Reality Check

•October 7, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This year, October is a particularly stressful month for me, of the four weekends that occupy this month, only this first one is free. For the next three weeks I will be constantly busy between school, traveling for break and my photography class, and the workload that I already have.

This next week I have regular classes, along with our first Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) show come the weekend; this mixed with chore weekend. the show is a home show, which means that the weekend will be early mornings (about 5) and late nights (probably 8:30 or so) both Saturday and Sunday. This in addition to chore weekend, which is where a group of equestrian students are required to clean the 70-ish stalls of the horses that are used in the equine program. not only do I have to help clean the stalls, but I have to organize chores and be 1000% sure everything gets done the way it’s supposed to, or have my butt hung out to dry.

The week after comes Mid-term break, (18th – 21) during which I will be traveling to visit my boyfriend for 3 1/2 days, and traveling for two days besides that. Which will be nice, though I’ll be doing homework and the likes to (maybe?) get ahead or at least stay where I need to be.  The  following weekend of the 27th/28th I’ll be traveling to Yellowstone again with my photography class. It will be a nice reprieve and change of pace, but I hope to be able to find time to read and work on my other classes as well.

In spite of all this upcoming stress, it has occurred to me that I haven’t been doing much with this blog, and i think I am going to start posting some of the writings that I have done in my Creative Non-Fiction writing class. So there shall be some interesting things to read in the future!

Here’s to hoping the stress won’t kill me.

Tree Growth!

•July 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Earlier this summer I had been doing some digging around online, learning about bonsai trees. What I found was almost too much information to take in all at once. One of the things I learned about was that people go out and collecting trees from different places in nature. Having a small woods in my backyard, and a few other places I could go locally, I decided to try it. I have met with success with several trees, and have not had enough know-how to keep a few others alive.There is one tree in particular that I have really been making an effort to keep alive. This particular tree is the one from this post, and had an incredible nebari. the problem with this tree was that two weeks after I brought it home and potted it, its leaves dried up and dropped. It lost all but 1/2 of a leaf. I found it all quite disconcerting and extremely discouraging.

Then, a miracle of life happened. The tree started putting out new buds. After being so terribly afraid that instead of having a green thumb, I had a black thumb and would kill off an plant I had in my charge. Then, one morning I went outside to do my morning check on the trees and found buds growing on the tree! Here is a picture of the buds a couple of days after I initially noticed them.

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New bud growth on the oldest tree I have

This was an incredible relief, and by the end of the month of July there were numerous new branches growing and new leaves budding. The next step was to be able to get it to Montana when I left for school.

Getting Older and Not Growing Up

•June 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This past spring I had my twenty first birthday. It was fun enough, granted it landed on a Thursday, so class was in the morning. However, I am not writing about my birthday; a write about birthdays and getting older.

I’ve been home for several weeks now, and I was buying contact solution in CVS when it occured to me that I’m really still getting older. The things that had brought this on was a glance behind the counter at all the cigaretts and what have you and it registering in my mind that, if I were a smoker, I am old enough to buy tobacco products… and I have been for some time. For several months now, I have been able to buy alcohol too. I don’t feel any older than I did several years ago.

It’s a peculiar thing, realizing as you inspect yourself that you don’t feel any different. You realize the stereotypes (21= party is on, 18 = voting, tobbacco products, 16 = I can drive!) aren’t really meaningful because they aren’t entirely true. What hits me the hardest is the question that followed this entire epiphany. Is this what adults feel like? They go through life and as birthdays go by, they all of a sudden realize that they don’t feel different.

Does this make me an adult now? If so…well shit. I don’t even know what to think about this. Although, I do have to say, that I am pretty happy with the direction that I am going in. If anything, I have become much more of a nerd and dork than I ever was before. This is coming from the person who ran around on all fours as a child…through a hotel in Washington D.C. I find, as I look back, that as each year passes I have grown more into a nerd and become less normal. I want to do more things like play video games, read books, comic books, write, be on the internet, and become a fan who is no longer normal because of how into the story/world I get.  I read somewhere that contrary to belief, imagination becomes broader as a person matures.

I am okay with ALL of this.

Bonsai Adventures

•June 16, 2012 • 2 Comments

I have said in previous posts that I have recently started getting into the art of bonsai trees. At the end of May I recently took my dog, Zoey, for a walk in the small prairie that is a part of the elementary school there. I went to school there as a kid and have many memories of school days spent in the prairie. Thus, in a pondering and adventerous mood, my boyfriend, Zoey, and I all embarked on a walk around the prairie. In the prairie there is an old ancient tree of some sort that has always been there.  Alas, this old tree is old enough that it is slowly dying, it’s begun to rot, and is still living in a few other parts.

