Blogging on all channels will be light until autumn. You’ve probably noticed the crickets around here, so I thought I’d pop in and offer a peek at what I’ve been up to, which is by extension what I plan to do with the approaching summer.
Perhaps you’ve noticed my tweets about South Park Seattle and other neighborhoods? That’s because one of my favorite projects right now involves writing for neighborhoods around South Seattle. For these projects I get the opportunity to meet with local merchants and learn their stories. Then I do my best to tell those stories for print and web use. Our goal is to help attract new customers from around the Puget Sound area by sharing the unique goods and services to be found in these communities. Did you know that there are over 30 languages spoken in homes throughout the Duwamish Valley? There’s a load of history surrounding the Duwamish River. I’ll try to share the best things I learn along the way.
If you’ve missed the tweets and want to learn more about South Park Seattle, I recommend these starting points:
Poetry & Prose
The solstice is just a couple days off, and I feel good about staying on track with my writing goals for 2011. Sometimes it has been a challenge for me to set aside significant time for working my own creative material. Life happens. This year I’m spending more hours writing and editing my stories. I’m powering through spiral-bound journals with greater velocity. I’m also taking more time to submit one or two finished pieces—at least once a month.
For the poets in the audience: among my foci this year is prosody, and if you’re interested in honing the music of your poetry (or if you’re just among the curious who would like to learn ways to read and enjoy poetry) I suggest these reference materials as starting points (which I borrowed from Kitsap Regional Library bookmobile—love your library):
The poem’s heartbeat : a manual of prosody by Alfred Corn
I also checked out this book, but had to return it before I had time to read: All the fun’s in how you say a thing : an explanation of meter and versification by Timothy Steele. If I get back to it I’ll let you know what I think.
It wasn’t the refresher course in the rules of scansion that excited me about these books. What I did enjoy was each author’s use of examples, philosophical musings, and allusions to the evolution of language. It’s always a good to be reminded of the intimate relationship between poetry and breath. (It’s also nice to remember that I’m not the only over-analyzer on the planet.) If I had one wish about these books, it would be for less emphasis on poets and poetic forms that I already know. I’m on the quest for similar books which address poetic traditions and forms from other regions. If you know me, you know I’m not much of a gal for tradition. But there is much to be gained from the careful study of those predecessors who had way, way more self-discipline than I do.
Reads & Critiques
So what else am I reading? The stack is tall, but my favorite interest this year is slipstream. I blame it on the folks at GUD (review here) and a cappella zoo (review here). Years ago someone told me I was writing magic realism, which was before I’d even heard that it was a genre folks wrote to. Now that I’m a more of an active reader, I’m curious to learn about the evolutions of speculative fiction and slipstream. What I know is that I love well-done specfic and slipstream, and I’d like to learn to write a story that’s as effective as it is ethereal. If you’re interested in slipstream, I recommend this title (originally recommended by a cappella zoo): Feeling very strange : the Slipstream anthology, edited by James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel.
Part of the reason I’ve returned more than a few unread library books is that I’ve gone into critique partner overdrive. It started last winter when I wanted to add a couple people to my critique exchanges to help keep me active. May rolled around and I had somehow accrued 10 critique partners, including one full manuscript exchange (not a short story but a rather ambitious novel). What I love about critiquing is not just reading newly-forming work, and not just challenging myself to share feedback that’s useful, but the act of the exchange itself. I think it makes me feel alive as a writer to trade with someone else who’s hacking away at the same mountain, hoping to strike a vein. Just remember, all ye who venture to pursue the full-manuscript critique: it’s worthwhile work, but you must be prepared to donate a significant chunk of your life to get it done.
Do you love trees? Sure you do! Blog, pod, vid, whatever medium you like, share a tree, orchard, garden, or forest from your neck of the woods. Then send us the permalink at the Festival of the Trees. Our monthly blog carnival is hosted at a different blog each month and celebrates trees in all their forms. The upcoming issue is our fifth birthday! That’s right – we’ve been blogging trees with folks from around the world for five years. Join the party at Dave Bonta’s blog Via Negativa.
If you’ve been reading my blogs these past years you know that for me, health and garden are intimately connected. While I didn’t finish moving the compost pile (did I mention that life—and the occasional flood—happens?), I did stick with my other health goals from 2010. I don’t do my qigong every morning, but I’m pleased to be in much better health this year, most especially because it means I can stay productive in my work. My new 2011 health goals include restarting my yoga/dance routine. I’m renting the upstairs of a farmhouse with big open floors, so it’s a great time to dust off my books from the Evergreen days and get my form back. The rental is located on a short neighborhood street with lots of trees, so my other simple goal is short, daily walks. I love being a writer, but it does require a fair amount of sitting. My final word for you all this summer: make time for recess.
