It rained all day long at the rabbit patch yesterday. The rain fell gently and steadily, like a long, sweet song. It has been a long time, since such a day has passed. There wasn’t a bit of harm in the soft, gray clouds. They were friendly and generous. A light, cooling breeze blew all day and didn’t even disturb the loose tin on the old barn.
I was busy all day, in spite of the rain. I painted four flowerpots and filled them with herbs. This seemed to quiet the complaining thyme. Next, I painted flowers on two buckets. If a bucket can be considered “cute”, mine is. I repaired the old drawer, and frankly surprised myself with that feat. I am awful with tools. of any sort. Of course, there was a supper to cook, as well. I decided to have an especially nice meal,as a rainy day, does afford the luxury of “light duty chores”.
How nice, that several of my favorite old movies were on, yesterday. I started with “Gaslight’, after that, “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and the grand finale, was “Arsenic and Old Lace”. I drifted in and out of the den, while they played. This bothered, me little, as I have seen them all a dozen times. I did some of the painting, in the den. What a wonderful morning, I thought.
Today, is the “official first day of summer” here. That rings true for me, as we had fresh squash, tomatoes and cucumber salad, for supper last night. Thankfully, Mama shared what she had, with us. Kyle was especially glad, it had rained, as he knows my habit of cooking, on such days. When the kitchen smells, like a garden-it is summer. There are other indications, as well. The stars have increased in number in the night sky- and wild honeysuckle vines cover old fences and act like garlands for the woodland trees. Honeysuckles have a pleasant smell, and most every southern child has drank nectar from their blossoms.
The “Farmers’ Almanac” has predicted a cooler season, than usual-and they are dependable forecasters. This does not hurt my feelings a bit. I have felt every bit as housebound in July, as I have in January. I do well, until it is 100 degrees and high humidity-in that case I wilt. A country woman rises early under such conditions. I was often in the garden by six am, and canning in the afternoon. I have also canned at midnight, so the house wouldn’t get so heated. Oddly, I may miss my summer schedule, this year-but I am gladly willing to try a normal life.
Every chance I get, I go out to see if the bees that have claimed the barn, are still angry-so far they are. It takes a fair amount of bravery to go in the barn these days. They sting through clothing and can sting multiple times. I almost swatted a butterfly, while under one attack. He flew by at precisely, the wrong time. I was so thankful to see him rise above the commotion unscathed. Kyle has mostly finished his work . All that is left for him, is putting in a few new boards. Of course there is also the job of removing the old wood . I will start on that tomorrow. I hope to paint the awning tomorrow, too. On Friday, I am leaving for Elizabeth City.
I love the careless days of summer. The sun is the only clock, at the rabbit patch, when it is summer. Work, rest and play get their proper turns and I can devote my attention, mostly where I please. Wealth is often measured in dollars, but for me, I think owning your life is a far superior alternative. I have always held that notion and preached it to my children. Of course, when the roof leaks and a barn commences to sag, money is necessary-and there is always the electricity bill. In some way, summer balances the accounts . . and at least in summer, I am very wealthy.
Dear Diary, It is summer and in summer, I am glad for the rambling honeysuckle. I am glad for the time when the sky fills up with stars. I am glad for tomatoes and porches with geraniums. When hours are counted by the way light falls and shade increases, then it is summer . . .and I am glad.
How lovely it was to wake to the sound of a steady, gentle rain . I woke up feeling well rested, but the rain acted as a lullaby, so I did not rouse for a short while. Instead, I listened to the “water music”. I was thankful that today, I did not have to rush anywhere. The day was mine and I took great delight in that.
Yesterday, I cleaned the yard up and painted the kitchen cabinets, in addition to the daily housekeeping. I had planned to paint the awning today, but truthfully, I am glad it is raining. Rain gives me permission to watch old movies, even if the barn is not finished and the stripes on the awning, have faded into a dreadful state. No matter, how I remind myself that “Rome was not built in a day” , I find it difficult not to prove that wrong . . if the sun is shining.
I will not be entirely idle today. I managed to get an old dresser drawer unstuck, yesterday, but the thing came apart on me, in the process. I can repair that today. The front porch can be tidied up and I may paint a flower pot as the thyme is complaining lately. It is a good day to call an old friend, too -oh, but a rainy day is good for a lot of things.
When I was child, rainy days were good for a lot of things as well. It was on those days, that my sister and I were allowed to drag out clothes from a chest, in Grandmas’ pink bedroom and dress up in all sorts odd outfits. There were high heels and pocketbooks, as well as dresses. We did not transform to princesses, but instead acted like the adults around us. We had names likes “Lillian” and “Delphie” and we acted quite proper. Usually a doll would get sick, when it rained. We looked at the “World Books” for long whiles. I declare I learned to read from the encyclopedias in the mohagony book case, long before I went to school.
