Family Matters,  spilling my guts,  the sticks

Land and Labor

grove worker

So here we are at my mom’s again. I try to stay home but my silly family constantly has ways of involving me in their lives—which I love of course. It doesn’t take much more than a phone call to get me in the car and driving off to the sticks. Poor Toby though. He doesn’t see much of us.

I didn’t mean to stay more than a day after Rapunzel’s holiday concert but the thing about visiting my family is that there is alway so much to do here! They don’t call it Camp Chaos for nothing. I constantly get sucked into projects. Which I totally and completely love. I am weird that way.

I cannot just sit around and watch television or read a book. If I see something challenging to do like say: some boxes that need organizing on the carport or a giant juniper bush that looks like a marshmallow just calling out to be trimmed into a beautiful Japanese bonsai tree… I can’t help myself! So I call up Toby, ask him if he can eat top ramen for another night, and throw myself into the latest project.

out back

Even though I love love love living at the beach, I love the country too. My mom’s new house sits on a pretty big lot and there are trees and grass to play in here! It’s so pretty and over-grown. The yard just calls out to be taken care of. There is space to garden here! I want to plant a really big garden and come out every week to keep it up. Of course that’s not very practical, considering my schedule is pretty busy as it is but it is fun to dream when we are out here.

With the on-coming depression (That’s what we call the “economic downturn” in our house.) I’m thinking crazy thoughts about planting vegetables and making do with less and less. Someday there might come a time when we go to the grocery store and the shelves aren’t lined with every convenient food you can think of. Already, I leave the store half the time without the cut of meat I wanted when I first walked in. Cookie brands are going out of business… what next? Maybe I’m being an alarmist but I like to think about these things. Not in a negative way but more as a challenge. What new thing can I do? How can I ride this out and make it work to my advantage?

serious lemonage

So anyway, when I show up at my mom’s and I see her fruit trees so heavy with fruit that the lemons are breaking their own branches and rotting on the stem, I can’t help but think about this. Her yard is full of rich soil that is waiting to be tilled. There is so much space out here. Why don’t we take advantage of this? Of course the answer is complicated.

My dad is a trucker. He’s gone most of the time. My mom is getting older and has trouble gardening like she used to. Her hands ache with arthritis. My brother is gone trucking too and my sister-in-law has her own half acre to take care of. There just aren’t enough bodies to do the work there is to do. And this isn’t even a farm!

I guess that leaves me. But you know how it is. I have a life home at the beach too. I have freelance work to do and household chores to keep up. I have a husband who likes to see his family once in a while. I have friends at the beach who wonder where I am. I’ve thought about putting Bug in preschool but I’m gone so much it would be a waste of money. What about ballet or gymnastics? I haven’t even thought about signing her up for anything like that.

I guess it’s just a lot to think about.

a big ol' bag o' lemons!

We’ll just try to get here whenever we can.


  • Brigitte Sumner

    what a lovely time to spend with your daughter, I think that parents nowadays are too hasty to enroll them in all sorts of classes, and create a busy lifestyle for little ones. It seems you have it right where she spends precious time with you before venturing out in the big world. there is time enough for that

  • Jennifer

    I love the garden idea. You know how much I want to try to live off the land. Your mom’s property sounds like a dream to me. Go ahead and start a garden and we can take turns tending to it :P

    Your lemon tree puts mine to shame. In fact I’m going to show my lemon tree pictures of your lemon tree and scold it to produce more fruit.

    Jeremy and I decided NOT to enroll Audrey in preschool till she’s closer to 4. Now that Emily is in school and her schedule is so structured, I’m really appreciating the freedom of no scheduled activities for Audrey or Molly. When we were thinking that Audrey would be going to school I was getting kind of down thinking of all the things we could no longer do together because she would be in class every morning.

  • lynne

    Hmm having a part time vegetable patch might just work depending on the vegetables you planted… I don’t remember potatoes being that much hardwork to grow? Your mother has lemon trees growing in her garden! Real lemons on trees! Oh wow they must smell so divine. I’m sorry to hear about your mothers hands though.
    We call the “economic downturn the “credit crunch” over here.

    Here’s a link to a short film I think you might like

  • beyond

    it sounds like you have the best of both worlds. the lemons on that tree are so vibrant, the lemons i get at the supermarket seem pale and almost… sickly compared to them. have you been making jugs of lemonade?

