The big "bump" occurred over two weeks ago when my father suffered a mild stroke. He was rushed to the hospital and after several days of rehab was recovering quite well, fortunately. However, because this was his second stroke in less than a year, the doctor recommended surgery to clean out the blockage causing the stroke. The surgery was not without risk, but Dad resigned himself to it, preferring that to the alternative of living in fear that another stroke might occur, one with much worse effects than the first two. The surgery went well last Friday, but recovery has been very slow, understandable for someone in his 80's, but slower than Dad had anticipated. He is still in the hospital, and I have been going back and forth nearly every day to visit him for awhile. That is not to say I spend all day at the hospital; no, it's my mother who is there in constant attention. She is truly an amazing woman!
While many things have been put on hold here until he is able to return home, I have managed to keep up with a few activities, including a new venture. A month ago I posted my last ABC post and stated that I wouldn't participate in this weekly meme this time around because I would be too busy on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to post. I didn't mean to create an aura of mystery about my plans, but at the time I was afraid I might find an excuse to chicken out of my plans. A new session of Tai Chi started last week, which means Wednesdays are full with Tai Chi class, lunch with my friend and fellow exerciser, and errands. But the real time commitment is on Tuesdays--I am now enrolled in the Master Gardener program sponsored by our local County Extension.
We have had two classes so far, and already I have learned so much! As a teacher, I was used to taking graduate classes frequently during my career, but this is a whole new ballgame. Our first class was a crash course in Botany, and by the end of the day, my head was spinning with all the new terms I had encountered. However, I can now look at my amaryllis blossom pictured above, and instead of referring to the long "thingies" coming out of its center, I can accurately call them the pistil (the longer all-white "thingy") and the anthers (the yellow tip-thingies) on the ends of the filaments.
Now when someone describes a flower as monoecious (having both male and female flowers separately on the same plant) or dioecious (bearing male flowers and female flowers on separate plants), I actually know what they're talking about! Pinnately compound or palmately compound leaves are also no longer a mystery to me. But I am still a little confused about monocots and dicots . . . Last week's class was about annuals, perennials, and bulbs. I definitely felt more intelligent on this day.
I have wanted to take the Master Gardener class for a few years now, but until this year I was hesitant to make such a huge time commitment. The class meets for ten weeks, every Tuesday from 9 till 4 for a total of over 60 hours of instruction. That is more class time than the average 3-hour college course would require. And then there's the financial commitment, but I realized this was quite a bargain. At a cost of $175, which includes a $95 comprehensive manual, this computes to less than $10 a day. You won't find any college horticulture course with tuition that low!
In addition to the time involved in classwork, there is also the time commitment in volunteer work. Master Gardener trainees are required to put in at least 60 hours of volunteer work before qualifying for the title of Master Gardener. All "newbies" are assigned to a section in the Idea Garden where new annuals from Proven Winners are showcased.
In addition to this section, manned by the trainees, we can also choose to help in other areas of the Idea Garden. There are the Children's Garden, the Sensory Garden, and the Vegetable Garden, among others.
The lush plantings around the perimeter of the Idea Garden are also divided into sections--the East Border, the North Border, and so on. Who knew on my many visits over the past two summers to the Idea Garden with Beckie that I might actually be helping to plant and maintain these beautiful gardens? Although it's a little intimidating to me, we will be working with experienced Master Gardeners who have created the planting plan for each area, so it should be a great learning experience.
Besides working in the Idea Garden, pictured in all the photos above, we also have the choice of volunteering at several community gardens in the area, including a local nursing home and the Juvenile Detention Center. This is the part that concerns me--if I'm spending all this time volunteering in other gardens, will I have time to work on my own? In the end, though, I've realized that even if my garden suffers from some temporary neglect, I am going to gain invaluable experience and knowledge from working with other much more knowledgable gardeners that my own garden will be better off in the long run. And that is the whole reason I signed up for the program--to improve my own knowledge of gardening.
This week's session was supposed to be over soils/fertilizer/compost, but had to be re-scheduled due to dangerous road conditions. Like most of the Eastern half of the United States, we've had another snowstorm with blowing and drifting. I am officially tired of winter now, but the past two days of being housebound have given me a chance to get a few things done, including slowly catching up on blog-reading and preparing this post.
I wish I could get the resident digger to help me with that 10-foot long snowdrift behind my car, but she has been pre-occupied with her new favorite winter pastime . . .
. . . bird-watching. With the snowfall, dozens of birds have been at the feeders outside the living room window all day long. Maybe I'll take a break and join her . . .