When I was about five years old, every summer held two official (to my thinking) landmarks. The first, when it was time to start helping my grandparents next door to plant their rows of onions and potatoes, involved a trip to the dark front coat closet where my grandmother stored a collection of sun-faded cotton sunhats—I distinctly remember pink and yellow. After careful consideration I would choose one to "borrow" for the summer as my Garden Hat—in caps because of what those hats signified. Not only did they keep the Michigan sun from baking down on my scalp and the copious Michigan blackflies out of my face, they made me feel like I belonged in the garden, that my place there merited the proper equipment and uniform. In hindsight, there may have been collusion between my mother and her mother; lost on me at the time was the fact that whatever one I chose, it always fit my child-size head, though my Grandmother claimed they were hers. I was thus protected from the sun and, an equally great gift to my future wellbeing, I was told that I was a gardener.
The other ritual of summer was one entirely of my own devising. Our otherwise sandy property had two or three large rocks that stood out of the ground in a more-or-less decorative manner (to my thinking). They were made of some sort of large crystalline particles, maybe some kind of coarse granite. Their texture made me think of a mosaic, lacking only a little color to make the rocks real, fancy works of art. So every spring, around the time the nearby shrubs had gotten enough leaves to give me some cover, I smuggled out my crayons and gave those rocks a careful coloring-in. If this sounds a little clandestine, the experience was indeed spiced by some impression I had that what I was doing was graffiti-like and therefore, if caught, I would be stopped. I was willing to take the risk. The project felt more like an exciting and important act of self-expression than any of the tame drawings I made inside on sheets of proper drawing paper.
Uniforms of the summer and clandestine self-expression unite in this week's chance to hygge: color-your-own aprons. Sure, coloring alone or together has become the ubiqutous way to become calm, meditative and in-the-moment, and it does have that quality. The only question is, what can you do with all those colored-in pages? Wouldn't it be more fun to color on something and then wear it? (Or give it as a gift?) Think: an apron for dad, colored by his kids; a gift for a younger sibling's birthday, made pretty by the older child. Even, a potholder you color in to match your kitchen. Use washable crayons, and the color will be bright until next laundry day (when you can do it over!) Permanent markers and regular crayons leave a softer but indelible hint of color. Fabric markers are a permanent commitment. Color-it-yourself items are $10 - $40, available at my stand this week until they're sold out. Not near my markets? Grab a black Sharpie and make your own outlines on a ready-made white apron, Tee, or dishtowel.Add color, do a little clandestine graffiti work, and have a uniform for all the mess-making fun of summer. Bloom where you are planted.
Flower syrups were one of the first products I offered at my farm market stand. It isn't easy to sind organically-grown roses to use culinarily, especially ones that are intended for that purpose. My plant came from suckers (root sprouts) of the plant in the medicinal herb garden at Hancock Shaker Village. The Shakers made rosewater to use in the sickroom as well as the kitchen. These flowers only last on the plant for a day or two. They're marvellously fragrant. Without distilling equipment, I can't make true rosewater, but rose syrup captures that evanescent smell in a lasting form. I sell 8oz bottles at my stand for $7 - enough to flavor a good many glasses of iced tea, bowls of fresh fruit, or dishes of vanilla custard. It's also delicious in chilled champagne or summer cocktails. Here's an afternoon- and family-friendly concoction.
Combine 1 c rose simple syrup (1 8-ounce bottle), 1 c lemon or ¾ c lime juice, and 4-5 cups still or sparkling water in a pitcher. Add a few flowers or floral ice cubes if desired. Serve cold, with a few rose petals floating on top, if you have them..
The Older Daughter gave me a mug for Christmas that says, "I Did Everything Before it was Cool. Aside from the obvious ironies (like, how many other people are claiming this with their mug, ALSO purchased from some "maker" on etsy and glazed in Millennial Pink
I've been farming since I was a toddler, when my grandparents showed me how to put onion sets point-up in the sandy furrows of our Michigan homestead. It's taken thirty-odd years of horticultural jobs—from potting up lilies by the thousands to managing a 150-member CSA at Hancock Shaker Village—for me to embark on cultivating a farm of my own. Hence, the title.