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Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

Things are heating up here in Nashville. Literally. Temps are headed into the 90s this week, and Bob got the gas fire pit to work just in time for summer. Naturally I decided to make my famous not-too-spicy-turkey-veggie chili last night; always a good way to get rid of all the remaining vegetables lurking in the fridge, including some parsnips that were sprouting greenery.

On Sunday our little neighborhood had its annual “Sip and Stroll” garden guzzle! Basically it’s a good excuse to drink with your friends and neighbors whilst walking around outside. A truck leads the way to 5 gardens with wine and beer on tap! Last year we had a blast, so I packed up my insulated summer wine goblet and headed east. The magnolias are in bloom, redbuds are leafing out and flowers were everywhere – lucky for us, when the rain finally exploded, we could take cover inside an open garage.

My 92 year old neighbor Berdelle’s son was in town for another outdoor lesson in T’ai Chi on Saturday. I loved practicing under the trees in her secret garden with 7 other women, listening to the haunting sound of a train whistle among the bird songs. It transports you to another time and place. I remembered all my attempts at gardening; my border of rosa rugosa in Rumson, my feeble plot to plant fig trees in Charlottesville just so the deer could enjoy them.

This morning is T’ai Chi at the Y and I’ll ask Berdelle if she’d like to attend a rally right after our class downtown to support Planned Parenthood. Maybe we will laugh about the “great” state of Alabama because in the darkest time we must find humor. AL has added insult to injury today – not only did it pass the most restrictive anti-choice bill in decades, its public television station has refused to air a cartoon episode of an anthropomorphic aardvark named Arthur! Why?

Because Arthur marries his same-sex partner. Oh the humanity!

The Bride’s friend Tamara from Duke wrote an excellent article about her abortion, or involuntary miscarriage, years ago that still rings true. I double dare any anti-choice person to read it! https://www.huffpost.com/entry/heartbeat-involuntary-miscarriage-and-voluntary-abortion-in-ohio_b_2050888

Ultimately, these TRAP laws and heartbeat bills are incremental infringements on our constitutional rights as Americans. They are lead by far-Right zealots who would like us to follow their own brand of religion, which tells them that marriage is between a man and a woman and that life begins in the womb, with no exceptions.

Not even when a fetus has no brain tissue and would never survive after birth, not even if a child is raped… They really need to stop legislating a woman’s uterus! Our First Amendment guarantees our freedom from religious tyranny, of any kind. That’s why our ancestors immigrated to this country.

So I’ll put on my big girl boots and march again this morning for #StoptheBans after T’ai Chi, I’ll donate to Planned Parenthood, and maybe I’ll break out my insulated wine goblet too. I’ll carry a sign and chant a chant. I’ll stop to smell the gardenias and keep fighting as if my grand daughter’s life depends on it. She’s got the bees knees!

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It’s another semi-sunny, semi-rainy day in Nashville and I was going to semi-write this morning, but Bob wanted to “talk,” and the Bride wanted to stop by on her way to the garden store. She had one of those hard ER shifts last night, the kind you don’t get over easily. So, off we went in the drizzle to roam among living green things – I needed some pots and I bought her a fig tree. In her city garden, this tree will be safe from marauding deer.

…the fig tree symbolizes life, prosperity, peace and righteousness throughout the Bible. Micah 4:4 reads: “But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and no one shall make them afraid.”       http://biblicalanthropology.blogspot.com/2012/05/fig-tree-in-biblical-symbolism.html

My city garden is nearly complete. Our neighbor, Ms Berdelle, has gifted us friends from her garden – artemisia and trumpet plants, but we are running out of room. Our little plot is mostly pebbles, mulch and a fantastic fire pit, so I’ve been planting flowers and herbs in pots. I love to cook and walk out my kitchen door to pick fresh rosemary for a lamb stew. This year I’m planting leeks for the first time, because what Irish stew is finished without leeks?

While browsing all the colorful, beautiful ceramic pots this morning, I thought of my first husband for some strange reason. The story of the cache pot came to mind, pronounced “cash poh,” it is an entirely decorative container for plants. I bought a gorgeous, expensive, Italian pot as a new house gift for one of the partners in his law firm. We were supposed to go to the housewarming party and as a 20 year old new wife, I thought it was a thoughtful gift, just elegant enough, but earthy! After all, he was the new associate.

I remember it cost $50, which in 1970 was alot of money.

Well, we never went to that party. It was the longest, drag-down fight I ever had with him. Don’t misunderstand. He would never hit me, but his words could wound in other ways. I spent too much on the gift, which was followed by how utterly worthless I was as a wife/woman/person. I locked myself in the bathroom for the whole night. I wonder now how I could have ever been so impossibly young and immature, but I guess it’s the nature of things.

