Saturday, February 28, 2009

starting from seed

We finally ordered our seeds! Not these, exactly, but I thought I'd show some examples of seed packets from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I learned about them from one of my favorite addictions, Garden Rant. Jere Gettle's story is worth checking out: he began the business at the tender age of 17 and has grown it into an entire town. The catalog itself is a work of art.

We've charted our plans and will start some indoors and some outdoors. Some will go into raised beds, some directly into the ground, and some in containers. We chose seeds based on whether we thought they would succeed (here is a great resource for Alabama, although I don't know how much they take rare and heirloom varieties into consideration), and we also indulged in some that are just plain cool.

The great thing about seeds is that you can get a lot of them for very little money, and once the plant establishes itself, you can use its seeds over and over again. That's the plan, anyway.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

two jobs with one terramite

What do you do when you discover you have a leak in your water line, and a shovel just won't do the trick? Why, you violate child labor laws, of course!

Making the most of our eight-hour time allowance, we decided to use the terramite to turn over the earth for garden experiment, part deux.

Garden experiment, part un, took place last year, and resulted in a few zucchini, some beans, and lots of marigolds. Flashbacks of turning the hard, rocky ground with a Honda tiller were enough to convince us that while perhaps unorthodox, the terramite would definitely do the job.

I expect garden experiment, part deux, to fulfill all of its new-improved promise primarily because it will be full of shit. That's right -- excrement. Chicken and rabbit, to be exact. Plus a whole buncha rotten food, decayed leaves, and a little woodash. Go worms, go!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

birth of a runner

Preface ~ Marathon stories are a lot like birth stories: they're only really interesting to those who share a similar experience, or those who intend to share a similar experience sometime soon. The non-runner gets lost in chip times, pacers, GU, and body glide. So, to my few but regular readers, please indulge me, and I promise I shall return to stories about country life, pictures of multicolor eggs, and adventures in organic gardening very soon.

I never really wanted to run a marathon. I signed up for Danny's Couch to 5K group after giving birth to kid number two. More specifically, after I found myself wearing maternity clothes several months after giving birth to kid number two.

When I started the program, I couldn't run an entire lap around the track. After years of ballet, swimming, nautilus, yoga -- this was depressing, to say the least. But I had never been a runner. I watched them from my car and wondered how they could just keep going. Indeed, I cursed them from my car: Good lord, why the hell are you running in the middle of the road?

Danny's program is phenomenal. Teeny tiny baby steps: Walk half, run half. Go home. Oh crap, we're jumping up to two miles today?! Take us off the track and let the creek distract us into thinking two is easy. From 5K to 10K -- why not? Hell, I ran a 10K -- wouldn't a half marathon be something? But a full -- no, I don't ever want to do a full. Those people are just crazy.

Then comes the day of the 2008 Mercedes Marathon. I sign up for the half. Everything falls into place. I sleep well, I drink enough water, I eat right, my body doesn't do anything wacky. Sure, I have to piss like a mother once I hit Valley Avenue (the 2008 course is not a double loop), but by the time I hit the full cutoff point, I think to myself, Damn. I feel great. I think I could turn off here and do the full today! I don't, of course, but I finish strong and I finally understand: They're not really as crazy as we think they are. They just know they can do it. I have a whole year to work up to the 2009 full -- why not?

So I do. A friend jokes that deciding to run a marathon is a lot like deciding to have a baby: You think to yourself, Oh, it'll be fun. It won't change things much -- we'll just carry it around in a backpack wherever we go. And suddenly you are up at 4:30am tending to its needs. You give up all other extracurricular activities. You must tend to it no matter what -- freakin' rain, shine, snow, wind chill, freakin' rain -- or it will not survive. Sure, you can enjoy a rare night out drinking with your friends after the show at WorkPlay, but no matter what time you go to bed, it is not going to let you sleep late.

