Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thrills and weeding

Thursday evening Fred and I arrived home from being the only NJ participants at the first International Conference on Ethnomathematics (ICEM-4) held in the U.S., which was a WONDERFUL experience with people from 20 countries.

However, as we drove down Grove Street, I felt a thrill of how beautiful Montclair is. There was another thrill as we turned onto Gordonhurst, and, of course, several as I became reacquainted with my garden after a week away. I feel lucky to live in northern NJ for the beauty!

I had thought that my bush beans were ready to pull when I left and was contemplating what I would do with that choice spot in front of my greenhouse window. Lo and behold! When I arrived home, there were little beans on most of the plants. A whole new crop!

One more zucchini plant had bit the dust, but there are three left, and all seem to be thriving.
The small tomatoes were abundant, although one neighbor said he had picked some when we were gone, as he had permission to do. We picked and ate our first large tomato last evening. I had to take a photo of it between those activities because it was SIX INCHES across. Now, that is a big tomato!

The peppers are coming along. We are enjoying them in salads, but they aren't abundant enough yet for freezing. (I just wash them, cut them in pieces, and put them in a ziplock bag in the kitchen freezer for winter stir-fries with the fresh greens from our cold frame.)

Our first dinner back was pesto. Yum! Very little basil has died, but national warnings about basil blight make me wary. It should be eaten or frozen as it becomes available, especially this year.

I was happy to spot several eggplant flowers, and then saw my first purple eggplant. It was over an inch in diameter, not to eat this week, but full of promise. Then I couldn't find it for two days. Did I imagine it? No, this evening it was there again. This time I won't forget where my first fresh eggplant parmesan dinner of 2010 is coming from.

One of my cucumber plants has died, but the other seems to be thriving and has a couple juvenile cucumbers. I still have some in the frig from before the trip.

The second crop of raspberries is abundant, but not ripe.

Friday morning I noticed that a neighbor had left two bags of grass clippings on the curb. Big thrill! My neighbors are catching onto the fact that there are better uses for grass clippings, so finding them is always exciting these days. The weather has been delightful for mulching and weeding, and the yard certainly needed it. I've spent lots of time outside in the past three days. About sundown this evening I placed the last of those two bags.

I'm not devoted to neatness, but this year's weeds have been trying even my tolerance of mess. Furthermore, those super-hot days had me carefully rationing my outdoor time to early morning and dusk. At my age and health one doesn't want to run more risks than necessary. But the recent weather can only be good for health, don't you think? I have enjoyed watching the property become more suburban, as I weed, weed, weed, and mulch those empty spots so the weeds won't return. Maybe.


P.S. Ethnomathematics is the study of the interface between math and culture. Many people at ICEM-4 had been studying how math is used and learned in various cultures with the hope of enriches all our lives, promoting world peace, and inspiring youngsters in those cultures to learn more math. I learned about masons in Portugal, bus conductors in India who keep all the records for a day in their heads without a machine or writing, and weaving in many parts of the world with a remarkable variety of social connotations.
The most amazing report to me was a young woman in Hawaii who has learned the ancient navigation art that the Polynesians used thousands of years ago to cris-cross the Pacific Ocean. They had no written language but did sophisticated trigonometry in their heads! In our own culture people have been studying the informal math of street children. The researcher from South Africa says he is fluent in 6 of their 11 official languages, and can speak 4 of the others somewhat.


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