David Waterman’s Gardening, Beards for Bloaks, A T101 AIs Life for Me

The Bar Rabbit Ranch

Professor David Waterman spent his childhood in Knoxville, Tennessee, where his father tended a small nursery filled with perennials.  It wasn’t until 20 years later that he started his own garden in the front yard of his Santa Monica, California apartment.  Since living in Bloomington, he has been the caretaker of the Bar Rabbit Ranch, the official name of his home garden.  What first began as a 32-square foot raised bed has since grown to a garden of almost 3000-square feet.

It was the climate change from Santa Monica to Bloomington that took some getting used to.  “I was used to planting year round in Santa Monica, so I first used a plastic hoop to create a small tent and brought in a heater for the plants.”  Eventually David constructed a small garden shed where he can prep seedlings before planting them in the garden.  His most prolific plants are tomatoes, many of which he cans for sauces.  He explains that some vegetables are simply better out of the ground than ones from the market, especially shelling peas, which are hard to even find.  David’s favorite plants to grow are peppers, both for their taste and the number of varieties available.  He grows them one plant at a time, so that he can experiment with different types and flavor profiles, many of which cannot be found at local markets.  Among his favorites is the pimento pepper, a thick-walled sweet pepper, that takes all summer to grow and often only produces three or four peppers per plant.

David also seeks the advice of other local farmers for his garden. He has in particular benefited from Dale and Lee Jones, the owners of Stranger’s Hill Organics.  “Dale Jones is the best farmer I know and he is always willing to share advice.”  Indeed, some of that advice has paid off, as David recently received some attention for his farming endeavors.  This past summer, he and his vegetable garden was featured in Bloom Magazine, along with several other local residents and their gardens.

David finds it intensely relaxing to work with the earth.   He likes the connection felt with the earth.  He also finds it fascinating to watch things grow.  “I’ve done a lot of reading and experimenting but I can’t exactly figure out what makes a crop turn out great.”  This is one of the reasons David truly enjoys gardening.  He shared a story about loofah gourds, the type that can be made into loofah sponges.  The first year he planted them 64 gourds grew.  “They were crawling all over the place, I had a vine that climbed  35-foot high tree.”  Since then?  He can’t seem to get more than 3 or 4 gourds a year.  However, it’s not the production that David is concerned about.  He gets a lot of joy from the process: digging the beds, watching the plants grow, and experimenting with different varieties.

As for his home garden’s name, Bar Rabbit Ranch, David explains how that name came about.  “I love rabbits, I just don’t want them eating my vegetables.” Accordingly, David has installed a seven-foot high fence around his garden, to keep out both the rabbits and the deer year-round.

What gardening advice David has for grad students who may have limited time and space to grow their own produce?  One recommendation he offers is to grow tomato or pepper plants in pots, with good drainage, light soil, compost, and a few hours of sunlight.  “Almost all plants love these things, so if you can give them that, they’ll usually be fine.”

Beards for Bloaks

If MS student Craig Harkness starts looking a bit like Grizzly Adams when Thanksgiving rolls around this year, don’t be surprised. His incoming face sweater is meant to do more than combat the Bloomington winter or help him blend in at the Bishop. Instead, Harkness is participating in Movember, an organization that encourages participants to grow facial hair in order to raise awareness about men’s health issues.

Through the month of October, Harkness raised money for the cause by soliciting votes. For $1 a donator could choose from a number of facial hair options that they wouls like Craig to sport. The options included the Short Boxed Beard, the Van Dyke, the Rap Industry Standard, and the Franz Josef. In the end, the Short Boxed beard won out (much to the relief of Harknesses girlfriend who perhaps didn’t want to see him parading around with mutton chops).  To this point, Craig has raised $160.

As Harkness notes, issues of men’s health are really important, but not often discussed. While campaigns for breast cancer awareness play out on the largest national stages, awareness for issues like prostate or testicular cancer receive little mention.  Harkness attributes the lack of awareness to the “unmanliness” of men’s health. Men often think they know how to monitor and treat important health issues, but when they do strike, men aren’t sure where to turn or what to do. Therefore, Movember seeks to counteract the unmanliness of men’s health issues, with something over the top “manly.”

If you would like to donate to Harkness’s campaign, you can at this location.

A T101 AIs Life for Me

Going through a semester as a T101 Associate Instructor is almost a rite of passage in this department. Marathon grading sessions, discussion sections, and Mark Deuze’s idiosyncratic teaching methods all contribute to one of the most talked about assignments available.  Although the experiences of different AIs vary, one thing is always the same, T101 is unlike any other assignment. This semester’s crop of AIs includes MS student Annie Sexton, PhD students Travis Ross, Ratan Suri, Ryland Sherman, Kristin Lindsley, and newly minted PhD Gayle Nadorf. For Sexton, Sherman, and Lindsley, this semester is their first T101 assignment.  Suri, Nadorf, and Ross have been around this block a few times before.

One of the most notorious features of T101 are the exam grading sessions. Immediately after the final and midterm, Deuze and the AIs hole themselves up with the massive stack of brightly colored exams and proceed to grade them all, one page at a time, over two grueling days. Unlike most massive lecture classes which rely on scantron testing, T101 uses a short answer format. They avoid the right/wrong dichotomy of multiple choice and allow for more creative expression from students. But they take much longer to grade.  While most T101 AIs don’t include grading 400+ short answer exams on their list of favorite activities, the infamous T101 grading marathons aren’t as bad as you may think. Most of the AIs actually find some fun in it. As Sexton states, “Grading the answers together and sharing funny things, that was a good time.” Lindsley and Suri appreciate the sessions for the discipline they instill. Rather than procrastinating you can power through all the exams in two days or so and get it out of the way.

Other than T206, T101 is the only class with a discussion section. For some AIs, leading a discussion section can be scary.  For new graduate students, the lack of age difference can be intimidating. Sexton, the youngest of the bunch, is fresh out of college, and now finds herself in charge of close to 70 students, some of whom are seniors.  Ross, who has been assigned to T101 four times, vividly remembers how scary his first semester was, thinking, “oh no, I’m not that much older than a senior.” However, as he notes, it only gets easier as the semester rolls on and you get the material down.

Lindsley notes that one result of the open-ended nature of the course material is that the discussion sections can swing wildly between relevant and irrelevant discussions. “Students can and will talk about anything, about half the time it’s something really fascinating related to the discussion, and about half the time, it isn’t, at all.” However, the debates are always interesting. Lindsley likes getting her students fired up. While they often agree with each other pretty often, issues like Facebook privacy can get students heated. For Nadorf, the open-ended nature of T101 leads to Ah-ha moments when students reevaluate the way they think. “You can really just see their eyes open up.”

The makeup of students can make or break a discussion section. As Nadorf notes, there is usually one discussion section that struggles, where facilitating good debate is akin to pulling teeth.  For those sections, you have to ask more pointed questions, and do more explaining. Linsley facilitates the Thursday night sections and as a result, has more upper classmen which generates a different feel. “Upper classmen have more life experience and college experience, so I hear less stories from high school.”


Nicky Lewis:  David Waterman’s Gardening

Mike Lang:  Beards for Bloaks, A T101 AIs Life for Me

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