Apr 28, 2009

Pay no attention to the weather

Container vegs and newly-sprouted spinach in the garden. Sigh. Spring gardening in Bend. Ah well, we needed the moisture.

Apr 17, 2009


I recently read an online article in the (Portland) Oregonian entitled 'Fitting a piano into your home' which mentions some basic considerations for someone thinking about getting a piano for kids' or their own music study. As someone who has played piano for over 50 years now, I realize I have a slightly different take on this whole subject.

From the moment I first laid my hands on a piano at age 10, I have experienced my instrument as part of my essential being. Part of me, as in, in addition to my legs, arms, head, etc. there is my piano. The fact that it stands apart from my physical body doesn't seem to matter.

When I am away from home, I can be happily engrossed in all kinds of exciting, interesting, fulfilling and otherwise completely satisfying experiences ..... yet there is always something missing. I can't say how many times I have half-wished I had taken up the flute or violin or even something as 'small' as a cello, because I could have taken my instrument along on road trips, or even overseas travels. But only half-wished, because I adore the piano and like most pianists, think it is the best of all instruments.

However, a piano is not small. Even the shortest, crummiest upright piano is still 5 feet wide, at least 4 feet tall, and I don't know, 18" inches deep. When I was 15 my parents splurged on a tiny (5 ft), somewhat battered, 60+ year-old Carl Fischer baby grand for me. And once I survived the obligatory freshman year in the college dorm, I have figured out where to put a grand piano in every house I've lived in since, beginning with the $75/month, rotting duplex next to the freeway in my early married years and continuing up to my current medium-sized, 50-year-old ranch-style house.

The first 'house' we ever owned was a 10 foot wide, 50 foot long, very pink mobile home, perched on top of a hill in a logged-over redwood forest in Humboldt County, California. Although this homely trailer boasted real wood paneling inside, we owned no furniture except for the mattress on the bedroom floor (no bed)and the cheap 2-chair dinette set that came with it .......... and a baby grand piano. Priorities.

A few years into my piano teaching life, I was able to trade my beloved old baby grand for a nearly-new, 6 foot Yamaha. Now we were smokin'! And a couple of years ago, I welcomed piano number 2 into my home, fulfilling a longtime dream of having 2 grands! for playing ensemble music with friends, and for teaching. Here's the view from (inside the) home these days.

So my initial response to the title of the Oregonian article was, 'well, they have it backwards, don't they? It should read: 'Fitting your home around a piano'. Because of course the piano comes first. Priorities!

Apr 16, 2009

The Gentle Art of Bettying

You won't find 'bettying' in any dictionary, but it is a splendidly useful and evocative word all the same. What started out as a family joke in the early 1970's has spread throughout the land to friends and family far and near. At the time I was newly married, and my younger sister was apparently having a hard time imagining me being anything as serious as a 'proper wife'. (That was well spotted; alas, I've never been very proper.)

But somehow 'Betty Housewife' stuck and as the years went on, 'betty' became more and more versatile. The 'housewife' part was dropped early on, and we now have a nearly universal root word that can serve as:

1. a verb, as in, "I can't come to the phone now, I'm in the kitchen, doing some bettying."
2. a noun, as in, "Oh, he is such a betty!"
3. an adjective, as in "I was feeling really bettylike, so I cleaned out the refrigerator and mopped all the floors."

It also serves as an honorific, and as such is not limited to the female gender. Anyone can be a betty, if doing something bettistic. Thus we have Betty Pam, Betty Kathy, and Betty Jan, but also Betty Chuck, Betty Dave, and so on.

In our use of the word, we define 'bettying' as any of the traditional housework-type activities formerly considered the sole domain of The Wife, such as washing dishes, dusting, cleaning the silver, doing laundry, etc.

Not everyone is a betty, though most people pick up a modest number of bettying skills over time. And even the most hardcore betties have their slack times, when the paper piles, dust bunnies and unscoured bathroom sinks mount up. In fact, people who truly CARE about housework are probably not betties, either. Thus people whose floors are 'clean enough to eat off of' are not betties. They are in some other category I'll never know about.

And so in the above photo I bring you a true gentleman, a prime example of the best kind of betty: my sweetheart. Bettying, yes, but not just anyplace. He is vacuuming his MOTHER's place. Betty Son? Is this man a jewel, or what?

Apr 15, 2009

April weather blues views news

Bendites are a funny lot. Ask your average Bendonian, especially any of the 8 gazillion residents of 10 years or less, why they moved here, and they will say 'because of the weather'. On hearing this, you might be thinking, "wow, that's shallow". Consider also, that the local tourist-enhancement industry touts our fair city as having 360 sunny days a year.

Global warming notwithstanding, I think this is a bit of an overstatement. For instance, they probably counted yesterday as 'sunny' because the sun came out from behind the snow/hail/rain clouds for about an hour in the middle of the afternoon, thoughtfully melting the snow that had just fallen over the previous 15 minutes.

Still, we do get a lot more sunshine than the more populated, western third of the state, which gives Oregon its reputation as very green (as well as Green). Not here, baby. It's sagebrush and dry, sandy soil, and other than the odd thunderstorm, we rarely get actual rain.

