Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On Handmade Presents

Even though I crochet almost constantly, I don't often give handmade gifts. Generally, I give people books. Almost exclusively, actually. Handmade gifts are an awful lot of work and (somewhat selfishly, I admit) I have trouble parting with something I've worked very hard on. This is clearly evidenced by the four afghans that are currently draped over my living room furniture. Also, handmade gifts are often just as expensive as store bought ones. I use synthetic yarn and it still costs anywhere between $50-$100 to get enough for a blanket or even a small throw.

So when I make a handmade gift, it's usually a very special occasion, and for someone I love very much. I'm currently working on two, which is very unusual. It's got me thinking about what it means to make something for someone else. The most special gift I've made so far was for the first of my friends to get married, M&H. It was a pretty hefty financial investment, as well as an enormous time investment. I made them a white bedspread, and it took me six months. They say the most important part of a gift is the thought that goes into it. When you're making a gift, it's not just one thought, it's many thoughts. While I was making that bedspread I thought about them the entire time. I don't mean that I was 100% focused on just them, but somewhere in my mind every single stitch (and they were countless) was for them. Every stitch was a little hope, a little prayer, and a thank you for all the love they've given me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

On Victory and Independence

Last night my mother made a roast chicken for Sunday dinner. After dinner I collected the bones and scraps and took them home with me. I put it in the stockpot with vegetable odds and ends, herbs and water and let it simmer for 3 hours. While that was happening I planted my Victory garden.

Since many have asked, my Victory Garden is basically a simple kitchen garden. During WWII in England people were encouraged to replace their flower gardens with vegetable gardens so they could use fewer food rations and support the army. Now, my vegetable garden won't help any soldiers anywhere, but I like to call it that anyway.

I've heard people complain that growing vegetables is even more expensive than buying them, but these people are probably falling into the trap of buying things they don't need. My garden cost less than $10 this year. I had a trowel and a watering can that I'd purchased several years ago for about $5 each. They're still perfectly good. I borrowed a shovel from my parents and I bought 6 packets of seeds for $3, 3 bags of black earth for $3 and a bag of sheep manure for $2. I also let a couple of potatoes and onions sprout. This is plenty for my garden. It's a little longer than a meter and a little wider than a half meter. It's small, but I plant more densely than the packets say and last year I got more vegetables than I could eat. Many wound up being given away or getting made into soups and frozen. It doesn't always work, last year I didn't get any carrots, but this year I only planted about half of each package, so I'll have more to plant after the first harvest. Also, I only planted vegetables that I know will grow in my climate, so I won't have any disappointments like I had last year. (Dreams of broccoli dead in the dirt)
So I planted peas, beans, lettuce, radishes, cabbages, carrots, onions and potatoes. The only one I haven't grown myself before are the cabbages. But it's Newfoundland, surely cabbages will grow fine? Anyway, if this summer is anything like last summer, I may be able to get enough veggies for several months.

This morning a warm rain fell on my garden and I made a vegetable soup out of my stock. I browned some onions in oil and then added four cups of vegetables (I had potatoes, carrots, parsnip, turnips and celery on hand) then 5 cups of stock (I have a litre and a half left) and a large can of diced tomatoes with their juice. After a half hour of simmer I got more than 3 litres of soup with less than $5 worth of ingredients, and when I make that soup this summer I'll use fresh vegetables from my own garden.

It gives me a wonderful sense of independence to provide healthy food for myself, growing it is even better. My own little victories.