Sometimes it’s a little thing that means the world to its recipient.
This morning I finally started some seeds for the garden. People may be shaking their heads and thinking it’s late but I have to tell you nothing goes into the ground before the first week of June here. You just never know. I think I will be building a cold frame in the next week or so to give them a little more growing space and sun and ease the hardening off process.
I love planting seeds, they hold such promise. I’m always amazed that for a couple of bucks you can get a little packet of seeds when planted and harvested could feed a hundred people. That’s not to say that every seed I plant will produce to that extent, there are variables but there are also the memories of those years where the harvest was beyond belief. Those I look forward too with a little trepidation. One summer I canned enough beans to last until the next harvest eating them every single day. I was really sick of canning beans.
Into the soil they go, in a few days their heads will be popping out of the soil, a couple of weeks and they’ll need new pots, more sun and more water. A few months, if all goes well, things will be picked and served for every lunch and dinner. Such freshness and flavor is something you will never find anywhere else and the personal satisfaction is something that can’t be beat.
Every year I post a year in review that is largely visual in nature. It seems that this year may prove to be different. There have been so many profound changes that the photographs would only just scratch the surface. I’ll throw a few in for good measure though, I can’t resist.
After living with my father for a year and a half I put him back into assisted living. It was a huge learning curve for me – but I learned that I cannot live with negativity day in and day out. Living under a black cloud only drags you into that black abyss and it becomes more and more difficult to climb your way out. In my heart I know it was the right thing to do for everyone involved yet on some level it feels like failure. I’m working on getting over that in ways that feed my soul.
Living here helped me maintain my sanity. The close proximity to nature was a balm many times during each and every day. Being able to see magnificent sunrises so many mornings began my days in a positive way. It was a summer of rainbows – every day it seemed . Hiking trails at the park, new trails in old familiar places brought discovery and appreciation anew. Let’s face it, it’s quiet here, it smells good and nobody bugs you. What more could the introvert in me want?
Then there were weddings, lots of them. My favorite was the marriage of my daughter – here. Ten people, surrounded by my gardens in full bloom. My favorite moment – the family humming Pachelbel’s Canon in D while Amanda and her father walked down the little makeshift aisle, thanks Cait for getting it rolling. Although Amanda and Yusuf have been together for 9 years and we all knew this was coming it still felt like we were giving her away. It was a line for me, both joyous and sad.
As if all of this wasn’t enough November 11th was the birth of our first grandchild. A boy who dear husband Bill never thought he was going to see (and now has big plans for). Another shift in my life – from mother to grandmother. I’m not sure how it affects other people but the generational shift has always been a profound one for me. When Amanda was born it took me a while to wrap my head around going from daughter to mother, I’m still getting use to the idea of going from mom to grandma. He is wonderful and I’m enjoying watching them grow into a loving family.
All through this the constant has been craft. The ability to make and do things with my hands is the thread. It feeds me – no, it is a necessity. If I wasn’t able to create something, on a daily basis, I would have sunk into that deep, dark hole long ago. It sustains me. It seems odd to me in some ways to admit this. I have been a crafter all of my life. My modus operandi is to learn a new craft, work it to what I deem the best I am capable of (more of a plateau really) and move on to the next craft. This year was all about weaving – again. It was the realization that I’ve been searching my entire life for what my hands knew how to do. Weaving has connected me to my past, to people I remember and loved the most. It is something that will probably take the rest of my life to move towards perfection. Meanwhile it calms me and helps me to reflect on daily life, meditation. Something we all need and I daresay find in little things we do. We just need to recognize it.
The new year is promising in so many ways. Growth is what it’s all about. I’ll keep on sharing my skills and insights. I’ll watch my family and friends embrace the changes in their lives and hold them all close because really, that’s what it’s all about.
The summer season is winding down. With all of the pressure to prepare for winter it is still my favorite time of year. Maybe it’s that sense of urgency, the knowledge that every single day will have to be packed full of projects because that cold, snowy weather is right around the corner.
