Last Sunday, we had a homestead day. We started by clearing the kitchen garden, ready for the winter.
We have been unbelievably successful in this area. A couple of years ago, the children helped me move numerous wheelbarrows of manure, until the whole plot was covered in about a foot of the brown stuff or more.
I covered it up in sheeting and let the worms do their job. Wonderful underground farmers. This year we followed the three sister method of planting: sweetcorn, pumpkin and beans planted close together. They work as companion plants.
Although, I shied away from using the sweetcorns as poles.
The pumpkins soon wove their way through the sweetcorn and I seriously wondered if the corns would be fertilised, as the pumpkin leaves started to move skywards and block the cob’s silks.
I really didn’t need to worry. Nature knows best. It was the most successful year yet. We planted about 25 plants in the end, I think. Each plant produced one or two cobs that were as near to perfect as they could be. The children loved eating them. I still have some in the fridge.
The runner beans were bountiful. In fact I lost the battle to pick them in time, as I really couldn’t keep up. I saved a clutch of pods to use the seeds for next year.
Finally the pumpkins. We’ve grown pumpkins before. They’ve grown big enough to carve and make into soup. This year, we grew more and they are bigger. We have three big ones and two smaller ones that survived. More than enough.
We brought the small pair in, but the others will wait until the frost kills the leaves.
After we planted up the area in the spring, we only watered until the plants had settled in. Then we left them to grow. Weeding when needed. The manure and leaf cover kept the moisture in.
And the cherry on the top, is that the birds have been busy spreading sunflower seeds around the garden. Two germinated among the pumpkins. Away from my hoe. They grew tall and produced the biggest seed heads I’ve ever seen in our garden. These are now added to our other harvested sunflowers. The idea is to bring out one for each of the cold months for the birds. They’ll go out on the table for our feathered friends to peck. I think these two will be December and January.
All the time, the children help me. We talk about the planting scheme, but the best way to learn is to do. They know the importance of looking after the soil. They enjoy eating the food brought in from the garden. I really don’t think I could have planted as big an area as we did and look after it without their help. Their weeding techniques are improving. They really are involved the whole way through. I’m pretty sure that they will grow up knowing how to grow plants and respect the world around them.
My favourite moment from this week was when Middle One picked an apple off the tree and raced around to show me. Can you see it? Can you see the face? Now you would never find one in the shops like this one. Another good reason to grow our own.
Who knows what we could achieve next year?
I’ve been busy sewing up a few blocks for your Dear Daughter quilt. I’m enjoying the new selection of fabrics that we found over the summer. Still sticking to the general colour theme. I’m trying to mix the existing fabrics in with the new additions.
The subject for the letter to go with each block has been longer to ponder. We have so many great conversations, which one do I want to expand on. Then it came to me, as I wondered why this block is called butterfly at the crossroads. Hair straighteners used by teen girls.
OK. I realise that on first glance, probably second and third, there is no connection, but believe me, it was one of those moments when the penny dropped. The final jigsaw piece fell into place. Let me try to explain. It has to do with the connection between fashion and the economy. Fashion and psychological effect.
To start with there is a well known correlation between the prosperity of a nation and the length of skirts in fashion at the time. In the 60s they were short and tight. In the eighties, they were long and flowing.
Makes sense, if you think about it. When money is tight, a skirt can be manufactured for less if less fabric is used. It can be offered at a lower price, which fits with most household budgets during a recession. The skirt will sell. When money is more abundant, then a full skirt with lots of swishing fabric is a way of showing you have money to spare and gives a feel good factor. More expensive to produce, but that’s OK as household budgets can afford it.
So where do hair straighteners come into it? A strange choice of subject, especially as you don’t have any. You are blessed with naturally straight hair. Like your mother. There seems to be a difference between naturally straight and the effect achieved by hair straighteners. One has the hint of a wave to it, while the other is as straight as a pin. It all comes down to control.
When I was a teen in the late 80s, hair straighteners were not part of my vocab. Hair was big, curled and swished. Sometimes all at the same time. It needed to be big, to match the proportions of the shoulder pads that were in all clothes at the time. We were going to conquor the world. We kicked off our boots and danced foot loose.
We were going to conquor the world.
Those without waves, added waves to our hair. (I went to an international school – I need to add that in somewhere.) We had curling tongs. We mastered the art of casually flicking the top section of our long hair in a way that added body to it. This movement would be repeated every few minutes. Even more when agitated. It was all about big hair, like a mane. Thinking back I can’t imagine what it was like to teach a class full of girls constantly flicking their hair. Distracting, maybe intimidating.
No one had straight, straight hair. It was all about volume and tousled hair. Slightly out of control. Big and impressive.
Roll forward to now. Hair seems to be controlled and kept in line. Literally in line, when it comes to straighteners.
Why the change?
I think partly, it comes down to the fact that current teens have more stress, and pressure to achieve, put on them than I remember as a teen. I spent last night reviewing the national curriculum for year 5 and brushing up on the new curriculum for maths GCSE. There is a lot.
Don’t get me wrong. Back in the 80s, we were stressed by the pressure of exams and the desire to achieve. We had dreams. Big dreams. Nothing was going to stop us. We were all going to get good grades.