We had paper dolls too and cut up old Sears & Roebuck catalogs, to make more. I liked paper dolls when they were new, but in a short while, they became flimsy , and were apt to lose arms and heads. It always shocked me and I felt like a murderer, because of it.
In the afternoons, when Grandma got a chance to sit down, we often put on shows for her with songs and dances. Later she would tell us stories, that she made up, about such things as a monkey or a circus. Horrible things would happen, in her tales, but somehow they had happy endings.
Rainy days were happy occasions, unless they went on for days. By then folks were grumpy-and all the paper dolls had died tragic deaths. Laundry hung on the back porch and eliminated our performances. My sister and I would argue and the dolls argued too. Thank goodness, for the World Books. We always went back to them.
It is no wonder, that I see a rainy day, as a holiday, of sorts. I will be quite content to paint flowers on pots and buckets-and hopefully repair the dresser drawer. Instead of reading about horses, trees and Helen Keller, I will find a strategy against the bumblebees in the barn, that have stung me, Kyle and Cash -and so hindered our progress. I will pretend that I am a writer, living in a small cottage with a small yard full of flowers and rabbits- and void of old barns with rotten floors and bumblees . . .and on rainy days, Lyla will visit, because I have a story to tell.
Dawn broke with a muted light. The kind of light that does not rouse the world with any sense of urgency. These kind of mornings, come “softly and tenderly” like the old hymn says Jesus calls. Even the birds sing more gently on such mornings. They do not chatter this Fathers’ Day morning, but instead sing in hushed verses-all except the purple martins. The martins sing in cheerful trills, as only they can.
It gives me great joy to write, that there is finally and at long last, no wet paint in the old farmhouse. Of course this is a short lived affair, but the most of the painting is behind me. I have been painting for weeks-at night before school was out, and since then, every day. The farmhouse, is as old as it has ever been, but painting has not hurt it. I have also painted an old wardrobe and the china cabinet, a stark white. I do have a table left, if the spirit moves me, as well.
The yard has been neglected because of all the ruckus in the house -and all of Farm Life can attest to that. I plan to work outside, this week. There is still the barn, too. There is a bit more, for Kyle to do. I will clean up behind him and then paint roses on the stair case. Hopefully by then, I will spend some time with Lyla, by the laughing river.
I have a huge pot of chicken simmering now and another pot of butter beans. I still have a cake to cook, and cornbread to fry, at the last possible moment. It is Sunday- not just any Sunday-but Fathers’ Day, after all . . .and Daddy loves chicken and pastry.
After Sunday Dinner
Mama and Daddy came in the back door, just as the last piece of cornbread had been taken up. The simple meal was relaxed and easy, much like the morning light had been. I had fixed a cake, that I know Daddy especially likes- a cinnamon raisin cake. I added diced apples today as I had two that needed to be used. It was good enough that I talked him into taking some home.
Daddy, does not like a lot of fanfare. He has never craved attention and has always shunned “big productions” made about him. He is the reigning patriarch of four generations now and none of us want to disappoint him-not because he “rules the roost” with fear, but because, he has made himself worthy of our respect. He has never had to convince us of that. Daddy “wears his sermon, in his shoes.”
Daddy carried a lunchbox to work for over thirty years. I simply can not fathom that. His days were long as he often worked “overtime” and it was an hour to get there, and an hour to get back home. I remember that when Daddy left to work night shift, we would wave good-by from the front door. Mama would blink the porch light and daddy would honk the horn, as he drove off. It meant ” I love you.” We would all blow kisses -and we did so every time. We never needed to call a repairman for anything , from bicycles to the stove, when I was growing up- Daddy could fix everything and all of that meant “I love you” as well. We could always depend on Daddy and I think that may have been the loveliest thing of all. I think it is safe to say, that I did “grow up privileged”. I would just as soon sit in the shade of the sycamores, with daddy, today, as anybody, I know of.
I have always lived a simple life-but I came from extraordinary people-and my own father, is one of them.
Dear Diary, I am glad for mornings with soft light and I am glad for the humble kitchen table, in the old farmhouse . . .especially on Sundays, when Mama and Daddy are there. . .because it means “I love you”, too.
Today is far from ordinary, at the rabbit patch. On this day, three decades ago, I became a mother. My oldest son, Brant was born on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, while the mimosa trees were blooming.
