A Wonderful Year

Winter arrives.

As the year’s end quickly approaches, I’ve been reflecting on just how much happened over the last twelve months. In many ways, it’s been a momentous year for Emily and me.

In February, I took a multi-week course on beekeeping which allowed me to keep a hive that thrived through the spring and early summer. When we moved to Michigan, I decided to move the bees too. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have fared well here and the last check in late October revealed a dying colony. I learned many lessons from the bees and find them to be absolutely fascinating creatures. However, with so many other pans in the fire, I likely won’t keep bees next year.

March took Emily and I through Kentucky bourbon country and to Nashville, Tennessee, where we enjoyed unseasonably warm weather and a night at the Grand Ole Opry. Emily graduated from her three-year nursing program at Ohio State University at the end of April and we celebrated her hard work (she’s still working hard). In May, members of the Columbus Philatelic Club invited me to speak to them about my book, The 1965 United States Dante Stamp, which has received favorable reviews.

Summer brought Midwestern travels to visit family and friends in Illinois and a family vacation to Leelenau County, Michigan, and the majestic Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. While I’d made good progress on my skiff, Blue Moon, I wasn’t able to finish it for the vacation. Next year.

Hazy sunset over Sleeping Bear Bay.

With a job offer in hand for Emily in St. Joseph, Michigan, we embarked on the life adventure of buying a house. We found a place to make our own in the country a few miles from St. Joseph, Stevensville, Baroda, and Berrien Springs. There is plenty of work to be done on our old house and five acres of grass and woods.

Holly basks in the sunlight.

In November, we adopted a dog from the county animal shelter. Holly is a Labrador Retriever mix and has brightened our home with her very sweet and loving nature. We hosted my dad and his wife for the first Thanksgiving in our own home and Emily’s sister will be here soon for Christmas.

We have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to in 2019.

Gardening with Pencil and Paper

The revised garden plan.

Recently, I finished reading an extraordinary book on gardening: The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman (30th anniversary edition, 2018). Coleman’s approach to biological gardening, and life in general, spoke to me loudly and I’m planning to adopt many of his techniques. For example,

  • Continuous improvement of soil fertility and biological processes using natural methods (manure, compost, organic matter, etc.)
  • Producing quality compost
  • Soil block seed germination methods
  • Cultivating often instead of onerous weeding

It is easy to farm a lot of land with a pencil and paper, but a lot harder to actually do it. — Eliot Coleman

The wisdom quoted above appears early in the book and came to my attention just in time as I began to mark out the plots of my original garden concept. After seeing the plots laid out on the ground, it became obvious that I’d been overzealous in my two-dimensional planning. The plots as planned would be expensive, time-consuming, and unwieldy to maintain and would produce way more food than we need. As Emily reminded me, we can always expand later if needed. So instead of six plots of 500 square feet each plus 1500 square feet of berries, we will have just three plots of 500 square feet each.

Plot C, shown here after tilling, is now covered with a thick layer of straw for the winter.

There isn’t much else to do outside for the garden now; next year’s garlic is in the ground and Plot C is covered with straw that I’ll till under in the spring. I’ll be busy, however, designing and building a few small germination chambers, researching supplies, and reading, reading, reading.

Review of The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2017. Find on Goodreads.

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures is a well-written introduction to the basic concepts of library cataloging and bibliographic control. The author does a masterful job of condensing the history of cataloging from ancient times to the present for general readers. But who is the author? The book’s cover and title page prominently display “The Library of Congress” in the author position above “Foreword by Carla Hayden.” Likewise, the copyright page and Cataloging-in-Publication data give authorship credit to The Library of Congress. Once we dig deeper and read the introduction signed by Peter Devereaux, we gather that he must be the author. Our suspicions are confirmed, finally, by Devereaux’s acknowledgments at the end of the book. I find this treatment of the book’s actual author to be questionable. I do realize he must have written the book as part of his job duties at the Library of Congress, but I still feel that he deserves more prominent billing.

The concept behind this book is similar to an exhibition catalog from a library or art museum. Explanatory text on the history and function of card catalogs is interspersed with lavish illustrations, in this case mostly book covers accompanied by sometimes corresponding catalog cards. I say sometimes because the cards selected do not always match the book pictured next to them. This is acceptable but it would have been better if the author pointed this out in every case, not just some cases. Consistency is, after all, a cornerstone of library cataloging.

Some of the cards depicted seem to be copyright file cards or authority file cards, neither of which are explained in the text. In fact, most of the cards are not described at all even though the book’s design would have allowed for it. What does the ink stamp “Condemned” on the card for Jack London’s Call of the Wild (shown on page 133) mean? We are left to wonder. The card on page 191—which is a See reference card—refers to Carson McCullers with a male pronoun but is corrected in pencil to a female pronoun. This is an intriguing detail in the history of the card catalog, especially given the importance of her sexuality to McCullers’ biography and work. Many of the cards depicted leave the reader wanting to know more. In a rare case of the author providing more detail in a caption about a Carol M. Highsmith photograph on page 181, the photograph itself is actually missing from the book. This is an unfortunate oversight that hopefully will be corrected in later printings.

Lastly, a pet peeve. There are quotations throughout the book that are uncited. We can only assume that they may be found in one of the ten books listed in the short bibliography and then we’ll have to dig for them.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures and even had difficulty putting it down a few times. I wish the book were manufactured in the United States given that it is a federally-sanctioned publication but I understand the economics faced by Chronicle Books in the modern, global publishing environment. Book lovers, library lovers, and lovers of organization will enjoy this book.