Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Books!

I just got the May/June issue of Relevant Magazine in the mail, and the first thing I flipped to was their 2009 Summer Reading Guide.  As always, they offered some great new books!  Here are the ones I'll be adding to my ever-growing reading list:

Angry Conversations with God:  A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir by Susan E. Isaacs     I've heard about this book before, and I'm drawn to the idea of someone who writes about God with something other than the happy-go-lucky, Jesus-changed-my-life attitude.  Here's a quote from her in the blurb from the magazine:  "I often felt a huge burden of regret over the mistakes I made, the time I wasted in my life; but it also gave me fresh gratitude for God that He got me through all of that.  Writing was like a sacrament.  I was honoring God by telling the truth about my life.  I was honoring Him."

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larson     This novel about a 12-year old genius cartographer who wins a prestigious Smithsonian scholarship (they don't know he's in middle school) and train-hops across the country sounds delightful and endearing.  It includes the boy's diagrams and illustrations of things like "Maps of People Doing Things" and "Freight Train as a Sound Sandwich."  (That's not a very good review.  Check out the one in Relevant or go read the book yourself.)

Made From Scratch:  Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Wogenrich     My propensity for anything handmade and/or eco-friendly immediately drew me to this book.  It's part narrative, part handbook on the hows and whys of independent, sustainable living.

Endpoint by John Updike     The only impression I have of John Updike is from reading one of his short stories in a high school english class -- I didn't like it at all.  But Relevant's review of his new, posthumously published collection of poems and the excerpt they included may convince me to rethink my opinion.  Plus I've been on a poetry kick lately...  

by John Updike

It came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
"Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise--depths unplumbable!"

Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
"I thought he died a while ago.:

For life's a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark, and huge.
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Other Things

Sorry about the long delay between postings!  Recently, my attention has been elsewhere in the blog world - I've got two new things for you to look at! 

The first is my crafty/homemaker blog.  It has existed for six months or so, but I am unfortunately very slow at posting things there.  But spring has brought new activities, including a garden!  Check out the first phases of the garden project 2009 here:

The next is a new blog that I started at the beginning of this month.  April is National Poetry Month, as I've told you before, and that has gotten me back on my poetry kick.  I like being able to use poetry in my writing and teaching, but I usually can't find the right poem that I need when I need it!  The new blog is called Poems I Love: The Poetry Index, and it's half to share great poems with other people, and half for me to be able to find the poems I want when I need them!  You can check out the first month's postings here:

Go visit, leave comments, add them to your Google Reader or RSS feeds.  And have a happy day!

Garden, Phase 2

Phase 2 of the garden called for busting out the hoes and rakes!  Once the grass had been turned under and left to decompose for a week, it was time to work the dirt into some kind of manageably fine, plantable substance.  
Here's E and J working the dirt:

Up in the woods on my friend's property, there is an old cement pool that was used about 100 years ago.  Today, it is just collecting leaves and trash from over the years, but as we discovered, years and years of rotting leaves = the richest black dirt I have ever seen!  While the girls were hoeing and raking, I shoveled up buckets of dirt from the pool and carried them back to the garden to mix in with the dirt.

You can see the difference in the soil here - the outsides have been raked and had the dirt/compost added, while the middle is still dry and pale-looking.

We also planted the first of the cold-loving plants!  Onions and cabbage have taken up residence in our little garden, and I am so proud!  I know deer don't eat onions, but as long as they don't trample them I will be happy!  (Also, onions and cabbage weren't originally planned... my list keeps growing!)  Happy gardening!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter magic

by Leslie Leyland Fields

Had we crucified the rabbit--

yanked him from his fields of grass
and staked him out by paws and tender feet
to quiver, twitch and die in agony
of innocence,
and then, in three days' time,
had seen him hop up from the tomb
but for the wounded paws and feet we felt--

then maybe now we'd talk of Christ,
pass his story down from child to child
and only faintly hint at silly myths of
wicker baskets,
chocolate eggs,
treasures hidden in the field
and some trick hare who died

then somehow disappeared.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Garden, Phase 1

Well, today the girls and I got out and started digging!  Starting a garden plot from scratch is going to be more work than I originally thought, since we don't have the benefit of a roto-tiller.  But we are buff, tough girls, and we will kick this gardening thing in the pants!  We picked a 13x13 plot in the middle of a field in order to get as much sun as possible.  According to my dad, the first step is to turn over the grass with shovels...  Here are some pics of us working hard and getting dirty!

plot marked, time to start digging!

down to the last few shovelfuls!

it is finished!

(believe it or not, I actually DID do my share of the digging, I was just the one taking the pictures! :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

National Poetry Month

I just read (via Twitter) that April is National Poetry month!  I love poetry but don't read it as much as I wished...  The same could be said of my reading, music, sports, etc...  

Anyway, since I now know that there is a whole month devoted to poetry lovers, I'm planning to make an effort to read more poems, at least for this month, and share them with you occasionally.  To start, here's one of my all-time favorites by Irish author Seamus Heaney.


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging.  I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper.  He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf.  Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Garden, pre-planning

My childhood home was located in the country, and we lived next door to my grandparents.  Every summer, in between our two houses, they and my parents planted a huge garden to share between the six of us, and other aunts and uncles when we had a bumper crop.  My summer chores most often included weeding and picking veggies from the garden (strawberries were the worst!).  
The place I'm living now doesn't have any room for a real garden, and last summer I planted lots of things in pots.  But this summer, a friend of mine who has some extra space around his house, has offered to let me plant a REAL garden!  I don't really know what I'm doing, and the process will probably include a lot of calling home to my parents to find out how to do certain things.  But as long as I can keep the deer from eating everything I plant, I think I'll be in good shape!
I started by going to the garden shop and buying WAY too many seeds, stuff to start the plants indoors, and making charts and lists.  I keep telling myself not to go too big, and not to go overboard and grow so many things that I can't eat them!  But I don't really think I succeeded...  Regardless this will be a fun experiment!  

2009 Garden Plants


beefsteak tomatoes
cherry tomatoes
pickling cucumbers
sweet corn
zucchini squash
yellow squash
red/green peppers
purple/red peppers
jalapeno peppers
hot peppers mix