Wife, writer, tinkerer, grower of food. I'm happiest outside our rambling farmhouse with a basket looped on my arm, picking dinner from the garden. That's joy right there. Please follow along; I'm so glad you're here!
Sorry to disappear on everyone there for a week and a half. I've been feeling the big, mega, furry, crazy-eyed CRUNCH to get things done (both inside and out) for our open house thingy we do every year, which is next Saturday. June 7th. Eight days. Eight days, and thar she blows:
Oh my. I am having to back off my hopes just a bit. The counters will be in, and that is so big. Living without counters is HARD. The sink is plumbed, and hopefully the dishwasher will slide itself into place, in the eleventh hour, once the counters are in place. Things that are iffy: hardware, baseboards, ceiling paint. Things that won't be done yet: the white subway tile backsplash, and the open shelves that live on them.
But, things that are certain: good food and drink, friends and family, laughter.
And this all just means we'll have to have ANOTHER party, maybe in, I dunno, August, when the kitchen is finally officially completely DONE. Right? Right.
Moving on, then.
We are eating off the land again, and that feels fantastic. Incredibly, we still have some of last year's frozen broccoli in the freezer, and we ate the last block of frozen beet greens (thawed, of course, with roasted red peppers and walnuts and raisins and capers, and drowned in mozzarella cheese!) for dinner last night. But in between, there have been SALADS. Spinach salad with hardboiled eggs, and shredded kale salad with apples and raisins and feta. Asparagus stir-fry, too. The tomatoes are in and kicking butt, the beans and squash and cucumbers and melons (!) are planted, the potatoes are charging forth. It's that season. Such a good season.
I'll try to check in here next week, even in the midst of the madness. OH, and did I mention? We're going away for Sunday/Monday to see Jason Isbell again? Just saw him in February, seeing him again now, with Ray LaMontagne. Not sure if you've heard of him, or if he'd be your cup of tea, but if you like songwriting, and loneliness, and Alabama, give him a try. We're a little bit in love.
Anyway. Back Tuesday, probably, with a report. Wheee!
Last fall, I planted yellow tulips. It seemed the thing to do. Browsing over the offerings (I think I was at Agway) I thought of how the yellow would look against the teal-painted house, and I was certain it was a good decision.
Last week, strolling past and looking them over (performing the thorough meandering flower garden assessment that happens whenever my mother and I are together between April and October) Mom reminded me that I've loved yellow tulips for a long time. I don't really remember, but of course I trust her.
I guess I've loved yellow tulips a long time. I may even have painted our house teal, subconsciously imagining this sight.
I can't even tell you how happy they make me. So simple, and so lovely. Siiigh.
This is the time of year when I have a hard time not making every trip outside, and every trip to Frog Pond or Lowe's or Home Depot, about my flower garden. It only lasts a month, six weeks maybe, but for at least the whole of May all I want to do is watch new things unfolding, and wonder at the pace of progress, and bring home pots of pretty leafy things to fill in the (still plentiful) gaps. Just got home from Lowe's, in fact, with a few sticks of lumber for one last tomato trellis, a few cans of bug spray, and... $50 in clearance perennials, weed block fabric, landscape pins, and "river pebbles" decorative stone for an impulse extra-prettification project I couldn't avoid.
Prettification is happening in all corners, at all hours. Over the weekend I moved 60 square feet of sod to widen and plant this bed here, on the side of the garage.
I know it looks like sloppy, floppy, weedy hell, but bear with me.
There are three tartarian dogwoods in amongst the mess. I have ogled these suckers for years, and pondered over whether they would be right for this spot, and finally decided they would be, and then finally also decided to NOT go the budget route and try to find 10 dogwood TWIGS for $20 or something ridiculous (I am tired of planting twigs. I have planted a lot of twigs here that have died. DONE WITH TWIGS.) and so I screwed up my courage and spent $150 on three freaking shrubs. Sting. But. Look at these fat gorgeous suckers.
Woooeeee. In around there are irises, and in the front I set in a row of sedum, which I made from some of the big momma sedums lurking around the edges of this place. Once everything recovers and starts filling in, it should look right purty.
Gardening is just the best thing. Right now I know I should probably better be installing baseboards or spackling or painting the rest of the kitchen (ORDERED COUNTER TOPS TODAY!) but I am not. I am buying pots of pretty things and planting them. It is way more fun than caulking or painting or spackling, and I don't care who knows it.
We had Patrick for both days this weekend. The next time that happens will be-- Lord willing and the creeks don't rise-- June 14th, so we all (Del and Pete and I included) made the most of it. There was a Saturday hike and Sunday morning pancakes and Sunday afternoon lawn-loafing with beer. Mexican food Saturday night. Just lovely. Just right.
