The Backyard Produce Section – 6/27/10

The garden is becoming the barren garden for right now!! My main garden is still going with eggplant, okra, peppers, cherry tomatoes and the turnips that are starting to sprout that went in last weekend; but I just pulled up a whole lot of stuff! I found a website for Louisiana Agriculture that is my new best friend! It tells you exactly when you can plant stuff down here. The good news that I found was that you can basically grow stuff year round in Louisiana due to our warm (to put it nicely) climate. Basically, something can go in the ground every day. The bad news is that our tomato and bean season is pretty much over for right now. Because it’s too hot. Which explains why all of my flowers have been dropping off. We’ve had heat indexes around 110 degrees every day here and what’s happening is that the pollen on the flowers become gunky and can’t pollinate. So no fruit.

The good news, however, is that I learned that it’s time to start my Fall tomato plants from seed! So I just did that and also started some zucchini from seed. So in a couple of months, hopefully I’ll be eating zucchini like crazy!! Maybe even sooner, you never know.

The containers are all doing pretty well! I cut back all of my strawberries because they were looking pretty bad and they’re coming back again already. So hopefully I’ll get a Fall crop of those too. In the front right pot, I’m trying out a few carrots. I don’t know if carrots will grow in a pot, but it’s worth a shot :p I have little tiny carrot tops already. Can’t really see in the pic though. Just started some basil and rosemary and it seems to be taking. The mint is going CRAZY and I’m using it like crazy in iced tea. There’s nothing better than homemade sweet tea with mint and lemon in this heat!! And the big green pot in the back is green onions that are doing really well!! And you can also see my satsuma tree here which is doing really great πŸ™‚ I didn’t think I’d get any oranges this year as it’s really young, but there are two on it already!

I am LOVING this little coneflower plant πŸ™‚ It’s blooming like crazy ever since I brought it home from the nursery and cleaned it up!! Not the best pic, but this little guy has become like my little pet. I just love it. Question, technically, this plant is called an echinacea…is this the echinacea that you can make tea with? Does anyone know? And if so, do you make tea with the petals or with the leaves of the plant? Sorry to be a moron :p I think the most exciting thing of the week is that I planted a Sunflower garden this week!!! I had all of that garden space torn up and half of it is going to be used for the new tomatoes and zucchini, but I still had half left. So I planted a row of Mammoth Sunflowers in the back that get to be 7-12 ft tall and two rows of smaller sunflowers that vary in “autumn” colors in front that grow to be 4-6 feet tall. I cannot WAIT to see them πŸ™‚ I just love sunflowers and they remind me of being a little kid. My uncle and aunt used to grow them!

And finally, I thought I’d share my latest bread machine adventure even though it’s not garden related :p Hey at least it’s self sustaining related, lol. Today we made cinnamon raisin walnut bread! And it came out delicious!! As you can see, we didn’t even wait for it to cool to sample it :p Hence the big dent in the loaf from where my hand went when I was cutting it :/

So what’s going on in your gardening? Anything good?

Recycle This Book edited by Dan Gutman

I picked up this book on a whim at the library and I’m so glad that I did. It’s a quick read and a fun read and it’s been such a huge inspiration. It’s a book that’s written for children and teens and it contains essays from 100 children’s authors on things that you can do to “go green” or different ways to help protect the Earth. There are some wonderful contributors here! Laurie Halse Anderson, Libba Bray, Lois Lowry, Susan Patron, Rick Riordan, Jon Scieszka, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Shannon Hale, and many many more….

Each author provides their own tips on what they do in their own homes to contribute to saving the earth. Or they make a suggestion as to what each of us might be able to do in our own communities. Things like starting a community vegetable garden. Or having your kids organize a toy exchange at school instead of throwing away old toys. This book got me excited about composting! It got me excited about conserving water in unique ways! It got me excited about eliminating fuel from life as much as possible. There are so many little changes that I can make that can make a big difference.

I think it’s so wonderful that this book is written for children. Children often feel powerless in this world, and this book puts control in their hands. It gives them concrete ideas that they can do that can make a real difference to the world. And so many of the things in this book are really fun too. The great thing about the book is that it lets children police their parents! Lets them become the “environmental police”. And what parent can say no to that when they’re making such positive changes?

In the intro to the book, the suggestion is made that everyone who reads this book should tell three friends about it…and then those three friends will tell three more friends and so on. The idea is that each person who reads this book will hopefully put into action some of the ideas that are given. And as word spreads about the book, that’s more and more individual, positive change being made. So I’m doing my part here in spreading the word. And I’m certainly making some positive changes myself! And I’m having a blast doing it πŸ™‚

The Backyard Produce Section 6/20/10

Well, things are continuing to come alive in the garden! Still no huge bounty of veggies, but there are more signs of vegetables to come. I’m just hoping that they do indeed eventually come. My tomato plants are loaded with flowers right now, but no tomatoes! I’ve harvested six so far, but right now they’re all bare. I had two on there, but the worms got to them 😦 My creole tomato has yet to put out tomatoes, but that one has more flowers than I can count, so I’m thinking they’re coming! In between my two tomato plants are my lima beans and they’ve suddenly put out tons of flowers!