I know the decades in between have gifted me with rose-tinted glasses, but we didn’t have 24/7 social media lives and we didn’t have easy access to information, as you do now. (Yes, I passed my A Levels without the help of Google) The latter should make it easier, but at the same time this means it is assumed that you can do more. More concepts. Raising the bar. You feel the stress. Teen mental health is discussed more readily in the media and by professionals. With stress comes the feeling that you lack control.
With stress comes the feeling that you lack control.
So what do teens do? They can take control of their hair. Straighten it. Leave no hair out of place. Having big carefree hair would not fit with your mindset. It needs to be sleek and point down. Fortunately, shoulder pads are no longer a thing. The hair tousling flick of my youth has been replaced by hair-checking and simultaneous smoothing of the front section of hair between the thumb and index finger. Maybe less dramatic and less distracting in class. Where we flicked up, you pull down. Up-lift as opposed to sinking. The psychological affect of this movement is interesting. Are they trying to pull their hair out? This is the part that interests me the most but you probably guessed that.
I have so many theories I’d like to explore.
I could go on. I have so many theories I’d like to explore. Tying up the relative dreamy, carefree butterfly to the controlling hair straightener. I could be wrong. There may be no link.
I am by no means damning hair straighteners. They are just the method used to achieve the style, not a cause of the mindset. Nor am I saying that straightening hair causes stress. I am suggesting that it is more of a reflection/reinforcement of the mood/mindset/mind.
Oh my goodness. I know that this is a long letter. Thank you for seeing it to the end. I’ll leave you with just one final thought. Maybe just occasionally every teen girl should try the hair flick movement of the 80s. I’d prescribe it to be repeated at least a hundred times for a day. You never know, they may just like it.
Your loving mother
p.s. Apologies that this is aimed at girls and not boys. I’m sure as my tween boy becomes a teen boy, my perspective will change. I did have friends that gave Paul Young and Limahl a run for their money. Another who grew his hair, ready for a school holiday and his chance to perfect his mohican. Big, up and out hair was not just for the girls.
To see more of the “my Dear Daughter” quilt blocks and other letters, click here.
Every industry has its own jargon. A shorthand. A recognized way to communicate with people who understand the same concepts already. No point spelling it out to people in the know. They would find it irritating. They’ve read the same books and attended the same courses. Far better to use jargon to refer to the idea and move on.
I work in an industry that has loved jargon since the beginning. Makes life easier to communicate, but also unfortunately, can act as a barrier to everyone else.
There are also inside jokes.
Years ago, I used to teach computing. This was before every home and office had a computer. My children find this a puzzling concept, but there really was a time. One of the courses I taught was a beginner’s guide to computers. It was my least favourite course.
Most attendees knew very little and it may have been the first time they had ever used a computer. Quite understandably, they were nervous. Computers had a way of doing this to people back then. I would be faced with a room full of people who did not smile or speak. For a whole day. (Although they tended to give the biggest thanks and smile, to me, as they left, than any other course I ran.)
I tried to engage them. I used to lighten the mood with the odd IT joke. After a while I clicked that I needed to laugh at my own jokes, otherwise people would note it down as if it was fact.
For instance, when I talked about computer memory I would add in about half a byte being a nibble. It is, but it was far more than they needed to know and I only included it to raise a smile or a reaction. They would all note it down. Ah well, maybe it helped them understand stack overflows if they ever came across them.
The point is we are surrounded by jargon. I deal in jargon every day. Until yesterday, I appreciated that my day job was jargon ridden, but I hadn’t appreciated that my hobbies were too.
I was talking to one of the mothers in the playground about alpacas visiting care homes. I didn’t know that this was a thing, but apparently it happens. We talked about the animals and the practicality of such a beast visiting. As I left, I happened to mention that I liked spinning alpaca.
For a fleeting moment, as I turned away, I registered the mother’s face change. Her expression was half way between shock and puzzlement. I didn’t think much more, as the very thought of using the soft fleece on my spinning wheel had already transported me off to a happy-spinning-yarn place in my head. It was the first type of fleece I spun and knitted up to make something real.
Hats for my children. They still have them. These photos are from one of my early blog posts. I cannot believe it was five years ago!
Anyway, as I relived that happy project, I was all but skipping down our lane. Thinking about lovely fleece has that effect on me. It wasn’t till I got home and shared the idea of visiting alpacas, with my children, that I remembered her expression. It didn’t make sense. Surely everyone appreciates the softness of alpaca fleece. How could the idea of spinning it, concern anyone?
Then it hit me. I had shortened alpaca fleece to alpaca. It was shorthand. It was jargon. A fellow spinner would have understood, but I don’t think she is a spinner. I had said that I liked spinning alpaca to some one who didn’t know I even had a spinning wheel. I had left her not with the image of soft luxurious clothing. No. I had just (falsely) informed her that I was the type of person that liked to spin an alpaca around very fast, possibly by the back legs. Or had she thought I’d replaced an exercise spinning machine with an alpaca. Or something worse. No wonder she looked shocked.
I suppose it could have been worse. I could have mentioned lazy kates and niddy noddies. That really would have enhanced my reputation in the playground. I had used jargon in the wrong place.
So, now I’m in a quandary. Do I put her mind at rest, next time I see the concerned mother, or should I just leave it? Forever marked out. Maybe I’ll just go and get my spinning wheel out and think about it as I spin a bit of Jacobs. (The type of sheep, not a small boy)
What do you think?
(The alpaca is shaking it’s head.)
Seems fitting that as jargon has dominated my week, that my word of the week is jargon.