We did our usual, our favorite. The Farm Loop. The most perfectest trail for humans and canine alike: a good hoofy 1.5 mile steep HILL, a couple of gorgeous old farms, one muddy farm pond full of tadpoles, pretty woods (we saw a tanager) and no one else for miles. Off-leash time for Del. Just right.
There's no turning back now. We're drowning in asparagus, drowning in baby greens, drowning in pretty green shoots in the flower bed, drowning in weeds.
I believe we have had our last frost.
While the guys installed the cabinets on Wednesday, my mom and I headed to Frog Pond to buy flowers and have girl time, and-- sure sign of optimism-- I bought my tomato and pepper seedlings. They're not in yet, they won't be in yet for another week, but yesterday evening I went out and set up the trellis framing where they will live, and thought about the high-summer season ahead. The humid and the crazy and the sticky and the canning-- oh, it's all ahead.
And I thought about last year, walking around in my new red baseball cap as a hummingbird followed me, trying repeatedly to pollinate my head. I remembered last year.
The weeds in the circle garden, where now there are pretty flowers all around. The things that hadn't been planted yet, the stories that hadn't been started yet. The stories always yet to come. Oh, it's a good season, and a good time to be living.
And, I won't lie-- I'm a little more excited and eager for it all, the canning especially-- knowing what a gloriously efficient and durable kitchen I will have in which to practice my craft. The countertop people are coming to measure today....
I'm a-gonna get misty here a minute, folks. Bear with me.
I can't remember. I can't remember what life was like without this guy. I don't know where my smiles came from, back then, or what I did on summer evenings, alone in the house, other than take him outside and play tug-of-war. I don't remember life before his ridiculous post-bathtime prancing, before petting his wrinkly head and watching the emotions move behind his eyes, before feeling his sweet nose-whiskers leaning in when I sit on the floor to stretch. I don't even remember what I did before I had someone to shush for barking at the smoke detector, or someone to feel guilty about leaving for ten minutes to check the mail.
I am sorry, to every other dog I've ever known, but I've never loved a dog like this.
And he doesn't know. He has no idea. He's taken up this space in our life, in our hearts, and he knows he is loved, certainly, but he doesn't know all these changes he's made and what they mean and how he makes us feel. And he doesn't know how things will change-- collapse, really-- when he's gone someday.
Okay, maybe I didn't need to go there. But a very bad day-- maybe the worst day of my life-- is still so fresh in my mind. I need to go there, sometimes. It helps me to be present. It helps me to never take a single thing for granted.
The end. Year one with Delmer is in the books, and what a wonderful, rich, funny, proud year it has been. We are blessed.
Phew. In other news-- there is a lot of other news, which is why I am posting on a Tuesday. Tomorrow morning I will be fully engaged in floor-scrubbing as Patrick drives the truck and trailer out to Delhi, to my dad's shop, and as they carefully caravan their way back loaded with MY NEW CABINETS. Cue happy dolphin noises. Today I petted green soapstone that may turn out to be our new countertops. We had initially planned on doing concrete countertops ourselves, but, friends, we have been engaged in reno now for OVER FIVE FREAKING MONTHS. (Remember where it all began? January 13!!!) Anything else we can spare ourselves from doing ourselves, we are going to do. We want to write a check and be done.
Soon, maybe by the end of the month, we are going to write a check and be done. For now, we I am living in the excitement of Christmas morning and the night before my wedding all rolled into one. I can't WAIT to share.
Just the other day, I was telling Patrick that, though messy and inconvenient, this is actually a pretty good time of year to redo a kitchen. No canning, yet. Still eating our of jars and freezer bags, for the most part. Nothing in the garden needing to be blanched and frozen. We aren't coring peppers or butchering butternut squash or even peeling cucumbers-- and, given that I have maybe eight square feet of counter space to work with right now, that's a good thing.
It began with pointy purple tips nosing up through the dirt. That was sweet and novel and fun, and I was drooling and feeling excited. But the thing about asparagus is... well, there's this THING about asparagus.
It grows fast.
It grows really freaking fast. When you see a ripe tomato, it says, "Hey, maaan, I'm ready whenever you are, y'know, schedule me in when it's convenient." You see a giant zucchini, it's, "Yo! You! Pick me before I get to baseball bat proportions! But cook me whenever. Just put me on the counter for a few days and I'll be chill."
Asparagus, you march down a row of foot-tall spears, and you hear a Paul Giamatti in Sideways-type anxious squeak. "RiiIIGHT NOW!" It's demanding stuff. It chastises. It sends you sprinting for your paring knife and harvest basket-- because you are not about to bungle THIS, the first harvest of the season.
The year's first fresh dinner from the garden.
