The Blessing Of Beans and Apple Sauce

Some of the beans from my garden

We cared so little about how crops were grown, as long as our bread was cheap, that we ignored them being doused in poisons… We didn’t think it was our job to know or care. We were too busy doing other things…Only now are we slowly awaking from this comfortable coma to realize that we are a long way from the fields that feed us and from knowing enough to make good choices.”  Pastoral Song by James Rebanks

This year the flowers in my vegetable garden did better than my vegetable. The Morning Glories, which in past years hardly grew at all have overcome the sunflowers, and earlier in the summer the hollyhocks filled the garden with white, pink, and deep red flowers.

On Saturday I harvested the soup beans that I grew from seeds that Marsha sent me. I brought in the delicata squash that fell from the vines as I weeded around them. I pulled up one dying tomato plant and left two more with green fruit to ripen.  I trimmed back the snail eaten kale and made room for the lush Parsley to take up as much space as it wants.

I don’t need to grow vegetables.

We are surrounded by farmers, selling anything I can grow even better and inexpensively.  But I was reminded of one of the reasons I do have a vegetable garden when I broke open the shells of the red and white beans that grew in my garden.

I filled a small bowl with the beans that took over three months and my time and energy to grow.  One small bowl, the equivalent of a can and a half of beans that I’d otherwise buy in the grocery store.

Looking at my beans, reminded me of how I take food for granted.  Of how even though I live in farm country when I open a can of beans, I never think of how much work went into it.  Of how long it took for them to get from the soil they were planted in, to my plate.

But I do always have the expectation that those cans of beans will be on the shelf in the store when I want them.

peeling apples on the back porch

So when I sat down to cut away the bruises and insect holes and to peel the apples that I’ve been collecting from our MacIntosh tree this afternoon, it wasn’t just about making applesauce because I like to eat it.   I was making a moral decision not to waste the food that was literally in my backyard.

And it turned out, it was also a practice of gratitude. Not just for those apples but in a broader sense.  A recognition of the blessing of all the good food that is available to me year-round and that I can easily afford to buy.

Constance, Asher, Merricat, and Issachar eating the apple scraps

 

 

Jon’s Zinnia Bouquet

 

Jon trimming his flowers for a bouquet

Every few days Jon gets the scissors from the kitchen draw and cuts flowers from his Zinnia garden.  Then he sits at the table on the back porch and makes them into a bouquet.

The first time he asked me to get him something to put them in, but now he likes to find his own vase.  Sometimes it’s an old jar, sometimes a glass or cup from the cabinet.  And he’s perfecting his bouquets too. He’s come to appreciate the big marigolds that I grew from seeds in my garden and usually adds a few dahlias and Blackeye Susan’s too.

Jon trims the stems to the “right” size for the vase and pulls off the leaves so the stems are bare.

Jon likes to give his bouquets away so this works out well for me.  Whenever I need a bouquet of flowers for the altar in my studio, I have one.

Jon’s bouquet on the altar in my studio

A Bag Of Sheets And Stuffed Animals

The sheets and a couple of the stuffed animals from Carolyn

Carolyn sent me the text at noon. She had a bag full of sheets that she wanted to drop off for me to use as backings for the Bishop Maginn Quilts.  If you’re not home, I’ll just leave them on the porch she wrote.

She came with three bags, one with sheets, one with clothes, and one with stuffed animals that she bought at Tractor Supply.  It’s not the first time Carolyn has come over with brand new stuffed animals.  She loves to buy them and I can see why, they’re kind of irresistible.

It works out well really because the people who live at The Mansion love to get them. Especially now, when the pandemic is beginning to place certain restrictions on Assisted Living Facilities again.

Jon and I brought the stuffed animals to The Mansion after lunch.  And as often happens one thing led to another and it took longer than we thought it would.

I haven’t had a good look at the sheets Carolyn gave me yet, but I have a feeling between them and what I have I’ll have enough fabric to back the quilts. I did get to measure the quilts tops I’ll be using.  I have seven total and  I hope to order the batting before I go to Bellydancing tonight.

