Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I've spent a lot of time weaving, but you'd never know it from my hands. 

With threads, hair, and twisted fabric, I weave in fragments of myself, bits of other people. I weave in lies, and I weave in love, and in the end, it's hard to know if one keeps me warmer than the other. 

And when I'm done, I lift the rug from the loom and study it in my fingers. When I back away five feet, it's bluer or more knotted than I'd remembered. And from twenty feet, it grins at me when all along, I'd thought it pouty. I ask myself, "Is that my rug?" But like anything I make, the rug is never mine. I tell my eyes not to see so much at one time. I flip it over, and from the back, it weeps like someone lost. 

Like all lies, loves, stories, it is imperfect, but I could walk on it. I could fold it over the edge of my bed and use it for a blanket or hang it on the wall. Instead, I wrap it over my shoulders, wear it like a shield, covering myself with a tapestry of views. 

Page 7, The Rapture of Canaan, by Sheri Reynolds. A novel about the life of women on a religious compound, living under the rule of a self-proclaimed prophet and accidental tyrant.

Image from Google Images

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Sky That is Hard to Live Up To

One of the mornings that Carl was working nearby in the field, I walked on the little road out to the center of our square-mile section. High clouds were moving fast from west to east and the sky above them was the summer's blue. I realized that we live between land and sky, on the frontier between two great countries. 

I had forgotten how sky is as much a country to live in as land. From the west were rolling pile after pile of fat, white, complicated clouds, and above the clouds was the clear and uncomplicated blue. I thought of blue, white, and gold rococo ceilings, and I had to look down, away from all that motion and grandeur. 

This sky was hard to live up to. It brought me messages from other times and places and made me lonely. I was as confused on that flat land under all that sky as any stranger would be, and my limbs ached from all this local wanting and getting. Image after image of the clouds as cities, as ceilings, ghosts, pasts, and saints rolled over me, as did the clouds themselves. I had to sit down on the dirt and watch the ants at their mining. 

from Chapter 6 of  A Farm Under a Lake, by Martha Bergland.

Friday, March 27, 2009

How to Get Your Kids to Eat Their Vegetables

My son is now collaborating with me on my other blog, Recipes for Ben, and we've been having lots of online chats to make our plans for recipes to add. He always has a long list of recipe requests for dishes he remembers from childhood. The other day, after sending another list that ended up with Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Gingerbread with Warm Applesauce, he suddenly asked: Did we only eat desserts? Didn't we ever eat any vegetables?

I was kind of embarrassed. I have always tried to be a good mother, but when I think about my performance in the vegetable department, I realize that it has been kind of lackluster. Vegetables were always an afterthought in our house, even on Thanksgiving. We'd look over the table, all laden with festive dishes, and realize, yikes! No vegetables! We would hurriedly slap some frozen peas in a bit of boiling water and there! Vegetables, check!

Thinking back to my own childhood, I see that I can blame Clarence Birdseye for my vegetable issues. My mother was a busy working mom, unusual for those days, and she took advantage of all the newest labor saving products. We ate TV dinners, frozen chicken or tuna (remember those?) pot pies, and little packages of frozen Birdseye vegetables--peas, corn, and the dreaded peas 'n carrots.

Once I had kids of my own, I just had no vegetable recipes to fall back on, so we continued on with the Birdseye tradition. As any parent knows, kids tend to crave what they don't get at home, so it's no wonder that Ben is now a superb eater of vegetables. He even invents his own recipes and they are good. Take that, Clarence Birdseye!

Please skip on over to the other blog and check out Ben's first post there, his recipe for Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onions. You'll really like his way with vegetables, and I'm pretty sure you'll love his sense of humor, too. Sick vengeful glee, indeed!

Fun fact: I'll bet you didn't know that Clarence Birdseye started out as a taxidermist. The man was interested in preserving practically everything...

Here is a quote from an About.com article on Clarence Birdseye by Mary Bellis:

Clarence Birdseye was born in 1886 in Brooklyn, New York. A taxidermist by trade, but a chef at heart, Clarence Birdseye wished his family could have fresh food all year. After observing the people of the Arctic preserving fresh fish and meat in barrels of sea water quickly frozen by the arctic temperatures, he concluded that it was the rapid freezing in the extremely low temperatures that made food retain freshness when thawed and cooked months later.

In 1923, with an investment of $7 for an electric fan, buckets of brine, and cakes of ice, Clarence Birdseye invented and later perfected a system of packing fresh food into waxed cardboard boxes and flash-freezing under high pressure. The Goldman-Sachs Trading Corporation and the Postum Company (later the General Foods Corporation) bought Clarence Birdseye’s patents and trademarks in 1929 for $22 million. The first quick-frozen vegetables, fruits, seafoods, and meat were sold to the public for the first time in 1930 in Springfield, Massachusetts, under the tradename Birds Eye Frosted Foods®.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Organizing the World's Information

As a librarian, I have spent my life learning how information is organized and how we can best access and use it (my last school library's mission statement was to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information), so I am naturally drawn to learning everything I can about Google, the company, and its people. Who wouldn't be interested in a company that has bicycles and exercise balls in its hallways, sofas and dogs in its offices, and bins of M & Ms and gummi bears in its snack rooms?

