Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘grandfather’

In Your Own Backyard

The Five Stages of Garden-Talk
by Meredith Greene
March 13, 2013

Read this and other stories at GardenGreene.

A surprising number of folks in my nearer social circles do not know much about gardening. Certainly, they can browse the colorful annuals on display at the large home store and likewise can stick them in the sunny spots twice a year whilst waving at passing neighbors. Most can even pull a weed or two as well as set a mean schedule on the automated sprinklers but, somehow, the simplest aspects of organic vegetable and herb gardening elude them.

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In calling on neighbors, and speaking with extended family members over the years, I’ve come to predict the various expressions that ensue when the conversation invariably shifts to growing food. These facial indications rather line up like the five stages of grief, but instead of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance I see Surprised, Confused, Mildly Interested, Incredulous and Overwhelmed. Getting food out of your own backyard is considered by many to be just too darn complicated.

One of my children usually let the ‘cat’ out of the bag in playing with the smaller versions of the other adults in the room. Some time during the course of the visit a child runs over, their faces alight and eyes shining, tugging at the arm/dress/leg of their owner and say something akin to:

“They grow strawberries in their backyard! And tomatoes! They get to pick them and eat them! Can we grow those, too?”

“From the mouths of babes,” I murmur, watching as the parent’s face slides into the first stage.

“How can you possibly find the time to garden?” Surprised then asks of me.

Now, when I was younger–upon being asked this question–I used to launch into a succinct and factual spiel outlining the amount of time that the average American spends in front of television set every day. I would then point out that it was a better use of time to turn over compost and chase after hordes of insidious snails with pale clouds of ditomacheous earth. Oddly, this set of facts seemed to inspire little but denial, anger and depression. Now, I simply focus my argument on Money.

“Do you go to the gym?” I ask. Confused nods in the affirmative, an answer more often than not a complete fabrication. “Did you know,” I continue, “that a couple of hours of vigorous gardening is comparable to spending the same amount of time at the gym?” No, they didn’t know that, but it sounds pretty good. Confused is quickly replaced with Mildly Interested as I go on to list just how much money my family saves over a given winter season by not having to buy my fresh herbs at the store. ($300-$400)

“That is a big savings,” Incredulous returns. “But it ‘s such a lot of work. How do I even get started?”

Here it gets a little tricky. Too much pushing and the average consumer will balk and return to safer subjects, such as waxing poetic on how their favorite washed-up celebrity weathered Trump’s Board room the previous night. Too much information up front and they’ll leap to the Overwhelmed stage too quickly. Too many dire predictions about rising food costs and the Environment and they’ll tune you out AND lump you in with some odd group they heard about on the news that anoint themselves with carrots and say they can raise goats that defecate copper bullion.

Nostalgia has proven to be the most powerful argument of all. Most folks harbor—way back in the warm recesses of their memory—lingering scents, sights and tastes of fresh produce partaken of as a child. It might be the ripe, red raspberries they picked in a grandmother’s arbor. It may be that luscious purple plum that they bit into one hot summer day. It may be a cool clump of sweet, green grapes that can be recalled, even now, with frank fondness. That same wide-eyed wonder, that propelled their offspring to run over and inquire of our garden, still lives on in them even if they are currently unaware of it. It is a useful tool to help lever the conversation away from the precarious Edge of Unconcern and back into the Realm of Feasibility, and is relatively easy to make contact with.

I show them pictures. (see blog header)

“These are some of the tomatoes we harvested last year,” I say, sliding one full-color image after another over the screen.

“Omigawd! Those look delicious!”

“We get about two-hundred pounds every season, all without pesticides.”

“Are those artichokes?!”

“Yep. They were especially good picked young, pared and sauteed with garlic and olive oil.”

“And you still have time to write books?” This question is best answered with a small shrug and a half-smile.

“My kids help me out a lot, but I like the exercise. These are the strawberries…”

“Wow… look at those! I bet that’s nice to have just out your back door.”

“Not as nice as this basil,” I tell them, going to the next picture.

From there the questions tend to get more sincere. Once folks realize that you can actually raise food on a city lot without having to spent a fortune–or work on it 24/7–they find that other hobbies don’t really cut it. Most parents already wonder how they can encourage their kids to get outside a bit more and move around, and when my oldest daughter walks over and launches into a short monolog on the how one can induce thriving vermiculture with an old plastic tub and leftover coffee grounds, they’re sold.

“Families have been growing food together for millenniums,” I conclude. “It’s a proven method of keeping active, and–as my grandfather used to tell us–’if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’” My grandfather had a rock garden in the high desert–and a cement patio for a back yard–but some information can be safely omitted.

Read entire story and more at GardenGreene.

Meredith Greene is an author, book reviewer and freelance writer.

A Woman of Heart

Excerpt from the beginning of the wonderful novel by Marcy Alancraig titled A Woman of Heart.

