It was a bore, most of the time.
My family runs to genius & I was (supposed to be) next…
Already blew my social scene in high school by rightaway quick the beginning of freshman year, spelling down the co-captain of the football team.
What more was there to lose?
Although a fidgety type I had been thoroly shamed into a semblance of composure by my avidly social-climbing mother…
So. Looking around the classroom for something to occupy myself:
Here’s Charlie Crowley across the aisle.
Going thru– shall I put it delicately?– an even more difficult adolescence than I, and mentally a halfstep behind whatever was happening in class.
Mrs. Soper droned on… was it History? or English? No matter… suddenly, in Charlie Crowley A LIGHT WENT OUT!
Maybe it was really more a shift in brain waves– but he was broadcasting a subliminal amount of confusion.
Quickly I cast my mind over the recent few sentences from Mrs. S.
Aha… a possible HOLE in her dialog!
Quickly I composed a sentence and RAISED MY HAND!
Raising yr hand in school, you might remember, made one something of a TARGET– the Stupid Question (and at that age, ANY question is stupid) reveals you as a dummie!!!
But hey, I had brownie points, everyone KNEW I was so damn smart as to be something of a social pariah. I could certainly afford risking a stupid question against my mammoth Smarts account…
So I ASKED A QUESTION!!
Mrs. Soper is delighted– someone is actually ALIVE out there!!
She bustles into a response, I am eyeing Charlie discreetly… SUCCESS! he has slumped an inch in RELIEF…
Sometimes I’d hafta ask 2 or 3 times to pull him back into the classroom.
There. I have REVEALED A SECRET. You are the first, & the ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS…
Please don’t tell Charlie
I wish you’d left in summer
This mother’s heart dies back a little every fall
If you’d left when all was blossoming & burgeoning
I don’t think I would have felt your leaving
not even half as much at all.
The sound of your guitar at midnight
Simple chords that showed a young man’s heart
where tenderness lay waiting to be wakened…
There’s nothing now but silence in the dark.
But I’ll not miss the moody swings of temper
that left you brooding silent here for days
Nor the greasy tools upon the kitchen counter
and a handprint on the towel stays and stays.
It’s the sunny boy beneath that bears remembring
Blowing candles on his cake when he was 5–
and singing in a storm-swayed leafy treetop
My heart will keep those memories alive.
My last marriage was a 3-way relationship. My husband brought his best buddy, mentor and solace with him. This guy was no particular friend of mine, but I saw the benefits my husband gained from his presence, and could find nothing that suited as well. Maybe you’ve run into him yourself– a Mr. Jack Daniels? My husband also considered him a form of high-octane fuel, who would allow him to work unceasingly for days at a time at his beloved obsessive profession, fine woodworking.
One year of a sudden, Mr. Daniels no longer was of service. He left. And in his wake, left untied threads, unsorted closets, and scars from some degree of physical abuse. The most disconcerting were various aspects of my husband that had perforce been shielded from the light of day for some decades. In face of this we decided it wisest to take some space– how about the desert for space? and perfect for the metaphysical geologist R had become on the side, memorizing the periodic table and starting a nice collexion of mineral specimens.
R had a blind Ford van, brand new since shortly before we’d met. With time he had built it into a self-contained Traveling Shell. I’d joke that if the world came to an end, he could orbit indefinitely with just the addition of some oxygen tanks… So with the other member of his support team Ichamani, a fawning longhaired German Shepherd, and some survey maps of various abandoned mines, he left too.
I got occasional fonecalls from here & there in a vast and sparsely occupied American SouthWest.
He’d spent time with an elderly pair of rockhounds, Rattlesnake Jack & wife. The ol’ guy had gone outside and put a bullet in his head to end his extreme discomfort from various ailments.
He met a gay pair with a geode mine on the Mexican border, which they visited with semi-auto’s in hand. One had written THE authoritative text on the formation of geodes and was courted heavily by German geologists as result. The 3 of them were planning to head for Colorado at the behest of the head of Mines in the U.S.– teenagers were damaging themselves falling into abandoned mines, their parents were suing the government, who in response was having the mines capped with concrete, a shortsighted and rotten solution. Help was needed at the national conference to head this off (alas, one of the partners took seriously ill, & R did not have the experience/knowledge to attend alone).
He spent the night in the yard of a woman who lived in a neighborhood of shacks on the outskirts of a city, using 1 or 2 gallons of water a day– she insisted he park where he would be relatively safer from potshotters shooting up his van in the wee small ones.
He spent an afternoon sitting on a curb by the highway with the local sheriff– one of many who stopped him. (After they got over the long hair, they were all relieved to hear he was packing– dangerous territory that close to Mexico.) He sharpened the sheriff’s knife while the sheriff told him of large encampments out in the desert of foreign soldiers who did not speak a word of English, there for the potential crowd control of Americans, as our own troops would not fire upon fellow citizens.
He found a large serpentine rock full of crystal vugs, studded with fool’s gold & guarded by a sleepy rattlesnake. Breaking the rock into smaller pieces he carried it to the van while the rattlesnake watched. Pieces of that still hang around the place…
His tiny notebook of pencilled notations bears witness to one adventure after another, on a near-daily basis.
A couple months into the trip, at a restaurant in Corona NM was posted on the wall a listing of remote campsites in the vicinity. He picked one and headed out. The road was steep & rough, at times giving question to making it back out again, and it ended near the peak of ______ Mtn at a camp apparently frequented by hunters from the look of moose bones scattered widely around. Since it was too high for cactus & therefore thorn-free for dog feet, Ichamani happily wandered about collecting the best of the bones.
On toward sunset a Volkswagen bus labored into camp. The couple within, although dressed in city clothes, professed to be looking for primitive camping that night, but refused R’s invitation saying there were other sites they could use and not disturb his solitude. They proceeded to stay a while, adroitly questioning him in an odd sort of way, like census takers or interviewers he said later. We still wonder what they were about….
After they left he and Ichamani curled up to sleep in the van, only to be disturbed by a terrific engine racket some hours later. R’s first thought was that it was the refrigeration unit on an 18-wheeler– until he remembered the condition of the road on the way up! A brilliant light was burning in through the windshield. Suddenly there was a loud whooshing, and the light rapidly faded away. R’s hand was halfway to the pistol under his pillow, and the dog had jumped on top of him in fright when another light flashed from the other side of the van– there had been 2 vehicles! He grabbed Ichamani and then suddenly became frozen, unable to move. The ceiling of the van began to shimmer, turned transparent and disappeared as he and the dog rose in the air and were drawn through. He remembered thinking ‘This could not be good for my body!’
R came to some hours later, back on the bed. Ichamani was lying unconscious trembling on the floor of the van.
After a sleepless night he drove down the mountain at first light.
I got a fonecall from the next town–” HEADING HOME! I think I was abducted–”
At home: R was in denial. He’d mention some aspect of the experience, then say it hadn’t really happened. He started packing again, and sleeping with a gun nearby for the first time since we left East LA. Various spears & clubs appeared discreetly stationed by various gates around the property. We discovered on his left shin a new small lump that slid away when touched.
This went on for some 6 months, until he remembered that as a small child he’d come downstairs in the middle of the night and become immobilized by little grey men under the dining room table. I’m all like, HONEY! you HAFTA go see Hazel!
She’s a local massage therapist who was frequently abducted as a child– could always tell ‘they’ were nearby because she found herself going around the house locking doors and windows. It did no good, as they’d haul her off anyways– and tell her, ‘Now, get back in your body! You agreed to this, remember?’
R came back after a 3 1/2 hour appointment, aglow and excited. He had recalled the whole experience.
He’d been taken up into a huge mother ship, to a roomful of examining tables upon which were a large variety of beings. Two short individuals were in charge of him. They had the standard ET almond face, a tiny slit of a mouth, inconsequential nose but instead of the large black eyes we see in many renditions, just little dotty eyes. Between the two flowed a constant soft jabbery & unintelligible conversation. They gave him an injection in the finger he’d damaged with a tablesaw, and then he was led to an office where a lizard in a highly decorated military uniform waited.
The officer scolded him for bringing the dog along, and for ‘damaging his vehicle’. He was commended for taking good care of me & told that of the 2 of us, I was the important one even though I was not under their ‘jurisdiction’, but under another group. (I must admit to having some trouble with this information.)
So there we were.
From that time ’til some 8 years hence, R had NO TROUBLES with his kidneys. When his doctor heard about this several years ago, she actually suggested he go back down to the mountain… an idea R did not comfortably entertain! There is great fear & anxiety tied in with this sort of experience.
Since R passed, I have often wondered about that small lump on his shin. Had I remembered it at the time, would I have had the gall to ‘harvest’ it before his body went off to the crematorium? (sorry if that sounds cold or weird. I regularly sewed this man back together after small construxion accidents– better ‘n coming up with $100/stitch, that being my major skill set & all… & he would not be using that body any more.)
The world is a larger and wierder place than those in charge are willing to let on.
My family runs to genius, & I was supposed to be the next.
This was unreal to me.
I had a fotografic memory and in grade school would just flip back mentally and look up stuff like spellings and dates on the pages I saw them last.
My father had taught me how to take those 1 ½ long multiple-choice achievement tests they handed out–
you ask if blank answers count against you
you race thru and answer all the questions you’re sure of
you go back and make guesses for the blanks
I was reading at 1,200 words/minute and ‘d be done with the test in 11 or 12 minutes. Then I’d sit & fidget for a few minutes more, plotting how to get the test up to the teacher’s desk & myself out the door while dodging hateful stares from classmates– I could feel these like arrows hitting my back as I zipped out of there!!
Umpteen years later when those wounds had lost their sting, I got brave enough for a high school reunion and sure enough, was greeted at the door by one of those kids– ‘Hey! When we used to take those tests, and you used to leave so early, I’d shoot hateful arrows at your back as you sneaked out the door– but then I wanted to learn how to fly a plane, and I had to take all these tests to get my license, and I learned how to do it really fast too!”
Because I was so flippe about my future I got sent off to Harvard during my senior high school year for a 3day battery of aptitude & various other tests– HOURS barreling thru multiplechoice, essay, Rorshacht inblot, image interpretation, they threw the whole spectrum at me.
AND… the grand result was: 99+% in all fields, EXCEPT secretarial, which was 78%. No surprise there– my mother was a crack legal secretary. Wasn’t about to step on her toes!
Eventually I blew that away too– got a job as secretary to the vicePresident of a high-finance newsletter publishing house in Beverly Hills. I handled disgruntled subscribers, it was really fun to get them all happy again. My next step up wouldabeen to ad copy writer, but I couldn’t even keep stocks straight from bonds– I took this as a blow to my ego for a few days, but it was just a matter of interest, I couldn’t care LESS for finance, really! But when I left to become a journeyman carpenter with my husband, they offered me to name my price if I would only stay– so much for Harvard!
Okay, so here I am about to be sent off to college.
I was vitally interested in parapsychology, but Dr JB Rhine at Duke University was only available to graduate students.
University of Colorado sent me a matriculation number 15 digits long, scary-huge!
Swarthmore College… now, they’d offered me the White Open Scholarship: I’d gone down for the interviews on what was also their Folk Festival Weekend, and as a visitor I had a 2 a.m. pass. You bet I stayed out ’til the last minute, folkdancing, chatting up this guy, etc. Because my last name was at the beginning of the alphabet, I was first interview next morning at 7 a.m.
I was quite drunk on lack of sleep & general excitement, clutching a fur muff & sitting on the edge of my chair in this large oval of campus bigwigs– president of the Student Council, editor of the school newspaper, heads of every department, etc., a dense cloud of cigarette smoke obfuscating the collegiate greens of the meeting room. Daniel Hoffman, English Dept. chair, took the pipe from between his teeth and said, “Well, Miss Becker, it says on your application that you like to read science fiction. Now, what IS science fiction? (I am startled) For instance, is Alice in Wonderland a form of science fiction?”
A completely staggering thought! I’d HATED that book!! To this child, it had made no sense at all… but as SCIENCE FICTION… I was blasted by the force of this new concept!
Overwhelmed, I put my muff on my head!
I said, ‘I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT THAT WAY!!’
I got the scholarship!
My parents took this as a vote of confidence and sent me to Swarthmore.
Now I didn’t tell you: my parents were somewhat imbalanced (on Planet Earth, who isn’t?) and besides dodging that aspect of family life, if I appeared downstairs Mom would always have something ready to do for which I saw no valid purpose, so I spent all indoor time up in my room out of sight & therefore out of mind, MAKING STUFF. I had over a hundred dolls. They all had do-able hair, and names, and pajamas as well as ‘street clothes’. No, I did not play with them, just made them… And no, I did not sneak downstairs to ‘borrow’ Dad’s slide rule, I went after the really sharp, hands-off scissors in Mom’s sewing box.
We Littles’d be locked in the nursery for what seemed like HOURS while Mom baked bread, swept, balanced the checkbook or whatever. One bright morning I’d been given Real Scissors (‘Don’t frustrate the child!’) with which I industriously cut everything in reach– my brothernsister’s hair, the windowcurtains, my doll’s eyelashes, etc. I don’t remember the explosion that must’ve ensued upon discovery, all I remember is two hideous pairs of plastic scissors, one bright yellow and the other pink, hopelessly dull, denting my fingers as I struggled to cut. Didn’t get decent shears ’til I was 16 & had been sewing all my own clothes for 4 years….)
The thing is, I KNEW Swarthmore neither offered nor accepted courses in the Fine or Applied Arts toward a degree, but I blithely dismissed this– I’d just be an intellectual for four years.
Ah me! I ABOUT DIED.
The workload was staggering, & irrelevant. I discovered when grades came out at the end of the first semester that they had actually expected me to memorize ALL those free-association facts in World History! And Philosophy: here I thought we would find out why we were here and what it all really meant, but NO– I surreptitiously knitted 3 sweaters under the desk while Mr Brandt and Peter Unger endlessly debated whether or not that chair disappears when I shut the door and reappears when I open it, or does it have an independent existence of its own? Years later I realized they were just setting parameters and defining terms to discuss what REALLY interested me.
Swarthmore had a renowned seminar program for upperclass independent study , but had I had that first– maybe studying the button industry in Flanders during the Middle Ages, frinstance– then the big survey courses might’ve been more relevant for arranging the facts I’d gathered from a microcosm.