Google was founded only a decade ago and it has long been an essential part of our lives. Here is the Google mission statement: To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and available, a job that Google CEO Eric Schmidt estimated (in 2005) would take around 300 years. 

One of the ideas that makes the company great is its 70/20/10 philosophy: It spends 70% of its resources on its core business, the search; 20% on related areas, such as Google News and Google Earth; and 10% on employee initiated projects that may be related to nothing else that Google currently works on. Imagine what your job would be like if your boss asked you to devote 10% of your work day exploring subjects of interest to you! The results for the employee? Personal freedom, intellectual stimulation, and loyalty to the company. The results for Google? Innovations that become important in the long run. 

Here is the Google Factory Tour webcast--an exploration of the company, its people, and its ideas and philosophy. The video is several hours long, but I am working my way through it and am finding every minute fascinating. It took place way back in 2005, even before the release of Google Earth, but it is still a window into one of the world's most innovative and successful companies.

Monday, March 23, 2009

An Island Garden

When we first moved to Candia, New Hampshire, I got a job at the tiny town library. It was housed in a lovely old two story building with a vaulted wooden ceiling, window seats, and a wonderful fireplace. Unfortunately, for safety reasons the old fireplace was never used in the years that I knew the building, but when a new library was built just down the hill a warm and welcoming fireplace surrounded by big leather wing-back chairs was included in the big reading room, in honor of the old place. 

The book collection had really outgrown the old facility when I first saw it. The shelving was crowded and poorly lit, but I have always had a fondness for libraries like that, so naturally I loved it. Each row of shelves was lit with old banker's lamps--the kind with green glass--and as you moved down the rows you pulled the little lamp chains to light your way. 

It was in this library that I found one book treasure after another. One of my favorites was Celia Thaxter's An Island Garden. It was all about the summer gardens she made out on Appledore Island, one of the Isles of Shoals, a little chain of nine islands that is ten miles off the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine. 

Celia grew up on the islands, where her father was first a lighthouse keeper and later a hotel owner. Although marriage took her away from the islands for a while, she later spent her summers on the islands in the late 1800s. She wrote of taking the ferry trip out for the first time each season, guarding the scores of little seedlings she had started back on the mainland, some planted in eggshell halves. 

Although her original gardens are gone, reproduction gardens have been built and lovingly tended by volunteers, and may be visited today. From her book, we know the kinds of old-fashioned flowers--a jumble of colors--that she raised. The list of poppies alone will make you want to go right out and start planting. There was a variety called "The Bride," and there were carnation, corn, and California poppies; and heirloom, Iceland, oriental, shirley, and peony poppies.

Her friend, the artist Childe Hassam, painted several pictures of Celia in her garden, and they are included in the book. Although I am far away from Candia and that library, and even though I haven't held that book for years, I will always remember the lovely colors of those gardens backed by the blue of the sea. 

To learn more about Celia's gardens, visit About Celia Thaxter's Island Garden.
For more about Celia's life and her book, see the lovely blog, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Free Hugs

It's time to watch the Free Hugs video again. It always makes me cry, right about the place where it turns from black and white to color.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ryan Started the Fire

If you're not a fan of The Office, I really don't know what to tell you about this video. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Cleaning, My Way

I keep a relatively neat house, but I only like to clean the middles of rooms, so it's a good thing that spring is here at last. I guess I really do a sort of spring cleaning, but the only way I can get it accomplished is by painting. I pull everything out of the room, paint the walls, and only put clean things back in. It works for me.

I should have taken "before" photos of this room. It was painted lavender--not a color I'm fond of--by the former owners and it had some poorly executed stencils of butterflies along the top of the wall. I used to keep the door shut so I wouldn't have to look at it. Now, with its nice fresh map-water blue paint and shabby chic decor (lace, quilts, painted furniture, lots of recycled stuff) pulled together from things I had here and there, it's my favorite room. 

Miss Emma likes it, too, as you can see. She insisted on posing for you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Financial Literacy

When I was in 2nd grade we loved our classroom store where we learned about buying, selling, and making change
I've been reading lately that there is a push for teaching more financial literacy in the schools--and not a moment too soon, given the state of our economy! One article I read in our local newspaper (Clovis News Journal, print edition, Sunday, March 15, 2009) stated that high school students surveyed believed that they would be earning an average of $143,000 a year as adults. Few of those same students even knew how to set up a budget. 

