January 2, 2014

May Your Failure Become Blessings

by Cynthia


On December 23rd I woke to the sounds of eighteen-wheelers rumbling up the interstate entrance ramp outside the cheap hotel where I spent the night. The room smelt like mold and the pillows were lumpy. The furniture was garage sale gaudy and worn, but there was a working toilet and running water. Unlike at my house. A huge leak had occurred in our water line and our pump had frozen, a plumbing double whammy.For complicated reasons, our plumbers won’t be able to get the water back on to our house until sometime in January. I was spending the night in the crummy hotel so I could take a shower.

I spent the next day taking down the Christmas decorations, stripping the tree of ornaments, boxing up the garlands, putting away the beautiful Lenox Christmas china that my mother in law gave me, one place setting each Christmas until I had an entire place setting for twelve.  the stockings are sitting in a pile along with the Christmas linens and the victorian Santa music box that sits on the mantel. Christmas was cancelled at my house for the first time since 1980. After I got all the decoration down, I pouted the rest of the day. And then my gas range quit working. No water, and now no cooking. Perhaps Santa had decided to put me on the naughty list.

On Christmas Eve we loaded up the presents and went to our oldest daughter’s house. Her sister-in-law had cooked a turkey, and with the help of various family members, we threw together a fabulous meal. Hoping to steal a shower the next day, we spent the night and got to watch the grandchildren opening their gifts from Santa on Christmas morning. It wasn’t the Christmas Eve I’d planned for, but it was just exactly perfect.Christmas morning

Last year my husband installed a huge tank that collects rain water coming off our barn roof. The plan was to run some PVC pipe down the hill and into another tank that would provide water for the goats in the front pasture. He never got past hooking up the the tank to the barn roof. I’ve grumbled about it a few times, but he hasn’t been motivated to get it working.  Since our line to the city water system is STILL broken, we have hooked a pipe to that water tank and now our pipes are flowing with rainwater. We can wash our clothes, run our dishwasher, take a shower and best of best, flush the toilets! The fact that he never completed the line to the pasture made it easy to get the water into the house. That oversight became a blessing!


Just today I was cleaning out the frozen heads of lettuce in the garden beds.The row covers I had used were too light to protect the crop from the freezing weather, and we lost all our lettuce and spinach. Along the walk leading to the garden I found a Ziploc bag full of garlic cloves that I had meant to carry to the compost barrel. They had been hanging in a braid in the kitchen, and had begun to sprout.  I must have dropped the bag, or set it down, distracted by something else.Those spouts had been growing inside the bag, so I planted them in the garden where I had just pulled out the frozen lettuce.

Not all my failures turn into something good, in fact, most of them are simply opportunities to learn what not to do next time. Instead of making New Year’s Resolutions about what I want to do more of, or what I want to do less of, I think I’ll just be open to the possibilities of what my failures, or the things that fail around me, might become.



November 9, 2013

Build the Universe

by Cynthia

On a summer morning

I sat down

on a hillside

to think about God-

a worthy pastime.

Near me, I saw

a single cricket;

it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.

How great was its energy,

how humble its effort.

Let us hope

It will always be like this,

each of us going on

In our inexplicable ways

building the universe.

Mary Oliver


We are all building the universe, one grain, one life, one moment at a time.  Frederick Buechner’s famous line, “all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace” came to mind for me last Sunday morning. I was sweeping the front porch when I noticed  fog gathering in the cedar trees below the yard. As I stopped my sweeping and stood to breathe in the moist autumn air, the fog enveloped the house and I was inside the cloud, cool and damp and mysterious.  It was one of those key moments, one that reminds me how insignificant my pedestrian troubles are compared to the unknowable beauty and chaos of the universe. I am building my little world, my one grain at a time, and it is easy to think my efforts don’t really matter.

