Summer on a String: Marigold Garland

Amidst the:

Salad every night, snacking on sun-warmed peas, all those green tomatoes wiggling bigger every day…

Bouquets of mint, oregano, chamomile, dill and lavender drying, waiting to season the winter’s tea and soup…

Are the flowers!

I always tuck marigolds into my vegetable garden. I like the neon orange waving from the tones of jade, mint, emerald, sage, lime and clover.

Marigolds are also a good friend to vegetable gardens. Their nectar feeds beneficial insects that eat harmful insects and they are also known to deter some insects from vegetable plants. Honestly, I think you’d have to plant gobs of them to make a real difference so I mostly plant them because they are jubilant.

And they dry so beautifully! I made a garland last summer that has been in our bathroom ever since. The color has really held up and in the midst of winter’s 4:30 sunsets and grey skies, I committed to make MORE marigold garland this summer.

Plus, they make a nice backdrop to our everyday situations like washing chicken poop from feet while wearing pearls and pink sequined purses.

Making flower garland is a snap and super fun to do with kids.

Supplies:

  • marigolds
  • monofilament or string
  • large needle

Tips:

  • Harvest the marigolds when they are in full bloom, before they begin to dry on the plant.

  • Snip just at base of the flower receptacle, top of stem — the bulbous part beneath the petals where all the flower organs grow.

  • Thread needle through receptacle. You can either go straight through, parallel to flower (as seen in my bathroom) or through hole where you snipped and up through flower (as seen in the making here). While the through-stem-out-blooom is more typical, I actually prefer the bathroom garland: more flowers tighter together and I like that they point all different directions.

  • Use skinny end of a chop stick to push needle through the large marigolds.

    • Only harvest what you can string up right away; you can add more to same garland at any time.


beautiful handmade scissors available at DIG + CO!

  • The needle needn’t be sharp. A rounded, long needle is perfect for the littlest kids to help with zero fear of a poke.

The whole process is so satisfying and meditative and smells just like summery earth. This little dude hangs in our kitchen window. I have plans for so many more!

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the immortality of make believe

Two years ago my daughters wrote a letter to a potential fairy and left it out on the deck. She wrote back. Her name is Lavender Fawn. The girls stitched up beds from fabric scraps and fashioned sofas from soft leaves, they set out itty portions of banana and pea sized bowls of jewels.

Those who’ve been reading here a while might remember my discomfort with Santa etc because I couldn’t shake lying to my kids. So how did we get here? Where I wake at 6am to craft tiny notes from a tiny fairy who cares for fawns in western Montana in the spring and lives in Nicaragua during our winter and took a sabbatical to help the moon fairy with the tides last summer?

Because I can play make believe too. I learned from the best make believers of all time. And I can tell the truth in my make believing.

This year, at 8 1/2, Margot wrote a letter to Lavender. Lavender wrote back in her best fairy script. The following morning Margot raced to the deck, eagerly read the letter and then looked to me.

“Mama, this looks like your handwriting.”

“It does.”

“Is it your handwriting?”

“Hmm.”

She shrugged and smiled. She sat down to write Lavender back. Drew her a heart on a little fairy-sized rock. Arranged it all beautifully with tiny fairy writing utensils, gave me a hug and said she could’t wait to see what the letter said tomorrow.

Ruby is naturally curious about the things her big sister takes interest in. Sometimes it sticks, like obsession with blank books. Sometimes it doesn’t stick, like tight pants. But this interest in the realness of fairies? That stuck.

She came to me two nights later, tearful because she knows not to look up things online without a parent but she did and saw something scary. Honestly, my first thoughts were dark. I imagined she saw…I don’t even want to type it. I followed her to the ipad and this is what she found while searching for “pichers of real tooth fairies.”

Now, that is a mildly scary thing. And really funny all around. But it did freak her out. The tooth fairy situation is already a little dicey but who wants a groggy, green-faced Bruce Willis in a bad Pollyanna wig visiting toothless, doe-eyed children in the dark of night? I’ll take Tink.

We had a good chat about it all — the crumminess of feeling afraid, the inability to unsee things you see, the weirdness of the internet and reasons we have rules for its use. Also, about pretend images and fake ideas. What to believe.

That night she left her tooth under her pillow. When the tooth fairy came in to take the tooth and give the loot, she found a note in the most careful, endearing kindergarten spelling. “Dear Tooth Fairy, I am not sure I want you to take my tooth. I like my tooth. But I do want money.” Love, Ruby

The good fairy left the tooth and the money. The following morning, Ruby grabbed a stool and climbed up to the little ceramic jar where I keep my girls’ teeth. I didn’t know she knew that jar. She put her tooth in there without asking a question.

