Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gardener Discovers Overalls. Happiness Ensues.

I have no butt. It's true. Sometimes I think that I must have been distracted by a shiny object when they were handing them out at the factory, because when I turned back around, everyone had one but me.

Anyway. Having no butt may seem like a small problem to have, and in the grand scheme of things, it is. However, women's pants are not made for buttless people. Plus, today's fashion dictates that women's jeans must sit on the hips, below the waist, even though that style has never looked flattering on anyone, ever. Think about it: If you have no butt, what holds up jeans that sit below the waist? You get my drift.

But here is why having no butt is a problem to a gardener:

Bend over to work. Straighten back up. Pull up pants. Move to a new spot. 


You get my drift again. I suppose I could wear a belt, but besides having no butt, I am also what is euphemistically called "an apple," and for a belt to work in this scenario, I'd have to cinch it so tight as to be life-threatening.

I also have a bald spot on the back of my head from a car accident, but that's another story.

So one day, not too long ago, I got a little tired of the whole bending over/pulling-up pants thing and placed an order for some good old fashioned overalls from Carhartt. I was about halfway through building the wine patio when they came in, which was a good test for them, since there is a lot of bending over and straightening back up involved in moving around flagstone. Here is my comprehensive report on the overalls:

They work.

But not only do they do the job of staying up during the up-and-down, my friends, they are shockingly comfortable. Let me put it this way: You know how sometimes you run across something that is so perfect that it makes you just want to sit down a weep with joy? Yeah, well, enough said.

They are so wonderful and comfy, in fact, that I've been trying to figure out how to justify wearing them to teach my classes.

As for them being Carhartts, I picked them because I recognized the name. I haven't tried any other overalls, so I can't really compare them. As far as I can tell, overalls are overalls. I did read a couple of negative reviews about fit for another brand, and I can say that these may be a little big for size 8's, but overalls are supposed to be a little big, aren't they? Kind of defeats the purpose if you have tight overalls, I would think...Otherwise, they appear to fit fine. Maybe they'd fit just right if I had a butt.

The Carhartts do seem to be well-made, which is also what one would expect from something wimmen-folk farmers might wear for, oh I don't know, bending down and straightening up eleventybazillion times a day.

Here's a picture of my new friends, after a hard day in the garden:

Note the the FTC: I have received no remuneration for my overalls. Not a sou. However, should Carhartt decide that they'd like to reward me for loving the overalls so much, I'd like to try a size 6 next time. See if they fit a little better for a buttless apple.

Edit: Hmmm, I seem to have struck a nerve here. Yes, apparently there are overalls made for women. I'm not sure what the difference is, though I read it somewhere in my research before purchasing these. Something about the waist being higher, or the hips something something...I dunno. Can't remember. Anyway, I got these by typing in "women's overalls" on the search engine on Amazon.

Here's a confession: This is not the first time I've tried overalls. Back in my distant youth, I wore a pair that were simply small men's overalls. They were not flattering, and it scarred me (so much so, that I declined to wear them again, until now). These seem to be a tad more attractive, if you considering that you are wearing an item that is essentially designed for the barn, not the ballroom.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Wine Patio

One of the main reasons I wanted a patio in front of our house was that I imagined it functioning the way old-fashioned porches do. When neighbors sit out front and visit, it builds a strong community. And so far, the patio seems to be working exactly that way--almost as soon as I finished it, neighbors began to drop by. Here are Tom and Mandy, who live across the street:

In addition to the wine, we had a little fire in the chiminea going to take the edge off the little bit of fall coolth in the air:

Here is a "before" shot:

And an "after" shot of the patio in "Autumn Chiminea" mode:

And another in "regular" mode:

A view from the other side, showing how I incorporated the desert willow in the flagstone. As you can see, the autumn leaves are starting to fall here:

Where the scraggly hollies were next to the house and front landing, I'm going to put a galvanized tank for rain water collection, surrounded by Mexican feather grasses.

And finally, a long "before" shot, showing the many areas I wanted to improve in the front:

And the "after" of area "B":

And of course, you've already seen my improvement of area "E", the new bicycle path/arroyo:

I've also been busy extending the arroyo through the rest of the yard. In my design, the arroyo will start at the patio, flow next to the house, and finally turn into the bicycle path. When it is finished (hopefully sometime next week), I'll take you on a tour.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

If you don't like the weather...

