Thursday, April 5, 2012

Planting and Picking

Sundays are supposed to be a day of rest, and while writing and playing the banjo (not at the same time and not that well) certainly couldn’t be called work, I seem to find many ways to avoid doing either one. But, I need to do both because tomorrow is Monday. My column/story/article/essay/mess is due to the editor by noon, and I have my banjo lessons on Monday afternoon.

With that kind of pressure those pastimes feel more like work than pleasure, and I am always looking for a distraction or reason to interrupt the work flow. So to while away the hours today I played basketball, read the papers, played some Scrabble and fixed the fence so the chickens would at least have to fly over instead of strolling through the fence (this should help insure that I get a good night’s sleep).

Before I started the fencing project my wife, Rhonda, sensed that I needed something else to do. She had heard about a way to grow vegetables in pallets and she wanted to try it for her strawberries.

She has been frustrated by some stubborn grass that takes over her strawberry beds, so the pallet idea seemed worth a try. The plants are confined within the slats and the bottom of the pallet has a garden cloth stapled to it that allows water to seep out but keeps weeds from coming through.

Thinking that pallets is more my department, she asked if we had any. I was pretty sure we had some somewhere around the place, and without too much searching I located three in the barn. I took the two best-looking ones and relocated them to the garden.

Of course, the two I chose were wrong – too narrow between the slats. I made some modifications on one (removed every other board) and went back to the barn for the one I had left behind. One of the boards was cracked but the spacing seemed just right for growing strawberries. I replaced the board (even I possess the skill set to do that) and carried it over to the garden.

So after I pulled apart pallets and fixed the fence, I went back inside the house to practice the banjo. I need to get quicker with the foggy mountain roll, which is a three-finger movement created by Earl Scruggs.

Earl Scruggs, “The” banjo player, died this last week. Joe Edwards of The Associated Press described his influence.

“The North Carolina native's use of three fingers — instead of the limited clawhammer style that was once prevalent — elevated the banjo from a part of the rhythm section to a lead instrument that was as versatile as the guitar and far more flashy. He is credited with helping create modern country music with a string-bending style of playing.”

His playing technique is known as “Scruggs-Style Picking.” There is some disagreement on whether he was the first – but he’s the one that made it work. So whether it’s planting in a pallet, or using three fingers instead of just two – don’t be afraid to try something new.

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