Book review: Build a better vegetable garden.

There’s still snow on the ground here, although there have been sightings in the area of crocus foliage (not in my garden, sadly – although I’ve been going out every morning to take a look, just in case something’s changed overnight.  Nope, just snow). It doesn’t matter. I’ve already ordered some seeds and I’ve got the veggie garden all mapped out (Version 8.0 or thereabouts – we all know I’ll be revising until the very day I plant, especially if the seed catalogues keep coming!).

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And I’ve been looking at a few new books. I was sent a copy of Joyce and Ben Russell’s Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY Projects to Improve Your Harvest (2017, Frances Lincoln Limited/Quarto, London) for review and it hasn’t left my desk…I keep picking it up and browsing through it.  Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a newbie, there are projects in here that can get you growing in no time: setting up a raised hoop tunnel, designing and constructing a raised bed, building your own wooden planters, creating a cold frame, or making a trellis for climbing beans.  Other projects you may not have immediately thought of include making your own seed trays (and dibber!), a storage rack for your tools, a wire support for raspberries, a handy trug, a cabinet with trays for drying the harvest, and a beautiful decorative obelisk.  The best part about this book is you don’t need to be a certified woodworker or carpenter to do any of these projects.  You don’t need specialized tools (most can be done with a basic drill, a couple of types of saws, some hand tools and hardware you can easily pick up and afford).  Nearly all of the projects are made from wood.  And the instructions are straightforward, easy to understand, and very clearly photographed so you’re not guessing at any stage of the project.  I am the least crafty person I know, and I have confidence I could undertake most of these projects without making a huge mess of them (or losing a limb in the process). 😉  I really think this book would be a fantastic gift for a new gardener or homeowner – and it would be extremely useful for anyone setting up a community garden or allotment as well.  Highly recommended (and that’s my honest opinion!).

Do you have any recommendations for gardening books that have you feeling excited and inspired as you plan (or dig in) for the new season?  Tell me what you’ve been poring over, I’d love to hear! 

Holiday reads.

When I discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas every day.
Jean Fritz

I’ve worked in a library for a number of years, and it is interesting to observe the patterns of circulation. Right now, of course, it’s all about the holiday books, and it appears that a lot of our patrons gravitate toward the Christmas-themed, cozier side of the the mystery spectrum, as well as sweet, versus really hot, romance novels. (Maybe they read the hot ones in January instead?).

I got to thinking about whether or not I have a particular favourite book that I like to revisit at this time of year, or even a genre that I like to sample during the holidays. Given that I read voraciously, and always have, I was surprised to draw a blank.  Thinking back on past years, I realize that I don’t change up my reading habits to accommodate the holiday season. I keep reading anything and everything that catches my attention.

Do you bring out any special books to read during the holiday season?  Are they ones you cherish year after year?  Are they Christmas stories, or non-holiday books that seem to resonate with you more at this time of year than at any other time?  Do you prefer a certain genre over another?  Let me know what you’re reading right now – or plan to read over the holidays – perhaps I will want to check it out, as well!  (Ooh, a library pun, gotta love it).

October blog fun.

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It’s been a snowy, blustery, busy autumn so far!  I hope things are a bit quieter (and warmer) in your neck of the woods and you’ve been able to enjoy the changes of the season.

I’m playing it short and sweet on the link front this month:

These examples of typewriter art are fantastic!   Did you learn to type on a manual or an electric typewriter, or have you never used one at all?

Alberta-based macro photographer Adrian Thysse recently posted some stellar images of fungi found in our province.  Take a close look (see what I did there?) here.

Many of you may already be following the excellent blog Garden in a City – Jason’s post about not cutting down perennial plants at the end of autumn is both timely (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) and valuable!

And here’s another great post about end-of-season garden clean-up.  What are your thoughts?  Do you wait until spring to do these sorts of tasks?

Thousands of lantern slides from the 1800’s and early 1900’s have been digitized and posted online at various sites – you can check out the databases via this link.  Incredible examples of an early form of photography.

Check out these amazing photographs of bird’s nests and egg specimens, collected over the past two hundred years and exhibited at several zoological institutions.

Stuff I’ve posted elsewhere:

A book review for Alberta author Eileen Schuh’s latest novel, The Shadow Riders.

Plus…a couple of my articles have been recently published:  “Four Centuries of Gardening” in the 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac, and “Fall Cleaning Hacks with Herbs” in the Fall issue of The Herb Quarterly (both on newsstands now).  And…upcoming…my short story “The Beauty of Mount Sagitta” (featuring pterodactyls!  And rare plants!) will be a part of the super-toothy anthology Sharkasaurus! from Fossil Lake.  Yes, all those exclamation points are absolutely necessary….

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Clip art credit.

Garden horror.

Procrastination is totally a good thing.  You always have something to do tomorrow, plus you have nothing to do today.

                             ~Some random Internet meme I found while procrastinating on social media.  

Shhh….don’t tell anyone…I’m supposed to be working on an article due in a couple of days.

But I’m thinking about Garden Horror instead.  (See yesterday’s post if you are blinking at the screen and thinking I’ve finally totally lost it).

