Material Witness will focus on extreme textile process. Images will be posted here showing the history of my work, new work, developing projects and inspiration.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Life in Dirt

String Gardens by Fedor van der Valk from Holland. Most inspiring gardener ever. I think the photo is by Annelie Brujin. Want one so bad!

String Garden by Fedor van der Valk Photo by Annelie Brujin?

My Inner Dirt Diva climbs out and takes over starting every summer Solstice. She is uncontrollable for the time it takes to plant and wrestle the gardens into shape.

This year I have 3 large boxes that Kevin made me. 5 big window boxes that Tim made me the year before and a collection of large pots. Almost all are planted now and have all kinds of things in them. Chocolate and orange mint, thyme, basil, French tarragon, lavender, Mesclun, curry, lovage, parsley, jalepeno and dragon peppers, lovage, scented tea geranium, lemon balm, pineapple and woody sage, lemon gem marigold, oregano, marjoram,rosemary, chervil and chives. The southernwood is now filling the back corner of the garden and the sweet woodruff is ready to put in some wine.

The heritage apple tree has obviously been cavorting with bees because it is dripping with beautiful little apples. The saskatoon bush is plush, full of berries and almost 14 feet tall. The roses all need to be pruned along with the raspberry canes, blackberry, kininik and the giant heritage rhubarb.

The first garden I remember was at my grandparent's farm. My grandfather used to ban us from eating the vegetables. We used to choke ourselves on baby peas, carrots, rhubarb and radishes. Tomatoes disappeared by the bushel.

"The best way to get a kid to eat vegetables is to tell 'em they can't"

The first garden of my own was planted under my bedroom window as a birthday present by
my maternal grandfather. He planted a French lilac under my window because he wanted me to smell something lovely when I woke up on spring mornings. The last time I drove past the house it was still there! I have one now near my front door. Always feel loved when I smell it.

My great grandmother taught me to plant corn. She would walk me through the fields and ask me to identify wild plants. Made me tell her the names in English, Latin and "Indian". If I missed one she would just say in her Oregon accent, "Never mind. You will know for next time." and I would. Her last garden was prairie sod planted in two old rusted bread pans beside her bed in the retirement home. She tended them daily and documented the variety of plants that grew. The staff were outraged at the little pans. She wanted to touch and smell familiar earth. I had her until my first child was 3.

Last year the last Oregon accent ended in my family. My beloved Great Aunt Esther finished her life. She told me to plant a rose. "Plant a rose every time you think you can't do it anymore". She lived with cancer for 35 years. She lived to be nearly 100. Like my granny Blanche and her mother Mabel. I went to her house the last time and it was a forest of beautiful roses. Hundreds of roses. I sat on her porch and gasped for air.

When I was pregnant with Brendan we had a beautiful vegetable garden "sweetened" with chicken manure. Our house was too small for the collective four children, Tim and I, cats, rats, lizards and snakes. We decided to move and informed the children. The move would be in 6 weeks. I was in the house nursing the baby and could hear the all the children happily playing in the yard. My enthusiastic seven year old step-son Christopher burst into the house to explain that I didn't need to worry about packing the garden. He hauled me by the hand out to his project. His tiny seven year old self had hauled every packing box from the garage and dug up the entire garden! Each plant was dug up and packed in a box! The entire huge, unripe garden! And 3 little boys all puffed up with pride!

My son Dane sewed his first doll at 3. "What do you call him?" I asked. "His name is Dirt. He makes gardens." he explained.

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