randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Work has continued to be ... oh, I dunno, challenging? Heavy? Hard? No, not really hard (other than the stuff I wrote about last time). Just heavy, I guess. I'm looking forward to taking a week and a half off in November.

Other than that, this and that. We're working on the next issue of Chunga. Mostly waiting for solicited artwork at this point, although I'm also finally editing the lettercol.

Last Thursday I saw the Seattle Opera's new production of Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment. Once again this was thanks to my neighbor's boss, who gets passes to the dress rehearsals but was unable to make it to this one. This time my neighbor joined me. The opera was a delightful truffle -- sort of a variation on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs about a young woman who was orphaned and raised by a regiment of French soldiers. I don't know much about Donizetti, but apparently he was massively popular in his day. This one was first produced in 1840, so it says something that people still want to see it nearly two hundred years later. The setting for this production was updated from the Napoleonic wars to World War II, and I believe the nationality of the romantic tenor was changed from Tyrolean to American.

Last night I watched the DVD of James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera's 1990 production of Wagner's Das Rheingold -- the first opera in the Ring Cycle. My article for this issue of Chunga is about seeing the Ring Cycle last summer. As I wrote here at the time, 15 hours of music is a lot to absorb, and I borrowed this DVD set from [livejournal.com profile] ron_drummond to try to get a better handle on it. I listened to the DVDs (with an occasional peak at the video) while I was writing my article; now I want to watch them. As before, I found a lot of music to like in Das Rheingold, and I'm fascinated by the fantastical, high fantasy nature of the thing. Just a tad different from the frothy romantic comedy of The Daughter of the Regiment!

I don't know what else. My raspberries have been incredibly productive this month. I picked a collander full on Saturday, and I can't remember ever picking them this late in the year before. Then again, I'm terrible about keeping a gardening journal, so I don't really know. I don't even know whether this has been an unusually warm October.

Oh, and I was also completely fascinated by an article in the Grauniad, "Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?", particularly the concept of soshoku danshi ("grass-eating men"), which is a term of disparagement that some men have embraced. One of them defines it as "a heterosexual man for whom relationships and sex are unimportant." I wouldn't agree with the "unimportant" (quite the opposite, really), but I do identify with the mindset that makes do without and that finds process of establishing and maintaining a romantic relationship incredibly complicated and fraught. For me this has nothing to do with the kinds of socioeconomic conflicts this article is about, but I still recognize the psychosexual terrain being discussed. "Gradually but relentlessly, Japan is evolving into a type of society whose contours and workings have only been contemplated in science fiction," says one demographer. Life on the cutting edge, eh?

Going yard

May. 20th, 2013 08:39 am
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
It struck me yesterday (ow!) that I hadn't written anything about going to Portland for Mother's Day last weekend. I think I'll mostly keep it that way, other than to observe that it meant I was in Portland two weekends in a row. So I was gratified on Saturday when I went to Roxy's for breakfast and the waitress asked me, "Where the hell have you been?"

"I've been eating somebody else's bacon," I said.

Anyway, after two weekends away and a burst of sunny, showery weather, the yard and garden had exploded. I got out the pruning shears and saw on Saturday and started chopping it back. The big thing I did was to cut down a large limb off the neighbor's cherry tree that had grown out over our yard and was sucking up all the sunlight. It ended up being enough mass, with all the little branches and twigs and leaves, to fill our yard waste receptacle almost entirely by itself. The other big pruning jobs will have to wait until next weekend. But it was quite impressive how much more light and airy it felt in that part of the yard with the big limb gone.

The other thing I did, perhaps a week or so too late, was plant a couple of tomatoes. The growing season is so short here that you want to get the tomatoes in the ground as soon as possible. Thus I passed on the heirloom plant that takes 88 days to bear ripe fruit. I planted one that takes 70 days and one that takes 68.

As always, it felt good to get out and dig around in the dirt a bit. The ceanothus has just started to bloom, so the bumblebees will soon be feasting.
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)

Today was my annual Homebrewed Compost Application Day, wherein I dig out my homebrewed compost (spiders and beetles and worms, oh my!) and spread it on this or that garden bed. There's never very much, but I always get an absurd pleasure out of the DIY aspect of it. This year I spread most of it on the area where I grow tomatos, because my tomato plants were pretty anemic this year.

I also planted some Siberian irises that are descendants of plants that were in Joanna Russ' garden. These came to me courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] kate_schaefer, who spread them around this year in the wake of Russ's death. There will be more about this in the forthcoming issue of Chunga.