At the beginning of sophomore year life was bleak. My best friend had gone to the Sorbonne. I was no longer a glowing new freshman chickie, but had been replaced by a new crop of same. Competing with the men on the men’s terms was wearing me down. Senior women seemed twisted to me, and nasty things happened in their dorm before exams. The women from the Bronx, for whom Swarthmore represented their only chance at getting out of the ghetto, hated me, a WASP sort of born to a society they strove to enter. The campus– all grey granite, ivy & fog– utterly depressed me as I slogged under overhanging elms to class. Oh yuh– there WAS a basement room in Trotter where poor twisted artistic souls could go every other Monday for a few hours and try to work out their frustration on clay, drawing tablets or silver- & enamelwork. This was the high point of my life! I still keep by the stove a tiny dish I made there.
But it was nowhere near enough. I was sinking fast.
For a child (yes, the last stage of childhood is age 18-21 years) in an upwardly mobile middleclass family, options are restricted. My mother was from the wrong side of the tracks in Charleston SC, and had spent her childhood struggling with poverty in order to avoid being mistaken for poor white trash. For her, I was no different from the sports car in the driveway or her presidency of the Garden Club– a possible source of Status. ‘My daughter, at Swarthmore…’ Actually I had no Life Skills (‘Oh, don’t mind the dishes, dear– just do your homework and get good marks’). So I took the only apparent option to internment in college: got pregnant, went home & announced I was getting married. I JUST MISSED the era when I’d’ve been sent off to Miss Somebody’s Home for Wayward Girls, to appear 6 months later without child but with some cover story of having gone to care for an ailing auntie.
Having thereby escaped Limiting Intellectuality, I signed up for drawing class at The Museum of Art in Philadelphia!
The first semester was taught by a young woman named Claire VanVliet, long yellow hair, hornrimmed glasses and patterned woolen tights (‘Oh, my sister sends me all these artsy clothes because she thinks I’m an artist’). She was a printmaker and her hands, always ink stained (‘ I have to wear gloves to my openings’). I LOVED HER IMMEDIATELY!
then she said “This semester we shall be working with light & shade.”
My heart fell! I DO LINES. The calligraphress. But hey… because I idolized her, I struggled thru the semester. I skipped the 2 classes allowed before you were kicked out. And then I dragged my meager portfolio in for assessment….
She studied my work. She said,”I understand your situation. Sometimes, when there is a certain degree of natural talent, the only way to progress is to go off in an entirely different direxion. Then, when you return to your work, it will have a new depth and breadth.”
Okay. If Claire said so…
The following semester—O line, my delight!– was taught by a man named Peter. But… I could hardly hold the pencil! He kept coming by my table, asking, “ You’re SURE you’ve had Drawing 1?” However, my NEXT week’s drawing made it into the Student Art Show….
And now: I am doing this to myself for the 2nd time: a drawing class, mostly crosshatching. A whole new language. And I am bucking at the traces, just like before. And just like before, I’m biting my tongue & muttering to myself. After a few weeks of ducking & dodging, I set up 20 minutes per day of CROSSHATCHING, willy-nilly… hopefully I can be as patient with myself as my instructor is! (Wait wait Bruce, I KNOW I can get the hang of this~~)
So. I want you to know: skyhigh IQ numbers can’t hold a candle to a huge & flaming Heart chakra. Love is the way to go. Nowadays my brains’re all in my heart.
Okay… I can almost see that picture in your mind: Ayala stepping out of a (currently imaginary) greenhouse warmed by our local stallion’s stable droppings, with an armload of bounteous beautiful red VINE-RIPENED TOMATOES…
Actually, I just went under the rosebushes and snipped some chives for a (storebought) salad~~
So much for the first of April!
But hey… these very fresh very green GREENS hold the entire summer’s promise in their chlorophyllic aroma. Very intense! And prolific. Next, they get snipped into scrambled eggs– our blessed hens never stopped laying this winter! Love those gals.
Yuh, all enthusiasm aside, it’ll be midApril before I put in the peas and potatoes, and end May before I even THINK of setting out tomatoes. This is one cold little hollow up here at a mere 1,000 feet. The arctic kiwis used to bud out during the February thaw, but even they are more cautious these years– I see slight swellings along their vines but it’ll be a while yet before they trust their new leaves to the variable spring weather.
Meanwhile I’ll be picking up some of the last bareroot bargain fruit trees at Farmer’s Market this Saturday. The 3 small meadows that we live on in the midst of this 16-acre burgeoning old-growth forest certainly DON’T need any more trees making shade… so I’m getting all dwarf and semidwarfs. Still a nook and a cranny here & there to tuck them away, and the lure of our own FRUIT is such a draw…
We’ve been buzzed by HUMMINGBIRDS for a couple weeks now, although the mason bees are more cautious and won’t venture out ’til the Oregon grape blooms. And we’re hassled by robins, towhees and thrushes who LOVE to kick leaf mulch all over the place… now along with housekeeping I keep a rake by the front door to restore my borders twice daily!
