This week I cleaned out the freezer and canning shelves. Oh, the excitement, I know! Last summer and fall I completely packed these spaces as full as they could get-- forty quarts of apple sauce, forty pounds of beans tucked into jars, twenty five pounds of cucumbers into pickles, over sixty pounds of berries, several dozen jars of jam, stacks of pumpkins, pre-cooked beans, and something like ten stock-pots full of tomatoes. There is not much left, now, which is how it should be.
Tomorrow we will try raspberry picking. But here is what I am learning: this food production thing, it really fluctuates. There are "good" and "bad" years for certain foods. Living out of grocery stores, we are very insulated from this fact, but the berry fields and the back garden do not lie.
But mixed in with all the success, there is tragedy too. The tomato seedlings I brought home were all infected with a bacteria. Yesterday I spent all afternoon pulling up over a dozen well-established but now fruitless plants. I scrubbed their stakes and the clippers with antibacterial soap so I could at least re-use them. I heaped the dead vines into the yard waste bin (I can't even compost them). And with a deep sense of frustration, tried to figure out how to make the best of a very bad situation. I won't be able to plant tomatoes in my two largest beds for the next two years. Three summers of restoring and building soil all gone. And we really rely on those tomatoes all year. We ate last year's last jar last night.
And most of all, focus on on what we do have, and enjoy it fully. I am beginning to appreciate this as a process, and there is a certain grace in an attitude of learning and gratitude for the small successes we do manage. Gardening, I find, works on so very many metaphorical levels. It is good for me, both spiritually and physically. Even when I fail.
The wind shifts this evening. Rain from the coast is imminent. Back to soups and tea and such, but we are confident now that summer will come flying out again soon enough.
And at times, it really did feel that way.
For a little while Asher had a cramping stomach that elicited much moaning, groaning and contorting on his part and the making of mint tea on mine. He told me as he was going to sleep that he had said the Remover of Difficulties prayer, so he was not sure if that was what worked, or the tea, or the herbal medicine, or getting to watch a movie. Perhaps a bit of it all combined.
I went to the dentist for a cleaning. He accompanied me, and we walked there and back without stepping on any cracks in the sidewalk. He's great fun one on one, you know.
While that was lovely, the children had an absolutely terrible time of it doing the dishes. Why is this so hard? They do it every single night.
I weeded the garden, transplanted a bit, re-buried the potatoes in straw. It is starting to grow, suddenly, all at once! Hurrah! Strawberries, raspberries, artichokes, swiss chard, lettuces, radishes, peas, onions-- it feels bountiful. Although there is a fungus that some of the tomatoes brought with them as seedlings, and now I am having to go to battle.
I am also enjoying eating outside again, and seeing the woodland bed slowly fill in. It is gratifying to remember that when we came here, there was nothing growing back here except for the two trees and a hideous "water feature" where the raised beds now sit.
And that, my dears, is all for now.
We have been eating. In the beginning of the week, things like roast chicken with asparagus and root vegetables. In the middle of the week, salads using greens from the garden (Asher hums while he eats his). Towards the end of the week, we end up with what I call "Mother Hubbard" dinners. I scour the pnatry and garden and back of the fridge, and then make something of it. Yesterday yielded half a row of beet greens, an onion, a small bunch of mint, two shrivelled mangoes, and half a jar of yogurt. So we had beet green and onion pakoras with mango/mint lassis and Asher told me I should open a restaurant when I finish school.
Aside from eating, we have experimented with steam and microwaved a bar of ivory soap in the microwave so that it expanded into a cloud of soap flakes which were good for another hour's worth of entertainment. Especially when accompanied by comprehensively dreadful "blues" singing.
But mostly, every free minute has found us outside in the garden. We wonder at how every colombine is so different, at the delicate saxifrage and the first roses and the promise of blueberries and lupines. The vast majority of time and energy is focused on the vegetables, though. We got almost all of our summer seeds and starts in this week: tomatoes, peppers, squashes, beans, cucumbers, melons, carrots, potatoes, onions... It is extensive and exhausting, and enormously satisfying. I am keeping track of the vegetable garden on this Pinterest board, if you are truly interested.
I am also very excited (perhaps overly so) by the growth in our "woodland bed." When we moved in, there was nothing growing here except for the two trees. This spring it is truly beginning to come alive. The Solomon's seal are my favourite, although really, it is hard to say that when gazing at something else. Today I learned that they have the most delicate, beautiful scent and look particularly interesting from underneath. 'Tis true.
Ana is learning new songs every time I turn around, it seems. She earned her elbow badge after a run in with a rock wall. It won. But so did she-- she started to have a panic attack, but Bella was right there with her and they got through it just fine. My wonderful girls.
And Asher is officially on his way to Hogwarts, making Uncle Lukas proud. I am going to restrict which books he is allowed to read, however. One and "Quidditch Through the Ages" as well as "Fantastic Beasts" will have to do for now. I wonder how long it will take before he begins requesting butterbeer and sausages? The girls always did once they got into Potter land.
