We love our technology, but in some ways we are taking the old road.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Eating Green

I found this Minneapolis Star-Tribune article very interesting yesterday:
50 Ways to Eat Green

I don't come close to doing it all, but it intrigues me. I could take some steps. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and some other things I've read have raised my awareness.

I do think that saving energy by turning your teapot off before it whistles is a bit over the top. That's a matter of seconds. You might let your spaghetti sauce cook an extra 15 minutes or your soup an extra hour. Leaving your oven on too long is wasteful, but I'm not going to worry about my tea kettle.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Decorating with Compost

I ordered myself a compost keeper:

No, that's not my kitchen, just the catalog picture.

We started composting last summer after we moved to the country. We kept it in an old ice cream pail on the counter. It serves the purpose, and it was free. But if you know me, you know I like fancy. Even though I usually have piles of dirty dishes on my kitchen counter so that my kitchen isn't lovely to look at, I want to be able to make it lovely. And an ice cream pail as a permanent countertop decoration is not going to cut it.

So I kept looking at this ceramic, lidded, charcoal-filtered compost holder in a catalog but didn't want to spend the money yet last year. Then I stopped saving scraps for the winter because I didn't feel like trudging through snowbanks to bring it to my pile. And then this spring I went for the fancy container. It's nice except that they made it with a little lip at the bottom, a handy little place for junk to get stuck. So I'm lining it with produce bags - the "reuse" part of the recycling mantra.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Beginnings of an Orchard

We decided on a different spot for our orchard. Instead of being in a grassy area that had dead trees, it's going on a slope that was an alfalfa field. It was at the suggestion of the person who hays that field, so it was an acceptable section to take. It will make the trees very visible to our house, which will be lovely when they flower. It will also soften the look of our house and yard to have a collection of small trees on a side of the house that was bare. And it was a spot we could get to work on right now.

My husband spent a muscle-punishing day digging large holes in hard, dry clay. I helped him plant the trees in the holes and fill the holes with rich, loose black dirt mixed with well-rotted cow manure. We got our first batch of trees so early that we couldn't plant them at first (darn Gurney's). Then we heeled them in to try to keep them alive until we had our site prepared. Now we hold our breath until we see if they survived. At least our apple trees haven't arrived yet, so they'll have better odds.

This one is a cherry tree:

Some of them look like sticks (I think this is a pear):

But we planted bare-root sticks before at our old house, and they did grow:

Even the largest tree you see in that last picture was a tiny, limbless stick when we got it, just like the pear tree above.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thing 30: More Ways to Use RSS & Delicious

My next library 2.0 topic was on uses for RSS and Delicious.

I've been using my RSS reader (Google Reader) on my iGoogle page to read blog updates. I like that, because I can easily see when one of the blogs I'm following has a new post; then I can choose to read it or not. It makes for less hopping to a variety of websites but more awareness of what's on them. At the suggestion of Thing 30, I added rssWeather and a government blog. The rssWeather feeds drove me insane! All day long my blog reader was being filled with the latest weather forecasts: "Wednesday night forecast", "Thursday forecast", "Friday night forecast". Every time there was an update, I'd get something added to my list. It obscured all the other websites. So it did give me a taste of why FeedRinse and other blog filtering programs were invented! But it just wasn't useful to me as an RSS feed, so I unsubscribed after a number of days. The government health RSS feed is okay; I'll keep it for now. I do look at my RSS reader every time I go on my computer now.

I can't claim to have really gotten my feeds organized. I think I need to find a couple of feeds that would just have an occasional topic I'd want to follow. I don't want to sort out the topics on the blogs I follow currently; I want to know about everything they write about, even if I don't read the whole post.

I am new to Delicious, since I didn't do 23 Things on a Stick. So simply having my bookmarks on it is new to me. I have searched for some topics on it. I have added a couple of people to my network who had More Things on a Stick items.