After months of training, then comes the taper. Forgive the scrambled timeline of the metaphor, but the taper is a lot like the end of the third trimester. You've had your fun, and now you're just ready to get this thing over with. You wait. You get antsy. They tell you to rest. You have no idea what to expect after the first 20 miles, because training doesn't take you past the first 20 miles. You take it on faith that you can tack a 10K to your longest run to date. WTF?

Finally, it is the night before the race. Okay family, here's the deal: I am turning the lights off at 8pm. You are not disturbing me for any reason. I must sleep. The alarm is going off at 4:30am because we live in Hayden. I must sleep. Do you understand? All of which translates into: kid number two crawling into bed with you in the middle of the night, dog waking up twice to lick your face in the middle of the night, you having to pee in the middle of the night, your heart racing uncontrollably in the middle of the night because how in the hell are you going to run those last 6.2 miles on no sleep....

The morning goes well. You drink your coffee, you eat your Snickers Marathon bar, you somehow manage to shove six or seven energy gels into the small inner pocket of your shorts, you pin your bib, you attached the hell out of your chip the night before. No way that thing's coming off.

You get there an hour before it starts. You pee three times before the gun goes off: twice in the Boutwell bathrooms and once in between a sticker bush and a brick wall. You make it to mile five before having to pee again. No way -- they locked the doors to the School of Business? You mean I have to stand in line at the port-a-lets? I HATE port-a-lets. No good bushes in sight. Damn. And oh, yes, please remind me why I HATE port-a-lets. Good lord -- if my stomach had been that off I woulda just stayed in bed. I mean, seriously, I don't think I could make that much of a mess if I tried. What the hell happened in there?

After starting out strong (too strong, really -- classic mistake), that first bathroom break really puts a dent in our pace. Our = me and my running partner, Ira, who is hereafter referred to as Wonder Woman, or W2 for short. W2 saw me through all of my training. W2 is strong. And nice. And thoughtful. W2 gave me a 26.2 necklace, and a sticker for my car. I would not be here were it not for W2.

W2 and I have a deal: even though we run at about the same pace, if either of us feels like shooting ahead or lagging behind, then so be it. I consider her the stronger runner, so I don't want to hold her back when it comes down to it. She feels the same way about me. So be it.

Our first loop is fast and strong, relative to our usual pace. The spectators are fabulous, the volunteers are outstanding -- they are even playing the Ramones on Clairmont Avenue. As we near the end of the halfway point, several motorcycle cops pass us with their sirens on, instructing us to move over to the right. They are escorting the Kenyan to the finish. Before we are even halfway done. Crazy thing about being a back-of-the-packer on a double loop -- you get lapped by all of the elites.

At the halfway point, W2 asks how long we've been running. When I tell her, she gets a big grin on her face and says it is a half marathon PR for her.

At the start of the second loop, things change. There are fewer spectators, fewer volunteers (though still enough, and still outstanding), fewer runners, not as much loud music -- in short, it is a little lonely out there, and W2 and I have been running too hard to chat much. As we make our way up the hill toward the Alys Stephens Center, W2 reminds me that if she starts to slow down, I can just keep on going. I say that if she starts to slow down, I will probably want to slow down, too -- that is, if I don't do it first. I think she is just making conversation, but a little later, after walking through a water stop (a brief but necessary break in order to avoid choking), I suggest that we start running again at the nearest light post. She suggests that we wait until the second light post. Fine by me, but uncharacteristic of her. Still, I don't think much of it. Not long after that, she begins to feel queasy and needs to walk in order to avoid being sick. We think perhaps she will feel better if she does get sick, but that doesn't happen, either, so we continue to run/walk until about halfway down Cullom, when she says, Go. But wait -- the go on plan did not take sickness into consideration -- it was just a plan to accommodate the fact that we might end up running at different paces. You don't just leave your sick partner, do you? Shouldn't I stay and help -- trudge through the finish line together because that's what friends do? She never gets sick -- this is a huge blow. This is not the time for her to be alone. Is it? Go, she said. I will be mad at you if you stay. Make me proud. So I went. To be perfectly honest, I still don't feel quite right about that.