So it was that I found myself cooking on a Friday night. I don't usually cook Friday nights. The fish tacos at the Empire House in town are excellent, and their fries are even better. BUT. I had a pile of asparagus and a handful of scallions that had lived through the winter, and so I made this delicious thing.
(Picture from last August, when I made it with bok choy.)
And it was worth it. The year is begun, and it feels pretty damn awesome.
This is probably going to be my last indoor project for awhile. Other than, y'know, the kitchen. I started this in March sometime-- about the time I started to give up hope that spring would ever truly arrive-- and it took a long time.
The glider was a hand-me-down from Patrick's parents. They asked if I wanted it, and it didn't take me long to think futuristically-- someday, we will have babies-- and say, yes, please! It was in great shape, but early 90s dated buttery woodtone and ugly ugly blue-and-pink upholstery. I looked and looked for a before picture, through my archives, and could not find one. Just use your imagination: it was bad.
Each coat-- one of primer, two of paint-- took three "sessions," since I could only reach about a third of the chair at a time. And, being a glider, it has all sorts of fussy under-works. Those were not fun to paint. Those are something I hope I will never ever have to paint again. Phew.
Sewing together the cushion covers was exponentially more enjoyable. Choosing fabrics is my happy place, for sure. And taking apart old cushion covers to use as a pattern for new cushion covers is about as straightforward as it gets. I was even able to salvage the zippers to reuse. Woo hoo!
Everything I used for this project I had on-hand. It's perfectly functional and comfortable, it matches the room where it will live. The cushions have a restful convalescent side and a zany fun side. I am pleased. So pleased.
Woo hoo! Now, back to sanding drywall in the kitchen. It's cooooming...
I drool. I drool every day, walking down my asparagus row.
We are getting close. I took this picture Tuesday, actually, and already it's pretty much unrecognizable. Warm days, the spears absolutely sprint. We will be eating asparagus this weekend.
This is the year we really get to go to town. This is its fourth spring; all the crowns are well-established, and we don't need to feel worried that over-zealous harvesting will wear them out. I am sharpening my knives.
Almost every time I'm out there, I'm remembering this post from three years ago, Planting Day. The cold, inhospitable rain, the cold, inhospitable clay ground. The puny little white crowns that seemed like such long odds-- will they ever really amount to anything?
Three years later, we have a crop. The raspberries I planted the same year are taking over the garden, one runner at a time. The apples and cherry trees are poised for another big summer of growth. Bit by bit, corner by corner, this place is becoming what I've hoped it would be. It is a good feeling, watching your keenest hopes begin bearing fruit. Sometimes literally.
Meanwhile, the peas are nearly hand-sized. I have beet and chard and radish seedlings, too. The broccoli is in the ground. The potatoes are in the ground. The onion sets are sprouting. Life is generally a very fine thing.
And away from the garden, we have scenes like this to consider. Ahhh, springtime. So fine and lovely.
I went to Purl Soho, I petted the Liberty, I ate New York pizza, I drank delicious, intoxicating things. It was perfect.
This now-three years running tradition of a May weekend in New York City with my aunt is emerging out of the mists, growing its own inside jokes and little specialties. Special-ities. Getting tippled on wine and talking about books or music or movies is one. Watching the Derby on Saturday, after which we make homemade BLTs (with a $4 tomato purchased from Grand Central Market, where tomatoes are $5.99 a pound) is one. Having friendly little spats over who's treating who for what is one. A frequent refrain is, "Well, okay, I'll let you pay for lunch, but I am buying the four-dollar tomato!"
Friday was for the Botanical Garden, for meandering and soaking up all the flowers.
Saturday was for shopping in Soho. We took the subway down to a very different Spring Street. I discovered that Purl Soho and Anthropologie are right around the corner from each other. I needed to pilgrimage to Purl to pet the Liberty (as I said before) and Anthro is just... well.
Purl is tiny, but I made my way back to the cutting counter. I found some really pretty sea foam green linen for 40% off, and, after blinking back honest overwhelmed-by-beauty tears, set upon choosing the very nicest, prettiest bolt of Liberty to coordinate with the linen. The man working the cutting counter and I talked about how we store our finest, most special fabrics in a separate pile, apart from the rest of the stash: maybe this is what it means to be a fabric nerd. Exquisite is the word. I have no idea what I'm going to sew with the one yard of Liberty and two yards of linen I bought, but whatever I do with it it'll be a lovely reminder of this day.
By late afternoon, I had a tidy little bag of treasures to tote home. It was just right.
I'm so lucky that I get to do this every year, so lucky that I have my dear aunt who says-- as I drag her all over the city-- that she loves it, that she isn't tired yet, that she's having fun. That she's buying the $4 tomato, and lunch.
She's a good one. Maybe the best one. I'm so glad I have her in my life.