Across April.

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“Puhpul flowers”

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“Peas? More peas?”

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“Caderperar right dere?”

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“Tomayo!” (And a sweet potato volunteer…)

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“Uh oh. It get down.” (The arbor fell in a storm.)

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“Snail! Hold it? Mama hold it?”

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“Carrots ok.” (And more sweet potato volunteers.)

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“Lello flowers.” (On a broccoli that never made broccoli but made plenty of greens and is now over six feet tall. This photo is at my eye level and it’s well over my head.)

Now, onto preparing for a little gardener’s airplane party… (“aye-plane!Noise…See it!”)

Learning to cook.

My husband is an amazing cook. Countless times I’ve been asked where he studied. Countless times I tried to explain that he hadn’t. Then one time I remembered a line from Goodwill Hunting about how Mozart could just play. I appropriated the explanation. “You know how some people never took lessons but can just play music? He’s like that with cooking. He just does.”

These past months, our schedule is such that four nights a week he is gone to class during the time to cook and eat dinner if we’re to hit bedtime on schedule. So he’s been prepping what can be prepped, texting me instructions, and coming home in time to hopefully sneak a few bites before “splash splash” and “pjs” and “nilk.”

This means that inadvertently, I’ve been learning how to cook.

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Let’s back up a little…

I’ve always baked. I remember my brother and I kicking our parents out of the kitchen to make cookies by ourselves. I wasn’t yet four, he wasn’t yet six.

Cooking…never my strong suit. Overdone or raw, too much or too little, and without fail: underseasoned not seasoned.

When we first moved in together I was 18 and he was 19. It was our first night in the apartment and we’d just gotten home with dinner fixin’s. I went in the kitchen to start making whatever it was (probably rice and beans, we were painfully poor) and he came in the kitchen to ask, “what do you think you’re doing?”

“Making dinner.”

“Get out of my kitchen, silly,” he teased.

I obliged. I think I made dinner three times our first year together.

In the many years since then, I’ve acquired a few pony tricks. I can make chicken soup without a recipe. I can make a chicken/rosemary/bacon thing in the oven. I can usually manage to steam vegetables appropriately (and remember to salt them!) without them turning to mush. But that’s honestly about it.

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So fast forward back to now, and I’ve learned a lot in the recent weeks. I now know you don’t sear scallops in butter because the lactose makes them stick to the pan. And the (steel) pan needs to be heated empty, oil added, heated, and then scallops (that have been patted dry – and seasoned!) I know many things I didn’t.

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Tonight was the night I applied my lesson about scallops. It was also the night I didn’t overcook the squash (“turn it off when some are looking cooked and some still look raw.”) I did want some greens, and without his guidance ahead of time my intended serving for four ended up quite under-sized (but seasoned!)

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Closing the fifth day.

“Hope you don’t feel like I think you’re doing nothing. You’re doing important work.”

Exactly what I needed to hear today.

I find myself with conscious gratitude surfacing more and more as bed rest continues. Is it the slowing down that allows room for it to grow? Is it the perspective shift front and center bringing gratitude into focus more clearly?

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I’m grateful for mother daughter strawberry picnics on blankets with airplanes flying overhead.

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I’m thankful for an over-extended partner extending himself even further to keep us all going, garden included.

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I’m grateful for our small village who wash dishes or do “splash splash” (bath time) or just sit and talk politics and nonsense with me.

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I’m grateful for fresh muffins made while I sleep in and for the financial ability to stomach a pretty decent property tax hike.

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I’m grateful for “smoo” (smooth) and “buhpee” (bumpy) pebbles, and the daughter that carries them to my pillow and blanket fort to tell me about them.

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And I’m grateful that for another day, our little Blueberry is still growing safe and sound in my belly.

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Almost again.

I almost forgot to water the seedlings. Again. There are spikes in the neediness of work. A flux in the hours I spend around people, in front of a screen, or rarely anymore – scribbling notes to myself on paper in a hand few can decipher. This past week has been one such spike. Three weeks prior, I downloaded an app to my phone that tracks usage. It was part of a social experiment called Bored and Brilliant. I’m not sure how much I contributed to their experiment, but I do know that simply downloading the app has made me more aware of time spent diddling on my phone instead of doing things I, you know, actually want to be doing.