In a perhaps balancing act, I tore out the irises in another bed, which I'm hoping to plant with something more bee-friendly, probably a rosemary or thyme plant and possibly some of the bee's friend (Phacelia tanacetifolia) seeds that [livejournal.com profile] holyoutlaw picked up for me somewhere.

It felt really good to get out and dig around in the dirt. I've been incredibly stressed out by my job lately, and have felt exhausted and half-sick this weekend. It was a tremendous release to break a sweat in the act of breaking soil. Maybe there's something to the idea that getting dirt on your skin is a healthy thing to do. That's what "studies show," you know.


May. 14th, 2011 02:52 pm
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
Planted two tomato plants today: an Early Girl and a Costoluto Genovese. The guy at the nursery thinks it's still too early to plant tomatoes, with low temperatures in the lower 40s forecast for next week in this, our chilliest spring on record. For six bucks, I'll risk it.
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
So today the NYTimes has an article about the abundance of moss in Seattle: "Poor Season for Sunshine Is Great One for Spores". It's basically fluff, but I did like this bit:

“So many of the calls we get are from people who actually want to get rid of moss,” said Sue Hartman, who helps answer the gardening hot line run by Seattle Tilth, which promotes organic and sustainable gardening. “But this being the Pacific Northwest, moss is really kind of a native plant. I personally love moss, and my pals here at Tilth also love moss.”

Noting that this has been “an extraordinary year for moss,” Ms. Hartman said Seattle Tilth tried to provide “a little therapy” for people whose image of a lawn or garden bed does not necessarily include moss.

“When we see something that doesn’t look right to us, our first instinct is we need to correct it,” Ms. Hartman said. “But if moss is growing somewhere, it’s growing there for a reason. Perhaps you’re trying to grow grass in a place where grass doesn’t want to grow.”

Right on. Embrace the moss! Or embrace *in* the moss, as the raccoons in the story do.

And fittingly enough, that's my last free NYTimes article of the month. Made it all the way to the 20th. Guess I won't be able to read Dave Kehr's DVD column on Sunday.
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
Our northern-facing front yard has long been a haven for moss, particularly the parts of it that are in the shadow of the house for much of the day. Also, I've been slowly turning the grassier, less mossy parts of the yard into a flower bed. So I wasn't particularly surprised when I mowed the remaining lawn for the first time this year and observed that pretty much the whole of it is now a big bed of moss. Didn't even think twice.

Well, it turns out that moss loves the chilly, wet spring weather we've been having (the coldest April on record so far), which probably has something to do with how noticeable the take-over in the front yard has become. Also why the new flower bed itself is growing moss. And the front walk. And the front gutter. I'd check my own north side if I knew which side was which.

(Tip of the hat to [livejournal.com profile] wrdnrd, whose UW in the Media newsletter alerted me to this story because two UW professors are quoted in it.)
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
New plants today:

Salvia nemorosa ('May Night' Meadow Sage)
Lavandula angustifolia ('Violet Intrigue' English Lavender)
Echinacea purpurea ('Ruby Star' Purple Coneflower)
Eryngium something ('something' Sea Holly)

It was a nice day today, and I also trimmed a couple of box hebes, pruned the California lilac (ceanothus), pulled weeds, and generally did enough to make my shoulder muscles sore. It's been a chilly spring, so things are getting off to a late start. The nursery had a Spanish lavender that I also coveted, and I think I know where it could go now. Bees like lavender, oh yes they do.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
I mowed half the lawn yesterday, and it was the back half at that, so the neighbors still have to look at a jungle out front. I'd already spent an hour pruning the raspberries and rebuilding the raspberry frame, so just half a yard of mowing heavy, wet grass was enough for me. It feels as though this was pretty late for raspberry pruning, and I'm not sure if that's because I've been so busy doing other things or because it really has been unseasonably chilly this year. I just have not felt like getting out into the yard this year, whatever the reason. On the other hand, this is not at all late for the first mowing of the year. I think it almost always happens in April, because it's too wet before then.

I also got a lot of writing done this weekend, both on my blog, on LiveJournal, and on the trip report, which I finally got back to after two weekends off. It has been very interesting working on a longer-form piece (circa 15,000 words at this point), which is not something I've done much of. I've been making notes in the manuscript of places where I want to expand or add more detail, and indeed yesterday was spent expanding on what I'd written the day before. It feels like I'm composing both forward and backward -- that as I move forward I'm changing my idea of what I've already written. There's lots of anxiety around the process, but there's also a lot of feeling of discovery, which is the fun part of writing. I've also got a lot of thoughts about the blog-so-far, but I think I'm going to resist analyzing for a bit longer. Perhaps needless to say, my thoughts about why I'm doing it are changing.