A Very Big Delicata Squash?

I thought it was supposed to be a Delicata squash, but it grew much bigger than the ones I’ve bought in the market. So now I’m not sure what kind of squash this is.  I picked it thinking it was too big, but it’s obviously not ripe yet. I have another one growing that’s even bigger.   I’ll leave that one to see what happens.  I also have one that looks like the right size of a Delicata but isn’t ripe yet.

And the pepper, it’s so pretty, but I don’t remember what kind it is either.  It looks like the chili peppers you see drying in bunches in the southwest.  Maybe that’s what it is.

I think my garden got away from me this year.

An Apron Around My Waist and A Baby In My Arms

 

Lena, Barbara and me

I was waiting in the car while Jon dropped off some papers for our neighbor’s son, John who runs the sawmill. But then Barbara, who is named after her mother, opened the screen door of their house and waved for me to come in.

“I thought you’d want to see what Lena is sewing”, Jon said as I walked in.

Enough light to sew by filled the west-facing window where Lena sat at the red sewing machine.  I watched her foot on the metal treadle going up and down as she stitched a perfectly straight line along the edge of the fabric.  She folded the 1/4″ seam over as she sewed.

These were their good Church aprons.  Thin white fabric with small evenly spaced pleats.

Lena was cutting two inches off one side, to make the apron smaller.  “We’ve all lost weight,”  Barbara, said.   The stitches were small, close together, and fine.  I asked Lena if the machine ever gives her any trouble.  They just had the one she was using refurbished, so it was working well,  but yes, she said, they can be trouble.

Then Barbara took the apron and wrapped it around my waist. ” See,” she said, “how good it fits.”  She pinned it so Jon could take a picture.  It fell just above my ankles.

A moment later a wagon pulled in front of the house. Their sister was visiting with her children.  Barbara ran out and came back holding a baby.  “Here,” she said and placed the baby in my arms.

I have not held a lot of babies, and the only aprons I’ve ever worn were when I was making art.

I have to admit I often wonder what they think of me in my summer dresses, so much of my body exposed while they’re covered from head to ankle.  A part of me feels like I should cover my shoulders as if I’m back in church.

But I felt no judgment coming from any of the women in the house including their mother. And Barbara, undeterred by my bare skin and sundress, acted like it was the most natural thing in the world to pin an apron around my waist and place a baby in my arms.

I guess for her it is.  For Barbara, it’s what women do.

And in those moments,  I felt welcomed.  As if Barbara was saying, we’re not so different after all. 

Me in the Amish apron

Jon’s Zinnia’s

Jon stood in the doorway, a ball jar of Znnia’s in both hands and little kids smile on his face. “These are for you,” he said.

Then he told me how much he likes pruning his Zinnia garden and arranging the flowers.  Two things I’ve never seen him do before.

I looked down at the bouquet, all the flowers bunched together in an intense explosion of color and texture. I put the Zinnia’s on the altar in my studio and I can’t stop looking at them.

Jon At His Best, At 74

Jon in Hoosick Falls yesterday.  We bought sandwiches and ate our lunch by the canal.

I’ve wondered what our relationship would have been like if Jon and I met each other when we were younger.  It has in the past made me sad to think of the things we might have done together.

But this morning as we lay in bed together, and I wished Jon a happy birthday, I was also thinking about what it meant to us, to our relationship that he had turned seventy-four.

The first thing that came to mind was not how age debilitates the body or that our time together would not be as long as would wish for, but how I  feel lucky to be with Jon at this point in his life.  Although he is far from being a squish, he is in some ways growing softer.  He’s even more thoughtful, understanding, and accepting with each year.

While many people would look forward to retiring at his age, Jon continues to be fiercely driven by his work. This is good for our relationship since I am the same. Because our work, though separate and very much our own, is woven around our lives together and each other.

When I read what Jon wrote about our morning together, about the flowers I brought him from the garden, how I read to him from Song of Songs, the egg sandwich I made him, and our plans for the day, I cried.  I didn’t have a present for him to open, but he so understood the meaning of the little things that I did to try to make the day special.

