Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In the Garden of Eating

After many months of studying Square foot gardening, I took a day off last week and planted my vegetable garden. The author of this book, Mel Bartholomew, promised me via the subtitle that his methods are a new way of gardening in less space with less work. I'd better get at least a tomato out of the whole thing. I spent 6 hours getting this plot of ground planted, not counting the hours we put in last fall digging up the sod and transplanting daylillies.

Bella pleaded with me to let her help. I let her use her digging skills and she pulled up dead roots with joyful abandon. She was absolutely covered in mud and loved every minute of it.

I could hardly move by the end of the day, and it made me think about a movie I watched recently: Once upon a time when we were colored. It's a story about an African-American sharecropper family in the segregation-era south, and at one point, the narrator talks about the expectations placed on children. "As soon as a child could walk, he was expected to help in the fields." I can't imagine children (especially mine) picking cotton for 12 hours a day, but they did it. I guess any kind of complaint was answered with a slap.

Farm work is so hard. My great-grandfather had a farm in West Texas, and my mother tells magical stories of her visits there, riding along on the tractor, fishing for tarantulas with string and a bit of chewing gum, making mud pies. Grandpa V. grew cotton and, from what I understand, it was a constant struggle to keep everything from burning up in the hot Texas summer. The farm wore him out, and he finally sold it after his wife died. The man I remember was tall, gray, and tired -- always napping in an easy chair.

I'm primarily a flower gardener, and my decision this year to put in vegetables came after years of teasing by my father. "You can't eat a flower," he'd say every spring when he and my mother came over to see the garden in full bloom. No matter how gorgeous it looked, he'd only criticize.

That's my dad.

So this year, I thought I'd see how well I could do. I read about vegetables all winter, and I think I know about as much as I'm going to know. It seems a little complicated, at least according to all the books, with their pH balanced soil, fertilizing requirements, and harvesting schedules. My dad, who helped his mother on their own family farm, assured me there was nothing to it. "Just put the seeds in the ground and they'll grow."

They'd better.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I work here, I carry a badge

Our library is where security guards go to die.

Well, not literally, but since a terrible robbery attempt in which a friend of mine was injured, we've had need of a security guard to protect us. But, this being a library, we get our gun-wielding heroes from an organization that made the lowest possible bid for our security contract. In a dismal parade of the desperate and incompetent, the characters who have come into the front door (and then quit, were fired, or were reassigned) have included:

Lonely Divorced Guy: He was always on time, his uniform pressed neatly and his shoes buffed. He made his rounds with purpose and stayed at his desk near the library entrance. But he had a way of saying things to women that were a little creepy. He followed female customers around the stacks and asked for their phone numbers. He once told me I had pretty little feet and asked if I was "happily" married. LDG really wanted to date somebody -- anybody -- and enough people complained about him that he was fired to make room for...

Neurotic Crafter Girl: Thin to the point of emaciated, dark circles under her eyes, NCG looked like she was trying to kick a heroin habit when in reality she was only trying to stop smoking. Her nervous energy haunted everything she did, whether patrolling the library grounds, waiting for the UPS guys to unload, or confronting the homeless. In an effort to calm her down a bit, our children's librarian asked NCG to help with a craft program, inadvertantly unleashing a monster. She became so consumed with the crafting bug that around Valentine's Day, she collapsed under the weight of too many hand-crafted puffy hearts, making room for...

Tattooed Biker Guy: Not quite able to afford a Harley, TBG owned a respectable Honda and a series of increasingly violent tattoos. He could barely keep awake due to his late night efforts to score with the ladies, and he developed a crush on one of the women I work with, lingering far too long near her desk when our boss was gone. Hanging out at the circulation desk, boring the circ clerks and scowling at the little kids who lined up to use the computers, he was finally transfered to another location, to make room for...

Personal Space Invader: The latest addition to our security detail, PSI is only months shy of his 80th birthday. Hunched over, hard of hearing, and, I believe, recovering from a stroke, PSI shuffles into our office about 3 or 4 times a day and pauses at each work station, staring intently at objects and the shapes and contours of our desks. I'm very particular about my own personal space, and Friday, when I felt his breath on the back of my neck as he peered over my shoulder to look at my computer screen, I got a little freaked.

"Can I help you?" I asked.

"Nope. Just bored. I'm a little nosy, like to look around. Gotta keep busy somehow."

He continued to hover just behind me. Trying to find an escape from this invasion, I sent something to the printer and stood up to go get it. I actually bumped into him in my hurry to get away.

I know for a fact that he pulled a similar stunt on my boss, so I'm doubting he'll be back next week. I'm trying to imagine who'll fill his shoes. Personally, I hope it's a trained attack dog. Somehow, I'd feel safer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Snakes on a plain

Meet Stephen (named for Stephen Colbert, of course!). In lieu of a visit from the Easter Bunny, Stephen slithered into our neighbor's yard and was rescued from the lawn mower by the boys. Of course, they wanted to keep him as a pet, but knowing SO's healthy fear of snakes, I knew that wasn't going to happen. They put Stephen in a plastic container full of leaves and grass and we debated about where be should be relocated. There's a lovely rolling plain on the north side of the lake, and we took him there. He's was pretty nervous about the whole thing, and I left a pile of brush for him to crawl into if he got cold. I hope he didn't freeze to death, because the next day, the cold front hit.

Poor Stephen. But at least he kept his head. Whenever my dad saw a snake, he'd always get the shovel and chop it to pieces. He once came across a baby rattler and the poor thing didn't have a chance. Always a practical jokester, my mom didn't believe him at first, until he showed her the mangled body. I've got to give it to my mom. She used the experience to get back at my dad in a big way. Not long after the snake chopping experience, she rushed into the house, screaming and holding onto one leg.

"I've been bit by a rattler!"

"Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!" Dad was thrown. He didn't know what to do, and resorted to hopping up and down in a panic. She couldn't keep up the charade, and laughed her head off at his reaction. It sounds mean, I know, but he got her so many times with his practical jokes, she was glad to come up with a whopper to pay him back.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

5 things I learned at OLA

Spent the last 2 days at the Oklahoma Library Association (OLA) conference, an annual event where librarians from different types of libraries and specialities get together for an exchange of information and a little schmoozing. I usually dread going to this thing. At first, it was because I didn't know anyone. Now, I know too many, but I still hate the uncertainty that comes with the perils of parking, trying to locate unfamiliar hotels, and managing to avoid some colleagues while maneuvering to meet up with others.

I've been taught to make lemons out of lemonades, channeling my dread into an educational opportunity. So here's 5 things I learned at OLA this year:

1. Librarians should never, ever, ever wear their hair in a bun. Ever. Even if attempting self-mockery.

2. A casual hug from a handsome young man wearing just the right amount of cologne can result in an embarrassing crush. The young man in question was a toddler when I was in college. He's bright, articulate, and clean. I'm not sure what cologne he was wearing, but it was intoxicating. After the hug, I kept breathing in a hint of the cologne that lingered on my jacket. Was it laced with pheromones? I couldn't stop thinking about his beautiful eyes. It took awhile for the scent to fade, leaving behind the faded rose of my own youth.

3. Connecticut librarians kick ass!

4. There's not enough alcohol in the city to turn a ragtag group of information professionals into a rock band. But our foam core guitars looked, like, totally awesome!

5. The group of kids born after Generation X prefer to be called Millenials rather than Generation Y or Echo Boomers.

There's also nothing more satisfying than sneaking away to have lunch with a dear friend. That makes the whole hassle worthwhile.