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Friday, March 18, 2011

"Cultivate"

When I was little, gardening was a required activity. Dad spent this time of year discussing strategies with neighbors and plotting out his gardens on graph paper. When the time came to actually get out the shovel, he loudly sang Irish ballads in the back yard. If Dad was singing, the world was a happy place.

After the soil was turned and raked, my sisters and I were lined up for duties. Dad wanted mathematically perfect gardens, so our fingers and arms were measured to guarantee seeds were planted the appropriate depth and distance apart. Taut strings were stretched across the garden to ensure rows were perfect too. Despite Irish ballads, his German relatives must've had an influence on his sense of order.

I didn't care. I liked putting my hands in warm, dry dirt. I liked tucking loose worms back into the soil. I liked having a part in the new life we were inviting into the world. I liked watching things grow. I didn't like rutabagas, but I guess that topic can wait for another day.

Maybe it was an effort to get rid of excess rutabagas? I got the idea that our neighbors were in desperate need of fresh vegetables. I thought they'd be so glad to have it delivered to their door that they'd pay me for it. Dad liked that idea. Maybe he was sick of our bumper crop of rutabagas too? He allowed me to fill my red Radio Flyer wagon every week. I was allowed to keep my profits -- after "taxes". That was his somewhat arbitrary decision that he should get half of the profits to cover expenses for seeds and his labor in tilling in the first place.

To tell the truth, this was a pretty profitable venture. My old ladies loved my visits, fed me cookies, and gave me gossip for the next house. You'd think this would've made me a better gossip, but I didn't master the skill very well. I didn't see the point in telling anybody that Dottie was mad at the Hendershots or that the Taylor girl stayed out too late with her boyfriend. I think I just collected their stories so I could write about them some day. I got a lot of material from lonely old ladies.

I've sold produce as an adult too. I was onto organic gardening before anyone seemed to know what it was. I started selling produce, herbs, and flowers at a local farmers market. At some point I threw up my very tired hands and resigned, but my husband at the time contacted other growers, and we started buying and selling on a larger scale. "We" being a pretty generous term. He liked coming up with ideas, but I was the one who did the actual work.

Even so, I liked going to market every Saturday. It was kind of like having my old ladies back again. No cookies, but I still got the gossip. The patter of voices is a pleasant thing when nothing really comes out of it. People just want to feel connected, and why not connect over vegetables and flowers?

It has finally warmed up in Ohio. It could still snow again, but I saw my first buzzard yesterday and the mourning doves are back. Today I'm going to start some seeds in the window. I saved them from last year's garden, and hope to have a never-ending supply of heirloom tomatoes throughout the summer. For those of you who saw my last post, I'm thinking it's important to see new life when facing a funeral. Despite tears, life goes on. It's important to cultivate simple pleasures.

The art is a card I made for those racks of tourism destinations you can see at hotels and such. No new art today. I want to put my hands in dirt.

38 comments:

  1. Great story, Linda. Wonderful illustration!!
    Have a nice weekend!

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  2. Hey Linda, you have the gift of telling stories, of taking the reader along with you, of making us feel that our hands are in the dirt with you.

    And I hate turnips too. I had to look up rutabagas! They sound terrible :)

    Beautiful image by the way. Full of light, has that sparkle of white paper left under the pigment, makes us feel the glow of light.

    Here in Oz we are feeling the autumn, but the ocean is still warm. You can tell how warm it is by the shark attacks...

    Buzzards eh? We don't have anything at all like that !

    Hope you are travelling well.

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  3. Thanks! I put links for buzzards and mourning doves in the second to last paragraph. I looked up buzzard and a totally wrong bird showed up. I guess the right term is "turkey vulture", but around here they're called buzzards. There's even a festival to celebrate their return, and a popular radio station uses them in their logo. Not too pretty up close, but really lovely to watch soaring around on the thermals in the sky.

    I felt a twang of sympathy for you Andrew that you're moving into fall when I am so happy spring is coming here. No shark attacks in Lake Erie either :)

    Thanks for the follow Tati!!!

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  4. I too had to look up rutabagas Linda, I think it's what we call swede and I rather like it in the winter mashed with a little butter -but only in small doses. I loved your story and I am so pleased to see you wanting to sew some new seeds.I have a tiny garden but still love to get out and turn the soil.It soothes the soul. It is warming up here in the UK too and the sun is gaining its warmth again. I shall think of you on Sunday and wish you and you good friend some peace. Keep strong.
    Jane x

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  5. Lovely post. I love going to the local farmer's market. They have the best produce and everything tastes wonderful. It;s also great to support the local farmers.
    I agree that planting after a loss is a wonderful healing thing to do.

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  6. I put a link for rutabagas too. I guess this post is a lesson to me to put more links on in the future. My mom just boiled them. Blech!!

    Thanks for the comments! I appreciate hearing from you!

