Problem #1: ITS EARLY SPRING. Prepare the gardens for planting. Summer squash, tomatoes and vibrant annual flowers. Trimming back climbing ivy. More time spent outdoors than indoors. “Mmm. I’ll have to do art later. Then I can post it on my blog.”
Problem #2: ITS LATE SPRING. Roasting peanuts. Fighting garden slugs and weeds in the garden. Lots of rain keeps the grass growing. First family vacation in 7 years. Visiting our favorite coastal Georgia island. “Great! I’ll do some sketches. They will make great studies for a finished piece. Then I can post it on my blog.”
Problem #3: ITS SUMMER. Finding great mark-downs on produce. Put away several pints of peach preserves. Harvest 14 quarts of squash. Blanched and frozen. Picking horn worms off tomatoes struggling through neglect and scorching summer heat. Time for planting okra. “Ahh! Maybe the garden will inspire me to make art. Then I can post it on my blog.”
I know you are still waiting to see all those sketches.
Found this short video about artist Clare Carver of Big Table Farm in Gaston, Oregon. Carver’s work on the farm is what inspires her creations. Great idea. Now if I can set aside some time for art…
“HOUSEWIFE: A married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework.” – Oxford Dictionary.
“Denise, do you work anywhere now?” A neighbor asked, evidently curious about my constant presence at home.
“Yes. Yes I work very hard as a full-time Housewife.”
There was a pause. A puzzled but pleasant smile. Finally “Well good for you!” ended the brief conversation. Other responses have been:
“Must be nice.”
“It can’t be THAT much work.”
“No. I mean WORK. You still WORK somewhere don’t you?”
Thanks to popular t.v. shows, the perception of the American Housewife has often been misguided. Be it the shapely 1950’s mother who did all her housework effortlessly in high-heels. Or the current “real” Housewives who pass the day in a glut of lush extravagance and bickering. I am neither young, desperate or have a rich husband. I can not afford to squander precious resources like time and common sense.
My past roles – Art Curator, Artist In Residence, Art Teacher, Caregiver – needed little explaining and were often met with respect and empathy. However the term Housewife is little understood and is sorely in need of rebranding. To help clarify matters, here are a few personal Q & A.
When did you retire?
I didn’t retire. I still work. I work very hard as a full-time Housewife.
Do you work part-time?
No. I work full-time as a Housewife.
O.K. But don’t you do things online?
Sure. I have a blog and a couple of online shops. But…
Oh! You’re an Entrepreneur. Right?
Not really. Earning extra money for the family budget is just part of my work as a Housewife. Everything I do from cooking from scratch to making our laundry products is part of my home management. Similarly, gardening and canning supplements our food stuffs. Learning to sew and crochet adds to our wardrobe. Collecting kindling and burning firewood during the winter saves on heating. Growing and using medicinal herbs in teas, tinctures and salves keeps our immune systems up and medical bills down….
Gardening. Sewing. Herbs. Cooking. You’re a Homesteader! Are y’all gonna get chickens?
I recently stumbled across the most charming blog -Living for Today. Although written by an adoring mother, its not a sugar ‘n cupcakes mommy blog. So don’t roll your eyes! She explains: “This blog is about realizing, enjoying and appreciating what I can do today.” Its about everyday moments. Turning even mishaps (like damaging her car – twice in the same day – ouch!) into positive take-aways. This mom’s slogan is “Someday I won’t be able to do this. Today is NOT that day!” Check out her blog in the link below.
I am a 48 year old wife and mother of four; Brady 20, Riley 17, Annie 14 and Josie 12. I am also a professional photographer. Around the age of 45 I started to notice some changes; for instance I…
So what does this have to do with gardening? You may ask.
Someday I won’t be able to do my own yardwork. Today is NOT that day! I often covet my neighbors’ ground crews hired to maintain their lawns. Today while I was just beginning to cut back shrubbery and ornamentals for the winter, the professionals were completing their work with such speed and precision that it seemed otherworldly. An hour later I was still outside – wacking/mowing down weedy grass. Typically a sweaty, achy, laborious job. I picked my turf battles carefully, doing only half the yard. Two hours was enough. I moved on to the vegetable gardens.
Harvested the last of the eggplants
Picked a few bush beans for freezing
Watered the lettuce
Tended to the medicinal herbs – rosemary, lemon balm, cat mint
Inspected the broccoli patch
Gathered a few okra pods
I added that okra to my homemade vegetable soup. A leafy salad made with my garden greens completed the lunch menu today. The fruit of my labors was a delicious reward for my hard work. This is what my suburban neighbors miss when hiring others to tend their land. Someday I won’t be able to do my own yardwork including maintaining a vegetable garden. Today is NOT that day!
Please continue to read the above post by my friend Rachel Falco at How to Provide. After all my trouble with the One Pill as described in If It Ain’t Broke… it is reassuring that many of our present day ills can be more gently solved by more natural means!
