A GOOD WEEK

dirt on my face, family, friends, friendship, garden, photography, small town life, Uncategorized

Good morning!

This past week was a pretty good one. There were, of course, good moments and bad moments, but looking at it as a whole, it was a successful week. Now, if only I had better short-term memory, I could tell you exactly why it was a good week and what we did, but I’ll need to look at the archives (AKA pictures on my iPhone) to remember exactly what happened.

First of all, in Breaking Garden News, we have our first tomato!!!

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HELLO! WELCOME TO THE WORLD! I CAN’T WAIT TO EAT YOU!

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Sister looks on in amazement at the tiny green tomato

I submitted a painting to a contest meant to benefit a local arts group. The jury planned to select twenty works of art and then in September there is an auction where the proceeds are split between the artist and the charity. They were meant to respond by Monday and since I didn’t hear anything, I figured they just notified the winners. It was a little disappointing, but it felt good just to submit something.

But THEN, late Thursday night they sent an email and said they had accepted my painting! It is a botanical watercolor of peonies, and I am so excited!!

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These are a couple botanical prints I’ve been working on this week. I’m hoping that by the end of the summer I’ll have enough to do a small show or even open an online store to sell prints and original paintings. That is exciting, right?!

Sister got her first byline and was published in the local paper. Junior Ace Reporter!!

Both brothers had good news about their respective jobs, which is great.

On Thursday we went with our cousin to one of my favorite places ever…the Book Barn.

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The resident cat, who I’m pretty sure runs the place, is named Dickens, which is a name that works on several levels.

It is a big, dilapidated barn in the absolute middle-of-nowhere filled to the brim with books about anything you can think of. It is a place full of inspiration and magic, and I love, love, love it there.

Uncle Gee and Aunt T invited us to Tanglewood to see a jazz band with them on Friday night, and we accepted because we love to do stuff! I’m SO GLAD WE ACCEPTED because it was one of the best concerts I’ve been to, SO FUN.

The band is called the Hot Sardines, and I would liken it to…the closest you can get to a roaring party in a 1920’s speakeasy. We also had FRONT ROW SEATS, bantered a bit with the band, met the lead singer afterwards and had the best time.

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See the guy in the cream colored fedora? He is the band’s resident mobster/tap-dancer. At first, I thought, does he just sit there and tap his feet the whole time? BUT THEN HE DANCED and now I think every band should have a resident tap-dancer. Furthermore, their rendition of Summertime gave me goosebumps.

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That was a great and spontaneous treat and a wonderful end to the week. Here’s a video from their YouTube page to give you an idea of the music:

Plus, they inspired me to work on a Secret Project which I’ve been thinking about all weekend. I have more than one Secret Project going on right now and I’ll have to fill you all in at some point…here’s a slo-mo video of one of my secret-works-in-progress…

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Secret Project: dirt on my face and everywhere else, too. 

We also got to see the best of little cousins again this week. I love spending time with those two kids, they are the sweetest and most imaginative little buddies to have around. And they give great hugs!

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I’ve also had some of my flowers bloom in the past week, and that fills me up. I love the vegetables, but flowers are food for the soul, I’m pretty sure.

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I played tennis for the first time in over a year and I won, which felt great! Plus, Sister and I have kept up going to Pilates, which we started a few weeks ago. I LOVE PILATES. The class is Wednesday and Friday mornings and I think Sis and I are the youngest people there by about 30 years? Great. A class full of retired women is just my speed. Pilates is fun and it is also hard, but I like all of the breathing and stretching breaks, and if the soreness I’ve felt for the last couple days is any indication, it’s a WORKOUT.

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Okay! That’s it from around these parts, tune in next time for a garden progress report!

 

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Thomas Cole and Bad Mexican

family, friends, humor, personal essay, photography, small town life, Uncategorized

Today, the three of us siblings which are present here in New York went adventuring (the fourth sibling unable to make it as he currently resides in the far-off land of Kansas. HI J!).

We drove thirty minutes south-west-ish and crossed the mighty, winding Hudson River, and ended up in Catskill. We were hungry after all of that pre-adventuring, so we thought we would look for a cute cafe or a tasty-looking treat.

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One of the last remaining places with a functional fax machine.

Alas.

