Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Busy, busy, busy.

It's been an exceptionally hectic couple of weeks at school--even so, over the weekend, I managed to:

Clean up the mess left by winter and ready the garden for spring growth (just one "before" shot--"after" shots to come late, I'm sure);

Repair a crumbling front stoop with some salvaged bricks, mortar, and a finishing spritz of vinegar;

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pearl and Henrietta: Road Trip to Cali!

Pearl and Henrietta are traveling to Davis, California to participate in "Tour de Cluck," a bicycle/coop crawl, to be held on May 22. This colored pencil drawing, meant to be reminiscent of the old-time Victory Garden posters, will be part of an art auction for charity. Proceeds will benefit The Davis Farm to School program.

And in case you were wondering, they're riding a bicycle constructed from fruits and veggies. They were planning to pedal it from LBB to Davis, but I talked them out of it...

I think the Bike Garden has some readers in Davis--y'all get on out there and bid on some art!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pearl and Henrietta step out

The girls are at the salon today getting a color treatment. They've been asked to make a showing for a charity art auction at "Tour de Cluck: A Bicycle Chicken Coop Crawl," to be held in Davis, California on May 22nd. Proceeds from the auction will benefit The Davis Farm to School Connection.

If their new "do" turns out well, they'll show it off on Monday.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

PSA for the 'Hood and a Spring Break Re-cap

The Bike Garden is pleased to bring you this Public Service Announcement: There will be a meeting of the UNIT neighborhood association (Tech Terrace) tonight at 5:30 PM, at J.T. Hutchinson Middle School.

And now, on to a re-cap of my busy-ness over spring break:

Removed an ill-advised trumpet vine, pursuant to replacing the cyclone fencing at a later date with something more attractive:

Here is the before:

I forgot to take a picture of the after, but trust me, it looks better.

Refurbished some patio furniture I inherited from my parents:

Starting with having a part re-welded by a local shop (Liberty Welding), who did it on the spot when I showed up, chair in hand:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Radio Silence

Greetings all--I have a short little illustration gig to take care of in the next couple of days, so the Bike Garden will probably be suffering a little radio silence until then. I do have some spring break projects to report, however, so if I find a good place in which to take a break, I'll do a quick post.

Until then, ciao, y'all!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Love's Labor Found

I've always liked the feeling I get when I stumble upon an old, almost "disappeared" structure on a hike. I find something touching in the relict evidence of someone's labor. And if there is some mystery in what the structure was supposed to be, or what the function was, all the better. This is the sense I wanted to evoke with this raised bed in the front garden: old pilings and rock berms, now nearly reclaimed by stream processes. Here is a photo of that spot after it was spruced up last summer during the bicycle path construction:

This was actually the first hardscape structure I put in the garden, several years ago now, and I think it has weathered well. I've had several neighbors tell me over the years that it's one of their favorite parts of the garden, so I decided to build a sister to it in a troublesome spot on the other side of the yard. In so doing, I think I've also added some balance to the garden's design. Here's a "before" photo, with a few boulders already in place:

And here is the "after":

Now I just need to remove/clean up the lavenders that got run over by a car last fall, put in some additional plantings around it, and in a couple of years, hopefully, it will create that same sense of mystery.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Spring Break To-Do

It seems like I save up chores all year long just for the "opportunity" to cross them off my list over spring break. Here's that list in no particular order, and what I've accomplished so far:

Prep farm bed for planting
Move flagstones
Finish organizing the shed
Re-furbish patio furniture
Make scaffold for painting the house trim
Dig out errant, annoying, obnoxious, ill-advised trumpet vine
Put up compost/chicken fence
Clean up utility area in front of the shop
Make cover for new rain barrel
Fix overflow drainage on old rain barrel
Clean up artemisia
Transplant starts to larger pots
Repair stones on herb bed
Paint front door
Scrape house trim and prep for painting

Some of those I got done on Saturday and Sunday. Today, however, is an SRD--which is training-speak for "scheduled rest day." It's "scheduled" because I got a look at the forecast yesterday, which called for buckets to pour from the blessed sky today--and for once, the forecast was dead-on.

No matter, tomorrow is supposed to be warm and sunny, and those happy conditions should continue through the rest of the week. In the meantime, after a hard day of work on Saturday, some of my neighbors came over in the evening and helped kick off the inaugural season for the new wine patio:

It was a little "to-do" to celebrate our collective "to-do" lists. Some amusing cheeses, a respectful offering of the vine, a small fire in the chiminea to comfort the soul, and a lot of spirited talk about how we're going to repel the barbarians at the gate. A perfect ending to a day of chores.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Break: Chickens Gone Wild

"Okay, so we've got the beach towel, the iced tea, the best seller, and the sunscreen."

