Feeling Lonely?

Stuck at home and lonely. That’s where a lot of us are right now! Let’s be sure not to confuse alone with lonely. Some people are perfectly happy to be alone to work on what they want. Many avoid being lonely by talking to friends on the phone or through Facebook, Zoom or whichever technology they may be using. Sone others, however, can be in a houseful of people and still feel socially isolated and desperate for human interactions that are outside of their family circle.

Hopefully, you are not alone and have family in the house with you and the ability to “be” with your friends.

Of course, being stuck indoors with family can also be annoying! I think everyone should have their own private space set aside where they can take time out from the world. Perhaps your bedroom with the door shut or even hang out in the laundry room or bathroom. Now may also be the time to institute a ‘quiet hour’ where everyone either naps or sits individually with a book or craft.

I have been looking at Creativebug, which is in our online resources, and have seen a lot of family friendly crafts that are easy to do with stuff you have lying around the house. There was an especially easy weaving project where all you need is some leftover bits of yarn and a piece of thin cardboard from the recycling bin to get you started.

Perhaps you have a yard you can sit in and enjoy. Why not have fun with your family and start a small vegetable or flower garden? Ask Ciscoe: Your Gardening Questions Answered by Ciscoe Morris is a great resource to get you started, and Small Garden Style by Jennifer Blaise Kramer will give you great ideas for making use of the smallest garden spaces such as patios or your deck. Early spring is the perfect time to start a garden. You may also want to see if there is a community garden in your neighborhood or a vacant lot that could become one.

While you may not be able to take a vacation right now, you can enjoy planning a trip. We have many Lonely Planet Travel Guides in ebook format to explore. Pretend you are going to Fiji, the South Pacific, Paris or Berlin! Or you can watch a show on Kanopy and take a virtual trip. On the tab ‘sciences’ under ‘zoology’ there are a number of shows about animals from all over the world. And of course, you won’t need a travel guide if you are sitting in your living room!

No matter what you find to do, it is good to remember that this is all temporary. You may even look back on it eventually and say “remember when we were all stuck at home? I kind of miss that.” Stay safe and healthy!

Green Thumbs Unite! – Apart

Spring is officially here in the Northwest! The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and pollen is flowing with wild abandon (usually right into my eyes, it seems). Yet despite all the beauty outside the window, we are still under a statewide stay at home order. So what to do? Well, garden, of course! Gardening is a perfect outdoor activity to get some sun and maintain safe social distancing. Whether you have a full garden, a few planters on the deck or are just curious about testing the greenness of your thumb, we have several ebooks for you to dig into.

Ask Ciscoe: Oh, La La!: Your Gardening Questions Answered by Ciscoe Morris.

In this book, Northwest gardening legend Ciscoe Morris answers hundreds of gardening questions ranging from soil nutrition, what to plant and when, pruning, what insects to be concerned about (and which to encourage) and more, all with his trademark quirky sense of humor. Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced gardener, there are tips for everyone. Ciscoe even starts the book off by writing “The real plant expert is the person who has murdered the most plants. That makes me uniquely qualified to write this book.” An accessible read for anyone with an interest in the world of backyard horticulture.

Field Guide to Urban Gardening: How to Grow Plants, No Matter Where You Live by Kevin Espiritu

Many of us city dwellers simply don’t have the space to do a full garden, but the Field Guide to Urban Gardening offers tips and tricks for growing your own greens in small spaces. From container gardening to raised beds, indoor growing options to rooftop gardens (I suspect my landlord wouldn’t appreciate that last one much) this book has tips and tricks for any living situation. Living in a second story apartment with limited patio room, I especially appreciated the container gardening and space saving tips this book had to offer.

DIY Gardening Projects: 35 Awesome Gardening Hacks to Better Your Garden by Cheryl Palmer

The DIY crafts movement has been growing for years, but now that we all have found ourselves with some unexpected free time and a need to take our minds off things, it’s become more popular than ever (by the way, have you checked out our Creativebug portal?). This book provides creative tips and ideas to improve your garden.

Grow Food For Free by Huw Richards

There is nothing like eating the first ripe tomatoes off the vine after months of work. Huw Richards’ Grow Your Own Food For Free is all about how to grow sustainable – and affordable – gardens.  Richards gives not just plentiful gardening advice but also tricks he’s learned to grow bountiful gardens on a budget by being resourceful and creative. He offers tips on seed saving and what you might already have in the fridge that can be planted (which is pretty timely advice, trying to get my hands on some of the seeds I want to plant this season has been about as hard as finding toilet paper), how to improvise a raised bed if building a ‘proper’ one isn’t exactly in the budget, and a lot of other great advice. 

