UCD good

Atta boy!

Atta boy!

(Come friend Aunt Ruthie on Facebook and let’s hang out.)

A public university: such a concept.

Or, spoken with a little more historical gravitas, a land-grant university: Now, there’s a concept. It dates back to the 1800s, when colleges were funded by the development and/or sale of federally granted lands. It’s a noble idea—that, as a country, we value teaching and research so highly as to tie our most nonrenewable of resources to the education of the young.

Auntie Ruth is an alumna of UC Davis. A former employee, too, and as employee-employer relationships go, she’s blown hot and cold. Enough so that when the institution thumps its chest, she rolls her eyes a little; enough so that when they screw the pooch, she mourns a little, after the, um, fury has worn off. (Will the campus bookstore ever sell pepper-spray canisters with the campus logo on the side?

Institutions of higher learning can be just as stupid as the rest of us.

Et al., et al., et al. Neither mourning nor a roll of the eyes is called for upon the one-year anniversary, thereabouts, of the Public Garden Initiative at UCD. Befitting an agricultural institution—a moniker the campus will never lose no matter the effort expended—the campus consistently gets its gardens right. Ruthie has written about the Oak Discovery Trail and, long before that, has been a devotee of its arboretum, especially the garden of native plants over by the vet school.

Over the last year, departments as far flung as earth and physical sciences and the design department are sprouting gardens as part of a unified campus effort, “a rededication of the campus to the principles of sustainable horticulture, the environment and academics,” according to acclaimed conservationist Peter H. Raven. E&PS has a rock garden with some really big rocks, and the design department is gearing up for a “showcase … for designs that put discarded goods to new uses,” according to UC Davis Magazine.

Add a renovated grove of redwood trees, an extension of the arboretum into downtown Davis (aided by $900,000 in bond money from the state) and an ever-evolving edible garden within the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and UC Davis is a good place to spend a cheap weekend morning. Start up at the west end of campus by the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden, and work your way down to Putah Creek, vast stretches of which should really be renamed Putah Body-of-Standing-Water-Best-Suited-for-Ducks.

This much, at least, is all good.