"So, now what happens?"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

File Under: After a Long and Troubled Winter, Something Good This Way Comes

Yesterday my Intro Fieldcraft class and I were treated to a tour of the prairie restoration project at Lubbock Lake Landmark by Scott Trevey and Matthew McEwen. Here's a photo of the two of them talking to the group at one of the sun-shelters currently under construction. Scott's in the cowboy hat and Matt is in the red cap:

The sun shelter is part of a new ADA boardwalk that winds through a field recently cleared of mesquite and burned to encourage the return of native grasses and wildflowers. The boardwalk--which consists of, oh, I dunno, maybe sixty-thousand-gazillion individual boards made of recycled something-or-other, each painstakingly screwed into place--had to be installed without disturbing the soil, since LLL is an archeological site of some significance. It was, to put it mildly, quite the little chore for the Landmark workers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

This just in: Gardener might be smarter than a squirrel

...but she doesn't advise placing any bets on that just yet. Here is my two-part plan for foiling the hose-eating squirrels this growing season. 

Part A: I had my new pal, "Johnny on the Spot," put a faucet in next to the vegetable bed so I could run a short length of water hose to the soaker:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sustainability and the 'Hood: A Rant

I'm a fairly socially awkward person. I'll be the first to admit that this is largely because I'm a self-absorbed daydreamer. I might, for example, be nodding my head in feigned sympathy while you are busy describing your horrible root canal, but really I am thinking about something else entirely. The social awkwardness lies in the fact that I am not very good at disguising this. I have been known to burst out with inappropriate comments at inappropriate moments, as in this imagined re-enactment example:

You: "And then the dentist said, 'Oh, my god. I have never seen such an enormous cyst in all my years of practice! How will you ever survive this? There will be a hole in your jaw the size of a homing pigeon! We'll have to pack it with meringue to help you bear the pain.'"

Me: "Do you think that when the seed packet of snow peas says to plant as soon as the ground can be worked, that it means before the last frost has occurred?"

The other reason that I am socially awkward, however, is that I am really very shy. This often comes as a surprise to people when I tell them, since, unlike my inability to hide my lack of interest in your dental mayhem, I have gotten fairly good over the years at hiding my shyness. But it is true. I'd sooner have the root canal in your stead than introduce myself to a stranger. Small talk, the grease that moves us from total strangers to fast friends, is simply not one of the arrows in my social quiver of tricks. To mix a metaphor.

Given my druthers, I'm actually okay with this. I think I could live pretty happily as a hermit. And given some of my awkward, insensitive outbursts, other people might be happier for my doing so, too.

But just because I might prefer to be alone, completely unconcerned about about the otherwise distressing fact that I am  both self-absorbed and shy, it doesn't mean that it is the right thing to do.

What's all this got to do with sustainability and the 'hood? I'm coming to that.

Jan Huston Doble, of the venerable blog, "Thanks for Today" is gathering together a list of blog posts related to sustainability in preparation for the upcoming Earth Day on April 22nd. I've been thinking about what I'd like to contribute to the conversation for a couple weeks now, but kept coming up short. It wasn't that I don't try to practice sustainability--quite the opposite is true. Here on the Southern High Plains, where rainfall is often nothing more substantial than an idea, sustainability has long been been part of the lexicon for anyone with one eye on the level of the reservoir.

So I had a number of things I personally do that I could talk about, such as rainwater harvesting, or xeriscaping, or walking to work, or riding my bicycle to the grocery store (though not as often as I should), or my pathetic attempts at a victory garden, or buying locally and organically grown free-range meat...

But I've already talked about those things, and more to the point, I think others are also covering those topics nicely right now. Plus, I've been feeling a little cranky lately, and I just wasn't feeling the...oh, I don't know...the love.

Maybe it's the stalled polarization in Washington, maybe it's the political campaign ads on television right now with the "I'll represent the God-fearing people, cut taxes, reduce government waste, and give Washington the finger for you because we don't want anyone telling us what to do" meanness of them, maybe it's the current unsettling state of affairs in higher education, maybe it's that our LBB city council thinks the homeless ought just fend for themselves on winter nights, maybe it's that a few rabble-rousing drunken college students in the 'hood and their absentee-landlord parents can ruin a good thing for everyone pretty damn quickly--whatever it is, I've got a serious case of Weltschmerz. Got it bad. Got it schmeared all over my face. In fact, I look like I've been in a veritable Weltschmerz pie-eating contest.

