a little bit of earth

One of my favourite books is The Secret Garden. One of my favourite musicals is The Secret Garden. I’ve longed for “just a little bit of earth to plant some seeds”.

So, how doth my garden grow?

I have a heck of a lot more than a little bit of earth! When we purchased our home, I said that quarter acre of land didn’t seem like a whole lot, especially since I grew up on a bit more. I had grand plans for what I would grow.

You can stop laughing now.


Lots of stuff happened since my bit of dreaming and today. Work picked up. Other work became more defined. I was sick for a while. We renovated the library. I discovered how intense the landscaping the prior owner left was.

I spend more time trying to keep the front of the house looking somewhat maintained than doing much else. Thankfully the back is semi-marshy and quite shady so the fact that I haven’t mowed in about a month isn’t a big deal. (I hope to do so early tomorrow morning before the heat picks up).

For kitchen gardening I have a window box and two deck rail planters of varied herbs and one tomato plant alone in a otherwise unused bed.

Surprisingly I consider this a success. I’ve used my rosemary, basil, and dill quite a bit. Tonight I planted some sage and parsley. I keep forgetting to buy mint.

For other (?) gardening I have a nice window box and a planter by the front of various leafy plants. They’ve been there for quite some time and I ain’t killed ’em yet so I consider this a success too.

The other day we took hundreds of photos of the exterior of the house and the landscaping from various angles. I’m aiming to simplify with low maintenance but appealing shrubbery. We have a beautiful japanese maple smack in the middle of the front and it’s proving difficult for me to balance. Why? When combined with the walkway, something I’m not in the mood to move, this year it’s a bit much. I like symmetry or a balanced asymetrical design. I’ve yet to figure out that balance for the front. It’ll happen. I have three flower beds I expect to tear completely out. At first this upset me, but I’d rather not plant things than have things look ragged and terrible because I just can’t maintain them. I need to do something with the walkway lights. If I hit one of them with a mower again next week I will scream loud and be annoyed. I know friends in many varied fields… how I wish just one was a landscape architect who wanted handknit socks!

Yes, I’m aware I could probably pay some landscape company to do the yard maintenance freeing me to do the gardening. As long as I can push the mower I want to do it. Last year, without the walkway lights installed it took me 15 minutes to mow the front. They added 10 minutes to my time this year and I either step on them or hit each of them weekly.


Progressing. That would be the state of pre-library demolition. We have met the world’s most over engineered closet. We are winning but it is a slow battle.

Books are being read, but it is at a pace of a chapter here and there of about twenty different volumes. I finished these recently:

Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir
by Natalie Goldberg
1 star for book review1 star for book review1 star for book review1 star for book reviewno star for book review
If you want to write, then write! Goldberg drives straight to the point and provides lots of great prompts within the three hundred-odd pages. Whether you read Old Friend from Far Away to write your memoir, or if you are use it to aid in character development for a piece of fiction, or if you turn to it to provide guidance in questions to pose to a relative to elicit stories to record– nothing will occur if you don’t write. Ten minutes. Go.

The Pleasures of Cooking for One The Pleasures of Cooking for One
by Judith Jones1 star for book review1 star for book review1 star for book review1 star for book reviewno star for book review

When cooking for one or even for two I find I struggle to adapt most recipes to fit our needs without either being buried in leftovers or scrounging around looking for something more just an hour later. I am quite saddened that the most simple of solutions to help make sure what I cook when for less than the standard four servings stared me in the face for years and I never thought to try it. When doubling a recipe I instinctively pull out a larger pot — when do I not do this when I halve? Hopefully Jone’s writing has reiterated that point and in the future I will not ruin yet another pot of (X) because I tried to cook a single serving in a large soup pot! Beyond that my other struggle is to shop across meals and use the carrots from this meal three days later as part of the next dish. Again, hopefully Jones has provided me some lasting insight. I can’t yet speak for her recipes — I have yet to try any of them. This first pass wasn’t looking for exact directions to follow but for philosophy. I come away from this table for one well sated.

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills
by Abigail R. Gehring
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I forget how I came across this volume — probably by browsing various subject headings in my library catalog — but it doesn’t matter. I’m just happy I did and I hope soon to add it permanently to my own bookshelves.

