Making "grass soup":
Even though we are moving in a couple months I decided I couldn't stand it and I headed out today with some lettuce and greens seeds and put them in the ground. Most of it should be mature and ready to eat right before we have to move and hopefully we will get to enjoy some of it. I also put in radishes, and I bought a very early variety this year and they should be mature in only a month. I will make successive plantings for the next few weeks so we have a few harvests of those before we leave. Today I put out in the garden boxes two different loose leaf stir fry mixes, Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, Arugula, Komatsuma Tendergreen (oriental), spinach, Broccoli Raab, Ching Chang Bok Choy, Lolla Rosa lettuce, De Morgest Braun lettuce, Garden Cress, and Petit Dejeuner radishes. We'll see what happens in the next week or so with seedlings popping up.
In other areas of the yard I am seeing hollyhocks, clematis, salvia, strawberries and dianthus peeking up through the soil. I am hoping that the hollyhocks, which are a biennial, will blossom early enough for me to see them. I bought purple/black hollyhocks last year thinking they sounded very unusual and have looked forward since then to seeing them in bloom. To think that I may miss it! I will have to get my dear neighbor to pop over a take a photo or two to email to me if they aren't in full swing by June when we leave Kansas. Last year Ella accidentally "planted" some beans when she was playing with a bag of dried beans on the deck and this year she has been sneaking pinto beans out of the pantry and leaving them all over the yard and in all my large planters on the deck. I have no idea what is going to happen with those beans but she is hopeful every single day and asks to go check and see if they've sprouted each morning when we are eating our breakfast. I am not sure whether to hope they all sprout or hope they don't - it could potentially be an enormous mess of bean vines around the yard and in those pots. Then again, she is so excited and hopeful and what is better than having your kids be really actively engaged in something that is so tangible, educational and fun!
I bought a sewing machine several months ago and I've been a little afraid of it since then. I've completed a few projects here and there but nothing that has justified the expense of the machine. I had intended to take some formal sewing classes at a local fabric shop but having a nursing babe, a busy toddler and a husband who travels a lot for work has made that more challenging to get away then I had previously realized. I discovered Pattern Review, an excellent sewing website, about a year ago and I've finally taken the plunge and enrolled in an online class. Only three lessons in and I have learned so much about sewing from a pattern! All those weird symbols are no longer so mysterious. The pattern directions seem sensical now too. I am working on the Oliver + S Tea Party Sundress pattern for my daughter for my first class project. Hopefully I'll have a finished project to post about in a few weeks.
I am also busy, busy crocheting a baby blanket for a friend's baby girl. It is a very simple double crochet stitch, one color, blanket, but it still looks pretty and comfortable - at least I think so! I intended to lay the knitting down for now because my life is very hectic and I just don't have the patience to really struggle to figure out a new skill. But then I keep seeing the best patterns that I want to knit! My friend has helped me get the basics and I've checked out Learn To Knit from the library to keep me going in the meantime.
I'm half in love with Michael Ableman. Really. What a neat person, a human being who has found his niche, his passion and has made a life and career from it. I admire that more than I can express. I think most of us just settle, we find a place in which we grow comfortable, enjoy the income, become dependent on it due to outside responsibilities (i.e. children) and lose our way, lose our passion. And we make excuses for settling and then we stumble across someone who hasn't and we make even more excuses for why it worked out for that person, how they got "lucky" and how it is too late for us to re-route ourselves into a life and a career that are more in tune with our passions.
(In my opinion) To compound the problem, our society is very divided into those who are college bound and those who are not. Vocations that do not require a college degree should be given the same respect and acceptance. Yes, college provides a higher platform of disciplined learning but ultimately, the gift of education and true learning can come from anywhere - YOUR LOCAL FREE LIBRARY - albeit you will learn without acknowledgement of it in a professional sense. What is so funny to me about this is that I've learned more and am more passionate about learning now that I am out of structured education. I know many people who have been content to just stop once they have their coveted degree in hand. Education has been reduced to a means to an end - an adequate paycheck. It isn't that I don't agree with being able to financially support yourself and your family - I do. I just hate that education has been so tied to this goal and that once the desired paycheck is achieved the value of additional education, in any form, plummets. As this tangent suggests, I feel strongly about the weaknesses of our current educational system in our country. It isn't terrible by any stretch but it could certainly be better at really helping children fall in love with learning, to not think it is a total chore, to not think that there is a defined end goal in regards to education as a whole (grade 12 or college degree are typical). Michael Ableman is one of those people who seems to be the exception to the rule, who has clearly continued to learn about gardening, something he is passionate about. He probably did the college degree route (I don't really know) but his career has been a process of continual learning and on the job training. He has traveled extensively to learn about world-wide small farming practices, he has tried new things in his own gardens, he has written and shared his knowledge in such a way to inspire other people. He is a farmer, a small organic farmer to be exact, and an educator about the viability and necessity of urban farming.
I devoured On Good Land and after I was finished I searched my library database for any other material related to his projects or books that he authored. I found Fields of Plenty: A Farmer's Journey In Search Of Real Food And The People Who Grow It, and it is chock full of beautiful photographs of other small farms and farmers, pieces of writing discussing those farms and recipes that he has particularly enjoyed. These people, following their passion as they grow and nurture organic and tasty food for our bellies to consume, are inspirational to me. I also found a video about Fairview Gardens, an urban farm on which he built his career. I am very much looking forward to viewing it as I enjoyed his book about Fairview Gardens so much.
I remember when I was a teenager never once being interested in helping my mother out in her garden. I didn't care about the plant names, the weeds, what needed to be transplanted, dug up and divided and so on. And she asked for help every once in a while because she probably just needed a helping hand. And I never willingly helped. She had a compost system, a beautiful enclosed small garden that was just full of gorgeous plants with a patio and the expected chaise lounger and patio set and I didn't enjoy it or learn from her as I should have when I had the opportunity to do so. It is funny to me looking back on what I liked and thought then to now, 12 years later, being passionate about gardening, urban homesteading, learning useful life skills like sewing, knitting and preserving food because I think it is priceless knowledge that is handy and purposeful and enriches my life. Thank goodness that I had a parent who did encourage reading broadly, experiencing new things and who didn't push me to achieve the standard educational goals via structured higher education. I am a better and more learned person because of her influence and support. I am in love with plants today because I wasn't forced to learn about them when I was 18. Some day I may decide to finish my college degree, to study in a field that I am intensely curious about, but for now I'll stick with the library and hands on learning in my yard, in my kitchen, with my children as they explore and discover the world around them. For now that is enough. And as for Michael Ableman, I will flip through his beautiful books from time to time to once again spark my enthusiasm for organic gardening, fresh produce and eating locally because his love and passion for his life's work is so very contagious.