Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Angel Face

Wren had her first role in a special wedding last weekend. She shared the honor of being a flower girl with her cousin who is just about the same age. The girls were so precious and took their jobs so seriously. Pictures from the day tell the whole story of how the girls felt like little Princesses in their twirly dresses. Wren's favorite book of the summer is Angel Face by Sarah Weeks and David Diaz. I couldn't help but think of this story as I gazed upon this sweet face throughout the day.

"Angel's eyes are dusty almonds,
Angel's mouth's a mango sliver,
Angel's skin is steeping tea,
Angel's hair's a rushing river.
You would know it any place...
my Angel's Face."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reflecting on Tasha Tudor 1915-2008

a lot
I found I had a difficult time choosing a picture to accompany this letter. So many of Tasha's photos depict her in the Autumn years of her life after she had gained so much notoriety in her art. And though I greatly admire Tasha's art, it is her life than I admired most. Not the life of travel when she was promoting her work, but the life I can only imagine that happened when she was alone or with loved ones. This is the most intimate portrait of Tasha that I have ever seen, and can only think Nell Dorr to be the photographer. I can hardly imagine anyone else so close to Tasha to capture this picture of a young nursing mother. It is such a rare depiction of her life and must have been taken in the late thirties or early forties of the 20Th century- which is in itself somewhat astonishing. Which of the four children this little beautiful babe is I do not know. But it is heartbreaking in so many ways with everything the family is going through with settling the estate of Tasha Tudor. What is evident to me is this. No matter what happened to cause the family to break apart as it has, Tasha loved her babies. It is written all over her face. The stress and trials of bringing up four children after she left her husband, I cannot even begin to imagine. Her art paid the bills. Perhaps this is the reason I feel more attached to her daily life than her art. In my head, it seems that for her it was a means to an end. Tasha was extremely protective of her private life and had a very structured life. To the casual onlooker it may not have seemed so, but for any modern person to shun all outside forms of media takes great discipline. No television, radio, or Internet. No reading other peoples Blogs, joining Facebook, or writing emails. It may seem like she didn't care about the outside world. To me, it seemed like she cared about her inside world more deeply than to let the outside world get in the way. This is the notion that has been tumbling about in my head for the past months. I write on this Blog to those I care deeply about, and maybe to those who find some sort of shelter in a common soul. I can relate on so many levels to Tasha wanting to shun the outside world. Sometimes contact with people outside your protective circle can be more hassle than what it seems worth. The bottom line is that we often do not see the world the same way. These can include people we do not know, but it can also include those who should be most close to us, but for one reason or another are not. I would like to be the type of person who could overcome any transgression. I can forgive any hurt, but I cannot say I am able to readily give the other cheek for another slap, so to speak. Maybe this is how it was for Tasha and her family. Whatever is said or written, one thing I believe is true. Her family and home place were her world. Taking care of her gardens, animals, and art left little time for wasted energy. Those who loved her knew where to find her. I wonder at her feelings of sentimentality towards the end of her life. Was this the reason she entrusted one child to the bulk of her life? In her heart, was he the one who most understood her? I did not know her so I cannot say. But I can say that we can empathize with someone we do not know, and I think this is entirely possible. A home takes a lifetime to build up and can be torn to pieces in a matter of months with the right attorneys. If you think I am speaking of brick and mortar, think again. What is at stake here in Tasha's world is much more than her home place. It is a way of life that thousands cling to for strength in navigating a world far to concerned with the lives of other's. She remains a strong reminder for many of us that our life happens in the rituals of each and every day. If we become too engrossed in the lives of others, or in world events, we find ourselves at risk of losing touch with our own. Take Peace, dear Tasha. We miss you.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Paring Down

Lately I am
that what
I want
most for
my family
is room
to breathe.
I have had this vision of emptying the house down to the bare walls, putting everything out into the yard, and slowly putting only what we need and regularly use back into the house. For months now we have been cleaning out corners and cupboards and letting go of things. Once you have a little space that is pared down and feel the openness and simplicity, it becomes fairly an obsession to spread the effect around. Decorative things have been the first to go. If we cannot use it for something as well as admire its beauty, it is out the door. What is left is taking on greater meaning as we finally begin to notice things.

