Thursday, October 29, 2009

Still harvesting

The frosty collards below were really quite edible yesterday with a little olive oil and feta cheese. Amazing how they withstand frost. Come winter, I still should be able to harvest a few leaves.
Just received an online list of seed companies, heirloom and otherwise at Skippy's Vegetable Garden, an inspiring gardening web site.
I think this would be the year to start ordering in December, put out a table of seeds in March. It's the end of October and I'm already longing to be out there with the sun on my back in the morning, pulling up weeds, seeing our efforts pay off.
Even with winter as hard and as long as it is here, we will be able to reap the benefits of the garden almost year round. Dry beans, potatoes, carrots, kale and collards are the main ones for now. Two bags of potatoes sit on my back porch "drying" out. But we've already had a few for dinner. Knowing they haven't been sprayed with fungicide and then with some other chemical to stop the sprouting, makes me grateful for those red and gold tubers.
We are still eating the last of the green tomatoes that ripened. I've been amazed at how long they've lasted. I was going to freeze some, but have been enjoying eating them fresh. Only a few left, and then it's back to store bought for awhile.
Made a black bean soup last night. Ben and I went out in the garden after dark with a flash light and dug up some carrots, picked a few collard leaves, and some cilantro. Along with store bought celery and organic onion, and an anaheim pepper I picked before the first frost and some of the tomatoes, it made a great soup.
I feel like looking forward to the garden is what is going to get me through this winter. I know I get a little blue in the fall when the color fades and the storms begin their trek over the mountains, but this year feels especially bleak. I think because of the daily stresses of caring for mom's ongoing and ever-increasing needs. I have cried lately. I have hit these places before. Wanting it to be over. But knowing that once it is...well, then, I'll be an orphan!!
My dear friend, Bonnie, suggested that there are friends of mine who are doing a bit of hand-wringing and nail biting, hoping that mom doesn't wear me out first.
Today I took her to the doctor for him to look at a bone spur on her heel that is causing a great deal of pain. He laid on the floor so he could reach her heel and file it. She had a back x-ray to rule out a fracture from a fall she took last week.
Mom said, "You probably didn't train to be a geriatric specialist, did you?"
He said, "That's part of being a family practice doctor."
"Well, you sure are one now," she said.
Then she told him she would love him more than she already does if he could fix her bone-spur so it doesn't hurt. He loves her, too.
I called Ben to help her get up on the x-ray table. Fortunately, he was close by, just up the road working at someone's home. It's hard for her to move, let alone climb on a table too high for most people. She's moving slowly, but amazing grace, she's still moving.
In the car she said, "So, I just have to let this heal," referring to the "strain" in her back. She is always looking to healing. Always looking to getting better.
Her motto, "Never ever give up."
That's the least I can do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Giving Garden Awards Banquet

Tonight we had the Community Garden Awards Banquet. That was after we did fall clean-up yesterday.
I was proud to receive the "Golden Green Thumb" award in "recognition of valuable contributions to garden envisioning and photography" and a "certificate of appreciation in recognition of garden management skills."
Ben received the "Golden Water Wizard" award, given to "Dr. Benjamin Francis in recognition of valuable contributions to organic watering systems," and a certificate of appreciation "in recognition of contributions to design and engineering of irrigation systems."
Everyone else got awards as well. Kate and Molly were in charge of the awards and the awards' ceremony.
Molly wrote a speech, which follows:
"The garden--the community garden--or giving garden--was a beautiful thing.
The giving garden started as a desert with a fence and some bushes. It started as an idea from two neighbors. They saw a garden instead of a desert. They saw what could be done, not what couldn't.
When it started the McCrackens and Martha and Ben teamed up and got wood planks and made an outline which turned into a beginning.
We planted seeds, watered and pulled weeds. At the beginning we pictured harvest time and got excited about what it would look like. We thought about salads and foods we could make. But it was just a beginning.
Then the garden became a gift of friend's helping friends. It would give us food and get us closer. All we had to do was take care of it. Each day we worked the seeds and got closer to food and we neighbors got closer like family. It took work, but gave us fun. It put a smile on our faces.
But then we got to the middle where we faced challenges. Earwigs, weeds, and a rodent. It was the hard part and we felt lazy, but my mom and Martha kept us working. We saw the plant partially grown, which gave us hope. We saw beauty and remembered the gift that would come.
Finally, it was time to harvest. We were happy and hungry. We have harvested and now comes the awards night. And we now know that the gift is greater than the work. We have great food and we are closer friends.
So now I remind you that a desert, no matter how barren, can be a garden that bears beautiful food. And I would like to thank all of you for the work you gave and remember that all a seed needs is dirt, water, and a little sunshine from the sun, and us.
Thank you, Martha, Ben, Mary, Joy, Jacob, Sean, Kate and Ashley and God.
Molly McCracken, age 13."

