Procrastination is such a dirty word here in the land of parenting and now gardening. The little ones can not be put off. So you would think this new found impetus to plan ahead, to act preemptively rather than chasing my tail, as it were, would rub off on other areas of my life. For the most part, I like to think it has. There is plenty of toilet paper in the house, for example. And yet, when it comes to pottery, it always seems to be a race to the finish. At T minus 13 days until the craft show my grand total of pots ready to sell is nada. True, I am being slightly dramatic as I have a kiln full of cooling bisqueware, but still. My grand hope of having a vast stock, far exceeding what I could possibly sell, is dwindling as time is moving at a speed that, frankly, I consider reckless.
The thing about pottery is there are a lot of steps. I saw a video in my first ceramics class that showed a South American woman starting her pot by first going to a hill and digging up clay. Fortunately, I get to skip that part. The good folks at Campbell's Clay Supply are nice enough to take care of that for me. Even so, transforming the clay from a wet mass into a shiny bowl takes time.
My job starts with wedging or kneading the clay to get it prepared to throw. I then slap the ball onto the wheel with a satisfactory thud and the magic begins. I throw a pot. Next up, a day or two of air drying so that I can trim it and maybe add a handle in the case of a mug. More air drying ensues. Once the pot is completely dry I load it and all its friends into the kiln for a bisque firing. Eighteen hundred degrees later, I unload the now ceramic pots and glaze them, then load them back up for a glaze firing. Each firing takes about a day, and another to cool. So my 13 day deadline shrinks by the very nature of how clay becomes pottery. My clock stops at day T minus 5 at the latest. And that includes fans and all night glaze-a-thons.
So why did I wait so long to get moving, you ask? Well, I didn't, really. I made the decision to do this show late and I knew at the time I was already behind. I've been on the move ever since. A nap time here, a cancelled shift there and things are coming along bit by bit, or pot by pot as the case may be. Those mugs might still be warm come April 12th, but they'll be there. The key is not to panic.
It is a sad reality that it takes anticipatory shame, the likes of which only a houseful of guests can elicit, to motivate me to really clean my abode. Of course I pick up every day, ok, most days, but on my knees scrubbing goodness knows what off the front of the oven door isn't happening unless a group of fresh somebodies is going to bear witness to how uncrusty my kitchen becomes with a little bit of attention and Clorox.
Ironically, the somebodies that make their way to my house tend to be the kind who love me, crust and all, but all the more reason they are worth the effort. It is unfortunate that part of the buildup for a day of entertaining is tainted with the sometimes overwhelming task of getting a home 'show ready' but it is also kind of a bonus. Sure there are now a few odds and ends that got ruffled in the day's well mannered frivolities but at the core, my house is still kind of sparkly. Not the OCD sparkly other people spend their regular old lives in, but comparative sparkly, as in "Look, I can see the dining room floor now."
Surely even this fantastic gift of deep clean is shadowed by the real pleasure of the day, however. To soak in time with old friends, continue story lines that are years old, find yourself flitting around topics as serious as fund raising, as hot as volcanoes and as sweet as caramel, is such a satisfying endeavor for us social animals. Gatherings of this nature envelop me like a warm blanket with a sense of cozy contentedness about my little nook in the world.
My children also feel the magic. These women, who have been around well before my children were born, are part of the scenery of their lives as surely as extended family members and special meals. Once the business of visiting is in full swing the kids get a little friskier, they aren't watched as closely (which is probably why I just found a sippy cup in the silverware drawer) and bedtime gets pushed back. They don't want to miss anything either. When a grown-up is willing to sit on the floor and play trains, who could possibly consider sleep? (Bless you, Vivel)
As I finally tucked my elder boy in tonight, his head resting on his train printed pillowcase, he confided he had a really great time today. Me too, son. My daughter was more pragmatic in her good night conversation. She wanted to make sure the homemade hot fudge was left behind. We all have our priorities.
After Monday's rains, Tuesday brought with it fresh possibilities and a big old truckload of dirt. Twelve cubic yards to be exact. When my husband and I stood looking at the fresh mound we both had the same thought, "this isn't going to be enough." And, like so many times before, we were both dead wrong. Yet another thing I've learned in my travels through life is that a pile if dirt is kind of like a box of Chinese take out. (A similarity that is not limited to how uncomfortable you are after processing either of them.)
Starving, the little origami container does not look as though it could possibly feed you satisfactorily. Then, two plates later when the box still doesn't look like you've made a dent in it, you realize the Chinese are out to make us fat(ter). The dirt just kept coming. Even after we actively wished we'd run out, as an excuse to stop, there was plenty more. Together, (ok, mostly the hubs) we filled six raised beds and created another space a good eight inches deep. Still the pile of dirt stands; at least another backache's worth.
