Posts Tagged ‘Gardens in Boxes’

If this picture looks contrived it’s because it is. That girl in the corner is a correspondent for Andalusian television who came to do an interview, and Mike thought it would be nice to put some of my sculptures in the foreground. The pomegranate tree outside my studio door was bearing beautiful ripe, colorful fruit, so why not include that, too? The Spanish would call a mess like this a menjunje or a batiburrillo. The Spanish have some wonderful words. P.S. “Granada” is Spanish for “pomegranate,” in case you were wondering.

Another Sort of Printing, Which Was Also Important(!)

This one-hour video about the birth of Gutenberg’s printing press is only marginally relevant, but we liked it so much, also for Stephen Fry, that I’m sharing it with you here. Just thinking about the effect that Gutenberg’s press and moveable type had on every aspect of life in the entire world makes one dizzy.

Spring Is in the Air

First come the almond blossoms, then the baby ducks in the river. I no longer have to cover my box plants at night, we use much less firewood. The light coming through the glass-pane doors in my studio is gayer and I essentially don’t have to turn the lights on. The animals (we call them the little people) are more active, almost as if they were coming out of hibernation. They do love to hibernate.

I had the second Covid Injection a few weeks ago, so I’m supposedly immune, but until Mike has his second shot in a couple of weeks, we won’t be out of the woods. We’re looking forward to making a big paella and having some friends over. Like the old days. Remember them?

The animals seem to have played a larger role in our lives over the past year. I suppose it’s because we’re living in closer quarters, with a normal-size bed in our Gallinero cabin. Our animals are well loved. You can tell just how well by how much we let them get away with. Ours–two dogs and three cats–get away with murder. Bundy, our young tom cat takes diabolical delight in pawing things off tables and workbenches. It’s usually not too serious, though. They eventurally turn up under a cupboard or a sofa within a couple of months. Cuca, our 14-year-old shi-tsu/grifon cross, was given to us by a friend when she was 10 months old because she resented him going to work. She is an excellent communicator. To inform him of her discontent she would jump up on his bed and pee on his pillow. He was so happy when we told him we’d take her off his hands.

Our animal history hasn’t always been so joyous. Once we gave a kitten to friends. We were happy to do it because they had two lovely children under the age of eight and we thought it would be good for them. The first thing the family did was to lock the kitten in the garage with sufficient kibble and water and took off for a two-week holiday. When they got back and saw how frantic he was they returned him to us. He was very happy to be home. And that wasn’t the only charming pussycat anecdote. Another friend asked for a cat to keep down the rats in his henhouse. So we gave him a half-grown kitten. A month or so later he wanted another one. So we gave him another one. When he came back for a third I said to him, “What are you doing with all those cats?· “Nothing,” he said nonchalantly, “the foxes eat them.” I won’t mention the names of the people involved. The Spanish say, “Se dice el pecado, no el pecador.” “You name the sin, not the sinner.”

Some of Our Animals Over the Years

The little boy with the big dogs is now a 48-year-old geology professor.

More Recent Photos, Fewer Animals

Remember the Cookery Portfolio?

I’ve decided to call it, Maureen’s Kitchen (in Spanish, La Cocina de Maureen). I’ve been working on the recipes and the plates for the prints. I think I’ve got them all ready, but I want to pull some proofs before I made the final decision. The proofs are so important. They can be printed in so many different ways and the decisions on those proofs can make or break a project. I’ll show you some here when I get something nice.

It Sounds Silly But…

Now that it no longer freezes at night my garden in boxes is growing by leaps and bounds. I’ve added a few more boxes and am looking for more space. Mike suggested under the roof overhang of the Gallinero, but I think it would get too much direct sun in the summertime. We have a strategy for the month of August. That’s our month for late nights (una delicia), early mornings, long siestas (more delight) and long drinks. The hard part is going to bed late and getting up early. But you soon get used to it. The long siesta helps.

The beauty of the box garden is that you can pick them up and put them in the shade when necessary. When I started out I was looking forward to just the fun of having little vegetable plants in boxes, like potted flowers. But it turns out that you can actually eat the crops. There are always some leaves you can snip off to brighten up a salad or a stew, and you can pretend that the tops of the red onions are chives. We’ve just started eating the peas raw. Sooo sweet. If you decide give a box garden a try I have a warning for you: You will get hooked. How do I know? At the place where I go to buy plants I coincide with other people who have box gardens and we swap stories enthusiastically. They’re hooked just like me.

An Homage to Spanish Medicine

I’ve just arrived home from my twice-a-year appointment with my reumatólogo–that’s an arthritis doctor. I’ve been visiting him for 12 or 15 years, so we’re old friends. He turned my life around from the first visit. Thanks to him I can live a virtually painless life doing what normal people do–except pole vaulting. Since we don’t pay doctors or hospitals in Spain, I like to show my appreciation with a little gift, so I take along an etching to my appointments. When we finished the consulta this morning and I was about to leave, he said, “You’re always giving me lovely gifts, Maureen. I’ve got something for you I think you and your husband might like,” and he goes to a cupboard and brings out a box that says, “Consejo Regulador de la Ribera del Duero,” Spain’s most prestigious wine region. Between one thing and another, I love going to the doctor.


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Staying Sane in Hard Times Requires a Little Fun

The pandemic has been messing with our minds and bodies for almost a year now and, instead of getting better little by little it’s getting worse all of a sudden. What are we supposed to do? I suggest that our first priority be to stay alive, by taking advantage of all the pertinent survival measures. You know what they are. Just apply them rigorously to yourself and your loved ones. Here in Spain we’re entering into the “third phase,” which promises to be the most virulent.

