Latest Non-Fiction Books

By Stephen

It never ceases to amaze me the variety of non-fiction books published each season.  Politics, popular science, biography memoirs and history (And you thought writers had finished with the Civil War!), cooking, etc. all seem to make their way onto bestseller lists.   Fans of non-fiction have their favorite  authors, just like readers of fiction; certain author’s names guarantee big sales.

Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, has written a number of books relating to presidential policies.  Starting with The Commanders, which describes the first President Bush’s relationship with his military commanders during the first Gulf War.  Since then, Woodward has concentrated on reporting various aspects of the administrations of Clinton, Bush II, and Obama.   In The Price of Politics, his latest book,  Woodward describes behind the scenes at the White House and the Capitol during the budget crisis of 2011.

That budget is the focus of a new book by David Wessel entitled Red Ink:   inside the high-stakes politics of the federal budget.  “In a sweeping narrative about the people and the politics behind the budget, Wessel looks at the 2011 fiscal year (which ended September 30) to see where all the money was actually spent, and why the budget process has grown wildly out of control.”

 David Wessel  and Bob Woodward write about contemporary politics but Evan Thomas describes Ike’s Bluff.   Dwight David Eisenhower led the victory over Hitler’s Germany in the closing days of World War II, although he had never seen combat first hand.  In reality, Ike hated war, but he, as president, threatened to use Nuclear weapons against the Communist threat.  There was another side to President Eisenhower’s bluff:  he let the press and voters think  he was not as smart as he actually was.

From contemporary politics and presidential politics let’s go to books about cooking and plants, not my favorite comfort zones.   The outdoor gardening season is over, but not so the raising and  cultivation of indoor plants.  Tovah Martin, a well-respected  gardening expert, has written The Unexpected Houseplant:  220 Extraordinary Choices for Every Spot in Your Home.    Martin starts her book in the fall, which she considers the start of the indoor growing season,  and continues through the year describing  a variety of houseplants the reader can grow in their own homes.

If you get hungry taking of those indoor plants and decide to  join the “eat local food” movement, Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round should be of interest to you.  Like Martin, McClellan has suggestions for every season.  With Christmas approaching fast, the book has recipes for jams, sauces, etc. that would go with the season.  McClellan also has a blog at www.foodinjars.com.

A weed by any other name…

By MaryAnn

Early one morning I was  digging weeds. That’s right, digging. For me, it’s more rewarding to get the whole plant, roots and all. These grow along the edge of my driveway in some wonderful soil where I would rather plant daylilies. Or at least something besides weeds.  Look–I even took a picture so you can see it too: the ones with the tall blooming  spike.

This one remains anonymous–I don’t even know its name.

But then, there are plenty of weeds I like, and I have even transplanted some to my garden: especially hawkweed, which has a beautiful buttery yellow flower, and butterfly weed, whose orange blossom attracts butterflies, of course.

Milkweed is the only plant on which monarch butterflies lay their eggs, although we don’t see it much anymore. Here’s a link to a New York Times article explaining why:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/06/opinion/06iht-edroxana.2719135.html

Some weeds apparently have few, if any, redeeming qualities. The dreaded Japanese knotweed is one example. According to the USDA, this exotic invasive was introduced to us in the 1800s, and has lived happily ever after, spreading wherever it chooses.

http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/plants/knotweed.shtml.

Along with kudzu and multiflora rose, these plants have taken over many parts of the southern United States.

Here’s a photo of  kudzu taking over Atlanta!

Last but not least, there’s the lowly dandelion, perhaps the most widely-recognized weed of all.

When I was a child, my father paid the neighborhood kids to pick dandelions from our yard. That’s right–a penny for ten, a dime for 100. His theory was that if we picked the flowers before they went to seed, they wouldn’t spread across the yard. Needless to say, we quickly found other ways to earn money and the dandelions continued to riot.

In any case, your Fontana Regional Library has lots of resources to help you deal with your own weeds. Take a look at  A weed by any other name and Weeds : in defense of nature’s most unloved plants. Both of these books promote the advantages of weeds as plants that just happen to be growing in the wrong place.

