Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Garden -- End of Year One (3 Months)

Below you'll find pics of the, what, 1/3 or 1/4 finished garden. All I could do in three months of heat. To the right you'll find a permanent link to plants that were alive as of Saturday 10/27, seeing as on Sunday morning the temp was 26; plants that bought it were rose of sharon, the resurgent japanese maple, the shrub rose, beebalm, dogwood, and some others. Still have lots of dianthus and butterly bush blooms, even have the agastache still going (strange, cuz I'm pushing it with that one zone wise). So, many pics not from the same day....

Here we are just inside the gate. Then looking back toward it with a japanese maple (bloodgood I think, who knows), an isanti dogwood in front of the copper trellis, a variegated miscanthus behind, a fineline buckthorn, and a spiraea ogon which will be moved come spring. There's also a ninebark coppertina behind the hoses. Indeed, I'm going for a bushy look to propel a person forward (perhaps through a birth canal of foliage).

You've got a clump river birch to the left of the arbor, and beside it another isanti dogwood. Please note the plastic pink birds were attemptig to hold up a cardinal flower in strong southerly winds.

Along the back deck a line of butterfly bushes: nanho blue, white, royal red (thank goodness they aren't really blue and red or I'd be gaudily patriotic). Along the shorter side of the deck are amsoni hubrichtii blue star.
There's a view from the patio looking out. A view of the back corner over some maiden grass. A fruit on the seedless buckthorn, a close up of the dwarf arctic blue willow that sits beside the arbor, one of the many air force reserve tanker planes that land at the airport nearby, and a cold sunset. I'd put these descriptions next to the respective image, but blogger will NOT let me insert text nicely. I am really getting annoyed with the editing features of blogger.

Friday, October 26, 2007

UNL in the Fall

Colors this fall are better than usual, as pointed out this evening by a passenger in my car. UNL is considered an arboretum, but particularly east campus where all the horts hang out. These pics are from city campus where I teach students to dislike their teachers.

The first photo is looking out of the English Department's men's room on the top floor--sorry I couldn't get the screen pulled back (it was hard enough sneaking a camera in--I don't know what my colleagues would have said had I been caught using my flash). I've always liked seeing Roxy Paine's 40 foot stainless steel tree juxtaposed with live ones. I know many don't, but I find it exhilarating, particularly in winter surrounded by other bare trees.

Some grass outside Love Library (I never have, what about you?).

Below are two views of Mark di Suvero's "Old Glory," so named because as you look at the blue sky and white clouds (when we have clouds) it's red, white, and blue. I'd like to think the landscaping was done in mind of the many sculptures on campus, all part of the Sheldon Art Gallery's collection.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why I Got "D"s in English

I once peformed poorly in English classes--junior high right into high school. It's because in 1st grade during music class we had to sing "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah." Grammar and vocab are instilled at a young age, retarded and reinforced when one lives in the shadow of a "y'all" drawl in Oklahoma.

"Mister Bluebird's on my shoulder, / It's the truth, it's "actch'll" / Everything is "satisfactch'll."

This is what I think about in the shower. Please don't picture me in the shower, unless that works for you. It doesn't for me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Roses and Jeeps

I'm "stuck" on my rose bush, uh, I mean shrub rose--after all, I am now a garden sophisticate, therefore 'tis a shrub. Here's why I subconsciously got one I think, though I dislike them:

I have this section from my memoir--too long to put here--where as a kid my mom wanted a rose taken out of the front rock garden. She pulled back the rock and stabbed at the earth around the rose. She became merciless as tends to happen. Down the street you could hear her "hayahs" and the shovel banging against larger rocks / boulders in chaotic agony to get that rose out.

Eventually, she enlisted my dad's help. What I like about my dad, and this may or may not be a guy / husband thing, is he got frustrated within seconds and vanished into the garage. Perplexed, mom stood out front thinking he'd abandoned her. A little bit later he comes out with chains, ropes, hooks, et cetera, and plops them on the ground. Then goes back to the garage and backs his jeep up the yard to in front of the rock garden. He hitches up some chain and rope, lassos the shrub a few times, careful to get down on one side of the exposed rootball. Eventually, and longer than you'd think, that shrub popped out like a champaign cork as the jeep flew about fifty feet down the street. That's my idea of solving a gardening problem.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rosa Blah and New Garden Design

This is what I got from Wayside for free, a Rosa Radyod. I've never loved roses--to me too cliched, too expected, and I'm a tactile person in the garden and roses are sorta sharp. But, I thought I'd try one anyway (keep your friends close, your enemies closer).

I know a Knock Out can be many colors, but for some reason I had my mind on red. It would've worked better where I wanted this shrub. But I put it there anyway to what is turning into an aisle of barbie pink. Things will have to change come spring.

