Fleur-de-GoldenImage

It is an image I hope will be etched in my mind forever. It was Wednesday, my second market day in August. Three generations–my mom, Marina and I–were sitting at our stall in a former coal bin at the Granary (a grain elevator built in 1885) at the Lemont Farmers Market.

A woman comes up to browse, and I go into my hard-neck garlic spiel, onto Picasso shallot, Zephyr squash, and Poona Kheera cucumber patter, and finally, the Harner Farm apple pitch (my sister Larissa is married to Earle Harner), discussing what little I know about Zestar and Paula Red apples.

Poona Kheera

Poona Kheera

“I’ll take one of those golden cucumbers. My son loves cucumbers,” the woman says. Beside her stands a youngster of about 7 or 8. I explain that Poona Kheera cucumbers are originally from India. They come out of the garden with tiny black bristles that I brush off, and the skin is so tender it doesn’t need to be peeled. She hands the cucumber to her son. He turns it horizontally, like a cob of corn, and bites into it.

As they continue walking down along the row of vendors, the boy snacks on his cucumber. It is one of those I-wish-I-had-my-camera moments. Laurie Lynch

Fritter First-Aid: The garden (and daily rainstorms) have rewarded us with a bounty of cucumbers, squash, and zucchini. To try something a little different, Marina and I made Zucchini Fritters. I found a recipe that called for 1½ pounds of grated squash (salted and towel dried), one egg, ¼ cup flour, and added chives and chopped garlic. Made a dipping sauce—3 T. of rice vinegar, 1 T. Tamari, 1 tsp. sugar and a couple shakes of red pepper flakes—an interesting accompaniment. Problem was, after frying ¼ cup portions of the batter in oil, our fritters fractured. They tasted fine but crumbled into several pieces. Does anyone know the secret to creating firm but tender Zucchini Fritters?

Snack First-Aid: Sue Smith, champion of all things Lemont—the farmers market, Friday night concerts on the green, Strawberry Festival, and Granary restoration—brought a bowl of homemade pickles to market this week, giving each vendor a taste. (Last week, it was cherries.) Then, in Sue-Smith-style, she handed each one of us her recipe for Refrigerator Pickles. Marina and her dad made a similar batch last week. ‘Tis the season!

Sue Smith’s Refrigerator Pickles

6 cups sliced cucumbers and 1 onion, sliced

Mix together 2 cups sugar, 1cup vinegar and 1 T. salt, and pour over cucumber and onion slices. Fill jars and refrigerate for four to five days before serving.

BTW: At the Lemont Farmers Market we’re known as Garden 101. (Last summer it was Garlic 101 but I’ve expanded my offerings.) The Lemont Farmers Market runs through October, Wednesdays from 2 to 6 p.m., but I am only there during August.

A Plug: The fearless threesome went to see The Hundred-Foot Journey the other night. I loved Helen Mirren, food, and France before buying the tickets, so I’m hardly impartial, but I give the movie two thumbs up.

Some Thugs: Last week was a tough one. My ATM got skimmed. My email got scammed. I made a trip to Rock Springs, but not to the Philippines. In the words of Dino, a former F-d-L customer: “If they would only put their energies toward making rather than stealing.”

Written on Slate: When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, fault lies in yourself.” –Techumseh

Fleur-de-StewedAnts

The Fedon girls drove close to 1,800 miles this weekend to turn back the clock and celebrate an old friend.

Stu Dance and his wife Jean were dear family friends. They had four daughters. My parents had five. Two other couples in their “group” had two daughters each. But it was more than the overabundance of Double-X chromosomes that held everyone together. We had fun! Both children and adults were each other’s best friends. Our Avalon, N.J., summer vacations cemented the relationships with Cooler-by-a-Mile escapades, and Stu was often the ringleader. And yes, there were lots of weddings with such a crew!

