Wednesday, July 17, 2013

growing moss

I have been working in our backyard lately, trying to create a landscape that is pleasing to the eye, yet friendly to our ambitious children who delight in dirt and sticks and messes.  I have three aging tree stumps and two logs that I salvaged several years ago from a tree that had been cut down in our community.  So I have tried to incorporate them better into the corner where our outside faucet and hose reside without taking away from the kids' digging area.

And one of my first ideas was to cover the log and tree stumps in moss.  We have lots of moss growing around our yard so I took my hoe and carefully scraped some of the moss up in large sections.

You can use anything that has a sharp thin edge, like a large putty knife or a thin baking sheet might even work.  I find my hoe perfect for this job. While it is easier to get larger sections like the size of a small plate, smaller pieces will certainly work. Don't worry about getting a lot of the dirt, just aim for the moss which usually lifts off nicely.

The next step is the part your kids probably will be volunteering to help with, making mud!  Mix some dirt with water to get a great, wet mud going which will be your glue for the moss to stick to the log or stump.

Then just add shovelfuls of the mud to the areas where you plan to stick the moss. Very simple. If the mud runs down the log or stump, just spray it away when you water the moss.

The log that I have positioned is resting under the spot where our garden hose connects to the faucet, the moss under there may be a bit flatter, but I don't want to the log to touch the foundation of the house, so I'm okay with that.

This is what it looks like right now after "planting" the moss on the log. Water well for the next 2-3 weeks while the moss begins to adhere to the muddy dirt.

Here the mossy log is the background with some English ivy trailing over it and some small white zinnias giving some woodsy color.

And this is one of my aged tree stumps that is nestled in the corner by the fence awaiting its mossy treatment.

Isn't the bark and ivy gorgeous together?  I love the way the ivy curls around the tree stump.  And the best part about all this landscaping is that it was free and already in my backyard.  Even the plants, like the ivy, zinnias, fern, etc., were marked 'free' at our village grocery store when I went there on Saturday. Saying I was thrilled would be an understatement. Some days it just all comes together like that and I am so thankful!

And if you want to grow some moss on a rock or stone wall, try author and gardening expert Bill Cullina's hot glue gun technique featured in a Martha Stewart video seen here. I have a rock that might need some moss too, which may keep it cooler so my baby fern can take off. Oh the fun I can have and so can you!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

childhood at Glenmerle

His bed had been drawn up to the east window where he could see the moonrise over the orchard and sometimes be wakened by the dawn. Across a short stretch of lawn to the north was the giant beech at the edge of the wood. At night when he went to sleep, often with his pillow on the window-sill, his last sight of the world would be the dark trees and the bright stars overhead. What was the line? 'We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.' A thousand times he had imagined himself a small animal, like Mole or Rat, stealing to the edge of that familiar, friendly wood and peering out the sheltering shadows. No, he thought, for anyone brought up like that, the woods and the night would hold no terrors, only safety. ~Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

summer shuffle

In trying to keep up with posting pictures, I have jumped all around with photos from Seth's birthday, along with our garden, to our trip home to my parents'  in PA and then back again to dinner in our own back yard enjoying the beginning of our summer harvest.  

May/June Book List

Favorite Picture Books

The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Carson Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey
A couple of months ago I saw this book featured on a new-to-me blog by Joanne Roberts called Bookish Ambitions where she shares great books, great illustrators and discusses writing and drawing.

I was drawn into the book with the book opener that she quoted which includes:  "the composer was not humming, moving or breathing.  This is called decomposing."
How can you not like clever word plays like that?
So I requested it from our local library and we enjoyed the detective plot and the instruments each having a voice in their defense of the murder charges brought against them.

Seth's favorite part was the listing of all the "dead" composers and he asked if we were going to learn about all of them. Yes! Eventually. At some point.

This is also a book that adults will get more humor out of  at times, like the bit about the French Horns at a jazz club. Funny stuff.
As I mentioned, we borrowed ours from the library and after spending some time reading it, we listened the cd version which is a musical production with music created for this book.  I highly recommend listening to the cd if you can find it with the book.

From Mud Huts to Skyscrapers by Christine Paxmann, illustrated by Anne Ibelings

Despite the first two pages promoting the evolutionary theory that our ancestors ran around on all fours and then years later stood upright and began building mud huts, this is a fascinating book on architecture and I learned much more than I thought I would.  We didn't take time to look at this one together, although we do discuss architectural terms as they come up, like "flying buttresses" and "cloisters" which I didn't know shamefully anything about until recent years. I will borrow it again from the library during the school year and we will study it more closely together.