Speaking of which, I can't believe how much I already want to move after just the first 2 months of starting up my garden! In the rush of buying all the things I've always coveted but never had room for, I've placed stuff a bit willy nilly. I've been paying far more attention to height, width, and texture than to color. I just couldn't balance all these strategies in my head. I am confident I placed the trees correctly, so that's good, and the arbor and obelisk and trellis are anchored in good spots (with plans for a fountain next year, and a bench coming in two days).

In addition to my orgasmic haste to plant, I wanted a coneflower bed. Now I realize that a) I'd like other things in there too to make more of a prairie bed that leaks out to other areas and b) the stone path sure would've looked better going through it rather than around it. What does all this look like? Well, when we get the first freeze I'm going to post a first year garden review in order to assuage my sadness of losing it for months. We're getting close. (You could also scroll down to posts from early September.)

Looks like we escaped a freeze last night by 2 degrees, so might have some blooms left out there today. A freeze looks likely this weekend. 81 three days ago, mind you. 70 today. At least we get fall this year.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Blue Jay

Comes back every day, but is so quick at the feeder, so elusive, yet so large and loud.

Pre Freeze Blooms

Well, 34 is forecasted this week, which means it's just enough to do damage, or close enough that it might get to 32 or cooler here at city's edge. I've rolled up the hoses. Put the gloves away. Cried. A little. Late at night. Thinking how to help my Japanese maple survive the winter wind
on the east side of my house....

What was all that?
1) Fall allium 'Ozawa'
2) Hot Lips turtlehead
3) Sure you've never seen crocus, but it bloomed just a week after planting
4) Evidence of too much rain (8" over for the year)
5) Annuals I forget the name of, but that bloom till freeze.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wayside vs. Ebay

I tried both for my final round of plants in my super new garden (pics coming this weekend as a recap of the feverish 2.5 months to put it in are ending).

Wayside: PRICEY for what I got. Maybe they already sent out all the good-sized plants, but I can go down to my favorite nursery 10 minutes away and get much larger plants for just a few more bucks. The fineline buckthorn looks fine (though tiny), but my $13 buddleia santana consists of one 12" stick with a few leaves. Yeah, that won't take 4 years.

Ebay: IMPRESSED. I really debated on this. For one, it can be sketchy, but two, shouldn't I buy local to support independent nursuries and cut down on transportation costs and pollution? Anyway, no. Perfect Plant on ebay sent me a lovely looking 2' thuja green giant and a small but well shaped and colored viburnum winterthur. Even included a planting guide if one needs it. How much? Viburnum $1, thuja $3. Now, they might employ child slave labor, I have no idea. They might buy their plants from Sven on the corner of 5th and Broadway....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Plants That Sustain Us, or Germplasm Me

Attended a lecture today at UNL by a Stephen Baenziger. From what I gather, he's pretty big news here at UNL and nationally in plant genetics and breeding, though by plants we mean corn, wheat, soybeans, et cetera. He reminded me of, in appearance, a more polished Cliff from Cheers, and in some of his wonderfully lame academic jokes like my old neighbor across the street with a funny laugh (jokes like 2B or not 2b from highschool algebra).

Fun things I learned:

-- For every 50 meters in elevation the temperature drops by 1 degree.

--Plants that feed us are especially situated running east and west across the globe, and fairly straight across. That is, plant distribution--the rich energetic kinds we need--require a long period of light during the day and year, and more consistent temps. Also, there's the fact that mountains and large bodies of water impede north / south migration.

--Plants that are not native to a region thrive because of less pests and dieseases. I wonder if this applies to ornamental plants like flowers? Do my lilies fair better in Nebraska? The anemone? I doubt it.

--Wheat is from Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Lettuce from the Mediterranean. Potatoes from Peru (as are tomatoes I think, somewhere in South America). Cotton and oranges from Asia. Sugarcane from Siam and Java.

--Apple pie is not American: apples from Asia, cinnamon from India, shortening from China....

--In order to encourage the populace to eat taters and thus quell a famine, Louis XVI planted 100 acres on his royal grounds and placed guards there 24 /7. Once the plants were ready to be harvested, he pulled back the guards. Curious Frenchies, envious and mystified by what these important plants must be, came in at night and ransacked the fields.

--Fort Collins, CO is the Fort Knox of agricultural seed / germplasm preservation with the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation. (please note my garage isn't, though looks it.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

University of Evansville / Harlaxton College

The last few days have been rough for me. I have several periods throughout the year of SEVERE nostalgia (I am a sentimental moron). My college days were wonderful, I mean wonderful, I mean... did you hear me? I miss it. I miss the hard work, the close quarters, the smells, so many friends, recognizing people on campus even if you didn't know them personally who then became quasi friends just because you saw them so often. I even miss the opportunities I didn't take advantage of, the people I should've hung out with more, the places I didn't visit.... I have a disease and its communicable. Don't keep reading.

I especially miss Harlaxton, UE's campus in Grantham, England (and former WWII air base). It's been 10 years this past spring (1997), and that was--as it is for many who go there--the highlight of a lifetime. Mind blowing. Incredible. And that is no stretch, it is no cliche to say that. I'd give anything to be that kid again in England, even with all the naive, sheltered junk that came with him.

