Tag Archives: gardening

Confessions of a Wanna-Be Doomsday Prepper

You wouldn’t think, to look at me, that I worry about disasters as much as I do. I seem normal enough, I don’t belong to any organizations (religious OR political) that believe The End is Near, I highly doubt there’s going to be a zombie apocalypse, and you wouldn’t catch me dead wearing survivalist gear. So what’s a nice girl like me doing flirting with doomsday prepper-dom?

I blame my amygdala, the warrior princess of the limbic system, which processes emotions, and doesn’t respond well to logical arguments. It’s complicated, and you can learn more about how it works in one of the many, many books we own on emotions and the brain, but basically, it boils down to this: you have to give your lizard brain something to do so it won’t hijack your logic center and ruin your day. In the case of my prepper tendencies, I’ve found that teaching myself a new skill makes my amygdala feel like it’s doing something to thwart apocalypse, and while it’s happily pre-occupied, I can go about the business of regular life!

Here are a few skills I’d like to learn in 2013, for science, and also, just in case…

Gardening. We moved into our house too late last year to do anything major with the back yard, but this year, the sky’s the limit. Tomatoes! Potatoes! Herbs in pots! Besides, having lots of plants back there will slow down any zombies that might come crashing through the fence (seconds can count in a zombie war).

Start with: The Virgin Gardener, Jonathan Edwards

virgin_gardener

Canning and Preserving. There’s something about the thought of neat little jars of tasty things, lined up in a row in the basement, that warms the cockles of my heart. Also, since I hate to waste food, the canning project dovetails nicely with the gardening project. Canning, experienced pros tell me, requires patience and attention to detail, also good skills to refine, impending doom or not.

Start with: Food in Jars, Marisa McClellan.

food_in_jars

Martial Arts. Wait, what? Although it may seem like quite a leap, learning a new physical skill is actually also a great way to train the mind, and become calmer in stressful situations. Who couldn’t use that, right? I’m actually drawn to aikido, with its emphasis on peaceful defense, and concern with the well-being of the attacker. But before I make a spectacle of myself in a public class, I think I will practice at home with some library books first.

Start with: First Steps in Aikido, Wendy Walker

first_steps

I feel so much better now that we’ve talked about this. What kinds of irrational things do you worry about, and how do you keep your fears at bay? What useful skills do you have that would make you the hero/ine in an emergency situation?

–Leigh Anne

mostly joking, but still irrationally afraid of zombies

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How Green is Your Thumb?

…and may we borrow it?

This summer, nine of the CLP branches (Carrick, Homewood, Knoxville, Lawrenceville, Mt. Washington, Sheraden, Squirrel Hill, West End, and Woods Run) are planting herb gardens – plus Lawrenceville is operating a seed library – all thanks to a generous grant from the Mary Jane Berger Foundation.

So far, each of the participating branches have been subject to soil testing to determine the best plants for that location and have consulted with the fine folks at Phipps on where to start digging. Quite soon, we’ll break out the roto-tillers and get our hands dirty. Sound like a good time? Get in contact with a branch near you to volunteer. We’ll be happy to have you. If you don’t have time to dedicate to the gardens on a regular basis, you can jump in on the many gardening programs that are being planned. My branch has plant swaps, terrarium building and seed bomb-making on the calendar!

In the meantime, check out a few herb gardening books from the catalog:

 Community Gardening: A PHS Handbook – editor, Jane Caroll

Herb Gardening From the Ground Up : Everything You Need to Know About Growing Your Favorite Herbs -Sal Gilbertie and Larry Sheehan

 Jekka’s Herb Cookbook – Jekka McVicar

The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs: Growing, Health & Beauty, Cooking, Crafts

                                                                                                 

– Jess

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Get Out There and Garden!

April is National Gardening Month. So to inspire you to get into your yard and start growing, or even just to give you some ideas of where to start, the library has these books to guide you:

How to Grow Practically Everything by Zia Allaway, Lia Leendertz

Rx from the Garden: 101 Food Cures You Can Easily Grow by Kathleen Barnes

High-Impact, Low-Carbon Gardening: 1001 Ways to Garden Sustainably by Alice Bowe

The Food Lover’s Garden by Mark Diacono

Everyday Garden Solutions: Expert Advice from the National Gardening Association

Decoding Gardening Advice: The Science behind the 100 Most Common Recommendations by Jeff Gillman & Meleah Maynard

