Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Maggie Stiefvater has done it again

The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maggie Stiefvater has done it again. This time with a well written dystopian novel about carnivorous water horses that come out of the ocean each year. They are captured and raced by the islanders with deadly results which attracts tourist to the small island. Like her Wolves of Mercy Falls series she had modified the mythology just enough to lure me into their world.
It's hard to believe that this is just another young adult novel. Maggie does a fantastic job of creating well rounded, believable charters through both their actions and conversation. Puck enters the race as a attempt to save her family, while Sean is a four time champion. This time he is racing for more than just a title. Reading from the authors unique dual protagonist style allow us a glimpse into both Puck and Sean's internal struggles. While the story was obviously building to the climatic race Maggie didn't short change us in resolution which is rich and meaningful.
I have read all of Maggie's books, and this is by far her greatest work.

As mush as I love to hold a book in my hands, I have discovered that audio books, when done right are a wonderful form of entertainment. I happened to listen to an audio version of this book. The point of view of Puck Connolly is read by Fiona Hardingham. While Sean Kendric's perspective is read by Steve West. I encourage you to listen to this book if you have the opportunity; in my opinion, their voices make a huge impact in identifying with the characters.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gardening Organically at Home

Last night, Wayne Porter, the Area Horticulture Agent from Mississippi State University Extension Service, presented a workshop on organic gardening. The information was for home gardeners, not for those wanting to sell their produce. If you're local, you might want to attend some of his workshops at the MS State Extension office in Lamar County.
He discussed the three primary concepts in organic gardening. First, he said that the building and maintaining the soil's organic content is important especially in the south. Rainfall and high temperatures break down organic matter much faster than in a cooler climates. Before planting it would be beneficial to have your soil tested so that you know what nutrients your soil needs. The testing should also give you the pH (or alkaline) of the soil. Ideally, the pH should be between 4.7 and 6.5 for vegetables. Here in Mississippi soils are acidic and need something like sulfur to lower the levels. Other adjusters include wood ash, organic matter, crushed shells and limestone. Organic matter is material that was once living.
Secondly, natural materials should be the source of your soil's mineral nutrients. Sources of organic matter include cover crops (like rye or wheat), compost, manure, crop residue and dead organisms. Cover crops are grown to control erosion and can be incorporated into the soil as green manure. Composting is a great way to deal with plant residue and is an essential component of organic gardening.
Using cultural and biologival pest control is the third concept in organic gardening. If necessary, you can purchase organic fertilizer, like blood meal, green sand, fish fertilizer, cottonseed meal, or manure. The advantage of purchasing organic fertilizer is that these fertilizers gradually release nitrogen through out the growing season. Depending on the size of your garden, the cost may make it make it difficult to get the required amount of material. For example, you would need 1,000 lbs of chicken maunre per acre to get the necessary nutrients for your plants. Also know that fresh chicken manure contains large amounts of ammonia and can damage plants. There is no guarantee that the product is organic if it's not labeled certified organic.
The healthier the plants, the less susceptible they will be to disease. Some of the strategies for disease management include crop rotation, proper plant placement, purchasing plants that are disease resistant, proper watering, and weed control. Also, if the seeds are planted at the correct time and in the ideal temperature they will have a better chance of survival. There are products like Neem Oil, Spinosad, sodium bicarbonate, Diatimaceous Earth, lime-sulfur, Rotenone Insecticide, or Bordeaux mix that can protect against predators and disease, but there are other options if you don't feel comfortable using these products. There are beneficial insects like ladybugs and praying mantis that can keep harmful insects in check or you can practice bagging of fruit, shaking, and hand picking. Ideally, planting varieties that are resistant to disease, are rapidly growing, and have a shorter growing season will decrease the chance of insect and disease. An additional problem is weed management. Tilling, flame cultivation, hand pulling, hoeing and mulch are all traditional methods of reducing weeds.
If you are interested in gardening organically, start by identifying your problem areas, gather information on management strategies, develop a list of resources, practice daily scouting, take immediate action, and practice Integrated Pest Management.

Additional resources: Sustainable Agriculture and Research and National Substaniable Agriculture Information Service

Saturday, January 1, 2011


As I was walking this morning I felt an overwhelming sense of disappointment at the lack of progress I've made over the past six months. On my birthday I decided to start making healthier lifestyle choices. I began cutting back on carbs and walking. I feel good about the choices I've made, and I didn't beat myself up when I ate a bite of a sugar cookie over the holidays. My disappointment stems from the fact that I haven't lost any weight, nothing. I believe my inability to lose weight stems from my PCOS. Two months before I started my "diet" I had a doctor tell me that all I needed to do was eat less calories than I expended. Well, I guess I proved him wrong. I won't stop walking and I will continue to make healthier choices in the food that I eat, but I have to lose weight.

As for my New Year's Resolution, I want to become more organized. I'm afraid to open a closet or cabinet because I randomly put thing away just to get them out of my site. I am so disorganized that I can't even keep appointments on my calendar straight. I'm surprised that I made it through the holidays. Christmas dinner was late, because I did remember to put the chicken in the oven on time. I don't really have a plan yet, but I assure you I will get organized.

What are you new year resolutions?

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” mahatma gandhi