Right after Harlaxton, and after UE, I was the most depressed I'd ever been in my life. Coming back from Harlaxton, especially--a 4 month spring term--was like leaving my family for college: I cried and cried on the bus leaving the campus and moped for half the summer, but the following school year was incredible and the best of all four (I won 3rd place in the Big Man On Campus contest, but that's not the only reason why it was a good year). Leaving college was numbing; I'll never forget the walk from the dorm to my car, heading north on the interstate, knowing that'd be it. Forever. I thought grad school would make up for college in some way, but it didn't. Grad school pales in comparison. PALES. Maybe it should.

I wish I could get all my UE and Harlaxton friends together just one time--just one evening. I really miss them. It's incredible how so many ingrediants in a person's life come together just so (people, place, mentality, time), and something essential and fantastic and needed happens to us. Maybe I'm also missing who I became because of college, the process. I know I'm envious of my youngest sister soon to head off to school, and even my students. We live in shadows, necessary shadows, and this is one of mine. I don't know whether to shake it or embrace it. That's the nature of shadows, I suppose.

A blog or a web page is like a time capsule. It may be that months or years down the road one of my old friends--sadly misplaced in my life since graduation in 1999--may come across this. Maybe even a teacher, many of whom I enjoyed more than I let show (that's true for lots of people in my life). So, if you're someone I knew, even one of those strangers walking across campus as you went to chem and I went to english, get a hold of me, even just to say hello and leave it at that.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day -- Geese and My Memoir

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

It's interesting to see all the personal takes for today's event (I will join in on my first garden bloom day tomorrow, I hope, including a list of all the first year plants for my new space). Here is a section from my environmental memoir, in progress, about gardening with my mother when I was a young lad, though this section is more about discovering a new place--what will become the garden for my mother and I.


Even now, in early December, the Canada Geese are still making their way south. Early in the morning, just before sunrise, my foggy senses catch their calls and direction to one another. There must not be very many of them, because the chorus seems too ordered and collected.

When my family moved from semi-arid Oklahoma to abundantly moist Minnesota when I was ten, there were immediate physical, natural sensations that washed over me and planted themselves into my psyche. I suppose this is the same sort of event that happens to babies; I’ve heard of psychologists who say that our first impressions of everything happen then, and last for the rest of our lives in the subconscious.

In any case, when we moved it was August. In Minnesota, this month can veer into two distinct moods—god-awful muggy and ravaged by the last batch of mosquitos, or crisp and brisk in preparation for a long fall. In 1986, it was the latter. We moved into a moldy duplex for a few months, unsure of our final locale, and outside were many clumps of pine and spruce. The fall needle drop already began to litter the ground, and the moist shade of those conifers was a musk I’d never experienced before—this scent is almost unexplainable. It is a decomposition and a composition, a rest and a feverish action, a fear and liberation, trepidation and soul-deep discovery. It was cool in these shadows, the sweetness of the sharp aroma was allowed an accent on my young senses, just as the sudden calls of passing birds overhead who were the size of pteradactyls.

I’d never seen birds so large, so uniform, like an army pacing the sky. Their first calls made me rush out from the tree’s shadows into the low light of early autumn and feel something charge within me. As those geese slid south, my heart was still racing to head north and catch up to my body in this strange place. My mother had grown up in Wisconsin, just next door, and explained to me what these birds were, as much as she knew about them—but what was sure in her voice was that she was closer to home than she’d been for a long time, and I was further, like a distant planet or moon loosely holding on to the warm center of a galaxy.

This distant, disconnected sensation was wonderful. It was liberating. It would take months, even years, for me to realize how horrible that can be at the same time, though. Distance—either physical or psychological—is an almost impenetrable state of being. It’s next to impossible to inhabit one’s self from a distance. And yet, each spring, and especially each fall, the geese came ordered in their appearance, chaotic in their calling. Sometimes they’d fly so low I could hear their wings, the combined catching of their feathers like leaves in the breeze, pulling and pushing upon the air. They were just out of reach, moving at a pace I felt I could catch up to, a pace that in my sudden migration north I’d appreciate having.

The Canada goose has been clocked as fast as 60-70 miles per hour, but rarely keeps that speed up. They are exceedingly efficient as the lead bird breaks the wind and reduces drag for the birds behind; I’ve always thought the V-shape was an ingenious adaptation or discovery, and to see it in nature, not discovered by man first, made it even more so. Each bird down the line on both sides is basically riding the slipstream caused by the bird just ahead and next to it. This allows them to expend much less energy, thus being able to cover as many as 650 miles a day with little food or rest, and allowing them to be strong and healthy on their arrival down south. Most geese in the Midwest and plains follow the Mississippi, whose banks are full of shelter and food and open landing spaces. Since the Mississippi begins in northern Minnesota, at Lake Itasca, I’ve come to feel that the geese begin here as well, as if I let them go, and with the geese some part of me that never could have been nurtured in another place.

