Art & The Vine: Something Homemade
*Photo on left of Green Hill Farm and kitchen garden: Flower Garden design quilt (left) by Great-Grandmother McDaniel and Log Cabin design quilt (right) made by ladies in Grandma Rieley’s Women’s Circle at the Brethren church and given to me on my wedding day in 1997.
For the last three months, Farmguy and I have traveled four hours to Washington D.C. every week for a wine course. And, when time permitted, we visited some of the many world class museums during our trips to the city. While the travel was exhausting, it was wonderful and exciting, too. We loved learning about wines from all over the world: Priorat, Spain; Burgundy, France; and Stellenbosch, South Africa…just to name a few. And, of course, seeing exhibits by Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer and French artist, Paul Cézanne was a fabulous treat. Although I loved every minute of our adventure, I’m so happy to be at home consistently, once again—in the country, and on our farm. In my opinion, spring is the prettiest time of year at Green Hill Farm. It also brings back so many lovely, meaningful, and happy memories of growing up here and spending time with my grandparents, especially Grandma Rieley.
Grandaddy and Grandma Rieley on the front porch of our 1790’s home
*Photo taken by Farmgirl for a photography class while attending Hollins College.
When I was a little girl, I used to meet Grandma Rieley in the morning before the school bus came to pick me up. Grandma and Granddaddy lived next door (in the house I live in now). The reason for the meeting was to pick flowers for my third grade teacher, Mrs. Margaret Campbell. Grandma was friends with Mrs. Campbell and enjoyed sending her bags of chestnuts in the fall and flowers in the spring. The routine consisted of joining Grandma on the front porch of the house and then following her all around the garden as she cut flowers with her old butcher’s knife with the dark blade and old, wooden handle. First, the irises–cornflower blue, white, and sunshine yellow ones. Next, the hyacinths…which under no condition was I allowed to pick on my own (hyacinths are my favorite, and ONE time I picked some without permission). There were always purple lilacs, peonies, and a few branches of sweet shrub for good measure. When Grandma finished assembling the colorful and fragrant bouquet, often still dripping with morning dew, she wrapped the stems with a wet paper towel and covered them with a piece of Saran Wrap. Grandma smiled as she handed her work of art to me, gently giving a reminder to hold it carefully until I got to school. This was not an easy task as the bouquet was quite heavy and my bus ride rather long, plus there were always spiders and ants that had been hiding amongst the petals. After what seemed like an eternal bus ride to Thaxton Elementary School, my arm became exceedingly sore from holding the bunch of flowers perfectly upright as Grandma instructed; And, I was very anxious about all the crawly things coming out of the bouquet. Nevertheless, I just kept thinking how beautiful the arrangement of flowers looked and how proud I’d feel to present Grandma’s artful endeavor to my teacher.
Now, as I walk around our farm with the pastures looking greener and greener each day and the garden brimming with budding trees and colorful blooms—many of which were originally planted by Grandma Rieley, I realize more fully the importance of my relationship with her. Grandma was such a loving person who valued beautiful things; And, her interests as well as her generosity of spirit shaped the person I am today. Grandma enjoyed gardening and sharing her flowers and vegetables with others. She also gained so much joy from finding a treasure at an estate sale, antiques mall, or even a yard sale…she really appreciated and saw worth in the artistry that contributed to making a quilt or knitting a blanket.
In thinking about all of this, it occurred to me that art doesn’t have to be some lofty idea or something one can only find in a museum or gallery. It can be something as simple as a charming, well-balanced bouquet of irises, hyacinths, and peonies. It can even be a quilt sewn by the industrious ladies from the Women’s Circle group at church. The point is that something was created that somehow reflects the artists’ humanity.
As humble as they were, my first experiences with art and wine were right here on Green Hill Farm. I learned to appreciate the hard work, creativity, and love that go into these endeavors. Grandma always had pretty quilts on her bed, and she enjoyed a garden full of perfumed flowers as well as sharing her lovingly and beautifully made bouquets with others. Also, Grandma’s daughter and my aunt, Faye made one of the most exquisite quilts I’ve ever seen. I still remember sitting at Grandma’s kitchen table when I was a child, watching as Faye stitched each square by folding little sections and sewing them for a quilt she made entirely by hand.
As I mentioned, my introduction to art and wine happened while visiting with Grandma and Granddaddy Rieley. Granddaddy was a farmer and raised his own garden. Besides raising and preserving vegetables and fruits (including grapes), he also made his own homemade blackberry wine from blackberries picked here on the farm. I can still see the wine sitting in those enormous, heavy jugs with the thick glass and all the sediment floating on top before being strained. My grandparents really weren’t drinkers, but the blackberry wine was known to have some medicinal value for an upset stomach. Unfortunately, I don’t have Granddaddy’s recipe for homemade blackberry wine, but I did discover this rather good tutorial that I thought some of you may enjoy. 🙂
Here’s the thing: What I value most about living on Green Hill Farm is the sense of place I experience here. My childhood memories and experiences of yesterday are constantly informing my todays, and helping me to make sense of my tomorrows. And, I’m so thankful for the clarity that gives me. Because of the enriching experience I had as a child growing up on a farm with grandparents nearby, I learned early on about the three essentials to happiness:
Something to do
Something to love
And something to hope for…
Quilt made by Farmguy’s mother, Lynn Burke.
You may find this link regarding The Quilts of Gee’s Bend interesting. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=970364