Jul 19, 2010

And now back to our regularly scheduled summer programming

The piano frenzy is over. July is half gone. What's a neglected garden to do with itself?

Water, water and more water. The temps have been in the high 80's and low 90's for a while now, after the longest, wettest, coldest spring I can remember in decades. We essentially went from winter to summer, with no spring to speak of. I didn't water some parts of my garden until late June, which would normally be a death sentence for plants in our dry climate. But this year it just kept raining and raining forever. Many Bendites were heard bemoaning the fact that they might as well be living in the (green, wet) Willamette Valley.

However, even though many years we don't get summer until July, once it comes it stays and stays. Day after day, week after week, month after month of clear, warm (usually not too hot) sunshine, perfect for bicycling, gardening, and one of my favorites: Home Improvement Days.

Since my sweetheart and I work completely different days and hours, we have managed to set aside only one day that is sacred to Married Togetherness, and that day is normally Thursday. In summer it's a bit whackier, but we usually manage. Often Thursday becomes Home Improvement Day. Before our garbage & recycling company offered curbside yard waste pickup (three cheers for Bruce and Betty) our HID's often revolved around festive yet romantic runs to the landfill, using a friend's borrowed truck. Festive because, well, going to the dump has always been a sort of secret pleasure for me, ever since childhood.

In my earliest dump memories, Mom would load us kids up in our '46 Ford pickup and off we would go to the dump, which was, in those pre-environmental-awareness days, located in the salt marshes of San Francisco Bay. It was a scary yet enticing place to a small kid: both bleak, with giant windrows of burning garbage, and rich with the smells of rotting garbage, marsh grasses, and the cries of the wheeling sea gulls. It was smoky --ha! Imagine open burning in a modern landfill! We were absolutely NOT allowed out of the truck....... but more than once we sneaked out the passenger side door while Mom was occupied with emptying the truck bed. It was probably truly a dangerous place, but we couldn't resist a quick scan of the ground next to the truck before scurrying back in to Mom's yells. Once I found a tiny plastic doll which I kept for years.

The festivities around here this week include manly deeds of repair and womanly addition of new livestock to the urban farmyard.
First up was the all-important preparation for summer lounging. Don ordered a repair kit for our LaFuma chairs and restrung them. Ya gotta have a lounge chairs in a proper garden!

Then he changed the tire on my faithful garden cart, which had suffered a serious breakdown

Living with a bike mechanic has its advantages. And dudes, check it out -- the new tire is a whitewall!

Perhaps this would be a good time to put in a plug for Garden Way carts? My sweetheart, sensing early on in our marriage that this gardening insanity probably wasn't going to go away, bought and assembled this cart from a kit for me back in, oh, 1972 or so. It came with all the hardware -- all he had to do was buy and cut the wood and put it together. I don't remember the cost, but it was damned cheap, and the thing has lasted and lasted, outside in all weather, for all these decades. The fact that, 38 years later, one of the tires broke, does not upset me. The other tire, not pictured, has had a severe wobble since our friend Rod borrowed it to move bricks, about 30 years ago, but even my ace bicycle mechanic husband can't true it. Still, it works.

Meanwhile, I assembled a worm bin. It's my second time on this, and I confess that, now that I have the girls I probably don't need one anymore. But I had ordered the worms 6 months or so ago, from a local worm rancher and couldn't resist the chance to go out to their place, admire their giant worm bins, and pick up my new livestock.

First, an old storage container with a weather-wrecked lid:

Next, bedding for the kids: shredded newspaper, old dead potting soil and a few handfuls of straw

Enter, the worms, courtesy of Rockton Ranch

Dive, dive, dive! Must escape Mr. Sun!

Cover with a nice newspaper blanket

Put on the lid

And under the eave of the front porch they go. Surely it's good feng shui to have earthworms next to the front door?!

Jul 18, 2010

Our name up in lights!

Well, it's all over but the shouting. Or rather, the resting-up. We came, we played, we were cheered, and the kids (and teachers) had a great time.

Here are a few scenes from the concert. This one was a piece called 'Agent 003' and as you can see, there are 3 players on each piano, making a total of 24 performers. Naturally, as secret agents, we all wore dark glasses.

Here I am with my good buddy, Patti.

Fun for all ages. And aren't these pianos beautiful?!

Here is the gang (I am 5th from the left)

Time to write thank you notes, get the DVDs out, make notes for next time, and put the monster piano concert garden to bed. See you in the (soil) garden.

Jul 15, 2010

"Oh, we'll just punt"

or 'Piano Delivery Debacle Adds Drama to Dress Rehearsal'

Tonight is our concert. Yesterday was the dress rehearsal, scheduled to start at 1:00 pm in the Tower Theatre.

I arrived around 11:00 to witness the unloading of the pianos. I was greeted with the words, "oh good, you're here -- did you get the update?"

These did not seem like propitious words at the start of a tightly timed event involving 100+ people. Indeed, I then learned that one of the 2 piano delivery trucks was broken down in Madras, 40 miles away. The other had arrived with only 4 of our 8 grand pianos in it. The other 4 were stuck in Madras, with no ETA in sight. What should we do: postpone the rehearsal for an undetermined time? Start and bring in the second set of pianos when/if they arrived before dinner time? Our unflappable conductor summed it up: "Oh, we'll just punt." And so we did.

Luckily, along with the 4 grands, there were 6 uprights standing against the back wall, waiting for the piano sale that will follow tonight's performance. We pulled up 4 of them and, despite the fact that none of the kids behind them could actually see the conductor sitting down, we started the rehearsal only 10 minutes late.