My parents took a huge risk moving north. My dad had built homes with his own since he was a boy, along with farming wheat. After they sold the tractors and combines, and the housing market cooled in Oklahoma, they ventured north. My dad arrived several months ahead to make contacts and scout the market, then to begin building his first home for sale. I celebrated my tenth birthday without him, and a few weeks later preceded the Mayflower moving van into a former prairie called Eden Prairie.

I was full of the air around me—heavy and damp, cautious and rich with potential, full of a hidden diversity only seasons would unravel and develop. In Oklahoma there are two seasons—hot and brown. Here, though, there were four that blended into one another, were built from each other, borrowed body parts to begin new lives. It was a seamless and efficient flowing. My parents had spent all their money on the move and financing the first spec house, so we were grounded in a purgatory of a temporary and shabby little house until the new one was done and we could move in until it sold. Then we’d move into another house, also for sale, and so on until we had enough money to buy our own home.

In the summer, just after hatching, several types of adult geese molt and lose their feathers. As they and their goslings bobble about on the ground evading predators, they are pretty much stuck in the same boat. By the time the goslings get their flight feathers, the parents have regrown theirs. This explains a mid summer line of geese that walked through a very busy local highway. Cars normally going 60mph stopped in each direction for five minutes as seemingly defiant parents led their families across the asphalt from one catch pond to the other—no one in our car had ever seen anything like it. This wasn’t a country road, waiting for a lone and disinterested cow to move to the side, there was purpose, even dignity in this parade.

For me, looking back, I can see my parents in this. We were all stuck in the process of our lives, grounded in our move, made stagnate by the newness of place and perception, almost blindly going forth. Whenever I wake up cold in the mornings I smell the damp pine needles of those first months, and when in my hazy pre waking I hear the geese call, I am at once comforted and frozen in trepidation of the new day. Their call is a call south, hungry and driven by some hormone deep inside them that is triggered perhaps by the waning summer sun. Parents mate for life, teach their children the way south and back again. Children nest where they were born, and their lives and their purposes form complete circles, perfect in shape and efficiency of being. Even now, years later and having just woken on a cold fall morning, their chaotic calls break the air around me, ease me into my life and a new day I remember having intensely lived before. In leaving, they’ve brought me closer to my home.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

C02 = Love

Check out the video at Ellis Hollow, provided to you by the whackjobs at the Competitive Enterprise Institute; I'd never actually heard of them, but looking at their website for 30 minutes makes me wonder if it's still an acceptable practice to drill holes in other people's skulls to let the demons out. True, trees need CO2, but if there's so much it creates a warming trend moving 30 miles faster north per decade than forests move (read Bill McKibbon's End of Nature), it seems a lot of CO2 ain't so good. Pine won't be in NE too much longer.

And I love people like this, who MAYBE have somewhat of a legitimate gripe over how global warming is presented to the public--I'd say it isn't done with enough emotional resonance in marriage with cold hard fact (this is why Gore is not a perfect GW figurehead)--but who nonetheless refuse to take any blame for the fact that humans are trashing the planet left and right in many ways, and care only for themselves even if it's at the cost of themselves.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Living Garden

Ok, this ought to grab a lot of you out there. Ran across this company / corporation that performs in botanical gardens, and, unfortunately, at trade shows, nfl games, Disney (yuck), et cetera.

Couple issues:

1) I love mimes. I've always loved street performers like this. Many people take issue with this since I can watch them for an hour and not lose interest. It started in London with a man painted gold.

2) I can't help but find trouble with the title of this group. It seems to me gardens are already living, right? To imply it takes a human element to define / sustain / create life seems a bit hubristic. But then again, if there weren't humans to garden, there'd be no garden (nature might be appreciative of that in some respects); there'd also be no one to comment on the philosophical ramifications of what's alive and what isn't and how it is alive and if it feels anything or has a soul. You follow that? I didn't. If a coreopsis bloomed among coneflowers and no one planted and tended to it, is it still a blooming coreopsis?

3) The idea of a sculpture coming to life IN the garden is, I think, fun and appealing. The idea of it coming to life on a stage is, well, deflating and silly.

4) I've seen posts on other garden blogs labeled NIMG, or Not In My Garden. Well, here you go, simply cuz it puts too much human in the garden--and it'd be too darn expensive while my wife would think I was eyeing the statue with water coming out of its finger tips for all the wrong reasons. I think you can make the leap for yourselves....

Photos and Gardens

Two side passions I enjoy--photography and gardening (though the latter is consuming my life right now). I greatly enjoy taking two kinds of photos, mainly for my own posterity and instruction: close up shots, i.e. the more artistic / cataloguing / natural history kind; and landscape shots, the instructive kind. Close ups help me identify plants and chart individual progress, and larger shots help me see texture, color, organization, the whole composition contructed by smaller compositions. Ah, pointilist gardening.