We had curtains in the great room that were Colonial swags. They did not match our saltbox, and worse, they did nothing. They offered no protection from light or cold as they could not be lowered or drawn. I had a roll of fabulous hemp fabric just sitting around in a closet and we are in the process of changing over all the curtains to a simple rod pocket and iron pull back style. The one window that is finished is blissful! Wren can play in her kitchen in the hot afternoon sun and barely notice the glare from the windowpanes.

We had a lot of pottery displayed about and it was collecting a lot of dust. If we cannot bake with it, put flowers in it, or store something in it, for the most part it left the house too. What we are left with are small groupings that work well together and get a lot of use. I appreciate the workmanship a lot more and notice how the colors change throughout the day.

All of a sudden I see things differently. I love old worn leather and the pieces we have are so comfortable. They now stand out in the room as main focal points because so much of the other clutter has been cleared away.

A hat stands ready at the front door stair banister and a little saddle pouch hangs over the rail. Wren likes to take these items and put her little treasures in the pouches and play cowgirl in the hat. An old saddle sits atop an ottoman nearby and every child who comes to our house loves to ride this imaginary horse.
I am amazed by how little we need these days. We have always needed so little...we just got a bit lost along the way. I still have months of cleaning and giving away to do, but there is light in the tunnel now in so many areas of our home. It feels wonderful with each new day of paring down and my burdens are getting lighter and lighter. It gives me time to think about those things in my home that matter three family members. I hope they remember these times of letting go of things and I hope it sticks with all of us. What we enjoy more than ever nowadays is our time together, and that's something worth collecting.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rainy Days

The rain of the past few days is giving everything a jump start in the vegetable patch. Pumpkins are in flower and sending forth their curling tendrils.
The yellow squash is in flower and has thus far escaped the borer that devastated our crops last year.
Brussels Sprouts are happy for the cooler temperatures and becoming strong and sturdy plants in an amazing shade of light blue.

Some of the tallest Marigolds I have ever grown are nestled among the tomato plants. Their scent hits you as soon as you come within sight of the garden.
I cannot
my eyes.

Despite the fact that I have about a lifetime's worth of weeding...and the rains are bringing forth yet more weeds, I somehow cannot be bothered with or stressed by the fact that I may never catch up. Days like these are wondrous here in the Valley. The temperatures are cool, you can smell new green growth in the air, and everything is covered in a fine blueish mist. There must be five colors of flowers bursting on the largest Nasturtiums I have ever seen. They are running a muck in the pumpkin patch and gourd patch.

The Birdhouse Gourds are growing before my very eyes and tomorrow I will place another support on top of this one which will let them climb to a height of six feet- which still may not be enough!

Delicate lettuces are coming in every day as the new seedlings try to gain a foothold in their peat pots. These lettuces are three year old plants and just put forth new growth every season.
Apples are coming in on the tree and are just loving all this rain. It is not unusual to spot a tawny fawn and her parents nibbling on the new fruits.

The hay is getting wet this season. The horseman is not too happy about this but the cut was timed wrong. Most of it was salvaged and the rest left uncut until we dry out. I can hardly blame the cutter, however, when for so long rain was in the forecast and did not arrive. But he took a chance and cut over the weekend and it has poured down rain- and hail- ever since.

