Friday, June 08, 2018

Into the Brambles

*Dear patient reader, I have no idea how to fix the inconsistencies in the print in this post. Can only suggest you read it in bright light.







"Maybe you could pick the blackberries while I mow the grass?" the OC suggested.

 "You should wear the wellies though so's not to tear up your legs."

"The wellies" are an ancient leftover from a former life (Montana, I think). They have been languishing for years, undisturbed, in a quiet corner of the garage. Having assured myself that no spiders had set up housekeeping therein, I donned the wellies which are a faded shade of olive green, not to mention three sizes too large, and one of the OC's most battered garden hats, in a matching, equally faded green. One can't be too careful - those style police can jump out from the most unexpected places. Best to give them nothing to write me up about. Grabbing gloves and a bowl I was ready to go where no husband is foolish enough to go.....

Into the brambles.






Our blackberry patch is a small operation, planted and tended mostly by Mother Nature, harvested by us, the birds and a variety of bramble-immune critters. Including, but not limited to, those that live in here - above left.



Winter lingered long this year. Pineapple plants withered; the moringa tree brownly expired; banana plants died (we thought). The blueberries loved having a cold spell. They flowered and set abundant fruit, but life goes on. Birds have to eat, and they did - every last berry. Then came the rain, lots of it and, as the temperatures rose, everything went into hyper-growth and re-birth. Brand new pineapple babies rose from their parents' ashes. New leaves, tightly furled, pushed skyward like pencils from the presumed-dead banana plants. Sunshine came on the heels of the rain and the moringa's roots sent up shoots that are now taller than me. And I'm no midget.






Mother Nature laughs when we try to grow tomatoes in our sandy soil. When I first saw tiny tomato plants popping up on the compost I was eager to dig them up, pot them and lavish them with TLC. Not so fast, said MN in my ear, they like it there. All those kitchen scraps, potato peels and coffee grounds, all that stuff the OC amended the compost with - can't you see they're perfectly happy right where I put them?
And since it's not nice to fool with mother nature I left them there and now we have these little beauties, right there on the compost pile.




I've heard that bears like berries. Venturing further into the thicket I saw depressions there where bears might well have rested after a nice tummy-full of our (well, Mother Nature's) berries. True, I've never seen bears in or near our garden, but, less than a mile from here there's a sign warning motorists to watch for bears! So, it's not such a stretch. That said, you'll be the first to know if I ever do see a bear wandering through our brambles.

But, back to berry-picking. I found myself putting all that yoga to practical use. The easy pickings were around the edges, but back among the thorns where the fattest and juiciest berries glistened, just out of reach, all those forward folds, half moons, dancers' and warrior poses suddenly became extremely useful. "Relax into the pose," we constantly hear at yoga. All very well in the studio which is thorn-free, not such a great idea precariously balanced on top of the compost heap, reaching for a tantalizing blackberry jewel. Unless you want to land face down in the brambles and lose a hard-won bowl of berries. In which case relax away.

That was not what I wanted. What I wanted was the greatest number of berries for the least amount of blood.




 Finished at last. Soaked through and bristling with tiny thorns in spite of my best efforts to avoid them, me and the outsized wellies plodded towards the house. Out of the wellies, into the  blissful cool, out of thorn-riddled clothing, into dry. Eventually I'll have to wash my haul and add them to the growing stash in the freezer.

 And figure out how to make blackberry jam.

But first - down on the bedroom floor for savasana, my favourite yoga pose. And this time, you'd better believe, I'll have no trouble relaxing into it. 









Monday, January 29, 2018

Sock it to Me

The weathermen were just messing with us. 
It did warm up for a while and rained and rained and rained, but tonight we'll be back in the thirties(F)brrrr. 
So we're still doing winter things...like knitting.

I learned to knit with Sr. Bridget in first grade. Yellow wool, tiny needles. Every stitch a tongue biting struggle. They were so tight they might as well have been glued to the needles. And when, mysteriously, my ten tight stitches took off on their own and grew to thirteen, and fifteen and nineteen tight stitches, I was sure I'd be in trouble.
Until I hit on a cunning plan.
If I knit two tight stitches together, almost biting my tongue off in the process, at each end of the needle for a few rows, I could get back to the legal limit and hope that Sr. Bridget wouldn't notice the bulging edges in the illegal part.
It made a very nice bonnet for my doll.

New adventures in the needle arts awaited in third grade. Knitting on four needles - 
socks! 
But heartscald lay ahead. Getting the hang of stitches in the round wasn't bad, the problem lay in turning the heel. The rest of third grade is a blur.
Such childhood trauma sends you to the therapist's couch in adulthood so I obliterated it from my brain.

 But there was no getting away from knitting. It was all around me - my mother, my granny, my aunts, the neighbour ladies - were all avid knitters.  Every baby ever born got a hand knitted matinee jacket with matching booties and hat. My mum knit my navy cardigan for school and every other jumper I wore.  Woe betide the hapless child (me) who happened by as she embarked on a new project. Wool came in skeins which had to be wound into balls. I'd have to stand in front of mother's chair with both arms extended.  She'd drape a skein over my wrists and tell me to hold it taut while she wound it into a ball. But never fast enough for me, convinced as I was that one more minute of such torture and my arms would fall off. I'd eye the skeins still to be wound and groan. Begging for mercy didn't work. I was young and healthy and she assured me that this would build character.

