Garden chat, pussy willows, and Louisa May Alcott’s cheery perspective on everyday things.

It’s spring again here in Alberta (well, getting there anyhow)! What a grand time for a fresh start on old projects, and an emphasis on all things green and growing.

Mum’s been at it again with the seed catalogues, and she’s ordered plenty of staple vegetables as well as fun floral mixes. It’s going to be a splendid garden! For my part I took a gander up to my little corner of the garden to find any green things poking their heads up, and found a few brave little plants!

Hollyhock, from Nana and Papa’s farm

My ever-abundant German chamomile (or maybe dill… hard to tell at this stage)

And horseradish!

The rest of my garden is in need of a good cleanup! At the moment it resembles a corner of The Secret Garden, waiting for another Mary Lennox to discover it and make it alive again.

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Frances Hodges Burnett, quote from The Secret Garden

Meanwhile in the house, my little apple tree is coming along nicely. I planted it a couple of months ago from a sprouted seed that I found inside a regular store-bought apple. I popped it in with my avocado and then re-planted it after a couple of weeks. It shall be a fun mystery tree, since I never recorded what variety it is.

My avocado is looking rather disheveled at the moment; happily, there are plenty of fresh green leaves at the top to keep it going. Maybe it just needs an upside-down haircut!

The next thing I can’t wait to plant are these adorable pussy willow twigs! Some lovely ladies gave these as party-favors at a garden-themed bridal shower a few weeks ago, along with instructions on how to root and plant them. I do wish I had taken pictures of the pretty flower arrangements on the tables. Spring-colored flowers were beautifully arranged along with the pussy willows in vases and mason jars, with ribbons and lace to finish it all off oh-so-nicely. In any case, here are my willows, which are growing their roots quite nicely.

Another project I’ve embarked on is the Banishment of Dust in the Big Farm House (or at least a good quelling of it). This is one of those irksome jobs that is nonetheless so satisfying to have completed.

No more fuzzy-bunnies up here!

In the reading realm, I’ve been delighting in a re-read of Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins. The adventures, fun and mishaps of Rose and her seven boy-cousins are especially engaging for the ordinary contexts in which they are set, showing how readily a bit more wonder and liveliness can be added into the hum-drum of ordinary life (not to mention demonstrating how exciting life can be without technological distractions at our fingertips…). In one chapter Alcott takes us on a rollicking birthday picnic, in which a delicious cake is eaten (which somehow made it through a carriage ride undamaged), tea is prepared over a fire, and a grand game of charades played, complete with stage-curtains and make-shift costumes. A similar scene might normally happen on any camping trip; yet Alcott describes it in such lively prose, it makes me think I can create such a magical picnic too.

“A general scramble among the rocks was followed by a regular gypsy lunch, which the young folks had the rapture of helping to prepare. Mother Atkinson put on her apron, turned up her sleeves, and fell to work as gayly as if in her own kitchen, boiling a kettle slung on three sticks over a fire of cones and fir-boughs; while the girls spread the mossy table with a feast of country goodies, and the children tumbled about in every one’s way till the toot of the horn made them settle down like a flock of hungry birds.”

Alcott, Eight Cousins, ch.14

Alcott beautifully captures a child’s delight in being allowed to ‘help’ make the meal; for as much as children may complain over doing household chores, there is always a time when doing the ‘real thing’ becomes a much more engaging pastime than their own make-believe games.

While a picnic frolic proves a delicious outing among the pages of this book, Alcott allows the mundane things a strong place in her tale, marvelously drawing us into the pots and pans and thimbles. In the first chapter she introduces us to Rose, a lonely girl in a big house who discovers a friend in the new kitchen maid, Phebe. Tired of her own occupations, she is unexpectedly drawn into the kitchen by the sound of warbling bird-calls. She climbs through the sideboard and finds Phebe working away cheerily.

“Oh, it was lovely! Who taught you?” “The birds,” answered the girl, with a smile, as she fell to work again…. “I’ve heard of phebe-birds; but I don’t believe the real ones could do that,” laughed Rose, adding, as she watched with interest the scattering of dabs of soft soap over the bricks, “May I stay and see you work? It is very lonely in the parlor.” “Yes, indeed, if you want to,” answered Phebe, wringing out her cloth in a capable sort of way that impressed Rose very much.”

Alcott, Eight Cousins, ch. 1

Rose is later encouraged by her guardian, the lively and lovable Uncle Alec, to cultivate a talent for keeping house. He extols the virtues of the ‘trade’ in such a way as to make her long to become accomplished in the domestic arts of housekeeping.

“Is that an accomplishment?” asked Rose, while her face fell; for she had indulged in all sorts of vague, delightful dreams. “Yes; it is one of the most beautiful as well as useful of all the arts a woman can learn. Not so romantic, perhaps, as singing, painting, writing, or teaching, even; but one that makes many happy and comfortable, and home the sweetest place in the world.”

Alcott, Eight Cousins, Ch.16

Rose, desirous to obtain this womanly ‘art,’ embarks on this newfound pastime with much enthusiasm, learning how to sew, cook and bake bread, and developing a closer bond with her aunts who lovingly teach her. I’m always inspired by this sort of togetherness among women, where we can grow our friendships whilst doing something creative together. Perhaps its high time I had a friend over to do a little baking…

Well that’s all I have for now. God bless, and stay tuned for some upcoming posts about my Tiny Cottage project! 😀

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