Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Welcome, Summer

Something YellowAs I write this the view beyond the window is temporarily sunlit, through a tiny break in a bank of clouds otherwise as gray, threatening and impenetrable as a fleet of battleships. This is late May in Chicago: glimpses of summer between stretches of cold, wet and windy.

This weekend we were granted a single perfect day, and on that day I helped to restore a friend's backyard. Once an oasis, it had fallen into ruin. We worked hard from Friday evening through Saturday evening: planting, dividing, tilling, grading, hauling, laying sod. It was heaven for me, the long-frustrated gardener with never more than a window box to fuss over.

I am happy to report that all those years of compulsively watching "The Victory Garden" and reading Gertrude Jekyll finally paid off. More than once, a question arose and from somewhere deep in my cranium emerged a surprisingly authoritative answer.

PetuniasTime will tell, of course, whether things actually grow as we intended. But we are ambitious, and have put our faith in reinvigorated beds of hostas and daylilies; baskets and urns of assorted annuals; a large planting of herbs; and one experimental tomato.

In exchange for buckets of sweat and a few scrapes and bruises, I now have entrée to the garden whenever I like. Border Leicester BobbinIt's close enough to home that my spinning wheel is now in residence. On Sunday, which was cooler but still pleasant, I sat on the porch and spun more of the Border Leicester for Susan's shawl. If the present pace persists, she can expect delivery in time for Fall 2015.

It's a commonplace that a good meal outdoors tastes better than the same meal indoors, and I think the same is true of needlework and spinning. When I first read Elizabeth Zimmermann's accounts (in Knitter's Almanac) of knitting in a canoe and by a campfire, I thought she must be cuckoo. Now, I get it. Provided you're not broiling in direct sun or being eaten alive by midges, fresh air can turn even plain passages of stockinette into moments of undiluted euphoria.

Our weather turned murky after that, and it's back to working indoors for the next few days, but I've had a taste of what's coming. And winter can't last forever, not even in Chicago.

Wheel on the Porch

71 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! Nice garden! Your wheel looks
lovley there.

SarahA said...

I need a nearby friend who will share their garden. I've gotten a few tastes of it this year and am tiring of only having room for a (rowdy) basil plant.

Sweet Camden Lass said...

I adore Gertrude Jekyll. Although I have no idea what she's said on gardening. However, she inspired me to study English Landscape and Society at University, and look at how Italian painting developed into the gardens of Capability Brown....

Melissa said...

Ah. I, too, love to spin outdoors. I am fortunate to have my own deck and a lovely view of the Blue ridge mountains. Now, if only I had more time at home...

Happy Spring.

meezermeowmy said...

I can just see you there! I hope you get some fair weather to enjoy the garden before the heat of summer hits.

webber the webulous webhead said...

Regarding your last statement...I'm not sure you should taunt Mother Nature like that.

whistlepeaknits said...

I read "being eaten alive by midgets" and I totally cracked myself up.

Phro5gg said...

Thank you for NOT posting pictures of Dolores sunbathing. I know this is post shearing/Brazilian waxing and frankly no one is ready for that image!

Anonymous said...

Did Dolores help weed, or was she only contributing 'organic' fertilizer?

Leah

Kristen said...

Oh man, how very lovely!

The Gravelcat said...

I love the color of that yarn you're spinning. Earthy and classy at the same time. Like your spinning wheel.

Donna Lee said...

I love knitting outside but haven't ventured outside with the wheel. I want to try this when the weather is nice. I'm sure my neighbors will enjoy the sight.

Sue said...

beautiful wheel and great place to spin! Almost makes me want to take it up:)

nosenabook said...

thank you for the new photos, the Lizzie Borden one was a fine example of why I have never read the tabloids!

Berrysmom said...

I totally get it what you said about handwork outdoors (knitting, spinning, whatever). I actually got two days off in a row this past weekend (as a minister, I usually work on BOTH Saturday and Sunday, and the only "weekend" I get is Monday.) Saturday was a work day, and by Sunday (my monthly Sunday off) I was completely brain dead. I spent two entire days sitting in my back yard knitting. I couldn't even bring myself to read. Now all my neurons are lined up again and I'm ready for the week. I think.

Emily said...

Wow, that lucky garden! NO DEER! I can tell by the hostas & daylilies...deer eat everything, even stuff they're not supposed to like. I've seen them calmly munching on my extremely thorny roses bushes.

Consequently, I'm partial to foxglove & monkshood. Heh heh.

Bobbi said...

I know where that spinning wheel perches...and it looks wonderful!

Kati said...