Despite years of providing art education and related services today’s prompt does not call to my mind the studio classroom. Its air filled with pungent smell of turpentine and workspaces littered with battered tubes of pigment.
No, the Daily Prompt: Paint puts me squarely in my kitchen canning pears. The connection? My southern drawl. Despite my academic background my accent remains thick as molasses in the winter. And just as sweet, Honey! So proper enunciation sometimes eludes me.
As noted in a previous post, I’d been fretting about our fire-blighted pear tree. I was certain that the weaken tree would no longer produce any edible fruit. But to my surprise it yielded fruit – an abundance of small, but tasty pears. A few weeks ago I processed our first harvest. Proudly ladling the pears into pint jars, I announced to my husband the completion of the batch.
“Really? How much have you canned?” He was pleased too.
“Today I put up 4 paints.” I was triumphant!
“I put up 4 paints.” I repeated.
“Mmm.” Billy paused then asked: “Are you referring to canning pears or what you do to make art? Its pronounced pint not paint. You put up 4 pints of pears.”
“I know! I know! 4 paints of pears. That’s what I said – I put up 4 paaaints of pears.” I retorted making sure I placed special emphasis on the word in question. And sulked back to the kitchen.
Billy smiled. Later he told me he thinks its cute the way I mispronounce the word pint. “Don’t change a thing. I love you just the way you are.”
Aww! Wonderful man. I think I’ll make his favorite breakfast tomorrow – biscuits smothered in gravy and a juicy link of saawshag.
Why didn’t you warn me about lost on the modern homestead? Sure you often offered advice to prevent untimely death on the small hobby farm. Backyard chickens? You said expect to lose a few to a predator like a fox or hawk. Goats? You warned about roaming dog packs and keeping homestead animals safe.
However, I have no livestock, unless I count the deer and squirrels. But those critters are on their own. I already learned that lesson. Remember my first post? So I didn’t expect to grieve a loss on the homestead. I only have a couple of small vegetable gardens and one lovely fruit tree. A wonderfully producing Bartlett Pear. That is, I did have one until I got the Fire Blight Blues.
Of course I read your warning about Fire Blight in Georgia.
“Fire blight makes growing edible pear trees in Georgia difficult.” You said.
“Nonsense!” I scoffed. My stepdad had an edible pear tree that the neighborhood kids used to climb the garden fence to get to.
“Stop exaggerating!” I rolled my eyes at you. We have a Bartlett Pear. For years we’ve enjoyed fresh eating, preserves, jams and canned pears from its production. Because of its abundance, I’ve given away bags of its fruit to neighbors and friends.
Wait. Did you say growing edible pear trees in Georgia is difficult not impossible? Oh. My bad. You were so right Mr. Garden Guy.
I’m afraid I’m losing my pear tree. I’ve followed your advice to prune back diseased limbs, dipping pruners repeatedly in chlorine solution. I’ve attempted to spray homemade fungicide onto my tree. But alas you say even this is “not practical for home gardeners to spray larger trees to be able to get good coverage.”
I’ve got the Fire Blight Blues. Are the good times really gone Mr. Garden Guy?
This post was originally posted by Rachel Falco on her blog How to Provide for Your Family. I do not like referring to myself as a “homesteader.” Admittedly I have a garden. I preserve the harvest. I bake my own bread and make many other things from scratch. I use medicinal herbs to make muscle rubs and tinctures. I am a homemaker who employees traditional skills to supplement the family’s income. Yet I started on this road to have some “freedom from price increases, poor quality and excessive antibiotics.” Its challenging but I am enjoying the journey!
“The first supermarket appeared on the American landscape in 1946. Until then, where was all the food?… It was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.” – Joel Salatin
Like many Americans, you have come to homesteading to be able to provide for your family, friends and community in the way that you see fit. The last time so many Americans felt the way you feel now was during World War II. During the Second World War, many of us had a victory garden and raised poultry because foods were either being rationed or were not available. The systems which are now the backbone of the United States’ economy seem to be growing quite weary and failing in some respects. So much instability creates a great unease. Homesteading, on the other hand, creates security for you, your family, friends…
Why didn’t you stress the importance of soil conditioning?
When we moved into the new subdivision, its lovely laid lawns and planted shrubbery disguised a horrible truth. The builders had stripped the land of its top soil and left only hard packed Georgia clay encased in rocks. Lots of rocks. We had to drench the earth with water, dig down deep, remove a layer of rock. Then more watering-in, more rock removal until finally we were ready to plant. And that was just our mail box!
I wanted a flower garden in my front yard. Could it be done without all this digging into rocks and clay? I turned to you Mr. Garden Guy. You said plant an above ground garden. No digging needed. Oh yeah I was all on that like white on rice! Following your instruction, I carefully mapped out the flower bed, smothered the grass under heavy black plastic, and purchased bags of garden soil and rotted cow manure. I enthusiastically piled layer upon layer of the most beautiful black soil ever! Yet something seemed so WRONG about buying soil in an area known for its rich agriculture heritage. That’s like living on an island and having to buy sand. Sigh. Nevertheless I was ready to plant.
