Sunday, August 28, 2016

Welcoming Wildlife in the Home Landscape

I'm excited that Lisa Sausville of Vermont Coverts is coming to the Davies Memorial Library on September 27, to talk about managing our lands (whether back yard or acres) to be better habitat for wildlife (watch for the event announcement). At my house, a couple of years ago I put up five birdhouses ... and then realized that they wouldn't get new occupants if they didn't have enough trees and bushes around them to make the birds feel safe. So of course, I planted more.

And this was around the same time that I was encouraging mint to grow in various areas of the yard, to try to send the deer away from my flowers and vegetables. It's all about planning, I guess!

But I really want to hear this professional speaking about how to look at the yard in terms of wildlife. Also, in terms of getting ready for her visit, I took a look at the recommended resources on the Vermont Coverts website ( -- and there are lots! Here is the book list. I was happy to find that I have a couple of these, and I'll be looking for the others. If you have some you'd like to share at the library, this would be a great time to donate them for a special collection!

Suggested Reading List

House wrens nested in this one ...
  • Working With Your Woodland - Beattie, Levine and Thompson. University Press of New England.
  • A Guide To Logging Aesthetics - Jones. Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service. Publication #NRAES-60
  • Reading The Forested Landscape - Wessels. Countryman Press.
  • The Nature of Vermont - Johnson. University Press of New England.
  • The Northern Forest - Dobbs and Ober.
  • The Woodland Steward - Fazio. The Woodland Press.
  • The Tree Identification Book - Symonds.
  • A Landowner's Guide to Building Forest Access Roads - Weist. USDA Forest Service Publication #NA-TP-06-98.
  • Owning and Managing Forests - McEvoy. Island Press.
  • Positive Impact Forestry - McEvoy. Island Press.
  • A Sand Country Almanac - Leopold. Ballantine Press.
  • Wetland. Woodland. Wildland - A Guide to the Natural Communities of Vermont - Thompson and Sorenson. University Press of New England.
  • Wildlife Habitat Management for Vermont Woodlands-A Landowner's Guide. VT Fish and Wildlife Dept., Waterbury, VT.
  • Management Guide for Deer Wintering Areas in Vermont - VT Forests and Parks and VT Fish and Wildlife Departments.
  • Model Habitat Management Guidelines for Deer, Bear. Hare. Grouse. Turkey, Woodcock and Non-Game Wildlife -- VT Fish and Wildlife Department
  • Mammal Tracks and Sign of the Northeast - Gibbons.
  • Tracking and the Art of Seeing - Rezendes. Harper Collins.
  • Nature Walks in Southern Vermont - Mark Mikolas
  • Acceptable Management Practices for Maintaining Water Quality on Logging Jobs in Vermont - VT Dept. Forests, Parks and Recreation, Waterbury, VT.
  • Earth Pond Sourcebook - Matson. Countryman Press.
  • Pond and Brook - Caduto. University Press of New England.
  • The Book of Swamp and Bog - Eastman. Stackpole Books.
  • Earth Ponds: The Country Pond Maker's Guide to Building, Maintenance and Restoration - by Vermonter Tim Matson

