Who do you think you are?

White bowl containing raspberries and blueberries

I often feel close to my ancestors. Not just the relatives I have known who are no longer with us, but previous generations who I never met. As a former Local Studies Librarian, I did a fair amount of family history some years ago and have letters written by my paternal great-grandmother to my great-aunt, so I feel I know a little about those who went before me and the lives that they lived.

I have been thinking about those who have gone before us a lot over the past couple of weeks as we start to adjust to life without our beloved Princess, who has been laid to rest near the apple tree she love to climb. In spite of my sadness, something as simple as pegging out the washing still makes me smile, knowing I am harnessing the energy of the wind and the sun in exactly the same way as countless generations of women before me. When we had our recent strawberry glut, I considered bottling some to preserve them as my great-grandmother did during the war when my great-aunt was away in the ATS and at risk of missing out on her favourite fruit. In the end, I didn’t do it, as I remembered she hadn’t been sure it had been worth the effort – strawberries are just not the same unless eaten fresh. I made jam instead. But I wouldn’t rule it out for the future.

In my work, I constantly channel both my great-aunt and my maternal grandmother, who both worked as machinists in the textile factories around the industrial towns of north Manchester. They taught me to sew (something I have blogged about on my company website at another time) and I thank them daily for giving me the skills to make a living for myself.

However, it isn’t just family who inspire me. Recently, I was feeling like a much older and far less glamorous version of Felicity Kendal in the 1970s sitcom The Good Life as we pulled up early potatoes ready to be stored for the rest of the summer and gathered windfall apples from beneath the trees in the orchard. Mind you, I suspect the Goods fed the latter to their pig, while we made do with putting them in the garden waste bin.

3 wicker baskets of potatoes
Here we go again! How many potatoes?
Black wheelbarrow full of green apples
Nearly a barrowful already!

And I am pretty sure that Tom and Barbara never repurposed an old baby gate as a garden sieve, although I feel they would have approved. The lady who lived here before us used it on a shed she was using as a safe space for her new kittens, somewhere they could go where her dogs couldn’t. She put chicken wire on the gate, which has come in handy for us. When we redesigned the Frog Patch, we dug up a lot of geranium and we are gradually feeding out the roots in the garden waste. However, we don’t want to lose the soil and the inevitable worms that come with it, so we needed a good sieve. The gate was perfect, if a little unconventional.

Wooden baby gate lying on a steel wheelbarrow
The gate is a perfect size to sit on the barrow as a sieve

So as we start harvesting our veg, eating raspberries straight from the canes, pulling the odd carrot and wondering just what we are going to do with all that beetroot that seemed like a good idea when we sowed it, I send up a thank you to all those who have gone before me (and ask them to care for our beautiful girl as well). There is a lot about my life today they wouldn’t understand, like the Internet, but there is also so much that they would recognise and I hope approve of.  As would Tom and Barbara!

 

5 thoughts on “Who do you think you are?

  1. OOOH no!!!! apple sauce, apple crumble, I am sure you could also make cider with windfalls, I have got 2 apples on my tree, I am very envious, liked your good crop of spuds too. Beetroot hummous, beetroot wine, beetroot cake, its a full time occupation having a garden- as you are realizing, can’t go to work at all!!

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    1. Haha, trust me, from previous years’ experience, there is only so much apple sauce and apple crumble you can eat! We still have apples in the freezer from last year’s crop. We’re enjoying the beetroot and I had earmarked some for cake. Hummous is a good idea – must try that

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  2. Ha! There is an old apple tree at work that makes really tart apples that work something like crab apples. Supposedly, it is a type of crabapple with really big fruit, but no one seems to know the name. It has been there for a very long time. I will be using it for pectin later, as well as plain jelly. I told my Pa about it, thinking that I had found something special, but he told me that his mother used to make jelly from the same apples when he was a little kid, long before the areas was developed and the field was fenced. I will be sending him some stems from the tree so that he can root them as cuttings this winter; and I will be grafting a few more for myself. I will also send him some of the jelly. I also grow the same rhubarb that I got from my paternal-paternal great grandfather (my Pa’s ‘Daddy’) before I was in kindergarten, and some Iris pallida (orris root) from my maternal-maternal great grandmother. I can’t help but wonder if they got them from their ancestors too.

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