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Yesterday afternoon, when the day had cooled a little, I was feeling up to a little excursion…

Wait a minute, that’s not exactly the way this story starts…

Yesterday afternoon my aunt called to give me the report on “what’s happening at the farm”.  [She’s been so good about keeping up with the watering and the weeding and the picking, all while caring for my grandparents AND her own grand-daughter at the same time.  So, what’s about to follow is in no way a criticism of her efforts…just want to get that out there.]  The plants have been watered, the tomatoes are going to get another string tied around them later this week, and the watermelons are really growing quickly.  Squash and cucumbers are being produced by the bushel.  I was really happy to hear all that.  She calls every day to keep me in the loop about Grandpa’s recovery, what’s happening in the family, and how the garden is doing.

But she didn’t mention the beans…and then I made the mistake of asking (using a little, tiny, almost plaintive voice),  “Have you been picking the beans?” 

Before I go on with this story, a primer on beans.  Much of gardening is tricking plants into doing what they would do once to do it over and over again.  For instance, the bean plant’s only job in life is to reproduce itself and make more bean plants. (This would be an interesting segue into a discussion about infertility…)  As the beans mature, and put out blooms and then pods, each of those pods contains the progeny of the plant.  If left to their own devices, the bean pods form, and then reach a point of terminal growth, at which point the plant receives a chemical signal that tells it, “Good job! You’ve made the next generation of bean plants.  You can quit now.”  However, if you pick the bean before it reaches that stage, the plant is fooled into continuing to put out more and more beans each season, just waiting for that signal (kind of like the way an infertile woman will fill her days with a lot of other activities, tying to get that sense that her life is complete and meaningful enough….but I digress).  So, if you want baskets and baskets of beans, you have to pick them before they reach that terminal growth stage and the plant “retires”.

“Oh, Trish, I haven’t had time to pick the beans.”

Now, this is a real dilemma for me.  Of course she hasn’t had time to pick the beans….she’s very busy with all the other things she’s doing for the family.  On the other hand, I really don’t want the beans to go to seed.  Love of aunt trumps love of fresh green beans, but….I’m only human…

Then, I ventured another step into the world of dangerous questions, by asking (in that same hesitant voice), “Has anyone watered the greenhouse…”

“Oh, Trish, I’m afraid to look in the greenhouse.  No one has watered it.”

Now, this conversation did nothing to help calm my inner voice from screaming at me, “See…I told you it was all up to you!” 

By the time Tony got home I had decided that, although I couldn’t garden, I could at least go and take a look at the state of the garden and the greenhouse.   Promising my friend, Evan, that I would lift nothing heavier than a glass of cold water, I bullied…pleaded…asked…whined my sweet husband into driving me over there to take a look.

In some ways, it was a great trip.  The watermelons are amazing, and even though it’s only been about 12 days since I was there, the garden has really changed and grown.  The beans really do need picking badly, and I’m not even sure if it’s too late or not.   I walked around for a bit, looked at everything, talked to my aunts, and then checked on the greenhouse. 

Yeah, it was bad.  A massive die-off, as a matter of fact, but I watered it just on the off-chance that some of the flowers and plants would spring back to life.  But as I told myself, and continue to tell myself, the loss of 12 flats of marigolds, a nascent herb garden, and dahlia seedlings is really a small thing in the great scheme. 

And I can plant again next year. 

Sigh.

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Art runs in the family

I almost included this in my previous post, but then decided that it merited a post of it’s own. 

While I was out and about at the farm yesterday, wandering around with my camera on a cold, blustery day, I came across this:

Vine wreathThis, gentle readers, is a wreath made of the wild grape vines that have taken over the homesite of my great-grandparents. Notice the vine twining up the trunk of the tree?  It’s just everywhere. But there, resting on the branch of that small sapling, was this wreath. It was coiled by my grandfather, and probably placed here without much forethought….just a place to put it.

I like this photo for several reasons.  First, of course, because it seems so seasonal, like a Christmas celebration in nature.  But I also like it because it captures a simple human impact on a beloved site that has been reclaimed by the wildness of nature. It doesn’t undo the wildness, but rather seems to say, “Yes, Nature, you will always win out in the end, but let me just mark this spot with a sign of my passing.”

And of course, I love it because it’s the work of my grandpa.  His brother was always considered to be the artistic member of the family, working in the traditional mediums of paint and photographs.  He was the sensitive one, the musical one, the cultured one.  Grandpa, as the younger brother, seemed to live in his shadow, and took on the role of the quiet one, the strong one, the practical one, the hard-working one, the earthy one.

But as I’ve come to learn this year, he has an innate artistic talent in harmony with nature, an unpracticed and unintentional artistic mien that will never be appreciated in a gallery, hung on a wall, or lauded by the delicate tastes of the cultured crowd. 

