Designing a Garden – If I Can Do This, So Can You! May 25, 2009
I’m not sure if I’ve discussed my whole other life as a frustrated gardener here before, and I don’t have the patience to sit and dig around for past discussions. The long and short of it, history wise, is a bit of that whole “I’m turning into my grandparents/parents” thing. When I was a kid, my grandparents had a huge backyard, and every spring they planted a garden. A gigantic garden, actually. I have very early memories of this spring ritual where the tiller was brought out, and I would be given a handful of seeds to place in the holes along the furrows. I clearly remember being fascinated by the sharks teeth that my brother and I would find in the freshly dug soil – being 5 hours from the MS coast, this was odd, but if one looks at the history of the planet, it stand to reason they’d be there, as this area of the United States was once covered in water, millions of years ago.
Anyway, being a person who sits at a computer all day, I had to find an outlet for the other part of my brain. I guess the most lo-fi way of solving this issues is to dig in the dirt. I was talking gardening with someone the other day – someone who doesn’t share this love – and I had to explain what the draw was for me. To the best of my ability on the analyzation of the hobby – because this IS a hobby until I get paid for it – I figure it’s this: Every single time I plant something, I expect it to be a colossal failure. But most of the time, 99.9% of the time, I am pleasantly surprised and it’s like a series of miracles when something sprouts or blooms. It’s the closest thing I’ve experienced to giving birth, I suppose, as I am taking part in creating a life.
I started my own personal digging in the dirt thing about 7 years ago, while living in an apartment. I started with cherry tomatoes, dill, and basil in containers. That went well, so when I moved to a house with a yard, I decided to branch out. The house I currently live in had a modest flower bed. It contained what was limited to a modest amount of plants, the only two of which I can identify being phlox and lambs ear.
I decided to give things a go 3 years back and added some seedum I had in a pot that I acquired from my great-aunt’s garden. That went well – of course, you can’t kill the stuff. Two years ago, a house was built next door, and one of the workers generously gave me another variety of seedum to plant after we had talked about the flower bed – I placed it near my existing seedum. As I have a love of freshly cut herbs from the garden for my cooking, I added basil, oregano and chives – the chives were transplanted from a pot – I had started those from seed about 7 years back in my early endeavors with container gardening. Amazingly enough, they come back each year in early February, and survive thru the strange early spring snows we seem to get here in Nashville.
Last year, I got serious about the gardening project – as serious as one can get with a modest flower bed – then I put my mind to expanding things. I annexed the flower bed to run the length of the walkway to my patio – and planted hollyhock, bee balm and rose campion that I received from a friend. While planting these, a neighbor stopped by and said he had some purple canna, and asked if I wanted them. You can probably guess what my answer was. I also received four moulin rouge sunflowers from the same friend that gave me the hollyhock. I planted those and was very pleased with the result. They’re not mammoth sunflowers like most people imagine, but they got to around 4 feet in height and were beautiful. A deep maroon on the front side, with striated leaves of maroon and bright yellow on the back side. Watching them sway in the wind made me intensely happy.
The hollyhocks actually bloomed last year – they usually rock on 2nd – and the cannas and bee balm were lovely as well – the added bonus of the bee balm was the attraction of many bumblebees that pollenated the flowers and plants.
Spring forward to this year. I saved all of my seeds last year – hollyhock, rose campion, moulin rouge sunflower, etc. I filed them away in the paper bags that I take away from the local farmers market in my neighborhood. I started the seeds early, for example, with the moulin rouge sunflowers and transplanted the seedlings into the ground about a month back. I had 25 total early on, but am down to 10 at the moment as something seems to be breaking them off. Oh, I had to dig another flower bed out to accommodate the plants I wanted to set out. In that flower bed, I put 2 angel trumpet, the 25 moulin rouge sunflower, 15 gladiolas and a few tomato plants I started from seed – those are a bit of a buzzkill now, as they are 2″ tall and seem to be stalled at that size. I’m hoping they continue a growing trend.
I also have a love of the dollar store. My local one happened to have gladiolas bulbs – 15 to a package – for $3.50. I figured “why not” and purchased the bulbs, set them out & they are now bursting forth from the newly dug flower bed.
