This is a post about an app. Other than my slavish obsession with Instagram and my wont to make a million vines of my cat drinking water (out of the darndest places! a flower arrangement! a champagne bucket! a DOG bowl!!!), I’m a slow app adapter. But then Janelle hipped me to Buycott. In short, Buycott is an app that allows you to scan the barcode of any food item and then it will tell you if the company that makes that product is environmentally sustainable or that they voted against mandatory GMO labeling or if that company doesn’t support reproductive rights for women or if they don’t support gay rights or clean energy or good labor and on and on and on. You choose which “causes” you want to filter, the app parses the old-boy-networks and paper-trails and spiderwebby corporate partnerships to let you know that by buying Angel Soft instead of Charmin, you’re directly funding fracking. I immediately started scanning every product in my house. Unsurprisingly, the big companies are usually cuplable, Raisin Bran: BAD! Post gave $1,176,700 against mandatory GMO labeling, Cheerios: BAD! General Mills donated $1,135,300, PowerAde: BAD, Coca-Cola gave $1,700, 500. But, like we’ve been hearing for a long while some wolves are lurking in organic sheep’s clothing: Horizon Organic Dairy who makes my 1/2 and 1/2 is against GMO labeling, as is Muir Glen with their Organic Tomatoes, apparently parent company “Small Planet Foods” doesn’t want us to know that our tomatoes have been genetically modified. Dang. In fact, one of the only foods in what I thought was my sustainably focused pantry that had a clean bill of sale was Duke’s Mayonnaise. Bless them, and bless Buycott for making sustainable choices a little easier.
The cucumbers have not been happy. And, as we all know, the most surefire cure for a little malaise, when your roots are in a twist and you need a little sun on your shoulders is a ROAD TRIP. So we packed a wagon with all of their earthly possessions and have gone on a little adventure, all the way across the yard. We’ll see if they like it.
There are living things covering pretty much every surface of the house right now. I used to make it a priority to always have fresh flowers at the Brooklyn brownstone but, with the exception of when I smuggled bundles of fresh apple blossoms from our newly-discovered tree up there last time I went, or when I felt like celebrating something big by dropping some coin at the Chelsea Flower Market for lilacs or anemones, Brooklyn flowers usually means whatever-is-cheapest-at-the-bodega-on-the-way-home-from-work. Slim pickins’. Lots of daisies, the occasional lily, gorgeous hydrangeas that die immediately. Always lovely, never bountiful. But, ah, bounty! Right now we have these beautiful, delicate pink roses that Jeff, chimneysweep and green-thumb extraordinare, brought us yesterday when he came to ready the woodstove for next season and make sure no birds would build their nests in the chimney in the meantime. We have fig cuttings Miss Ravenel brought me from her french fig tree in rooting medium on the windowseat, hoping they’ll take root and we’ll have figs next year. There are peonies blooming on the coffee table (and I stole one for my bedside) courtesy of Abby and Catherine, who came by to get our bride ready last Saturday. There are peonies in the bud at the kitchen sink, brought by my mama. There is a low slung bowl of languorous thyme, trimmed from an unruly transplant. A clear bottle on the kitchen counter with Brookie’s rosemary, a pint glass of mint plucked from by the stairs for juleps. Bud vases of lysianthus and spirea dot the sideboard and on top of the piano, and there are pink trumpet azaleas brought in from the garden to amend the last gasp of sweet Meags’ parrot tulips. It’s a serious bounty, and to be surrounded by such love and beauty is a rare thing indeed.
Today the men are coming, and they are bringing their machines. The big diggers and claws and shovels and saws will take care of 50 years of brush piles, fallen trees, wild honeysuckle, deadstands, and brambles, revealing wild cherry and strawberry and apple and hickory nut already (and that’s just before 9am). I’ve never seen a more beautiful sight. They might as well put this backhoe in a centerfold.
These little guys are in. Transplanted in their New York Times paper-starter pots alongside many direct sown seeds they are the only little greenies showing yet in the garden. Boston Pickling cucumbers, Lemon cucumbers (which grow round and yellow), old fashioned White Wonders (which grow fast and white), classic slicing Ashleys, and one solo vine of Costata Romanesca summer squash. While we’ve been waiting and tending and watching and fussing over these precious little heirloom seedlings, we’ve also apparently been forgetting to turn the compost (whoopsie embarrassing). It seems that given half a chance, some cucumber seeds, composted leftovers from last month’s cucumber sandwiches, have sprouted over in the compost bin. Are these little guys from Brooklyn? Hardscrabble seeds flourishing, finding a place to put down roots amongst the Chemex paper coffee grounds and banana peels (and seriously digging the reclaimed-wood-shipping-pallet decor of the compost bin). Brooklyn Cukes indeed. A testament to the power of compost and that maybe we shouldn’t be so precious with our little plants. If they want to grow, they will grow. Can we keep ‘em?