I went to Vanguard Saturday night. I hadn't been planning on it, but Craig Smith asked if I could give him a ride, so I thought what the hell. Turned out to be a relatively big Vanguard, perhaps because it was also Andy & Carrie's 25th wedding anniversary party and Julie & Luke's 5th wedding anniversary party. It was fun, even with the traditional ritual where Victor tries to talk me into buying an Apple product. Even Jane showed up, which was good to see. I drank a series of beers from Russian River Brewing tracing my spiritual path: Redemption, Damnation, Salvation. Out of order, but that's the story of my life.
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
I happened to note last year that the forsythia was already blooming on President's Day, which was February 15th in 2010. The forsythia is just now beginning to blossom this year. According to UW meteorologist Cliff Mass we did have an unusually cold stretch for a few weeks in late February, although I don't recall that we dropped below freezing much. I'm not sure whether that's the reason for the late-blooming forsythia or not. The crocuses were already starting to blossom on February 19th this year (I posted photos to Facebook), but I've never noted the date of first crocus blossoms in the past, so I have no idea whether that's early or late. Memory says they've bloomed in January before, but memory talks a lot of shit. Going back through my gardening posts, I discovered that it was Eric the baker at ETG and not [livejournal.com profile] don_fitch, as I've always remembered it, who recommended President's Day as the day to prune roses. Stupid memory!

I did prune a rose on President's Day this year (which was, you guessed it, February 19th), and it already had a lot of new leaves on it, making me wish I'd pruned it on MLK Day instead. But that would have been cold pruning, as I recall. Not that it was particularly warm on President's Day, but it was a beautiful sunny day. I've got photographic evidence of it.

Mud bath

Oct. 24th, 2010 01:52 pm
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
Today was my annual Deploy the Home-Brewed Compost Day. So I dug the compost out of my compost bin and spread it in the garden. While I was at it, I also busted some more sod to expand the bee garden bed out front. Since it has been raining, the ground was muddy. The compost was also muddy, and the last bits I dug out by hand. Soon I was pretty well covered in mud. It felt great! Reminded me of the days when I was a kid when we'd play tackle football around this time of year and come home covered in mud from head to foot. I'm sure my mom really enjoyed doing the laundry after those games.

Well, the muddy clothes are my job now. Meanwhile the rain is falling on freshly moldering compost. I love this time of year.
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
So this year's crop of raspberries has been a big disappointment so far. Many of the berries -- I'd say up to half of them -- are mushy and turn to pulp when I try to pick them, even if they are barely ripe (i.e., they are not old rotten berries). I've never seen anything like this before. Is it because of the cool weather we've been having? The only other remarkable thing is that the new canes (which aren't bearing fruit yet) are growing like mad, as I've mentioned before. There's a lot more of them than last year (and the most in several years), and they are a lot taller, by a couple of feet. So the old canes with the fruit on them are buried in this new growth.

It's all very strange.
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
The Seattle Times ran an article yesterday about wild lupine and the part it plays in the local ecology. Amongst other things lupine was the first thing to spring up in the Mt St Helens pumice. The thing that caught my eye, however, was that lupine has evolved to react to the native bumblebee: "The blossoms include an ingenious spring-loaded mechanism, triggered when the bee's weight opens the flower. That trips a dusting of saffron-colored pollen popped loose from 15 tiny anthers."

I planted a lupine in my bee-friendly garden this year, but since it's apparently a June bloomer, I guess it won't flower until next year, because it certainly isn't blooming right now. I wish I had planted more than one now, but there's time enough for that. The bee-friendly garden is nothing if not a long-term project and process of self-education.
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
The first few ripe raspberries were discovered in the garden today. Like, three of them.
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
So despite (or because of) my outburst of angst on Saturday, I had a pretty productive weekend on other fronts, including in the garden, where I finally planted the first plants in the bee-friendly garden I've been working toward for the past two or three years. I still have more work to do on expanding the bed (i.e., getting rid of lawn), but that will take me another year or two. So the first three plants are lupine, goldenrod, and yarrow. I had looked around on the internet for suggestions and came up with a pretty interesting list that included those. I was also hoping to find hyssop and borsage, but they didn't have those at Emerald City Gardens, which is a small nursery just down the road on Leary.