...just wait a minute. Or so the old saw goes. This is a picture of me volunteering at the local Red Raider Road Race this past Saturday, and yes, it was that cold and drizzly. I was wearing about nine pounds of fleece under that Showers Pass* rain jacket. Yesterday it was 90 degrees. 90. Degrees. I kid you not.

The race director on Saturday was my faithful training buddy, Jill, and I don't think I'm am biased by friendship to say that everything went brilliantly. Much fun was had by all, so mad props to Madam Director and the many hardworking volunteers. (I was not all that hardworking, as evidenced by the photo above. Still, it was my first time on the bike since the crud felled me almost a month ago. It was good to get out, cold and wet notwithstanding.)

It is October academic advising here at the university, so the Bike Garden will be on a tiny bit of a hiatus for a few days, as The Management will be heavily involved in figuring out schedules, and how to work the wonky computer, and...stuff. You know. Anyway, I'll be back soon and post an update on the wine patio. Cheerio!

Oh! And photo credit goes to Mark Smith, of the West Texas Running Club.

*Note to the FTC: I have not received one iota--not a dime!--of compensation for mentioning Showers Pass on my blog. No free stuff, either. Where is all this schwag you're talking about? The dinero I'm supposed to be getting for saying nice things about products I like? I have called SP and called them and called them, but they continue to ignore me...Actually, that's not quite true. They haven't ignored me completely. The fact is, they've asked me to stop calling them.

Would you mind contacting them for me?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Joy is a Kind of Courage

And so it came to pass that I was driving to the nursery to pick up some more flagstone for the wine patio, when a song came on the radio. It was “Mercy Mercy Me,” originally written and sung by Marvin Gaye, only Marvin wasn’t singing it this time. Instead, it was an artist I’d never heard before, Eleanor McEvoy (not surprising, since I am probably the only person on the planet who doesn’t really “get” music. But that’s a story for another time).

Maybe it was because it was being sung by someone else, maybe it was because it was this particular someone else, maybe it was some combination of the two—whatever the reason, though I'd grown up with the song, I heard the words, really heard them, for the first time and I was filled with a powerful sorrow from it.

If you need a memory nudge, here are the lyrics. I’m not going to reprint them, owing to copyright issues, but the gist of the song is that things aren’t what they used to be because we’ve gone and poisoned the Earth.

McEvoy’s rendition is slow and haunting, and utterly without hope. And it struck me as I listened to it that this is exactly how I feel, deep down inside, close to that place where the spirit resides. I feel that the situation is truly hopeless. That this song has been around for nearly forty years and it is still relevant made me even sadder. Nothing has really changed. We have made no progress in our understanding. We are always fighting the same old fights.

I feel that way most of the time about all of it—not just the environment, but wars, and health care for people who can’t afford it, and folks being unable to get along with one another without all the meanness and anger.

And yet.

We are complex organisms, are we humans not? Because in that moment, at the same time I knew that I was utterly without hope, I felt…hopeful. That two opposing conditions can exist simultaneously in our hearts is not news to any one of you, I’m sure, for isn’t this the very thing that makes us who we are?

As I said, I was going to pick up some more flagstone for the wine patio when I heard “Mercy Mercy Me.” The patio is in the front yard, which is slowly being converted from boring, unsustainable, water-sucking lawn to a garden that pays homage to its home landscape. It’s going to be beautiful, and it is my desire that it will inspire others to convert their lawns, too. It’s a small thing in a bigger, very troubling picture, but it’s something I can do about the situation. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Thinking about my small thing, in fact, filled me with a quiet joy, and for an instant, I felt a little guilty about that. Wasn’t I realizing the direness of the situation, just a scant moment before ? Should we feel this way when all about us darkness is falling? Shouldn’t we be feeling, well, joyless?

Then I remembered this quotation from Andre Gide that I have taped to my office door:

"Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation."

A moral obligation. It is what you do in spite of the situation, not as a luxury, but as an imperfect duty. Joy, then, is a kind of courage. Joy is the squaring of our shoulders in the face of hopelessness.

