Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lazy Weekend Gardener

Animal, Vegetable, MiracleAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't help but think about gardening. Lucky for me, Victory gardens are back in. If you want to know how to grow yours, this is a good book to start reading - one month at a time. If you are already doing it, this is a well written refresher course. If you just want to know what all the fuss is about, read this book. My one criticism is that it does get too preachy, but just when you think you can't take it anymore, Kingsolver takes you to Italy! Or to Dia de Los Muertos and marigolds.

The book is about the Kingsolver family's journey through one year during their vow to eat only home grown or locally grown food. Is that even possible in this day and age? Here is a quote from Alice in Wonderland that Kingsolver came across during her journey:

"There is no use trying,' Alice said, 'One can't believe impossible things.'

"I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen, 'when I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."'

A farmer's daughter myself, I long for fresh garden food and thought I had a pretty good handle on it, but this book helped expand my imagination and my garden. Many people seem a little shocked at my gardening, but -- compared to the family farm -- I am definitely a lazy weekend gardener. Think I'm just super talented or have more time than you and you can't possibly do it? I bet if you read a book about it you'll be more successful.

But let me give you a hint: it's ALL about the dirt, Right Grandad?

(Yes, this picture was taken this year and we will soon all be gathering at the farm to celebrate Grandad Elmo's 98th birthday. Hence the reason to eat fresh grown food -- the "Miracle" that Kingsolver talks about.)

Getting good dirt is very easy. That is one of the reasons I compost. It all starts with coffee, and tea bags and anything you are about to throw away -- anything except meat and diary (but do use the eggshells, just wash them out first). Most household composts don't get hot enough to break down meat and diary which attract animals, so skip them.

You can buy a cool little compost bucket with disposable bags, but mine lid broke so I just use a bowl, covered with paper towels or a paper plate, which then also goes into the compost. I have discovered that if you don't put paper and non veggie scrap items, you'll get too many slugs and worms.

Now I truly am a weekend gardener -- I don't always have time to dump and turn my compost everyday like you are supposed to. So, I have an outside bucket for my daily use, which I occasionally take to my compost bin.

As proof that I am a lazy weekend gardener, I learned years ago that if I composted the right way -- in an open bin that you have to turn with a garden fork all the time -- I would never get results. Instead, I purchased two of these smaller turnable compost bins. Simply dump and turn, whenever you can find the energy.

That little saying: "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust" is amazingly right. Because, in about three months with very little effort, you get a big bucket of dirt.

And that makes my little garden very happy.

And that means I get fresh ingredients for salsa.

And that makes me very, very happy with my lazy weekend gardening self.

So give it a try! You will probably surprise yourself.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reading can change a life - Lifestyles

Reading can change a life - Lifestyles: Published June 3, 2012, Posted: Saturday, June 2, 2012 10:00 pm

You may have noticed my byline ending in an encouragement to read because “you might just change your life.” Really? Can reading really change lives?

Yes. And there are all sorts of non-fiction books out there right now to prove it. One of them that I recently enjoyed is: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas G. Carr, which addressed concerns I have had about wading in “the shallows” (the internet or other screens of choice). The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains Carr’s sources found that the internet affects your intellect by “hard wiring” your brain to shorter attention spans because it is always looking for those quick pulses that tell it in some form or fashion that “you’ve got mail.” A little bit of that is just fine and pleasurable. But Carr concludes that if we get too much of it, and if we don’t counter it with brain food, it will affect us — at work and at play.

Here is the good news according to Carr. Even if you notice that you are addicted to the internet, it doesn’t have to define you or encompass you. Force down time, read a book, get outside and your deep thinking will hum with pleasure. The research cited in The Shallows finds that deep thinking makes us smarter, better at what we do and more empathetic.

So what about reading, right here in Lamar County? I’ll soon be back on board as a committee chair for the Lamar County Coalition’s Reading to the Future program. That program was started as an effort to help raise third grade reading levels here, as that level was low and indicative of a lack of a skilled labor force. For several years now, all second grade classes in Lamar County have been read to each school week by community volunteers. But it can’t stop there. If we want to have and give quality life, we must also take the time for reading and, by doing so, encourage others to read.

Annie Murphy Paul recently reported in The New York Times (“Your Brain on Fiction”) from sources finding that your brain doesn’t make much distinction between reading about an experience and actually encountering it in real life. Reading fiction helps us understand the complexities of social life and relate to others. It hones our real life social skills. It makes our minds keener.

We all want that for our children and community. And summer is the perfect time for it. So, I invite you to make summer plans to engage in some uninterrupted deep reading. Make it a goal to read at least one more book than normal. Show the youngsters in your life that it is not just about points or grades. It’s about life.

But don’t just read. Talk about what you read — brag if you must. Leave a book lying around, buy a book for a friend, go to the Library or a book store with a friend, sign a child up for the Library summer program and join our growing number of area readers on Goodreads. Share with others what you have liked and actively look for ideas on what to read next. It is life changing.

But that’s just my opinion. So turn off your screen and pick up a book. You be the judge — you might just change your life — and the lives of others.

Sydney Young is a Paris resident and an avid reader.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June in Paris, Texas

June is almost coming to a close, and thankfully, I have been too busy to post. June in Paris this year has been delightful. I've been outside every chance I could get, as have many Parisians -- trying to soak it all in before it becomes as unbearably hot as we all know it will be.

(Photo courtesy of Mindy Maxwell)

Where is your summer leading you? Will you be traveling outside of Paris, or coming to Paris, or just staying here? depotsouth

(Photo of Depot South, courtesy of Mindy Maxwell)

Many people like to come to Paris and the surrounding rural land, for its relaxing atmosphere of yesteryear. fountainbirds
(Photo of the Fountain courtesy of Mindy Maxwell)

Wherever you go, I hope you have safe travels. I hope you get some time to relax. I hope you put your cell phone down and get to have some good long talks with your loved ones. I hope you can laugh at those irritating, inevitable vacation disasters! And I hope you take a book with you and actually read it, you might just get a glimpse into your soul.
(Photo of Stained Glass Window in Paris, Texas, courtesy of Mindy Maxwell).

Wishing you and yours the true blessings of summer.