Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Meaning of May

We're only a few days away from the end of May so I wanted to pop in with this month's Styling the Seasons post and link up with Katy and Charlotte. Around here, May has been about biting off more than you can chew. On the blog, of course, that translates into a whole lot of blank space. Here's what it looks like in our house:

The truth -- and probably not a secret one at this point -- is that I kind of love biting off more than I can chew. Yes! Let's grow all the tomatoes! I love the feeling of possibility this time of year represents, when the world seems to go from barely laced with new leaf all the way to lush life in scarcely a weekend. Sober is for September. Let me have my May.

My man got into the spirit too and one weekend he bit off more than he could chew by rebuilding our raised garden beds. They were nine years old and starting to fall apart, so if we really wanted to grow all the tomatoes it was now or never for fixing them.

The old beds were built of softwood painted red, and the new ones are cedar. Hey, we are moving up in the world! The other day my man remarked to me that he thinks the geraniums I planted in little terra-cotta pots next to the raised beds look better against the new beds than they had against the old ones. That was a nice thing to hear. Sometimes I struggle with my interest in domestic things, because domesticity is largely seen as a feminine pursuit and of course feminine pursuits are devalued. And I find myself thinking: why am I spending time worrying about what the house looks like? Shouldn't I be focusing on something Worthier? (I do in my heart believe that domesticity is worthy of care and consideration, by both sexes, but I'm talking about my moments of self-doubt here.) So it was nice to find out that the geraniums I planted didn't just matter to me.

And, sappy as it sounds, it's nice to look out our back door and see the geraniums, and know that I'm seeing something that pleases his eye -- along the same lines as seeing a Northern flicker or a birch tree.

Before I close, one more picture, this one taken by my girl of the garden she planted in a metal tub. She got to choose all the plants and she's responsible for watering and taking care of it. We have a penstemon in the center, carrot seedlings coming up around the edges, a strawberry plant, two colors of basil, a pansy, and some marigolds. We had to talk her out of putting a cherry tomato plant in there too -- whether you call it biting off more than you can chew, or having eyes bigger than your garden tub, I guess the condition is hereditary.


  1. :)

    I'm *totally* a "Yes, let's grow all the tomatoes!" kind of person, too ... just the other night, I planted our eight tomato plants (all the while thinking "I hope that eight will be enough...) but I haven't yet planted the 12 kale!

    Last year was, for some reason, a really disappointing tomato year, but the year before was a bumper crop - I had tomatoes in the freezer until the following May, which was amazing! Tomatoes are an easier thing to handle when you've bitten off more than you can chew (because it doesn't have to take overly long to prepare them for freezing, if you just freeze them whole) but the kale on the other hand ... I was swearing at myself last fall when the kale kept coming and coming and coming, because it was a lot of work to cut, blanch and freeze, but it ended up being so worthwhile, because it's lasted all winter; I still have one container left in the freezer!

    And I too, find it rewarding when the things I do don't only matter to me.

  2. I planted two whole rows of kale -- my husband was a bit alarmed to realize this but I figure we will just thin it down gradually to about 6 plants. We are lucky with our mild winters -- we just leave the kale plants in the garden and continue to harvest throughout the winter. The plants get really huge and Seussian! But then, during the 1-2 months each year when we don't have kale ready to harvest in the garden and I have to buy it from the store, it feels like some kind of moral failing. :-P

    Last year was disappointing for tomatoes here, too. I think because it was so hot and dry, and we're not used to gardening in those conditions. I suspect that this year will be similar, so we'll have to try to do better.

  3. We are taking another stab at tomatoes. We tried them year 1, and failed miserably. We didn't try last year. Trying again (just two plants) right now. Instead of growing all the tomatoes, I'm growing all the herbs. Much easier! :-) I've done plenty of teeth-gnashing and breast-beating over the value of domesticity. I think we all get permission to do what brings us some pleasure, as long as it's not hurting someone else. If you're going to have planters anyway, might as well have ones that you think are beautiful. Flowers frivolous? Not to the bees. And if you're going to help out the bees, might as well choose some you love the looks of. As a child of the 70s and its women's movement, I think I felt some kind of duty or obligation to spurn domesticity. I am beyond glad that I had more options than my mother and grandmothers, truly. As a child of the 70s, I understand how far we've come. (Just watch some of the TV ads from that era to see the pool of icky messages we were swimming in as we grew.) But the domestic arts are some of the ones I love best, and I don't think they have any more or less value than those deemed to have more value. OK, sorry for the mini-essay/rant. You touched a nerve. :-)

  4. Herbs are great! Whenever I go and harvest a few springs of thyme or oregano for a recipe it makes me feel like I really have it all together...for a moment. Even better that lots of herbs are perennials! After the first year they will really thrive with almost no effort from a human.

    I agree with you about "do what brings us pleasure," to a point. I think the spurning of domesticity or "feminine" pursuits in the 70s was a shame (just misogyny by another name, in a way, though I can understand how/why it came about), and I'm really glad for the current revival of the arts that our grandmothers had mastered.* The problem with choice feminism in general of course is that in practice we mostly wind up with women, and not men, choosing traditionally female pursuits and paths. (Plus, there's a way in which the current revival of domesticity also causes women -- again, hardly ever men -- to feel obligated to take up pursuits that they really aren't interested in/don't derive pleasure from: the dark side of Pinterest.) And now I feel like I'm veering dangerously close to saying that I need dudes to be interested in the things I am interested in, in order to legitimize my own interests. Which isn't the argument I want to make at all! I do wish there were more fluidity, I guess. But, as a woman who is interested in some of those traditionally female pursuits, I'm not really sure what I personally can do to move things forward.

    *And, of course, from our vantage point we can romanticize our grandmothers' skills...but our grandmothers may not really have enjoyed some of those domestic arts that they were so good at. I don't think my dad's mom enjoyed cooking much at all, for example.

    I don't think I'm disagreeing with you at all, I guess I just had a rant in me too!