So get on out there and be joyful today. Maybe a lot of small joys can add up to make a difference.

And if you haven’t heard Eleanor McEvoy’s rendition of “Mercy Mercy Me,” wander on over to iTunes and download it. It’s worth the 99 cents. But think about joy when you listen to it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

LBB is the new weird

LBB recently went wet--and I'm not talking about rain (though we've had a bit of that recently, too). No, after years of battle, the citizenry finally managed to break the mafia-like stranglehold of the liquor stores parked just outside the city limits, who had a vested interest in keeping LBB dry. Yes, that's right folks, hell has finally frozen over, for this past summer, LBB--the largest city in the nation to remain dry--successfully voted to allow the sale of wine and beer in grocery stores.

In no small coincidence, I also began the restoration of a patio in the front yard around the same time the likker started showing up on the market shelves, a week or two ago. Originally just a mishmash of flagstones plunked down on the grass, the patio has looked bedraggled for far too many years. It's had good use during that time, however, since I often sit there on pleasant spring/summer/fall days and jaw at the neighbors as they walk by or work in their own front yards. And every once in awhile, my neighbor Julie will join me there for a glass of wine.

Naturally, you can imagine that this behavior might increase now that we have been liberated from the shackles of prohibition. Yes, it has come to this: neighbors sitting around together after the grading is done to commune over an offering of the vine. Even more shocking!--women sitting around in the evening sampling the grape and saying to the menfolk, "Git yer own damn supper."*

That tremble you feel in the earth is the crumbling of our moral foundation.

Julie came over last night to supervise the restoration of what is now being referred to as "the wine patio." Here's a picture:

And here's a picture of her son D, sitting nearby on a boulder in the bicycle arroyo, serenading us with clarinet practice:

Julie, who is a professor from the tribe of History,** has a sister who is a professor in the tribe of Philosophy at a university in Georgia. Her sister recently told Julie that, what with people in the 'hood keeping chickens in their backyards, front yards being converted back to prairie, young children sitting in the middle of arroyos playing musical instruments, and the advent of alcohol in the grocery stores, "Lubbock is the 'new weird'" --a reference, of course, to the long-standing, much-beloved unofficial motto of our capital city, "Keep Austin weird."

D is sporting that very message on his tie-dyed T-shirt, in fact.

Apologies to my neighbors in Austin, but things are a-changing up here in the Hub City--we may be saddling up to give you a run for the money. But that's OK. There's room enough in The Great State for additional weirdness. Witness our state legislature...

While Julie and I were pondering the miracle of this, one of the menfolk came outside with the dogs, asking about that damned supper:

You can see from this that I have a ways to go before the christening of the patio. We'd thought about breaking a bottle of wine over it, but as Julie pointed out, that would involve a mess of glass, so we're going to use boxed wine instead. We may be the new weird, but we're going to be classy about it.

*Actually, to be fair, both of our menfolk routinely share the dinner-making duties.
**I think of my colleagues as neighbors, belonging to tribes in the "village" that is the university, which is in the nation that is The Academy

EDITED: to correct a mistaken musical instrument identity (Thanks, James)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Well, now I've gone and done it

I've cut down the Spartan juniper. Here's a before photo, followed by the different stages, including how it looks after the dirty deed is done. Sorry about the terrible exposure in the photos, but these were taken with my iPhone, and no matter the angle I took, it was either against the sun, or a combination of shade and sunlight:

The view we see when we wheel our bikes out (I've already cut off a few limbs at this point):

The space begins to open up:

I cut all the lower limbs, and then a neighbor helped me fell the trunk:

And now we see the long horizon:

But wait. What's this?

Yes, you have guessed correctly. Those are pecan trees.

Planted by squirrels.

By the way, many congratulations to Pam, of the nonpareil blog, "Digging," a much-deserved winner of the 2009 Blotanicals for "Best Drought-tolerant Blog" and Best Texas Blog." Digging has been a favorite of mine since back in the day for its focus on design and xeric gardening. The photography is not too shabby, either. If you haven't checked it out, you need to mosey on over there and have a look-see, tout suite.