace fossil fuels.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Welcome to the Year of the Green Goat

There basically three types of calendars being actively used around the world – solar, lunar and lunisolar/solilunar calendars. A solar calendar is concerned with the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. Lunar calendars are based on the rotation of the Moon around Earth and are used mainly for religious purposes, Lunisolar or Solilunar calendars combine the two kinds and are basically solar calendars with dates indicating the moon phase.
The Chinese calendar is an example of a solilunar calendar with 12-year cycles, each related to a specific animal, with 12 months in each year and an intercalary month every two to three years.
In Chinese, the word 羊 (yáng) is a generic term, and can refer to a sheep (绵羊), goat (山羊), ram/buck (公羊 male sheep or goat), 羚羊 (antelope), etc. However, most Chinese people and experts on folklore believe that the Chinese zodiac animal is the Goat, not the Sheep.

In addition to the twelve year cycle corresponding to each of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac, there are Five Elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) which are associated with their own "life force" or "chi". This energy blends with the corresponding animal to determine that year's fortune.
In 2015, the corresponding element is Wood. Wood by its very nature, is the element associated with all living things, the "spring" or life renewal process. Wood relates to trees which relate to the color green.  The Year of the Goat is therefore also known as the Year of the Green or Wood Goat.
 In Chinese astrology Goats are described as loving-peace, kind and popular. With the addition of the wood element, the Goat characteristic is thought to symbolize peace, helpfullness and trust - all great qualities which the world could certainly use lots of right now.

Wednesday afternoon Feb 18th was also the second Aquarius new moon in a row this year (the first, a supermoon, was on Jan. 20). Normally there is only one new moon per zodiac sign each year. Both Aquarius moons represent purification, letting go of objects/people/jobs/ that are no longer serving you, and making space for new energies that resonate more with who you really are...

As im sure many will realize, we are all connected to each other and all things in this immense cosmos, and as such the emanations of nature that affect our lives are simultaneously both simple and complex. Some may hesitate to accept signs of nature as meaningful in any way and choose instead to say that we meerely empower our own concepts with magic and mystery, but I would counter that the very language of symbols and symbolism that we express these terms in and through is itself the result of nature observed.

To quote Albert Einstein:.
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest-a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion (and understanding) to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.”

Monday, 2 February 2015

The English Worm

 Oh Lo! The Earthworms have fled in fright!
Toothsome the Mole bewails his plight. 
Gnashing and chomping - snuffling his snout,
In search of a battle, with a snort and a shout.
A Flatworm from afar, some strange foreign land,
To Englands pastures it should have beeen banned.
In plantpots on ships the stowaways came,
From New Zealand the Flatworm arrived to stake claim.

While Earth and soil have suffered the cash grab,
As mankind applied fertilisers fresh from the lab...
And communities of creatures both the small and the tiny,
Have perished under their chemical stymie.
The Protozoa withered and Nematodes too,
And Arthropods shivered in their nitrogen blue.
Yet through it all the Earthworm was turning,
Engineering fertility with ineffable learning.

As if these trials were not yet enough,
The Earthworm fed fauna that flourished above -
The Hedgehogs and Shrews and Blackbirds and Thrushes,
And of course the Moles in their tunnels below bushes.
Old England is dying - but it cannot be true,
That our rich fibrous land relied so strongly on you..
Cried the mole as he rampaged - shuffling and scouring
For the New Zealand Flatworm, which his food was devouring!

Making mountains out of Mole hills - you very well may say,
But the destruction of one link in lifes chain today,
Will undoubtably - indomitably - irrefutibly see,
The collapse of the others in a terrible spree.
As indigenous species cave in - one, two and three,
Replaced by invaders creating environmental debree.
Take heed! Stand firm! And root out all the rotters!!
Hoot hollered Mole as he searched for imposters.

