Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Blessing of Toads by Sharon Lovejoy

I've been wanting to read and review this book since Nan posted about it months ago. I won it in her generous giveaway but it seemed to arrive at a particularly low point in my non-fic reading abilities, and I didn't want to ruin the book by reading it in the wrong mood.

I'm so glad I waited. This is a lovely book, and while it was a good book to read all at once, I think it would also be a good candidate for picking up and reading a little bit at a time. A Blessing of Toads is a collection of Sharon Lovejoy's articles from Country Living Gardener magazine, little bite-sized pieces (none longer than five pages) all smushed together into one book. To be honest, I've never read Country Living Gardener and I've never read anything by Lovejoy, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Whatever my expectations were, they were surpassed.

I learned a lot. I've been in outdoor education for the past eight years, and I grew up in a very nature-conscious family. I've been surrounded by naturalists my entire life, and so Lovejoy didn't have to convince me of the wonders of having nature in the garden -- to me, that's the point. But I learned a lot from her about nature, and also about things I could be doing to attract further critters to the backyard. Even more, she reminded me (I knew, but sometimes it's hard to remember) to just take the time to watch. I know there are amazing things happening in my garden every day, I just need to look for them. So I was envious of her stories -- of her family of crows, of her garter snake, of her phoebe nest -- but I realize I am just starting. I've got a long way to go, and I've also got some time to catch up.

Lovejoy also has the perfect gardening philosophy for me:

I like this laissez-faire gardening attitude. Newman's words of wisdom coupled with Julian Donahue's comment, "A lazy gardener is one of the best friends of wildlife," leads me to believe that I may have found my gardening niche.

She calls hornworms unicornworms. I'm going to start using this, and maybe I won't be so squicked out by them (because I can handle almost anything, but a hornworm is a big, twitchy, squishy thing with a horn, people -- a unicornworm is the trusty steed of the tomato flower sprite, and noble, not terrifying). She also coins the title term, "a blessing of toads" to replace the term "a knot of toads" for a group of the trusty little amphibians. I like the way she thinks.

A few of the other things I learned:
  • syrphid flies (flowerflies) have voraceous larvae called "aphid tigers" that will eat a plant clean of aphids and other garden pests
  • Nashville warblers can eat three tent caterpillars a minute -- now, not saying they do that every minute of every day, but that warbler is really moving

I also liked:

"Crepuscular" is a great word that rolls around in my mouth like a handful of jawbreakers.

She's humble, enthusiastic, and energetic -- her personality bubbles through the pages, sometimes factual, sometimes whimsical, always informative. I am giving this book to my co-worker Joanne to read, because I know she'll love it.

Thanks again, Nan. We have some of Lovejoy's other work at the library and I'll be checking it out. I love finding a new garden writer who both inspires and relaxes me.


Sharon Lovejoy said...

I am HUMBLED by your words.

Thank you and all garden blessings,

Sharon Lovejoy

Unknown said...

You're welcome! Thank you for reminding me to take time to watch. And I'm so glad there are people out there to speak up for the toads, snakes, and unicornworms.

Thank you for commenting! That means a lot to me.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to read it! Thanks for sharing, Kiirstin!
See you at the library,