Thursday, May 26, 2016

Gardening Takes Over

My vocation is that of a writer or editor, which is a dream come true, but this time of year becomes a challenge, because this is the start of the planting season. In addition to being an author, I am a Master Gardener, and there is a lot going on in that world this time of year.

Something new I am trying this year is Straw Bale Gardening. You probably heard of this, or maybe you didn't. It is a movement started by Joel Karsten that has taken off as a new way to garden that has minimal weeds and can make some plants very happy. I have quite a history of weeds in my garden, along with voles who live in the stone wall borders. I am hoping straw bale gardening is the answer for me.

This is a picture of my garden pre-planted. "They" recommend you lay landscape cloth or corrugated cardboard over the soil to smother the weeds. I had neither, so I used paper grocery bags. We have a vole problem, so we needed some hardware cloth. My spouse got a little wild about wrapping that first bale with hardware cloth. It took him two hours to do that. I am not kidding. He refuses to admit it took that long. I refused to let him continue with that, which he didn't complain. He thought the rest of them should be unprotected (because he didn't want to spend two hours on each bale and create a hazard for me working with that bale). For the rest of the bales, we rolled out the hardware cloth underneath, but over the paper bags. It is a simple, easy solution, and so far, the voles are there, but not inside the bales.

The bales need to be conditioned over the course of two weeks. You add fertilizer and water to break them down and make them habitable environments for plants. After two weeks of conditioning, you cover the top of the bales with potting mix and shove your plants in.

I have two bales conditioned and planted with strawberry plants. I shoved a mint plant into the side (with was no small feat, my bales didn't seem to "break down" that much. I heard they look nasty in the meantime, but mine look the same. But the strawberry plants have been there for a week now and haven't died. The mint shoved into the side looks amazing. Mint does well anywhere, though, right?

We'll see how this goes. I promise I am writing as well, but my creative projects shift a bit during the growing season:)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Book Review: Finding Winnie

I don't usually do reviews on picture books, but Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear, by Lindsay Mattick (author) and Sophie Blackall (illustrator) took me by surprise and deserves to be read by young and old alike, especially the old. There is a nostalgia factor going on in this book that kids may miss out on, but the story is incredible enough that they will enjoy having this read aloud without the long memories.

The set up feels very amateurish with a mother telling a son a bedtime story, and I could do without the interjections from the child, but they make sense in the end. Once the story gets rolling, it gets better and better. Just when I think it is over, there is another part of the story, as if I am not already blown away by a military bear.

I did not read what this story was about before cracking it open, and I am not going to tell you what it is about either. You can choose to read the blurb inside the front cover, or not.  The discovery is half the fun, and I will save you that, "Aha," moment.