The Latest Dirt
July/August 2016 Newsletter for the Master Gardener Association of the Central Rappahannock Region (MGACRA)
MGACRA representatives presented a $200 check at Master Gardener College for the VMGA Coordinators Endowment Fund.
MASTER GARDENER PARTY (COLLEGE) 2016
By Kelley Gaske
(Master Gardener Kelley Gaske wrote this first-person account for MGACRA’s July 2016 newsletter, “The Latest Dirt,” following Master Gardener College held in late-June in Blacksburg, on the campus of Virginia Tech.)
Anyone who knows me knows that I really don’t like to leave the county. I mean, why travel when everything you need is right here – food, friends, fun, my dog Rita and five cats? So every time Linda Kline calls or e-mails and says “you just have to go to this and that – you cannot miss it!” I cringe just a little at the thought of a long drive to . . . a lecture. Part of the reason I hate leaving home (especially without husband) is that you never know what you’re walking into. Words like “shuttle” and “walking distance” scare the boogers out of me – who’s going to lug my luggage and bedding? How will I find my way? More importantly, how will I find my way back? I sometimes get lost in South Stafford!!!
After my four-hour drive to Blacksburg, I arrived at the parking lot destination where I was to abandon my independence (car) and submit to the shuttle (panic!), half a dozen people were immediately surrounding me to help me take my gear to the covered area to wait for the shuttle (the “wait” lasted about a minute). Those same people loaded my stuff for me into the van and gave me a cold water for the journey. OK, so maybe my pack mule, I mean husband, can take the day off! Another group of Master Gardener volunteers was at the other end – helping me unload my gear, get checked in, and carry everything to my room. Seriously. You don’t get this kind of service at most hotels!
Then there was the room. I had heard horror stories of un-air conditioned dorms and other gross things so I was prepared for the worst. But the room was really nice – clean, newer carpet, tiled shower with a strip of glass tiles for décor, shelves to put things on, a desk to work at with a nice office chair, and so on. Again, besides the mattress which was lined in plastic (for obvious reasons – college students are gross), we are on the scale of a hotel. Ok, fine – you could read the newspaper through the towels, as Clara said, but the room was really nice! I was feeling gross and funky when I arrived, so Clara donated a daub of her “Happy” oil (which may or may not be legal) and when I looked at the tube like I wasn’t going to be able to figure out how it worked, Linda slathered it on me and I was fit to be fried like chicken. A lot of Happy oil goes a long way – I quickly found even stories of other people’s IBS endearing!
The first evening was just arrival, so Linda, Clara, Deloris, and I toured the campus and the Hahn Gardens—beautiful! They kept me out way too late and I was exhausted! Blacksburg is not only beautiful but it’s also in the mountains (or on a mountain?) – so there’s *NO* humidity! For those of you who live near a swamp like I do, did you hear me when I said *NO* humidity? Has anyone ever experienced a summer day without disgusting humidity? How about four in a row? The weather was phenomenal and made the whole experience even better!
Saturday morning our classes started and I mean to tell you that we had talks and discussions on everything from cut flowers and soil quality to wetlands and water quality! We learned so much from experts in the field! Do you know the difference between heritage and heirloom plants? Do you know why the water level is rising (the complete answer is more complicated than you may think!)? Do you know what your well cap should look like and what types of water tests you need to do for a private well? Do you know an older man named George who only wears plaid bottoms? I do! And I got all that from Master Gardener College!
While the classes were amazing, the people were even better! We met Master Gardeners from all over the state who are involved in all kinds of projects! Did you know that there is one MG region that funds an endowment to send one student each year to Virginia Tech for a full year? What?! I almost fell out of my chair! Did you know that VMGA, which is separate from our regional MG unit, serves to fund an endowment (now valued at over $300,000) to fund the MG Coordinator in the event that the state pulls funding? As a Master Gardener, that should be important to you!
Did you know that Linda Kline received an Achievement Award for 3,000 hours of service?! – only to be one-upped by newbie (to our region) Frank Reilly with his 21,000 hours – what a show-off! I and my 53 hours sat in a corner twiddling our thumbs and whistling . . . although the girls did present me with my own tiara for getting my 50 volunteer hours so quickly!
The classes and people were awesome, but did I mention the food? We were like cows to the trough all day long – breakfast at 7:15 am (they had everything you can imagine and much of it was made to order!), lunch at noon, and dinner at 5:15pm. Food was everything you can imagine and whatever you want – Italian, Asian, Mexican, sandwiches, vegetarian, vegan, salads, cereals, desserts, ice cream, beverages of all kinds – and it was all delicious (except for that tilapia, but what’s one fish out of an ocean of food)!
In between actual meals, the Master Gardener volunteers laid out ten or twelve (or more?) tables of snacks and beverages so we were never hungry! Also, on Sunday night, there was a catered dessert bar with glamorous finger desserts – key lime pies, custards, cheesecakes with drunken strawberry sauce, and a cash bar!
Sunday night was the VMGA meeting where new officers were inducted and I learned a lot about what’s going on in the VMGA. There are a lot of educational and volunteer opportunities through VMGA – if you haven’t signed up yet, get on over to their website, pay your $10, and be a member! But the biggest take-home from the meeting wasn’t just the work these folks do, but it was the way they do it – we laughed through the entire meeting! There was no bickering, no calls to order, no weirdness, just people working together, doing it well, and having fun! What an inspiring group! After all day Saturday and Sunday, I was exhausted.
I was signed up to do tours on Monday, but those Master Gardeners literally wore me out! I left Monday morning, with Master Gardener volunteers lugging my stuff for me, and met my family in Crozet for my son’s bike camp where I promptly threw myself on the hillside during lunch and took a nap. Geriatric Master Gardeners -1, Kelley – 0 (I may have lapped the lady in her 80s with a walker, but she stayed longer than I stayed!). 2016 is going to be devoted to physical training so I can keep up next year – I hope to see you all there so there are plenty of people to bail the others out of jail when we get into mischief!
A Master Gardener Friend . . .
* is never embarrassed if you don’t brush your hair, put on make-up, or know the name of a plant.
* will never leave you alone to ride the shuttle with your oversized plant purchase late at night – you don’t even need to ask them to stay with you, they just will.
* will always promote you and lift you up – even if you only have 53 volunteer hours.
* won’t mind if you give them bunny ears in a formal picture because, let’s face it, she would do the same to you if she were tall enough to be in the back row.
* will be overjoyed to spend MG College weekend with you and understanding when you leave early because you can’t keep up with the old(er) people.
* won’t mind if you wear the same pants three days in a row.
* will always be punctual – unless she is in “the library”.
* will chastise you for picking lavender every time you walk by a lavender bed, but will never report you to the authorities.
* will kindly loan you her sweater when you don’t bring your own even though you were explicitly reminded many times that you would need one.
* will carefully view your two-hornet-stung ankle and then tell you to walk it off in the garden.
* will carry your box of plants across campus for you, but she will likely draw the line at the three flights of stairs near the end of the walk.
* is the best find of the decade – and they only cost a wink and a smile!