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Summer In The Garden

Garden MintLinda Larson, fellow gardener, fellow author, and most importantly, my friend, sent me the loveliest note about my book reviews on this blog. She said, “I just loved your book reviews, your voice was so engaging, so specific about what you loved in the books.  It was like I was sitting in your living room hearing you tell me about the books.” Thank you, Linda! Actually, I thought about Linda and her passion for gardens when I wrote my last post on the Cambridge Botanic Garden. The link between gardens and writing is not just that they share the word “plot.” Both are creative, deeply idiosyncratic endeavors. Done well, they survive the seasons, offer variety and surprise, and calm the soul. Linda writes about gardens in her blog, A Traveling Gardener (www.travelinggardener.com). She and her photographer/wood-and- metal artist husband Rich have visited public gardens around the world. She shares what they learned and saw in her beautifully illustrated book, available on Amazon, The Traveling Gardener, Wandering, Wondering, Noticing…: A Collection of Essays and Photographs Celebrating Gardens Near and Far. It’s July, and gardens are in bloom. I planted herbs in pots today – can never have enough.  

Eating On The Wild Side: The Missing Link To Optimum Health

By Jo Robinson Little Brown & Company, The Hachette Group, New York 2013 Did you know that eating a humble can of tomato paste can help protect you from sunburn? This factoid I learned from this fascinating  book by health and food writer Jo Robinson Robinson quotes from a 2000 study by German researchers led by Wilhelm Stahl which found that tomato paste protects against UV rays because of its concentrated amounts of lycopene – an ingredient manufactured by tomatoes to protect themselves from the sun.  Of course, all tomatoes are good for you, but it seems that cooking tomatoes and eating canned tomatoes which have been heated in the process of canning makes the lycopene more “biovailable.” According to Robinson, carrots, as well as tomatoes, become more nutritious if sautéed or steamed (not boiled). Whole carrots, cooked before being cut up, retain their beta-carotene better, and make three times the amount of beta-carotene available to the diner than raw carrots. Corn and beets, too, are healthier if cooked. All this somewhat belies the title of this book. “Wild” implies untamed, unhybridized and certainly not GMO-modified plants for consumption. But Robinson, who has researched the wild origin of edible plants, points out that hunter-gatherers knew how to cook. Indeed, wild-lambs quarters,(Chenopodium album) a leafy weed that thrives world wide but grows particularly well in northern California, was steamed by Native Americans to cure stomach aches as well as added to soups, stew and eaten raw. And guess what? That quinoa you pay a premium for in the store is actually the gathered seeds of domesticated lambs quarters. “Know what you’re eating,” is the mantra of this book. Whether selecting plants for your garden, or shopping at the farmer’s market or the local supermarket, you will find this book useful. Armed with the knowledge from this engaging book, you’ll be able to select those fruits and vegetables which maintain the most nutrition, and then you’ll be able to prepare them in the healthiest way. Highly recommended. A book to buy, not to borrow.

Cleopatra’s Molecules in About Place Journal

About Place Journal is a literary journal with a difference. Published by The Black Earth Institute, it is dedicated to “reforging the links between art and spirit, earth and society.”  Each twice-yearly issue is themed. My story, The Dog Catcher of Jabiru, appeared in the November 2015 issue. My essay, Cleopatra’s Molecules was published in the May 2015 issue. Since it came out last week, I have been amazed at the response. People have plugged it on Facebook and Twitter, and I’ve been receiving emails asking for permission to send it on. Apparently the ideas I was working out as I wrote the piece have been helpful to people who have lost a loved one. I’m glad about that. If you’d like to read it, please go to http://aboutplacejournal.org. A Moment In Time We seem to be in a moment, people. That is, I think we may be in a time when people are really starting to think about our place in the universe in a different way. As Cleopatra’s Molecules lay on editor John Briggs’ desk awaiting publication in About Place Journal, I received my latest copy of Orion Magazine.  In the May/June 2015 issue is an interview by philosopher and environmentalist Kathleen Dean Moore with Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, who directs Yale’s Forum on Religion and Ecology.  It is entitled “A Roaring Force from One Unknowable Moment: The story of the universe has the power to change history.” Moore opens with this bold statement: “The World has arrived at a pivot point in history. You could drive a nail through this decade and the future of the planet would swing in balance.” She proposes three things to tip the scales and the third is to “change the story about who we are, we humans – not the lords of all creation, but lives woven into the complex interdependencies of a beautiful, unfolding planetary system.” Cosmic evolution – what a beautiful thought. To read the full article, click on https://orionmagazine.org/2015/05/a-roaring-force-from-one-unknowable-moment/ Do read Orion. Best of all, subscribe. www.orionmagazine.org.

