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Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Tree that Would Not Behave

2005, the tree wants to grow big . . .
Stupid apricot tree. I have done everything this year to kill it that I know of. I cut all the limbs off and cut it down to the trunk. It sprouted a bunch of branch starts all over. I pulled them all off. I was told to girdle the tree. I girdled it. It sprouted new branch starts all over. I pulled them off. I was told to bore holes in it and fill them with a tree stump removal product. My husband did the honors. The tree is sprouting new branch starts everywhere and growing suckers from the roots.
2007, the year we got six apricots

Why do we want to kill such an apparently strong tree?
2012, what the tree looked like year after year, with no fruit

In twelve years this apricot tree has produced exactly six apricots!

2014, pruning in progress
I pruned it and pruned it and pruned it year after year, following all the advice from the experts, doing it exactly the way I did our other apricot tree that had buckets and buckets of fruit year after year. This tree? Nothing.

2014, see the bee!
I started threatening it two years ago. I said, “If you don’t produce apricots, I’m going to cut you down.” This is the Grammy method. (Grammy used to threaten her plants that if they didn’t bloom, she’d throw them out. They always bloomed for her. My mother would take her non-blooming houseplants over there and they’d bloom for Grammy. But when my mother got them home, they never bloomed again unless she took them back.) So it bloomed with some promise. You can see the bees came buzzing around to pollinate it. Things looked pretty good.

2014, alas, no fruit yet again
Then we had some snow and frost. And all the blossoms froze. And the tree began producing what it does best, water spout-type branches. You know, the kind that shoot up long and straight with no side branching, just reaching for the sky.

This tree, I swear, has been determined to become a shade tree all its life. Either that or it wants to be an aspen tree—it grows suckers up from its roots all around the ground where we know its roots spread. It is the strangest thing I have ever seen in a supposed fruit tree.

Well I won’t have it. It stands too close to my garden to become a shade tree. If it had buckled down to becoming a fruit-producing dwarf apricot, it could have still been growing this year. Instead, one way or another this year it is coming out and those roots are going to stop trying to produce new trees everywhere.

No more apricot tree that won’t behave.
“I will not die. You can’t make me!”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

You Are NOT Serious, Or, the Teeny Zucchini

I know you have been waiting and waiting for my latest garden report. Oh, of course you have. You cannot have anything better to do than to wonder if any of my vegetables lived more than a month. You can now relax. The report is finally here.

The tomatoes, alas, although alive and possibly even growing now, are probably not destined to yield anything like a decent harvest. Considering all the vicissitudes of their short existence, these have done remarkably well not to simply die off like the other three tomato plants did. One of these plants has even got some blossoms that look well. Another of them, though, grew blossoms only for them to burn up. I am very much afraid that my fears of four weeks ago were right: the manure is not aged enough. Well, it is amazing to me that they are alive still at all.

One pepper plant lived of the four. I mean, one lived to grow leaves and even has tiny pepper buds coming on. Of the other three, one still has a bright, strongly green stem, but the tiny leaves it started withered. Still, it could grow some leaves, as it does not seem to be dying further. Stay tuned!

Here is the squash-and-watermelon box. We might have acorn squash at least. Let the excitement build! Look at the tiny fruit on this watermelon plant. These are two of the five fruits on this plant. If these grow, we will have watermelon in the fall! Stay tuned for that too!

It is hard, really, to kill a zucchini plant, except if the bugs get in it. So far, we have not had that problem. Our zucchini plants are doing well and are loaded with fruit. In fact, we had our first zucchini ready to pick two weeks ago! Can you believe it was that early when we planted so late? It is true. Here is the proof (I had to put my eyeglasses along side to show how BIG this was . . .)
It was almost one mouthful. Okay, maybe it was a bit less than that . . . Maybe the size of a little sweet pickle. A tiny sweet pickle. Not quite microscopic, but give it credit for trying, at least.

And here is today's first serious zucchini.

