Downsizing our Dreams

Watch me paint these peaches in 1 minute (time lapse)

When the company that my husband worked for sold their work overseas and “downsized”, he had to train his foreign replacements before eventually losing his job. We sold the home we’d built, downsized, and moved. Our expectations for the future were downsized as well. Or were they?

Since we no longer had jobs or a house, we were free to travel and move wherever we wanted to go. That journey is a long story that would take many blog posts to write. We are forever changed; we are stronger and better. But I’ll skip ahead, to when we returned to the United States with no savings left, nothing but a plan for how we’d start over.

The days of owning our house and having large garden are now long gone. Our plans for a new life are underway, but we’re still a couple of years from finishing our 5 year plan. My husband went back to school. He’ll be an intern in the fall and graduates next spring. It will be two or three years until we are in a position to move from our current station in life. 

So, it’ll be a few more seasons of working from my “studio” in the kitchen/laundry room/living room space (a section of wall by the patio doors) with only patio space available for gardening. Because of this, it’s wise not to plant anything too big. So, when I asked my husband to look for a peach tree, I was very clear that I meant the dwarf variety that is suitable for patios and small spaces. 

He came home with this.

It blots out the sun in this picture I took this morning! 😲

I took one look at it and said, “It’s bigger than I thought it would be. It’s a dwarf variety?” The expression on my husband’s face told me all I needed to know. 😂

Well, it’s mine now! I dreamed of having a real peach tree ever since we knew we’d move to Georgia. I’d downsized that dream to a dwarf patio tree because I thought that was my only option. But… I’m pleased that my husband didn’t remember my lengthy conversation about dwarf peach trees and bought a REAL full sized glorious tree!

And look! There’s already a peach on it! Now, this one may not develop and may fall off before maturing, as this peach tree is young, but it’s still such a beautiful symbol of hope for the future! I took more pictures… I love how the early morning sun made these look powerful.

In the picture below, the branches on the left are from an established mature tree on the property. So you can see that this peach tree is quite tall. My husband says he can trim it down if necessary when we move. It will be a challenge, but he’s determined to transport this tree to our unknown, yet-to-be-realized future home. We are quite crazy, he and I (the good kind of crazy that makes life worth living).

The peach tree soars above our container garden trellises. Speaking of which… the trellis on the left is for my cucumber plants. I plan to make homemade pickles, like I used to do ten years ago when we still had our house. The trellis on the right is for the grapevine I rescued from the dead. It was a nearly discarded, nearly dead vine when I got it. I nursed it back to health and now it’s thriving. Its leaves cover the entire trellis and will soon go over the top! There were some early grapes, but they were tiny and sour. Someday it will produce sweet juicy fruit!

You can see my garden more in this shot. There are bell peppers, a blueberry plant, and herbs in the bottom part that I need to transplant soon. The big leafy “tree” on the right is the grapevine I was telling you about. The view of the lagoon and the woods is quite pretty and I appreciate it very much. It’s the common view that all of our houses on this row share. One last picture, below.

Here you can see my work for today, besides painting of course… and housekeeping that’s gone amiss. The vertical garden on the left is new. The five planters are all empty (the leaves you see are from the tree behind it). As I mentioned earlier, I need to transplant the herbs that have overgrown their pots (the ones in the bottom of the gardening cart). I also have new seeds for salad greens that I’ll be planting. 

To the right, those pots where things look dead and scraggly are my roses. They usually do very well but are in a temporary barren state because they were treated for a fungus. Their leaves die off when this happens and then grow back better. They are prized roses normally, and I’ve painted them in several of my art projects.

I thought I’d have to wait two or three more years to have a food garden, but my daughter showed me otherwise. She was pining to garden and we bought her a container garden of her own. It’s on the secondary patio square that used to have an outdoor dining set on it (I cleared that so she can garden, the chairs had fallen apart anyway). 

