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Summer

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I went around taking a few pictures a little while ago, in anticipation of writing this post.  I wasn’t sure what I’d write, but garden images are always good, as are pictures of the chaos in my house.

Here’s a picture of the chaos:

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We’re putting an additional shelf in the pantry (to the left of the above mess) and I had to take everything off the other lower shelves so I could readjust the height of two of those lower shelves to make room for the new one.  I’ve put the other two shelves back in place, so now I just need Bill to drill some holes in the new shelf and we can screw it to the brackets and everything will be lovely again.

Well, lovely once I put all that mess away.

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These are some jars of what remains of last year’s ExtravaCANza.  Not that I held such an event – I just thought of it.  But anyway, those jars – a bunch of salsa and some pickled rat tails.  (Rat tails are a type of radish, in case you’ve never heard of them.  A lot of people haven’t.  WE hadn’t, until we bought some seeds last year and grew them and discovered that they don’t grow like regular radishes, underground.  No, they grow like crazed string beans.  And they’re very good pickled.)

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(Pickled rat tails.  I canned 17 pints yesterday.  Plus 6 pints a few days before.)

I have that book on top of the jars because I decided any pictures I took today would not be prettied up for this blog.  I wanted my pictures to be accurate reflections of my little world today.

The book, by the way, is Christopher Kimball’s The Little Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook, which I use mainly for the pies and jams in the back of the book.  I was baking a strawberry rhubarb pie this morning and I like the proportions he uses.  Plus, he’s good company in the kitchen.

Anyway, I had closed the book to move it out of the way so I could put yet one more thing on a flat surface in the kitchen, and there it stayed.  In fact, it’s still there. 

I’ve baked several strawberry rhubarb pies this month – our strawberries have been mind-blowingly plentiful this year.  I have gallons – yes, gallons – of them in the freezer because I couldn’t keep up with them.  I’ll get to them eventually.  I have a few jams to make and a strawberry-lemonade concentrate that sounds like something good to have on hand.

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Here’s this year’s garlic harvest.  And three of Julia’s flip flops.  One of the purple ones is broken.  I don’t know where the other pink one is. 

It’s not our biggest ever garlic yield.  Spring was cold and rainy, and the bulbs just didn’t get as big as they’ve done in the past.  But that’s okay.  We’ll use ‘em.

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The three buckets have basil…the whiskey barrel has hot peppers, cucumbers and a tomatillo plant.

The tomatillos are EVERYWHERE.  That’s not a complaint, just an observation.  They’ve seeded themselves in the most unexpected places (the big window box on the front of our house – far from any tomatillo plantings we’ve ever done…the seed probably came from our compost bins.  We thinned them out, the rogue tomatillos, which is hard to do because every healthy growing thing is exciting and it’s hard to cull some of them out.  But we’ve still got way more growing than last year.

Against the fence we’ve got a minute amount of the strawberry plants that have migrated from the other side of the fence.  It’s so hard to cull strawberry plants, too.  SO hard. 

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Welcome to the jungle.  It’s not even fully crazy yet.  Well, the strawberries, growing and thriving along the fence there, are fully crazy but mellowing out now as strawberry season winds down.  We’ve got a few different squash plants plunked down among the strawberries – you can see one (sort of) in front.  Then we’ve got our four 4×4 raised beds.  We’re growing tomatoes, chili peppers, leeks (not many), onions, scallions, eggplant, a couple different varieties of basil (besides what’s in the pots in the driveway), millions of tomatillos, more squashes…um….cilantro that’s gone to seed and we’re waiting for those seeds (coriander) to turn brown and then we will harvest them.  Oh, and there’s a little patch of arugula in there somewhere…and some kohlrabi.  Probably other things that I’ve forgotten.  Anyway, lots of green stuff.

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There’s the back garden. 

The pile of yellowing plant debris in the left of the image is all the rat tail plants we pulled.  We need to chop them up and add them to the compost bin on the right.  I tell you which bin just in case you come to our house and we ask you to empty the compost pail (actually a huge can) in the kitchen, because it’s important that you empty that pail in the bin ON THE RIGHT, not the one on the left.  The one on the left is full and is magically becoming dark, enriched, magical stuff to add to the gardens.  And Bill will clap his hand to his forehead and look heavenward if you put compost stuff in the wrong bin.  Just ask my kids.

