A Welsh Childhood

“A Welsh Childhood” by Alice Thomas Ellis is a nostalgic book that recollects her childhood and her years of raising her own children in Wales. It is filled with beautiful black and white photographs of Wales and of course Ellis’ sharp wit. I love Alice Thomas Ellis’ Sense of humor but my favorite part was when she wrote of her grief.

“We were living here when our second son, Joshua, died, and his death formed a hinge in existence. Everything that happened before led up to it, and everything that has happened since is only afterwards. He lies in the graveyard across the fields and one day I shall lie besides him, and it won’t matter anymore. I do not know how people contain such pain. His father wrote this epitaph for him.

Joshus Haycraft
Who died 21 May 1978
Aged nineteen years
After a fall

Joshua,
For whom the sun
Did not stand still,
But as you fell headlong
So set for you,
As suns return
You too, most sweet beloved,
Will return
And in the name of him
Whose name is yours
Rise again. “

My younger brother died at 12 falling from a tree and my older brother wrote an Epitaph that is on his gravestone. The loss of my brother is still with me just as she describes – a hinge. I saw my parents ruined with grief and wondered the same, how could they contain such pain? How can anyone?

– Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

Grow A Little Fruit Tree

“Grow A Little Fruit Tree” by Ann Ralph came recommended to me by David the Good* one of my favorite garden writers/ youtuber and it did not disappoint.

It discusses how and why you want to keep your fruit trees under six feet. Although the topic of large and established fruit trees is briefly discussed, it does not focus on how to manage these trees. The main focus is on selecting, planting and pruning your first little fruit tree and learning techniques that keep it under six feet.
Here are the main takeaways:
– Buy a little bare root fruit tree (these will be dormant and usually available in Feb)
– When purchasing a tree smaller is better than bigger. The trunk should be the thickness of a thumb.
– Plant it in the ground
– Prune it knee high. This will seem extreme do it anyways. (She has illustrations of knee-high trees to give you courage to make that first counterintuitive, aggressive prune!)
– Now that the tree is planted and knee high, it is your job to keep it small and manageable. you should prune mid Summer And Winter. The Mid summer prune will help stunt height growth and direct the growth to the remaining branches. A winter prune will manage the structure of the tree and does not stunt the height growth. You cannot keep the tree small with just winter pruning.
– There are two types of prune cuts: Heading and thinning.
-Heading cut removes part of a limb buds below this cut will become new growth
-Thinning cut will subtract the branch entirely. There will be no new growth since you trimmed the branch at its point of origin. The book illustrates these two types of prune cuts.

The book also discusses thinning fruit, close planting techniques, dwarfs and semidwarfs, fruit varieties, zones, watering, harvesting and is filled with helpful illustrations. A great book for backyard gardener growing in small spaces!

“Stand back. Forget what you read on the Internet. Attend to the tree before you. Observe the growth pattern of the tree. In Pruning, as in any good design, negative space plays an important role. Well-Pruned trees have an airy quality. Yuki Nara of the website Way of Maple says that a bird can fly through a well pruned Japanese maple- good standard for a fruit tree, too.” Ann Ralph

*Here are more book recommendations from David Good. I look forwards to reading them.

-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

Ruth Stout No Dig Potatoe Bed. Did it Work?

Last March, after reading “Gardening Without Work: For The Aging, The Busy and The Indolent” by Ruth Stout I started my Routh Stout No dig potatoe bed. Did it work? Yes!

The Potatoe plants were beautiful, the potatoes delicious, we didn’t have to deal with any diseases, and not one Potatoe bug! Not one. Slugs weren’t a problem either which I’ve heard can be with deep mulching. My husband is no longer a skeptic and this March I once again threw some potatoes on the ground, covered them with leaves, mulch, grass clippings and waited for what seems like an impossibility- new life.

“Working in the garden . . . gives me a profound feeling of inner peace. Nothing here is in a hurry. There is no rush toward accomplishment, no blowing of trumpets. Here is the great mystery of life and growth. Everything is changing, growing, aiming at something, but silently, unboastfully, taking its time.” Ruth Stout

Last Year’s Potatoe Patch:

Gardening Without Work: For the Aging, The Busy and The Indolent By Ruth Stout

I highly recommend Ruth Stout’s book Gardening Without Work to anyone who is interested in gardening or thinks gardening is too much work. This is not Stout’s first book on gardening but it was the only one I could find at a reasonable price (some titles are out of print). I hear all her books are worth the read. She even wrote a few nongardening books which look interesting. Her casual, articulate, and witty tone reminded me of Alice Thomas Ellis (they both wrote weekly columns). This was such a delightful read I didn’t even feel like I was reading a gardening book. It was more like enjoying a cup of coffee with one of your opinionated, knowledgeable, funny, lifelong friends.

Her advice is simple: stop tilling your garden and apply a thick layer of mulch to your soil instead. Stout preferred spoiled hay but said that old leaves, straw or wood also work. As The mulch breaks down, it feeds the soil. It also stops most weeds from growing and keeps the soil moist all season long even during dry spells.