Gardening with Children by Monika Hannemann

Thoughtful Gardening: Practical Gardening in Harmony with Nature by Ed Ikin

The Complete Guide to Preserving Your Own Seeds for Your Garden: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply by Katie A. Murphy

Raised-Bed Vegetable Gardening Made Simple: the Three-Module Home Vegetable Garden by Raymond Nones

The Gardener’s Guide to Propagation: Step-By-Step Instructions for Creating Plants for Free, from Propagating Seeds and Cuttings to Dividing, Layering and Grafting by Richard Rosenfeld

Back to Basics: Traditional Garden Wisdom: Time-Tested Tips and Techniques for Creating a Natural, Sustainable Outdoor Space by Charlie Ryrie and Anne Halpin

Gardening Month by Month by Ian Spence

The Bad Tempered Gardener by Anne Wareham

Now get out there, be fruitful and multiply!
-Melissa M.

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Stuff We’re Enjoying: Early Spring Edition

Summer weather arrived in Pittsburgh this past week, dramatically muscling spring weather out of the way with a flourish, flipping its ponytail over its shoulder and flopping down on a beach towel with a good book.  Your stalwart Eleventh Stack crew has done likewise; here are a few of the library materials we’re enjoying at the turn of the season.

Amy:

This book will mess you up.

I know that everyone and their grandmother is reading The Hunger Games right now, but I don’t feel that I need to, as I’ve already read Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale, and The Long Walk. As a matter of fact, I’m rereading The Long Walk for the fifth or sixth time right now. It’s a Stephen King short novel, written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, from back in the days before King started selling novels by the pound. Basically, every year one hundred teenage boys start at the Maine-Canada border and walk south until there is only one boy left. There are rules, of course. And penalties. And insanity. And death. If you read this one, you’ll never forget it.

Don:

Recently I visited some family in Illinois. One of the folks there is a big reader of sci-fi and fantasy, and so I waxed on to him over a couple of beers about a recent title, Embassytown, by China Miéville, that I thought one of the best science fiction titles in years.  He told me that I had to read The City and the City, another Miéville title he insisted was equally fantastic.

And right he was. The basic plot has a noir feel: a dead body is found, a hard-boiled Eastern European detective is investigating. But there’s a twist. The city where the murder takes place (Besz) happens to share contiguous space with another, just barely visible, city (Ul Qoman), where a different population and a very different–though related–language is spoken. And, oh yeah, where the murderer perhaps came from. I’ve just started this one and once again  Miéville is pushing–literally, this time–the boundaries of speculative fiction.

It seems I ought to go to Peoria more often.

Jess:

The following two CDs have been in heavy rotation during my daily commute:

The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond. First things first: contemporary country music mostly makes my brain hurt. However, for some inexplicable reason, I love the current wave of bluegrass/folk-alt-country stuff that’s out there (Avett Brothers, anyone?). Thankfully the music producers went that route for most of this soundtrack, which fits the tone of Katniss and Peeta’s District 12 perfectly. I especially like the tracks from Neko Case (“Nothing to Remember”) and Kid Cudi (“The Rule and the Killer”).

Say Anything’s Anarchy, My Dear. I’ve always admired SA leader and primary lyricist, Max Bemis, for his smart, brutally honest songwriting. Though he’s mellowed a bit with age and marriage, he’s still telling it like it is. Standout tracks include “Overbiter,” which includes backing vocals from his wife, Sherri DuPree of the band Eisley, and describes their long-distance courtship; “Admit it Again,” a sequel of sorts to the “Admit It!!!” track on the …Is A Real Boy album (completely worth tracking down to dissect the lyrics); and the title track, “Anarchy, My Dear,” an almost ballad-y ode to rebellion.

Leigh Anne:

I’d like to be able to tell you I’m reading something incredibly literate, deliciously witty, or professionally advantageous. However, I am forced to confess that, in this unseasonable heat, the best I can do is leaf through magazines. Super Girl Scout Niece #1 was selling subscriptions, and I’m a huge fan of The Girl Scouts, so I’m happily parked in front of a fan with Oprah, yoga, and some warm-weather recipe ideas.

Maria:

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: Confessions of an Accidental Academic, by Professor X. This eye-opening and provocative treatise caught my eye in a review journal. It’s an expansion of an article originally published in The Atlantic magazine, and deals with the unprepared students colleges recruit and the status and treatment of professors (especially adjunct professors like the author), with a bit of the author’s life story mixed in. I was intrigued because the author is an English professor, and he writes extremely well, so the book is interesting, illuminating, and readable. He writes anonymously because he’s worried he’ll lose his job.

