The Professor & Her Garden

Good soil. Good students. And maybe some decent English peas.


Ah, Well, It was Lovely While it Lasted. It’s Near the End of My Garden–and This Little Blog.

It’s December.  Who grows things in December?  I’m trying–and because I am in coastal South Carolina, I figured I had a pretty good shot of making it through the winter.

But, first the polar vortex arrived.  Bye, bye, lima beans.  Then the Omega Effect hit.  C’mon snap peas, hold on!  Then the clouds and the rain, rain, rain.

Now, we’re back to a more normal winter here.  Chilly at night, but sunny during the day.  Unfortunately, my little garden was hard enough hit in November to struggle a bit.  It’s hanging in there, but it’s not what I would call flourishing.

Still, I was able to pick a decent crop the other day.

Lettuce, tomatoes, and sugar snap peas.

Lettuce, tomatoes, and sugar snap peas.

But, now the garden is moving into its quiet phase.  I might get a bit more lettuce and a few more tomatoes.  Other than that, it’s now a waiting game for the carrots and parsnips.

The good news is that I’ve learned a lot about gardens from my little fall sabbatical garden.  And I’m already planning what to grow in the spring.  The other good news is that I’ve learned a lot about blogging.  I started The Professor & Her Garden while taking the Blogging 101 class.  I didn’t want to mess up my real blog, My Year Away.  But, I came to enjoy this little blog and couldn’t quite bring myself to shut it down.  But, just like my garden, it’s moving into its quiet phase.  I don’t know if I’ll revive it come spring with my new garden.

Although I am a professor, when it comes to my plants,  I have been the student.  And I’m grateful.  Thank you, all, for following this blog.  I hate to say good-bye though, so it would be wonderful if you chose to follow me at My Year Away.  I’ve got all sorts of things growing over there.  Thanks to Blogging 101 and all the great bloggers I met during that month!

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The Hazards of Planting a Garden in the Fall

Well, I guess I knew it was a possibility.  Finding messages such as “Check back in the spring” on gardening websites should have been a clear clue about the difficulties of growing vegetables in the fall.

But, I live on the coast.  We have mild temperatures all-year long and it is sunny all the time.  My planting zone is either 9 or 10 (depending on what map you look at).

My limas showed the first signs of protest.  After growing about 5 feet per day (seriously, I could have just plopped down and watched the vines develop), they started to looked piqued.  Okay, I’m sure I’m merely anthropamorphasizing (my professor word of the day!), but they looked downright scared.  Fortunately, a rebound of warm days and sunny skies gave my lima beans a new lease on life.

But that was then.  Today, the polar vortex has arrived at sunny, coastal South Carolina.  We have a freeze warning.  The skies are gray.  A strong sea breeze is building.  I’m doubtful the limas will survive.

My peas and snap peas are relatively happy, but I think I better go picking today.  I’ve eaten enough lettuce from the garden to not care all that much if those rows are done.  I imagine that my parsnips and carrots, safely tucked in, growing like crazy under the dirt, are mocking the tomatoes, peas, and poor, pathetic limas.

I’ll do what I can to help the garden survive this weekend (which is not much).  And then I’ll just hope for the best.  I might be surprised by rigor of some of the plants.  Or I might be disappointed.  Not knowing all that much about lima beans, given their robust early growth, I would have thought they would be stars.  Misjudgment on my part, that’s for sure.

And, so it is that this professor has gained another profound lesson from my little sabbatical garden.  My little plants are not unlike my young college students.  They can disappoint.  But they can also surprise.  Here’s hoping for a return of sunny days!


I Survived Blogging 101. And Ended Up With a Crop of New Blogging Buddies.

For our last blogging 101 assignment, we’re to think of a plan for the next 30 days and then use this space to thank five fellow bloggers who we’ve come in contact with over this past month.

The first part is easy.  Over the next month, I need to continue to tend both my garden and this blog.  Both are in their “high growth” stage; both need feeding; both need weeding.

