Category Archives: Gardening

Make a Seed Packet Bouquet – New Version

Here is a new and improved and combined version of a couple of tutorials I wrote in 2016. Enjoy!

Tools and Materials

Seeds, either purchased or home harvested
Template for a 2.5 x 3.5 inch envelope, and Seed packet holder template for 2.5 x 3.5″ packet
Decorative paper
Cardstock
Squeegee tool or bone folder
Glue stick
Scrap cardstock, chipboard, or file folders for backing templates for tracing
Clean scrap paper for gluing surface
Rubber stamps
Stamping ink
Punches, stencils or templates for flower, center hole of flower, and leaf.
Scissors
Cutting mat
X-acto or craft knife
Metal ruler
Pencil
Double-sided tape
Small hole punch
Wood skewers (available in grocery stores)
Tape
Decorative paper flowers
Needle tool or awl – if using brads to attach embellishments
Brads
Adhesive dots
Glue for attaching embellishments
Small floral theme embellishments

Instructions

First make the seed packets.

Template for Seed Packet Small
Template for Seed Packet Envelope Small

Download and print out the Seed Packet Template Small. Cut out the template and glue it to scrap chipboard or cardstock for durability with a glue stick. Trim around it with scissors.

Stamping on plain paper. Stamp credits from left to right: handwrting background stamp by Inkadinkado, newsprint by Posh Impressions, Da Vinci frontispiece might be Stampington, Pennsylvania Dutch Border Rubber Stamp by me, and arts and crafts botanical tile pattern at the far right by me.

Take some plain paper or decorative paper with a subtle pattern on it and stamp some background stamps on it in complementary ink colors to make it more interesting. If your paper is interesting enough without this step you can skip it.

I own a lot of rubber stamping ink pads, but I don’t have one for every re-inker in my studio. If you want to save money and/or space, you can just buy a re-inker instead of a pad and apply the ink to a palette with a brayer. Then you can roll the ink onto the stamp, or for small stamps just press it on the inked palette. This works best when you want to do a lot of stamping with the same color – when you only want to do a little bit of stamping a pad is much more convenient. When you’re done stamping, if there is any ink left on the palette you can sprinkle a little water on it, lay down a piece of plain paper and burnish it. It’s a fun way to make interesting backgrounds. You can even draw or stamp or make marks into the ink to do a form of monoprinting. When I first took printmaking class, I got into what I could do with the palette at least as much as the printing blocks that I carved. The picture shows a piece of plexiglass as a palette, I’ve also used at various time palette paper, waxed paper, and the shiny side of freezer paper.

Place decorative paper back side up on your work surface. Place the Seed Packet Template Small that you printed out on the paper and trace around with pencil. Cut out envelope and fold in tabs. A thin ruler or straight edge is a good helper for making folds. Go over the folds with a squeegee tool or bone folder.

Envelpoes cut out before they are folded

With a glue stick, glue all the tabs on the envelope except the top tab. Leave that one open so you can add seeds later.

Fronts and back of assembled envelopes.

Once the envelope is assembled, if the front looks a little plain add some texture stamping along an edge or two. That’s really effective for adding interest.

I added stamping to the edges with some favorite texture stamps. The notebook page border stamp is by 7Gypsies, and the texture at the upper right is by Judikins.

Cut out a narrow strip of paper with a decorative scissors and stamp on it the word “Seeds” surrounded by small brackets. If you don’t have similar stamps in your collection you can use whatever stamps you have that fit the theme. Accent the strip with rubber stamping in lighter colors along the edges.

The Seeds stamp and the brackets are both from my own collection.

Glue the strip across the top of the envelope about a quarter of the way down or whatever looks right to your eye. Trim the ends after gluing if needed.

I glued on the strip that says “Seeds”, trimmed the strips to the edges of the envelopes, and got flower and leaf pieces in place to glue on.