Let’s just say that there’s a little monk that provides encouragement and feedback, and last week he had tears running down his face while he begged me to put my phone down. But such is work sometimes. (Othertimes he smiles, hugs himself, and let’s me know he appreciates my taking it easy.)

So among all the monk feedback and work madness, I nearly forgot to water the seedlings. Again. But they were still moist, and were ready for the light to inch up slightly higher, and had more friends in the neighboring plugs. The aspects of gardening I find most successful in the days since becoming a mother are those that succeed under a “set it and forget it” plan of action. I’ve begun building a compost pile (as opposed to feeding the spinning barrel composter DH gave me as a gift years back) and building it smack dab where I want a perennial bed. Why not? If I can get it to cook where I want to serve it (so to speak) I won’t have to find the time to shovel and haul and spread it.

I did manage to pull and burn more grass weekend before last, which was satisfying. Anytime the world feels off-kilter, I know that I either need sweat running over a pounding heart or dirt cramming under the nails of fingers building calloused skin. Or a nap. Occasionally all it takes is a nap to set the world right again.

So I continue to marvel in the child who grows like a loved upon weed and allow the new beds I wish to build, the grass I wish to pull, and the plants I wish to invite into my space…to wait.

She really is growing like the most beautiful creature I could imagine. And all of my gratitude for that erases any itch I can’t scratch in the time I do muster together to work on calluses or dirty up my nails.

So instead of any pictures from recent days let’s take a peek at Februaries past…

2012 –
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2013
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2014
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The difference a month makes.

With DH’s urging and assistance, we hit up our favorite local garden center (Green and Growing) for some winter starts. In past years, I’ve tried starting these myself in June, indoors, to have ready to put out in the fall. This year…was not so much a gardening year. No such starts were started.

We picked up five broccoli, five purple cabbage, five “dino” kale, five red chard, and five golden chard. We also picked up some onion starts, strawberries, thyme, and parsley.

In they went!
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Left to right – golden chard and Tuscan kale (DH calls it dino kale), and red chard. If you look closely, you’ll see the garlic starts (volunteers salvaged from spring’s lazy leftovers) between each plant. Don’t mind the weed whacker’s contribution to mulching…

Cabbage and broccoli
Purple cabbage and broccoli. I don’t often do actual rows of things. This year for some reason, I thought I’d go a little more conventional in arrangement to show off the colors. (And then the broccoli rebelled and wouldn’t fit in a row.)

Then it froze, hard, and we covered everyone up. The sun returned, the sprinkler was reset to a weekly cycle (we’re still on restrictions – once a week maximum), and the holidays came and went.

Golden chard
Red chard and tuscan kale
Cabbage
Broccoli three

The garlic is more noticeable now and we may start nibbling on some greens soon.

Seasons are as seasons do.

On my trip this week to Houston I couldn’t help but notice the corn was higher than my head, with the tassels starting. Where I grew up there were corn farmers (and grass seed farmers, Christmas Tree farmers, cherry and peach and berry farmers…) and those farmers are just sowing their corn for the season now. 

Some years I have tomatoes by now, and this year I don’t. Some years the strawberries don’t have a chance to fruit well for the early onslaught of heat, this year they did (and continue to do so.)
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Seasons in Texas are measured two ways – in the classic four seasons (which are measured by what the calendar says it should be) and in the Texas weather way (Not Hot, Beautiful, Hot, Thunderstorm Season, Beautiful, repeat.) 

Depending on whether the storms come, or the heat is early or late, the plants do as their coding dictates. This keeps us gardeners on our toes! Not for late frosts or lack of sunlight, but for baked seedlings or flooded fruit. 

 

The backyard this year is the usual mixture of expectations met and seasonal surprises. Like finding more strawberries this morning. Or finding that this fern, so lush and happy in March…
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…is now gone without a trace.

Or that these plums just setting fruit in March…
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…have started to turn.
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Then there’s the Monster Chard that has been keeping you in gigantic leaves of green since October was discovered by the hungry hundred caterpillars.
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And the Forgotten Beet that made the most delicious “french fries” (thanks to DH’s talents.)
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Which reminds me, I need to not forget about the Onion Rope. The instructions on the internet conflicted with those in a book, which weren’t terribly clear. We’ll see how it goes, but it may just be that DH eats them all before they reach a questionable storage age anyway. (Onions being yet another food I enjoy growing but do not enjoy eating.)
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