Speaking of the compost bins…

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This is the compost bin ON THE LEFT.  The one you DON’T want to be putting kitchen scraps in until Bill gives you the go-ahead. 

Every year we get something interesting growing from beneath the compost bins.  Usually it’s squash plants, but this year we’ve got a tomato, a tomatillo, and a squash.  Don’t know what kind of squash yet.  I think the tomatoes will be red.  The tomatillos could be green or purple.  I love garden surprises like this!

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And look!  A fully matured pickling cucumber!  We discovered three of them yesterday, completely unexpected.  Or unexpectedly.  Regardless, we thought all of our cucumbers were still about an inch long, but apparently not.  So I need to start making pickles.  It would be nice if our dill plants realized this, too, and pushed their seed heads to mature a little faster. 

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Now this – it’s not food, but it’s pretty.  It’s some sort of wild geranium that really likes our soil and gets bigger and bigger.  Bill thinks it’s gotten too big for this spot and has talked of yanking the whole thing out.  But that hasn’t happened yet.

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I love this arbor, and the wild rose growing up and over it.  I should have taken the picture from the other side, so you would see our yard instead of one of the neighbor’s houses…and it would look more inviting that way.  Instead it looks like I’m ushering you out. 

I’m not.

I’m just walking to the front yard to show you a few more things.

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Lilies are not my favorite flower, but I really like the color of this bunch.  So they stay.

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Okay, now for some new fun stuff…

We ordered a few new fruits this year.  (Including an orange watermelon that is growing in one of the 4×4 raised beds – I knew I’d forgotten something.)

Right here in the front part of the boat garden in our front yard, we’ve got a wild strawberry plant (might be called Alpine strawberries, or not, that could just be my brain playing word games with me), Wonderberries (really) and orange berries.  The orange berry plants are still small and show no sign of fruit yet. 

The strawberry – which we hover over like it’s our firstborn – has recently begun producing the most adorable dollhouse sized berries.

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You can’t tell from the picture, but those berries are tiny.  A little bigger than a pencil eraser – that kind of tiny.  Sadly, we have yet to eat one.  The two that have turned red (so far) were eaten by bugs or catbirds or other little creeping, strawberry-eating thieves.  So we are waiting.  Bill might put bird netting over it, but that won’t keep out bugs.  We’ll see.

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These dark beauties are the aforementioned Wonderberries. 

I don’t know who named them that.  Or why.

The fruit is only mildly sweet.  To me they taste like unripe watermelon, although the longer they sit on the plant they more ripe they taste.  They are supposed to produce all summer, and the plants get to be about 3 feet tall.  I’m figuring that even if they’re not the yummiest berry in the land, they are a fruit, they’re edible, and I could probably throw some in a blueberry pie if I didn’t have enough blueberries, and no one would know the difference.

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Thus endeth the garden tour for today.

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Besides cold and rainy, this spring has been full of baseball.  Alex played on his regular little league team AND a travel team.  That translated to at least five games a week for a while.  Sometimes more.  Saturdays were always travel team double-headers, and sometimes Sundays were as well.  Regular games were Monday/Wednesday/Friday.  We breathed a sigh of relief when all those playoff games ended, but the sigh was cut short because it’s All Star season now.  That translates to practices just about every day, and the games themselves started this past Sunday. 

In the picture above, Alex was pitching at a tournament we went to on Long Island in May.  He’s not usually a pitcher, but he can pitch, and he doesn’t throw wild.  So they had him in for a couple innings here and there. 

I urge you to notice the new-snowfall-like whiteness of his knees and posterior in the above picture.  I have conquered the grass and dirt stains this year.  Last year I just let them win, but this year I armed myself with pre-treating sprays and pods (I love the little pods – so soft and pillow-like) and powerful laundry detergents and got rid of those grass stains almost faster than Alex could make diving catches in the outfield or steal home on a passed ball and slide in safe under the attempted tag.

THAT, my friends, is what baseball is all about.  Clean white pants.

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Sometimes he plays first base, too.

He also plays any outfield position.  Sometimes third.  It depends on which team he’s on and where they need him, or where they don’t need him. 

It’s funny, I don’t take as many pictures with my camera at his games.  I use my phone a lot.  Just because it’s convenient.  And smaller.  But my real camera is still a lot better.

