Monthly Archives: June 2008

Garden. And OMGPuppy!!!:)!! part two!!:)

I’m almost finished with this summer’s work on the rock garden, “finished” meaning “run out of earmarked funds.” Yesterday I planted 5 more hosta, 2 spiderwort, and two of something I can’t remember the name of*, and today or tomorrow, depending on rain and the new knitting project I’m itching to start and whether I make it to the store for more topsoil, I’ll put in 9 or 10 lilies of the valley. I’ll post pics after.

But enough about little ol’ me. Last Saturday I puppysat the bouncy and highly photogenic Toby. I had him for four hours or so. It was a lot of fun, and it also reminded me why I adopted adult dogs and why I teach at the college level: children are a lot of work. The energy! The determination to escape the gates I had set up to contain him in the living room!** The crying! The cuteness and cuddles! The peeing on the rug! It was exhausting. I’d puppysit again because the cuteness outweighed everything else, but I do need recovery time afterward.

The first thing Toby did was savage the plush duck his mom brought for him to play with:

Then he discovered Ricky’s toy basket and pulled out every single item:

(Yes, Linda, that’s an old crocheted dishcloth turned dog pull toy. No, it’s not one of yours.)

Next, Toby signaled his need to go outside by peeing on the carpet, so out we went. I think this is possibly the cutest picture I’ve ever taken:

Finally, after fighting it for about half an hour, Toby went to sleep, and like all babies, he slept hard:

In exchange for puppysitting, I got a 12-pack of beer, which I’m saving for the next time I have guests over. Or possibly the next time I puppysit….

*I somehow doubt I’ll ever attain Master Gardener status, or Knowledgeable Amateur gardener status, for that matter. Extra Good at Killing Things status, maybe.

**Ricky was terrified of Toby, for some reason. Toby, of course, was fascinated with Ricky and wanted to be with him.

It’s her birthday!

My next-eldest sister, Carol, pictured below in her office with some of her fabulous cross stitch* work on the wall, will be celebrating a milestone birthday on Wednesday.** Because I’m getting her birthday card in the mail late (today) and because I’m way too cheap broke to get her a present,*** I’m hoping those who regularly visit or stumble across my blog will leave a comment wishing Carol a happy birthday, or at least commiserating with her for having such a bratty little sis.

*She works counted cross stitch on fine linen. The woman has crafting cajones, that’s for sure.

**I’m going to be 45 in August. My brother, who is slightly older than Carol, is 53. While I would never reveal Carol’s exact age on my blog, I feel sure most of my readers can do the math.

***Anyway, wasn’t my birth present enough? Having a baby sister is the gift that keeps on giving….

OMGPuppy!!!!:)!!!

First, I had my annual review today with my dean and the VP of academic affairs. Evidently, I’m fabulous.

Now on to the important stuff — the basset hound puppy that lives next door, named Toby. Toby is 9 weeks old and he’s nothing but feet, belly, and ears. Oh, and little sharp puppy teeth. Here are few pics I *just* took:

First, how cute is this little guy? Definitely CuteOverload material, if you ask me.

here’s his come-hither boudoir portrait….

He’s long little guy, and his skin doesn’t fit too well yet….

And here’s an ear. I can barely resist nibbling on Toby’s floppy ears. I don’t think he’d mind — he runs around with his ears in his own mouth all the time!

Toby’s owners are a nice young couple who are definitely dedicated to raising him well. I’m kind of like his crazy aunt, always taking a break from gardening to play when he comes outside. And you can bet they knew exactly what they were doing when they asked if I’d mind terribly much puppy-sitting tomorrow afternoon.

Hmm, let me check my calendar. Can I take him NOW?

Gardening: In which I am over-ambitious

I’m working to turn the patchy part of my lawn, the bit under a huge silver maple tree, into a rock garden.

First, it took me over a year (a year!)* to find a goodly pile of rocks for edging the garden, and even then I had to use a bunch of rocks that were already here edging a different feature AND buy 54 pavers.** I did make the rock garden a *bit* bigger than I should have, as you’ll see, but still.

Here’s a very poor double pic of the proposed garden on the house side. The rock area and few plants at the base of the tree were there when I bought the house:


And that edging was all the rocks I could scavenge — in a year(!).