Thanks Molly. And everyone else. The garden was a special garden, not just because of the bounty we received, but because you were in it.

What is the lesson?

It feels as if I'm supposed to be learning something, but for the life of me, I can't figure out what it is. Patience? Compassion? Kindness? When I'm rested, when I give myself margin, when I set boundaries, I have all three. But lately, I feel dried up and sort of desperate.
I have little patience for other people's drama. I've got too much of my own to contend with. For the moment, my compassion is for myself, to find a little place where I am away from the phone, from demands, from needs, from never-ending problems.
Yes, I will miss her. My friend Ted once told me that what I'll miss most is her needing me.

Maples and Pampas

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The right foot

Mom fell last night. I fell last week. Mom's right foot has a bone spur, is healing from a fracture, has had lymphedema. She's off balance.
My right foot has tendinitis. The doc says, "Oh, it's a nuisance, do your exercises."
Mom cries that the bone spur is "ruining her life."
I feel off-balance, trying to balance her life and her needs with mine. It's a dance of patience, compassion, and boundaries.

We cleaned the garden today. Mary, Jake, and I harvested red beans that Molly planted in the spring. We harvested four bags of red and gold potatoes. There are still carrots in the ground, some kale and collards and we pulled some green onions. Tomorrow I'll make a soup from assorted vegis leftover from our abundant garden.
Ben rolled up all the drip irrigation and then burned.
We raked all the squash bugs into a pile with the straw. Actually, we didn't see squash bugs, but we did a few days ago. Fifty or so having a squash bug party on a pumpkin. It was gross looking.
Then while we burned, wondering if the local fire officials were going to come ticket us for burning after Oct. 15, we realized the neighbors squash bugs could easily invade, even if we burned the whole garden to a crisp.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sometimes I have evil thoughts

I deleted the first part of this post because it was disjointed and stressed.
All I can say is that I am not the only caretaker of an elderly parent who has had evil thoughts.
I'm tired to the bone...even after a two-week vacation.
I love my mom, but it's hard.
The good news.
We moved mom back to her old apartment.
The fire back to the frying pan.
Still hot, still issues, but better than the fire.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Common ground