Such a happy post! Please show us more photos of all the gardening efforts. The little bit shown looks most successful. I like the idea of spinning outdoors while surveying/admiring your accomplishments.

FugueStateKnits said...

Ahhhhh Lovely! Like cool water in the desert:)
Enjoy:)!

monica said...

You know, you are right about knitting outdoors. I had a blissful afternoon after a lovely bike ride of knitting a simple bag of stockinette that will be felted once finished. What a 'happy place' I will need to remember when the rains of June appear in the Northwest.

Seanna Lea said...

That sounds wonderfully idyllic. I'm eagerly awaiting summer weather, though I'm sure like many the urge to complain will hit in July or August. It will be nice to not be cold.

junior_goddess said...

Hurry-you have 3 weeks before it starts to get hot and muggy!

The thought of spinning or knitting among the lightning bugs sounds magical, although I am ignoring the pitfalls of working in the dark.

JellyDonut said...

Lovely! Thank you for the photos and narrative. It's made my day.

Johanna (Mrs. F.) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johanna (Mrs. F.) said...

So glad to see your inner gardener released and indulged. Whether on the working end of a shovel or garden fork--sweating buckets, or simply doing a bit of weeding...at some point you realize that there is something deeply satisfying about working with ones hands-- All in all, the same feeling a person gets from knitting-- though admittedly, one rarely needs to shower after a spate of knitting :)

Wendelene said...

I do almost all of my spinning outdoors (being in South Carolina means that's almost year round). The big bounus is finding birds' nests with my discarded wool woven into them. Makes me feel like I'm enriching the lives of the birds.

thecrazysheeplady said...

Beautiful porch. Beautiful yard. Beautiful spinning. Well done!

Anonymous said...

What gorgeous pictures!

Anonymous said...

Please add a second tomato plant. Once you taste a fresh-from-your- garden tomato, you will know why the French called them Love Apples. You might also add a Burpee Butterbush Squash. Compact plant, beautiful blossoms (which you can batter and saute) and in the fall you can make squash soup!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post, Franklin. I, too, love EZ's description of knitting in nature. I got to do that a lot on family camping vacations. Still do it when I can, thanks to demonstrating at various outdoor venues. Or just sitting in a park. Same with spinning, although I use a drop spindle. Thanks for sharing. - Joe, in Wyoming

thetinfoilhatsociety said...

Beautiful garden photos.

We finally put in a front deck this past winter; until it got hot I would spin on the front deck while looking at the Bradshaw mountains. My neighbors are already convinced I'm that 'eccentric lady' but that I'm mostly harmless so it's made for more than one good afternoon conversation.

I had to laugh about the shawl being ready by 2015 -- I think you may be on the road I'm also on -- the one to *you know where* cuz it's paved with good intentions, but bordered by not NEARLY enough time.

Susan

MissKnit said...

I too am relegated to windowbox gardening and get to full-scale garden vicariously through my friends. Someday I will have a yard witha big garden. And when I do, I will sit amongst the hostas and knit. Bugs be damned.

mwknitter said...

Even in Chicago winter can't last forever - that's true. Next thing you know it'll be 95° with 80% humidity. Actual spring weather in Chicago is as rare as hen's teeth. The only true spring (several weeks of mild weather - warm enough to plant peas & cool enough not to kill them off) I remember was in 1979 - after the record snowfall of the winter. If you get any further urges for extensive gardening, you are welcome to come out to oak Park & dabble in our large, unkempt yard.

FiberQat said...

My late afternoons have been made more pleasant with my spinning on the front porch. The cats are fed and romping about the yard, people are walking home from work, and the neighbors are out and about.

I'm happy that you have a little Eden of your own to retreat to. He's an excellent friend to let you have free range in his space.

Michael said...

I love your wheel so much!!!

Patti said...

I love looking at bobbins of handspun. it makes me happy. We put in a garden this weekend too, but digging out the blackberries first was backbreaking work. We have won the battle but not the war. I now have 3 peppers, a row of chives, a row of peas, two kinds of parsly and one oregano plant. More to come! I haven't lugged my wheel down to the north 40 yet, but who knows. the weather is certainly appealing here in Northern CA.

Stacy Ann said...

You don't know how lucky you are that it's still cold where you are. I live in Florida (today's high way 90) and it's already so hot here I can't think about going outside with out sweating.

I wish it was still cool here.

Pica said...

I adore Gertrude Jekyll too, though I'm a novice gardener. She seems like the Zimmermann of gardening, though: common sense, ingenuity and good design win every time.

Judy in Indiana said...

Your photography is beautiful. Your knitting is as well and I love your writing, your yearn for a garden, your cartooning. How come you have so much talent? I live vicariously through you.