Organic Gardener

Did you know the library also offers digital access to Organic Gardener magazine through Flipster?  Each issue is packed with gardening tips and tricks and you can have instant access to for the current month, as well as several years of back issues to branch out into.

How to stay busy: eBooks to Create, Garden, and Organize

If you are one of those people who just has to stay busy (I know how you feel!) and you’re stuck at home going stir crazy, check out some recently added eBooks that may help inspire you in a new direction.

Arts, Crafts, and Hobbies
Since I can’t do my Create @ the Library programs right now, I wanted to find some how-to arts and crafts books to keep our regular attendees, and everyone else, creating.

Everyday Watercolor and Everyday Watercolor Flowers by Jenna Rainey

Milk Soaps: 35 Skin-Nourishing Recipes for Making Milk-Enriched Soaps, from Goat to Almond by Anne-Marie Faiola

Making a Life: Working by Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live by Melanie Falick

Japanese Wonder Crochet: A Creative Approach to Classic Stitches by Nihon Vogue

Crochet Every Way Stitch Dictionary: 125 Essential Stitches to Crochet in Three Ways by Dora Ohrenstein

Sew Bags: The Practical Guide to Making Purses, Totes, Clutches & More; 13 Skill-Building Projects by Hilarie Wakefield Dayton

Gardening (and Nature)
We have had some beautiful weather perfect for gardening, so while we may feel gloomy inside, if we get our hands in the soil, whether in our indoor window gardens, our small urban plots, or the ‘back 40’ we can’t help but feel some hope.

Small Garden Style: A Design Guide for Outdoor Rooms and Containers by Isa Hendry Eaton and Jennifer Blaise Kramer

The Timber Press Guide to Gardening in the Pacific Northwest by Carol and Norman Hall

The Ann Lovejoy Handbook of Northwest Gardening by Ann Lovejoy

DIY Gardening Projects: 35 Awesome Gardening Hacks to Better Your Garden by Cheryl Palmer

Field Guide to Urban Gardening: How to Grow Plants, No Matter Where You Live by Kevin  Espiritu

Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard by Douglas W. Tallamy

Wilding: Returning Nature to Our Farm by Isabella Tree

Home Organizing
If I wasn’t working from home right now I might just try to dig in, toss out or recycle, and get organized. Maybe. If you have more motivation than I do for organizing, check out these titles for some inspiration.

Martha Stewart’s Organizing : the Manual for Bringing Order to Your Life, Home & Routines by Martha Stewart

Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter and Organize to Make More Room for Happiness by Gretchen Rubin

The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals by Clea Shearer

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson

The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism by Kyle Chayka

I hope you enjoy some of these new-to-the-library eBooks and find ways to keep occupied and engaged during these unprecedented times we are living in.

Loving the Alien (or Not)

Spring has sprung. The earth renews itself and the grand cycle of life continues. And, oh yeah, the damn weeds are taking over the yard again. While definitely not rational (nature always wins after all) I’ve always thought there was a certain doomed nobility in taking up arms, in the form of spades and shovels, against the weedy invaders in my yard.

But does my relationship with weeds and other ‘undesirables’ need to be adversarial? Recent books about our relationship with nature have opened up a debate about the whole concept of defining species as desirable or undesirable, native or invasive. Maybe the problem isn’t in the yard, but in my head. Here are three newer titles that explore the line between good and bad in the animal and plant kingdoms.

Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction by Chris Thomas

This provocative work states that the widely accepted idea of human activities causing the destruction of the environment and the loss of species is actually looking at the situation incorrectly. Humans are altering the environment for sure, but, Thomas argues, this new environment actually benefits certain adaptable species. The end result?  More new species will be created than destroyed. The key to his argument lies in examining the animals and plants that are labeled invasive. For the author, these species are simply the ones that successfully exploit the new environment and survive. For Thomas, nature is ultimately more resilient and adaptable than we think.

