- Author: Lanie Keystone
There are so many vibrant and inspiring gardening books for children or the child in each of us.
One that captured my imagination is: “The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough”.
“The Good Garden” is written by Katie Smith Milway with illustrations by Sylvie Daugneault. Interestly, Ms. Smith first wrote a biography of Honduran farmer and trainer, Don Elias Sanchez. Then, to hear her describe it, she “transplanted” his story into the wonderful children's book, “The Good Garden”. Based on real-life happenings, Smith's inspiring book tells of a poor Honduran farm family and their young daughter, Maria. The family is barely subsisting until one day a new teacher comes to Maria's school. He shows her class how to develop sustainable farming practices that can give them good crop yields which can change their lives. Maria and her family employ these techniques and Maria even begins growing a cash crop, radishes—bringing in money for the family.
This is a wonderfully written book with sumptuous illustrations. It' s more than a children's book about gardening. It's a book about showing children, (and all of us!), how we can take local action in our own communities to make a positive change while solving a universal problem. It also is a powerful but gentle window on the world of world hunger and food scarcity that presents these realities without preaching to or alarming the elementary aged reader.
Another plus about this terrific volume is that it's published by “Kids Can Press” which is part of the CitizenKid Series. This is an impressive series which simplifies global issues for elementary aged kids--giving concrete ideas for how to help and change big problems into viable, manageable solutions. This is a must read for all of us.
- Author: Erin Mahaney
“If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair”– John Phillips (sung by Scott McKenzie)
“A lovely spring night
suddenly vanished while we
viewed cherry blossoms” - Basho Matsuo
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco, the Asian Art Museum is presenting “Flower Power,” an “original exhibition of pan-Asian artworks that reveals the powerful language of flowers across times and cultures.” The exhibition runs through October 1, 2017, so hurry!
The Asian Art Museum describes “Flower Power” as an exhibition that “features historic and contemporary works of art from across Asia that explore the symbolic potency of botanical imagery to express universal human values. From large-scale installations representing climate change concerns to interactive works of art promoting peace to sensory-igniting multimedia, Flower Power offers a sanctuary for contemplation and reflection.”
This all sounds so serious! While the exhibition does indeed provide thought-provoking material and works for contemplation, the description above doesn't capture the whimsy, creativity, and beauty displayed by these works. Creativity abounds in the contemporary installations before one even enters the main portion of the exhibition. A visitor is invited into the museum by stepping along giant 1960's-style, Gerbera daisy-like flowers that trail along the sidewalk and inside the museum to the beginning of the exhibit. An artist inspired by the book, “The Gift” by Lewis Hyde, focused on art as a gift by encouraging visitors to take fresh-cut Gerbera daisies to give to strangers upon departing the museum. A fourth -generation printmaker worked with a team of volunteers to install thousands of woodblock-printed cherry blossoms on two-dimensional images of tree branches that inspires a visitor to contemplate what climate change may mean for these trees. All this can be found in the main common areas of the museum.
Once entering into the exhibition rooms, one finds flowers gloriously depicted in all sorts of forms. The exhibition delves in the symbolism of six significant blooms: the lotus, plum blossom, cherry blossom, chrysanthemum, tulip, and rose. The flowers are depicted through paintings, gilded screens, porcelains, sculptures, film, and cloth, including a fantastically embroidered kimono. My companions and I had great fun trying to identify every type of flower found on rare porcelain bowls. While I confess that I could not remember today which flower symbolizes what, I can remember being astonished by the beauty, variety, and cultural relevance of the flowers depicted.
For information about the Asian Art Museum, please refer to the following website: http://www.asianart.org
- Author: Betty Victor
I was going to blog about some flowers and how they got their names, but turning the book over and looking at the back of the book cover changed my mind. I have had this book for several years and really never looked at the back book cover. Here is some of the information it has on it provided by Diana Wells.
Rose-It was introduced to England by the Normans. The spelling was Roese and Rohese. Fun fact: Napoleon's wife Empress Josephine, carried one to hide her teeth when she laughed. It is said that she had very bad teeth.
Forsythia-Scotsman William Forsyth (for whom it's named) conned the British Navy out of $1500.00 with a mysterious concoction.
Water Lily- No one dared to tell Queen Victoria that the variety named after her was also named after the legendary Amazons.
Datura-Since this plant is poisonous, Thomas Jefferson was afraid to plant it in the garden at Monticello because he had grandchildren.
Nasturtium-Monet's famous garden at Giverny relied on it. http://fondation-monet.com/en/practical-informations/giverny-flowers/nasturtiums/
Chrysanthemum-Introduced to Japan by Zen Buddhist monks. Kiku (Chrysanthemum in Japanese) represents longevity and rejuvenation.
Acanthus-Its leaves inspired ornamentation in Ancient Greek Architecture. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acanthus_(ornament)
Some of you might know this information or can look it up on the Internet for more information. I did know some of it, but other information was new to me. It was interesting and fun to learn some new things about flowers.