Just go read this: http://www.gardeninggonewild.com/?p=275


80's music is the best "genre" ever. Is. not was. How can you improve upon it? Playing "Take on Me"--which was also a great video--using only your hands and never smiling. And looking like a mafia person.


In other topics, I have 3 tickets to the great ethanol debate at the Lied Center this Monday evening. I'm probably going, so that leaves 2 tickets, row D (yup, got my tickets early for good seats). Any takers out there?

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Adaptable to Most Situations"

1) I've a feeling "adaptable" means it may or may not grow halfway decent in what you've got in mind. Good luck chump. It's guesswork anyway, made evident by this description for this plant you foolishly purchased.

2) And "most situations" means any situation but mine. Bad luck, dude.

Really, this is like saying "it tastes like chicken." Reminds me of the Arbor Day website and their tree guide: any tree anywhere is great! Go for it! You rock for planting even just one tree even if it dies of iron chlorosis or drought!

Yes, I'm researching where to put my last plants today before the cold rains come.

Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker' (Fringed Loosestrife)
Trcyrtis hirta 'Miyazaki' (Toad Lily)
Martagon Lily Mrs. R.O. Backhouse (can I wait 2-3 years?)

And I planted a sweet autumn clematis. Am I in trouble? Heard it's invasive.

Soil Temps

Who thought I'd look at this some day and care. http://cropwatch.unl.edu/

Lincoln last week averaged 66 degrees at a 4" depth. That is 3-4 degrees above normal. I hope my bulbs, particularly the small ones planted shallow, stay dormant. At least the nights are in the 40s now. (But we don't need any more rain for heaven's sake! And it's coming.)

Anyone reading?


I don't know. Really? Al Gore as Nobel Peace Prize winner? I guess. Seems more like a political statement than anything (don't mind the issue getting more attention, but was it a bit of a lax year for nominees? His "film" wasn't that motivational--it was like watching my students present personal and profound life experiences via stodgy powerpoint).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Right Shoe, Left Shoe, Drifting Through the Ocean

PBS is wonderful. Tonight I learned that right shoe sandals steer themselves to one beach in the Gulf of Mexico, and lefties go another way. Apparently, the strap acts as a rudder turning one this way, the other that way. Thousands of miles apart.

Of course, the Pacific Ocean has a huge vortex in the middle that collects trash. Huge dump thousands of miles across. Every dissected turtle and fish has plastic inside them.

And I am TIRED of hearing about gardeners praising global warming. GET A LIFE. "Pretty flowers; why do I have skin cancer and nothing to drink?"

Corn Won't Cut It (And No, I'm Not a Husker)

For some time I've believed ethanol is not the best way to go. It just isn't. I wish I had money to buy solar panels, even with the government kickback it's still too much. The U.S., being the U.S., can and should be a leader in the switch to renewable energy. It's just, for lack of a better word, butt-ass stupid that we aren't, and we're gonna go down with everyone else when we don't have to. And as an aside, watching my recorded episodes of the Ken Burns documentary "The War," it is amazing to see what our country CAN do when mobilized, focused, from grass roots to the prez. And if it was for something more peaceful / benign / responsible / balanced, vs. a war (though that was a necessary war), how much more wonderful would that be? Look at what our industrial machine did in the 1940s: we created 50% of the GLOBAL industrial output by war's end, and our recession ended overnight. Not a fool proof argument, but it's what you get in the morning.

This article, though not in depth, sums up the issues of ethanol as dumb well enough (with some quotes below):

"The U.S. agriculture lobby is incredibly powerful, and it has somehow managed to convince Congress that our next 100 years of energy should also come from the sun. Not in its most efficient route, directly transformed by the magic of electronics from solar rays into electricity via large and small grids of photovoltaic cells. But in the most inefficient way possible: From the growing of corn and then its refinement into fuel.

How inefficient is the ethanol solution? When you break the "agrofuels" system down scientifically, you can see that 99.9% of the energy in sunlight is lost in the process, with the greatest waste coming in the creation of ammonia-based fertilizer from natural gas, and in the refinery. That is, for every unit of energy that is put into creating agriculture-based fuel, almost three-quarters of it is dissipated before it actually does any work. The greatest amount of energy lost is not in the creation of ammonia-based fertilizer, as many believe, but in the refinery.

Of course, an even bigger problem is that the 6.6 billion people on Earth need all the food they can get, so every acre taken out of wheat, rice and soybean production to feed our 1 billion cars is an acre that won't feed starving kids. As Patzek notes pungently in his paper, after a lot of math to prove the point, "Our planet has zero excess biomass at her disposal."

One better solution is solar energy created at the municipal level by massive photovoltaic cell facilities, at the street level by home-based grids and at the transportation level at lots where electric vehicles' batteries can be charged. Photovoltaic cells lose only about 80% of the sun's energy to dissipation, making them at least 100 times more efficient than ethanol after the fuel cost of growing and refining the biomass feedstack is accounted for."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Keep the Rejections Coming, I Can Take It

Two more today. That's 11 of the 22 sent out since late August. Zoooooooooom.