Stout didn’t start gardening until she was 46 and only started her heavy mulch method years later because she was tired of waiting for the plowman. I found this encouraging since I’m mostly self-taught. My last garden was urban and done solely in containers everything did well. It was certainly much easier than the traditional tilled method that I did in years past. This year we’ve moved and have some raised beds. I started my no till garden and threw some potatoes on the ground and covered them with old leaves. My husband remains a skeptic of this method. His skepticism did not (and rarely does) deter my enthusiasm. Time will tell.

“If you have the soul of a gardener, not for anything would you work with gloves on.”

“Why not plant asparagus in the tulip bed? The flowers will be on their way out and their leaves will begin to die and look ugly just about the time asparagus turns into an attractive fern. And think what fun it would be to “tiptoes through he tulips” to gather your asparagus.”

-Ruth Stout

P.S. I wonder if Wendel Berry ever talks about her no dig, no till, heavy mulch method? If you know please let me know. Wasn’t he against greenhouses? to which I say, “Bah!”

-Mrs. Karl T cooper, Jr.

Post contains affiliate links. I link books I have read and reviewed.

A Child’s Garden of Verses

A Child’s Garden of Verses

Every child needs a copy
Maybe two or three-
Copious editions!
Tell me, which is best?

Fujikawa, Tasha Tudor,
Jessie Will Cox Smith,
Hilda Boswell, E. M. Wilkin,
or . . .
A & M Provensen!

A joy to read with anyone,
Fun to memorize.
Poems of adventure,
Poems of Surprise.

So find a cozy spot,
That’s all you really need
for Robert Louis Stevenson’s
Delightful poetry.

Mrs. Karl T. Cooper Jr.

A Breath of Air By Rumer Godden

A Breath of Air by Rumer Godden is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Tempest. Filled with juxtaposition and tension the story unfolds: The sophisticated playwright/ the Islanders, the pagans/ the Christians, the masculine father / the feminine daughter, lovers/ the world.

Although this novel is not one of Godden’s best, (Greengage Summer remains my favorite) her writing always makes me think. There were themes that I never really thought of while reading the Play that struck me anew in this fantastical retelling: The need for culture, its limits and fragility, Civilization [Liturgy] as a birthright.

“Awake, dear heart, awake. Thou hast slept well. Awake.”

Setting Up House, A Home is Never Finished.

Here are some books that have influenced my interior style:

buy this if: you find yourself at fleamarkets on the weekends, love ikat prints, and your home is described as "eclectic"

Domino

I liked this step by step guide. It shows you how one inspirational piece can inform the overall vision of the room- creating a domino effect. It separated the trees so I could appreciate the forest and create my own. Also, the cover is so pretty I’ve put the book on my coffee table just so I could enjoy it.

Create The Style you Want on A Budget You Can Afford 

I find a lot of interior design books impractical and flashy but not this one!  Desha Peacock’s book was down to earth, showcasing many different homes and designers, many of whom were not professionals, just happy and creative homeowners. It wasn’t pretentious or obnoxiously lowkey and bloggy.

Hardcover The Little Book of Hygge : Danish Secrets to Happy Living Book

The Little Book of Hygge

I finally read this cozy little book, mainly because I loved the cover.  While the book isn’t an interior design book per se, it is helpful in realizing that the simple pleasures in life are important, home comforts can contribute to our overall happiness and can bring a family closer together. It off balanced my minimalist tendencies nicely, and allowed me to relax about the very “lived in” look my home seems to cultivate so well.

Hardcover The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up : The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing Book

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up

KonMarie: Are you sick of me recommending this book yet? I’m recommending it again.  decluttering your home will go a long way in designing your home. Really you should start here.  I feel as if I’ve almost reached that click point konmarie talks about. Where you have just the right amount of things and they each have their homes.

-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

Back To The Classics 2020 Better late than Never

1. 19th Century Classic
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Next year, I may be ready for The Golden Bowl or The Wings of a Dove.

2. 20th Century Classic
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.
To coincide with the 1920 club.

3. By a Woman
Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier
Planning to read a few du Maurier books this year. This one is about her ancestress.

4. In Translation
The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
Also about the author’s direct forebear. My third time to read it. It’s better than ever.

5. Non-white Author
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
I want to read Aunt Sara’s Wooden God as well.

6. Genre Classic
In A Dark Wood Wandering by Hella Hassee
Historical fiction. Scandinavian author.

7. Person’s Name in the Title
Pere Goriot by Honore Balzac
Followed by Lost Illusions!

8. Place in the Title
Survivors in Mexico by Rebecca West
And then The Lawless Roads by Graham Greene. . .

9. Nature in the Title
The Peregrine by J.A. Baker
And maybe Wilderness Essays by John Muir Or A River Runs Through It.

10. About a Family
The Zelmanyaners by Moyshe Kulbak.
My favorite category this year! Also need to read The Oppermanns.

11. Abandoned Classic
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Fast Food Nation a possible companion read.

12. Classic Adapted for the Screen
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
And perhaps read aloud A Tale of Two Cities.