Punch out a flower shaped piece of decorative paper and punch out a paper circle for the middle. Glue circle on flower and glue flower to the front of the envelope. An alternate idea is to cut out a leaf shape and a stem piece to make a leaf design for the front. I used a commercial punch for the flower and a pattern from a paper stack for the leaf. You can use whatever patterns and punches you have that you like if you don’t have these exact designs.

Stamp large brackets around the flower. I used unmounted bracket stamps, so the clear block you see is an acrylic block for temporarily mounting stamps with double sided tape or adhesive bits.

Pictured upper left: bracket stamps on an acrylic block. Upper right: stamping on a seed packet. Even though the clear acrylic block is a bit smudged from use you can still see through it to see where to stamp. The brackets stamps are temporarily attached with adhesive squares. Bottom: Finished seed packets.

Fill the packet with seeds, and write the name of the seeds and if you like growing information on the back of the envelope. You can obtain seeds by buying them in a garden center. This is also a charming way to package seeds you’ve harvested yourself to make a special and personal handmade gift for someone.

Next are holders for the packets

Next make holders so you can suspend the finished seed packets on skewer sticks to display them in a container of some kind. Perhaps a vase as in my example, or maybe a table centerpiece, a gift basket, a plant pot with garden tools or some other special container.

Download the template Seed Packet Holder Template for 2.5″ packet x 3.5″. You might only need to look at it for reference, but if it’s helpful as a cutting guide, cut out and mount the parts on scrap chipboard for durability.

Cut out a piece of card stock of a color that is harmonious with your seed packet, 3.5 x 9 inches. Fold it in half.

Lay the holder piece flat and unfolded on your cutting mat. Cut four diagonal slits through the front of the seed packet holder toward the corners using a craft knife and a metal ruler as a guide.

Punch small holes where indicated on the back of the seed packet.

Push a wooden skewer through the back of the holder so that the blunt end of the skewer ends up inside the holder butted up against the fold. Tape in place.

Slip your seed packet into the front of the holder.

Take four small flower embellishments in colors that go well with your seed packet and attach them to the corners. Depending on what kind of embellishement it is, you could use glue, adhesive dots or brads to attach.

Put double sided tape or adhesive dots along the sides and bottom inside your holder. Fold the front down and press halves together.

Arrange your packets in a vase or other container. You’re done!

Eclipse Doodle

Here is my eclipse doodle art from 4/8/24

Yesterday my Dad and I went to Hawn State Park in southern Missouri to watch the eclipse. I took my drawing and doodling supplies with me to help pass the time while waiting for the main event. We left fairly early because we knew there would be a lot of traffic and we got there about two hours before the sun started to get covered up. The state park had a nice parking area for us in a mowed field. We had a little picnic and I sat on a blanket doing an eclispe inspired piece of doodle art with colored ink pens and markers.

I am very grateful that I was able to do this. I’ve been in physical therapy for the last several weeks for an arm and wrist injury. I’ve been severely limited in my usual activities for the last couple of months but I’m getting better. I’m slowly adding in my normal activities one by one as I do exercises to get stronger. I’ve added back in crafting, gardening, and now drawing. A week ago my wrist hurt so badly that I could barely address an envelope. This is my first drawing since the injury. I did it without pain and my injury doesn’t feel worse this morning. I’m on the mend and I’m very thankful. I think sewing is the last normal activity to re-try.

When I started this doodle, I knew I wanted to do something inspired by the color wheel. I decided to make each color inspired by a stage of the eclipse. I just doodled whatever came into my mind. As we got closer to totality, I started setting the stopwatch on my phone to go off every 10 minutes – then I’d look at the sun through the eclipse glasses and draw something inspired by that phase.

I kind of had a vague image in my mind of a weird foldout from the Voynich Manuscript as I doodled.

Without looking at a copy of any of the manuscript pages as I drew, I was just trying to get the feel of it, trying to imagine how someone trying to penetrate deep mysteries without the answers that we take for granted now might have reacted.

