Thursday, October 28, 2010
Last weekend, my husband and I were on our way to visit vineyards in Virginia. I was boring him to death by reading about the vineyards aloud until he gently told me he’d rather I didn’t. So I kept the next gem to myself. He, being the chief grass cutter and weed whacker on our estate, would have appreciated the Italian vineyards philosophy on the grounds surrounding your home.
The literature stated the vineyard was designed in keeping with the Italian tradition of everyone having their own groves, vineyards, and gardens at home utilizing all available outdoor space (OK, maybe they left room for a Bocce Ball court). They thought a “lawn” was a waste of natural resources (I’d have to agree). My husband came home from our visit cautiously considering putting in our own vines, and I arrived motivated to begin reclaiming our lawn for more productive purposes.
So first thing Monday morning I made a lasagna garden. I know I’ve written about lasagna gardens before, but just in case it didn’t have the life-changing impact it should have had, I’m going to refresh your memory.
A lasagna garden begins with any patch of ground. This ground can be an old garden, an underachieving garden, or an absolutely unadulterated lawn. I’m generally in favor of staking your claim on the useless lawn, but that’s just me.
After envisioning the size and shape of your garden, cover the desired area with a thick layer of newspaper. Yep, newspaper. Be sure to leave out the shiny colored circulars. It’s best if the newspaper you choose uses vegetable inks (the York Daily Record does). Try to choose a day when the wind is not whipping around. After you lay out the newspaper, wet it thoroughly and then begin your lasagna.
Lasagna consists of layers of “green” (compost, manure, grass clippings, basically anything rotting) and “brown” (leaves, straw, peat moss, mulch, pine needles, wood ash). Continue adding layers at your whim for a month or two and then leave the whole thing to “cook” over the winter. If it’s a dry fall, you may want to wet it occasionally to move the process along.
It may not look too pretty (until the first snow hides it), but by spring you’ll have rich wonderful soil, ready to garden. And you didn't have to lift a spade because you turned your lovely lawn in to compost for your new garden! If you want more detailed, technical directions, I highly recommend the book Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza. (buy it through the link below and you’ll make me 2 or 3 cents)
In my new lasagna garden this spring, I’ll add more blueberry bushes adjacent to our current blueberries – less hillside to mow and more blueberries to share with the birds (this year we’re going to buy a net….). I’m not finished adding lasagna gardens though, I’d love for this place to look like an Italian homestead.
I’m getting ready to harvest my fall peas and dig up the peanuts before setting the chickens loose to free range for the fall/winter (aerate the gardens and eat the pests – hopefully lots of stink bugs!). Maybe you’re getting ready to close up your gardens too, but before you do – don’t forget to start next year’s. October is time to plant your garlic, shallots, and spring onions. It’s also time to dream a little dream of all the wonders you can grow next year and get started on the lasagna.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I’m sure you’re imagining I’m a hoarder at this point. But I would argue that I don’t hoard anything (except maybe plants). I’m happy to get rid of things. Any book I won’t ever need again moves along out of my life. I keep the ones that still have things to teach me. The plethora of books on my shelves must mean I have much to learn.
There are just too many books in the world and I can’t seem to resist them. Many of the books on my shelves are on my “To be read” list. It does make me a little anxious when I see them piling up, but then I remind myself that “someday” I’ll have more time and when that day comes, I’ll have plenty of good books to read.
I hear you “modern” people telling me to get a kindle, but I have an aversion to screens and can’t get beyond the need to feel the book in my hand. I buy nearly all my books used and there are tales to be told simply in the way a book has been worn – are the pages bent, the spine stripped with creases, or my favorite- are there notes in the margins? A pristine condition used book is probably not a good book. I underline in my books constantly – phrases that astound me, profound thoughts, clever metaphors, useful information. I write my own comments too, so I appreciate the thoughts of the previous reader. Finding an inscription and a date in a book leaves me to wonder about the gift giver and the receiver – what did this book mean to their relationship? Nope, there is no history in an e-book. Even with all my green issues, I’m not ready to go there.
