Friday, March 29, 2013

Short Attention Span Challenge | The Seedling Starter

From Escalon to Thornton, Tracy to Linden, the Central Valley knows how to do many things well, but one thing in particular stands out to me: farming.  It cracks me up when driving down country roads I see tourists stop to take pictures near a grapevine or an almond orchard.  I guess because I grew up here I didn't really think a grape vine or an almond tree was a big deal.  The funny thing, as I have said in previous posts, is that I in no way have a green thumb.  Starting a plant from seed has been fairly impossible for me, but the farmers around here do it every year!  It really is a miracle, and maybe one I take a little bit for granted.  Whether my children decide to stay here in the Valley or move on to - dare I say it - greener pastures (though I doubt they will find any), I want my kids to understand and appreciate that they come from a region that supplies food to the entire world. We really are a small miracle!  According to this 2011 report, two-thirds of the landscape in the Delta Region consists of agriculture.  In our county's Delta region, there are nearly 215,000 acres of farmland, producing a farm gate value of approximately $558 million!  That's a lot of food!

We don't usually keep library books on the grass!
The Challenge
Show my kid how to plant a seedling the right way.  Hopefully it will be successful this time!

The Process
I will be up front with you here.  This challenge was not difficult.  However, it is a skill (and it let me spend some much needed quality time with my little one).  So, I hope you will forgive me that this blog isn't as exciting as usual (Assuming you think my blogs are interesting.  If you think they are hum-drum, and still reading them every week, then you are probably related to me---Hi Mom!).

As I mentioned in this post, part of my trouble had been that I didn't have a cold frame.  Since that issue is solved, I needed to figure out my other challenge, getting the seeds to grow.  According to both books I checked out (this one and this one), in order to germinate seeds, you can start with a plastic tray, milk containers, foam cups, a small pot, or a cardboard container and fill it with compost, peat pellets or seed starting mix.  I went to my local nursery and asked them if they ever gave away extra plastic trays that the plants are sold in.  They said yes!  So my seed starting container was free (this might be the most excited I have ever been over plastic containers).  Even though I am not supposed to get advice, the nurseryman told me to wash out the containers with a little bleach to sanitize them, since I would be using them for seeds.
Next, I purchased the seeds at our local hardware store.  There are a few ways to figure out what seeds to start with.  On the back of the seed container, there is usually a planting schedule for each particular zone.  There are two zone maps, the USDA Plant Hardiness Map, or the American Horticulture Society Plant Heat Zone Map.
AHS Heat Zone Map - Zone 8 or 9

The seeds I purchased and planted:
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Beets (which are out of season, even though the package said otherwise-oops!)
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Yellow Squash

  • Jalapeno Peppers
One of the books suggested I mix the planting mix with water in a bucket before planting, which I had never done before.  I used a large bucket.  I poured the water and my daughter mixed.  It was quite fun for her, I think!  One thing to note is that the soil should not be soggy, but just moist.  It would have helped if I had noticed that part before I turned on the hose.
Look at those fancy gardening shoes!

After that, we put the mix into the plastic containers.  Then, we stuck our fingers or shovel in to make a little hole, and placed in the seeds. We covered the hole with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil/compost.  After that, we put the seed tray in the cold frame we made a few weeks ago.

The Result
I don't know yet!  I will update this post when I see some or a lack of seedlings, start to sprout.  In the meantime, check out one of SSJCPL's gardening books and plant something!  
P.S. Did you notice my blog has moved to Fridays at 2 p.m.?

    Thursday, March 28, 2013

    Book Bucket List | A Prayer for Owen Meany

    A couple of weekends ago, my mother in law generously invited us over for pizza.  What we did not know, however, was that there were about thirty boxes of books in her garage she wanted us to go through to see if we wanted any.  I ended up finding some classics that belonged to my husband's Grandmother and a copy of one of my favorite books, A Prayer for Owen Meany.  I lost my copy of it a long time ago and was thrilled to find a new one.

    So in my search for this book in our system, I found out that all of our copies are discarded.  HOWEVER! Because we have the Link+ system, you can still have this book shipped to you at your local library!  For Link+ information and rules...go here!

    A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, follows the relationship of Owen Meany and his best friend Johnny Wheelwright throughout their entire lives.  Johnny is amazed and amused by his peculiar friend Owen, until an accident changes everything.  Owen becomes convinced that he is in some way divine, a thought which changes the course of both of their lives.