I did some other planting, too. I planted two tomatos for the first time in years, although one of them has already been destroyed by snails. I may need to look into Death To Snails. The second plant hasn't been touched by them yet, as far as I can tell. I'm not sure why not.

I also planted a lovely hosta with yellow swirls in the leaves on the bank out front, and a French lilac out back. The lilac is one of those with blooms that are sort of burgundy, except with more purple than burgundy has. I'm not sure what the right word for that color is, but it's not the more common lavender color. I planted it more or less in place of the eucalyptus that I had cut down a year ago. It won't be as dominating as the eucalyptus (which blocked too much sun from the back garden), but it will still create a barrier along the alley -- a barrier which on the other side of the walkway is being created by a forsythia and some black bamboo and a rambling rose.

I love the garden this time of year, because everything looks so green and healthy and young. The bee-friendly garden is definitely going to be more flowery than the rest of my garden. I seem to be a foliage guy at heart. Or something. Flowers are so fleeting. And food is just too damned mundane. Or something.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Don Fitch told me a couple of years ago that President's Day was about the right time to prune roses. I recently read a gardening page on the web that suggested that the time was right when your forsythia blooms. So I went out to prune the roses today, which is President's Day, and sure enough my forsythia has its first blossoms.

I spent a happy hour pruning the roses and the dead raspberry canes, preparing the way for new growth. As most of you will no doubt be unsurprised to hear, I am also continuing to rethink my travel plans for later in the year. Sharee's announcement of her marriage to Greg and their plans to attend Worldcon is making me even more dubious of the wisdom of my going to Australia this year. One of the things that's frustrating about this for me is that I also can't go to Corflu Cobalt in the UK this year because of travel plans with my family. That likewise cancels out the possibility of going to Eastercon instead. However, it just occurred to me yesterday that Novacon in November is another possibility.

One of the reasons I'm eager to get back to the UK in the near future is that [livejournal.com profile] reverendjim has indicated that he might be up for a trip to Belgium to drink damn fine beer in its natural habitat if I get over there again. So when I tossed my idea out to the Fishlifters to see what they thought, I was delighted to get this back from Mark. It absolutely made my day. (I hope he doesn't mind my quoting a private e-mail. Mark, if you do, just let me know and I'll take it down.) Mark wrote, "Much as we'd love to see you in Australia, there's something cosmic going on driving you down this path, I feel. I mean they don't coincide precisely, but your email was sent just before -- and seen by us just after -- we were talking in the pub about getting you to come to Novacon, in the wake of your email about coming to the UK some time and setting off on a Belgian beer odyssey with Jim. The general consensus was that if you do this you should take Tobes too -- and probably a film crew."

Which sounds like so much goddamn fun that I'm tempted to book the trip right now. However, I'm not going to make a hasty decision. I'm reluctant to give up on Aussiecon, because Australian Worldcons are a once a decade opportunity, and while going to the UK would allow me to visit British friends I had hoped to see in Melbourne, I wouldn't be able to see my Australian friends, including a few I've gotten to know through LiveJournal but haven't met yet.

Yet there's no denying that the recent developments Down Under make the emotional terrain much trickier for me. I'm not sure I'm strong enough not to be a burden on myself, on Sharee and Greg, and on all my friends. But who knows? Maybe this whole thing is making me stronger even now. All I know is that I love my friends, who are absolute rocks. I'm getting by with a little help from them.
randy_byers: (uo)
I think I'm done in the garden until spring. Yesterday I transplanted a lavender bush and two clumps of day lilies, and I raked pretty much the last of the leaves from the trees on our property and the neighbor's. Might still get some leaves from the big maple across the street, but other than that, I've done everything that was on my autumn gardening list.

The University of Oregon football team managed to eke out a come-from-behind double-overtime 44-41 win over Arizona last night, setting up a Civil War game with Oregon State two weeks from now that will determine which team goes to the Rose Bowl. OSU last went to the Rose Bowl in 1965, while the Duckies last went in 1995. There will be a lot of trash talking at Thanksgiving!

I actually missed the end of the Arizona game because Scott and carl came over for another beer session. I was already pretty trashed from drinking during the game and an earlier visit to the Big Time for a taste of the Malaprop 8 (a Belgian abbey-style ale) and Jeezum Crow (an India brown ale), but I still managed to enjoy the Panil Barriquée, an oak-aged sour red ale that was bottled in 2006. Awesome beer, which I thought was Danish but turns out to be Italian.

