Last Saturday our (last) local farm celebrated the Spring Equinox by holding a Greenhouse Openhouse here in our seaside village. My family and I helped with the event, and had a good time observing the changing of the seasons. A couple of Celtic fiddlers played by the wood stove in the greenhouse, while my husband cooked beef stew – made by one of the farmers from their own locally-raised, grass-fed beef – over an open fire.
We dyed wooden eggs using all vegetable dyes, colors made from beets and carrots and all sorts of edible stuff. Once you start digging into the rituals surrounding it, there are so many inspiring, wacky and awesome ways to celebrate the turning of the seasons. People also took part in planting seeds, literally helping the farm grow.
My kids played in the mud all day, while occasionally complaining about not being at home playing video games. Eventually the complaints died down. Either they finally gave up or – I hope – forgot about the allure of technology for a couple of hours at least.
The air was crisp, the stew was hot, and the greenhouse smelled like warm dirt. It was a great day.
(For more, check out my post on Steemit)
Beef stew over an open fire
Dyeing wooden eggs in honor of Spring.
Taking a Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt
My period of mourning for the death of Downton Abbey has finally concluded (my mourning attire went from black to mauve to colors of sherbet, in honor of the gowns of the widow Iron Mary, before returning back to black since I think people can’t see me if I wear it). I have now moved on to other bloggery things, like writing a new, irregular column for this space I’m calling “Ask Abigail”.
Who is Abigail? I hear you asking. It’s a popular name, it could be any number of people. In this case, however, the Abigail of the title is long dead, so it’s safe to say it’s no one you know. Or me, for that matter. I never met the Abigail of “Ask Abigail” in person, though I feel like I know her, because I have read her mail.
I recently finished reading the book My Dearest Friend: the Letters of Abigail and John Adams, so I’m now mildly obsessed with the Adams family, and, by extension, the historian David McCullough, who wrote John Adams and 1776. In both tomes, the Adamses come off looking like prescient, courageous geniuses, a description they would both most likely object to, but can’t, since they passed away rough 200 years ago.
Abigail Adams may be gone, but her wisdom remains. Due to personal experience, she can answer questions regarding the following:
- Errant and disappointing children
- Dealing with grief after a smallpox epidemic (or after an untimely death in general)
- Church polity
- Lending libraries
- Rotating crops
- Buying and selling imported hairpins
- Buying and selling horses
- Coping with an absent husband
- Handling the noise of cannon-fire within a 10-mile radius
- Thorny legal problems
- Buying and selling land remotely
- Hiring and keeping servants in a employees’ market
- House Renovation
- Sewing, mending, spinning, weaving and other skills related to handcraft
- Taking care of livestock
- Taking in relatives
- Caring for an aging mother-in-law
- Educating your child in the absence of a local school
Please send all inquires and questions for Abigail to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will respond via proxy. Please don’t expect a personal response, as some things are even beyond the power of Abigail Adams. If your question is selected, it will be answered in this space.
In this episode Lord Grantham is out of bed and ready to tear the world a new one. In all my years of watching Downton Abbey, I’ve never seen him so lively. Maybe all of us should experience the benefits of an exploding ulcer and gain a new lease on life.
Along with Lord G finding a pep in his step, this episode offered other high points: namely, we discovered that Mary is indeed a human being. As readers of this blog will know, I have long suspected her of being an android, or a granite slab polished to high gleam, or a mannequin ingeniously fitted out with tiny mechanical parts that allowed her to move freely about the room and turn her head toward someone when he was speaking. Also she was able to glare at Edith with cunning mechanical hatred. But it turns out that she is a real person. In this episode viewers saw Mary weep actual tears while great, gasping sobs escaped her narrow frame. It was very moving. Even Tom was touched, letting her know that it is okay to feel pain. It is okay to feel at all, actually. It was a big moment, the one in which Mary might just have converted into someone relatable and even likable, which would be a wonderful way to end the series.