It was then that you reminded me that plants are much like people – some like the sun, others prefer shade, some like to drink, others are teetotalers. Armed with this knowledge, I joyfully set about planting a flower garden that became my pride and joy.
But Mr. Garden Guy you didn’t tell me about caring for my soil’s needs. As the years went by my perennials stopped thriving and my annuals weren’t lasting even a season. Money was wasted buying more plants. They simply died. Even applying liquid fertilizer seemed futile. Like a botanical sugar rush, it gave the plants a brief growth spurt. But then nothing. Stunted plants and devouring insects dotted my once lovely garden. I worried: Could I be losing my “green thumb?”
One day I stooped down for a closer look. Brushing away the mulch, I grabbed a handful of soil. It was no longer the richly black, heavy soil I had laid. Rather it had become an ashy grey, lifeless heap of dirt. My soil was dead! Augh!
I ran crying to you Mr. Garden Guy. You explained that the plants got their nutrients from the soil. But since I never “fed” the soil, it could no longer “feed” the plants. My soil wasn’t dead. It was simply malnourished.
I cleaned out the garden and began feeding the soil. I fed it shovels-full of fresh top soil. I fed it nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.
I fed it wood ash, used coffee grinds, diced banana peels and crushed eggshells. I fed it earthworms. Throughout the fall and winter, neighbors smiled nervously as they watch me till, turn and dig into the mound of dirt. I didn’t care. I was determined to nurse that depleted dirt back to life. By spring planting, the harmful insects who thrived in the once nutrient-starved soil were all but gone. And when I saw a tiny black ant making its way home with a slither of eggshell, I smiled. The soil was coming back to life again!
More changes were in store for this flower bed. I will share in a future “letter.”
There I sat at the kitchen table sobbing into my flour covered apron. Its not a pretty picture when a middle-aged woman pitches a fit in her own kitchen. Why the meltdown? I wanted to make my own loaf bread.
I had became incensed at the high price of bread.
The hearty artisan breads were nearly $3.00. I craved their satisfying wholesomeness. But they were beyond my budget. Instead what I purchased was the bottom tier of the store brand – wheat bread at $0.99. No taste, no texture, diminished nutritional value. I’m not even sure why the bread was brown. It certainly was not whole wheat. Difficult digestive issues supported my suspicions. Use your imagination here.
I was miffed. Why did the most basic of human foods cost so much? Why so exclusive? For centuries grains have been grinded, mixed and kneaded into nourishing bread. How hard can it be? I decided to give it a try. I called on my friend Dee, a traditional homemaker, to became my bread making mentor.
“Denise its really nothing to it. You just have to feel your way through the process. The more you do it the more easier it will get.”
Dee described to me a rather straightforward process. Good. I like simple. I found a great recipe for whole wheat bread, got all my ingredients together and I was good to go.
AWE SHUCKS! The recipe called for 6 cups of whole wheat flour. That’s a normal amount. But what’s not normal is to keep adding a heavy, coarse flour even when the soft dough turns into the texture of sandpaper. The recipe said to knead the dough for about 11 minutes. So I did, often adding water to the keep the sandpaper stuck together. The results: 2 yummy smelling loaves of BRICKS. I pouted a little bit. No biggy. This was my first try. I called Dee for more advice.
“Sounds like you kneaded it too long. And your flour may have been too heavy. Different brands of flour will give you different results.” What?! Flour brands differ? But the recipe….
“Denise you’ve got to feel your way through the bread making process. Just pay attention to what the dough is doing.” I can’t wing this! I’m recipe dependent. I should be in a 12 step program sponsored by the Food Network.
Forget it. I bought a loaf of bread from the grocery store.
Two weeks later, Dee’s words were still echoing in my head: “Feel the dough. Let the dough guide what you do….” I tried a second batch.
WHAAAT?!! My nicely risen bread turned into a heavy lump in the oven. My eyes filled with tears.
I calmed myself – “Keep it together Denise. Its only bread. You can do this. Women do this everyday around the world. C’mon now. Put on your big girl panties and call Dee!” I’m my best cheerleader.
“But Dee I never knew that preheating the oven was all that important!!” Not during the dog days of a Georgia summer.
Forget it. I bought a loaf of bread.
Denial began to set in – maybe its not me, it’s the recipe. I found another recipe that called for a 50/50 mix of the softer white wheat flour and bread flour. O yeah. I got this!
WAHHH!! O DEAR LORD PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY NOW! I forgot to add SALT and had the complete meltdown described in the beginning.
My husband Billy – my second best cheerleader – encouraged me not to give up. As long as I kept trying I always stood a chance of succeeding.
Billy and Dee were right. It just takes practice. Now I make 2 loaves of bread each week.