Ode to Technology

September 21, 2010

You’ll recall from previous posts that I’m not a huge fan of technology (or at least I am not a fan of certain things…obviously I like modern amenities–running water, Pepto-Bismol (Pepto-Bismol was at one time, I’m sure, innovative), the internetz). If you don’t remember reading this, you should consider getting your reading comprehension checked.

I did it, though. I betrayed good, old-fashioned American hard work (and instead bought into America’s new(ish) value of immediacy). I betrayed the authentic Italians who chop and chop and chop basil and garlic.

I betrayed myself, betrayed my morals. I may have even betrayed the pioneers. All for a little bit of pesto.

Oh, what we will succum to when we find ourselves faced with an overabundance of a particular crop, a squirrel-like compulsion to stock up for the winter, a lifetime’s worth of Emerson-isms on self-reliance, endless emails from students, and an inordinate amount of readings on creativity. A friend offers a food processor, we accept. The next thing we know, we’re buying pre-sliced everything and frozen pancakes. It’s a slippery slope.

The basil on the left was reduced to what’s shown on the right in approximately 30 minutes. Most (or all) of the wait time was my doing…taking the leaves off the stems is still time consuming.

In about 1 hour, I had 4 batches of pesto. You’ll remember that my last pesto adventure resulted in 1 batch of pesto after about 1.5 hours; I was quite amazed. There was enough that I could make an entire pizza, use it for at least 4 or 5 meals, and freeze 8 servings.

The only thing the food processor doesn’t do is clean itself. This actually took a while–cue good ole work ethic.

A few days later, I got the food processor out again. I wanted to make more, put more in the freezer while I had technology on my side. I also wanted to make pesto for the friends that let me borrow the food processor; sharecropping is tough.

I picked basil on a Saturday, intending to make the pesto either that day or the day after. I didn’t get around to it until Monday…so by that time, a lot (okay, almost all) of the basil was moldy. Wet basil = mold, so the dew from Saturday morning + 2 days in Tupperware =(ed) mold. I felt the dual guilt of using the food processor and allowing 3 cups of basil to mold.  It was almost more than I could bear. I still ended up with roughly 1.5 batches of pesto.

This morning I saw a squirrel with 3 nuts fanning out of his mouth at once; I got it.

At some point during the last few weeks, I admitted that the fall crops we planted weren’t going to do anything. Typically you start to see something within 1.5 or 2 weeks. It has been about 4, and aside from the sweet potato that’s faring quite well, the only visible green was weeds and the same milkweed that’s been sprouting (no matter how many times we dig it out) in the middle of the garden all summer.

I miss the garden. This weekend, I actually went out and worked with a friend at a local organic farm about 10 minutes outside of town to fill this void (see Maggie’s Farm: http://www.maggiesfarm-ks.com/index.html). First we pulled up a few rows of weeds and leeks.  The plan was to leave and get back to my reading on creativity and Terror Management Theory (TMT). Basically we’re all aware of our own mortality so we engage in activities we can attach meaning to (gardening, writing a blog, etc) and construct different defenses to deal with our fear of death. When they announced the next task, however, I had to stay: digging potatoes. I had never dug potatoes. It was like finding treasure, treasure amongst weeds and worms and dirt and gigantic spiders.  As you’ll deduce from the website, they also have sheep. Next Saturday they’re sheering the sheep; I am intrigued.

I wanted to suggest re-planting for the fall, but Amelia was still optimistic about the crops, so I decided to be optimistic too. Then later that day she stopped being optimistic and called to see if I wanted to re-plant. I said yes. On second, thought, this is still a form of optimism *insert Edison quote about not failing but finding 10,000 ways that won’t work* #1 way that gardening doesn’t work: seeds don’t germinate in dust.

So, we planted again: spinach, 2 kinds of lettuce, carrots, and broccoli. The dirt was lovely…dark with just the right amount of moisture, ready for seeds.  We mixed some of the dirt from the compost bin in, too. We planned out a watering schedule. If nothing else, we have the most beautiful and abundant marigolds in town.

Dear psychologists who came up with TMT, I am proving you right. Sincerely, Kara Bollinger.

We’re in Kansas

September 7, 2010

One third of the businesses in Lawrence include the word “Sunflower” in their titles. The other two thirds are evenly split between “Free State” and “Jayhawk” something or other.

I exaggerate. But, I did have to wait much longer than I expected to see a sunflower in the grand ole’ Free/Jayhawk/Sunflower State.

In an attempt to see sunflowers, I was adamant about planting them in the community garden. I may have brought it up during every single “what should we plant?” discussion. We would decide the various things we would plant depending on when it was–tomatoes, chard, green beans, beets, spinach–and then I would chime in “And sunflowers.” I finally got a spot for them, too: I was to plant rows of sunflowers in the patch of dirt that would house the corn, squash, and beans. I think we were going for something avant-garde. I excitedly planted them one June morning, marked them with posts (but no sign), and then in true avant-garde fashion, they were accidentally dug up when the corn, squash, and beans got planted. I’m sure Miles Davis would understand.

The sunflowers are here, though. And a few weeks ago, I saw enough of them to make up for the 12-ish sunflower-less months I’ve suffered.

After the first week of school, blog-star J-Nish and I needed a break. And by first week, I mean first 2 days. J-Nish is becoming quite the nature photographer (I did not ask, but I’m putting her flickr photostream on here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jennifernish/?ref=nf. If this is not okay, she can tell me, and I will promptly remove it, and it will be like it never existed in the blog-o-sphere).

She heard about this sunflower farm and wanted to take some pictures, so we had a mini-adventure. I say “mini” because we didn’t have to go far (we only had to drive about ten minutes past the concrete tepee on the Northeast side of town; the tepee almost counts as a mini-adventure all its own) and because we were only there for a little over an hour.

It was really calming. I’m not going to describe this, because I think you can imagine how 27 acres of sunflowers at sunset would be calming. You get it.

Something I hadn’t expected though, was seeing the sunflowers in different stages. This was cool. There were sunflowers that weren’t open yet, sunflowers that were sort of dying, sunflowers that were in their prime, and some sunflowers that were only about a foot tall; obviously these did not look like sunflowers, but weeds or corn or other green things that grow. We also found a cocoon; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cocoon before. It was sort of iridescent.

Afterward, I bought animal crackers; it had been awhile.

On Friday evening, I got a big surprise. I’ve been a little (or a lot) sick the entire week, so I decided that my big Friday night outing (since I needed to stay home, drink tea, let the antibiotics do their thing, and go to bed by 10:30) would be a walk to the community garden and pick a few zinnias.

After almost getting hit by a jeep in an attempt to say “hello” to a few friends across the street (seriously…I’ve been spacey), I got to the garden. All summer long we’ve been watching these really tall, strong-looking plants get taller and taller, wondering what they are; we ruled out sunflowers long ago. We were wrong.