This Year’s Garden Chapter 1

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My husband grew up in a house with not enough. For a growing boy, there was never enough food. He tells about fighting with his brothers for potato peelings in the sink. I think also there was not enough of a lot of other important things as well. This upbringing has affected how he reacts when he has the opportunity for free food.

Last year when our neighbor told us her raspberries were ripe, he drove over to pick some. He brought home several batches and I cooked them and froze them for making jelly later, which was what he wanted. This week I spent all day and half of a night preserving what ended up being 9 half gallon containers of raspberries. That made me 24 half pints of black raspberry jelly and 30 half pints of red raspberry jelly. This is probably three times what I put up last time I made jelly. The good news is that I have lots of freezer space now, although the jelly shelf is stuffed full, and my husband found another half gallon in the shop freezer. As Scarlet says, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Now raspberry season is upon us again and he has been tempted to pick more. Keep in mind that we have five half pints of jelly left over from 2005, when I last made it. I am hoping we can enjoy some fresh raspberries and forget preserving them this year. I hate to say this, but we really don’t eat jelly very often, although it makes a good gift. Fortunately a late frost kinda put a kink in the fruit production around here, and the crop was slim pickings indeed.

He is like that with our garden as well. I love fresh vegetables as much as the next person, but I don’t see eating tomatoes for every meal July 15th through October 10th. I also don’t see the need to preserve every single tomato and bean the garden produces. Enough is enough, I am not feeding 11 children like his mother was. Unfortunately he doesn’t see it that way. I have six cucumbers staring at me from across the room right now. I actually cut up three others for the chickens. We will probably get another six in the next two days. What does he expect me to do with them? There are only so many ways to eat cucumbers.

My kids don’t eat them on purpose, so I have to be sneaky. I found I can make tuna salad and add them for crunch. I probably need to look up a gazpacho recipe, but other than a salad here and there, what is a person to do? Ah, pickles. I make lousy homemade pickles. Apparently my mother-in-law makes wonderful refrigerator pickles. Great, now I have to live up to that. I imagine that is what my husband has in mind, although we eat pickles about as often as we eat jelly and refrigerator pickles probably don’t make great gifts, as they need to be refrigerated.

It has been a couple of weeks since anyone has ventured into the garden, so maybe the cukes bit the dust. I just hope the tomatoes are in good shape for canning, since I am about down to my last quart. My husband was kinda hoping I would grate some zucchini and freeze it for cakes and such. God planned well when he made the bugs that get into zucchini plants, they are great while they last, but they only last so long.

I wrote this about six weeks ago, but it leads up to the next one, so it is here now.

It is all relative

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I have an ancestor, Anne Hutchinson, who was quite infamous in her day, and she should be still, but I hadn’t heard of her until Mom told me to read a book called American Jezebel, by Eve LaPlante. As I finished the book, I wondered from which of her children I was descended. She had 15, and only four reproduced that I know of. Turns out, the Presidents Bush and Franklin Roosevelt are all descended from Edward. I was lucky enough to draw the interesting child, the one who was captured by Indians and held captive for several years, Susanna.

I found out on some (reliable?) conspiracy website which of the children the presidents were related to, and the guy had traced the lineage all the way to Charlemagne, Ptolemy and Caesar and so on. It seems a little speculative. He had something going about how all the world’s leaders are all related to each other through this line. It seems that Edward Hutchinson’s wife, Catherine was of that line, so the tendency toward world domination is not in my “bloodline.” (Phew)

Then I read an article in Smithsonian magazine, by Richard Conniff. He is kind of anti-genealogy because he thinks people are hoping that the genetics of famous ancestors will affect them. I had never thought about that, but was mostly interested to see what kind of people I came from. Turns out my Dad’s side weren’t very exciting, at least as far back as he has researched. They were broke when they immigrated from England after the Civil War. Mom’s side goes back to the Mayflower, and most Mayflower descendants are related to each other, because there weren’t many people to choose from in marriage.

Conniff pointed out that 10% of people have “misassigned” paternity, or looking at 10 generations, one daddy snuck into the family tree. I guess that seems possible. I am sure that many rulers expected “favors” from their subjects, not to mention your basic indiscretions. He maintains that:

“ no family lineage is a single thread. It’s more like a broad fan of a thousand, or a million threads coming together from all over the world to weave the fragile patch of material representing the generations of family immediately around us.

And here’s the curious thing about this ancestral fan: it doesn’t follow the simple mathematical rule of doubling with each generation back in time. If it did, we would have between 4 billion and 17 billion ancestors at the time of Charlemagne, in A.D. 800, when there were only a few hundred million people alive on the earth. Instead, because of intermarriage the same ancestors start turning up in any lineage over and over.”

The author then goes on to explain that Edward III, king of England in the 1300s appears 2,000 times in Prince Charles’ line. Kinda sounds like line breeding to me. Conniff said, (unrelated to the Windsor line), that scientists researched “overlapping ancestry in both … paternal and maternal lines, [and] they concluded that everyone on earth today shares a common ancestor who lived just 2,000 to 3,500 years ago.” And from there on back, we are pretty much all related. Well, that is a relief. Can you imagine trying to research serfs who had no last name? I certainly had no aspirations that I was related to royalty, and here I find out I am probably related to Julius Caesar.

