Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Year End & Winter Reads

It has been a long year: with two gardens, a full-time job and starting graduate school I have not found much time for blogging. I am also on the Montana Book Award committee, which has kept me from reading my mainstays of gardening, alternative architecture, brain research, and cooking books. While I cannot comment on nominated award books until after judging in February, I can tell you that Montana has a lot of fantastic writing coming out right now! I am pleasantly surprised at the variety of subject-matter, especially since it will contribute nicely to my Dewey Lunatic Project.

At present, the books I am reading over the winter that aren't award nominees are short and/or related to function more than enjoyment. I won't bore you with the travel guides I have out for ALA Midwinter in Seattle (although you can expect a Seattle-planning post some time soon). Here's a list of some other things I have been reading:

Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn - The author of previous favorites Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter and the absolutely awesome Shelter, Kahn's books are always full of beautiful pictures of alternative building projects that make me so envious I could die. Tiny Homes is no exception. Kahn's Shelter may be the book that got me interested in alternative architecture in the first place when I first acquired it as a teenager. Tiny Homes would have done the same thing, had it existed. An oversize format, back stories of the architects and builders, and, again, fantastic photos of fantastic tiny homes all over the nation made me skip the library and go straight to buying this one. 

Imitations by Robert Lowell - Ah, poetry. It is what you can read when you don't have much time and just need a little bit of something (hopefully) good. I re-read Imitations recently since I am a fan of confessional poetry and had not picked it up for a while. Perhaps because it is a re-read or perhaps because I am older, I don't feel like Lowell has the same impact as he once did. Some of the poems feel inaccessible and impersonal, unlike Plath and Sexton who still blow me away with their deeply personal work. It was good to re-read, though. I particularly enjoy the poem, The Landlord.

In progress: Urban Pantry: Tips & Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen by Amy Pennington - Small and short, I picked this book up from the library and was pleased with its brevity and functionality. It is mainly a short cookbook, but it focuses on using the ingredients you often keep in the pantry along with seasonal eating opportunities. A lot of the recipes are basic and some are preserving recipes. I also enjoyed the tips on what should be in your pantry, since I always feel like I am one ingredient short of the meal I am trying to make. I will say, though, that her suggestions in the "Wine, Vinegar & Booze" section ask for more than I am likely to provide since cognac is not usually on my shopping list. The other lists seem more reasonable. Or maybe I should start cooking with more cognac?

Just Started: The First Twenty Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds - Recommended by my mother, I am intrigued by Reynolds' coverage on exercise research and what that means for working out correctly. Like The Science of Yoga, which I read earlier this year, I like knowing what the research says so that I am making good choices with my workouts.

Monday, September 17, 2012

End of a Long, Great Summer

I have been lax in writing, because I have been gardening two gardens all summer. I have also just started graduate school (MLS). Busy times, and I can barely keep up!

Here are some photos of this year's two gardens.

And here are some of the highlights & info from the garden:

  • The Waukesha Community Garden grew very well, and having a water system on a timer worked out since I could not guarantee when I could get to the garden. I ran the timer every other morning at 4 a.m. for two hours, rain or shine. 
  • The three sisters squash/corn/beans worked okay. The squash are all huge and they love it, and the beans, too. The corn struggled. That may be the corn variety, the fact that the starts and seeds I planted all struggled early on (wind and harsh sun). Also, the beans and squash do drag them down a little. So, the corn are a little straggly and not as tall as the neighboring plots'.
  • Pinto beans did fantastic at the Waukesha, but the cowpeas never flowered and so never seeded. 
  • Oil sunflowers (two varieties) are all 8' - 10' tall and doing fantastic.
  • Quinoa and amaranth were difficult to know when to pick. Amaranth has been picked, quinoa is still there and I hope to catch it before it drops. From everything I have read, it is not ready--the seeds are not hard enough. But we are quickly approaching the end of the season!
  • At the home garden, yellow pear tomatoes and Tess's land currant tomatoes were the clear leaders--both are small tomatoes and were extremely prolific. 
  • As always, summer squash ran gangbusters at both gardens and I have loaves or zucchini bread in the freezer next to bags and bags of shredded summer squash.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Saving Seeds by Robert Gough

The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds: 322 Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, Flowers, Trees, and ShrubsThe Complete Guide to Saving Seeds: 322 Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, Flowers, Trees, and Shrubs by Robert Gough

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a helpful book on seed saving! Seeds of change is still my go-to, but this book have a concise description of seed-saving practices for most plants you might want, and it includes ranges for how far you need to keep plants from similar varieties to maintain the lineage. Very helpful, and also nicely laid out.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Missing Maurice Sendak, 1928-2012

Maurice Sendak, author of (the often-challenged) In the Night Kitchen, Little Bear, Chicken Soup with Rice, and the ever-popular Where the Wild Things Are, passed away yesterday, May 8, 2012.

Jon Hodgman tweeted a link/video yesterday titled, "Sendak answers, beautifully (and barely), the question: "Why bother to get born?" It was a beautiful testament to a life well-lived, and an individual's acceptance of death after a good life. Links and videos and quotes all flew around yesterday in honor of Sendak, who was called "one of the most important children's book artists of the 20th century" and I do not disagree. But I think his books and life were much more far-reaching than children, and not just because we read his books growing up. The man championed talking to children like people and had incredible vision for his writing, and his life. He was a devoted dog lover, writing numerous books about his dog Jennie. The most notable being Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. In the book, Jennie leaves home searching for greater meaning in her life. Finding herself inadequate to meet most of the challenges out in the world, she accepts herself anyway and eventually dies--yet another Sendak take on big issues, though his books were mainly read by children. Beyond Jennie, his characters were often charmingly "headstrong, bossy, even obnoxious." Read: me as a child. I have always adored his characters. They were real, vivid, personalities living through odd, sometimes unhappy but always fascinating situations.

