Saturday, June 13, 2009

It rained! And I fixed the pipe! And the plants still live!

Graduated from Kaplan teacher training! Really looking forward to teaching. It'll be fun.

Now working on a book to help high school students prepare for the Advanced Placement exam in U.S. government and politics. I follow policy and politics pretty intently, but it'll be fun to see how much of the formal knowledge I remember from high school.

The big news of the last few weeks has been my battle to keep my 100+ baby plants alive despite (a) no rain and (b) no working garden hose. We're somewhere between "moderate drought" and "severe drought." (The Drought Monitor map, as well as the other info at this University of Nebraska—Lincoln site, is pretty cool.) The threads for the hose to screw onto had corroded so badly, no amount of Plumber's Goop would keep it on, plus there were leaks from the spigot and another connection. Duct tape actually worked for one watering per wrapping before it fell off -- duct tape is awesome. I ended up hauling more water than I want to think about one 5-gallon bucket at a time. Have I mentioned I'm not big in the upper-body-strength department?

I read up on taking apart old pipes and flinched every time I encountered the words propane torch. Finally at the crack of dawn one morning, I ventured out with my midsized pipe wrench in hand to see what would happen. The bad section of pipe came right off! Doug dimly remembers, and I think I do too, that we had the same problem shortly after moving into the house and had our handyman at the time fix it. If the pipes had only been together 17 years instead of 71 years, that would explain why they didn't act as though welded together. A quick walk down to the corner hardware store for replacement parts and plumber's tape, and it was all fixed and worked great!

And it finally rained last weekend -- over an inch! Lovely, lovely, lovely steady soaking rain!!!!! I could feel the waves of relief coming from the plants -- I swear I could.

I don't think I lost a single plant to lack of water.

Now the big news is that I think I'm going to have over 30 tomato plants. Yikes. So here's what happened. I got 6 beautiful heirlooms from the Friends School Plant Sale. Then Jung Seeds offered a collection of 16 sweet pepper plants at a great end-of-season price, and they came with 16 tomato plants. (I think I didn't read the fine print very closely. I was just excited about the peppers.) Then, weeks ago, I tossed some old tomato plant seeds in the ground in case one might germinate. Well . . . a whole bunch just came up. Yikes. If they all grow and fruit and the rodents and dogs don't eat them, I'm going to be begging people to accept bags of tomatoes!

Seem to have a soil fungus -- verticillium -- afflicting my dogwood tree, causing all the leaves on one branch after another to wilt. Hopefully, I can prune it back and save it. Hopefully, it won't infect all the barberry that covers the hill starting 15 feet away. If it does that, I will cry!!!

The Emerald Ash Borer has come to Minnesota. Its larvae have started killing ash trees in St. Paul. Our block has lost quite a few elm trees in the last ten years, and the city forestry department chose . . . yup, green ash trees to replace them. I don't find the trees that attractive -- I could take them or leave them -- but I really don't want to lose the time it takes to get mature trees lining the street. The ashes are just starting to be a mature presence and offer a smidgen of shade. The critters are really pretty; it's a shame their larvae are so destructive.

Ash Borer (Mature)
Ash Borer (Larva)

  • Well, it's not fun that she died, but it is fun that I learned about her: Koko Taylor, "Queen of the Blues." What a voice! What a career in the male-dominated world of blues. How cool that she performed shortly before her death at age 80. Must acquire her recordings.
  • Sharks in captivity can learn visual and audible signals to know when it's their turn to come to their trainer and eat. Some can even be picked up and cuddled after responding to the cue, knowing that food will be the reward. This article says the "brightest sharks" will be trained in three months. Based on what I've seen of my tropical fish, I doubt it will take that long; when it comes to food, fish can be pretty quick on the uptake.

  • The news is that fingerprints don't increase the surface area of our hands and don't increase friction when we grip things, so that's not what they're for. But what I found fascinating is that New World monkeys have "tailprints"; that is, ridged areas of skin on their prehensile tails.

  • I'd embed this, but you really have to watch tennis full-screen to follow the ball and get the full enjoyment. Here's a "greatest hits" compilation of French player Fabrice "the Magician" Santoro running his opponents around the court and hitting shots between his legs to win points. Roger Federer breaks into a grin at one point as he's being pulled from net to baseline to net . . . Fun stuff.

  • Cute Nike ad celebrating Roger Federer's 14th Grand Slam victory, which tied Pete Sampras's record. He won the 14th at the French Open, held on a clay (crushed brick) surface, which was the one major he'd never won; thus, he also achieved a career Grand Slam at the same time as tying the record.

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