The Aliens Among Us: How Invasive Species are Transforming the Planet—and Ourselves by Leslie Anthony

Anthony has little sympathy for those who refuse to see invasive species as a threat or who downplay their impact on the environment. Instead, he advocates for a vigorous defense of the native and an eradication of the invasive. To prove his point he goes on the frontline with the scientists and environmentalists battling undesirable species (such as Scotch Broom, Lampreys and Pythons) and celebrates their hard work and dedication to the cause. He also goes into an enlightening history of specific species and how they ended up in the wrong places: the Norway Rat owes its presence in 90 percent of the world to trade by sea for example. This book is an entertaining call to arms.

Where Do Camels Belong: the Story and Science of Invasive Species by Ken Thompson

Thompson argues that the real problem when it comes to invasive vs. native species lies in definitions. As the title suggests, he uses the camel as a prime example. We think of camels as native to the Middle East but in fact they evolved and lived in North America for millions of years, retain their greatest biological diversity in South America, and are currently only ‘wild’ in Australia. So where are they native exactly? He makes a convincing argument using other species as well. In the end he advocates for getting beyond the stark and illogical definitions of native and invasive and simply judging species by their impact on the environment as it currently exists.

So what is a conscientious gardener to do: take up arms against all that is invasive or let nature take its course? We all have to make our own choices, but as for me I choose to play favorites. The native Kinnikinnick is a great ground cover, but once it start encroaching on my beloved, and definitely introduced, Monkey Puzzle Tree the shears are coming out.

Northwest Flower and Garden Show Books

content_15_nwfgs_windermereIf you’re like me, you didn’t make it down to last week’s Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle and even if you did, it’s unlikely that you had time to attend all of the author seminars. Never fear because your local public library has your back. I was pleased to see that the library has almost all of the gardening books that authors were selling at the garden show. Why not just borrow them from the library? It’ll be like you attended the lecture and you can decide whether or not you’d like to purchase your own copy. Here’s a run-down of the hottest new gardening books.

index (5)index (6)Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives and Hellstrip Gardening: Create a Paradise between the Sidewalk and the Curb are both by Evelyn Hadden. These books are your ticket to a wild and crazy front yard. Let’s shake it up, Everett!

index (7)Coffee for Roses is by Cynthia Fornari, a writer, professional speaker, radio host, and self-described “out-of-control plant person.” She looks at 71 common garden practices and uncovers the truth behind the lore. With humor and affection, she goes back in time to sort out the good, the bad and the just plain silly…and tells us why. This book combines gardening history and expert advice into one useful, time and money-saving package. Get those grounds from Starbucks and feed your roses.

index (8)Container Gardening for all Seasons by Barbara Wise provides a shopping list of materials and a helpful planting diagram for each of the more than 100 container options. Designed like a recipe book, the book offers even the most novice gardeners a no-fail, easy-to-follow instruction format for each container. This book includes all you need to know to plan, plant, grow and maintain a container garden.

index (10)Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer shows ways to create outdoor areas that are charming, comfortable, appealing, and reflect individuality. It features twenty-three unique garden styles accompanied by advice on how to recreate the look. Simple step-by-step projects, like how to make a macramé plant hanger, help the reader personalize the space. And helpful tips and tricks, including how to pick the right tree and pick the right combination of plants and containers, offer essential lessons in gardening and design.

index (11)Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier offers everything a tomato enthusiast needs to know about growing more than 200 varieties of tomatoes — from sowing seeds and planting to cultivating and collecting seeds at the end of the season. He also offers a comprehensive guide to the various pests and diseases of tomatoes and explains how best to avoid them. No other book offers such a detailed look at the specifics of growing tomatoes. Savor your best tomatoes ever!

indexEveryday Roses: How to Grow Knock-Out and Other Easy Care Roses by Paul Zimmerman is a complete primer on how to purchase, plant, care for and maintain easy care modern roses. Aimed at gardeners who want the beauty of roses without the fuss, this book offers an approach that is more accessible and environmentally friendly than competing volumes–and no other book in the current market focuses exclusively on modern roses and getting the most out of them.

index (10)Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World by Janit Calvo is very, very fun! It’s full of great information for the complete novice in miniature gardening. Calvo gives detailed information on materials and plants and she also gives detailed information for both outdoor and indoor creations. I’m all inspired to see if I can create some of these projects in my own home and garden.