The second challenge is a little more difficult.  I’ve come across so many interesting blogs and the people behind the blogs, it’s hard to limit my list to five.   Even if I hadn”t learned anything new about blogging, the class would have been worth it just for stumbling on these fantastic bloggers.  But, what’s even better, I did learn something.  I learned a lot of things–some things I was hoping to learn more about.  And some things I didn’t even know I needed to learn about.  So with that, here are my Five Favorite (Blogging) Friends:

Perelincolors. No surprise there!  This is really a wonderful blog.  Check it out and you’ll see our colorful world in a whole new light.

Lucile de Godoy.  What first attracted me to this post was Lucile’s name.  Seriously, isn’t Lucile de Godoy a fantastic name?  Her blog is almost as good as her name.  And others agree because she has over 500 followers.

Farmer Fi.  She has an olive grove!  An olive grove!  Can you imagine?  This blog is about olive oil and all the wonders therein.  “nuf said!  If you haven’t checked out this blog, what are you waiting for?

Metamorphis of a Wallflower.   Wallflower is no wallflower.  She is a college student taking a gazillion classes.  She is a beautiful writer, which is obvious because so many Blogging 101 classmates have checked out her blog, mentioned her, etc.  She deserves the attention.  As a college professor, I sometimes despair over the state of education, but students like Wallflower give me hope.

Grynnie.  She is a new blogger and has a great future ahead of her.  I know she would appreciate some of you all checking out her blog.

So there you have it!  Five of my favorites.  I really could add a bunch more.  Thank you all for the support you’ve provided over the past 30 days.  I’ve learned as much from you as I did from our faithful leaders.  Hoping to see many of you around the neighborhood in Blogging 201.


What do Blogging 101, Alligators and Gardens Have in Common?

photoEven though I am not a professional photographer (I wouldn’t know an aperture if it hit me in the face), I decided to embrace the

Nature Photo Challenge in order to fulfill my daily Blogging 101 assignment.

Currently, I’m living on a quiet island on the coast of South Carolina. There is not much for entertainment on this island: 3 miles of secluded beach, loggerhead turtle nests and lots (I mean lots!) of migratory birds. And alligators. Alligators love brackish water so the tidal creeks and marsh are perfect. Alligators also are rather territorial so they mark their spot and tend to hang around that area. We have an alligator in our backyard lagoon we call “Al.” Last year, it looked like Al hit it off with “Sal” and welcomed her into the lagoon. We’ve had a periodic sighting of “Gal” who is either an offspring or someone vying for Al’s attention. But, I digress.

Besides alligators and migratory birds, we also have tourists. We call these tourists “Vs” (as in “visitors.” This all relates to a miniseries and short-living TV show “V” about aliens but that’s another story!) The Vs rent beach houses by the week and quickly learn that it’s a different pace of life here.

Yesterday while working in my garden, some Vs came to take a look. One V was practically jumping up and down. “Are the alligators here?” I said “Well, I hope not. At least not here in the garden. Listen, if you see an alligator in the garden, run!” She wanted to know where to go to see the alligators. I pointed her to the closest creek and said she’d find plenty there. Off they went with anticipation of their first alligator sighting.

People who live on this island really don’t care for the alligators. When I head out at the crack of dawn to row, I have to peek around the corner to make sure Al is not in our carport. I have to remind guests not to let their little kids hang out in our yard unattended. Small dogs need to be on leashes. In short, I find alligators a serious nuisance.

But the tourists love them. And, believe it or not, they will try to feed them. (Seriously, some people leave their brains at home when they vacation.) Hence, the sign. You can go to jail for feeding an alligator. Can you imagine? “Hey, buddy, what are you in for?” “Feeding the ‘gator.”  (Nodding heads.)

I always make sure to close the garden gate when I am tending the garden. It’s bad enough to fend off the migratory birds who think sitting in the middle of my garden plot is a delicious idea. But, the thought of an alligator traipsing around my garden peas? Not on my watch!

As for the tourists? In the south we have a saying and it certainly applies here. “Bless their hearts.”


I Was a Little Traumatized When I Realized I Had to Actually Harvest the Garden!