When Tim and I look at the money we spend on feed, equipment, seed, trailers, tractors, trucks and bailers, it is quickly evident that the life we are building is not a moneymaker. We have opted to live in the country, grow our own food, raise and sell a few animals, and sit on the porch and do things like watch the fog roll in.  Those of us who are privileged enough to choose what to eat and when, where to live and what to do with our “free time” have a responsibility to be deliberate, to think about how our choices affect our community.Those choices may be small ones (Do I buy the pineapple in the grocery even though I know it was trucked thousands of miles?) or bigger ones ( Do I drive the gas guzzler and throw my plastic bottles in the trash?) The choices can get wearisome when you are trying to be a good steward of the environment. Do we stop at McDonald’s? Do I buy the cheaper meat? Do I eat meat at all?   Am I wasting water, or paper, or energy?  Does it really matter?

Whether or not we are near the tipping point on climate change, we are building the universe, and the universe is getting dirty and crowded. What we do does matter. Each plant we grow in our garden, each carton we recycle, each time we pass up that pineapple in the grocery store and buy an apple from the farmer’s market instead we are moving our tiny grain of sand in the right direction.

Build the universe.

May 27, 2013

by Cynthia

S1-photo (2)

Princess with her head stuck through the fence. Again.


This is my little goat, Princess, who really does believe that the grass is greener, and tastier, on the other side of the fence. Never mind that she has ten acres of good grazing at her hoof tips. Perhaps she was lured by the faint scent of wild honeysuckle growing along  the fence row in the next field. Maybe she spotted some poison ivy, a goat delicacy, creeping up a sumac and she couldn’t hold herself back. She never learns.  God love her little bitty goat brain. She acts surprised every time she gets stuck, crying out to her buddies who nonchalantly look her way and keep on chewing. Our Great Pyrennes, Harry, has begun to ignore her. When she was younger,  he would do his good goat dog duty and go sit beside her until Tim or I arrived to wrangle her free.  I think he has finally developed compassion fatigue.  Princess gets herself into this predicament so frequently that we have moved her into a pasture with electric fencing.

The problem really isn’t that she sticks her head through the fence, it’s that she can’t keep on going. She can’t get her whole self through.  She sees something she wants, she heads in that direction, then she gets stuck.  Princess is a walking metaphor for what we psychotherapists call Ambivalence.  She has lots of desire, but not enough follow through.  Trapped by her own bulk, she is unable to move forward.

I realize I have my own ambivalence about being a better citizen of the planet. I decide to drive my car on a day when I could easily take the train. I order a chicken dish  in a restaurant that has Tyson written all over it.  I get enraged by the squash bugs annihilating my zucchini, and I buy some Sevin, “just this once.”

These petty environmental crimes won’t have a big impact on the environment, but neither will my efforts to live green and eat clean. Global warming is bigger than all of us little organic gardeners out here no-tilling and composting and recycling and picking bugs off our plants at sunrise. But we are making a difference.

Growing your own food reduces your carbon footprint in at least two ways. Think about this finding in a recent study of organic versus traditional farming methods;  “Recent studies of the US food system have shown that most (50–70%) of the average households‘ carbon footprint for food consumption comes from farm production and subsequent processing, with transport accounting for only an average of 11%, respectively, across all sectors or food products.”   Sustainability 2011, 3, 322-362

The more food we grow in our back yard, or buy from our local organic CSA,  the more we reduce our carbon footprint.  And we get much better food.

Maybe, just maybe, if enough of us are passionate about the planet, and we make enough noise, the rest of the world will pay attention. Maybe our collective ambivalence about making the kinds of changes that DO impact the environment will begin to shift. Then those folks who refuse to believe that humans are negatively impacting the global climate might get on board. They might realize they are not as smart as they once thought, might second guess their assertions about hard science and recurring patterns.