Here are some other points made in the article:
-Kids as young as 16 receive credit card applications
-These same kids are financially illiterate--they don't understand interest, minimum payments, credit reports, identity theft, or that they will be paying off their student loans for years to come
-One third of college students have 4 credit cards apiece by the time they graduate
-More than half of college graduates already owe $5000 each in high interest debt
-The number of 18 to 24-year olds declaring bankruptcy has increased 96% in the last 10 years

When I taught in a middle school, many of my students were convinced that they would become rich and/or famous by being rock stars, highly paid athletes, or by winning the lottery. These were the same kids, I'm afraid, who were not trying very hard in their academic courses--they were just kicking back, waiting for the money to start rolling in. 

U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has "introduced legislation that will make a substantial commitment to revamp financial literacy programs in K-12 schools and colleges. The bill, the Financial Literacy Improvement Act of 2008, will invest $250 million to support new personal finance education programs." To read more about her proposed bill, see her press release.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Anxious Reads: “The Pervasive Sense of Doom”*

Some books have titles that make you anxious from the start, even before you turn to the first chapter. 

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz. Awarded the Pulitzer Prize. 
Near the end of this book there is a wonderful phrase: Lapidary clarity. I wish that I could say that I enjoyed that clarity while reading the book, but I was often overwhelmed with the frequent use of Spanglish and the many references to science fiction and fantasy literature. However, I understood enough to know that I was reading a remarkable work, and learning a fair bit about the Dominican Republic and its former dictator, Rafael Trujillo, as well.

What Came Before He Shot Her, by Elizabeth George.
If you are a fan of George’s Inspector Lynley mysteries (available on film from PBS), you will find this one a bit different. But you won’t be able to stop reading, as everything leads up to the murder of one of the main characters in the series, a person you have gotten to know well in the previous dozen or so titles preceding this one.

*"The pervasive sense of doom" is a phrase from the Publishers Weekly review of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Playing with iPhoto

I've wanted to try some sepia effects ever since seeing Linda's horse and burro photos a couple of days ago on her blog, The 7MSN Ranch. 

I've been missing our old Adobe Photoshop ever since our old laptop crashed, so I thought I'd try out iPhoto on the new Mac Notebook. Very easy, fun effects. Here are my results.

1. Church in Cerrillos, NM, along the Turquoise Trail. 
2. Building on the main street of Lincoln, NM
3. Old gate, Lincoln, NM

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Reminder of Things to Come

After a nice spell of really warm days here in eastern New Mexico, the daffodils and forsythia and flowering trees are all blooming, but the latest cold front moving through has made it pretty cold out there for the last few days.

As a reminder of things to come, I've dug out some photos from past gardens here (the 2nd and 3rd photos) and in New Hampshire (all the others). 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another Kind of Deficit Spending: Depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer and What is Being Done About It

Of all the posts that I have written on this blog, one that has consistently gotten a high number of hits is the post I wrote for Blog Action Day in 2007 on the Ogallala Aquifer. To quote from that post:

The Ogallala Aquifer is a vast deposit of water lying under eight states in the High Plains of the U.S.: South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. It is variously estimated to cover between 174,000 and 225,000 square miles, and lies between 50 and 300 feet below the surface. It was formed about 10 million years ago of gravelly soil that holds groundwater down below the water table. Experts believe that the aquifer contains roughly the amount of water contained by Lake Huron.

It is important that you know that the aquifer is being drawn down--more water is being used from it (94% for agricultural purposes in this area of the country)--than can be recovered through recharge.

I just came across a statement that worried me, and made me wonder just what is being done to conserve this resource. I found it in Our Towns; A Community Guide for Curry and Roosevelt Counties. Published by the Clovis News Journal, February 2009) and it stated: [Houston Lee, local farmer] said Curry and Roosevelt counties have flat land and irrigation good for farming, but the lack of water presents a challenge. Still he thinks agriculture will stay in the area for "a good while" because even if the aquifer is depleted, farmers will get enough rain for a crop. [Emphasis mine]

This is the kind of thinking about the aquifer--sure, we may deplete it through our current agricultural practices, but we'll still go on--that doesn't help our water problems at all. I would rather be reading about the steps being taken to preserve the water that we have.

The following statements are all quoted from an article titled The Ogallala; Cooperative Efforts to Preserve It, Protect It, by Mark Walbridge in Agricultural Research, April 2008, vol. 56, issue 4. It gives me hope to read that a 10 percent reduction in water usage could turn around the aquifer depletion problem, and that steps are being taken to achieve that goal.

Nolan Clark says that a 10-percent across-the-board reduction in irrigation would solve the Ogallala Aquifer's overdraft problem. Clark has worked for ARS for 37 of the 50-plus years the agency has been involved in Ogallala area water-conservation research and now oversees the Ogallala Aquifer Program.

