Monthly Archives: October 2008

How green can you get? Hager’s Thin House Project

This was not on the week’s posting agenda, but there's no help for it:  Go check out Thomas Hager’s new blog, ThinHouse.

      from Tom's Blog, Oct. 23, 2008

It records his family’s ongoing attempt to cut their energy consumption by about 80%. That’s eighty percent. Gulp. At this point he and his wife have decided it can’t be done in their current house, seven or so miles from town. They’re going to have to move.

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And the Arte y Pico awards go to–

Long, long ago, in an earlier and simpler time (last July, actually), the esteemed Victoria of Victoria's Backyard did me the extraordinary and unexpected honor of bestowing upon me the coveted Arte y Pico award. You wouldn’t know it from the way I responded (which can best be described as not responding at all), but I really was quite blown away. Still am.

Premio2barte2by2bpico_4 This is one of those awards that one shares, and I am such a wordoholic that the injunction to select blogs “regardless of the language” stopped me cold. How could I ignore language? Then there was that bit about choosing bloggers who had made a “contribution to the blogging community."  At that point I’d only been blogging seriously for a few months. I’d posted a few times a month since November, 2007, but didn’t start posting seriously until May of this year, much less reading other blogs, so I had no idea what the "blogging community" was, much less who'd made a contribution to it.

Since then I’ve spent countless hours reading and enjoying others’ blogs, and having survived the Great Transatlantic Sock Wars (which left fields both here and abroad littered with virtual dead), I feel that I know something of the “blogging community” and all the happiness it can bestow on its members. (Not to mention the sadness–No, let us not speak of that. Clearly you wish to speak of it–to revisit the sorrow that afflicted so many who witnessed the cruelty visited upon me in that terrible time, but no–no, we shall not speak of it. We are above such pettiness.)

Where was I? Oh, yes.

I should make it clear that I have not (nor shall I ever) relinquish my loyalty to the Word. However, I am willing to concede, albeit reluctantly, that perhaps there are other qualities which may add to a blog’s value and, well, beauty.

THEREFORE, after extended contemplation, long nights of gnawing fingernails and pacing floors, much breast-beating, and a modicum of self-flagellation, I am ready to announce my decisions to the breathe-baited world. But first, a word from our sponsor, the master of award ceremonies, who will present the award rules:

1. Choose 5 blogs you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogging community, regardless of the language.

2. Each award should have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.

3. Each award winner should show the award and put the name and link to the blog that presented him/her with the award.

4. The award winner and the one who has given the award should show the Arte y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award. Translated, it means "the peak of art."

5. Show these rules.

And now, drumroll, please—WAIT!

It’s only fair to warn you that some of what follows is, if not X-rated, at least W-rated. So no complaints, please. You’ve been warned.

Now, one more time? Drumroll, please–

Robert’s Roost
Far be it from me to suggest that other back-yard gardeners like me are just hobby-gardeners, but it’s nice to see what goes on on a “real” farm, especially one as interesting and friendly as this. I’m not sure Alan’s got the time or inclination to futz about bestowing awards when he’s trying to figure out how to feed his animals through the winter, but he deserves this even if he doesn't want it.

Mr. Subjunctive
Who knows more about what he knows about than most of the rest of us put together. Also, he not only has the gall to like Creeping Charlie, (I thought I was the only one!) but the courage to say so (Yes! Yes!). Because he writes about flood damage, health crises, and Codiaeum variegatum with equal passion and finesse.

Grow it, Eat it
I know we’re not supposed to take into account writing style for this award, but you’ve got to love anyone who tosses off remarks like this one, about an over-busy life: “I am putting in long hours and it’s a feat to just get dinner made before we both eat the table.” (Sept. 23) I mean, don’t you?

Besides that, Heather has more great recipes per square inch of computer screen than anyone else I’ve encountered.

