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October 2012

August 2012

The Food Project + Starbucks = ?

It's funny how you can make a decision, thinking you know where it will lead, and then find the result is something totally unexpected.  I had one of those moments this spring, where the results were nothing less than serendipitous. See...

Sunflower with seed 051612
No?  Let me explain.

I was at Starbucks, waiting to get my chai fix, when I saw a poster on the community board inviting patrons to join the crew in volunteering at The Food Project. The Food Project is a Boston area CSA and so much more.  The Food Project is not certified organic (too expensive and time consuming) but they raisie their crops without chemicals; they have programs to teach school children where their food comes from, sell fairly priced vegetables in parts of the city where vegetables are hard to buy, support foodbanks, and offer an assortment of agricultural and leadership programs with teens.  It's impressive just how many programs for the betterment of the community have had their start on a couple Boston area farms. 

Sign 042012
So of course I wanted to join a work day at the farm.  My own tiny container garden was just started and wouldn't need any more help from me for a while, but I still had an urge to dig, to plant, to help spring turn the world from gray to green.  In short, a morning outside, getting dirty, helping out on a farm with other people who think that sounds fun was right where I wanted to be.

The morning started off cool and misty, nothing like the freezing rain the Starbucks crew said they'd worked in the year before.  One manager remembered her hands were so frozen when she was done that she had to put her fingers in her armpit so they'd warm up enough to be able to handle her car keys.   Fortunately we had nothing like that.  By the time we finished, 15,000 (or was it 150,000?) planted onions later, the sun was out and coffees had been replaced by  water bottles.   We were dirty, smiling and no one was in a hurry to go home, even those with tired toddlers in tow.  The morning had been just what I hoped for, and more.

Volunteers and woods 042012
I leared so much about gardening that morning, not from the experience of planting onions, but through conversation with the Starbucks folks planting alongside me.  Of course I also learned plenty of Starbucks gossip...

Back to the plants.  For much of the morning I worked along side Stephen, a true gardener.  Last year he had over 100 tomato plants in his garden!  Thinking of the four plastic tubs that held my garden, I couldn't begin to imagine the size of his.  I asked Stephen about some of the plants I was considering adding.  He taught me a book full as we worked.  Among other things,  he explained that cucumbers don't grow the shape we're accustomed to unless they're lifted off the ground.  Fast forward a couple months and here's my DIY cucumber trellis. 

Cucumber trellis 072812


Cukes for pickling 080412
My 1st two cucumbers. I still can't believe I grew them from seed.

Remember that photo of a tiny spout at the beginning of this post?  Do you want to see what it looks like today?

Green giants 081112

It towers over my head and has just started to grow its famous flower.  What intrigues me is that the head of the plant has been following the path of the sun for the last month, long before there were any signs of an actual flower.  Each day the whole line of green giants performs a silent, synchronized dance as they turn to the dawn, face heavenward at midday, and bow toward the trees as the sun slips away for the night. 

I wouldn't have had the fun of experiencing all this, if it hadn't been for Adam talking about being a flower gardener at home, with sunflowers a specialty.  I had it in my head that such a large plant must need special care, so even though I wanted them, I'd already ruled them out as an option for a beginner like me.  Adam set me straight saying once sunflowers get past the early weak stemmed stage (Starbucks cold cups make great planters/supports for young plants) they're incredibly resilient, even growing horizontally before starting their ascent if it means finding more light. 

I went to the hardware store on my way home and picked up a pack of seeds.  In my excitement I didn't read the package carefully.  I thought I'd picked up a 12" (inch) variety and only later realized it said 12' (feet)!  I never would have purposefuly chosen the grandaddy of all sunflowers on my first attempt at growing them, but I'm so glad I did.   Just another serendipitous step in my first season as a gardener.

Planting onions 042012




Learn Something Every Day

If you're out on a walk and encounter a farm stand, think carefully before you buy.  How far are you from home?  How heavy is the produce?  Will those velvety apricots, so full of juice they'll weep if jostled sneezed near, survive the walk home... in a bag full of local corn...and zucchini...and a camera? 

These are things that should be considered.  

Don't ask me how I know. 

I just do.

Watermellon 2009

Susan G. Komen Boston 3-Day

Of all the walks that take place each year to raise money, I suspect the Komen 3-Day to fight Breast Cancer may be the best known.  They do a terrific job getting out the message that walkers come away not only feeling good about helping raise money, but stronger emotionally and physically.  Their ads are ubiquitous.  

So I'm surprised that I had no idea this year's walk was going to go right down the main street of my town!  The night before, I walked into town for some frozen yogurt (we now have 3 sources of the stuff within a 2 block area; it's crazy) and saw big white signs with black arrows stapled to posts.  I was reading The Night Circus at the time.  The black and white color scheme with the mysterious nature of the signs made me hope, just for a heart beat, that someone had brought the circus to life.  A moment later I knew it was a ridiculous idea, but clearly something was up.  By the time I got home, I'd forgotten all about it.