Back cover description:

After breaking her hip, 78-year-old Rheabie Slominski realizes that it’s finally time to share the secrets of her life with her granddaughter, Shoshana. Rheabie’s tales about the Jewish chicken ranchers of Petaluma, California, a vibrant cluster of Zionists, anarchists and communists struggling to survive the Depression, are populated b the most surprising characters: unhappy family ghosts, mysterious Guardian spirits of the land, and strange Uncle Mas.

“Could Grandma be slipping into Alzheimer’s?” Shoshie wonders. Yet, when the Guardians begin to show themselves to Shoshana and she stumbles on even deeper family secrets, everything she knows about herself and her history is called into question.

Chapter 1 – Unexpected Stories

RHEABIE

Every morning the past week, a wolf wakes me up from the kitchen. The minute I open my eyes, I hear it, walking back and forth. Yes, Shoshana, it’s you I’m talking, pacing like a caged animal. I know it’s hard to be here, taking care of a sick old woman, but enough already! Maybe you should relax a little? Just sit down?

I want we should visit. Listen, how often do I get the pleasure? Three stays in twelve years – and never more than a week. It’s not much.

Now, don’t get huffy. Did I say it should be any different? I know from the restless in you, my woman-what-loves-the-road. That itch to travel – it’s in those eyes of yours. Green – like the trees you love so much in Washington State. Seattle, Berne, Lydon – all the rainy places you’ve lived, they show in your face.

So listen, I understand how it must be hard, all this California sun here in Petaluma. September is the worst month, so hot and no fog. Still, we are trapped together in this little house, until my broken hip should get better, or I give up and die like your grandfather. You know the tsuris what happened the night I broke it. Giving up I don’t do. So maybe we can pass the time, telling each other stories? The truth, I’m talking. The real business of our lives.

I don’t mean the “everything’s fine, don’t worry” we both of us tell your mother and sister. I mean the big deal, Shoshana. All those surprising afternoons with a lover, for instance – I know you’ve had them – full of juicy business. Or those nights that broke apart in the sink maybe, like a tea glass whose pieces you couldn’t find.

Yes, of course, I’ve known my share and more, those kind of moments. These stories I’ve been waiting all your life to tell. Why? Because it was promised a long time ago, you should listen. By who? Never mind. That’s coming. And because even as a baby, the way you tapped your feet – so cute in those red corduroy booties – I could see you knew from restless. Only one year old and walking already. You lived with the same hurry and push what was born in me.

You don’t believe? All right, I’ll prove. Get out the photo album. The one what your grandpa put together – our early days on the ranch. You remember where it is? The left-hand book case, third shelf down. That’s right. Ach, so many memories. Look. This one, taken five years after we started here. You see? Me, feeding the pullets, in a hurry to get back to the kitchen. So much to do that day, for the camera I didn’t have time. “Enough already!” I swore at your grandpa. “The borsht is waiting!”

“Just one more,” he begged. “Smile.”

Notice the grin on my face, dolly, so strong and stubborn. Like I was biting back a curse, so much hidden behind those teeth. And did you ever wonder what I was seeing? Look at my eyes turned sideways, lost and lonesome. Hungry I was – for a glimpse of the Ukraine, a bissel of Terlitza, what I hoped might appear behind the barn. Oy, those were hard days. Like you, I was woman what did not know from home.

It’s not an insult, lovey, only the truth about us. Take a look at this one. Bent over the garden, showing my tuchis to the world. I was bigger in those days, yes, by a good thirty-five pounds; you could see me coming. I liked having hips back then, curves what meant something. Afraid I never was of zaftig thighs. But sorry I am to say, all that weight – it wasn’t all my body. Here’s the truth, dolly: I was a woman made big from carrying the dead.

Yiddish definitions:

tsuris – trouble, woes, worries, suffering
bissel – a little bit
Oy – a lament, a protest, a cry of dismay or joy
tuchis – buttocks
zaftig – juicy, plump, buxom

READ MORE OF A WOMAN OF HEART.

Grandson Jupiter

He’s almost 2 years old, has beautiful blond curly hair, is very smart, strong and huggable and has more energy and spunk than a supersonic jet on speed!

That is not Superman, but our grandson Jupiter. You could say I’m biased and of course, that would be completely mistaken. I am more than biased, I’m prejudiced and will fly hundreds of miles to hang out with this amazing bundle of energy and cuteness manifested in human form.

His parents have combined their DNA, experience and compassion and love to give this little tyke a dream home that his wee friends can only droo.l over and watch with envy. It isn’t that their parental units or unit is inferior or not good in many ways, but Jupiter’s Mama and Papa are really stepping up to the proverbial plate of parenthood and surrounding their son with limits, support, encouragement and love.

Let’s see, how many other thousands of words can I use to gush on about Jupiter Gabriel Constans. Oh yes, he has the coolest middle name in the world and calls me Gapa. I’ve got to stop writing right now and go peek in on this sleeping beauty who looks like a cherub in human clothing.

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