My Housekeeping

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I found the epitaph I want on my gravestone. It is from a book by David Laskin, called The Children’s Blizzard. He was describing a woman, Gro Rollag, who immigrated to America from Norway in 1873, “According to family lore, she was not the most conscientious housekeeper because ‘she preferred reading to housework.’” Wow, that was like looking into a mirror. It is even better than the Erasmus quote, “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

Here is an exact Me-quote from this week, “Go look on the couch for some panties, just move the clothes around, and if some fall on the floor, that’s ok.” I think part of the reason my house is usually trashed, is because I am interested in doing things.

Visiting a friend recently, I noticed her house was really picked up considering she has two pre-schoolers and a full time job. However, her only hobby is drinking beer on the deck. There is nothing wrong with that, but it really doesn’t make much of a mess, even if you do it every day for two hours. Try scrap booking for two hours a day on the dining room table, then picking up after yourself, or piecing a quilt, or sitting at the computer, writing. My opinion is that people with clean houses aren’t often very interesting.

I like to cook, and most of our meals are from scratch, even mac and cheese. The Schwan’s man actually dropped us because we weren’t buying enough from him. I like to read, I am currently in the middle of three books, and any number of magazines, I like to write, I am currently in the middle of six essays, and am doing reconnaissance for an attempt on a serious article about an ancestor of mine. I belong to two book groups. I scrap book, but not at home usually.

I fall into that category of people who have a hard time getting things done, because of perfectionism. Yes, my books are organized by the Dewey decimal system. Seriously, and the fiction is alphabetical by author. I think when the time comes to get a part time job, I will apply at the local library, and put the above information on my resume. I still just toss my children’s books at the shelf. So far.

I am a sucker for containers. I think to myself that if I get enough containers and systems going, I could conquer the world, or at least clean off the peninsula in my kitchen. I have to admit, my dirty laundry system is working pretty well, my four-year-old actually will sort her clothes into the different tubs I have set out, without me asking. She doesn’t always do it the way I do, but I can usually see her logic. My clean laundry system still needs some tweaking, maybe I just need one of those sectional couches.

My only other defense is that the TV stays off most all day in my house. We watch PBS over breakfast and lunch, and otherwise the TV collects dust. This goes a long way in explaining why my house is always trashed; my kids are actually doing things all day. In another of my procrastinational ploys, I made a chart displaying just why my house is a mess, I tried to add it in here, but the format didn’t match with Xanga’s, so I will try to describe it.  Picture the old X Y axis charts you remember from  Statistics 101.  The left side measures “Hours Children Spend Watching TV Daily” starting with 0 at the bottom and 12 at the top.  Across the bottom measures “State of the House” in increments of: Squalid Filthy Dirty Messy Untidy Cluttered Lived-in Tidy Clean Spotless Immaculate

You can imagine what my data line looks like with three kiddos who watch almost no TV.


What’s the most mischievous thing you remember doing as a child?

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I tried to feed my little brother gopher bait and pink insulation at different times.  Probably I am lucky he didn’t die.


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My kid eats sand


Some people would say my mothering is too lax . Probably they would be right. I was at a play date today and another mom told me that Leo was eating sand from the playground. Leo is not walking yet, but he is nearly one, and is impossible to hold when he has the opportunity to get down and explore. I tossed a glance over my shoulder and said that sand was probably not as healthy as cat food, but the yuck factor was lower. She laughed and I left it at that. My toddler soon ate his fill and moved on. Leo has recently developed a taste for Purina Cat Chow and has learned to let himself out the screen door while my back is turned, to get his own snacks. This is why the cat food is now on the picnic table, another yuck.

My laxness may have something to do with the fact that Leo is kid number three, and therefore by definition bullet proof. You know the first one is fragile like china, the second is more like Melmac, and the third, well he has to protect himself at a young age so I would call him Kevlar. I don’t yet know the properties of the fourth child, but I am hoping for Teflon. If I am in luck number four will be just as easy to clean.

I read Parent’s magazine, which mostly I like, but a recent issue stressed that the parent should be in the same room in which the children are playing at all times. Presumably this will keep them safe, from each other as well as environmental hazards. I have three kids and five rooms in which they may play. Short of cloning myself, (why on earth would I want more than one of me?) I can see that my kids will have to find ways to be safe on their own. I can child-proof my house, but they will learn to be better citizens if I am not supervising their every move. I wish those editors would get a dose of reality. How do these people cook anything? They are probably the same people who made it nearly impossible to buy soft soap that isn’t anti-bacterial.

How much supervision can anyone provide while trying to do other things as well? Part of the job of being a stay at home mom (or even a working parent) is keeping the laundry washed (and folded if possible) and enough clean dishes around to be able to serve at least one meal. I can’t be there when they get older and go to school, and they need to have a working set of social skills long before that.

I belong to MOPS, Mothers of Preschoolers, and I like their magazine because it doesn’t have articles on being the perfect mother. It has articles that say “well, I did a better job parenting today than I did yesterday, but who knows about tomorrow?” The last issue had an article about dealing with a poopy potty trainer in public. I can relate to real life.