Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March...snow and city meetings

Snow days…I used to sneer at Oregon snow days: “In New Hampshire, we eat snow like this for breakfast.” Or “I’ve driven in much worse weather than this—a foot of snow doesn’t stop me.” Or “Even The Ark can cruise through an inch of snow.” But now, I love it. I’ve been out on the roads often enough with Oregon drivers to see the wisdom of closing down the world for two inches of snow and slush; I’m even MORE worried on cold clear mornings, when they think Black Ice is a damp roadbed. I’m staying home today. I’ll drink tea from my new Dogwood patterned tea cup, wash some clothes, and set the sleeve on my new sweater. Maybe make some yougurt and take a walk. Talk to the cats, who will be restless when the fascination of falling snow wears off. NOT grade papers or plan, but be thankful that I am not exposed to the very nasty flu that is traveling the halls of CHS. A snow day is a gift from the weather gods, to be embraced and treasured. Snow Day….

Corvallis has a tradition of Citizen Involvement, which means, when you are feeling positive, that city officials listen to the folks who live and pay taxes here before making decisions—and when you are cynical, that they allow the peasants to testify before going ahead with the plans they have already confirmed. Either way you look at it—and my opinion shifts, day to day—I’ve been testifying quite a bit lately. No matter where you are, the ritual is always the same—officials sitting behind a long table in front of the crowd, speakers facing the official people, with the entire group staring at their backs while they talk, a nervous line clutching notes on one side. You step up to the microphone, sign in, and speak. Time limit—three minutes. If you are good, the officials ask questions. If you ramble, they look through the piles of papers in front of them. Waiting in line is nervewracking. Testifying, once I have stated my name and address as incantation, is fun. I like to drop a phrase or two into the discussion and see if it takes off. “Party bay” for garage, “Mega-parties” that are “too big to fail,” “late adolescents” rather than students…I really like to answer questions, or, if allowed, to ask them. Afterwards, as you climb over others on your way back to your seat, people smile at you. “Nice job,” they whisper in the pause while the next speaker signs in. Then we all turn to listen to the next in line.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March Gardens

The weather always comes from the West in Corvallis, so, if you look out of our living room window, you can see what will be happening in the back yard in about forty-five minutes. It can be very handy. This morning, after This American Life, I saw deep dark clouds on the way, so we headed out ahead of the storm. Yesterday, we had moved the chicken coop onto one of the new beds in the back of the yard and we needed to construct their summer run so that they could dig in the compost without destroying all of the delicate plant starts around the house. One swoop of a chicken’s foot has been known to take out a clump of crocus.

We quickly unwound the new spool of chicken wire fencing I had purchased from the farm supply store; I am done with kludging together rusty misshapen wire fences and being caught by it in awkward positions all summer long. The new wire snaked its way through the new garden, under a trellis and between two beds. Mark went inside—he had a meeting to go to—and I stayed out, wresting with the laurel hedge and garbage cans, bringing the new fence over to the edge of the yard; the chickens love our neighbor’s driveway and I wanted to keep them on our side of the property line even though our neighbors are very tolerant folk—they have been known to catch and repen our rabbits…. I pounded in the big fencing stakes, created a gate, and let the ladies out. They hopped out, commenting positively on the new run all the while.

Another glance to the West—the clouds were closer, but not here yet. I moved quickly. The broccoli, mustard, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower seedlings were outgrowing their six-packs and needed a new home. Fertilizer, plants, trowel. Hoop house opened. Plants popped in. Plastic pulled back over. Clamps in place. One bed full. Clouds are overhead, but there was still time to take the windows off of the coldframe and plant the mustard and kale inside. Just as the windows went back on, the rains came. I tucked the tools back in the shed, considered the scene for a moment, and hurried inside.

Inside, the house still smelled of breakfast waffles and tea, lentils cooking in the crockpot. Kayli was curled up on the couch next to my knitting. The clock ticked loudly on the mantle and the hail hit the windows. March in Oregon.