As some of you know, I am becoming quite obsessed with my little garden. I check it every day. See if it needs watering. Check for weeds. Talk to it. Encourage it to grow. But today I had to do something that I’m not sure really occurred to me up until now. I had to harvest it. Okay, it was only four lettuce leaves, but they looked so beautiful in the garden, all happy in the sunshine.
I don’t know much about leaf lettuce, but I do know that it’s a fine line between tender and bitter. They looked “done” to me. I even went to the “how do I pick leaf lettuce” website to make sure I approached it correctly. (Always the professor; always doing research.)
It was time.
So, of course I first took a picture of the lettuce “pre-harvest” so I could remember. Then I picked them and pell-melled it back to the house to wash them, take pictures–and eat!
The lettuce was delicious. Peppery. Fresh. Green.
So I might be a little bit attached to my garden. But at the first bite, I rearranged my thinking and understood that some things are meant to be eaten. Now, I’m just waiting for that green tomato to turn red!

I picked my first lettuce on October 7!

I picked my first lettuce on October 7!

Blogging 101 Assignment of the Day: Mess Up a Good Thing (aka “try a new post format”)

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So today our ever-present and gifted Blogging 101 Grand Poobah Michelle wants us to try something different with our posts.  The directions of “post format” seem easy enough.  (Famous last words!)

Okay, for “different” today, I decided to pick some random quotes about gardening.  And because my blog is The Professor & Her Garden, I decided I needed to find quotes that used gardening to speak to learning or were written by smart people I admire.  So, without further adieu, here are my gardening quotes as part of my Blogging 101 Assignment:

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”  –Cicero

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”  –A. A. Milne

 “A garden is a grand teacher.  It teaches patience and careful watchfulness, it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”  –Gertrude Jekyll
“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” — Thomas Jefferson
“Gardening is learning, learning, learning.  That’s the fun of them.  You’re always learning.”  –Helen Mirren
And this is why I’m a professor.  And why I’m trying gardening during my sabbatical.

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Blogging 101 Assignment Today: Write to the Prompt. Phooey!

Don’t take this personally, Oh Blogosphere, but I’m not a big fan of the Daily Prompts. My thinking is that one of the key requirements of having a blog is having something to say.  If you can’t think of anything to say, you really ought to think twice about whether you’re the kind of person who should be blogging.  Still, since I’m committed to completing the Blogging 101 workshop through and through, I’ll play along.  Today’s assignment is to use today’s prompt:  Do I prefer fiction or non-fiction?

I read More Thoughts, Vicar‘s  blog last week  who used the “10 Books” poll making its round on Facebook for the basis of a post.  Brilliant!  Like the Vicar, I’m not including the Bible because it absolutely goes without saying that that Book stands alone.  So here is my list of 10 books that have impacted my life.

1.  That Hideous Strength (C.S. Lewis).  This book has it all.  Space travel; marriage advice; university politics; wizardry.  I first read THS at Oxford during my study abroad.  It’s my all-time favorite book and I’ve read it at least 20 times.  I own the paperback edition (that I loan to friends), a hard-cover American edition (that I read myself), and a British hard copy edition that I keep on the shelf with all my other C.S. Lewis books.

2. This Perfect Day (Ira Levin).  I read this book in 9th grade and it rocked my world.  It’s creepy, other worldly, surprising, weird, thought-provoking, iconoclastic.  Everything in this book is topsy turvy, which, for a 9th grader, made for perfect reading.  Move over Holden Caufield.

3. My Losing Season (Pat Conroy).  There is no question that I am crazy about Pat Conroy.  A bit of a stalker, really.  I live in the same town as Conroy and I have seen him at the grocery store.  (I made note of his grocery cart contents.)  I have a photo of his dad’s (The Great Santini) gravestone on my IPhone.  I love, love, love his books.  But his book about playing basketball at the Citadel did something to me.

4. The Trouble with Jenny’s Ear (Oliver Butterworth).  I read this book in grade school and it impressed me to no end.  It’s about a girl who “hears things” and ultimately ends up on a quiz show where she hears all the answers.  Freaky, ethics, and a strong female leading character.  What more could an independent little girl want?