I had a few flowers on before, but in the last few days, they’re growing like crazy. As you can see, the grasshoppers are enjoying the leaves as well :p Here’s a question to those who have grown beans before…when do the bean pods come? I’ve been getting flowers for awhile now, but they seem to just fall off. Though the plants are much more mature now, so maybe I’ll get some beans this go around with the flowers.

In other gardening news, the okra is starting to produce pretty well and I picked my first okra today. I thought to myself…what the hell do I do with one okra? And that answer is nothing. So I ended up just slicing it up and putting it in a bag and freezing it…I’ll just add to it until I have enough of it to make a dish. It’s great with shrimp or just breaded and fried! My other thought was to pickle it because pickled okra is great! And I still may do that if I get enough. There’s a whole bunch of little okras springing to life on the plant now.

You’ll notice one BIG change in the garden! The cucumbers are gone! I yanked them up a few days ago. And only got two out of them. I actually got 5, but three of them were very wobbly. They were just too much of a pain. For some reason, they weren’t getting pollinated, so I was having to hand pollinate them which was NOT fun and worked only about 10% of the time. I just didn’t want to spend my whole summer hand pollinating cucumbers. They also completely took over my garden. They started to suffocate my peppers and I noticed that my peppers weren’t doing too great. They were clinging on to the plants too! Just in the three days that they’ve come up, I’ve already noticed that my peppers look better.

The exciting thing is that this gives me the whole back row of my garden to play with now!! So I’ve planted stuff already :p With the new space, I used the square foot gardening technique. So I had 4 square feet of space to play with which gave me room for two cherry tomato plants, 9 spinach seeds and 16 turnip seeds! Can’t wait to start watching stuff pop up now! And my little cherry tomato plants that I planted already have little tomatoes on them πŸ˜€

And the final addition makes me extremely happy!! We’ve added a compost bin to our backyard and soon we should have our very own homemade soil πŸ˜€ I’ve been trying to talk my family into composting for awhile now and I don’t know which switch flipped in my mom’s head, but she finally let me get a bin! And of course, the cucumbers that I dug up were the first things to go in there. We’re already having fun saving up our coffee grinds and tea bags and vegetable and fruit scraps and toilet paper rolls and heaping them in there πŸ˜€

How’s your garden growing this week?

Keeping It Local For Father's Day

First of all, happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there!! I know there’s some blogger dads out there πŸ˜‰ And there are some women out there who have some great blogger hubby’s and fathers, so I’m just passing my wishes on. We decided to celebrate father’s day a day early this year to avoid the huge crowds and in doing so, we also decided to support the hard hit Louisiana seafood industry. Truth is, there’s still a lot of good Louisiana seafood out there despite the oil spill. There’s other water beside the gulf. There’s Lake Pontchartrain which for now remains unaffected by the spill. But prices have gone up dramatically for seafood. Even so, the fisherman need all the help they can get. So we went to The Crab Trap today for boiled crawfish, crabs and shrimp!

It’s a restaurant out in the middle of nowhere in Laplace which is across the lake from New Orleans and sits right on the lakefront. It’s actually quite a beautiful area. Very serene and surrounded by water, local birds, bald cypress trees, and all sorts of local wildlife. Loved the ambiance of the place. True cajun Louisiana. What did I have? I had some sausage cooked in seafood boil, a barqs red cream soda and of COURSE some boiled crawfish which were delicious!

My mom, dad, sister and brother had boiled crabs and shrimp in addition to crawfish, but boiled crabs are just too much work for me, so I don’t eat them :p And I’m just not crazy about them. I’m not that crazy about boiled shrimp either…I’m a crawfish kind of guy. We threw some boiled potatoes and corn into the mix too. And believe it or not, we ate most of what you see in the picture below! And yes, my mom and dad are divorced before you ask but they’ve stayed friends throughout the years :p My little brother wouldn’t get in the picture..that’s why he’s not shown here.

One of the things that I loved about being out in the middle of nowhere was the wildlife that was all around…like these mutant grasshoppers that were everywhere!! I’ve never seen grasshoppers so big in all of my life!! I took a picture of one of them (sorry for the crappy pics by the way, these are all on my iPhone) but it really doesn’t do it justice! This thing was huge! Take a look!

