I put everything on hold yesterday and attended a soap and lotion making class held through The Goat Farm. OMG I had so much fun. Was like a play day with several lady friends. My hairdresser told me about The Goat Farm, and I intended to schedule a meet and greet sometime soon with Mindy and her husband, who own the farm. Then I discovered she was having two classes on making soap and making salves and lotions – I got in and Ta Da! Another new world has opened up for me.
You already know I do paper collage. And I love to quilt. I have been an organic gardener for over 40 years now, and I have a big local family, a business to run, helping with the family business occasionally (my former career in Real Estate), and on and on and on. I'd always thought I would make a wonderful grandmother, staying home to knit, sew things, make collage art, decorate the house, make candles and soap, write romances and garden.
Well, my life is sort of like this. Today, I will be taking my expecting daughter on a little mother-daughter shopping. Her baby is due in October, and her shower is next week. Then I spend a week partially in Las Vegas for some real estate things, and then off to Ottawa for Romancing the Capital, Eve Langlois's wonderful event, where I hope to see some great dedicated readers I've never met in person before…
So this week is about finishing, getting my instructions ready for the garden watering so that doesn't turn into an epic fail, making sure everything I need to get done gets done this week. And so why not take a soap-making class? Meet some new friends and indulge myself in scents and beautiful soap and lotion art?
My long term plans are sort of turning out. The part that isn't is I forgot to meditate and dream/look forward to the deadlines in my life. The trick, for me, is to float through life, doing all these things, and make it look artsy, effortless and soul-affirming, while making sure I keep to my commitments to others. After all, I am not independently wealthy. I didn't marry Prince Charming who has a trust fund and unlimited resources. And I'm the primary bread-winner in our family. So I can't piddle and dawdle too long. But I have to trick my brain into thinking I am living the life of ease and luxury, the life and soul-affirming things of my every day, so that the stress doesn't get in the way of me actually doing anything.
I have several partnerships. First, and foremost, I partner with myself. Am I getting healthier as I age? Am I doing what things I want to do while I can do them? Am I managing my finances and my time in such a way that there is more life at the end of the month instead of more stress? Do I live in a house of my design, a place where I enjoy being and where I can feel my soul growing? Or, does it limit me? And is the cost (time/emotional energy) worth the result?
I partner with my husband. Not everything is perfect all the time. After some 46 years of marriage, we've done a pretty good job of balancing the urgent and the necessary, with the folly, leaving time for creative endeavors and explorations. I think we do best at the explorations. For me, that's travel. Part of being a good partner is learning and telling the truth on what we can and are willing to bring to the table. I'm no Cinderella either. But partnerships don't do very well under stress or chaos, and a lot of our time is spent making sure these things happen only on a limited basis. Gardening, traveling, going on soap-binges or shopping (in moderation) helps with this, too.
I partner with my other family members. I am nearly the oldest woman member of my little tribe. That comes with it some responsibilities to pass on what I've learned in a way that doesn't make my family feel like I've hit them between the eyes. I want to give them memories they can laugh about when I'm gone. And yes, I admit, I'd like there to be a big hole when I leave. I'd like to be missed.
Partnerships with others in my real estate or writing community, in other endeavors I'm involved with requires telling the truth and learning who and what I can trust. I have some partners I'd love to listen to but would never count on in a crisis. I have others who I can count on for different things, but not for all things. I sort and pick, and yes, occasionally dead-head my friends and associates. No sense trying to make or keep a friend who is drifting, or not wanting to reciprocate, or for whom I have to do all the heavy lifting. As I get older, I've been better and better about discerning those things. And I've made some major screw-ups along the way being too trusting. But the lessons have been massive, and the circumstances have taught me a lot about myself. Just like raising children, being long-term married, growing a garden or starting a successful business — failure is part of the story.
I guess I could sum up my life as a patchwork of things, some found, some discovered, some worked for, some gifted and some lost, or lost and re-found. It is a blend of highs and lows, colors and blandness, determination and creativity, art and science and a little magic thrown in along the way.
I guess these are all life skills I'll need some day when I take my next great adventure into the unknown. I take that hole that hopefully will be made here and bring that value to wherever else I'm going. And then give it all away again.
Because, in the end, all of it is a series of giving everything away, in various stages of our lives. It's not about receiving all day long. For me, it's about watching how my gifts change the world around me. My gardens. My books. My loves. My family. My quilts. My spaces.