I did have one really fun moment with that. I've started to follow the blog of a More Things on a Stick participant who was highlighted in the newsletter; her blog is well-done. So then I added her to my Delicious network and looked at her tag cloud. What do you know? She has a health topic on it that I am very interested in and have in my cloud, as well. So I followed one of her links, and it led to some people that I've gotten to know online that have nothing to do with libraries or this project. It was a real "small-world" moment. So I sent her a link on Delicious I though she might like; I don't know if she's seen it.

I added my tag cloud and a badge to my blog. The tag cloud keeps disappearing, though! I tried adding it to my sidebar, but it doesn't fit. The words overlap. So I put it at the bottom of my blog. But half the time it isn't there. I even had to re-paste the code at one point. Has anyone else had problems with it? I have had the opportunity now to explain to a couple of people about what Delicious is. Most people don't seem to be familiar with it.

I would suggest to people who are interested in following more than a couple of blogs to set up an RSS reader. If nothing else, it's a nice alert when there is new content. I would also suggest Delicious to people who use more than one computer or to people who really use the Web for research. It's handy to tuck sites away there that you might not even put in your Favorites on your browser. And you could be a help to other people who are interested in the same topics. It's social networking, but it's much more focused on useful links than your personality.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Clean Up

I just spent the evening cleaning out my vegetable garden. And I am so tired. But the weather is gorgeous, and I've recovered enough from a bout of a stomach virus to have some strength again. So I worked hard to get it done.

I didn't get everything cleaned out of it last fall. It was my... erosion control plan? Okay, it was no plan at all. It was just because I was trying to get too many things done in November while the weather was unseasonably warm. Then the bottom dropped out and it was suddenly winter. I never saw my pumpkin vines all winter, because we always had snow. But now it's time to get ready to plant.

My wee one helped me at first.

But it was many wheelbarrows-full, so she joined her sister to play in the dirt.

And she made a sign spelled out with tiny rocks.

I got it done, as done as I think I need to before it gets some kind of digger run through it.

Then I looked in the woods just a bit. Leaves on some of the bushes are just opening up. And something, I don't know what it is, looks like it's about to flower!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Old Road in Spring

I was out on the old road with my husband this past Saturday. It doesn't look much like spring yet, other than that the snow is all gone. But that's how it starts, and it will take a good rain to green things up.

But the pond is open. We've had frequent duck and goose visitors, and the turtles just emerged to sun themselves on the old fence posts that hang over the pond. I've got to get a picture of them; I think they're adorable.

And there are buds about to open.

But most of what's green is weeds.

And moss.

The moss is cool, though. I'm just waiting for some violets.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Delicacies

Not for me. For my lovely neighbors, the deer. Oh, they're lovely. I love to see them. I don't love for them to eat my plants, although I know it's bound to happen. How can it not, when there are so few green plants up yet and here come my green sprouts?

They found my tulips, despite the fact that we'd put hair clippings in the garden (supposed to help deter them).

There were dainty little hoof prints leading right to them, so no mystery there.

So my husband put a fence up around them. And then they found some other plants that weren't in the fence. So I sprayed deer and rabbit repellent on what I have left. We'll see what happens. I'll be happy to hear your suggestions.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thing 29 - Google Tools

My next library learning topic is Google Tools.

I have just set up a couple of Google Alerts to try out that application. It could be a useful way to see what's new on a topic or what people are saying out in the blogosphere, depending on what you set it up to search. I've set up one on peanut allergy as a news search and another on More Things on a Stick as a blog search. I'm just curious to see what and how much comes up, and then I plan to edit my searches. And what do you know - I just got a batch of alerts while I was writing this, and they have nothing to do with More Things on a Stick. I need a phrase search. Can I put my search terms in quotation marks? (Update 4/14/09: Yes, putting a phrase in quotation marks seems to work. I tried it with "More Things on a Stick" and now I'm getting only blog updates that mention this project.)