There was no cute cafe and there were no tasty-looking treats. We settled on a Mexican joint, and we don’t need to talk about it much as we shall not be returning there. Nor shall we be returning to Catskill in the near future.

But then we wound our way to the Thomas Cole Museum!

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The view from the porch. Wowwee.

Thomas Cole was one of the leaders of the Hudson River School of art, which originated right around here in the Hudson River Valley. The museum was smaller than I expected, but had stellar views off the front porch and some nice flowers. There were a few rooms open to the public and since we were too late for a guided tour, it didn’t take long to see the contents of them.

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Nice flowers

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Re: the Hudson River School of art, I’ll quote Wikipedia, because that is the easiest thing for me to do and it’s late and I’m kind of lazy:

The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters whose aesthetic vision was influenced by romanticism. The paintings for which the movement is named depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and the White Mountains.

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I will forever have a soft spot for The Hudson River School, in part because I grew up with those landscapes saturating my mind, and in part because both my Mom and my teachers did a great job exposing me to local art and history as a kid. The art that came out of those landscape painters was idealistic and romanticized, but also beautiful and idyllic.

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Back to the Thomas Cole Museum: there was a lot less art than I had hoped for. The house is decked out with cardboard-y reproductions of the paintings that hung when Cole lived there. They are not very good reproductions. However, the “New Studio” has rotating, temporary exhibits and they were featuring some works of Sanford Gifford, who was one of the leaders of the Hudson River School.

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“Going Sketching in the Catskills” Sanford Gifford, 1866

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Details of oil paintings by Sanford Gifford

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There are other famous painters from the Hudson River School around here–I was so lucky to grow up in a place that is so steeped with history! Olana, the home and studio of Frederick Church, is only 25 minutes away, and we visited it a lot when I was growing up. It is a beautiful home full of interesting architecture, although the last time I visited, it was full of contemporary, experimental art which I found really jarring in the 19th-century surroundings. Also, as you will see below, Mr. Church and I have a bit of a history.

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Maybe this is just me, but if you’re at a museum dedicated to one of the country’s foremost landscape artists, should you at least paint feet onto the guy?

The following things happened at Olana:

  • I had many, many, many amazing picnics with my mom, pizza bagels, and siblings
  • I learned from Patty O that I could cross one eye and make the other one go in loops. This is largely a useless skill.
  • I loved those picnics and the pizza bagels
  • Frederick Church put in a heart-shaped pond for his wife, which I thought was the most romantic thing I ever heard of when I was about 10. Now I think it is kind of impractical and hard to see the shape clearly? But good for him!
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In Thomas Cole’s “old” studio

Once, on a school field-trip, our class went to see Thomas Cole’s “The Course of Empire”  which is a thought-provoking series of five paintings depicting the rise and fall of human civilization. The Internet tells me that their permanent home is in NYC, but I think it must have been a temporary exhibit around here, because I don’t remember going to The New York Historical Society, which is where they live. It was a memorable experience and I’ve thought of those paintings a lot over the years.

There were also a few Frederick Church paintings at that same exhibit and, guys, I don’t much like it when people tell me what to do. This was in the pre-moving-around-the-world era of my life and I think I hadn’t been to many art museums, so when they told us not to touch the paintings, the inside of me basically crawled inside-out and demanded that I touch a painting. I chose a landscape by Frederick Church which had lots of little, bumpy green leaves, and I looked to my right (covertly) and saw the museum guard glance away, and I DID IT. I reached out and touched it!

I JUST WANTED TO AND I DID.

I can’t believe it. Present-day Alex would NEVER DO THAT.*

I think the guard saw me and told me not to do it and I had a secret thrill and then I went into the next room and saw that civilization was destined to crumble anyway, according to Thomas Cole, who based his series on a poem by Lord Byron, who is not someone I want to base anything on.

I digress.

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Anyway, in summary, we had a nice time out and learned a few things** and we saw gorgeous views of the Catskills. I also saw a piece of dust adhered to an oil painting and I longed to reach out and brush it away and also touch the painting. Instead, I just weirdly blew on the painting a few times, watching this giant dust bunny flutter around, and then I realized that hearing me suddenly breathe loudly in the very silent New Studio probably sounded super weird to the elderly couple behind me.***

Kindly old man: “Excuse me, I noticed you were quietly appreciating the paintings, but now you are loudly huffing and puffing. Are you having an asthma attack?”