Suzy:

For my birthday I received a Kindle Fire from my awesome husband , who always buys me things I think I don’t want until I get them. To my eternal (but not blushing) chagrin, the first thing I did was purchase the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy from Amazon. In case you live under a rock, Fifty Shades is a self-published “erotic BDSM” e-book by a little-known British author named E. L. James. I zipped through Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker in two days. I was ready to run out and buy some grey ties and an Audi.

For over a week now I’ve malingered on the final book, Fifty Shades Freed. I have simply stopped caring about the characters, the story, and the sex. The controversy surrounding this book reminds me of a quote from Fear of Flying author Erica Jong: “My reaction to porn films is as follows: after the first ten minutes, I want to go home and screw. After the first twenty minutes, I never want to screw again as long as I live.”

Tara:

Sublime Frequencies re-issues strange and wonderful music from all over the world, everything from Bollywood steel guitar to what’s playing on the radio in Morocco. It’s perfect music to listen to while cooking or porch-sitting, and we have quite a few albums available for check-out here at the library.

I’ve also just watched a recently re-released gem on DVD called A Thousand Clowns. Fans of films about eccentric and lovable iconoclasts (and the films of Wes Anderson) should check this one out immediately.

Tim:

I’m not enjoying this “nice” weather because it’s disturbing to have 80 degree weather in mid-March.  And you know what else doesn’t like it?  Spinach.  Or radishes.  Or any of the other cool weather crops that only grow well when temperatures are in the 60s and 70s.

So I’ll be forced to enjoy such books as The Gardener’s Weather Bible: How to Predict and Prepare for Garden Success in Any Kind of Weather by Sally Roth or The Weather-resilient Garden : a Defensive Approach to Planning & Landscaping by Charles W.G. Smith.

Your turn.  Hot enough for you?  What are you reading / watching / listening to this spring?

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One Andrea Grows, Another Cooks

Andrea Bellamy raises enticing edibles on her balcony and in a community garden in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her credentials include a certificate in garden design from the University of B.C., and design is a focus of her new book, Sugar Snaps & Strawberries. She writes a blog called Heavy Petal, and both blog and book brim with smart advice on cultivating fruits and vegetables in tight quarters.

For readers in my geographic area, marine-influenced West coast gardening instructions will require adjusting to our more extreme climate. The design ideas, however, are appropriate anywhere space is limited. Bellamy’s work stands out for its artful garden structures and plant placement. Photographs of small and smaller working gardens inspire, teach, and delight. See how narrow planter boxes dress up an alley, basil seedlings thrive in a hanging basket, lush sage plants rise out of a big tin can. Let Bellamy lead you, and before long you’ll savor your own small, tasty harvest.

When it’s time to inventory your garden’s produce or shop at a farmer’s market, have a look at Cooking in the Moment, a new book by Andrea Reusing. With her brother, in 2002 she opened Lantern, a restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C.  I thought her book might focus on simplified restaurant recipes, an approach that doesn’t appeal to me. But these recipes are clearly written for the home cook.

Cooking in the Moment is organized by season, spring through winter. Simple to celebratory fare includes vegetables from every season, poached chicken, pot roast, pickled figs, rhubarb-ginger sorbet and strawberry ice cream (made with buttermilk and cream). One of the author’s seasonal essays bears the title “Seafood Market,” which questions whether there is actually such a thing as sustainable seafood. As part of a recipe for grilled Spanish mackerel that follows her essay, Reusing states, “The fact that our great-grandchildren may never eat a real seafood dinner gives those of us who still eat fish a responsibility not to put blue cheese on it.”

Grow. Eat. Ponder.

—Julie

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Spring Fever!

crocusYesterday The New York Times published a lovely editorial praising the robin as the harbinger of spring. The editors wrote:

Somehow the robin stands for all the birds migrating now, the great V’s of geese heading north, the catbirds that will show up surreptitiously in a month. It also stands for the surprise of spring itself, which we had begun to fear would not arrive. We have all been keeping watch, as though one morning it might come sailing over the horizon. And now it’s here — the air a bit softer, snowdrops and winter aconites blooming, the bees doing their cleaning and the robins building their nests again.

As Denise mentioned yesterday, Sunday’s equinox marked the official beginning of spring, and in celebration I’m engaging in all sorts of seasonal activities. From watching the peregrine falcons at the Cathedral of Learning guard their newly laid eggs to checking up on what the fashion world‘s elite have in mind for post-sweater weather, all things spring have caught my attention. My reading taste has spring fever, too, and I’m checking out lots of books related to nature and the outdoors.