Which brings me to Phil. Phil runs marathons as part of his ongoing training schedule. No biggie. Phil is generous and kind, shares, teaches, helps -- Phil is going to help you finish your marathon, no matter what. After finishing the entire course, Phil begins to run back the other way to check up on his friends. He finds me and he asks about Ira. He is concerned when I tell him where we split up -- it is a long way back. So he keeps on running until he finds her, and he runs her all the way to the finish. Ira -- I mean, W2 -- is so Wful that she finishes only a smidgen after her goal time.

I finish strong and am happy with my time, but a little frustrated by the number of times I have to pee. Five. I even have to stop between miles 25 and 26, knowing that it will add precious minutes to my time. Okay maybe one precious minute, but still. I take a few brief walk breaks during the final 10K -- my ego is annoyed by the fact that I am walking when my friend Catherine sees me at mile 24, but she takes a goofy picture of me and that cheers me up, so I pick up the pace and am running strong by the time I see my family cheering for me at mile 25. I am kind of surprised that some of the people who are running with me at that point appear to be far fitter than I, but they aren't going any faster than I am. Others are clearly downtrodden, but they persevere. They cover the distance. They know they can do it. (Once you're past mile 20, you really have no choice but to make it back somehow or another.)

Somewhere between miles 22 and 24, I think, This is nuts. I don't think I ever need to do this again. And damn, I really shoulda gotten new shoes at the beginning of the year. But a funny thing happens once it's over. They said you could do it, and you do. And you know that you could do it again. Better.

And here's where the birth metaphor ends. Because you never think of having more kids so that you can get a better one next time (at least, I hope you don't). You don't want kid number two to be any better than kid number one. But marathon number two -- if you don't pee so much, if you don't take any walk breaks except at the water stops, if you set your Garmin to warn you when you're getting off pace, especially in the beginning, when you're feeling strong but you need to conserve, if you buy new shoes when you are supposed to.... Yes. You could. You could do it better.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Tonight I feel cowish. The good, strong heart of a cow. The primitive song and the rhythmic footfall. The steady eye.

On Sunday, I will run like a cow. Heart and song and footfall. If you think a cow cannot run, then you do not live among cows. I am not built like a cow. I do not resemble a cow. When you see me, you do not think, cow. But on Sunday, I will run like a cow.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

the gang's all here

My older brother and his family have lived in Prague for the past decade or so, and my younger brother and his family have lived all over: California, Oklahoma, and now Mobile, Alabama. It's rare that we're all together, but this weekend we were, and I got to meet my striking red-headed nephew for the very first time! He's the little one on the far right. His older sister is next to him in white. My kids are on the left, and the remaining three belong to my younger brother and his wife:

Striking red-headed nephew is also known as "the dude." Here are the dude's parents, his mom* explaining to me why she doesn't like having her picture taken:

What's one of the neatest things about family gatherings at my mom's house? The horseshoe pit.

Lee: 21, Josh: 3. Not exactly regulation play. BURN! says Lee to Josh, nevertheless.

* SIL has an actual camera and knows how to use it, as opposed to my crapass cell phone and hasty clicks. Check out her blog for beautiful shots of all kinds of interesting things.

Monday, February 2, 2009

full moon pie

I was deleting some pictures from my phone when I came across this one. We celebrated Leah's seventh birthday shortly after we moved out here, before we had a functional kitchen or even a bathroom sink. Our guests had to wash their hands in the tub. I couldn't bake a cake with no oven, so I did the next best thing. Okay so maybe it wasn't the next best thing.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

fine german engineering

Well, we did it. We got another dog. A German Shepherd pup named Maya. We're keeping her close for now, only letting her roam by leash until she knows it's home. She spent most of the day running between the front porch and the rest of the house, sliding around on the floor for lack of traction. For anyone interested in really great books about raising dogs, check out what The Monks of New Skete have to offer.

I'm dog tired (ouch), and I've grown weary of the captcha game (although I did find it amusing that the one I most recently encountered was "besynucl"), so that's it for the first day of February.