Planting Your Garden

Spring is here! As we put those tender seedlings into the ground, up sprouts the constant question: should I go Organic, or should I show up my neighbors by using Miracle Grow? Will I poison my children if I use it on my tomatoes? Is my neighbor’s cancer due to Round Up™, and did it blow over into my yard? If a lawncare company treated my grass, are my grass clippings poisoning my compost?

So many questions for such a busy season!

“Organic” is a shady term to start with. We think of hippies and happy sheep, and fields strewn with mulch and recycled orange peels, when in reality it just means the land cannot have been treated with synthetic pesticides, fertilizers (including Miracle Grow), or GMOs for three years. Sounds nice, right? Except that two of the three companies licensed by the USDA to certify organic farms are for-profit (Oregon Tilth is not). The farmer wanting to be certified pays the company to license them. That’s like paying a teacher to give you a grade. The problem is worse overseas: 100 countries export “organic” produce to the USA, and though they are supposed to abide by US law, the countries inspect and license their own. And let’s not forget that a good percentage of “organic fertilizer” in many countries is human in origin.  (The E. coli that keeps poisoning lettuce is usually animal in origin).

Won’t chemical fertilizers like Miracle Grow poison me? No. Plants don’t care where the nutrients come from, horse manure or a green and yellow box. Plants use them the same way. The issues with Miracle Grow are 1) the concentration of ammonium phosphate may be too high for some plants. MG makes different formulas for roses, tomatoes, azaleas, etc. Choose the one you need. 2) The greatest issue for chemical fertilizers is that heavy rains can wash a recent fertilizing away. If twelve homes get washout, and it flows into the brook behind them, too high a concentration in water systems can cause algal blooms that suck up oxygen and kill wildlife.

Okay, but what about Round Up™? If I kill the dandelions in my walk, won’t I die?

Uh, that’s a loaded question. Yes, more than 14 countries have banned Round Up (chemical: glyphosate), and while the courts have said yes, Round Up causes cancer, the US maintains it does not. And there’s the difference: In Europe, you must prove a chemical is safe before it hits the market, and that’s hard to do. In the US, chemicals are presumed innocent and you must prove they’re harmful – which is really easy to sidestep even with math and science. In America, it is up to the manufacturer to show their product is harmful, not the government (Got that? The man making and marketing the product must show that what he’s selling is harmful.) When the people with highest exposure to Round Up were studied (ie, farm workers), they had a 41% higher risk of a type of cancer called Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. People with heavy, frequent exposure over time. NO risk was found in people who go outside three times a year and spritz a weed. If you want to use it, do so sparingly, wear rubber gloves, and wash with soap immediately after, and whatever you do, don’t inhale it. 

But if those chemicals wind up in my compost bin, won’t they pollute my compost? Mm, depends. According to John Reganold, Professor of Soil Science at Washington State University, “The heat and microbial action of most compost piles break down many produce pesticides.” So don’t feel bad throwing that non-organic banana peel in the pile. BUT: some pesticides (like clopyralid – Reclaim) can become concentrated. Things like termiticides bind to the soil and last a long time.  And even treated and composted animal/human waste can still contain parasites. If in doubt, buy local, where you can ask what might have been sprayed on the food.

But rest easy: Miracle Grow has never been shown to cause cancers.

So, is organic worth it? Depends on what you’re willing to pay. The most chemical-contaminated foods in the grocery store are strawberries, peaches (more than 57 pesticides on one sample), celery, lettuce and greens (and that’s not counting the E. coli risk), and most other fruit. If you want to reduce your pesticide ingestion, consider buying organic just for fruits (or grow your own), and wash, wash, wash what you do bring home.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are about the best thing there is for your body, and growing your own, organic or not, is a fun (and tasty) experiment anyone can do anywhere. Try growing some popcorn, or a yellow or brown or purple heirloom tomato. Pole beans are great for kids, because they grow incredibly fast and are very prolific, as are grape tomatoes (so why are they so expensive?).