Auntie Ita, on the other hand, made knitting fun. Not really our aunt but a friend of the family, I spent many afternoons at her house. She showed me how to knit fancy tea cozies and hot water bottle covers, perfect gifts for mums and grannies and aunts at Christmas. She also let me help her to knit teddy bears and other stuffed animals for childrens' charities. 

Little by little I came to love knitting especially when I could choose my own patterns and yarn.

The big breakthrough came when I decided to knit myself an Aran sweater.  Here's a close up of the pattern.



I think I was 18 when I knit it and I still have it all these years later. It is without a doubt the oldest piece of clothing I own.
All those honeycombs, cables and diamonds make Aran knitting much more interesting than just simple plain and purl. Because you can see the pattern forming, it also seems to go faster, and of course everyone thinks you are so clever for being able to do it! What they don't realise is that anyone who can knit plain and purl can make any of those complicated looking designs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, winter weather. 
A friend comes over one day and wants me to teach her how to knit. It's one thing to do it, quite another to teach it, but, with a little refresher course from Google, we're off to the races.
Scones and cups of tea are consumed, the problems of the world are, if not exactly solved, thoroughly discussed, and before we know it she has the basics down and is knitting up a storm. Would that I'd caught on that fast in first grade!

She comes another day to knit and, so that I'm not sitting idle while her needles fly, I go digging among the artifacts, knowing that if I dig deep enough, there's a sock project I abandoned several years ago that could be excavated and finished. And wouldn't I feel like the clever girl then!

And so it came to pass. I finished the sock. It's a little on the ginormous side since I'm a lazy knitter, and a loose one, never bothering to check my guage. It would be a better fit on Finn McCool but nothing daunted, I'm calling it a slouchy sock - you know, the ones that puddle around your ankles when you're wearing leggings? Yeah, those ones. The yarn is a heathery blend of greens and purples and it knit up quickly and I did feel like a very clever girl. I'll feel even more like one if I finish its partner, hopefully in a lot less time than the first. Because what use is one sock to anyone, with the possible exception of Long John Silver?



I'd better hurry though. The window for doing wintery things, like knitting, is closing fast.
Meanwhile Finn McCool is waiting for his second sock.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Cold Bare Boughs of Winter





It's Winter in Florida, something that hasn't happened in quite a few years. So many in fact that there are those among us who, in that string of mild winters where we never put our shorts and sandals away, foolishly donated much of our lingering winter clothing. 

Bare boughs of winter
This year such coats and jackets as escaped the purge are all out of mothballs. Sandals have been replaced by real shoes, sweaters are back in use, our necks are wrapped in scarves, out heads in woollen caps,our hands in gloves, and thank God for woollen leggings!


By the time I don enough layers to brave the outdoors I look like Johnny Forty Coats - tights and top, trousers, sweater, zip up fleece, mittens and scarf, all bundled up inside a lined winter jacket (dug out from the furthest reaches of the closet) and can hardly squeeze myself through the door.  Okay, I'm exaggerating, but only a little.

There's no sympathy from our north dwelling children. They laugh, they snort, they harden their hearts. 

We used to be tougher than this but years in the sun have diluted our blood and turned us into wimps. The house is warm but still at night I pile on the blankets, the wooly socks and my precious - the hot water bottle. In spite of all this, as long as I can keep my toes from freezing, we're happy to be getting a winter. It does break the monotony of endless sunshine (this is where the children stop snorting and start growling). It also probably bodes well for our blueberry patch which has not produced more than a handful of berries these last few years for want of at least a month of cold weather. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Before winter set in
December flew by with its pants on fire. It always does that, just to spite me 'cause it knows I'm never ready for the holidays but this year it was something different. Unscheduled adventures of the driving/automotive variety. Early in the month the OC was driving, not far from our house, when someone, who we can only surmise was blind in one eye and couldn't see out of the other, turned left into a side road right in front of him, completely failing to yield the right of way, crashing into the side of his car and sending him and themselves to the hospital. He was hurt but managed to climb out on the passenger side. His car was wrecked but he, by some miracle, when I reached the scene, was walking around, spitting nails and refusing to climb on a stretcher until I was there to transfer everything from the remains of his car into mine. An automated system built into his car had called the fire and rescue service and he had called me. That was a nerve wracking five minute trip.

  No bones were broken and he got out alive but, instead of the usual holiday preparations, we embarked on a dizzying round of two nights in the hospital with hourly pokings for blood, tests, scans, MRIs,  visits to doctors, chiropractor appointments, phone tag with insurance companies and sadness at losing his all-time favourite car. 


 But we're so glad he's alive to suffer through all that. How close he came to not being was scary.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How was your Christmas? Ours was quiet. No crowds of returning swallows and chicks, just a quiet day, dinner with our friendly neighbours and phone calls with those far flung chicks. Are we really half way through the first month of the year already?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Breaking news: Winter, when she comes at all to Florida, does not linger long. Usually just until we re-accustom ourselves to real shoes, layers of warm clothes and piles of blankets. Now that we've got it down
the weathermen say it's about to warm up! Go figure. There'll be no complaints from here about the heat for a long while, no matter how hot it gets!