All told, more than 100 researchers are involved in 80 projects that cover 1 or more of the initiative's 7 priorities for reducing water use. These are: cropping and tillage systems, crop-livestock operations, improved irrigation equipment and systems, economic analyses, predicting the rate of the aquifer's decline, measuring how much water plants need, and conserving water on feedlots.

Says [Sukant K. Misra, associate dean of research at Texas Tech University in Lubbock], "We also have a group of agronomists who are studying ways to conserve water, using different irrigation technologies. We have a group of GIS people who are mapping the aquifer, its levels, and rates of depletion. And we have researchers working on crop management practices, hydrology, and many other aspects related to conserving Ogallala water.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fried Chicken Sandwiches and Front Porch Bathtubs

I've already said that I dislike persuasion, especially as it applies to really good books that one loves. Having to explain what makes a book good just takes all the shine off of it, and made my literature classes in college rather unpleasant for me.

Good. Now that we have that out in the open, I'll just say that you should hurry up and read something by Bailey White if you haven't already. After you've done that, find a recording of her reading the same book. She has a surprisingly old-lady sound to her voice (surprising once you have seen her youthful self in photographs); a nice sort of creaky southern resonance that is perfect for relating the stories that she will tell you.

Either way, get comfortable, pour some iced tea, and have plenty of kleenex on hand. I'm telling you, hysteria will ensue, but you might cry for other reasons. I've laughed myself sick over some of her stories and they have stayed with me for years. To this day, I can't go into a teacher's lunch room without thinking of Bailey White, because she once told a story that started with two teachers sitting outside on a curb in the teacher's parking lot eating fried chicken sandwiches--sitting out there because that is not the kind of lunch that you can eat inside of a teacher's lunch room. You might not find that funny, but you would if you had ever carelessly brought something containing fat calories to eat in one of those bastions of raw vegetables, unflavored nonfat yogurt, and diet talk.

Here, these will get you started.

The Telephone Man. Not all of her stories are funny, but I'm not going to get involved in a lot of that book review language (touching! ground-breaking!). You can read this story and listen to it both, all while looking at a photo of Bailey herself. This National Public Radio page has some links to more of her audio stories.

Mama Makes Up Her Mind (this is the one that has the front porch bathtub in it)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Books Read in 2009

I am borrowing this idea from Nan of Letters from a Hill Farm, a blog you will love. I am going to keep track of all the books I read and will add to this page from time to time.

I have written on this blog about the books that are underlined; just click to see the post. To read reviews by other people of all the books and to see everything I've read in the past few years, plus a list of what I plan to read, see my Shelfari Bookshelf. You and I just might have the same taste in books. Who knows?

Forgive me for not capitalizing every word in the book titles; that's just the way librarians are trained to do it and I can't seem to break the habit.

Agee: River wife

Boylan: I'm looking through you

Burke: Swan Peak

Child, Julia: My life in France

Cooper, Anderson: Dispatches from the edge; a memoir of war, disasters, and survival

Coulter: The edge

Coulter: Hemlock Bay

Delany: Scare the light away

Doig: Dancing at the Rascal Fair

Doig: English Creek

Fink: Bipolar disorder for dummies

Foer: Everything is illuminated; a novel

Friedman:: The world is flat

George: Careless in red

Gilbert: Eat, pray, love

Haigh: Baker Towers

Haigh: Mrs. Kimble

Hoffman: Probable future

Hosseini: Kite runner

Hosseini: A thousand splendid suns

Kellerman: Bones

Kinney: Diary of a wimpy kid; Rodrick rules

Kostova: The historian

LaFarge: The mother ditch

Lahir: The namesake

Letts: Made in the U.S.A.

Marriott: The valley below

Montgomery: The good, good pig

Oates: The gravedigger's daughter

Pecos, Gateway to Pueblo & Plain; The Anthology

Petterson: Out stealing horses

Picoult: Harvesting the heart

Pillsbury: Adobe doorways

Pillsbury: No high adobe

Proulx: Brokeback Mountain

Read: A fortunate grandchild

Read: Time remembered

Robinson: Gilead

Romero: Adobe; Building and living with earth

Romero: Flora's Kitchen

Rowling: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (read it again)

Rowling: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (read it again)

Rowling: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (read it again)

Rowling: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (read it again)

Rowling: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Rowling: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (read it again)

Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone (read it again)

Rubio: Icy Sparks

Sebold: Lovely bones

Sebold: Lucky

Stedman: Adobe remodeling & fireplaces

Stewart: Dead wrong

West: Mad girls in love

Wettlin: Fifty Russian winters; an American woman's life in the Soviet Union

Winspear: Birds of a feather

Winspear: Maisie Dobbs

Witynski: Casa adobe