Here it is, the first day of 2013 - and I told myself that I wanted to post something here today. It's been awhile - my last post was 6 August 2012, not long after I returned to South Carolina from northern Virginia. The first thing I had to do was to delete about a million spam comments (I know, I need to reconfigure how I handle comments here - I'll do that soon). I doubt many of you stop by here anymore, or link to this blog - which is understandable. I've been MIA. I'm hoping to re-energize myself here, at least a little bit. I've missed this space. And I've missed all of you. So I suppose this is a "recap" post - and what better, than to summarize the focus of this blog: Gardening, Science, Poetry, and Life? I keep wanting to post something simple, but its been so long - how can I post that I planted crimson clover? It just seemed silly. So hopefully this long and tedious update will catch me (and you) up a bit, and be what I need to get going again. Hope you're doing well, by the way. And Happy 2013!
Being away from my yard and garden for a full year was rough (for both me and the garden). I learned what was resilient and what was not (we had a dry winter in 2011/2012). I lost half of my blueberry bushes, and I've since replanted three of the four that I lost. My roses are mere shadows of their former selves - an entire year with little to no attention was not good for most of them (and it made me realize how I was constantly dead-heading and pruning them). Some might not recover, this spring will tell. I lost a small yellow camellia (which, frankly, I didn't like all that much - it was a japonica, "Lemon Glow", and it opened a sweet yellow initially, but seemed to fade to a brownish-yellow that wasn't so interesting).
This fall has been mostly about damage control and pruning, but I did plant (from seed) a wonderful fall vegetable garden, sow crimson clover and dutch white clover seed in the back garden, and "adopt" four muscadine/scuppernog vines from a local blueberry farm that are now happily planted in my backyard garden.
A local Blueberry Farm, Blue Pearl Farms, posted on their Facebook page that they had muscadine vines to give away (they were planting the area in more blueberry bushes) - and so without thinking about the size of the plants, I went with my small car, a shovel and a bucket and some plastic - and discovered that they were giving away (to good homes) 11-year old vines! So I dug up four, found a way to fit them into my car (or at least most of them in my car - thank goodness for windows) and I now have two yellow muscadines, a red scuppernog, and a concord grape-like grape vine in my back garden (where there ia already an asian pear, two pomegranates, a persimmon, and an olive tree). I still need to add posts and guide wire for the vines, but I'll get that done this winter. I can't wait to see how they do this summer, and I especially can't wait to have muscadines to eat fresh off the vine!
After a year spent in the Washington, DC area (in a rental home) - I couldn't wait to have a good fall vegetable garden. So in late summer, I placed an order from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and started seeds or direct sowed: Broccoli (DeCicco, Waltham 28, Ice-Bred Rapini), Beets (Dolce Di Chioggia, Detroit Dark Red, Bull's Blood), Carrots (Chantenay Red Core, Scarlet Nantes, Cosmic Purple). I aso got seeds for toy choy, swiss chard, red sail lettuce, italian kale, napa and savoy cabbage - oh, and I got four types of garlic and shallots from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. It's been the most wonderful fall garden I've had in years, and I haven't purchased anything 'green' from the grocery store in over two months.
I also broadcasted two clovers (Crimson, Dutch White) in my back garden. My longterm goal is to have this area a clover mixture, with fruit trees/vines.
I still have poppies to sow - just a few packages of seed that I picked up at a local nursery. I've also got some daffodils and aliums (50% off purchases at the end of the season) to get in the ground (I planted about half of them today). My next garden goal is to get the crinums divided, to move a bunch of the salvia that is getting shaded into the side garden - and I think I'm going to try and divide my Farfugium giganteum (which I just love) - it has gotten to be a fairly large clump right now, and there seems to be some natural dividing taking place (or at least I hope!). I need to move some gingers out into the sun too. I've also made my asparagus bed about 30% larger, so I need to prepare the new area for new plants this spring (I need to order the new plants too).
There are things I can share on the science front, and things that are just to complicated to get into here. In late August I ended my year as a Visiting Scientist at a wonderful agency - it was quite the experience, an "insider's view" - and it was also nice to spend a year in northern Virginia, not far from where I grew up (and close to my Father's home) and where I still have quite a few friends. I couldn't get enough of the autumn colors, and it certainly was a treat being able to hope on the metro over lunch and get to see the cherry blossoms on their peak day. It was also nice being able to see more Father more frequently - I went several times on Sunday morning and took him to church, and drove back to DC on the same day.
Being back, of course, means that I have to confront the "what's next?" question that is the elephant in the room. The big, roaring elephant... who has brought a few friends along.
So, the easiest stuff first. I still have a soft-money Research Professor Position at a local marine laboratory - an office, lab, etc. So there was headlessness again! Yes, on 31 October 2012, there was a small gathering of esteemed scientists (as well as two ravens and a buzzard) at the end of the marsh boardwalk at Hobcaw Barony. I think the last time I posted a headless photo on this blog was Halloween 2009, but there were 2010 and 2011 headless gatherings as well - I need to get all of the images together and post them sometime.