In the meantime, the Granny Smith apple tree wants thinning, and the roses are doing very well. They do like these summer cloudbursts!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

My Earliest Immigrant Ancestors

A little while ago we were challenged to find out which of our ancestors was the earliest arrival in America. Not having a drop of Native American, that meant I needed to search among my English and Scottish ancestors of the 1600s. I knew my German ancestors were two hundred years later, in the 1830s. For my husband, the task was much easier, so we found his first.

My husband comes from all Mormon immigrant ancestors in the 1800s. The earliest to arrive on the American continent were Thomas and Elizabeth (Davis) Campbell, arriving in 1855. They were put in the Milo Andrus Company to cross the plains, the last of the PEF (Perpetual Emigration Fund) companies that year. That meant that they drew the money for their passage and trip from the Fund, and after they arrived, they paid it back into the Fund to help others who were too poor to pay their way themselves. Here are pictures of Thomas and Elizabeth.

They came with their three little boys, and tales passed down by the family say that Elizabeth cut up her fur coat somewhere on the Plains to make shoes for her boys to walk in when their old shoes wore out. They walked with the company from Missouri to Salt Lake City, over 1,000 miles. The company had left “Mormon Grove” (near present-day Atchison, Kansas) on August 1 and were pushed extremely hard by Captain Andrus to escape the first of the winter snows in the Rocky Mountains. They did not completely escape; they pushed through a storm that left three inches of snow near South Pass (the Continental Divide in present-day Wyoming) in early October. Many people ran out of provisions in the week before they finally arrived in Salt Lake City, which was October 24th. The Campbells still had some provisions left. They located in southern Utah at first, but after a year or two they moved to Heber City and Thomas eventually went to work in the silver mines near present-day Park City, Utah, and became a very wealthy man. Elizabeth bore ten children in all. The first little girl died before they came to America and was buried in Scotland. Another little boy died at the age of three, but the other seven lived to old ages and had large families themselves. Elizabeth went blind the last seventeen years of her life; her youngest daughter took care of her until her death.

My son and I looked long and hard to figure out this puzzle. We are descendants of dozens of immigrants to New England in the 1600s through my paternal ancestors. The earliest arriving immigrant ancestors were members of the John Winthrop Company and came with his fleet of ships to Salem, Massachusetts, in June 1630. They are: Robert and Mary (Mason) Seeley, parents of Nathaniel Seeley who was with them when they landed; Jehu and Sarah Stedman Burr; and Andrew and Hester (Sherman) Ward. Here is a drawing depicting John Winthrop’s fleet.

Meanwhile, my mother wanted to find who was the earliest on her side. We found her earliest immigrant ancestor seems to have been her 6th-great grandfather William Munro, born in Scotland in 1625, a member of the Munro clan of Castle Fowlis on the Firth of Cromarty. Here is a picture of the castle there, rebuilt in the 1700s, with my son standing in front. This is an old picture now!

William Munro fought with the Scottish clans in the Battle of Worcester in 1651. He was taken prisoner by the English and was banished by Cromwell’s government to Boston. He settled at Cambridge Farms, now Lexington, in the region still called “Scotland.” The first probable mention of him in the Cambridge records is in 1657, when “William Row” and another man were fined “for not having rings in ye nose of their swine.” In 1690 he was made a freeman and was often connected with the town affairs. The cellar of his house could still be seen in 1933 in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Who was your first ancestor to arrive in the country where you live? If your people were there before records began, you can be excused!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Musings about Marriage and Faith

Observing my wedding anniversary, I am naturally thinking of marriage. Because this week we have seen a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court regarding the subject, I felt that I would write my thoughts about marriage. These are mine alone, and I do not intend any offense to anyone.

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and believe that in its highest conception, marriage is ultimately instituted of God for the happiness and fulfillment of an eternal plan that reserves this particular sacrament for the union of a woman and a man. In a more fully explained document, the Church has published a message about its position here.

However, I also believe that all people deserve to be happy in whatever ways they find fulfillment, barring, of course, actions that directly injure or destroy another being. I do not hold those who do not believe the way I do to the standards I set for myself, and nor does my church.

