Flowers from Vegetables

flower of an Italian dandelion

Whenever possible I let vegetables go to flower, sometimes to save the seed, but more often to share the bounty with insects and birds. The usefulness comes in two waves: the first being the pollinators attracted to the flowers, and once the flowers go to seed the birds will move in. Of course this means that I’m “wasting space” and making my garden “unproductive” but the rewards outweigh any inconvenience.

New gardeners are often surprised to see what amazing flowers different vegetables make. People with no connection to food plants whatsoever may not even know that vegetables make flowers, so it’s fun to show them a carrot flower, a squash blossom, a bean flower.

My new favorite garden flower comes off an old Italian chicory plant left to go riot. I’m not sure which chicory it is, but it’s one of those  long-leaved, bitter greens beloved in Italy and sold by Franchi seeds. It’s easy to grow, pest proof, and we like the strong, bitter flavor. The flowers, though, are amazing. The greens send up narrow stalks 8′ tall or more (approx. 2.5 meters) and the stalks are covered from top to bottom with beautiful periwinkle blue flowers which are about 2″ (5cm) across– classic chicory flowers.

The bees adore these flowers. What’s more, this plant has been blossoming continuously for months now–at least 3 months. Unfortunately I didn’t mark down when it started, but it’s been at least 3 months by now, maybe 4. It’s given me lots of joy.

In our yard the flower stalks have interwoven with grape and bean vines, adding a lot of color to a corner of our patio. The situation is impossible to to photograph, because the flowers are both high and low and tangled up with everything, but trust me, in person it’s charming in its wild way.

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Have you ever wanted a uniform?

1920" russian avant garde school uniform

On the heels of Friday’s fashion post, Erik has encouraged me to share my current uniform fantasy with you all.

See, I’ve always wanted a uniform. I love the idea of never having to decide what I’m going to wear again. The older I get, the more I want to keep things simple. I don’t want a closet packed with potential decisions. The less choices I have to make on a daily basis, the better. I think I’d be okay living in a cave with nothing but a robe and a wooden bowl.

As of now, my wardrobe is limited in both type (practical) and color (cool neutrals), which helps, but its not as simple as it could be. I still end up standing in front of the closet wondering “Black short sleeved shirt? White long sleeved shirt? Or is this a t-shirt day?”

I want even fewer options.

The uniform fantasy has been with me for a long time, although the uniform type changes. I’ve never taken the leap into wearing a uniform, though, for two reasons. The first is simply that I’ve been too lazy to construct a uniform. The second is that it is a rather eccentric move– adopt a uniform, and you become known for wearing that uniform more than anything else.

I suppose that if you’re super famous, like Tom Wolfe (white suit) or Erik Satie (identical velvet suits) you can wear the same thing every day and nonetheless your work and your personality will rise above that eccentricity. But I’ve feared that if I wore a uniform I’d become one of those strange local characters, like “the kilt guy” or “the bathrobe lady.”

Still, I do like the idea of fashioning a garment which suits all of my needs (fit, comfort, pockets, good fabric etc.) and making it my very own.

I also like to think that having a uniform would eventually save in laundry and reduce material waste over time. It would harken back to the days when people simply didn’t have more than a handful of outfits to wear, but those outfits fit them well and lasted a long time because they were made of quality materials.

Lately I’ve been obsessing over the outfit at the top of the post, which dates from Russia (or rather, the newborn USSR) in the 1920’s and various Internet attributions say it was designed by Nadezhda Lamanova and Vera Muhina, or perhaps designed by Lamanova and illustrated by Muhina, or perhaps even designed by Muhina alone–although she was primarily a sculptor. To make things more confusing, to me, this outfit seems very much like something Varvara Stepanova would design. It was a small community of people collaborating and doing similar things, so it’s easy to get confused.

I’ll be going to the library for both information and a higher quality image. So, take this all with a big grain of salt. If I find out more, I’ll amend the post.

Anyway, I’ve always been very fond of the Russian avant-garde and the Constructivist movement. In the 1920’s they were very much into designing clothes for an idealized workers utopia. The pattern itself is dubious from a sewing perspective, because it’s obviously more about the Constructivist love of geometry than the realities of hanging fabric. What isn’t visible in this picture but typical of the movement is use of folk embroidery/weaving on the garments, so they were modern yet spoke of place and history and identity.

This particular design is for a school uniform, I believe. I didn’t know that when I first glommed on to it– I thought it was a factory worker’s uniform. But whatever — I like it. I like the red and black combo–very iconic, commie chic. I like her little boots, I like the Mandarin collar (it seems to have a black band at the front, like a negative priest’s collar!) and I especially like the black apron.

I’ve a real fondness for aprons, which has only developed recently. In the past, aprons seemed a symbol of oppression to me, but I’ve grown to appreciate their utility–and I especially love aprons with deep pockets (since, as we’ve discussed, women’s clothing is lacking in pockets.)