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The old ancient tree of the prairie.

A few days later I returned with my parents and Zoey for another evening walk. It was this second time that I walked up to the tree and noticed something  about the ancient tree that I hadn’t noticed before. It had trees sprouting in the crux where the main trunk split. These trees, one in particular I noticed, had a particularly intriguing shape and nebari (root system) that could be seen. What really perked my interest was how the tree had grown naturally and had two things that many bonsai gardeners aim for – an interesting but natural shape, and what seemed to be a good, solid root system.

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The trees growing in on the elder tree, where the trunk split.

Since I am determined to have my bonsai trees, I decided that at some point, I would add this tree with the amazing looking roots to my collection (it is the one nearer in the picture below). Unfortunately, as can be seen a bit in the picture above, there are a few brown spots on the leaves; some  which seem to be from dehydration, others perhaps from insects. I’m hoping that with time and proper watering and nutrients it will retain the good, healthy leaves that it has and the bits of the shriveling leaves that it can. Mostly I hope these dying leaves are largely due to the extremely hot and dry weather we have been having this spring and summer. While nothing can restore the dead parts of the leaves, I hope that perhaps what’s living will remain alive for the rest  of this year.

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The visible root systems of the two young trees.

A few of the first trees that I decided I liked enough to attempt to bonsai I was unscrupulous and barely dug many of the roots out of the ground before pulling the rest of the major root system with little thought to the matter. In several trees, this resulted in their dying, and after the first one died, I realized my mistake. With this tree, I wanted to get as much of the roots as possible. I carefully chipped away at the wood around the main roots, trying to see where they went and if it would be possible to dig them out. Many of the lateral roots went deep into the tree and I had to cut them in order to loose the tree. Once I got the tree loose, it was just a matter of carefully finding where the smaller roots needed to be dug out and pulled free. Once it was free, the roots got sprayed down, I collected a bit more of the decaying part of the tree on which my new bonsai tree grew. As I had packed everything up, I noticed a smaller tree that seemed like it was a small tree instead of a new bud. I tried to gently pull it out of the decaying wood of its elder, and met with success. I managed to get all of the main roots and the smaller ones that had just begun to grow.  So, I packed the trees, tools, dog, and myself in the car and we returned home where the wood on which they had been growing was mixed with some new soil and they were re-potted.

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The root system of the older tree in the new pot.

i’m afraid this is a terribly awkward angle to have taken the picture from, but I liked he accent that the patch of moss added to the base of the tree.Below is pictured the tree in its entirety.When I had just gotten the tree loosed from its roots, I realized how lengthy it was, I cut off the uppermost part of it to shorten it a bit, while leaving as many of the leaves as I could. It is still too tall for a bonsai tree, but the refinement will have to wait till next spring, when it is ready to sprout new growth again.

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The older of the two trees I took to bonsai.

I plan to cut the upper half of the leafy branches off come spring next year to encourage the tree to grow new shoots off the lower part of the trunk. After that I will probably leave it to grow; depending, of course, on where the new branches come in. all in good time.

Below is the small tree that I pulled out at the last minute before I left the prairie. It has an interesting shape for a tree its size. As small as it is, I’m guesstimating that it is at least 2-3 years old. I guess this  because of how hard the outer bark is. I’ve been enlightened recently to the fact that deciduous trees get their hardened bark from weathering through cold winters.

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The younger tree in it’s new pot

There are definitely a few branches that will need to come off. One is too low for my liking right now, and another comes down at a peculiar angle and dips below the branch below it. However, again, this will all wait until next spring. Largely I feel it is getting significantly late in the growing season to be doing much pruning, so I will be patient and allow these trees to settle and root into their new pots.

 

Being Writerly

•May 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

One of the hardest things to do in life, as far as I have experienced it, is to decide on a major when you reach college. One of the biggest mistakes I made going into college was fooling myself into thinking that I already knew what I wanted to do. Thankfully, this mistake and a great professor were my saving grace.

As I went through high school and my first year and a half of college I always thought that I was going to be a biology major because it was my second biggest interest. I love science. It is definite, and can usually find a way to answer my two favorite questions: why and how?  It can explain so many of my questions about how things work and function.

