History and the Garden

(If you’re normally here for the knitting/crochet, I swear, we’ll get back to topic, but right now most of my knitting is still packed away, and what I am working on you can’t see much progress.  The garden’s another story.  Hang in there with me.)

As part of getting the gardens ready, we got permission from the owners of the house to revive what looks like a kitchen garden plot in the backyard.  Since the soil was fairly compacted, and it looked like the garden hadn’t been used in many years, we decided to turn the soil.  By hand, since we don’t have a tiller, but do have young backs and plenty of tools.

The garden, before we touched it.

So we’ve carefully defined the edges of the garden, and straightened things out.  I raked out all the leaves (which made our compost pile very happy), and tore strips of rags to make sure our edges were straight.  The garden will be 12′ by 24,’ not huge, but not too small either.

Nearly half tilled, and looking a lot happier already.  I mean, happy as a garden can get without plants.

Each evening, when we get a spare moment, we spend a half an hour to 45 minutes working on turning the soil.  It’s clear that this garden hasn’t been tilled in a while, or if it was, only the top 2″ of the soil.  Because, as we are digging we are encountering some very mature root systems, (from trees in our neighbor’s yard), lots of rocks, and pottery shards.

Well, not only pottery shards.  To date, we’ve found 2 marbles, pieces of a broken teacup, pieces from at least 3 different bottles, leather, rusted iron, a very rusted spoon or trowel, chain, tentpoles or stakes, 2 medicine bottles (unbroken) a crockery shards.  Michael, being the historian that he is, has been having fun collecting pieces and matching them together.  I laid claim to the marbles.

It’s taken some hacking away to get rid of the roots we don’t want, and plenty of sweat even though we’re half done.  Personally, if I were to do a garden, I’d do raised beds, and I’d make it much narrower, with rows so I could walk in between the plants.  But this is what was there, and this will be what we’ll use.

Beginnings: The Origin of Tinking Turtle

As we bring 2013 to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the path we’ve taken to get where we are this year.  The holiday season is often a time spent with friends and family, each with their own special traditions and holiday moments.  For my family, one of our favorite traditions is setting up a model train layout in the garage, all decorated up for Christmas, and spend hours driving the trains through our small town.  In this town, it’s important for everything to have a name, from the grocery store named after my younger brother to the boarding house and bakery.  This has been a tradition that Jennifer and I have carried on through the years.

Trains and naming things have found their way into our lives outside of just the holidays.  In September 2011 after settling in Washington, DC we embarked on our first long-distance train journey to the windy city of Chicago.  We travled for several days, including our first overnight on the train.  While in Chicago, we visited Loopy Yarns. Jennifer was just setting out on building the framework for the business that has become Tinking Turtle and, as a stitcher, she couldn’t visit the city without stopping by the store.  During the trip, the topic of discussion kept circling back to Loopy Yarns, the name, and if we had a store, what it would be named.

Over a delicious dinner of Knockwurst, Wiener Schnitzel, and Sauerkraut at The Berghoff, we began to bat around some funny names for the various buildings in our own model train town, with a yarn bent.  Grabbing the closest piece of paper at hand, a class schedule from Loopy Yarns, we recorded all of the names that came to mind.

Given that we were now living in Maryland, the turtle as a mascot came to mind, and then playing off of the alliteration, tinking was a natural fit.  I’ll confess that at that point in time I had no idea what tinking even was, but it sounded cool.  Ye Olde Tinking Turtle was originally going to be a combo yarn store/tavern, perhaps influenced by the German atmosphere, however it was a name that stuck with us.

Tinking Turtle was not the initial name for the company; Jen was contemplating running it under a company named after herself. Unfortunately however, when she was looking to register a trade name and website, there were several other businesses with similar sounding names.  Falling back to what was originally an amusing name for a train town pub, Tinking Turtle has stayed with us, becoming the business that it is today.

Grandpa Les, and The Joy Of Making Something Yourself

My grandparents’ house, still well taken care of.

The evening before NEFF, my mother picked me up at the train station in Springfield.  “I want to show you the house where I grew up,” she said, “The one your grandfather built.”

My mother had grown up in Springfield before moving, when she was in high school, to Deerfield.  My grandmother still lives in this house, but the last time I’d seen the house my Grandfather, Grandpa Les, had built I’d been much younger.  Since it was only a little bit out of our way, we swung by.

My grandfather, and his side of the family, has always been handy with tools.  For my grandfather that meant he loved to tinker – one of his hobbies was fixing clocks.  He had a fully tricked-out woodshop in the back of his yard that he fashioned himself.  For his sisters, one is a beautiful seamstress (though her eyesight is going now), and the other was handy with anything to do with yarn: knitting, crochet, tatting, rug making, etc.  Their mother, my great grandmother, used to dye her own wool to make rugs in intricate detail.  Going to my Grandfather’s childhood home (my great aunt, the seamstress, lives there still), the attic is a treasure trove of crafting supplies that are a joy to behold.

My grandfather built this rock wall for my
Grandmother’s Garden.  It’s still standing.

When my grandfather wanted to learn a new skill, he got a book.  Or more accurately, books.  When you go to his library in my grandmother’s house, you find books on electricity and wiring (he eventually got his electrician’s licence), plumbing, and carpentry.  My grandfather was an early adopter of the computer, and there’s books on coding and how the internet works (the internet ones make for funny reading, nearly 15 years later).

He loved to take things apart to see how they work.  I see that same quality in myself – I love to learn a new knitting technique, and then fiddle with it until it breaks down.  When I see a knitted sweater or a stitch pattern that I’ve never seen, I will shamelessly look at the inside seams or inspect the use of knits, purls, yarnovers and decreases.

Grandpa Les wouldn’t buy something if he could make it himself – and he could make nearly anything.  Need a rabbit hutch?  He’s got you covered.  His grandaughter wants a play kitchen? Give him two weeks.  I think he really understood the satisfaction of doing something yourself, to take the time to do it right.

I find that same joy in knitting and crochet.  And even though our crafts use different materials, every once and a while, while I’m meditatively working, I’ll think of him.  It makes me happy.