Next week the city of Lawrence is selling compost. $10 a truckload. If you’re a part of a community garden, you get to go early, though. And it’s free.

Thursday morning (my normal writing/”working on my thesis” day), I pretended not to be a grad student. Instead, met up with Nic and Michael, two of my favorite garden buds, to haul compost. Character profiles: Nic graduated from KU recently and works for the Farmer’s Market. This summer he took on a Dream Team of bugs in the garden. Michael teaches at a Montessori in Lawrence and has two super cool daughters who know a ton about a lot of things, especially gardening. Not only do Nic and Michael know way more than I do about gardening, but they are funny. You’ll pick up on this.

We piled into Nic’s truck and drove to the compost site. They keep this place on serious lock down–probably because of bioterrorism–so we had to call and wait for The Operator (a man who certainly lives up to his name) to let us in. While Michael called our contact person at the compost site, a policeman from a nearby town pulled up. The conversation went as follows:

Policeman: If I head up 11th street will I run into the Courthouse?

Michael, holding up a hand to Policeman: Hey just a second, man. Michael continues his phone conversation.

After 30 or 40 sections, Policeman seems annoyed and in a hurry: Well, I gotta be there in 10 minutes. He leaves.

I sat in the back silently, hoping we wouldn’t get in trouble. I had no idea you could tell a policeman to “Wait a second, man” and walk away unharmed.

The Operator drove up in his loader (I looked it up and this is the right word). The gate opened for him, and he motioned us in. He was not what I was expecting. He had a large white beard and a huge cowboy hat. I thought he would get out, talk with us about the composting process. He did not, though. He did not speak to us, he did not get out of the truck. He just motioned us around with his hand and when he dumped compost in the back of Nic’s pickup, I was certain we would flip. Then he pointed to the exit. The Operator had work to do

I am not sure why we want affection/kindness from people unwilling to give it to us, but we do. We wanted The Operator to like us. We talked about him the whole way back to the garden. We said maybe he would talk to us when we went back for the second load. But he didn’t. He didn’t have time for the damn hippies with the community garden. He just opened the gate with the same serious look on his face and zipped around in the loader. I took a picture of him the second time, and I’m pretty sure he noticed.

While we unloaded the compost (and after we got over The Operator), we laughed about the weird people we’d met in the garden. Characters included:

A man who repeatedly referenced his drug use followed me around the garden for 20 minutes one afternoon misidentifying multiple plants as opium: You’re sure it’s not?

A woman who uses the garden as her drinking spot (Cork & Barrel is, after all, next door) told Michael: I been in this motherf****er since 2003!

Football fans who accost Nic on game days. The ones who don’t say something rude just stare, completely confused that someone would be doing something other than drink Miller Lite at 10 am on a Saturday.

A little later, a man in khakis and a white shirt came up and asked who was involved with the garden. I launched into my typical community garden lore speech: Well, these two lawyers in Kansas City own it and they’ve been letting us use it for like 25 years or something… But when I said two lawyers, the man pointed to himself.

Oh, I said. That’s you?

He nodded and introduced his wife.

I appreciate the garden SO much, I immediately said. Thank you.

I was worried he might be coming to take the garden away for, you know, a cheap apartment building or something. But after Michael, Nic, and I talked to him and his wife, I don’t think we have anything to worry about. They think it’s a great use of space and as Michael pointed out, what better PR than for three gardeners to be there shoveling compost when they showed up.

After about 2 hours, I started to feel guilty about homework, so I left and resumed life as a grad student. (Did you know some people garden/farm for a living?!?! Did you know that grad school ends and I don’t have a living for next year yet?!?? Do you see the wheels a turnin’?!?!)

Later that night, I went back to the garden and cleared my plot. Then I shoveled three wheelbarrows full of compost into it. It was so dark and compost-y and gross smelling. I have high hopes for next year.

The next day my back hurt. I told Clare that I wanted someone to just break my back open all the way (it made sense at the time); she told me that I could just stretch but I just complained. I always forget that running/biking is not the same as hoeing/shoveling.

 

 

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Reading in public

October 12, 2011

A few weeks ago, I mentioned getting to read my “real” writing. In public.

This was quite the rush. It was also pretty self indulgent, which is sometimes kind of cool. (Isn’t having a blog also self-indulgent?)

I read a tough/intense piece, a funny piece about my fish Beeper dying, and some prose poems. Though it was in Topeka, many of my friends came. I did not have dinner before because I was nervous, though I did have a smidgen or two of whiskey….from a coffee travel mug.  I’m that cool. I was really nervous when I started reading and my face felt really hot but that might have just been the whiskey.

Probably the best part was that best friend Molly got to take a break from being a law student in Omaha and come to support me. I guess now I’ll have to come from Omaha. I guess now I’ll have to go to watch her the first time she goes to court. Is that allowed?

 

In the kitchen.

October 10, 2011

You might remember the end of the summer last year when there was an overflow of basil and I decided to make pesto, chopping all of the ingredients by hand. This took a very long time, and when I made a pesto pizza and used it all at once, I was quite disappointed. Then, I borrowed a food processor, made three times as much pesto in half the time, and praised technology.

Not surprisingly, the basil grew quickly this summer too, so I decided to make pesto again. Friday afternoons are weird. I get home early enough that I feel compelled to do something productive with my time. I am a grad student so I always think I should do one of the following: grade something, read something, email someone, write something, figure out what I’m doing with my life after I finish my Master’s in May (!?!?!?!!), take out the trash, take the recycling, call my mom, clean the bathroom. There are probably more things.

At the same time, though, it’s Friday. Motivation is tough.

For two Fridays in a row, I made “Pesto” my productive activity. Not only was it fun, but I could feel like I was doing something.

Over the summer, best friend Molly gave me her grandma’s old blender. Not only do I not have to chop everything for pesto by hand, but I don’t have to borrow someone else’s food processor and then give them pesto in return (we all remember from history class that sharecropping never works out well for the sharecropper).

I think that this year I might have perfected pesto. I used this recipe, substituting mozzarella for parmesan and almonds for pine nuts. I also think that having dried garlic also really improved the pesto.

I made it twice; both times, I wasn’t hungry for dinner because I had eaten so much while making it.  Last year I froze the pesto in ice cube trays so I could have individual servings. However, I realized that I never really did anything with these individual servings except randomly throw them into stuff when I was lazy and didn’t want to season anything. This time, I froze them in larger servings in Ziploc bags (as the recipe shows), so hopefully I’ll do something a little more complicated with this year’s pesto. Or maybe I’ll just eat it all as a snack and spoil my dinner. We’ll see.