I’ve read a few reviews of Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City that were fairly negative, bemoaning the fact that this book is not an exciting memoir to be picked up by the ambivalent masses who grow a potted tomato on their patio and perhaps a little basil in their window-box. I can’t say that my gardening experience has been particularly more involved than that, although I did harvest some particularly tasty lettuce a few years ago, and I’ve found that it’s nigh unto impossible to kill a zuchinni, but despite not being the book’s “target audience,” I did enjoy it.

Here’s the thing – don’t go into it expecting it to be something that it’s not. The subtitle should tell you everything that you need to know: “Two Plants Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City.” Did you catch that third word? Geek. So guess what? They’re going to geek out on you. They’re going to talk about the different plants that they planned to put in, and how this plant didn’t get along with that plant, and how this other plant with a family name that I can’t pronounce was too aggressive, and then there was this pest that killed off three-quarters of the plant they were hoping to harvest, and this one was just too fascinating to not try and grow, and did we mention the tropical theme in the front yard and how we tried to have chickens but then the cops got wind of it–

Yeah. They’re passionate about their plants. They’re passionate about their permaculture. So unless you’re a permaculture enthusiast yourself – or a voracious researcher like myself, who reads plenty but does little – you’re probably not going to like the book. I’ll admit that there were a few portions where I felt my eyes start to glaze over, but you know what I did? I paused, appreciated their passion, and skimmed ahead. You see, I can appreciate that passion. I can appreciate that sometimes, you’re going to make someone’s eyes glaze a bit when you’re really on a roll, because.. well.. I’ve done it myself.

So was reading this book a waste of my time? Goodness, no. I got to read about some rather fascinating plants that deserve to re-enter the limelight after being sent to the corner by industrial agriculture. I got to enjoy seeing someone else be passionate about what they do. And while my climate is even less hospitable to tropical plants than Massachusetts – a point that is driven home quite squarely by the -1 degree Fahrenheit temperature as I write this – I was able to glean a few ideas that I would like to put into practice as I discover what our new home has to offer. After all, a home is not just the house. A home is also the land around it. A home is what you make of it. And I intend to make much of it.


What is this, Canada?

The forecast high for tomorrow is zero. Zero. And the windchill? -20.

What is this, Canada?

Suffice to say the horses are bundled in the warmest possible combination of blankets available to them, Spice the livestock guarding dog is bedded down with the goats tonight instead of adjacent to their pen, and the neighbors probably think someone was being abducted thanks to the cries of the psychotic rooster that I rescued from where he was roosted outside.

What are you doing to keep your critters warm?

I’m just wondering, because I came across this…

…and it seems legit.

Are we missing the forest for the trees?

Although climate change is a leading contender for explaining the major increases in 2011 and 2012, Huffard says that these spikes could be part of a longer-term trend that scientists haven’t yet observed.

She hopes to continue gathering data from Station M to try and figure it out.
“Sea Snot” Explosions Feed Deep-Sea Creatures (National Geographic)


Interestingly, Arnold does not even make a peep about Fukushima, which by all common sense is the most reasonable explanation for this sudden increase in dead sea life. Though the most significant increases were observed roughly a year after the incident, the study makes mention of the fact that the problems first began in 2011.
Study: Dead sea creatures cover 98 percent of ocean floor off California coast; up from 1 percent before Fukushima (NaturalNews)

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Weren’t you busy griping about the Duck Dynasty or something like that?

…what to call an etymology geek, you wouldn’t get much of an answer. Apparently, there isn’t a more concise term than that. However, you would stumble upon the origin of the word geek.

The origin of this sense of the word can be traced back to the late nineteenth century, and comes from the (now obsolete) English dialect word geck (meaning ‘mad or foolish person’), which is related to the Dutch word gek, meaning ‘mad’ or ‘silly’.

Well, I’m no Mad Hatter, but I’ll take it.

Speaking of etymology geeks, have you seen this website? I haven’t had a chance to deeply explore Etymologically Speaking yet, but I did find the legend behind the term assassin to be very interesting:

From the old Arabic word “hashshshin,” which meant, “someone who is addicted to hash,” that is, marijuana. Originally refered to a group of warriors who would smoke up before battle.