Nonfiction Children's books about Woodlands and Wildlife: 
Adopted by an Owl – Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen
A Tree is Growing – Arthur Dorros
Animals That Live in Trees
 – Djane R. McCauley
Baby Animals of the Woodland Forest
 – Carmen Bredeson
The Brook Book – Jim Arnosky
The Charcoal Forest – How Fire Helps Animals and Plants– Beth A. Peluso
Creatures of the Woods
 – Toni Eugene
Crinkleroot’s Nature Almanac – Jim Arnosky
Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees
 – Jim Arnosky
Dirty, Rotten, Dead – A Worm’s Eye-View of Death, Decomposition…and Life – Jerry Emory
Forest Bright – Forest Night – Jennifer Ward
 Explorer – A Life-Size Field Guide – Nic Bishop
The Forest Forever
 – Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini
Frog Heaven – Ecology of a Vernal Pool – Doug Wechsler
The Hidden Life of the Forest
 – David M. Schwartz
In a Nutshell – Joseph Anthony
In The Forest – Nature’s Footprints – Q. L. Pearce & W. A. Pearce
In The Heart of the Village – The World of the Indian Banyan Tree – Barbara Bash
A Log’s Life – Wendy Pfeffer
Look At This Tree
 – Susan Canizares
My Favorite Tree – Terrific Trees of North America – Diane Iverson
My Little Book of Painted Turtles
 – Hope Irvin Marston
My Little Book of Wood Ducks
 – Hope Irvin Marston
My Little Book of Whittetails
 – Hope Irvin Marston
One Small Square – Woods – Donald M. Silver
Owls – Gail Gibbons
Planting the Trees of Kenya – The Story of Wangari Maathai – C. A. Nivola
The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree
 – Gail Gibbons
Smithsonian Backyard Series
 – many appropriate titles Tell Me, Tree – Gail Gibbons
Tree – Eyewitness Book
The Tree – Judy Hindley
Tree – An Eyewitness Book
 – David Burnie
A Tree is a Plant
 – Clyde Robert Bulla
A Tree is Growing
 – Arthur Dorros
Tree of Life – The World of the African Baobab – Barbara Bash
Tree to Paper – (Welcome Books: How Things Are Made) – Inez Synder 
A Walk in the Boreal 
Forest – (Biomes of No. America) – R. L. Johnson
Walking With Henry = Based on the Life and Works of Henry David Thoreau
 – Thomas Locker
Wangari’s Tree of Peace – A True Story from Africa – Jeanette Winter
While A Tree Was Growing
 – Jane Bosveld
Why Do Leaves Change Color?
 – Betsy Maestro
Wild Fox – A True Story – Cherie Mason
Wild Tracks – A Guide to Nature’s Footprints – Jim Arnosky
Woods and Forests – Nature Hide and Seek 
– J. N. Wood & M. Silver
The Woods Scientist
 – Stephen R. Swinburne
Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree
 – William Miller, et al. B

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Organic Gardening, and North Country Experience

What a treat it was to have Henry Homeyer at the Davies Memorial Library on Saturday evening May 21. The UNH Master Gardener is familiar to many through his Vermont Public Radio commentaries and his newspaper columns (which can be read at For Waterford's eager audience (a full library!), he brought a special new presentation: "Great flowers that attract and feed butterflies and native pollinators." Starting, of course, with the butterfly bush, but including an hour of diverse and sometimes surprising candidates, in full color.

People wrote notes all through this engaging talk -- names and habits of plants that butterflies and other pollinators adore, and quick sharp comments on which plants live up to their reputations and which ones don't (like a variety called "endless summer" by the plant merchant but that Mr. Homeyer called "endless disappointment"). Questions flew at the end of the talk -- how to make hollyhocks happy, whether lavender would overwinter in our area (zone 4), which forsythias bloom after a northern Vermont winter, soil testing, rosechafers, and more.

One of the last questions was from Jen, our amazing librarian, who has an invasive plant taking over her stone wall. At Mr. Homemeyer's urging, she zipped home to pull a handful. The garden pro looked at the greenery, grimly. "Goutweed," he pronounced. "Sell the house."

That's the only bit of advice I hope won't be followed from the evening!

Watch for the July program in this series, on "land management for wildlife." And oh yes, there was a question about woodchucks ... right after the one about mice in a walled garden. Don't you wish you'd heard the answers? Maybe you'll want to check out some of Henry Homeyer's books this season.

Fabulous flower cookies!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Justice at Home: It's All About the Circles

Susan Cherry from the Community Restorative Justice Center in St. Johnsbury visited the Davies Memorial Library on May 15 to talk about her work and show us her take on "restorative justice" -- which she explained has a 27% success rate, pretty good compared to the 10% rate for traditional prisons. Library director Jen D'Agostino and I (Beth) discussed this afterward:

B: As Susan Cherry started her talk on Restorative Justice at the Davies Memorial Library in a diverse group of listeners, I wondered whether she was going to talk about what prison is like or the presence of drugs in our community. I guess those are on my mind often, along with how we "notice" the arrests in our community because they are names we know, in our own paper. I was surprised when she started off instead by turning "us listeners" into a circle of "storytelling" -- about emotional moments in our lives. So that's what her group is trying to "restore" in their justice process! Were you surprised, too, Jen?

