Monday, June 30, 2008

the crazy jungle - week 3

All this rain has done my garden well! I felt like I barely had a chance to check on my garden last week, but it rained almost every day. I went out one night to pull out some weeds, but it was already dark so I could barely see what I was doing. I was gone to NH for the weekend, but I knew that the tomato plants were bending over from the lack of support and the violent thunderstorm bursts. So today I devoted a little quality time to my garden plot - I installed some stakes and zip-tied the tomatoes to them (loosely), weeded all over the plot, and planted a bunch of new lettuce seeds. Here's the final status:

My single zucchini plant is really growing! Look at how giant its leaves are now!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

life after grad school

I just came back from a PhD women's networking event at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, NY. I wasn't really sure what to expect, probably because I didn't really have a clue what-all GE does. I mean, they make refridgerators and washing machines, no? Well, apparently GRC does a ton of different research, and they actually have a really nice (huge) facility over in NY. It's surrounded by gorgeously lush green trees and rivers, and cute little suburbia neighborhoods. I realized that's completely the type of place I want to move to after I graduate. Sometimes I feel old for thinking that, but whatevers, sometimes you know you're ready for that transition in your life and you don't really care if other people think it's uncool. Or something. Anyway the most impressive thing about GRC is the diversity of research they do there, everything from image recognition software, electric energy control, wind power, organic LEDs, light-emitting phosphors, amazing medical devices, magnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles, to a newly-growing solar technology program. I got to chat with the solar program leader, who was really awesome, and also pregnant, and I'd love to do what she does someday. The one message that all the GE technologists seemed to emphasize that the key to career happiness is to always be learning new things, so that work never gets stale. I think that will be my new strategy. I want to be learning new things throughout the rest of my life. That's right, the next 100 years. (All that sunscreen, vitamins, and rowing had better pay off...) Anyway, I could really see myself working at a place like GE Global Research. If only I could uproot it (and the surrounding natural habitat) and relocate it to California, so that my lovely boyfriend would agree to living near it! Gahhh. That old two-body problem, as they say.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

garden progress - week 2

My garden is slowly progressing! I took this picture last Friday, before I went to NH for the weekend. Notice that the cucumber plants (second row from left) are growing bigger, and a row of little zinnia sprouts has appeared on the far right. There is one zucchini plant next to that, the only one of three seeds to sprout. I was glad it rained a lot in the past week, so I didn't have to worry about them drying out. I'm bummed, however, that none of my lettuce seeds sprouted, and I have an empty row! I'm going to try and plant something else there, like hot-weather lettuce maybe?

And check out my only zucchini sprout! Woo hoo! Actually, when I came back from New Hampshire on Monday, this little guy had grown a huge jagged leaf, about 4 inches across! So excellent.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

instant happiness

Sometimes I get so absorbed in a single song that I HAVE TO listen to it on repeat. It makes me so happy to hear it that I think of blue skies and pink flowers and dancing, happy when I have no good reason to be happy. I start bouncing around in my chair, tapping my feet under the desk, and checking myself that I don't burst out into sing-along song. It will certainly be sung in the shower and the car. Last week this song was Kate Nash's 'Foundations', and right now it's Coldplay's 'Viva La Vida'. Other past favorites include Feist's 'Mushaboom' and Belle and Sebastian's 'I'm A Cuckoo' and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's 'Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth'. These songs never fail to make me happier. These are also the songs that James stores away in his head, knowing that when he plays them in front of me I will start dancing around the room like a fool. Joy!

I bought a french press over the weekend. I love the fact that it's purely mechanical, and I can really hand-make my coffee in the morning. I realized that my coffee addiction is a drain on my wallet, especially because I can't say no to those fancy coolatta frappuccino drinks, which are not good for my finances or my waistline. So now I'll go the handmade way, which is my favorite way to go.

Monday, June 16, 2008

mary mary quite contrary

This is my garden plot! It's about 4'x4.5', bordered by the wooden walls on 3 sides and a string on the fourth side. On the left of the picture you can see my row of bell pepper plants and then a row of cucumber plants, both bought at Home Depot. Then there are two taller tomato plants in a row of zucchini seeds, and on the far right is a row of zinnias that are just starting to sprout. So exciting! I'm going to try to track the progress every week as things start to grow!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

a change in slope

My little sunflower sproutlet dried up and died today in the scorching Boston sun. I came home around 8pm today to find it shriveled up and broken off of its roots. No chance for recovery on that one!! Oh boo, my first casualty. Yesterday evening, along with the sunflower, I also planted some zucchini seeds and some zinnia seeds. My plot is mostly full of vegetable plants, which are obviously utilitarian, but I couldn't resist having just one row of lovely flowers! Pops of color! My mom is officially my long-distance gardening consultant, and she is full of tips and infinite knowledge. Best mom ever.

In other news today, my experiment sort of partially worked! I revamped the little furnace I was using, carefully crafting a sample stage from misshapen blocks of crumbly white insulation and a small plate of silicon carbide, which is the opposite of the insulation blocks when it comes to machinability. To cut the silicon carbide, you have to slowly abrade the material with a spinning diamond blade, which is slow and noisy, while the mullite insulation will slice with a utility knife like a stick of butter. Anyway, after almost giving up hope on ever succeeding with this experiment, I finally measured something - something that is different from nothing. So this is a step in the right direction, although probably only one step down a path that will require about fifty more. Anyway, small success of the week. High five!

Monday, June 9, 2008

getting dirty in the dark

Okay, get your mind out of the gutter, that's not what I meant. ;) I am referring to the little mini-plants I just transplanted into my portion of the garden plot at 9:30pm! There aren't really any lamps near the community garden, so I put on my headlamp to dig around in the plot and tuck in the little plant babies in their new home. I made a row of cucumber plants and a row of bell peppers. The next free evening I get, I will plant some zucchini, lettuce, and zinnia seeds. Yay I am so excited! I'd better remember to water them so they don't all die!! The other gardeners' plots in the garden are amazingly vibrant, full of leafy greens thriving in miniature farms. I'm just crossing my fingers for one edible bell pepper, and I will be a happy girl!

The weather is ridiculously hot and humid, an abrupt reminder that we live in New England. We've had the mildest spring ever, and we were duped into longing for warmer weather, only to be smothered with this humidity. Air-conditioners appeared in windowsills left and right. I'm still holding out for mine - as long as I can sleep at night with my fan running, I will do so.

Monday, June 2, 2008

going greener

Yay! I finally have some dirt in the Squirrel Brand Community Garden! I live right across the street from it, and when I realized that spring was indeed coming, I applied for a plot, only to be told I was at the end of a huge waitlist. But I was added to the garden's google group, and I've learned that it's full of active and enthusiastic gardeners from the neighborhood. I've now moved up to #6 on the waitlist, but today a plot opened up that will be shared amongst everyone on the waitlist! Only 4 of us responded to the email, so it looks like we get to decide what to do with the 10' x 10' plot of dirt. Right now it is full of turned but hard soil, and another girl sharing the plot and I decided to work on removing some of that soil to replace with compost or peat moss, and build some raised beds for our vegetables. I am so excited! I have been growing little seedlings in empty yogurt and sour cream cups around my apartment in the windowsills, which get very limited light, but I am so thrilled that some of them have sprouted! I should have labeled each cup, because now I sort of forget which is which. It will be a surprise! I walked around the garden to check out other people's plots, and some of them are amazing and exciting. Tons of lettuce and spinach and other deliciously leafy things. It seems like the garden community is full of really friendly and helpful people. I'm so excited!