And whilst it began so terribly dour,
As people awoke to Earths healing power -
They abandoned gene splicing and chemical stews,
In favour of fresh air, clean food and nature renewed.
And the Soil Society sang and the Leaf-People arose,
And the Mole persued Flatworm with his very sharp toes.
Even Humans did whatever they could,
Containing the New Zealander wherever it stood.

Triumphant a song that must sometimes be sung,
When wickedess falls and joyfullness sprung.
For if all pull together as they sometimes still do,
Through all kinds of adversity we can yet pull through.
Flat was the worm and flatter its prospects,
Once kinship of lifekind united its upsets.
And routing out rooting the seat of these troubles,
Hip Hip called the Mole with a rumbling in doubles!

Remember this message, said Toothesome the Mole,
To the foes of this land our hearts we must harden.
And if you would cherish the life that you live,
To the earth that provides it you must gladly give.
So heres good health to the great worm of this land,
To his companions under earth - the biota abound,
Good health to the community that here may be found,
And with that blessing, the Mole danced all around.

c.Celestial Elf 2015

Earths Soil Is Degrading;
There is increasing evidence of mismanagement of Earths soils worldwide. While desertification and salinisation are causing major problems in drier parts of the world, intensive farming increasing pressure on the soil has led to soil degradation closer to home. Pollution, through agricultural chemicals and by acid rain, is destroying the soils interdependant community of organisms. Such polllution also travels through the soil to water bodies resulting in loss of aquatic life.

©2014 Erik van den Elsen (Alterra)
Future Food Imperiled;
On World Soil Day December 5, 2014, the FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva reminded us that while more than 805 million people currently experience hunger and malnutrition, and while a 60% increase in food production will be needed to meet future demands, a third of our global soil resources lie denuded and degraded.
As we embark on 2015, the International Year of Soils, we realize the scale of the problem. Soils are being lost at an order of magnitude faster than they are being replenished which seriously imperils our future food security. Changing from chemical to management strategies will not be easy as modern agriculture has become dependent on chemicals.

On Soil - Its Alive!...
Our soil teems with a multitude of organisms which provide the necessary work for healthy plants to grow free from diesase, pests and infertility. These interconnected interactions and feeding relationships (quite literally 'who eats who') help to determine the types of nutrients present in the soil, its depth and ph, and even the types of plants which can grow.
They are the invisible factory that recycles nutrients and enables natural self-sustaining systems by releasing nitrogen for plant growth. As certain members of the fauna are killed or reduced by agricultural chemicals, the activity of bacteria and fungi species declines resulting in less fertile soil. Therefore in order to keep a soil productive it is necessary to cater to the needs of its beneficial biota; the Protozoa, one-celled highly mobile organisms which feed on bacteria, Nematodes which are tiny, worm-like, multicellular organisms and Micro-Arthropods which chew plant leaf material, roots, stems and tree trunks into smaller pieces, making it easier for bacteria and fungi to digest them. But the earthworms are the soil managers.

Healthy Soil Is Happy Soil 
Sage Professor Matthews has found that Bacterium in Soil Enhances Learning, Decreases Anxiety. Antidepressant microbes in soil cause cytokine levels to rise, which results in the production of higher levels of serotonin. The bacterium was tested both by injection and ingestion... and the results were increased cognitive ability, lower stress and better concentration to tasks than a control group.
Gardeners inhale the bacteria, have topical contact with it and get it into their bloodstreams when there is a cut or other pathway for infection. The natural effects of the soil bacteria antidepressant can be felt for up to 3 weeks... more details here.