So I've always been a bit puzzled by the nearly constant complaining I hear about the weather. In the midst of our glorious Indian Summer of September and October, local skiers start complaining because there's no snow. Our local ski area, Mt. Bachelor, closes down in April because of lack of interest, although we often have snow through June. By then everyone wants to play golf or ride their bike or go fishing.

Oddest of all, for a desert (less than 10" precip annually) where any kind of garden, lawn, or non-native landscaping requires irrigation from, minimally, May through September, even the lightest sprinkling of rain causes consternation and grumbling among Bendix of every stripe.

Me, I'm a gardener. I'm thrilled when it rains. And, despite yesterday's carping about the cold, I'm pretty philosophical about the weather. Still, a look ahead to the predicted weekend temps would make any of us somewhat schizoid. And that's a good reminder for us all, that's it's good to be flexible when living in a place named 'Bend'.

Apr 14, 2009

April weather blues

Every year this happens. We get all excited after a couple of warm days, ('warm' being defined as 'over 55 degrees') and start strewing seeds around the garden. Spinach, miner's lettuce, mache, even a few beets. The soil is dry, in fact, it already needs watering, the weeds are off to a good healthy start, and leaf and flower buds on deciduous trees and shrubs are swelling. Meanwhile, tomatoes and their tender ilk are surging towards the grow light tubes indoors with alarming speed.

The experienced Bend gardener has so far restrained herself from making room in the greenhouse by callously moving the geraniums, bonsai and other wintered-over tender-ettes out to the deck and sheltered spots next to the house, a frequent mistake in her early gardening years. Hardy lettuce and mesclun are growing happily in containers outside. So yes, spring is proceeding nicely.

Then we get this kind of weather forecast. To be honest, I'm not all that surprised. This is normal for April. And in past years, I would just ignore the non-gardening weather whiners in town and do the nightly plant dance (9:00 pm, bring plants inside), accompanied by the morning plant dance (9:00 am, take plants outside).

But this year I have been bloggified. I have been reading garden blogs from Other Regions, and -- gasp -- all of them, EVERY SINGLE ONE, has a longer growing season than we do. One even has a little countdown on her opening page, "XXX days until Last Spring Frost" and it's something like April 15. Have a heart! And she's in Massachusetts -- it's not like Florida or some other ridiculously balmy state.

Here in The Frozen North, er, the Sagebrush Ocean, we plan on 2 ........ more .......... months .......... until last spring frost. I have been ruined, ruined, I say, shaken cruelly from my little world of acceptance of our climatic limitations, and find myself with a wee case of 'the grass is not only greener, it's also a damned sight warmer'...

OK, Ned, get a grip. Take a deep breath. Well, not too deep, I don't want to inhale any of the little white balls that are currently falling out of the sky. A shallow breath, then. I will now make another cup of coffee and go fondle my greenhouse seedlings. And contemplate adding 'Countdown: 2 months until my Last Spring Frost' on my blog front page.

Apr 11, 2009

April Volunteerism

Thus far in my gardening career, 'overwintering crops' have been mostly accidental. Aside from the weeds, which happily sprout, unasked, from the soil in earliest, earliest spring, the first things to green up in my garden are volunteer seedlings and last year's on-purpose plantings of hardy greens.

At this time of year, still 2 months from our last expected frost (except for the bonus frosts we get after our so-called last expected frost -- June 10 or so), I'm interested in EATING SOMETHING FROM THE GARDEN RIGHT NOW. And right around April 1 is when I find the first shoots of kale, chard, and what I can only describe as 'miscellaneous asian greens', springing up in scattered locations around the yard. Over the years I have planted many varieties, and either I have forgotten what some of them look like, or they have been promiscuously mating behind my back, because I have no idea what most of them might be, other than edible greens.

By mid-April they have all grown big enough that I can go out every couple of days and pick what my Southern forebears might have called 'a mess of greens' for the dinner table, and that's what we had last night. Oh heavens, what a sweet taste! Surely the North Carolinians would have been growing collards, not my northern version (kale and collards are the same species), or any of 'them fancy (Asian) kinds' ..... but we all crave that intense greenness in our diets about now. I have never found anything for sale, not even in the freshest of fresh, organic produce section or farmers' market, that approaches the taste of greens straight from the garden.

This spring greens season is super short, which makes it all the more precious. We go from first pokings-up to big juicy leaves to (bonus! bonus! bonus! crop) flower buds in maybe 6 weeks overall. By sometime in May, depending on the weather, I can't keep ahead of their urge to bloom, despite daily pickings, and the flowers open in a burst of bienniel procreation bliss that is beloved of neighborhood bees. After a few days of this, somewhat guiltily, I pull out the towering plants and, followed by a few persistent pollen-gatherers, chop them all up and add them to the compost pile.

This year, in my goal of really, really carrying out a well-organized and dedicated fall-winter planting scheme, I am going to sow a big chunk of greens in the warmest part of my garden, come August, instead of just waiting to see what shows up next spring.