Sometimes we do things for others that we really want to do for ourselves, but have not given ourselves permission to do so. Of course I was aware all along that I could start a container garden and did not really need a home of my own or a yard. Obviously if I can grow roses I can grow food. But doing so felt like I was committing to this temporary life. I stubbornly refused to plant anything too permanent, anything that would involve an investment. 

For weeks I watched my daughter blissfully tend to her plants. My resistance was starting to crack. I even painted her strawberry plant for the new art collection. Remember this one?

She won’t get much of a harvest since she’s dabbling with only one plant or a few plants of each type of fruit or vegetable she wants to try. So, the only way the rest of the family will get any fresh garden foods is if I plant my own garden, and we are passionate about our perpetual evolution to a healthier lifestyle. So, really, I’d be doing what’s right for my family…

Once that seed was planted in my head, it was only a matter of time before literal seeds were planted in soil. Of course the garden expanded beyond my original plans to just get a couple of peppers, and maybe a few herbs… how about cucumbers for pickles… don’t we need salad greens? We need oregano, surely. How about a PEACH TREE! 

Just when we resign ourselves to downsizing our dreams, life has a way of presenting us with opportunities. Do we take on a peach tree that requires we really do get a house of our own again, with a yard to plant this before it grows too tall? Do we expect our dreams to come true, or not? Sometimes it seems we are asked to commit to our plans. Maybe it’s a test. If so, I passed! 

Is there anything in your life that would give you enjoyment if only you gave yourself permission to do it? I tell you, I made “compound butter” (butter that is whipped until creamy, then fresh garden herbs are added such as rosemary, parsley and chives, then the butter is whipped again and molded into a log to wrap with waxed paper and chill), and it was DIVINE! I put it on fresh bread but I’ve read that people use it as cooking oil and put it on meat as well. I watch my calories so I’ve not buttered everything yet, but when I can fit it into my diet I’m going to add it here and there. It’s DELICIOUS!!!!

I was so proud of myself for making compound butter, even though I didn’t actually make the butter itself. My husband had made butter for us a few times back in the days when he had a part time job milking cows at a dairy farm. He’s led an interesting life, that man. And because of it, he’s learned how to do a wide variety of things. But, we aren’t making our own butter for this project. What makes it so fabulous are the fresh herbs combined with the creamy addictive nature of butter. It’s amazing how trying something new elevated my spirit!

I have long term goals to reach, and the day-to-day of it can feel confining sometimes, especially since I work in such a tight space. I can reach out and touch my art easel from my computer desk. If I spin around in my chair, I can reach out and touch the kitchen table. Beyond the table is the kitchen itself. The din of an active family clanking and splashing around in there at all hours is only a few feet from my head. Then, there’s the laundry machines, which my son has currently packed full of all of his clothes without sorting by color (no, I’m not going to bother having that conversation). The machines are in a “closet” in the kitchen. None of this is artist zen, not even close!

We are starting our fourth year of this living arrangement, and I could have the attitude that I must steel myself up for a couple more claustrophobic noisy years of working as hard as I can to reach our goals, or… I can view this chapter in our lives as a beautiful time in which our kids are rather trapped into living under our roof and we’re all muddling through with people we love. There will be a day when I’ll miss this togetherness, these days of managing moods flying at me from all corners on the intense days, and laughter filling the space on the good days. Sometimes the tears and laughter change from minute to minute.

Whenever your dreams feel downsized, perhaps you’ll remember my story of the peach tree, and use it as a metaphor for whatever it is that you have put off doing. You can “plant your tree” now. Don’t worry if it seems you’re running out of time. You can trim it back. One day, you and that tree will be where you want to be, and you’ll have beautiful fruit when the season is right. Until then, enjoy the journey, because no matter how difficult these days may be, they will end. 

Time is precious. Downsizing our dreams doesn’t mean that we stop living. It only means that we plant our future gardens in a temporary space.

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