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  7. My Dad not only planted rhubarb but stewed it and made us eat it! Today, I take pride in my rock garden. Rocks don't grow much, but you don't have to fertilize or water them much. And what you plant in between them is fun too!

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  8. Classic image...well done, and a great description of it all.

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  9. Linda, I didn't read your former post, but now I did and I am so sorry for your loss. I read your 'Cultivate' story now too. You are confronted with winter & spring, death & sowing new seeds. By telling stories and by making beautiful illustrations you create a poetic dairy. Keep drawing and writing!
    Paula

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  10. That's a great illustration! It has such an old-fashioned, simple pleasures feel to it. And you had be hooked by your story. Quite the entrepreneur from an early age. :) I love the feel of soil, too. I miss having large land to cultivate. But I also hated weeding like the plague, which is why my gardens never got to look so great. Happy planting!

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  11. Thanks everybody! Funny thing that you mentioned rhubarb Rand. I almost did a painting of that because I'm feeling excited that it's starting to poke out of the ground. But unlike you, I like rhubarb. Anything with enough sugar is a good thing. I hate weeding too Bella. Maybe Rand has the right idea with rock gardening?

    Paula, I had such different intentions when I started this blog, but I think you're right, and it is something of a diary -- which is far more satisfying personally than the original plan to just talk about art by itself. I'm so glad other people get something from my ramblings!

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  12. Wonderful illustration! Colored pencil?

    You were an organic gardener? My husband is the gardener of the family. It's nice "therapy" for him since he's also the main breadwinner. I'm the everything-elser.

    And a tractor is a great idea for this week's prompt *wink*.

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  13. In college, I had a part-time job drawing visual aids and illustrations for a professor of agricultural engineering, and I drew quite a few tractors, but none as lovely as this scene! Interestingly, a couple of years ago, I found a recipe for a mashed potato and rutabaga casserole topped with caramelized onions...it's now a family favorite!

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  14. Thanks everyone! Abby, yes, this is colored pencil. It's a scan of the printed piece, so some distortion of it. Sarah, I think I'm ruined for rutabagas, but glad your family has found a favorite recipe :)

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  15. Thanks for the follow Cathy and Elizabeth!!!

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  16. Heisann!

    Good to use old artwork once more. I can feel the farmer's hard work looking at your painting, I' m like the persons behind the fence just enjoy watching farmers do everything to feed us each day.
    Wonderful poster ;:OD)

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  17. Thanks! I do things the old-fashioned way, so no tractor at my house. Sometimes just watching by the fence is a good thing too.

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  18. Hello “organic” Linda :o) Great post! Your angle on the farmer and tractor is great! You ROCK! You certainly have had an interesting life thus far my friend. You are a master storyteller.

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  19. Both the tractor AND your approach have a nice mid 20th century feel. Nice blending. Nice story too.

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  20. Great piece! I like the warmness of your colors and the pencil texture!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

    Cheers,
    Junko

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  21. Beautiful illustration, Linda. Congratulations!

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  22. Thanks Junko! For anyone interested in the mess in Japan, Junko is offering a nice reward for people making donations to help. It's really a small world, and it's a much better place when we help our neighbors!!

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  23. Enjoyed reading your "cultivate" post! Makes me yearn also to see growing things in the garden. In terms of birds, we are seeing red-winged blackbirds again, and goldfinches who are regaining their yellow plumage. Still plenty of snow in the back yard, but it's melting fast. We call it "mud season" in New England.

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  24. I think "mud season" applies right now in Ohio too!

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  25. Ahh... mud season-- lacrosse season has started again and it's a sloopy mess!

    Your farming scene is lovely, almost makes me want to garden. My husband loves it, but I'm too lazy, so I tell him that I'll clean the bathrooms and then sit and watch him garden. (I like Abby's term, the "everything-elser"!) Funny though, he eats very little of what he grows-- oh well, more tomatoes for me!

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  26. I have to admit I don't eat everything I grow either. I mostly like that I can eat it if I want. Sometimes I like gifting it to others. The act of gardening is the happy place for me. And the tomatoes!

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  27. I've enjoyed you blog, Linda. Your piece is really nice - I like the lively colors and lighting. I'm in awe of the perspective on the tractor!

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  28. Bravo! Thank you for sharing some of your gardening stories! I do a lot of gardening, but haven't tried putting any of those feelings into art. I like your painting a lot. It evokes such a summer-feeling.

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  29. Thanks for the comments! Maybe I'm just wanting summer so badly my wishes are emanating from your screen?

    Thanks for the follow Amy!!

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  30. A very beautiful illustration - I love the glow of sunlight.

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  31. It's a wonderful illustration - love your technique.

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  32. Great post Linda and fantastic illustration.

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  33. Thanks everybody, and thanks for the follow Markun!!

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  34. Thanks a lot for your nice welcome to IF! Great cultivate picture! Very successful luminosity!

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  35. Thanks Milius! Always nice to welcome new people to IF!

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