What lauched the virus’s latest improvement at the end of last year was the sentimentalism of the Navidad familiar, the family Christmas. How many grandparents were sacrificed to those joyous holidays. That period of Christmas cheer and deadly danger are even more dangerous here, as the Spanish celebrate 14 days of Christmas, from December 24, when they have their Christmas dinner, till January 6, the Epifany, when the los Reyes Magos, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar (The Three Wise Men) bring the children’s gifts. All of which doesn’t make much sense since the kids don’t get their presents until the day before they go gack to school. Perhaps this explains the rising popularity of Papá Noel (Santa Klaus, Father Christmas) here. He delivers more than two weeks in advance.

What’s Next Then?

If you’re reading this you have probably gotten through the joyous season alive. What next? As I see it, what’s next depends largely on you. In the case of my husband, Mike and me it revolves around three things: a project (or more than one), a sense of humor and an appreciation of simple pleasures. And I almost forgot the fourth factor: a loving pet, even if it’s your husband. I’m lucky enough to have both, and they’re both capable of making me laugh and cry.

We each have our own projects. He writes and makes photographs, and also cuts firewood. I’m painting a couple of portraits and working on my favorite-recipes portfolio of prints. We share the housework. Mike does the ironing, says it’s like meditation. I’m so glad he feels that way. I’m still cultivatinge flowers and vegetables in boxes. I’ve always had lots of flowers in the garden and loved them, but these little pansies and lettuces, the tomatoes and kale plants, and the tiny little pea plants, are something different. For one thing they’re mostly up on tables and walls, so they’re closer and you don’t have to bend down to tend them–and appreciate them close up. In all it’s a lot of fun. If you don’t have a garden, you can still do it on your porch or window ledges. Just wait till you cut the first frilly leaves of kale to adorn the top of a bean stew. Then you’ll understand.

Necessary Diversions

Before I forget, I want to mention the joy of Internet. It’s getting a lot of bad press lately because of sinister interests taking unfair advantage of its wonders. Even so, I consider it a blessing for mankind, especially during stressful times. It enables us to maintain contact–immediate personal contact–with family and friends regardless of distance. That is so enriching. And, as you probably have some time on your hands, it permits you to renew your contacts with friends from the old days, or even find new friends whom you find charming on the Web. Not to mention Google and Wikipedia, which make everything instantly look-upable. Think about it for a minute. How did we ever live without these two miraculous research resources? They make us so much smarter. And let’s not forget You Tube and its endless music offerings, and its wonderful documentaries.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we also get a lot of fun from cooking. As we go shopping much less frequently we often find ourselves short of ingredients, so we have to improvise, You can substitute apples or kiwis for tomatoes in a salad just fine.That shortage of ingredients also inspires creative cooking. The results aren’t always fully successful but usually they are. We made a delightful discovery lately. The little woodstove in our kitchen has a shallow compartment at the top, under the lid, where we found we can roast squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes and, mmm, apples. The other day we roasted half a chicken with sage and onion stuffing. That wasn’t bad, either. Does all of this good cooking put on weight? Hmm, yes.

The Essential Medications–Walking, Laughing and Helping

We do get a bit of cabin fever. That’s where a sense of humor is essential. If you can still laugh you’re probably going to be OK. We also try to get in an hour’s walk every day. That’s good for everything that might be wrong with you. We’re lucky to have a lovely walking path along the river (Río Genil) that runs below our house, through the village and on to Granada.

Another thing that will brighten your days is helping people out. Everybody has needs these days and there’s always something you can contribute, even if it’s only a sympathetic ear. We’ve got a big lemon tree we planted outside the kitchen window many years ago and now it bears so many lemons during six months a year that there is no way we can use them all, even though I make tons of our grandchildren’s favorite pancake and toast topping: lemon cheese, or do you call it “lemon curd?” Mike picks the extra lemons from time to time, puts them in bags and drops them off at our neighbors’ doors. He also leaves them at the bars and restaurants in our village.

We have a lot of bars for the size of our little town (pop. 1,250) because it’s a popular place during most of the year for people from the city which is just 8 km. (5 miles) down the road. They come out for the cool on summer evenings and the hearty food in winter. This local tourism started a few decades ago when a forward-thinking (or lucky) mayor dropped some ducks in the river where it passes through the town square. Soon the granadinos started bringing their children out to feed them dry bread (the ducks, not the kids.) Once the families got here they discovered a local bar whose owner, Marina, served up a powerful plate of arroz caldoso, the local-style juicy paella. Now we have 8 or 10 bars and restaurants and they all serve something. Today our river is full of big, beautiful white geese.

It’s a Winter Holiday

Did I mention that in wintertime, when I seldom have artists coming, we move into my Gallinero artists’ cabin at the end of our garden? It’s a lot cozier than our old stone house and easier to heat. It’s also quieter and has better views from its little terrace. In a way staying here is like being on holiday. We like it a lot except for the normal-size bed which is a bit too small for Cuca, Diva and Bundy to fit in with us comfortably. It’s a constant battle for space. Never mind, whatever inconvenience they cause, they more they make up for it in laughs, especially the chihuahua, Diva, the 4.5-pound (2.1-kilo) tyrant of the house. All in all, no complaints.

So take the best possible care of yourselves, don’t forget to laugh and, if you like, send me the stories of your own projects and I’ll post them here. And don’t forget that you and I have something in common. We all belong to the ideal world of painters and printmakers, which is a unique space of wonderful people, just for us.

Big Spanish-style hugs and kisses from Maureen.


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