Wednesday, May 27, 2009

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Grace with a dropped blossom.

A nest of dried grass and lint and wool.

I think they want to make friends.

New neighbor update:
I do think I ought not fume and post, people. It's just never a good idea.
They're still there. Their large blue-and-chrome motor home perpetually in my view as I garden, their Pit Bull barking as I garden in the beds beside my front porch, their parking job changing the traffic of the school bus and their existence changing the way I think about my rural life.
How blessed am I to have a home, to have dirt of my own to plant tomatoes and chard, to be able to lock my doors at night and call my harmless and goofy Retriever in from the yard? How blessed am I to know that I will have a next meal (or 90) at the same table, changing tablecloths to match the flowers my girls brought in? The working showers, the stuffed bookcases, the mommy time-outs.
The new (temporary) neighbors initially made my skin burn as though I were covered in fire ants. But that's moving on as surely as they will. They've brought a new element to the road. I think I'll call it gratefulness.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Gives?

Over the past week (and a half) since I last popped in here to my second home the blog, we have new neighbors at my first home. The sticks-and-stone one. My castle, my retreat, my own sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the world at large. The place I garden and the place my kids play in the tall grass looking for fairies. It's home. And it's remarkably rural, 25 miles from any traffic signals.

Don't get me wrong. The farmhouse is still a minor version of Grand Central, with neighbors (and their children) stopping in at all hours daylight and then guests and friends and family (who use the back porch entrance and who sometimes call first) stopping in any old time they like, sun shining or moon beaming down on the house of hospitality. You might have to step over six pairs of boots by the French doors or you may be asked to carry a flat of plants to the garden, but you're welcome to stop in for some iced tea too. Anytime.

So when we were relaxing around the stone fire pit in our front yard Saturday, shooting the breeze with my visiting brother, sister and mother over steaks and salad, I was completely nonplussed to see a large vintage motor home pull in to the white clapboard church's gravel lot across the road. It's robin's egg blue with a good deal of chrome. It's 35 or 40 feet long. My own personal RV is a 13-foot 1953 canned ham travel trailer with yellow and white floral curtains. I'm down with the cute and kitschy, folks. You cannot be more Bohemian than I. And frankly it's hard to shock me.

We live in a rural destination area and so are quite accustomed to horse trailers and cycling teams and Sunday drivers. Often the church across the road is an informal staging spot for trail rides and wine country hikes. Rented minivans and limousines and show-n-shine cars with their sexy curves frequent the road. Occassionally the Harleys find us too with their leather jackets flapping and their helmetless heads flaunting the law, gutteral engines spooking our horses and souring the milk at a nearby dairy.

The holiday weekend is certainly no exception to our experience. But this motorhome had (has -- it's still there) a different, er, air about it. When a known grower (not of organic veggies) pulled up to their mobile door, it was as though his nose led him there.

I was mildly concerned. But it's free country.

Then on Sunday afternoon the motor home's passengers left in another vehicle and for some reason tied their Pit Bull to the shady side of the bumper.

The dog began whimpering at first. Full-on barking soon followed. For SIX HOURS. People, the dog was in distress. The owners are nowhere to be seen. I made inquiries and learned that possibly the same motorhome had been camped behind a restaurant in a small town near us for a week or three. I was told (erroneously) that the elders of the church had given permission for a weeklong stay. Across the road from my picket fence, I might add.

I got good and hot and it wasn't the sunny weather.

Why doesn't [fill in the name of your favorite fuddy duddy church elder] invite them to camp in HIS yard? I thought, oh-so-charitably.

Since Sunday (when the Pit's barking incited a neighborhood-wide howling fest among the other dogs and barbecuing families) I have made more nosy inquiries. The motorhome is on its way to Montana. They have some, ahem, sales to make to raise gas money.

I'm at a loss, once again, with my erstwhile live-and-let-live.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Call Your Mother.

So I've had a bit of a swinging-at-windmills kind of week. Looking forward to more of the same, thanks so much for wondering.

For four days the four girls and I descended upon my grandmother-in-law who is also known as my grandmother-in-love. My husband's grandma, my girls' "Nana," is quite possibly the funnest great-(in the awesome sense of that word as well as generationally)-grandma known to kidkind. As I mentioned, she has a lot of touch lamps. She also has "artificial" (never "fake") flowers that Laura likes to "mell." She makes the best beans in the hemisphere. She introduced my children to Hometown Buffet and also to digging in gravel. She keeps a big toy box and a big sense of humor. Thanks, Nana, for a wonderful stay.