I remain careful about how I talk about the fantastical ideas that leave quarters under pillows and fill stockings with bubblegum. My decidedly frank yet encouraging approach might confuse things. But I do think it clarifies. As with all parenting everything, time and therapy will tell.

“Mama do you like know the Easter Bunny? How did you get the aprons you made in with the other things? Or, wait, is it all you?”

“Huh.”

“Anyway, it’s fun.”

“Yes.”

Margot and Ruby know. They trust and tell the whole truth with their whole hearts. They know about the endurance of beauty and magic. They know about joy and faith, about the immortality of make believe. And I’m remembering, learning from them.

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Artful Homestead at Windrush Farm

I’ve been home for over a week now and my suitcase remains packed, including bits of California grass, Pacific scented sand, exotic leaves and seashell shards my daughters carefully collected and studied. We’ll get to it.

The first ever Artful Homestead took place on Windrush Farm in Chileno Valley on May 28. When my best friend first asked me to be a part of something with her there, I spent a lot of time imagining what that might look like. It’s fun to day dream about Windrush Farm, about collaborating with my old friend, about pushing myself into something new.

Paige’s mother in law owns the farm and Paige has hosted many photography workshops there. Her husband, Arann Harris, is a musician and leads Farm Camp and Animal Music. Arann’s mom, Mimi, has written several books about gardening and farming and now teaches workshops about dying and spinning wool. All of this is to say: the space is an educational and creative oasis.

We dreamed up a day full of

writing,

creating,

gathering,

wandering,

eating,

nurturing,

noticing.

And the 24 of us did just that.

I loved wondering, thinking, creating with Paige. We work so well together, with similar work styles, senses of humor, ability to rally, love of process.

The afternoon before the workshop, we were driving all about the rolling hills of grapes and rosemary, nasturtium and live oak to collect bendy branches for wreath making, discarded burlap coffee bean bags for tablecloths, wild plums for decorating. And it was extremely, blissfully unstressful. It was a blast: the thrill of it all coming together, the inspiration that comes from Deadline. Also she good and gently nudging me toward letting things go when I get excited about adding things to our plates. (Next time I will allow for more time to make those berry pies!)

The day.

A tremendous group of strong, smart, creative women.

A chef that knocked our socks off with things like roasted vegetables and salad greens with farro, feta and roasted chili Green Goddess dressing; blistered shishito peppers with roasted mushrooms; roasted baby beets, onion, turnips and carrots with potatoes and herbs tossed in a cilantro pesto; preserved Lemon and garlic chicken from the wood­fired oven. Yeah, we ate well.

 Chef: Joe Ferraro (chef.ferraro AT gmail.com)

Thinking, writing and snuggling with sheep under a canopy of singing cottonwood leaves.

Exploring and photographing.

Swimming in the jungalicious garden pool.

Foraging and wreath making.

Sharing in experience, ritual, place, song, food, time.

We’d like to do more, artful homesteaders. Hope to meet you all. xo

* Two group shots so that each photographer could be included! All the most beautiful photos in this post are by exceptional, lovely photographers Paige Green and Laura Schneider.

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Switch turned on. Or off, which ever.

Ah May! You’ve zipped right by. I caught you by the tail just as you were walking out the door. Full of company, rain, baby chicks, green grass, soccer games, raging creeks. The arrival of hummingbirds, dandelions, ticks, tank tops, salad at every dinner. No offense, I am ready for June. The end of school, the beginning of the dog days.

There was a comment on my instagram feed from @chantetay in reaction to that video.

I would love to hear your wisdom about staying intentional and “slowing things down”. I had it in me years ago. And it comes out now and again but I’m In a season of life where especially Sunday nights, feels like I missed so much. I admire that you seem to always have your switch turned on. Or off, which ever.

I was thoughtful about her words because I was on that mountain top, struggling. Indeed, trying to find peace and muscling my way through some tough stuff. I was overwhelmed and tired. I felt like I wasn’t pulling anything off. My husband pretty much made me go for a hike. “Babe, go do something for you. GO. Go run up the hill,” he’d instructed after I’d thrown a fit from feeling needed by every human and animal all the time, from feeling like I’m 10 minutes into 50 projects that’ll never see completion.

Mama, I’m still hungry. Can I have another snack?

Switch turned on. Or off, which ever.

How do mothers write books? How do lovers make art? How do humans find time to birth poems, weave songs, practice headstands, listen to the sea, watch the wind?

Mama, how did the first hummingbird come into the world?