I have never forgotten the details of that day. When I held him, a deep sense of love came over me- a kind of love that I had never known. For the first time in my life, I truly understood how my parents loved me. It was a bigger and more beautiful concept, than I could have imagined. I was very over-whelmed with gratitude and wondered how could such an enormous kind of love existed without my knowledge of it. That day changed me, and I am better because of it.
I remember the day, I brought Brant home. I don’t think any mother forgets that. I took him to the mimosa, that I had sat beneath, waiting for him. I wanted him to know right off, that he had come to a world, with such lovely things, as mimosas.
Of course, as he grew, I continued this process. I made sure, he didn’t grow up too civilized-and he didn’t. He spent a good part of childhood in the woods. Brant had a great respect for nature, and he still does. He knew a male pine from a female at five years old. One year it snowed, and Brant came in with a little sparrow in his hand! I still don’t know how that happened. Brant held him a while, by the woodstove, and then took him out and the little bird flew off. Nothing has changed since then. Animals take to Brant, as if he is a charmer of sorts- so do children.
Today, is also the first day of the summer break for me. Kyle and Christian are at work, and the oldest children are all in Wilmington. -so I am having a quiet celebration at the rabbit patch. There is plenty to do. I hope to finish cleaning the barn, but it is awfully hot, out. Clothes are hanging on the line, and I always like that affair. I listened to a purple martin”s “trills” as I hung out the laundry.
I plan to wash some antique glass dishes today. I love to wash glass. It is calming for me. I love the way they sparkle in the sunlight, while drying. It is not a job to hurry through, either, but instead demands slow , careful movement. I have found that I think slow and careful thoughts as I wash-well, you can’t hurry your thoughts, when washing glass, either. I remember who they belonged to, and all the fuss that went on, when an occasion called for glass dishes, long ago when I was just a child. I never helped in the clean-up after such events. I was nervous and was sure I would be the one that cracked the bowl, that belonged to my great-great aunt, or some other saint before her or God forbid, I break the last platter of its’ sort, left in the world.
I have painted a flower pot this morning. I plan to paint pots and buckets this summer. Of course, I must wait for rain, to spend a day painting. The rabbit patch territory can be selfish, like that. Weeds, grass and thorned vines are a relentless lot altogether, and have no mercy on the ones that tend the land. Of course, under such conditions, something happens between myself and the land. We become entwined and speak our own language. I know where and when, shade falls. I know how the soil varies from the edge of the woods to the far side of the “Quiet Garden”. I know where the morning star shines . . and I know where the wild violets bloom.
In the Evening of the First Day
It took longer than I expected to wash the glass and so I had ample time to entertain lofty notions. Cash and the cats napped in front of a window fan. The breeze coming through the windows stirred up the kitchen herbs and I breathed in the smell of basil and thyme, as I washed the pretty relics from the women before me. I decided then and there, that it was a good thing to grow herbs on a sunny windowsill, and wherever I live, I will do so.
I did work in the old barn, after all, in spite of the heat. I started a small fire in the garden where beans usually grow. I watched the fire til it was reduced to embers, so did Cash . .so did Christopher Robin. I thought of the simple moments that had made up my day. The complexities of the world seemed far away from the clothes line-and the old barn. A country woman keeps a diary of simple content, I thought,
I thought of Brant, as I walked in the old house with the clean dishes. His birth changed my life-His life changed the world. He is one of the most kind hearted people I know. He is known to give things to strangers, he buys shoes for children that need them and feeds any hungry animal that he comes across. He knows every older neighbor around him and helps them bring groceries in. I started writing, when Brant was born .
Dear sweet Rabbit Patch Diary, I became a mother on this day, long ago . . . and that has made all the difference. Happy birthday Brant.
Children are out of school and farmers are harvesting winter wheat. “Queen Annes’ Lace” and the Day Lilies bloom and mark the time better than any calendar. This is the prelude to summer at the rabbit patch.
School released at noon on Friday, liberating children and teachers, to spend their time as they please. Many folks have lofty plans for the summer-trips out west, cruises -and everyone is going to the beach, at some point. I came home and finally finished painting that very high ceiling in the den. The rabbit patch does not close down for summer, but instead requires a fair share of attention. Many years , I declared, that I could not possibly live here without summers off. I was in the yard as soon as it was light and called it a day at sunset. A few years ago, I was stung by ground bees and stayed in a few days. Concerned neighbors stopped by as I was not seen working when they drove by. I always went back to school with scratches and bites, and tanned. People would ask where I had been, an island maybe? I told them, no- I had a garden and a big yard.