Here’s another idea for using weeds: Eat the weeds embraces edible wild plants. Or if you really, really don’t want weeds at all, try the techniques in  Weedless gardening. Another book along the same lines is  Lasagna gardening : a new layering system for bountiful gardens: no digging, no tilling, no weeding, no kidding!

Perhaps you have ulterior motives for using your weeds. Here’s a volume guaranteed to help: Wicked plants : the weed that killed Lincoln’s mother & other botanical atrocities.

Whatever your attitude towards these plants, your library has the resources to help you make the most of your weeds!

Are you a “Twitcher”?

Are you a “twitcher”?

Wikipedia gives the definition as someone who travels a long distance to see a rare bird.

By Faye

Here in America people often find it relaxing to watch birds. It’s estimated that approximately 60 million people in the United States feed birds. According to Susan Hayes, executive director of the Wild Bird Feeding Industry in Sioux Falls, SD, the US has $1.45 billion in yearly sales of bird feed.

Bird watching and gardening seem to go hand in hand. I know I really enjoy numerous birds in my flower gardens. An Eastern Bluebird couple found my new birdhouse and has just hatched the second family this year. And the Yellow Finches love my flowers. Not a seed left on the Black-eyed Susans, Red Hot Pokers, or the Echinacea! Sunflowers are also a big favorite.

Red Sunflower

 Be sure and place water close by in partial shade. Birds need it not only for drinking but for  bathing too. They are so funny frolicking around in a shallow pool of water.

 Are you a birdwatcher or just need a little help on identification? If so, be sure to check out some of the great books at the library. Who knows you may become a “twitcher”.

Birds of Eastern North America :  photographic guide by Paul Sterry & Brian E. Small.

The armchair birder : discovering the secret lives of familiar birds by John Yow.

Wildlife gardening  by Martyn Cox

Peaches come from a can

By John

When I first heard the song “Peaches” by a band called the Presidents of the United States of America 15 years ago, I thought to myself “no they don’t, they come from a tree”.  I’ve spent many a hot summer’s eve out in our peach trees to know the difference.  And after they’ve been picked, the real work begins.

This past weekend Margaret and I spent the day sorting, skinning, cutting, and stuffing peaches into jars. It took us the better part of the day to produce a couple of gallons of canned peaches and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I learned many years ago that part of enjoying the “fruits” of our labor wasn’t just about eating them, but contributing to the process of cultivating, gathering, and preparing them.  It’s during this process where we work as a team, or get burned when trying to do it all yourself. It’s a time for us to talk about good and bad times, about the weather, and about our kids.

It’s not like mowing grass or weed eating the bank. It may have been hot but not as noisy. And the space was more confining, which was definitely in our favor this day. I didn’t have to wave to her from the other end of the field to get her attention. Needless to say, accidents happen in tight areas when you sling pans, ice cubes, peaches, hot jars and syrup around, but we walked away without any. Unbelievable but yummy, Margaret made a cobbler at the same time!

If you’d like history about canning, I’d recommend starting with Sue Shepard’s book, “Pickled, potted, and canned : how the art and science of food preserving changed the world” from our library. For a wide selection of articles from environmental science to Greek peaches check out NCLive on our webpage.

Gardening

“Apple Blossom” daylily

By Faye

Isn’t it a beautiful time of year?  The flowers are blooming and gardens are growing. The Marianna Black Library started a Sharing Garden several years ago. Patrons donated flowers and volunteers landscaped the area. A sheltered gazebo was built with benches underneath that everyone enjoys. Later a picnic table and water fountain was added.

Since then we have had numerous groups of volunteers help with the upkeep of the garden areas. Just this week we had a very excited school group of fifth graders come and donate their services to the “library garden”. What a lot of weeds they pulled!

Each student chose a plant to take home.

Does your garden (either flower or vegetables) need a little help?

If so, the library has numerous books to get it where you want it to be or to inspire your imagination. Here are a few titles you can check out:

Better Homes and Gardens Step by Step Garden Basics

Grow Vegetables by Alan Buckingham

Small-space Gardening by Pete Loewer

What’s Wrong With My Plant? (and how do I fix it?) by David Deardoff

The Wild Garden by William Robinson

The Complete Guide to Pruning and Training Plants by David Joyce