Meanwhile, the garden is planted and the fruit trees are full of tiny apples and peaches and cherries and pears. The berry bushes are heavy with green fruit. The animals on our farm are making us lots of rich fertilizer and we are moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle. I will get stuck now and then. Caught in my laziness, or ignorance, or ambivalence. Seduced by a Big Mac. If you see me, give me a push



May 19, 2013

The New Food Economy

by Cynthia

2012 (62)

It’s the middle of May and by now New Year’s resolutions are a thing of the distant past. Like diets, New Year’s resolutions sound like a great idea and they actually make you feel better about yourself for a while. This will be the year you really do it. (Lose ten pounds, learn to speak French, stop smoking, etc…….) Then a little slip becomes a little habit and there you are, late at night, standing in front of your refrigerator with the ice cream calling your name. You are only human, after all.  I don’t make New Year’s resolutions for this very reason.  I make intentions. Intentions give me more wiggle room. I don’t RESOLVE to do something; I merely INTEND to do it. The inevitable failure is softened this way. Each year, come January, I intend to make sure the pantry is empty and the freezer cleared out before next June when the vegetables start coming in. This is no small intention. My husband and I live alone, and while we are big eaters, we usually go into the summer months with remnants of last year’s bounty untouched.

I feel intimated when I open the freezer door and realize how much is in there. Green peas from the previous spring. Peaches, tucked away in the deepest corner, collecting freezer burn like cockleburs. Bags of blackberries, raspberries, blueberries. Dried herbs. Garlic scape pesto. A whole unplucked duck? Bags of casserole ready sweet potatoes. Sliced strawberries. Assorted packages of goose flesh. A quiche made with spring onions and fennel. A container of gumbo my husband made last March. And a twelve-pound turkey I had planned on cooking for Christmas until I got excited by a recipe for vegetarian lasagna made with kale and fontina cheese.

Unlike most people in the world, I never wonder if I will eat, only what I will eat. When Tim and I moved to the farm nine years ago, opting out of the suburban lifestyle was one of the motivators. Opting out of what Micheal Pollan calls the Big Food economy was another. Growing our own food isn’t just about avoiding GMOs and industrial fertilizers. It’s about having choices about what we eat. As less and less American soil is devoted to farming, those choices get more precious. President Obama lost me as a fan when he signed into law H.R. 933, an appropriation bill which included the Monsanto Protection Act. A republican senator from Missouri ( headquarters of biotech giant Monsanto) co-authored the portion of the bill with Monsanto execs  that protects Monsanto from being sued if any of its GMOS are proven to have caused harm to the millions of consumers who are eating it’s genetically modified foods. The provision also strips the USDA of the power to stop the sale and planting of potentially hazardous genetically engineered crops even if “in the course of its assessment the Department finds that it poses previously unrecognized risks.” (The corn syrup in your Coke is made with Monsanto GMO corn, just so you know).

Due to significant protest and activism on the part of people who are outraged at this free pass to Monsanto, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), plans to introduce an amendment that would repeal the section that protects Monsanto and other Big Ag companies. GMOs don’t scare me nearly as much as the Big Ag companies who can buy the political power to do whatever they want with our food supply. The growing food movement includes seed savers, home gardeners, small farmers; anyone who cares about the quality of the food they eat and the health of the soil that provides it.

More and more of our friends who live in urban or suburban environments are joining CSAs. Like having a small chicken coop in your back yard, being a member of a CSA or shopping at the farmer’s market is trendy. Like driving a hybrid, it’s a statement that you care about the environment, that you’re a conscious person. As another person who cares about the environment, I’m happy about that. But what if all those folks went out into their back yards and planted a garden? Got a little dirt under their fingernails? What if local parks devoted space for communal gardens? What if the “new food economy” were something that more Americans could participate in as a way of life?

I realize how lucky I am to be sitting in the midst of such bounty. Acres of green pasture and leafy woods. Clean air and the sounds of birdsong. And a freezer full of food. This year perhaps we’ll have a big party and cook as much of what’s still left from last year’s harvest. We’ll empty the pantry shelves, throw open the freezer. What we don’t eat will go home with our guests like party favors. Who wants strawberry jam? Lima beans, anyone? How about a duck?

