Hand and mind

The last few months I’ve been spending a chunk of my not-at-the-office time in what can only be called homesteading. I ordered chickens and turkeys, and even as I write this I can hear David outside nailing the roof up on the poultry palace. (I’m waiting for him to holler that he needs me to hold something or pass something up to him.) The birds are arriving on June 20th. My father has bees for me, which we will pick up in the fall. I’m thinking about drying the apples on the tree in our back gully, and making rose hip jelly. As I said, homesteading.

Another piece of my time has been going into gardening. I love herbs, and at last count I believe I had fifteen largeish pots of them planted and sitting at the corner of the oughta-be-a-koi-pond-but-why-feed-the-bears? Lots of basil, lots of thyme, sage, rosemary, stevia, cilantro, lovage, dill, tarragon and so on. I like the way the containers look all set out like that, and the whole project just seems more manageable that way.

I’ve also installed and planted two raised beds, with strawberries, squash, snow peas, swiss chard, radishes, carrots, nasturtiums and a few more herbs. You can probably never have too many herbs. This picture was taken a week ago, before I’d planted anything, or staked green garden netting over top of the beds to keep Spook from walking on them (and I’m not convinced he was doing anything but walking).

With the press of things I have to do in my writing life, why am I bothering? I could buy a year’s supply of eggs and chicken for the money I’ve spent on the building materials and seeds and birds for these two projects. Another question is: who is this gardening chick, and what has she done with Elizabeth? My mother was a dedicated gardener, and my dad still plants a garden every year, but I was never of that persuasion – until lately.

I think it’s got something to do with the amount of time I spend living in my head. I need to move, and I need to make something physical. In the absence of time to do pottery, gardening is a pleasantly grubby substitute.

I also think it springs from the time I spend in the world of The Swan Harp, which is an iron-age-agricultural sort of culture. I started to think a lot about the food that would be available to Kiar, and how it would be acquired. And I felt an odd – for me – urge to see if I could grow some, at least, of my own food. I’ve found I like the work of planting and the peaceful time watering each day. I bought myself a beautiful green metal watering can with a brass rose. (The rose is the flat pierced bit that makes the watering can “rain” on your plants instead of just pouring a stream of water on them.)

Another delight is picking fresh herbs to add to my salad every day, and I’m looking forward to drying big bunches of herbs in the fall, as well as using them for canning and sauces. David’s plans for the summer include building me a sort of bay-window greenhouse on the south wall of the kitchen, where I’ll be able to go on with this dirt-under-the-fingernails preoccupation through the winter, too.

In the meantime, I’m waiting to see if Sky, whom we caught last year delicately eating the blueberries straight off the bushes, will develop a taste for strawberries.

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6 Responses to Hand and mind

  1. Father Steve says:

    Dogs can and will eat strawberries but too many may produce diarrhea.

  2. Elizabeth, I grow many herbs and you are right — you never can have too many. Once your chickens begin producing eggs, you will have lovely omelets, too, with herbs in them. And if your roses are fragrant, you must try rose-petal honey!

  3. ecreith says:

    A little handful of herbs in a salad (I favour spinach and arugula for the main greens) boosts the flavour incredibly. Yes, herby omelettes will be wonderful! Father Steve, I’m really hoping that Sky simply doesn’t find the strawberries, although David says not to worry, she’s never been interested when he’s offered her one.

  4. I admire your determination to grow such an extensive garden. In my younger days, I attempted it but never grew much to show for all the work I put into it. My green thumb turned brown a long time ago, I’m afraid. I’m sure my mother & grandmothers are rolling over in the graves and moaning every time I plant the silk flowers in my front garden! Good luck with yours! 🙂

  5. Be True Farm says:

    You described my love of gardening perfectly. It does get you out of your head but it also seems to inspire ideas. The physical work and the act of growing something that one can eat also spurs the imagination. Sunny sneaks the raspberries!

  6. ecreith says:

    So far Sky hasn’t gone after the raspberries! I’m going to prune mine hard this fall and see about raising the production level for next year. David’s uncle gave us a great recipe for raspberry liqueur, and fresh raspberry ice cream is so delicious!

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