John Fowles The TreeThe other day I stumbled across John Fowles’  The Tree, a naturalist classic whose website describes it as a “moving meditation on the connection between the natural world and human creativity, and a powerful argument against taming the wild.” The newest edition boasts an introduction by Barry Lopez, whose own nature-oriented meditations I’ve recently enjoyed in magazines like Tricycle.

The Tree is light enough to bring it with me on walks, another favorite warm weather Wanderlust : a history of walking / Rebecca Solnit.activity of mine. In the fall, I moved into a new house, so I’m looking forward  to discovering the changes warmer seasons bring to my new neighborhood.  As I read Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking,  my mind can wonder about walking as I wander around.

The spell of the sensuous : perception and language in a more-than-human world / David Abram.One book that’s inspired many a musing since I read it is deep ecologist David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, a philosophical reflection on the ways nature may have shaped humans’ linguistic and perceptual evolution. In lyrical, moving prose, Abrams imagines our place in nature as participatory and reciprocal–both seeing and seen, feeling and felt–by the network of animals and landscapes we’re part of.

Springtime inspires my political activity as well. The more time I spend in our beautiful habitat, the more I appreciate and want to protect it. Locally, concerns about the environmental effects of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale and uncertainly about how our state’s elected legislature will handle it motivate me to stay informed about the subject and tell my state representatives how I feel.

In terms of my personal habitat, I’m preoccupied with all of the possibilities for a raised bed garden I’m planning. To prepare, I’m consulting every gardening resource I see (including my wise coworkers), and tomorrow I’m attending Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s free lunchtime lecture about rain barrels and rain gardens.

Reading, walking, gardening, and generally growing give me plenty to do as the days lengthen. I hope spring fever also brings you lots of ways to spend your ever-increasing hours of sunlight!

–Renée

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The Joys of Summer

I have vacation on the brain, but I don’t leave for a week.  At this rate, it’s going to be very hard to get any work done.  So this post is dedicated to all the things I love about summer.

It’s the height of the growing season, and right now your garden might be a little hard to keep up with.  To stay focused, check out Keeping the Garden In Bloom: Watering, Dead-heading, and Other Summer Tasks, by Steven Bradley. Once that produce starts rolling in, you’ll want to read The Summer Cook’s Book: A Guide to Planting, Harvesting, Storing, Canning, Freezing and Cooking Popular Fruits and Vegetables by Brenda Cobb.  And if you’re unable to garden, you can still reap the benefits – visit the library’s CSAs, Farms and Farmer’s Markets page.

Of course, there’s more to summer dining than just produce.  If you want to put together a quick, satisfying, and in-season meal so you can spend more time having fun, try Summer Gatherings : Casual Food to Enjoy with Family and Friends, by Rick Rodgers.  If your interests lie in taming the flames, and wielding your skills everywhere from the stadium parking lot to  the middle of nowhere, check out How to Grill, by Steven Raichlen (of PBS fame).

Many people spend the summer hiking on trails all over the Pittsburgh area.  Whether you’re looking to get started, or you want new trails to explore, there’s something for you in Best Hikes Near Pittsburgh by Bob Frye.  You can even take your buddy, with Doggin’ Pittsburgh : the 50 best Places to Hike With Your Dog in Southwest Pennsylvania by Doug Gelbert.

Birdwatching is a fun summer hobby in both backyards and state parks.  If you want to develop your own personal wildlife habitat, there are many ideas in North American Backyard Birdwatching For All Seasons: Feeding and Landscaping Techniques Guaranteed to Attract Birds You Want Year Round by Marcus H. Schneck.  Once you’ve found the birds, you’ll want to know what you’re looking at – and hearing!  Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song by Les Beletsky is unique among bird guides, in that it contains a little computerized gizmo that will play the sound of each bird.  It’s definitely worth trying out if you have even the most passing interest in birds, or if you own cats.

Great vacations usually make great photos, but brushing up on your skills doesn’t hurt either.  Take a look at Digital Nature Photography Closeup by Jon Cox, or the National Geographic Photography Field Guide to Landscapes : Secrets to Making Great Pictures by Robert Caputo.

And if none of these ideas tickle your fancy, visit the Carnegie Library’s Outdoor Activities page.  You’ll find general and local resources on everything from camping to caving to water activities.  Or you can always come into the library to browse the collection, maybe take in a free event, and soak up some air conditioning.

– Denise

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