Books, NPR & Short-Term Plans, Inc

Busy busy busy! It’s all exciting stuff, though, that should keep me pretty well engaged. Having largely divorced myself from the online video game that was eating my life, and having the holidays done with, I’ve discovered all manner of free time. Course, that may simply be an illusion due to the holiday schedule at work that’s given me two four-day work weeks in a row, hmm.

Goals for the near future (not to be confused with the New Year’s Resolution List:)

  • Make a couple of pairs of loungy pants along the lines of this tutorial (PDF File)
  • Finish Dad & Janet’s quilt
  • Keep devouring the books I’ve recently acquired
  • Better organize sewing room
  • Make a bed caddy
  • Make a sewing table caddy
  • Design the chicken house & fencing
  • Develop a plan for the garden

Many of us here share at least a few common interests, so I thought I’d post the books I’m currently excited about. I used my Christmas money in its entirety today at Barnes & Noble. NPR (National Public Radio) is a constant source of interesting information, including book and movie reviews of things I would likely either never have heard of, or wouldn’t have thought to investigate myself. Here’s what I acquired today, and why:

  • The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. I’d seen this somewhere, but never picked it up. The cover didn’t draw me in, although I thought the title interesting. I passed it over until I heard Terry Gross’ interview with the author. I was in tears, driving down Grand River Avenue in Okemos… it’s such a vivid memory, it doesn’t seem possible it was over two months ago. The author read segments of the first chapter that were beyond poignant. The premise of the book is the rape and murder of a fourteen-year-old girl, who then goes to heaven and watches the lives of her family as they pursue her assailant. Not light subject matter, to be certain, but the voice in which it’s written drew me in. As I sat in Barnes & Nobles’ coffee shop today, flipping through it to see if it was something I wanted to read, I had to choke back tears several times in the course of the first thirty pages. It came home with me.
  • Carrots Love Tomatoes – Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, by Louise Riotte. I was in the home & garden section to find another book on this list, and ran across this little gem. Having long been aware that certain garden items planted next to each other help with growth and pest control, but having no idea what goes where (other than marigolds go next to onions… I think,) I welcomed this short book into my arms.
  • The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It – The Complete Back-to-Basics Guide, by John Seymour. This is what I was after in the home & garden section. It may be a bit too overly-ambitious to aspire to something along these lines, but every little bit of information helps. It covers topics such as “Food From the Garden,” “Food From Animals,” “Food From the Wild,” “In the Kitchen,” “Brewing & Wine-Making,” “Energy & Waste,” and assorted homesteady “Crafts & Skills.” One thing these books and websites I’m reading keep mentioning – a root cellar. We don’t have one, as our basement is finished. However, I bet we could section off a third of the utility room to keep most of the heat out of it and have decent success with long-term storage of root vegetables and such. Another idea is to put some sort of storage in the garage, as it doesn’t seem to get near to freezing, but space out there is at somewhat of a premium. Eventually, I think Mike Neir and I would both like to expand it.
  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life, by Richard Carlson. A collection of quick and dirty ways to help keep peace of mind. I figure both Mike Neir and I can benefit from this small book.
  • The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. This is yet another book I heard about on NPR, via an interview with the author on All Things Considered. From the NPR website: “The book features two black housekeepers, Aibileen and Minny, who work for white families in Jackson, Miss. Their worlds are turned inside out when Skeeter Phelan returns home from college with pesky questions about segregation in the South. She asks questions like: Why are black maids subordinated so much they can’t use the family bathroom, and yet they’re trusted to care for that same family’s children?” The book is apparently causing quite a stir in both white and black audiences, and I enjoyed the excerpts Stockett read.

The main items I sought were, most sadly, not present. This morning on the Diane Rehm Show, Diane interviewed Wendell Berry – author, poet, essayist, farmer and “grandfather of the slow food movement.” (Link to the podcast is here)  He is a new hero of mine. Advocating a simple life close to the land, the portions of the interview I did manage to catch were deeply interesting.

I’m going to pull up that podcast to listen fully as soon as I’m done here. I want some company while I put together a homemade bread stick recipe for dinner tonight.

Now 75 years old, “being young is very habit-forming, I think,” he said, and how true.

(a poem by Wendell Berry)

I know I am getting old and I say so,
but I don’t think of myself as an old man.
I think of myself as a young man
with unforeseen debilities. Time is neither
young nor old, but simply new, always
counting, the only apocalypse. And the clouds
—no mere measure or geometry, no cubism,
can account for clouds or, satisfactorily, for bodies.
There is no science for this, or art either.
Even the old body is new—who has known it
before?—and no sooner new than gone, to be
replaced by a body yet older and again new.
The clouds are rarely absent from our sky
over this humid valley, and there is a sycamore
that I watch as, growing on the riverbank,
it forecloses the horizon, like the years
of an old man. And you, who are as old
almost as I am, I love as I loved you
young, except that, old, I am astonished
at such a possibility, and am duly grateful.

(a poem by Wendell Berry)

1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill., Inc

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