EDIT 5/15/24: I’m going to have to come back and revise this section. Now that my water garden has grown in a bit more this spring I can see that the cattails sprouted where the Water Willow was last year and what I identified as Water Willow in this article is Cattails instead.

I was also inspired by some plants in our outdoor water garden. I have a small stream as part of our outdoor pond. It acts as part of our filtration system because I run water through lava rock and plants that are in it. One of the plants I grow is a Missouri native called American Water Willow. The stems have really interesting cross sections. I was also thinking about these stems as I was drawing.

Cross sections of American Water Willow stems in my water garden. I don’t know why it’s called water willow. The flowers seem orchid-like, and the leaves seem iris-like. Oh well, its beautiful and native so what’s not to like?

Sitting in the warm sun on a perfect day in a beautiful park with my Dad was a treat. And I proved I can draw again so I can resume my plein air drawing group activities and watercolor painting classes that I was taking before I got injured. That’s a big weight off my mind! I also have a class coming up that I’m teaching – my first since the COVID pandemic – and I’m relieved to know I’ll be able to do a good job.

I haven’t wanted to talk about the injury unless I absolutely have to because it’s scary and I was embarassed. For example I wasn’t able to brush my hair and it got so tangled I asked my husband to cut part of it off. I have about four hairs in each follicle for every one that most people have, so my hair dresser has told me. It doesn’t take much for it to turn into an inpenetrable mat. So I was looking like a Harpy Eagle or like I was trying to audition to be in Night Ranger until I got it fixed. I’m slowly getting my life back together and resuming normal activities. That is a relief because I’ve been very stressed out by not being able to do what I normally do. It’s easy to feel isolated if you have an injury. If you ask for help you don’t know if you are going to get helped or attacked because people think you should be getting well faster. It’s humbling and it really makes me have additional empathy for other people who are strugging with something similar, whether permanent or temporary. I’m more grateful than I can say that the therapy is working.

Victory Garden Update and a Recipe

On Martin Luther King Jr. day Tom and I attended a meeting for the Victory Garden at St. Catherine Laboure church where we volunteer. The garden serves multiple purposes. One of the primary missions is to raise produce for food pantries. We are going to be growing vegetables and herbs. One topic that came up in the meeting that has been making me think strategically is that different clientele at different food pantries have preferences for certain foods. If the clientele does not know how to prepare the vegetable or herb and is not familiar with it, they might leave it behind. The people at the Victory Garden have been learning what foods are in demand at what food pantry locations and have been adjusting the distribution and growing patterns to suit the local clientele.

In addition to adjusting supply, it was suggested to also adjust demand by distributing recipes. There are lots of reasons why everyone isn’t familiar with every vegetable or knows how to cook it. Some people are from parts of the world where the cuisine is different. Others might have a lack of grocery stores in their area so have less access to a variety of fresh foods. I also have known several people with plenty of access to food who have never learned to cook because they rely mostly on pizza and fast food. I have seen terrible health issues in some of my friends at relatively early ages due to this kind of deficient diet. It doesn’t have to be this way!

I have been blessed to have been taught to cook by my Mom who was not only a home gardener and a multiple culinary contest winner, but also had a very adventurous palette. She passed on knowledge of cooking and diverse food preferences to me and my late brother. When we were younger my brother and I used to get a silver dollar or a silver half-dollar from a great uncle if we finished all the food on our plates when we had dinner at his house. I guess we kind of neglected to admit that we almost always ate all our food, including the vegetables! We liked almost everything and had pretty hearty appetites. That was decent money when our weekly allowances were about that amount or not much more than that!

I am not a professional chef or food writer but I do like to publish recipes from time to time. I know so many people who are intimidated by food preparation. If I publish a simple recipe that I just made I hope that will inspire someone out there to try it. Since I cook a lot with herbs that I grow I also hope I can suggest ways of using them. A lot of people who don’t cook frequently are very intimidated by dried prepared herbs and spices, much less fresh ones. If you’ve been exposed to a wide range of herbs, spices and flavors your whole life you just know what goes together without having to follow a recipe. I don’t know how you teach this without long-term exposure but at least with a recipe I can show examples of combinations that work.