No matter which method you use, read further on gardening in these topical books:

Starter Vegetable Gardens : 24 no-fail plans for small organic gardens by Barbara Pleasant

Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

101 Organic Gardening Hacks : eco-friendly solutions to improve any garden by Shawna Coronado

Rodale’s All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, edited by Fern Marshall Bradley and Barbara W. Ellis

Organic Gardening for Dummies / by Ann Whitman, Suzanne DeJohn,

The Organic Lawn Care Manual  by Paul Tukey

Vegetable Gardening : from planting to picking by Fern Marshall Bradley, Jane Courtier

High-Yield Vegetable Gardening : grow more of what you want in the space you have by  Colin McCrate and Brad Halm

Northeast Fruit & Vegetable Gardening : plant, grow, and eat the best edibles for Northeast gardens by Charles Nardozzi

The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible by Edward C. Smith

 

This is Your Brain on Podcasts – a new kind of on-the-go storytelling

PodcastingPodcasting is rapidly becoming the newest and most easily consumable form of storytelling. As of June 2018, iTunes features more than 500,000 active podcasts, including content in more than 100 languages and over 18.5 million episodes. Now if you’re new to podcasts, this number can be overwhelming, how are you supposed to sift through a sea of seemingly endless possibilities to find the hosts, and topic, that keep you listening? To be fair, a lot of listening is trial and error. Maybe you don’t like the hosts tone, or their voice, or maybe the topic just doesn’t grab your attention, but stay vigilant, there are enough podcasts in the world for everyone, there must be one for you! I’ve compiled a list of podcasts that are easy to get into for beginners, based on (of course) your favorite books, all of which can be found at the Cheshire Public Library!

Note : The podcast’s listed here may be explicit, or contain explicit language. 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood- The most chilling part of the world that          Atwood has created is that it has a strong basis in history, a history that is doomed to repeat itself. If you love history, and the dark origins behind common folklore, you’ll love Lore. Aaron Mahnke, the host and author himself, draws you into the rich history that paints our modern day nightmares. Tune in to learn the humble origins of the werewolf, how fairies terrified and mystified pilgrims, and how Krampus, the Christmas demon, still receives tribute every year in a tiny town in Germany. It’ll make you wish all history classes were this interesting. Released every two weeks on Mondays, Lore is an award-winning podcast that will soon be produced into a television series on Amazon. With 6-million monthly listeners, it has been awarded as iTunes’ “Best of 2015” and “Best of 2016” podcast.

Want to check out more of Mahnke’s writing? Check out his novel list here.

Do you comb the stacks looking for self help books, that lay forgotten about because, really, who has time? Don’t feel alone in this pursuit, it’s hard to read someone else’s proA1J-Xl6I7CLmises of a better life. After all, who really has all the answers? One book I found refreshingly honest is Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things . Lawson, an American journalist, author, and blogger, is known for her hysterically skewed outlook on life, and her candor about her struggles with depression and mental illness. If you’re looking for a podcast that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and focuses on the bright side of life, look no further than Wonderful! , a podcast for joyful and enthusiastic peopwonderful cover art final_57le that like hearing about the passions, big and small, of other people. Each week Rachel and Griffin McElroy will talk about things they love and invite listeners to write in with their treasured items of enthusiasm. Topics may include movies, television, sports, books, drinks, eats, animals, methods of transportation, cooking implements, types of clothing, places in the world, imaginary places, fictional characters, and fonts, to name a few. It’s a delightfully sweet and genuine series, and a quick break from a world full of negatives.

