Hearth & Soul

by Suzy Banks

Do It... Or At Least Read It

I want to do everything. I want to control the weather. I want to crush stones between my palm and turn them into diamonds. I want to fly unaided by any mechanical device. Fortunately, I want to do more down-to-earth tasks as well: can my own agarita jelly; build a Japanese screen; weave a rug; and learn the right terms for architectural thingamajigs. If I buy a few books and kits from two catalogues I received, it would appear these skills might be within my reach.

The Builder's Booksource catalogue is an understated 60-page pamphlet listing over 5,000 titles covering topics ranging from the uniform building code to compact home design to greywater systems to building furniture. Since our fireplace smokes, I've added The Forgotten Art of Building a Good Fireplace, by Vrest Orton, to my Christmas wish list. I also want The Termite Report by Donald Pearman because it's "an invaluable source of information for anyone who wants an active part in protecting the value of a home and the safety of the people who live in it." (I think the pest control industry is terrifying people into poisoning themselves because of an overblown fear of termite damage, don't you?) Contact Builder's Booksource at 1817 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, 800/843-2028, or visit http://www.buildersbooksite.com

The books and craft kits featured in the Lark catalogue are more frivolous than Booksource's but just as intriguing. I mean, I guess I won't die if I never master bobbin lacemaking or Kumihimo silk braiding, but my life will be slightly less glorious without the experiences. I am oddly drawn to the books on tassels, papermaking, and lamp shades, probably because I'm ready for some projects of clean, quiet grace after two decades among the rattle of cement mixers, the roar of compressors, the aches of heavy lifting, and the grit of grinding metal. Contact Lark at 50 College Street, Asheville, NC 28801, 800/284-3388.

Maybe the only thing you want to learn how to do is install your own rainwater collection system. If so, the only book I've ever seen on that topic exclusively is Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged. It's available here in Austin at Book People, Garden-Ville Nursery, Ecowise, and The Austin Zoo. And it was written by me and illustrated by my friend, Tre Arenz. I promise this is the one and only time I'll plug it here in my column. Especially if you keep me busy answering your questions.

Where is everyone? I feel so all alone. Send your questions to Suzebe@aol.com or The Austin Chronicle, P.O. Box 49066, Austin, 78765.