Here’s the thing. Nothing I was experiencing was epic or fatal or dire. Nonetheless, it felt heavy. Suffocation can happen in a puddle. So, a message to you and me: feelings are real and stuffing them down because they’re ‘first world problems’ is about as helpful as soleless shoes. Yes: keep your wits with a universal perspective and Yes: feel what you feel so you can truly move on.

Moving on.

Mama, I just always want to snuggle with you.

So what was holding my attention? Well, lots of things, big and small. And many things that are wonderful! Like:

1.
The first ever Artful Homestead is happening on Saturday! I’m nervous and thrilled and all those feelings that happen when I care about a thing. It is sold out and I am thinking to do another in Missoula this fall? I cannot wait to meet all you brilliant, rad people. And also for a little vacation in California! My family joins me after the gathering and we will spend a few days with our best friends.

2.
I have been working on the launch of my new online marketplace: DIG + CO. Everything from product development to setting up relationships with other markers to photographing to writing so much copy to actually making the website look the way I desire…it’s been a lot. I’m saying this not to complain but to announce the work behind a thing; we so often see a venture materialize (on social media etc) and it seems effortless like *poof*. It isn’t (at least it isn’t for me). It’s less like a sprint and more like an ultra marathon with a few resuscitations in there. Anyway, it’s live! From our family to yours: thank you so much to all of you who went shopping. We have big plans for making more things and giving back.

And, right now: our first sale! Use code DADDY to get 20% off everything in the ‘Father’s Day’ section of the shop.

DIG + CO. is an online market that features my handmades as well as other’s handmades. Everything there is crafted to love and last, to support your adventures, homesteads and artful lives. I hope you love it as much as I’ve loved gathering it all together. I’ll always be open to working with you. Please reach out if you have ideas for how we might do great things together.

3.
I am planning another big trip with my girls this coming fall and am thinking of the desert. Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, California, maybe even Mexico…give me your ideas.

(I spied them marrying in the field last week which about made my heart bust right open.)

4.
It’s garden season! And I want to spend every spare moment out in my plot. Or thinking about my plot.

Mama, you’re a weird dancer. But I still like it when you dance. 

So, in response to @chantetay’s asking me about staying intentional and slowing things down. Her question made me think about what works well for our family and – when I was in my funk, focusing on what doesn’t work – I really appreciated the exercise. Some thoughts.

First and most important: Everything we want to do or be is a practice. Nothing is ever achieved; we are always striving.

It would be many years before I began to understand that all of life is practice: writing, driving, hiking, brushing teeth, packing lunch boxes, making beds, cooking dinner, making love, walking dogs, even sleeping. We are always practicing. Only practicing.

― Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life

  • Stare at my people. When our plates feel too full and I am running to get stuff done, I make myself be with my kids without distraction. I study them. I listen. My phone is nowhere in sight. It’s like a brain reboot that shines light on what all that hustle is really for. Them. Us. The lifestyle we want now. Right now, not the thing we are working towards. We often get out on a hike or something but this practice can happen anywhere.
  • Exercise. When Andy and I have regular, heart-pumping bouts in the mountains by ourselves, we are better at everything. Our kids too.
  • Be Home. Our kids do one scheduled after-school activity per week. I treasure our slow time together at home after school. I want our home to be a place of peace and comfort and find that, for us, the post-school hours need a tender, unstructured vibe. Time to run up the hill into the flowers or lay on the couch and talk or have a pile of friends over. No matter what, every night: time together as a family around the dinner table.
  • Nature. Getting out in it often. Paying attention to the abundance, the seasons. Feeling humbled that we are but one tiny component of this vast universe.
  • Use my soul-fueling outlets. I practice gratitude through writing and photographing. I think a habitual creative practice is so important. I document mundane things that are beautiful to me and the practice deepens my appreciation and heightens my awareness. Conversations between my kids, the birds that visit our feeders, my pets snuggling, nourishing food, my husband’s love…it’s the little things that are the big things.

My daughter wrote a letter to her principal:

In my opinion, we need more art and here is why: First of all, there would be more art in the halls. Second, art is good for us. And, lastly, art makes our place a better place. 

I challenge each of you to make a list of things you do to be intentional and slow things down. You have them. You know what works. You are your own best self-help guide. And if you want to share with us, please do! I think you are doing such a great job.

With love,
Nici

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nuggets: moonshadow

Andy and I woke at the same moment. 4:17am, the glowing moon washing our room with ghost-blue light. We don’t have curtains and every full moon, it seems our space is washed by celestial illumination. How is it possible that a rock that is 230,100 miles away can light my bedroom from the inside out? It’s magic and I can feel it. I am always sleepless and stirred in a way that is bigger than me, tossing around in lunar dust.

