Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rain Lilies

This photo was taken circa 1950 when I was about 5 years old and my sister 18 months younger. We are posed with my uncle in front of the farmhouse porch. Our dog, Muffin, had surprised us with puppies--something she wasn't allowed to do again. I remember my red and white pinafore, made with "feed sack" fabric. Many of our pajamas and play clothes were homemade and the feed sack cotton was very sturdy. When he was headed to the feed store my Grampa Mac would check to see if Mother wanted more of a particular print and try to get matching sacks. I remember the cracked corn would be dumped into a grain bin, the edges of the sacking unraveled and the fabric washed and pressed, a process which I followed with the eager anticipation of new clothes.

In the photo you can see the long wooden planter box on the south-facing porch railing. My Grampa Mac was the gardener of the family. Each spring he added fresh dirt to the planters, enriched with home made fertilizer. This involved "stewing" up some horse poop for a week or two in a bucket of water. During the fermenting process my sister and I enjoyed the daily stirring of this evil smelling brew. Grampa never seemed to mind that we were at his heels and let us take part in many of his chores. We were sometimes returned to our mother in a rather grubby condition.

The little wooden box on the left railing contained a handful of rain lily bulbs. Every autumn the box was stashed in the "shed chamber" to winter. Early in May the box was set outside to catch rain water from the roof and I watched for the lovely pink flowers to appear.
I looked through plant catalogs for a number of years for rain lily bulbs. I see they are now available. I wonder if the deer would allow me to cherish a few in a porch planter.
The photos of rain lilies in bloom are from the web.


  1. Your memories of the sack being turned into clothes brought back two memorie that I had forgotten. After the war, Parachute Silk apparently wasn't rationed like other textiles so my Nana queued up to buy it, when available. Pale colours went first for ladies to make underwear but I got used to bright orange bits and pieces she made me.
    I assume wool was the same because she bought this strange wool in huge balls that had to be washed and washed ... and washed. Sometimes she knitted it up and then washed again and agaim but mostly she unravelled it ...wound it into skeins that she washed and dried and finally rolled it into managable balls. I was three ish but I remember having to hold out my hands for a skein to be draped over them inorder that so she could form th small balls. I think she was just trying to keep me occupied because many times she used the backs of two kitchen chairs to do the same job.
    Years later I asked about the wool and was told it was ex naval wool ???? and the warm aran jumpers they wore, were knitted from it. The resulting jumper was also waterproof because they didn't wash out the grease that was on the wool. I wonder whether that was true or just a story to stop a child asking more questions!

    I looked up about the beetles ...nasty things ... interesting that they do not attack the small young trees.

  2. Angie, Thank you for such an interesting comment. Isn't it wonderful that what one of us "bloggers" writes trips memories for another. I can remember holding skiens of yarn a few times for a neighbor who had yarn spun from her own sheep's fleece. She knit huge mittens for my Grampa Mac which he wore layered inside leather mittens.
    I think that rationing was more wide-spread in the UK than the US during the war although my parents have mentioned the coupon books for sugar, gasoline and such.
    Yes, those are NASTY BEETLES. If they were as large as the photos we would run from them!

  3. Grate some Irish Spring soap in your planter OR put either human or dog hair in it and the deer will flee away from it! Lovely story! :)

  4. I truly hope you can grow these beautiful lilies MM. They look familiar and I am racking my brain-cell to think where I know them from.

    Angie - what lovely memories. I used to hold skeins of yarn for my mum to wrap into balls too. In my underwear drawer I have a beautiful bright blue scarf made of parachute silk which came from my husband's family. I believe some UK wartime brides even managed to get enough parachute silk to have wedding dresses made from them.

  5. Lovely nostalgic photo and it sounds as though you had an idyllic childhood. I'm another one who remembers holding hanks of yarn while my mum wound it into balls. The rain lilies are so pretty, like BB I find them familiar looking - are they the same things as colchicums maybe?