  • beck

    I have a great recipe for lemonade concentrate that you can use all those lemons on and then freeze what you don’t use so you can pull it out and enjoy months from now and have delicious homemade lemonade! Let me know if you’re interested.

  • Justyna

    I highly recommend swimming lessons. have you guys done that? My DD (same age) LOVES them. She’s a fish in the water after only 1 season. Especially living so close to the ocean.
    She goes once a week only. You can swing that, can’t you? Most gymnastic/ballet places want kids to be 3 years old, so maybe something to think about next year.

  • Jummy

    You’re such a giving person, Brenda, but please try not to work too hard! Those lemons look really great and make me want to whip up a batch of very sweet lemon squares!

  • Gramma

    During the great depression, my Dad refused to stand in any of the “bread lines.” He turned over the land in our back yard shovel-ful by shovel-ful. Our vegetable garden teemed with all things good for you. My Mother canned green beans, tomatoes and peaches. We made root beer from Hires extract, sugar and yeast and water. I had a red raspberry patch and we had a gorgeous apricot tree. It was a lot of work, weeding, but we had ample rain so everything thrived. We even grew rhubarb which was also good for cleaning out scorched pots. I thought we were wealthy. Here is one of our supper dishes:

    1/4 pound saltines
    1 cup boiling water
    2 Tablespoons butter
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    dash of pepper

    Put crackers into a tureen or covered casserole. Pour one cup of boiling water over them. Cover tightly to steam for five minutes. Brown the butter and season with salt and pepper. Pour butter over crackersssssssssssssssss and give an upside down turn, and cover for another five minutes.

  • Sonja

    oh, which cookie brand is going out of business? I had no idea!
    I have my own huge backyard to tackle… I’m in the process of convincing The Husbands that two hens-a-layin’ would be a good idea. And we’re planning what we’ll grow next Spring. It’s exciting!

  • kristine

    Great post. So I’m 30 & went to a great pre-k 2 days a wk when I was 4 yrs old. But my best memories , did not come from there. They came from spending time w/ my ultra crafty mom. Learning how to quilt & bake w/ my grandma. Helping my grandfather tend to his garden-farm . If I could go back & return those 2 days a wk of pre-k for more time of crafty -ness w/ my mom & baking & gardening. I would. All the lil things you do w/ your Bug, are very important & not as costly as pre-k & classes!! Keep up the good work!!

  • BeachMama

    So many lemons! You have years and years to put Bug into school, preschool, after-school, ballet, etc. She is getting a much better education with you picking lemons than she will get in school. There will be time for other stuff later on.

  • lynne

    I agree with BeachMama it’s nice that bug really is your “very own ” girl right now, no other kids bad habits brought home from Nursery like “whispering”. I didn’t go to school until I was four. I missed out on Nursery and pre school but so what if I didn’t get to play in the sand pit or the Wendy House I dug sandcastles on the beach and made wigwams out of bamboo canes and blankets with my mother. I also learnt to read sitting on my mothers knee before going to school and I can remember when the letters became actual words which is magical and a much nicer memory than learning with a haressed teacher trying to concentrate on several kids at once.

  • Gayle

    Your photos are so beautiful. Living in the Northeast, it is amazing to me that people actually have lemon trees in their yard! So cool.

  • Ashley

    Those lemons look amazing! I can only imagine how they smell. I’ve gotta say I’m a little jealous, while you and Bug are playing outside and picking fantastic fruit we are watching slush (snow and rain) dibble all over the ground outside….where do you think I wanna be?

  • Mrs. Wilson

    I’ve never seen a lemon tree (bush?) before – but now, thanks to you, I actually know what one looks like!

    I can imagine that it would be hard to try to share your time with your mom – you are an amazing daughter!

  • Mammamsterdam

    I am definetely for swimming, it might be good fun for you tw, but agree that when they are that young, and with all the school activities waiting for them, playing with friends and family is the best thing to do as long as it lasts.

    My older boy, almost 7 was complaining last week that he has to work every weekday, go to the after school 3 days a week (which he loves and plays with all kids and lots of creative care-takers), and then percussions on Thursday, and Italian playground on Saturday. I was symphatizing eith the poor overworked kid when his dad reminded him that he goes to percussions class because he loves it, and that he has lots of fun at Italian school.

    Which is sorta true, but I understand he misses just a few more lazy afternoons home with friends playing. and I miss last mintues imrpovsed activities with them. So, no hurry, she is still so young, all this will come in due time.