Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I Got ALL The Old Southern Lady Genes. I'm Glad.

I've done it again and cooked too much. The beans and the ham bone in one big pot and when I was in the garden pulling up the bolted arugula it occurred to me that I just had to cook more of the collards that are left, breathing their last greenybreath before their seed flowers take over and so I picked some, along with some lovely leaves of kale and washed them and put them in a pot with chopped tomatoes and onions and vinegars (balsamic, white and dark, rice vinegar too) and soy sauce and salt, thinking to add these greens to the ones left from Easter dinner and when I went to pull those out of the refrigerator, I realized that there would have been plenty of them alone for our supper and a couple more suppers, too.
But. There you go. So what? Soon they will be all gone until next winter. I should probably cook batches of them and freeze them.
Hell. Maybe I will.
And to add to the joy of them, I added some mango salsa to the pot.
I will make cornbread too.
Of course.
Because I am a southern woman.

The peas have put out two blooms although they are growing strong up the trellis. Two tiny blooms and they are both pink. My heart thrilled to see them. The potatoes are starting to bloom as well and soon I will begin to fish carefully around in the dirt and leaves beneath them to see if I can find some small potatoes to bring in and cook, red-skinned, Yukon Gold, riches all.

The older I get, the more thrilled I am to grow things in the dirt, to collect the eggs and the less worried I am about my black dirty feet.

As Jeff and his wife left today, they told me how much they loved my house, these amazing trees. Jeff said, "It's like you've got a little slice of paradise here, and I said to them, "This is my sanatorium," and of course I should have said "sanctuary" but sanatorium is more accurate. This is where I live and how I live in order to avoid insanity. My trees, my chickens, my dirt- even the heat (which is growing fierce) are probably what keep me this side of buttface crazy.

Judy came by this afternoon and we, too, sat on the porch and talked for awhile. We talked about genes and how they show up where you least expect it and I wonder where this love of dirt and growing things and trees came to me. My mother never planted a thing except for stunning African violets and some Gerbera daisies, as I recall, although my granddaddy, her father, was always planting or pruning or turning his compost pile or tending something on his little plot of land in Roseland, Florida when I was growing up there. He was born and raised on a farm in Pennsylvania but knew at an early age that was not for him and he gave up his inheritance as the eldest son and became a wood buyer for the Cavalier Cabinet Corporation in Chattanooga, Tennessee. What he loved above all was making things from wood and he was very good at that, despite having lost four fingers on his left hand in a saw accident when he was young.
His wife, my Yankee granny, never grew one durn thing except a pot of geraniums even though she belonged to the Roseland Garden Club.
I have no idea about the other side of my family- my daddy's side. They liked to drink and some of them played music and they were lawyers and had maids and gardeners. But somewhere back there, there must have been some southern woman who took great comfort in her yard hens, her tomato patch, her gardenias and hydrangea, her roses and her camellias.
I am sure of it.

Either that or the spirits of all the women who have lived in this house have found home in my bones and direct me to plant and tend and gather. I do not discount that theory either although in truth, I have grown gardens in every house I've ever lived in since I was a grown-up. Or at least thought I was a grown-up.

Well, whatever. Here I am and my feet are black and I have dirt under my nails and greens on the stove and when I went out to gather eggs this evening I saw the oak snake again, as I did last night, too, when the boys and I went out to the hen house. I have decided to be at peace with it although one of the duck eggs I picked up was slimy as hell and I know that was because the snake had been trying to swallow it. Stupid snake. The duck eggs are the biggest eggs in the hen house. I also discovered three eggs in the nest in the pump house and I am thinking that the hens, knowing the snake is in the nests, have decided to lay elsewhere. A few of them, at least.

I know that there are mice in the hen house too, drawn by the chicken feed and scratch and I am sure the snake is eating those.

You know what's so strange? I never, as a child, thought that this would be the sort of life I wanted to live. I had no idea what that life might have been but living on a few acres in north Florida with chickens and a garden in a house built in 1859 never once entered in to the equation.

Blame genes. Blame spirits. Blame whatever. Being a hippie. That has to factor in too. I know I have told this story before but whenever I see my potatoes and my peas maturing, I think of the day that May was born. I was living in a 10 by 50 foot trailer about ten miles down the road from where I live now and she was born in that trailer and I was 23 years old and Hank was a few weeks shy of being two. After she was born at daybreak, we rested a while and then took May in to Tallahassee for a newborn exam which she passed in all detail and came home and for supper that night I cooked barbecued chicken in the oven (an oven which had no thermostat) and made a cream sauce to serve with fresh baby potatoes, onions, and peas from the garden.

I've had an interesting life. To my mind, at least. And it's still interesting enough for me now.
I just watched Lilly and Willy, the two lady ducks, have pretty convincing  sex in the back yard. I hope it was fulfilling for both of them.

Turns out that Owen, who stubbed his toe badly while running through the house a few weeks ago actually has a broken metatarsal. He now has a boot which is he pretty proud of.

See? It never ends.

Those greens are going to be good. Time to make the cornbread.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. I remember your post about Owen's toe. That hurts so much! I am glad he has a cast that he is proud of. That almost makes it worthwhile. :-)

  2. I don't know what it is about your writing that I find so soothing but it's wonderful. Please never stop.

  3. Joanne is right. No matter what you write about, there is a flow and a quietness and a rhythm to it, and it IS soothing.

  4. I love how everything changes and everything stays the same. I love that you never imagined your life as it's now lived, but that this living is in your genes. I wonder if Hank had stubbed HIS toe in the trailer way back then, would they have sent him off with a boot?

    And your lady ducks are the best.

  5. Poor Owen!

    You DO have an interesting life. I used to aspire to a kind of earthy existence but the closest I ever came was having a tiny vegetable garden outside my apartment on Bayshore in Tampa. (A tiny, STRUGGLING vegetable garden.) And buying everything at thrift stores. :)

    You can't blame the snake for going after the biggest egg in the room!

  6. Birdie- Yeah. I think he's pretty proud of it.

    Joanne- I am pretty sure I won't stop. It doesn't appear that I can.

    jenny_o- Thank you. So much.

    Elizabeth- Probably not on the Hank thing. Of course, in the trailer there wasn't enough room to get up enough speed to break a bone on a threshold. In this house, the boys run the circle-track through the rooms and the back porch.
    My lady ducks are incredibly entertaining and happy creatures.

    Steve Reed- Your comment about the snake gave me a new perspective. Dream big, little oak snake!

  7. Oh, Mary, What a lovely tribute to the place you live, to the land, to the house and its past, your past, women who birth and tend and grow.

    A duck egg covered in snake spit. I never imagined such a thing.

    xo to you and your place and your family and Owen's toe, and yes, even to the mouse-eating snake.

  8. You write such an interesting blog southern lady indeed.
    My Mom grew nothing, my Father loved to garden and the older I've gotten the more I love gardening, never with gloves on I love to feel the soil.

  9. Denise- Trust me. I had never thought to deal with snake-spit covered duck eggs either. Ever. Nope. Not ever.
    Thank you for your sweet and loving wishes.

    Mac n' Janet- The Old Southern Lady Yardworking gene is strong and comes out in men as well as women. I don't like gloves either but those new nitrile ones are pretty great, especially if you, like me, work around a lot of red ants and poison ivy.

  10. I think that it's good to have an interesting life. Makes for good stories and conversation.


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