Urban Farming

Rag Rug Part 2, Or Why Isn’t the Urban Farmer Further Along?

What’s up with the rag rug thingy? Shouldn’t the Urban Farmer be done by now? Also, why haven’t Neighbors North subscribers been updated?

The Urban Farmer about to shred a shirt for project: Rag Rug.

Getting ready to shred for project: Rag Rug.

The joy of shredding.

The joy of shredding.

Wad of pants converted to rag rug material.

Pant Wad (formerly Co-habitator’s Dockers) converted to rag rug material.

OK.  We get it already.  The Urban Farmer has assembled her materials.  She knows how to shred.  But where’s the rug?


Ahem.  The Urban Farmer blames several culprits. 


Culprit 1: the green gage plum tree. 

Gage had been in a sorry state ever since the over-zealous pruning of February 2008.  The wished-for sackful upon sackful of juicy yellow sweet-tart plums never arrived.  Instead, fruit grew, browned, rotted, and dropped.  Gray-green fungus filigreed the branches.  Fungus and beetles colonized the trunk. 

Plum tree

what a healthy plum tree looks like.

In September Gage met its maker.  Yes, the Urban Farmer and her co-habitator participated in arboricide.  Gage was euthanized.  Chopped down.  Axed.  The Urban Farmer and her co-habitator fell from gardeners to jittery, trigger-happy yard maintainers—spraying first, asking questions later.  Blame it on the blackberry vine wars of 2012 and ‘13. 

Gage’s brittle branches and trunk were loaded into a truck and taken to the big compost bin in the sky.  Mucilaginous root killer was painted on the stump and seeped its death sentence down through Gage’s roots.  Four weeks later the stump removal guys came out.  They removed the stump, but left a generous portion of robust, gnarly root. 

English: Tree roots A rather distinctive tree ...rubust, gnarly root.

Much digging, sawing, chopping, hacking and levering later, the Urban Farmer and her co-habitator had made a nice hole.  The Urban Farmer knew exactly what should go in: Migrant Blue. 

Back in the fateful pruning episode of 2008, when Co-habitator was hacking at Gage, the Urban Farmer was out at Skye buying up blueberry bushes.  Five years later, total blueberry reapings amounted to about 50.  Fifty as in fifty individual berries.  Not pints or bushels.  Maybe two cups’ worth in other words.  Not exactly the blueberry bounty she was going for.

On a never-ending quest to find the highest berry-yielding spot, all of the bushes endured transplanting.  Migrant Blue endured the most.  It had been moved from one side of the yard to the other, and from one corner to the other.  For about three weeks it had lodged on the sidewalk strip.  Most recently it had been stuck in a kind of plant tenement or half-way house.  Hydrangea and daphnia  hemmed it to the north and south, an ungainly maple wedged it in from the east.  Peony clumps completed its banishment from Mr. Sun. 

English: Vaccinium reticulatum (blue berries)....sun-drenched blueberries.

Now the Urban Farmer was moving Migrant Blue to something better.  She was locating it to prime garden real estate, the sun-drenched spot formerly occupied by Gage.  Only first she would have to find Migrant Blue. 

The Urban Farmer practically needed a map and spy glass.  After pulling aside kale and slumping poppy fronds, she stood in shock.  Migrant Blue had been oven-baked and shrink-dinked. 

Shrinky dinks!Victims of a shrinky-dinking.

Two goes with the shovel freed Blue’s sub-dwarf-sized dimensions.  Unfortunately one of the shovel digs grazed its trunk and practically broke Migrant Blue’s shrink-dinked neck.  The Urban Farmer hustled it over to its new hole, then crossed her fingers that the soil and leaves she had layered in would bring Migrant Blue back from death’s door.migrant blue 2

 Migrant Blue hanging in there on Thanksgiving morning.

Culprit 2 keeping the Urban Farmer from pursuing her rag rug dreams: repercussions from Big Yard Improvement Project 2010.

Back in 2010, a strip of paving bricks, then a bit of lawn, then another strip of paving bricks abutted the back of the house.  In other words, up close to the house the yard went paving lawn paving.  Why go paving lawn paving? asked the Urban Farmer.  Why not go paving paving paving? Why not have congruity, harmony? Increase the feng shui?  And Big Yard Improvement Project 2010 (or Bimp (which was supposed to be a cakewalk)) was born.

Cake WalkA cake walk.  It’s kids’ stuff!

The first question was: go with uniform-sized pavers or slate pieces of non-uniform, but interesting, size.  The second, related, question was whether to match the brick pavers with the other paved portions.  In a way the second question was moot because the already paved portions comprised different styles of bricks, so how to match them anyway? This led to further pondering.  

Maybe people would find the mismatched stones offputting? mused Co-habitator.  Maybe it would be too difficult to harmoniously merge the resulting three sections of paved bricks.  In front, the walk leading up the house was comprised of randomly-shaped slate.  Should they repeat that design element in back? Maybe they should trod the amorphicity path, boast of its intentionality. 

Yes.  Obviously the Urban Farmer and Co-habitator needed to free themselves from the uniformity paradigm and embrace amorphicity.

So, they went with the slate option. 

Then came the labor.  The Urban Farmer lost track of  the weekend hours Co-habitator spent digging out lawn, laying down weed barrier cloth, dumping in sand and raking it smooth, laying in and re-laying in the slate.  Then going back to the stone store because the slate was the wrong shape or color.

At last, Bimp was complete.  Not quite as envisioned, but done.  And celebrated.  Now the Urban Farmer and Co-habitator had paving slate paving.  Tracking in grass after mowing, sweeping up grass clippings from the basement floor, was totally yesterday.

Now they were tracking in dirt.  And sweeping and vacuuming dirt.  Because the slates weren’t like the pavers.  The slate section had gaps between the slates… which filled with dirt.  And when they weren’t filling with dirt they were sprouting weeds.  And when weeds weren’t anchoring them, the slates were shifting and getting knocked out of position by the gentle prodding of a bicycle wheel or garden hose.  Every two months Co-habitator was out weeding the slate patch.  And the unmoored slates would be sprinkled with dirt to be tracked into the basement once more.

Tectonic Plate RiftThe havoc of plate tectonics.

The Urban Farmer did her best to keep mum about her Bimp disappointment.  How could she tell Co-habitator how tiresome Bimp was, what a pain Bimp was? She would be dissing his artistry and yard engineering, dissing the hours he sweated laying in the slates.  She waited for Co-habitator’s Bimp pride to subside. 

Finally, in autumn 2013, the time for Bimp Summit arrived.  The Urban Farmer lobbied for a return to lawn.  Look at how many hours you’re out there weeding the slates? she argued. We don’t have time for this.  Co-habitator needed no coaxing.  He, too, yearned for the mundaneness of grass and a less complicated yard maintenance.  He was ready to dismantle Bimp. 


Culprit 3 keeping the Urban Farmer from pursuing rag rug dreams: Heirloom Family Table Destiny. 

Heirloom Family TableThe heirloom family table.

HFTD began with an appeal from first cousin once removed J on the Urban Farmer’s father’s side.  J and her co-habitator were moving to less commodious digs.  J, Heirloom’s present care taker, was looking to offload it, preferably on a relative, preferably the Urban Farmer’s sister A.  Why A? Because A resided in J’s aunt D’s house.  Aunt D had been an offspring of the Grandparents M as well as grandmother to A (and the Urban Farmer).  Heirloom had never resided at Aunt D’s (which was now A’s), but the logic went that residing there would be almost as good as residing at its original home, that of the Grandparents M.  But A was happy with her décor and uninterested. 