I am in terrible shape from recent inactivity so I’ll be using recipes from Weight Watchers and healthy recipe books a lot for inspiration as I try to increase my fitness. I inherited a lot of these books from my late uncle, brother, and grandmother. I often start from there and make modifications. If the results are good, I like to tell people about it!

Before I get to a simple new salad recipe, I’ll post links to my Fun With Food page (old but recipes still good!) and recipes of mine that are on blogs.

Fun With Food

The Food section on this blog

The Good Eating section on the Schnarr’s Hardware blog

Recipe: Beet and White Bean Salad with Sardines

Beet and White Bean Salad with Sardines
Beet and White Bean Salad with Sardines

For inspiration I used a recipe called “Dilled Beet and White Bean Salad” (Gagliardi 70) from a Weight Watchers cook book, but I made a lot of changes and substitutions. For one thing, we had no dill! It still turned out great. It really woke up my taste buds.

Ingredients

3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
2 tsp brown mustard
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic salt
2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 bag of mini sweet peppers, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp dried Parsley
1 tsp dried Basil
1 tsp dried celery pieces
1 jar sliced beets
1 can sardines
1 bag fresh mixed salad greens, such as spring mix, spinach/arugula mix, or something similar
Nutritional yeast

Directions

Get out a large mixing bowl. Open the can of sardines and empty the juice into the bowl. Set drained sardines aside.

Add to the bowl the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, garlic salt, Parsley, Basil and celery pieces. Mix well with a whisk.

Add the drained beans, chopped peppers, onion and tomatoes. Toss well.

Place greens on plates and spoon about 1/4 of the vegetables over the greens per serving. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Arrange about 5 beet slices and 4 sardines on top of each salad. Enjoy!

Works Cited

Gagliardi, Nancy, Creative and Editorial Director. WeightWatchers Ultimate Flex&Core Cookbook. Weight Watchers International, 2006.

Are you anxious to get back out in your garden again? I know I am!

It’s been awhile since I updated the Schnarr’s blog calendar with gardening events. For the last couple of years most events have been cancelled or online. But a few in person events are starting to happen again, along with a lot of webinars and online sessions.

I’ve put some St. Louis based events, be they in person or virtual, on the Schnarr’s Blog calendar here:
http://schnarrsblog.com/calendar/

I’ve also added some pins to a couple of sections of the Schnarr’s Pinterest site to help people find gardening related webinars and on-demand content from all over the country.

Gardening Webinars and Online Courses

Garden Educational Videos, eBooks, Slide Shows and Podcasts On Demand

In the St. Louis area where I am, it’s a bit rainy and cold right at the moment and it’s possible that tasks you were looking forward to doing in the garden might be postponed for a few days. If you’re forced to be more indoors than you’d like, maybe some online gardening content will help you maintain a healthy state of mind. Enjoy!

Dad is on the left, Rosie Willis on the right. 03-26-2022

This past Saturday my Dad and I blew some of the winter dust out of our bodies and minds by volunteering at Fresh Starts Community Garden. It was Dad’s first time here while I’ve been to this garden a couple of times before. It was uplifting as always to spend a little time with the inspiring and kind leader Rosie Willis and the other volunteers. I get praised a lot when I volunteer, but it’s likely I get more out of it than I give – gardening makes me happy wherever I do it! And it’s always uplifting to be in the company of people who are working hard to help their neighbors.

This week those of us who are St. Louis Master Gardeners got some nice validation by getting the Master Gardener 2021 Impact Statement PDF document in our email. If you would like to see what we did in 2020 and 2021, check out these links:

2021 St. Louis Master Gardener Impact Statement

2020 St. Louis Master Gardener Impact Statement

I’ve been reading in the last year or two about biophilia – in so many words it is the human tendency to feel a sense of well being while exposed to nature. As I’ve learned from reading horticultural therapy books, in addition to spending time in or around actual nature, pictures, video and sounds from gardens can make people feel better mentally and physically. I hope the resources I’ve linked to can help give you some good feelings immediately whether you have to be inside or outside.

Here is a link to my photo album on Facebook of some of the past master gardener activities I’ve enjoyed since completing my training in 2016.

Master Gardener Activities

Here is a link to Fresh Starts Community Garden on Facebook.

Fresh Starts Community Garden

Happy Spring!

St. Catherine Victory Garden

Tom and I have been volunteering at a new community garden, named St. Catherine Victory Garden, at our parish, St. Catherine Laboure in Sappington. Organizer Deanna Violette compared the challenges of recent history to World War II, when people grew extra produce to support the nation through a trying time.

The St. Louis Review has published an excellent article that explains the goals and benefits that the new garden provides. Read about it here: Parish gardeners aim to share healthy food with pantry

At the end of this blog post are scans of the printed article.

Several organizations within the St. Catherine Laboure parish are collaborating on the garden, with support and knowledge from the following outside regional organizations:

On Saturday, I’m scheduled to volunteer at another community garden affiliated with Gateway Greening, Fresh Starts Community Garden which is led by Rosie Willis and affiliated with the North Newstead Association in St. Louis, the Regional Business Council and possibly others.

Photos from volunteering at Fresh Starts Community Garden – click right arrow to scroll through.

A blog post I wrote after our last volunteer session at Fresh Starts – Community Gardens, Health, and Food Security

When we as a society are tested with hardship, the kinds of leaders I want to follow are those who bring Americans together rather than separating them into opposing factions for the divide-and-conquer type of political power. I will be continuing to help at both gardens with whatever work is needed at the time I volunteer and also special projects that I’m taking on. I’ll be writing about these activities on my blog as they happen. I’m looking forward to a summer full of sharing, teaching, learning and growing!

St. Louis Review clipping from June 7-13 edition, page 6.
St. Louis Review clipping from June 7-13 2021 edition, page 6.
Clipping from St. Louis Review, June 7-13 2021 edition, page 7
Clipping from St. Louis Review, June 7-13 2021 edition, page 7.

Community Gardens, Health, and Food Security

I work part-time at a hardware store. We have a lawn and garden department, and within it we sell vegetable, herb and flower seeds. Last spring and summer, the demand for seeds was higher than normal while at the same time supply chains for many retail products were disrupted. As a result we ran out of many seeds. As a St. Louis Master Gardener, it’s part of my personal mandate to help people garden. Sometimes I try to help with information, sometimes with my labor, sometimes I distribute my extra seeds and plants for people to try out.

Last summer’s growing season was an unfortunate time to experience a shortage of seeds, because the COVID-19 pandemic has put extra pressure on some sources of food. There is not only the economic effect of many people losing their normal sources of income, but the disruption in the labor pool and supply chain, as thankfully brief as much of it was, forced us to think about the security of our food supply more than many of us normally have to. At a time when there was less ability to buy food, the opportunity for volunteer efforts to help people get the food they need was also diminished. Some food pantries had to temporarily close or reduce their hours of operation. In-person St. Louis Master Gardener efforts were halted, so I could not go to help at a Community Garden site. Besides donating a modest amount of money to a food pantry, my husband and I tried to distribute extra seeds and plants to anyone we could get them to.

