This, my friends, is not a home acupuncture experiment. It is my new mushroom patch.
I am growing shiitake mushrooms, ordered from the Gardener’s Supply catalog. In just a few short weeks I will have a bloom of mushrooms that will be made into delicious, savory, enticing meals for my family. All in the dead of winter.
As a bonus, I finally have a use for those knitting needles that have been idle for years. They hold up the humidity tent that surrounds the mushroom patch when I am not spritzing it with water.
You see, I have tried on numerous occasions to learn to knit.
First, there was with Mrs. Bashaar, my fourth grade teacher at Butts Road Elementary School. She started inviting me inside at recess to show me how to cast on and do some basic knitting stitches. I’m not sure exactly what prompted the personalized attention, but it ended abruptly when I surreptitiously circulated a petition among my 10-year-old classmates to end what I considered her cruel and unusual punishment of having the class sit boy-girl-boy-girl at the lunch table for being rowdy in class. Mrs. B., otherwise the soul of kindness, caught me red-handed and marched me down to Mr. Bunch, the principal, for punishment. As I recall, I shakily, but bravely, made the case for why lunchtime was an important social event for young children, was sent back to class and never heard another word about it. (It WAS the seventies, after all. I will say that at least while I was at Butts Road Elementary, the teachers never used the odious boy-girl-boy-girl seating arrangement at lunch again.)
I tried knitting again after Benjamin was born and had taken it upon myself to be a model mom by staying at home knitting and keeping house until he reached kindergarten. When I proved inept at knitting I took up cross-stitching with such a vengeance that it landed me at the orthopedist’s office for cortisone injections in my wrists to kill the pain.
The good, stay-at-home mom part didn’t stick either. It ended the day Ben, not quite six months old, and I were watching Sally Jessy Raphael’s show on sex slaves. She had some scary dominatrix chick in leathers and jerking around a pasty, pathetic, sweating chubby guy on a dog chain. He was wearing a leather hood and spoke only when spoken to or she yelled at him. (I don’t think Sally allowed her to bring the whip. It was, after all, a family show.)
“That’s it!” I told the six-month-old Ben. “If THIS is what I have come to—cradling my cross-stitch ruined wrists and watching this trash—I am going back to work. You’ll be fine.” (He was and is.)
I spent the next few years working at a grueling ad agency job while my husband sailed around the world. Okay, okay. He was in the Navy. He was on an aircraft carrier. He was flying nighttime missions. Oh, and there was a war going on.
Well. I had a soul-sucking ad agency job and an active two-year old to deal with by myself.
Longing for an after-hours activity that would be meditative and slow down my monkey mind, I enlisted the help of two aging Italian ladies at a local yarn shop to teach me to knit. Yes, I PAID FOR PRIVATE KNITTING LESSONS.
They talked to each other in Italian while they shook their heads and looked at my tiny, tight little stitches.
“Relax. Relax. Relax. It is-a too tight,” they told me. “You should-a drink some wine while you knit.”
Best advice yet! Still, I flunked out of private knitting lessons. After a couple of sessions, I slinked away and didn’t return for my lessons-paid refund.
Then I tried again after moving here to Calvert County. Here I am, out in God’s country. The garden is growing. I have little animals running around. I have actually CANNED MY OWN VEGETABLES. Surely, the knitting gene has kicked in my now, right?
Like any good yuppie, I headed to Barnes & Noble to buy all the basic knitting books I could find. I stopped by Michael’s to stock up on all the yarn colors I liked and a selection of knitting needles. I even had a special knitting bag embroidered at the Annapolis Mall with my initials so that it could hold all my cool new knitting projects.
Now we’re talkin’! I am equipped!
I tried something VERY BASIC. DISH CLOTHS. This is not complicated, I told myself. Failure still. I am SO VERY totally pathetic. I am a big looser in the knitting game. People all over the world teach this to themselves without the benefit of this $100 in hardback books.
What the heck is wrong with me? I can play Debussy arabesques and Chopin preludes on the piano. I can type 70 words per minute, thanks to Mrs. Bryant, my 9th grade typing teacher. But I can’t knit a freakin’ dish cloth!!!?!!!??? Nope.
So, here you have it. I am pleased as punch that these knitting needles, which have been in repose at the bottom of the monogrammed knitting bag in my closet, finally have a purpose.
The bonus is that I will have some lovely, savory mushrooms that I can point to as the fruits (fungus?) of their labors.