Market beans are coming in after a very precarious start. We lost an entire seedling run and the second did not look to be faring any better. But most survived and are now putting on vigorous growth.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wren's Prince


It has always been our motto around here. Ever since Wren was a baby we have always played up the old folklore of kissing frogs and magically appearing Princes. When we left Florida, I had assumed our frog seeing days were somewhat over. There's toads in the gardens and bullfrogs aplenty in the ponds, but the smallish little green variety I thought was rare. The first time I spotted a little green, my immediate thought was that it somehow smuggled its way from Naples in one of our deck chairs or tables. But a quick search here- gave me some relief. I hadn't single handedly introduced the dreaded Cuban Treefrog into Ohio. Although I am sure someone has!

The species we often see, I believe, is Cope's Gray Treefrog or the basic Gray Treefrog (nearly identical except for differences at the cellular level). Our little guys are more green than gray, however. If we listen carefully, we can hear them peeping on the back porch at nightfall.

It is difficult around here to move near a flower patch and not turn up a toad. We have spotted both the Eastern American and Fowler's Toad. Both species appear to be very well fed here in our gardens and we welcome them wholeheartedly. They do not seem appreciative of our toad houses of terra cotta, but we put them out each Spring none the less. The Northern Leopard Frog appears on the water banks in such great numbers that it is a wonder anything else in the frog family can sustain itself around here! A casual stroll down the line of the ponds produces a regular Plop!... Plop!... Plop! ...the whole way down. You are then met with curious large eyes just visible above the surface line of the water. The abundance of toads and frogs at Hawk's Run is another true testament to the land's ability in southern Ohio to host a range of wildlife that elsewhere is becoming very scarce. It was not unusual in Florida to see amphibians with birth defects, a growing problem in many areas of our country due to pollution. I have yet to see that once here in Ohio.
For more on our hoppity friends, one of our favorites books is Toad by the Road A Year in the Life of These Amazing Amphibians by Joanne Ryder and Maggie Kneen.
Beautifully illustrated and full of short poems and factual tidbits, like the bewildering story of a toad who eats his own skin...yes, all toads do! That is why we never see one lying about once a toad sheds its skin for growth, and it is the basis for the old folklore.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Win Some..Lose Some

In gardening, there is no such thing as success all of the time.
This year I have made a valiant attempt to save money and grow everything from seed. I had two three level indoor greenhouses perched right up against our wall of windowpanes in the great room. It has been a revolving door of peat pots since early March. Our main goal was the vegetable garden. Getting a head start on plants for the newly tilled over earth seemed like a good idea. The garden sits at the southern portion of our grassy area before the fields give way to hay production for the horses who live down the road on another farm. We dedicate about five acres to hay every season. The other goal was to grow our own Annuals and Perennials which seem to be getting ever more expensive at the local nurseries. I started seeds for Black Eyed Susans, Forget Me Nots, Marigolds, Morning Glories, Nasturtiums, Poppies, Purple Cone flowers, Snapdragons, Sweet Peas, and Zinnias. It was a bigger list than I had anticipated but I knew that there was just not going to be the disposable income for buying these plants full grown. The planted areas here at the farm are pretty extensive, and the weeding that accompanies these areas is exhaustive. The more we get planted it seems, the less weeding there is to be done. It is a nice thing to be able to see beautiful color and know you are saving yourself from knee and back-breaking work. I love gardening in every sense of the word, but there is another reason we have to keep up the appearance of the farm. It doesn't happen often, but my husband's art brings clients to the farm to discuss their projects and see his wood shop. It is an awful thing to bring a client to a house that is unkempt. You may as well just place a "I'm disorganized" sticker on your forehead. And yes, while we can be disorganized, I don't like to announce it with an unkempt yard! The seedling project has educated me about growing flowers. Some varieties are just not meant to be grown at home by a novice. For instance, poppies do much better broadcast in sand into the places where you wish them to grow. Growing them in peat pots is near pointless. Sweet peas can be tough to germinate, as can Black Eyed Susans. Cone flowers take a while to grow, whereas their bought in four inch pot sisters take off growing like wildfire. Snapdragons have to be thinned and then wilt and die if you miss a day of care. Marigolds, Nasturtiums, and Zinnias can be grown by someone with a brown thumb and four brown fingers they are so easy.
So it was that one of my local favorite nurseries ran a special on beautiful Snapdragons in reds, whites, and yellows. The seedlings I had grown were meant for our front entrance under two newly planted Lilac trees that our old trees had given birth to. Needless to say, my seedlings of Snaps had failed miserably. Snapdragons may be one of my favorite Annuals because they just cannot help but bring a smile to your face. They are a cheery group indeed.