Fishing at Long Pond by William T. George, illustrated by Lindsay Barrett George

A young girl is out fishing with her grandfather, admiring the plant and animal life waiting for a nibble on her line.  Together they share the excitement of observing nature and landing a fish to take home to her grandmother. The colorful illustrations are full of life and realistic. There are three others in this series which like this one, may be hard to find, but worth the hunt:  Christmas at Long Pond, Beaver at Long Pond, and Box Turtle at Long Pond.

Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie dePaola

Full disclosure:  I as a general rule have not gravitated to Tomie DePaola books nor have I understood his popularity.  I blame it on my days back in teacher's college, when liking and collecting certain author's books were all the rage and I just could not bring myself to get on the band-wagon. In the ensuing years since those crazy semesters, I have read through many more of his books but they have not found a home on our shelves.  
Yes, you can throw rotten cabbages at me now.  I know I deserve the booing and hissing.

But this one book, Charlie Needs a Cloak, opened me up to the possibility that he may indeed have a good book here and there.  It is fun, informative and inspiring to see a hardworking shepherd go from a tattered old cloak to a handmade new one with the help of his sheep, some berries and a loom.  The sheep are the hit of the book, though and remind me of Shaun the Sheep, which shows other sheep acting ridiculous if you like that sort of thing, which obviously our family does.  I intend to get a copy of this for our shelves so now we can all breathe a sigh of relief that Tomie DePaola is now officially welcome in our home!

Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen

These two books by Chris Van Dusen were a hit in our house because they explore completely ridiculous scenerios and their solutions with a lot of fun and goofiness.  We already had his If I Built a Car so I snatched these two up at the library and brought them home for Seth and Laura.  Very fun and silly which is just what my kids like to read together and laugh over.

Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein by Don Brown

I saw Seth spending time with this book several times before I had a chance to read it myself, so I was curious why he liked it so much.  I'm still not sure why he read this particular one more than once, but maybe it has something to do with him wanting to be a math teacher someday.  Great overview of the life of Albert Einstein, but more importantly it portrays him as a lifelong student, pursuing answers to questions and puzzles that interested him.  And the book that first sparked an interest in learning was a geometry book, Euclid's Elements, written around 300 B.C. which is still used by classical math students today.

Chapter Books
Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze by Elizabeth Enright

This is the final book in the Melendy Quartet series. (I mentioned the other titles in the series in my March/April book list.) This did not capture my full attention throughout the first few chapters as I felt that the finding of the clues was a little formulaic at the beginning, but I did warm up to the book eventually and enjoyed the introduction of new characters as the two youngest Melendy siblings make new, but not necessarily young friends as they hunt for various clues while their older siblings are away at boarding school. There were some moments of humor as some forgotten mail is left outside before the unexpected arrival of a snowstorm and the father wryly remarks that he never thought he would find himself digging with a shovel through the ice and snow to retrieve his bills. The clues last through the whole school year and the surprise at the end is a very heart-warming scene which leaves you hungering for more adventures with the family and their friends.  One of my now very favorite series and I would give the four books my highest recommendation possible for boys and girls. 

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
On the Far Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Frightful's Mountain by Jean Craighead George

I wanted Seth to read these, so I decided to get busy reading them myself.  What a wonderful trilogy of books about a boy, his falcon and his outdoor survival life.  Jean George wrote an utterly fascinating series of  stories, filled to overflowing with information and interest of every kind in the great outdoors.  I enjoyed every single book, completely amazed at how little I know about so much around me.  I'm also working through her Julie of the Wolves series and will write about those when I have them finished.  She is an excellent story teller, yet provides so much information, I cannot help but want to share everything I have learned from her books.  Again books for both boys and girls and also very highly recommended. And there appears to be picture books that continue the series with more stories of Frightful's daughter but our library system does not have them, so I will have to find some used copies myself.

