Sunday, August 26, 2007

I'll give you a ticket

Call me a nerd, call me silly, roll your eyes.... but git yer grammer right! :)
Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

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If you don't pass this test with at least an 80%, go back to school!

PS. I'm also a bona fide member of the Word Police. I have tickets and I know how to use them....

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Chardon Arts Festival 2007

Chardon, Ohio, is one of those small Midwest towns that is holding fast to some of the elements that make such towns charming: an historic courthouse, a real downtown square lined with locally-owned shops, and events that mark it as a fun destination. There's a maple sugar festival each spring, and for the last 27 years there's been an arts festival in the summer.

I've been to a number of arts festivals and they vary a lot -- with anything from crafts and a flea-market feel to high quality, professional art (with prices to match). I wasn't sure where the Chardon Arts Festival would fall on that line; it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. There were a wide variety of art forms represented with very good to excellent quality, and prices that the more casual collector could afford, although those who wanted to spend a lot certainly could. And it was fun, and full of home-town atmosphere.

I liked a number of the vendors present but especially appreciated the work of Diane Castle Babcock. She does linoleum block prints, something you don't see often any more, and she does them well. I spent some time looking at her work before making the rounds of the rest of the festival, then backtracked to visit her booth again. This is the result:


She has a number of prints that I liked, but this one was in my budget (well, actually, being unemployed, *nothing* is in my budget, but this one was at the lower end of the price range of her work and I splurged). She makes beautiful block prints, primarily nature scenes, using the reduction method of printing. More about her work and the process she uses can be found here. Quite by coincidence, the print I chose is featured on her home page. She does lovely work and I plan to purchase more of her prints in the future. If you like block prints, give her website a visit. I like to support art and her work is well worth it.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Gourds!


I started gardening with my dad when I was 3 -- we would carefully sow a row each of marigolds, sweet alyssum, zinnas, and snapdragons. I followed my mom around and "helped" her plant dianthus and pansies each fall so they could bloom in the spring (which dates me -- now they grow pansies as annuals but when I was young they were grown as biennials. Anyone remember that? Then you're as old as I am!).

Since then, I've had countless gardens and grown countless plants. But not that many gourds. I've grown the cute little fall ornamental gourds but that's it. This year, although I have almost no ground in which to garden, I decided to grow birdhouse gourds. Big, wandering plants with big gourds. Why did I pick a large, aggressive plant when I have so little space? Initially, I was going to plant them on trellises erected to give privacy from the road that runs right by the patio, but after little reading I realized that the plants would most likely be too heavy for the trellises. So much for that idea. Instead, they were planted along a stone and wood fence. Truthfully, I was all for giving them away since I weren't going to use them as planned, but decided to give them a chance anyway.

They've turned out to be an unexpected delight. The vines are gorgeous, lush and vigorous. The tendrils are adorable. And even the flowers are cool!

When I was reading I learned that sometimes they need hand pollination, so I anxiously awaited the opening of the first female flowers (the male flowers begin blooming first).

  • male flower -- if you look close, you can see the pollen around the anthers and on the throat of the flower
Finally, females! the first few female flowers found me outside in the morning, before the flowers closed, hand pollinating.

  • female flower with stigmas waiting for pollen

  • female flower showing ovary behind the flower -- shaped like a tiny gourd. An unopened male flower is in the background; note that it lacks the gourd-shaped ovary.
I carefully tied a bright piece of yarn around each pollinated flower so I could watch its progress. Hand pollination is a good project if you like almost-instant gratification -- within 24 hours I could see that the pollen had found its way down into the ovary and the fruit was growing. And they grow and grow and grow -- it's great fun to watch them and see the changes. And of course, it wasn't long before we realized that hand pollination wasn't needed: the insects were doing their work and pollinating plenty of flowers. I am the proud parent of gourds! Lots of 'em!

The vines are growing along the top of a stone wall, weaving in and out of the wood fence that's on top of the stone. Right now they're about 30 feet long and still growing and trying to climb anything they can get their tendrils around (I've been in a gentle battle to keep them off the garden hose).


They're gorgeous, they're fun, and I can't wait to see how many gourds I get and how they turn out!