What about you?
There are lots of things that satisfy me about gardening. Here are some of my favorites.
Preparing the Soil:
Yesterday afternoon we were weeding the garden. I've planted carrots, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage and lettuce in long rows, along with onions and potatoes. Every year for nearly twenty years I'd get a 10-yard dump truck load of mushroom manure from the Mushroom Farm in Petaluma. In case you don't know how much that is, it's a pile that would nearly touch the second story of a house! I'd work this into the dark clay soil one wheelbarrow at a time (and yes, my arms got sore). I usually got a sunburn on that day, and for a week afterwards, the whole yard smelled like a manure pile.
To me, it smelled like Heaven! Really! So, last night, as I was pulling these weeds, they came out so clean, the soil was so balanced and lovely, with just the right amount of moistness and nutrients, it was pure pleasure. My remaining little plants are standing straight and tall this morning. A great garden takes years in the making, because it has to start with wonderful soil.
I've hired gardeners to help with some of the heavy labor, and help set up irrigation systems, something I've not taken the time to learn. Some day. All of them remark how they'd like to put in this system and that, to help with the watering. And they'd look at me strange when I'd tell them, “But I like the two hours a day it takes to water.”
I really do. I look over the leaves as the wand spreads the wet goodness and washes away the dirt and grit, I watch as it sinks into the soil. I snip the heads off flowers while I water (I wear an apron with clippers, a small shovel, mosquito repellant, some assorted seeds for in-filling, a couple plastic plant identifiers and a permanent marker, along with some string). I replant seeds that didn't come up, or replace a plant that won't grow properly with a new seed, or bury the seeds I'm dead-heading back into the soil to create volunteers. It's the tending it takes to notice, adjust and gently coax and guide my garden into a thing of beauty.
And it very much is like writing a book.
Small shoots of cabbage and lettuces are plucked for salads. Othertimes I just thin the plants so that the ones remaining have room to grow. When your fingers work the soil so carefully and closely, you see things you would miss otherwise. Last night I discovered one of my baby praying mantis bugs. I put a larvae of them on each of two rose bushes in my garden out back. Each is supposed to harvest about 500 little mantis, who are voracious eaters of aphids and other non-beneficial bugs. Since he was crawling over the little pile of weeds, I carefully cupped my hands around his little 1/2″ body and placed him back in the roses where he could find the best food. Unless I'd been on my knees doing this job, I'd have missed getting introduced to him!
Every year my garden takes on a new personality, like the books I write. Working on my hands and knees, or watching from above carefully, helps me get to know the garden that wants to reveal itself to me. Yes, I don't grow the garden. The garden grows all by itself. I just place the order of things, set the stage for the play they create all their own. It is a very magical experience for me. It's like discovering characters that fall in love, or experience hurt or happiness in my books.
Taking the Bounty:
Harvesting comes along with the changing of the seasons. Like in the Bible, the time to sow and time to harvest. When I remove something, I can replant, or put something else in its place. Or, I can let the ground rest. Like one of my favorite signs over my desk states, “My garden isn't dead. It's sleeping.” Letting a garden rest is a good thing.
Eating the first fruits of my labor is always a joy. I've now had my first sunflower. My first handful of sugar peas, flat French beans and we've juiced lots of baby Chinese cabbage and bok choi plants as we've thinned the mounds. I've had a half dozen cherry tomatoes already and am on my second cycle of lettuce. We had enough small patty pan squash for dinner last night too.
And that reminds me, time to get the refrigerator cleaned out, because I'm about to become inundated with good, healthy food!
As you see, I could go on and on. There is one mindset for a flower garden. Another for a food garden. And I like to mix them together as well. I think lettuce grows well at the base of a trellis of sweet pea blossoms. Calendulas help with the moths that bring aphids and also discourage gophers. The garden changes every day, and each day it emotes different emotions as I tend, watch and enjoy seeing it transform before my eyes.
It is truly a living work of art. Hopelessly addicted. In love forever.
Oh that magical time of year! While I still have narcissus and white daffodils blooming, the cineraria are coming on strong in their shades of purple, pink and violet. My hydrangeas are budding and the roses look stronger this year than ever. I have apricots and peaches that have fruited. Can't tell about my cherries because some of them are still blooming. My Meyer Lemon bush is almost breaking itself it's so full.
