The Birds and the Bees
The Birds and the Bees
I swear every time the weather starts to warm and the signs of Spring's arrival are even barely seen, I jump head first right into my full on embrace of Mother Nature.
This Spring I had the patio installed on the top "layer" of our back yard. The one I created with my landscaper at the time and his two workers. They spent two days moving extremely heavy boulders around to make a dry-stacked stone wall. One filled with dirt to elevate the back 1/3 of the back yard. One that was stuffed with tiny succulents, mosses, and climbing perennials. One that, in its third year is still giving me more joy each day.
A flagstone patio sits atop the raised platform, and some very cool, very bright solar lighting shines up on the rock wall and illuminates the various species living between, over, under and around each boulder that makes up the wall. All in all, it will be a constant work in progress. But I had a deadline to make it semi-perfect: Crissie and Bobby's Baby Shower.
Crissie is a dear friend at work who has been married only a few years now, and was told by me to make sure that when she and her Husband, Bobby were ready to conceive, that it happened during the Fall'ish timeframe, so I could throw TSOC (The Shower of the Century) in my backyard during the peak of Spring. Three other hostesses gathered with me and we planned the most beautiful day- and evening- for the parents-to-be. The theme of this event around procreation: The Birds and the Bees.
For the arrangements for the tables, I covered standard class cylinder vases with sheets of curled birch bark, then covered the seams with bagged green moss. One of my favorite things. To symbolize the Mother and Father awaiting the birth of their child, I put nests in each vase, and in each nest were two birds overlooking one egg, waiting for it to hatch. Additional branches held a clip on bird to symbolize something watching over the whole thing. And one tiny bee, wired to another branch, symbolizing, well, how the whole thing happens.
I reached out to each set of Grandparents-to-Be and asked for the full names of each family member all the way up to the Great Grandparent level. I received 44 names. Each name was printed on a clear label that was stuck to a moss-covered and painted wooden oval. Each name was placed in proper order and their family tree was re-created and nailed to the tree in my back yard. Of course at the bottom was the spot for the newest pending arrival, and the visual allowed both families to reflect upon their history and look forward to what lies ahead.
The branches used in the arrangements were battery-operated lights which twinkled as the sun went down and as we welcomed the men we love.
In addition to the live musicians and bartender who were part of the co-ed party, we introduced competitive games to keep the men entertained, and to teach them a thing or two about the female anatomy and how babies are made. Keenan, my brilliantly talented friend, made custom corn hole games with holes the shape of eggs and we had an artist paint fallopian tubes around each hole, calling the game "Sperm Hole".
It was a perfect day.
The first Spring in our new home, I unpacked my Delta 10” Compound Miter Saw (thank you, Todd Langston) and made six 5”x2”x2” raised beds (thank you, DIYNetwork.com) for the back yard.
That same Summer, I lost every berry, every kernel, and every budding bit of juiciness I was growing (thank you, dirty rotten squirrels). So, I had some custom carpentry work done and created a room where only those who can unlock a door and walk in or those who can fit through a ¼” x ¼” hole in hardware cloth would be allowed to enter.
Just to See What I Could Grow
While living in San Francisco, one of my favorite things about the city was the markets. Both the farmer's and flower markets gave me a Saturday morning ritual that stocked me up for the week with all that is fresh, colorful, and bountiful.
I swore to myself one day I would take what I learned from my Italian next door neighbor (Frank Risotto, RIP), and enjoy both the hustle/bustle of living in the middle of a city as well as the sun and soil in my own yard to create my own bounty. He and his wife, Syria, had a "country" place in Sonoma- just a small ranch house with a decent amount of land, as well as a two-flat building in the Marina District that I am sure they paid nothing for several years back an had owned outright for years. She would be screaming out the window at him in Italian, and he would be tending to his garden in the back yard, occasionally firing back at her in the same language and with the same tone. Only his comments ended the conversation and I always thought I heard "shit" in there somewhere.
Each weekend they would go up to Sonoma, and Sunday evening they'd return with a goat, a chicken, some cow manure, or just some cut roses from their garden (tangent: has anyone ever seen the roses grown in Northern California? Between that rich, grape-feeding soil and the distinct lack of Japanese Beetles, the roses are truly amazing). I would hear farm animals at 6:30 in the morning with the whisper of the electric MUNI bus, the 30 Stockton, to be exact, in the background.
Frank and Syria would watch me as I cleared the whole yard (no more than 18' x 35'), full of crabgrass up to my thighs, took out all the overgrown, woody rosemary that lined the perimeter, and carried each bag to the street so I could slowly feed one bag out per the weekly garbage pick up (I still can't go near Rosemary). The one thing they agreed on was that they both loved me. Not because they knew much about me at the time or spent time getting to know me, but because I "worka like a man", they would say. After all the clearing and they knew I wasn't just another young tenant next door who's wild parties would keep them awake and screaming more Italian, but that I was someone who wanted to take the small, urban space I had and use the soil, the sun, and the mild temperatures of San Francisco to see what I could grow.
Before too long, Frank taught me how to make compost that steamed in your hand when you opened up the clumps, how to graft my dying plum tree with his vibrant, thriving one, how to roast raw coffee beans on your little Weber grill, how to tie/stake, how to properly cut/prune, and how to grow just about anything. He taught me the wonders of nature three blocks down from a Noah's Bagels, Starbucks, and a Victoria's Secret. In the evening they would see me out there and invite me over for some coffee. The good Italian kind in the little silver stove top pot. Only Frank would open the cabinet door under the kitchen sink and pull out a Mason jar with a clear liquid and offer me some Grappa with my coffee. He made that, too, from everything left over from his grape vines in Sonoma. Sadly, I never got that recipe. We would have a few coffees, catch a buzz together, laugh about the other neighbors around us, and I had been inducted into their family. It was like living abroad with a family who spoke little English, yet, between the three of us, our mutual love for food grown and done right and the promise of hard work, we developed a relationship of understanding what made us all thrive.
Today I am living in my dream home, a shotgun Bungalow in Atlanta with plenty of flat space for all I've ever wanted. I took out the front lawn and instead have a garden to view from the front porch and for walkers on the sidewalk, and I cleared out the back yard and have managed to make a vegetable and fruit garden, a center lawn space for my boys to play sports, and am working on the upper tier patio area that overlooks the rest of the back yard.
I'll do my best to take and post photos, as I know the before shots really make the after. Truth is, I have so many "before"s, I have a hard time imagining the "after"s. Knowing that the work never ends, I am better about understanding the continuum here, and keeping the camera rolling. Some days the "after"s are just moments where I see the beauty around me and stay excited about what's to come.