British Earthworm
Earthworms As Engineers;
There are over 3,000 kinds of earthworm in the world. Most of them tunnel burrow in tunnels that allow air to penetrate the soil. Charles Darwin, who studied worms for  39 years, found that by this methodical work worms could bury the equivalent of a football pitch in 15 tonnes of soil a year from the casts they leave on the surface.
Until recently people thought earthworms were not very important for agriculture, biological aspects of farming were neglected. We are now realizing that interactions between crops, climate, soil, and living organisms are crucial in sustaining our agriculture. Earthworms play a pivotal role in maintaining the productivity of our soils. ( more here ). Healthy farms and ecosystems depend on earthworms to help improve soil structure and its chemical /biological properties. As the largest soil invertebrates they are considered the main soil engineers and changes in their number affect several soil characteristics, including porosity, aeration, water holding capacity, density, recycling and distribution of organic matter and nutrients. In addition, earthworms are an important food source for birds and mammals  in the Uk including hedgehogs, shrews, moles, blackbirds and thrushes. ( more here )

New Zealand Flatworm

Earthworms Under Threat as Flatworms Invade;
Earthworms are under attack from two imported species, the New Zealand flatworm Artioposthia triangulata and the Australian flatworm Caenoplana alba. Since these species were accidentally introduced in the early 1960s, they have spread throughout Britain. The New Zealand flatworm is concentrated in southern Scotland and the Australian flatworm in southwest England. A flatworm can devour an earthworm in half an hour, secreting enzymes onto it and sucking up the resultant soup.

Scientists blame the flatworms for emptying gardens of earthworms, which help to fertilise and aerate the soil, this has a predictable knock on effect undermining plant growth, dependant insects and small creatures. It also threatens agriculture and farming.

New Zealand flatworms are flattened and coated in a sticky mucus.The main colour is dark purple-brown, with a speckled buff/pale yellow margin and lower surface. They spend a lot of their time curled into a spiral, but when fully extended they can be up to 20cm (8in) long.  ( more here )
In Ireland a long term experiment by Murchie and Gordon (2012) has shown earthworm numbers reduced by 75% and earthworm biomass down by 20% in infested land. Earthworms have large, vertical burrows which open to the soil surface and therefore help soil drainage, when earthworms are removed - drainage is impeded, the soil degraded becomes less fertile.

Report Your Flatworm Sightings;
Once established there are no known ways of eradicating the New Zealand flatworm hence it is very important to stop its spread. Initially garden centres and nurseries were probably mainly responsible for the distributing flatworms but now it could be neighbours, relatives and friends exchanging potted plants. Gardeners should inspect any containerised plants and if they have the flatworm try to only give away cuttings, seed or bare rooted plants replanted in a known flatworm free medium.

Gardeners are invited to report sightings of New Zealand flatworms (date, number of flatworms and postcode location) during the summer months. In the winter months live samples of flatworm can also be posted to the Institute in a sealed plastic container (for example an old-style photo film canister) along with the same reporting information.
Samples should be marked for the attention of;
England and Wales;  Mike Lole, ADAS, Woodthorne, Wergs Road, Wolverhampton,  England WV6 8TQ Telephone: 01902 693266 Fax: 01902 693166 Email;
Scotland; Dr Brian Boag, The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA and sightings can also be reported to the same address or by email to

Moles Under Threat;
Moles are also under threat as a result of the invasive New Zealand flatworm. Many of our native mammals in the Uk, badgers, shrews, hedgehogs, moles and birds rely on earthworms as their major source of food for at least some part of the year, but there has as yet been no investigation to quantify the deleterious impact the New Zealand flatworm has on their populations.  However, observations in an area between Dunoon and Loch Eck (where 55 of 59 fields were found to be infested with flatworms) show that no moles can now be found even though they had been prevalent there after World War II. Similarly in Glen Massan flatworms were found in seven fields none of which had moles while in another seven fields there were moles but no flatworms. Since about 70% of grass fields without flatworms in western Scotland have moles it would seem that in the area south of Loch Eck flatworms have been responsible for the disappearance of moles ( more here ).

The Mole - Natures Friend;
Whilst some people consider moles a nusiance and wouldnt be able to adapt to living with any wildlife, especially not with a hill-making mole, moles rarely inhabit at a rate of more than two moles per acre of farmland; in suburban landscapes they are far fewer than that.. For the even slightly natural-inclined gardener, the fact that moles eradicate sundry sorts of turf-nesting moth larvae, beetles & mealworms which would otherwise destroy the roots of everything, makes a single resident mole a welcome tenant. If you're lucky enough to have a tiny shrew-mole, that means you have a very healthy & natural garden.

