Category Archives: Books

A rabbit’s literary tastes

It’s finally occured to me that I have a live-in solution to my book overcrowding issues; what I’ve heretofore seen as a necessary nuisance of having two free-roaming rabbits might be better viewed as an opportunity to discover the unknown literary tastes of rabbits. Or I could just continue to make available those books I no longer have a use for as a substitute for fresh (and expensive) timothy hay. Anything on the bottom shelf and within reach is fair game for their *reading* pleasure. Recycling in its simplest form!

Book or newspaper eating is far from unheard of with rabbits. Their teeth are open-rooted and grow continuously, hence their need for chewables. I buy them willow and apple sticks and give them bits of wood to chew to save the baseboards, but their preference is for my wicker porch furniture and those books stored down low.

I amuse myself with pondering their choices. For most of the winter they worked on a favorite book by illustrator Marjolein Bastin – a hardcover book, I can imagine the satisfaction of sinking one’s teeth into it. Every morning there was less of it for me to replace on the shelf. By winter’s end the cover and binding were gone; their interest in the loose pages has waned and this week they’ve found a new favorite by John Irving. Unfortunately it’s one I haven’t read yet.

I’m thinking I should replace that one and some of the others on the bottom shelf with something more bunny-appropriate and worthy of recycling:

A Taste For Rabbit

Disapproving Rabbits

Rabbit Language or “Are You Going to Eat That?”

Strange Curves, Counting Rabbits, & Other Mathematical Explorations

Rabbit Stew

Raising Rabbits For Fur, Meat And Profit

Any other suggestions for books a rabbit might love to eat?


The interim

Hal Borland made me chuckle this morning with this:

“No matter what happens now, the year has committed itself, January is past, this is February, and up there ahead lie March and April. And May. But since man is man, not woodchuck, he has to live with the interim, not sleep it out and emerge into a green and vernal world. Incidentally, there weren’t any woodchucks out in this neck of the woods on Groundhog Day. If the alarm clock went off, they let it ring, as they usually do.

This is probably as good a time as any to remember that it is only 85 days until May Day, when violets will be in bloom and the lawn will need to be mowed again. And it is only 149 days till the Fourth of July, when the beaches will be jammed and sunburn will be as universal as sniffles are now.

And it is only 208 days till Sept. 1st. That won’t be the end of Summer by the almanac, but to all practical purposes Autumn starts with Labor Day. Back to the desk, back to work, back to school. And the next thing we know, it will be October and first frost and Columbus Day and the height of the color in the trees in New England. And before you can catch your breath it will be Thanksgiving. How time flies! If you really must know, it is only 323 days till Christmas. And then it will start snowing again.

Maybe we shouldn’t have brought the matter up to begin with. But it is February, after all, only 85 days till May Day.” — from Sundial of the Seasons

Day after day, year upon year I find a minute to read the day’s entry in this favorite of all my books. Hal Borland somehow always manages to speak to the things I know to be true and, more often than not, makes me laugh in the process.

I laugh at myself for longing to see my little pond alive again, like in this photo, rather than the sad gloomy mess it is at the moment. I almost can’t wait to have my hands in the dirt come Spring, though it will mean an end to the twice monthly manicures that have my fingernails looking pretty for a change.

That’s not to say that I’m not enjoying this time in between, but maybe that it’s the anticipation of the next that makes now enjoyable. Tonight it’s almost 60 degrees and I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have found my way out to the farm field in back to see if the woodcock weren’t feeling that same anticipation.

Too many books?

I don’t have nearly enough shelf space for all my books, so they tend to pile up in all the expected places around the house. This is 1/3 of one of the 4 piles on the desk in my office – the top of the tallest pile that threatens to topple over at any moment. All but the King book are ones I’ve already read, but haven’t found a place for just yet.

The Michael Korda book was part of the horse obsession last summer – thank goodness that never went much beyond books! This was my least favorite of the bunch I read and I still haven’t managed to recycle it to the trash.

The Pine Barrens field guide more or less lives on my desk together with a wildflower ID book on the off chance that I’ll feel like puzzling over the bundle of photos I took there this spring and summer. The McPhee book is a great one, but I’m only a quarter way through it since October or so. I’m not really reading that one in a linear way anyway; instead picking it up and reading a chaper when it falls out of the pile at me.


Fields of Sun and Grass is a great book… one that I’ve read a few times; most recently back in April in preparation for that trip up to the Meadowlands in North Jersey

So… I’m wondering what you all do with the books you no longer have a use for? Anything natural history related that I’m willing to part with I donate to the local Audubon chapter for fundraisers, but the rest of them? Save me from being buried, please!