Aaron White adds:
You may want to explore the fact that the hashshshins were somewhat of a voodoo-ized grand conspiracy scapegoat cult (the very fact of their existence is impossible to confirm). They supposedly were a secret society (a la the FreeMasons) which was influential in every middle eastern court from Persia to Bangladesh. They were supposedly a brotherhood of assasins, devoted to their caballa and its secrecy, protected by an unlimited number of fanatical followers and unlimited material wealth. Assassination was their favorite method of instituting their power (see the Zoroastrian lore of the eunich priest Arachmenes and his assistance to Darius and Xerxes in their rise to/fall from power). Rumor has it that only the hashshshins were able to survive the hordes of mongol invaders that massacred all people, governments, instituions, etc. in its path, and this only because they were able to infiltrate the asian army’s ranks as it surged east and threaten the lives of many important officers and virtually every general (no small feat for an organization that does not exist from several subjugated countries). Usually their threat of death to anyone who opposed them, no matter how powerful, was enough to ensure anyone’s complicity with their plans, especially when considering their influence and thus the impunity with which they could act. Also cross-reference that Persian was a mystical, legendary form of marijuana/hashish, rumored to be of unparalleled quality. It is so powerful as to become hallucinogenic and surreal and is said to be on of the ways to attain full-blown buddha-like enlightenment. Even Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead had a worhipful reverence/fear for Persian. This substance was used by the hashshshins in their intiation rites as a narcotic to overwhelm and produce complacency in their recruits. Also, having an army of fanatics was even better if they were all addicted to a potent intoxicant of which you are the only source.

Paul Graham adds:
The assassins were a sect of warriors who controlled a number of fortified towns in Persia for about 200 years. On 19 Nov 1256 their leader, Rukn ad-Din, negotiated a surrender with the besieging Mongols. (He was killed soon after.) I know of no evidence that the Assassins infiltrated the Mongol armies and intimidated the commanders. In fact it is hard to see how it would work to threaten a commander of an army in the field. The Mongols did not stay that much longer in Persia anyway.

I mean, really. Is that not interesting? I found that website while trying to look up the Latin word for humor , and… well.. the internet is such a Black Hole sometimes.

Or perhaps I just like to collect meaningless trivia. wellum

Well. As I mentioned previously, I finished out the year at sixty-three books, for a total of just under 16k pages. 2012 saw me at sixty-three books, but with a total of just over 19,600. As you may have noticed, it’s a bit of a difference. I thought about setting my 2014 goal at 75 books, but then I realized that the page numbers tell a greater story than the number of books. (This is especially true when you’re the mother of a preschooler, and happen to add a few of the read-alouds you read to said preschooler to your Goodreads shelves.)

Then there’s the whole “I really should read Les Miserables” thing. You know, since it’s sitting on my shelf, and I started it but never finished it. And I’m terribly under-read when it comes to the classics, with my school’s abhorrence for anything classic (aka, “worldly”) unless it went through the A Beka censoring editing process. So. There’s that.

This is by no means the complete list of what I hope to read in 2014, nor is it necessarily the order in which I will proceed. I do, after all, have a few review copies sitting on the shelf (or on the hard drive, depending on the format) that I need to sit down and read, and I am sure that there are books I haven’t even heard of that will catch my fancy as the year goes on. So obviously, this is flexible.


The goal.


Let’s say… seventy-five books and/or 20,000 pages. Just in case I do manage to fit Les Miserables into everything.

Les Miserables
by Victor Hugo
Does this really need any introduction? I’ve seen several movie renditions, including the surprisingly-musical version with Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman. What? I knew it was a musical, I just didn’t realize that everything they said would be sung. Literally. Everything. And just thinking about the entire thing has started a rendition of “Do you hear the people sing…” trouncing through my mind. Thanks for that. (Although it is an improvement over certain holiday songs parodied by well-traveled relatives. Yes, Lauren, I’m looking at you.)

The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti
I received a copy of this during the past month via Goodreads’ First Reads program, and I’m looking forward to digging into it. I sat down and thumbed the first few pages when it first arrived, and already feel “hooked.” It’s also set in the Middle East (Palestine/Israel, to be exact), which makes it even more interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed Michener’s Caravans, which is set in the Afghan region, and I’d like to find more books that are set in the Middle East.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
I had started to read this one while pregnant with my younger son, but had a hard time really connecting with it. Everyone keeps raving over it, though, and from what I gather, there’s a movie version of it coming out this year. Combine that with the fact that my sister-in-law left me with her copy when she went overseas for two years, and I suppose I really have no excuse to not read it.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
The sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Need I say more?

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Another one of those “everyone-is-raving-about-it-and-there’s-a-movie-coming-out-this-year” things. And since I’m all for reading the movie before seeing the book. Err. Well. I could go back and edit that, but you know what I mean. Ahem.

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell
All right, all right, so I cheated the principle that I just mentioned. I saw the movie, but hadn’t read the book. In my defense, I didn’t even know that it was based on a book; I had watched it simply because it was recommended as similar to Brick, one of my all-time favorite films, and it had Jennifer Lawrence, and I’m mildly intrigued by her. I’m now of the opinion that her raw characterization of Ree is what landed her the role of Katniss, but I digress. The point is, I’d like to read the book.

