Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why it is difficult to garden with so many cats

Cats attacking the hoe and mashing emerging asparagus

Cats resting where seeds have just been planted even though I attempted to thwart their efforts.

Finally, Zilla flat out refusing to move even after threatening her.

Don't Forget!!

Flip that switch tonight at 8 p.m. for Earth Hour.

Friday, March 28, 2008

I Need a Table Runner for my Entire House

Seriously, I do need a table runner for my entire house. I would like to blame the clutter on my children, husband, the yellow dog, or the cats (I still don't want to know the exact count), but I, too, am guilty of clutter. There are seed packets, peat pots, soil block makers, garden shoes, and garden plans on every surface.

There are books, school work, and projects on every other surface.

On the surfaces not previously covered there are mounds of dirty clothes or stacks of clean, folded clothes.

And, I have a flat of Louisiana strawberries minus the one pint I ate sitting on my kitchen table amidst the clutter.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Mama Taught Me Better

Than to invite people over and talk about politics, but after a week of politely waiting I am still itching to say one or two words about Barack Obama's race speech. I just can't stand it. Come back tomorrow if you don't want to hear it.

Many journalists are comparing Obama's speech to the likes of Martin Luther King's I have a Dream or Letter from the Birmingham Jail, or J.F. Kennedy's Houston Ministerial Address, asking whether it will stand alongside some of the memorable speeches on race. Maybe. I didn't get to hear or see the speech since we choose not to have television, though I did read the transcript. I thought it was a wonderfully open discourse on some of the racial problems plaguing our country. He did a fabulous job slipping out of the sticky Rev. Wright alliance question. Anyway.

What I do want to know . . .

Is whether he or a speech writer opened up the Bartlett's Familiar Quotations or The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations to pluck Faulkner's "The past is never dead. It's not even past." from the vast number of entries on the past, or whether he read Requiem for a Nun and remembered the line? Did he intend to evoke Faulkner's old south characters, miscegenation themes, and racial inequities to further his point? Did he know that "The past is never dead. It's not even past." used as it is in Requiem could also mean that Rev. Wright's words live on in him?

Does he really need the Sutpens, Bons, Coldfields, McCaslins, and Snopes hopping around behind his words? Do they change the spoken words?

Though I question, I do admire Barack Obama's well honed speech and . . .

his use of Faulkner. If he wanted to use Faulkner could a better Faulkner line be:
I believe man will not merely endure, he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he, alone among creatures, has an inexhaustible voice but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.
Taken out of context from Faulkner's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

The context of this statement is fear during and after World War II, but still what a lovely sentiment.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

In the Clover

We plant clover along with rye grass in our pastures for winter forage for our cows and nitrogen fixation for our soil. In the garden, we plant clover in the fall for nitrogen and added organic matter. The garden clover is always a sight to behold because it has no competition from rye (which is considered a feeder grass), making it lush and fluffy almost like green clouds.

We find lots of things before we till it under-- children, a yellow dog, chickens . . .



and . . .

Zilla in the clover.

All images provided by K.

Monday, March 24, 2008


I finished some handmade projects last week just in time for the Easter fashion show. The first item is a dress (obviously not mine) that looks as fabulous on the inside as the outside. To me, finishing touches or details are what separate home sewn and a work of art that you happen to wear. Fabulous fabrics, perfect fitting, finished seams, flawless button holes, and quality buttons all commingle to produce something very special.

All this takes time, though. Frequently, though not this time, I underestimate the time needed to create these special garments and have to stay up all night attending to the details. This Easter I had a week to spare.

The sweater was inspired by the quilt. I wanted something so special that we would want to save it for my niece or even a grandchild (not that I want my 8 year old to start thinking about producing grandchildren). I hope I succeeded. I began knitting the sweater about a month ago, and honestly I didn't know if a month would be enough time. My knit shop, The Knit Studio, is in Jackson so anytime I changed my mind, needed yarn, or advice I had to wait until Thursday.

The first problem arose when I couldn't get gauge on my size 5 needles and I didn't have 6's. Instead of waiting, I decided to knit more stitches thereby creating a tighter weave. I liked the look, but ran out of yarn as I was two rows from the end of the last sleeve. The second problem was that when I started the duplicate stitch with only one color (the pattern suggested two, but I wanted the leaves to look more like the leaves on the dress) the leaves looked like a stain, so I had to wait to choose another color. The last problem arose when I wanted to change the direction of the crocheted, lacy trim. I didn't know how. I waited awhile, but then decided to finish the project without that design change.