In addition to my visually deceptive dirt lesson, I've also had another uncomfortable epiphany about myself. About a month ago, out of nowhere, I became acutely aware that I was not an athletic person. Now anyone who has ever seen me would not find this revelation shocking. Rather, what was shocking was that I managed to hold the belief in my head at all without the faintest hint of incredulity weaseling in. But there you have it. I'm not athletic. All evidence is assuredly to the contrary.
This wasn't my most recent epiphany, however. This one had to do with my (former) belief that poison ivy didn't affect me. People all around me would be covered in reaction to the stuff and I hadn't had the slightest rash since I was a child. I honestly believed I was immune. What I failed to consider (scientists, no snickering please) was that I have not been exposed to poison ivy since I was a child. I am a cream puff (see above). On the rare occasion I actually am out in a sort of wilderness I stick to trails and leave the woods to the furry creatures and outdoorsy types. After a week of persistent itching and patches of skin that look like photos right out of Mosby's, I must concede not only to being unathletic and susceptible, but delusional as well.
Luckily, I'm not the type of person to find evidence like that unsettling. Instead I brandish my rashes like battle scars. I may be a botanical idiot that doesn't know what poison ivy looks like because the most I've seen of it was in Batman and Robin, but I'm an idiot with a real live garden that I've worked in myself, and I've got the funky rashes to prove it. I've also got broccoli, onions, snow peas, potatoes and beets in the ground and room for a whole lot more. Who knows, before the summer is out I might even start thinking of myself as a vegetable eater.
Well, I've done it. I've "thinned". I can't say the euphemism makes me feel better about it. Here I planted these seeds and they, in good faith, dutifully sprouted. And how do I reward them? By hacking them off at their tiny little base. I can't even cry 'survival of the fittest' as I was the one choosing which ones to eliminate and I have no idea how to choose the best seedling. Should they be taller, or not? More leaves or bigger leaves? I don't know. But, it doesn't help to dwell. They're now in the compost bin, and, as such, they may have a chance to be parts of tomatoes and broccoli after all.
The other victim of my weekend gardening attempts was my skin. While I was fighting to tame the landscape, it launched a covert biological warfare operation presumably in retaliation. From my eyelid to my fingertips are sporadic raised red itchy patches. This delayed irritation method leaves me to believe the responsible party is hoping to keep the broccoli for itself. Either that, or since I was so determined to make a mark on the landscape, it kindly returned the favor.
Luckily for my pottery (and my remaining healthy skin), the rain came today. Dutifully, I started a series of bowls. Unfortunately the benadryl (you didn't think I was just going to stoically suffer, did you?) slowed me down quite a bit and threw me (if you will) off center. So like the seedlings, several would-be bowls didn't make it either.
Tomorrow the dirt is coming to fill raised beds my husband built for me out of wood from our old deck. I have tried to strategically map what should go where in each of the six plots but the data is overwhelming. Compatibles, incompatibles, space between, height, sun, etc. I'm done thinking. I want to get out there and make some mistakes already. Let's do this thing!
My fail proof plan of gardening preparation is crumbling down around me. Spinach isn't in. Carrots aren't in. Onions aren't in. Snow peas aren't in. It's a disaster! Turns out my 'sharpie drawn calendar in a marble notebook' plan has left me to starve. Why is it that I keep learning the hard way that the easy way is just easier?
No, I don't want to use a pre-made chart. I'll research each vegetable and make up my own chart that isn't as user friendly, lacks key information and took hours to make. Brilliant idea. And I certainly don't want to use a web site that will e-mail me when to plant things to make it as idiot proof as possible. What fun would that kind of time management efficiency be?
In related news, I was out doing some bed sprucing today (that is, raking last year's dead leaves off of everything so the perennials have a fighting chance) and I came across the mint patch. Now as a new gardener, plants that run amok is kind of a fresh concept. My old gardening perception was: plant it once and it's on its own. If it spreads, less work for me! (And by me, I mean my husband, as I have planted almost nothing in our yard. And almost is kind of an exaggeration.)
Well, that was until I realized that things like mint are space hogs. Not only do they spread around in their little area, but they send off roots that choke surrounding plants so as to snatch up their designated patches as well. Oh heck no. The mint has been executed. There will be no further mint. And if memory serves, the Black Eyed Susan's will need to shape up or they will meet a similar fate. I may be a Marylander at heart, but those little witches step foot in my garlic bed and they'll get more than a black eye from me.
Little do my seedlings know, the time is drawing near that their safe, moist, lit, well fed existence in the confines of my basement is going bye bye. That's right, I'm going to unplug them from the matrix and thrust them into the harsh reality that is 'the real'. Which is to say, planting season is upon us!
My LFD is April 15th and I am ready. Well, except that I don't have the frames for my raised beds made, or the dirt layers that will go in them, or really any layout planning completed.... Whatever! Let's do this thing!