A decent biography can be found here. And a list I assembled of his writing & illustrations, here.

Perhaps some of the most popular links circulating yesterday were to Sendak's last interviews, with Stephen Colbert, which were both touching and hilarious: 

Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak, Part 1
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak, Part 2
Then, yesterday Colbert released this: Uncensored Maurice Sendak Tribute from parts of the interview that didn't air previously. At the end, Stephen Colbert asks Sendak what the best thing is that parents can do for their kids. He responds, to love them. Colbert pushes and asks, "what does that mean?" 

Maurice Sendak responds, "take them for what they are."

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Uncensored - Maurice Sendak Tribute
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Start Planting! #Books & #Garden Planning Go Together :)

Last weekend I started most of my seeds in organic potting soil. It is always a big production, taking multiple hours to sort out what I want to start, how many of each, and (of course) documenting what I plant and how. By how, I mean whether I double-seed. I do that mainly on older seeds that may not have as great of germination rates.

Despite gardening for multiple years, I can still never remember which seeds do well as transplants and when they all need to be started. That hazard is in part due to my inability to not try tons and tons of new varieties each year. So, when I plant I pull out a few of our reference books that have proven themselves most helpful.

You can see them both under the piles of seeds below: Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit by Briggs, Flowerdew, and McVicar; and How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons. The first book, Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit, is about 2 inches thick (as many good reference books are). It has 2-6 pages devoted to each kind of vegetable, herb, and fruit and each section includes information on popular varieties, propagation, companion planting, and even some history and recipes. It was given to me by my aunt some years ago and it has become my quick go-to source for basic info on plants. My only complaint is that it does not include grains.

The second books is one I have mentioned before. How to Grow More Vegetables (HTGMV) is a little hard to take in at first, since it has huge tables in the middle that are intimidating to the casual gardener. However, it is also an awesome reference (once you get over the enormity of the data). Using the HTGMV method, you plant seedlings diagonally instead of in rows to maximize space. The tables tell you how many of each kind of plant you will be able to get into a certain square foot area, which is very helpful when planning and planting starts. It also tells you what kind of yield you can expect from that area, so you don't, I don't know, plant 500 square feet of zucchini that you will never be able to give away.

So, my starts are started. As always, I have way too many tomato and eggplant varieties and I will depend on some attrition to weed out what actually goes into the gardens. You can see some of the beautiful Blue Aztec Corn in the photo below. We are starting corn indoors this year since I know some people do that. I never have, so it is a test. We planted these last week and already most of the corn is up, so that is a good start (no pun intended).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#Montana #Library Association #MLA Count Down!

This post has been moved to a new location at

The Beekeeping Librarian will continue to have posts, photos, and resources pertaining to gardening, urban homesteading, beekeeping, and cooking. Library-specific posts and things for librarians can be found at the new site. 

#Garden Map: Take 1

I worked on this throughout the winter, and here it is: the draft of the garden map. The whole left side of the screen is our community garden space (20'x40') and the small beds in the middle right are the beds at the house. The squares with circles in them are all things being planted in pots. I already know there will be some changes, since we just planted the favas and lentils on Saturday and wanted to plant more than originally planned, bumping the golden amaranth. Maybe I can post a picture of my lego garden plan next...

Click for a closer view :)

When planning your garden map, consider Ivette Soler's book The Edible Front Yard. I've mentioned it before, but it is worth repeating!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

#Garden Plan, with #Seeds to Spare

We have ordered and received our seeds, organized the seeds we saved from last year, and even traded some seeds with friends and family. And yet it is still safe to say that we still have more seeds than we need for the spring. I look forward to trading more at a seed exchange in the spring.

Here are the varieties we bought new this year:

From Bountiful Gardens
  • Large Brown Lentils
  • Linares Quinoa
  • Black Turtle Dry Bush Beans
  • Hopi Black Dye Sunflowers
  • Pinto Dry Bush Beans
  • Red Cowpeas
  • Oilseed Sunflowers
From Baker Creek Seeds
  • Purple Plum Radishes
  • Saxa II Radishes
  • Black Hungarian Peppers
  • Chinese 5 Color Peppers
  • Scarlet Runner Beans
  • Chinese Red Noodle Beans (pictured, above right)
  • Gaint Musselburgh Leeks
  • Orange Banana Tomatoes
  • Plum Lemon Tomatoes
  • Tess's Land Race Currant Tomatoes
  • Beauty King Tomatoes
Including the items above, we will be planting 59 different kinds of plants (110 different varieties) between the home garden, the community garden, and a variety of pots and tubs in the yard. I am so looking forward to spring!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Options in #Dallas at ALA Midwinter 2012 #alamw12

This post has been moved to a new location at

The Beekeeping Librarian will continue to have posts, photos, and resources pertaining to gardening, urban homesteading, beekeeping, and cooking. Library-specific posts and things for librarians can be found at the new site. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

#Reading Outside of Your Comfort Zone: the Dewey Lunatic Project

This post has been moved to a new location at

The Beekeeping Librarian will continue to have posts, photos, and resources pertaining to gardening, urban homesteading, beekeeping, and cooking. Library-specific posts and things for librarians can be found at the new site.