I enjoy sewing for Princess because she honestly appreciates the effort and results. She gets involved in the fabric and design choices, but lets me create when I get the notion.

For those of you taking notes:

The sweater is the free pattern Elizabeth by Berroco. I used Tahki Stacy Charles' Cotton Classic in color 3715 (spring green) for the sweater, 3724 (Leaf Green) and 3532 (Pale Lemon Yellow) for the leaves, and 3443 (Cotton Candy), knitted on size 5 needles. Instead of using five or six buttons I used only three and wished I had used only two. With a full dress and a little girl who likes to button the buttons if they are there you can have too many buttons. The buttons are antique pearl with a little five petal flower design. Thanks, mom!

The dress base is New Look 6309 view D, but I doubled the size of the sash and bow. I also lengthened the dress by about 4 inches, increased the size of the hem, and I think that's it. The fabric is 100% cotton faille, so is the lining.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Wednesday, during school, because we were completely unprepared for spring beekeeping since we have had such strange weather, K and I noticed a swarm developing outside of our rough and tumble hive number two. Though timing wasn't perfect because of wind and impending thunderstorms, having a hive swarm in the spring is not a bad thing. In fact, spring swarming has even been recognized as a good thing in the children's picture book, Beekeepers by Linda Oatman High, with this nice ditty:
A swarm in May
Is worth a load of hay.
A swarm in June
Is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm in July
Isn't worth a fly.

As is usual our seasons are not the same as depicted in most books, so perhaps a swarm in March is worth, let's see. . . What rhymes with March that is as good as a silver spoon???

Having a husband who will come and climb the shaky ladder with gigantic pruners, hang onto the branch loaded with bees with one hand while bracing the loppers against his body to make the cut, maintain control when the ladder starts sinking into the wet hill, and then successfully hive the swarm is priceless.

Anyway, because the wind was blowing so hard, K and I had to wait and chase the swarm for a long time. As soon as they looked as if they were going to settle a huge gust of wind would blow, the bees would change their minds, and we would wait and watch, watch and wait, wait and watch.

Once they finally settled in a fir tree branch that was hanging over the edge of a hill, we called Mr. W. We share bee keeping duties, and since these bees came out of that persnickety hive that has given me trouble in the past, I decided this swarm was his. Wasn't that nice of me?

Before you think I'm mean, let me assure you that bees don't normally sting during swarming. I suppose they don't really have anything to protect. I took that first picture without a zoom lens and without a bee bonnet. K took the rest. We never donned our beekeepers suits.

While I did have a hive built and painted, it was no where close to being ready for bees since it was in the shed with no frames. While Mr. W captured the swarm, I got the box ready and decided where to put it. With a swarm from one of our hives, we need to make sure the new hive placement was not too close to the mother hive. I don't like drifting bees who jump from hive to hive, so I make sure to place the new hive well away so there is no confusion.

Once you set your location and get your hive placed, add about six frames (not all ten) so that you will have room for the bees. Sprinkle the bees with water so they won't fly, then shake them in the hive.
Close the hive, reduce the entrance.

Now all there is to do is to keep a close watch and provide sugar water until they build out the first level of wax foundation and start laying and putting aside honey.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Some time last month while my husband was away, the children and I were all snuggled in my bed reading. Princess asked, "Which is your favorite flower?" At first I began thinking of peonies, azaleas, wisteria, irises, roses . . . Then I realized she wasn't talking about botanical flowers, but the quilted flowers on the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt on my bed.

We studied the flowers and each picked a favorite and while choosing the flower of the moment talked about the time and effort spent, and the number of stitches Grandmother Florence stitched creating this beautiful quilt, one of many. This quilt was pieced by hand in 1931 by Grandmother Florence and quilted by hand by Grandmother Florence and her mother in 1932. When she gave it to me about twelve years ago, she tried to instill in me the value of her time and the quilt with detailed care instructions. She needn't have wasted her words. I knew.

After Mr. W. and I got married, we visited her and I admired her quilts. I decided to try to make one, a garden quilt. She instructed me on stitch size, keeping the stitches even, seam allowance. To create is art, but is also labor. The next trip home, I brought my work. I watched in horror as she disassembled entire flowers, critiquing technique, while explaining that the piecing had to be near perfect especially at corners for durability. I knew she was correct.