Liz said...

I agree with "nosenabook". I'm happy to click on your link and no longer see a picture of Lizzie Borden's dead dad. Whew.

Beautiful pictures. Enjoy the garden and the outdoor spinning.

Knitting Granny said...

I agree - outdoor knitting is one of life's most precious experiences. I always knit when I "chicken-sit" our three back-yard hens. I'm so glad you get to knit/spin outside.

Anonymous said...

i totally agree with you, my two passions are knitting and gardening. being laid off from my budget analyst position and not being hired after gazillions of interviews (anyone notice it is a bad time to find a job) i'm trying to create a business. i sell organic starter plants at the farmer's market. each week is better then the previous one and i enjoy it. now if someone would pay me to knit.

i often knit outside, at the beach, at my kids baseball or soccer practice and games. living in hawaii, knitting outside is a frequent occurance.

Shelda said...

That looks like a truly heavenly place to sit and spin. Fabulous. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Alwen said...

shhh shhh shhh! Don't say anything about the "W" season where the weather can hear you. The little weather gods/goddesses are very very contrary.

And more to the point - your weather is upstream of my weather!

Cobbalicious said...

Holy crap, that sounds like an awesome day. Nicely done!

Karin said...

Wow what a nice surprise to see all those flowers on your blog! And that wheel looks right at home there. I am happy for you top be able to go back there when you want!

Anne O'Nymous said...

I love the juxtaposition of stunning pictures of gorgeous flowers and outstanding photographs of a happy spinning wheel with, a bit further down on the page, a blurry black and white photo of a man whose head has been hacked to bits.

The painful, the lovely, the ugly, and the quirky are what I tend to notice most about the world, for good or for ill. You don't blink at any of them, and your writing is remarkable.

(My verification word "victort" sounds like a tisane of flowers and herbs sold to benefit research of HIV/AIDS or breast cancer.)

Linda said...

Ah, you're back, how lovely. Thanks for the refreshing garden photos and the well-oiled spinning wheel set up on the landing outside (aaah!): what a breath of fresh air.

Laurie in Mpls. said...

Ahhhhh... hostas and daylilies. Those are some pretty foolproof plants. We joke around here that after The Apocalypse, it's going to be the cockroaches and the hosts that are left. ;) Lily of the valley is in that category, too. If you like the fragrance, you might consider shoehorning a few in. Just be prepared for them to SPREAD.

I think that garden is going to be just gorgeous in a few weeks! (Not that it doesn't look pretty spiffy right now, per your lovely photos. Just...daylilies make summer pretty. :)

My own garden project right now consists of de-turfing a large chunk of my front yard so that I can start putting in a rain garden. Wanna help? Chicago isn't THAT far from Minneapolis! *grin*

Kathy said...

If you want to get in some more gardening time, I have a back yard in which my daughter started a garden several years ago. When I opened my yarn shoppe 3 summers ago, my poor back yard dropped down on my list of "things to do." We could combine a class and gardening. Anything else I could do to help? And I love the first picture.

Eileen said...

We'll have to wait till next year for our garden. Our new house has a paved back yard.

Yes. But I'll be happy to live through your photos for a while!

CarolJ said...

Was thinking what to write as a comment and realised that here I am gazing at a screen when the weather outside here in Cornwall is absolutly gorgeous. Why aren't I outside - I only came in to check my emails and once again got sucked into reading blogs - sorry I'm off!!!

Beth said...

I love spinning on our porch so much, I've named my newborn blog after it. I'm hoping to spend part of my weekend there, enjoying the roses and daylilies after the deluge of rain we've had most of the week. The builder put ceiling fans on both the back and side porches of our house; genius!

The Border Leicester spinning is beautiful, as are the flowers. I hope you have better weather this weekend!

Annie said...

Porch spinning is the best.

kaykatrn said...

The garden look lovely. Your shady spot with spinning Wheel looks downright heavenly!

String Bean said...

Your wheel looks gorgeous in the garden. That was a very lyrical post about gardening. Nice. Makes me want to go outside and pull a few weeds. Maybe I'll just drag my wheel out there instead. Thanks for the motivation. :D

needlefingers said...

I love porch spinning! Of course in southern IL, the golden days of pleasant temps and low humidity are numbered, darn it.

inkberryblue said...

What a gorgeous place ~ and such beautiful photographs. Happy spinning. =]

Sahara said...

That's a lovely scene Franklin; I'm loving the yarn you're spinning––so even and peaceful. I'm so looking forward to spinning in The Botanical Gardens, as soon as this weather lets up. Maybe it's because Sarah Palin is here.

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