With such promise in the air it’s real hard to restrain myself: must, just MUST soak a few sweetpeas seeds, though… never can tell, might be the againth case of delusion, but if we have an accidental early spring I couldn’t bear to be left behind!
dear Grange Gardener!!
Well, these days I’ve been gardening instead of writing about it. Actually, I was hibernating from Christmas to Candlemas (around Groundhog’s Day) getting over the Holiday Rush. Theoretically, around Thanksgiving my garden should look as it does now– however, my business is huge in the early winter, just when I had ought to ‘ve been doing what I’m doing now: preparing the beds for a long sleep. NONETHELESS! while dashing back and forth from my market booth in town I was surreptitiously gathering up quantities of LEAVES from along Eugene streets. Can’t BELIEVE folks giving this stuff away, it’s pure instant topsoil!!! My heavy clay soils gobble everything I can put on top. The humus kind of thins out the mineral content so as the plants can get to it. (Ever try drinking concentrated orange juice?? That’s what life tastes like for a little plant trying to survive on clay.)
I did acknowledge Wintertime by renting Werner Herzog’s movie, Antarctica. That filmmaker asks some nutsoid and irrelevant questions, but thankfully his voice does not dent the deep white frozen silence of that continent! which he captures so well… What was of parenthetical interest was the little cabin used by the antarctic explorer Shackleton . The camera panned across a cabinet of canned goods– beef stew, various vegetables, minced collops— MINCED COLLOPS???? This woman raced for the dictionary: “collops: small lumps of meat’. Aha!! A perfect name for those odd formations we develop around our hips &c. upon reaching menopause, dontcha think?? Collops. Part of my ever-increasing elliptical vocabulary now.
Have you seen a robin yet? One showed up here about 10 days ago… his song in the evening put me in hurry-up mode: spring is due! I hear there’s a website www.whatbird.com where birds can be identified by their songs.
So. Back to the garden… here’s a recipe for the health and improvement of blueberry bushes. Organically. Something that should reach a broad audience– fwd it to other friendly gardeners, it needs broad public issue! And you could pin a paper copy to the garden shed door. We ALL should be indulged by blueberrys the size of a nickel, dontcha think?
THE WORD ON BLUEBERRIES
after a phone conversation with
Master Gardener John Parrott
late spring 2004
All additives will be taken up by the plantâ€™s root system
and are therefore sprinkled around the plant out to the dripline â€“
where water would drip off the outermost leavesâ€”
which is also as far as the roots extend outward.
No matter how much a blueberry bush is fertilized, it cannot use any nutrients unless the soil is ACID.
Soil could be jumpstarted towards acidity in the fall with an application of sulfur, like a light dusting of snowâ€¦ when you begin to see yellow on the ground, stop dusting it.
Sulfur, however, is not well regarded by most soil organisms and should be considered a radical, one-time event.
What works the very best is GRAPE POMACEâ€”leftovers from the winemaking process. If you have a vintner friend, arrive for their next pressing in a pickup truck. If not, buy it processed by the large sack.
The root system of blueberry bushes is very shallow. They spread out just beneath the surface of the soil. For this reason, keep all weeds or other plantings from under the bushes. They will steal nutrients from your crop! Fewer berries!!
Also for the same reason, do not scratch around in the soil under your bushes, not even with the highest of motivations (like thinking to mix in the nutrients following). Blueberry bushes have DIED after such ministrations!
Beneath each bush sprinkle a pint each of:
Soft rock phosphate
Kelp, and if you can afford,
Now sprinkle on a lot of grape pomace, enough to turn the soil purple.
Top these with a couple inches of nicely rotted compost.
The final layer is another couple inches of sawdust and/or wood shavings. Just be sure that cedar is NOT among the woods providing this mulch! Blueberries HATE CEDAR !!!
If your bushes are planted beneath cedar trees,
stop everything and transplant them almost anywhere else.
Blueberries require frequent waterings in hot dry weather. If the soil beneath them is dried out, that means their roots are likely to be, also– which means the blueberries will become small and wrinkled.
As the seasons pass, hearty applications of compost and sawdust could build up well above the crown of the bush. Not healthy. Moderate, please, to avoid rot and smothering.
So there’s for the berry bushes….
Sunshine?!! Back outside to finish pruning. This is a DIFFICULT PROCESS for me– trees are so much slower than I am!! I’m muttering to each branch while contemplating where exactly to shorten it. Then we send up prayers for NO COLD RAIN while the blossoms are out– in this cold little hollow, it’s a rare year when the fruit crop survives spring showers!
I’m hoping the weather’ll be soaking wet for the next month or 2. Otherwise we’ll all be reading up on dry farming, and gardening in desert conditions!!
Well, isn’t the season winding down, though? And I am winding up my garden hoses.
Thought of you on the Harvest Moon in September, wasn’t it beautifully enhanced by smoke in the atmosphere? Southern California firesmoke drifts all the way up here. Distress in one place leads to beauty in another… every stick has 2 ends, how like Life, what?
