master gardener

Not quite how I planned today


One of the great advantages of being in the Master Gardener program is early access to the plants available at the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County's Spring Garden Market. Basically, we have first dibs on all the tomatoes, peppers, basil and salvias available to the public in two weeks.

Not that I know what salvias are.

After we arrived at the pre-sale plant displays, I, of course, having been in a car for more than twenty minutes, needed to pee, so wandered off to the bathroom, before heading back to the plants. In the bathroom, the lighting was strange, and I noticed my vision was a little strange during one glance, and even thought to myself, "Huh, that looked like a migraine."

I managed to head back out to the plants, and get a lay of the land, peppers to the far left, basil to my left, cherry tomatoes to my right, beefsteak behind them, and heirloom far right, before I realized I couldn't see half the face of the woman in front of me.

No, I thought. No, no, no, NO, NO! I have plans for today! I'm going to buy all my plants and plant them. I want to take pictures of this place and my garden before and after. I'm going to plant my blueberries and basil today. I'm going to go for a run with the dogs! I have a tournament tomorrow! NO!

I stepped back into the shadows of the gazebo, stood then, and started crying. 2 minutes later, I couldn't see anything out of the left side of my vision. I stopped crying and just stood there, waiting for someone to tell us we were heading home.

Susan and Abby noticed me standing there, looking no doubt like a lost little girl, and asked me if I were okay. When I said no, and explained what was happening, both of them immediately understood. Susan used to have migraines with aura, also. She said she didn't lose all of her vision as I do, but she understood. Abby also said she understood, as she has had migraines, though not with and regularity, thankfully. She offered to walk me around the area and pick out plants with me.

I was so overjoyed, and thankful. I might not be able to see what I was getting, but I would still be able to get plants!

Abby walked me around, asked what I wanted, found various different kinds of peppers, basil and tomatoes, reading the descriptions, offering suggestions, filling up two flats with vegetables. I managed to spend $87 on plants I couldn't see, but was sure to love when they grew into amazing bountiful food sources.

Susan and the carpool drove me home, Kathleen helped me open the door and shush the dogs, Janis and Kathy brought my plants to the door. I called Doyle and told him I wasn't coming in, took two Excedrin Migraine and tried to sleep.

I must have slept somewhat, because it was after one when someone knocking on the front door triggered a dog barking fit. It was only after stumbling to the kitchen and looking out the window that I realized there was someone at the door, and she wasn't leaving.

What is it with certain solicitors that they think they can hover at your door for five minutes while you're clearly NOT coming to the door, much less going to answer it. This particular solicitor is with some consumer studies group, presumably wanting to ask us detailed questions about our shopping and purchases. What I want to know is why our house has been targeted. I don't want to talk to these people. I don't want to let marketers know what I'm purchasing, allowing them to target me better. I don't care if the results are used in aggregate only, hey solicitors, get off my property, you are not welcome.

I tried to sleep more, but wasn't able to, having woken up, the EM caffeine running through my veins.

I want dark. I want quiet. I want vicodin or codeine or something to stop this pain. I don't have time for this.

On a tally note: 2 migraines to 2 menstruations. Much better than the Migraine Year from Hell, also known as 2004.

Master Gardener bio


I'm getting good at writing my biography in the third person.

My Master Gardener biography:

"From farmlands in Indiana to the Valley of Hearts Delight by way of Arizona deserts, Kitt Hodsden has been around plants and gardening her entire life. An avid ultimate frisbee player, Kitt enjoys building community websites at her day job, being outdoors hiking with her husband and two beagles, and gardening. She continually wonders if this year will be the year her front yard ceases to be the disaster it has been for the longest time."

Table colors


As we walked into class this morning, we were greeted by a Master Gardener with a bag of colored papers. In a valiant effort to encourage us to sit at different tables and meet classmates outside our mentor groups, we drew a color from the bag and found the matching color on a table in the room. Essentially, we were randomly assigned a new table and new classmates to sit with.