Google Alerts could be a useful way to search things on the Internet that wouldn't be included in more traditional periodical alerts. If you didn't only want to find published information, but instead you wanted to see what was being discussed anywhere on the Internet, it would be useful for that. It's a little difficult to see how it would be useful to a library, since our job is to give people reliable information from good sources. But if you still sort that out, there are good things put out there on the Web. And if a patron wanted to see what was being said about their business on an ongoing basis, Google Alerts would be an excellent suggestion.

I took a look at the other alert services. Twilert was not working anymore. I would really like a Twitter alert service. I have not used the other alerts, but Alerts.com looks intriguing. In certain situations, it would be really nice to have alerts on Ebay or Craigslist items up for sale, price drops on something you want to buy, or product recalls (coming soon).

The other Google Tool I worked on was Gmail. I've had a Gmail account for about a year, because I wanted an e-mail account that I could hang onto when I was between Internet providers because of moving. I have kept it because it's nice to have an e-mail address that I can give out to companies and such without worrying about getting too much spam in my regular e-mail box. But I don't check it as often. I learned from More Things on a Stick that I can forward all or selected messages from my Gmail account to my other e-mail. That's handy, because some people have never switched to using my new e-mail address. Really, I'd never found the "Settings" section of Gmail to explore at all before. I did find that I don't have access to the Themes or the Labs because I have Internet Explorer 6, not 7 or above.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter's On Its Way

Today we colored eggs. I like to do it the basic, old-fashioned way: food coloring with vinegar and boiling water. I've never used a Paas kit and I have no inclination to. This year we got slightly adventurous and tried putting rubber bands on a couple of the eggs.

But mostly, it's just a pleasure for kids to set the eggs in the cups of colored water and baste them and turn them until they reach the desired color.

Sometimes it's fun to make them two-toned:

However you do it, and even if it's a little messy, coloring eggs is so fun.

Thanks to Jo for being our photographer today!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Stretching Pumpkin

Last fall, I roasted two of the pumpkins I grew in my garden. I pureed them and froze them in two-cup portions. So that's what I used to bake pumpkin pies for holidays. Most recipes call for two cups - that's equivalent to a can. But I had one cup left over and didn't know what to do with it. I saw that you can turn pumpkin bars into applesauce bars by just substituting applesauce in the recipe. So I did 50-50: pumpkin-applesauce bars. They didn't look orange, and they basically tasted like spice bars without a particular fruit taste. But they were good.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


My peonies are up!

Yes, I mean the teensy red sprout. I have a few of them.

The cold winter didn't kill them. Hallelujah. They were transplanted from my sister-in-law's garden. We had transplanted some of them to our old place years ago and loved them, but left those behind. We're going to be so glad to have some familiar flowers. It will probably take a few years for them to bloom, but I am really glad they survived that first winter.

My chives are also up:

They look a bit anemic because they were entirely covered with mulch. And, wow, I already need to weed!

The tulips are coming along nicely:

Monday, April 6, 2009


I love teapots and teacups. And china in general.

I finally arranged my teapot collection on top of my kitchen cabinets. They've been just kind of sitting up there for, oh, 11 months now....

Okay, strictly speaking, it's not just teapots. That first one is a coffee pot. It's part of my set of china.

In the next picture, the one on the left is a teapot. The one on the right is a pitcher my sister painted to match my kitchen curtain (which has not yet gone up in this house).

Then another teapot, then another pitcher:

Then two more teapots:

I still need to come up with a way to raise them up higher. I didn't have crown molding in my old kitchen, so you could see them much better. But I love the crown molding! I think if I just stuck the pots up on blocks of wood, they'd be in danger of falling off. The kids' bedrooms are directly above, and when they run and jump, things vibrate. My husband thinks he could put little sides on blocks of wood so that they'd stay in place. But that's hardly his highest priority now that spring is here. Someday they'll be set up perfectly.

I also want probably two more teapots - they're kind of spread out now that I have such a nice big bank of cabinets. My sister-in-law said she's making me one, which is so awesome. She makes beautiful ceramics.