5. Drawn to the Rhythm:  A Passionate Life Reclaimed (Sara Hall).  This book is really about how rowing saved Sara’s life.  It’s heart-wrenching but inspirational.  I think of this book every time I don’t feel like going out on the water because I don’t want to row by myself, or it’s too cold, or too windy, or any other million reasons.

6.  Straight Down a Crooked Lane (Francena Arnold).  I can’t tell you how many times I read this book when I was a little kid, but it was a bunch.  It had romance, tennis, and race relations–all rather mind-blowing to me as a child.  Whenever I would read this book, I would think about what a great movie it would make.  I decided that JImmy Stewart should play the father.  I felt really bad when Stewart died, in part, because he wouldn’t have the chance to play the role of a lifetime.

7.  The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand).  Reading this book in 12th grade made me feel grown up.  I wanted to be an architect and I admired Howard Rourk’s independent spirit.  I was a polar opposite to Rand’s philosophy, but I plowed through all her books in high school.  I even wrote a children’s book based on objectivism for an English creative writing class.  It was called Fritzi of Frumple Forrest (or something like that).  My teacher wanted me to try to get it published.  I was horrifed.

8.  Areopagitica (John Milton).  I was a mediocre English Literature undergraduate student, but I did love Milton.  No matter what college class I teach now, I always find a way to quote Areopagitca.  “Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”  Seriously. Can’t you feel your heart racing?

9.  A Girl Named Zippy (Haven Kimmel).  This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious.  Kimmel manages to get to the heart of what growing up in the ’50s was like.  I’m not kidding.  The writing is brilliant.  My daughter read Zippy shortly after I did and guffawed at least as much as I did.  Years later, it has remained  a book that makes the two of us laugh just thinking about it.

10.  The Time Bridge (Carol Pardun).  I wrote this young adult novel as my creative thesis project for my masters degree in communications.  It’s a science fiction, young adult book in (what I would like to think) the spirit of Madeline L’Engle.  It was about time travel and tennis.   I didn’t publish the book (I’m sure it needed a lot of work), but it showed me that I could write from start to finish.  It let me successfully finish my masters degree, which spurred me on to seek the PhD.  While my dissertation was nothing like The Time Bridge, I like to think that my first attempt at a book-length manuscript provided the framework for successfully completing my degree.

So there you have it.  Fiction wins, 6-4  (although not enough data points to claim statistical significance).

There’s not a single mention of gardening in this post.  But, I can tell you one thing.  These books have cultivated my mind.  The roots are strong.  And they continue to produce fruit.

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Blogging 101 Assignment for Today: Turns Out Blogging Is a Lot like Gardening.

Today’s assignment is to spiff up our blogroll.  Once I figured out that the “Blogs That I Follow” widget and the “Blogroll” widget are not the same, a whole new blogging world opened up to me.  I started getting so attached to my widgets, I decided I needed to change my theme since my previous theme required readers to click on the “hamburger” (that is blog lingo, by the way) so readers could see my widgets right away.  I was starting to get too attached to the widgets not to put them front and center.

And then it happened!  I changed my theme and lost my widgets.  I actually got a little panicked (like I said, I was getting very attached to these widgets).  Blogging community to the rescue.  I’ve got my widgets back.  And I’m tweaking here and there.  You could say that I am tending to my blog.

Just like my garden.  I’m new at blogging.  I’m new at gardening.  Each require a little bit of attention.  I’m also finding that the more attention I give them, the more attached I become.  I started the garden blog because I didn’t want to mess up my sabbatical blog, My Year Away.  But, now I’m feeling like my “real” blog is a bit neglected.  Maybe even a little bit weedy.

I guess it’s time to keep planting and see what happens.


At Least I Can Mother My Garden.

My son and his wife (and my brand-new grandson, Baby Jack) live in the middle of the woods (i.e. nowhere) in Wisconsin where he works at a residential school for troubled high school boys.  He called me today, which is rare.  After several minutes of “How’s my grandson?  Send pictures!!” Graham got around to the real reason he was calling.