There was frost for the againth time here in Hermit Hollow, and some handwashables left on the clothesline overnight have a rubbery crunch…. picked all the tomatoes about 10 days ago, ha ha! smart me… now they’ve finished ripening and are heading into the freezer. Better plant more next year– the bounty from a bumper crop a couplefew years ago is ‘most used up now.
So how was your harvest? A rough year for us, with the late discovery of that cute little rabbit who had devoured all/most of the seedlings I set out, what a puzzle that was!– definitely not slug damage, but in 20 years here, no previous rabbits!! My housecat Jazman used to bring them in occasionally, and am I missing her now!! Hardly got any beans, lettuce or peas thanks to that longeared little dickens… but these days, lettuce thrives up on the deck in some big pots. The dog’s territory.
Meanwhile, the little rabbit stumbled into a HavaHart trap and is now a mile or 2 down the road reestablishing theirself…
The corn, the corn!! I planted in late May, really late for Ms. JumptheGun here, but even I was impressed by the lateness & coldness of Spring ’08… craftily had carried my corn seedflats into the bathtub room every overnight and managed to convince ‘em to sprout… to no avail!! Temperatures in the garden were most discouraging for them. You’ll recall I was planning a Corn Feast for our family reunion midJuly… then when that deadline passed, we could’ve held a neighborhood CornFest for August… but even today the poor little ears are still too young to leave their mothers!! The sheep will be glad of them, though.
Given these exaggerated geographical gardening conditions I’m smart enough to never try growing cantalopes (again)… but I’m ‘specially delighted with butternut squash. They always come through, even when pumpkins are lagging ‘way behind. Bless their pearshaped selves… a dozen in the draft closet will become imitation punkin pies for the Holidays.
So we are grateful for blueberrys, raspberrys (they’re still producing madly, but not sweet, not tasty, & succumbing to black fungus spots), a bumper crop of little Arctic kiwis, and grapes, GRAPES!! The muscat grapevines have buried the carved cedar guardians by the driveway. Not QUITE as sweet as they could be, not quite smokey-flavored yet. but still DEE-LISH. Maybe I can propagate some next spring if you’re interested. They make the BEST sparkling wine– Moscato, even more elating than champagne.
Now I did want to bring up another harvest, in line with October’s Hunter Moon… the matter of animals.
On a well-rounded homestead there are animals as well as plant life. This fiber fanatic has a few angora rabbits and some Shetland sheep grazing our small meadows (and fertilizing the place). We also have a flock of hens, charming girls who will soon be allowed out to ransack the spent garden for bad bugs and small sprouting weeds…
We regard these beings as companionable. They certainly all have personalities and intelligence– and since reading Craig Childs’ essay on ravens in his latest book I have been unable to regard any life form as less sentient than I– check him out, I’d lend you my copy! We take delight in their daily antics and solicit their attentions.
At one point we were raising angora rabbits. We had this previous agreement with the mother: those unsuitable for fiber would be put in the freezer. (If you put out your feelers, you can tell if matters are copacetic with animals.) She was okay with this, and we were respectful in our procedure– it was actually a ceremony, with smudging and dare I say Last Rites, thanking the little guy for their stay with us and their contribution to our wellbeing.
Some days, we just didn’t feel up to all this and would postpone until the atmosphere shifted. It really was an impactful event.
Butchering is a edifying job, once you get your surgical objectivity lined up: bodies are quite tidy and well-engineered. We’d package ‘em up neatly and leave ‘em in the freezer ’til we’d forgotten their names.
Nowadays I have only buck rabbits so as I can let them out all together to romp on the pasture. The females are territorial and fight among themselves, whilst the bucks just hump each other. Make love not war.
Then there’s this matter of BALANCE: on any well-run, well-rounded small homestead comes the problem of death, being responsible for both ends of the Lives we have taken on…
One of the young Shetland sheep turned out to be a HOGJAWS. Viewed from behind, she was quite the blimp on those toothpick Shetland legs! We often witnessed her getting butted broadsides out of the hay. I was about to go get another dozen bales from John Downing to make it thru the winter!! Plus, the whole flock had gotten edgy– rude & pushy when I came out with the feed.
So. We’ve put away sheep here before, but with Richard feeling all puny I bustled her into the dog kennel and drove down to Mohawk Valley Meats. For a slaughterhouse I find their attitude… courteous.
Loaded the sheep into a holding pen, moved the truck and returned to say farewells. She walked over to my extended hand, nuzzled her nose into it and looked me straight in the eye… unexpectedly.
This is the 4th time I’ve made this journey with an animal, and usually they are too distracted by the new surroundings to remember me. It was as if this one had seen the Big Picture and relieved me of any personal blame for it. What a little queen. When smitten by the hand of Fate, may I be that gracious!
And you, dear Neighbor-may you be walkin’ on sunshine, these beautiful late autumn days!