Kids books present other challenges. My kids go through books like socks – constantly leaving them lying about, losing them, finding them, loaning them to friends, and there never seem to be enough. We do frequent the library, but with the overdue fines I pay, sometimes it seems cheaper to buy them at the Goodwill, so I do. Books pile up at our house worse than the dirty laundry and our shelves are bursting with so many books it can be overwhelming. I accept some responsibility for this problem due to the fact that I can’t ever say no to a book and I double the kids' money if they’re spending it on books (paying half for any book they want to buy with their own money).
Years ago, I came upon one solution to the multitudes of books. We had so many the kids couldn’t possibly appreciate them all – at least not at the same time. So I bought 12 hard plastic magazine files and labeled each one with a month of the year. Then I sorted books in to the files, choosing themes for each month. Some were obvious, like Halloween books and scary books for October. August is water, beach, and ocean books and April is anything to do with the nature and the earth books. Outerspace books are in June because that’s a great time to stargaze and snow books are in January. Books about love fill the February file and March is stuffed with Easter books. Over the years, the kids have looked forward to pulling out the month’s file. After not seeing them for a year, the books seem new to them.
This has been a great system for us as it lightens the load on our book shelves and creates ‘christmas’ moments each month as we looked through the ‘new’ books. The December file was replaced with a big bin because we had too many Christmas books for the file to hold. I still enjoy pulling out the new file with my youngest son each month. Before we put the last month’s file away, we sort through it and pull out books that are “too young” for him.
Which brings me to the next dilemma – what do you do with books your don’t want? I certainly hope you don’t sit on them. Books have the potential to open minds and foster creativity – they need to be read. I try to stay on top of our books, cleaning out the shelves on a regular basis. Books that aren’t in the being-left-on-the-couch-or-in-the-car rotation, might be ready for new owners. For this, I have to confer mostly with the youngest child as he is generally the last to read our picture books.
After he gives them the nod, I sort the books in to keep (to be read to the grandchildren) and give away. There are lots of deserving places for outgrown books. We generally divide them up between the school, the preschool, friends with younger children, Goodwill, and the library book sale. I like to keep the books moving along. It seems a shame for any book to sit unread on a shelf.
My book club has another really nice way to pass along used books. We each pick out a book we’ve finished and wrap it up at Christmas time for our gift exchange. It’s a fun tradition and a great way to pass along our books and our holiday wishes.
That tradition led me to try something new. All year I saved books I’d enjoyed but didn’t need to keep, putting sticky notes with the name of the person I though would most enjoy the book on them and keeping them in a box in the closet. At Christmas I gave people in my life a stack of gently used books with a note that said I’d donated to a cause in their name in lieu of new books. It was a great way to give a thoughtful gift and make a helpful contribution.
If your books are piling up, maybe it’s time to sort through them. Keep the ones that you need, but remember there are lots of opportunities to release their power on the world. Books can inspire, challenge, teach, and change us. But they can’t do any of that collecting dust on a shelf.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
- Hyperactivity – Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6
- Compulsive aggression/violent behavior – Yellow 5
- Eczema, hives – Yellow 5 and Yellow 6
- Asthma – Yellow 5
- Irritability – Yellow 5
- Sleep disturbances/insomnia – Yellow 5
- DNA damage in gastrointestinal organs, colon and urinary bladder in mice – Yellow 5, Red 40
- Reduces serum and saliva zinc levels (increased susceptibility to infection and impaired cell-mediated immunity) – Yellow 5
If you want more information, read the entire report at http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/food-dyes-rainbow-of-risks.pdf .
The FDA is charged with protecting consumers from dangerous foods, and as such they have approved only 9 synthetic food dyes for human consumption (Yellow 5 & 6 and Red 40 amongst them). Realizing that there is no nutritional value to food dyes, the FDA is pretty rigid in their testing. Kudos to them. There’s just a few problems with their tests – 1) most of the studies were commissioned and paid for by the dye manufacturers and 2) most of the studies lasted no longer than 2 years. Plus, none of the studies tested the interaction of multiple dyes.
And if you want to do more, send your congressman a note and tell him you expect him to pressure the FDA to ban the use of synthetic dyes in foods in the US.