After contemplating the title of my blog for a few days, I decided it might be a good idea to explain the origins. The title is, in a way, a small tribute to my grandmother, whose name you may have guessed was Ruby, and by association, to my grandfather. Much of who I am today I attribute to my grandparents, known to all of us who loved them as Nana and Grandpa. I learned most of my domestic talents from Nana; I’d spend hours watching her perform her various tasks, or actively taking part in them. And I like to think I learned my work ethic and sense of family from Grandpa.
When I was about five years old, my grandparents moved to a small Georgia town where my grandfather’s family had lived since before the Civil War. Growing up, we always affectionately called this “the farm”. They retired in their early 50’s and turned their homestead into a true working farm, to supplement their income and retirement. Grandpa would spend countless hours working in the pastures, raising cattle for sale at the local auction and raising hay to sell to other farmers during the winter months. Nana spent most of her time closer to the house, tending the garden and orchard, raising chickens and turning their yard into a flowering showplace of spectacular color and fragrances. And during hay season, she would be in the fields with Grandpa, right by his side.
My grandparents had many skills and talents; some of which I think are lost on today’s generations. One of those many talents was knowing how to grow much of their own fresh produce. For as long as I can remember, there was always a garden of some sort at the farm. Some years, it was designated area just up from the house, where we’d haul huge metal cans full of water to quench the garden’s thirst in times of little rain. Fortunately, there was a lake on the property, otherwise I’m sure that would have a been one helluva water bill. As they grew older and a full-size garden became too much for them to handle, they turned Nana’s flowerbeds and yard into the garden. Fresh squash, peppers and tomatoes would line the pathways to the house. Discarded washtubs, filled with fresh soil and composted manure, would be scattered about the yard. And looking back, it was always done in good taste. Nana had a knack for making the functional also be practical and attractive. My own personal love of gardening comes from many summers spent with Nana and Grandpa, helping out on the farm as much as a young child could. So much so, that today, over thirty years later, I have taken my small 10’ x 15’ patio and turned it into my own vegetable oasis.
But, back to the title (I could spend hours, and probably will in future posts, reminiscing about those two wonderful souls). One of the many things I learned as a child from Grandpa was the joy of making things with my hands. One year for Christmas, my grandparents gave me a Wood-burning Kit, just like the one Grandpa had. I’d spend hours in the evening tracing the pre-made designs, painting them, and giving them back as gifts to my grandparents. Every summer, I’d pull the kit out and work on something new. When I was in my early teenage years, Grandpa built Nana her very own greenhouse. Nana was always a green-thumb during the warmer months, but with that greenhouse, she could enjoy her flowers and plants year ‘round. When the greenhouse was completed, Grandpa asked me to help design a name plate to put over the doorway. He suggested “Ruby’s Hot House”, and I in turn spouted out “how about ‘Ruby’s Hot Box’”. I’ll never forget the grin on his face. At first, I hadn’t realized the double entendre, but Grandpa did immediately. Once I figured it out, I’m certain my face was beet red; we both laughed and the name was chosen. The two of us got to work on the name plate with our wood-burning kits, and Ruby’s Hot Box was born. The greenhouse was Nana’s mini-fortress of solitude, someplace she could go to just be by herself, with her thoughts and her plants. In later years, the greenhouse would be converted to a “ceramic house”, but the name stayed on.
So, my blog’s name, “Ruby’s Hot Box” is a small homage to Nana and Grandpa. Her place of solitude was on a farm in rural Georgia; mine is here in the magnitude of cyberspace. My hope is this blog will be in some way therapeutic for me and enjoyable for any who may read it.