Our hills are green (St. Pats is always the greenest day here), but recent rains have stopped the brown spots that sometimes develop on our hilltops in April. I have frogs I transported from our old house in Sebastopol some 26 years ago — well, generations from those 6 little green frogs I put in a coffee can and transported here — they are singing up a chorus. I don't mind it keeps me awake at night. Makes me think I'm in Disneyland or some other magical place.
I have planted my tomatoes and peppers, sweet peas that are now about 3′ tall, as well as sugar pod peas. I have Tuscan Cauliflower (blooms purple blush on white heads) that turns green when it's cooked. We've had kale, broccolini and swiss chard in all the rainbow colors. My artichokes are doing
well, and my purple asparagus are just popping up from the ground.
Don's hops plant I tried to kill off last summer has come back with a vengeance from the heavy pruning. They're staked and we think there'll be enough blooms for his famous India Pale Ale he likes to brew.
Lavender is blooming, so is the pink and pineapple bottlebrush. Harvested some pine nut seeds to start new trees. I have volunteer green beans, hollyhocks and stubborn remnants of the horseradish I've been trying to get rid of for 5 years (ever since a worker rototilled them under instead of pulling them). Kiwis and grapes are bursting forth.
There just isn't any better time for me now that the days are lighter longer and the air is warmer. I get dirty every day in the Spring. Can't wait to bring in those fresh bouquets, and to start getting early squash and carrots, which should be here next month.
And when I garden, I think of stories. It is a form of meditation for me. I like to look at my vegetables in the middle of my flower beds, so when they go to seed, they have company. Days like this, I truly am grateful.
Don't forget to catch the other A-Z Blog participants by clicking here.
I grew up in gardens my mother tended. Her favorite was roses. It's too early to show you, but later, when all 50 of my rose bushes are in full bloom and the scent is so strong I leave my bedroom windows open all night and dream in technicolor, I'll show them to you.
So in this A-Z Blog Tour, Day 7 of a month of gratitude, G is for Gardens.
So I inherited a green thumb. Even the years when I was required to do weeding as part of my weekly duties as a teenager, didn't dissuade my love for green growing things. A friend of mine in high school gave me a rabbit from a litter of jack rabbit-4H white rabbit crosses (done unintentionally he says) and I found Nibbles pebbles of pooh to possess magical powers. We had the tallest, sweetest corn that summer. Nibbles escaped that summer too, and went off to find love in probably all the wrong places…
My husband and I became organic vegetable farmers way back in 1971 when we were first married. We'd go out in the garden and work up a sweat, come inside and have sex, then coffee, then more sex, then more gardening. We were poor students without any money to speak of, but with a lot of passion and love that has carried us forward to this day. In fact, when we sold that house, I told the Realtor we had to disclose that it was a very easy house to get pregnant in, as one of our brood of 4 was actually conceived in the garden…I digress…
So gardening has been a thread throughout my life, like raising 4 children on our now 60 acre piece of Heaven, surrounded by woods and a 1200 acre open space. We have views in all directions, but my favorite one is of my meadow. No lights. No organized gardens. Just green, with a few wildflowers I scatter every year. My tribute to my mother and the many angels that live here with me.
I took a collage class in Marin a few years ago and created this piece I call Gardens of the Heart. A portion of it is on my FB page timeline background. I get goosebumps every time I look at it. Growing flowers and other things just seems like the right thing to do. Not for profit. Not even for spiritual gain, although the gain is there without a doubt. Just because I can, and because I like to see what shows up when I put hand to soil. It's like setting a small part of the world right–the only part I can control.
And for that, I'm grateful.
A close family member had been grieving at the loss of a relationship. He asked me, “How do you find another partner? How do you find someone to love?”
My love of gardening has spanned over 40 years. I love the seasons, every single one of them. In Northern California we get to garden year round. I find it relaxing, soothing, and something I just must do every day.
You might ask why I would get a slingshot for Mother's Day. Living here in beautiful Northern California, we have acres of gardens and in the middle of our field, we have an abandoned pool from the years the kids were little. I have it filled with koi, and goldfish. It didn't start out that way, but, as things in my life have a way of doing, soon became the “big blue thing” I could see outside my kitchen window that got converted into something nicer. It's now one huge koi pond.