It reminded me of something, but I couldn’t think of what :p So that was our day….A very nice day I might add. For his gift, we gave my dad a football signed by the entire 2009-2010 Saints championship team! We got it from a local restaurant and he loved it. I wouldn’t mind having it myself πŸ˜‰ It’s really awesome. It felt good to support the local seafood economy too that’s suffering so bad even though I didn’t foot the bill (thanks Mom!). Later in the day, I stopped off at Home Depot and picked up an echinacea plant which I think is my new favorite flower…it’s just so pretty!! I had to get one after seeing the picture in Bookfool’s post the other day! I know this has nothing to do with anything, but I just had to share the news of my new plant and a picture :p More to come on plants tomorrow in the Backyard Produce Section. Hope everyone has a great Sunday!

Bad Bloggers On A Friday

It’s looking like it’s time to do a round-up of all of the books that have made their way into my house again :p Once they hit that over 10 number, my brain goes into “oh crap, better get the bad blogger post up and then get them filed away” mode. What do you do with your books once they come into the house? Do they just sit in a pile for a long time or do they get filed onto the shelves? I’m a bit of an organizational freak, so mine get filed onto the shelves alphabetically by author’s last name after my bad blogger’s post goes up. And here’s what will get shelved away shortly (at least what’s not going back to the library):

1. The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman – I’m in the middle of my reread of the Sandman series of graphic novels and I’m up to the halfway point now of the main series with A Game of You! I’ve really been wanting to review these, but I just don’t know how…I think I may just start writing small comments on the series here and there. That may work…sort of essay posts or something. (Library)

2. Junk Beautiful by Sue Whitney – This is not my normal fare of book and I don’t have any redecorating going on right now, but after seeing Carl’s recent post on this book, I realized that you don’t have to have redecoration going on to enjoy this type of book. I’ve already thumbed through this and it’s incredible!! I plan on spending time with it and actually reading it. Amazing ways to reuse old things. Point for Carl. (Library)

3. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn – A few weeks ago I was venting about the oil spill and vegetable gardens and the environment and on what man has done to the world to my friends Ana and Debi in an email and Ana asked me if I’ve ever read Ishmael. I said no. She told me that it was one of Dewey’s favorite books and that I’d probably really enjoy this one. And so I ordered a copy πŸ™‚ And I’m giving a point to Ana AND Dewey for this one! (Paperback Swap)

4. The Unicorn Sonata by Peter Beagle – One of my best finds EVER on Paperback Swap. This is such an amazingly beautiful book!! First of all, it’s a unicorn book by Peter Beagle which makes it automatically awesome, but you should see the production of this book! It’s just amazing. Gorgeous full color paintings all throughout. And it’s in brand new condition. Can’t wait to read this. (Paperback Swap)

5. Giant Bones by Peter Beagle – Another Beagle that I’ve been wanting to read for a long time now! I thought it was funny that I got this one on paperback swap in the same week from a totally different seller after they’ve both been on my wishlist for so long now :p I was a happy boy this week! (Paperback Swap)

6. A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey – Another fantastic sounding Ana recommendation that I was lucky enough to find on paperback swap! I’ve had such awesome luck over there lately!! Hope this streak keeps up πŸ˜‰Β  Point for Ana (Paperback Swap)

7. Animythical Tales by Sarah Totton – I just reviewed this one! If you scroll down to the post just below this one, you’ll see that πŸ™‚ This was such a beautiful book and I keep thinking about it! I love books that stick with you likeΒ  that. I so wish that Ms. Totton would publish a novel….or just another collection of short stories…basically I’m just selfish and want more stuff by her to read :p (review copy)

8. The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom – This was a total random request of mine on Paperback Swap! I’ve never heard of this book before. It’s part of a series of mysteries called the Mobile Library Mysteries. Doesn’t that sound like fun? I figured that if it’s horrible, I didn’t pay for it, but it sounds like fun! So I’d give it a shot. (Paperback Swap)

9. The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett – Here’s another one that I got for Ana’s 30’s mini challenge which is now almost over 😦 I figure I’ll eventually read it anyway though, so that’s a good thing! The point is that I read something from this time period! This one came recommended by Amanda at The Zen Leaf and Yay! I have a copy now πŸ™‚ Point for Amanda! (Paperback Swap)

10. Stories ed. by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio – So FREAKING excited about this one….and no, I still haven’t read any more than the intro 😦 but I’ll be reading more of it tonight I’m thinking!! For those who don’t know, it’s a collection of short stories by some of today’s most amazing authors. (Bought it)

11. The Dark House Book of Hauntings by Various – This is a graphic novel anthology that Dark Horse put out awhile back with so many awesome people contributing to it! Like P. Craig Russell, Mike Mignola, and Jill Thompson among others. And of course the stories are all about hauntings! Looks really great! (Paperback Swap)

12. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – Finally! I’ve gotten my hands on this one..now we’ll see how long it takes me to actually read it. It was Ana that convinced me to actually read this one and Vivienne who pushed me over the edge to finally get it…so I guess that Vivienne technically gets the point for this one! (Paperback Swap)

Animythical Tales by Sarah Totton

Have you heard of Sarah Totton? If the answer is no, perhaps it’s time you have. I was sent this lovely book for review, not knowing much about it aside from that it was a collection of short, fantastical stories centered around animals. And it is, though it is much more than that, really. Personally, all I needed to hear was the title to want to read this one. Animythical Tales…..yep, that sounds like my cup of tea. What’s inside of this short collection of stories is just wonderful. Yes, each story has some type of animal aspect to it, and a good amount of the stories focus on animals in a fantastical way, but many of them focus more on the human characters with an animal character acting as an agent for some revelation or as a vessel for transformation in some form.

