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Gwen GeigerWolfe

Mother Nature is One Tough Mama

Either I have a knack for meeting a lot of garden folk in this town, or Lawrence is just full of people who like to grow green things. It’s starkly apparent during this time of year-when the unseasonably warm days spark conversations of an early spring that evokes a gleam in the eyes of knowing growers. No matter how you slice it, everywhere you look in our community people are ready for warmer climes, longer days, and a promised end to winter’s bleak and naked landscape.

If you’ve ever successfully grown your own anything–be it flower, tomato, or herb–you know what I mean. From the arrival of the first seed catalog–multi-hued and glossy, with its tempting vintage seed packets and earthy adornments–winter’s enchanted garden reverie has begun. For me, pair it with a hot cup, a cozy spot, and a few choice books, and I’m set for a glorious daydream season of planning the next epic harvest.

After over a decade of coaxing the fruit and leaf of plants, I’ve learned that my garden exploits have only taught me–like so many other of life’s lessons–that I have so much more to learn. Like many of my growing friends (that means all of you L-town growers!), I take refuge in the Library. Together we seek, along with the newest trends and most reliable knowledge, the answers to last year’s garden tribulations. Hunting out companion plants, organic methods, and permanently sustainable growing practices that will not only bring forth our own nourishment but also that of the land, the water, and the air. Don’t be fooled, gardening is not a passive sport. If given the right opportunity, it will draw you into its cyclical rhythm, hook right into your soul and stare you down straight in the eye. Mother Nature is one tough Mama.

If your garden passions lead you here to the library, like mine do, take heed of these great titles in LPL’s fantastic garden collections:

Your New Go-To Expert: If you want to know how far to space your lettuce, how to plant leeks from seed, or find out what in the world Scorzonera is, The New Vegetable & Herb Expert is your brainy new best friend. Keep her close by throughout the growing season from seed to harvest.

It’s All About Community: Something magical happens when folks get together to grow great food. People talk, connect and listen to each other and the plants. Want a practical handbook about creating that perfect blend of people and food? Check out Start A Community Food Garden which tackles everything from meeting agendas to mobilizing volunteers to seasonal shindigs that keep both the community and garden humming.

Pop Culture Gardening: Level-up your raw green smoothies by learning how to grow them in your own backyard. The Green Smoothie Garden takes you from seed to blender with tips on growing, harvesting and honing your smooth mixologist skills.

A Fresh Take On Permaculture: Whether you have a postage stamp or a hectare, you can integrate permaculture principles wherever you grow. Edible Landscaping With A Permaculture Twist is a win-win for any home garden. You get all of the beauty of natural landscaping plus the bounty of its harvest. Have more space? Try Integrated Forest Gardening, which is sure to be the next great permie handbook for food forestry–the pinnacle of permaculturing.

One Tough Garden: Despite increasing climate-related changes in seasons, temperatures, and precipitation, you can confidently grow a great garden with The Undaunted Garden. This updated classic takes on the tough growing conditions that growers shy away from and gives serious recommendations for plant friends that will thrive in any growing condition.

Make Peace With Wildlife: Are you tired of fighting against the forces of nature in your

garden? Would you like to learn a growing style that invites the benefits of wildlife? The

Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener and How to Create a Wildlife Gardenwill teach you

how to accept and facilitate the gifts that nature offers any growing garden.

The siren call of next year’s great harvest is most alluring and if you feel–like I do–that you have become a full fledged member of the garden mafia, then I wish you luck, my friend. May your best laid garden plans result in your health and happiness and more than a few exploits of your own for 2017.

By the way, LPL just launched it’s 3rd Annual Seed Library on February 20th! This year we partnered with Just Food to bring more seeds, more programs, more fun! Stop by to pick up free flower, herb, and vegetable seeds for your garden. And look for plenty of resources and educational programs to help get your garden growing. Just remember, it doesn’t get any more local than your own backyard!

-Gwen GeigerWolfe is an Information Services and Public Health Librarian at Lawrence Public Library.

Your Local Health Spot in 2017

At the turn of each new year, I try not to make resolutions. I avoid them. I really do. Instead, I think about the clean slate that a new year brings–the fresh opportunities to try something different, to improve in so many ways, or to take a look at life through a new lens without the strict confines of being resolved to do something. Observing, staying curious, and taking action to get outside of my day-to-day are how I try to greet the next 365. Read More..

Local Food Feeds The World

As we slide into the holiday season, beginning with our most thankful time of year, we naturally begin to think about food. Sitting down to generous plates and celebrating all we’re grateful for, seems like a good time to give some thought to those who keep us fed. I’m not talking about Grandma’s cornbread dressing or Aunt Louise’s maple-bourbon-pecan pie. Rather, I’m thinking about the story that your meal would share if asked what it is and where it came from. Read More..

Adventure Parenting Lit

When you think of having kids, do you envision yourself as bold, daring, audacious, and full of adventure? Some of you may say yes, but for the rest of you– why not? Read More..

Exercise Your Mind: Wealth vs. Wellth

Where do you place your wealth? That’s the question that author Jason Wachob poses in his new book, Wellth, which seeks to reframe all that you consider to be of lasting value and then turn it on its head. Founder and CEO of MindBodyGreen–a health and lifestyle blog–Wachob has written about this idea of choosing to see what’s important in life in terms other than money, specifically in terms of “abundance, happiness, purpose, health, and joy.”

