Back in late August I spent a week exploring in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Those folks and places (and many others) have been on my mind while listening to all the wind, damage and flooding from Hurricane Sandy this week. I was lucky enough to be in New England during exquisite warm fall weather and I hope to share some of the trip with you over the next several posts. I’ll begin though, at the end.
Flying home out of the Burlington International airport I was mesmerized by the art near my departure gate. Tiny wooden blocks fixed like rows of mosaic tiles were printed with words from two women, one writing in her diary in the mid-1800’s and one writing poems (like the one above) that brought tears to my eyes. This despite standing in an airport hallway among busy travelers reading their so-called smartphones and walking forward without looking ahead at all for navigational cues like other people, etc. Don’t get me started on that! Back to the artwork.
I love it that these two women so enmeshed in their relationship with the land are featured in the most manmade of places, an airport. I love it that the Burlington airport features art and poetry. Vermont is a mecca for in-love-with-the-land worldview. There is a huge emphasis on local farms, food and farmers everywhere you go, not just the usual foodie hangouts. There are farmers markets—all locally grown and overwhelmingly organic—in every city and most tiny villages. The one I attended on a Thursday in Waterbury was like a town celebration with whole families picnicking with hot food and treats purchased from vendors. If not for the winters and property values, Vermont would no doubt be overwhelmed with those of us who love the land crowding in to be near others who understand this feeling.
What struck me about the diary from the mid-1800s was how similar it might be to notes in my own in 2012, with the notable exception of “washed the sheep.” The diarist noted comets and geese passing overhead, fair weather, harvest dates. My favorite was from October 1858, “Got in all our garden.” Oh sister, the joy. That’s exactly what has been happening at Larrapin in October. Fall finally arrived with cool days, crisp air and endless blue skies. After an early hot June, severe drought that burned till Mid-August, then unusual and oppressive humidity till September, FINALLY the fall garden season is back. I feel resurrected.
In this frenetic world, so overfilled with busyness that barely looks up from the screen, much less look around at the green world, there is a sense of connection, even relief, to read a woman’s words from a century and a half ago. I can easily imagine a conversation with her that we would both understand. I understand the bittersweet beauty of watching the geese fly over in the Fall. I understand relishing bright weather and apple harvests. I would ask her about why sheep need washing, and I bet I’d understand her answer. There is such joy in being a part of the lineage of soil, not just by virtue of living in a biological body that is built of and will return to soil, but in sharing it with others. Today, lucky enough to be standing in a day of perfect Autumn, I’m sending out a thought to a woman working her farm in 1858. And I’m going out to get in all our garden.Read More
The last couple days of January were lovely and after the past two weeks of snow, I’m thinking back to them very fondly. So here’s what I did on my two days. I tilled up the spot that will be two new garden beds in the veggie patch. Tilling is my only alternative to having my knees replaced from the shoveling in such rocky ground. Above, the rocks have been removed already. Then you have a lot of rocks to put somewhere.
So I’ve started making rock columns like Ozark farmers of old, the ones you see at the corners of garden spots and fields around here. (Does anyone know what these stone filled columns are called in the Ozarks?) They are actually handy. You can build tables on top, or use them as the base for a garden planter. When you have this many rocks in your soil, you figure out variousways to use them. But one of my new year’s resolutions was to have more fun making garden ‘art.’ I’m not talking fine art, I’m talking fun art.
So you take a concrete chicken, and add it to your stone column. Oh, and I built the column on top of a stump, which I’d previously decorated with a broken rake, painted purple of course…
And there you have it. I’m going to add a few more objects, and call her “Our Lady of Larrapin.” That’s what I did with my two pretty days at the end of January.
—A Larrapin Garden www.larrapin.us
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