It’s so subtle, it sneaks up on you really. Mid August you begin to notice it getting darker so much earlier and the day doesn’t begin with the sunrise until after 5:00 AM. The birdsong is changing. The insects you encounter are different as well. You’re listening to crickets, huge grasshoppers leap in front of you on that afternoon walk about. Huge caterpillars are making themselves known with their size and color.
The leaves are changing to my favorite palette. Gone are the bright, cheery greens of spring, the steadfast greens of summer. Now comes the olives, golds and rusts.
The photo above shows the reality of my vegetable garden. It was so beautifully taken care of until August when I went on a week-long vacation. It got away from me and at this point there’s no going back. It hasn’t stopped producing. The blogs I read show immaculately kept gardens but in the back of my mind this is how I imagine they really are. The realities of doing anything agriculturally – especially by yourself – is that things are not as tidy as you wish them to be. So you pick your battles.
The fall party this year has turned into a family baby shower. I will be holding my first grand baby in my arms around the beginning of November. The grounds will be as tidy as they can be – Bill takes great pride in his lawn. The messiness of the chickens and that overgrown garden will be here in all of their glory as well as a building flattened and not yet moved and a back forty full of goldenrod taller than I am.
But you know. The goldenrod is in full bloom and it is the loveliest shade of yellow.
When we first started clearing the property here in Rowe the trees were encroaching on the buildings closest to the house. The side field had been maintained but the pasture was all but lost. Our girls were probably in their early teens.
I had been photographing weddings for years before my children were born and they were brought up knowing that the back yard wedding was their only option. They would look at the backyard here and roll their eyes not being able to see the vision Bill and I had. I would tell them that someday they would be married here and it would be beautiful.
This past Sunday my oldest married the love of her life in a very intimate ceremony in one of the gardens. Their being married was something we believed would happen for over 8 years now but being cautious sorts they waited. Amanda is one who hates to be the center of attention in any situation and they told me about 3 months ago that they were just going to city hall in Boston and getting married there. The horror.
With much, much cajoling we convinced them to be married here with parents and siblings only. That was almost too much for them really, the nerves were palpable on Sunday. For what was to be one of the smallest weddings ever we did everything we could to make it a beautiful occasion and it certainly was. From Amanda walking down the “aisle” with her father to the tune of her family humming Pachelbel’s Canon to eating al fresco in the field next to the garden it was as perfect a day as it could be for them. It also allowed all of us to have a very intimate involvement in preparing for those vows to be said.
Bill and I built a rustic arbor out of trees we cut across the field a couple of weeks before the ceremony and set it up at the beginning of a stone path. It was a little wonky but fit the bill with our “rustic chic” theme. I ordered baby’s breath and lemon leaves from my niece’s flower shop to augment the flowers in my garden and picked some at my sister-in-law’s the day before. They were a huge help in the quick planning of this.
Draped and decorated.
I tried to put flowers everywhere and took a lot of photographs. Day lilies are so beautiful and fleeting and I knew once the sun set the flowers would be gone too. Sort of temporary art.
I had also picked some “weeds” along the power line and in the back forty. Queen Anne’s Lace and Joe Pye Weed. Places were set with sprigs of herbs that smelled heavenly – pineapple sage, rosemary, lavender, thistle.
A garden riot of flowers on the table.
Lemon Raspberry cake made with garden fruit. Molly Cantor made a cake stand just for the occasion.
Weddings are monumental occasions in people’s lives. They represent a new chapter for those getting married but also for the parents of the bride and groom. It doesn’t matter how long your child has been out of the house or how old they are when they marry. As monumental as this ceremony is it’s just a fleeting moment. In the span of a few hours my world shifted a little, in a wonderful, beautiful way. I did what I could to make it a beautiful memory in a place where more memories will be made.
Everything is now gone but the undecorated arbor and the flowers from the day. They are taking their time in wilting away, a little gift in a way. A reminder of an occasion but also of how much beauty is constantly around me that can be pulled together and shared.
