Growing Things, Desirable and Non
July 1, 2003
In a development that I suspect nearly caused Mr. Karen to pass out from shock, I did some yard work last night. Voluntarily, without any prompting. Just got up and put on some gardening gloves and grabbed the snippers and headed out. I didn’t even have a fever or anything else that would account for this unusual turn of events. Yard work is usually far down on my list of priorities. Mr. Karen does most of it, not because he likes it any better than I do, but because he’s more sensitive to clutter outside and in. The weeds have to be pretty overgrown before I notice them, and even then, if they’re pretty weeds, like the ones that resemble daisies, I’m willing to let them live.
But last night, I decided I was going to clean up one of the beds back by the fence. A few days ago, I’d gone out to take a picture of the roses and noticed that the viney weeds we’ve had trouble with before had grown up into an almost but not quite broken off branch in the tree up above and all that greenery was choking off one of the peony bushes. (How is it that I have roses and peonies when I don’t like to do yard work, you ask? Well, they were here when we moved in, and they’ve somehow managed to survive our reign of benign neglect, unlike the irises, which are slowly dying off.) “I should do something about that”, I thought to myself, and went back into the house and had dinner and forgot all about it.
Somehow that earlier thought resurfaced after dinner last night, and this time I followed up on it. While I thank the earlier owners of our house for leaving the roses and the peonies and such, I curse whoever thought it was a good idea to plant mint back there. Sure, it smells nice, but it’s relentless. First it was just in one part of the bed, then it spread several feet in all directions, and now it’s jumped out of the bed and grown behind the shed and out the other side and taken over most of the bed on the other side. By the time I’d freed the rhubarb and two peony bushes from the mint and vines and branches that surrounded them, I was thoroughly sweaty and dirty and wishing I’d taken the time to put on decent shoes instead of just coming out in my sandals when the weeding urge hit, because I was making mud between my toes. But still, I had a sense of accomplishment. I could see the two peony bushes and had a nice harvest of rhubarb to take inside and freeze until I got around to making something with it.
Handling the rhubarb made me think of my grandma Bess. She had some growing in her yard in Milwaukee, and I remember her making rhubarb pies when my mom and brother and I would go visit her when I was little. When she heard I had rhubarb growing in my yard, she offered advice about taking care of it, which seemed to boil down to “harvest it regularly or it’ll die”. So far, it hasn’t died even though I’m not always good about going out and pulling the stalks when they’re ready. If I had more than one rhubarb recipe I knew how to make, I might be more on top of the harvesting. So far, the only thing I’ve ever made from it is a sort of bar cookie crumble deal, which I tried because it cooks in the microwave (nice during a hot summer) and has less than 10 ingredients. I’ve clipped and saved other recipes for rhubarb, but haven’t managed to try any of them. Maybe this summer will be the year I do.
A year ago, I was seeing how I measured up against what I’d set out to do.