Me: “No, I just saw that there is this clump of dust on the painting and it’s really bugging me, so I thought I would just try to loosely, like, you know, blow it off of there…”

Kindly old man (fumbles for his wallet, rifles through it, withdraws business card, holds it out): “Here, this is the number of my psychiatrist. Maybe he could help you.”

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Why yes, there is a large piece of dust affixed to this painting. Perhaps someone should blow it off or something?

*but she still kind of wants to

**like avoid Catskill and the Mexican restaurant in Catskill

***because it was super weird

A Country Drive

family, personal essay, photography, small town life

Last night, Sister, Brother T* and I decided to take advantage of our post-Chicken-enchilada happiness and the late-sunset-glow and go for a long, meandering country drive.

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Claire pretended to be a Calvin Klein model

We call it the poor man’s entertainment. There’s a lot of, “Ooh, look at that house–NO, look at that house!” and they are usually giant, beautiful old farmhouses with picturesque barns.

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Isn’t it beautiful?

This is how we got here:

1. We drove up Main Street and took the third exit

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2. We drove and drove and drove until we got to the Mythical Hamlet of North Chatham

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3. Then we took a right and drove for a while

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4. We came to a fork in the road…

…and went left…

…and drove and drove…

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emoji with heart eyes x 3

5. Then we accidentally left the county! So we took the first right, which happened to be the most charming, delightful back country road I’ve seen in a long, long time. Look at that.

LOOK AT IT.

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6. We meandered along, stopping for photos in the perfect golden sunlight. Trevor came perilously close to touching the electric element of the fence.

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7. We disregarded signs.

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8. And we wandered home as the sun set, stopping at DQ for Brother T, who requires at least one (1) cookie dough blizzard daily to energize his magnetic personality.

 

 

*Famed cult leader

In Memoriam: Buddy the Opossum

humor, personal essay, small town life

YOU GUYS

As may have become clear through my posts, I live in approximately the middle of nowhere. There are bears around, and TONS of deer, and raccoons, and there are groundhogs and rabbits that live in our yard, and there is a big hole of an as-yet-unidentified animal in our front lawn.

Buddy (center) in his younger days

 

There are also opossums, which are weird little guys that play dead and carry their young around on their back and hang from trees by their tails and live their lives at night under the cover of darkness.

Well.

The opossum population now has one fewer member.

BECAUSE I HIT ONE WITH MY CAR

AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Buddy, earlier this winter, thinking over future career choices after graduating from New York Opossum University (NYOU)

There I was, just driving home in the deep, dark, black of night. We had our headlights on and were driving the requisite 30 mph. There are no streetlights because, again, we live in the middle of nowhere.

And then what should I see shining ahead of me but the GLOWING EYES OF AN INQUISITIVE OPOSSUM RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD.

 

GET OUT OF THE ROAD, OPHIE! (Buddy’s sister Ophelia, lost last year in a tragic garbage truck incident)

There was no time to do anything but carefully center the car over it and yell, “JUST DON’T MOVE, LITTLE GUY!”**

But…

he moved.

Buddy’s graduation photo (2017)

 

And there were quite a few thumps. Sister and I screamed and stamped our feet while Brother T laughed at us and also wept.*

I hope Buddy the Opossum had a good, happy life. I hope he got lots of free rides on Mama Opossum’s back, that he played dead and tricked all his opossum friends, and that he loved hanging upside down from tree branches. I know there was some confusion at the end over whether his degree in Russian literature would come in useful, but as it turns out, it doesn’t really matter.

Buddy is predeceased by his sister Ophelia, all eighteen of his brothers except Louie, both of his parents, his grandparents, nearly all of his aunts and uncles and all but three cousins. All were killed in car accidents. In lieu of flowers, please subscribe to my blog.

Until tomorrow, Buddy.***

Buddy the Opossum, third from left, having a great afternoon (Ophelia the Opossum  second from left)

*or words to that effect

**or something to that effect

***when I pass your dead carcass on my way up to the post office****

****AGHHHHHHHHHHH

PS: Look what I found as a result of writing this post!

Troy Farmer’s Market

family, garden, photography, small town life

Allow me to continue the trend of writing things more than a week behind schedule.