Durability. How many things in your home do you still find beautiful and useful after 76 years? How about after ten years? one year? six weeks? one week? I've been thinking a lot about this quilt, constructed of bits and pieces during the depression. In fact, I am inspired to make more life changes because of it.

I want fewer things, beautifully made. I want honest products. I want to make things my children will value. I want my life and all the things in it to be like this quilt - as practical, durable, and beautiful as the lady who made it. Though she died last year at 101, her legacy of practicality, of quality, honest work, of beauty will live through me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Plum Blossoms

The plum trees are blooming! I was worried that we wouldn't have a blossoming because we had a freeze and snow (very unusual for us) a couple of weeks ago, but I suppose luck, orchard location, and the garden fence provided a little assistance.

Today was a gorgeous 75° day and the plum trees were a buzz with life. I counted 10 different types of flying insects on one tree. There were red wasps, bumble bees, butterflies, moths(I was forced to smash these), sweat bees, and many others. Of course, the trees were covered in honey bees (Better pictures of them here, here, and here. You may as well look at them all).

Thought you northern dwellers would appreciate a view of spring.

Friday, March 07, 2008

How many times?

A woman from here, who is just a year or two older than I, had an appendicitis, which is certainly not a normal every day event but does not necessarily mean poor health though adding a bit of fiber might help. Anyway, her appendix ruptured and the surgical team had to go in and clean up, if you know what I mean.

They found colon cancer, some sort of unidentified nodule on an ovary, and a cyst or something on a kidney. Having someone my age who thought she was perfectly healthy one day and the next contemplating how much colon should be removed, visits to gynecologists, and what if any treatments should be undergone made me think of my son's older friend, who though older felt healthy enough to buy a truck for the next 10 years only to enter the hospital the next day never to return home. (Does my lack of commas here send shivers up your spine?)

Needless to say, I have been brooding.

This is what I have determined in my brooding state. Life is not as predictable as we think. I have wasted much of mine waiting until things are perfect to live. If I continue waiting will life be whisked away before I live it?

So, no more will I say:

  • I will have a party when the house is finished and immaculate.
  • I will go to the pool with my children when I lose some weight and resemble my 16 year old self in a swim suit.
  • I will go hiking when the children are older.
  • I will write more when I have fewer interruptions.
  • I will do, when
Honestly, the list is endless. Do you have one? What if?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My husband's gift

Doc (who now has her own domain), what do you think? Do you see anything bizarre about the gift from my hubby?

About twenty minutes before my husband was to leave for his February frolic, he said, "You need to feed your goats at the sale barn."

I said, "I don't have any goats."

"You do, now!"

I spent the next month trying to contain 5 goats purchased on a whim by my husband who was leaving town for a month, who felt sorry for the man who drove from Alabama to sell goats at the goat sale the C's used to host at my husband's barn once a month.

They are cute. But there is one small problem. Can you tell from the pictures? Take a guess!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Page 123

Zilla tagged me in attempt to get my lazy self to post. It worked. I couldn't resist.

Hmmmm. I try not to have any books in my office and for this one time in my life what I attempted and reality is close to the same. I do have one, though. My mother just gave it to my son. Unfortunately, it is a coffee table book and contains beautiful photographs of the Sahara for the most part. There is no writing on page 123, but on page 124 I took this excerpt:
The presence of vegetation, even if sparse and scattered, is an essential condition for the survival of animals. However, endemic Sahara species are rare: no sedentary birds and only three of the sixty-five mammal species are endemic (the fennec, the gerbil, and the addax antelope), along with six reptiles and about a dozen insect species.

Sahara by Paolo Novaresio and Gianni Guadalupi

I always assumed gerbils came from a pet store. I never thought about them being a native species of anywhere, much less the completely harsh environs of the Sahara.

I once had a roommate with a gerbil. This annoying, squeaky wheel turning, escape artist made my life miserable for an entire summer until I ousted both the roommate and the gerbil at the convenient semester beginning purge. I was ever so thankful. Call me crazy, but I just don't like rodents, even if they are supposed to be cute, crawling on me in the night. I can see the girl and her gerbil, but cannot for the life of me remember their names.

Thanks Zilla for the kick, the interesting information, and the resulting college memory.