What Totton gives us in these ten stories is a gift that every reader cherishes. And that is time to curl up with a book, enjoy a fascinating story that’s written with gorgeous prose that entertains, provokes, and turns the gears in our brains. That’s all I can ask for. I can’t tell you how much I loved her writing. Each story is uniquely hers, yet they’re reminiscent of voices like Susanna Clarke and Peter Beagle. I was also reminded of the art of artists like Anne Julie Aubrie and Lisa Snellings-Clark while reading these stories….particularly, Lisa’s new birds that she’s made.

Her stories have this somewhat Victorian feel to them even though none of them are set during Victorian times. It’s just delightful prose all throughout even when the stories aren’t delightful. I pictured her writing these in an English cottage. She tells tales of a man who is half seahorse who longs to save his children, tales of an eccentric who dreams of taming lions and being a booker prize winning author, tales of man who leads a solitary existence on an island watching birds until his past revisits him, tales a woman so desperate for a child that she magics them into being. And they’re all so beautiful.

They’re beautiful in their own way, each of them. Some are beautiful in their desperation, some beautiful because of the melancholy portrayed, some because they leave a tear in your eye in the end and take your breath away in the last few sentences. I really just enjoyed this book so much and wish it were longer than a mere 124 pages. Most of these stories have been published before in magazines like Realms of Fantasy or Fantasy Magazine and many have appeared in the Years Best Fantasy collections but there are several that have not been published.

There was something that I experienced while reading this book that I noticed I have never experienced before with a book and that was anger. Anger at the fact that she is not better known or that she has not been picked up by a bigger publisher. Now, this may be a personal decision of the author’s, I do not know. I absolutely love the cover of her book, but the picture is very grainy and it looks like the book may be published by a publish on demand publisher or something…I’m not really sure. But I felt angered by this because this book is SUCH a gem! It just makes me want to open my own publishing house so bad and give this book the attention it deserves because it’s fantastic. So glad to have read this one, and if even one other person reads this because of this review, I’m happy πŸ™‚

Neil Gaiman In The Intro To Stories

Stories, the collection of short fiction edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio was released today and Amazon very punctually delivered my copy! So of course, I tore that cardboard box to pieces, knowing what lay inside and dove right into the intro being immediately pleased and feeling at home in the hands of Gaiman. I can only wish that I could put my thoughts into words as well as Neil Gaiman does. There are others that I admire just as well, like Ana from Things Means A Lot and Renay at her ever changing blogs :p People who seem to have mastered this art. I can read their posts and say YES YES YES!! But somehow when I go to write my thoughts in my head, they so often come out all wrong and I end up expressing the opposite :/ So I just keep my mouth shut.

But I wanted to share with you a bit of what Gaiman writes in the intro to Stories…just a short bit, because I think you all need to go buy this collection! A collection which I have not read yet :p In fact, I haven’t read any more than the excellent intro yet, but it’s worth the price for the intro alone. This one little part talked of genre and of fantasy in particular and I absolutely loved what he had to say. In fact, when I read this, I actually thought of some of Ana’s recent Sunday Salon posts and her fantasy post she did not long ago.Β  It captures my thoughts on the topic perfectly and I don’t want to expand on it for fear of misrepresenting what Gaiman is saying or for fear of misrepresenting myself (because yes, I’m capable of doing that believe it or not). But here….read this….It’s wonderful:

“Talking to Al Sarrantonio I realized that I was not alone in finding myself increasingly frustrated with the boundaries of genre: the idea that categories which existed only to guide people around bookshops now seemed to be dictating the kind of stories that were being written. I love the word fantasy, for example, but I love it for the almost infinite room it gives an author to play: an infinite playroom, of a sort, in which the only boundaries are those of the imagination….

It seemed to us that the fantastic can be, can do, so much more than its detractors assume: it can illuminate the real, it can distort it, it can mask it, it can hide it. It can show you the world you know in a way that makes you realize you’ve never looked at it, not looked at it. G.K. Chesterson compared fantastic fiction to going on holiday – that the importance of your holiday is the moment you return, and you see the place you live through fresh eyes.”

Yes, yes and yes. Oh I can’t wait to dive into these stories…here I go.