Crafters Caring for Koalas

Everyone loves koalas. They look adorable, or perhaps we think that because so many toy koalas nestle on childish pillows. They are in fact gentle quiet creatures. They live in eucalyptus trees in my native Australia, sleep most of the time, and move slowly. So when bushfires ravaged the state of South Australia at the beginning of January, many of these animals were trapped, or, trying to escape, burned their paws. Rescuers found infant koalas clinging to burned trees and crying for their mothers. Volunteers in animal shelters made cotton paw protectors for the little marsupials. The idea was to help the burn cream applied by veterinarians to stay on so the burns would heal faster. Then, the International Fund For Animal Welfare put out a appeal for more mittens. It published a template for making the mittens from 100 percent cotton. Within days, there were mittens sent from all over the world. A week later,  the IFAW said, “Enough already!”  And asked animal lovers who could  sew to make pouches for baby kangaroos (“joeys”) whose mothers were dead or injured in the fires. Joeys can use up to six cotton pouches a day. Think diapers and you have the idea.  You can find detailed instructions on how to sew joey pouch liners at the IFAW’s website here.

How Green Is Your Orange?

We had a prolific orange tree growing in our back yard when I was a kid and now I grow two lovely trees in our own back garden. In winter they bear globes of fruit in that luscious color. It never occurred to me that oranges were not always the color orange. Let alone that growers in some areas of this country dye the fruits to get that color. I was shocked to read that the FDA allows this, especially as the dye, Citrus Red 2, contains ingredients that may be carcinogenic. Read about it at the FDA’s own website here. You’ll see that the FDA only allows the oranges (which remain green if grown in  tropical climates) to be dyed if they are not  “intended for processing.” Whatever that means. Does “processing” mean juicing? Does processing mean zesting? I do both all the time. Have you ever seen a supermarket orange that’s labeled “Use only if not intended for processing?” Arizona and California do not allow Citrus Red 2. Florida, with a wetter, warmer climate does. You might want to ask where your grocery store’s oranges come from. As for me, I’m lucky we can grow our own. And I intend to eat these only, from now on, in their winter season. Margaret Recipe Card1

The Dog Catcher of Jabiru in About Place Journal

Ranger Mine, Jabiru, AustraliaWelcome to my blog. As a freelance writer, my beat was the odd nugget of information, the buzz at parties, parsing what people were muttering about. Not the breaking of a news item, but finding out if  “Who Knew?” was real or a rumor. What I found is that truth is really stranger than fiction. A trip to the Top End of Australia, where the strange meets the wonderful, the funny, the tragic, and the redemptive is chronicled in my essay, The Dog Catcher of Jabiru. The Dog Catcher of Jabiru was published in the November 2014 issue of About Place Journal. A version of this story won the 2013 Tara L. Masih Intercultural Essay Prize in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition. About Place Journal is a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute, dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society. Volume III, issue II is called “Voices of the Human Spirit.”  Edited by Michael McDermott, this online magazine issue features articles, essays and poetry on environmental and social crises, the search for a sustainable environment and social justice and the need to find support and inspiration for change. To read The Dog Catcher of Jabiru, CLICK HERE.