A SHETLAND-INSPIRED SHAWL
A shawl so fine it could pass through a wedding ringâ€¦ the stuff of faerie tales, and the defining characteristic of a true Shetland shawl!Â
Actually, though, Iâ€™ve seen it done:Â my sonsâ€™ sitter, Missy Moses, had a little round Scottish grandmother with a cedar chest that held just such a shawl, gossamer-light, of purely white homespun superfine yarn.Â She pulled off her wedding ring (maybe a size 4),Â grabbed the shawl any old which way and pulled it easily right throughâ€¦ what a treasure!
I came up withÂ a variation on this TraditionÂ some score of years ago after knitting one for Baby Son #3…
Â AsÂ ephemerous as it is, there’s a goodly bit ofÂ WARMTH to it! I’ve worn one completely threadbare, and had been often stopped on the street by those wishing to admire it.
Being as knitting has been such a gift to me, and I have such an overwhelming debt to the Universe & Life in general, let me in turn offer these instructions to you as a small return for favors rendered:
HereÂ y’are,Â make one! Wear it!Â Stay warm from both the shawl and the admiring glances!
First some background details.
Shetland sheep go into a shedding mode, and if you run your fingers over their backs you can gather the loose fibers (itâ€™s called roo-ing). The fibers are pointed on both ends, rather than blunted on one end from the shearing, and spin a very fine yarn. That, plus the lack of casting-off, is what allows the spinning of such a fine yarn that the ensuing shawl be passable thru a small ring.
Here’s the traditional way of going about knitting a Shetland shawl: the center is garter stitch, with a wide lace border and a smaller lace edging, all executed without binding off or assembly, and by picking up stitches along completed edges and heading off in different direxions.
Now looky here:Â this is all very well and good, but Iâ€™m living my life on a shorter fuseâ€¦ given the compression of Time in this tech-based culture, letâ€™s work this shawl concept on a different scale:
First, itâ€™ll be triangular. Those big square ones are worn foldedâ€¦ seems a waste of effort when the display is cut in half!
Next, let’s workÂ it ALL in ALL garter stitch:Â then we’ll have a 2-sided shawl.Â
AndÂ letâ€™s use brushed mohair yarn in splendid variegated colorwaysâ€¦ a couple years ago during a break from instructing at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival I was ECSTATIC to find gorgeous and affordable skeins– The colors took my breath away!!Â The yarn is from
KID HOLLOW FARM
Pat & Steve Harder
Itâ€™s a very fine yarn.Â Youâ€™d have a floating shawl.Â The yarn is also very slipperyâ€¦ although this shawl is knitted all in garterstitch, the slipperiness (and the headspace of it all) might make it a bit much for a beginner. Wooden needles would put the knitter at a definite advantage as they grab the yarn a bit.
The shawl uses 400 yds of whatever yarn. This one pictured is knitted from her colorway ‘Fiesta’.
Here’s what we’ll be doing:
The body of the shawl is a long triangle in garterstitch (just knitting).
Along the 2 triangle sides, stitches are then picked up and worked in a lace stripe pattern, with occasional increases at the centerpoint to keep it lying flat. Yes,Â the increasesÂ do disturb the pattern and you get to figure out how to keep it marching alongâ€¦ you can see thisÂ occurring in the foto above.
When this lace section is completed, the stitches are worked off sideways into a narrow lace edging.
So.Â You’ll need the following needles: dp’s are okay, or circularâ€”
#10 1/2Â for shawl triangle,
#8 for lace stripe section
#6 for lace edging
Instead of buyingÂ dp’s,howa bout making your own???Â Saves BIG BUCKSâ€¦Â IÂ bring my needle gauge to the home lumber store and try out their selexion of dowels, score with a razor blade and snap them, then sharpen with a pencil sharpener.Â I also remember to buy someÂ 200- grit sandpaper there, to polish ‘em offâ€¦ 49-cent sets of exotic hardwood needles!Â My kind of priceâ€¦
(Now BEWARE!Â TheÂ followingÂ instruxions are not for Blind Followersâ€¦ someday when that elusive commodity ‘SPARE TIME’ shows itself again, I’ll write all this up in great detail, and charge you the Big Bucks for a copy… meanwhile, email me if you get hung up and I’ll see if my time can afford figuring out a solution for ya…)
Using your 10 1/2 needles,
Cast on 3 sts.Â K 3 rows.Â At the beginning of the 4th row, increase 1 st.Â Mark this st with a safetypin or a yarn ‘flag’.Â Every 4th row, incÂ 1 st
on this edge only, until there are 36 sts.
K 3 more rows.Â
At the beginning of the next row, K2tog.Â Move your marker to that row halfway between the last inc and the 1st dec.Â This is the apex of the triangle, and the centerpoint of the shawl.
Now continue to dec 1 st every 4th row, back down to 3 sts.
End with yarn on the triangle side of the shawl.
