“A soil separate consisting of particles <0.002 mm in equivalent diameter. See also soil separates. (ii) A textural class. See also soil texture. (iii) (In reference to clay mineralogy) A naturally occurring material composed primarily of fine-grained minerals, which is generally plastic at appropriate water contents and will harden when dried or fired. Although clay usually contains phyllosilicates, it may contain other materials that impart plasticity and harden when dried or fired. Associated phases in clay may include materials that do not impart plasticity and organic matter.” - Soil Science Society of America
One of the characteristics of a heavy clay soil, the kind of ground where the ranch house sits, is that it holds very little organic material on its own. Farmers have to add organic matter and amendments to the ground to make it fertile enough to grow crops and my family has been doing that for almost 70 years. As I see it, life gives us our own organic material to work with. Our organic matter are the things that add depth and meaning to our lives…babies born, hearts broken, the big fights and the better make ups. Learning to sit with these moments and see them for what they are, without getting caught up in the fear they can instill, helps us to see the journey clearly and take the next step forward without asking questions of why or what if. We were meant to be strengthened to bear more fruit by the challenging moments, and then experience the joy when our choices carry good things it our way. But the heavy clay can make our roots feel stuck and seems to come with an overburdened sense of duty, or even worse, shame and then the human spirit can’t move freely under this weight. If we don’t feel free, our feet are stuck like the tractors when it rains and we find ourselves entrenched in experiences that are not part of our most productive story. As it is with this life, there are no perfect answers, we are a population of humans doing the best we can with what we know, but the stories of this place have added to the fabric of my life in a way that could never be replaced or forgotten with the passing of years and the incredible people who have come through them.
I can still hear the hushed whooshing sound of the pressurized door. No matter how hard you threw it open, it would close slowly and quiet as a whisper. It was as if no matter what was going on outside, the chaos would turn to calm and quiet when you walked through the door. Some of my earliest memories were watching her six foot tall willowy silhouette move with quiet purpose from room to room. She played the piano, collected leaves and flowers and pressed them into art, and when Tiger Woods sprang on the scene in 1996 she was taken by his game. She seemed to enjoy the solitary life in the most peaceful way. There were hard back books lining her bookshelves on the living room walls and the staircase to the basement, so many that she created her own library by putting up a notepad at the top the basement stairs. We were allowed to check out two by writing down a title and a date and could only get more after we had brought those titles back. She would read to us from the same book every time - The Tall Book of Make Believe - so much that I had the poem “The Swing” memorized before I was three. For my sister, she would read the story of “Bad Mousy” over and over again without ever once asking her if she would please pick something different.
Her kitchen was always warm, with its copper hooded stove, double oven, a fireplace and two sturdy green leather chairs. It always felt orderly and inviting at the same time. It’s where I learned the beauty of routine and the creativity that can be found in simplicity. Everyday breakfast, lunch, and dinner were served at the same time. For my entire life, my grandpa napped after lunch everyday. Not a long nap, but a siesta for sure. To me, the ranch kitchen was the calmest place on earth and was filled with the most beautiful celebrations over my lifetime. Thanksgiving turkeys with perfect gravy and stuffing, always a vegetable tray and homemade apple sauce (a nod to her Placerville, Apple Hill roots) were staples at every gathering. The way I saw it, she did it all and expected little in return. She was always the most gracious hostess, whether for 3 or 30 and nothing ever seemed to rattle her. I always wanted to be just like her. She was probably the biggest reason I got my degree in Agribusiness, so that I could step into her shoes and have the knowledge that she learned by doing every day. This was my grandma, the epitome of grace under fire.