Since resolving to spend more time in the garden I’ve made good headway sowing vegetable starts, flower seeds, and other good summer growth.
There’s a lot to report, so I’ll start today with the cold frames… which reminds me, I need to create a good naming system! I’ve always considered naming the cold frames with flower names (because it’s a great excuse to get out the paint brushes and have fun). Let’s designate the current cold frames as: Daisy (foreground), Mum (right background) and Nettle (left background). In this first image, you can see our three working cold frames, each in their current daily configuration of closed, open, and partially open.
You might recall the first cold frame adventures from the Pennsylvania garden. Our design has been carefully refined over the past four years, and we’ve decided that the 4×4 boxes work best for our needs, mostly because they are easier for one person to lift and carry, and because they allow more flexibility by adjusting each cold frame to meet the specific needs of the plants inside.
Daisy currently stays closed. This month Coldframe Daisy is a nursery for sunflower starts. They are a bit late, but I have a hunch we’ll have a late summer, and I don’t mind short sunflowers. I originally tried sowing the sunflowers directly in flower beds, but the birds and mice pulled up all the seeds and ate them in one day. What you see here are week-old sunflower sprouts, which have doubled in size since this picture was taken three days ago.
Coldframe Nettle is housing an extra-special experiment this season, and will stay propped open at four inches, opened only for waterings and other maintenance. Last year I found that the tomato plants in the open-air vegetable garden were vibrant and healthy, but the fruits never ripened on the vine. The reason is because of the cool nights and generally moderate summer temperatures of the Pacific Northwest (unlike the tomato boom we enjoyed in PA thanks to that warm, summer rain brought in by the Gulf Stream).
Late last summer Coldframe Nettle was sown with tomato seeds on a whim. The plants soon surpassed those in the open-air garden, filling the cold frame with large, vine-ripened fruits which spilled out the sides, much to the husky dog’s delight.
This year I’m trying the same approach by deliberately planting an entire box with peppers and tomatoes. Even at the peak of summer, this cold frame will stay propped open only slightly, and trellises will be set on either side (as you can see, the tomatoes already know what’s going on). This will keep the heart of the plants extra warm, while leaving space for the fruits to crawl out and climb. My hope is more ripe fruit, so we’ll see what happens!
Other cool things to note about Coldframe Nettle: the basil you see hugging the tomato at the back is actually a grocery-store survivor. You wouldn’t believe how sad it looked before I put it in the cold frame – now it’s a whole new plant!
Speaking of harsh-looking, those peppers are looking rough for a reason. I didn’t baby them once I brought them back from the nursery, and instead let them cook hard on our first sunny day. The result: much more vigorous growth from tomatoes and peppers alike. Visible at the front of the box are the surviving green onions from last year’s cold frames, and between the plants I’ve sown carrots, plus additional peppers and tomatoes. I’m curious to see if I can get successions of the latter two to survive into late winter.
Coldframe Mum has been the lettuce and greens box this spring, which is why it’s propped all the way open all the time. The colder I keep the greens, the longer I’ll have greens to eat. I’m fighting their natural summer urge to bolt (hence the semi-butchered look) and I’m already snipping salads on borrowed time. These plants will eventually be transferred to the open vegetable garden where they can flower and drop seed to their hearts’ content.
This season’s salad greens include a few of my absolute favorites: mizuna mustard greens (Brassica rapa nipposinica), red oak leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. crispa), pak choi (also bok choy, Brassica rapa), and arugula (Eruca sativa). There are teeny tiny purslane (Portulaca oleracea) sprouts in there (however funny I find it that I actually have to purchase purslane seeds), as well as a handful of calendula sprouts (for transfer to flower beds), and two pouches of onion sets that are really in need of a fresh hill in which they can grow big and juicy.
In July Coldframes Daisy and Mum will be ready for replanting, probably with carrots, onions, and some kitchen herbs I’m missing (like cilantro, another cold-loving vegetable). Next up, I’ll show you what’s happening in the front yard on the corn hills.
The time has come for WordPress 3.0 “Thelonious” to take the stage. Please be aware that Brainripples will be upgrading to WordPress 3.0, and there may be some little fixes this week and next while I get it all right.
Thanks for your understanding, and let me know if anything breaks for you.
PS – Happy Greetings of the Solstice, one and all! For those of us in the northern hemisphere, this means planting and preparation for the autumn harvest. Updates from my garden to follow shortly.
PPS – One week left: submit to the Festival of the Trees 49 today!