Everyone has a back up plan for their life. You know what I mean. Like, “One day I’m going to move to Paris and live in a studio apartment right up under the roof of an old apartment building in some historic quarter with cobblestone streets. I’ll make hats in the back room of a fabulous atelier by day, and I’ll spend my nights sitting at a small table outside a bar that’s been there since before the Romans, drinking wine and eating ridiculous cheeses while arguing philosophy with sophisticated men.” Mine always went something like this: “One day I’m going to live in a big, old farmhouse out in the country filled with books, with a porch covered with climbing roses, and I will grow flowers, and vegetables, and children, and maybe have some sheep out in the barn. Or a cow. I like cows.”
Sometimes I thought this was my Plan B. Plan A was, at various times, either getting married and being the busy mother of a large family, or becoming a theology professor and being the busy teacher of many students and writer of many papers, or possibly becoming a small business owner – also busy. I would often think of this plan while driving out in the country. I have a thing for old farm houses, particularly the kind with big porches, that come with large, multi-storied interesting looking barns nearby, and possibly a large garden off to one side.
These days, my Plan B has shifted slightly. First, since I started knitting, I’ve strongly felt the lure of spinning. I’ve been resisting because, well, do you have any idea how much yarn I have? If I started adding fleeces on top of that, well, let’s just say the combination could prove, um, expansive. And expensive. But the spinning wheels keep calling to me, the really old-fashioned ones, the ones you could imagine by the fire in a cottage somewhere, being used industriously back in an age before industry meant factories, back when “spinster” meant a woman who didn’t need to get married because she was economically independent, not a dried up old biddy full of resentiment because she couldn’t get a man. I don’t know what it is about them, but I want one. This past winter I decided that if I am still single when I turn 40 (and I’ve got a few years yet in which I can save up), I’ll buy myself a spinning wheel as a 40th birthday present, learn how to spin, and declare myself officially a spinster.
And then, there’s that big empty lot out back, right in between my house and my parents’ house, the big grassy empty area that’s been there since they tore down the shell of the apartment building that burnt down two winters ago. Every time I walk past it, I stop and look, and visions of gardens start crowding into my head. My current favorite involves planting lots of roses across the front hill (terraced, of course), with peonies and berry bushes along the edge with the alley, a big vegetable garden in the middle, and an herb garden/Mary garden along the opposite side. Then at the back of the lot (where the garages used to be before they tore them down too), I’d have a pergola covered with climbing hydrangeas (good for part shade). I’d have a big table and chairs under it so the whole family could eat meals together out there in the summer. Behind it would be a massive stone fire pit, with a wrought iron rack to grill things on, and sides thick enough to use as counters and/or seats if the heat wasn’t too intense.
The funny thing is that, even though it would be a huge job, and expensive, and it would take years to make the real garden look anything like the garden I have in my head, I could do it. And I’m so tempted to try. I don’t even know who owns the land (though I think it might be our neighbor down the street, who likes my family and probably would let me do whatever I wanted). Plus, it would mean being willing to set down roots in ground that isn’t really mine. One of the hardest things about my latest move from Johnsy’s house to here was that I had to leave behind the garden I had loved so much, the one that really was something like what I’d always dreamed of. I haven’t really planted a garden since, which is a big deal for someone who’s been gardening since she asked her mother for a piece of the back yard to plant flowers in when she was five.
Still, I’m warming to the idea. This year I actually planted a few things in the ground (yeah, I know I’ve been holding out on you). I’ve got garlic and potato plants coming along swimmingly, and three tomato plants that are growing like crazy, and even one rosebush in a very large pot that has really truly little rose buds on it. (Note: I still wasn’t able to bring myself to plant the rose in the actual ground.) Maybe I’ll be able to bring myself to make the sort of commitment a garden like the one I’m dreaming of really deserves. And then my Plan B will become my Plan A, in which I become, not a mother or a professor, but a busy HR person and gardener, the sorter out of benefits problems and harvester of raspberry bushes. And maybe there will be a small shed at the back of the garden, where I might keep a few chickens (depending on what city ordinances permit), and maybe an alpaca, which will give me fleece to spin on my spinning wheel.
We’ll see. 🙂