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April 26, 2013

God, Grant Me The Serenity

by Cynthia


My favorite image of Walnut Ridge is this one: newborn lambs on spring pasture. These little guys were born three hours before this photo was taken. They wobbled behind Mom on spindly legs, sniffing everything in their strange new world. I sat and watched them until they faded into wispy shadows of white beneath the cedars as the sky grew dark.

Next month the baby goats will be born. Our chicks have become gangley teens, not ready to enter the chicken house with the older hens, but restless in their temporary home in the chicken tractor.  All the fruit trees are budding and life is bursting out everywhere; birdsong and babies, buds and blossoms. The pastures are  mushy with spring rain and the winter lettuces are getting long in the tooth.

My daughter announced two weeks ago that she will have another baby this year, our third grandchild.  It’s as if new life and the promise of renewal is everywhere I turn and all I can do is drink in the joy of it and want it never to end.

Spring in Tennessee comes quickly, getting a jump on me every year. Frequent late frosts make us wary of planting before May, and then June is upon us and it’s already hot and humid. The tomatoes I had started from last year’s seed crop went into the ground last weekend. I have been checking them every day like I check the new lambs. Are they okay? Are they growing? Are they going to make it through the cool nights?

Growing your own food and raising animals can be a spiritual practice, requiring faith, discipline, and an occasional acceptance of failure. My most recent failure? The voles ate ninety percent of the peas I planted last month and my cucumber transplants have already wilted. On the upside my spring lettuce is abundant and delicious. Gardening is a constant opportunity to practice the first tenet of the Serenity Prayer; God help me to accept the things I cannot change. Like the weather. Like the voles, and the bugs, and the worms and the blight and the wilt and the myriad viruses and fungi that will attack my plants in spite of my vigilance.

But the promise of fresh, clean food right in our own backyards is powerful enough to pull us true believers back into our gardens each spring. We buy organic bug sprays. We research and consult and worry. We compost and fertilize and hoe, giving homage to the second principle of the Serenity Prayer; “God, give me the courage to change the things I can”.

Surely my grandmother with eight children depending on her garden for their very sustenance did not obsess about her plants the way I do. She hadn’t the time. She must have had years when the tomatoes all got blossom-end rot or the Japanese beetles decimated the pole beans. I suppose they ate squash when the squash was abundant and something else when it was not.

Knowing when it is time to throw a struggling plant into the weed pile and when a bit of loving care might just revive it is often difficult for me. Sometimes I give in too soon, like last year when I capitulated to the squash bugs. I ripped up the vines and threw them into the woods vowing to never grow squash again. Then there was the year I spent way too much money trying to heal my heirloom Amish paste tomatoes from a late blight.  When to keep trying and when to let go?

God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference.

December 18, 2012

It Makes No Sense

by Cynthia

December afternoons in Tennessee can be mild and breezy or damp and frigid depending on what is blowing in from the southwest. Last Sunday was a warm and sunny one.  I was in the garden for the first time in weeks, pulling the curly dock out from between the rows of spinach and tossing lettuce long gone to seed into the compost. The house and garden are positioned on the top of a ridge overlooking a valley of other small farms. Sounds that originate anywhere around us roll up the hill, seeming to come from just behind me, or a few feet away when in fact they may have begun as far away as half a mile.  Stratton Bone’s cattle sound as if they are bellowing from right behind our barn even though they are grazing down the hill and across the road. Gunshots are a sound to which I have become accustomed as I weed and hoe and try to bring up some goodness out of the rocky limestone soil.   Usually it is someone shooting at deer or dove.

Lost in some thought, I was tossing weeds into a bucket when somewhere from behind our hill came the sound of a semi-automatic weapon being fired. This is a sound to which I am not accustomed, a sound which ripped through the winter air like small knives, the reverberations hitting me in the chest over and over and over.  The relentless gunfire was such a violent contrast to the soft damp loamy soil and the bright green of the spinach and the simplicity of a sunny afternoon in the garden. Two days earlier a weapon like that was used to murder little children and their teachers. I’d spent the hour in church that morning fighting back tears, imaging the unbearable despair of the parents and grandparents. I thought of my own sweet Luke and Lilyanne and the preschool they attend. The whole nation was in shock and mourning. But not the person shooting this gun. This person was somehow cut off, disconnected from our communal horror by something I cannot understand or even name.