This semester (starting in mid-January) I will be teaching an Ecology of Coral Reefs course. And yes, you are right - I'd better get busy! I will have to do some lectures, but for a big chunk of the class, I want the students to 'become' a coral reef. How exactly am I going to do that? Well, like I said: I'd better get busy.
I have a new graduate student that started Fall Semester. I'll most likely be picked up in the next month or two (at 50%) effort by the federal agency I worked with last year (as an "expert" - and I'll be able to telework from South Carolina). I have an interview within the next month or so for a more permanent position at my current place... a grant is pending, a manuscript is pending and another will be submitted within the next day or two - and a few others are waiting to be finished up. I'm a "Guest Editor" for a special issue of a journal. That about sums it up, for now: I'm not exactly where I want to be, but I'm trying to stay positive and things are still moving forward.
Nothing to report.
(Hopefully this will change in 2013).
I'm back in the Airstream. It's a little harder the second time around, but it's fine - really.
I think the tough part is that when I moved in the first time, it was more gradual - I slowly added things that I needed, and had time to figure out where they would go. This time I moved in at the end of an eight hour drive (arriving at 2 am in the morning), and I'm a rotten unpacker - rather, I just don't want to do it. It wasn't a very organized re-entry into Airstream life. So gradually things are finding their most efficient spot. I'm hoping for a warm winter. And am really glad that I have a Man Cave (aka Woman Cave). At the end of the day though I'm comfortable and the simplicity of it all is still nice - while in my rental home in Virginia, I was a bit overwhelmed by all of the space (and it wasn't a large home).
~28 January 2012~
I think the last image I posted of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (Earlysville) White Oak was last December 2011 - although I did continue to take photographs of the tree during my visits to see my Father over the past year. My first photograph of this tree was taken the Christmas before my Mother passed away - and now it seems that it's become a habit, and each image represents another visit home. My visits to see my Father, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia several years ago, are becoming more difficult. I spent Christmas with him last week, four days - and now with every visit there is a noticeable decline in his cognitive abilities. He gets up from his chair at night, in the home he has lived in for over 35 years, and asks me where his bedroom is. He then asks if he needs to keep his bedroom door open, because he isn't sure if his bathroom is the only one in the house or not. On the other hand, he loved his simple gifts, and said they were the best presents he has ever received. He is still living in his home, with 24/7 care, but I don't know how much longer this is sustainable. I was there with him at Christmas alone, and after he had gone to bed - I sat in my family's home, accepting that it might be my last Christmas there. Of course the memories came flooding back - the smells, the sounds - my Mother would have loved Christmas Eve, with huge snowflakes falling down for several hours.
Dementia is hard. Somehow taking photographs of this tree helps.
The dogs! Now this is a cheerier subject.
The Pointer Sisters (THE DAN and Annabelle Lee) and Stanley and Haiku (the cat) are happy to be out of the city and back in their large yard (although I do believe they miss the rental home). But I must make a confession. Yes, there is a new addition.
So - I was back this summer and finished up with my Visiting Scientist stint and there were posts on Facebook by the Pointer Rescue I support (and where I got THE DAN) - a simple image of a black and white pup looking pitiful at a shelter. A puppy with a 3 pm Monday euthanasia deadline. I waited to see if anyone would step up - they had to have a certified rescue group with a foster person at a minimum to save this little guy.
So I told them I would foster the pup.
I've never fostered before.
(I still haven't, so it seems...)
The pup was rescued from a shelter in North Carolina (around the Raleigh area) - so I drove to meet someone in the Cracker Barrel parking lot off Interstate 95 in Dunn, North Carolina. I wasn't really all that sure what shape the little guy would be in (actually, I thought it was a pointer mix, and a female). The poor little thing was scrawny - and feeling kinda green (seems that I have my first dog who gets pretty bad car sickness). He road back to Charleston on the front seat (thankfully with no more food in him) and he didn't make a sound.
He was all ears and spots - with a little brown around the face and on his lower legs - so he is more hound than a pointer. Ends up he is mostly (perhaps all) Bluetick Coonhound. He was probably four or five months old when I got him - he's now eight or nine months old. His name is "Blue" although he loves being called "Puppy".
He's a sweetheart.
~Blue with his pet flea~
The Pointer Sisters consider Blue "their hound". They have spots in common, but otherwise their personalities are quite different. He's a lot more laid back than the pointers - and when he barks, it's the 'bay' of the coonhound that comes out (deep and booming) - the first time I heard it I couldn't stop laughing. He's a sweetheart, and while a fourth dog wasn't something I exactly needed, he is a wonderful addition to the pack. And I haven't had a hound since the Wonder Beagle - and it sure is nice having one to hang out with again.
~the Pointer Sisters and their hound dog~
How does Stan feel about it? I think Stan has decided that he's an only dog, and he's ignoring the whole pointer hound trio (he is 12 and a half years old now, so he might be a tad delusional - and me as well, since I'm in denial that Blue is already bigger than the Pointer Sisters). The cat, Haiku, just considers another dog someone else to boss around - she's totally cool with it.
~Stanley in Virginia, Christmas 2012~
So, this covers some of what has been going on for the past six months - and I'm hoping that I start posting somewhat regularly here again. I've missed this space, and all of you.