Now if you’re a true crime lover like me, I’m always searching for a new case to dissect, and foJacketr a new podcast or book that leads me through the facts of the case. That’s exactly why I was drawn to Adnan’s Story : The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial . A full-length account of the story investigated by the award-winning Serial podcast draws on some 170 documents and letters to trace the experiences of Adnan Syed, who in 2000 was sentenced to life for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and who the author and other supporters are certain is innocent. Ifserial-itunes-logo you want to listen to the podcast that brought the case to light in the first place, check out Serial season one. I’d compare it to a classic radio drama, the pacing and tone is incredible and keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the journalistic research that goes into every episode is admirable. It’s a great place to start if you’re just getting into true crime podcasts, or need something to listen to after binging the first and second season of Making a Murderer on Netflix.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a podcast that brings the book club to your home (without having people over to your actual home), look no further than Overdueoverdue-podcast-642x336. Overdue is a podcast about the books you’ve been meaning to read. Join Andrew and Craig each week as they tackle a new title from their backlog. Classic literature, obscure plays, goofy murder mysteries: they’ll read it all, one overdue book at a time. While not actively encouraging you to return your books late (insert finger wagging from behind the return’s desk) this podcast encourages the over zealous reader in all of us to take the time to head back into the stacks for the book you might not have otherwise checked out.

If you’re having trouble accessing podcast’s or don’t know how to start, check out this easy to use guide provided by  Gimlet : How to start listening. It’ll take you step by step on how to both download, and enjoy the hundreds of podcasts iTunes has to offer.

 

 

 

Science Fiction and the Red Planet

Today’s post is by our sci-fi-guy, Harold Kramer.

Mars, our nearest planetary neighbor, has always fascinated science fiction writers here on planet earth.  Science fiction about Mars began with Jules Verne and his 1865 novel From Earth to the Moon.  This novel, like many others by Verne, was accurate in concept, although technology in his day made many of his ideas impossible to execute.

During the first half of the 20th century, science fiction writers were obsessed with Martians. Belligerent Martians invaded earth in H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds even caused a nationwide panic.  Written in 1950, The Martian Chronicles, a collection of strange and haunting short stories by Ray Bradbury were about an expedition to the red planet. Another early Mars novel was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs who was a master of fast-moving adventure stories, whether in the jungle with Tarzan or on the moon with the Princess.  I have recently re-read some of these early science fiction novels and, while definitely not scientifically accurate, they still are good reads.

Beginning in the 1970s, the first NASA and Russian probes and rovers obtained real scientific data about Mars. Once sci fi writers realized that there were no little green men on Mars, science fiction tackled more realistic Martian topics and focused on the challenges of human colonization on the red planet.  A major sci fi theme was terraforming Mars to make it into a self-sustaining environment that was fit for life that developed on earth. Another major theme was what type of society and governmental structure might exist in a Mars colony.

One of the first works that explored these ideas was The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. This series consists of three books:  Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. Red Mars won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1993.  Blue Mars won the 1997 Hugo Award. The trilogy begins with Red Mars when the first colonists arrive on Mars and simply try to survive. Green Mars and Blue Mars and continue the story one hundred years in the future when Mars has been terraformed into a green and politically independent world. My favorite of the three is the first book, Red Mars.

Ben Bova has written four related novels about Mars: Mars, Return to Mars, Mars Inc. and Mars Life. The planet Mars is the fourth  stop on his Grand Tour – a series of related novels that take place in the 21st Century and that focus on exploration and colonization of every planet in our solar system.  I enjoy reading Ben Bova’s books because of his clear writing, scientific imagination, and expansive ideas.

The Martian by Andy Weir, written in 2011, is my favorite book about Mars.  I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it.   It won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction in 2014 and the Audie Award in 2015 for best science fiction audio book. The Martian is a modern-day Robinson Crusoe story about an American astronaut who is presumed dead but who is actually alive and stranded on Mars. What makes it so interesting is that the technology is highly credible, and the writing is taut. It was made into a movie in 2015 that was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Matt Damon.

​Many other great science fiction novelists have written about Mars.  These include Greg Bear’s Moving Mars and Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars. Also notable are Larry Niven’s Rainbow Mars and Robert Heinlein’s classic, Stranger in a Strange Land.

Although this is a science-fiction blog post, I would like to mention a non-fiction book about Mars and planetary exploration and colonization. It is called The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and our Destiny Beyond Earth, by physicist Michio Kaku.  This scientifically based work is an extraordinary projection of the future of humanity as it moves from earth to the stars.