His approach explores everything from one’s current job to what to eat; from being thankful to simply just remembering to breathe. All the while he stills champions each individual as unique, with a path and purpose like none other.

Remember when Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Food Rules, and In Defense of Food, first stunned the nutritional world with his uber-minimalist approach to healthy eating (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”)? Wachob’s take on holistic, self-tailored, and mindfulness-based health is easily as groundbreaking. Instead of the typical, narrowly defined, healthy messaging we usually hear (low-fat-this, cardio-that, food journals, mini-meals, target heart rates, you get the picture), Wachob espouses a new message of wholeness, uniqueness, balance, and acceptance that culminates in a diverse and broadly applicable approach to wellness for every body.

That said, it’s worth mentioning that as I began reading his book, it became quite evident that he and I differ substantially in our world view. For example, he is a six-foot, seven-inch, New York fraternity-brother basketball star turned mega-start-up-blogger with a background in Wall Street. I’m a five-foot two librarian with a public health twist from Oregon who doesn’t know her NYSE from her S&P (yes, I had to look it up to get it right) and once lived happily on a communal llama farm.

The message here is that although Wellth is an anecdotal account of one man’s foray into health and wellness, his story hits a universal nerve that not only explodes the accepted concept of health, but also redefines our American paradigm of success. Taking the expectation of monetary gain as the measure of achievement and replacing it with measures of gratitude, laughter, and purpose is as meaningful as Pollan’s plea to reacquaint mainstream society with real, whole food as a basis of daily eating.

This summer at LPL, we’re pushing the boundaries of health and wellth by celebrating the theme of Summer Reading: “Exercise Your Mind.” We’re kicking off with Library Olympics, full of crafting, gaming and jubilation. We’re hobbiting trails to Rivendell by tracking miles walked, biked, or jogged. We’re gathering together to move our bodies in new and fun ways (yoga, functional fitness, tai chi, and more!) on the library lawn for Fitness Fridays. We’re hiking through history with legendary Kansas wanderer, Henry Fortunato. We’re launching a collection found nowhere else on earth (how very Lawrence!) to bring access to fitness resources to our city with the GYM Pass collection. We’ve got storywalks, Guinness world records, teen iron chef, local foods and urban agriculture, canoeing adventures, and so much more! Not to mention the honor of being host site to both the Lawrence Summer Food Program and Tuesday’s Farmer’s Market.

So Lawrence, where do you place your wealth? What about your wellth? Not sure yet what to make of this concept? Here are a few other reads to point you in the right direction:

May your summer be long, wellth read, and wellth lived. Cheers!

-Gwen Geiger Wolfe is an Information Services and Public Health Librarian at Lawrence Public Library.

Your Hungry Ear: Food Poetry @ LPL

Roses are red

Violets are blue

I like nutritious foods

And so should you.

- A poem by seventh graders Mykynzie Wright, Hailey Coon, and Rylie Stellwagon from Food Poetry by Topher Enneking & South Middle School Students

Did you know that April at LPL is both Healthy Food and Poetry month? I’m not kidding. We are lucky enough to celebrate in one month fuel for both body and soul. In fact, the poetry of food is ubiquitous, transcending time, space, culture, socio-economics, and more. Food is one of those universal connections that we have with every single living being on the planet. No wonder so many authors have chosen to write the lyrical praises of that which nourishes us all. Read More..

Get Books– and Seeds– for The Garden at LPL

For many seasons I’ve spent my life in the dirt, alongside friends and family, tending plants and cultivating memories. About this time each year when winter hints at warmer, sunnier days, my mind begins to drift once again toward dreams of overflowing garden beds and caches of endless varieties of seeds to start. This time of year also reminds me of the many reasons I tend whatever patch of soil I can lay claim to. Among them is the fact that I garden to remember, but then again, also to forget. Read More..

Made At Home For The Holidays

Every year I have daydreams of finding the time, resourcefulness, and inner depths of creative inspiration to craft our family’s holiday. I envision the vast array of unique gifts and handmade wrappings that I would bestow on family and friends. I can almost audibly hear the oohs and ahhs as said wrappings are torn to shreds, revealing the inner wonder of artfully constructed gifting as it all shines in hands that appreciate the effort. Read More..

Fives & Maulers: The Pug Life

I won’t begin to pretend that I know what it’s like to have to fight for my life, at least not in the literal sense. I’ve had a few scrabbles of the physical and metaphorical variety in my day, but I’m not about to be the next inaugural member of the local fight club, not by a long shot.

Even if I were faced with limited choices and knew that it would come to blows, I know my limits. I might be tough in one sense of the word, but I certainly don’t have the chops to step up to scratch and fib in the ring, especially with other trained fighters, pugs, and pugilists who are well versed at putting up their fives and maulers to duke it out to victory. Read More..

Pushing the Pause Button: Mindfulness with Kids

This summer I made a bet with myself—and won. Sometime around the last school year’s end, when my kids were burned out from classrooms, homework, and boxed lunches, I was watching Phie Ambo’s documentary Free the Mind. The film explores the impact of mindfulness meditation on the ability to literally rewire our brains. I watched as the transformative power of this practice set one little boy free from a deep and intrinsic fear, releasing him from tears and torment. Read More..