After last episode’s blood bath, this one offered a much calmer prospect. We see Lord G right away, still alive and propped up bed, reading letters and refraining from strong drink. He looked a little pale, but generally none the worse for the wear in spite of his ulcer exploding, a process in which he lost gallons and gallons of blood in projectile fashion, all while ruining his white dress bib and a very expensive set of table linens. On the upside, this incident gave his guest Neville Chamberlain something to talk about at dinner parties forever after, at least up until the advent of World War II. which was only marginally more dramatic.
While Lord G recovered in bed, lots of to-ing and fro-ing took place among the aristocratic set, with Mary going down to London and Bertie coming up from London and Cora walking from room to room, busy with this or that. Granny G. was busy too, visiting her son and sitting at his bedside, reveling in the fact that his exploding ulcer and subsequent need for immediate treatment meant that everyone would now have to see the value of the village hospital. A hospital with patients that Granny feels a deep, abiding, overwhelming obligation toward, since she is their “representative on earth”, as she put it. God represents them in heaven, Granny represents them on earth, and Skulking Barrow represents them in hell, where he goes regularly to consort with the devil himself. That is, when Barrow’s not giving piggyback rides to Master George and chucking li’l Sybbie under the chin in the hallways of Downton.
I’m late to the recapping party this week, and am squeezing this one in just under the wire, since a new episode airs tonight. To the seven people who read these recaps: I apologize for the delay.
Mary Begins the Mating Dance
One thing you can count on about Downton, where there’s an unexpected guest, chances are that this guest will be an eligible bachelor, perfect for Iron Mary. There may only be half a dozen young men of marriageable age left in all of England after the wholesale slaughter of the Great War, yet Mary has managed to find and discard at least three of them. But she’s a lucky one, that girl, so it is no surprise.
It turns out that Mary has already met — and been intrigued by — this particular bachelor back at Lord Sindeby’s shooting party, the one where there were not enough duck blinds to go around. His name is Lord RaceCarNoMoney, and it looks as though he is a real match for Mary. I can only hope he is the Love of her Life #2, as I am feeling much more charitable towards her, since she was, in general, a more decent human being in this episode.
My favorite moment of Mary’s dinner date with Lord RaceCarNoMoney came when he asked her what her “enthusiasms” were, and she delicately dabbed her mouth with her napkin and said, “My work”. Lord RCNM nodded and acknowledged Mary’s fantastic career, before gently prompting her to mention her son. It was almost as if he had expected that Mary would have answered “George, my darling son.” when asked about her enthusiasms, and in fairness, Mary would have, if only she had remembered that she had a son. But she rallied and said that she was working to save the estate for George, who would inherit Downton Abbey not through her, but through her cousin Matthew, to whom the estate was entailed. Matthew also happened to be her late husband and George’s father, and — oh nevermind, the point is it is all very “neat and tidy”, as Mary said, and Downton will be saved, which is great.
I stayed awake for this episode, mostly because Cora did a lot more talking than usual and Edith finally fired her editor (either that or he quit — I couldn’t quite tell) and as a result she, too, did a lot more talking. It perked me up, to see both of those ladies expressing an opinion. Usually, they spend each episode like well-dressed turtles: inert, lying in one place, until at unexpected moments a face emerges. The eyes become animated and finally, slowly, there is some movement. A walk across a room, say, or a gander at some pigs at a fat stock show.
But don’t get too excited, folks, as next week Cora could be sitting on a couch again, dully staring into the middle distance. And Edith could go right back to being her old self, arms dangling at her sides, watching helplessly as Mary steals Mr. LandAgent right from under her nose and Marigold goes to live with Mrs. Pigman.
And Mary might just do this, since she’s been lacking a man to emasculate since the season started (though Mr. LandAgent might not prove to be much of a challenge in this regard).
In this episode, the big news at Downton Abbey is twofold: a Wedding and a Comeback.