Sunday, June 06, 2010

Belly Dancing and Container Gardening

The two topics seem to have very little in common, but they're helping to remedy my guilty conscience for having not stuck to the actual title and purpose of this blog: Experiential Learning. Lately our posts have revolved around what we do -- and have lost focus on what we are learning from it.

When I got back from the Peace Corps and transferred to Seattle I wanted to maintain periodic postings for the sake of documenting what was happening and what I was learning from it. This was easier when everything was new, but more and more I'm noticing that Seattle is feeling familiar, comfortable and normal. This was definitely not an immediate change, but it occurred to me last weekend when the Folk life Festival was happening just two blocks away and I didn't feel a pressing desire to stop by because I had "been there, done that" last year. That's when I realized how nice it was to feel relaxed and at home in this town, and yet how much I needed to spice things up for the sake of lifelong learning and for the readers of this blog.

Enter belly dancing and container gardening.

I have tried to cancel my gym membership. I would trade an outdoor run along the Sound* any day over some smelly weights and hard-breathing body builders. 24 Hour Fitness makes it difficult so for some reason I can't 'quit' until July. I was going to fight this extension until I found out there was going to be a weekly belly dancing class taught on Thursdays. I immediately committed myself to one class out of curiosity. Believe it or not, belly dance is a non-impact, weight-bearing exercise that I hear is actually good for the prevention of osteoporosis. Most moves involve isolations that help make my torso more flexible and my legs are strengthened by hip movements. The gym offers it as a workout, I just thought it was fun. I looked ridiculous but fortunately there were only three other girls in my class this week. I left feeling strangely empowered by my new exercise. I'll definitely be back this week.

Today our neighborhood association sponsored a container gardening class for the community. I wasn't too thrilled about the time, but we rearranged our schedules and went to evening church so I could learn how to grow summer vegetables in our corner apartment. I've been curious about the entire process ever since I saw my cousin Jess' beautiful container garden last year. I thought I could use some formal training on the topic and I couldn't think of an organization better suited for the job than Seattle Tilth. I learned a great deal about the process of gardening on everything from a balcony to a windowsill. From container size to potting soil, summer seed varieties good for containers, to pest control (eew!) our instructor covered it all.

I'll admit it was very convicting. I've been a horrible gardener thus far. I always try to squeeze my plants into tiny containers and the only soil I've every purchased is orchid dirt from Safeway. I personally like to keep the house at an uncomfortably warm temperature and although I have no problem remembering to change Mortimer's water I always forget that my plants are probably thirsty. The teacher would have been horrified. Now, however, I'm turning a fresh leaf. I understand the value of planting vegetables we plan to eat (aka 'edibles') in healthy soil. I have a chart on what container sizes are needed for every summer vegetable like eggplant to peppers and even annual and perennial herbs. I didn't even know what an aphid was and now I know how to kill them.

Courtesy of Seattle Tilth here are some great suggestions for summer varieties good for containers:
  • Carrots: Short varieties do best. I hope to try Thumbelina
  • Tomatoes: There's a difference between determinate and indeterminate. I'd like to try Sweet Million
  • Eggplants: Small fruiting varieties work best. Wouldn't Slim Jim or Little Fingers be fun?
  • I'm intimidated by poles shooting up from containers in our living room. But if I get really into this I might try beans like Kentucky Wonder (I bet Aunt T would like that one!)
Both of us continue to learn in our own ways. Dominic is a great reader, active podcaster and devout news junkie. I tend to enjoy personal interaction with instructors and hands-on trainings. Seattle... bring on the free classes!

*Last Friday I was amazed to look up on a morning jog and find a bald eagle flying overhead. Most days I just enjoy watching the cruise ships come into port.