Stu's Girlfriends

Stu’s Girlfriends

Stu taught us how to waterski, flounder fish, and sing along with his ukulele. He loved jelly-filled Kohler’s Bakery doughnuts (most of us were partial to cream-filled), Hatfield scrapple fried extra-crisp, and cocktail hour. We each signed the wall at the Avalon Avenue house as soon as we could write our names, sat on the front porch singing “Ja-Da” to Stu’s strumming, and walked to Stone Harbor for breakfast at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House.

At Penn State tailgate parties, Stu always had a joke to tell or story to share. While other kids grew up posing for snapshots when the cameraperson said, “Che-e-e-e-e-e-se,” we hammed it up to Stu’s enthusiastic, “Walla Walla Whiskey!” (I continued the same refrain into adulthood and motherhood, however socially incorrect.)

Stuart Lee Dance III was born in Istanbul, Turkey, when it was called Constantinople. His childhood years were spent in Tokyo, Japan. His younger brother and parents returned to the U.S. just before Pearl Harbor.

Stu, Jean and the girls left and returned to State College three times during his career. In retirement he and Jean cruised the Chesapeake Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway on their trawler “Last Dance” and were active community members—earlier this year Stu was named Volunteer of the Year for his work with Centre County’s Aging in Place.

For 85 years, Stu taught everyone he met how to celebrate life. This weekend, he taught us how to celebrate death. Four years before his memorial service on Saturday, he sketched out the details. He even wrote his own obituary.

For a man known to wear gaudy Stewart-plaid pants, his funeral began with Scottish bagpipe music and progressed to the Presbyterian congregation and friends singing “Amazing Grace” with the pipers.

One of his granddaughters read his favorite poem, “The House by the Side of the Road” by Sam Walter Foss, and a grandson read Stu’s favorite Psalm (23). There was a sharing of remembrances by family and friends, a prayer of Thanksgiving read by one of his daughters, other prayers and hymns recited and sung by those in attendance. The Celebration of Life ended with a grandson playing the ukulele as his grandfather had taught him, singing with his sister and cousin, “Bye Bye Blues.”

The reception was filled with old friends reconnecting, sharing Stu-Stories, singing the old ukulele tunes, and reflecting on a life well lived, down to the very last chord. Laurie Lynch

Southern Solution: My vegetable garden is booming with too many cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini. I issued an edict to my sisters that they COULD NOT bring any of those vegetables to the house this weekend—they could only take some home. My sister Leslie shared the bounty of her Virginia Beach garden with all of us: a bag of okra.

I’ve had okra in gumbos, used as a thickener (or slime-er) depending on your attitude, but was at a loss as to how to prepare okra any other way.

“Slice them thin,” Leslie instructed. They look like pretty little green stained-glass windows with five white seeds circling the center. “Then, place them in a Ziploc bag with cornmeal and ground pepper, and shake. Sizzle a good amount of olive oil in a pan, drop in the discs of okra, and fry. Drain on water towels, and serve.” Mmm, mmm good!

Written On Slate: “There’s something about the ukulele that just makes you smile. It makes you let your guard down. It brings out the child in all of us.” –Jake Shimabukuro

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fleur-de-Dream

July BloomsI had a dream the other night.

There was a beauty pageant—three young things and me. There were three sexy mini outfits for them–and one big cover-everything muumuu for moi.

On and on it went. You can’t expect me to remember all of the details at my age. I do know that we were all supposed to come to the pageant sans makeup, which was easy, since I do it every day. The makeup artists wanted a clean slate.

Long story short, it was discovered that one young contestant was pregnant (they threw her out) and the two others got into a catfight and were disqualified. I was the last woman standing and won, even before I walked onto the stage.

Which brings me back to the dentist.

I had a return visit. I had taken a copy of my blog entry on the Linden Loop and the blue-eyed foal that kissed me to the dental hygienist. Remember, it was the photo of her mare and filly that I recognized in the exam room. She asked about the blog and told me her daughter was a blog writer—that she was given topics and had to write 300 words on a given topic, and those 300 words were fed to someone else’s blog…

Then it was time for me to see the dentist. The two of us graduated from high school together, heck, we may have even gone to grade school together. Ginger and I share a passion for horses and gardening. Her horses eat her strawberries; the rabbits eat mine. She’s soon to become a grandmother and will spend Christmas in England with the newborn; I will spend Christmas here with the just-born visiting from Belgium. And, we’re both 60.

“We’ve reached the age of invisibility. I find it liberating,” Ginger the Dentist said.  I could only nod in agreement.

Referred to as changing of the generational guard by some, others put a negative spin on it and complain about being ignored or treated as if they are irrelevant. Some seek fashion props—purple fedoras, mock leopard shoes, or clear plastic canes filled with pink roses—and call it elder style.

Long before I reached 60 I decided the only need I had for clothes or shoes was comfort. And if I’ve been belittled because of a cluster of gray or a paunch that’s way beyond “muffin top,” I haven’t noticed—which probably says a lot about my diminishing eyesight. I can’t claim to have accumulated wisdom or figured out the meaning of life, but I do know how to appreciate it and wrap myself in the invisibility cloak of gratitude. Laurie Lynch

Earbud Traveller: This year books have taken me to Russia, Spain, France, Belgium, England, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, and some of Manhattan’s finest restaurants. Now I have a new travel tool. I heard about something called “Sound Transit” on NPR the other day and found it on turbulence.org. I haven’t had a lot of time to check it out, but the concept is that you can travel around the globe through the recorded sounds of various locations. I typed in Bristol, UK, and there were two 5-minute sound clips to listen to: Alex’s Fruit and Vegetable Shop on Glouchester Road and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Local sounds to give you an earful of a place.

Earbud Traveller 2: At 10 a.m. this morning, with an earbud plugged into my left ear and the right dangling so I could answer the roof-leak hotline, I listened to and watched the live streaming of Marina’s Masters ceremony at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. There was plenty of pomp, and it looked like the school director was carrying Harry Potter’s Quidditch stick but I’m not sure of the circumstances.

Like all graduations, there was a lot of wisdom in the words. Talk of moral compasses and the value of experience, education, and friendship, and the duty to be an advocate for the less fortunate. Finally, a ginger-haired Brit talked bluntly about the dream of youth—wanting to save the world.

“The world is beyond saving.”

The old optimist in me groaned. Dramatic pause.

“Your job is to make a new world.” Amen.

Written on Slate:  “Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

 

 

Fleur-de-Grand

I’ve been handing out pink, foil-wrapped chocolate cigars. If I could send some in this blog, I would.

Sabine & RIchard

Sabine & RIchard

Lais Mizero Lynch was born in Brussels, daughter of my son Richard and his girlfriend Sabine.

According to Rwandan culture (Sabine was born in Rwanda but is now a Belgian citizen), Sabine explained that I would be called “Mama Marina,” after my oldest child. That seems a bit confusing so I’ve been signing emails to Sabine “Mama M”. My Italian grandmother’s name was Nives but my older cousin started calling her “Nene” and it stuck. My Polish mother’s grandchildren call her “Nonna,” which is Italian. Who knows what little Lais will end up calling me…maybe Granny Skype!

Lais is a Brazilian-Portuguese name, chosen by my son. Mizero is Sabine’s selection—“hope” in Kinyarwanda. In the meantime, I’ve already come up with three terms of endearment for the Belgian babe thanks to the photos that arrived via email: “Sunshine,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Big Foot”. Laurie Lynch

Sunshine

Sunshine

 

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

Big Foot

Big Foot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S After my sister Lee Ann sent her congratulations she asked, “By the way, what is it with your family birthday sharing?”

Background: I was born on my mother’s birthday and Richard was born on my father’s birthday. And baby Lais was born on July 8, Great Aunt Lee Ann’s birthday.

Written on Slate:  “It is as grandmothers that our mothers come into the fullness of their grace. When a man’s mother holds his child in her gladden arms he is aware of the roundness of life’s cycle; of the mystic harmony of life’s ways.” –Christopher Morley

Message in a Bottle:  “My grandmother is over eighty and still doesn’t need glasses. Drinks right out of the bottle.” –Henry Youngman

Fleur-de-Mapscapes

OK, I admit it. I was a little skittish about Marina going off on a solo trip to Turkey.

Luckily, when I voiced my concern, she didn’t say, “Mom, get a life.” Instead, she said, “Mom, get a book.”

When she went to Belgium, I read everything I could on Belgium. When she went to grad school in London, guess where my armchair travels took me? I followed her adventures in Croatia and Slovenia on Google. But this trip to Turkey, well, I needed a library!

So off to Schlow Centre Region Library I went. The first book I found was Snow by Orhan Pamuk. This book won the Nobel Prize for literature but a wave of suicides, Islamic radicals, and a military coup staged during a snowstorm are not the gentle read a mother needs at a time like this.

Poppies in Salad Garden

Poppies in Salad Garden

The next book had to be my ticket to tranquility. The Turkish Letters of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq is a series of letters written by Busbecq, a diplomat from western Flanders, about his travels to Constantinople in the 1500s, when Suleiman the Magnificent ruled the Ottoman Empire. Whoops, time warp. Constantinople, the only city that lies in both Europe and Asia, is now called Istanbul. To make this work, I needed a few props—namely, a map of present-day Turkey, so I could follow my couch-surfing, hostel-hopping daughter—and a map of the Ottoman Empire in the mid-1500s. No sweat.

Busbecq is credited with introducing the lilac to Western Europe so I was excited to read about his plant discoveries. Surprisingly it was fauna, not flora, most often mentioned in his letters from Turkey. He was disappointed that he arrived in Constantinople just after the city’s prize “camelopard” died. The “camelopard,” with a head and neck like a camel and spots like a leopard, is now known as the giraffe. On his way back to Vienna, he brought a menagerie that included something called an ichneumon. The ichneumon (now known as a mongoose) apparently buried itself in mud to surprise and kill dragons, crocodiles, and venomous snakes.

So far, my reports from Marina have been giraffe-, ichneumon-, and dragon-free. But both travelers visited Hagia Sophia (Busbecq, when it was the Church of St. Sophia—then it became a mosque and now, when Marina visited, a museum). I’m guessing she ate plenty of yogurt. Busbecq wrote about “yoghoort”, describing it as sour milk to which cold water and breadcrumbs are added, and said it helps to quench thirst. After Constantinople/Istanbul, Busbecq took a northern route while Marina sought southern beaches. They both traveled in the heat of June and July, and their paths crossed again in Cappadocia—“Nothing but me, the birds, and the rocks,” she emailed. And the spirit of a Flemish traveler. Laurie Lynch

Homescapes: My friend Chris never met a plant she didn’t like. I, on the other hand, can be terribly opinionated when it comes to what goes in my salad, on my plate, or in my mixed border. Being “homeless” for the last several years has made me appreciate borrowed landscapes all the more.

Elder Blossom Cordial

Elder Blossom Cordial

Right now, for example, I’m brewing up a batch of elder blossom cordial. I didn’t grow the elderberry bush. A few years ago, I discovered it on a bike ride and stopped to ask the owner if I might have 20 flower heads. He agreed and I returned with a stash of cordial for him. Months later, the house was sold.

The bush was hacked down last fall. This summer, it came back with a vengeance and is covered with cream-colored clusters of flowers the size of Frisbees! Talk about blossom envy. The other morning, I went for a ride and saw a tall fellow washing windows at the elderberry house.

I pulled my bike in the driveway, hopped off, and walked over. “Would you mind if I picked a dozen of your elderberry blossoms?”

“Not my house. It is my daughter’s. She’s in the hospital. Just had twins. She won’t have time to worry about a few flowers. Help yourself.”

I did.

On the same ride, I call it Houserville Loop, I took a photo of a hillside planting of Yucca filamentosa that reminds me of an explosion of fireworks—and frankly, it’s the first mass planting of yucca I’ve ever seen.

Now there are a lot of good things to say about yucca. It is a native plant. It is deer resistant. It is tough as nails. It provides a dramatic accent. If you’re trying to create a Southwestern-style landscape to go with your stucco-and-red-tiled roof abode, it provides the look of Albuquerque while withstanding the bluster of an ice storm in Altoona.

Yucca Hill

Yucca Hill

I, on the second hand, have a long-time vindictive grudge against Yucca filamentosa.  It has a rosette of sword-shaped leaves with spiny tips—one variety is actually called “Spanish bayonet”—and the name couldn’t be more apt, believe me. I first met Yucca filamentosa when I bought my first home. Situated in Mount Pleasant, SC, the house had a pool that was landscaped by a raving maniac! Right next to the pool deck was a glorious specimen of Yucca filamentosa. Its saber leaves never failed to stab me in the backside when I walked by wearing only a bathing suit. Wrong plant, wrong place.

Written on Slate: “For a well-rounded education you could try curling up with good books and bad librarians.” –Richard Needham

 

 

 

 

Fleur-de-Permachange

I never thought I’d buy another gardening book. I have a bazillion in boxes in my mother’s basement and barn, tempting squirrels and harboring stinkbugs.

Then I got an email from a fellow Lemont Farmers Market seller and Master Gardener. She was starting a reading group to discuss Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. I’m not one to join a discussion group without reading the book, so I bought a copy.

The first discussion circle was intriguing and humbling. So much I don’t know. Herb spiral, bio-swale, hugelkultur—a whole new language. I came away with a good lesson that first night: Try something. In mid-May I settled on Ianto Evan’s Polyculture. I reserved a section of my dad’s old four-square vegetable garden and went wild.

First Flush

First Flush

First I took a small handful of Green Fortune Pak Choi seeds. Then another couple pinches of Dark Orange Calendula, Pot of Gold Chard and Flamingo Chard seeds, sprinkling them about. More seeds—Minicor and Cooke’s Blend Carrots, Pink Beauty and French breakfast radishes, Broccoli Raab, and Zefa Fino Fennel—all casually strewn. The only “rule” is to sow each variety of seed separately, not mix them all in a bowl and sow them, or else the heavier seeds might fall in one area and the lighter ones in another. The idea is randomness, not rows. Now I don’t know about you, but this shook my gardening roots to the core. Yet it did make sense to combine deep-rooted vegetables with shallow-rooted ones, slow growers with fast growers, and give every plant its fair shake to grow to edible deliciousness.

Here are the lessons I learned from that 5’x10’ patch of soil:

  1. Don’t try this if you can’t identify weed seedlings from vegetable seedlings. You must know the difference between inch-high purslane, Lamb’s quarters or pigweed and tiny carrots, chard or radishes.
  2. Even if you know the difference, if it rains too much and your soil has too much clay, you will often pull up a clump of weeds that are intertwined with a darling Flamingo chard seedling, and sticking it back in the ground usually doesn’t work. It breaks your heart.
  3. You have to be on top of your game. Harvest frequently. Radishes can hide under foliage and erupt into bitter bulbs, Pak choi and broccoli raab set yellow flowers (and turn bitter) in the blink of a tired gardener’s eye.
  4. Despite the chaos, you are going to be eating a lot of fresh vegetables!
Radish Harvest

Radish Harvest

Permaculture is all about ecology, plant communities and plant diversity; mimicking, not masterminding, nature. Those lessons were repeated at the state Master Gardener Conference. There were discussions on “practicing neglect”—letting borders of grass grow long and dead wood rot; leaving areas for nesting sites and burrowing edges. Speakers talked about the role of trees in transpiration—giant oaks or sycamores with leafy canopies that pump moisture into the atmosphere. There were lectures on the failure of our man-made “grey infrastructure” of gutters, curbs, drains and sewers to handle what the green infrastructure does so well. The lessons meshed into a pattern of hope.

At the conference we learned that since 1990 Pennsylvania has been getting wetter. “Fifty-year storms” are coming every three years. These flood events are not part of climate change. Instead, they are a result of the Joni Mitchell forecast: We’ve paved paradise, and put up too many parking lots, driveways, and manicured, but impervious, lawns.

The good news is that we can become part of the solution. Laurie Lynch

  1. Install a rain barrel and use the rainwater that you capture.
  2. Reduce the size of your mowed lawn.
  3. Plant a rain garden.
  4. Plant trees, shrubs and perennials, especially natives, which provide food for pollinators and birds.
  5. Support the use of garden roofs and redesigned parking lots that incorporate infiltration planters.

Written on Slate: “Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.” –Langston Hughes

Watery Delight: We’ve had 90-degree days and nothing quenches the thirst like a few leaves of fresh mint crushed below a tower of ice cubes and drowned in cold water.

 

 

Fleur-de-Weed&Read

When my fellow plant nerds (aka co-horts) and I get together, the conversation can be riveting.

What’s growing in your garden?

Weeds.

ImageHairy Galinsoga invaded Emelie’s vegetable bed. Yellow wood sorrel is creeping around my garlic. Oh, and those four-legged, cotton-tailed weeds have decapitated every one of my Mooncake soybean sprouts, not to mention the Royal Burgundy, Roma and Tapia bean seedlings.

Hairy G (Galinsoga quadriradiata) is a summer annual weed with hairy triangular leaves and a yellow-centered white flower not much larger than this G. It also goes by the name Quickweed (which is not a good thing) and Shaggy Soldier (a name which is cuter than the plant). I thought I left Hairy G back in Berks County with Emelie, but no such luck. High in calcium and vitamins A, B, and C, it can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked as a green…if you like hairy food.

 

Yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) reminds me of clover but it has three heart-shaped leaflets instead of oval ones. In fact, it is Imagesometimes called Lemon Clover and its leaves can be used to make a drink similar to lemonade that is chock full of vitamin C. Juices can be extracted from the plant to make a vinegar substitute, which is why it is also called Pickle Plant. While these descriptions might sound desirable, look out! It has seedpods that open explosively, shooting seeds a dozen feet or so. I remember Steve Ganser telling me he could hear the seeds pinging against the walls of his greenhouse as the capsules catapulted their contents.

And those furry brown bunnies? Well, you all know what they look like. Perhaps I can train the yellow wood sorrel seed capsules to take aim at those darn rabbits! Laurie Lynch

Weed Free, Not Worry Free: Meanwhile, in the Master Gardener teaching tunnel weeds are not a problem. All this rain we’ve been getting falls on, not in, the high tunnel. So, instead of weeds, we have irrigation issues.

But we’re getting things figured out. Chris, who always seems to secure the materials and know-how we need from Penn State profs, says we have what they call a “Third-World irrigation system”—basically a water barrel, hose, and gravity. Peace Corps, here I come!

It is definitely a blending of ideas, with Jo, our teaching tunnel business manager and overall organizer, keeping us on track. Even my mom helps, riding shotgun on the 22-mile roundtrip to the Ag Progress Days site, and keeping everyone on their toes.

Image

We hoisted a 55-gallon water barrel onto a strong 3-foot-tall table near the raised bed. A short hose runs from the faucet of the barrel to a splitter. The splitter leads to two drip lines. We fold the end of each drip line several times and secure it with a sleeve made from a 10-inch section of drip line. Holes are pre-punched in the drip line tape every 12 inches. You place it blue-stripe-up so you can make sure the holes don’t get clogged. Volunteers have to fill the barrel every two or three days with a second hose attached to the site’s water pump.

We’re growing three heirloom tomatoes grafted onto disease-resistant rootstock. We purchased two each of grafted San Marzano, Pink Brandywine, and Black Krim. One of each is planted in the teaching tunnel; the remaining three are outside in our MG demonstration garden.

Although the irrigation system is simple, regulating the water flow coupled with a learning curve on the amount of heat that can build up in the high tunnel (even with sides rolled up) has been a challenge.

Then, there is the matter of trellising. We were warned that grafted tomatoes grow to be monsters in a high tunnel. How to keep these tomatoes in check?

Jim, our MG MacGyver-type, talked us into a simple, yes-you-can-do-this-at-home tomato trellising system (if you have a high tunnel). One end of the polished hemp twine is tied to an anchor stake, the twine is wrapped gently around the main stem of the plant, and the other end of the hemp is tied overhead onto the beam of the high tunnel. Weekly, as each tomato plant grows, we carefully tuck the main stem around the taut twine, catching it under a branch. At the same time, we remove suckers in the crotch of each branch. It helps to think of the tomato as a vine when you do this.

The co-hort fun never stops. Jo carries so much stuff in her purse (scissors, First Aid kit, plant markers, drip tape, Starbucks chocolate cheesecake brownies) that once my mom asked her if she had ice cream in there too!

Also In the Tunnel: We’re growing Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherries (Physalis pruinosa) and Giant Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana) or, as it is called in French-speaking Quebec, “L’or de la Terre” (Earth’s Gold). Hope to have them ripe and ready for people to taste at Ag Progress Days.

Recharged Batteries: I attended the state Master Gardener Conference this past weekend thanks to its convenient University Park location. In upcoming blogs, I’ll be sharing some of the highlights.

Nicholas Staddon, director of new plant introductions for Monrovia plant purveyors, was a delightful keynote speaker. I almost stood on my chair and cheered when he said, “Vegetable gardening is not a trend anymore; it’s a cultural shift.”

He talked about the migration of vegetables into beds with perennials, shrubs and trees, and of cutting gardens melding with edible gardens. I had to laugh.

Just the other day, I realized I had filled the vegetable garden with plants and seeds, and didn’t have any room for my chitted Yukon Gold potatoes. In my mother’s perennial entrance garden, I planted some Bergenia (aka Pig Squeak because of the sound it makes when you rub its leaves) and autumn-blooming Coral Bells (Heuchera villosa) under the Kousa Dogwood, but the sunny area was looking sparse. So, I inter-planted white Wave Petunias with potatoes!

Monrovia Connection: The Raspberry Shortcake thorn-less raspberry I bought in Connecticut is a Monrovia introduction…and I can’t wait for the newest discovery Nicholas spotted in the Seattle area that he hopes to propagate successfully on a mass scale: a rhubarb plant with ruby-colored leaves. It’s a beauty!

Café Connection: I’m often on the front porch waiting for Café Lemont to open but the other night, the owners were walking past my mom’s house. I said hello and we were all surprised to meet there. (My mom lives on a dead-end road with only two houses.) They explained that they set a goal to spend 30 minutes a day in nature for 30 days, so they were walking and enjoying the evening.

30-Day Connection: From what I’ve been reading, there’s a “30-day movement” to make positive changes for 30 days straight, often in the hopes of creating good habits. Have any of you tried this? If so, add a comment to this blog and tell me what you’ve tried and how it worked.

Small Town: I was staring at an equine mother-daughter photograph with my mouth wide open as the dental hygienist scraped and polished.  She was telling me that she recently bought a gentle horse to ride—and lo and behold, the horse was gentle because she was pregnant. I kept looking at the photo and she explained that her mare gave birth to a brown-and-white filly.

“Ast ummer?”

“Inden all?”

I waited until it was safe and told her I had taken a photo of her foal last fall on a bike ride through Linden Hall.

Small World: The mare’s name is Mandy and her filly is Misty. Misty of Chincoteague? I asked, mentioning a favorite book from my youth. Misty of Chincoteague was her daughter’s favorite book too. Her daughter, she went on to say, recently finished grad school at the University of London. Dental hooks and prodders be damned, my jaw dropped and I sat up. “My daughter is going to her Master’s graduation at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies next month.” Wonders never cease.