Everybody knows marriage in the Western world today is a much different institution than it formerly was. Many of us shudder to think of the old style marriages controlled by patriarchal teachings that set men above women and created a domestic slave environment for all too many women, if not a worse abusive relationship. That such marriages continue to exist today is wrong. When marriage was a conjunction of church and state policies, it made social sense for the institution to be exclusive, to be designed to perpetuate a religious ideal that saw man and woman united to bring forth and bring up children. With the ideal set at monogamy and complete fidelity, there would be no room for other kinds of families to be created—if the people in the family unit actually could live the ideal.

But there are other considerations. When society at large no longer believed in the religious institution or the doctrines behind it, then it no longer insisted on endurance for the poor people trapped in marriages that turned into hellish situations. Marriage as an entity shifted from a unit of society focused mainly on providing for the future of the children in the unit, to focus on the present state of the couple. They deserve happiness, right? If the present union could not provide happiness, how was that affecting the children too? These were good questions, getting at the heart of how to create the ideal while realistically allowing for the weaknesses and the faults of typical human beings. Divorce became much more prevalent, no longer the stigma it had been, and plenty of understanding to go around regarding the need for it.

Marriage today in most of the western world is simply a civil contract of love and commitment between two people who want to share their lives. There is nothing inherently in it that should bar gays from being allowed to make the contract. They are no different from heterosexuals when they fall in love and desire to share their lives with their chosen partner.

The difference is in religion. Getting religion out of civil law seems to me the only reasonable solution to the dilemma faced by many church-going people who feel strongly that marriage is for heterosexuals only. If we in the United States had a federal marriage law that recognized nothing but a civil marriage performed by a civil servant, then every citizen could participate in marriage according to the law. All churches would be free to teach and perform any sort of religious ceremony following the civil marriage that their adherents believed was necessary for the blessings of God to be on that union. No church official would be required by law to break his or her conscience by performing a marriage, because no church official could legally marry anybody. Nobody would worry about being forced to allow a church building to be used for a marriage between people they didn’t agree with, for no church would be legally allowed to be the site of any marriage at all. Religious ceremonies would not have any legal status and would be left alone according to the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion. The churches would retain sole control over those ceremonies.

One problem remaining would be those civil servants who were also firm believers in a divine mandate that marriage must be only between heterosexuals—their jobs would require that they participate in civil marriages for all. They would have to resolve problems of conscience individually. Perhaps some people of faith would find they could no longer seek and hold civil service jobs that dealt with marriage. Perhaps they would find that they could make a distinction between the civil marriage contract and the divinity-approved contract taught and performed after the civil marriage in their church.

The other problem of course is for gays who believe strongly in all other religious teachings except the one regarding chastity for same-sex attraction. The deep irony in their position is not lost on me, but I hold off on what I believe about their position with regard to God and their future. How am I to know and understand all that God can possibly reveal about the universe, bound as I am by my time, my culture, my little temporal world, and the teachings that I have received and believe so far? I will not close the door on the possibility of an explanation and a resolution inconceivable to our finite minds today.

Indeed; I believe with all my heart that in the end of things, God will show us all what marvels He had in store all along for every single one of His children, and we will all acknowledge that we did not understand how fair and right His plans were all along, if only we could be ready for them sooner rather than later.

I believe that ultimately God intends that children should be reared by their father and mother—any other scenario seems to me impossible, because it is not ideal. Certainly there have been and will continue to be happy, well-adjusted people who are raised by single parents, gay parents, foster parents, step-parents, adoptive parents, surrogate parents, grandparents, or any other possibility you can think of. But being completely happy without any knowledge of one’s natural parents is hard for many, many children. Most children end up wanting to know what happened to their biological parents. I don’t have any studies to cite about this; my support is all anecdotal and personal.

The needs of children are not being considered in today’s marriage law struggles. Perhaps that is inevitable, but it is too bad. I do believe that it’s possible to achieve the ideal in family life: a man and woman who are perfectly in harmony, perfectly faithful to one another, and who create children who belong to them eternally. I believe that is God’s ultimate plan for our happiness eternally. But what He may have in mind for those who prefer a different scenario I cannot begin to guess—though I know in my heart it will be a happy solution to our earthly problem.