    I don't want to spoil too much of this book, so I will leave it up to you if you are interested in reading it.  It is considered an American classic and one of John Irving's best works. 

    Wednesday, March 27, 2013

    Learning | Letters Come to Life

    Most alphabet books follow a familiar format. They list all the letters, A to Z, and show words beginning with each letter on its own page. There's a certain comfort in the predictable order of A, B, C, D, E, and so on.  Learning the alphabet is an important pre-reading skill (what are English words made from? Letters of the alphabet!)  Learning the order of the alphabet is also an important clerical skill; it provides a means of putting things in order and finding them later.

    Some alphabet books are less traditional.  The letters become characters in a story, instead of a list to memorize. Both of the books in this post feature letters who are inclined to break the rules.

    A Call for a New Alphabet, by Jef Czakaj, tells a story from the point of view of a disgruntled letter X.  He sees a lot of unfairness in the alphabet. For instance, why does A always get to go first? And why can't X be at the beginning of more words? He's clearly growing tired of appearing with pictures of x-rays and xylophones.

    He discusses the situation with other letters, and demands and election to create a new alphabet.  In his encounters with other letters, some spelling rules are revealed.  For instance, e and i are asked to consider how they like changing places, depending on whether c is in the word.

    You'll need to read the book, to see how the letters vote on this issue. I think it's a fun learning tool for early readers, but may be a bit confusing for those who are just learning what an alphabet is.  Perhaps after they read a few dozen of our traditional alphabet books, they will be able to fully appreciate the questions X poses.

    Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, tells a story that is almost like a song, with its rhymes and rhythms. The lowercase letters are small children who sneak out of bed to climb the coconut tree--but things don't go as planned.  They fall off of the coconut tree (hence the "boom boom" part of the title) and land in a tangled mess.  Their parents rush in to help them up and provide comfort and care.  

    Lois Ehlert's brightly colored illustrations mesh perfectly with the story. It's hard to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom out loud just once. My son invariably asked for "one more time" over and over again.  It wasn't unusual to hear him chanting the story as he played with his toys. No wonder it can be found in so many classrooms and homes with preschoolers and primary grade students.

    Monday, March 25, 2013

    Life & Style | Short Cuts For Reluctant Readers

    I confess.
    I haven't read " A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens. I just listened to it. I couldn't see myself reading such a long book. It was too tedious to read.

    Here are my alternatives to reading:

    Audio books:

    I love books but some books are too boring to read. Books on CD are great alternatives. Just call us or check our Catalog to see if we carry that book on Audio.
    My favorite audio books are: Paris Wife, Reading Lolita in Tehran, The road and the Harry potter series (Jim Dale the person who reads the Harry Potter series is a genius.)

    We also have Playaways. Playaways are basically these stand alone players that you attach a headphone to and listen to it. Each Playaway contains one book.

    These are our titles on Playaway.

    You can check out books on CD or books on Playaway for three weeks.

    You can also download audio books via our Overdrive site. Just make sure to have your library card number and your library pin number handy.

    Get a family member to read you the book

    I miss my childhood days when my parents read to me. Nowadays, story time in my household mostly consists of me reading one page to my daughter and my daughter reading the next page to me. Sometimes I trick my daughter and mis-pronounce so many words while reading that my daughter feels sorry for me and just grabs the book and continues reading it outloud for both of us. (That is how I got around not doing the laundry in my house. I wrinkled too many of my husbands' shirts that he decided to take on the task.)
    These days we are reading biographies by Mike Venezia. He is a great writer and his books are full of funny illustrations.

    Popular magazines

    I love reading magazines. I love articles that are short and informative. I usually checkout a few and read them at home or during my lunch breaks. To be honest, sometimes, the only reading that I do is during my lunch breaks.

    So if you don't like reading that much, magazines are a great alternative for staying informed about the world around you.

    We have countless magazines in our libraries. You can check out up to 25 magazines and keep them for three weeks.

    Watching the Movie instead of reading the book 

    It works sometimes. For example, I couldn't read more than few pages of " The Host" by Stephenie Meyer but I am definitely going to watch the movie. 

    I should tell you that I believe that books are always better than the movies.  

    I might go and watch "World War Z" and skip reading the book as well. 
    Since I am the bravest girl in our entire library system, I might take a pillow to the movie theater in order to cover my eyes whenever things get really scary on the screen.
    Signing off until next Monday- Panteha