I recently spent some time up at my in-laws’ place planting tomatoes. I got up there in the morning, trying to get there as early as possible, and worked until it just got too hot. The garden has been fallow for more than a year, and the ground was difficult to work.
While I was up there, by myself, in this little clearing in the woods, I had time to just work and think. I dug the dirt and listened to the birds. I planted the tomatoes and felt the breeze. I looked up as Bob, my Mother-in-law’s dog trotted by to check on me before dashing off in pursuit of a chipmunk. It was peaceful up there, and I understand why my Father-in-law loved it. He was ready to retire, so he could work in the garden when he wanted to, keep his bees, play his banjo and find the next hobby.
This was the second attempt at planting tomatoes. You may remember seeing Lollypop covered in dirt a few posts ago – that was from our first attempt, but all our seedlings died and I had to buy some plants to catch up. When we went up to the garden that first time, it was quite a shock to see it so neglected. I had never before seen the garden so grown up with little weeds. The blueberries and asparagus are still doing well, but the rest of it is covered in a bright green carpet.
We did plant some things last year. Jellybean helped me plant a few rows of corn, which all got knocked down by raccoons, and we put out some tomato plants, which yielded a few yummy tomatoes later in the season. But with a new baby for us and cancer treatments and complications for my father-in-law Jim, the garden was pretty far down the list.
I remember the first time I met my husband’s parents. We were at a birthday party for one of Jim’s band members. It was also the first time I’d heard their band play. The band had been together for many years, watched my husband grow up and were really an extended family to him. That evening was quite enjoyable. I chatted with my husband’s parents about music and all our pets (they also have several cats and dogs). It was easy to talk to them, from the first moment.
I watched them at one point in the night, and Jim put his arm around Becky and they looked at each other and smiled. That moment was so sweet and sincere, and it has cemented itself in my memory. I knew I was watching two people who genuinely loved and cared about each other, even after more than 40 years of marriage.
They welcomed me as part of the family from the start. In the first years of our marriage, we lived a couple of hours apart from my in-laws. Whenever we’d visit, and especially after Jellybean was born, Becky and my husband would go off and play with Jellybean while Jim and I sat and chatted. We would talk about everything. We shared many interests: gardening, music, bread-baking, making things, among others. He was the recipient of my hand knit Christmas gifts every year, and one year he even complimented how much my skill had improved, much to my delight.
Of course, we didn’t agree on everything. We’d butt heads on occasion, most often about child-rearing topics, but he always respected me and my positions.
In the last months of his illness, he would tell me things he hadn’t mentioned to my mother-in-law yet, about a symptom he was having or how he felt. She might have overheard us talking if she was in the house, or I would talk to my husband about it and then he would tell his mother. I think that was a way to mention things to her in a round-about way.
He was genuine, down to earth, and a lot of fun to be around.
And I miss him oh so much.
We found out in late March last year that he had esophageal cancer that had already spread to his lymphatic system. He went through treatment that summer and it seemed promising, but it only reduced the size of the tumor in his esophagus. Further treatments were complicated by other long-term health issues. He passed away just before Thanksgiving.
I’m glad we moved when we did. We have been able to help out in ways that would never have been possible living more than 2 hours away. Jim got to meet Lollypop, which might not have been possible if we didn’t live so close. Jellybean got to spend some good time with them, too, even spending the night once. (Jellybean remembers going to eat at Captain D’s, and Granddaddy running over the rumble strip on the highway on the way there. Accidentally, at first, but then again and again because it made Jellybean laugh.)
As I worked in the garden that morning, he was on my mind. He would be so proud of his grandsons. Jellybean is smart and clever, with seemingly endless energy. Lollypop is a little sweetheart, learning new things every day. He would be proud of his son, too. My husband has always been the level-headed sort, and he’s been running the family business since we moved here.
It feels like an enormous loss to the world for Jim to be gone, but he leaves an incredible legacy. He contributed to the world in quiet ways: by putting his best effort into everything he decided to do, being generous with his knowledge, and loving the people in his life as much as possible. He taught my husband these same values and my hope is that we can honor him by raising our boys half as well.
The title of this post is also the title of a song that Jim and his band played frequently. I think it was special to Jim and the band and their interpretation of the song always moved me, no matter how many times I saw them play it. It seems fitting to end this post with it.
This is Hickory Wind, playing at the Mountaineer Folk Festival at Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee. September 7, 2014.
I’ve recently learned that I can knit and read a book at the same time. When hearing this information about me, many people are confused as to how that’s possible. Well, it is possible, as long as what I’m working on is simple. If you’re working some plain stockinette, garter or even a simple ribbing, (such as a simple pair of socks, a hat, or the long slog of a sweater body) it’s not difficult to read, watch tv, or have a conversation while knitting. There’s confirmed research that says as long as what you’re knitting on doesn’t take much concentration, it can help you focus on the other thing that you’re doing – such as reading or even listening to a lecture or a meeting. (There’s a fascinating interview with Art Markman in this episode of the Very Pink Knits podcast.)
Anyway, I’ve been checking out library books and reading and knitting a bunch of stuff.
I’m down to the smocking section on the Anni sweater. I don’t think I’ll be able to read while knitting this section, but reading definitely got me through the last couple of inches of the top part, and it’ll be great for the sleeves, too. I have several more inches to go, but it’s so gratifying to see this progress.
I’ve finished my sockhead hat. The top part of it is 9 inches of plain stockinette. A perfect reading project.
I finished two blocks for the Knitterati afghan, blocks 10 and 11.
And here’s a look at all my blocks together so far.
Block 10 was fun and a new experience. I’ve done color work before, but it’s always been in the round. I’ve never done colorwork flat and I had a really hard time wrapping my head around trying to purl in color work and catch the floats every other stitch. I ended up teaching myself to knit backwards (also known as mirror knitting) so that I didn’t have to purl anything. Yes, I do realize that I taught myself a new skill while trying to avoid learning a new skill, but I am happy with the result!
Block 11 was very quick. I think it took me a little more than a day to complete. That’s a good thing, because I think I’m going to have to reknit it. I used needles that were bigger than what the pattern called for, in order to keep a consistent gauge, but the block is bigger than all the others. The block right above it is smaller than the others, so both may have to be redone.
Blocks 12 and 13 have been released and I really like them. Block 12 uses a technique called entrelac. The block on the pattern photo is all nice and neat and square, but I’m wondering if that’s going to be the case for mine…
Block 13 is another colorwork block. I’m trying to decide which colors to use in mine.
Since I’ve taken so long to publish this post, Block 14 is out as well.
I also settled on a pattern for the bonfire socks. I wanted something with a little bit of texture, but not something that would interfere with the lovely colorway. I am doing a simple twisted stitch every three stitches. The second sock will have twists that lean to the left. (See, I’m knitting while reading!)
I’ve also been working on a CrochetAlong of a doily pattern from Grace Fearon. This doily is named Evelyn and it’s fun! There are lots of new-to-me techniques in this one, and at first they seem a little daunting. (Such as FP-4TC tog and FP-DTR.) But, like with most things, once you learn how it’s done, it really isn’t that difficult, just different. I love all the texture in this one! My finished doily is 16 inches from point to point.
Of course there are lots of other things on the needles, as well. There’s a little baby blanket in the works. Jellybean’s morning teacher at daycare is due with a babe in September. His afternoon teacher just had a baby, too. I’m excited for them both. There’s a sweater for a family friend. I’ll share that with you when I get to a point where it looks like something. I went ahead and started another doily. This one is Francisco, another of Grace Fearon’s patterns.
Finally, I don’t know if you remember the Evenstar shawl that I started WAY back in August. I’ve been working on that a little bit lately. I’ve made good progress, but it’s run into a… well, we’ll just call it a snag and that shawl is sitting in time out. That story is for another blog post, though!
Have a great week and keep knitting on!