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Last Saturday we joined my dad’s brother and one of his sisters and went up to the Troy Farmer’s Market. It was excellent! Troy used to be a garbage pit of a city, and now it is slightly better!

I shall tell this story through the medium of artistic photography:*

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The entrance to the market.

Below, Sister thinks, “Wow, Troy isn’t so bad after all!” This was right before we witnessed a voluble domestic dispute. It involved a man dragging a woman behind him and then when a ton of the farmer’s market crowd went to intervene, she screamed at them, “LEAVE HIM ALONE, HE’S MY BOYFRIEND.” So, Troy.

 

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Me and the Tomato Lady:

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Every time she told me about a new tomato variety (purple ones! striped ones! pink ones!) I got excited and asked for them and then she would hunt around for a long time and then they would be sold out. I asked what one of the varieties tasted like and she said, “Have you ever had lap sap sue tongue tea?” and I was like, “No.” And she said, “What about Mountain Russia Floo Flah?” and I was like, “No.” And she said, “Do you like smoked tea?” and I was like, “I don’t think this tomato sounds very good.”

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Sold out of almost all of them!

We met a lovely woman who keeps goats and makes soap and lotion out of them. I bought a lotion because 1. it smelled good and 2. after Claire used the goat prop below, I felt like I had to.

 

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That’s MY sister!

 

 

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The woman selling these lettuce seedlings didn’t wear shoes.

Mom, we thought you would appreciate this hymnal of temperance songs:

There were all kinds of plants, seedlings, meats, coffees, homemade pastas, breads, bagels, carbohydrates of all sorts!

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Artistic?

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Unless it is Claire, I don’t want to put people’s faces on the internet without them knowing about it or signing off on it, so here we see the back of Uncle Gee’s head and the back of Aunt K’s head as well as the requisite tote bags.

Just look at these beets:

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Here is an obligatory shot of artisan bread product:

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The first chocolate milk I’ve had in about a decade. So good.

Until next time, Troy!

 

* Please construe the word “artistic” very loosely

CULTURE SHOCK

culture shock, family, friends, personal essay, photography, small town life

Good morning! A short post to start the day, and then maybe like eight more posts because the internet has decided to upload pictures? We’ll see.

I thought I’d show you a few of the things that have inspired culture shock in the last two weeks since I’ve returned to America. There are always things…not the ones I expect…that throw me for a loop. Sister and I often discuss how we are back in our own country, but having spent so many years overseas, we don’t quite fit in. There are…apparently…many things that we should just know, but we don’t! Such is the life of a third-culture-kid.

America is BIG. The big-ness of it hits me in different ways. When it comes to driving somewhere, you have to drive FAR, and that doesn’t faze anyone. Any place within an hour’s drive in any direction is considered do-able and local. The hills and the meadows stretch on and on and on. This is the big-ness which I love. I like that it makes me feel like a small part of a huge thing, and I like that the roads are overgrown with wildflowers and more trees than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I like that our history is so upfront and personal, that America is still fairly wild, that there are far, far more birds that fly past my window than cars.

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This is a giant bear claw mark on my Aunt’s house, about a mile from our house. Bears are making a come back around here!

And then there is the big-ness that I don’t like.

Our area has a population of 5,402 spread out over a lot of land. Two miles up the road from us is the grocery store, which used to be a small-ish, manageable, slightly run-down place. Then they replaced it. With a fortress. It is the size of a small airport. For all I know, it is ALSO a small airport. It is open 24/7. There is just no reason that anyone around here needs to run to the local store at 3 AM and I have personally only been able to bring myself to go inside it a couple of times because it is just SO OVERWHELMING.

There is a big-ness in the book stores, the grocery stores, the construction stores, the clothing stores, the stuff stores, the more stores, the even-more stores that I can’t tolerate. Things are cheap. If you want cheap, there is cheap. Walmart is KING of the cheap, but this is what happened to me when I made the mistake of venturing into Walmart.

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Sister found me here, on the verge of a panic attack, hiding behind the cooler.

There are so many options. The options sprawl out in front of me and I–who am not good at making decisions–find myself paralyzed.

Here is how you buy a loofah in Europe: You go to the store and if they have a loofah, you buy it. If they don’t have a loofah, that is to be expected, and you will be fine.

