Month: March 2009

Gardening 2009

Last spring/summer, we had just moved into our house and dove immediately into amateur newbie gardening. We planted a Sweet 100 cherry tomato plant (with great success and production) and a Better Bush tomato (not as successful – the tomatoes had rot or some other strange fungal thing going on). We tried a few rows of unproductive corn (later determining that we didn’t have enough space to do it “right”), had several basil plants (most of which shriveled up and died except for one productive plant), and one pathetic pumpkin seedling that never got more than five leaves. In short: We ate lots and lots of cherry tomatoes and harvested a few sprigs of basil.

This year, armed with not much more knowledge but lots of optimism and a few gardening books, we’re trying the learn-as-you-go approach

So far, I’ve added some herbs to our front yard planter box, so we now have rosemary (planted last year), sage, oregano, lavender (came with the house), and curry plant (which smells like curry but isn’t actually what is used in making curry powder). I just picked up a thyme seedling which will go there, too. And that’s probably all you’ll hear about the front yard planter box for this season.

  • Sage – 4 seedlings – $3.48
  • Oregano seedling – $3.49
  • Curry plant seedling – $3.4

Our back yard has two planter boxes – a triangular one which gets full sun except in the late afternoon, and a rectangular one which gets full sun except in the early morning. The triangular one is half-weeded, the rectangular one hasn’t been touched, as you can see.

I’m thinking this is a good spot for another Sweet 100 cherry tomato. Last year, we were unprepared for the immense dimensions of the plant, and it collapsed our 40″ wire cage. We ended up stringing it up to the fence and attempting to use various stakes to hold it up. There should be plenty of room for the tomato plant here (and we’ll probably buy a special extra-large tomato cage), and I’m thinking the basil plants can go in the front corners.

I haven’t really mapped out this one, yet. We’ll have one short row of bell peppers and one of jalapeno, if all of the seeds sprout, and a row of bunching onions – maybe two rows. I’d like a couple tomato plants (suggestions on good varieties for central California are welcome!). We’ll probably have room for two more rows of something else, but I’m not sure what, yet.

Expenditures for back yard garden

We have a few gardening tools from the previous owner of the house, but I went out and bought a hoe, too. I also purchased seed starter pellets and a few packets of seeds.

  • Hoe – $7.53
  • 25 pellets – $2.14
  • Basil (Genovese) – $2.27
  • Bell peppers (California Wonder) – $2.27
  • Jalapeno Early peppers – $2.29
  • White Lisbon Bunching Onion – $1.59

The onions will be directly sown, but I started the basil and peppers a week ago, and the basil is starting to sprout!

“Real” gardeners will laugh at the pitifully few seedlings I started — six basil, and three each of the peppers. I think most of our available space will go to tomatoes, and having never done peppers before, I wanted to just start with a few.

I made a mini-greenhouse using a “spring mix” salad container. Nothing like reusing before recycling! (The lid isn’t usually on so the plants get plenty of air.)

I think next year (or winter) I’ll venture into the realm of ordering from seed catalogs and use up the rest of my pellets; for now, I’m just excited that there are signs of life.

Updates will come.

Reading: Eon and more

Photo taken March 6, 2009

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman – Heard of this gem from Orson Scott Card’s review, which sums it up better than I can. All I’ll say is that this is one of the best fantasy books I’ve read recently.

Conrad’s Fate by Diana Wynne Jones – Jones has been one of my favorite children’s authors for years, although I’ve lost touch with some of her more recent books. This book delves back into the Chrestomanci world with a slightly older Christopher Chant (from The Nine Lives of Christopher Chant). I’ve liked all of the Chrestomanci books, and this one was no exception.

Strangers In Death by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) – I haven’t read any of the books from Nora Roberts’   mystery series before, and despite missing out several volumes’ worth of background information and history, found that I was still able to get into the story. I’ve since checked out all the other ones that I could find at the library; for now, let’s just say that these mysteries have some “adult” material so I wouldn’t recommend it to my nephews and nieces, and I’ll have more comments next time about the series in general.

Julia and the Hand of God by Eleanor Cameron – I’d read Eleanor Cameron’s children’s book A Room Full of Windows when I was younger, but I didn’t realize that she had a prequel with a younger Julia. Eleanor Cameron’s books are a treat; after reading this one, I went back to the library to check out A Room Full of Windows again as it’s been years since I’ve read it!