Guns do not frighten me. I know about guns. I grew up around guns and think of them in the same category as  fishing poles or bows and arrows;  a tool used to put food on the table. I haven’t bought a roast in years, as my freezer is full of the wild game that some man in my family killed with a gun or a bow.  When I was a girl, each Saturday night in the fall and winter my father would take his guns down from the gun rack that hung in our den and lay them on the coffee table where he methodically cleaned them. He poured the oil on a clean cloth and ran the bore rod down through the barrel, explaining to me how a speck of dirt in the barrel could affect the trajectory of the bullet. He was a fanatic about gun safety and made sure that we knew how to tell when a gun was loaded and when it was not.  After he finished cleaning the guns, he locked them into the gun rack and began shining  everyone’s shoes for church the next morning. The smell of gun oil will forever make me think of my father and wood smoke and clean leather.

My husband owns several guns. And we own a gun safe to which he and I alone know the combination. I do not fear guns, and I support the rights of individuals to own guns. I am a country girl after all.

I am also a psychotherapist. I see what happened in Connecticut in that small town elementary school as a disastrous convergence of two of our country’s pressing social problems; two of the problems about which we have the most ambivalent response:  the legality and accessibility of assault weapons (weapons of mass destruction) and our denial ( as a society and also as parents)  about the importance of mental health treatment.  Much of the current conversation about the need for accessible mental health resources focuses on the “severely mentally ill”. We need to expand that focus to include those whose mental illness creates limits on their healthy participation in community life; the paranoid loner, the social outcast, the kids whose behavior causes his peers to avoid him.  A tiny number of these young men become violent. Their easy access to powerful weapons creates a ghastly combination of instability and deadliness .

The question of a ban on the sale of military style assault weapons is not a question of freedom. It is a question of common sense. It is difficult to take seriously the outcry of those who insist on access to assault weapons for “sport” purposes. Where is the sport? What skill is involved in blowing something away with an assault rifle? One of our favorite family activities is skeet shooting. There is skill involved in shooting skeet, skill and sport involved in hunting, skill and sport in target shooting. But the value of semi-automatic assault rifles as instruments of “sport” seems inflated by those who oppose any restrictions on their ability to purchase and fire any kind of gun they choose.

Semi-automatic weapons are designed to kill people quickly and efficiently and en masse. Their use as weapons of war makes sense ( as if anything about war really makes sense). But civilians have no business owning these kinds of guns. I am not allowed to keep a tiger on my property because society has decided that keeping a wild, meat-eating predator puts the people around me at too much risk. Yet any adult without a criminal record can keep an assault rifle in their home. It makes no sense.

October 21, 2012

Save a Seed

by Cynthia

       I’ve been like a confused bear,                 hibernating at the wrong time of the year.     A stubborn illness kept me  indoors for much of September, and I’ve emerged from my den to find the world awash in the vibrant colors of Autumn. The woods on our farm are decorated in the soft burnished gold of the maple trees and  the crimson of the wild vines meandering          up the trunks of big  trees and fence posts. The persimmon trees are heavy with pale orange fruit, and I’m hoping for an early frost so we can make some persimmon jam before the deer get all the goodies.

I finally got the summer garden put to rest, all the raised beds enriched with a big dose of peat and covered with the cardboard I’ve been saving all year.  The cardboard protects the soil and by next spring will be decomposed enough to turn into the soil as compost.

In my former life as a city dweller, things like cardboard boxes, newspapers and plastic jugs went into the recycling bin. Egg shells and coffee grounds and used paper towels went into the trash. Now that we are farmers, those kinds of things have become valuable commodities. Rainwater, manure, paper and wood scraps all get re-used and re-purposed.  It’s amazing how wasteful we humans can be when we aren’t keeping the big picture in mind. Or when we don’t have a garden in the backyard, which I’m hoping all of you do!