I’ve heard stories about Jon when he was young and I honestly don’t know if we would have been good together back then.  But I do know how good we are together now.

Jon is 17 years older than me.  I know he sometimes worries that I’ll get tired of being with him as he grows older and his body can do less.  And sometimes I can feel myself getting irritated by the things he has a harder time doing.  Things that I don’t give a second thought to.

But that’s where love and communication come in.

That loves keeps me on my toes, always reminding me what’s really important.  And it helps that we are good at talking about the things that we need to.  If not right away, eventually.

I also know that the more we both experience our love, the more we trust it.

Sometimes I think it might be easier for Jon to be with someone closer to his own age who understands through their own experience what it feels like to be in their 70’s.  But then he tells me I help keep him young.

As I witness Jon’s body slowing down, I also see his heart and mind growing and opening with every year that passes.

I’m fortunate to be with a man who continues to evolve. Who thinks about what it means to grow older and works to make it meaningful.  I get to see how he does it and use what he has learned to think about how I want to grow old.

So this morning I was appreciating that Jon and I get to spend these particular years together. These years when it seems to me he is at his best in ways that are important and good for both of us and our relationship.

Lucky me, I think, to be married to Jon as he turns 74 years old.

A Busy Birthday Morning

Minnie found a cozy spot between last year’s and this year’s hay.  You can see the difference in color between the two.

It’s Jon’s birthday and we’ve had a busy morning already.  This afternoon we’ll be having a Birthday lunch of Wholebelly Clams for Jon and I’m thinking of an Ice Cream Sunday for me.  Then to see  Shakespeare’s Will, a play about Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife.

I’ll write more when we get home.

The Farm House Gets Painted

 

Looking out my studio window as Mahlon and John unload their painting tools.

I had a whole day without any interruptions to work in my studio.  I was certain I’d be able to get my Tree quilt designed.  Even when the dogs wouldn’t stop barking and I saw Mahlon and John pull their wagon into the backyard, I didn’t think it would affect my workday.

It had finally stopped raining for more than a day and they were here to paint the house.

Jon was driving our neighbor to the bus station in Glens Falls, so I went out to say hello to  Mahlon and John and see if they needed anything.  They asked if their horse Pepper could drink from the animal’s water bucket in the barnyard then took off his tack and tied him in the shade of the apple tree.

“I wanted to show you the color of the paint before we start,” Mahlon said to me.

He noticed how different it was from the color swatch we gave him, but the name and numbers matched up.  We had chosen a blue/gray leaning towards purple for the house, but the color on the paint can looked more like seafoam.

Mahlon sprayed a test patch on the back of the woodshed and I went online checking out the Sherwin Williams paint name and number to try and find out where things had gone wrong.

I’m still not sure what happened.  When I looked up Sky Blue and the number I had given Mahlon up came a color I’ve rarely seen in the sky.  It was a color I often refer to as Hospital green and use it a lot in my quilts, but it was not the look we were going for on the house.

So I called the hardware store in Hoosick Falls where Harlon bought the paint.  I didn’t expect them to take the paint back, but I thought they might be able to change the color by adding to it.

The woman who answered the phone was very helpful and said she’d was going home soon, but she’d wait if she knew I’d be coming in soon. I told her I’d come right down.

Twenty minutes later I was unloading my car of six gallons of paint.  The woman behind the counter saw me coming and told me to pick out the color from the swatches in the display that I wanted.  She put a sample of the paint and the swatch I chose into her computer and said she could do it by adding a little red and green.

I thanked her for her help and she said, “Well we want you to be happy with the paint we sell you”.  Next time I need paint I know where I’ll be going to buy it.

Driving home I glanced down at the paint cans in the front seat and the small dot of blue paint on top of the can looked like a dull gray to me.  Oh no, I thought, the house is going to look like a battleship.  It’s going to be so depressing especially in the winter. I began to wonder if we could change the color again.

I called Jon who was on his way home from the bus station.  “Just tell me it’s ok,” I said to him.  “I’m sure it’s fine,” he told me.  “But if you don’t like it we’ll get a color you do like.