But at least the ninebark coppertina and clematis came. Just three more plants left to come in the mail, then it's all done for '07, and the prayers will begin. Root. Root. Root.

Geothermal Turbine-less 60% Brick "Landscaping"

As a builder's son, and I admit a person who lives in a new suburban development previously used for agriculture, I found this new sudivision in SW Lincoln intriguing, as does a fellow blogger whose initials are JE: http://www.thebridgesne.com/index.html.

Obviously, if you read the covenants list, it's clear they are trying to create a specific aesthetic environment (funny to me how they are providing a "landscaped" community (I assume a few street trees and some bunches of tacky shrub roses, yes, you heard me) when, in fact, it was perfectly landscaped before they came in). The community of geothermal-ness is cool. My parents recently built a new home on an acreage and installed geothermal with a natural gas backup generator; I'm trying to get them to install a wind turbine.

Oh, but you can't have one at The Bridges (of Lancaster County?):

Antennas, Towers, and Satellite Dishes. No television antennas, radio
tower/antenna, wind powered electric generator, permanent generator or
satellite dish over two (2) feet in circumference shall be placed on any Lot
except on the interior of any structure. Satellite dishes shall be located in the
rear yard or affixed to the rear side of the structure. Note on the elevations the
proposed location for the Architectural Review Committee’s evaluation. All
wires, cables, conduits, or pipes shall be placed underground except that
portion necessary for service to the interior of any structure.

1) Most satellites have to point south, so if the back of your house points north you get no service? 2) Install that wind turbine in the living room.

But this is ok:

Solar Panels. Any solar panels placed on any residence constructed on any
Lot shall be mounted flush with the roof of such residence, and shall not be
located along any exterior wall of such residence nor in any yard of any Lot.
Note on the elevations the proposed location(s) for the Architectural Review
Committee’s evaluation.

But your roof must be:

Minimum pitch of 5:12, or as may be dictated by a unique architectural style.
Note on the elevations the proposed pitch for the Architectural Review
Committee’s evaluation.

And the front elevation must be 60% stone or brick and the back 30%. Hey, if I was the developer, I'd probably rquire a lot of the same things. Much of this is standard stuff. It just always baffles me to see planned communities that must A) Insert landscaping / create a "natural envrionment" and B) Do so, in part, via the guise of architectural specifications (shouldn't they require minimum square footage for landscaping by each homeowner? No, they only require two 2" caliper trees on the street side of the house). And isn't it interesting how a geothermal community, one which I agree would perhaps attract a few liberal treehuggers, won't allow other types of clean energy save solar panels, perhaps the most expensive option? Or has geothermal become nothing more than an advertising gimic, something to promote in the face of rising natural gas prices? Is it like saying "We use only the finest Anderson windows to help reduce energy costs?"

Not sure what I'm saying, I'm complicit in this on my .2 acre lot, but I'm trying my darndest to live well, bring back native plants, garden green, create a small rain garden, not leave lights on, the a/c too low, keep the garage open and closed accordingly to regulate house temp, et cetera.


National Book Award Finalists: http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2007_finalists_pr.pdf

Go Celtics.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Thousands of them as I planted allium and tulip bulbs. They came in waves--one lasted at least 30 seconds if not a full minute. As far as the eye could see coming form the south. Birds. Sparrows? Starlings? This lasted for about half an hour. (Pictures are crap, sorry.)

That was last night. Tonight, sitting on the porch riding the day down to near dark, in the crisp autumn evening, a sudden washing sound from the sky. Then the calls. Six geese flew super low over the yard heading southwest. I could hear them flying. 50 feet up maybe, no more. I just sat there and said "Ohhhhhh." I really did this. Out loud. Brought me back to my first autumn in Minnesota, 1986, the year of the big move from Oklahoma. Nature never seemed so in my face as it did in MN. So, maybe without that move north, I wouldn't be sitting here now appreciating it, or being sentimental or romantic about it.

Other sightings include a Blue Jay at lunch yesterday (big suckers), and a cardinal this evening at dusk on the feeder (loud suckers). FYI.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Seward, NE--Home of Spirea and Pyramids

You'd think a town with such an unfortunate name would settle for the implication it stinks. Although I simply drove around in it not stopping to stretch my legs, I'd like to go back and stay a while.

I went to Seward, 30 minutes wnw of Lincoln, to find a small nursery that had a few Spirea Mellow Yellow (Ogon) left (and 30% off!)--no one in Lincoln has any. Though the nursery was unimpressive compared to what I'm used to, any town that has a poem painted on the long wall of the first main building at the first stoplight gets applause from me. The poem was by Bill Kloefkorn--think he's still and has always been the NE state poet laureate (since 1982).