He’s made some great plays this year – including this one, running toward right field to make this catch, basically blind, and balanced on the edge of one foot. 

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There was another play – in another game – he was playing center field, and he basically leaped and flew to catch the ball and belly flopped the landing – but held onto the ball. 

I love plays like that.

I also love when Alex steals.

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It’s one of my favorite things to watch. 

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He runs pretty fast, that kid.

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And he’s usually safe.

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Julia is her usual all caps and exclamation points self. 

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She’s attempting to cut a ball of pasta dough in half.  It’s not easy.

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While we were on Long Island for Alex’s team’s tournament, we took part of a day to visit Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard.  Not only to they grow grapes and make wine, but they are also a Horse Rescue farm.  They’ve got about 25 rescued horses of all shapes and sizes, and Julia was enthralled. 

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So much of Julia’s life involves us going and doing Alex-related things.  Mostly baseball.  Fortunately she has made plenty of friends with “the sister” – little sisters of other boys on the various teams. 

And in school she has always been Alex’s little sister. 

But that is ending now.  Alex “graduated” from 6th grade and will be going to junior high next.  Julia will be in the elementary school on her own, in a way, for the next two years.  They won’t be in the same school again until she’s a freshman in high school.  She was sad about not having Alex in the same school, not that it will affect her every minute of the day.  But I think there was some kind of feeling of security, knowing her brother was in the same building.  She annoyed him, bothered him, drove him crazy, just as a little sister should.  But only because she loves him hugely.

I think the next two years will be good for her.  She won’t be the little sister of anyone in the building. She will be Julia.

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Julia of the Rocks.

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Julia of the Sea.  (We didn’t catch anything, but it was a beautiful morning.)

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She is ten now.  And it is hard to believe that fact.  She’s growing so fast in some ways, though she’s still a little girl most of the time. 

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It’s a strange experience, watching my girl-child grow up.  In a few ways we are the same, but in so many ways she is wonderfully different from how I was at her age.  Mainly I love how comfortable she is in her own skin.  Her own body.  While I felt self-conscious and…frankly…ugly, she seems to delight in her own existence.  I don’t think I wore a two-piece bathing suit until I was an adult.  She doesn’t give it a thought. 

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jayne at ten

 

This is me at about ten. 

I thought I was ugly then, and for most of my teen years, and sure, into my twenties.

I look at my beautiful daughter, and I think about how she makes my heart glow…and I look at this picture of me – and others – with a mother’s perspective now, rather than with that of a shy, self-conscious girl – and I want to cry for that girl and tell her how wrong she was. 

I wonder what my mom thought when I said I was ugly.  I am sure she tried to convince me otherwise.  I am equally sure I didn’t believe her.

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That’s my mom.  I’m not sure how old she was in the picture.  I’m thinking maybe early teens.  I’m terrible at guessing ages.

Here’s another one:
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I think she’s a bit younger in this one, but again, I’m terrible at guessing.

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She’s in her mid-late twenties here.  Dad took this one probably before they were married.

Here’s me, when Alex was a newborn.

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And Julia again.

Julia at eight

 

I was looking at these pictures a couple months ago, comparing eyes, noses, smiles, and so on, looking for the similarities and the differences.  I love the little bit of one person carried on to the next generation and even to the generation after that, but with little changes that come from outside that portion of the gene pool.

I see some of my mother in myself, and in Juila, too.

It is comforting.

My mother passed away Christmas Eve.  A little over six months ago now.  In some ways it was sudden, in other ways, it was not.  It’s a long story, and the emotions conjured up when I think about my mother are so tangled and twisted together…I can begin to separate the strands, but then I can’t, because really, they seem to want to remain all tangled like they are.

I miss her.  I miss being ten and my mother being home when I got home from school or came in from playing outside.  She hugged me often.  She loved me.

I hug my children as often as I can.

One thought on “Summer

  1. This takes me back to one of my favorite episodes of “Cheers.” The bartender’s daughter is settling for a total loser, thinking she’s too ugly to ever do better. The bartender points out she looks just like her mother, who they both agree was completely beautiful. She found her spine, kicked the loser to the curb, and that was that.
    Nobody ever really focuses on how we feel we might not be getting motherhood completely right, in the same sense we think we’re not pretty enough. Or maybe they do, but it’s never come across to me the way this post did.
    I’ve missed you.

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