If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. ~ William Morris

30 May, 2018

Changes in the Garden ~ The First Rose of Summer

Finally, after a very long, drawn out winter, spring has truly arrived beyond sprouts and buds.  This is one of three heirloom roses I planted last year, Rosa Rugosa Alba, and the first to bloom.  I also planted Rosa Rugosa and Apothecary Rose.  All three are thriving.

It's amazing how much joy the little things give me.  Seeing these roses alive with Lady Bugs makes me so, so very happy.  I do not use any chemical pesticides in my garden and only natural one's where needed.  Neem oil dilutions in the Spring on the fruit trees, organic fertilizers and compost, etc. Making my yard more and more alive and fertile each year is my goal.  I try to let nature do as much as she wants or needs to do on her own, with as little interference as possible.  To me there are no weeds, just recalcitrant herbs.

And lastly, I've cleared a space in the garden for some specialty plants.  Not to worry however, as most of our favorite garden residents are poisonous if ingested, fox glove, lily of the valley, the holly in the picture and rue will all make you very ill if ingested (so please don't eat anything!).  But these are a little more sensitive and are for historical purposes only.  Henbane, Wolfsbane and Belladonna (a wild version of which (woody nightshade) grows rampant around my garage and property).  So although it's really not all that novel to have poisonous plants (yes a green potato can also make you very, very sick) and we know that we shouldn't eat the flowers unless we know what they are, it is rather whimsical and will make for interesting plant study.  I don't have small children (or small children visitors) and it is fenced off from my pets.

11 May, 2018

Signs of Spring and A Good Bi-annual Cleaning Circa 1919

Can you find him? He almost escaped my view as I was cleaning up the yard and garden.  To get an idea of size, he's on our chain link fence, next to a clematis vine.  He isn't more than an inch long.  He changed colors several times while I was working around him.

Spring is arriving late this year in Western, New York.  The lilacs aren't even fully out yet and today after several days in the 60s, 70s and even 80s, it's a rousing 40 degrees outside. So glad the scarf and wool coat were within reach. 

I've been immersed in Spring Cleaning and Yard Work.  

Spring cleaning is actually a seasonal cleaning.  I generally do the same thing with minor modifications in the Autumn as well.  It requires a stalwart commitment and fortitude and a great deal of stimulant beverages. The potential for procrastination is terrible, until one can no longer stand the ever present bits and remnants of old house dirt, dust, cobwebs and general clutter that no matter how regularly one cleans, in a house with two dogs, two children and one husband, it accumulates.

According to my 1919 copy of Lippincott's Home Manuals Housewifery by L. Ray Balderston, A.M., a regular room cleaning looks as follows:

  • Dust and remove or put under cover small articles and bric-a-brac.
  • Dust or brush furniture; if small, remove from the room. If large, cover with a dust sheet.
  • Shake and brush curtains and hanging; remove the room or pin in dust bags.
  • Roll up small rugs and remove from the room to clean; if large, sweep and fold back the edges toward the center.
  • Dust ceiling and walls.
  • Dust window shades.
  • Clean radiators.
  • dust closet floor.
  • Dust floors.
  • Dust doors, baseboard, and other woodwork to the floor and baseboard.
  • Clean windows.
  • Clean chandelier.
  • Wash globes.
  • Wash mirrors.
  • Wipe pictures.
  • Polish floor.
  • Return rugs, furniture and bric-a-brac.
  • Polish brass and silver unless all are done on a special day.

Living in a 224 year old home means dust is generated by the home's own unique life force.  It could be totally empty and without human or animal inhabitants and dust would happen.  I dust each week. We have no forced air or air conditioning, or duct work.  Dust just is. I don't even have a fireplace left within the home, so I can't blame that.  Whatever wood burning devices were here were taken out or bricked up long ago.  It's just one of the many bars in the song of the old house blues.  Along with plenty of ventilation year round, whether you want it or not.

But I wouldn't trade it for a brand new home, although sometimes I do fantasize about a mudroom, a separate laundry room, and a fully insulated, cook's kitchen with cupboards and drawers that work.  But I can't imagine living in a home without a soul. As much as  I wove a tapestry of obscenity in the air over my home the first two years I lived here as things broke, were never done right to begin with and DIY'd incorrectly to the point that the men on This Old House would openly weep, I have a strange and deep romance with it.  

The .75 acre yard that allows me to garden and plant until I run out of time, money and energy is a big selling point.  Along with the simple solidness of the structure itself.  When the wind blows, this house simply doesn't move.  There are days I vacillate between giving it all up in a few years and moving on, and being inexplicably pulled towards staying a little bit longer and leaving the old girl better than I found her. God knows when I do move, leaving the garden will be the hardest part.  All those years of mature perennials and fruit trees.  I can barely consider it at this particular moment.

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