The Professor & Her Garden

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


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.”


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I planted my garden. And then I drove away.

As part of my sabbatical, I’m trying all sorts of new things. Gardening is one of them. (For a list of other things, check out this post from my other blot, My Year Away.

Like most things, it’s complicated. I split my time between Columbia, SC, and Harbor Island, SC, which is on the coast, part of the magical sea islands. My beach neighborhood has a community garden and I thought it would be fun to participate this year. I won’t go into all the details except to say that after a couple of phone calls, I located a woman who was “borrowing” a plot from a man who had a plot but was suffering from back injuries. She said she’d be happy to give up the plot…even though it wasn’t actually hers to give up.

I was down at the beach last week so I decided it was a good time to fix the soil in my little garden plot. (It doesn’t take much to figure out that what we have at Harbor Island is sand.) I bought organic soil, mushroom compost, cow manure and some kind of “soil break up” stuff the clerk at the garden store assured me I would need. I mixed it all up and then got ready to plant.

The plot is just 4 ft by 10 ft. I planted all seeds except for one lonely hybrid cherry tomato plant since I decided that tomatoes in November would be pretty fantastic.

Here’s what I planted: garden peas, sugar snap peas, heirloom lima beans from Mount Vernon, a lettuce mix, carrots and parsnips. And of course the lone tomato plant.

Then I watered. And then I drove back to my other house in Columbia. Now I’m fretting about my little garden plot. I’m driving down tomorrow night and will be able to water on Friday. I’m crazy with curiosity. Is anything coming up? Will I recognize a plant from a weed? (This is my first garden, after all!) Did I plant too much? Not enough?

I’m already feeling rather motherly about my little garden. But, I’ll have to wait just a bit before I can see if it’s okay. I’m up to my eyeballs at the moment in other kinds of plots..trying to master the art of R programming to create boxplots, graphs, and all sorts of cool things. I’m being the professor today. But, tomorrow, I’m making a beeline for the beach to check out my other research project–my beautiful, little garden.