Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rick Gets His Lumberjack On

I didn't post all that much this summer on solar cooking. Our yard has a good amount of trees; finding a sunny spot is difficult. Well, there are some sunny spots, but I couldn't place the solar oven on top of the tomatoes. The rest of the sunny spots don't stay that way for long so you really needed to chase the sun if you wanted to cook a meal. And, more often than not, it was Rick who kept the solar oven hopping about the yard when we did give it a try. He spent a lot of time out in the yard this past summer, building the garden back up, creating a super compost pile, and going out late at night to pick bugs off the plants. He'd spritz himself with some homemade bug spray I made, grab the hefty flashlight, and march outside to protect the plants. A man on a mission.

The garden is 40' wide, but never all in sun.
But the garden wasn't getting as much sun as needed, either. The plants themselves looked healthy, but they weren't producing near the amounts of vegetables that we used to get back when we first bought our house thirty-one years ago, nor anywhere close to what folks say a plant should yield. We have photos of Erica standing amidst the zucchini plants as a child, completely dwarfed by the plants, and holding up a gorgeous zucchini. We had a freezer in the basement to store all the surplus food we grew. Now we can't grow zucchini, they just don't thrive. We're lucky if each of our tomato plants got a dozen tomatoes on them. Something had to be done.

With both myself and Rick technically considered unemployed now (although I think we're working a whole lot harder now and definitely being more creative and productive), we figured we really needed to take a good look at how much more we could do for ourselves. We've always had a garden, but it had become a side thought for years, not well tended. I always minded the herbs and Rick was the vegetable guy, but we both were too busy to give the garden the attention it needed. Over the past few years, though, since he closed his photolab, Rick has slowly started getting it back into shape. Inside, we're dehydrating, canning, and fermenting (again, it's mostly Rick's hard work). But we really needed to do something with the yard. When Rick gets a thought in his head he takes action. Me, I procrastinate. He said we need to chop down some trees. I agreed. If we wanted the garden to produce more we needed more light. If I wanted to actually solar cook, I needed sun. But easier said than done, at least in my opinion. But not Rick's. He marched down to the garage and got some pruners. He marched into the basement and got the chainsaw. He went to the shed and got his work gloves. He grabbed the twine and scissors. He was ready. When the man says he's gonna do something, by gosh, he goes and does it. Huge sigh. Guess I had to help.

One of the things I've always loved about Rick is he pushes me to work harder than I would on my own. When I was young I envisioned a life of watching old movies and eating chocolates, or sitting curled up reading my way through a huge stack of books. Maybe sitting in the sun, a drawing pad on my lap, and my pens and ink nearby. I was a daydreamer, a romantic. Who wants to go outside in the dark to pick slugs or beetles off vegetable plants? Who wants to run a 10 mile race? Who wants to can vegetables late at night after dealing with colicky kids all day? His mother is like the freaking Energizer Bunny, so I should have known he'd inherit some of her genes. Years ago, when he was working 100 hour weeks in his photolab, he would often get home after midnight. I would have had an exhausting day, trying to do my layout editing job while running the girls around to all their activities, and by midnight was ready to collapse. Sometimes I would grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine and my favorite book and sit and read until I heard his truck pulling into the driveway. Then I'd hurriedly start reheating his dinner and arrange myself to look as if I was doing something, anything, besides sitting and reading. One time, after a long fourteen hour day, he came home and started canning tomatoes. Despite the fact that I really do love that he makes me work harder than my lazy self wants to, I have to admit that there are times I'd love to smack him with my cast iron pot. I think that was one of those times.

I'll miss the tree, but hopefully its sacrifice won't be in vain.
So, back to the yard. I dragged my sorry self outside to help as best I could. We had just watched the new Lorax movie Friday evening and felt a slight pang as we both mouthed the words, "who will speak for the trees?" but we knew some of them needed to come down in order to get more sunlight on the garden. After chopping down some huge branches and pruning some trees, Rick chopped down the mulberry tree. After it came crashing down, our neighbor stuck his head out the window and yelled, "got your lumberjack on today, huh?"

I should probably go to sleep. It's supposed to be another warm sunny day tomorrow and we have quite a bit to clean up. I think I'll actually take some chicken out of the freezer and cook it in the solar oven while I bundle the branches and twigs. Celebrate our new-found sun. Sounds like a plan. 

And, as a P.S. to this post, I'd love to add that Erica inherited her grandmother's and father's hardworking gene. She has also followed in her father's footsteps in the push mom (me) to do things she isn't particularly thrilled to do category. In this case, learn to knit. Although I have to admit I'm actually finding it kind of fun. Maybe there's something to be said for doing things outside your comfort zone, getting past the laziness barrier, continuing to learn. I am almost done with my very first project -- a super simple shawl. I'm really excited about it. You can read more about my progress on Erica's blog and on my other one. So my work is cut out for me over the next week. I need to finish my knit shawl and I need to help clear the yard.

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