No post yesterday and just this shorty today because, well, we got a load of dirt delivered and spent the better part of yesterday day moving it from one side of the house to the other. The late bloom of spring keeps pushing our garden planting back (we got frost just on Monday!), and now as it finally warms up, the push is on! Sweetheart and I worked, sweaty, dirty, happy, until just before sundown, when one of those sky-opens-up-feels-like-summer-warm torrential rainstorms came blowing in from the west. Our little plants got a watering indeed. And when it was over, as soon as it had begun, the setting sun made a rainbow. The end of a good day, and one we hope to replicate exactly today. Lather, Rainbow, Repeat.
I was making lists. Things to clear, paths to make, planning Arcadia. Skirting around the perimeter of my land, just where it turns to woods, where wild honeysuckle and climbing rose (both way more insidious and terrifying than they sound) have covered everything in their path, where volunteers of privet and poplar and droopy maples have popped up unchecked among the brutal devil’s cane, it was there we saw it (well, Kitty, my botanist town mouse saw it). Alone and unnoticed amongst the bracken, just another overgrown old thing… until it flowered, an Apple Tree. A remnant of a forgotten orchard, or just a single tree someone used to sit under sometime, there it was, the branches with their perfect knobby geometry, the blossoms with their true sweet perfume. It needs tending to, but what thing of beauty and sweetness doesn’t? I don’t know if it will bear fruit, but I am in love with it, and so will be the bees.
1000 feet of vegetable garden. Perfect row upon row of standing onions, winter savory, bulbous dark cabbages, the beginnings of carrots the ends of broccoli, each variety labeled in a slanting hand with common and latin names (some of the heirloom types the very same varieties that we ordered from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for our own tiny-by-comparison plot), some under clay bell jars, some just noticeable from the brick and glass garden-flourishing observation gazebo, the spring-ready plants drawn out with compost-dark soil which, in this Albemarle clay you just KNOW took, well, about 300 years to look this good. That is what Thomas Jefferson has set up at Monticello. Oh Man. Talk about Garden Envy. We’ll just cross our dirt stained fingers and say “someday”…
This Saturday was Thomas Jefferson’s 270th birthday, so naturally, we went to celebrate it at his house. Monticello is smaller than you might imagine, a mansion on a hill, sure, but gentle in its proportions, the elegant, perfectly appointed rooms small by current American standards. My love affair with TJ has been long and generally University-of-Virginia-Statute-of-Religious-Freedom-Declaration-of-Independence based, but (especially in light of my recent bent of homemaking, garden digging, and general musings on having things just the way I want them) his house really had me in a swoon. A parlor full of antlers, bones, and special weighted clocks, a bedside hothouse with tuberose and gardenia, maps and feathers and natural specimens, a dumbwaiter hidden in a fireplace specifically for bringing wine from cellar to table? Mr. Jefferson, you are my kind of guy. And Albemarle County was in her effortless spring splendor, you can see why the man picked this spot, his little mountain, Monticello. Happy Birthday.
This week has been a big one! The fruits of our labor haven’t yielded any fruit, but rather two vast looking stretches of dark brown dirt, a glorious site, ready for fruit. The beautiful old fashioned bulbs and wild violets that had graced them moved on to greener pastures, and the spiny weeds that had all but taken over tugged and dismissed by Sweetheart (who, in his dirty white V-neck and busted old Levis looks as much the dirt farmer as he does at home on the last reaches of the A-train, le sigh le swoon). Our beehive boxes are built, we are moving on to the innerworkings of the hives, while our bees, as stymied by the cold snaps as the redbuds and forsythia, won’t get here til May, but we’re getting ready. All of this homesteading, though, doesn’t mean that when sweet Miss Lucy sends me the above video that BAM WANDERLUST HITS YOU LIKE VERTIGO and maybe I should leave all that dirt in the dust and hit the road. And thus is life. How sweet it is.