Tag Archives: Too Little Time

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Watering In

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For Yule, Landscape Guy gave me Jenks Farmer‘s wonderful book, Deep Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners. I finished reading it on my last business trip. I’d recommend the book just for the pictures and for the stories about the great characters/gardeners from whom Jenks has learned over the years. Muriel Rukeyser was right about stories.

In one chapter, Jenks recommends, whenever possible, watering by hand rather than with an automatic irrigation system or with sprinklers. You know, carrying water to the plant in a watering can and standing there making it rain in just the right spot and by just the right amount. Or taking the hose (and, when we do it here in the South, a glass of iced tea or wine, depending on whether it’s a morning or an evening watering) and standing in the garden, watching it, listening to it, watering by observation. At the end of the Watering-In chapter, Jenks says:

Collect and focus the energy of moving water in the soil and air around a plant. You might call it chi, positive energy, lining-up, or paramagnetic force — whatever you call it, it pulls together your own energy with that of moving water, plants, and life in the soil.

Those simple actions and involuntary connections make life rich. One tiny action can set off a chain of scenes in our minds. Sometimes during a watering conversation, I’ll hear in my own voice an inflection, a tiny change of tone when I’m getting excited. I’ll then recall an afternoon, years ago, on a road trip with a friend, looking over a vast desert, my friend fixated, holding my shoulder, imploring me, saying “Now? Now you must be excited! Say it out loud!” Or when I water with a coffee can, I see the smooth twisting of water becoming a muddy stream of cypress pond water, pouring from the bottom of a tiny tin that my father picked up to nurse along a newly planted ocean tree seedling behind a barn that he dreamt of renovating, of making into our house.

Watering-in does all of that for me. It’s so elemental, something that builds unforgettable connections. When you teach someone to water-in, make sure it’s a fun experience, an important moment; it may be a moment they associate with watering for the rest of their life.

It’s such a sensual thing to do, watering plants. The feel of the water, the sight of the plant, and the soil, and the water being sucked into the soil. The smell of wet dirt. The sight and sound and presence of the birds who show up and want to play in the water. And when it’s hot, of course, I water myself a bit, too.

How do you water? Do you have a memory of learning how to do it?

Picture found here.

The Witch’s Bedtable

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When I was a young woman (oh, and it was many and many a Moon ago), I would read one book at a time. I’d take a book out of the library, read it, and then begin a new one. I was well into my forties before I ever started a book and did not finish it, even if I really didn’t like it. It was a kind of a discipline and a point of honor with me. Until I was in my late twenties, I kept a list of all the books that I read, including textbooks, and the list was into the high thousands when I got so busy that I gave it up.

Today, I’m old. Chemo and the surgeon’s knife have left me bereft of most of the estrogen that used to course through my veins, giving me, as estrogen will, an unlimited attention span, and social media has rendered my attention span even shorter than it might have been. Now, I often have a dozen or more books “going” at a time and I am willing to just walk away once I’ve convinced myself that an author has nothing to say that will benefit me or that s/he can’t say it well enough (I’m snobby about this; sue me and it’s sadly true of too many Pagan authors who won’t pay for an editor) to keep my interest.

And, so, if the same books show up here time after time, it’s because, well, I read as I read and I don’t read one book at a time, finish it, and move on to the next.

* Staubs and Ditchwater by Byron Ballard

The cultures of the mountains are certainly fading and some parts of it are easy to shed, to be perfectly honest. There are, however, plenty of people coming into the area and they are learning from some of the older techniques of resourcefulness — how to preserve food for the winter, how to grow the kind of crops that are nourishing and will keep well, the importance of livestock to a smallholding.

They are learning, in short, how to be subsistence farmers. It sounds peculiar when we think of it that way, but living close to the land and learning the ways of the particular microclimate in which you live are invaluable. As the larger culture begins to fracture, local people are left to help each other, to eat local food, to re-localize every part of their lives as the era of cheap petroleum comes to its screeching end.