This last spring semester I realized that I really didn’t like the thoughts that were behind the reasoning behind my biology major. These consisted of vet school, classes that I look at written on paper and found myself dreading, and the (dreaded) idea of being on call at all hours of the day. I forgot about some of my other interests, like writing.

All of this controversy started fall semester with a phenomenal professor that I had for an upper level literature class. He is one of very few professors that I have met that make class enjoyable. This particular class was literature and the environment, and although I find that topic interesting to begin with  – a good professor takes an interesting topic and transforms it into something that a student wants to think about. In  addition to having to analyze the videos and stories that we read, it was expected that our papers be grammatically correct. Not in the typical “I just wrote this twenty minutes before class and you(the professor) understand what I am trying to say so I still get an A” way, but in the formal, entirely correct way.  Every sentence was to be clear and correct in its entirety. Many of my peers hated this professor because of how he went through papers with a fine tooth comb when it came to grammar; I loved him for it.

For the first time in a long time I found myself motivated to write again. This was not only because I wanted to get a good grade in his class but because what he said about grammar made sense. For the first time in years, I would look at a sentence, read it and it felt beautiful. I realized in spring semester, during a different class with him, that what I really love about writing is how beautiful language can be. I’m not referring to the way that poems are written, or stories told. I am referring to the structure of the sentence. How each word frames itself around other words. How beautiful words are. Alone, they are meaningless. Repeat the same word for 30 seconds and the meaning behind it begins to lose its definition; the image associated with the word becomes blurred. When words are put together…they create something beautiful. Something alive.

It was this poetic thought process that made me fall in love with writing again. At the time that all of this realization was happening, I was a biology and equine studies major. I was all about hard facts. The facts said that I had no room to pursue anything that had to do with writing. My school offers a creative writing major. Here began my conflict between choosing a major.

As I stated earlier, I have always had a fondness for biology because it explained how things work. However, with writing, I could create things however I want them to be. Straight out of my imagination. I love the concept of being able to create worlds where things can run as differently and obscurely as I want them to. My professor added to this affinity for writing by refueling the fire that gives me muse to come up with the language to communicate these ideas to other people. Torn by my fondness of both, I had to decide on which path I wanted to follow. Creativity, or facts.

I gnawed on my thoughts about each for several weeks before making my final decision. When I came down to my final decision I looked at a list of the required classes for each major. Under the biology major included chemistry, evolution, organic chemistry, physics and several others. Under the creative writing major were Imaginative writing, journalism, modern fiction and several others. I looked back an forth between the list of required classes several times. I looked down the list of science courses and as my eyes dropped from the name of one class to the next, the ball of dread in the pit of my stomach grew a little more. Looking down the list of literature and writing classes there was a little excitement and a feeling of interest. At that point in time, I decided that I would much rather be a creative writing major so I could honestly enjoy the classes I was taking. Needless to say, I was happy with my choice. Elated, even. Despite the fact that I wasn’t really entirely sure what I was going to do with my creative writing.

As time has gone on, I have not regretted my choice, in fact, I am still glad that I choose the way I did. The one thing that I have noticed, however, is that I don’t seem very writerly. When I think of a writer, I see someone who is very expressive, neat, and flatteringly dressed (while still remaining comfortable). Aside from this mental image of a writerly person, I feel a writer should be not only good with words but also aware of writerly things. Like awards…particularly the ones that have to do with the area of writing that they might be interested in.

I was talking with my boyfriend and his younger brother when the mention of awards came into conversation. I have never been one to follow or watch awards when they are presented because I have never understood the purpose of awards very much. However, when mention of fantasy awards came around, such as the Hugo Award, or the World Fantasy Award (these of which I only know of because they came up in conversation); it occurred to me that, as a writer, I should probably know about these things. I think I need to do some research.

Bonsai

•May 27, 2012 • 2 Comments

Bonsai trees have fascinated me for a long time. Years. I have always been enchanted with their small size, tiny leaves, natural look, and how vigorously alive they appear. This past Christmas my parents gifted me with my first ever Bonsai tree. It was a Shrub Cherry, a tropical plant that flowered in the spring. Unfortunately after being in their care, where it was (most likely) over watered, and then being taken on an airplane to a dry, high altitude climate, it died. After doing hoards of research to get a better idea of how to care for my new little friend, I was devastated when I finally proclaimed it dead. It had dropped all of its leaves, shriveled and died. As much as the problems had began with my parents, they had ended with me. As I had learned more about my tree, I learned why it had died – numerous things that were found were adding to my checklist. I didn’t plan to get another bonsai anytime soon. After all, I just killed them.