Perhaps our most valuable commodity is our seed supply, and it’s in peril. I’ve been reading Janisse Ray’s new book, The Seed Underground- A Growing Revolution to Save Food and I’ve been convicted to stop buying seed from the Big Three of Big Ag: Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta. These three multinational companies own the majority of our food supply in that they own our seeds.  Most seeds we buy are genetically modified and patented by one of these companies, and the Big Guys do not like seed savers!  From now on, I intend to only purchase and plant heirloom seeds and to save as many of my own seeds for replanting as possible. Seeds from my favorite tomato, a little yellow gem named Garden Peach are drying on a paper towel in the kitchen right now. My grandma would be proud. She would also laugh at the idea of seed saving as “revolutionary”. It was standard practice in her day.

Gardeners revolt! Join the revolution to save our food supply from manipulation and control. Heirloom fruits and vegetables may not look as pretty as those rubbery beauties you find in the grocery store, but guess what? They taste DELICIOUS.

Go to seedsavers.org to find out more about seed saving, and to join a network of other gardeners dedicated to growing real food.  Now that fall is here and the winter greens are in the ground, there is finally time for sitting on the porch listening to the wind rustle the leaves before they finally dry up and let go. A reading rec for your porch sitting time is Janisse Ray’s memoir Anatomy of a Cracker Childhood. It’s a great read!

September 4, 2012

Confessions of a Part-Time Gardener

by Cynthia

The heat wave of early August finally subsided and the rains came. Long, steady, melodic rains that drenched the withered woods and carried the gravel on our steep drive down the hill in increasingly deep crevasses. I did not complain. The rain revitalized the grasses and now our pastures are waist-high and need to be cut again. The weeds took off too, and herein lies my lament. I am a part-time gardener. With eight-hour work days and a two-hour commute, the gardening has to wait until the weekends. The weeds, however, are on their own schedule. They grow like the dickens all week, making it difficult to keep the garden and yard looking well-kept. The vegetables keep growing too, thank goodness. They grow and ripen and fatten up during the week so that weekends are all about harvesting, cooking and canning.  Needless to say, I don’t do housework. Or laundry. And my social life is a bit lean in the summers. But the eating is good!

On Saturday I bought forty pounds of tomatoes at my local farmer’s market. Those forty pounds ended up in 6 quarts of okra and tomatoes, 9 pints of salsa and 8 quarts of diced tomatoes. I have officially resigned from growing my own tomatoes. I am a pathetic failure at growing tomatoes and I am blaming it on my job. Here’s my fantasy: If I were home all day, I could lavish attention on my garden and stay a step ahead of blossom end rot, and early blight, and aphids and fungus and all the other culprits that  rob me of big fat juicy tomatoes every year.  I’m done. I mean it.  At least for now. At least until I start getting seed catalogs next February. Then maybe just a plant or two.

July 4, 2012

Hot Potato

by Cynthia

How hot is it where you are? It was 108 in my backyard last week, close to 100 today.  HOT! Thank goodness global warming is just an elaborate ruse cooked up by reactionary, pseudo-science spouting  liberals who want to throw daggers into the capitalist heart of all that is American: big business, consumerism and entitlement. I’d hate to think the earth is really getting hotter, (can anyone really still deny it?) and that our relentless lack of concern for how we use the planet  is beginning to bite us in the butt.

One significant evidence of climate change is that the USDA hardiness zones have been adjusted to reflect increasingly hotter weather, affecting gardeners and commercial farmers alike. Each hardiness zone represents a ten degree difference in average minimum temperatures and are used to help us know how cold hardy a particular plant will be.  Here in middle Tennessee we used to be in Zone 6B.   Now we are in hardiness Zone 7A. Someday, they’ll be growing lemons in Anchorage.