May is Cheshire Food Pantry Month

In the state of Connecticut, 414,730 people are struggling with hunger – and of them 117,380 are children. Here in Cheshire, one might hope these statistics don’t apply to our residents, but of course, we are not immune to the problem. The Cheshire  Food Pantry is a community organization that provides food in situations for all eligible individuals and families in need, regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, or disability.
 The Cheshire Food Pantry is different from many food pantries because it uses a client-choice model in which clients are allowed the freedom to select their own groceries. This model provides food subsidies to low income families in crisis, while nurturing their ability to be independent and take control of their life.
For the month of May, we are shining a light on the Cheshire Food Pantry with a Food for Fines campaign, and craft programs that will benefit the food pantry. Throughout the month, CPL will be accepting donations of non-perishable food and toiletry items in lieu of overdue fines on library materials.  All donations will be delivered to the Cheshire Food Pantry. 
According to Library Director Beth Crowley, “This is a great time for patrons who are returning library materials late or who have accumulated overdue fines to clear their record while helping someone in need.” Crowley said “We chose the month of May to run this program because, in speaking with the Cheshire Food Pantry, we discovered donations tend to drop off this time of year but the need is always there.”

Donations can be used to clear fines on materials that have been returned in good condition.  They will not be accepted for lost or damaged items.  There is no rate of exchange; a minimum of one donated item can be used to clear fines on one account.  A list of suggested items to donate is available at the Library and on our website at www.cheshirelibrary.org/food-for-fines All donations must be non-perishable, unopened and cannot be expired. (Items of particular need include: Jar Pasta Sauce, Mayonnaise, Canned Peaches, Fruit Cups, Crackers, Toilet Paper, Tissues, Paper Towels. )

We also have 2 programs for kids and families to create totes for Food Pantry users. Caring Crafts is a twice-monthly program for kids in grades K-6 to make things while making the world a better place. We’re getting extra-creative this month and decorating canvas tote bags for food pantry clients on May 9th, and on May 23rd we’re making birthday cards for kids who use the food pantry.  Crafters and artists of any age are invited to decorate totes at Crafting for a Cause on Wednesday, May 22nd. We’ll supply art materials and design ideas if you need some inspiration, but feel free to bring your own designs and your own supplies. We’re making one tote for each of the 130 food pantry clients, so you’ll have plenty of blank canvas (literally) to create something beautiful! Please register in advance for these programs.

Want to learn more about the problem of hunger in America? Here are some resources at CPL:

A Place at the Table / Participant Media presents a Catalyst Films/Silverbush production ; a Lori Silverbush/Kristi Jacobson film ; produced by Julie Goldman, Ryan Harrington ; produced and directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush  (DVD | 2013, rated PG)

Hunger in America : Issues and Assistance edited by Gaston T. LaBue (E-Book)

Hunger : A Modern History by James Vernon (E-Book)

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What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in May

Some art, some history, some travel, and more is on the agenda for May – check out our Events Calendar for details on all the programs blooming this month! Here’s a preview:

SPRING BOOK SALE!

The Friends of the Cheshire Library are excited to announce their annual Spring Book Sale! The book sale features more than 15,000 books of every possible genre. Adult and children’s titles are available in both hard and soft cover editions and are priced from 50 cents to $2.

Preview Night!
Wednesday, May 1st, 6:30pm – 8pm
Preview night is for Friends members only.
Memberships may be purchased at the door.
Book Sale:
Thursday, May 2nd, 9am – 8pm
Friday, May 3rd, 9am – 4:30pm
Saturday, May 4th, 9am – 4:30pm
Bag of Books Sale:
Sunday, May 5th, 12pm – 3pm
Fill a bag with books and pay only $10.
A second bag is just $5!

 

Color and Form in Abstract Art

Wednesday, May 1, 2019, 6:00 – 8:15pm

Artist Elizabeth Gourlay discusses her use of the nuances of color and form in her abstract paintings and works on paper, which she compares to musical compositions. Gourlay incorporates  warmth and gesture into all of her works, whose layered vocabulary of abstract forms emerges from her thoughts, emotions and observations of the world. No registration required, sponsored by the Cheshire Art League.