Of course, I have my own agenda for the summer. We are in full swing sprucing up the old house. There are repairs needed to some of the barns. There is always a day of mowing, each week. I will weed flower beds and cut those hateful thorned vines on a regular basis. For the first time in a decade, I will not tend a garden, this year. It was a hard decision to come by, as I love my garden . . but a garden just does not allow “a vacation”. This summer, I plan to stroll by that laughing river with Lyla, every chance I get. I want to go to Wilmington, to spend time with my oldest sons, Brant and Tres. I do not want to worry about tomatoes and squash, while I am there. I do not want to come home to a garden needing three days of weeding, either. Thank goodness for farmer markets and kind neighbors, who are apt to share their bounty. One year, my garden drowned, early on. The Farm Life community brought me more tomatoes, than I ever have grown. It was not unusual to find a bushel of something on the back doorstep, upon waking or have a small truck drive up filled with sweet corn in mid morning. Many gardeners grow with the intention of sharing, I realise-and the Farm Life community is as generous as any people, I have ever known.
The last moon of spring is a lovely grand finale to the season. It is as orange as a tangerine and astrologers claim there is a certain degree of good luck abounding, because of it. I do hope they are right. I am certain it is lovely to behold and well worth spending some time with.
I can not speak for all parts of the world, but I can say that the spring has been a lovely season at the rabbit patch. The world is fairer when magnolias bloom. The common daylilies and Queen Annes’ Lace adorn the roadsides and do not seem so common when they abide together. Mimosa trees, may be ” a dime a dozen’ but they are no less beautiful, because of it. If you smell their feathery blossoms in the breeze, you will agree. Fireflies, known as “lightening bugs” here, come out in great numbers, now. It looks like Christmas in the young woods, when they do. Just now, the wild honeysuckle is starting to bloom and I think often, how beautiful the world is because of such ordinary things as wild flowers and full moons.
Today, Kyle and I have big plans. There is mowing and hopefully, we will finish that dreadful barn floor. I have but a few days left of work days, and then I plan to take full advantage of “spending my time, as I please”. There are shade trees to sit under, when the work is finished. I will gather roses and hydrangeas for vases and of course . . . .there is always the laughing river.
The old foiks were right, when they said “when it rains, it pours.” I found out first hand, Tuesday night. A storm came across the fields, with roaring and the sky was snapping like the fourth of July. With it came rain that fell hard and mightily. The roof repair was hardly finished and so it rained in the old farmhouse-not leaked, but rain poured in. I was up on a ladder painting a high ceiling in the den, when I first heard the commotion. Kyle and Christian were scrambling and using loud tones, so I scrambled as best I could and found myself in the midst of a ruckus.
Christian was running from the pantry with every big pot he could find. Kyle had gathered the towels we use for the dogs, and then raided the linen closet. No matter, how resourceful they were, there was a large puddle of rain water on the floor and it was not letting up. There was thunder and lightening and wind, when Christian ran out and got on the roof. He stepped on a nail within three minutes. I was sure he had been struck by lightening and nearly fainted, when I heard him yell out. When I found out, he had not been electrocuted, I commenced to fussing. I knew it was a terrible idea that Kyle had gone to a cook out on Friday. I fussed because he went fishing on Saturday. I fussed because I lived in an old house. I brought up a lot of things in those moments.
Cash, my boxer, and the cats, Christopher Robin and Moon Shine assembled, like a choir in the corner. Moon Shine was skittish and jumpy. Cash seemed nervous and worried and Christopher Robin was calm and I declare he had all sorts of judgements about us, on his face about the predicament. I came close to crying, when there wasn’t a dry towel left in the house. When the worst was over, and the water was reduced to a leak, I examined Christians’ foot and decided he would live, after all.
I was exhausted from the excitement-and throwing my fit. I decided I would not climb the ladder again and began putting things away. . . That is when I spilt the pristine white paint on the hardwood floor. What a horrible shock to remember, there wasn’t a dry towel in the house, at that particular moment. my feet felt fastened to the floor-when I could move, I ran to the kitchen, taking care to select dish towels that had seen better times. When that was over, I just wanted to go to bed.
Of course, I couldn’t go to sleep right off-I had a lot of confessing to do. The more I listed things to beg pardon for, the drowsier, I got. I even remembered to be glad about the lilies. I thought of the blessed gardenia which is in full bloom and the Mimosa tree with its’ feathery blossoms that are one of my very favorite scents. I remembered laying with Brant, when he was weeks old, under a mimosa decades ago, on a soft blanket. I thought how I can’t wait to show Lyla, these beautiful trees, that her great grandmother, loved too, as does Jenny.