Here is how you buy a loofah here in a small town in the middle of nowhere:

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Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Yes, the following options are available:

  • textured
  • net
  • scrubbie dubbie
  • delicate
  • exfoliating
  • charcoal-infused
  • and men’s, which are not different from the other ones.
  • on a stick
  • on a different kind of stick
  • on a stick that is ergonomic
  • on a wooden stick with a sponge
  • on a wooden stick with a different kind of sponge

And Target. Oh my goodness, let’s not go THERE ever again. Behold what Target hath wrought:

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Poor Sister. All we wanted were chips!

And then there is tipping. Let’s save that one for another day. But America, just pay people a living wage! It would make everything so much easier!

 

The other day we met Aunt K thirty minutes away for dinner and WONDER WOMAN. (I loved Wonder Woman!) We went to a place called the Recovery Room, which made the following bold assertion:

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It says: EVERY GAME EVERY DAY.

While you’re eating.

Here is what that looks like, and pretend you’re not good with sensory overload:

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SCREENS EVERYWHERE. This was just from my seat at the restaurant. Some of the TVs had four different screens within the screen. Every sport imaginable! Lots of people talking at me! SO MANY DIFFERENT SCORES.

The menu did not have any vegetable untouched by cheese or meat, haha, and because of the decision-paralysis discussed above, this is how my ordering went down:

Waitress (SUPER PEPPY): Have you decided what you’ll be getting tonight?

Me (paralyzed from the menu, points to childhood favorite): The chicken strips?

Waitress: GREAT CHOICE. Okay, will you be having that with a special shake spice blend?

Me: …what?

Waitress: Will you be having that with a special shake spice blend? We could do ranch, or adobo, or habanero, or–

Me: No.

Waitress: And what dip will you be having?

Me: …I…thought it came with the honey mustard?

Waitress (positively chipper): IT SURE DOES, but you can get another dip, too! Ranch? BBQ? Sweet and sour? Or maybe–

Me: –HONEY MUSTARD IS FINE THANKS

Waitress: SURE THING. Okay, and would you like regular fries, onion rings, sweet potato fri–

Me: –JUST THE NORMAL THING. JUST THE THING THAT EVERYONE GETS. THE REGULAR ONE.

Waitress: SOUNDS GREAT. Okay, and to drink?

Me (going crazy): Iced tea.

Waitress: Regular, lemon, raspberry, sweetened or unsweetened?

Me (puts my head down and begins to sob uncontrollably).

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I think four chickens had to die for my meal.

In no particular order, a few other culture shock moments:

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The deer ate ALL THE FLOWERS. Ughhhh.

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There are yard sales everywhere.

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Finding the car battery and figuring it out made possible thanks to Uncle M.

I can hear Brother T and Sister in the other room cackling over Parks and Rec, I am drinking coffee with half-and-half, and later I plan to go and buy the best burrito I’ve ever had in my life. There are beautiful things here. It’s just better for everyone if I don’t go into a box store ever again.

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We are coming for you, Taste Box.

Mish-Mash Catch Up

dirt on my face, garden, gardening tips, mish mash, photography, small town life

So, where did I leave off in recounting my garden exploits? This past week has been so busy with actually getting plants in the ground and trying to beat the impending four-day rain storms that I am pretty far behind. Here is what we have covered thus far:

  • Tilling the ground
  • A promised post about rototilling which I can sum up briefly like this: it’s like walking a giant, huge, slobbering dog that likes to throw rocks at you and is pulling at his leash for about three straight hours. It made me feel ACCOMPLISHED.
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Work gloves! Machinery! Ahh!

  • Hey, I started Pilates last week! It was hard! Apparently, I have something called a “core”?
  • This blog is nothing but a meandering stream-of-consciousness, isn’t it? Ah, well.
  • Fence posts and fencing. Update: Claire and I finished putting up the last “wall” of fencing and tidying it up, then a few days later I decided we needed another fence post and we used our newly-created post-hole digging skills to knock it out of the park. Also: ow. See above: “having a core”
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In preparing the soil, we removed approx. 7 tons loads of rocks. Insert emoji with the nervous smile and a lot of teeth that looks kind of like a grimace and kind of like it’s wearing braces.