When the heirloom’s dimensions were first described, the Urban Farmer wasn’t particularly interested either.  Minus all the leaves, the circular heirloom was 54 inches round, quite the pudge.  On Thanksgiving, the routine was to wheel the dining table into the more commodious living room, then add card tables to either end so that the usual dozen or more gobble day feasters might dine as one. 

No way would Heirloom be squeezing from dining to living room.  Heck, even passage through the front door would be a trick.  Then there was the matter of tablecloths.  All the Urban Farmer’s were wrongly-dimensioned rectangulars.  This would not do for the round heirloom. 

But still, the thought of the great grandparents Ms’ table residing in her home! The hub of hundreds if not thousands of family dinners.  Think how often her father’s elbows had jostled those of cousin J, to say nothing of the elbows of all the other first cousins once removed, as well as Grandma D and all the other illustrious Great Aunts’ and Uncles’ elbows, perhaps even the Great Grandparents Ms’ elbows. 

The Urban Farmer put in a call to first cousin once removed J.  She was a bit nervous.  Cousin J was a person she had last seen thirty-five years earlier at the funeral of Great Aunt M.

J was out and the Urban Farmer left what she hoped was a cordial, not overly acquisitive-sounding voice message. 

J got back to her later that morning.  First off J wanted to know who the Urban Farmer was, despite the fact that the Urban Farmer had identified herself as R’s daughter K on the voice message.  “Do I know you?” J asked.  “Are you A?”  The Urban Farmer explained that A was her sister; she was K.   She also recalled for J some of their earlier meetings, tactfully omitting the scene of their final meeting, the funeral for Great Aunt M.

J then described Heirloom in detail.  The chairs had all been redone and re-upholstered.  The table legs were in fine condition, all tightly-jointed.  The table top had a few nicks and cuts.  J again mentioned how she wished Heirloom was going to A.

Meanwhile the Urban Farmer was thinking of the drive down to J’s and the long drive back.  Dad was amenable to the fourteen hour drive, but even so, the table and the ten, eleven, or twelve chairs that went with it (J seemed uncertain of the exact number) would not fit into the truck.  The renting of a trailer would be necessary.  Meanwhile Thanksgiving loomed.  Would the Urban Farmer have the necessary round and oval tablecloths by Thanksgiving? And there was still the problem of shoe-horning the Thanksgiving goers into the dining room.  She doubted Heirloom could be coaxed into the living room without taking down a wall.  The gobblers might riot if forced to squeeze into the dining room.Maybe they would dine alfresco, on the recently re-sodded ground of the de-commisioned Bimp, gazing at the forlorn Migrant Blue?

Re-sodded slate patchDecommisioned slate patch, post Bimp Summit 2013, sporting reclaimed grass.

J broke into the Urban Farmer’s thoughts.  J was sweetening the deal.  She was willing to put Heirloom in storage until a convenient time could be found for transport. 

The Urban Farmer was unprepared for such generosity.  Was she worthy? Um, are any other relatives interested in the table? she asked, stalling. 

Yes.  Second cousin S had expressed interest.  The Urban Farmer pictured the bad karma cloud she would be under if she were to thwart a co-descendent of the Great Grandparents M from landing Heirloom.

Awash in the mouth-watering desire to acquire and fearing the bad ju-ju of too much covetousness, the Urban Farmer thanked J for her time.  She would get back to her after discussing it with her co-habitator.

Heirloom became weightier and weightier; lightness of being more elusive.  Did the Urban Farmer really want a table and chairs with tight joints that badly? Even one patinaed with the fingerprints of so many of her antecedents?

The answer was no.  She e-mailed J— thanked her for the chat.  She would have to decline Heirloom caretakership.


3 thoughts on “Rag Rug Part 2, Or Why Isn’t the Urban Farmer Further Along?

  1. Patricia McMullen says:

    Good read and nice to have some photos. Esp the shrinky-dinks.

    So many projects. Never enough time. Gives us reason to get up in the morning.


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