I think I'll make one of these winged keys and then leave it in the backyard for the kids to discover on the first spring-like day.
Luke's bean plant, the source of much tribulation the last term of school, during which everyone else's bean plant sprouted and his did not, is now blooming and growing leetle tiny beans! Oh jubilation! (This is, in fact,the second bean he planted. The first never did grow, presumably as the result of much anxious over-watering.)
I know this sounds crazy, but I do believe those leetle tiny beans appeared overnight. Now I understand why it was Jack and the beanstalk and not, say, Jack and some other stalkish vegetable.
A hot-air balloonist in England recently discovered this meadow in the shape of a heart tucked away inside a stand of thousands of oak trees. Turns out it was made, secretly, by farmer Winston Howes, in memory of his wife Janet, who died of heart failure at age 50, in 1995. From The Daily Mail:
Mr Howes, 70, said yesterday: ‘I came up with the idea of creating a heart in the clearing of the field after Janet died.
‘I thought it was a great idea – it was a flash of inspiration – and I planted several thousand oak trees. Once it was completed we put a seat in the field, overlooking the hill near where she used to live.
‘I sometimes go down there, just to sit and think about things. It is a lovely and lasting tribute to her which will be here for years.’
He created the wood next to his farmhouse in the months after her death, marking out the massive heart shape with a large hedge.
The entrance to the secret heart is accessible only from a track leading up to its tip.
Mr Howes added: ‘We got people in especially to do it – there are several thousand trees.
‘We planted large oak trees around the edge of the heart then decided to put a hedge around it too. The heart points towards Wotton Hill, where Janet is from. We plant daffodils in the middle that come up in the spring – it looks great. I go out there from time to time and sit in the seat I created.’
Janet and Winston Howes.
There are a couple of trees in our yard just crying out for this Fairy Door. You can buy the accessories -- the little windows with the flower boxes and the lantern, which LIGHTS UP AT DUSK AND TURNS OFF AT DAWN -- but I'm wondering if they're overkill. I should've ordered this for Easter but I didn't and now May Day is tomorrow. Perhaps for the summer solstice? (Also, don't you think "Fairy Door" would be the perfect name for a gay bar?)
This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone is a memoir by Melissa Coleman that got a lot of attention last year when it first came out. Coleman's parents, Eliot and Sue, were among the first back-to-the-landers of the late 60s and 70s. They moved to a plot of land in rural Maine that adjoined the farm of Helen and Scott Nearing, the couple who wrote Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, which is the book credited with inspiring the movement. Eliot and Sue built their own home, grew their own food, and Sue gave birth to two little girls while they did it. It sounds Edenic, particularly for children, and partly, it was. (This NYT review of the book does a good job of describing the basic events of This Life is In Your Hands and also the sort of see-sawing the book does between the poetry of the family's life, rooted as it was in nature, and an increasing sense of ominousness.)
It's easy for people who have never attempted to be self-sufficient through farming to romanticize the idea (witness the current resurgence of what Emily Matchar calls the New Domesticity, which admittedly doesn't seem as hard-core a movement) but the fact is that it makes for a very hard life. (I am guilty of romanticizing it myself -- in high school I gave a speech on my version of "the good life" in which I would retreat with my little family to a cabin in the woods, where I would homeschool my children and we would all survive, I guess, on nuts and berries.) Coleman, who is now a nationally recognized expert on organic gardening, actually had a thyroid disorder, largely untreated, that spurred him on to ceaseless physical labour. And if I were going to try to accomplish what he did, I think I'd want one, too. From Melissa Coleman's descriptions of her mother, Sue, it seems to me that she suffered terribly from post-partum depression and that this was horribly compounded by the relentless, back-breaking work that homesteading actually entailed, not to mention possible malnutrition.
Now here is where the spoiler comes in. Consider yourself warned. One day, busy preparing a feast for some visitors (as if she doesn't have enough to do), Sue shoos Melissa's little sister Heidi, who is around three at the time I think, out of the cabin, telling her to go float her toy boat on the pond. Heidi actually comes back once or twice, begging for attention, and Sue turns her away. You can guess what happened to Heidi down at the pond. She drowned.
Melissa Coleman doesn't blame her mother for this in the book, but she doesn't exactly absolve her, either. After reading it I was left feeling absolutely bereft for the poor woman, whom I was unable to track down via google, hoping to learn she has found some sort of peace. And I must admit I was also left feeling a bit pissed off about Eliot Coleman's (and the Nearings') subsequent success as folk heroes.
Now of course children die. They die in car accidents in suburbia and of childhood cancers and all kinds of things. But all it takes is a short stroll through a pioneer-era graveyard to see how many children died when there was no choice for anyone but a "lifestyle" of relentless physical labour in order to put food on the table. A lot of those deaths were from childhood diseases we can now vaccinate against (if we aren't against vaccinating) but many of them were from accidents that happened when parents didn't have the time and the energy to hover over their kids.
Posted by Stephany Aulenback on March 16, 2012 at 01:27 PM in Books, Childhood, Compendium of Terrible Parenting Advice, Culture, Family, Food and Drink, Gardening, Health, History, Memoirs and Biography, Nature, Nesting, Parenting, Parents in Literature | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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I am happy to be able to say I have visited the actual Versailles -- now I want to take the kids to the "Versailles of the North," an amazing modern garden built by the Duchess of Northumberland on her estate, which is also the home of the castle used in the Harry Potter movies. The place sounds ridiculously over-the-top and apparently kids love it. I'll just have to watch them like a hawk around the Poison Garden because if there's a way to ingest something there, I'm sure one of them would.(Via the always fabulous Lux Lotus.)
In Chicken Poop for the Soul: A Year in Seach of Food Sovereignty, author Kristeva Dowling writes about her efforts to produce all her own food from scratch. On my library list.
The mysterious Crooked Forest in Poland. Maybe the people who did this to the trees were planning on building crooked houses with them. In other crooked house news, the ceiling in Luke's bedroom started leaking heavily onto his bed last night during a rainstorm.
Moss graffiti -- a brilliant and beautiful idea. Go here for the recipe for the moss "paint." Now to find some suitable surfaces and come up with some suitable quotations. What words would you paint in moss?