As I share an ongoing conversation over at Aunt B’s regarding gardening, she has gone on and on about Bate’s Nursery here in town. And recently, another friend, Bradley, told me about the wonders of Bates and this past Saturday sent me an invite to travel that way to look around at plants. I accepted the offer and was not disappointed. At Bates, I purchased 2 heirloom tomato plants – one being the black variety, a basil plant, as mine grown from seed seems to be stuck on pause, and 4 acorn squash plants – I meant to buy crook neck squash, but I figured I’d try this variety and make the most of my mistaken purchase. Regarding the black tomato plants – my neighbor had been given some of these last year from one of the workers on the house & I tried them and fell into instant love. I’d never seen or heard of them prior. After the trip to Bates, I promptly placed it into the soil and trusted the rain trend would take care of the rest. So far so good, as there are three blooms on that tomato plant.
In the new flower bed, which is mostly an amalgam of flowers and veggies, I popped in some pole beans as well — nothing quite like fresh pole beans from a garden — I planted those around a week and a half ago and they’re currently about 2 inches in height. Tomorrow I plan on running string around the two trellis posts in order to give them something to run up. Hopefully their growth won’t affect the dahlia that is planted nearby to infuse some color into the surroundings. I also have a hot pepper plant, given to me by my brother, and it’s already yielded a single pepper that I picked to put into a salad in the future.
The friend that gave me the bean seed told me that his have not come up yet and I’m not sure about the whole “why” answer to the question. The only thing I can figure is this — I have a TON of worms in the new flower bed, thereby – as far as I can tell – enriching the soil with nitrogen and all the other stuff worm poo provides. I have 4 bean plants that are loving life right now and that makes me very happy.
So, that’s the gardening update as of late. I need to get out and weed, but figure I can do a little at a time, as the rain is still hanging around Nashville and the surrounding area. Stay tuned, I might even put some photos of the progress here.
A How To Guide: Credit Card Confetti April 14, 2009
One Pair of Scissors
Twenty Seven x Infinity parts rage
Three credit cards
One champagne flute
Allow scissors to meet plastic credit cards, apply liberally
– Put champagne flute on desk where bills are paid.
– Stare at it daily as you pay down your credit card bills with money earned
by taking every extra job you can find and putting every penny into a savings
account specifically opened to build the money to pay off these soul sucking
– when all debt is paid off, in full, empty champagne glass of all credit card confetti, pour a liberal amount of champagne* into glass and drink until champagne magnum is empty.
Prep time: varies
Card cut up process: 3 cards, 30 minutes
“You Make Me Sick” – Pink
“Money” – Pink Floyd
“9 to 5” – Dolly Parton
“Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)” – Pet Shop Boys
“She Works Hard For The Money” – Donna Summer
“Money Changes Everything” – Cyndi Lauper
“Taxman” – The Beatles
*champagne should be paid for with COLD HARD CASH<
MacGuyvering Seedlings – Designing a Cheap Solution April 7, 2009
If you know me, you’re aware of what a tree-hugger I can be. I can’t stand the thought of throwing anything in the trash. I’m also frugal.
I’m also a frustrated gardener. Oh, and I like to MacGuyver things.
This year, I decided to try growing tomatoes from seed. I’ve never done it before and just thought I’d give it a shot. The little guys are doing well.
I’ve seen those little terrarium things that are sold and have never bought one, but had a stroke of genius last night as to how I could finagle my own. I save my plastics (#1 & #2 are picked up by Nashville Metro) — all other labeled numbers of plastics and glass have to be taken to a recycling pick up center. I’d eaten a few take out salads and had saved the containers and they were in the pile. I was gathering my recycling and it struck me that these could be used in the same fashion – to grow seedlings. So, I popped my basil in one as a test and it’s working like a charm.
The only issue here is they aren’t very deep, but I’ll solve that issue by transplanting them into styrofoam cups and empty half & half cartons I’ve saved.
Nothing goes to waste around here.
Indulge me as I play “What if?” February 18, 2009
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about creativity and careers and all sorts of stuff that falls into and around those two categories.
I don’t know if I can properly put down my words on the epiphany I had regarding all of this, but I’m going to try.
For what’s been rattling around in my brain I’ll use, for example, Bill Gates and Leonardo Da Vinci – both masters in their fields of work and study – Gates with revolutionizing computers and Da Vinci revolutionizing art. Both found their niche in life rather early, which allowed them to excel in their respective fields.
