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My mother’s long-living Christmas cactus stood near an east window in our dining room on the home farm.

By early November, all but three rooms on the first floor of our drafty farmhouse that we heated with woodstoves had been closed off.

By Thanksgiving, the first blossom on the Christmas cactus opened, and by Christmas day, it was covered with blossoms, competing with the Christmas tree for its striking appearance.

The cactus didn’t seem to mind the cold December mornings. After the woodstoves had gone out sometime in the night, a profound chill visited the entire house, including the rooms heated with woodstoves. On the coldest, windy days, it was mid-morning before the dining room reached a comfortable temperature.

The Christmas cactus pictured came from that old cactus my mother must have had for at least 50 years. Interestingly, our present cactus, is well over 50 years old. It blossoms by Thanksgiving, and keeps on blossoming well into the new year. Then it rests.

When the danger of evening frosts disappear in the spring, I take it outside, set it under a big maple tree and mostly forget about it. Until the danger of frost returns in the fall, then I bring it inside, set it by a east window, in a cool place, water it well and add a bit of fertilizer.

Without fail, by Thanksgiving time it shows off its first blossom. Every year. Including this year. For more than 50 years.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Few things are as dependable as our Christmas cactus.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to www.jerryapps.com. 

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