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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Calm before the Storm

I've been trying to pack everything fun I want to do into the few days before my next big freelance job starts. My mom stayed on several days after we got home from our vacation, and helped out a lot. Us girls went to Pinebush Nursery in Ila—by far the best place to get perennials and trees around here (they also have some herbs and vegetables, but their focus is great prices on the larger stuff)—and my mom helped me pick out some bushes and trees to plant as a screen in the shade between our house and the neighbors'. I got three large (seven-gallon, I think) Cryptomeria japonica "Yoshino" and two beautiful anise bushes, and a tall camellia (for $7.50 because it was a little spindly). My mom convinced me we could fit them all in my car, a big old gas-guzzling Oldsmobile. We came home and dug holes the rest of the day; Mr. Chalmers smoked meat for lunch and spelled me on the shovel.

My mom also told me about how to make my dogwood seedlings grow the way I want them to, with the branches spreading out a little instead of straight up. Apparently all you do is tie the branches down with string, and tighten them every couple weeks until they're growing that way on their own. I'm now thinking about doing something similar with the cut-down pecan tree that's sprouting crazily in the front yard. The bug likes to stand or sit on the stump and hide inside the branches, and I think I could accentuate the bowl effect and prune the leaders off at the top to keep it small and round, then make it into a little chair with woven honeysuckle or something.

My mom also pointed out that the two trees in the side yard are not basswood as I'd thought, but mulberries! There was no fruit on them the last two years as far as I remember, but right now they're loaded. We took the ladder out and picked some. The bug calls them "sweets," which is what she's saying in this picture:

I started a moss garden under the magnolia tree. It mostly gets covered up with leaves.

We collect bits of sparkly mica from the gravel under the tree and put it in the holes in a log (which I'd made as a birdfeeder last year).

Am I the only person who comes home from a trip and sets about making a souvenir? In New Mexico and Arizona you can't turn around without getting tangled in a tacky, mass-produced dreamcatcher, but instead of spending a fortune on one for the bug I bought some pretty beads in Bisbee (the bead and paper store was open late for some reason) so I could make a more personalized one for her myself.

Most evenings lately before bed she and I go on a little walk around the yard, always stopping to taste the nectar in the honeysuckle blossoms and pick some seed pods from the weeds at the edge of the woods. Yesterday we went out and clipped some of the older vines, then boiled them for about fifteen minutes so the bark could be rubbed off easily. Twisted them into a circle (or "O"), then followed these easy directions for the web in the center, using heavy-duty button thread in place of the traditional sinew. I added the beads (some of which are made from date pits, dates being one of the bug's favorite sweets), a feather my mom had sent to the bug a while back (I think she said it was from a loon), and some twisty dried seed pods. I think it looks nice next to the Japanese-style paper lantern hanging from the blue bandana-print canopy over her bed. It certainly won't do anything to alleviate the night terrors our little boo has been having, but making it with her out in the teepee was a wonderful way to spend a windy Sunday afternoon (even though much of that time was spent searching for the beads she had spread around the yard).

This morning, early, the bug and I went out and picked some greens from the yard: two kinds of sorrel, three kinds of basil, and a bunch of tarragon.

Quick frittata with greens: Preheat the broiler to high. Roughly chop a few handfuls of greens and herbs. Whisk 4 or 5 eggs together with a bit of water. Melt a bit of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and pour in the eggs. Spread the greens and herbs over the eggs, sprinkle with salt and pepper and some crumbled feta. When the eggs are set around the edges, put the skillet under the broiler to set the top. Cut into wedges and serve.
With an English muffin and fig jam my mom made, the frittata is a fine start to a breakfast for a growing little girl. She ate about twice this much, plus some dried lychees, some popcorn, some Monterey Jack cheese, and two chocolate chips—we have to spell out "chocolate" in this house now.

Next project is a slipcover for the orange couch. Yes, I still like the orange, but something about the texture of the upholstery makes it extremely difficult to get dog hair out of, and I thought that a slipcover could at least be taken off and washed. I got the cheapest fabric I could find, a 100 percent cotton bull denim (11 ounces per square yard, which is heavy), and it's white at the moment—Mr. Chalmers thinks I'm crazy to try to solve a black-dog-hair problem with white fabric, and he may well be right. I ordered the fabric online (from Fabric Masters—it was $1.75 a yard, plus about $17 to ship FedEx overnight: an incredible bargain), and here's what 22 yards of it looks like:

With a flip flop for scale.

I expected it to be more "natural" than white, and the project for today is to see if I can make it more off-white by dying it with tea. I hope it really is 100 percent cotton. In any case, though, I think the white will be fine as long as it's washable. Grandma went back to Washington State yesterday, unfortunately, before she got a chance to make the slipcover for me. So it's me and the bug and the sewing machine—and 22 yards of heavy denim . . .

1 comment:

heidi said...

Good luck with the slipcovering!

My parents came and cut down a Chinese elm and two totally overgrown yews for us this weekend. What would we do without the retiree generation to help us out? We'd have some pretty sad yards, at the least...