To learn and grow from those lessons.

I must finish planting by Sunday because we’re having the official installation of the fairy house on our tree stump. Tinker Bell has been buzzing by, waiting patiently.

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Living in a townhouse, it’s been strangely comforting to know that Bob’s back, knees and elbows will be spared this Spring from the Big Clean-Up. No more hauling wheelbarrows filled with mulch. chainsawing stray limbs, or pruning branches on ladders. Our new chapter is getting better all the time! A landscaping crew arrived last week and plowed through all the heavy-lifting in two days, however the few feet in front of our front porch remains bare. What to do?

Why not spruce up our front yard?

The Bride had us over the other day to discuss her landscaping plans. Last year, when they moved into their first house, they tackled the back yard and installed a raised bed for veggies and a compost bin. Now she and the Groom are ready to beautify their run-of-the-mill foundation plants and install a fence. We gave her our opinions (isn’t it great when your adult children ask for your opinions?) but first we had lunch at Thistle Farms.

Thistle Farms is an amazing Nashville non-profit. It’s right in the Bride’s neighborhood and is so much more than a gift shop, cafe and tea house. I’ve been wearing their “Love Heals” cap for years and adore their hand soap and moisturizing lotions. Needless to say, the food is organic and heavenly! https://thistlefarms.org/

Thistle Farms’ mission is to HEAL, EMPOWER, AND EMPLOY women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. We do this by providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners.  We believe that in the end, love is the most powerful force for change in the world. 

“There but for fortune,” is the Joan Baez song that runs through my brain whenever I step through the door of Thistle Farms. Everyone has a story, and we all have scars – the difference is these women are actively working to change their lives. When the Bride walked in and I embraced her, I saw the cashier smiling at us, and I saw the longing in her eyes. Had she lost her mother? Did she have to give away her daughter in a court battle?

Like the Flapper had to give me away to her friend for safe-keeping after the car accident.

“Bloom where you’re planted” has always been my motto since marrying my gypsy ER doc. Would I love to still be living at the edge of a bird sanctuary behind a white picket fence in the Berkshires almost 40 years later? Sure, but that just wasn’t in the cards for us. What makes a house a home for me is difficult to pin down, my family and a dog of course. And to some extent, a few flowers.

This morning I ordered two dwarf lilacs to plant next to my front steps, to honor my foster mother Nelly Bly.

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Our new townhouse gets a tiny sliver of light each morning, and the sun streams in again in the late afternoon. Against all odds, I’ve decided to plant a few dish gardens because “Bloom Where You’re Planted” is my mantra. And even though my green thumb has been noticeably absent when it comes to house plants – with the exception of orchids –  I’m determined to turn my horticultural track record around and plant cacti!

After all, who could kill a cactus plant?

They grow in the desert, so water isn’t a problem. I’m really good at forgetting to water things, houseplants are low on my list of priorities falling right after dusting. Gardens, in my opinion, belong outside. But cacti, in or out, do need a fair amount of sun. Therefore I will inch my cactus gardens into that small square foot of sometimes semi/saturated/sun space and hope for the best.

We all adapt to our environment. I’ve gone from living on the edge of a bird sanctuary in Massachusetts, to the Jersey suburbs, to the mountains of Virginia. And now I’m sitting here, in the alcove of our “open plan” Living/Dining/Kitchen room in the middle of a big city. Ms Bean has adapted to a collar and leash; and Bob has changed in his own way, he’s enamored of Uber, forsaking driving, and has just walked in from his daily bike ride!

City life is looking better and better. I’m about to meet the Bride for another look at the fashions of Downton Abbey before the Cheekwood exhibit closes.

I learned a few things from my last visit to “Dressing Downton; Changing Fashion for Changing Times.” For instance, skirts began to shorten during WWI, as nurses on the front lines shortened their hemlines to avoid mud and blood. Hence the Flappers of the early 1920s. Fashion was adapting to the pragmatic needs of working women. Corsets became unnecessary, along with bustles. Eventually, women started riding horses astride in pants, they gave up the ritualized riding costume to ride like a man!

I recently found out a food blogger I follow from Charlottesville, Kathy Younger of KERF, made up with a particularly nasty troll of hers who had created a synchronous, satiric website for two and a half years. One of the many cruel and snarky comments on this other site had said that I looked like a man in my Downton Abbey-type hat. Those of you who know me know I wouldn’t really care, but what was interesting was that this troll took the commenter to task, telling them my website MountainMornings.net was actually well written and interesting!

