Sunday, February 26, 2012

                                                               Rosemary is for Remembrance

    I love greenhouses at any time of the year. Tasha's was especially lovely in the winter and on one visit I took my recorder into her green house and played to her plants while Tasha napped. When she awoke, she wondered where the music was coming? So Tasha followed the notes and found me in her greenhouse. The roses were in bloom, herbs scented the air, and the camelias also blossomed. She identified for me some of the plants that I didn't recognize and we inhaled the scent of earth and roses.
Tasha and Carol Lueck in the greenhouse
  Tasha decided to cut some camellias for bouquets and asked about what was blooming back in my small greenhouse attached to my home. When I asked her why my rosemary plant died, Tasha explained that rosemary doesn't like either wet or dry feet, but must be kept at the proper moisture level. Tasha had recently rooted cuttings from her bay tree and offered me one. I was delighted to accept the shoot from her frequently painted bay tree.
  Several days later, she wrapped the cutting and tucked it into a small bag that fit into my knitting basket. This was before the days of heightened security, so in addition to taking the cutting onto the air plane, Tasha packed me a small feast of cheese and crackers, and some of her famous stuffed eggs. My cutting arrived home in fine shape and over the years has grown into a sizable tree. Every spring, my husband totes it outside and throughout the year, those wonderful bay leaves season my cooking. Rosemary is for remembrance, but bay leaves are forever green and fragrant.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A reproduction created by Tasha

Antique 1830's gown

Sewing is one my passions. I sew our own clothing to save money and create garments that reflect our love of historical living. I just finished two 1830’s style dresses with billowing sleeves, and I have almost completed two pair of broad fall pants for John.

Of course, Tasha loved to sew. Sometimes she sewed frocks from yardage she had woven, but Tasha also enjoyed shopping for fabric and stored her purchases in a huge Shaker woolen basket at the top of the upstairs landing.

            When visiting, I would pause on the landing and rummage through the stash of woolens, calicos, and flannels. Tasha kept fine lawns and other delicate pieces in another trunk that also stored her collection of collars, kid gloves, and petticoats. Tasha loved to describe a tall dry good shop in Switzerland. Each floor featured different types of fabric…. dotted Swiss, fine lawn, firmly woven calicos and rich plaids.

            “What fun we would have there!” Tasha would comment.

            Once when she saw me fingering a certain pink and maroon calico that glowed near the top of the woolen basket, Tasha gave it to me.

            “These are definitely Joan colors. Now sew yourself a lovely new frock,” she said. “And while you are here, you should stitch a day cap. I’ll help you cut it from some of the lawn I bought in Switzerland.”

            I hugged her. Tasha taught me how to roll a tiny hem along a length of lawn and create a ruffle for my new cap. And when I returned home, I sewed the many yards of calico into a stunning 1830’s style gown.

            One night, Tasha introduced me to her collection of antique gowns, and because we were the same size, the dresses fit me. Like a young 19th century girl preparing for her first dance, I tried on gowns of lavender taffeta, a gray and pink plaid, dainty sprigged lawn and rustling silks. I loved dreaming about the women who had worn the dresses. Had one of them met her future husband while wearing the plaid? Had they stepped to the same fiddle tunes I played at contra dances, to Sackett’s Harbor or Petronella? I envisioned the women twirling across wide pine boards, dizzy with the splendor of candle light and music and romance.

            Alas, all good dreams end. The dresses went back to their hangers. I ducked under the covers and snuggled into the feather bed. Frost laced the windows. But the splendor of that winter night still brings goose bumps to my arms and gratitude to my heart.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tea on Tasha's Porch

I have been out in our sugar bush, tapping our trees and hauling in sap with our team of oxen. One year, after my family had finished with making maple syrup, I visited Tasha. Usually, I had to visit during January or February because those are the two months when fruit farmers have more free time. So I had never been to Corgi Cottage in March. Snow still lingered everywhere, but much of it had melted and the small creek that meandered near Tasha's driveway rushed by the birch and hemlock trees.
  Michigan sugars about two to three weeks before Vermont, so on the highway out towards Tasha's buckets hung from numerous maples.

As usual, Tasha had told stories, we had inhaled the wonders of her green house, and I had viewed some of her "new" 1830's gowns that she had acquired. She also had a new loom warped with red and white check wool and was weaving fabric to sew into a shirt for Tom.

Tasha and her daughter-in-law had just bought a new pink luster tea set that Tasha had "sniffed" out. They had driven off to another small town in Vermont where over the past hundred plus years, one family had owned the set that Tasha brought home. I knew nothing about pink luster china, so Tasha found me some articles about how potters use a red clay for the china and paint it with a gold glaze.

One afternoon was particularly fine, and in true Tasha style, she suggested that we have tea on her porch. She had baked these wonderful little cakes and brought out this set of pink luster. During tea, I told how as a young child, I wanted to have a tea party. My small china tea set was stored on a shelf in my closet. Being short, I decided to set a box on a chair so that I could reach my tea set. But when I climbed on it and grasped my set, everything came crashing down. Broken china littered the floor. Not even one cup or saucer survived. I mourned that tea set all of my life.

Tasha disappeared and returned with a pink luster cup and saucer. "Perhaps this would suit you, don't you think?"

"Thank you!" I marveled at the gift. "It is beautiful!"

"Of course, you will have to wrap everything very well, but I will show you how."


"My dear, I am giving you the complete set. To replace the one you broke."

I laid my head on her porch table and wept. And then I hugged her for mending a void that only she had understood. Tasha often said, "A woman can never have too much china" and enjoyed hearing about my antique china.

To this day, I am overwhelmed by Tasha's generosity both with my marvelous pink luster tea set, and her willingness to mentor and encourage me as an author.