Mole Wont Eat Your Garden;
Moles do depend on earthworms at certain times, they will eat just about anything as they are mainly carnivorous, enjoying slugs, beetles, moth larvae, snails, earwigs & sowbugs,  millipedes & centipedes, contributing greatly to a garden's healthy balance. They also create 'storage bins' of beheaded worms & other emergency food resources packed away underground with leaves. These hoards contribute to deeper-soil compostings. Whilst they do eat a bit of vegetation & are known to horde seeds, they do not nibble healthy roots. Moles do not eat flower bulbs or flowers although they do sometimes disrupt ornamental plants with their excavations but this is rare & often the result of grub & mealworm infestations that the moles are cleaning out to the flowers' benefit. Among plant matter moles are fondest of fungus, & can clean up an infected root saving a tree's life without the gardener ever having known some bush or tree was in trouble. They tend to extend their tunnels only in the winter when they need a larger range to find food. When food is plentiful in spring, they just patrol the tunnels without extending them, gathering up whatever worms and grubs find their way into the tunnels. Really even their mounds can be decorative plusses for a yard that is of the woodland type like ours; gardeners could welcome their presence and signs as evidence of nature's integrated  and self managing ecology.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Ancient History and Living Mystery of Wassailing ~

Crook Morris & Friends Wassailing The Damson Tree 2015 ~

On the bitter cold and frost of a January morning, small groups of people muffled against the chill, proceeded up the country lanes of Lyth valley into the damson orchard. Some in silence, others with as much noise as they could muster, to chase away the evil spirits. One carried the three handled Wassailing bowl filled with a steaming brew of mulled beer or cider, the steam mingling with the cloudy breath of the participants. Carols were sung, the tree and orchard blessed........

This is the traditional folk custom of Wassailing fruit trees - a ceremony intended to begin the process of waking the fruit trees from their winter slumber and the first fertility festival of the folk calendar. The word wassail derives from the Old English / Anglo Saxon words wæs (þu) hæl which means variously 'be healthy' or 'be whole' - both of which meanings survive in the modern English phrase 'hale and hearty'. Thus Wassailing likely predates the Norman conquest in 1066. This is a traditional ceremony which seeks to start off the first stirrings of life in the land and to help it emerge from winter and to ensure that the next season's crop of fruit, especially apples and pears, will be bountiful.

The most common date for this custom to take place is the eve of Twelfth Night or Old Christmas Eve, ie 5th January, just at the end of the midwinter period when the Wild Hunt rides and chaos traditionally rules as the otherworldly horde broke through into human realms. In some cases, however the ceremony takes places a little later on 17th January, depending on whether the celebrants prefer to follow the old or new calendar. This first fertility ceremony of the year marks a return to human 'normality' after the dark and dangerous days of midwinter -  The ceremony takes place a couple of weeks before Imbolc, the festival which for modern pagans is generally as being the first fertility festival of the year.

The singing of carols at the Wassail can be traced back to the pagan tradition of carol singing from before the advent of Christianity. The word carol is derived from the Greek word 'choraulein' which meant a dance accompanied by the playing of flutes. Such dancing—usually done in ring form—was very popular in ancient times among the Greek and Roman people. The Romans brought the custom and its name to Britain.

In medieval England 'carol' meant a ring-dance accompanied by singing. The dancers would form a circle and, joining their hands, walk in rhythmic dance-step while keeping the form of the circle (as our children still do in their "ring-around-a-rosy" game). Chaucer describes such a ring-dance in his Romaunt of the Rose, using the word "carol" for the dance itself. He pictures himself approaching a group of dancing young ladies, and one of them "ful curteisly" calls him:

    "What do ye there, beau sire?" quod she;
    "Come neer, and if it lyke yow
    To dauncen, daunceth with us now."
    And I, withoute tarying,
    Wente into the caroling.

Gradually the meaning of "carol" changed, and the word was applied to the song itself. As carols were already an established custom, early Christians made the shrewd decision to integrate Christian songs into the tradition rather than ban the singing. Before singing christian carols in public became popular, there were official carolers called 'Waits'. Waits were people sanctioned by the local officials to sing carols on Christmas Eve and collect money for the poor.
There was a short interruption in 1647, when the puritans came to power after the English Civil War. The puritans, under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, disapproved of the celebration of Christmas. There was even a fine of up to five shillings for anyone caught singing Christmas carols. When King Charles II came back to the throne in 1660, the public singing of Christmas carols was permitted again.

Wassailing falls into two distinct categories:   
The House-Visiting Wassail and the Orchard-Visiting Wassail. 

The House-Visiting Wassail, caroling by another name, is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols.It was a chance for peasants to get some much needed charity from their feudal lords. This singing for money developed in a custom involving traveling musicians who would visit wealthy homes, singing in the hope of receiving money food or gifts in return.

 Wassail, oh wassail all over the town
The cup it is white, the ale it is brown
The cup it is made of the good ashen tree
And so is the beer of the best barley  

There appear to have been other British customs involving the Wassail bowl including carrying the bowl of hot spiced ale or cider from door to door in a community by a group of young people. Householders who were visited were expected to give a little money to the wassailers who either then gave the donor a drink from the bowl or drank to the health of the donor and his family and household. In other cases, the Wassailers engaged in a series of challenges or riddles with the householder and sought to gain entry to the house by wit or persuasion. If they succeeded then they were given food and money.

The Orchard-Wassail is the ancient custom of visiting orchards in England, reciting incantations and singing carols to the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year.
The ceremony generally begins with the tree, usually the oldest and most venerable tree in an orchard, being serenaded with traditional "wake up" type of chants, rhymes  and sung carols, alternating with speeches by the group's leader in praise of the tree, its fruitfulness in previous years and exhorting it to do even better in the coming year.

Wassaile the trees that they may beare
You many a plum and many a pear
For more or less fruits they will bring
As you do give them wassailing.

The custom may include the tree or trees being beaten about the trunk with the sticks. This is believed to begin the process of awakening the tree and starting the sap flowing up the trunk. It is accompanied by much shouting and the making of as much noise as possible, and shotguns are sometimes fired up into the branches. Again, this is believed to assist the tree in awakening from its winter sleep as well as frightening away any evil spirits which might be lurking in the branches.

Finally pieces of toasted bread soaked in the prepared drink are thrust up into forks in the branches or hollows in the tree and left there as offerings, whether to the tree or to the robins. The remainder of the drink is generally sloshed around and over the trunk of the tree, though in some places part of it may also be ceremonially drunk by the participants.

Wren Day, a related tradition, may also be carried out at this Wassail ceremony, although it was traditionaly celebrated on 26 December, St. Stephen's Day. The wren traditionally symbolised winter and the robin summer. The tradition consists of "hunting" a fake wren, and putting it on top of a decorated pole or in a garlanded box to symbolise the death of winter and then taken from door to door. The crowds of mummers or strawboys celebrate the wren (pr wran) by dressing up in masks, straw suits and colourful motley clothing and, accompanied by traditional céilí music bands, parade through the towns and villages. These crowds are sometimes called wrenboys.
At each house this song was sung an the occupants asked to pay to see the dead wren with the words “Please to see the King.”

Here I am happy to say a symbolic wren was used and inplace of killing the good folk bowed to wish  the Wren King well in his passing.

From Somerset comes a most powerful rhyme for calling blessings down on beasts and crops:
Good luck to the hoof and horn
Good luck to the flock and fleece
Good luck to the growers of corn
With blessings of plenty and peace.