Here’s the garden from the street side, with the Extremely Heavy Pavers:

And that little bit on the left, about 1/4 of the total rock garden area, 1/3 if you count that already-rocked area under the tree as also finished (which, believe me, I am) is what I planted today. It’s three clumps of chives and a lot of hen and chicks, with more hen and chicks and two cold-hearty cacti to join them soon. I used newspaper to smother the grass, then topped it with topsoil (14 bags!). Luckily, I’m getting the plants for cheap and some for free from friends. Tomorrow’s project is to expand the area around the tree with 13 more assorted hosta and lots of river rock.

The next step is to do the area between the tree/hosta and the chives garden with river rocked areas and areas of assorted ground cover — phlox, thyme, and nettle (not the stinging kind). That will probably finish up my gardening budget for the summer — the area on the far side of the tree will just have to remain patchy and ugly until next spring. Luckily, I can get wood chips for free from the city.

And now, I’m taking my filthiness and walking the dogs before I settle into a lovely, soapy shower……

*In Nevada, you’d drive out into the desert and get some rocks. Here, every single inch of the state is farmland, practically, and people use their own rocks for outdoor decor. Rocks are damn hard to come by!

**They weigh 14 lbs each. After the first day of setting 16 of them, I was exhausted. Now, I’m in much better shape, slinging around 40 lb bags of topsoil like, well, like heavy bags, but I AM slinging them, which is something when you’re parked at a desk reading freshman essays 9 months of the year.

Hair and compost….

Actually, you can compost hair. Who knew?

First, I have to say that I am not a born gardener. I can think of at least four reasons for my lack of interest in plant nurturing*:

1) When I was a kid, my sister and I were given responsibility for the front flower beds every summer. What this meant was, Dad did the fun part of picking out the flowers and planting them, and we were expected to weed and water “our” beds. Yeah, that’s a blast.

2) Gardening in Nevada is a constant test of your will vs the environment.

3) I’ve lived my entire adult life, until 2006, in rentals and moved frequently — why invest the time and energy in gardening?

4) Gardening takes up precious time that could better be used reading, crafting, watching movies, and hanging out (and in my younger days, playing RPGs).

But now I own a house and live in Iowa, where the question isn’t “how am I going to get things to grow?” but rather “how the hell am I going to keep up?” And so, I’ve become a gardener — a Darwinian gardener**, but a gardener nonetheless. And a measure of my new determination is…..my compost heap:

My friend Mark is going to swing by later this summer with a concrete saw and cut some of the blocks so we can lay true courses, but I wanted to get started and I thought this would be good enough for now. Since I went pure vegetarian, I’ve been throwing away so much more vegetable waste, plus I learned you can compost dog hair (Ricky is a constant donor) and dryer lint. I’ve already got some monstrous worms working away in there.

When I told my friend Jennifer about my heap, she connected it to my renewed efforts in fiction writing by quoting J.R.R. Tolkien:

One writes such a story [The Lord of the Rings] not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mold of the mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps. No doubt there is much personal selection, as with a gardener: what one throws on one’s personal compost-heap; and my mold is evidently made largely of linguistic matter.

So writers are full of shit, but in a good way.

The renewed interest*** in writing started last summer, when I sent a story I’d written more than a decade ago in to a small press anthology and they bought it. (!!!!!) The book is coming out later this year and is titled Cthulhu Unbound, vol. 2. Volume one is just about to go to press right now. I didn’t announce the sale (my first professional fiction sale) here on the blog because I was so very, very excited that I think I told just about everyone who visits the blog anyway; also, putting it in writing like this seemed like a bit of a jinx. But I’ve seen the cover art for both books and the proofs of vol. one, so I guess it’s a go.

More exclamation points: !!!!!! I’m still pretty excited.

Now I’m working on revisions of 3 other old stories, an idea for a new one, and an idea for a novel. Part of that work is finding some discipline, and I think that, in the absence of a comfortable coffee house, I’ll start spending my summer mornings at the local library. Home is too distracting with the dogs and the parrot…and now the gardening.

On to the hair. No, not Ricky’s hair — my hair. I wrote before about my discovery that I have curly/wavy hair when I grew it out, after decades of wearing it very short, over the past year. After my trip to Madison, I went to my hairdresser and asked for a shaggy bob, about earlobe-length. She did a great job, which is not done justice in the following pictures (taking pics of your own hair is tough, especially the back). The style is blow-dried straighter in the front; the curls on the side and back are all natural.****

Now, in my life I’ve had Farrah hair, punk hair, bleached hair, red hair, french braided hair, permed hair,***** and crewcut hair. But I think this is the first time I’ve had cute hair. I like it.