Okay, now for the lace stripe part of the shawl body:
You’ve already got 3 sts on your needlesâ€¦
Pick up a total of about 300 sts along the 2 sides of the shawl where all the decreasing and increasing occurred. That’ll be about one for every row.Â
Yes!Â Leave that marker/yarn flag RIGHT THERE in the middleâ€¦
And pick up 3 stsÂ on the 3 you cast on at the beginning.
Now here’s the lace stripe pattern, a repeat of 6 sts and refreshingly simple for such a nice effect:
Row 1:Â K1, K2 together, yarn over, K1, yarn over, K2 together.Â Repeat to end of rowâ€¦
Row 2:Â knit.
That’s all there is to itâ€¦
Knit 2 rows to establish the pattern.
Now!Â Get out 2 short lengths of another yarn and knot them into loops for markersâ€¦.
At the end of each lace row hereafter, STOP 6 sts short of the end, put your loop in there and TURN AROUND.Â Head back the other way,Â and stop 6 sts short of that end of the shawl, putting in the other loop to mark where you turn.
Continue in this manner until youÂ end up atÂ the middle 6 (or so) sts.
Because the lace is worked off 2 sides that sit at an angle to each other, it’s necessary to increase now and then to keep the shawl lying flat:
So, at the same timeÂ that you knit 6 sts shorter every row: every 6 rows, inc 1 st each side of the ribbing closest to the centerpoint. I do this by just not knitting 2 together on each side of the single garter stitch.
AfterÂ you increase like this a few times, you’ll have enough extra stitches to form a new pattern element.Â It almost happens by itselfâ€¦This is where YOU get to figure out how!
So here we are, having completed with knocking off 6 sts at the end of every row,at the centerpoint of the lace stripe section: congratulations!
Knit on over to the corner of the shawl.
Now we’re gonna turn 90 degrees and work toward the other corner of the shawl withÂ a narrow lace edging. Here’s the pattern for that:
Cast on 7 sts.
K back to shawl body, k(last cast-on st and 1st shawl st) tog.
Row 1: k3 YOx2 K2tog k2.
Row 2: K4 p1 k2 k2tog
Row 3: K (8sts)
Row 4: K (7sts) to last st k2tog (yes, one from lace border, and one from shawl: this is how we attach the lace to the bottom edge of the shawl).
Row 5: K2 (YOx2, k2tog)x2 k2
Row 6: K4 p1 k2 p1 k1 k2tog
Row 7: K
Row 8: bind off 3 sts loosely, k to last st k3 tog (yes, 2 shawl sts).
Repeat from row #1 ’til you get to the other end of the triangle.
Yay, you’re DONE!!
Rinse it, roll in towel and walk dry.
Now, to get the shawl looking REALLY GOOD, we’ll block it out–
Find an unused bed or carpet and get a whole handful of pins.
Tack the 3 corners down, eyeballing shawl for symmetry, and pull on every one of those wretched lace points, and pin in place. It’ll be dry soon, and then you’re out and about all swingy and fancy!
dear Grange Gardener GirlFriend!
Â Thought of you often over the summer, especially as I herded grandsons away from my meager pea patch, which they were intent on feeding to my angora rabbits… YES!! I DID manage to scrounge a couple handfuls outta there for myself, although it took 3 REPLANTINGS to get any…
AND… now I think the culprit has been identified:Â a darling wild bunny who sits on our tiny front lawn and watches us thru the window on BunnyVision, streaks away at the slightest movement– a likely suspect indeed!Â All the lettuce is on the front porch in pots to survive his presence, along with the 4th batch of peas, now well past seedling stage.Â Gonna fence ‘em offÂ this time with a ring of hardware cloth!!
Those of us gardeners who stretch out our gardening kinks at Grange yoga sessions often receive the fringe benefits of FLOWERS from Roger Walsh’s garden– he’s living on Robin Koken’s old place just down the road from us at the 18-mile marker.Â You can see he’s got the place all duded up, and I guess his glads’ve been falling over in these August rains— he brings bucketsful to yoga.Â I can get them to stick around for near 2 weeks with judicious plucking of spent blooms and concomitant shortening of stems… our entry features a marvellous tall vase, a triumphant work of #4 Son the Potter, although I’ve been hard pressed to find flowers tall enough to suit it until Roger’s glads came along.Â A splendid way to greet visitors!
We were talking about the Prolonging of Bloom Life after yoga last week, and I recalled a paragraph in Gerald Durrell’s My Family & Other Animals… he’s the naturalist kid brother of famed author Lawrence Durrell, Alexandria Quartet.Â His tutor’s mother kept her house full of flowers.Â She apparently had some secret ‘in’ withÂ the Flower Devas,Â and had been informed ofÂ what the different species required for greatest longevity… I copied her list into my Family Recipes & Secret Potions volume to keepÂ for a moment just like this:Â here y’are~~
CHRYSANTHEMUMS:Â drachma (what’s THAT??Â
Â Hum now, the dictionary says ‘a copper/nickel coin of modern Greece;
the older ones were silver…)