We left Jacquie and Barry's on Wednesday evening, heading for what I thought was going to be Salem. But the off-ram was jammed so we went on to Wenham, which was one of the places I had wanted to go. It was the only place that I was able to locate ancestors for both of us. Ben's ancestor Chloe Claflin lived in Wenham, as did my ancestors, John and Lydia Porter.
It was almost dark when we arrived. A quiet town, not much happening, and no places to stay. We googled accommodations on Ben's Iphone, and discovered the Nightingale Inn, less than 10 minutes away. Turns out it was an early 20th century Mediterranean style villa, built by a Nightingale, and lived in by his widow for nearly 50 years. She slept on a screened-in porch most of the time, although there were beautiful (at least now) rooms upstairs.
In the morning we were treated to a breakfast of oatmeal and raisins, orange juice, coffee and tea, while listening to the proprietor, Moshe Mazin, hold forth on Jewish history. We sat for two hours, listening with rapt attention. Another one of our "experiences," along the way that we felt led to.
I was still thinking we would go to Salem, but instead ate at the Cygnet, a restaurant where we had eaten the night before. Then we went down to the beach at Beverly, and walked for 30 minutes on another sparkling day.
Then we went to Wenham. John Porter III was the only son of Samuel Porter, a mariner, who died at 23 headed to, or returning from, Barbadoes in 1660. Samuel was the second son of John Porter, Sr, and Mary Endicott, who had come to America in 1635 and landed in Hingham. Apparently, John, Sr., was one of the wealthiest men in the Salem area, leaving a lengthy last will and testament when he died. He left money to Samuel, who, in turn, left a "large farm," to his wife, Hannah Dodge, when he died.
John lived to be 95, died in 1753, and had 11 children with a combined age at death of 955 years. There were two sisters who lived to be 100. No one died before 80.
We found the Wenham Cemetery and started toward the back, Ben driving, me walking. Finally, we spotted the oldest part of the cemetery, grave stones perched upon a knoll overlooking the main street, under Maple trees spreading their limbs over the resting places of the Porter, Kimball, Dodge, Gott, and other clans.
I found the Porters, and then, John Porter and next to him, Lydia Herrick Porter. John was born in 1658 and died in 1753. Lydia's inscription was harder to read and her birthdate was around 1660. I'm not sure what it is to come about an ancient grave of a long-gone ancestor, but there is something spiritual, a re-connection, a re-membering, a putting back together.
After wandering through the cemetery, finding what were surely, John and Lydia's descendants among the Porters, we headed into town to the museum and the Claflin-Richards House, an 18th century home, where Robert MacClaflin had lived in the 1660s. We didn't have a lot of information about the Claflins, but will try to track it down.
The rest of the day was spent driving through Ipswich, Boxford, and other towns where the Tylers (maternal side) had also made their way in the 1660s and early 1700s, before heading west to Michigan. There are few grave markers from the 1600s. They are either destroyed by time and elements, or buried under towns and progress.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Full moon over Boston

I saw Boston's skyline today from Hingham Harbor and the town of Hull, a spit of land jutting out south of Boston Harbor. Hingham Harbor is where my ancestors, John and Mary Porter, landed in 1635 to 1640, before heading north to the Salem area.
My "cousin" Jacquie Goudey was our tour guide showing us the area on a warm and sparkling day. When we were on the beach at Hull, I was in a tank top for a brief time, enjoying the sunshine. There were a few people swimming, young women in bathing suits. We ate at the Ocean Club on a patio overlooking the ocean. Perfect day, less than perfect food, but a great time.
We went from there south to see the homes of millionaires, small bungaloes and beach houses on stilts, tiny row houses, 18th and 19th century homes tucked into the woods, along the shore, or along the rivers and lakes. The fall colors aren't vibrant this far south. Jacquie says we are a week early.
We went to Scituate and saw an 1811 lighthouse and another charming New England harbor that seem to be the rule rather than the exception. We saw more sailboats than there are cars in Washington, but all anchored in harbor, which was surprising considering the warmth of the day. But it was a Tuesday, and school was in. A perfect time to travel here, we have discovered.

We spent two whirlwind days with Jacquie and Barry. We met them in Marblehead, Mass., at the site of Elizabeth Goudey's grave. It was a beautiful place, overlooking the ocean, Marblehead Bay and a rocky promontory. I envisioned Elizabeth, and husband George, arriving in 1735 from Ulster, Ireland. I'm not sure they were Irish, but perhaps English, who left England seeking more religious freedom. I don't know if that's true because they left 100 years after the first pilgrims. They were the first Goudey's in America on my line. Her beautiful headstone is made of a dark granite that seemed to  hold the etchings from the 18th century much better than some of the 19th century.

Jacquie and Barry drove us around Marblehead and we had dinner at a pub. I had a rare low blood sugar attack, causing me to be a bit frantic. They were gracious and didn't act as if I was some kind of freak. The next day we went to Hingham Harbor and Scituate. Hingham is where John and Mary Porter arrived in 1635, the first Porters on our side in America.