The effect was quite entertaining.

Most everyone who didn't quite understand the goal of the random seat assignment, complained. "Why can't I sit with my mentor group?" they whined.

Personally, I enjoyed meeting new people. Community was one of two reasons I started taking the classes in the first place. Without the other people, that community would be pretty darn small.

This is our table


People are funny when it comes to routines. We settle into them easily, and leave them often hesitantly. I'm not sure most people are aware of their routines, or why they feel displaced when the routine is interrupted, assuming they even realize their routines have been interrupted.

Take, for example, the uproar I caused last week when I sat at a different table at my Master Gardeners class.

In the Master Gardeners program, we have mentor groups: a small number of geographically close (residentially) fellow-students. We were introduced to these small groups before the classes started, in an effort to stop overwhelming new trainees. This is the first year the program has created these mentor groups, as, like most activities in the program, an experiment. Although it's nice to be able to walk into a room with a hundred people and recognized a smiling face, most of the class tend to stay with only these groups. Whose to blame these people? A familiar face, a brief history, a developing friendship: all well within a person's comfort zone.

Normally, where normal is what I've done for the last three weeks, I've sat at the third table back in the middle of the room with the two women I carpool with. This works out well because we arrive early to help set up the presentation equipment, and leave slightly late after taking everything down. Today, however, I wanted to meet new people, so I put my bag down at a different table during setup, and sat down at the full table when class began.

My carpool-mates were confused, and I suspect surprised and a little hurt. They had gathered a copy of the handouts for me. They had saved my seat for me. Why had this other woman thought it was okay to sit in my seat? The shock! The horror!

My new table companions seemed just as confused. Who is this woman? Why is she sitting here? She doesn't know us. We don't know her. When we tested our soil's pH values, several people at the table went twice, completely ignoring me and the fact I hadn't gone yet, give me that pH meter, dammit.

No, I didn't actually say anything. I waited patiently (wouldn't my mom be surprised), and tested my soil last. After, I'm convinced, the other people at the table ruined the meter by doing exactly what the instructions said not to do: don't submerge the end in water, don't rub it with steel wool or other abrasives, don't do this or that or whatever. Yeah.

My soil has a pH of exactly 7. I wonder how I managed to have the exact meter default.

So, you can probably imagine my humour today at class during the program announcements. The one of note went something like, "Now, I know you're all set in your ways, but please welcome other fellow Master Gardeners when they wish to sit with you at your table. Don't send them away saying, 'This is our table.'"

Right. Routines. This is our table, go away.



Our third Master Gardener's class was today, the second one where we had reading to do. Once again, in preparing for the class, I'm hit with the amount of reading we need to do, and how procrastination with the reading is just not going to cut it.

Janis, Karen and I showed up at 9:15, about 10 minutes earlier than normal. I suspect the difference was because I wasn't late getting out the door, so Janis and I weren't late arriving at the carpool meeting place, and Karen wasn't late driving us over. It was my turn to drive, and I drove like the wind.

We've been heading over early to set up the A/V equipment for the class, sneaking in our volunteer hours half and hour at a time. This time, the equipment was in a strange state of disarray, causing the three of us to run around madly to organize in time. I also wanted to make sure Karen was up to speed on the setup, so I told her what to do, but let her do all the work.

The presentation went okay, with only minor issues with the audio. The biggest issue of the day with equipment was, thankfully, not our responsibilty: the video camera broke sometime this past week, so no video of the class was taken. Which is a real shame, given that the presenter was, as a Master Gardener stated, "an expert in the field and the best presenter for this information we've ever had."

The most pleasant point of the entire class was seeing Tish Fagin at the class, though she had a different last name on her name tag. Tish is Mischief teammate Adam Fagin's mom, so the moment was a nice life-folding-in-on-itself, serendipity moment. I had found out last Sunday that my mom is also a Master Gardener, though not in California, so seeing Tish and knowing that another person I know is also in the program is quite comforting.