Yesterday, the boys worked on the roof, with an experienced roofer. This morning, it rained again, but the old house did not get wet. The towels are all washed and sorted. Supper is simmering, on this day that is cool enough to be one in late September. I bought a new can of paint, today. I also picked out the color I want to paint my cottage door, one day.
Dear Diary, I am glad to remember that a leaking roof . . .is just that. I am glad that in moments, when I do not act properly . . .it is just that, too. I will hope to take the high road, more often than not, which is strewn with things like mimosa trees with soft pink blossoms and gardenias in full bloom . . . and surely, I must “consider the lilies”.
By seven am, I was gathering more branches on the rabbit patch territory. I have two more piles to gather and burn, and then will be caught up-for at least a week. There is no rest for the weary on a rabbit patch. I did see that the cape jasmine is in full bloom, along with the lilies.
Cash, my very loyal boxer, went with me. The morning was especially cool. I surveyed the property and felt grateful for all the work done this week end. Finally, at long last, order has been restored on the rabbit patch. Things are in their proper places and mostly the territory looks tidy. This is no small feat. Old trees are dear to my heart, but they do make a mess. Still, I will not complain with a tree. The barns, I will complain with.
There are five barns in the back yard-several are really big open shelters. I like them all to be orderly as you can see their content. The rabbit patch requires a lot of tools, besides wheel barrows and mowers etc. There are also water hoses and cages for tomato plants. There are buckets and bushel baskets-what a commotion it all causes. We are all in the habit of working til we are very tired and so a rake is liable to end up where a bucket ought to be. I have read, and believe, that “love covers a multitude of sins.” . . the same can be said for a barn door.
This morning, somehow , when there is a bit of “rabbit patch glory”, I am not sorry in the least, for the work. Christian and I worked together for hours. In the evening, we stood basking in our accomplishments. We were both tired and dirty. We both agreed that we hoped one day soon, we would find that cottage, with a sidewalk in front of it. We both went to bed early . I couldn’t tell you what I dreamed and I am quite sure I was asleep before everyone got blessed.
I did get a nice surprise, last night. Jenny called and is bringing Lyla for a visit. Jenny has a baby shower to attend and so I will tend to Lyla. We are meeting at my parents’ house, so we will have a nice visit- and probably for best part of the afternoon. Baby showers are not what they used to be, after all.
It used to be that showers were for women and little girls, mostly. There would be a pretty table with glass dishes, which were collected by older women and lent out to the hostesses. Of course, I have a collection myself,. (When people started using paper products, the thick cut glass lost its’ appeal and were “a dime a dozen”. ) The food was always the same. There were little decorated cake squares, nuts, lady fingers, sandwiches made with cucumber and others made with pimento cheese. Chicken salad was served in cute little pastry cups.- and the best and always home made mints in pastel colors. There was a corsage for the expecting mother and punch was served. It was an almost formal affair. Some one wrote an account of the gifts, because thank you notes were a must! They were all the same. Gifts were chosen by those attending. There were no lists of desired items. sent with the invitation, telling you where to buy them. Most often, we didn’t know the gender, so there were bibs,sleepers and receiving blankets in mostly green and yellow. Someone always crocheted an afghan, to give. Wedding showers were conducted in the same fashion. What sweet occasions, showers were. I suppose my memories truly tell my age . . .and I do not consider it a foolish endeavor, to give an account of an old tradition. One thing remains, as it always was-there is a young mother, full of hopes and dreams, at everyone of them-or a joyful bride, fairly glowing.
Things did not go as planned in the afternoon. Lyla was not well and so Jenny did not attend the shower- so. I headed for the woods. I do not like to work in the woods, this time of year. As a child, the woods were forbidden once it got warm outside. Threats about redbugs, poison ivy, ticks, snakes and ground bees were cited over and over-and I know now, it was all true. Forts and secret places were abandoned in the spring and not to be revisited until after a few “hard” frosts-still, if I didn’t tend to those vines, the battle would very soon be lost -and so I devised a plan. I used the mower to create a ruckus and cut the vines sitting while the motor roared. Of course, I came out battered and scratched, but the victory was mine, on this day.
I finally declared a truce with the rabbit patch after that ordeal. Tomorrow, I must enter civilization again, after all.
Dear Diary, The days have not been full of fires and thorns only , but lovely things too . The Cape Jasmine blooms and so do the lilies. I remembered something sweet from long ago and felt glad-I made a wish on the star closest to the moon and all things considered, it might just come true.