Last week’s weather caused a windfall of strawberry tree fruit (Arbutus unedo) on the ground. Much of it was in great shape, and there was more than I could eat fresh, so I tried dehydrating some. I’ve been getting figs, and I bought a box full of Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples, so I put a load of the three fruits into the box for about 16 hours.
I expected that as they dried, the tiny half-spheres would likely fall through the rack, so I put that rack on top, hoping they might get caught by larger pieces of fruit underneath.
The little buttons did fall through, but I caught them all sooner or later. They are chewy and crunchy and I hope I can preserve a few more of them this way before the harvest ends. The wind knocked down four lemons, too, which got into this picture.
The same day that I officially became a vermiculturist, an opossum wandered through my garden midmorning. I cornered him behind the snowball bush just to get his picture — not that I consider him particularly handsome… especially if I look at his mouth.
This weekend I’m headed up to Pippin’s to be present for Ivy’s tenth birthday celebration. Many of you commented on my announcement of her birth way back then! Here are pictures from previous years, including the Baggy Doll I made her for her first birthday.
I guess I’ve sewn more for Ivy than for any other grandchild. Two items — haha!
I haven’t made it up every year for her birthday, but often enough that I know it’s the right season for drinking in the beauty of my daughter’s extravagant dahlias, and for encountering deer on the property. I’ll leave you with this picture that Pippin sent me recently, of those neighbors looking for a handout. They might be wondering where the crabapples are; late frosts damaged their blossoms as well as destroying much of the apple crop in northern California this year. Maybe I should take them some figs!
I forgot to show you the summer “bugs” I saw on my trip last week. I know you wouldn’t want to miss them, so I’ll put them at top here. Also so that I can have a flower or something more traditionally pretty at the bottom.
They were all the large size of insects that I only ever see when camping or in the forest, and Pippin does live in the forest. As soon as I would step outside in the early morning my senses took me to mountain camping trips, where the air at the beginning of the day is cool and dry and piney.
One 95-degree midday Ivy called me over to see a creature resting in the shade on the tree swing. It was a surprisingly still subject, which enabled me to identify it as a Robber Fly. And the morning that I departed, a huge Western Sculpted Pine Borer landed on Pippin’s arm. She brushed it off and then collected it on a paper, where it sat, possibly stunned, and posed.
My first morning we found a chipmunk on the front doorstep, which a cat had brought as an offering. The second day the sliding door would not shut, and the children and I finally figured out that a dead mouse was jammed between the two doors. I could not access it to get it out, but when she got home Pippin managed after laboring with a yardstick. The next morning another mouse was left at that back doorstep, which I disposed of. Four cats live with the family and at least two are hunters.
We watched “My Octopus Teacher” one night. Have I already mentioned that movie? I also saw it with my Colorado children last summer, and like it very much. I’ve heard a couple of people say that they wish there were less of the narrator and more of the octopus, but if it weren’t for the narrator-photographer, who visited the octopus nearly every day for a year, there would be no story. He had to tell it in his way.
As it about how whole experience of interacting with the octopus helped him move into a healthier life and frame of mind, I have to take it as it is, take the human subject as he is. Without agreeing with all of his presuppositions about nature, I very much appreciate that his relationship with the creature was thrilling and healing. Ivy declared that it is her favorite nature movie. Over the next several days she drew one picture after another of ocean landscapes.
Often the children would draw while I read to them, and I read for at least an hour every evening before bed. Mostly this time I read from The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon. I gave this book to my grandchildren a few years ago, thinking it was an anthology she had compiled of others’ works. But no, all the stories are by Farjeon herself.
They are the most unusual children’s stories I’ve ever read, a combination of fairy tale style with more realistic everyday happenings, and silly stories that make us laugh and laugh. But all happy hearted, and many brimming with pure Goodness. If Scout had not been away at Boy Scout Camp, he would have insisted that we read “The Princess Who Cried for the Moon,” a very long story about a whole kingdom of people who don’t have their thinking caps on.
I still haven’t read the whole lot, but I did notice that the last entry in this edition is not a story by Eleanor but a piece titled, “Tea with Eleanor Farjeon,” by my beloved Rumer Godden. I read that one aloud, too, and Ivy was interested but Jamie drifted away. Eleanor sounds like the sort of old lady I would like to be. I wanted to quote from Godden’s article, but I can’t find my own copy of the storybook at the moment.
I spent six nights last week at Pippin’s Mountain Homestead, longer than any other visit. That gave me time to go with the children to the library and to have a breakfast picnic in their favorite park that features a tiny waterfall and “jungle.” Ivy made her dragon to fly over the creek, and I discovered chicory and more.