Open Art Studio in the Library Loft

Fridays from 1:00 – 3:00pm

Bring your works in progress and supplies (no turpentine, please!) to this drop-in art program. This is an opportunity to create in a collaborative environment with other artists. No formal instruction will be provided, but informal critiquing for those who want it is encouraged. Table covers will be provided. There is a sink in the room for basic cleanup.

Terrific Tweens

Make a CD Hovercraft! Wednesday, May 8, 2019, 4:00 – 4:45pm

Lemon Power! Wednesday May 22, 2019, 4:00 – 4:45pm

Kids are invited for fun with art, science, technology, and games. We’ll assemble robots & contraptions, play with our food, create fun works of art, and bring video games to life! For grades 5-8, no registration required.

New Movie Thursday: Welcome to Marwen

Thursday, May 9, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Did you miss the screening of a film you wanted to see in theatres?  Join us for the first Thursday of the month for a screening of a recently released film. May’s movie is Welcome to Marwen starring Steve Carrell. A victim of a brutal attack finds a unique and beautiful therapeutic outlet to help him through his recovery process. Rated PG-13. Registration is appreciated.

Author Talk:  Soldiers of a Foreign War

Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Vietnam Veteran, Dr. Charles McNair, shares his novel that presents the Vietnam War in all its conflicted complexity. It is told from the enlisted soldiers’ perspective and deals with the American and Vietnamese’s, North and South, all teenagers, experiences as they leave their families and enter their countries’ respective armies. Registration is required.

Armchair Traveling

Discovering France: Wednesday, May 15, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Mexico and Central America: Wednesday, May 29, 2019,  6:30 – 8:00pm

Come and join us on the journey to different parts of these magnificent regions. During our journey through France, we will visit Paris, the Palace of Versailles, Giverny, Normandy, the Loire Valley and the Southern region.  For our look at Mexico and Central America, we will look at photos of traditional landscapes and architecture of the Aztecs and Mayans and then look at contemporary tourism landscapes. Please register separately for each program.

Katharine Hepburn: From Hartford to Hollywood

Thursday, May 16, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Born and raised in Connecticut, Katherine Hepburn had a career in stage, film and television that reflected the changing role of women in broader society.  The story of her life-long ties to Connecticut offers a complete picture of how Hepburn became the woman and the star she was. Registration is required.

Improving Your Life Through Meditation

Monday, May 20, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Meditation can bring about a sense of calm and balance that benefits both your emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. Join Clare Vidich for this enjoyable and informative meditation workshop for new or experienced meditators. Registration is required.

Crafting for a Cause

Wednesday, May 22, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Unleash your artistic side while making your community a better place! Come and decorate canvas totes to be donated to the Cheshire Food Pantry. The Library will supply the totes and art supplies, but feel free to bring art materials from home! This program is open to adults and children of all ages. Please register in advance so we can provide enough supplies. Please register in advance.

Books Over Coffee: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 12:00 – 1:30pm

Want to engage in great discussions about books? Meet new people? Eat lunch with friends? Join us for an adult monthly book club program called “Books Over Coffee.”  Books are available each month ahead of time, and will be available in audio & ebook format.  Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is our May selection. You bring your lunch, we’ll provide the coffee and tea! Registration is required.

Author Talk: The Dogs of Camelot: Stories of the Kennedy Canines

Thursday, May 30, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Join us as Joan Lownds talks about her book  The Dogs of Camelot: Stories of the Kennedy Canines, which illuminates the inside story of the Kennedys’ lifelong love of dogs and the unparalleled canine corps they brought to the White House. Through cooperation with the Kennedy Library, the authors have access to rare and previously unpublished photos and stories that present a fascinating angle about the Kennedys that is deeply revealing about their character and compassion. Books will be available for purchase and signing after the talk. Registration is required.

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Don’t forget, May is Food for Fines Month!

Clear your fines! The Library is accepting donations of food and toiletries to benefit the Cheshire Food Pantry. Donations will clear fines on materials that have been
returned. Click here for details.