The silence of the yams

Since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book last summer about eating locally (click to read my post about it), I’ve been on something of a kick with other *food* books when I come across a new one. Deb’s recent post on the subject, in which she shares her doubt about the viability of eating only locally grown products where she lives in Minnesota, made me feel a bit better about the difficulties I have in doing the same here – and let’s face it – the growing season in NJ is considerably longer than in Deb’s home state. Farmer’s markets here typically run from May through October only.

At any rate, I borrowed Skinny Bitch from a friend, mostly to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve never read a diet book in my life, and this one read a bit too much like one for my taste, but if you can get past the shock value of the language and past their insisting that vegan is the only healthy way to eat, you might just find something useful there. I could easily be vegetarian, but give up eggs and cheese and ice-cream? Well… I’m not there yet.

I’ve just about finished Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and find his measured approach a bit more helpful and, dare I say it, affirming of the food choices I regularly make. The crux of his *manifesto* is that we should eat food, but not too much of it, and mostly plants. The first two-thirds of the book are spent defining what *food is not* and explaining how the typical Western diet and our current focus on nutrition have caused so many of us to be unhealthy.

I don’t want to give away all of the gems of this book, but these are a few things that have really hit home with me:

*Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
*Avoid food products that are unfamiliar or unpronouceable.
*Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting!
*Shop the edges of the supermarket and avoid the middle where the *food-products* shout at you with their health claims, while the kale and carrots sit in silence on the periphery.
*Shop at farmer’s markets or CSA’s (click for a list) whenever possible. Shake the hand that feeds you.
*Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
*Eat well grown foods from healthy soils. Just as food sustains us, soil sustains everything that grows in it. Everything that is put into the soil should nurture and support its ability to give and sustain life.
*Pay more, eat less. Better food costs more to produce. Food needn’t be cheap, fast and easy.
*Try not to eat alone. A shared meal is part ritual, part culture.
*Only eat when you’re truly hungry and then eat slowly!
*Prepare your own food and plant a garden, however humble.

I’m not so inclined to recommend books, but this one is worth noting, I think, in that it offered me an eye-opening look into the food industry and how deliberately we’ve been led astray from what’s really good for us.

A stinker for Mary

The season is all wrong and this is, after all, a decoy and nothing to compare with Mary’s GB Heron pics, but I love the imagery in this poem from Mary Oliver’s Owls and Other Fantasies. Hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

Some Herons by Mary Oliver

“A blue preacher
flew toward the swamp,
in slow motion.

On the leafy banks,
an old Chinese poet,
hunched in the white gown of his wings.

was waiting.
The water
was the kind of dark silk

that has silver lines
shot through it
when it is touched by the wind

or is splashed upward,
in a small, quick flower,
by the life beneath it.

The preacher
made his difficult landing,
his skirts up around his knees.

The poet’s eyes
flared, just as a poet’s eyes
are said to do

when the poet is awakened
from the forest of meditation.
It was summer.

It was only a few moments past the sun’s rising,
which meant that the whole long sweet day
lay before them.

They greeted each other,
rumpling their gowns for an instant,
and then smoothing them.

They entered the water,
and instantly two more herons–
equally as beautiful–

joined them and stood just beneath them
in the black, polished water
where they fished, all day.”

There’s a GB Heron who hunkers down at the edge of the farm pond where I often walk Luka when I get in from work. He is so still there, just before dusk, that he can’t possibly be fishing and I feel badly for invading the end to his day with my noisy parade.


“She was all in black but for a yellow pony tail
that trailed from her cap, and bright blue gloves
that she held out wide, the feathery fingers spread,
as surely she stepped, click-clack, onto the frozen
top of the world. And there, with a clatter of blades,
she began to braid a loose path that broadened
into a meadow of curls. Across the ice she swooped
and then turned back and, halfway, bent her legs
and leapt into the air the way a crane leaps, blue gloves
lifting her lightly, and turned a snappy half-turn
there in the wind before coming down, arms wide,
skating backward right out of that moment, smiling back
at the woman she’d been just an instant before.”
–Ted Kooser

I was delighted to come across a newly released book of Ted Kooser’s poetry – Valentines – and have been challenging myself to find a new favorite of the 23 poems each day – this one is today’s favorite.

Image by photographer Jeff Maion.