To say I have bitten off more than I can chew is perhaps an understatement (yet a pun, which I do enjoy). Thus far my total harvest to date has consisted of three cucumbers and three baby carrots. Not much of a meal, I will admit. However, this year I have three things going for me that I did not have last year: 1. A gardening guru buddy. 2. A small clue as to how this thing is supposed to work. 3. Six new gardening books which, while they assume the reader knows a little too much in my opinion (my clue is very small), have at least gotten me off to a strong start.
I have my schedule, which I've mostly followed, my seedlings to transplant, my seeds to direct sow, and blind determination. You know, that beautiful naive faith that comes only to someone who has yet to discover just how much can go wrong when you start big without the slightest idea of what's going to happen? Ahh, like a warm blanket (which we hopefully won't need much longer - frost is not good for my green babies) ignorance wraps me with the coziness of confidence, anticipation and imagined future triumph.
Oh and one other thing my seedlings don't know: half of them will be murdered before they even see the light of day. That's right, it's premeditated. The guru tells me I am to eliminate the weakest link in each pot so that only one is left standing. It is one of gardening's dichotomies: so that one may live, others must perish. Or, put a nicer way, "thinning" is a necessary part of (green) life. Well, as Col. Mustard says, "You can't make an omelet without breaking an egg. Any good cook will tell you that..."
Yesterday I took my children to my cousin's photography studio, where she photographed each of them holding one or more of the above animals. Now I recognize that as a mother, there should be an instinctual response of some sort which would prohibit me from enjoying a scenario in which my child is actively upset. Turns out, this is not the case.
There was my toddler, substantially larger than the harmless little yellow chick placed next to him, petrified. Now it's not like it was charging him, mind you, the fuzzy thing was literally standing still, blinking; with an occasional ironic "peep". I don't know, maybe he thought it would out-cute him. It was like watching the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The visual just has such perfect 'recall with a chuckle' longevity. And judging from the glimpses of the shots I got to see, Jacki was able to capture the situation, comedy in tow. You better believe I'm going to buy those prints (he had a similar reaction to a duckling). My son will be a teenager one day and evidence he was once terrified of baby farm animals is like mommy gold.
For the record, my older two children had the response you would expect from exposure to such high levels of adorableness. When the animals were given to them their eyes danced and sparkled in pure bliss, coupled with intermittent uncontrollable giggling. Truth be told my youngest was able to enjoy the little fuzzies too, at a safe distance. I think this is the reaction parents are looking for when they buy their children chicks or bunnies for Easter; that magic moment of seeing their children enthralled by children of another species. And after that's over, guess who's stuck dealing with all the ensuing poop? Nope, we'll savor the moment through images and memories, traumatizing as they may be, and leave the future chickens, rabbits and ducks to the farmers so that we may one day enjoy them again... in another way.
My band of loyal customers seems to be up in arms that I have changed my studio's name with the launch of my website to Shuker Pottery. Really, I think it all comes down to a sign. For several years now I have been using the name LedgeRock Pottery. A few years back my husband designed, and my father-in-law created, a sign for me as a Christmas present that says LedgeRock Pottery with a teapot on it. (Pottery geeks like me believe teapots represent the ultimate amalgam of a potter's skills.) The sign ranks in the top ten best gifts I've ever received. Not only does it look great, upon receipt it was dripping with the thoughtfulness of both men.
Unfortunately, the name has already been taken in cyberspace which means I can't have it. Much as I'd like to contact the Minnesotans who comprise the existing Ledgerock Pottery and fight (whine) for my right to keep the name, I don't think the "but I already have a sign" defense is going to hold much weight.
It's funny, my family seems to be having a harder time accepting this loss than I am; or my husband, who masterminded the sign in the first place. (I have yet to discuss the matter with my FIL, something tells me he'll still be able to sleep at night.) Well, folks, hang tight. We'll get through this together.
While this appears to be a new blog, it doesn't feel like it because I've already been blogging here. Sporadically, sure, but nonetheless it feels like an ongoing conversation with the world to me, so that is where you can find any missing back story. The blog I was using was created by my sister as a means for our family to keep in touch. It turned out to be me keeping in touch with the vast emptiness of cyberspace so I don't really feel that bad leaving it behind. I just wish I could figure out how to use spell check here and I'll be in business.
So I may have prematurely called a few people to let them know I have a site. Sure it's not ready, but it's exciting! And perhaps, during slow pauses throughout my day, I went to my own site and gazed lovingly at my own name. My sister understood immediately. Her initial reaction, "I want a website." Well of course you do. Your own little plot of real estate out in cyberspace. Who cares if no one ever comes to visit; never bothered Thoreau. Gives you time to sit back and ponder things in cybersolitude. Like a retreat.
I visited a good friend today who is pregnant. There is something about being around expectant women that feels like magic. I recently heard a comedian talking about how he couldn't compete with what his pregnant wife was doing on a given day. As in, he took out the trash, she made some lungs. I wonder why more ancient cultures didn't revere pregnant women. Probably the hormones; does us all in.
I like to throw things.