Jacquie and Barry

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reflections on half way

Little more than half way on our trip. Drove up the South Coast of Nova Scotia on Saturday, seeing some beautiful fishing villages. We ate fish cakes and chutney at a tavern in Chester, and then drove through Halifax at night with a full moon above. We spent an hour trying to find the waterfront, just so I could say I saw it. I finally had to drive so Ben could navigate. We drove from there across the McDonald bridge. I tried to get Ben to take a photo of Halifax skyline over the water, but nothing doing. That's my job.
On to Fall River, where we stayed at a lovely inn...The Inn at Fall River. Next morning was the beginning of our marathon drive up through Nova Scotia to Fredericton, New Brunswick, where we met one of my distant "cousins," Steve Goudey and his wife, Nancy. Great time with them, but like everything on this trip, too short. We bought us lunch, and then gave us a 20-minute tour of Fredericton in the rain, as well as a five-minute worship service at the Anglican cathedral near the St. John River. Steve led us in to a pew, an usher handed us hymals with a beatific smile on his face, and three minutes later we left. We will have to meet up with them again. They are a lot of fun, and native Yarmouthians.
We drove across New Brunswick to Bangor, Maine, back to Surya's home. I realized this morning that although we are experiencing some wonderful scenery, rediscovering my roots and the graves of long-dead ancestors, reconnecting with Surya has been a highlight for me. We share a common thread of raising our boys, Isaac and Jared, and seeing that as single moms we actually did a great job. I always say, "the votes aren't all in yet," but it seems clear they are both on solid paths. We had more time last night to tell stories, pulling together the threads of 17 years. Ben and I also needed a brief respite, which we are enjoying this morning at Surya's.
Like the rest of my life, I fail at building in margin. Today is the day I start doing that. I called Jacquie, my distant cousin, and said we wouldn't be leaving at 8 a.m. to meet them in Marblehead, Mass. We are going to have a more leisurely day and meet up with them later.
The fall colors are unbelievable. I saw more fall color yesterday, even though it was raining the whole way, than any time in my life, including the 17 years in Washington. Sun is out today. We plan on a walk in the woods outside Bangor before heading to Marblehead, Mass.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Local color

Last night Ben and I were invited to go to a lobster house on the Bay of Fundy on the Yarmouth Bar with our B&B hosts Twyla and Bruce Rogers and ten of their local friends. Talk about local color.
Ernie and Brian, at Stanley Lobster, helped us pick out our lobster. While it was being cooked we were on the rocky beach watching what our new friends said was a typical beautiful sunset, when it wasn't raining. It was also almost a full moon on an almost cloudless night. Brian built an enormous bonfire, we sat on logs sipping wine, and had a great time getting to know people who had lived in Yarmouth most or all of their lives.
We met Andy, a Scotsman and a longtime Yarmouth farmer, Sven, a Norwegian and a principal, his wife, Karen, a French Acadian and school teacher, and others who were descendants of the "British Loyalists."
After dinner in a candlelit room sitting on the bluff eating lobster with ten new friends, we sat around the giant bonfire and laughed and talked some more before going to the home of Dan, (of Dutch descent) and his wife (another Karen) so the men could smoke a cigar. Dan's grandfather had once had a cigar company in the Holland. While Ben smoked a fine cigar on the patio with five men, I drank tea with the ladies. Karen and Karen, Maria, Andy's wife, Karen and Twyla, our hostess, who realized too late that she had to be up at 6:30 to cook dinner for the other guests of the B&B, John and Chris, who had come over from their Maine blueberry farm to stay in the B&B for the weekend. They, too, came to the lobster feast, but went home before the cigar smoking event.
An evening to remember.
We are off to Halifax this morning.