It’s beneficial for the security of the food supply, for everyone who has the means and the time, to learn how to grow plants and food. Although anyone can jump in and start at any time, growing serious amounts of food is not easy and takes a lot of time and effort to learn to do well. Growing serious amounts of food requires learning how to maintain healthy soil. Growing serious amounts of food requires learning how to maintain a sustainable amount of beneficial organisms such as invertebrates and fungi in the ecosystem. All of these activities are fascinating hobbies that can be pressed into service any time there is a food crisis. And the health benefits of gardening, both mental and physical, create a more resilient population for any challenge we might face in life. For those reasons and more, I think home or community gardening is one of the best pursuits anyone can undertake, regardless of current financial status. You never know when you’ll be extra thankful for the opportunity to go to your own backyard to get some fresh food, or when you’ll have the opportunity to pass on plants, seeds or knowledge on to someone in need.

Tom and I at Fresh Starts Community GardenTom and I were grateful to have the opportunity to start volunteering in person again. Recently we volunteered at the Fresh Starts Community Garden in St. Louis at a volunteer session sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council. It was satisfying to share our labor and knowledge while learning about the needs of community gardeners as well.


Fresh Starts Community Garden in St. Louis – volunteer day

In our most recent church bulletin, there was an article about food security with a helpful graph that I’ll share here. Food security is defined in the article as “…the lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food-insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medicine, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods”.

The graph helps show how much potential there is for gardens of all kinds to have positive impacts on human life and health. Even when people have the money to buy food, and healthy food available to buy, there are a lot of people who could use some encouragement and training in the life skills of choosing and preparing the food. The satisfaction of growing and harvesting for the table naturally leads to exploring ways to cook and store the delicious, life giving produce. If you are seeking health, a sense of community, solace, purpose, independence and agency in your life, I think growing plants is one of the very best things you can do for yourself and for humankind.

Emergency Winter Help For Backyard Birds

Yesterday my husband was off work on a snow day, and one of the activities we did together was watch a webinar on winter birding. There were questions at the end about how to make sure our backyard birds are taken care of during the current harsh winter weather.

In my garden are a lot standing plants with seed heads that are still pretty full, so backyard birds that can eat those kinds of seeds can always get food. There is a pond heater that I bought from Schnarr’s Hardware, where I work part time, that keeps a melted hole open in the surface ice of our pond as long as I periodically remove the layer of drifting snow, so our birds have a steady supply of water too. What we were reminded of in the webinar is that all birds can’t eat all varieties of seed, and some birds who depend more on fruit and insects may be going hungry right now. As emergency help, I hastily prepared a couple of bowls of extra food – some sliced oranges, chopped apples, peanut butter, jelly, cat food and a little extra seed. As extra protection against the food getting covered up with snow, you can put such bowls under a shelter of some kind, or in a feeder that has a cover. At Schnarr’s we also sell dried mealworms and suet cakes and feeders, which most birds love and are especially beneficial for heavy insect-eating birds that need protein.

Eastern Bluebirds, the Missouri State Bird, are an example of a heavy insect-eating species that needs a lot of protein. In the suburbs where I live, it’s not easy to get this sought after but not very common bird into a backyard to view because they are highly impacted by habitat and food loss from human altered landscapes. However, I saw one in our neighborhood a few weeks ago so I’m happy to know there is some good habitat in the vicinity. There is a large cemetery nearby which probably helps a great deal.

Emergency food for outdoor birds
Emergency food for outdoor birds

Here are links to other articles I’ve written that might help you enjoy your backyard birds:

Make Suet Cakes for Outdoor Birds

How to Raise Mealworms For Your Backyard Birds

Are Starlings Taking Over Your Bird Feeders?

Gardening for the Birds

There are some recorded webinars on the University of Illinois Extension YouTube archive that have more information about backyard birding in the winter and many other great topics. Enjoy!

University of Illinois Extension videos

Book Reviews

Through my Master Gardener work at Litzinger Road Ecology Center, a project of Missouri Botanical Garden, I’m a member of a book club for volunteers. Since we have not been doing volunteer work or educational enrichment in person lately, our book club helps to keep us in touch with each other through online meetings and keeps our minds expanding.