After all that, I decided it was time to learn about soil additives. Now, that is a thing that really intimidates me about gardening because it involves words I haven’t heard since high school Chemistry and I didn’t really understand what they meant then, either.* In fact, the morning on which I said, “I need to learn about soil additives!” was also the morning that I woke up, brushed my teeth, went downstairs, poured a coffee, had something to eat, sat on the sofa, opened a crossword book, and then Claire woke me up three hours later.

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Yup, there is dirt on my face in this picture, too. Do you sense a theme?

Okay.

I am talking, of course, about:

  • nitrogen
  • phosphate
  • fish emulsion (?)
  • potassium
  • and other things

assume the correct way to get potassium in the ground is to mash up bananas and go scatter them around?

As we have previously discussed, gardeners are so excited and happy to share advice. One nice lady, after filling me in on why the local bagel cafe is now CLOSED*** also offered me the advice that Neptune’s Harvest Fish Oil was the way forward if I wanted the best plants ever. Obviously, I promptly bought it on Amazon. (Related tangent: In this best of countries, you can order ANYTHING on Amazon and it is delivered within 2 days for free!! Anything! Milky spore powder to kill grubs**** or a book on how to paint flowers or an entire bag of worm castings, which is a nice way to say the refuse that worms leave behind after gorging themselves on organic material.) (Which brings me to my next point.)

Worm leavings.

Evidently, they are magic for your garden.

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Yes, I have a gardening blog. Interested?

Anyway, this post is kind of not that useful for anyone else trying to figure this stuff out, because I have not figured it out. I am confused about fertilizer, also about worm castings, also about milky spore powder. In the end, I just used…a little bit of everything that was not a very harmful chemical substance.*****

And then there is the question of mulching, which I also don’t understand. It turns out that gardening involves a lot more than just sticking some seeds in the ground. And yet, it also mostly involves sticking some seeds in the ground and letting the rain and the sun do most of the work. It is a beautiful mystery.

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Back yard majesty.

Other mish-mash catch up:

Remember that fun game I invented about finding a home for the worms instead of mangling them until they are “beeding” is still super fun for the toddlers in my life.

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This girl loves worms.

And speaking of the toddlers in my life, this illustrated epic story tells the tale of a girl who held onto a rainbow even as a ‘rupting volcano shot rocks at her.

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And that is all for today’s post…not because I have run out of words, but because the country internet is so slow I can’t possibly stand to sit here another moment! Until next time!

* Nitrogen, for example. Yeah, yeah, it’s an “element” but what does it mean when one thing leaches nitrogen out of the soil, and another thing puts nitrogen in the soil, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out and FISH EMULSION is the way forward, a Knowledgeable and Wise Old Gardener at the Garden Center** wrinkles her nose at you and volunteers the information that she would never add nitrogen to her garden.

** Otherwise known as a KWOGGC

*** TAX EVASION, GUYS! CARBOHYDRATE-RELATED TAX EVASION!

**** I DON’T EVEN KNOW

***** How many asterisks are too many asterisks? But what this footnote is really about is that Sister and I went to the store to buy grub killer because grubs are bad, but all the grub killers said things like, “THIS KILLS GRUBS AND 150 OTHER CREATURES” and we looked at each other and thought, “How is that not going to kill us?” so the grubs stay for now. Until I figure out what milky spore powder is.

Picking Out Plants & the Mortgage Lifter

family, friends, friendship, garden, gardening tips, personal essay, personal growth, small town life
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AHHHHHHHHHH IT IS TOO BEAUTIFUL

Here is how last Saturday went:

 

I was trying to change my shoes while driving the car. That’s not the point of this story, though, it is just essential background information. Sister went into the local coffee roasting place* and when she came out, she had a free mug! So, I decided I would go in and get myself some organic dark-chocolate-covered cherries and a free mug of my own. I went inside and was glad to see the place had expanded and was full of people picking out coffees and nut butters.

But something felt weird.

I looked down.

And yes! I had two different shoes on!

Me: I have two different shoes on.

Lady behind the counter: You sure do!

Lady behind the counter: Would you like a free mug?

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Here is also how our Saturday went:

We were driving up to Target** and SUDDENLY it seemed there was a plastic bag floating up over the hood of the car.

Sister: Alex? Is that our headlight?

Me: Why yes Claire, I believe it is.