While in the fantastic state of California, we spent a lot of time with my superfun mother-in-law and my sweet sister-in-law and most importantly with my nephew. Rio. Now there's a kid who knows how to run a party! He has all of his cousins wrapped quite snugly around his smallest two-year-old finger. Not to mention Grandma, Nana, Mom and, er, me.

Of course while traveling we had to break out the DVD player. Don't hate me. It's three movies, interrupted by two potty stops, and we're there. Paul Bunyan, better known in our family as Papa Onion, is also graced with a visit both going and coming. This trip Babe (big blue ox... are you still with me?) was thankfully no longer beheaded.

Last time we drove through the Redwoods, the 30-plus-foot-tall ox had quite literally lost its head. Right into the parking lot. Sarah's horror is still fresh at the memory of his (must say that I had always thought Babe a her, but no-oo-oh, I checked this time and his parts are evident in massive lightweight concrete sculpture under which you can, ahem, walk and marvel) ... anywhat Sarah is still horrified to remember the gaping hollow neck.

So this time his head was back in place and the whole thing repainted in brilliant blue. HOWEVER. They forgot his nose ring. It didn't take my children 10 seconds to discern this. How many kids will be disillusioned, people, before the Enchanted Forest fixes it? We invite guesses.

After our Paul Bunyan-Nana's Beans-Drive Along Lost Coast-Shop Ferndale-Eat Hometown Buffet-Paul Bunyan trip we returned home to a happy husband and father who'd spent his week working, watching baseball, and contemplating how big and quiet the house can feel under certain circumstances.

Heh heh heh.

Little did he (or I) know that he was about to be sole practitioner of parenthood for three days while I ran away (my personal specialty) to the Sylvia Beach Hotel for a little bookish alone time. Reading! Watching the surf! Driving aimlessly! Taking photos! Meeting a strange (apparently under the influence of intoxicants) woman! Who hugged me repeatedly and told me to call my mother!

Okay. Just passing along what I learned on my trip. Literal and figurative.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bridge Over

Maybe I've been reading too much "Eat, Pray, Love."

Maybe I've been reading too much. Period.

Last night I stayed up reading by the light of my husband's grandmother's touch lamp. Incidentally the kids are mesmerized by the matching brass touch lamps in her bedroom. Brush it with your pinky finger: On a little. Again with your index finger: It's a little lighter in here. One more time for SUPER BRIGHT. Now off. Bump it with your nose, the back of your hand, breathe on it slightly harder than blowing out birthday candles -- it's magic.

I'd hate to see what "clap on/clap off" would do to them.

And to continue this country mouse tangent, I have to tell you about the first time Madeleine noticed the electronic doors at the doctor's office. She was 18 months old and walking with her chubby baby hand in mine. We stepped into view of the electronic eye. The ubiquitous "clunk" of mechanics I don't understand and then the "swoosh" as the doors began to glide.

My baby, my firstborn, the girl who made me a mommy, gasped. Did she declare the doors to be magic? Nope.

"I scared it!" she said. As far as I can remember this is the first time my eldest declared her own self magic.

Oh to be that powerful and sure. Self-possessed. And able to open doors with a mere glance.

I can't remember where my tangent was going. Nor can I remember which path I left to meander the one in which the world is new through the eyes of my children. Where the Golden Gate Bridge is momentarily disappointing because it's not, well, made of gold. Where a touch lamp is entertainment and comfort food is a pot of pinto beans cooked the way only Nana can cook them.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Gifts

Last year our Mother's Day was a picnic by the river, chilly springtime gardening, and a new baby. This year I woke up, looked around, and realized that Mother's Day was fast upon us.
My mom wanted something, not that she asked for it. I was so excited to know what she wanted that it took me right back to childhood. Remember when your mother would insist that your globby clay and fingerpaintings were her favorite items? I was sure then that there were secret unfulfilled desires, unspoken wishes for unchipped china perhaps or a bottle of Guerlain.
Now that I'm a mom four times over I often line up my children's dandelion offerings. A hand pressed in clay. A stepping stone with shells from our tidepooling adventure. A Chinese brush painting of a dragonfly, signed in ink, cursive, by my eldest at five years old. Photos. Smudgy bits of art.