Think I'll head down to Rain City Video to see what kind of old gothic film I can find for this rainy Sunday. Maybe I'll read some more of Lord Dunsany's collected short stories, too.
randy_byers: (uo)
1) Haven't gotten much done this weekend. The main productive thing I've done is some work in the yard. There's a fair amount of autumnal clean-up work to do, and I've busted more sod in the front yard. The goal, still, is to plant a bee-friendly garden out front, although at this point I'm using up a lot of the new bed space transplanting things that have been overgrown by sprawling plants in other parts of the garden.

2) I've been reading the introduction to my copy of The Tempest, which is an Oxford University Press edition. Great stuff, and it's helping me understand the play better. "Cannibalism, Utopia, and free love reappear throughout the century as defining elements of New-World societies." Shades of Stranger in a Strange Land!

3) The University of Oregon football team beat USC 47-20 yesterday. I can't even begin to express what a huge game that was. I've been a University of Oregon fan since I was a kid, so I've been watching the Duckies lose to the Trojans for four decades. I've seen them win a few too, but I've never before seen them completely trounce the Trojans, who amongst other things have been the Pac-10 champions for seven straight years and national champions twice in that same period.

4) It's been a beautiful, sunny weekend, so I think it's time to swing by the Sunday Market for tacos and then find a place to read more of the intro to The Tempest.


Oct. 25th, 2009 01:53 pm
randy_byers: (bumble bee man)
Today was the annual day of spreading my small amount of home-brewed compost. I get a ridiculous feeling of accomplishment from spreading my small amount of home-brewed compost.

Something burrowed down alongside the underground part of the compost bin over the summer, and over the past couple of weeks I've been trying to block the hole with bricks. I wasn't sure what it was, but I suspected it was a rat. So being the over-imaginative type, as I dug into the compost I was halfway waiting for a small, toothy rodent to leap out of the debris and tear my throat out. No such luck. I couldn't see any evidence of critters around the plastic basket at the base of the compost bin, so I'm still in the dark about what it might be. The second layer of bricks seemed to be enough weight that whatever it is couldn't move them. The same was not true for a single layer of bricks. Anyway, maybe it has abandoned ship.

I also busted some sod in the front lawn today. It felt good to do something physical, break a sweat, and get covered in dirt.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
I think the last time I mentioned the traffic circle at the bottom of the hill I was bemoaning the removal of the cedar tree and then noting in passing a week or two later that I'd seen some folks tearing out all the other plants and replacing them with new plants, including a new, more traffic-circle-appropriate tree. I've been meaning to mention that they've been doing great work on the circle since then. The latest thing they've done is to add a bunch of big, jagged rocks around the perimeter to keep assholes in trucks from driving over the circle, which assholes in trucks have been doing ever since the circle was installed three years ago. They've also put one of those watering bags on the tree, which I believe provides a slow, regular trickle of water to the rootball. There are a fair number of flowering plants, and it all looks a lot more gardeny than it used to.

In short, they've got an idea and they're going with it, and I'm actually happy to let somebody else do the work. I do still feel somewhat dispossessed, it's true. It feels like three years of (occasional) work went out the window with no acknowledgment. The perils of working in a semi-commons, I guess. How would they have known to contact me? It's not as though there was a sign with my contact info. The way I had gotten involved myself was through a neighborhood e-mail list that sprang up around the petition effort to get the traffic circles installed in the first place. The membership of that list was pretty random, and people who didn't sign the petitions or newer residents on the street would have no way to know it exists.

It does seem to me that this is a higher maintenance landscaping job than what we originally planted (which was all native plants, with ground cover that was just finally getting established when it got ripped out), but so far the maintenance has been immaculate. They're doing a much better job of keeping up with the weeds than I ever did. That circle of rocks is what really won me over. Instead of just gnashing their teeth at the assholes in trucks, they've done something about it. They really seem to know what they're doing. So I tip my hat to them, with some lingering chagrin.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
They were probably already ripe Monday, but I ate the first raspberries out of the garden yesterday. I suppose if I were a real gardener, I'd make note of this kind of thing in a gardening log or journal. Draw your own conclusions!

The crop of berries this year is pretty stunted, but the crop of new canes is thriving. The new canes have in fact sort of buried the old canes that have berries on them. This would seem to confirm that the eucalyptus tree that we had removed this winter was taking sun (and maybe water) from the raspberries.


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