And INDEED IT WAS. So we bought duct tape and taped that sucker on, because we are nothing if not resourceful and also good at driving old cars.***

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Here is how our Saturday proceeded:

We went to Uncle Gee and Aunt T’s house and followed them over to the Country Caretaker, which is their favorite garden center. There are so many garden centers! I LOVE THEM ALL.

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I confessed total ignorance to the nice people that worked there and they helped me out by talking about different kinds of tomatoes. We bought: Grapettes, Beef Steak, Brandywine, and one called the Mortgage Lifter, so called because the guy who created this type of tomato apparently used the proceeds to pay off his mortgage! The garden center tomato person told me they will turn red, and then yellow, and then gold, and will be delicious. Can’t wait!!

We got some cucumber plants, peppers, flower seeds, snapdragons, arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, and yellow squash. I CANNOT WAIT TO EAT THEM.

Uncle Gee also lent us a bunch of garden implements and tools which have proven to be essential.

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Look! There’s no dirt on my face!

Following that, our Saturday continued thusly:

Sister and I went to what used to be a church and heard a solo piano concert by Ben Cosgrove, who composes beautiful instrumental pieces inspired by landscapes. It was an hour well spent. There were a few odd ducks there. And by “few” I mean everyone seemed to be wearing loose-fitting linen clothing? But the music! So, so beautiful. Here is a link, go listen to him and buy his new album:

https://bencosgrove.bandcamp.com/album/salt

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The plants are living here until the garden is ready. We figure if they’re up close to the house the deer will STAY AWAY FROM MY PLANTS, YOU HEAR ME, DEER?

Here is how our Saturday ended:

With a visit from Aunt K, who we were so happy to see, and a nice, fun chat in Aunt W’s living room, and a pizza. It was a good day.

*Whenever possible, I am trying not to go into stores. There are so many of them here. They are so full of THINGS and it’s overwhelming. The stores I like are Garden Centers, Produce Stands, and Hardware Stores. Those, I can handle. Everything else needs to get drones to drop things off at my front door.

** Hoo boy. There’s a place to send you into paroxysms of culture shock.

*** This seems like a good time to reference the little local news tidbit I read in the paper this week. It is called LIBERATE THE EARTH and involves a group called the Artichoke Dance Company. Here is the blurb: “There will be a Wearable Art/Costume Workshop on Friday, May 26 at 7pm…Participants will create beautiful wearable items from recycled plastic bags to serve as costumes for Saturday’s performance. Please bring plastic bags to the workshop.”****

****NO!

 

Fence Posts 

family, friends, friendship, garden, gardening tips, personal essay, personal growth, small town life, Uncategorized

I’m falling behind on my garden progress posts. But this morning it is RAINING and due to rototill-ing (coming to a post near you shortly!), I can’t move my arms, so I will catch up on my garden progress.

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Pre-Posts. Back when we thought there were only 10-13 rocks in the garden.

One thing is for sure: we could not be putting a garden in without friends and family helping us out! They’ve given us tools, time, and expertise, and I am so grateful for that.

The post holes that Bill helped us dig just weren’t deep enough, so I was trying to figure out a solution to the post hole problem, and it was looking like it would cost $150 to get someone to drill holes for us. No sooner did Cousin P hear about that than he sent me a text saying he’d be here the next morning to help us dig. Did he want me to rent an auger to make it easier? No. Apparently, we hadn’t earned the auger yet. Ha.

Actually, I just checked, and what he really said was:

Me: Maybe renting the auger is the way to go

Cousin P: Part of learning to dig holes is you have to dig several successfully before you are allowed to use an auger. Or you are a city person.

Obviously, being a city person is not an option. That is yet another post for yet another day. City people. Gross.

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Does this look like a city person to you?

Cousin P and A and their kids pulled in around 10 and by 12 we had fence posts in the ground! Wow, it is hard to dig post holes!! I kept thinking they were the requisite 27 inches deep, only to find out that they were closer to 18. Also: rocks. But that is another story.

The kids were so helpful 🙂 J, who is 4, brought his shovel and went to work immediately. R, who is 2, carried rocks back and forth, got totally covered in mud, and then took up temporary residence in a post hole.

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I love these kids!!