The funniest thing is I thought the troll was a man. Why? I’m not exactly sure, the writing was sharp and witty, but Tina Fey is sharp and witty. Maybe I just couldn’t imagine a woman cutting down another woman like that. It turns out her troll was a 20 something young woman from LA, one with her own issues, and she wanted to make amends. https://www.katheats.com/i-befriended-my-troll#Z2pOl6ZWizcpyJbw.01

What I wanted to know was who was paying for this troll to write her miserable copy almost every single day? I haven’t quite adapted to the business side of the internet yet, but Kath said there “…are huge networks like Google Ads and they run all over the internet, so you can’t really pinpoint single businesses. They run on so many sites that they probably don’t even know they’re on a troll site.”

Well shame on these advertisers! And just in case you think the White Supremacists marching in Cville shouting “Jews will not replace us” – which no Jew I know would want to do in the first place – was a fluke, Facebook has just announced it will trim its targeting system for advertisers. Yep, it will no longer search for people to target in ads who are self-proclaimed “Jew haters!” I kid you not… They said they are “…building “guardrails” into its processes to stop offensive self-reported profile traits being used as ad categories.” http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-41278800

Did you know that a Jew born in Israel is called a “Sabra?” The name came from a kind of succulent that grows wild and free on the coastal areas, like a prickly pear. I’ve become rather proud of my bleeding post-potting fingers.

I hope that more platforms like Facebook and Google adapt to the troll and racist/anti-Semitic sites that pop up in the wild west of wifi, because free speech is becoming a synonym for spew all the hate you can, and we better learn how to handle this new territory.

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Things are springing up around our little house. Crocus are about to bloom, daffodil leaves are reaching for the sun, and temperatures have been hovering around 70. No bugs or humidity yet; “This is what California is like all the time,” I said to Bob in my most ingratiating tone of voice.

When we were living in New England, this time of year was called “Mud Season.” Snow was melting and everyone coveted a “mud” room, a place to ditch your dirty clothes and hats and gloves and boots before entering your house. The rest of the country might call this a back porch. But Berkshire sentimentality aside, I love seeing bluebirds playing on my deck. Spying a Tiffany-blue breast makes me want to break out in song!

Bob breaks out the tractor and the gardening tools. For him, this is pruning season. When we built this house we picked out every tree and shrub, which means we now must keep them from enveloping us entirely. My French friend looked us up on Google earth and said we must live in a forest, and she’s right. Our tract of land demands constant vigilance! A herd of deer trim our most succulent new growth all winter, and now it’s time for Bob to play his part.

The viburnum, the hydrangeas, the crepe myrtles! No one is immune to Bob’s pruning shears, loppers and hedge trimmers.

Ms Bean must do her part too. She refuses to come in when all the gardening work begins. She offers up a tiny dead field mouse to our back door, while Bob shows me an abandoned bird’s nest at the front door. These “gifts” are received calmly, while I check to see if anyone has taken up residence in the bluebird houses Great Grandpa Hudson put up years ago. Anyone that is, besides the flying squirrel who scared me half to death with her bulging black eyes!

But usually I prefer more indoor activities. The National Men’s Indoor Tennis championships have been taking place at our gym, so exciting matches are on the docket all the time. And when I’m not watching tennis, I was learning how to string and knot pearls this past weekend. It’s slightly meditative once you get the hang of it. It’s an escape from the news.

When a friend told me she and her husband were in a Jewish Community Center yesterday when a bomb threat was phoned in, I didn’t realize it was one of many seemingly coordinated around the country. And I wondered if the Love Bug’s preschool was shut down again for the third time since Mr T’s inauguration. And a knot formed in my stomach, the kind that’s always there whenever I try to suppress an emotion.

I wonder how a president who shouts down an orthodox reporter and scolds him for asking  a complex question about anti-semitism, only to bring up his polling numbers again and again can possibly protect this nation and heal our divided people.

Here is my second attempt at knots, with pearls and lapis – a “so-called” selfie/portrait with Bean and an old gardening broom in the background. img_0119

 

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When you see an obese child, what do you think? Do you immediately blame the parents, and/or poverty? There is no fresh produce to be found in their neighborhood, or maybe you think the parents are just lazy…What if we make school lunches more nutritious. Let’s get Jamie Oliver into every school cafeteria and teach those lunch ladies how to steam vegetables! Get a communal garden going outside the gym!

I find it fascinating that the GOP is all about getting government out of our way for free enterprise. They start yelling “fascist” whenever Mrs Obama wants to see kids get off the couch and move, or a school system tries to change what a school lunch may look like – don’t tell us parents what to do with our kids! Get government out of our lunch boxes!! We know what’s best for them, and if a parent wants to leave a gun lying around well…and then I picture a two year old yelling I WANT TO!!

