Friday, February 22, 2008

February 12: Today was warmish, around 43 degrees. While raking the dead leaves around the rocks up front, I found many, many, many little crocusses--species, not hybrid. They're very blanched, but as soon as I recognized the little leaves, I could see more in the very short moss and grass around the rocks. No blooms, or even buds, yet. This business of moving zones is very difficult, in that I have no idea when to expect anything. I remember very vividly my first spring in Massachusetts. Nina was a baby, 7 months old in February, I knew no one yet in Boxborough, and I had spent days and days the preceding fall planting daffodils and tulips and crocusses. I had spent the last four springs in Virginia, in grad school, and there spring comes in February; although I had spent many weekends in Pittsburgh, there I was in the city, so the effect of spring was both muted and mitigated by the asphalt and buildings. So there I was, in the hinterlands of Zone 5a, colder than 5. Of course there was snowcover through February. March? Well, that winter, it really only started to snow in March; we got several 1-foot snowfalls. I was confused--in my Victory Garden book, which I had been studying all winter, Jim Crockett talked about whether or not to plant peas on the "traditional" Boston date of St. Patrick's day. It snowed that day, too. Meanwhile, I had started perennials indoors in February (I actually kept a garden log then, so I know.) These were some of my proudest achievements, these plants. I didn't have a light bench, or fancy seedstarting stuff, just flats and windows, but they did remarkably well, foxgloves and columbine and delphinium, although quite a few of them died. According to my log, two snowdrops bloomed on March 27th. By April 22, "daffodils blooming, fast and furious." But that week we had several snowstorms, too. I had been yearning for spring since February, two months of going outside every time there was a lull in the snow and peering at the dirt for little green noses. (I had to learn by myself that newly-planted bulbs bloom later than established ones; I have never seen this in a book, but it's true). The spring seemed to take longer to come, since I hoped for it in vain so long--like expecting Christmas every day from Halloween on. Is it today? Nope, not today.

Since that spring I have tried to moderate my expectations, based on when it is reasonable to expect some blooms. But how do I find out? I have looked for local garden blogs, but I can't find any in 10507. I know, of course, that these things can vary anyway--Acton's lilacs were always a full week ahead of Boxborough's, and Acton is only a few miles away. But are we talking March or April?

February 22: snow. Is it today? Nope, not today.

Friday, January 25, 2008

January 25, 2008
The deed is done, the move is made. Extraordinarily difficult. It's hard to believe how quickly we moved after my last post, but the perameters became crystal clear: if we wanted to move before the kids started school, it would be now. Now. Today. In June we were looking for a piece of land for our dream house; we were looking for a town in which we would feel at home; we were planning to move in 2008. But it is impossible to look for houses without looking at specific houses. As soon as we looked at specific houses, they were possibilities. In addition, I think my husband really wanted to move; he was unhappy, living alone during the week. And when is a good time, to move? Is it not like getting pregnant, always subject to second thoughts and counter-suggestions, until the time is past?

Well, the answer may be, in the end, not 2007. It was a good year, more or less, for Wall Street, which meant that it was not a buyer's market in NY. There were few houses that met our requirements. I favored one in Chappaqua, high up on a wind-swept hill (the highest point in Westchester! Lots of rocks, and views in all directions). Not a Gracious Home. Built in pieces; it reminded me of my grandparents' cabin that they built themselves, in Utah. Airy, though, and full of character. Maybe too much--it had a rock stairway leading up to the house that would certainly have been treacherous in winter. The possibilities for gardening were endless, though: wild and rocky gardening, this would have been, lots of ericaceae and wildflowers, groundcovers and alpines.

Then there was another one, a gorgeous one. Definitely Gracious, with hand-carved Chinese screens and a good layout. This one was overlooking a pond (I have suspicions it might be a marsh--less water, more mud). The description said there were sophisticated plantings, and there were some I could see right off. Good windows. Gas fireplaces in both the master bedroom and the master bath, which I did not see as a plus. The whole basement, astonishingly enough, was given over to a potting room! The previous owner specialized in Bonsai. It was perfect for us, except that 1. the whole thing had a northern exposure; 2. it had 2 kids' bedrooms, and no possibility for a third except for the third floor, which had no bathroom. The second floor had three bathrooms, each of which could only be reached through the bedroom attached. The poor third floor resident would have to go down two flights of stairs to brush her teeth. In theory, we could have installed a bathroom on the third floor, but since this house was already too expensive for us I don't know how we could have pulled it off. I was anxious to meet the owner, who was clearly a gardener, but when I did she blew me off. I asked if there was anything in particular she would like to show me (is there a gardener on earth who does not like to show off her triumphs?), and mentioned that I was an avid gardener. She said that unless I specialized in wetland plants I probably wouldn't know the plants. This is an error, I must say: never patronize people. They may easily turn out to have written a book about the subject. I haven't written a book about wetland plants, it's true, but I know an indecent number of plants, and I am eager to learn. She, apparently, was not eager to share. Now, I can understand feeling unhappy about having to leave one's garden--pause for understatement--but I know I would feel better, if I had to leave my garden, if I knew the new owner would not, out of sheer ignorance, turn over my white-flowered pulmonaria to plant vinca.

The third house we bought. It is old. It is also Gracious, although, I hope, not overwhelmingly so. Two acres on a corner lot in Bedford Hills, with more traffic, I will say, than I realized (I thought all along the house was close to the road, but I allowed myself to be persuaded that it was not a well-travelled one. It is.) It's a house with character, built onto and improved over the years. Built in 1890, they told us, and moved here from the Bronx in 1906. It's not a Victorian, though, but a Greek revival, as far as I can figure--a mystery. It has nice high ceilings, and lots of windows with high, carved moldings. The furnace is not that old, but it is extremely cranky; I've had the repairman out every week for three months, I think. The garden is foundation plantings, and big trees, and lawn. There's a lot to be said for big trees and lawn--the foundation plantings will need revision, but there's certainly lots of room for creative endeavor. The beech tree, said the former owner, is the largest in NY.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It looks like the next year is going to be particularly challenging, and perhaps it will help to sort it out verbally. We have decided to move from Massachusetts to New York, where my husband now works; he has been commuting every weekend, but it is not the kind of family life we want. And it looks like this job is right for him--challenging, good people, well-paid. So, we need to figure out when, where, and to what to move. Should we buy land and build our dream house? Guaranteed to take a while, both to find the land and to build it--but it would be nice to finally have a real library room, big enough for all our books (well, a good portion of them). Should we try to find an existing house that is close enough to what we want--certainly quicker, probably cheaper, than building. Should we buy an existing house on a largish chunk of land, so we can move sooner and build a new house, and then subdivide?

And then there's where: my husband works in SoHo, so we need to be within decent commuting distance from the city. What towns would suit us? We want good schools, of course; intelligent neighbors; a sense of community; room for a garden of considerable size (I don't have enough discipline for a small garden). It would be nice if the kids could ride their bikes on the roads, and if there were sidewalks on which to walk the dog. I have a dread of finding only pretentious, materialistic, Prada-wearing women; I'm sure I'm wrong, I must be wrong; but I do remember taking German in college because I wanted to prove to myself that my prejudice against the language was unjustified. It wasn't. I don't like German literature, I don't like the sound of the language, I should have taken Italian.