Itsy-bitsy garden

Spring is starting to spring (with the usual fickle weather) and gardeners are itching to get to work. Don’t have a garden? It’s still possible to grow yourself some yummy fresh greens. All you need is a few shallow containers with drainage holes and a light spot for them.

I’m talking microgreens. I’ve not given them a go before except outdoors in my vege plot,  so I decided to put a couple of empty ceramic bonsai pots I had kicking around to good use. (Hmmm, yeah, bonsai. Let’s not talk about that garden episode…)

I’ve been inspired to give microgreens a go by a new Kiwi book, How to Grow Microgreens by Fionna Hill, which we’ve just acquired here at the library. A microgreen is defined as a young edible plant that has developed two true leaves beyond its cotyledons (or seed-leaves) so it’s bigger than a sprout but still tender enough that you can gobble everything above the ground whole. My bonsai pots work well – and look good too – but you can use any shallow container. Plastic takeaway containers with holes punched in the bottom work just fine. Your microgreens won’t mind – all they need is about 4cm of  growing medium (I use an organic seed raising mix) to nestle their roots into.

Using untreated seed is important – ask at your garden centre if you’re not sure what to get. Several seed companies now do ranges specifically for microgreens. I’ve just planted red cabbage, “Fiji Feathers” peas (a variety specifically for microgreens), green broccoli, kale, ruruhau (mustard cabbage), fennel and “Bulls’ Blood” beetroot. The fennel seeds have the added bonus of smelling delicious as you plant them – but remember not to sniff the potting mix!

Growing microgreens is just one way to container-garden when your space is limited. Check out your library for a great collection of books on this method of growing.

What garden books have inspired you to grow new things? What have you learned from your successes/failures?

Robert Schumann – complicated musical genius

Cover2010 marks the 200th anniversary of  the birth of Robert Schumann, one of the most beloved composers and an influential music critic of the Romantic Movement.

According to cellist Steven Isserlis, writing in Gramophone, Schumann was a complicated musical genius who embodied the passion and imaginative spirit of his age, yet he remains one of the most misunderstood and under-valued of all the great composers.

Now thought to be bi-polar, Schumann was plagued with debilitative bouts of depression. Received wisdom has been that his depression had an unhealthy effect on his compositions, but significantly he actually tended not to compose while unwell, therefore his works cannot be described as a product of madness.

Tragically he did spent the last two years of his life in a mental asylum at his own request after an attempted suicide.

Isserlis surmises that Schumann’s enduring popularity with modern composers is that he seemed to compose without rules, that he swung  from conservative music forms to stream- of -consciousness and that there was always experimentation hidden just beneath the surface:

His restless spirit is constantly searching, probing finding or needing new ways to express his strange inner life . Perhaps more than any other composer, Schumann can take us into the land of dreams.

Resources you may enjoy

Selection of popular Schumann pieces on our music databases

Schumann in our collection

The Corner Store – Image of the Week

Hubbard, Hall & Co. at 104 Manchester Street. 1898.

Hubbard, Hall & Co.

Do you have photos of Christchurch? We love donations.

Also contact us if you have any further information on any of the images. Want to see more? You can browse our collection.

Moomins take over the world

CoverIf you haven’t discovered the Moomins yet, then you are in for a treat.

Created and written by Swedish-speaking Finnish author, Tove Jansson, the Moomins turned 65 in 2010. These fabulous hippo-like creatures inhabit a valley in Norway and are involved in all sorts of adventures.

I was introduced to the Moomins by a colleague who said that Finn Family Moomintroll was her “all-time absolute favourite classroom read-aloud story” when she was a teacher. I thought “what the Moomin?” as I scurried off to the bookshelves.  Wow. What a treat.

CoverSo I suggest you treat yourself and discover the delights of the Moomins.

There’s the Moomin books. There’s the comic strips.

There’s the upcoming movie.

There’s the new cookbook about Finnish cuisine.

A national treasure in Norway for many years (there was even a Moomin Opera produced in the 1970s!), Moomin mania finally comes to the rest of the world.

Enjoy!