Garden Talk

I just want to talk about gardening.

I enjoy listening to people talk about their gardens. Even the hippies. The new age hippies that think the government won’t know where they live if they quit paying the power bill and live out of a converted horse trailer. They will talk on and on about non-GMO milk, free-range green beans and raw, unpasteurized chickens. I am not quite a hippie but I have been using organic toothpaste since the Bush administration. I can appreciate their enthusiasm though. Especially on social media.

I can appreciate anyone’s garden enthusiasm on social media. I genuinely enjoy seeing someone share a picture of their garden. The people that care about gardens, really care. When someone shares a garden picture what I see is a lot of forethought, patience, and hard work.

Who I really like to listen to talk about gardens are the people who have had gardens for fifty or so years.

“Did you get any lids yet? I got enough for 75 quarts of green beans, and 105 quarts of vegetable soup base.”

“If you run that heavy tractor tire between them rows it’ll pack that dirt down hard and won’t no weeds grow in it.”

“I like to put some of that field-kicker on it.”

“I only plant Rattlesnake Pole Beans. Them’s the ones you like.”

I think the retired people have the best looking gardens. They have the kind of time it takes to keep rows neat and tidy. I see these kind of garden’s out in the country while I’m riding my bicycle. It’s as if they are expecting the Garden Inspector General to swing by unannounced and grade their work.

The last two years I’ve had Bro. Art come over and plow up a garden plot that is way too big for me to manage. It usually gets out of hand around mid-July and I feel guilty for letting the weeds overtake it. I don’t want that to happen again this year so I had Bro. Paul come over and plow up a garden plot that is way too big for me to manage.

In an effort to keep our garden as low-maintenance as possible, I didn’t plant any pole beans this year. I think I’ll just plant two crops bunch beans staggered by a couple of week. Sarah did plant one lonely tomato plant, although neither of us eat tomatoes. It just seems like the right thing to do.

Hollynn likes tomatoes though.

I do chuckle a bit when people say they are planting “non-GMO” crops, as if people for thousands of years haven’t been crossbreeding plants to arrive at what we have today. The Native Americans from the Maya all the way up to the Iroquois planted the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. None of these crops are found in the wild, they have to be cultivated. The Three Sisters grow well together; the beans will climb the corn stalk. Meso-Americans were so good at developing this kind of agriculture that the pre-Columbian population could have been as high as 112 million. I don’t plan to grow on that scale anytime soon, but it is fascinating to me. This is the kind of stuff I think about when I look at a garden.

It would be difficult for most of us to pick a favorite vegetable. Except for the potato people. Potatoes is the only vegetable that they even eat. I think I would have to choose green beans, but I would make sure that all the other vegetables knew that I loved them too. My favorite way to eat green beans is sauteed in oil and garlic. Or cooked to death in bacon grease; I’m not particular.

Earlier this week my beans started sprouting. I was so excited. I told my brother thinking he’d be just as excited.

“I feel like I’m talking to my Dad.” He said laughingly.

It is a wonderful feeling to see something shoot up out of the ground from a seed. It is a spiritual experience. One that never gets old. I hope that you all grow record tomatoes this summer and that your beans don’t quit producing until it frosts.

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and not shall not cease. Genesis 8:22

Home Remedies

img_3339“Have hemorrhoids? Try siting on a potato.” My cousin Anthony read aloud from Gram’s home remedy book. Now a person who had not experienced the power of home remedies would have only found humor in this statement. I still laugh when I think about how silly it sounded, but I as I recall, Gram only smiled a little and then looked pensive before she asked, “Do you need to cook the potato?” I guess she wanted to get the recipe right before trying it out, or more likely, before she recommended it to someone else.

Home remedies almost have a mystical element to them, like magic spells. My Great Grandmother could talk away burns. She would whisper some kind of incantation and the burning would stop. Her husband would buy warts. You had to wait till the next full moon for them to go away. He said they wouldn’t go away if you gave them to him, he had to pay for them.

“I cut myself one time with a knife while I was pealing potatoes. Granny washed the sliced finger real quick and rubbed ashes from the fireplace on it, then wrapped a bandage around it.” Dad recalled. I remember him reflecting, “I don’t know if the remedies actually worked, or if people just needed to believe in something. As often was the case, professional medical attention was simply unaffordable.”  This is probably true, but when you’re in pain I guess you’ll try anything. I once sprayed WD-40 on a severe case of psoriasis on my foot. This medical experiment failed, and I wouldn’t recommend it. But the home remedy of peeing on my feet in the shower had failed me and I was at the point of desperation.

Home remedies come in a wide spectrum, and can’t all be ruled out as kooky. The range of the spectrum is significant. On one end you have remedies like this: “Tie a match behind your left ear and drink a pint of buttermilk to help with indigestion.” On the other end you have common sense. Anytime we had a headache, stomach ache, or just about any ailment that was not inflicted by a rowdy sibling or cousin; Nonna would look over her glasses and ask us, “Did you bo-bo today?” Bo-bo should be a good euphemism-a lady like expression for a man sized fact- for defecate, but it isn’t. It puts you in the mind of being constipated in a public restroom with single ply toilet paper that didn’t fully get the job done and now you need to change underwear. But, usually this home remedy worked.

Another case of an effective home remedy was when Dad had the flu or a severe cough. Granny pulled out a jar of moonshine with some sort of root sitting in the bottom (perhaps sassafras). “It was like drinking fire.” Dad said. “I don’t know if it helped me with my sickness, or just put me to sleep.” Either way there was relief.

If you called Gram today and told her you had an ingrown toenail, or perhaps an ear infection, she would recommend a buttermilk poultice. Essentially, you mix up biscuit dough; flour, buttermilk, and a little lard, and put it in a plastic bag an stick your toe or whatever is ailing you in it and keep it over night. In the morning the poultice will have turned a dark green color. “It will pull the infection out.” She said. Or grow bacteria, I’m not really sure which. But I remember Dad, Zach, and Lindsay trying it out before Zach and Lindsay lost faith and went to the podiatrist.

From rubbing Clorox or tobacco juice on a bee sting, the virtues of coconut oil, and drinking apple cider vinegar for just about any ailment; the list of home remedies is a mile long. I’d like to hear your home remedy experiences. You can leave your comments at mostlyfrommemory.wordpress.com

Thank you everyone for reading and sharing my blog. I hope it makes you smile. 

Zane Wells

Nursing Homes

I was probably too young to go, but my parents were committed, so I went to everything.

I don’t remember whose idea it was to take small children to sing at the nursing home, probably some adult who did not take into consideration how terrifying elderly wheelchair bound people can be to a five year old child. I was probably too young to go, but my parents were committed, so I went to everything. The nursing home we chose was a dismal place. The residents looked completely defeated, the staff had a martial air about them and the whole facility gave you the feeling of complete hopelessness, more like a prison than a care facility. Perhaps the one we visited was simply outdated, but I’ve visited others as an adult and I get a similar feeling.

I was too young to read so I was only obligated to sing from memory. My brother Zach, and Corey Barber did not get off of the hook so easily, since they were capable of not only reading, but counting too, which enabled them to use the Sing Unto The Lord hymnal. Sis. Vivian, Corey’s grandmother sat at the piano with her back to us and called out the page numbers to the each hymn as she played. In our church, we hardly called a song by it’s name, but rather used it’s page number. “Please turn to page 315.” Page 315 was Jesus Hold My Hand. Page 94 was Amazing Grace. As Zach and Corey turned the right page, Sister Vivian would play  an intro on the piano, and by then we were ready to sing. I’m sure our mothers enjoyed it. I think the residents might have just enjoyed seeing some small children, even if they had trouble hearing us. I did not enjoy it. I wasn’t miserable, I just wanted to play.

It was during one of these fidgety moments, probably about the third song, that I decided to pinch Zach on the rear end. He whipped around mid chorus of I’ll Fly Away and gave me a mean look and probably would have hit me but everyone was watching. In the midst of all this the music and the singing never stopped. Mom came and grabbed me by the hand led me to the side of the makeshift auditorium. It was really more of a wheelchair parking lot. Barring this incident, the show kept right on going. As Mom focused on singing I wondered around on the fringe of a crowd.

As we were about to leave, Mom went up towards the front to do something, possibly sing and I was left alone in my seat. One of the residents, an elderly lady in a hospital bed, pointed to me with a crooked finger and said in a weak voice, “Come here to me little boy.” Rear end pinching aside, I was an obedient little boy and I went straight over to her and said, “Yes Ma’am.”

She took my hand and put it on the back of her neck and said, “Scratch here.”

I would like to pause here and give some advice. If you are ever in a strange place and an elderly lady in a hospital bed asks you to scratch her neck, don’t do it. It’s a trap.

No amount of preliminary lecture on my behavior could have prepared me for a situation like this. There I was, not even in Elementary School, in a nursing home, doing the very thing that my parents had spanked me for not doing, minding my elders. As I was scratching the lady’s neck, a nurse rushed over and took my hand away. “Don’t touch the patients.” She said firmly. I didn’t get a chance to explain myself as she led me to Mom.

I’m glad to report that during my subsequent visits to nursing homes over the past twenty five years I behaved myself much better, although a lot of time I still get that same dismal feeling. I will also add that unless you’re playing like Merle Travis or Chet Atkins, don’t bring your electric guitar to the nursing home.