Our class was about soil: composition, quality and management. Good class.

Another web project


Today, I went to my first real Master Gardeners committee meeting: the Web Team. I managed exactly zero days between signing up for the program and the committee. Given that the tasks of the committee once again couples two interests of mine, both being on the committee and doing the development work is a ridiculously easy way for me to earn my 100 volunteer hours.

The meeting was held at Apple, in one of the back conference rooms. There were nine of us there: John, Bart, Bracey, Bob, Abby, Karyn, Vera, Allen and me, each of various technical experience. Several people where technically inclined, but don't yet have the experience building sites.

At first, I was concerned that there were nine people in the room, indicating there were probably 12 people on the committee. From my experience, the larger the committee, the fewer people actually do tasks assigned from the committee. In this case, however, my fears were unfounded, as everyone had something to contribute, with opinions closely matching so discussions weren't long, ambling and off-course.

Listening to the group, it was pretty obvious they knew what they wanted for a public facing website (the members-only website being okay at the moment), they just didn't know how to get there. I wrote down each time someone mentioned a particular feature, if only in passing, and was able to summarize them, taking many breathes as I ran down the list of 20+ features, near the end of the meeting. Many are easy enough to do, some less so and will take work.

The project should be fairly easy to do, I just need to find time to do it. After my UCPC talk next weekend will be a great time to start cranking on it.

First real Master Gardener class


Today was my first "real" Master Gardeners class. Last week was basically orientation, so I don't think it really "counts" as a class. It does, but today was the first class of content.

The subject of today's class was plant physiology: parts of plants, how they grow, how they reproduce, all the good plant stuff. The content of the class followed very closely to the content of the handbook chapter we were to read before class, so I didn't feel I learned anything particularly new. However, different people learn different ways, so I was happy for the review.

In plants, there are two parts in the stem that make up the vascular system (with a third thrown in if the two parts need to be separated): the xylem and the phloem. The xylem moves water and mineral nutrients from the roots up to the aboveground plant parts. The phloem, on the other hand, nominally moves food from the leaves to the rest of the plant. With the xylem, everything goes up. With the phloem, materials can move every-which-way.

During the class, a fellow student asked the question, "Why does the material move in any direction in the phloem, but not the xylem? Why doesn't the water move down in the xylem?"

Various answers were proposed in the class, from a college botany instructor to other fellow students. For the most part, no one could answer the question. My answer would have been the cells are constructed in such a way that materials can easily move in one direction, but not the other, but I kept my mouth shut. Not really knowing the exact processes involved, I would be giving a Boy Answer™ with the Voice of Authority (VOA), and it might not be correct.

However, such inhibitions were lacking in a fellow student, who decided the proper answer was, "Because that's the way it is."

I'm unable to properly express how much such answers enrage every cell of my being. "Because that's the way it is" is the cop-out answer used by people who don't know the answer, in an attempt to both look knowledgable and stop the questioner from finding out the real answer.

Maybe the class wasn't really interested in or have the knowledge base of plant physics or molecular biology, and that's fine. But giving me a "because that's the way it is" BS answer makes me think you're a moron and immediately think less of any further words from your mouth.

Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut in class on that opinion, too.

Master Gardeners classes start


Today was my first Master Gardener class. The class was orientation, so we didn't actually learn any gardening, but more about the program and what to expect in the program. The class was well organized, and, based on the the horror stories I've heard from previous classes, well worth the four hours spent listening to everything.

Janis picked me up from my house, because it was raining (hence, walking to the rendevous point would have soaked me). I carpooled with Janis and Linda from my mentor group. It's nice to drive down with a group, and I'm glad the program has thought through the "group bonding" part of the program, and organized small, localized groups.

