Monthly Archives: January 2014

It’s like Jurassic Park and Cloning (but with Plants and GMOs)

Some of you may have heard of it by now, my new novel, ZERA AND THE GREEN MAN. Thirteen years in the making, it was inspired by our connection with the Earth—and more than a little alarm over what we are doing to that connection.

From Monday through Friday, January 27th – 31st, I will be offering FREE downloads of ZERA AND THE GREEN MAN on Amazon. Here’s the link.

I hope you’ll mark your calendar and tell ALL your friends! I really want to get this story out into the world. (Otherwise, what’s the point of writing a story you’re passionate to share? Or, at least that’s the way I look at it. I want to make that connection—to share my mad, green love.)

* * *

If you haven’t heard about it before, here’s the book jacket synopsis:

On the eve of Zera’s fifteenth birthday, she’s finding little to celebrate. Her guardian, Uncle Theodore (who she’s nicknamed “the Toad”), and his frilly girlfriend, Tiffany, are dragging her to the opening of a fast-food restaurant. The menu features genetically-modified products, including the Toad’s creation “beefy fries,” a concept that both sickens and intrigues Zera.

As if that were not enough, Zera is in trouble at school for mysterious events that she neither caused nor understands—and her classmates think she’s a freak.

The single light in Zera’s dark birthday is a gift from her grandmother that awakens Zera’s passion for plants and helps bring to light her family’s ancient connection to the natural world.

From there, the battle between those who would violate Nature in the name of greed and those who would protect it evolves—with Zera Green at its center.

* * *

If you’re a plant freak you’ll like it. (Plus, what have you got to lose? It’s a free download!)

Thanks for helping spread the word!

—Sandra Knauf

P. S. If you do decide to download and read ZERA, I would love to have your feedback via an Amazon review!

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The (Girl Scout) Cookie Dilemma

imgflip.comgirlscoutnogmoimage

It’s almost that time of year again, Girl Scout cookie time! I had nearly forgotten about my little rant in Garden Rant on this very subject until I saw a post on Moms Across America’s Facebook Page this week. The post was a call to action—urging us to petition the Girl Scouts to make non-GMO ookies.

I have to say, I’m down with that.

(The link for the petition, started by a Girl Scout, is at the end of the post.)

I thought I’d share my story.

* * *

To Hell with Cookies

I was a real jerk last February 13th. Maybe it was inevitable—after weeks doing financial aid paperwork for our daughter’s college applications and our taxes, I’d had no time to even think about doing anything fun, like gardening. But I was not planning to be mean when I saw the Girl Scouts on the steps of our neighborhood library. In fact, I was cheery as I
chirped to my teen daughters Zora and Lily, “We should buy your dad a box of Mint Thin Girl Scout cookies for Valentine’s Day!”

Once I got to the table, though, suddenly the desire to support this American ritual was colored by something else. These cookies were bad for you, and the temptation, the pressure, to buy them was everywhere. A friend had just said something the week before—how families who sell these cookies almost always over-indulge, both parents and children gaining empty calories and reinforcing the sugar habit. These damn cookies, I thought, out there for weeks, tempting all to buy, buy, BUY!

That’s when I made the first snarky remark. “Same price as last year, but smaller boxes.”  Everyone politely ignored that rudeness, but then, looking at the back of the box, I added, “Artificial ingredients, hydrogenated oil. Yuk.”

Truly, I do not usually behave like this. I think there was a full moon too. My daughters  cringed, the father of the girls glared at me. I ignored them. And then I bought a box!

As we walked away, Lily said, “Mom, you were such an asshole.” The evil spell lifted. Oh my God. I was! A huge one!  We got in the car. I was suddenly full of remorse. “Maybe I should go apologize.” I hesitated, started to turn around. “Don’t you dare go back!” both daughters cried, fearing more embarrassment.

