Sunday, April 10, 2011

Making My Mark

The concept of mark-making may have different meanings to some of my colleagues than others.  As an artist, mark-making refers to the visual representation of our particular chosen medium; now that I think of it, that may be a very good definition for anyone considering what it means to "make their mark".

For instance, I spent a good part of my day doing research for my (ultimate) graduate thesis.  That'll be a significant mark made in my life, as it will culminate one more educational life-experience and open the doors to others.  My particular research is focused upon the place a member of my extended family holds in history, so it has particular meaning to me; I feel the importance of doing this research and writing correctly.  Research and writing are my medium of choice in this instance.

Of course, teaching is a long-term process of mark-making; we teachers have the opportunity to affect so many lives!  Though I don't comment upon my teaching profession in this blog, it's very important to me, and the impact I have on the kids who need me gives me a feeling of great worth (right next to a feeling of great humility).  Though our government apparently doesn't share my sentiments, my intrinsic understanding of the impact one teacher can have on the life of a student at the right time, and under the right circumstances is obvious to me.  I lived it myself, both as a student, and as a teacher.  In that case, my media are pedagogy, artistic knowledge, and compassion.

What I do share with you is my garden: another place where I can coax my little seeds to grow.  It's springtime, and yesterday was the first solidly sunny and warm Saturday we've had this year.  My media are soil, labor, tools and seeds, and the mark I make will feed us throughout the coming seasons, and will provide a source of inspiration and thoughtfulness to me throughout the year.

A Blank Canvas
Like any work of art, we begin with a blank canvas.  We can control the quality of our canvas, and the craftsmanship we use, but there is always a beginning, a middle, and an end.  This wheel-barrel received a generous helping of well-composted horse manure this year.  A good canvas for the kale that will grow there soon.

Planning Ahead: Asparagus

This tiny asparagus shoot is the result of the planting I did last year.  As a second-year sprout, it's thin and small.  Each year will add girth and fecundity.  Some projects take longer than others, but they're usually worth the wait. There's nothing quite as good as asparagus.

Redcap Bed

Another bed that will take some patience is the hosta redcap bed I started this spring.  If I planned it correctly, I should have a harvest by fall.  As a lover of all things mushroomy, I have high hopes for this culinary masterpiece.  My work here is mostly done; the shade provided by the ornamental pear trees and hostas should allow the little fungi to do their thing.  I have such a tiny garden at home; the shade and ornamental shade-loving plants weren't pulling their weight.

The End of an Era

The whiskey barrel you see behind the plastic planter, has literally disintegrated.  It is currently the home of several garlic bulbs that I planted last fall, and as such will limp along until they're harvested.  In the meantime, both it and the new planter have been sewn with spinach, an early season crop.  When both the garlic and spinach are harvested, the whiskey barrel will also be harvested, and its soil used elsewhere.  This year's cherry tomatoes, a back-door favorite, will live in the new planter, complete with new, composted soil.  I expect a great harvest, based upon the harvest enjoyed by my friend Stephanie (who gave me the compost!).  The lavender plants, in the small pots beside it, are already showing signs of life.

One of my three remaining barrels is home to this year's horseradish shoots, which I'll be excited to watch grow.  I expect to companion plant some collards or chard with them as well, as this is a shady space.  The base of the barrel (and those next to it) have become my outdoor culinary herb area.  I started some thyme, parsley and sage today.  The rosemary is still indoors.  My medicinal herbs are primarily perennial; the various mints grow enthusiastically wherever I start them; the others (too many to name) are tucked in among the vegetables and trees.

Mint: A Fragrant Opportunist
Herbs are naturally enthusiastic.  I love that about them.  They're the street-kids of the plant world, and manage to thrive where they land.  I've placed several varieties right next to my picnic table, so I can enjoy them when I have my infrequent moments of repose in the yard.  Speaking of repose:

The Captain's Chair

And I'm the captain.  The third barrel is to the left, rear of my vintage lawn chair (salvaged from a curbside on trash day a few years ago). Strawberries grow around the barrel's base.  The white lattice behind it still supports an ornamental vine that hides my "lower 40"...a narrow alley between the hedge and the shed, where my scraps go.  There are two hostas that are sprouting behind the chair, and to the right of it, a clump of feverfew is getting a good start.  You can't see it, but it's flanked by lemon balm and spearmint.  And there's a rhubarb plant somewhere in there.

My husband constructed the planter from an old door two years ago, and after several false starts, I finally got a trumpet vine started in the right corner of it.  I have a few Jerusalem artichokes planted there (if the squirrels didn't get them), and some elderberries from last year.  Yes, I know they'll be big.  It's an experiment.  Though you can barely see it, there's an antique bell above the bed: a nod to my in-laws, who had it at their home in Oyster Bay, and used it to call Peter and his sister in from the woods.  What a life!

Stinging Nettle
There are those plants which shouldn't be cultivated in close spaces; one shouldn't attempt to raise a mustang or a tiger in the city.  So, in honor of those wild things that defy my intensive attempts at an urban masterpiece, I've included my new culinary addition for the spring: stinging nettle.  She grows nearby, and waits for me there.  I've decided to let her roam free; I'll come to her.  The story of our first cooking experience (I've dried her for tea) will follow shortly.

Spring commences; our most creative time.  We plant the seeds for a prosperous tomorrow, and if we're wise, we enjoy the work as much as the harvest.  We observe the growth, and it makes us smile...and hope.  Like a painting; like a student; like a garden.  Welcome, spring!

Faith's Kids

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