Playing Hooky

I’m not going to work today.  I went yesterday and put in 5 hours moving my stuff from the library to my new classroom.  Wouldn’t you know it?  My new room is at the farthest point in the building from my old location.  I must have traveled at least a couple of miles yesterday.  Put stuff in boxes, put it on a cart, push it down to my new room, find someplace to unload it, go back and start again.  Of course, it not as easy as simply picking something up and moving it to the new room.  I’m sorting and organizing and throwing stuff out.  My old location has been a storage room where we used to keep 1700 laptops.  That means the entire room is full of shelving.  It actually accommodates a lot more stuff than the new room even though the new room is at least five times bigger.  It may be a lot bigger but it has 30 computer stations with chairs and 30 student desks.  My new room has a file cabinet, a small portable closet, a bookshelf (that’s filled with textbooks) and two desks.

At this time of the year, teachers place furniture they don’t want out in the halls and it’s available on a first come, first served basis.  I managed to salvage another filing cabinet and a couple of tables. 

All in all, it was a lot of work and I don’t feel like doing more of it today.  The library was full of teachers attending a professional development session and I felt inhibited trying to move stuff. In fact, I had trouble finding a parking spot when I arrived.  I had to park on the grass because our school is the site of a conference this week.  I was trying to be quiet but my cart was squeaky and I was climbing on stepladders and lugging big boxes.  I’m sure it was a distraction.  Gives me a good excuse to stay home today.

There used to be houses across the street from us.  They tore them down a few years ago to widen the expressway and there’s nothing there but a big field now.  It’s really not too bad.  We have our house, then the expanse of the front yard, a street, and what used to be our neighbors yards and homesteads before coming to “The Wall”.  We petitioned the city to build it as a sound and sight barrier when they took the houses many years ago.  It stands about 20 feet high and buffers us from the expressway.

After they demolished or moved the houses, the city bulldozed the land and filled it in with a lot of rock and fill dirt before seeding.  They told all of us that they would maintain the property but, instead, used it to store equipment and trucks whenever they worked in the area.  We got really tired of looking out the front window to a view of rock piles and bulldozers and complained relentlessly.  Finally, the city gave in and quit using the property as a storage lot.  We, however, didn’t get to use it either.  No parking on that side of the street.  They mowed the grass every couple of weeks and then, as the years went by, the mowing only happened a couple of times a year.  We’ve gotten used to maintaining the property ourselves. Finally, last year, they sent notices to all of us that they would not maintain the property anymore.  It will either grow up into a weedy lot or we can mow it ourselves.  Believe it or not, that hasn’t been a problem.  A couple of my neighbors have big commercial mowers and they seem to enjoy keeping the grass mowed.  There are several large trees but most of the trees were removed when the houses were demolished and most of the area is just a large grassy expanse.  Mike and Samuel are out there every week or so mowing the grass and waving at all the neighbors.

A lot of activities take place across the street.  Kids play in the area, volleyball nets go up, cookouts happen.  In fact, whenever the weather gets really bad, we pull the RV over to the field so a tree won’t fall on it.  One neighbor has parked his boat and trailer in the field for weeks at a time and no one has ever said anything about it.  The field hosts yard sales and football games and a few of us have even tossed around the idea of an annual block party. 

Last year, I took a chance and put in a vegetable garden across the street.  My own lawn is covered in dense shade and I can’t grow anything that requires full or even partial sun.  I just don’t have it.  I figured someone from the city would show up and tell me I couldn’t do that.  No one ever did.  The garden was a huge success.  It gets full sun and we don’t have to use our own yard for it.  We dragged three hoses across the street to water when we needed to and shared the bounty with a lot of our neighbors.  I was afraid people would steal stuff from the garden or kids would throw tomatoes at all the houses but it never happened.  Folks would comment as they walked down the street about how nice the garden looked and how they’d like to do the same thing.  I HATE weeding, especially in full sun, so I covered the entire garden with newspaper and then covered the newspaper with mulch.  It actually DID look pretty nice.

The problem is that the city filled in with rock and gravel and all kinds of crap.  It looks nice. It’s covered in grass but digging just below the first inch or two is a nightmare.  It just about killed us last year even though we used my sister’s tiller.  This year, several of the neighbors have asked us if they could contribute to the garden financially. 

DS, who fancies himself quite the farmer keeps saying, “Nah, you don’t have to do that!  There’s plenty and we’re more than happy to share!” 

