Beautiful Day

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Favorite Gardening Books

Since writing my last post and now, beginning to plan and plant our garden, it seems the perfect time to compile a list of my favorite gardening books.  I have learned a tremendous amount in the past ten years in particular.  I still remember planting my first set of bulbs when we lived in the South and being proud of my Tulip 2000's (guess what year that was?)  I've done my fair share of losing plants along the way.  We've gone from putting in flowers just to accent our dull-colored base house in the desert to our now suburban homestead (not in the desert!).  We now cultivate blueberry, raspberry, and elderberry bushes, pear, apple and plum trees, rhubarb, grapes, garlic, an herb garden, and more!  When summer is in full swing we have the usual variety of summer vegetables--tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, corn, melons, and pumpkins among others.  It brings us great joy to work outside in the spring and summer.

Naturally, I rely a great deal on books (and even occasional videos) to enhance my knowledge of gardening.  These are a few of my favorites, or at least the ones that line my bookshelves.  Some of these are unique to the region in which we live.

1.)  The Sunset Western Garden Book is a very handy resource for the Pacific Northwest.  It reads rather like an encyclopedia for each plant type.  I enjoy the watercolor-like sketches of the plants and the descriptions of their characteristics and needs.  There are also full-color glossy sections highlighting annuals, perennials, extensive climate zone maps, and sections on "special needs" according to whether you live in a drought-prone area or whether you have too many deer munching your plants.  There are also helpful sections on insects (beneficial and pests), watering, propagation, and just about anything you need to know!

2.)  The Backyard Homestead:  Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!  is one of my recent favorites!  I intend to read this one cover-to-cover.  It is full of helpful information for those of us wanting a bit of a backyard homestead.  I really like all of the additions of things about how to make cider, cheese, yogurt, pasta and more.  Right now I can skip the stuff about butchering turkeys, chickens or rabbits though!  I still find it fascinating that people could actually raise all these animals on a quarter acre though.  Tell me where that neighborhood is?

3.)  Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon.  A friend pointed out this book a few years ago and she is quite a horticulturist!  I recently saw someone describe our region as "more like England" than the rest of the US.  I paused for a moment and thought, "Oooooh!  What a lovely thought (as I think about all those lovely English gardens and the British countryside of Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter,and James Herriot) !  There are times where I feel like we have that "London Fog," but I really think it's better here than there in that regard!  All that to say, we do live in a unique climate (and things do grow splendidly, even if there are slugs) and this book lends a great deal of true understanding of what makes it work well.  I learned how to work a cover crop from this book.

4.)  Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew has been around for quite a number of years.  This book gave me the initial "booster" to get serious about gardening enough to feed ourselves some actual food.  This one's generally about how to get the most out of a small garden plot of raised beds with minimal weeding.  Very helpful and understandable, so it wins brownie points for practicality.  I wish it included more vegetables in its detailed descriptions as I sometimes found it missing some.  This one's great for beginners.

5.)  Homestead Blessings:  The Art of Gardening by the West Ladies.  OK, OK, this one's not a book!  It's a DVD.  But I had to include it because we found it inspiring.  Yes, these ladies have far more garden space than I can imagine.  But it is "scope for the imagination" as Anne might say, and my Country Girls and I just love the beauty of their gardens and the fun tips they offer.  We mentioned before that we are fans of the West Ladies.  This one's definitely a blessing!

6.)  The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery is really a resource for all things self-sufficient.  So there is way more information in here than I can reasonably use right now.  But I have it more as an emergency preparedness guide (in case we ever had to give birth by ourselves or butcher our own livestock or such things).  It does contain sections on fruit, vegetable, and orchard gardening which I've found helpful from time-to-time.  This one is not particular to a region, so it isn't as helpful as the above books.  But it is helpful nonetheless for the purposes that I keep it.

7.)  Tasha Tudor's Garden is more my "mother-culture" type of book.  Here's my confession:  This one isn't in my bookshelf (yet)...hint, hint (because I really want it to be!)  You might know that I have a Tasha Tudor collection.  I also planted my peony garden from the inspiration in these pages.  Now, I'm quite sure I will not be so proficient a gardener as Tasha was, but I can sure try.  Every year when my peonies bloom I am in sheer delight at the sight of them out my window!  And I think of this woman who has inspired me in all things lifegiving and all things old-fashioned, from her darling clothes to her wood cookstove to her marionette theater.

I hope you are now inspired to go forth and enjoy the spring, perhaps armed with a few more resources to make your endeavors profitable.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's Tilling Time!

"Under the Sunflowers"--by Robert Duncan

A glorious weather day and a break in the rain.  In spring that means the perfect opportunity for preparing the gardens. Over the winter we like to plant a cover crop to nourish the soil throughout the winter and help hold up the soil during winter rains.  That cover crop was starting to get rather long (and don't you know, I forgot to take a picture!).  We had to mow it or weed-whack it to get it down to a manageable level to be tilled down into the soil.  Next it's time to apply some granular lime for calcium.  Again, the soil generally likes a calcium boost after the rains and it helps protect the tomatoes from blossom end rot. 

All  hands were busy.  This sweet one begged me for something to do...out came the rake just her size!

Bless this girl!  We had fun learning how to use this tiller and she set to work turning under the ground cover.  She who dreams of a working farm Joel Salatin-style (but for now is learning to be content with the 'ol suburban homestead).  She reminds me that his advice is to do SOMETHING with what you have!  That we CAN do.

And there's my next-in-line Country Girl whose dreams are shared with her sister's.  She sets to work getting some seeds in the ground and considers how on earth to keep those free-ranging chickens out of her seeds!  As much as she loves her hens, they have a knack for getting into trouble and ruining some hard work.  I think she tried some kale, lettuce, spinach and carrots.  She reminds me that our seed packets are a bit outdated and that we better think about ordering some more (and make it snappy please!)

Hey, this makes playing in the dirt fun!

And my diligent mowing boy gets the job done in spite of some thick grass still holding in quite a bit of moisture!

Sometimes I wish you could take moments and hold them--maybe wrap them in a pretty package or something and keep them forever.  I suppose that's one reason I blog.  It's my small attempt to do just that.  Well, the other day I came in upon this conversation:

Princess2:  "DON'T SAY 'AIN'T!'" (I'm teaching her well, eh?)
Princess1:  "NO, I'M JUST READING WHAT THE BOOK SAYS!" (as she reads the front cover of the much-anticipated library book-on-hold that sister is reading)

Another precious moment was captured when I asked Princess1 to do her regular chore of emptying the dishwasher.  She was busy, so my sweet littlest Princess jumped in and did it for her!  Of course I praised her for such an excellent job.  She declared she wants to take over this job, proclaiming "I can't  wait to empty the dishwasher!"

(The next day.....)

Princess2:  "OH, GOODIE!"

I just want to take that enthusiasm and package it up.  I just love how little ones take delight in doing real work and how something as simple as emptying the dishwasher can bring a sense of worth and belonging to their little world.  I hope she will somehow remember it when she gets older and is tempted to complain about her work.....(like we are all apt to do from time to time).

"To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven...

A time to plant....

A time to keep...."
                                                                      ~Ecclesiastes 3

This is a season in which some of my favorite times are being marked!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Day Journal--Holy Week Preparations

This week has come so quickly this year.  I've felt guilty that I am not better prepared--particularly in my heart. I do realize this is a season of life that is busier than others as I care for our sweet little baby.  It demands more occasions where sleep tends to trump other things (like getting up extra early in the morning).  Yes, sadly, it even means I'm not doing so well at preserving my Bible reading times.  At the same time I'm not letting myself off the "hook."  I am challenged as well to think about the use of my time and whether I am letting other things get in the way of what is truly important.  This is a good week to consider and ponder my habits.  I am truly thankful for the moments God gives me and the opportunity to remember.

I think holidays are all about the key word--REMEMBER.  God says it to His people over and over (and over) again.  He knows we are oh, so prone to forget!  I think the church year is all about a continuous cycle of remembering.  So we are setting about with what time we do have this week to remember.

Today it is raining.  Quite a spring rain it is.  My resident weather forecaster says it is supposed to be beautiful this weekend and I'm so excited!  I don't think we've had weather like that for Resurrection Day in several years.

Today is a day for being busy in the kitchen.  One of our annual traditions (and one that my Tender Warrior is especially fond of).....the making of chocolate-peanut butter eggs!!  (Loud cheers heard all around)  I think I'll be doing this more for his special treats now that I've seen the film Food, Inc. and saw, not surprisingly, that his favorite candy likely contains GMO food in it!.  My country girls were hard at work and, with some help from the youngers, did this all themselves.

I worked alongside them catching up on some bread making (and experimenting).  I love No-Knead breads, particularly sourdough.   I make them at least once a week.  Today it's a Steel Cut Oat recipe.  The pizza dough is also No-Knead now (and how I DO love it!)  So I thought I would experiment with our regular sandwich bread.  It was fun to do and looked pretty good going in to the oven, but not as lovely coming out.  Oh well...I'm sure it still tastes good! Who couldn't love a kitchen filled with the aromas of bread and chocolate all in one day???

I think he's starting to develop an affinity after his Daddy's own heart already (though right now he would much rather have the spoon)!

Working on some little special things for Sunday morning surprises (so no photos to spoil them).

Enjoying the letters from my treasured friend who recently went to Europe--and savoring all the memories it brought back of our own trips there.

Reading aloud together--our daily ritual that draws us into a one-piece life, as Ann so beautifully christened it.  Today we are reading "The First Easter," "Passion Hymns for a Child's Heart," "Pilgrim's Progress (Christiana's Story)," and "Lassie Come Home."

Then there are the everyday moments--laundry, asking a child to cup their hand over their mouth (Proverbs 30:32) because they have spoken ill toward a sibling....changing diapers, learning about how to cut hair better because we are in the midst of needing haircuts in various family members, treating coughs and colds, helping older children with homework for an upcoming government class, reminding little children it is "quiet time" and not "loud-and-noisy" time....the litany of the everyday IS beautiful!

Observing the crash scene on the floor...gotta love the world of boys and their imaginations!  Hmmm....a tank, a race car, and one of David's mighty tell me what happened here.

I'm also boiling a chicken on the stove to make broth.  Tomorrow we will have our own adapted (simple) observation of a Passover Seder and the traditional Chicken-Matzoh Ball soup that I make each year.  As it simmers on the stove, I've been thinking of a particular friend...and giving thanks that she is back at home after the displacement that came from a boiled chicken smokeout.

Considering a centerpiece for our table that is meaningful in calling our hearts to remember this week.

Praying for friends who have little ones with whooping cough--wishing I could do more to help.

And now my kitchen timer calls me back to the kitchen so I'll be signing off on this day's journal.

Wishing you a week of blessed contemplations!


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