I forgot, though, how enraptured I was with these little trees, and they sprang back into my mind again and again. When I came home for the summer, I couldn’t help but think about trying again. With a new tree…or trees. After all, I did live with a small deciduous forest in my back yard, and a bonsai tree can be any tree. So, the picture that formed in my mind was a mixture of fantasy and reality. I wanted to bonsai a forest of the trees where I grew up. Make my own version of the forest from home. In my final vision, I’d have a big, mature looking oak tree in the center of my pot of trees. Surrounding it, and slightly smaller would be Maple trees, a handful of Sasafrass trees, and a Cherry tree or two. Maybe someday I’d add something else in there too, but the major ones for me were the Sasafrass trees.

My fondness of Sasafrass trees stems from a memory of my father teaching me about trees when I was little. I would constantly be playing outside, and he would be busy doing yard work or gardening. he taught me about many trees and how to tell them apart. He told me that root beer was made from Sasafrass trees. I didn’t believe him. The he broke a branch and I could smell the Root beer smell. I was so amazed that they have been my favorite kind of tree ever since.

So, as I gnawed on this idea of having my own “forest” of trees from where I grew up, the more I wanted to start again with my bonsai learning. I hunted around the woods and found several saplings growing here and there. I dug them up and transplanted them into pots, thinking that I knew enough to try to make it work. As they were wilting by the end of the day, I was concerned and discouraged, and so I scoured the internet for more information. Apparently, Sassafras trees are incredibly hard trees to bonsai. They don’t like having their roots trimmed, don’t take well to being transplanted (my experience) and will constantly threaten to die on you (also my experience). very few people have tried to bonsai Sassafras trees with little success. Thankfully, I did enough right, that they are still alive, and I also have some other types of trees to take care of as well that aren’t so finicky as my Sassafras friends.

Two of these are young Oak trees, probably about 4 or 5 years old, that I dug up from a field behind a friend’s house. they are doing reasonably well. Especially considering that I wasn’t sure what to do with them at first, so I kind of abandoned them. This resulted in them being defoliated and still alive so far.

I have a handful of Sassafras trees, only one of which is thriving. the others are still alive and starting to put out new buds, but also trying to wilt and die on me. Being a stubborn and persistent person, I think I am succeeding in keeping them alive to the point where they will not die on me this summer. I also have three more saplings that I want to transplant to a different part of the woods to let them field grow for a few years. I also have a more mature tree that I have plans for. I might write more on them another time.

Two more are young maple trees. The younger one I transplanted and did everything wrong, and it is still thriving for me. The older one I just transplanted earlier today, and i thin kit is going to be a marvelous bonsai tree. It was growing next to a massive Cherry tree and all of its leaves are facing one direction as a result. It has been transplanted, pruned, and placed facing west, on the east side of the house so it will start to balance out as it grows though the rest of this season.

So this is my newest addition to my Bonsai collection before pruning and after transplanting it into its new home.

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Before pruning

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Comparing leaf size

There were lots of large leaves on it. The largest were about the size of my hand.

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After pruning

This is the little maple after it has been pruned a bit. All the largest leaves were taken off. the leaves that are still on it are still too large for a bonsai tree, but considering how large the others were, I am okay with them for this year. I don’t want to traumatize it too much at once. I am also not sure which branches I am going to try to keep yet. We will see how well it takes to its new home.

Life’s Dilemmas

•May 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

So under most circumstances, I would say that I love college exponentially. However, in my current predicament, I hate college. It forces me to make life choices that I simply don’t want to make. First decision: Equine Major. Check. Second decision: Biology or Creative Writing major? ….this is my dilemma. How on Earth do I decide? Flip a coin? Every time I attempt to think through it logically it comes down to the same thought, I can’t choose. As I think about my future, my only thought is that I will regret not doing whichever decision that I didn’t choose. How do I remedy this?

In contemplating a biology major: It would be in relation to horses, and also bring in my farrier skills that are, at the moment, extremely rusty. With my biology major, there is the potential that I would/could wind up in vet school…not sure how I feel about that. At the moment, I don’t particularly like the thought.

As for the Creative Writing Major: It would allow me to pursue a way to establish, explain and express all of the imaginative worlds that I somehow manage to come up with in my head. If I’m lucky, I’d be able to write my own book or series and have a total hit. That would be awesome. I suppose that it would also coincide with my Equine major in such a way that I could write articles for an Equine magazine if I needed the money. Or whatever.