Thursday, October 24, 2013

Running an 8K: That Wasn't On the List

No, this didn't turn into a personal fitness blog. But last weekend, I did something out of character. I ran an 8K. That's almost 5 miles. All at once, without stopping.

Don't worry. I haven't completely lost my usual sense of self. I did follow it up with Mexican food and fruit cobbler with ice cream.

After my sister and I ran that 5K on the Fourth of July, we were looking for another good family run. And not far from my dad's house near Springfield, Mo., is the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield.

Wilson's Creek National Battlefield. Public domain photo, National Park Service
The park's nonprofit foundation was organizing a fundraising race on Oct. 19, and it seemed like a great thing to do on a visit to dad's house.

All we had to do was run the battlefield, an honor considering what had happened here before. On that August day over a century and a half ago, 17,000 of our countrymen fought in the beginnings of a war that would consume our nation until Lee's surrender at Appomattox in 1865. One of those soldiers was my great-great-great grandfather, Joseph Young, who fought with the Missouri State Guard and alongside the Confederacy.

So we had family, we had history, we had sisterhood, and we had a new physical challenge, which Dad decided to join. How could we not?

Despite the solemnity of the history there, the battlefield is gorgeous in the fall. The morning was cold, and Team Millsaps drank a lot of coffee. Then Dyan and I proceeded to go to the bathroom sixteen-hundred-and-eleventy times before the starting gun.

Only the starting gun wasn't a gun, but a civil war cannon. Let me repeat that: We started our run to the firing of a Civil War cannon. History geek me could hardly stand the coolness.

I just wanted to finish in under an hour; and I did, at 57:44:8. It's only my third competitive race ever, so I don't feel like I can call myself a runner yet. When do you start owning that label?

This was the inaugural event, and the organizers gave all the runners a participation medal. Y'all can say what you want about participation medals and the decline of American competitiveness. I'm ridiculously proud of that thing. I wanted to wear it to work on Monday, but stopped myself. I may, however, wear it on those days when I need to borrow a little awesome.

More than the medal and the pride of being part of such a great first event, I treasure running with my dad and my sister. We added another personal layer of family history to this particular place, and to our time together. It will always be special.

You can learn more about the Battle of Wilson's Creek at this link. 

The Bloody Hill Run was sponsored the the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Foundation, and you can find out more about their efforts to preserve our nation's history here. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

More Good Dirt

Rough brown pod, seeds like punctuation, silky strands. I found this laying on the soil while digging this weekend. It's a milkweed pod, of asclepias tuberosa, and I've had a few of these plants arrive in my garden this year, uninvited but welcome guests to the garden party. I hope this plain and lovely thing (I think things can be both plain and lovely, at the same time) means more flowers to come. The bright orange flowers are butterfly and hummingbird friendly, something all the best gardens should be.

The bulbs are all in the ground now, taking a long dirt nap until spring. The digging and raking, the weighing in the hands of each small promise to the future before placing them-- it was a welcome break from the summer-long paint project.

This weekend I got the face frames of the two windows getting new storm windows scraped and painted. I took no pictures, because I'm bored of paint photos. Aren't you?

It will be a mad rush to the end of the warm days, but I'm already looking forward to other things--inside projects, baking, sofa, blanket, and coffee.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Giant Clock is Ticking

How did it get to be October? How did it get to be nearly the MIDDLE of October? I'm not sure, but here I am. And the arrival of the box of flower bulbs that I ordered in the spring jolted me into the realization that these crisp days, chilly nights, and marching band practices in the distance (I live close enough to the high school to hear) are numbered.

I don't really have time for anything other than paint scraping right now, but I still welcomed the sight of the cardboard shipping box on the porch. It meant digging in the dirt.

There's a scene in C.S. Lewis' book Prince Caspian, where the Tree People of Narnia eat different kinds of earth for a feast.

I think of it every time I'm gardening, because that is what soil looks like to me-- delicious, chocolatey, rich. Here in my home state we're blessed with dark topsoil and I've never taken it for granted. And even though I'd never be foolish enough eat dirt (not since toddlerhood anyway) and it smells nothing like chocolate, it is one of the best smells under the heavens. There's also some science behind why digging in the dirt makes me feel better. It really is an antidepressant (check this link).

Some gardening books advise digging one small deep hole for each bulb, but that way insanity lies. I dig large shallow trenches to put in masses of bulbs all at once. It's more digging overall, but less time spent.

If anyone wants to know, I order my bulbs from John Scheepers. They are not the cheapest bulb company out there. They are far from the most expensive. But their stuff is really good quality and I've always had really good results and healthy plants from their bulb stock.

Those are some miniature daffodils going in the ground. I'm also adding some scilla into the mix.

Here is the garden bed all put together, with a few starts of lamb's ear that I'd like to grow as a border.

It's a lot of work with the spade, but in the spring I get the reward: 

Wikimedia Commons image

Wikimedia Creative Commons image, by Magnus Manske
I'm moving along with scraping the south side of the house, but I also realize it's unlikely that I will get the entire side done. It means living with a half flesh beige, half green side of the house. Yuck. I'm sure I'll cringe all winter. But it can't be helped, and there is no way my Puritan work ethic streak is going to make me feel guilty for spending my time where and when my children needed me.

Since the photo above was taken, I've gotten the "square" behind the ladder and between the windows done, and will finish the side up to four clapboards above the first-floor windows. Then I'll sand, caulk, and paint. If I run out of warm weather, I'm done. If I have warm days into November (which sometimes happens) I'll do small patches one at a time up into the gable end, as I can.

The siding is in much worse shape on this side:

Once I get it done, the rest of the sides of the house are in much, much better shape. I'm getting the hard part done first. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

I'm ready to wrap up the exterior painting season so I can move inside and do something else for a change. At this point, even housework seems appealing!