index (11)Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning techniques for Small Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees by Ann Ralph. I. Cannot. Wait. To grow a little fruit tree. This book makes fruit tree growing sound like a piece of cake. It has simple, precise directions that teach you exactly what and when to cut so that your tree doesn’t overtake you. I like Ralph’s idea that fruit trees are similar to pets – they must be trained if you want them to behave.

indexThe Know Maintenance Perennial Garden by Roy Diblik.  This book explains how knowing (get it?) your plants is the key to a beautiful, low-maintenance garden. This is your ticket to a gorgeous perennial garden packed with color, texture, and multi-season interest. Your yard will look like it was designed by a professional and maintained by a crew if you read this book.

index (1)The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage by David Culp. The author explains the design technique of layering: inter-planting many different species in the same area so that as one plant passes its peak, another takes over. The result is a nonstop parade of color that begins in spring and ends at the onset of winter. As practical as it is inspiring, this book will provide you with expert information gleaned from decades of hard work and close observation and will show you how to achieve a four-season garden.

index (2)Pacific Northwest Garden Tour: The Sixty Best Gardens to Visit in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia  by Donald Olson is a guide to take you to the best public gardens in the Pacific Northwest. Use this guide and its enticing photographs and easy to use format to discover  little-known gems or classic gardens. Everett’s own Evergreen Arboretum and gardens is one of the featured gardens.

index (6)Small Space Vegetable Gardens: Growing Edibles in Containers, Raised Beds, and Small Plots by Andrea Bellamy tells you how to grow your own incredible edibles. This book covers everything you need to know to get growing, from choosing and planting containers, to designing show-stopping edible container displays. It also covers small-space techniques such as succession sowing, vertical gardening, and season extension. This summer you’ll be harvesting a bounty of edibles.

index (4)Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening by Lorene Forkner is a growing guide that truly understands the unique eccentricities of the Northwest growing calendar covering Oregon, Washington, southeastern Alaska, and British Columbia. The month-by-month format makes it perfect for beginners and accessible to everyone – you can start gardening the month you pick it up. Here’s my own advice: plant your peas on President’s Day. Soak them first!

index (7)The Wildlife Friendly Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature by Tammi Hartung offers insights into different wildlife issues that commonly arise in the garden, and effective but peaceful ways to address those problems for gardeners wishing to co-exist with wildlife rather than “ban” wildlife. Discover which plants, tools, and remedies can be used to discourage or re-direct critters, repel or distract wildlife, and ways to totally prevent access, without causing harm, to wildlife as a last resort when all else fails.

This is just a smattering of all of the fabulous gardening books available at the library where we bring the Northwest Flower and Garden show to you!

Welcome to the Jungle

There is no doubt about it. Spring is here. So, is the glass half empty or half full? If full, you might see this time as a period of wonderful regeneration with the earth awakening from its slumber and bursting into life. If empty, you might cast your gaze at all that bursting life and see a tide of noxious weeds attempting to drown all that is desirable. Whichever position you take, a certain fact remains: weeds exist and must be dealt with. Luckily, the library has a wide variety of materials to help you in your dealings with these undesirables.

gardeningPerhaps it isn’t surprising, but books whose sole topic is the art of weeding are few and far between. Don’t despair, however. Contained within the many books we have on gardening, are myriad chapters on weeding. Interestingly, they tend to shy away from the term ‘weeding’ and instead go for the more broad ‘garden maintenance.’ A good example is Gardening: The Complete Guide by Miranda Smith where you will find weeding information in the chapter titled ‘Maintaining Your Garden.’ There is a lot of good, practical information in this chapter and, as a library worker, I especially appreciate the author’s knowledge is power approach to weeding:

You’ve no doubt heard the cliché about weeds being nothing more than plants ‘out of place.’ But no matter what your relationship to the weeds in your garden, you’ll be able to control and, believe it or not, use them better if you understand them.

weedingwithoutchemicalsIn addition to the more general gardening books, we have an excellent weed-specific title that should be of service. Weeding Without Chemicals by Bob Flowerdew is a handy little tome that points out the many ways you can keep weeds at bay without resorting to harsh chemicals. Don’t think this is a weak-willed approach to weeding however. Some of the techniques, my favorite being open flame, are pretty hardcore. The author is also an advocate of what he terms ‘weed exclusion’ but which I’ve always thought of as ‘find a dog who’ll eat a dog.’ Heather, which is so dense that it essentially smothers anything underneath it, is an ideal candidate. In fact, my yard could easily become all heather one day.