In a sharp contrast to yesterday, I took very few notes. The only time I really stopped and acknowledged what was up was when I noticed the Friends of Santa Clara Master Gardeners Board of Directors was 90% male, when the whole program was barely 15% male. I thought the percentage odd, but Karen (also in my mentor group) commented people volunteer what they know, and the men were probably used to management, finances and the like, i.e. what a board does, and therefore volunteered for that work. I reluctantly agreed she was right.

The weekly class is a serious commitment. This week I was able to put in enough hours at work. Here's hoping I can keep this up.

Training starts today


Today marks the start of my Master Gardener training, with my mentor group meeting together at one of our mentor's houses and meeting everyone. Roberta and Susan are our mentors, and we comprise of Karen, Kathy, Kathleen, Kitt, Vera, Janis and Linda (ye ole Number 5 on the phone keypad, as Vera's last name begins with a K also).

We toured Roberta's back yard and gardens for a while, waiting for everyone to arrive. She had only relatively recently started incorporating edibles into her (preferred) ornamental gardens, and had a "meadow" as she termed the native grass back yard. She used the term meadow to convince her husband that, yes, it really was okay to rip up all the grass from the back yard and plant interesting, water-wise plants instead, it would still look good.

And it did.

After everyone arrived, we sat down and learned what to expect in the upcoming classes, that run every week until the beginning of June. I chose not to bring in paper or a pencil, so wrote all my notes on my Sidekick. I did a better job of note taking than normal, because I was limited to how fast I could type on the unfamiliar keyboard. Because of unfamiliarity with the keyboard, I types more slowly than I would on the Treo (around 20-25 words a minute instead of my 35-40 words a minnute I can manage on the Treo), and so had to pick out the important point of the conversations instead of transcribing every word.

Near the end of the mentor group meeting, after we had planned carpools for tomorrow's class, Janis, who was sitting next to me, asked what I was doing. The click-click-click of my keys reminded her of the sound her parakeet made when eating, "tick, tick, tick." When I said I was taking notes, her immediate response was, "Why?"

I flubbed some vague answer like, I like to remember what was said, or something equally inane, but honestly, the right question to answer was, "Why?"

I don't know why I typed all that information in. Maybe to make order with my thoughts? Maybe to keep me aware of the conversation: if I have to transcribe it, I have to be listening and paying attention. I don't know. Not taking is so default in my behaviour, I'm almost unable to stop it even when the task is completely unnecessary.

I think I'm the youngest in my mentor group. There are seven of us in the group, all women, with, I'd say, three of them in their forties, three in their sixties. One could be in her mid to late thirties, but I'm not completely sure. Two of the women in their forties are prime candidates to become my gardening buddies: they were friendly, outgoing, and near enough my age to have interests (besides gardening) in common, I suspect. On the casual meeting of the mentor group, I suspect only one of the women would annoy me after a bit, the rest I could easily become good friends with.

The mentor group was formed by sorting everyone's zip code, and divvying the groups into close locales, presumably to facilitate carpooling and social events. My mailing zip code doesn't sort properly and I was placed in the Los Altos group. Now, part of me is excited about this: Los Altos yards are generally bigger than yards in my neighborhood (exceptions being for behemoth houses on tiny lots), which means bigger gardens. However, the flip side is that my group comrades are also, well, significantly more well off financially than I am. Tragically, this difference has the potential to intimidate me, and I hate that in me.

When I think of it, it makes me want to find the nearest book, start reading and disappear into it, losing myself in the words. Or start developing, programming, lose myself in the code of my applications, to drown out the internal struggles and frustrations of where I am, and how it differs so much from where I want to be, or thought I would be in this part of my life.

It may be similar to how people ten years my junior feel when they compare their lives to mine: that decade means a a lot when discussing financial gain and accumulation. Frustration I'm not there yet, yet always the hope I'll get there eventually.

After I plant my garden.

I was fingerprinted today


Electronic journalling works better if I have some electronic mechanism for input. Alas, tonight I didn't.


Didn't quite finish the post, though.