One neighbor was quite insistent and contributed $100.  Another left an envelope in my mailbox with a Thank You card and a check for $50.  Now DS is feeling the heat.  He wants to make sure we have plenty to share.  He decided to expand the garden and it just keeps growing (pun intended).  Our neighbors are nice.  I went out this morning to find the guy who lives two doors down dragging his hose across the street.   “It’s not right,” he said, “for you guys to run up your water bill when you share so much of the garden with everyone.”

This year, we rented a big tiller from Home Depot and the garden is now about 30′ by 30′.  That’s a lot of newspaper and mulch.  I’ve already spent $50 on mulch.  One neighbor donated two pieces of lattice and we set it up so green beans could climb.  We have two varieties of green beans, an assortment of peppers, okra, spinach, spring mix, corn, zuchini, yellow squash, tons of tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, dill, coriander, cilantro, lemongrass, oregano, and a few other things I can’t think of at the moment.

The biggest problem is preparing the soil.  We used the tiller 30 seconds, uncovered a brick, another thirty seconds, uncovered a concrete block, another thirty seconds, another brick.  It just never ends.  Maybe if we do this for five or six years, we’ll finally get some decent soil.  In the meantime, we do the best we can and add peat moss.  The soil is nowhere near what it should be but it seems to work.

I wanted berries this year.  I went to a local nursery and they had some nice blueberry bushes for $35.00.  I know that’s a lot because I planted blueberries in Florida and I picked them up for around $8.00 each.  Still, blueberries don’t produce until they’re around 5 years old and I’m just getting a handful from the plants in Florida each year.  I decided not to spend the money on the blueberries and then kept rethinking my decision after I left.  You know how you keep second-guessing?  The bushes were really large and healthy and covered with berries.  Yesterday, after I left work, I decided to pick up a blueberry bush on the way home.  Wouldn’t you know it?  They were reduced 75% so I bought four of them.

I woke up determined to plant blueberries today but I’ve come to the conclusion that if I’m going to do it, I might as well do it right.  (sigh…)  It’s one thing to plant annual veggies but quite another to plant expensive blueberry bushes that will produce for years and years.  I really need to do a double dug or raised bed for my berries.  That’s not going to be easy, considering that you can’t get a shovel more than an inch or two in the ground without encountering rocks.  I just hope I don’t do all the work and then the city comes in and runs over my blueberries.

So that’s my mission for today.  Start my berry bed. I’ll be pulling on a bathing suit under shorts and a tee shirt and digging in the sun.  When I can’t stand it anymore, I’ll run back home and jump in the pool so I won’t have a heat stroke.

Who knows what the future holds?  Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples, peaches, pears?

3:00 p.m. update – I am totally gross!  It’s 95 degrees out there and I’m burning up.  Nothing like working in the dirt with sweat pouring off.  Makes for a nice mudbath.  I went to Home Depot to get some peat moss ($10.00 a bag?  That’s just not right!) and, damn it, they had all their berry bushes half price.  Of course, I had to buy 2 thornless blackberry bushes and 2 thornless raspberries.  I came home and continued to work on a space for my berries.  I swear, I damn near killed myself and made very little progress.  I couldn’t get the shovel in more than an inch or two at a time.  I’ve worked like a dog and haven’t made much progress at all.  Guess I’ll call it a day and continue in the morning.  At least, I have the peat moss and can get an early start.

I’m going to take a shower and fix dinner.  On the menu; grilled chicken, grilled zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers and onions.  A nice tossed salad with edamane beans and Paul Newman’s lite honey mustard and fresh pineapple for dessert.

Calling it a day.  I’m already pooped.


jewlz280 says 9th June @ 12:14

Confession: I am totally jealous right now. I live in the South, and not in a big city, either. So, you would think people here would be friendly and supportive. Not so. People here couldn’t be LESS friendly unless they REALLY tried. So, I am SUPER jealous of your community. I’ve been here 5yrs., and I’m ready to go. I really hope your garden does well and there are no issues. You might want to consider petitioning the city to turn that into community property so that it would really be a garden/play area for everyone. Especially since you guys are all maintaining it. Good luck!

brseay says 9th June @ 13:55

It sounds like you have a great neighborhood. The garden will keep you busy so you can’t lounge around or snack on a ton of munchies and then eventually you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Take a lap or two around the pool for me 🙂

pepagirl says 9th June @ 15:01

You’re garden sounds amazing! I wish I had a place like that to work with. I have a few tomato plants and some red peppers but that’s all I have room for. I agree with Jewlz, maybe the city could turn it into community property- or possible offer to buy the lot from the city as a neighborhood. With the way city governemnts need funds in this economy, maybe they would make you a good offer? Good luck with the new additions!

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