Sunday, July 19, 2015

At the Farm

So, what's this I hear about kale? Can this super food actually be bad for you? Do not panic. There is hope! So before you opt out of eating one of the healthiest greens around, please read this thoughtful and informative post from my fave farm market -- then go straight to your own market and find out  how and where they grow their kale. 

  "Ok. Let's get this straight people. Before you show up to The Berry Farm with pitchforks and torches, let's take a minute to breathe and think this through.
Yes, plants that grow in soil use their roots to uptake nutrients and water for their growth above the ground. And yes, plants are capable of also pulling up heavy metals and other forms of soil contamination.
Brassicas, (Cole crops in the family Brassicaceae) like kale, collards & mustard, are particularly reputed as having the ability to "photo-remediate" the soil. What this means is that these plants are capable of up taking minerals (desirable and undesirable) from the soil and concentrating them in their above ground biomass aka leaves, stems & flowers.
Ordinarily, the term photoremediation is favorable. For example, the use of sunflowers to up take heavy metals from the soil is a good thing because the heavy metals (such as lead) are removed safely from the soil and concentrated in the flowers. The plants can then be removed, thus removing contamination from the soil. 
So what does this mean? Well for starters, let me just lay out the facts for you about how we grow things here at The Berry Farm:
1.) The Berry Farm is situated on agricultural land that is both historically & currently the best & most fertile in the county.
2.) Our farm land has historical agricultural roots. (Yes that pun was intended)
3.) We care about our soil. We practice crop rotation both outside on our fields & inside in our greenhouses. We utilize cover crops & green manures to replenish the soils nutrients.
4.) We make our own compost. We use organic waste (food scraps: egg shells, banana peels, apple cores, spent fruit & veges), grass clippings, and leaf mulch from our farm. We use this compost in both our raised beds and throughout our greenhouses."
 The Berry Farm, Chatham, NY

Now, don't you feel better? I know I do! 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - On The Trail

Read everything.

When I am researching a book I try to read everything on the subject and then some. Sometimes that reading takes me back...way things I've written earlier. It could be a magazine article on the topic of my book or even a report I wrote back in college.

In this case, I dug out an old report I wrote in elementary school on dolphins. It's a topic I've returned to before when I wrote OCEANS. I remember writing this report. I was totally into it. I read Nat Geo and every book I could find on the topic -- which wasn't difficult because my mom had an extensive library right at home.

Looking at this report I can see the nonfiction author I was going to be. Not only was it complete, it had 9 chapters, was illustrated, and included a bibliography.

I laughed as I read the comments inside.  My teacher circled the word BOVINE and wrote beside it  - What does this mean?  Could she have not known that, or was she suggesting I should have defined the word in text?

The report earned me a grade of O+  which is short for Outstanding +  and this note:

It is my pleasure to read such a report. A tremendous amount of work on your part. I'm sure if I had to ever write a report about dolphins I would turn yours in instead of mine.

BAM! the 5th or 6th grader in me is still beaming and thankful my teacher was so encouraging.

Reading this will help me get back into that middle grade head as I write my WIP. What excited me then will probably still excite my MG readers now.

So for today, I'm reading everything and taking some time to connect with my inner middle grader.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Research Brings the World Closer

I am in that in-between stage with my writing. I'm researching and writing one book as I finish up the close examination of pages for the last book that will be on shelves soon. It means I have a foot in each book. My thoughts move from one subject to the other.

Each time I work on a book I discover new worlds, meet new people, and travel to new places. Research is a gift to myself. It widens my world. Just like when you travel on vacation and become intimate with a new place, research accomplishes the same thing. For the last book I travelled a lot -- as far away as Russia. But I also spoke to scientists as far away as Iraq.

I watch the news differently now. I think of the people I have met and worked with. I wonder about their safety. I wonder if they are able to continue working.

I watch, frustrated, knowing that I can't help, but hope that when their stories come out into the world, other people with watch a little differently too.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Nonfiction Monday -- On the Trail

I'm excited to be working on another book for Houghton Mifflin. I had a blast working on Sniffer Dogs and my forthcoming YA title, The Story of Seeds. I thought it might be fun to blog while I research the next one, since nonfiction is really all about the research.

After a thorough online search to find as much information about my subject as I can, I usually head off to the library. Sometimes I visit my local library, but often I need to go to a bigger library at a university.

For this book, I headed to a university science library.

The Roman goddess of wisdom - Minerva graces the SUNY Albany Science Library entrance
with the Latin motto "sapientia et sua docent cause" meaning "Wisdom for its own sake and for the sake of teaching"

This is the spot where I can find, not only current information on my topic, but historical texts that can provide me with the history of my subject. And it's a great library because I can roam through the stacks to find the book I'm looking for. Many libraries don't have open stacks. You have to give a list of books to the librarian and then the books are retrieved for you. The problem  is that you don't get to find neighboring books that might provide you with the jewel you never expected.

This first stop on the research trail is much different than the other stops I'll take later on when I'm meeting scientists in the field, but it's a very important first step.  And for me - it's loads of fun as I make my initial discoveries.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Raising a Daughter - Creating a Curious Learner

I just read a blog about how important it is to read science stories to your daughter. I completely agree!  Pull out the nonfiction alongside the fairytales!

 I also feel it is equally important or more important to encourage your daughters to be curious learners. Read the books, but also get them outside to enable them to have their own experiences with the world around them.  Take them on walks in the woods. Show them how much fun a museum can be. Listen to all kinds of music. Providing your daughter with all of those experiences will help them conquer anything that comes there way. Teach them to question. And also show them that there is hardly ever one right answer (except in math). Even science doesn't answer everything.

Explore books of all kinds.  Read the fairytales and come up with different endings. And yes, pull out the nonfiction, but don't just read it - explore it!

Good News and Bad News ---For Wolves

There was good news and bad news recently for our country's gray wolf population, as you see below. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser...