Smiling at Gladiolus

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Gardening is peaceful to me, as it probably is to anyone who gardens. Those who don’t find calmness and pride in it probably hire landscapers. I even find picking weeds makes me happy. Although I like to be intellectual, sometimes the mindless activity of pulling weeds stimulates my mind because it can drift along with the breeze; thoughts wonder unforced and unprovoked. I do some of my best thinking hunkered down along the flower beds with dirty fingernails. Gloves just done give me the ability to snag those tiny, tricky weeds.

Yesterday, amongst my other chores, I found myself gazing at the pride of my garden, the gladiolus. They stun me each summer with their beauty and each summer I smile as I pull into the driveway or as I pull away and see their bright colors on tall stems. For the time in between, I’m sure a dog walker or two can appreciate them, but otherwise they complete their short cycle of blooming beauty and whither during the high heat of July, generally ignored and unappreciated.

I decided to cut some and enjoy them in the main area of the house and I can’t tell you how many times I stopped to smile at the arrangement as I walked by this weekend. For someone who loves nature so much, I’m not sure why I hadn’t started to bring the outside in a long time ago. Maybe I felt bad cutting the plants up, but they will certainly be enjoyed in here more. After all, bouquets aren’t grown in a vase, the flowers all grow in dirt somewhere.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Hands

This is my hand holding my Great-Grandmom’s hand.

By the time I was born, she was already 71. She had already lived a full life and had been retired. She’d be a widow a year later and I only knew her to be one. She would take me to bingo and we would play board games. She’d teach me things about cooking and tried to teach me to crochet. She was one of my favorite people and her hands always fascinated me, even the way she twiddled her thumbs.

Her hands had what she called “liver spots”, though most of us know them as age spots. She had been an avid gardener all of her adult life, so it was likely sun inspired damage. After she ate, I remember how she’d sweep her fingers over the table to gather any crumbs. Her fingers were strong and crooked and her fingernail and tips were oval. I just remember always thinking how unique they were. They weren’t thin and ladylike, though her movements were not harsh; they were the result of lifelong hard work.

I took this picture one morning when I sat alone with her before she passed. She was unable to speak, but she knew I was there as she squeezed my hand in response to my words. I knew I’d never forget her hands, but still I was afraid that I might. I haven’t forgotten, though it’s only been two and half years, but I like to know that I have a picture of one to remind me.

She would’ve been 100 this week. Happy birthday Grandmom.

Notes to My Future Self about Yard Work

Today was a day of accomplishment.  With gorgeous spring weather, brought the desire to get up early and make this spring, the spring that we have a well put together backyard.  Now that I’m showered and subtle frustration has calmed, I can solidly put together some of the thoughts and tips I developed as the day progressed.  That sounds all hunky dory, doesn’t it?  But really this is the stuff that I am warning myself for the future yard work adventures.  It sounds better to put it that way than blatantly complaining.

  • Warn your husband not to laugh at you when you trip or twist your ankle when you are tired, dirty and cranky, and carrying more than a normal armload of tree branches; unless you think they’d like expletives to be thrown their way.  Also, when said expletives are cast upon your spouse, don’t be surprised that you instantly develop a crude character assessment and reputation from the elderly and nosy neighbors.
  • The way to get color on your pasty skin is not to apply heavy duty sunblock (first of all) and then not wait long enough for it to dry.  When the wind kicks up and blows fine dirt your way, it only makes you look dirty.  It just makes you look homeless and feel gritty.  Also, start standing upwind of the dirty to avoid breathing it in and being appalled later when you blow your nose and have nearly black boogies.  You’ll remember this note when your allergies kick in and after excessive nose blowing, you see your reflections and your nose is the only area of skin on your body that shows your real skin color.
  • Don’t rush.  When ripping out weeds, be sure not to grab hold of a rose branch accidentally and sliding more than a couple thorns through your delicate hands, which rips your skin apart.  Yes, I should have been wearing my gloves, but I thought I was done and then noticed a weed-ridden area.  I’ve already paid for this mistake with stinging rubbing alcohol.  Still, do not make this mistake again.

  • Along the same lines, don’t be so offended when you accidentally grab your dog’s crap while again, picking weeds in the yard.  After all, didn’t you just spend an hour spreading manure in the garden beds?  Is it really that different?  Continue reading

Spring and Dirty Fingernails Are Here

Inspiration can be found in the simplest of things.

It is still March, but it feels as though spring has been here in the Northeast for a month, if not more.  My flowers have been in full bloom, just as the demeanor of the people I see riding bicycles and strolling with their dogs after work.

It’s hard to feel anything other than refreshed, when it comes to seeing the color sprouting from the ground.  We’ve started to get our garden boxes ready and it’s only a matter of time before the unusual and potent scent of a tomato vine permeates my callused summer gardening hands.

My husband works so hard on the garden.  I’m sure he feels I do also, but he is really dedicated.  Maybe it is the Iowa farmer mentality.  Either way, I find myself very lucky to share a life and home with someone who takes simplicity and hard work seriously, but also has the spirit to make everything we do fun.  We aerated one of the garden boxes yesterday and picked out any grubby insects we found along the way.  We are determined to have a healthy showing of produce this year.  There is also an amazing amount of untapped gardening humor we discovered, as we laughed and combed through the dirt.

So spring is amongst us and the days will grow longer.  It won’t be long before the heat and humidity confines us to the one room that has air condition.  But it is too soon to think of that (I hope), so for now we will open the windows and let some much needed fresh air in, as I clutch my Benadryl bottle.  I will also start stretching and training so I don’t have a daily stumble over the rabbit fence around our garden all summer.  It’s starting to get embarrassing.  Such a klutz.

Becoming a self-reliant me

I’m in my late 20’s, though some would say I’m closer to 80.  Strange as it sounds, I take that as a compliment.  I’m not in a wheelchair yet or anything, but there’s something to be said about our Grandparents’ generation.  They were self-reliant, but the world around them still managed to flourish, what does that say about our society today?  Mom and Pop stores succeeded, though we didn’t consume as much product, have mounds of plastic junk or utilize as many paid services.  Things just worked.  Something to ponder about the simplicity of life.

Thanks to my parents, Grandmothers and Great-Grandmom, I was raised with the gift of knowledge.  Beyond the recipes and cooking lessons, there are so many wonderful things I’m proud to know, like being able to hem my own jeans or finding new uses for things most people would toss.  No, I don’t have time to do everything I’ve been taught or to do everything the old-fashioned way, but I know that as time goes on and no matter what happens, I can keep my home going.

I’m lucky because my husband is the same way.   He grew up on a farm, and has a self-reliant mindset, which is one of the reasons I believe we get along so well.  We appreciate the rewards of putting in hard work, in the form of vegetables we eat all summer from our garden or the pride when we get compliments on something we’ve restored in our home.  Sure, it would be really simple to go buy all new things and throw away all the old stuff, but we choose not to.  A sheet of sandpaper and a coat of paint can work miracles.

My goal is to start utilizing more of the “old-fashioned” ways of life that I’ve learned, in our lives today.  I’ll use tricks from my family and seek out new ones and chronicle what works, and what is worth the effort.  I’ll take a guess that the hardest part will be finding the time, but I foresee the rewards will be great.  Maybe if I call my ideas “vintage”, it’ll become popular…