This week’s post is a little sloppy because the weather is fine so I am required to report for weed duty. They are unstoppable, the bindweed, the lamb’s quarter, the farter’s button, overrunning every inch of our idyllic little farm like the oligarch tourists swarming over Lake Como.
It’s addicting, though, the reaching and pulling of undesirables. My son the farmer says weeding is so mind-numbingly rote that your consciousness takes a cigarette break. I’ve hired a couple of women to help me and they bring a portable speaker to play books on tape. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle this week). Black flies and sunburn be damned, if you can think of a better use of time, I’d like to hear it.
Recently, we unearthed some old stone wheels and a concrete bell hidden beneath dense perennial beds. Treasure! In all fairness, these artifacts belong to Scott, the previous owner, who collected garden elements and strewn them across his property like sprinkles on a cupcake. He left a lot of neat things behind in the process of vacating a forty-year business, including a suite of art deco office furniture and a set of four steel sunburst chairs. I may end up gifting the office furniture to one of my kids, but the sunburst chairs are staying. They are in the style of François Carré, a French gentleman who patented his unique spring seat in 1866. The petals or rays are designed to provide a secure but satisfying bounce. You may recognize these icons from Rick’s American Cafe in the film, Casablanca. Bunny Williams favored them too. Why wouldn’t she, they are supremely chic and even better, no wind will carry them off. (Read more about the sunburst chair here after you’ve finished my post.)
I love the sunburst chairs so much, I expressed concern to my husband about theft. He smiled at me gently, “No one is going to know who François Carré is,” he assured me. “And this is Wisconsin. People are honest.”
Ha! He didn’t grow up in Waukegan, Illinois, where bikes disappeared from our garage and Christmas lights from our shrubbery. And then there was the summer morning when our family awoke to the sight of fifty new pieces of lawn furniture arranged across the wide expanse of our backyard. It looked like a party had taken place — chairs and tables and pots of geraniums in tete-à-tete patterns on the grass. Perhaps the vision planted a seed for us because I and my sisters all got married in that backyard.
Anyway, the police officer who showed up was furious. On this blazing hot day, he had better things to do, he said more than once, than going door-to-door to inform the neighbors that if they were missing anything, they might find it in our backyard. By 11 am, he had soaked through his uniform. My mother made a pitcher of fresh orange juice and he gulped it down in our kitchen while railing about “kids these days.” My mother insisted that it was a harmless prank, and a clever one at that. “Better they’re up all night moving furniture than robbing a liquor store,” she said.
A month later, my mom got pulled over for speeding and when the police officer looked in the car, he recognized my mom. “Well hello, Honey!” he said. “Nice to see you again!” He tucked his ticket pad into his belt and leaned into the window, laughing with my mother about the prank he found so annoying just a few weeks ago. My brother in the backseat, incensed by such familiarity, piped up, “I’m telling Baba!” The officer looked at him and said, “You can also tell Baba that I’m not giving this gal a ticket. ”
We still call it the “Lawn Furniture Caper of 1976.”
But I digress. Back to our lovely François Carré lawn chairs. They are now perched amiably beneath a shady pergola, one per corner, standing sentry and awaiting guests. Of all the knolls, groves, arbors and fields on this property, it’s the one spot that the weed-loving farmer son has laid claim to — for backgammon, a pipe, and contemplation. He knows, as I too will soon learn, that a quiet moment in a shady spot, sitting on the 19th century’s version of a massage chair is just what’s needed after a day battling the farter’s button.