The Black Dog of Weltschmerz. Yeah. That's where I am these days.

If you'll notice, though, there is a theme in that noxious list above, and it's the presence of "me-ness." (Well, except for the higher education bit. That's a whole 'nother story) A few days ago, Canadian garden blogger Doug Green put up this post about the main difference between our country and his. Boiled down, his premise is this: The US government is founded on the concept of individual rights, while the Canadian government is founded on that of the common good. I mostly daydreamed my way through poly sci and history in college, so I can't really say whether that is factually true. I can say, however, that here, in The Great State of You Are Not the Boss of Me, that cowbell rings with verity.

Nobody, I mean nobody, makes a bigger stink about individual rights than a Texan. As a friend and neighbor, artist Carol Flueckiger, reminds me, it's the myth of the lone cowboy. And that's right: We're so in love with the heroic idea of the Lone Cowboy riding plains, that we wouldn't jump on a "common good horse" if it could herd cattle from now 'til the Rapture. Unless, of course, it was a common good horse that was all about how you can't tell us what to do. And cutting taxes was involved.

Here's the thing that strikes me about all this individual rights stuff and the culture of the Lone Cowboy, however. There's an awful lot of "me-ness" in that trope. I mean, we kind of like taking advantage of all the common good that is currently available to us, like, say, for instance, police protection, and good roads, and meat inspection, and cheap drinking water that is free from toxins, and affordable higher education. We'd just rather not be told we have to make it available to anyone else. Or that we have to pay for it.

I'd like to pause here and talk a little about human developmental issues. Specifically, I'd like to point out that "me-ness" is a stage in early human development, as in children. It is, hopefully, something one will grow out of. Thinking beyond oneself and taking responsibility for others is a condition of later human development, as in grownup-hood. Just sayin'.

By the way, have you ever noticed how close the spelling of "me-ness" is to "meanness?" Again, just sayin'.

What's all this got to do with sustainability and the 'hood? I'm getting there.

So I'm thinking about all this Lone Cowboy stuff, and I'm thinking it's about time to throw that paradigm out. We need to outgrow it. It's time to saddle up that common good horse and climb on board. Vote whichever party you want, but let your representatives know that you are going to start voting for the common good. And while you're at it, tell them to shut the heck up about cutting taxes, because we all know that's just a lie they tell us to buy our votes. Tell them we no longer believe in the Santa Clause form of government, where we wake up every magical morning to a shiny new pair of cowboy boots under the tree, cost-free. Tell them we are grown up enough for the eat-your-broccoli form of government.

And now, sustainability. Here's the thing: It's entirely dependent on the common good. It has virtually nothing to do with "me-ness" or individual rights. In fact, individual rights are the enemy of sustainability. The Lone Cowboy is totally dependent on others not sucking the water hole dry, and he has a moral obligation not to do the same. The Lone Cowboy is not, in fact, alone on this prairie.

So I'm thinking about Jan's call for posts about what we personally are going to do to contribute to sustainability, and it hits me, what I'm going to do is invite the Lone Cowboy to join me on the wine patio. I'm going to step out of my social awkwardness shell and do my part to build a strong neighborhood, because I can set up rain barrels and prairie grass lawns until the cows come home, but it won't keep the watering hole from going dry if we are not all in it together. 

And lord knows, we can't depend on the hyper-nattering politicians to look up from their talking-points scripts long enough to be leaders and do it for us, so we might as well say, "Screw them. I'm turning to my neighbors."

This is, in fact, exactly what I had in mind when I built the wine patio:

In the olden days, houses had front porches and people could sit outside in nice weather and jaw at the neighbors as they walked by with their schnauzers. I'm too shy to have my neighbors over for dinner, since I tend to hyperventilate if I have to cook something for anyone other than Walu (fact), and I'm not going to invite them inside for tea and a box of cookies, since the house is almost always a wreck (fact). But nobody cares if the garden is a wreck, and it's a funny thing about fresh air--it tends to dissipate hyperventilation and social awkwardness. It even happens in the absence of wine.

I think you kind of need the chiminea, though.

There you go, then, my contribution this year to the cause of sustainability: my efforts to become part of a stronger, more cohesive 'hood. We'll chuck the paradigm together. And y'all are all invited to join us on the patio. Bring yer boots and we'll have ourselves a sustainability dance.

For more on Jan's project on sustainability, click this link: