Family farming replaced by Green Urban Fresh

Years ago several of my relatives had enough land to grow their own fruits and vegetables. My grandparent’s fruitful garden and Aunt Myrtle’s fertile plot remain fresh in my mind.

There was a planting pattern that they shared.  There were rows, neatly furrowed and maintained on a weekly basis.  Corn was planted in the outer rows, so their height would not create too much of a shady shadow.  Then came the pole beans & peas and so on, according to anticipated height.  Next to the last were rows of mounds of squash, cucumbers and watermelons.  The last of the rows were dedicated to growing tomatoes with the final rows reserved for marigolds and other flowers.  My grandmother would plant marigolds between her tomato plants.  The gardens were neat and tidy and a place that the chickens enjoyed visiting.

cabbage
Huge and fresh cabbage heads from Westmoreland County, VA

While chickens were the source of fresh eggs and finally fried chicken dinners on Sundays, they were also used during the growing season as weeders, tillers and de-buggers. Everybody and everything had a job.  My Uncle Frank was proficient at putting up chicken wire in temporary sections of the garden, then skillfully with little effort on his part, he’d guide his hens into the area.  The chickens seemed to be so cooperative with my uncle and for good chicken reasons.  Once in their designated temporary spot in the garden, they would feast on the grubs and pests that liked to feast on the plantings and their roots.  They would peck and pick through the soil, peck at and eat the weeds and just have a chicken good old-time.  My young eyes enjoyed watching the garden flourish, while waiting in anticipation for the coming bounty.

Later in life I learned that my family used excellent farming practices and to some point practices of organic gardening.  I never heard the word organic used by my Shenandoah Valley family members.  They were outstanding farmers, men and women alike.  Each had a hand in growing.   The women canned tomatoes and peaches and you name it and put up preserves, jams and jellies and pickles. My favorite bounty from the canning shelves in the cellar was the bread and butter pickles and the watermelon rind.  I looked forward to my grandmother serving them proudly on her condiment tray at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Now I visit our local farmer’s markets for produce and flowers.  Do I wish that I had chickens and some land for a good size garden?  Of course I do, but I am grateful for all the memories and knowledge of farming given to me.

And the farmers markets are incredible.

onions
Fresh fruits and vegetables grown on Ignacia’s Farm of 20 acres in the Northern Neck of Virginia/Westmoreland County

 

An alternative lawn system?

Lawns are green where I live in Virginia. Many folks work very hard at keeping their green spaces weed free. Countless well manicured neighborhoods pay herbicide companies to lay down fertilizers and weed killers.  Virginia lawn services busily mix-up and spread the “death cocktails” for the eradication of the clover and dandelions.

Please note the protective mesh that surrounds the dandelions in the lush gardens at Blarney Castle, Ireland.  No lawnmower is going to mow these beauties down and no polluting herbicides are taking them out of the natural environment.  Protected dandelions

Label them a weed.

Refer to them as a flower.

I go with flower.

 

 

 

 

Reflections from Buttercups

Black and white photo of a young girl wearing sunglasses and posing in a fold-up lawn chair.
A Hollywood moment wearing sunglasses in my parents backyard.

Being a kid in the spring was fun for me.  I’ve already shared with you about picking dandelion greens for a salad and sucking the nectar from the honeysuckle blossoms. Well, there was yet more to come from Mother Nature each spring.

The dandelions came first, then the honeysuckle and then the buttercups.  Ah, the buttercups.  We were so lucky.  War had not been waged on weeds in lawns at this point in my little life.  I was a post WWII baby and folks were busy getting their loves & lives back together, making babies, buying a house (thanks to the GI Bill), buying a new refrigerator and trying to silently put the scars of the war in a place that no one would know about.  So silly weeds were the last on the list of people’s worries.  This was a great time for buttercups and for kids who had to use their imagination and make fun.

We had to entertain ourselves.  Having just a few toys and living in a home that had inside tensions created the perfect formula for playing outside whenever possible.  The coming of the buttercups was yet another reason for us to enjoy being out there.

Buttercups grew freely in our yard, but we knew they would not be there for long because our Dad would soon be using his manual, sharp bladed, push-mower to level the grass and cut down our beloved yellow lovelies.  Our dolls got to come along. We’d pick the little flowers, leaving long stems and make bouquets of butter.  Butter? Simple fun…hold a buttercup under your chin…if you see a reflection of yellow on your skin, you like butter.  Seems we always saw a yellow reflection and never questioned the outcome.  I wonder if anyone today plays that simple butter pastime. Might be a challenge, as buttercups are not in the picture due to pesticides and fertilizers and lawn services.  I guess people just trust their taste buds.

Buttercups are a simple faucet of nature.  Considered a weed by many, they are a flower. They are poisonous to cattle and horses.  Humans as well cannot eat these little lovelies.   Interesting to me that we kids never considered eating them, even though they represented butter to us.

Visit: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/why-buttercups-reflect-yellow-on-chins to find out the scientific reason there is a reflection.

Dandy Weeds – Lion Face Flowers –Dandelions

I grew up with dandelions. Each spring my father would get out the push mower and sharpen the blades. Then, by hand, he’d start digging up the dandelions. Attack weeds, cut, attack the dandy weeds. This was his thing all spring and summer.

There were dandelions in my grandmother’s yard. She allowed dandelions. She lived in the country. She’d pick the young leaves from underneath the yellow flowers and make dandelion salad throughout the spring and summer.

Easy recipe: dandelion greens, topped with a light dressing of white or apple cider vinegar (no balsamic then) and a pinch of salt and some sugar. The bitterness of the greens was complimented by her simple dressing. Bitter greens and homemade biscuits worked.

Time moved on. Dandelions are all but gone, thanks to the spreading of pesticides & weed killers. Suburban dwellers want and pay for well-manicured landscapes and solid green grass lawns. I get that.

It’s the end of April. We have a few healthy dandelions growing here and there along the fringes of our suburban community. I took pictures of these lovelies before the lawn service arrived for the first killer application.  I’m emotionally attached to dandelions.
I am a Dandelion
I am a flower disguised as a weed
Upon your lawn I will stampede
I am a weed disguised as a flower
My leaves and roots have medicinal powers
I am 3 celestial bodies in one
I awaken each morning to greet the sun
I sleep in the evening and dream of the moon and stars
Which are 2 of my other avatars
Upon the wind my seeds are blown
Carried for miles around
But on this lawn I cannot hide
And I’ll soon succumb to pesticides
By Joseph May

http://www.poetrysoup.com/poems_poets/poems_by_poet.aspx?ID=29278

Google search offers many of today’s foodie versions of  Dandelion Salad.