All this gift cataloguing got me thinking about the gift of motherhood. The state of being a mom, a woman with a family, and what a present that really is.

It's a gift for generations.

It's a gift to see your daughter cradling a baby.

It's a gift beyond compare to see your daughter cuddled by a mother many generations removed.

I can't seem to think of a single item that could make a mother's day more spectacular than the sight of knobbly, girly knees in tights and of course the perpetually sandy toes washed for patent leather shoes and then, then dancing with cousins and grandparents, asking the unanswerable. Whatever does it mean, Papa, to cut a rug?
I hope my mother loves her store-bought gift. (It's so exciting, but this is also the year Mom got on the internet so we mustn't spoil it.) I hope I don't get a single store-bought gift this year.
I hope I get more of what made last year's triumphs and tragedies magical. I hope and pray I get that mystical gift of family over and over again for so many years that I can't pick one from the other. I hope I get to line them up as dandelion vases and paper mache' ornaments, no one more precious than the last.
Each priceless.
I hope you get to do the same.
Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Making Up

So we're making up for lost posts.
There's been a lot of tilling and digging going on at Farm Suite. My husband is making a new shade garden. We started it last year on Mother's Day and it's getting bigger and bigger this year. I'm not sure where the quiet contemplative bench I'd envisioned is going to fit in though.
To an already shady area of our small property we've added a dogwood tree, six vine maples, a blue cypress, three rhododendrons, two azaleas and some native groundcovers. We are discovering a lot of cool existing plants in there too, like that bleeding heart and the pink-flowering shrub I featured a week or so ago. The huge native rhodies are getting slow and careful haircuts and lots of water.
The reason I'm not sure there'll be room for my thoughtful bench, though, is that we also planted a large cedar play structure right next door to the shade garden. Because swings and slides and tree forts thrive in the shade as well.

No, way, officer. That building was not there when I started backing up.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rabbit Run

Careful with the hex wire. By the way, did you know that all the progressive feed stores no longer advertise "chicken wire" at all? It's "hex wire" thankyouverymuch. I wonder if there was some sort of fowl play with the naming conventions.


Wrap the hex wire around the legs of an available outdoor table. Be careful not to wrap up your baby sister in there.

Just kidding! Laura was merely on the outside looking in. Actually, she was trying to entice the bunnies with blades of grass poked through the wire. Because rabbits are well known to abandon all the grass under their hoppy little feet for some hand-picked exotic grass blade offered from baby sweet hands. I guess.

Let's not think about the best-laid plans today.
Let's think about something else instead. Like lavender. And barely visible in that photo? Last year's mint mojito recipe on a skewer. Why is it outside? In case I need a mojito while weeding. That's why.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Farmgirl Friday Strikes Again

Yesterday we had a list of errands and appointments that conspired to keep us in town far, far too long.

The best thing I can say about being stuck in town all day is (thinking, thinking) ... we ran into my father-in-law at the feed store. It was a fun surprise that kept the girls entertained while I shuffled the contents (random accumulated crud) in the waa-aay back of the Suburban so the nice feedstore guys could fit in 500 pounds of grain. I am so glad they stack those suckers for me. And, bonus! When we returned home I was blessed by a chore-begging teenage boy visitor (saving up money I think) who for a mere four bucks hauled all that grain to the barn. Do I lead a charmed life or what? Also I may have a gift for underpaying. I think that's called cheapskate, tightwad, ignorant. But I am a great tipper. Am I dwelling on this point too much out of guilt? Why, yes, I am.

Speaking of guilt, I have a little copy for my dad's website that is calling my name. What with the long-awaited diagnosis, a smidgen of sunshine, a little late-night bookkeeping at the engineering office, a few run-ins with multiplication tables and a dentist appointment or two, this week has flown by with nary a moment for the important. I guess I better get on that.

The worst thing I can say about going to town is that Gracie had her first negative dentist experience. Luckily she now blames the entire thing on the dentist and not on, well, me.

Today I am determined to stay home (and finish the little bit of writing, Dad, truly). We have horses to bathe in the sunshine, more seeds to plant before this weekend's rain, and a friend coming to spend the night with Madeleine and Sarah.

Oh and laundry. There's always the laundry if I get bored.