Nowadays I often wear an apron in both the kitchen and the garden, mostly because of the pockets, and also so I can wipe my hands on the apron, rather than my butt, which is a real step up in the world. Also, I’ve come to associate the apron with craft, the apron of the cobbler or the blacksmith, for instance, rather than the frilly ornamental aprons of June Cleaver.

And let’s face this: Just as the Constructivists, a bunch of arty intellectuals  developed many of their design concepts around their notions of the nobility of work, I–a keyboard-pecking “knowledge worker”–also fetishize the symbols of manual work, like aprons. (And I’m not alone– witness the artisanal axe.)

I’d like to make this dress in several versions, from a lightweight sleeveless form for summer, to a sturdy workday version, to a fancy version with embroidery for going out. Of course, I do happen to be the world’s worst seamstress, as Erik will relate to you, between the tears of laughter, as he remembers my previous attempts at sewing. However, there is a sewing school very near my house, 8-Limbs, and if I make the decision to go forward, they may be able to help me draft a pattern.

And then I can become yet another colorful neighborhood character (and believe me, my neighborhood is not short on characters.)  I just hope I don’t end up looking like a goth Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Should I do it?

Do any of you have a uniform which works for you? Or do you also fantasize about a uniform, as I do?

Saturday Linkages: Dystopian Knitwear, Green Tomatoes and Drought

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Great Moments in Dystopian Knitwear http://vult.re/1nJPPwb

Animals as the answer to recycling food waste: http://www.notechmagazine.com/2014/07/animals-as-the-answer-to-recycling-food-waste.html …

A Food Has an Historic, Objectionable Name. Should We Change It? http://on.natgeo.com/1jFfLsY 

How good are we at transportation prediction? http://bit.ly/1sfTRiI

Green Tomatoes: Not Just for Frying http://wp.me/p2TfI0-ex

Why the modern bathroom is a wasteful, unhealthy design http://gu.com/p/3qk34/tw

Re-imagining Parking Spaces as Micro-Apartments http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/07/14/re-imagining-parking-spaces-as-micro-apartments/#.U8TC4OPhJiA.twitter …

At Tour de France, Safety Concerns Arise About Selfies http://nyti.ms/1r1jBzd

Couple Threatened With Fine For Brown Lawn Even As State Gripped In Drought http://huff.to/1yClovx 

One drought buster for the entire city of LA: http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20140716/drought-buster-patrols-the-streets-of-los-angeles#we-recommend …

RAST Bike Wall Mount – IKEA Hackers http://po.st/zRcV9l 

How To: Make a Modern, Trough-Style Concrete Planter: http://www.curbly.com/users/capreek/posts/15008-how-to-make-a-modern-trough-style-concrete-planter#.U8hqthm6Bho.twitter …

Scientific Heretic Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Fields, Psychic Dogs and Other Mysteries http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2014/07/14/scientific-heretic-rupert-sheldrake-on-morphic-fields-psychic-dogs-and-other-mysteries/?WT.mc_id=SA_sharetool_Twitter …

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Fashion on the Homestead

alejandro_jodorowsky

It’s about time I addressed, on this home economics/DIY/gardening blog, the importance of the way we dress. I’ve been bothered of late by my rumpled appearance. Like most Americans I wear in public what in an earlier era would have been considered pajamas. And I’m approaching fifty. The people I’ve met who have aged gracefully generally seem to dress well though not ostentatiously.

Knowing what to wear and finding that wardrobe on a budget is incredibly confusing in our schizophrenic consumer culture. I found some good advice recently from an unexpected source, the Chilean avant guarde filmmaker and mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky. He says,

Clothing used without consciousness is a mere disguise. Holy men and women do not dress in order to appear, but in order to be. Clothes possess a form of life. When they correspond to your essence, they give you energy and become allies. When they correspond to your distorted personality, they drain your vital forces. And even when they are your allies, if you do not care for them and respect them, they will retaliate by disturbing your mind. Now do you understand why we fold our garments so carefully, as we might fold a flag or a sacred vestment?

Jodorwsky is 85 and, from the photos I’ve seen of him he always seems to be wearing a simple black jacket and a black sweatshirt or dress shirt (except recently when he introduced a new film in the nude–one of the many NSFW moments in his long life). He also, almost always, has a smile on his face and a cat nearby.

Now I can’t cop Jodorowsky’s style. While Jodorowsky is reading tarot cards at a Parisian cafe I’m cleaning out a chicken coop. But the point of what he’s saying is that something of your true self must express itself sincerely through your clothes. Know thyself, in other words, and what to wear will be obvious. Does that mean a chicken coop casual Fridays?

And for part two of this post I need to cajole Kelly into blogging about her outré homesteading uniform idea. In the meantime, how do you approach the way you dress?