Homemade Stepping Stones
You can personalize your garden by creating your own stepping stones.
* Quick-Crete, Redi-Mix, or Portland cement
* long-handled hoe for mixing
* chicken wire for strength
* rubberized gloves to protect your hands
* forms, such as plastic plant saucers, disposable pie pans, stiff-sided cardboard cake or pizza boxes, or plastic rings
Mix the concrete with water until a thick slurry develops. (It takes practice to know when you have the right consistency -- stiff, yet moist enough to pour.) Place your forms on a plastic-covered, flat surface and pour in the concrete. If the form is very large, reinforce it by lining the bottom with a piece of chicken wire. This will prevent cracking when the stepping stone is used or moved.
Once the form is filled with concrete, smooth the top and personalize your creation with colorful stones, shells, or shiny coins. You can make hand- or footprints, or imprint your stones with leaves, ferns, or cedar sprigs.
Remove the forms after the concrete cures and place your stones in the garden. If you decorated them with plant material, don't try to remove it, just allow it to weather away.
Bugs of Washington and Oregon
Bugs of Washington and Oregon, by John Acorn and Ian Sheldon (Lone Pine Publishing, 2001; $12) is an entertaining text that brings out the personality of each insect while detailed illustrations bring them to life. From delicate and beautiful butterflies to scary and venomous spiders, all of the insects in the book are grouped and color-coded for easy identification. I especially like the quick-glance key to bugs at the beginning of the book, which helps me find the related text in a hurry. Bug enthusiasts and amateur entomologists will appreciate this field guide from The Discovery Channel's "Nature Nut," John Acorn, and illustrator Ian Sheldon.