waroftheworldsLet’s face it, once you are suited up and ready to weed, the act itself isn’t the most exciting of activities. Sure there is a certain primal satisfaction when you yank out the final tendril, you hope, of horsetail, but the thrill tends to fade with time. I find distraction is necessary and turn to audiobooks to help me. We have a large selection of audiobooks in both CD and downloadable format from which to choose. Recently, I’ve found that radio programs provide the perfect balance between distraction and the limited concentration necessary to yank out the weeds. The library has great collections of radio programs to try out, including classics like Dragnet and the Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds, as well as programs produced by the BBC and NPR.

feastofweedsFinally your weeding shift is over and you have a large pile of the creatures at your feet. You could compost them, but a new trend is emerging that offers a surprising alternative: dining on their interloping bodies. If you choose this option, The Front Yard Forager: Identifying, Collecting and Cooking the 30 Most Common Urban Weeds by Melany Vorass Herrera will show you how. In addition to having many recipes this book is a concise and detailed field guide that helps you select your victims appropriately. If you need some more ideas, definitely check out A Feast of Weeds by Lugi Ballerini which gives a definite Italian and literary slant to the concept with recipes for Nettle Risotto and Spaghetti with Prickly Pear and Yogurt.

In the grand scheme of things, it is probably true that the weeds, and nature herself, will win out in the end. Armed with information from the library, however, we can go down swinging.

Spring Gardening (Well Weeding Actually…)

With our good weather lately, lots of us are outside and many are gardening. At my house you could just call it weeding because I think we have more weeds than plants. For all the gardeners who are also busy weeding, and maybe planting vegetables, here are two books that look at gardening in different ways.

paradiselotIn Paradise Lot by Eric Toensmeier, two plant geeks have a lifelong dream of designing and growing permaculture gardens with plants that provide food. Permaculture promotes sustainable, long-term agricultural systems. These gardens substitute perennials for annuals so you don’t need to replant each year, or ever, if you’ve planned it right. Ideally, the garden forms its own ecosystem.

Unfortunately, most people have permaculture gardens in the tropics, so the plants that are known to grow well and reseed themselves year after year are only suited for warmer climates. The author and his friend live in Massachusetts, where it gets below freezing over the winter, so tropical plants won’t work. They have always lived in rented places, so these become their first experimental gardens. Finally, they buy a duplex that sits on 1/10 of an acre, which adds another wrinkle to the problem in that 1/10 of an acre isn’t much land to grow a food garden on. The lot is also overgrown with weeds, and the soil underneath is better suited for a parking lot than a garden.

The book details their work over the course of several years of planning and planting their garden. Their garden eventually provides a lot of their food, including bananas, persimmons, grapes, pears, kiwi, pawpaws, and much more. For a place that gets below freezing in the winter, they’re surprised to find that they can grow tropical fruit. Take that, Florida! Their garden becomes a classroom for others interested in making their own permaculture gardens. This book was inspiring both for seeing the amazing variety of plants they could grow and for the dream of not having to weed much because the plants you want crowd out the weeds.

harvestHarvest: An Adventure into the Heart of America’s Family Farms by Richard Horan follows a man who decides to participate in the harvests of a dozen different crops on small, family-run farms (and then write a book about it). He goes coast to coast and lives in the farmers’ homes while working in the fields with them. He finds similarities among the farms and the farmers, even though they differ in many ways.

Some of the farmers have chosen their crops for historical or heirloom value, some chose them because they like growing them, and some seemed to have just happened upon this lifestyle and found that it suited them. Obviously, these are all people who care deeply about the land and its health and ecology, yet most of them are not from generations of farmers.

Surprisingly, when you consider the premium we pay for organic food (those organic bananas better taste organic), most of these farmers have partners or spouses who need to work at other jobs in order to make a living wage. The work is extremely hard and Horan recalls his youth when he was able to do this kind of physical labor that is now so wearing on him. He also gives us some background on the new growth of family farms and compares their practices to commercial agriculture. This sounds clichéd, but Horan re-discovers his soul and purpose and a new optimism by working on these farms.

Not many of us get to do what we love. So, get out there in your garden and put your hands in the dirt. Get dirty. Get downright filthy. Eat healthy food and get enough fruits and vegetables (because they just might keep you from turning into a zombie).

Kathy