The next day when I went to the post office, downtown was coated in pink.  There were balloons, banners, inflatable sticks (still a bit confused by those) and people dressed in every conceivable  shade.  It was a 4 year old girl's dream!

For such a big event, with so many people gathered on the side of the road to cheer and offer refreshments, I didn't see a single sign with the event name on it.  I finally asked this fellow, figuring he must be in the know.  

Komen supporter 072812
I wasn't going out on much of a limb with that assumption.  He explained it was the second day of the walk, and he was there to cheer on his 70+ year old wife!  He was far from alone.  There were people in lawn chairs, clearly planning to encourage every last straggler.  And the walkers looked excited.  This was near the end of their longest day, and they were smiling, clapping, wearing funny headdresses and sparkly beads.  It truly was an impressive sight to see so many people cheerfully exerting themselves to help others. 

So if you're ever out walking or driving and find yourself surrounded by pink - honk your horn, clap like you mean it, and smile as the best of human nature surrounds you. 

Komen car 072812



Taking After My Dad

I grew up in my mother's house; her influence reaches from the curls on my head to the piles of books I take from the library.  Even twenty years after leaving that house, I still carry the love of words, crafts and all things sewing related that I learned there.  At times I find it disconcerting (doesn't everyone fear becoming their mother?), but certainly never find it surprising.

A couple weeks ago, I was on my knees using kitchen scissors to trim the grass my landlord's mower had missed when I sat up straight.  "I'm becoming my dad!"   The idea appeared in my mind like a flash of lightning.  "No, no, that's silly.  We're nothing alike" I told myself.  But there was a pair of grassy scissors in my hand.

When my dad moved from the northeast to the desert, he often joked that the grassy portion of his yard was so small he could cut it with a pair of scissors.  It wasn't until I visited him out west that I realized he was joking.  It really hadn't seemed that improbable to me.  This is the man who when I was really young, won the Best Yard competition so many times I was confused if the sign wasn't in front of our house.  We lived on a military base then and the plants seemed to know certain standards must be maintained.  I remember rows of crinkly marigolds, grass as green as astroturf, day lilies and irises standing at attention.  

While the garden looked orderly and regimented, there was a certain Yankee thrift to its creation.  I have vague memories of sitting in the car, on the side of a road, watching my dad dig up a tiny forsythia and a handful of other plants for our yard.   This memory came back to me this summer, when I stopped outside the gates of my town's recycling facility and dug up a clump of Queen Anne's Lace for my garden. 

Garden 072412
Looking around at my garden, where the fencing and trellises are made from found materials and the flowerpots are homesewn, I like to think I may have inherited a little of that thrift.

One thing I most certainly did not inherit from my dad is his ability to start a conversation with perfect strangers.  He talks to the waiters in restaurants he's never been to before like he's a regular, he makes jokes with the exhausted mother ahead of him in the check-out line, he cheers exuberantly at concerts and he got more words out of my partner's father in one dinner, than I have in years of knowing him.   I, on the other hand, always sit as close to the door as possible in unfamiliar social settings - just in case I need to escape.  I've always envied my dad's ability with strangers.  If I asked him about it, I'm sure he'd brush it off as nothing special, but it is.  Every now and then I find myself making suggestions in a meeting, or being the person who talks through the awkward silence of a first class and I smile thinking, "I did a George". 

The most quintesentially "my dad" thing of all, is to take up a camera.  I can no more picture my dad without his camera, than his glasses.  There was a time when I was very little, when I thought my dad actually was a professional photographer.  He photographed events at church, trips to the ocean, hikes, drives, dance recitals, musicals and firsts of all kinds.   I can remember being in a dark room with him, though I was so little at the time, I don't remember where it was.


Mount Washington 1980s - G. Crockett

His cameras loomed large in my eyes, solid and heavy with removable lenses and rhune-like numbers that only the initiated could understand.  Cannisters of film always filled the butter compartment in his refrigerator and a camera (an Olympus?  a Nikon maybe?) was always tucked near the driver's seat of his truck.  To this day no family outing is complete without one of us turning at some point and saying "Where's Dad?"  Without even looking around, my step-mom answers "He's taking pictures." 



Antelope Canyon trip_1426
Antelope Canyon - G. Crockett



Vacation in NE 09_0913
North End Locals - G. Crockett


A few years ago when my interest in taking pictures shifted from something you do on vacations and birthdays, to a part of daily life I wasn't thinking of my dad.  As I started to read about photo composition and took a course, I didn't associate what I was doing on my digital camera, with the alchemy my father created with light and lens.  And then one day, after visiting the blog, my dad called and commented on some photos that he'd liked.  I was stunned.  In a flash we were talking about how tricky photos at night can be and how forgiving digital cameras are. 

Maybe I am becoming my dad. 

I'm Ok with that.

Happy (belated) Birthday Dad!

Tardiness - that's a family trait too, right?

Aquarium 060709