I just realized how very long it’s been since I’ve been here. Life is full.
The room renovation is almost complete – crown moulding needs to go up and to do that I need to learn to cope. Fortunately there are only really the four corners to worry about. We’ll see how that goes. The room is so much better. The bad juju has all but disappeared. Funny what a lot of paint will do.
My latest krokbragd is off of the loom, I’m currently doing a woven edge. It’s slow going – more so because there are so many other things that need attention. First a couple of comments on this project. I used rug wool from Brassard in Canada for the weft in this. It worked up quickly but didn’t pack as well as the last krokbragd I wove using Harrisville Shetland. The heathered yarn in this is beautiful though. I thought I planned this project well as far as color was concerned. I had everything lined up and numbered, bobbins wound, I was proud of myself because I’m such a wing it kind of person. Well, none of it really went according to plan. The time came to change over to the next color and I would just pick something different. I’ve decided that these mats/rugs are to be woven in a more organic way. They evolve while on the loom. I planned on 8 colors, bought 11 colors from Brassard, then a third of the way into it picked up some rug yarn elsewhere to work in. Because of the weight of the yarn this is definitely something I can see on the floor. All in all it’s quite lovely – I can live with it. All of you creatives out there know what I’m talking about, that’s really high praise.
My tomatoes, cucumbers and squash plants are at the end of their hardening off period. I will probably till the garden for the second time tomorrow (around the rows of potatoes) and plant the beginning of next week. The weather here has been kind of crazy. Hot, no rain save a torrential downpour a couple of days ago. I hate to plant things and have to water them everyday. Other years it’s so wet and cold I’ve planted things multiple times. It’s never perfect. How dull life would be if it was.
My life has become one of ritual – more of the slow motion type. These rituals center around the garden and putting food by. For years (and years) I have begun the canning season with rhubarb, always the first vegetable to make an appearance here. I planted my own patch of rhubarb on the property about 5 years ago. My mother always told me she couldn’t grow it here, she had tried for years.
Our real rhubarb ritual was to go to a friend’s house every spring and pick our fill there. Their patches of rhubarb are magnificent. This plant is showy and large. The rhubarb at this house fills large swathes around the back yard of the house as well as over by their vegetable garden. The woman with the gardens was also my mother’s best friend and I dare say picking rhubarb was an excuse to sit around a table with a cup of tea as well.
This ritual has gone on for more or less 55 years. The family became part of who we are. My mother passed away in 1989 but the ritual continued. The rhubarb gave me an excuse to visit, hear the stories of my childhood, catch up with a family I felt was my own.
Once I had picked enough I would go into the house for that cuppa and chat. What should have taken a few minutes often turned into hours but this is what it was all about. Reminiscing and words of wisdom imparted across the kitchen table over a hot beverage. Most of all it was a reminder of how much we all loved each other and our families.
The most difficult part of life I think now is the shifting of generations. I am now of an age when all of our parents are leaving us. This year I will not go to pick rhubarb. The house is empty now and I am coming to terms with the fact that the matriarch is gone, left us a few days ago to join her beloved husband. I picture cups of tea being served all around in that great reunion. Walks around a warm, green verdant yard discussing kids and gardens. That is my vision of heaven really.
The shift is also to my own patch of rhubarb here. On hearing of her death I went out and picked some rhubarb and baked a cake to be eaten with a nice cup of tea while I remember. As I was in the garden I realized it wasn’t about rhubarb not growing on the property at all, it was about the ritual of visiting. Conscious or unconscious these women knew what they were doing.
Finally. My sister commented the other day how she felt like she was coming out of a coma. I understand.
Last evening I did a walk about checking for signs of life. This the time of year when I’m anxious to see what made it through the winter. As everyone knows this past one was particularly cold but we had a pretty good snow cover so I’m hoping that insulation helped everything survive. It’s particularly concerning to me because I put in so many new gardens last summer. The waiting has only just begun, some plants won’t show signs of life for weeks.