I haven’t had much time lately to read anything except textbooks and write anything except papers since I am in graduate school, though so far I’ve been able to fit in book club readings and discussions. For the next two and half months or so I’m going to be working on some independent study which should result in a little more time to read and write about more varied topics. One of my favorite things to write is book reviews! The first three books I’m going to review here are recent readings from our book club, and the last one is an old book that I read a long time ago and used for my most recent paper, resulting in a refreshed perspective on it and renewed appreciation.

Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn
Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn

“Never Home Alone” by Rob Dunn
There are many organisms that we live with but don’t think much about. In some cases, they are small to begin with, and are secretive or live in parts of our homes that we don’t regularly access. Others are too tiny to be seen without scientific equipment. The study of these types of organisms is a much younger field of science compared to that of the larger organisms that humans have been able to easily access for millenia. This book explains how human curiosity started to unlock some of this secret world that goes on around us, and even in and on us. You’ll also learn about exciting recent discoveries and areas that are unexplored and ripe for new studies. If you know someone who is interested in science this book might help turn them on to a field that is both relatively new and potentially very important to the human condition.

We live in a time when we are encouraged to have unwavering faith in a technocracy and questioning anything scientists or members of the technocracy say is treated by mainstream culture as heresy. In addition to being fascinating subject matter in it’s own right, this book is a good reminder to lay people such as myself that scientists are not superhuman, they don’t know everything and no one is above being questioned. Here is a quote I like from page 214: “Scientists aren’t supposed to discount hypotheses that they find boring and unfortunate, but they do…” I think we should all be cautious if someone tells us everything that can be known about something is already known. We can all think of many instances in history where that has been asserted, incorrectly. I believe curiosity should be encouraged whenever possible and this book certainly appeals to that part of human nature!

The Incredible Journey of Plants by Stefano Mancuso
The Incredible Journey of Plants by Stefano Mancuso

“The Incredible Journey of Plants”
by Stefano Mancuso
Similar to our first book club selection above, “The Incredible Journey of Plants” is a science book written so that a lay audience can access the information without having to read academic papers. It’s shorter in length than “Never Home Alone” and the watercolor illustrations are artistic and fanciful rather than strictly informational. Although the illustrations are lovely, in my opinion they would have benefitted from more variety in concepts since they are very prominent in the overall presentation.

If you enjoy plants, learning more about how amazing their survival, propagation and adaptation capabilities are from this book is likely to increase your fascination. The author provides some global perspective to the importance of plants to humans and the interplay between plants and world history. Although it contains scientific information, this is a book that you would probably use most often to access your capability for inspiration and wonder rather than as a horticultural reference book.

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

“Things in Jars” by Jess Kidd
“Things in Jars” is detective fiction that is set in the Victorian era. That might sound like a conventional premise, but this author adds in supernatural and fantasy elements with a poetic approach to the language creating results that are very bizarre, in a good way. This is not a “cozy” mystery with genteel characters and situations. There is considerable gore and dark abuse reflecting the hardships of the Victorian era that went along with the whimsy, mannered culture and scientific progress of the time that we often see portrayed in fiction. The “Things In Jars” of the title are sought after by scientists, collectors, curiosity exhibitors, mercenaries and detectives who all have conflicting purposes in mind for the specimens in question.

Although I have read a great deal of detective fiction, fantasy is not one of my favorite genres so at first I had a hard time getting interested in the story which has as characters ghosts and mythical creatures along with examples of Victorian era denizens that are more grounded in reality even if they are flamboyantly exaggerated. There are a lot of flashbacks and a lot of characters with similarities to each other, so I found the story to be occasionally confusing. I can think of two or three categories of players that could have been streamlined to make the story easier to follow. Despite that, if this author wanted to use the lead characters and situations to make a detective series out of this novel, I would be interested in reading more. It took considerable mental effort on my part to get into this world, but once there I was in no hurry to get back out. For example I could spend a lot more time with an eccentric scientist in a laboratory at the top of a converted windmill with a pet raven – lets go back there please! That’s one of my favorite aspects of a detective series, you don’t have to get used to a whole new world each time you read an installment.