We also played a fun game called, “Alex, find this worm a home.” This was brought about due to the necessity of not having all the worms manhandled and bleeding to death*, so I told the kids the worms were homesick and we had to let them go home. “Going home” involved me digging a hole and J stomping on the dirt to really, really make sure the worms got home.

There were a lot of homesick worms out there.

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Not a city person.

Following our adventure of digging holes, Uncle M stopped by and he and Sister discussed lawn mowing, which is Sister’s favorite thing to do. He had to take it home with him, and take apart the carburetor** and put it back together. Sister says we could have done that if we knew what a carburetor was.

 

How right she is.

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All she wants to do is go mow the lawn.

Then we got to stapling up the six foot, vinyl-coated, really-heavy, galvanized steel, deer-proof fencing. (Did you know that we have so many deer here in Upstate New York that I see deer EVERY SINGLE DAY. And did you know that they carry TICKS which carry LYME DISEASE and that I had Lyme Disease when I was in fourth grade and I don’t want to have it again, people.) I WILL NOT HAVE DEER IN MY GARDEN. I WILL NOT.***

Okay, then we went and had bagels.

*BAGEL BREAK*

And then Sister saw a dead mouse and freaked out. And then we picked up a couple garden tools. And then we went to the local hardware store and got stakes for the tomatoes. All of this was to put off the inevitable: ROTOTILLING. It is hard work, people.

Look at me. That is the face of someone who is covered in dirt, and who takes her pet rototiller everywhere.

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Just me, a lot of dirt, and my Mantis.

Did you know gardening is really dirty work???

So, I rototilled and Sister mowed the front lawn, and then I ate pizza.

 

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Fried eggplant, artichoke hearts, tomatoes. AMERICA, I LOVE YOU.

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Intensive scrubbing took place shortly after this photo was taken.

Cousin P: How is garden project going?

Me (boastfully): I got blisters so it was authentic work. I had work gloves on. I used to have soft city hands.

Sister (scornfully): Now you have soft city hands with blisters.

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Yes, there is dirt on my face.

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*apparently giant, bleeding worms are interesting to two-year-olds 😉

**it took me seven tries to spell carburetor correctly

***I WILL NOT

Geraniums, As Promised

family, memorial day, personal essay, small town life, Uncategorized

The Ghent Union Cemetery has a very old hand pump and a watering can. It’s about half a mile up the road from our house, surrounded by land that used to be the Gilbert farm.

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Mornings were so painful for me as a kid. In fact, they still are! Yuck. I hate waking up. I mean sure, they’re beautiful, and everything is quiet and new and peaceful, but…I really like sleeping.

The bus came around 7:35 when I was in middle and high school. J and I would stand out at the end of our driveway in the chilly morning air and Mom would wave at us from the window and we would watch the bus appear around the corner far down the road and get bigger and bigger as it came closer. I’d sit with Jessica and when we were little, little kids we would play Miss Mary Mac and always hold our breath when we went past the cemetery until we passed a white house and then we could let it out again. Why? I don’t know.

Mom: Why are you holding your breath?

Me: You are supposed to hold your breath when you go past graveyards until you get to a white house.

Mom: Don’t do that, it’s superstitious.

Me: Okay.

(but sometimes I still did it, anyway)

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I used to see cars there, and people, and sometimes backhoes. It was a club I didn’t belong to–having someone there I knew and loved. Now I do belong to that club. Yippee. I’d like to return my membership card?

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Some things about the cemetery:

  • It is a very peaceful, pretty place.
  • The old pump is pretty cool.
  • I recognize so many of the last names on the headstones!

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  • There is something about the idea of knowing where you’re going to be buried before you die. I saw a headstone–so elaborate!–and it is a husband and wife and it has their birthdates but neither of them have died yet! And their headstone is ready for them. How strange. For a long time now, I haven’t even known what country I’d be in from year to year, but Nana knew where she would be buried, and so did Doris. They knew where they were going after they were buried, too, and I’m with them on that one. Thank goodness I can look forward to seeing them again. Death is too hard without that hope. In fact, it’s too hard even with that hope, but would be unbearable without it.

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  • The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) association puts flags on the graves of any serviceman. There are also plaques for where they served. This is my grandfather’s, he served in the Navy on the USS Texas in WWII and was at the D-Day Invasion. My other grandfather served in WWII as well, in the Pacific. History!

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