It’s so hot that the blossoms on my Arkansas Traveler tomatoes are falling off before the fruit can develop which makes me very sad.  The bush beans are doing well, and the little heirloom yellow tomato, Garden Peach looks great. It must love hot weather.  The Colorado Potato Beetles were making an endless banquet of my potato plants, so I just dug them up. Well, actually, I turned them over. I grow potatoes in those big bags that Gardener’s Supply Company sells. I line them up along the garden fence, saving the garden beds for other crops. My garden consists of eight twenty foot by four foot raised beds, so my space is limited. I harvested thirty-five pounds of potatoes, now where in the world to store them?  Oh, for a root cellar!


Kentucky Wonder and Blue Lake pole beans

Here is what awaited me in the garden after I’d been gone for a week to a writing workshop in Iowa. A bushel of green beans. Speaking of Iowa, it is such a delight to fly into Cedar Rapids during the summer. The corn fields grow right up next to the runway, and the corn is so picturesque as it sways in the wind as the plane is landing.  Unfortunately, the extreme heat and the lack of rain is putting this year’s corn crop in peril. Most of the corn is grown in the Midwest, where irrigation is not typically needed, so no rain and high temperatures means no crops and no profit for American corn farmers, who had planted 96.4 million acres this year.

John Hawkins, a spokesman for the Illinois Farm Bureau, said those in the southernmost sections of his state “are close to or past that point of no return,” while in the other sections of the state, “there’s a lot of praying, it’s hanging on by a thread. These 100-degree temperatures are just sucking the life out of everything.”  Amen. So get your corn from your local farmer’s market and not the grocery store, where it is going to be more expensive than usual. And pray for rain!

This pile of beans turned into 7 quarts of canned beans and one dinner.

June 28, 2012

Berry Heaven

by Cynthia

the fruits of july

July means blackberries!   This photo is of Apache blackberries, a domestic variety that I planted along the fence around the garden.  Along our driveway are several wild blackberry brambles, and I’ll take the taste of those little gems over these big, fat domestic berries any day. The domestic berries are like Las Vegas strippers: plumped up, sexy, and easy to get.  Picking the wild ones involves a bit of preparation. The other day I suited up to pick wild berries- no skin exposed- tons of Deet- and my gardening gloves on.   I filled up my basket and then took off my picking clothes before ambling out to the garden to pick these easy guys! No thorns, no chiggers, and huge juicy berries.  The domestic berries are so easy to grow, I don’t understand why every yard doesn’t sport a few canes.

Apache is a nice domestic blackberry that just needs some good amended soil, a bit of sunshine and consistent watering for the first year to establish its root system. Plant the canes three feet apart along a fence line or string up a support with some posts and wire.They make a great privacy screen in the summer! The canes that grow in the first year are primocanes, and won’t produce fruit. Prune them to around four feet tall. The second season, they will become floricanes, and will be producing berries. After fruiting is over and the canes die, cut those first year canes out, and tie up the new canes, which will become the fruit producers the following year. If you want to grow blackberries, or raspberries, check out your local Farmer’s Co-op next year for good plants at reasonable prices.

Here is one day’s raspberry harvest from only 5 plants!


Here is  the reason I gain weight in the summer while everyone else is wasting away in the heat; Aunt Ina’s Quick Cobbler.  It’s just too easy. Pick the berries, make the cobbler, pig out. The recipe is in the Swan Family Cookbook, which was complied by one of my industrious cousins. You can’t buy it, unfortunately. So  you won’t get to see the photo of me at four years old with my finger stuck  up my nose that precedes the section on Salads. Too bad, right?

Here is Aunt Ina’s recipe;

1 stick of butter

1 C. sugar

1 C. self-rising flour

3/4 C. milk

2-3 cups fresh fruit   ( if using peaches or apples, steam the fruit first to soften it)

Melt the butter in a deep dish. Mix the sugar, flour and milk together in a separate bowl, then pour the mixture over the melted butter. Put the fruit on the top and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top becomes slightly browned and the cobbler is firm.