J: I was surprised at that as well, Beth.  When Susan came into the library before the presentation started, I had the chairs in rows as they usually are for a speaker.  She asked if we could put them into a circle instead.  One of the things that strikes me most is the way she focused on modeling the idea of open communication (learning how to listen and being able to sit in a circle for better eye contact) and how it relates to the feeling of community.  I appreciated learning to model that type of behavior. I especially liked the idea of people taking a more active role in their own communities rather than relying on law enforcement to enforce the rules.  I wonder if this would have a more positive impact on the way people see police as well.  What do you think?

B: Thanks for provoking some thought about the role of community police with this, Jen. I agree, if we become more active in choosing how we want our communities and neighborhoods to thrive, we are sure to reduce the antagonism toward the police as well. Maybe the circle really is the symbol we need: recognizing our connection most of all. This has been my "season of life" for understanding that every family can suffer the tragedy of someone behaving illegally, whether it's drug-related or "teenage stupidity" or the very sad cases of embezzlement that we see more often now, as more people panic under financial stress. I think the restorative justice presentation reminded me in a new way that framing things as "us and them" may be easier to do, but doesn't always give the best results. What do you think we might explore as a result of these insights? Can you imagine Town Meeting in a circle, or a board meeting? What was your hope for Susan Cherry's visit with us, Jen?

J: I like the concept of a circle as a symbol of community.  It changes the notion of "us vs. them" into the idea that we all rely on each other, that not only are we responsible for figuring out the positives in our community and making them thrive, but also understanding the negatives and finding positive solutions. The circle also emphasizes that it's a constant, a thriving community doesn't plateau and rest.  It's in motion- it's always a work in progress, which personally, I find exciting!  

I asked Susan to come in to continue the inspiring discussion started by Pat Shine and her LSC students about Community Justice.  I felt open communication about the topics addressed that night (racism, LGQBT issues, poverty, etc.) were imperative to building a strong, supportive community.  These are topics that tend to be discussed in broad ways and I’ve always believed that becoming more familiar with unfamiliar leads to a better understanding and acceptance, thus a stronger community. I had envisioned an evening with Susan that would be related to poverty and prison.  And while that was certainly touched upon, I think the most important thing I walked away with was the concept of using listening as a prime tool to encourage respect among neighbors.  Again, that circle concept: more listening encourages more respect, more respect encourages more listening.  Susan showed that it can happen in all facets in life, and I’m excited to use it to figure out where this can go next!

Have some ideas about more community topics and discussions? Add a comment to this blog post, or e-mail directly to

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Life in Chinese Family Restaurants: Did You Ever Wonder?

Writing Cold Midnight, my St Johnsbury mystery set in 1921 when local businessman Sam Wah died an "untimely death," I did a lot of research into Chinese laundry owners like Mr. Wah. It surprised me so much that St. J had a Chinese man in business on Railroad Street for 35 years, way back then! It also helped wake me up to how many Chinese people live in our region now, and the family businesses that they own.

John Jung, a retired professor of psychology in California, developed a second career for himself, writing about Chinese and Chinese-American life in America. And Professor Jung became one of the people I would check details with. In return, I pass along to him newspaper articles from the 1800s, 1900s, and "today" about Chinese family businesses and also about the types of ethnic-related crime that drew my attention to Sam Wah in the first place.

Now Professor Jung has his own publishing house for his books -- Yin & Yang Press -- and has brought out five intriguing books. He suggested that our library might enjoy having a copy of SWEET AND SOUR: Life in Chinese Family Restaurants. From the development of "American Chinese" menus, and the pioneers in this business, to intriguing interviews with owners of these (usually small) family-run restaurants, the book is full of stories that are enjoyable and enlightening. One restaurant family he received material from has a restaurant in Montreal -- maybe you have eaten there! Look for the book on the shelf at the Davies Memorial Library next week.