I know how colors can change depending on the light, the color they’re painted over and the surface they’re painted on. Give it a chance Maria, I said out loud. And then I reminded myself that there were a lot worse things than painting the house a color I didn’t especially like.

Mahlon painting the woodshed out my studio window.

When I got back home Mahlon and John had taped plastic around the windows and moved all our stuff on the back porch. They had taken a ride to Stewarts in town and were finishing up some ice cream. Then Mahlon covered the first color he had painted on the woodshed with the new color and showed it to me.

It took a moment to register how much I liked it. When he got the whole wall done I was certain.  It was even a better color than the one I had in my mind.

As long as it doesn’t rain, Mahlon and John will come back tomorrow to finish painting.

Before they left, Mahlon asked if I would sell him the bell on the top of the house.  When I told him that I loved the bell he said it was rusting a little and would be it alright if he painted it with black Rustoleum.  “I brought it with me,” he said.

Makes me think he likes that bell as much as I do.

The back of the house in its new blue.

 

A New Amazon Wish List For Bishop Maginn. How To Do One Small Thing To Help

Sue Silverstein and Zinnia at Bishop Maginn Today. Y

“What are you thinking about?” Jon asks me as we make the turn from 787 onto Route 7.  We’re on our way home from Albany where we met with Art and Theology teacher, Sue Silverstein and the principal of Bishop Maginn HighSchool, Mike Tolan.

Sue put up an Amazon Wish List for art supplies and books that the school needs.  (The list sold out quickly, in just one day. Thank you all! )

Last year she couldn’t have in-school art classes because of Covid 19, so she sent her students home with all the art supplies she had.    And the new English teachers is looking to expand their reading materials including books by Zora Neal Hurston and Sandra Cisneros.

Although the enrollment at Bishop Maginn has gone up since last year, the school still can’t afford some of the basics.

Bishop Maginn was able to partially open up last year during the pandemic in part because of the Army of Good.  All of you donated enough money for them to buy what was required including social distancing signage and plexiglass barriers.

That’s when word got out that Bishop Maginn was a safe place in more ways than one.  Not only was the staff able to keep kids safe from the virus, but the school’s reputation for making kids feel welcome and physically safe from bully and violence had spread.

But like many places in the country right now, gun violence is up in the city of Albany.  And the kids who go to Bishop Maginn are feeling it.

Driving home I was thinking of the two kids that Sue told us about who saw one of the shootings.  “They’re not the same anymore,” Sue told us.  “They used to be happy just to come to school to get some special attention.  Now they’re distant, angry.”

Life for so many of these kids is hard enough.  To witness a shooting, especially in their own neighborhood is a trauma.  I wonder how they’ll deal with it. Certainly, it’s good that the staff at the school knows about it.  They will do what they can.  But they can only do so much.

I couldn’t stop thinking of how the shooting those kids witnessed will affect their lives. In my mind I was going down the potentially troubled path they might travel because of it.

Back at that farm, everything is green and the sun is shining. It’s the safest place I can imagine, I feed Lulu a piece of bread and feel guilty for having so much.

“You can’t take it all in,” Jon tells me.  “That’s why I try to do something good each day, even if it’s a little thing. And we are doing something. We’ll help get the kids the books and art supplies they need and make it a little easier for the teachers to do their jobs.”

With the help of teachers like Sue Silverstein, last year every student who graduated from Bishop Maginn and wanted to go to college was able to. And that can certainly make a difference in their lives.

So here I am, doing one small thing.

I’ll buy some paint or a book from Sue’s Wish List as well as spreading the word by writing about it.   Because not only is it a good thing to do, but selfishly, I know it’s going to make me feel a little better.

I have no idea what will have to happen to stop the rise in gun violence around the country right now.  But I do know that Bishop Maginn High School is a safe place for kids who live in the city of Albany NY, and we can at least do something to help keep it that way.

Click here to see Sue’s Amazon Wish List. 

Full Moon Fiber Art