Bob tells me he rarely mentions weight to one of his patients, after all he is not a family practitioner. But when he sees a severely obese child, he may say something to the parent in the ER. Because this is such a serious health risk, he risks that patient’s dismal satisfaction score. Not all doctors have the courage to tell a parent they are endangering their child’s health. Luckily, the rate of childhood obesity in this country is finally leveling off:

After a steady rise for many years, the number of calories American children take in each day is going down. Childhood obesity rates, though still too high, have now leveled off, and are starting to go down in some populations. The 5 billion school lunches served each year are more nutritious than they were a decade ago. Children are eating less processed food and drinking less sugar-sweetened beverages and full-fat milk.  http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/30/opinions/clinton-brown-healthy-kids/index.html

So yes, we can put juice in vending machines and model a healthier diet for our youngest children: by including them in food prep and offering fresh, real food; by sitting down to dinner as a family (an almost insurmountable task these days); by going to farmer’s markets or even helping them plant their own little tomato plant in a pot. I’ve mentioned my neighbor Kath the food blogger before. I love the way she has introduced real food to her toddler, he http://www.katheats.com/ways-motherhood-has-changed-me

Still, I think about how my Foster Mother Nell really didn’t cook, she would jokingly say she could open a can. Women in the 50s were sold that bill of goods – TV dinners on a tray, canned vegetables with marshmallows. Life was supposed to be “easy” for the 50s housefrau. They grew up watching their mothers actually grind meat on the dining room table, and wash clothes by churning them through a semi-automated washing machine, or maybe they were hauling clothes down to the creek? Why shouldn’t they get to vacuum in high heels!

And all I ever ate for lunch in high school was tuna sandwiches and potato chips, followed by a cheeseburger at White’s Drug Store immediately after school, with fries dipped in gravy… SO, canned food, semi-fast food, and I was never fat, in fact I made spaghetti for myself at night cause I thought I was too skinny! Those were the days, before babies, before menopause packed on the pounds.

We can all teach ourselves to prepare a healthier diet, we don’t need an RD to work up a meal plan. If there are no markets with fresh veggies in our neighborhood, we could plant some in pots. What we cannot and should not do for our kids is model complacency. What my generation had was the ability to walk to school, to go out on our bikes after school and not come home till twilight. We had the freedom to move, which this next generation may lack.

Kudos to the city planners and engineers who are redesigning parks and playgrounds all over the country. And bravo to the police who are walking beats and making neighborhoods safer and crime-free – not by stopping and frisking but by stopping and talking.

And maybe we could have a course at the police academy on nutrition?

Basil is ready for Pesto

Basil is ready for Pesto

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In this heat, you’ve got to start your day pretty darn early. It takes me about an hour to water the gardens. We also have newly planted figs and an evergreen that needs daily care. If I’m not done by 9 am, the #heatwave knocks me out. Just checked my phone, yep it’s 83 and it “feels like 90” at 10 am. The windows are perpetually covered with condensation, and my glasses fog up as soon as I open the door.

But this day started at 5 am, when I woke up and finished reading my book, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. It left me thinking, instead of sleeping for another hour. She is one of my favorite writers, and this story is a not too subtle attack on climate deniers. However, it’s woven deftly into the everyday dynamics of a young farming family in TN, and the mother Dellarobia, is our protagonist. It touches on poverty, on women and independence and on class bias, all while trying to figure out why a million beautiful monarch butterflies have decided to roost on Dellarobia’s mountain.

So of course I had to do some research, and they did only just discover this roosting behavior almost forty years ago in 1975 which is pretty new in the world of scientific discovery. nat-geographic-cover-e1295402536266Roosting is a wintering over, a sort of dormant time for the butterflies when large clusters hang from trees and hibernate in plain site. Normally they will migrate and roost in the mountains of Mexico, but in this fictionalized version they’ve arrived in Appalachia like a miracle from God to the poor people living there. http://texasbutterflyranch.com/2012/07/10/founder-of-the-monarch-butterfly-roosting-sites-in-mexico-lives-a-quiet-life-in-austin-texas/

The monarch is our state insect and sometimes they will land on my shirt! Unfortunately while watering this morning I came inside with your normal everyday tick attached to my leg. I’ve learned not to panic when I see these critters sucking their way into our dogs, our children or my leg. We’ve probably dislodged hundreds over the years with our bare fingers – I find that much easier than trying to use a tweezer. But now I do keep the tick around for Bob to look at when he gets home, just in case. In order to transmit Lyme Disease, the tick must stay attached for 24 to 36 hours in order to transfer the LD spirochete, http://www.aldf.com/lyme.shtml so a good rule of thumb is to always do a tick check when you come inside.

Here is a picture of my butterfly tree, as seen through the sleeping porch. It is currently buzzing with honey bees!    photo

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