Last month crashed by at high speed, spurred on by thunderstorms and a heat wave. I began squeezing those new projects and ventures in around a still busy work-schedule, and left myself with little time to breathe for a bit there. Days off were spent at The Big Idea Bookstore, or out at Braddock Farms.
The farm lies right beside one of the last steel mills still in operation in the area. Bells and whistles sound, things clatter, the air is less-than-ideal for consuming, but still the plants grow. I’ve made it out there about 5 times now and have cultivated Swiss chard and then harvested it weeks later, picked strawberries, planted cucumbers, cleared new beds, pruned tomatoes, pulled golden raspberries and thistles out of the rhubarb (this last task was undertaken with the help of my visiting Mom and sister!)
I will often spend the morning working, then trot up the hill to the Braddock Carnegie Library, where the librarians take my dirty sun burnt appearance in stride and cheerfully hand over the key to the bathroom so I can wash up. Nothing fazes this library, I suppose, which has stood there since 1888, the first Carnegie Library in the country. Speaking of washing up, there used to be a bathhouse in the basement and a tunnel entrance where mill workers could access the baths, before heading up to make use of the billiard room and the rest of the library facilities.
Braddock is a borough of Pittsburgh and although, unlike much of the rest of the city, it still has a mill in operation, it is a shell of it’s former self, having lost about 90% of it’s population. There is a lot of community interest and effort going into the place though, and the fact that the library still stands and interesting parts of it (like the old music hall) are being restored is proof that Braddock is hanging in there. Something about the place really pricks my heart. Things seem weird but in the right way there, somehow – even if on a scorching afternoon my boyfriend saw two fist-fights break out in the space of four blocks…
More hugs needed, indeed.
My exploration of Braddock will continue, but other things have come to an end. My job concluded on June 22nd, and that night my Mom and little sister flew in to visit me. I kept busy for five days giving them a grand tour of Pittsburgh and touching base with the city myself. We went to some of my favorite places (Phipps Conservatory) and checked out some new places (the Duquesne Incline, the National Aviary).
My Mom baked bread several times, and my boyfriend made fresh pasta. I was terrified by live clams, and made gorgeous tortillas. We volunteered in my local community garden and went up round the corner to the 52nd Street Market nearly everyday to restock the fridge. My little sister read a whole book, and my Mom beat us at cards. It was such a long, pleasant, work-free week. A vacation at home.
And now it’s July, and they’ve gone, and I started a new part-time job on Saturday, and it’s time to properly begin this new chapter. I’ll be helping with farmers markets for Clarion River Organics a few days a week, working out at Braddock Farms (where I’m plotting to build a cob oven!), staffing The Big Idea Bookstore, practicing my ukulele, looking for swimming holes, taking pictures, writing stories. The challenge will be to stay productive and not to spend all of my recently regained free time reading…but of course I have reading goals to catch up on too!
I’m hoping for a peaceful, interesting summer. See you around!
(Peaceful and interesting, like monotropa uniflora, or Ghost Plant/Corpse Plant, found yesterday along the Rager Mountain Trail in the Charles F. Lewis Natural Area, Gallitzin State Forest, PA!)