For The Love of Mom and Garden Dirt

Hello, old friends and welcome new subscribers. For those of you in Australia, your growing season just finished, but we’re just starting here.

And so is a family ritual.: GIVING UP ON GARDENING.

In Grandma’s era, they hitched the horse to the plow, tilling a quarter acre for the garden. Mom’s era used a tractor. Like the women who came before her, it was simply how they fed the family through the winter.

So like my foremothers, each spring, I USED TO nag Dallas Cowboy Fan until he tilled my patch of dirt. Growing season is short in Oregon. For 4 months I  planted weeded, watered, debugged, harvested, and canned.

That garden exhausted me for over 20 years. When I lay down on summer nights, it felt as though my bones were sinking to the backside of my body.

About six years ago, I planted half the garden. And then, I graduated to planting only a quarter of the garden.

For the last three years, I’ve kept the plot weeded and composted, but haven’t stuck a seed in the ground. I’m full of excuses.

And now the earth is tilting again. The soil is waking  in the northern hemisphere. The garden is calling.

I remember the day Grandma said she wasn’t able to work in the garden anymore. We were shocked. She was giving in to old age. And twenty years later, when Mom started planting tomatoes in buckets from Home Depot, we knew the end of her era was coming.

So a couple of weeks ago, I stood, surveying my dirt. It made me tired to look at it. I decided to let the ground go back to the wild again. No more work for me.

But then, the memories invaded.

  • The giddy thrill of leaf-tips breaking through the soil.
  • Wars on rabbits and deer.
  • Cats keeping me company, watching from under the zucchini plants.
  • Missing green beans, strawberries, and melons because Scout and his friends had been in the garden snacking.
  • Kids digging taters and squealing like it was buried treasure.
  • Trudging to the house in the past-dusk, arms full of corn and tomatoes.
  • Night dew making the smell of  earth rise.
  • Moonlight on cornstalks, as we waited to chase raccoons away.

How many hours had I spent on hands and knees, working this dirt? I wasn’t ready to plant in Home Depot buckets yet. So I visited our Master Gardener’s Association.

It seems gardening has changed since the way Grandma and Mom did it.

Gone are the days of tilling a big rectangle of dirt each fall and spring.

Weed-Less is the “thing” now.

So, I put down a weedbarrier where I DIDN”T want to grow anything. And topped it with cedar chips.

I added  drip irrigation (instead of my spitting sprayer). (conserving water)

Floating row covers, give a head start on the season, and protect from critters and air-borne weeds.

In winter, spent plants will be removed, disturbing the soil as little as possible. Soil is covered…and awaits the call of Spring.

Folks say, they haven’t tilled their garden in 20 years, using this method. This isn’t weed-free. But weeding and watering take very little time each week. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s working out.

Floating row cover

I know there’ll come a day when I won’t put in a garden

anymore.  It’s coming.

But until then, I’m tethered to the women in my family, who for some reason sensed a calling each spring to put seeds in the dirt and wait.

And so it begins…

Here’s more about Weed-Less Gardening if you’re interested.

For new subscribers..

You might like to know that I also write another blog, Before Morning Breaks, under a different name. It’s a different post than this one. My apologies to those of you who didn’t like the same post in both places last time. I understand and don’t mean to disappoint, and will strive to keep the topics different. Thanks for letting me know what you like (and what you don’t).

Do You Garden?  How do you make it easier?

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How to Take A Viking Tour…Part 1

Don’t use the back door when the blades are on that side.

It’s been a while since my last post. We have a bit of catching up to do.

Last Christmas, we decided we didn’t need any “stuff,” instead, we said we’d save our bucks spent on  anniversary, birthdays, and  Christmas and give ourselves an international experience in the upcoming year instead.

Okay, we were probably watching too much Public Broadcasting. The beguiling violins and cellos of the Viking Cruise song lured us like sirens … and shoot, darn, heck, who doesn’t want to travel to foreign places to learn to knead bread, make pancakes, and run between the blades of the windmills. (Okay, maybe not that last one.) We signed up.

The Grand European Tour: Amsterdam to Budapest

1.  PACK RIGHT:  I’m a small packer. I feel righteous about only traveling with a carry-on

Smart packing techniques.

and a backpack. Of course, I look like a charwoman most of the time, but when I’m traveling, I figure I’ll never see these folks again, so why risk a dislocated spine?

But on a river cruise, you DO see these folks. Everyday. Every night. Almost  every meal. Almost every tour. So I had to bring a slightly bigger suitcase and more clothes. Now here’s a travel-secret: Use the JEANS-TECHNIQUE: No one is sure if you’ve previously worn your jeans, OR if you’ve got on a fresh pair…so you could probably do a 15-day trip with 2 pair of jeans.  Except all my jeans look like they should be made into Raggedy Ann dolls, so instead I simply packed black clothes. I looked like Johnny Cash with a scarf. The good news is that no one cares what you wear (unless you’re naked). These trips are pretty laid-back.