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Before you get your knickers in a twist, yes. Yes, I have read them. But I’ve only read the trilogy once, and I think The Hobbit… twice? It’s been a few years, as well, and I think it’s time to revisit them.

Harry Potter and All His Adventures by J. K. Rowling
Okay, so that’s not an actual title. (Did I just make some random fangirl jump for a moment, hopeful that an eighth book was being written?) But like Tolkien’s works, I’ve only read most of the Harry Potter series once, so I’d like to revisit them.

Man of the Family by Ralph Moody
I read Little Britches this past year, and I’d like to continue on through the series.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Did I mention we didn’t read the classics at my school? Well, we didn’t read the classics. This one’s going on the list by recommendation of a friend who also happens to be an English teacher in Tanzania at the moment. If that doesn’t mean I should read it, then I don’t know what does.

Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World by Joel Salatin
I borrowed this from the library in 2012, and never did end up finishing it, as it’s one of those books with so many ideas and things to digest that I wanted to sit and dog-ear, highlight, underline, and write in the margins. And like I said, it was a library book. So I purchased a copy with Christmas money (because Christmas gifts = books, people) in early 2013, aaaaaand haven’t sat down with it yet. I know, I know. Shame on me. Salatin’s great for thought-provoking.

Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life by Margaret Kim Peterson
Another one that I purchased with last year’s Christmas money, although I hadn’t read any of this one previously. I just bought it via a recommendation from.. erm.. someone.. on.. some.. blog. I don’t remember who. Don’t stone me, please.

Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper
I was actually given this book last Christmas, and I started to read it, but the problem with living in someone else’s home is that it puts a bit of a damper on starting your own traditions that you’d like to do in your own home. Ehm. So I set it aside for a time where I could actually do something with the inspiration it was giving me. And in light of having just purchased our first house, I think that time may be 2014.

Long Way on a Little: An earth lover’s companion for enjoying meat, pinching pennies, and living deliciously by Shannon Hayes
I’ve read Shannon’s previous books on cooking grassfed meat (and may have kept my library’s copy of Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook out for far too long after we purchased a side of beef from a local farm), and was excited when I found out that I could get a copy of this through the library system as well. I’m not sure what it says about me that the chapter’s I’m most excited to read are “Bones and Fat,” “Heads, Tails, and Other Under-Appreciated Treasures,” and the appendix, “Guide to Grain-, Legume-, and Dairy-Free Foods.” Let’s not dwell on that, eh?

The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L. R. Knost
I cherish Knost’s blog, and I got some cash for Christmas again this year, so you can bet your little toes that this one’s going in my Amazon cart. I may buy all four of her books, for that matter. (Oh, and don’t bet your little toes. You might need them, after all, and gambling is generally unwise.)

Christian Unschooling: Growing Your Children in the Freedom of Christ by Teri J. Brown
Another library title, and one I’m eager to devour. The strange stewing of libertarian values, grace-based parenting, and educational philosophies in my mind has had me wondering about unschooling in general for a while, and unschooling from a Christian perspective in particular, so when I searched ‘unschooling’ in the library search engine and came across this, I had to request it. Had to. Was compelled. Felt driven. Et cetera. (Never you mind that my older son is not yet three years of age. Just… never you mind.)

The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn by John Greenlee
I know, we already established that I’m a little obscure, so what’s one more? I’m currently reading Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City, and I finished Independence Days recently, and.. and… there’s snow on the ground… and nearly three acres to plan for… and the library has it… and… don’t judge me. Besides, just how many “most anticipated reads” lists do you think included this poor book?

Fermented: A Four-Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods by Jill Ciciarelli
This one’s on here mainly because I read Sandor’s veritable tome The Art of Fermentation this past year, again, when I typed ‘fermented foods’ into my library system’s search engine, I was directed here. If the library has it, I don’t have to spend money to continue researching a topic of interest, and as we all know, researching topics of interest is of great importance to an INTP. ENTP. Whatever I am.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
Read and recommended by many of my mama friends at the Gentle Christian Mothers’ forum, so I thought: why not? I expect that I’ll be purchasing this one with Christmas money, or bugging my librarian incessantly until she purchases it. Which.. hasn’t worked thus far. Then again, I haven’t reached nearly the level of incessantness (it’s a word now, so hush) that I could, so… we’ll see. I don’t want to upset the apple cart when it comes to the fact that if no one else is on a waiting list for a particular book, and I’m still working my way through it, she’ll override the system and renew it past the four-renewals limit for me. *shifty*

The Uncategorized
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
by Allie Brosh
I’m really not sure how to categorize this book. Is it fiction? Is it non-fiction? To which I say: Who cares? I want to read it anyway.

How about you? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2014? And, for that matter, do you have any you’d like to recommend to me?

A WordPress Year in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. It details the most popular posts, as well as how many countries were home to visitors of this blog, among other things.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 57 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.