I had a lot of fun at the Carolina Yard Gardening School this weekend. If you don't know about it, it's put on by Clemson Extension and the Tri-County Master Gardeners every March. There are two classes, two hands-on workshops, a keynote speaker, gift bags, compost, and lunch, as well as plants and other gardening-related items to for sale.
I volunteered two years ago, and one of my favorite things about it that year was all the free stuff I got to take home - seeds, plants, compost, and even food. I missed it last year at the last minute - the night before I hurt my back, bad enough that I was out of work for close to two weeks. This year was different. I've been out of gardening for most of the past year, for a number of reasons, and I've been pushing myself to get back into it - I worked the Master Gardener office earlier in the week, and I went to a couple of seminars earlier in the year. I knew today might go a long way in reigniting my love of gardening...and I think it did. More than anything else, I enjoyed the people this year.
When I arrived before 7:30am, I didn't have an assigned task, but found work hanging baskets around the building, and helping people with rain barrels they had purchased. Then I was told I was going to help run a powerpoint presentation during the opening segment, "Making It Grow", with Amanda McNulty, Amy Dabbs, Millie Davenport, and Zach Snipes. I'm not usually a fan of being put on the spot like that, at least not with a rehearsal (don't ask me about being a page turner for pianists!), but it turned out to be a no-brainer and it was a lot of fun watching the "show". The rapport among Amy, Amanda, and Millie was fun to watch, and Zach's great too - he's the new kid, literally - very young, and a new agent at the Clemson Extension.
There were a lot of volunteers, so after the first segment, I was able to attend some of the classes and workshops. During the first time slot, it was a toss-up between heirloom gardening and integrated pest management, but the science geek in me won and I went to the "IPM in Your Backyard" that Zach gave. Plant pathology is one of those very dense subjects that take many times hearing to sink in, at least for me, but I've immersed myself in it enough over the past couple of years that I'm starting to get the hang of it.
I sat in on parts of two lectures/workshops - Spring-planted Bulbs and one about creating backyard bird habitats - and then I went to Amanda McNulty's lecture called, "Where de Rice?". It was completely fascinating. It ranged from the link between sickle cell and malaria resistance to rice steamers and division of labor on plantations. I can't say enough about it - she really made my day. The last class I saw was Amy's vermicomposting workshop. I've heard her talk about worm composting a number of times, but I think this was the first real class setting I have been to, and she went into much greater detail than she has in the past. It was very interesting - it's something I would definitely do if I didn't have chickens to feed my kitchens scraps to.
Like I was saying before, it was the people that made today fun for me - Amanda McNulty and her craziness, Amy for just being Amy, Zach and his love of plant pathology, and Millie Davenport and our conversation about our chickens!