What a charming small midwestern town, at least what my idyllic senses impose on the place. It's home to a roman catholic seminary (and I did see nuns walking downtown, so maybe it IS a conservative town... what, in NE?). I know Concordia University is there and is a religious school; by the way, very small and confusing campus. http://www.sewardnebraskatourism.com/attractions/stgregory.htm

The city courthouse and town square was cool and surprisingly architectural: http://www.sewardnebraskatourism.com/attractions/courthouse.htm.

And I drove by a big white concrete pyramid, I assume built by the great Corn Pharaohs of the 1940s. Turns out it's the world's largest time capsule: "Seward is home to the World's Largest Time Capsule, a 45-ton, 20-by-8-by-6-foot concrete vault filled with some 5,000 relics, remembrances and reminders. Dedicated on July 4, 1975, the brainchild of the late Seward writer and historian Harold Davisson is scheduled to open in 2025." http://www.sewardnebraskatourism.com/attractions/timecapsule.htm. Thank you Egyptians for ruining the midwest.

The library looked SWANKY. I don't know if this is because Sewardians (?) appreciate learning and education or if that's what they want you to think. Either way, it's a pleasant downtown, but I had to get home to plant bulbs, a Spirea, and oh, a Black Lace Elderberry. "I don't wanna talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper! Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries!" (use French accent)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Les Plants

Trying to get shrubs in before it gets colder. Picked up the last available Fineline Buckthorn. Ain't it neat? It's the first plant to greet you upon entering the jardin.

Also got me a dwarf arctic blue willow. Really neat in sunlight.

The Chocolate Joe Pye Weed is ablooming.

This spider was resting in my flip flops, hopefully not there as I was consolidating my empty pots. Anyone know what it is?

And the bees were very still today; this one sat motionless along with two others on the sedum.

October 15

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Friday, October 5, 2007

Teaching Nature WITH Technology--A Spiritual / Ethical Imperative

Unplugged Schools [and universities!]


These are just a couple examples of thousands of innovative local nature habitat programs being developed by schools all over the country. (A number of other examples can be found in Richard Louv’s article in the March/April 2007 issue of this magazine.) As one reads about these programs, it becomes clear just how important it is that we help children get beyond the environment we have built to fit humans and experience the larger environment within which humans must learn to fit. Only nature can suffice for that, of course, but more specifically, the wild—that which has not been entirely tamed and domesticated by human intervention—is vital. By helping children understand the limitations of human power, the wild provides some inoculation against the day-to-day charm of a technological milieu that seduces us into believing that those limitations do not exist....

As much as they need direct contact with caring adults, children also need quiet places that give them a respite from the din of adult-generated electronic media constantly assaulting their eyes and ears. In past generations, playhouses, treehouses, forts, or even a sheet thrown over a card table served as places to escape adult intervention for a time. Children’s studies author Elizabeth Goodenough calls these places “secret spaces,” where children retreat for undirected fantasy play, security, and quiet contemplation. With ubiquitous media making these places harder to come by, enlightened schools are creating their own quiet (if not secret) spaces for their students. I have visited a preschool and kindergarten in West Des Moines, Iowa, that has a loft with an adult-unfriendly five-foot ceiling. Children go there to rest, play, or just withdraw for a while....

The imaginative powers of children being what they are, these quiet spaces don’t always have to be physical. In Goodenough’s book Secret Spaces of Childhood, Harvard professor John Stilgoe recalls putting the leaves of sweet fern in his math books when he was in junior high so he could take a whiff of it during school, which would transport him back to the gravel bank where he spent so much idle time in summer. Evidently, the concern for keeping students “on task” had not yet reached the point that it prevented his teacher from giving him some space for daydreaming. This and the kindergarten loft are just two ways that schools can, in remarkably simple ways, give children the opportunity to withdraw from the ceaseless noise of high-tech life and do the kinds of things that their childish nature calls to them to do.

IT SHOULD BE CLEAR BY NOW THAT ALL of the compensatory activities of unplugged schools have ideological implications. For example, our plugged-in society values the Internet for its capacity to overcome time and space—to allow us to “go anywhere at anytime.” Unplugged schools would recognize that this benefit has been accompanied by increased difficulty among children in feeling that they belong to any place at any time. According to educator R.W. Burniske, belonging is just what kids need to survive a media-saturated environment. “When you are drowning in a river of information,” he once wrote me, “the last thing you need to know is the temperature of the water. What you need is a rock to stand on.” One way to find that rock is through what has come to be called place-based education. By using the local community as a primary means of learning, place-based learning counteracts the alienation generated by too much of what Postman called “information from nowhere....”