So, ahem, I thought of a few titles for as-yet-unwritten Garden Horror novels (which also ties into yesterday’s post – please do go check it out if you haven’t already).  Of course, these may sound eerily (see what I did there?) familiar to some of you:

The Slug Also Rises

Apocalypse Bough

Close Encounters of the Larval Kind 

The Drawing of the Tree 

The Turn of the Yew

The Tell-Tale Bark

The Call of Kudzu 

Okay, I must be getting back to work…the ball’s in your court.  What Garden Horror titles can you add to my list?  Make me laugh – the article I’m at this very moment feverishly churning out at a breathtaking rate of speed is about plant propagation, and we all know how very unfunny that topic is.  

July blog fun.

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I’m running a bit late with my monthly round-up, but you know the old cliché….

Here’s the interesting story of how the library that straddles the U.S.-Canada border in Derby Line, Vermont and Stanstead, Quebec navigates the delicate technicalities of security while providing the reading materials patrons want (in both countries!).

Tulip season is long over, but these aerial photographs of the tulip fields in The Netherlands are delightful any time of the year.

The living installation that The Flower Council of Holland created in front of the National Gallery of London earlier this summer featured 26,500 fresh flowers – wow!  See photos and a video illustrating the making of A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase here.   

This brief account of French horticulturist Victor Lemoine’s work with hybridization and lilac breeding in the 19th century is absolutely fascinating.

Blogger circles are tight, so you may already be familiar with the writings of Cynthia Reyes.  Her post about “Creative Complaining” is a truly thoughtful read.

Some of the articles I was busy working on late last year and early this spring have been published – here is a sampling:

  • “Processing, Storing, and Preserving Sea Buckthorn Berries” in The Canadian Organic Grower magazine, Summer 2016 issue (available for order on their website)
  • “How To: Site a Garden Pond” in The Gardener for the Prairies, Summer 2016 issue (available on Canadian newsstands now)
  • “Herbal Wax Melts” in The Herb Quarterly, Summer 2016 issue (available on North American newsstands now)

I’ve also put together a short e-book of GF recipes up on Amazon – you can find On the Go Gluten Free Snacks here.

I squeaked out a new post on my Grit.com blog Blooms and Spoons, this one about drying strawberries (if you haven’t done this yet, do try – they are delicious!).

And a few more books were mentioned on The Door is Ajar:

Moira Young – Rebel Heart.

Louise Penny – Still Life.

Orest Stelmach – The Boy from Reactor 4.

I hope you enjoyed these links!   Have a wonderful weekend!  

(Clipart credit).

 

 

May blog fun.

May

So…April happened.  I hope it was a great month for you, and the first few days of May are shaping up nicely!  I actually think I could use a nice little nap to recover.  Two or three days should be nearly sufficient, I think.

While I was awake last month I found a few fascinating things to share with you – take a look!

These macro images of water droplets from Canmore photographer Martin van den Akker are absolutely incredible!

Have some money to spend on travel?  Touring these spectacular crater lakes around the world sounds like a good idea.

Do you grow any green-coloured flowers?  These are stunning and unusual examples – how about that Dianthus?

The book may be a few years old now, but if you haven’t seen French photographer Cedric Pollet’s Bark, try to track it down.  You’ll see incredible photos like this.

I’ve been seriously lax about posting stuff elsewhere, but I did manage this:

A yummy Creamed Spinach recipe on my Grit.com blog Blooms and Spoons – this is real comfort food for spring!

Finally, because I get a chuckle out of engrossing you/grossing you out with the delectations that will be available on the midway at this year’s Calgary Stampede, here goes: New Food Stampede 2016.

Which dégustation disgusts or delights you?  That rainbow grilled cheese sandwich makes both my eyes and stomach hurt….

 

Bananas for books.

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Kids and books can be a hilarious combination.  As most of you know, I work in a library, and one of my favourite things is to see children having fun with reading and enjoying a good story.  Last week, I was tidying up the toys in the play area and I heard a mother reading aloud to her young son, who was about three or four years old.  She was telling a story about farm animals, and she came to a part where she questioned her child, “What animal says ‘moo’ and gives us milk?”

The little one thought about it for a moment (I figure he was pausing for dramatic effect), and then shouted mischievously, “A GORILLA!”

I burst out laughing, and the mother was just in stitches.  You really have to wonder how kids come up with these things!

I think most libraries nowadays have a Reader’s Advisory program, which patrons can use to find new authors, books, and materials they otherwise wouldn’t know about.  They’ll obtain this information by talking to a librarian in their local branch, checking the Hotlist, browsing through display areas, or surfing the home page or blog on the library’s website.  Sometimes I hear patrons soliciting the opinions of other patrons – they’ll see someone with a particular book in hand and simply go up and ask them about it.  Everyone is always happy to offer an opinion on a book.

Case in point:  a couple of weeks ago, I was putting away some board books in the children’s area, when I overheard the greatest book recommendation ever.  One little guy – he couldn’t have been more than six years old – was enthusiastically broadcasting to his younger brother the merits of a certain volume he had picked up.  “You’ll LOVE this book!” he exclaimed.  “It has a booger in it!” *

Children’s book authors, take note – that’s the magic stuff, right there!  Five stars!

*(Subject matter, not actual object. Ewwwww…).

 

How do you get your book recommendations?  Do you check out book reviews on the web, or ask other readers?  Do you pick up books from the displays at your local library?  Are you part of a book club?