Instead of reinventing those particular wheels, we can look to how the indigenous peoples — both American Indian and long-migrated Europeans — survived in a land that was hard. In general, the land here is too hilly and soil-poor for deep farming, too removed for ease of access to markets — the resources must be managed carefully and the yield is dependent on the earnestness with which the land is tended and renewed at each season.

We read old manuals and we talk to old farmers and we try to ken what it is they really know. Here it is, here is the big silver bullet of Appalachian farming — you have to know your piece of land. You have to observe the patterns of wind and rain, you need to prepare for winter, even if — in this age of warming, it never comes. You have to glean out the kernels of predictableness in these mountains of unpredictability.

Knowing the land, knowing the microclimate that is your growing area and knowing your neighbors have saved manyt a family, going back as far as when this land was settled. The first time.

* No Innocent Bystanders: Riding Shotgun in the Land of Denial by Mickey Z

Whenever I write an article or give a talk about the state of global affairs, the first question asked is this: “So what can/should we do?” . . . Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly frisky, I might quote Walt Whitman:

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and the crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning [g]od, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men — go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with mothers or families — re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; your very flesh shall be a great poem.

* Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

In the moment that you reach for the potato chips to avoid what you feel, you are effectively saying, “I have no choice but to numb myself. Some things can’t be felt, understood, or worked through.” You are saying, “There is no possibility of change so I might as well eat.” You are saying, “Goodness exists for everyone but me so I might as well eat.”

When you first begin questioning your core beliefs, you don’t try to fix or change or improve them. You take a breath, then you take another. . . .

This kind of questioning provides a bridge between who you take yourself to be and who you actually are. Between what you tell yourself based on stories from your past and what you sense based on your direct experience now. It allows you to distinguish between outdated familiar patterns and the current, living truth.

Picture found here.

The Witch’s Bedtable: Wombats, Victorians, Cardoons, Good Knives, and the Letters of Serious Cooks

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So the book is also about a particular group of bustling and talented people. People who were inventing the modern world by diving back into the Middle Ages; rich people who discussed socialism while their servants cleaned around them but who were prepared to go to prison for their beliefs; people who accepted knighthoods; people who made chairs and carpets and cups and saucers and sideboards and fabrics and wallpapers and paintings and illuminated manuscripts; people who exhumed the dead and played with ouija boards. People who were found dying in the gutter with their throats cut and golden sovereigns in their mouths — people who kept wombats.

Rossetti’s Wombat: Pre-Raphaelites and Australian Animals in Victorian London by John Simmons.

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Closely related to Artichokes, Cardoons produce large, silvery, celery-like stalks that taste much like Artichokes when cooked. The inner stalks, if very tender, may be eaten raw like Celery or Fennel. Cardoons are a renowned delicacy in Italy, found in soups, stews, salads, and crudites for warm bagna cauda. Cardoooms should be started indoors 8 to 12 weeks before transplanting into your garden. They require warmth, strong light, and a well-draining fertile spot. In fall, 3 to 5 weeks before harvesting, blanch the hearts by gathering up the outer leaf stalks, securing them with garden twine, and covering the outer bundled leaves with burlap or heavy paper. Appearing much like cloaked monsters for up to 5 weeks, Cardoons are harvested by cutting them off at their bases. Pull apart the fleshy stalks, clean them well, and remove the bitter, spiny leaves as well as any stringy fibers running down the backs of the stalks. Rub them with a halved lemon to reduce discoloration or parboil them in salted water until tender prior to use in cooked recipes. Average seed life: 1 year.

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds: Serving America’s Finest Gardens Since 1908 ~2014~

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Dear Julia,

Tuesday we are going up to Williamstown to stay for a couple of days at the Inns — just the two of us — leaving Mark with his organ teacher, and may they not leave my kitchen in the same mess as last time. B. just wants to set and look for a spell, being dog-weary. The western trip was wildly successful, but too much in too short a time. He never learns. Me, I like to travel very, very lethargically only moving when absolutely necessary. We are now catching up with the mail, and I will write you at intervals of copying letters.

