Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I've been a -travelin', a-travelin' I've been...

...but I'm back home for a few days. The hotel we stayed at in Naperville, IL (a little berg outside of Chicago) charged for wireless, so you know that the Big Walu and I weren't going to go there; unfortunately, that meant the only internet access was through my iPhone, which, while I dearly love it, is still kind of a a pain to use for blog posting or longish emails. Sadly, we didn't discover until the day before we left that the hotel was right next door to a Starbucks and that we can use wireless for free there since we have just been assimilated by the ATT/Apple Borg. Quelle revelation! Ah well, at least we'll know better next time.

But now that I'm home and re-connected to the interwebs, I thought I'd do a little posting-catch-up. I'll start with this terrific photo of me and my friend Dawn at the Morton Arboretum in Naperville. Dawn and I met through an online forum for Masters Runners several years ago, and though we've corresponded virtually since forever, we've never met in the real world until last week (kind of like the modern day version of pen-pals!). She lives in a little town nearby, so when she found out we were coming up, she offered to meet me for lunch and a little garden touring.

Dawn was just as nice in real life as she is in the virtual, the Morton Arboretum was absolutely lovely, the weather was perfect, and I had a cheeseburger for lunch--so all in all, it was a banner day. Since Dawn and I are both runners, we thought it appropriate to stand in front of the "No Runners" sign:

I leave again next Monday, and since I will be traveling out of the country, I'm guessing my internet connection will be even more spotty than it was this last trip. So be looking for some Bike Garden radio silence in a few days...

In the meantime, I'll be doing a little posting on some public spaces I saw in Chi-town, as well as some thoughts on the seasonal rhythm of gardening.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Walt on Wacker Ave

The tulips and pansies look just right here...

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, May 15, 2009

My new favorite tool

I actually kind of like weeding. Really, I do. It's a very relaxing, zen-like activity, and I get a lot of talking to myself out loud deep thinking done while I'm grubbing in the dirt. However, the knees are over half a century old now, and their view on weeding runs counter to mine. (Seems they think kneeling is overrated.) So this winter I placed an order for a little tractor scoot (I think that might even be what it's called) with a nifty swivel seat that looks just like...wait for it...a tractor seat! As I interpreted the mechanics of this design, the intrepid weeder is supposed to sit on the seat and swivel to face the weeds, pull them up, then scoot forward to the next patch--just like you are out plowing the back forty.

After I assembled the tractor scoot (which was all John Deere-y green), I eyeballed it, sat in it, swiveled in it, scooted around little on it, felt a tiny bit like a farmer on a tractor on it...and had my doubts about it. It all seemed to work as promised, and my knees certainly seemed happy not to be kneeling, but I wasn't sure how I was going to like bending at the waist to yank on the weeds. I had a suspicion it would cause some back strain, and if that turned out to be the case, the little mini-tractor was going to be a cute, but expensive garden ornament. Since weed season was still a couple of months away at that point, I was going to have to wait to find out.

Well people, weeding time is here, and yesterday I put the scoot through its paces. The verdict: it's my new favorite tool. It worked exactly as described as I used it to dispatch the crabgrass/spotted spurge/elm seedling triumvirate that was threatening to take over the veggie patch. I sat, swiveled, scooted, and weed after weed fell to my attention with minimal, if any, back strain, and zero knee strain. I rose from my ministrations as fresh as a ripe Aunt Ruby's German green tomato on a bacon sandwich.

The talking to myself out loud thinking deep thoughts probably helped with that, too.

I should mention here that I am not being a paid shill here. I've received no form of payment, goodies, promises of free seeds for this review. (If I get free stuff for review, I'll be sure to let you know...and, most importantly, I'll still give you an honest opinion. I'll pick it apart, from soup to nuts, fair reader! Or something like that...) I'm not even going to mention the company from whom I purchased this amazing machine--you could probably figure it out without too much trouble anyway. I just like a good tool and thought I'd pass along my wisdom in this matter.

Here's the weed veggie patch after weeding and mulching;

I put a thick layer of the neighbor's left-over leaves on top of everything to hold in the moisture and starve the weeds of light. It has worked pretty well in the past, but Town Mouse passed along the alarming news in one of her comments (see the previous post) that heavy mulching only seemed to encourage the weeds in her patch this year. We shall just have to hope for the best.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some nerve!

Good grief. You leave to do a little grading and looks what sneaks in while you're gone: weeds, weeds, weeds.
Plus! The arugula has gone and bolted on me. What's up with that?

The ingratitude! The blatant disregard for my noble efforts! Sheesh.

It's, mulch for you, weeds.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Grades are in!

...and between getting my grades posted, graduation banquets, and post-hooding parties with the neighbors, I am exhausted. With any luck, though, I'll be able to get some shut-eye today during commencement (those floppy hats we wear with our academic frippery hide a lot of sins).

My only concern is that I might wake up with an Elgar earworm.

And then look out: it's Garden Time, people! Don't try to get in my way!

UPDATE: I actually love the ceremony of commencement, and so I thought I'd share a few pics of the morning and say "Well done" to the Class of 2009.

(BTW: Texas Tech alum and 60 Minutes Correspondent Scott Pelley gave the best commencement address I've ever heard. It was so good I even paid attention to it.)

On our way to the festivities (notice my new Keen commuter sandals--I am Bike Commuter Awesomeness!):

Lining up backstage with the handsomest faculty member in the Department of Philosophy:

One of my students was the Honors College banner bearer:

The reason I do it:
I always love this view, with the faculty and students walking out of the coliseum together after the big show, and the parents lining the fences, waiting for their newly-minted grads:

What we really wear under all the fancy-schmancy regalia:

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Hudson Bay Start

Still too busy with end-o-school stuff to do much of note in the garden. However, over the weekend I did get two good rides in, one with my sometime training buddy, Jill (seen on the left here in the photo with me), and the other with my other sometime training buddy, Dave (not seen in any photo because it might compromise his undercover identity) (I just made that last bit up...sort of.).

Anyway, they were the first real rides of the season, and as such I like to think of them as Hudson Bay starts. Back in the day (the late 1800s), when the Hudson Bay Trading Company used to send out big trapping expeditions, the voyageurs would always pack up, set off (called a "put-in" in canoe parlance), and go down river a very short distance, where they would pull out again and camp for a few days. The purpose of this exercise was to figure out whether someone had left the can opener, or iPhone charger, or whatever else you might kick yourself for leaving behind on a long and dangerous voyage. By camping only a couple of miles from home base, they could always send someone back for the forgotten item. It's a good time for things to go wrong, because you can fix them pretty easily.

So in the spirit of the voyageurs, I like my first rides of the season to be Hudson Bay starts--short little shake-out trips, not too far from home. That way I can see what needs tweaking, both with me and the bike, without too much risk of being stranded somewhere.

It was a perfect weekend for getting out--kind of cool and drizzly, and winds <12 mph (what passes for "dead calm" here).

I should be done grading about mid-week; after that, it's "Look out, Garden!"