Saturday, May 16, 2009

Friends School Plant Sale!

Picture this: The huge maple tree in back is blooming, showering the yard with a steady dusting of yellow flowers. Cubby Bear goes outside and comes back in covered in flowers clinging to his fluffy coat. A total springtime doggie! I didn't have a camera in hand, so don't have an actual picture to post, but here's an old photo of Cubby in the backyard. You can fill in the flowers.

Cubby Bear 2003
Next I want to whine about weather. I know . . . I live in MN and really shouldn't gripe, because once one starts, there's no end to it. But . . . this really sucked. We've had a dry spring, and the plants need rain. My new plants (see below) with their little bitty root systems really need rain. Massive storm system sweeps across the entire Upper Midwest. I watch it on radar. It gets closer, it gets closer -- and the little piece of the front that passes over our house fizzles out just as it reaches us, then reforms. We got 0.01 inch of rain. Bleh. So whine, whine, whine.

And the pipe that the garden hose hooks up to has finally lost all its threads to corrosion. I couldn't find my Amazing Goop, which I used on it last year, but I did find some outdoor adhesive compound. I used that, let it cure, and it worked long enough for me to give everything in back a good soaking. Now I've found the Amazing Goop, but it was too cold for it to cure today. The plants in front couldn't wait any longer, so I ended up hauling water to them by the five-gallon bucketload -- close to 20 buckets? It was worth it, though, so that (a) the plants would survive and (b) I would stop worrying about them.

Plants! OMG!!! Last year, I missed the Friends School Plant Sale because I'd been up working all night and been putting in 18- to 20-hour days before that and didn't grok how long the lines would be and just couldn't deal with it. This year, I was up all night working but was determined to do the sale . . . and I did . . . and I went crazy!!!!! Holy cats. I probably got 150 plants. Lots of natives -- their selection seems to get better every year -- and nonnative perennials/shrubs I've wanted forever to fill in my front yard and boulevard. The tear-out-the-lawn-and-replace-it-with-more-interesting-stuff-that-doesn't-need-to-be-mowed project may finally be nearing completion. It was never intended to take however many years it's taken! Much of the last week has been devoted to figuring out where everything should go and putting it in the ground. I'm nearly done. If everything survives, it's going to look so cool! As a side note, I had good survival over the winter, so that's got me feeling all optimistic and sunshiny. I also got some tomatoes, peppers (Cubby Bear better not eat them this year!), and peanuts (apparently you can grow them here) for the veggie patch and a couple dozen annuals for here and there.

The Friends School Plant Sale is worth a shout-out for its amazingness. It was organized 20 years ago to raise money for a local K-8 private school run by the local Quakers. The first year, it occupied a few tables on the school grounds, and two volunteers helped 100 customers. Today, it overflows the grandstand at the State Fairgrounds. Over 800 volunteers help up to 15,000 customers shop over 2,300 plant varieties. Over $200,000 is raised for scholarships. It's a good thing that gardeners are polite, patient people (you kind of have to be patient to deal with plants, which do everything on their own inscrutable schedule), because we were wall-to-wall with no room to take more than one free-swinging step before needing to stop or shuffle. While some customers are men, the vast majority are women, and the estrogen energy was palpable. While waiting in line to get wristbands, a bunch of us bonded and shared life stories. I have to give special acknowledgment to the Friends School kids who volunteered at the sale. They were amazing: hard working, polite, articulate, and possessed of initiative and intelligence and can-do spirit. Also, if you're at all interested in gardening, the sale catalog (PDF) is totally worth downloading and perusing -- it's an education in itself, and one can always plug a plant's name into Google to find out more about a particularly intriguing species.

Whew! Got that out of my system. It's pretty dang exciting, that plant sale. Doug just shakes his head in bafflement at all this. He looked at my five flats of plants and said, "Hmm, green things," and then later, "That cost $xxx?!" But he's very patient and supportive of my mania. Only other thing that happened gardeningwise is that the adorable bunnies whom I fed birdseed all winter ravaged my new tulips as they came up. I think most have enough leaves to gather strength and come back next year, but I sure got a lot less flowers than I was expecting. Feckin' bunnies.

Life is not all plants and more plants. Kaplan Test Prep training is going well. I have my last teachback session tomorrow evening, and then we graduate on Tuesday. Exciting! Of course, I knew the test content and the Kaplan methods from the work I've done on Kaplan's books the last few years. However, now I've been learning to teach it so that a class of students of various abilities and with diverse goals can maximize their scores. The amount of resources students get is terrific, and the Kaplan methods for each question type really do work great -- they even make the test easier for someone like me who already does well on it. I've really enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow trainees and hope we'll continue to see each other after graduation. Our trainer is awesome -- she's getting her PhD in immunology and is a master teacher who knows all the tests. She has fabulous energy. I hope to emulate her at least a little bit.

Also, I attended an event put on by the Minnesota Book Publishers' Roundtable for the first time. Two editors discussed developmental editing. It was good to learn more about the publishing industry outside of the narrow slice I see from my freelancer's viewpoint, and I enjoyed chatting with the folks at my table. Lunch was tasty, too! And it was held at the Open Book, a cool renovated old building dedicated to books, publishing, writers, and book arts (making handcrafted books). I'll probably go to more of their events.

Life is not all about work, either. I've actually had time to read in the last month. Finished Loving Frank: A Novel by Nancy Horan, a fictional imagining of the life of Frank Lloyd Wright's common-law second wife. Horan does a great job of bringing the characters and the period to life. If things didn't actually happen the way they do in the book, they should have. It has that kind of "truth" to it. The part of the story set at Taliesin (south-central Wisconsin) was extra interesting because we toured there last summer; I could visualize everything that happened.

And I've started The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell, a deeply historically grounded retelling of the Arthurian legend. I'm only on about page 50, but so far, it's freaking awesome!!! I'd already read his Sharpe's novels (Napoleonic era) and his American Civil War novels, which were all good. But here he takes his craft, as a writer and as an historian, to a whole different level. We've got the pagan and Christian religions, a bunch of competing political interests, and ethnic strife, plus a cast of fascinating characters who are alien due to their separation from us by time yet very human. The level of detail with which the material and social culture is rendered is worth the read in and of itself, even if there weren't a plot.

Fun: The fun this time is all courtesy of NPR's Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!. How would I stay up-to-date on important news without that program?
  • "Weisure" time: "The line dividing work and leisure time is blurring right before our eyes, says one expert, and it's creating a phenomenon called 'weisure time.'" I completely agree with what sociologist Dalton Conley says, but does he have to call it weisure time? That's horrific! Of course, I thought blog was a horrible word, too, but it's here to stay and I've even gotten used to it. But weisure? Ughhh!!!
  • Louisiana Walmart employees adopted a stray nutria (and named it Norman). A shopper is suing for damages.
  • Be really, really, really careful if you decide to clean out the fridge at work lest a hazmat team descend on the scene, as it did at an AT&T office in San Jose, California. A number of people were hospitalized due to the combination of cleaning solutions and god-only-knows stuff-that-once-was-food.

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