On the whole, I would say the seedling experiment is a success. Most everything has survived and is flourishing, and I spent nary any money in flowers this year thus far. That is not to say if I had unlimited funds for flowers, I would be hitting those nurseries every weekend, because I would. There is no place more exciting or adventurous than a nursery decked out in all its floral regalia. Here's my local favorites: Greenfield Plant Farm in the Landon Maineville area, Allyson's Gardens in Lebanon, and the local Lebanon Farmer's Market held each Thursday at noon near the town library. I have found some wonderfully healthy plants at the Market that I haven't seen in the nurseries. Greenfield's has the most extensive selection in the area and gardeners who know just about everything I have ever thrown at them. Allyson's is smaller but again just as knowledgeable. One of her gardeners has a Shaker garden that was on last year's garden tour and it was to die for. So while I am learning to grow my own, I'll still be popping into the locals. I think this is important because gardening just would not be the same without them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Barrel of Monkeys

Real Life sometimes hits you in the oddest of moments.
This has been a busy morning. We have yet another rainy day and I have a list of things to accomplish a mile long. There is no school for my oldest pumpkin today and she is bouncing off the walls. During breakfast I was able to do my writing for one of my favorite "foodies", and the subject matter made me HUNGRY! Once the kitchen clean up was finished after breakfast, it was immediately time to make lunch. I wondered if I could fit in a batch of homemade cookies in the process? Sure, why not? When you have this much to do in one day a batch of cookies does not make or break you. An added benefit is that it grabs the attention of two children for a full forty five minutes. Once lunch was over and the promise of cookies after a nap is lulling around in their heads, nap time is coming along pretty nicely. One down one to go... I am sitting on the couch fumbling with a Barrel of Monkeys and my three year old is showing me how "Daddy does a double monkey". I am intrigued I realize, not because of the feat of the double monkey, but because I realize that my house at times is just like this game. A Barrel of Monkeys, and I am trying to string everything together nicely. Let's face it, one mom, two children under four, a big lumbering dog, and two cats spells chaos in any sense of the imagination. House clean and perfect- no. Children clean and perfect- no. Mom- most certainly no. One of the cats has just chased the lumbering dog in a round about that has ended with the papers from my morning's writings everywhere. My phone conversation with my little sister in Florida earlier had me thinking the tiredness in her new mom's voice echoed mine. I jokingly said, "it takes a village". A large part of me wasn't joking. It is no wonder we are all so tired all of the time. I think we now live in an age where demands on each family unit are so great that the "village" no longer exists. I used to think, too, that the reason of people living apart was the main foible. Now I know this is not the case. Even people who live right next door do not always have the ability or time to pitch in- and this goes both ways. I cannot tell how many times I have been phoned for a favor that I just could not do at that moment. You feel terribly about it but also realize that one more thing under your nose at that moment and all things might just go haywire. Just like that chain of monkeys, the likelihood is that it will all fall apart if I try to do one more thing. The economy demands that we use every spare moment right now just trying to survive, but none of the other "work" lets up either. It is the busy time for growing food, maintaining the house outside, and most families have children at home now that school has let out. So how do we cope? I find that we have to begin to get a "village" mentality back in our lives. I find this a topic of conversation more and more amongst my friends. A very close friend said recently, and I am paraphrasing, that we have to find a way to keep what is good in our circle. I have taken this to heart. What changes will occur in my life as I get back to the business of survival in this tough economy will be taken with this advice in mind. Who knew a little children's game could open up so much space for reflection?