*I don’t even have houseplants. Unless something in the house actively asks me for care, it’s gonna get ignored.

**If a plant can’t survive my half-hearted, half-assed care, it deserves to die.

***I didn’t write any new fiction during my 4-year Ph.D. program and only sent out one revised story (rejected). I did write lots of academic work, which I’m pleased to say did garner me some cash — $500 for Distinguished Dissertation and $750 for 2nd place in graduate research papers.

****I can’t do anything about the face; I’ve never taken a good picture in my life.

*****remember those awful ’70s tight perms?

Incidentals

Finished up some contract work that was hanging over my head, so now summer really can start. And that start included fishing a deceased gopher (?) out of my sump pump this morning. Yes, it was as icky as it sounds. Picked out some plants for my new rock garden yesterday, am buying some rock, soil, and edging stones today, getting a bid on chain link fence supplies next week. And so it goes….

I know I shouldn’t…..

A cardinal rule of Internet interaction is “don’t feed the flamers.” But I can’t help but post on my continuing popularity with the boys at SASS. I mean, how much of a life does one NOT have, to be picking on a middle-aged, Quaker English professor? And it’s the “Quaker” and “English professor” aspects of my blog that are now coming under fire.

Before discussing that, however, I do have to shout-out to the gentleman who defended me by stating that I’m “not actually that fat, just old.”* Thanks, Sweetie. I hope you manage to more or less keep your figure, too.

In reading my “About” page (and it’s nice to know that folks are clicking all my links), the SASSites found out that I teach at BVU in the Midwest** and that I “walk the Quaker path.” One immediately pointed out that it must be a wide path (due to my overwhelming fatness, which is still less than my age, apparently), which is really pretty funny. Another pointed out that it’s not very Quakerly of me to be trashing people on the Internet. What he doesn’t understand, of course, is that a dedication to non-violence and social good is not the same as rolling over; I can call the SASSites “little boys” and describe their petty bathroom humor to the world without losing my Quaker street cred.*** Since they brought it up, however, I will point out that despite their unkind words and fascination with bodily functions, I firmly believe that each and every SASSite carries a spark of the Divine Light and that God loves them and yearns for them just as much as He loves and yearns for any other soul walking this green earth. Of course, I also believe that about, say, Joseph McCarthy.

The English professor jokes are largely based on the fact that my description of the SASSites as “evidently primarily young men who enjoy anonymously writing and posting unbelievably cruel and tasteless comments and pics about rape and other violences against women, people of color, the disabled, gender exploration, homosexuality, etc.” is not a parallel structure. I’d noticed that, but decided not to fix it because as an English teacher I understand the rhetorical concepts of audience and purpose and this is, after all, merely a personal blog with a readership, prior to SASS’s involvement, of about a dozen friends and relatives who love me and will forgive the random syntax error.

Another English-teacher related criticism was that my writing is pretentious and over done. Yeah, that’s for humorous effect, especially as contrast between the writing style and the subject matter at hand. Although I can see how that is lost on readers who regard a crudely drawn and animated file of a shitting butt as the height of comedic expression. Oh, and see that last sentence? It’s technically a fragment, as are the two that begin with conjunctions**** in the first paragraph. When done on purpose, boys, that’s called writing style.

Anyway, because of the initial anti-WisCon brouhaha and the SASS attention to my own little blog, I was discussing the issues of safe spaces, both physical and online, and Internet bullying with a colleague. She pointed out that I could get one, maybe two academic papers out of all this. So I hope the SASSites keep it up. Maybe they’d like to Google my name: Inez Schaechterle.*****

There now, boys, run along and play.

*The other trolls immediately piled on him for showing a speck of mercy. Adolescent boy culture sure can stink.

**A few weak jokes about the Midwest and BVU’s mascot, the beaver, ensued. Because no one who lives in the Midwest or has heard of the beaver mascot has ever joked about it. Please.

***You know, wearing the grayest shade of gray, making the fewest incidental noises during silent worship, eating the most oatmeal…..

****And, or, but, so, yet. I often wonder if young people have missed out by not having their Saturday morning cartoons peppered with Schoolhouse Rock?

*****What the hell, it’s all over previous blog posts anyway.