2. ARRIVE AT YOUR DESTINATION EARLY: I have a lot of talents. Most of them are useless (like counting backward in Pig-Latin or juggling sponges), but my favorite skill is being able to sleep on airplanes. I snap on noise-canceling headphones, a blindfold, warm socks, blanket, air pillows, nearby snacks, water, and Chapstick, and I’m snoozin’ by the time we reach mid-Atlantic ocean. I arrive only slightly less jet-lagged than Dallas Cowboy Fan, who has watched four movies through the overseas flight. We try to arrive early and soak up some sunshine in our new locale; it’s supposed to help the body reset. I don’t know if it works because every time I sit in the sun, I fall asleep like a cat in a warm spot.

3. PREP BEFORE YOU GO:

Yeah, sure, the cruise folks provide local lectures and tours in every town.  But these are

IMG_2332

Welcome back to the boat. You were only gone two hours. That’s okay. Welcome back and have a drink.

the usual touristy stuff. If you want to mix it up with the locals, you’ll have to find your own adventures.  And honest-to-Pete, our unplanned forays were some of the best parts of the trip. (See Part 2-coming)

4. TAKE SOMETHING TO DO:

Why?  Because you’ll be spending A LOT of time sitting around, watching the scenery go by.  Yes, most of it is lovely and interspersed with the groans and squeaks of going through 67 locks, but it’s sort of like being at a party for 2 weeks with strangers. People start hauling out cards, board games, dominoes, or telling you about relatives that you may (or may not)  care about.  One experienced traveler brought his taxes to work on; others brought knitting, puzzles, Kindle readers stuffed with books, journals, and several brought work from their offices. (There’s a lot of down-time).

5. SETTLE-IN:

Unpack in your cleverly engineered room. You’ll be pulling up to the food tanks about every 4 hours During this cruise-time, Viking will treat you like a queen or king. So IF your ideal vacation is eating and visiting OR not having to cook, do housework, or laundry, then you’re going to be very very happy. IF you need to be a bit more activity… you’ll need to come up with a plan.

Of course, not all of our plans turned out like we expected. We’re in 4 different countries, don’t speak the languages, and can’t read the signs. What could go wrong? And that’s the joy of travel. Stay tuned…but in the meantime…

Merry Christmas…may you have a few surprises among your presents.

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” 
― Anita Desai

COMING NEXT: PART 2:

TOURIST OR TRIP WARRIOR?…or

IF IT’S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE—HEY! WHERE ARE WE NOW?

in HOW TO TAKE A VIKING CRUISE

 

 

Things that Comfort

Because I’m a writer, I keep a list of:

Things That Comfort

That way, I can siimply throw a few comforting elements into a scene and the reader will relax along with a character, and I can bring them down from big drama in the previous scene or set them up for a big scare in the next scene.  A literary trick. Warmth from a fireplace, a sunny day, the cat lying on the heating vent.  Aaaah, We all feel relaxed and soothed.

Recently our digital version of our Oregon newspaper pointed out “the least creepy thing on the internet, lately”. So I hurried over there see if it qualified for my comfort list.

Google Sheep Views

Carmel, North Wales. Photo by Howard Hughes

Carmel, North Wales. Photo by Howard Hughes

Google Sheep View is a blog in which folks post pastoral pics of sheep. Yep.

One photo isn’t much of a relaxer, but scroll through the site of woolie after woolie and you’ll feel your blood pressure start to drop. Maybe you can even imagine yourself someplace where no one wants anything from you.

You wanna know the truth?

I met a bunch of sheep on my trek across England last year. Day after day after day. Right through their pastures. Baaaaaaaaing each morning at the whisper of dawn. Right next to my pack whenever I set it down.

Here’s the truth about these gals. Not only are they wool machines. They are crapping machines.In a defecation contest between a goose and a sheep, my money would be on the woolie. I doubt if there is a square foot of the Yorkshire dales that isn’t peppered with sheep doo (unless it’s indoors.).

This won’t bother you if you’re in a car. If you’re walking fifteen miles, then you’ve spent the last 14.9 miles looking for a place to sit down and  eat. Honest to mud, a few times we sat ourselves in somebody’s  gated front yard.

These animals chew grass at one end and spit pellets out the other end. AT THE SAME TIME.!!!  CONSTANTLY!!!

Most of the sheep are spray-painted, like you see here, because all the farmers run their animals together on the moors. And the great sheep round-up is something to behold.  Not comforting to the sheep.

There’s lots of yipping and howling (that’s the humans who are riding 3-wheelers). The dogs (3-4 of them) are quiet and running the fringes of the herd.  Thousands of sheep baaaaaaing in every note within human range.

There’re sorted by colored spots (which represent different farmers). They’re sheared, doctored, and then back to the fields they go….

Naked and happy to create more sheep pellets.

And maybe that’s the comforting part. Maybe that’s the lesson here: No matter how much hair you lose—life goes on. Keep doing the things you like: eating and crapping.

(But sheep still didn’t make my comfort list). (Creepy list coming in October)