Homestead happenings: april
Winter is a little like slow dancing to Stairway to Heaven for five months. Everything is very slow and steady, and even if it’s not your favorite song, you get used to the pace and how your fleece-swaddled body shusshes as it moves. And then April hits and you get to the crazy part at the end of the song where everything speeds up and and soon all your linty fleece is tossed in a pile on the grass and the sun is scrabbling higher and higher and everything smells faintly of sweat, dirt and potential.
The whole episode of oral disasters has passed and it’s just like winter, how deeply mired you can feel, and then poof! everyone’s eating scratchy chips and kissing again. My friend Sue texted me last week, asking how Col and Rose were doing. Fucked, I texted back. Four days later I felt sort of silly when Sue called and the kids and I were rambling around the neighborhood, completely smitten over plump apricot buds, wild onions stitching up through oak leaves like green ribbon and our own good health.
I had to wonder if I’d been a little melodramatic during those weeks (of the double whammy: tonsillectomy and cold sore outbreak) where each mealtime, each toothbrushing felt like its own 20-minute catastrophe. But I think it’s just something about parenting, the way your life is braided so tightly with your children’s. Their moods and lives are so big and bright and magnetizing, it’s like sitting in the front row of an imax movie, or a mile away from a lightning strike. Sometimes when the strike passes, my mind is still filled with the shocking brightness for hours. And some of us, after living it, write about it.
Luckily it works the other way too. Just yesterday, from our living room windows, Dan and I were watching Col and Rose frolic through the backyard with some older neighborhood kids. “How cute! Look how Rose is sitting on Allie’s lap.” I pointed out to Dan. “Look how happy they are,” I sighed, as happy about their happiness as they were, or maybe more so.
Col’s still milking it a little. Apparently shredded carrots are too crunchy on his newly-recovered mouth, but yogurt-covered pretzels are just fine. Yesterday morning I poured water for the kids and Col said, “actually, I’m more attracted to juice.”
On the homestead:
:: We’ve been planting like crazy. Inside, outside, in pots, straight in the wild wooly earth. Big clunky pea seeds, wispy marigold seeds, tiny basil seed specks, scatterings of spiky lettuce seeds, and carrots all in a row. It’s been our medicine – tucking seeds into soil. Each seed sings out—as it gets dredged under soil—“every little thing’s gonna be all right.” I’ve been letting the kids dig through my seed stash, sowing the wild cards of the plant world. I’d let them plant their baby teeth as they popped out, if it made them smile.
:: Last weekend we planted carrots; I prepped the bed and the kids dropped seeds into the crooked rows.
:: So, remember how we planted those plum tomatoes from Dan’s dad’s seed collection? Those seeds he gave us 13 years ago, 3 years before he died? I eventually gave up on them, because by the time all the new tomato seeds—which we planted at the same time—had their first set of true leaves, nothing had happened with “Hal’s plums.” I felt sad that I let the seeds sit for all those years, drying up their magic. And then one day, a Hal’s plum sprouted, and another, until they were all up.
So now, of course, I’m trying to germinate all of the tomato seeds Hal gave us, even the Purple Prudens, which I have no business growing. These mammoth, insanely sweet, magenta globes take more days of growing season than we have, but knowing Hal’s hands extracted and dried these seeds, I’m dedicated to saving another 13 years worth of seed. It’ll be Col’s high school graduation present. (If you have a longer growing season, ie: live south of Colorado or in California, and you want some Purple Prudens seeds, let me know).
:: Still life with cat, elk poop and emerging greenhouse lettuce. The FDA’s nightmare.
:: Meanwhile, the coldframe lettuce is getting me all crazed about extending the season. We’re eating salads in April.
:: Speaking of extending the season, my latest, wacko idea is covering the newly seeded-beds with blankets to keep the soil moist and warm, speeding up germination. I’ll let you know how it works.
:: Not only does Dan bring me elk poop fertilizer from his hikes, but he brings the kids skulls!
:: Oh, and one more thing. I got the fabric for the kids’ curtains, so as soon as taxes are over, you can ask me, gently, how the curtain project is coming along.
* And one more: thank you all for your book suggestions. I love how many of us have read and loved the same books. I just finished The Dirty Life by Kristen Kimball, who is a NYC writer who falls in love with a farmer she’s been sent to interview. Seven years later they have a year-round, “whole diet” CSA with 100 members, providing meat, dairy, eggs, 40 different kinds of vegetables, maple syrup, grains, flours, fruit, beans. Her writing is so beautiful and rich and unsentimental. And the book is not just about farming, but about dedicating oneself to a partner, a community, a way of life, against some serious odds. I loved this book so much that even though I finished it, it’s still sitting on my bedside table, keeping me company like a friend.