Although Lily pointed out the cookies also used palm oil (palm oil!), my conscience ached for days. How could I diss the Girl Scouts? They do good work! They set good examples! The amazing women who have been in Girl Scouts include Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gloria Steinem, and Martha Stewart. Girls are taught useful skills; self-esteem is bolstered. This group is respectful of different religions and beliefs. They fully accept people with different sexual orientations . . . what was wrong with me?!?

After thinking it over, I realized the roots of my ill will ran deep. Subconsciously I’d been thinking of all those kids—mine included—coming to our doors over the years, selling things we didn’t need or want. Paraffin candles, candy, cookies, stuffed animals made in China, discount cards for buying junk food at fast food franchises. This is what we, in America, make our kids peddle. This is what they sell for their schools, for their clubs.

As I mulled it over I remembered a school fundraiser from my elementary school days.  It was small town Missouri in the mid 1970s and I was going door to door, at exactly this time of year selling . . .  seeds! I remembered it clearly, the long list of seeds to choose from: vegetables, flowers, and herbs in beautiful packages with colorful art.

And you know what? When I came to the door many were even damn glad to see me!

I remember little old ladies (who probably weren’t much older than I am now) saying, “I’ve been wondering when you’d be by! I want to get the garden going.”

Imagine—trading four dollar boxes of cookies made with palm oil, hydrogenated oil, and artificial flavorings, for something that we can actually USE. Imagine a product that’s healthy in every way. Imagine Girl Scouts selling organic non-GMO seeds, unusual seeds, maybe seeds in partnerships with other Girl Scouts around the world, seeds that can grow beautiful bouquets of flowers, vegetables to eat. Seeds that can urge people to get off their couches, drop those cookies, grab a shovel and create something fabulous! Fundraising that can be positive for everyone and every living thing.

I can see it now, and it can happen! After all, these girls can do anything—they’re Girl Scouts.

—Sandra Knauf

(First posted on September 13, 2010 in Garden Rant.)

* * *

As I mentioned before, there’s a petition. I didn’t mind signing, joining in the effort to try to convince them to switch to a healthier fundraising product. (I’m still voting for seeds—non GMO goes without saying.) When I signed on January 14 they had well over 16,000 supporters and needed over 8,000 more.

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Little Cabbage by Rebekah Shardy

Illustration by Laura Chilson

Illustration by Laura Chilson

[I am thrilled to share one of our stories from the latest issue of Greenwoman. Rebekah Shardy’s soulful  fiction has previously appeared in Issue #4 (“Lady in Waiting”); in our latest issue she also shares her considerable knowledge on planting by the moon phases. The issue is available for order on our website or through Amazon.—Sandra Knauf]

Little Cabbage

“No appetite? Again?” The Nurse’s Aide with impossibly long purple nails heaved the bowed old woman’s wheelchair smack against the table. “You better eat those vegetables if you want to keep that girlish figure!”

That set off a gale of whoops and laughter from her friend across the room feeding a man strapped to his chair so he wouldn’t fall into a bowl of gray, pureed meat.

“It ain’t funny no more!” the churlish Aide focused her indignation on the woman who refused to look up, head hanging from her thick neck. “I’m getting sick of you wasting my time, Petty.”

“Petty? Did you say Petty?” the other CNA asked. “You mean PATTY?”

“No, Petty. Like Pedi-gree dogfood, or Pedi-cure, or pedi-phile.”

“That’s disgusting. What a disgusting name to give somebody.”

“Sssh. They tell me she’s a hospice patient. Be nice now.”

The old woman, who refused to talk or even acknowledge those that talked to and about her stared at her plate. Something that had once dreamed of being a tomato lay there in a coma of yellowed, hardening flesh, its rosy juices evaporated like the old woman’s last hopes.

It compelled memories from a time before days in the nursing home, before the struggle to forget the facts of her life, and the gardens that once nourished her.

* * *

She had always been too sensitive. As a girl, Emma was too shy to even look at a man, and was easily bruised by the most casual conversations. She remained single long after her siblings to end up living in her parents’ old, mustard-colored stucco house at the end of Avondale Street, a content recluse at 53.