B. very low in his mind about politics. Thinks the administration has shown definite signs this last moth of learning the ropes. Terrible blows to us on losing [Lester] Hunt, Moody, and Johnson (Colorado). Thinks public too apathetic about conservation, and the power isssue, to amount to much in the way of votes. Why on earth can’t some Republicans die in office? Got the same, other night, from Schlesinger Jr. Both talking about Eisenhower running in ’56 and possible winning. Very depressing.

From As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child & Avis Devoto, ed. by Joan Reardon.

Deep in the Forest, Safe Beside the Fire, Worried in Bed

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With many thanks to Sylvia, I’ve been reading From the Forest: A Search for the Hidden Roots of Our Fairy Tales by Sara Maitland.

Maitland writes:

I am suggesting that we walk in all the forests with a double map: a rich, carefully researched by still incomplete map of the history (economic, social, and natural) of woodland that spans not just centuries but millennia; and a second map which relocates the forests in our imaginations and was drawn up when we were children from fairy stories and other tales. To make everything even more difficult, the fist map is a palimpsest: the older history has been scraped off by biological scientists over and over again and rewritten in the light of new discoveries — with details [such as] ‘beech trees were . . . were not . . . were indigenous.’ The second map is a magic map, which shifts and changes every time you try to use it to find out where you are, where you came from and where you might be going.

I love to walk in the woods and watch the maps shift. Do you?

Maitland also writes that:

Currently, anthropologists and social geographers suggest that all art began with ritual and arises initially out of a religious rather than aesthetic response [and Chas Clifton says that religion arises from ritual, as well, rather than vice versa]: the cave paintings of southern France or Central Eastern Africa (or anywhere else) were more fundamentally about hunting rituals than about interior decor. . . . Rhythm developed into music. Both visual and narrative images came later — first solid objects (sculpture), then representation (two-dimensional metaphors for three-dimensional realities); first songs, then poetry, then stories.

(I’m skeptical that songs came before poetry, but that’s just me.)

I’m not sure that there’s actually a difference, at least when things are done right, between rituals and interior decor. I’ve always maintained that, if a Witch steps into my home, she will look around and, in spite of an almost complete absence of obviously “Witchy” paraphernalia, say, “Ah, a Witch lives here,” while if someone unfamiliar with Witchcraft steps into my home, they’ll be a bit confused. They immediately have a sense of peace and “rightness,” but are often at a loss to explain or describe it. I saw it again this weekend when a Witch new to my home walked in and immediately asked, “What style of furniture is this?” When I told her, she said, “Ah, well, you’ve convinced me that it’s the most Witchy style there is.” Although I wasn’t trying to convince anyone of anything. But when it’s done right, the interior design is as much a part of the ritual as the ritual is part of the interior design.

Where are your forests? Which –ritual or decor — comes first in your home?

I woke up this morning around 1:00 am and did something that I seldom do: tossed and turned, worrying about everything. I’m too old to do this very often; I’ve long since learned how useless it is and I’ve had more than a few years to learn how to lure Morpheus, reluctant lover though he may be, to my bed. But last night I fretted over the thrust of a brief, worried about my health and lack of progress on some of my goals, stewed over corporate attempts to turn water into a commodity (and, honestly, of all of my night terrors, this is the one that really does give me hives and makes my bed uncomfortable), fidgeted over several friends, reviewed my prospects for life as a bag lady, decided several times that the house-creaking noises were not a serial murderer breaking in to my little cottage, and pondered exactly how many more years my roof will last.

In the end, I gave up, got out of bed, took a hot bath, and sat myself down — again — at my altar. It’s all real; it’s all metaphor; there’s always more.

Today, I rewrote the brief, made a doctor’s appointment, and went for a long walk at lunch.

What helps you go back to sleep?

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