He hung this wreath, made by his own hands, in a place where it would never be seen, for an audience that no one knows, and with his own private intentions that need no explanation.  It has no practical purpose.  It cannot be bought or sold.

It may be the truest form of art for art’s sake that I’ve ever seen.

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Sorry I haven’t posted anything in awhile!  I’ve been more than a little preoccupied this week.  Besides knitting until all hours of the morning, trying to set a world record for the most knitted gifts produced in a week, and baking cookies, I’ve also been steeling myself for…

…Mother-in-Law Visit 2007.   Coming to a small house this Friday.

Okay, coming to my house this Friday.   Between you and me, I’m a nervous wreck.  I don’t dare let her know how we really live day-to-day; I don’t think she’d appreciate just how much personal time school takes up in the evening, leaving little time for domesticity and the labor that accompanies it.

And really, why can’t three ring binders, notebook computers, photocopied articles,  and textbooks be considered just as classy and decorative as, say, faux antique china figurines?  All the best interior designers work around an established theme, afterall.  Let’s just say that my theme is “Absentminded Professor” and leave it at that.   When we look at it in that regard, I’m like a DIY genious!

What other decorating themes apply?  Well, when I’m not in school, I like to decorate liberally with yarn, pulling out different cones and skeins of yarn and arranging them in colorways to find my next inspiration.  And textile arts tools are ever so rustic and decorative.  Oh, what’s really charming is the way that  I leave pattern books open to pattern drafts all over the house.  It really gives the whole house a “frozen in textile art consideration” theme.  Let’s call it “Indecisive Erstwhile Artist”.

But fortunately, I don’t have to rely on my interior artist talents to keep my home unique and individual; my pets are all talented decorators in their own right! Abby works in an eclectic Jackson Pollack technique called “Squeaky Toys Everywhere”, in which she flings colorful toys on the canvas of our happy home, while Alys has a particular penchant for a style she calls “Hey, I Was Laying on That.”  [Like most cats, her themes tend to border on the meglomaniacal.]  Our only male child, Oliver Cat, has a surprisingly effective hairball decoupage technique, while our oldest child, Lia Lou Kitty, takes after her mom as an accomplished fiber artist, leaving felted cat hair products on all surfaces.

So you see, it’s not that my house doesn’t have any style; we’re long on style as long as that is either “Preoccupied Grad Student” or “Pet-tacular”.   But I’m afraid my MIL will be looking for something a bit more…..conventional.

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I suppose that phrase should conjure up fear in my heart, but since I don’t actually have much money to spend on Christmas gifts, it looks like another homemade/handmade giftstravaganza. 

Which really means I have only 20 knitting, canning, cooking, decorating, and otherwise crafting days till Christmas. 

Yikes.  That’s even scarier…

I enjoy all the artsy-craftsy stuff, and I like the process of thinking about the people who are going to receive the gifts while I’m in the process of making them.  But I can’t help but think that it would be so much easier to be able to go out and buy gifts for everyone I love. 

This morning, I started thinking about what I would get my friends and family if I were going shopping for them.  Not crazy, “If I won the lottery” kind of gifts, just ordinary gifts.  So, here’s my Gifting Wish-List for this year:

Mom:  a monthly appointment with a massage therapist.  And some of those heat-in-the-microwave fleece booties for her cold feet.

Dad: a really cool flight simulator program, so he could tell me all the ways the program has it wrong and how that airplane doesn’t really sound like that…

Favorite Nephew Carter:  a beginner’s electronic drumkit!  Yeah, buddy!  Everyone should have the joy of living with a drummer!

Carter’s Mom (SIL): Excedrin.  And earplugs.  And maybe even some margarita mix. 

Carter’s Dad (My Brother): More of the same.  Oh, and a kazoo, so he could play along with Carter. 

Grandpa: a replacement set of guages for the 1953 Ford tractor.  And maybe some headlights to go with them.  Oh, and brakes, too.  [okay, so anyone who reads my blog knows that’s really gifting to myself!  But hey, I let Grandpa drive the tractor, too!]

Emilie:  A photo printer, and photo paper of every size, and lots of it.  She takes the most beautiful pictures of her little girls that I would love to be able to let her print out as many as she wanted.  Oh, and monthly pedicures.  She deserves them.

Evan:  Hm, that’s a tough one.  I would probably get him gift certificates for his three favorite things….books, music, and books.  Oh, and maybe a mini-trumpet, or a regular trumpet.  Or a kazoo, so he can play in the Carter band.

Ah, yes, and my beloved Tony.  What on earth would I get Tony for Christmas….? 

Heh!  I ain’t posting it here!  For one thing, there are wordpress guidelines against certain types of postings….for another, he just might get it, anyway!  ;- )

So, I hope all my friends and family enjoy their “virtual gifts”.  You can think about them while you admire your home-made gifts. 

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