“I got a concussion at work,” he said nonchalantly, but I have enough of a Mother Radar to know that he really meant “I got hit in the head and I’m a bit scared about it.”  Unfortunately, I had just finished reading the recent article in Time (Sept. 29, 2014) about the high school football player who died after getting concussed at a game.  So, let’s just say that the Mother Radar was on full blast.

What could I do?  I live 1,500 miles away.  I ran through the list.  Did you fill out Workers Comp paperwork?  Are you doing what the doctor says?  Are you drinking enough water? Check.  Check.  And check. I told him that I loved him, to hang in there (and to maybe look for another job).  Then I hung up.

I don’t have a lot of natural mother instincts.  I’ve always had a job.  I was the high school mother who would donate money rather than spend time sorting band uniforms.  I didn’t let Graham bring his laundry home from college.   But my mother heart was sure beating quickly today.

Well, one thing I can do.  I can go to my little garden and talk to the baby peas and urge them to grow.  That won’t help my son heal.  But it might help me.  And I’d like to think it will help my peas.sept 26

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Sept 25 Blogging 101 Assignment: Own Up to Your Comment!

Yesterday, I blogged about the four blogs I found that were, in my opinion, poignant, original, fun–and especially well written.  In the spirit of community, I even subscribed to their blogs.  Only to find out that today’s assignment is to go down another level and blog about my comment related to the blog.  Hmmm. (Not sure what I think about this!)

I commented on the  Exploring New Opportunities blog.  The guy reminds me of my hubster:  Computer geek.  In “that age group.”  Looking for new opportunities.  It made me think about my own life, my age, my opportunities.  So I commented on that.  And now, I woke up this morning thinking more about what being in my 50s means.

I find myself looking forward and backwards on a regular basis.  I’m in my prime earning years.  Fortunately, as a tenured professor I don’t have to worry about my job.  (I know, I know, save it for another post!)  But, I worry just a bit about retirement.  Will we have enough?  Will we be healthy?  What will we do? What does retirement mean, anyway?

For me, it will mean leaving the university.  But I’ll still be able to write, do research (if I want), think grand thoughts.  For my husband, who has been a computer consultant for 30 years, it’s more complicated.  As any hard-core computer programmer in his 50s will tell you, they are moving into unchartered territory.  These are the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs guys (but without the millionaire life).  They are the ones who have been coding gurus for decades.  They are some of the few people in the world who can still program in COBOL in a pinch.  They also are now wearing reading glasses, have arthritis in their hands (have you ever listened to a die-hard coder pound the keys?), have trouble sleeping a full eight hours each night.  My husband has had his own business for 30 years.  At some point, he’ll have to walk away.  Figuring that out is, like I said, complicated.  The programming that he does actually matters.  A lot.  There’s not anyone coming up behind him who can do what he does.  But, he can’t do it forever.

We certainly don’t have the answers, but here’s what we do know.  We are incredibly fortunate for the lives we’ve had.  We are financially stable.  We have two adult graduate-school educated children who made great choices in spouses.  (And neither ask us for money!)  We’re brand-new grandparents.  We are physically healthy and active.  I belong to two rowing clubs and live in a climate where I can row year round.  My husband likes to build things, fix things, fix things for others.  If you’re interested, check out his blog, Gary’s Fix.

So that’s what’s great about being in my 50s.  I have a life to look back on and be thankful for.  (Granted, I was pretty appreciative in my 40s and wouldn’t mind a couple of decades of being a 40-year-old!)  And, I’m young enough to think about the future.  Which brings me back to Exploring New Opportunities.  I think we should all be exploring–whatever our age.

That’s why I’m gardening right now.  I don’t know anything about gardens.  This is a totally new venture for me.  But, watching these little pea plants poke their heads out of the soil gives me great hope.  How in the world do plants know how to grow?  How do we know how to do some of the things we do?  Go explore!  Now, excuse me while I check on my plot of dirt.  I need to explore.