R and S, Scourge of the Raspberries


Because the raspberry bushes that we planted when we first moved here did so well, we have “volunteers” every Spring. More volunteers than we know what to do with. At first I added to our long row of bushes so that we have about…70 feet of raspberry bushes. Then between taking two sons to high level soccer practice and games over 40 miles away, teaching several classes each Spring, and taking care of the large vegetable and flower gardens, the raspberry row fell into disrepair. 

I definately discovered one of the culprits two days ago while “weeding” with a shovel. I was digging out young trees, wild black cap runners, thorn bushes, and a monster weed that actually looked like a criminal. It had grown into huge clumps of tentacle like tubers that formed a hard mass in the ground. I believe that they produce some sort of daisy wildflower up above ground. These masses of tubers were strangling the straggling row of raspberries…. So out they all came. While I use every last ounce of strength and heavy iron hand tools to weed, I imagine other people kneeling politely next to their manicured plots…lifting weeds out with delicate little trowels. The up side to my laissez faire gardening is the “volunteering” of not only weeds, but wild edible plants such as onion and garlic and also cultivated plants like parsnips, kale, and cilantro that all appear each year now where I planted them previously.

I believe this is garlic growing wild from preovvious years of planting it here

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Organic School

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Teens working on Shakespeare scenes

I have stepped in to help….coordinate?……teach?…a weekly homeschool learning center sort of thing for teens. Near the end of it’s first year of operation, it has consistently attracted about 10 teens to each quarterly session. This is a pretty good number considering our relatively rural setting. The difficult moments of realizing that we are asking the teens to do things outside their comfort zone are balanced by the “Ah ha” moments when they do not want to break for lunch because we are still discussing ( arguing?) about something that came up in “class”. Now, we are abandoning the social studies premise for “class” in favor of sheer discussion. This should help set them up to work with a writer friend next Fall when she teaches them basic essay writing. After all, the real trick is to have ideas that one is compelled to convey. It is not so difficult to learn to convey them!

And just to be perfectly honest, at least 3 of the ten teens dropped out of the Shakespeare scenes class pictured above….again, outside of their comfort zone, especially the comfort zone of those with reading difficulties. Imagine trying to get through a Shakespeare couplet full of unusual words if vowel sounds are still a bit confusing.

The Moment

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Ever a wanna-be practitioner of zen appreciation of the moment, I began looking forward to a needed visit to the laundromat. Our washing machine broke, and it will be several more days before a repairman can find his way to our rural residence.

I am envious of the true practitioners of zen meditation who can sit for hours with nothing in their hands, only the thoughts in their head that they are skillfully sorting into helpful layers of nutritious mulch. or something like that.

I, on the other hand, had my crutch with me, my digital drawing tablet. Armed with a sketchbook of any type, I can completely engross myself in the moment anywhere. (Perhaps the most challenging ” anywhere” ever, was the white classroom wall that my first art school painting teacher told us to draw…but that also came with the competitive and challenging drawing class environment…not exactly just any old anywhere)

Perhaps a time will come when I will be without my crutch. I think of prisoners, hospital patients, people crippled by disease. Will my mind be able to savor the moment enveloping it then?

Rye grass and breadcrumbs: the hard way?

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the extra breadcrumbs

No bread crumbs and I’m making spinach salad for 10. Quick look on the internet, and then in the freezer for a loaf of home made bread, and voila, breadcrumbs are warm and freshly baked. Just think, I could have driven to the store but it would have taken longer. They only bake for about 6 minutes..

Earlier in the day, I am out in the veggie garden hand clipping the 2 ft tall rye grass. I can hear my neighbor running various gardening machines over at his place. I am worried he will hear the sound of my garden shears snipping slowly through about 200 square feet of tall grass. I am telling myself that I am doing it the ridiculous hard way again (I catch myself doing things the hard way out of schedule desperation, frugality, and sheer virgo-ness) when it dawns on me that this is another case of the hard way being a good way. I plant a 5 lb bag of rye seeds in the fall. It grows a little over the winter. Then, in mid spring, it is suddenly 2 ft tall and I cut it (a real farmer uses a machine) and spread it as mulch all over my garden. It saves running to purchase bales of straw to carpet the garden. Then, I till up the root material and let it remain in the soil where I am planting all my carefully nursed seedlings…eggplant, tomatoes, etc. I use clumps of the rye roots to mound right at the base of the seedlings as extra nutritious and protective mulch.

The result is a chaotic garden that never looks completely “under control” as there is either tall grass growing in it or clumps of gnarly root systems strewn about, but it feels smart to me now. I prefer spending an extra hour hand clipping in my garden to careening along in my car looking for somebody else’s straw. If I were handy with machines, it would be smarter perhaps to employ a small engine to help with the cutting, but again, in my case, this always involves driving to repair places, waiting at counters for help, and paying maintenance and repair fees for services I do not really understand. I’d rather be in the garden.

the unruly garden with cut rye carpeting the path in foreground, and some still standing in the back

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