garden 2017

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Who loves a garden still his Eden keeps;
Perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvest reaps.

—from “The Garden,” by A. Bronson Alcott (1868)

While this poor blog may have fallen into neglect this summer, I am pleased to report that the family garden is thriving. This is our third summer cultivating raised bed vegetable gardens, and we’ve put in the usuals—tomatoes, zucchini (both green and yellow), cucumbers, bush beans, an eggplant for Zane (white this year), and an assortment of greens. We also added two beds in the backyard this year, in which we put three Brussels sprouts (now only two, thanks to a hungry critter—chipmunk, perhaps?), three kales (now only one, see previous note), radishes, beets, and carrots. I had read that some vegetable plants can grow in partial shade, which might be too generous a description for the growing conditions out back. I’m pleasantly surprised by how well they are doing (this despite the shade and occasionally having their leaves munched off).

The raspberries we planted three years ago are finally coming into their own, and I’m concerned that they may eventually outgrow their current location. This spring I ordered three Triple Crown thornless blackberry plants from Stark Bros., which are planted alongside the garage, and they are really shooting up now in the hot weather. Also from Stark Bros., we ordered Chinook and Cascade hop rhizomes to be trained over the trellis we used during our wedding ceremony—it’s nice to get the trellis out of storage and use it for something “fruitful”! (My apologies—I can never say no to a pun when it presents itself.) For first year hops, I think our plants are doing really well. Their vertical growth appears to be stalled out now, which I’ve read is normal for first years, but the Cascade actually has quite a few cones on it! In answer to your question: Yes, we would like to brew our own beer, eventually. But, we’re looking to do one gallon batches so we don’t need so much “infrastructure.”

The star of the show (for me) is the one, singular, pear we have growing on the Comice pear tree that Damian bought me for Mother’s Day—and, we have that little pear well protected with a nylon fruit sock (you can see it in the picture below). We also purchased a Red Anjou pear tree for cross-pollination, but it won’t be producing any pears this year. If all goes according to plan, someday we’ll have two big, gorgeous pear trees for fruit and shade. I have more plans for building out our edible landscaping, but if I’ve learned anything from gardening (and I have learned a lot), it’s that nothing can be done at any speed other than what nature allows. There’s no guarantee I’ll live to see everything grow to its full height but, as the Greek proverb says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

A few other garden notes: I’ve been watering everything with a two-gallon watering can instead of the hose, with really good results. It can take up to an hour to water everything (including the pear trees), but I really like knowing exactly how much water I’m giving to the various plants. Tomatoes need a lot of water, especially when they’re setting fruit. It’s also been a really positive experience for me, personally. I wouldn’t say watering with a can is “meditative,” but it does give me time to think—parents with young children know this is a rare commodity—and, I like doing things the “old-fashioned” way.

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No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.
—Hal Borland

Spring 1
Spring 10
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Spring 6
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Last day of school 2017
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Lillia: What a difference a few months can make in the life of a young person. In my last update, I disclosed that you had been feeling really down. Without going into too much detail, I’m happy to report that our efforts to help lift your depression seem to be working (you can see the change in these pictures!). As the school year came to a close, you seemed much more “yourself,” which is a huge relief. You even managed to pull off straight A’s for the third trimester, though it must be noted that you weren’t running the last leg alone—it would be fair to say that you limped across the finish line with nagging parents and generous teachers in tow. And, that just goes to show how difficult it is to get straight A’s all year—it is a huge accomplishment, and you should be very proud of yourself! Of course, you should know we are always proud of you, no matter what, as long as you try your best.

Zane: My goodness, you have grown—both physically and in other ways—these last few weeks of the school year. Your face, your demeanor, everything has changed. And, these changes all point to a boy who will soon be turning six. Some say that the “six year change” is like a first puberty, and I can definitely see how an astute observer might make that connection. As an almost-six-year-old, you have a sharper tongue, and you are quick to point out my faults. In some ways it is painful to see my “baby” vanishing before my eyes (I barely survived the kindergarten graduation ceremony), but I am also so excited for you as you enter this new phase of your life. I’m looking forward to being able to spend more time with you now that school is over and summer vacation is here! I’ve missed you this year . . .

flowers from a friend

I would far rather have two or three lilies of the valley gathered for me by a person I like,
than the most expensive bouquet that could be bought!

—from Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

Thank you, Lynne. The “squished” ones turned out to be the most beautiful of all.

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signs of spring

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring—when weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush; Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring the ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing; The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush the descending blue; that blue is all in a rush with richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning in Eden garden.

—from “Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

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In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today is my birthday. I’m thirty-six.

In some ways, this year was very much like the year that came before it, which is a blessing, as far as I’m concerned. While I have waxed philosophical on my birthday in previous years, I find that I don’t have so much to say this year. Things are good. My life is proceeding, largely, without interruption. I pray it will always be so.

In light of the above quote, I wish to offer birth-day thanks to family, friends, and kind strangers who have helped to shape this life for which I am so grateful. Far or near, you all enrich my life so much.