By the same token, I know far too many people who slog through daily life at a job they absolutely abhor. These people are basically “making the doughnuts,” for lack of a better word.
But what if we have all these potential Bill Gates’ and Leonardo Da Vinci’s out there, but our greatest potential minds are not working in the field in which they would really shine and change the world? We’re in the midst of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. And we have supposed great economists working on the problem But, humour me here – what if the truly greatest financial mind is a plumber working in a factory BUT he doesn’t KNOW he’s a great financial mind because he’s never put forth the effort or ever had the opportunity (financially, etc) to exercise that part of his brain?
I realize the world is imperfect and we need plumbers and all those people that do various jobs to make our world run smoothly. I guess I’m being a little PollyAnna-ish here, but I’ve thought about this a lot lately and had to put it down and out into the world.
Let’s talk about Customer Service February 12, 2009
I met up with a friend last night and we sat and talked over drinks about our respective design careers. My friend is experiencing a transition from a full time gig into freelance web design work and is doing very well for himself. I’m fairly busy as well with design, but took the initiative recently to get a part time job to get my credit cards out of my life.
We were talking and he made the remark about how he was impressed with my ability to segue into the world of dealing with the public – specifically in a fashion that he hadn’t expected as I’ve become so accustomed to working in a solitary manner.
I said this: “It’s all about customer service, whether you’re working in retail, wholesale, or hospitality — as long as you give your customers what they are paying for, treat them with respect and go the extra mile to make them happy, they will come back because you’ve given them a pleasant experience trading with you.”
And I think a lot of designers forget that maxim. Everybody wants to feel like they are appreciated.
There is a restaurant here in town that I used to frequent. I never really cared for the place – the food isn’t very good, and the staff is downright rude – I only really went because a few friends of mine like the place. I wrote the restaurant off around Thanksgiving because I just got sick of the attitude by the wait staff that they could care less about whether a customer is happy. The final straw came one Thursday night when the restaurant was not busy. A staffer walked past me 5 times before asking me for my order. It was so blatant that even the customer sitting next to me commented on the behavior. I decided then and there this would be the last time I darkened the door of the establishment, as there are too many restaurants in town who are happy to see people come in to spend their money and treat their customers with at least a modicum of hospitality.
The same is true for designers. Over the years, I’ve had clients tell me about their dealings with other designers and how “they were only interested in my money and the project never got done after they cashed the check.” This behavior is unacceptable, pure and simple. The bottom line is this: You have to care, you have to give your client attention and you have to provide the basic customer service that makes your client realize that you are going the extra mile to give them the best you possibly can.
If you don’t appreciate them, someone else will. And in this economy, people are looking for the most bang for their buck. Part of that bang is service with a smile and a “thank you” at the end.
Archiving your work – the Old Skool Way January 12, 2009
Most of my friends know that I can be a bit of a pack-rat. It’s a trait I got from my family – so I got it honest. But as of late, I’ve been purging around here – cleaning out closets, going through boxes and just simplifying in general around here. I filled 3 laundry baskets of with clothes, separated computer cords to take to the Goodwill – hopefully someone can use those, and about 87 cosmetic bags from the freebies from Clinique. I even found a Syquest drive from 1997 – the discs are only good for use as coasters at this point – Remember when 280 MB was a huge amount of storage?
Anyway, in a box in the back of my closet, I found a box with stuff from college. Inside, I found slides and photo negatives of stuff I’d done in Drawing I & II and Design I & II. Somehow, back then I had a wise professor that had the foresight to have us take our artwork to have it photographed for posterity. I gasped when I found this stuff. Immediately I began scanning the photos to put them in my archives of work.
I don’t know how stuff is done now – that is, if having work photographed is still the norm as I’ve been out of school for a little over ten years. But, to all design students out there, take your stuff and have photos taken. Or do it yourself. Don’t just rely on a hard drive or a disc to store your stuff. Have hard copies – slides or negatives – of your stuff. You never know when a hard drive will die on you – or fires or natural disasters – I have a friend who lost all her photos in Katrina, for example.
I am so thankful someone told me “Take it & have it photographed” – who knew?