Pulling Your Own Strings by Dr. Wayne Dyer
Pulling Your Own Strings by Dr. Wayne Dyer

“Pulling Your Own Strings” by Dr. Wayne Dyer
This book was first published in 1978. I first read this book in the late 1980s, when I was in college (the first time). It turned out to be one of the most influential books I have ever read. At many points in all of our lives, individuals and institutions are going to try to get you to disregard your own inclinations in behavior and thought so that your actions will benefit them, rather than yourself.

In my most recent research paper for the class Media Organization Regulations, I explained some of the sources of my theory that abuse is so mainstream in our society that we often don’t recognize when it’s happening. I got out my old copy of “Pulling Your Own Strings” to use in the paper because I remembered there were examples of the kinds of tactics I wanted to write about in the book, both personal and societal, and I wanted to make the patterns easy to recognize and understand. My jaw actually fell open re-reading parts of this book because the ideas contained within it are just as important now as in the 1970s, if not even more so. It seems from my point of view that individualism and thinking for oneself are less popular in our culture than they have ever been and we are shamed if we claim our right to question what we are told and why. This book reminds me that when people, institutions and society treat you that way it’s because they want something from you and it’s not likely to be what is in your best interests. I have read this book so many times the cover fell off some time ago, but it’s been a long while since the last reading – way too long. It’s going to go back to a spot where I can refer to it frequently. The dominant culture is working hard to separate all of us from our sources of strength to conform to their vision of how we should live – this book affirms the rights of all human beings to mentally reclaim our own agency and helps us practice building the courage we’ll need to do it.

Historic Preservation Weekend in Sullivan, MO

 removing invasive euonymus and honeysuckle
Tom and I are pictured removing invasive honeysuckle and euonymus from the Shamrock Courts in Sullivan, MO. In the center all the volunteers are having a lunch break.

On November 7 and 8th, 2020, members of the Route 66 Association of Missouri and other volunteers worked on a historic preservation project at the Shamrock Courts in Sullivan, MO. The Shamrock Courts were an historic Route 66 motel that was later converted to apartments and then left empty for over a decade. The goals of the volunteers on this cleanup weekend were to preserve the buildings, get the property cleaned up and looking good to help it find a good buyer who will restore it, and to look for artifacts and history to pass on to the new owners and to the historic record of Route 66.

I was only able to go on Sunday the 8th because I had a lot of homework, but was nevertheless very pleased to make my contribution. My husband Tom joined me. I concentrated on removing invasive vegetation from the building and the surrounding property. Removing the invasive vegetation helps with preservation because it prevents fast growing trees and vines from gradually prying apart bits of the buildings.  In addition taking seeds and parts of the plants that can grow away from the property helps to prevent regrowth and the cost of future labor to remove it. I may be back because there is a lot more to do!

Artifacts that thrill Route 66 fans
Artifacts that thrill Route 66 fans

When you can find actual historic details and artifacts, it’s an extra reward. For Route 66 fans, to see the outside of buildings like this is exciting, but it’s even better when you can get permission to get close and even go inside to discover things that you may not ever see during a “drive-by” photo op visit, or in a book. Historic finds, like the neon sign tubing we are holding up in the center photo, add to the historic value of the property as well as the satisfaction for history-loving owners and volunteers.

Personally, the day I spent at the Shamrock was extra special because it was on the 21st anniversary weekend of attending my first Route 66 Association of Missouri meeting and the first weekend of exploring Route 66 in Missouri with my Mom and Dad. We stayed at the Boots Motel and stopped for classic roadside sights for the first time such as Red Oak II and Bill’s Station. The following year I became a lifetime member of the Route 66 Association of Missouri!

Experience some of the thrill of discovery with these videos by Roamin’ Rich Dinkela, President of the Route 66 Association of Missouri!

Day 2 of saving the Shamrock

Finding the neon sign tubing!