- Author: Martha White
I am a hummingbird nerd. The more I learn about these tiny dynamos of flight, the more I want to learn. Another thing I am passionate about is helping children learn about this amazing world we live in. Before I retired, I taught for 25 years in Fairfield public schools, mostly second and third graders. I truly love involving children in the learning process, making it interesting and exciting. If you have children around you this summer, possibly on vacation from school, maybe you can introduce them to the hummingbirds that live in our area.
Hummingbirds are only found in the Western Hemisphere, with most varieties in the warm tropical regions of Central and South America. The well-known Ruby-Throated Hummingbird spends the winter in Mexico, and then migrates to the eastern portion of the United States and Canada for the summer. In California, we are fortunate to have other varieties who migrate through our area, from Mexico on their way to western Canada and Alaska for the summer, including the orange-colored Rufous and Allen's hummingbirds, and the green/beige Calliope hummingbird. Hummingbirds do not migrate in a flock, but travel alone, and are likely to return to the same area where they hatched.
The Anna's hummingbird lives in northern California year-round, thanks to our mild winters, and the increasing numbers of home gardens with hummingbird feeders available. The male Anna's is one of the easiest to identify, thanks to his rose red head, and his greenish-gray breast and belly. The female will build a nest of tiny twigs, held together with spider webs and lichen. The average hummingbird nest will be about the size of a half-dollar coin. The female usually lays two tiny eggs, which resemble mini-white jelly beans.
To help you to answer some of those kid questions, as well as your own, I'd like to recommend a book, Beginner's Guide to Hummingbirds, by Donald and Lillian Stokes. With colorful photos and easy to understand text, this book will guide you into adding onto the information you already have.
If you want to begin the fascinating process of watching hummingbirds in your garden, an inexpensive hummingbird feeder would be available for around $10 at our local garden supply stores. I have seen designs for a homemade feeder, using an empty plastic soda bottle, but I have never tried that. The feeder needs to have something red as part of its design, which helps the birds to find it. When making food for it, use 4 cups water to 1 cup sugar, boiling the mixture for 2 minutes, and then letting it cool. The boiling step will help prevent algae growth in the feeder over several days, especially if the temperature stays hot during the day. Do not use honey or artificial sweetener, as these may be harmful to the hummingbird. Research has not confirmed that adding red food coloring is harmful to the tiny birds, but it has been discussed is some of the books I've read. I usually add just a drop or two, tinting the water pink, which helps me to see from the window when the feeder is almost empty. Be sure to wash the feeder thoroughly each time before refilling it.
A fun activity to try is the hand-held hummingbird feeder, which can be purchased online, or made from a small red lid or bottle cap. Fill the tiny feeder with the same food solution described above, and place the tiny feeder on your outstretched palm. Wear something red to attract the hummingbird, and place your chair not too far from where you have seen hummingbirds visiting your flowers or larger feeder. Hummingbirds tend to be most active in the mornings or evenings, which might give you a better chance of having one visit you. Sit quietly as you wait!
If you or the kids enjoy making projects, you might like to make a tiny hummingbird swing. Use a piece of a wire coat hanger, or other heavy wire, and curve it into a “U” shape. Find a tiny twig, or cut a 6” piece of a wooden dowel, diameter no larger than one-fourth inch. Fasten the dowel to the “U” shape, turning the entire thing so the “swing” twig is at the bottom. Decorate your swing with a bit of red ribbon or a red bead. Hang it near your feeder. Hummingbirds have very tiny feet which they use to perch, but not to walk or hop, like most other birds do. Your swing will give your new friend a resting place.
One final idea, as the summer heat is upon us, is if you or your kids enjoy coloring. I googled “hummingbird coloring pages”. Many websites offered free pages, depending on the child's age. I hope you will continue to join me, as we learn more about sharing our Northern California neighborhoods with Anna's hummingbirds!
- Author: Betty Homer
Last year I blogged on the Annual Silicon Valley Tour de Coop. I am happy to report that it is returning again this year (the 6th year!) which is take place on Saturday, September 16, 2017. This fun ride has its riders traveling from homestead to homestead in the South Bay to view chicken coops, bee hives, and people's private gardens. Just check out the amazing coop below (picture courtesy of the Silicon Valley Tour de Coop website) —wouldn't you want to live here if you were a chicken?
Best of all, it is free!
Last year, the organizers reported that 1,937 people signed up for the Event, viewing 38 coops along 13 different bike loops.
Although it is a trek down to Silicon Valley from Solano County, it is nevertheless a great opportunity to view people's private homesteads and in a setting and climate different from our own. Although the tour is free and is self-guided, you will need to register for the tour via Eventbrite, and the link can be found on the tour's webpage. You can also see photos from prior years to give you an idea of what you can expect to see. Also, for those who do not cycle, you may also travel from site to site by car. For further information, please see https://tourdecoop.org/