Tuesday, May 13, 2008


i woke up this morning feeling something terrible. the kind of terrible that got me a late start on the day and then had me stumbling about like a drunkard. amazingly, it all began to lift in the afternoon, and i ended what i thought was a wasted sunny day - and not too hot - working in my garden. even though i didn't get home until after 6pm, i managed to finish clearing out the side flower bed next to the front porch steps, break up the soil and plant some zinnias, echinachea, okra, basil and peppermint (the mint was planted in a a separate raised pot to keep it from taking over). i rigged up a fence of netting around it to prevent the dogs from trampling (or napping) on my little mini-garden.

then it was on to the big garden, where I took my new garden work bench (inherited from Granny), post driver, tall posts, garden tools, seeds and netting and did an extraordinary amount of work before night set in. i added a few more stakes to the perimeter of the garden border, which involved me balancing on top of the bench, lifting the post driver above my head and then bringing it down with force upon said stake, repeating several times, hoping not to damage my ear drums too severely (metal on metal - ouch), and then finally having to lift the post driver (which is actually pretty darn heavy) over my head again, while still balancing on the bench, and finally dismounting without falling over. i think i did that five times today - hooray! did not have enough old and new netting to entirely cover the perimeter of the fence, so i'm not quite done yet.

in addition to my little side bed, i did manage to plant: marigolds, sunflowers, beets, dill, sweet pepper, okra (two varieties), watermelon and the three sisters. the three sisters is a method of planting corn, beans and squash together in hills. i've tried this a few times in the past, but never with much success. mostly b/c i wasn't really that focused on what i was doing. this time, i hope i got it right. i built up small mounds of loose soil, put a corn seed top and center, then sort of made a medicine wheel with bean and squash seeds - two of each, alternating to make the four directions. then cover the seeds with a light layer of loose soil. i really hope i can make it work this year. i think i'll try mulching with straw once they come up...

i already have some curly mustard greens and peas coming up and potatoes planted in a trench covered with straw. the next big thing is to get some tomato and eggplants transplanted, put in some patty pan squash and get some basil going. i've got to get some new basil seeds and maybe even break down and buy some seedlings, because i've still got last years seeds, and they never did come up last year...

i worked in the garden until the critters in the woods started heckling me with strange noises and i lost all light. even though some of the sounds i was hearing would scare even the bravest outdoors person, i wasn't bothered. bella stayed close by, laying in the tall grass and keeping sentinel. no panthers, rabid deer or escaped cattle were gonna get near me without her getting to them first!

i don't know what it is, but there's something about getting on your hands and knees and getting your hands in the earth that will cure just about any ailment. i don't know why i don't just go stick my hands in the dirt at the first sign of a headache. sure works better than a little pill!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rambling Thoughts on Family

There's a great song by the Decembrists that tells a long winding tale of ancestry. A mother who was a Chinese Trapeze artist. Being lost in a game of high stakes Canasta to a Brigadeer on a ship... a sister who moved to America to start a punk rock band.
While I didn't grow up with my relatives all living around me, I have always belonged to a family who really valued being part of a family. And I mean the whole extended deal - not what is called the "nuclear" family (how creepy does that sound?!).

Even though I have always lived in communities where the norm is to live in the same hollow, if not in the back yard, of one's grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, et. al., I sometimes find that I am closer friends with my aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts, third cousins twice removed than many of the people who live in the same community with those folk. Perhaps distance does make the heart grow fonder? All I know is that ever since I can remember, it has been a priority to attend family gatherings - from the usual - the annual Thanksgiving and family reunions- to the weddings and funerals. Even if it's for a sad reason that we get together, I find I always enjoy every second I spend with my family. We spend our time telling stories. Most of my life, I have listened, but as the older generation passes on, my cousins and I've begun to share in the storytelling about ancestors passed with my parents, aunts and uncles.

There are so many characters in my family that I have known about my entire life. Some, I was lucky enough to know as a toddler. But others, I feel that I know so well, I continue to learn more about with each family gathering.

This weekend I attended my cousin's wedding. I shared a table with my cousins, aunts and uncles and parents. I wore an antique hat inherited from granny that had belonged to her aunt - the legendary Aunt Ruth! I ended up with a lot of Aunt Ruth's stuff. She was my great grandmother, Nanie's sister. As one of the only cousins to actually have known Nanie and Aunt Ruth, it was natural for much of their belongings to be passed on from Granny to me. Everyone really appreciated the hat. To them, it was like having that generation at the wedding with us. Then we got to talking about Nanie & Aunt Ruth's dad - Poppa. I have a few pieces of furniture, sewing cabinets and wood carvings that he made. He's one of the relatives that I grew up hearing about since I was a small child. I know well the story about what an outgoing man he was - always the first to greet a new neighbor with a homemade pie or a basket of biscuits. He made the best biscuits, and he lived to be a very old age. He befriended a crow, and each morning after breakfast, he would go out on his back step, call out "Crow! Here crow!" That same crow, every morning would fly down, perch on Poppa's arm, and Poppa would feed him (or her) leftover biscuits from his breakfast. Poppa lived alone for a very long time and never had to have anyone take care of him. He prayed everyday that God would not let him become a burden to his family and that he be taken in his sleep when it was his time to die. One night, a tornado swept through Lyon, Mississippi during the night. The next morning, they found Poppa's body high in the branches of a tree. He had died in his sleep. That was sometime around 1970, I believe.

My whole family from my parents back are, for the most part, from Mississippi and Louisiana. I had always thought of my Mom's family as being more of the Louisiana/Southern Mississippi side of the family. This weekend I learned that Poppa was originally from southwest Mississippi, had lived for a long time in New Orleans where he had been a streetcar driver and played music! He played the fiddle and made several fiddles. Later, once he had a family, he quit drinking and playing fiddle. My uncle remembers Poppa showing him how to play the bones and the spoons. He never quit smoking, though. My aunt would roll his cigarettes for him. I still have a pack of Prince Albert papers that once belonged to him.

I could spend days on end hearing those stories. Who needs television with the living memories to be found all around you?