She had her delights. Standing in the rain as she weeded her garden on a hot day, feeling the rise of goosebumps from the cold pinpricks fallen on bare arms and neck. She didn’t care what anyone thought as she lifted her head to taste it, the sweet-saltiness of sky and earth kissing.

Watching the paired swifts build their nests in her eaves was another joy that left her heart with inexplicable yearning. Picking scarlet raspberries, their plump soft bodies bursting in her mouth like laughter. Feeling a tentative ladybug make its intrepid way up her hairy arm to suddenly—rise! The suck and succor of new, tilled earth beneath her spreading toes, toes that instinctively kneaded the ground like a kitten does its mother for milk.

Her days seemed endless, simple and out of doors. Indoors, she read poetry and wrote a little, but rarely entertained visitors, unless you counted the cricket she allowed entrance in the frost of fall, or the caged finches she sang to at bedtime, and the one-eyed fox terrier that snored on her bed.

And then, like a summer storm, without warning, he came.

Eyes milky blue and hands too soft for a carpenter, dressed in an unfashionable yellow suit, but calm and steady enough to see her untamed, skittish soul, and love it.

He knew she was a gardener and instead of staid roses brought her bouquets of bushy tomato plants. She buried her face in their spicy leaves. When she looked up she was surprised to be greeted by a searching gaze of adoration.

Mon petit chou . . .” he whispered in one blushing ear as they sat on her front porch swing at dusk.

“French?”

Oui.”

“What does it mean?”

“My . . . little . . . cabbage.”

She never guessed she was capable of human passion, but it followed him into her life. They never married but once she found herself pregnant; a little boy she planned to give her father’s name. It was the sherry her lover brought that helped loosen her fright of conventional intimacy, the same Marsala she added to the stewed tomatoes they loved to slurp together with a dollop of sweet cream. He called them ‘drunken’ tomatoes—wonderful on crusty bread with lots of black pepper.

But time, which brought her pleasures unguessed, also ushered in sorrows unexpected. The child miscarried and the only man she ever loved died suddenly in an accident at the lumberyard where he sometimes searched for cast-offs. She did not live alone well anymore. Like the swifts, she wanted the safety and warmth of eaves to protect her little nest; something in her heart hissed that fall was coming.

She often thought it cruel when neighbors cut their trees in the bloom and boldness of summer, when every living thing was proud to be alive; it was in that season of abundant possibilities, 14 years after his death, that her home was taken from her.

She felt old for the first time in 73 years. Her limbs and back were too stiff and tired to garden anymore. Dark clouds of smoky wind-seeded fennel hovered ominously over the yard. Apples rotted where they fell. The berries became the birds.

“Come on, Miss Shumaker. You can’t stay here now. It’s not safe for you.”

A nosey neighbor had complained about the little stove fire she had while napping one day. The fire department reported their concern to Adult Protection when they saw the magnitude of decline in both woman and house.

“That’s not my name,” she told the social worker who’d come to remove her.

“Emma, then. Come along. I found you a lovely place. They’ll even cook your meals—wonderful, home-cooked food.”

She wouldn’t budge. “I told you: that’s not my name. And I’m not going either.”

“Well then, what is your name?”

Emma broke down. The sun was a starburst in a cloudless sky, and the wild sunflowers vibrated with bees on strong stalks, but she could not ignore the ruin of pale peony petals, scattered tear-like on the grass to die with her dearest memories.

Mon Petit chou.”

“Mona?”

Petit chou.”

“Petty? Shoe?”

All she could do was shout the truth until her cries silenced the jays in the trees and the sun covered its face in sudden clouds. “PETIT! PETIT! PETIT!”

“All right then,” the social worker said grimly as she took Emma’s arm firmly in hers. “Petty it is.”

* * *

She returned to the clatter of plastic dishes being collected from the dining room tables by young women who all seemed to live with bad men, no money, and too much make-up or attitude.