It’s a stretch for me even to acknowledge anyone whose peppers were still going strong in late September (the hail got all of mine back in July), but honesty compels me to admit that this is a great blog. Recipes for salsa, pictures of a mouse with fangs, ideas for crazy reality-TV shows (as if the producers needed help!), a marvelous spoof of various “challenges” titled  “100 Millimeter Challenge: Eat Local or Die Trying”—and that’s all just in a couple of weeks.

Blogging at Blackpitts Garden
James had the most creative (weird?) post titles, one of the easiest to navigate, easy-on-the-eyes blog lay-outs, more than his fair share of experience and expertise, and hey, he’s no slouch as a writer, either. He’s also a very nice guy. He pops up all over the web, dropping a wry comment here, a quip there, and whenever someone’s having a hard time, there’s a line from James. Besids, he's got great hats.

THANK YOU again, Victoria, for bestowing this award on me. I'll get the picture up as soon as I can figure out how.

And you thought YOU were putting on weight–

Okay, all you pumpkin growers, with your little gourds weighing in at ten, twenty, even thirty pounds, that's nothing. Get a load of this–but be careful, because it'll crush you if you're not. Apparently these babies can put on forty (that's 40) pounds per day (that's every day).


Image from NPR.

That, folks, is a pumpkin, grown by one Steve Connolly of Warren, R.I., briefly the record-holder world's heaviest pumpkin, at  1568 pounds, until a previously undiscovered crack disqualified him. As a member of the Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers, it sounds like he's found his niche, but is it big enough for him and that pumpkin?

Go to the NPR page, and you can see a whole row of monster pumpkins awaiting the weigh-off, and listen to clips including information about exploding pumpkins. I greet this "information" with some skepticism, having been taken in by NPR's story about exploding maple-sugar trees a couple of years ago. Of course, that story did run on April 1st…. And yeah, I do know that "gullible" isn't in the dictionary.

Nitrogen Deficit: Thomas Hager’s “Alchemy of Air”

In flight

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I know it’s the norm to finish a book before reviewing it, but I couldn’t wait that long. Thomas Hager’s Alchemy of Air, about the development and effects of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, is such a terrific read that I’m having a hard time getting anything else done.

Since I’m only half-way through, this won’t be a real review, but more of a travel essay, telling where I am and where I’ve been, and what the landscape is like.

First of all, it’s a lot more interesting than you might expect simply from the topic. This isn’t a polemic; it’s a historical narrative, and Hager’s a master of the form. He gives us the people, the problems they faced, and the world in which they lived, so that we get a richer understanding of what they did, why, and its consequences, than any dry recital of facts could convey.

He starts with the problem, as articulated in the late 19th century: the world’s population was growing at an ever-increasing rate, outstripping the ability of farmers to feed it. Fertilizers, therefore, were increasingly important and valuable, but the known sources were either inadequate (manure) or were being rapidly depleted (Chilean nitrates).

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Favorite Blogs #1: The Great Garden Monkey


Here’s to The Garden Monkey, who alone converted me to the blogosphere, a hitherto unknown and threatening world, by giving me a sense that it could actually be fun, and maybe I could be myself there.  His ongoing installments –hijacked interviews of garden personalities, internet moments of the week, not to mention the coveted Fork ‘n’ Monkey awards—add much to our lives, gardening and otherwise. Put it all together, and it’s practically a reason to live.

Moby Dick opens with Ishmael’s explaining that whenever “it takes a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off,” he goes to sea. “With a philosophical flourish,” he says, “Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.”

Me, I think, Really, I mustn’t off myself today, because I’d miss the Garden Monkey’s next installment about British gardening personalities creeping about in each other’s gardens and scheming to steal each other’s garden gnomes, and if I missed that, life really wouldn’t be worth living, now would it. Which makes as much sense as most reasons for living.

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That's a humpback whale at the top of the post, one we saw while on O'Brien's Boat Tours in Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. We also saw a finback and a minke, but you can tell this is a humpback because the fins, even underwater, are white. One of the boat men sang shanties, too.