Helping Me Help Myself by Beth Lisick – I said last time that my genre of choice seems to be memoirs of people who do crazy things for a certain amount of time and then write about it. This falls into that genre, but it’s one of the few that I didn’t enjoy. Lisick chronicles her year of trying out different self-improvement programs from the major “gurus” of the day, including going on a Richard Simmons cruise (which is the highlight of the book). She writes with plenty of humor, but her journey into self-improvement just seemed shallow and pointless to me – as if it were written because of a book deal, instead of from the heart. I’m coming down on her book pretty hard; perhaps it’s because I enjoyed The Year of Living Biblically so much last time for A.J. Jacob’s mix of humor and humility. Lisick’s self-deprecating humor isn’t quite the same as humility, and her openness about her life isn’t the same as authenticity.

Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger – I watched “The Devil Wears Prada” but hadn’t read it and was curious to try out a book by this author. I saw it through to the end but wished I had followed my instincts and given up after the first few chapters, because overall I didn’t like the characters or the storyline. My impressions: Shallow, incoherent, and unbelievable.

Come to the Table: The Slow Food Way of Living by Alice Waters and Katrina Heron (editor) – Short articles about specific farms (think organic, sustainable, quality) with plenty of beautiful photography and a collection of mouth-watering recipes at the end.

Amazing Baby by Desmond Morris – This was a really cool book with beautiful photography and fascinating facts about developing infants and toddlers.

Reading: Photo edition

I’ve totally slacked off on keeping track of what books I’ve been reading, and a couple weeks ago (2/24/09), I decided to jump-start myself by taking a photo of a stack of finished books. The books are ordered by size, not by when I finished reading them. Below are the titles and some brief comments.

A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card – Short novel written in the Ender’s Game universe. I love all of the Ender books, and this was no exception.

Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes? by Jena Pincott – “The Science behind Sex, Love, and Attraction.” Adult topics, but rather fascinating stuff about what current research shows about what attracts people to each other. I found myself sharing bits of trivia in several different conversations after reading this book. For example: If you take a group of same-gender people and combine their faces to make a composite, people will generally think that composite is more attractive than each individual from the group. I also thought that there were some interesting things you could take away from this book if you were single and trying to pursue someone.

Families Where Grace is In Place by Jeff VanVonderen – Christian book about spousal and family dynamics. If you are trying to “improve” your spouse or children and feel responsible for their growth and behavior, you might not have the healthiest situation. This book talks about the difference between unhealthy and healthy relationships and how to improve family relationships, starting by recognizing that you can’t look to other people to fill your own emptiness.

Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli – The webmistress of the popular fansite The Leaky Cauldron describes the Harry Potter phenomenon from the inside out. Did you know that Harry Potter spawned a whole new genre of music? Me neither.

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica, a.k.a “The Waiter” – I hadn’t heard of this apparently popular blog before, but here’s another memoir based on a blog about life as a waiter in a high-class restaurant. I’m a sucker for books like this and enjoyed it (although it didn’t make me a subscriber of the blog).

Murder By Family by Kent Whitaker – Memoir of a father who survived a murder attempt that was plotted by his own son. His wife and other son didn’t make it. I was crying as I read his story about how he came to completely forgive and accept his son. (I guess this guy has been on Oprah since then… too bad we no longer had cable. Not that I would have known to watch this, anyway.)

Farewell, My Subaru by Doug Fine – Another memoir (seems to be my genre of choice lately)… Doug makes a valiant attempt to live “green,” moving into a rural area, trying to grow his own food, take care of goats and chickens, convert to solar power, and survive the elements. Punctuated with lots of handy little “green” trivia bits.

The Woman Who Can’t Forget by Jill Price – Jill Price remembers everything about her life in emotional detail from when she was 14 years old. She has a very unique and unusual condition in that she’s not a “savant” (i.e., can’t remember huge long lists of numbers) but she can tell you what day of the week matches up with any date in the past… uh… I don’t remember how many but it was a lot… years and vice versa and then tell you what happened in her life on that day. Incredible.

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs – A.J. Jacobs takes a year trying to live the rules of the Bible literally (first, Old Testament, then, New Testament). Despite his agnostic beliefs, he presents a very sincere memoir of his attempts, even as his life tends towards the ridiculous at times (reference beard comments and wife’s passive-aggressive “uncleanliness” during her time-of-the-month).

Starbucked by Taylor Clark – A full history of Starbucks’ beginnings and growth as a truly innovative company… and a look at how it’s turning into mass-market fast food.

Positive Discipline: The First Three Years by Jane Nelsen – I’m in a parenting class that is going through Rudolf Dreikurs’ Children: The Challenge book. The Positive Discipline series is based on his principles (along with others) and is right up my alley. This book was specifically about infants and toddlers, and I found the specific examples helpful for fleshing out some of Dreikur’s principles. There is also a helpful chapter about development and figuring out what’s appropriate at various ages. Thanks to my friend Lucy for recommending this book!