While this book is intended to be for those desiring to go out and survive in a less urban and technologically minded manner I found it quite useful to assist me in building realistic scenes while writing. For example, on page 21 is a nice chart that describes various soil conditions and their usefulness as foundation material. The drawings accompanying various types of whatever is being discussed — such as dams (page 99) I found quite descriptive and useful.

For my life in suburban-urban America I found the section on soil improvement and greenhouse building helpful. I also found Part 5 – Skills and Crafts for House and Homestead cute and useful. Given my fibre-art bias I would have liked to see more — but there is a nice “Sources and resources” section and when combined with a clear description of winding a niddy noddy and various natural dyes (and required mordant) I will let it go. It is nice to see so many things covered concisely yet with enough detail that I have a good idea what I need to do to make it work (such as rug braiding).

I think this is a useful reference for everyone. It’s a treasure trove of information that most people once just knew and sadly we often can’t turn to a relative and ask “how do you…” This very informative and well written book lets you look it up and learn!

The Informed Gardener The Informed Gardener
by Linda Chalker-Scott
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Several websites (which ones, I don’t remember) cited this book as a much read for the home gardener, despite those glowing recommendations I found Chalker-Scott’s slim and informative book difficult to get through. I don’t deny that it is important to cut through both the biased hype found in many garden centers or the waste-of-time folk-lore that is out there, but her style implying that dot-com as evil and everything peer-reviewed or dot-edu as the holy writ really turned me off. I know there are useful golden nuggets within but I warn future readers to beware the tone. That said, I really enjoyed the citations that allow me to, if I desire, read up and learn more from scientific research. The format includes clear summaries that are helpful and by-and-large color-free. I will find myself turning to this again and again and will just need to remember to ignore the overly opinionated writing and focus on the facts that I’m looking for.

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by ? ???
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This fun volume consists of 22 knitted house shoes (slippers) for both children and adults. As with most Japanese craft books, no knowledge of Japanese is necessary. The patterns are charted and schematics are included for construction.

Persuasion (Dover Thrift Editions)I’m in the middle of reading Persuasion with Craftlit and being my usual speed reading impatient self I checked out the audio book from the library and finished it. I’m a late comer to Austen due to a series of at-thirty-I-now-see-as-unfortunate-events, but I enjoyed it and I look forward to finishing a pass with Heather’s insightful guidance.

I’m still acquiring and rereading Valdemar/Velgarth. There are the ones added and reread over the past two weeks:
The Black Gryphon (Valdemar: Mage Wars, #1) Magic's Pawn (Valdemar: Last Herald-Mage, #1) Magic's Promise (Valdemar: Last Herald-Mage, #2) By the Sword (Kerowyn's Tale) (Heralds of Valdemar, #4)


signs%20of%20spring - penny-and-eli.com

This joy of discovery brightens my day, I find the winter worries fade and my spring excitement warms.

dreaming of spring

365.300 ... 20091216WFor me this year it means drooling over seed catalogs and looking forward to mud (seriously, next year I probably won’t be excited but I’ve missed it and we don’t have a real mud season like others do). It’s hard trying to limit myself this year to a few vegetables I definitely know I want and have some experience with. It’s been about 20 years since I last had a real garden and I want to grow it all. I’m trying to limit myself.. some lettuce, tomato, and the various herbs I’m always using. I’ve not even tried to think about all the flowers, both what the prior owner left and what I might want to put in. My hope is to have mixed food/floral beds and then my hungry stomach and eyes will both be pleased by the useful spaces.

E’s planning my seed starter and a mini greenhouse. We’re both looking forward to the warmer weather Spring should bring.

Want more? Vegetable Garden Dreams has lots of nice info. There’s so much out there it’s hard to choose.

My suggestion is to try to hook up with your local cooperative extension service (that’s mine) for education and big questions beyond the seeds.

What are you dreaming of?

(As an aside, that is sort of related, just a little, I find it more than highly amusing I wished this three years ago. I’m still waiting. Though my 1.5 y o crackberry works so you can take it if you want. If I had one of what I wish for I don’t think I’d need crackberry.)