If you enjoy videos, try this one of John Jung talking about this book! (You'll find Professor Jung easy to listen to -- no "Chinese accent," he's a true Californian and a skilled speaker from being a college professor.)

What are you reading now, or what books about our world and our lives do you think would be good to add to our library collection? Email library director Jen D'Agostino at with your ideas and book descriptions.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Irish Part of Our History

My Northeast Kingdom historical fiction takes a huge amount of research -- and when I was working on Cold Midnight, which involves the stunningly diverse St. Johnsbury of the 1920s (including a Chinese laundry owner, but also Irish and Canadian heritage for many area residents), I stocked up on the latest historical research. Here are two books I especially enjoyed.

THE IRISH AMERICANS by Jay Dolan (2008) has John F. Kennedy on the cover, and devotes a lot of pages to Boston Irish history, even in terms of neighborhoods. But it also includes chapters on "City Hall and the Union Hall" and "It's Chic to Be Irish." The 2000 Census of our area showed 30 percent of residents had Irish heritage. A good book to delve into!

Because my book included an Irish domestic worker in a St J household that people who know the region may recognize as the Fairbanks home, I also valued Margaret Lynch-Brennan's 2009 book  THE IRISH BRIDGET, subtitled "Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930." There are revelations in each chapter, from the effects of the Potato Famine to how these women lived in American households. It's a slower read, but fascinating.

Both books will be at the Davies Memorial Library later this week. -- Beth Kanell

PS - What other areas of history, or specific titles, would you like to see added to the Davies collection? Be sure to let Jen know:

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How the Social Justice Collection Arrived at the Davies

LSC Prof. Pat Shine, center, with students presenting on social justice books.
Lyndon State College Professor Pat Shine agreed to ask her students to select the 10 most important books for us to shelve in terms of social justice -- the ones that people would want to read for both the good writing and the way the books could make a difference in their approach to this subject. Here's the list the students made:
White Butterfly
Nickled & Dimed
The New Jim Crow
The Tortilla Curtain
Out of My Mind
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
Fun Home
The Half Has Never Been Told
Without a Net
Why Does He Do That
Then, on March 8 (after "weather" postponed the original February date), four of the students and Professor Shine came to the Davies Memorial Library (donating their time!) and talked about the titles they had read and what these books meant to them. (Some of their descriptions may post in this column later.)

Here's what one Waterford resident, Linda M., wrote after the event:
The students' book summaries made me want to read each book.  Their comments provided me with more understanding of how and why we can be so mean to each other.  That sentence may seem harsh but I am troubled about slavery, Nazi-ism, and turning away immigrants fleeing for their lives.  The discussion made a huge impact on me because it revealed that if we don't consider every human as being as "human" and "good" as "us" then it is easy to be vicious and cruel.  Our view of others does influence our actions and those we select to lead us.  Thank you for providing me with a new perspective for evaluating my own behavior and for responding to or confronting the behavior of others. 
The books are available at the Davies; contact Jen at if you'd like to reserve one to read today.

Reading Mysteries: Short Hello from Beth

Cupcake with Louise Penny's first title (edible!) decorating it.
Beth Kanell here, Waterford book lover and also writer. One of my "wordsmith" hats involves reviewing mysteries as they are published, so I read a lot of them! This week I'm reading one set in Ghana, and just finished another set in Hollywood. Sounds like I need something British to round things out!

For a mystery authors' event I'm helping with next month, I had to answer a question about the must-reads of mysteries, for writing them. Here's what I think -- and I'm interested in knowing your "must read" mystery authors or titles, too. Send them along to Jen at the library e-mail
Today's cozy mysteries are rooted in Agatha Christie's puzzle mysteries; the hard-boiled ones emerged from Raymond Chandler; and the art of the espionage mystery was refined by Helen MacInnes. Those are the musts -- but their mysteries can feel out of date! The modern classics now include the mysteries by Sara Paretsky, Nancy Pickard, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and Laura Lippman -- and emphatically, the Gamache series from Louise Penny. As a reader, I'm always eager for the newest Lee Child, Donna Leon, and Charles Todd mysteries, and the Vermont series from Archer Mayor. What about you?