Classics and Other Such Books
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
This book held out great hope for some excellent dialog with Mr. Tilney with opening lines like these:
"And are you all together pleased with Bath?"
"Yes, --I like it very well."
"Now, I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again."
Catherine turned away her head, not knowing whether she might venture to laugh.
"I see what you think of me, " said he gravely--"I shall make but a poor figure in your journal to-morrow."
"My journal!"
"Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings--plain black shoes--appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense."
"Indeed I shall no such thing."
"Shall I tell you what you ought to say?"
"If you please."
"I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him--seems a most extraordinary genius--hope I may know more of him. That madam, is what I wish you to say."
And then immediately following is a conversation in which fabrics and gowns were discussed by the arrival of Mrs. Allen, Catherine's chaperone and companion.
Mrs. Allen was quite struck by his genius. "Men commonly take so little notice of those things," said she: "I can never get Mr. Allen to know one of my gowns from another. You must be a great comfort to your sister, sir."
"I hope I am, madam."
"And I pray, sir, what do you think of Miss Morland's gown?"
"It is very pretty, madam," said he, gravely examining it; "but I do not think it will wash well; I am afraid it will fray."
"How can you," said Catherine, laughing, "be so--" she had almost said, strange.
And as the chapter closes, this repartee:
"What are thinking of so earnestly?" said he, as they walked back to the ball-room;--"not of your partner, I hope, for, by that shake of the head, your meditations are not satisfactory."
Catherine coloured, and said, "I was not thinking of any thing."
"That is artful and deep, to be sure; but I had rather be told at once that you will not tell me."
"Well then, I will not."
"Thank you; for now we shall soon be acquainted, as I am authorized to tease you on this subject whenever we meet, and nothing in the world advances intimacy so much."
But then Mr. Tilney makes few appearances and the rest of the book is taken up with Catherine's brother's romance and her own attempts to repulse a smothering suitor and the witty dialog is forgotten.  I was so glad to finish this book and for now it remains my least favorite Austen novel.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
 I enjoyed this story although there were moments where I was sure the story was never going to end.  And as a reward to finishing it, I allowed myself to watch the Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant version which seemed to speed through the story at an alarming rate.  If I may pontificate for a moment on movies versus the books. It seems to me that to truly know and enjoy the story requires spending more time in the presence of the characters than a typical movie allows, so while the movies can move us to tears or happiness, it is the written novel that brings fuller satisfaction as the characters' thoughts, worries, secrets and morals are explored in detail page after page after page.  I have mentioned before of my hesitation to watch the movie versions of Austen novels because my enjoyment of the book stands unassisted by handsome gentlemen and beautiful ladies acting it out on a screen.  But then again, I'm not a movie buff, so perhaps I just need to watch different versions and not just the popular Hollywood versions. I'm open to suggestions.
And finishing these two novels, I now have only Persuasion left to read, but I may wait until Fall.


Law and Liberty by R.J. Rushdoony
I have been reading this book, which is a collection of essays on various topics, slowly since Christmas when I purchased it along with several other Rushdoony titles for Shane and I to read and I just finished it earlier in June. This was the first full length book I read by Rushdoony and I found myself underling many, many concepts that I had never considered before.  What follows is some extensive quoting from the chapter entitled, Law and Authority which is less than five pages.
People who profess to be believers in democracy also have their own brand of authoritarianism.  They claim that democracy is the true way of life and the true civil government because it rests on the true foundation, the people. The ancient faith in democracy is summed up in the Latin phrase, vox populi, vox Dei, the voice of the people is the voice of God. The people are thus the god of democracy. No law, no constitution, no religious faith can be permitted to stand in the way of the will of the people. The will of the people incarnates itself in a governing elite who express this general will infallibly. There is a direct connection between the democratic thinking of Rousseau and Karl Marx' dictatorship of the proletariat. 
In any system of thought, authority is inescapable. In this respect, every religion, political thought, philosophy, and science is authoritarian. Each appeals to a basic and ultimate authority, to God or man, to the individual or to people in the mass, to reason or to experience; whatever the case may be, something is the underlying authority in every system of thought. ... 
Behind every system of law there is a god. To find the god in any system, locate the source of law in that system. If the source of law is the individual, then the individual is the god of that system. If the source of the law is the people, or the dictatorship of the proletariat, then these things are the gods of those systems. If our source of law is a court, then the court is our god. If there is no higher law beyond man, then man is his own god, or else his creatures, the institutions he has made, have become his gods. When you choose your authority, you choose your god, and where you look for your law, there is your god. ... 
It is apparent therefore that we are sadly astray today in our thinking about law. Our law has ceased to be Christian and has become humanistic and democratic. Its purpose is to establish the will of mass man, of democratic man, as the ultimate authority. A a result, our law is increasingly an anti-Christian system of law. It is hostile to the sovereignty of God, and it affirms the sovereignty of man. Our lawmakers are saying in effect, "Let us make god in our own image, after our likeness." They are bent not only on remaking law but on remaking man.
God's law has as its purpose the government of man, to guide and direct man into the way of righteousness and truth. Grace recreated man, and law is the form of the new man's life, in that man is regenerated in order to be conformed to God. 
Authority is inescapable. The basic question is which authority, the authority of God or of man? If we choose man, we have no right to complain against the rise of totalitarianism, the rise of tyranny--we have asked for it. If we choose God's authority, then we must submit to it without reservation; we must accept His infallible word and must in all things acknowledge His sovereignty. On this foundation, we are "founded upon the rock", Jesus Christ, and we shall not fall (Matt. 7:24-27). p. 40-43