About 2+ hours into the rehearsal, a loud rumbling was heard outside the back stage door. I rushed out to see ..... a very large tow truck inching up the alley behind the theatre

followed by another large truck full of pianos

followed by a third large truck -- the original unbroken-down one that had brought the pianos we were playing on. All of this end-to-end down about 70 feet of the alley.

Soon there were a number of large, beefy guys standing around in the hot sun, trying to figure out how to marry two delivery gates (one inoperable), a wimpy ramp for the purpose of moving several large, unwieldy and very heavy objects into the theatre.

Meanwhile the rehearsal continued uninterrupted inside

They got it sorted out, and soon we started seeing (but not hearing) this -- they were incredibly quiet bringing these big babies in.

We sent the mover guys on to their next destination (140 miles north of here) with fresh lemonade from the farmers' market (conveniently located across the parking lot) and hot, sweaty hugs.

We left the stage quiet and dark, ready for players and audience -- coming tonight.

If you're curious, tune in to our live streaming video broadcast at this link. Cameras should be live starting around 7:15 pm PDT. Enjoy (and wish us luck!)


Jul 13, 2010

Monster Music Gardening This Week

Most of my energy and focus this week is on my 'monster music garden' -- the piano monster concert I organized and wrassled into existence last year, and which is happening once again on Thursday evening. I like to think of it as a garden, with planning, sowing, weeding, fertilizing and watering happening in the months between December and July. The harvest comes in two parts. First, the concert itself, which last year played to a spectacular sell-out crowd. Happy kids, happy parents, happy teachers, and happy random community members who stumbled upon this obscure event -- seemed to enjoy themselves hugely.

The second harvest has come gradually, and continues as the second concert draws near. That is the harvest of inspiration, determination and renewed interest in practicing, and in learning to think more deeply and consciously about music, that many of last year's participants are showing. One teacher told me her students have never counted so well, and that they ASK TO USE the metronome in their lessons. More students are willing and eager to play duets and other ensemble music with teachers, parents and their fellow students. Students are listening and watching better than ever before, as a result of having to follow a conductor, and stay together with other players. Pianists are notorious for ignoring everyone else when playing in groups, as a result of spending so much practice time alone. Playing with 7 or 15 or 23 other people requires good listening skills!

Here is our newest crop -- 9 brand-new-to-the-monster-concert performers -- waiting outside the rehearsal room and ready to play Giggle Bugs and Chocolate Fudge Swirls. Wouldn't you like to be there with them?

One of my favorite parts of the monster concert is the way young students play alongside older, longtime players. Making music together has no age boundaries

Who knows where these kids will go with music ..... in life ....... maybe they'll remember holding a conductor's baton and standing in front of a classroom full of their friends, leading the way?

Jul 11, 2010

Oh dear, it's July.....

Once July rolls around, three things happen around here in quick succession.

1. Tour de France (first in the heart of my sweetheart). He dresses to match the flag

His shirt reads: 'Legendes du Tour' ......... a bit of tongue-in-cheek for him, as, at age 59+ (racing age 60), he is usually the longest-racing participant in state mountain bike races. The announcers have recently commented, as he crosses the finish line, "and here is one of the legends of Oregon racing......". I guess the difference between being a 'legend' and being a pretty good but not spectacular amateur racer is continuing to show up. 'Last man standing' might eventually apply here.

2. 4th of July burger bash at our friends'/partners' house, this year billed as 'Faceburger'. Pie Man Don makes another yummy cherry pie, and my crust decorating efforts this year resulted in a cheery scene of Mr. Sun, with a few clouds added to disguise, er, flaws in the crust. We are not Betty Crocker. The pies are fabulous, the crust flaky and good, but we're still working on crustal neatness.

3. And, starting well before July actually begins, the Bend Piano Monster Concert, 2010 Edition. Here I am, showing off our t-shirt, lime green in honor of one of our student participants. After playing in the concert last year, she reportedly wore her Monster Concert t-shirt to school every Tuesday, all school year long (presumably the day of her weekly piano lesson?). She told me her favorite color was lime green, so Rae Ann, this year's color is for YOU!

The Monster Concert consumes almost my entire brain mass, not to mention hours of the day, from mid-June to mid-July, and this year is no exception. I have so far managed to find 10 minutes each day to water my poor garden and take the chickens their early morning treat, but other than that the garden is in limbo mode. Somehow I forget how my time disappeared after the first heady days after school (and piano lessons) were ended last year, and this year was the same.

Spring was so long and so cold and rainy that I eventually had to choose between planting my exploding-out-of-their-pots tomato starts and having them freeze, and not getting them in until the middle of July. So they froze..... but survived with minor damage.

In typical Bend style, we saw frost on the roof of the house on Sunday, July 4, and three days later temperatures had hit the 90's. The poor plants don't know what hit 'em.

Here are annuals from the nursery, patiently (or not) waiting for me to have time to pop them into containers for summer. Once again, it's going to be a bit late. This is what happens to Monster Concert organizers who don't hit the ground running after the last piano lesson.

I left a shade covering over this same flat just one night, and this little guy snuck in a wee home for himself on one of the coleus starts

Thank heavens for perennials

which bloom beautifully despite neglect.

And here's something that always seems weird to me: peas in July

but that's when we always have them. These snow peas were planted in mid-April, and started blooming June 25 -- a bit later than normal because of the delayed summer, but not by much. The purple-podded ones are a centuries-old shelling variety, which I 'planted' from volunteer sprouting seeds, also back in April.
And here is climbing rose 'Claire Matin' which is blooming almost a month late, as are all my roses in this wacky year.