Andy got up, wide awake. I entered into a hazy, in-and-out sleep for a few hours where I thought about the things. How I want to make all my own clothes, I missed soccer sign ups, I need to get my plane ticket to San Francisco, I look forward to next fall’s road trip with my kids, I am frustrated that I had to fire my web designer and start over, I am so pleased that my garden is off to a great start, I ought to read more books.

Lately, when I wake in the middle of the night I have a song in my head. Every single night around 2am I wake up with lyrics on repeat. I started writing them down last week: Beyoncé’s Halo, Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, Pearl Jam’s Daughter, Ben Harper’s With My Own Two Hands. On the full moon night: Cat Steven’s Moonshadow.

And if I were to do a mashup and make my own soundtrack perhaps it’d go something like this:

Hit me like a ray of sun
Burning through my darkest night
She holds the hand that holds her down
She will rise above
I can make peace on earth
With my own two hands
It’s like I got this music in my body and it’s gonna be alright
Yes, I’m bein’ followed by a moon shadow
Moon shadow
Moon shadow

One of the things on my mind on this morning was wanting to share about our spring break. The one that happened several weeks ago. I’m getting used to this — the documenting things well after the fact. When I first started writing here (nine years ago!) I would feel like it was too late to write about a thing that happened last week. My life doesn’t allow for me to write here as often right now. And the practice of remembering, looking back at my notes (I make notes all the time about what I want to write about) and telling a story is a good one.

I actually wrote quite a bit while in our cabin in the woods. The old fashioned way: by a raging wood stove, raging pen and paper. I managed to spook myself pretty good that night and I hope to get that whole story out one way or another sometime soon. Boo.

Spring Break nuggets. We stayed home mostly, with one little adventure away.

:: Andy has a new painting on exhibit at the Brink Gallery in downtown Missoula. We went to the opening briefly. Although only there for 12 minutes, my kids managed to eat a cupcake and two fistfuls of licorice. I had wine.

:: Last days of skiing, first bare feet in the creek.

:: Long, tiring days in the garden. Planning layout, planting seeds (early April: radish, peas, spinach, arugula, lettuce, onion, beet, carrot). My kids still love to count worms and millipedes, to dig in compost and hang out with me all day in the dirt. And this mama still loves those days so very much.

:: I rented a forest service cabin for a few days but the girls and I ended up only staying one day. Long story short: I had some fear, ignited by neighboring campers and decided that even though my fear was likely way out there and even though I wanted to stay, I realized that the whole reason I get out into the wilderness with my kids is to relax and run free with them and I wasn’t doing that. I was uneasy and having wild, dark thoughts. So we stayed one night, went for a great hike and then left.

 

:: We then drove to a different forest service cabin our friends’ had rented (that was luckily only 1.5 hours away!) and stayed a night with them instead. It was the perfect elixir to remedy my previous night’s head trip.

:: On the way home we picnicked on the Big Hole River, stopped and swam at Fairmont Hot Springs and hit this giant slide in Anaconda. When we showed up there were two teenage couples making out under the slide. At first they didn’t stop so I gave them a compassionate mama stink eye where I communicated Just ease up a bit, friends. We will be outta here in no time. They understood but acted put out. Goodness I remember being a teenager so well.

:: The kids taught me about the brand new thing the kids are doing at school. When two people say the same thing at the same time they say Jinx! Pinch! Poke! You owe me a coke! Isn’t it amazing that these rites of passage swell up at the exact same times, generation after generation? Same handclaps, same games, same side ponytails and jump rope songs. Anyway, they are REALLY into this Jinx thing and I listen to it approximately 17 times an hour. Lots of hypothetical cokes owed.

:: Ruby made markers for the carrots and beets.

:: One day, I was in the garden while the kids played in the field. They went inside the house and came out with lunch for me. Margot said, “It seems like you are working so hard and that you need to feed your body.” She had made me a sandwich of hummus, pickles, bean spouts and tomato. And a tangelo. It was delicious and heart-melting.

After days of the sisters playing outside at home, I overheard Margot say to Ruby, “Isn’t is so fun to just play just you and me? Like, we really don’t need toys or anything but each other.” I quietly smiled from the hallway, enjoying that moment and those words I happened to hear. And of course knowing that quite soon feelings of boredom or annoyance would surface. They do because that is life: moods and feelings are like the moon’s pull on the ocean. Rising and falling, reactive and strong.

Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me? And are you gonna stay the night?
*

*from Cat Stevens, Moonshadow

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