Wednesday afternoon, poor Ana had a panic attack at school. She has never had one before, and it was not dealt with very well. The staff with her were lovely, but they took her word that she was ok, and put her on the bus home. She wasn't ok, and when I finally managed to get to her, she was in a lot of distress. But I know how to handle stress. Tea! Well yes, breathing properly, but tea does seem to fix most things. We were also pleased to find spectacular post from daddy (maps and stories and letters) and a beautiful Ridvan gift. The panic attack was alarming, but seemed to be in response to physical stress and pain,and we now know how to deal with it and what to expect next time. Still, I kept her home with me Thursday to make sure.
Friday afternoon and all day Saturday were heavy-duty gardening days. Things are growing so swiftly: the lily of the valley and tiny star flowers are blooming in the woodland bed, the artichokes are appearing, the kale and winter carrots and beets all had to be pulled out.
Early Saturday morning, the garden club had their yearly sale. For $24, I bought 3 ferns, 3 solomon's seal, 3 columbine, 2 red currants, a violet and a snowball bush. Thank heavens Mum came down shortly! We got it all planted (except for the snowball bush), the vegetable beds uncovered (except for the one corner reserved for the tadpoles), new carrots and beets sown, two sinks full of kale to deal with, two hanging baskets up, the catmint in, and the thyme redistributed between the freshly weeded flagstones. The children helped a lot, too. Especially Asher! Although he kept disappearing to lie down on the warm gravel between the beds.
Saturday evening we went to a friend's concert of Leonard Bernstein music (he is part of the master chorus). It was great fun, with wonderful music! The children were completely engrossed, and Asher got to inspect the kettle drums during intermission. Ana had to come home and pratice her guitar despite it being past bedtime.
Today we spent a slower morning folding laundry and playing tiddly-winks. Tacos for lunch. Then Mum had to head home to visit Dad and the children and I went to Philomath for Ruhi Book 5. We stopped on our way to pick up things for a picnic dinner afterwards, though. I love that my children are adventerous eaters: baguette, sheep's milk cheese, watercress, tangerines, ginger beer, sweet potato crisps and almond pastries. Yes please.
The children dabbled and explored and discovered and ran back and forth to their hearts' content. The sun was warm and the birds were singing continuously. Especially the redwinged blackbirds.
That precious, sweet, beloved, King of Festivals! Blessed days when, in a rose covered garden of an isalnd, in air filled with perfume and the ceaseless singing of nightingales, Baha'u'llah told the world that He had come!
This year we were able to host the first of the twelve days in our home. My mother came down bearing roses, the children practised songs with their children's class and told the story for everyone using our needle-felted Ridvan garden. All the children were able to participate. Prayers were said, songs listened to and sung, friends both young and old came and enjoyed special words and food and fellowship.
As these sweetest of days unfold, I am continually reminding myself to seek the beauty and the joy and the light and the love that surrounds us (it isn't always easy, especially with Simon away, hence the continuous nature of the reminders). But, oh, the evidence is here! The rosemary is buzzing with bees, the euphorbia and veronica are going full tilt!
Beginning tomorrow, I am joining two dear friends in a belated start to A Week in the Life (although I may not post/link over there. Is that allowed? I am dismally uninformed regarding blog etiquitte). Which means I will be here every day for the next week. I hope! With all of the nitty-gritty bits, too. Because in the end, I don't really want to forget them, either.
There is a lot of catching up to do. I have fallen behind in this little corner, and I do apologise-- I will do my best to try to catch up and be a more reponsible reporter of the innane this week.
Today was a glorious day. The sun shone with deep warmth. I woke up and went running out to breathe in air that felt so very different. Bella was grumpy, so I told her "Go outside! Just smell the air this morning." She glowered at me, but did. And she came in with a wide smile. "You are right! It smells happy!"
It was a full day, a blessed day, the second in this King of Festivals, Ridvan (more on this, too, soon I hope). I planted five wild rose bushes before 9am, and hung out three loads of laundry on the washing line.
We went to Philomath to participate in Junior Youth animator training (me), go on home visits (Ana and Bella) and play with new friends (Asher). We diverged and reconverged and returned home with full hearts and grateful spirits.
These are busy days, and we are on our own until June. But they are beautiful, full, satisfying days, too, so I am hoping we remember to bask in them to the fullest extent we can manage.
Well, first of all, my thanks to those of you who commented or sent me emails on my last post. I am grateful for the opportunity to have real discussion, and for the many thoughtful perspectives and insights so many of you have shared.
But here we are, back to the weather and lambs. They came out today, as the weather warmed up and the snow melted away. There were even lovely cherry blossoms (in the other direction-- lambs and cherry blossoms in the same frame might be a wee bit much, even for me).
Although, I must confess I plan on cooking this for dinner tomorrow. So there you are.
I spent three glorious hours cleaning out some of the raised beds this afternoon. No deep analysis of theories or literature or memorization-- just earth and sun and thoughts of growing and planning and eating and my grandfather's garden and the summer to come. I weeded and shovelled and hoed and raked and hauled barrels and bags all over the place (Simon's rhubarb is now planted well and truly). Oh, it felt good.