Coming home

We have been having so much fun in Yarmouth, it has been hard to find time to sit down and write.
Thursday we went to Port Maitland, my grandparents and great grandparents birthplace. We walked on the beach where my grandfather once was able to find lobster under rocks after storms, where he picked blackberries in the hills and helped his father, Bowman Goudey, harvest potatoes. Bowman was a farmer, but four of his brothers were sea captains, later making their homes in Yarmouth.
After the walk we went searching the cemeteries. I knew that two generations of Goudeys, at least, were buried at Port Maitland Cemetery, but we discovered two older cemeteries first. I was a little confused about where they might be. Later we would discover that graves had been moved from a cemetery across the street, from the oldest cemetery. I asked Ben to drive up a sideroad. When he stopped on top of a knoll I got out of the car and spotted two moss-covered headstones and walked to them. As I walked around to look at the front, I was stunned to discover that I had walked directly to the grave of my great great great grandfather, Stephen Goudey, and his wife, Mary Haskell. What a rush! I took photos and then we started looking for Stephen and Mary's son, Thomas Goudey. I went off one direction in what is a cemetery that holds about 600 graves. Ben took off another direction. I walked down the other side of the knoll and walked directly to my great grandmother Porter's grave. Mary Alice Perry married Titus Hurlburt Porter. She died at age 50 and was buried in the Port Maitland cemetery. I did not know she was buried there, so that was a great surprise.
We kept searching for Thomas. I walked down to the main road coming into the cemetery to search there, when a car drove in. A very English looking woman got out of the car. From a distance she hailed me and said, "Do I know you?"
"I don't think so," I replied.
I told her why I was there and she said her name was Lynda Churchill Denton, and her husband, Greg Denton. They were there because her parents are buried in that cemetery. We had just been reading about her ancestor Aaron Churchill, who had been famous for a daring sea voyage upon which he repaired a rudder under a ship in a storm. I told Lynda about my ancestors being buried in the cemetery and that I couldn't find Thomas or Bowman, my great grandfather, father to Stanley, my grandfather.
She said she remembers her grandfather talking about Bowman Goudey. She gave me the name of a man in Port Maitland who might be able to tell us where Bowman was buried.
We had a great conversation with them and then they left. We continued our search for Thomas. Finally, after another 30 minutes we discovered Thomas, and wife Abigail, directly across the road from Stehen and Mary. Tangible evidence that these ancestors walked the earth.
Bowman remained a mystery, which I will share in an update to this post as soon as I can.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Nova Scotia

Made it to Yarmouth last night after a long day Monday traveling, a day in Bangor, Maine, visiting my old friend Surya (above). The two of us visited Fort Knox, in Maine, while Ben drove to Portland, Maine from Bangor to pick up a rental car. (Long Story). It was good to spend time with her alone, although the three of us had an equally great time together. We ate East Indian food the first night we were there, walked around town a bit, and sat at her table and drank tea. It was wonderful to see her after 17 years. We used to live next door to each other in Leucadia, California when her Isaac was a baby and Jared was about 8.  I was a midwife at the time and helped with the birth of Isaac, who is no 21 (?) and living in Boston going to art school.  We left Leucadia when Jared was nine to come to Washington. Shortly after that Surya and Isaac moved to Maine, where they have lived since then.  I feel a deep connection with Surya, which I hope will last a lifetime.

The next morning we drove to St. John, New Brunswick, yesterday, took the Digby ferry to Digby, and then drove an hour and a half to Yarmouth. The trip over was exciting because it was when I got my first glimpse of Nova Scotia. I was driving the "boat," after a tour of the engine room and a trip up to the bridge. The first mate gave me brief instructions and took the ferry off auto-pilot and I steered toward the opening into the Digby Harbor.

Present time:
We are staying at a bed and breakfast. The house was built in 1870 and has been remodeled to fit the era. Well, we're not using chamber pots. It's lovely. The backyard leads to the back of the city's library, which used to be a cemetery. In that cemetery is the grave of Thankful Goudey, one of my distant relatives.
It feels like coming home in an odd way. To say to Twyla, our hostess, that my grandparents were born just up the road, is a rush. I told her about all the ancestors, and she said, "what would be interesting is if you had living relatives." I don't believe I do, but we'll go looking anyway. Maybe knock on some doors.
Many experiences so far, but didn't have a way to connect to write. Now I will, at least for the next couple of days before we head out again.