Tuesday, May 07, 2019

The book that started it all

Everyone has a book that started some kind of lifelong interest. This is the one that really got me gardening: "Betty Crocker's Kitchen Gardens" by Mary Mason Campbell and with illustrations by Tasha Tudor.

I had forgotten where the mental image of exactly these illustrations came from until I was looking at a Tasha Tudor page a while back and it hit me like a weird ghostly echo of a thunderclap out of the past.

It's funny how an image can stay in your mind for a lifetime, and how much it can go to forming your inner mental world. I must have only been a child when I first found the book in the library. It seemed almost magical to me, and in some way I don't quite understand it still does.

Even though I must have been very young, I knew when I saw it that this is what I wanted my life to look like. This was the world I wanted to live in. And what an indescribably strange feeling it is to hold it in my hand again and see these pictures and remember how important it was to me so long ago.

Anyway, I mentioned it all to a friend, how strange it was to have these exact images come back to me, and to find them on the internet, like seeing a ghost, and he bought the book for me for my birthday. It arrived in the post today.


First nice sunny day in a few days of rain and wind and chilly temps. Down to 4 C last night. I usually stick my nose out the door before going to bed to see what's happening, and if the kitties want to come in, and I could see my breath on the air. Extremely odd for May in Umbria, and especially after such a strangely warm March. It's as if March and May have changed places.

So much to do at this time of year...

Anna keeps telling me that the field poppies are just weeds, but I love them. I went out last year while they were just getting started and collected a bunch to transplant. Of course, they self-seed, and now they're all over. If you give them decent soil and enough sun they are really magnificent garden plants, though the flowers don't tolerate cutting. They just fall apart before you can even get them into a glass. But they're so beautiful. I love having masses of them all over.

There's actually a big block of tufa in there that he's sitting on. It's for standing on when you need to weed the bed.

The Big Round Bed is divided into three sections with these blocks. But it all turns into a big mass. Right now I'm sinking old bathroom tiles (beautiful blue... would have been awful in the bathroom, but they're nice in the garden) to create a bit of a barrier for the lemon balm in hope it doesn't just drown everything else... or get into a big fight with the white campion.

The Big Round Bed is mostly herbs, with three kinds of thyme, lemon balm, a pot of mint, big patch of sage, calendula (wild and cultivated), some kind of wild oregano that I found in the hills and brought down from Norcia, lavender, borage, garlic, and chamomile interspersed with flowering hellebore, daffodils, gladiolus, day lilies, thrift, dianthus. And now cosmos, which I seeded last year and didn't do anything and that have now come up all over, and is just about to start. I had forgotten I even put them there and thought they were stray carrots when they started. I'm hoping to see the blue corn flowers later too and the nigella sativa that I seeded last year but only got a few of.

Gardening is one of those things you either have to resign yourself to being disorganised about, or go completely OCD and make a list. I've never in my life made a list of things to do in the garden, but the other option means things are a bit disorganised and random. Today I was going to just fill the beet bed. I have a zillion beet seeds sprouting and I desperately need to finish their bed that I started a month ago. So I revved Gertie up and loaded up the buckets and spade and whatnot, and headed out. But we got to the end of the lane to turn around, and I thought, Oh, I need to cut some more canes for the pergola, because the grape vine is already starting to go nuts... So I stopped and got out and started cutting the canes... An hour and 40 canes later...

Now too tired to dig out the soil, so I just did four buckets worth and then went and sat down in the shade, all pooped out and read the Desert Fathers. Then was all... Oh, got to go put some straw under the strawberries... so you go over to the orchard to collect up some of the dried cut grass, and on your way you see the little bag of onion sets, the leftovers from the big onion bed you were going to put around about sort of randomly, just for fun, so you grab a stick to dig some holes and...

But at least nearly all the couch grass in Annamaria's iris bed is gone. For now, anyway. That was nearly two hours. I started it because I was too tired to lift another bucket of dirt.

Anyway, by the end of the day, the beet bed is still not filled. I did get nine buckets in the bed, but need at least that again. And every day the beet sprouts get bigger and more insistent about being planted out.

It all needs doing big and little, and battling the couch grass made me feel like I was fighting Morgoth. Found out why Annamaria's calla lillies aren't blooming. Damn couch grass has drilled into the rhizomes and used them as fuel... bastards. I dug up a bunch of dead and rotting calla rhizomes with very healthy couch grass seedlings growing up through them. I really went after them. Pulled up a bunch of the terrace tiles. Dug way down...Pull! Pull!!! PUUULLLLL!!!!

And then I made a fire and burned them... ha ha HAH! Take that, you jerks!

It's funny how it's so hard to stop, and then even when you're tired and grubby you find you don't want to go in. I remembered there was still a bunch of year-old firewood in the shed and thought, why not. A nice fire in the evening and a little sit-down with my magic book with the bats flickering around, at least until the light goes and the Night Bell rings at Sant'Andrea.

With the bucket of couch grass runners next to my chair. Grab a few now and then...toss em on the fire.



Linda said...

Violets are needed there.
Always violets.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Got so many violets hardly know what to do with them.

Anonymous said...


Louise L

Anonymous said...

Hi Hilary, I have been looking at twitter incognito and just wanted to let you know that twitter banned me permanently (and it's really hard to get back on). It might be for the best, personally speaking, but I hate twitter's bullying tactics.

Louise L

aka Louise Yvette
aka Scully

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Well, Twitter's cancer, so ____ em.

You're not going to get banned here.

Anonymous said...

Well that's good ! :)

Louise L