There was lots of water play in the back yard, resulting in burned shoulders. And a big batch of gingerbread for cutting out with my new tiny animal cutters.
I suppose it’s because Pippin’s garden in the middle of the forest gets extra water, that the ferns constantly encroach. I was watering the new zinnia and dahlia sprouts and wondering at the robust ferns still popping up everywhere. They push against the deer fence that surrounds the vegetable and dahlia enclosure, and try to colonize the whole inside space, too.
Where I pulled out a few fronds to let sunlight on to a strawberry bed, we saw that frogs had been living among them. And while I aimed the hose at small flower plants, Duncan cat lay nearby in his cool and ferny hideaway and begged me to leave that colony as is. And for now it remains, another corner of the estate hospitable to critters.
What more could a girl want on a fall evening? Here (in a photo Pippin sent) Ivy has Fred the new kitten, Black Beauty which she is continuing from where we left off together last week, a soft blanket and the flannel nightgown I made for her last year about this time. Oh, and a black stuffie horse is peeking out from under her book. I wonder if he is reading along silently, or being read to. I find the scene pretty inspiring!
Our lives have been full of family and festivity this last week. Kate is a married lady now! Her father walked his third and last daughter down the aisle. I haven’t yet come up with a nickname for my son-in-law, dear as he is to us already. In the last week we’ve grown to love his whole family and are brimming with thanks to God for expanding our tribe in such a rich way.
The wedding itself was beautiful, for which I can take little credit, as Kate had the artistic vision and arranged most everything. The cake was baked in Washington DC and carried on an airplane to be iced near the reception venue.
Oh, here is something I did: I lent my old KitchenAid mixer to the baker-bridesmaid for mixing the icing. So much of the event was a blur to me, I can’t remember the details of the three kinds of cake that were stacked up, though I did eat a yummy slice. One layer was gluten-free, I know that.
Kate’s wedding gown likewise flew here, in an overhead bin on the plane with Kate, and only suffered minor crumpling. She and her fiancé arrived a few days ahead of time, and Pearl’s family came from Maryland early, too, so we all joined in some last-minute crafty and often orangey decorative tasks.
Fiancé helped me pick the tomatoes I’ve been neglecting lately. His parents came into town and we started getting to know them as we applied labels to the wedding favors: bottles of a special recipe of hot sauce created by the bride and groom.
Pearl’s family, plus their Uncle Dara from Ireland, are still staying with us, and for one night we had an extra four here with Soldier’s family. The house was bursting with liveliness and reunion the morning after the wedding when all the family who were in town gathered at our house for brunch, making 33 of us. Cousins and siblings who don’t see each other often were catching up and hugging a lot.
It was surprising how easily all those bodies managed to fit and even find a place to sit. Every time I thought of getting something to eat, either Liam or Ivy would come and want to be picked up. Normally they are more shy even with me, but with a houseful of unfamiliar faces they seemed to need to connect with a familiar grandma from time to time. They also liked piling toys on Grandpa’s lap, and occasionally climbing up there themselves.
Thank goodness my sisters and daughters and grandsons were taking care of the extreme logistics of feeding the crowd that included many large male teens and twenty-somethings, because I was drifting around dreamy and sublimely happy. All of my children and all of my grandchildren were right there!
The teenage boys found a football and went to the park for a while. Maggie and Annie played with my grandma’s jewelry box and mended and organized all the old costume jewelry. And some of us had a very animated discussion in which we raised our voices a few times, about voting rights, abusive governments, principles of democracy and whether Kate and her new husband have a chance of getting elected as President and V.P.
The sun came out in the afternoon, and children of all ages enjoyed Grandma Glad’s generosity with popsicles. The Maryland grandkids have been swimming nearly every day since they arrived. Here is Maggie skimming leaves and bugs off the surface of the pool…
…and here is the poor girl lying on the couch after her afternoon’s trauma. She banged her foot on the fence and it grew a painful goose egg that required applications of ice and an hour’s worth of TLC. She needed to watch “The Secret of Roan Inish” to speed her recovery. The little girl in the movie is very much like our Maggie, so we like to watch it together every few years at least.
Just before the wedding day, Pearl celebrated a birthday, and before that we celebrated Pat’s and Maggie’s birthdays a little late. For the children I baked another cake, if you can believe it, a layer cake that I’ll write about in a separate post.
It’s been a whirlwind of fun and love, and a few of us have another whole week together before Mr. Glad and I will be left Alone Again. So I aim to make the most of every day, and maybe I’ll have things to write about here, too.