Pity them, her soul said. Keep yourself secret and safe.

It was just the two of them now. The girl with purple talons also had a tattoo of a broken heart to the side of one eye like a frozen tear. It was impossible to not stare at it as the girl pulled her wheelchair close so their faces were only inches away.

“Petty. Listen. I know you can hear me. You want to go to bed?”

From the corner of her eye, there was someone in the hallway, the bright figure of a man in a lemon-colored suit.

“I said: do you want to go to sleep?”

The man impatiently moved side to side, trying to catch her eye; in his arms a vivid bunch of green leaves. Could it be?

She shocked the young woman, raising her head, looking into her eyes, mouth opened. “Yes, darling,” she said, the words not intended for her. “I’m ready now.”

* * *

Rebekah Shardy

Rebekah Shardy, author of 98 Things A Woman Should Do in Her Lifetime, was nominated for Excellence in Arts for Poetry by the Pikes Peak Arts  Council, and was awarded first place for short fiction by Authorfest of the Rockies. In 2007, she received the “Community Builder” award from the Colorado Springs Arts, Business and Education (ABE) Consortium for creating and presenting free creative writing workshops (THE MIGHTY MUSE WRITING PROJECT FOR WOMEN) to 300 survivors of domestic violence, addiction, and incarceration.

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Starting the Year Green with The Signature of All Things

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I decided I had to get my hands on The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel, when I read that it was about the life of a woman in 1800s America obsessed with the study of mosses. (My botanical nerd alert immediately went to red.) The tale, which on a broader scale is about a woman’s quest to learn about life and its deeper meaning through knowledge, adventure, and love was one I knew I could  dig into.

And the truth is, it’d been ages since I’d read for pleasure only. Such is the life of an aspiring publisher, who always has to keep part of her brain on the commercial aspects of literature. (Tragic, I know.) This book would be my selfish pleasure. A Christmas gift to myself. A much needed escape into another time, another life. I latched onto it like a baby starving for mother’s milk.

Imagine my delight (tinged with just a little worry) when the book opened with this line: “Alma Whittaker, born with the century, slid into our world on the fifth of January, 1800.” I felt these emotions because January 5th is my birthday! How similar would I be to this protagonist, I wondered. Quite, I’d find. The obsessive need to ask questions and search for answers traits fit. As did other not-so-glamorous ones. I found it funny that just a few years ago I tried to get some friends together to form a book club that took on challenging works. The book I proposed we start with–Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which figures largely in The Signature of all Things. (Sadly, I was the only one hot for this idea.)

But enough about me. I connected with Gilbert’s book on several levels–lush and inventive writing, rich themes, solid story. I would write more but I don’t wish to reinvent the wheel. Gilbert has garnered a ton of rave reviews; I especially liked this one from The New York Times.

Sometimes it’s tough being a book lover with too much curiosity. I looked up information on Gilbert’s grandmother today because Gilbert dedicates her novel to “. . . Maude Edna Morcomb Olson, in honor of her hundredth birthday.” I wondered, since the book starts out with a birthday, and because this is the eve of January 5, if perhaps Gilbert’s grandmother was born on that day, too. I didn’t find the answer, but instead came across the cookbook penned by another of Gilbert’s female ancestors, her great-grandmother, Margaret Yardley Potter. Gilbert discovered At Home on the Range a few years ago when going through some old family books. She fell in love with this forgotten treasure and reissued it in 2012. (There followed, to be redundant, a ton of rave reviews.) Proceeds from its sale benefit ScholarMatch, a nonprofit organization that matches donors with young scholars trying to make it to college. When I started reading Gilbert’s lengthy introduction to this book, literary love struck once more. Darn that “Look Inside” feature on Amazon! It makes it so easy to fall head-over-heels, so hard to say no.

Sigh. A year older and a little poorer, but so happy and grateful for literary riches. 

–Sandra Knauf

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