I’m such a book dork

The people at Barnes and Noble must love me. I think they dig out the oldest and least-likely-to-sell books and pile them up in a pretty seasonal display in some far off corner of the store just hoping for someone like me to wander by. I zoom past the popular fiction-of-the-moment and go right for the dorky nature books.

This little book is my latest find and it’s been getting a fair amount of use for the last week or so. It has nice pics of leaves, berries, and nuts to help me know what I’m seeing out in the woods. I’m not very good with trees and thought the fall color or seeds of certain trees might give away their identity more easily now than in the summer when everything is just so much green.

Horsey thoughts

I’m in this really wonderful place right now – totally immersed in a book that I can’t put down. Don’t you just love when that happens? I’m little more than halfway through Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven and already I’m trying to stretch it out and make it last a little longer. I’m tempted to read at every spare moment, but at the same time, I want to savor it before it ends. This is the first of Smiley’s books that I’ve become engaged with, not for lack of trying. I think it must be just the topic that is really interesting to me right now.

I tend to be a little obsessive/compulsive with my reading habits, in that I get hooked on a topic and read anything and everything I can find. The current horsey interest started with a memoir I picked up on the bargain rack, Chosen By A Horse and then the current issue of Vanity Fair had an article about Barbaro which led me to this book. I’m afraid there may be horseriding lessons in my future or a weekend job mucking stalls at the track down the street. Somebody save me, please!

Rabbits: Gentle Hearts, Valiant Spirits

In the absence of any new bunny pics this week, I’ll pass along a link to what looks to be a wonderful new book for the bunnyphile. Click on the pic to link to the author’s website and ordering info if you’re interested.

From a review:

“Anyone who has had the honor of communing with a rabbit—nose to nose, whisker to cheek—will applaud this book. Those unfamiliar with these dear little creatures will enjoy the heartwarming tales of adversity overcome and joy achieved. Educating the public is of paramount importance to the welfare of rabbits, and the author has captured the essence of this far-reaching task. Our rescued rabbits give all who were involved in the creation of this book a “two paws up”!
~DIANA ORR LEGGETT, founder and president of Rabbits’ Rest Sanctuary and WildRescue, Inc.

Trout lily X 4

Another find from the brookside trail. I walked past these at least twice before I noticed them, and then I saw patches of them everywhere – most weren’t blooming yet; only their purplish-spotted green leaves gave away their presence. Ther’ye tiny things and easy to miss at about six inches high.

I’m trying to teach myself wildflowers, and it seems half the exercise is in finding them, never mind identifying them! I have to get my head out of the clouds and my eyes off the treetops and look down at my feet for a new perspective on the natural world.

The few wildflowers that I recognize I know only from books and I’m finding the wildflower ID guides to be fairly useless this early in the learning process. Reminds me of what it felt like when I was first learning to identify birds – the field guide only confuses and frustrates. I’m having better success with with a few books by Hal Borland. Who else? One, A Countryman’s Flowers with photographs by Les Line, was a gift from my father a few years ago. I’m sure it’s out of print, but you might find it online with some searching. What I like about it, in addition to the photographs, is that the flowers are grouped by habitat, helping a beginner like me to know what flowers to expect where. Of course a standard wildflower ID guide includes that info, but it’s buried with all the other confusing stuff that makes my eyes glaze over. The categories are basic – the dooryard, the roadside, the old pasture, and brookside and bog and the book only includes 85 species, but I figure that’s enough for someone just starting out. The book also features Borland’s delightful essays; one for each species and includes info on growth and flowering habits as well as a bit of folklore. Of the trout lily, he writes:
“If you don’t know this flower by this name, try dogtooth violet, or yellow adder’s tongue, or fawn lily… The names trout lily and fawn lily come from its time of blooming – late April and May, when trout are biting in the brooks and when does are dropping their fawns in the woodland… Dogtooth violets mean May Day to me. As a small boy I gathered them for my May baskets, simply because they were one of the few flowers that always were in bloom by then.”
This book is almost as good as having someone along with me, teaching and telling stories. Does anyone make May Day baskets anymore?

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Now that I’ve finished ruminating on trout lilies (lol!) I’m off to finally finish up my income taxes. All that’s left to do is recopy them in nice handwriting and make photocopies, and stuff the envelopes. Think I might’ve waited a bit longer?
My husband is off with a fireman friend evacuating nursing home residents in another part of the state. Here on the coast there hasn’t been any significant flooding, but inland to the west is another story. I’m proud of my DH for doing this. I guess we all have our sense of duty – me to the IRS and him to something a bit more valiant.