At the end of my walk I saw the leaves popping out of the canes on the raspberries. My raspberry bed is in a sad state, overgrown with crabgrass (the bane of my existence). I started to pull things out – dead or alive. If it wasn’t a raspberry out it went. Being a spur of the moment weeding event I didn’t have gloves with me. The soil was the perfect texture – not too wet, not too dry and the perfect temperature. It’s been 7 long months since I’ve had my hands in the dirt – seven months!
There’s an article that my sister and I pass back and forth about digging in the dirt acting as an antidepressant. I don’t think I needed a scientific study to tell me this. All I needed was a long, cold, sleepless winter. After just an hour of digging in the dirt I slept like a baby. I’m addicted to dirt.
Yesterday was moving day for the coop and chickens. The vegetable garden is pretty much done although there is a lot of stuff still in there, overgrown and rotting. The fall chill is in the air and it was time to begin the fall to winter preps. The coop had been over by the garage with the fencing including a huge old apple tree surrounded by jewelweed. The chickens loved it there although they had pretty much cleaned the area of vegetation. I figured the garden would be a great spot for them to clean up and fertilize at the same time.
Moving the coop is always stressful. It is so heavy that the tractor will only lift if off of the ground by about a foot. We managed to get it over to the garden. I then moved the fence. I let the chickens roam around thinking they would be easy to move with some sweet little snack. I was wrong. They spent the majority of the day around the apple tree and although I coaxed them over more than once they had no interest in going near the strange spot their coop was in.
They finally left the tree area at the end of the day and wandered over to the garden but had no interest in going into their new area. I got out the big guns – a pumpkin spice english muffin. The rooster and hen happily went into the garden fence but the other 9 hens were nowhere to be seen. It was getting a little late in the day and I was getting a little nervous. I called and called and finally saw their little heads coming up over the bank to the back forty on the other side of the yard. Apparently they had gone on a little adventure. Seven more into the enclosure.
When the head count was done Bill and I had to search for the last two. They were snuggled in among some rocks over the bank and were not going anywhere so I had Bill flush them out. They ran for the coop, one of them tangling herself in the fencing (they still think they are small enough to go through it). Once all enclosed they discovered what a wonderland the garden is. Bugs, seeds, berries, a veritable smorgasbord for chickens. They stayed out until dark which is unusual, they usually go in at dusk.
About nine o’clock Bill went out to lock the shed door and heard a chicken clucking over by the apple tree – an escapee. He held the flashlight and ran interference until I finally caught her and put her in the coop. I did another head count and all were there on their roost. Finally all was right with the world – at least mine.
I woke up this morning, before daylight, to the sound of rain on the roof. My first thought was “Are you kidding me?!?” I went back to a restless sleep and finally got up to a rather cold house. When I looked at the thermometer it was 48 degrees.
I picked up a brochure for the Heath Fair last weekend at the local farm and garden center and the woman at the check out said, “Yup, next weekend, marks the end of summer”.
To me this has been the summer that wasn’t. We had a handful of days in the 80’s, very few days in the 90’s. All of the fans have been taken out of the windows so I can close them at night against most of the cold air. The window in my bedroom will stay open until November – in part to keep the fresh air coming in but also so I can hear the owls and other critters at night. The garden has been so so. I look back at records of past years and realize that everything is 2 weeks or so behind except for the garlic. It will be a miracle if I get beans at all – they love the sun and heat.
This past Wednesday was a complete washout (and the only day I really had to work in the gardens). It was warmer but pouring and brought in the cooler weather. There was a rainbow to mark the end of the day and the rain. It also showed me where my pot of gold resides. There is such beauty here. Every day gives another opportunity to see it and share.
Today the chicken fence goes up and they will venture outdoors for the first time in their lives. Although I have so much to do with the summer ending I will move my lawn chair to a good vantage point with camera in hand and watch the chicks take in the fresh air and sunshine. What better way to spend part of a late summer day.