The efforts to label and sort children while constantly seeking technical means to accelerate, enhance, and otherwise tinker with their intellectual, emotional, and physical development are acts of mechanistic abuse (there is really no other name for it) committed against children’s nature. There is no more critical task for schools than to counter this unfolding tragedy. Schools can make headway simply by patiently honoring and nurturing each child’s internally timed, naturally unfolding developmental growth, by abandoning anxious efforts to hurry children toward adulthood, and by giving these young souls time to heal from the wounds inflicted by a culture that shows no respect for childhood innocence. As Richard Louv and others have argued, nature is a particularly effective antidote for this condition. Eliminating the clock as the means of governing everything is another more modest but important move....

However it is undertaken, what is important to recognize is that compensating for the dominant view of children-as-mechanisms is, at its core, spiritual work. It acknowledges that some facet of a child’s inner life must remain sacred—off-limits to our machinations—to be viewed not as new territory for scientific investigation and technical manipulation but simply with awe and reverence and our own best, most human, expressions of support. To grant the dignity of that inner core is perhaps the most important gift unplugged schools can give children in the technological age. And, in turn, to foster within children those once universal but now nearly extinct childhood qualities of awe and reverence is spiritual education in its most elemental sense.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Birds -- Not Just Nuts in Spring

Dozens of robins descended on the 0.2 acre homestead this morning, joining the chickadees, which have been here en masse for a few days now.

The chickadees, left on their own, are loud chirpers and chaotic flappers; I'd say their flight pattern from fence to feeder resembles an EKG. They're awfully territorial about the feeder, and loud about it, warning off other incoming chickadees who divert elsewhere in mid flight.

But then the robins came (no pics cuz you know what they are), the brut bullies of the backyard, one with a fairly red breast (too fast to get a pic). Not only did they reign supreme in the sky, trees, and ground--tossing wood chips and grass high into the air--but a few surprised me and took over the bird feeder. They chased the chickadees off. They also chased each other, perhaps 6 pairs or more at one time, darting like drunks high and low through trees as if there were no trees.

Then the downy woodpeckers came, one pair at the feeder. They made a better show of it, but the robins won out chasing them through the trees and out back to the neighbor's acreage. Finally, briefly, in the line of small cedars along the back fence a blue jay made a finite appearance, but moved on, sensibly so.

And last but not least, sparrows hit the ground. The robins chased them off, too, running nimbly, pooping along the way (no pic of that, but it was FASCINATING).

It gives me pleasure to see the wildlife--if such common birds can be considered wild in our post nature age--perching on trees I planted, hiding behind the miscanthus, et cetera. Does this make me solipsistic? Too much grad school; I'm trained to problematize the hegemonic praxis of the other in a postmodern world (see?). I don't even know what I said, nor do I care. It's all chest puffing, and no one's mating this time of year anyway.

And lastly, have a, I believe, freshly-minted locust.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

On Simultaneously Broadcast Spreading

Eh. Title didn't go where I thought it might.

2 more rejections today--one prose, one poetry (one from my undergrad alma mater even). That's 9 this last month. Out of 22 sent out since 8/20. Indeed, 22 is a lot, and this doesn't include a few contests. I know many editors, even those on a certain someone's PhD committee, would scold me harshly for this.

For 2 years I tried this strategy: actually reading several copies of the journal and in my cover letter stating what pieces I enjoyed. I also told the editor that I would not submit the work to anyone else until I heard back from them. This resulted in a severe dry spell of getting work accepted.

So now I'm back to blanket coverages. And I'm even sending sims to places that say they refuse them. Why? Cuz I likely won't get accepted anyway, and because this is a problem I'd love to have: namely, someone saying yes.

I suppose this could, theoretically, put me on some publication's black list, but how many publications are there? And when I get mine some day, they'll come knocking regardless. This may be an idiotic theory, but so is the idea that if I get a piece published it'll be read. And if I get enough pieces published it may incline a book publisher to think I have an audience, some marketability. Which I won't. Because no one will read the book either. Not trying to be dark here, but you know how it works.

I guess what I'm saying is that as I do this year after year, I realize only one thing really matters--my nose to the page, my fingers on the keyboard. In the end that's the hardest and most wonderful thing to do.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Spirea and Buckthorn and a Hedge and a Conifer?

Ok, if there's anyone out there reading who knows something about the two below plants, help a gardener out. I am in love with them from pics I've seen, a smattering of googled descriptions, and know right where I want them when I get rich.

Rhamnus Fine Line Buckthorn
Rhamnus frangula 'Ron Williams'

Ogon Spirea (or Mellow Yellow Spirea)
Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon'

Apparently the buckthorn is non invasive. And the spirea, well, I've been looking at them WANTING to like them, but couldn't really do it until Ogon popped up. Wow.

And if anyone has suggestions for an evergreen hedge-like screen (non-manicured looking preferred, i.e. slightly wild and irregular and even a little open) of about 3-4 feet tall and about as wide, lemme know. Would such a thing do anything interesting? Flowers, color? This is on north side of the house, would get sun most of the day. Zone 5.

And if you have suggestions for a conifer on the north side, again sun most of the day (but maybe not much in winter), on a slight slope in clay soil in Z5, lemme know. Merci.