. . . you make a grapevine wreath.
It seems like for weeks I have been in the kitchen, kitchen, kitchen all day long. Cleaning, purging, organizing, getting up close and personal with the insides of my dishwasher (ugh!), and finally, cooking. Tweaking (no, not twerking) recipes again and again. Just how much reduced farm-fresh apple cider does an apple cider caramel need, anyway? I’m not sure yet – but I am on the trail. I’m thinking it’s around half a cup . . .
Okay, I digress but maybe now you get a sense of where my brain is at lately.
So I decided to get out of the kitchen and get into the garden, which has been somewhat abandoned lately. It felt great to get out there, clippers in hand, and start moving things forward outside.
It helped that I was totally inspired this past weekend by my visit to the Huntington Ranch open house. The Huntington Ranch is the fruit and veggie garden at the wonderful Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino. The Huntington, with it’s amazing library, endless beautiful gardens and all-you-can-eat high tea, has long been one of my favorite places to go in L.A. And now it has this super inspiring edible garden, so it’s practically perfect in every way. For me, what was so inspiring about the ranch was the simplicity of it: they just stuck plants in the earth in the way they wanted to, put water on them (and fertilizer a couple times a year), and they grew, beautifully. The plantings were arranged in a modestly pleasing way, but not fancy at all. I mean, I could totally have arranged it in the same way.
Lately, while I have been fussing in the kitchen, I have been pondering the front yard garden – which is all natives now. My plan is to turn it into edibles, which now I have only in the back yard. Somehow I had it in my head that I needed to have raised beds in the front yard. I even had one of my garden heroes come out and look at the yard and he was talking raised beds – here, there and everywhere. It exhausted me a bit, but I thought that was what I needed to do: I needed to fill my garden with many wooden rectangles loaded with nursery-bought bags of potting soil . . . But at the Ranch I saw that I could just arrange the front garden the way I’ve arranged the back – with plants in the ground arranged in a nice way. Natives and edibles together with no boxes or structures. Nice and simple.
So here I am puttering around at the back of my yard and I see that my neighbor’s grapevine was growing a little out of control. It had jumped the wall and was headed into our yard, but jumped even more up into my rear neighbor’s grapefruit tree. I have a strong interest in that grapefruit tree because it grows over into my yard, and I take great advantage of those neighborly grapefruit. They make some delicious grapefruit-lavender jam, and candied grapefruit rinds, and grapefruit juice, and a bunch of other nice things. I took it upon myself to cut down those vines and rescue that neighborly tree.
And I ended up with a pile of vines and an afternoon with not much going on. A perfect time for wreath-making. First I took off almost all of the leaves, taking care not to break those cute little curlicues. Much of the wood was too thick and dry to be flexible enough for a wreath. So I soaked the vines in water by wrapping the vines around and around like a garden hose (they cracked a little bit, but it was not a huge deal) in a big galvanized tub that we use to ice drinks in the summer. It’s not summer anymore, so the tub was free . . .
And while the vines were soaking, I ran some loads of laundry, cleaned the chicken coop, emptied the dishwasher, and did some more stuff in the house, just so I could show those who measure accomplishment in this way (you know who you are), that I got something done.
A couple hours later the vines were soft enough to work with, so I got to it. The wreath made itself, actually. I took the longest vines (8′ -10′ long) and gathered them into a bunch. Starting with the thickest end I wound it around in a big circle and then tucked the thinner ends of the vines into the circle. But I didn’t make a big fuss about it, I was just going for generally circular in shape, not geometric perfection. Then I took the shorter vines (which were thin) and wound some of them in and out of the wreath to help hold the wreath together – but not too together. Then I took the remaining thinner vines and added them to the outside of the wreath, tucking the ends inside. Everything held together easily. I left a few green leaves on for color and then I added a sprig of native rose, which had some rose hips on it. Except for the 2 hours of soaking, the wreath took about 20 minutes to make. I was really glad to have made something that didn’t involve food for a change.
Then, feeling all seasonal and everything, I hung the wreath from our front gate. Nice and simple: wreath edition.
Speaking of seasonal, I want to wish you all a Happy Halloween. This is how we at NerdHaven West celebrate Halloween: we buy a variety of candy (the good stuff) and we happily give it out to kids who knock on our door. Nice and simple. Oh yes, and we carve pumpkins. Here are this year’s models: