All Around the Mulberry Bush

Heart Shaped Mulberry Leaf
Heart Shaped Mulberry Leaf

Shane taught me to climb the old Mulberry tree behind Grandpa’s barn where Grandpa worked on his lawn mower and hung fish heads from nails as trophies of the summer.  Shane knelt down like a soldier about to be knighted and I used his thigh as a step stool to reach the lowest branch.  Our knees and elbows stung from brushing against the rough bark of the tree but it was worth it to taste those watery purple berries.  We turned our shirt tails inside-out to catch fruit from the branches above and the perfectly ripe berries dropped from the branches with just a gentle shake.

Visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a regular summer event.  It was a time when cousins from different school districts got to know one another again.  It was the richest place I knew even though they lived in a mobile home on rented land.  There were fruit trees everywhere, and a pond full of frogs.  We saw snakes and chickens and just down the road, a hog wallow brimming with salamanders and dragonflies.

Shane and I filled our shirt tails with berries and leaned back against the trunk of the tree on our respective branches to enjoy our plunder.  From our perch, we heard Grandma working in the garden pulling weeds.  She hollered at Roscoe, the beagle to, “quit that digging,” and though we couldn’t see her from behind the barn, we knew she was wearing her straw hat and picking worms from the tomato leaves with her glove-covered hands then pitching the bugs to the chickens.  This was a ritual we had witnessed before and we respected her diligence.  We stared at the clouds through the shady filter of green while savoring our snack with purple fingers and lips.  And then we heard her say it, under her breath, “Lord, I hate Mulberry trees.”  Shane and I stopped chewing our berries and stared at one another wide-eyed.  Shane spit a mulberry stem from between his teeth to the ground, a skill I had not yet acquired.  “Why does she hate Mulberry Trees?”  I whispered to Shane.  He was older than me by two years and so by default the wise one.  He stared back at me silently, as was his way, and then shrugged his shoulders.  He tossed a Mulberry up in the air and caught it on his tongue and the conversation was over.  It was a mystery.

Yesterday, I poured a bottle of vinegar over a tree stump that just keeps coming back in my garden.  A stubborn tree seed has taken hold in my garden’s fence row and though I cut it back each spring is now forcing the pickets to fall off my fence.  I read somewhere that vinegar would take care of it and figure it’s worth a try.  As I pour the acrid liquid over the exposed roots,  I whisper under my breath, “Uh, I hate mulberry trees.”  And just like that, the mystery is solved.


A bug’s life.

Fennel frond
Ants on sunflower
Kale worm

Yes.  I am sharing my kale with worms.

Central Indiana is having a terrible drought and a stint of above 100 degree weather.  Our well has faithfully provided us with water, a true test to its depth.  We are blessed.

I’ve noticed how the wild animals in our yard are being resourceful.  I saw a female cardinal sticking her beak deep inside the water sprinkler in our garden to glean a tiny drop that had yet to evaporate.  I notice butterflies flock to flowers I have recently watered to drink from the drops still hanging on leaves and petals.  My friend has watched squirrels steal green tomatoes from her garden, I assume, for the moisture they contain.  Thirst is a common denominator of late.

So, I’m sharing my kale with worms.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)

Just Whistle

Just when life seems to be humming along and we start to believe in the myth that we’ve got it all under control, a gap opens up in the veil between reality and our perception of our world. I’m starting to get the feeling that God is trying to tell me something lately because, I’ve been spotting the gaps a lot more frequently.  It appears that I don’t always get a choice about which direction the road is going to go.

It’s a warm Spring Sunday.  By mid-day, the morning breeze has revved up to a 40 mph gust, blowing winter’s waste all over the yard.  After planting a tray of purple and yellow pansies and getting an eye-full of vermiculite in the process, thanks to the wind, I head to the potting shed to put away my favorite shovel.  I notice as I step over the threshold in my black rubber boots that the shed seems pressurized.  An absent window pane on the west wall is letting the gale blow through.  I step in, toss my kid-sized shovel into the barrel full of sand, and bend down to pick up the tin pail I use to feed the chickens.  Bang!  The door slams shut and the shed feels full of pressure again.

I fill the tin pail with ground corn, scratch grain (seeds), and a sprinkling of oyster shells then cross the room to open the potting shed door.  It won’t open.  The door frame, outside the shed has a swing-latch for a pad lock bolted to the side.  The shed door has an eye bolted there to receive the latch.  The harsh wind that blew the door shut with such force has caused the latch to engage.  I am locked in the shed. 

Now it’s Sunday, my family is home, so my first act is to bang on the door and yell, “Hey, somebody help me, I’m locked in the shed.”  The wind is still gusting at over 40 mph, no one can hear me.  I remember, my oldest son is in his room working on a painting for his senior concentration.  My youngest is in the living room watching cartoons and writing an essay on his laptop with his iPod plugged into his ears.  I’m pretty sure my husband is in the yard somewhere so I give a little prayer of thanks that it’s not Monday when the kids would be in school, my husband at work and I would be home alone.

 I grab the chipped, black ceramic doorknob and rattle the door long and hard enough that a box of seed packets falls off the adjacent shelf and packets scatter all across the floor.  “Ok, this is getting me nowhere,” I think to myself.  The wind is whipping through the ancient Silver Maples in our yard, and any sound I make will surely get lost in the roar.  So I put my fingers to my tongue and make the loudest sound I know how to make.  I whistle.  Again and again until I’m out of breath I blow a screech across my teeth like I’ve heard my Dad do a million times when he calls his hunting dogs home.  I rattle the door a few more times and yell out, “Hey!” until my voice cracks and then I whistle again.  It’s clear and piercing and accidentally timed to a lull in the wind.  “I hear ya!” my husband hollers from across the drive, “I’m coming!”  I rattle the door one more time for good measure and my hero saves the day.  I’m free, and he’s laughing at me.

 Boy, it’s a good thing for Sara G. who sat next to me in 7th grade during a middle-school volleyball game.  She taught me how to whistle through my fingers during that game and I’ve used the skill many times to call kids back from the creek or my husband in for dinner.  Little did we know back then, I’d need to whistle for my freedom one day.  But apparently, God and my husband have the same sense of humor and I’m not really in control of much at all.

Treasure Hunt

This weekend as Al and I cleared brush from around the broken fence near the old outhouse, I spotted a slender spear of asparagus in the grass.  I knew asparagus grew wild along that fence row, a leftover from someone’s garden of the past, but every spring I seem to miss the day the sprout reaches peak edibility. 

Every year in late March I start walking the fence row searching for a sign that fresh asparagus is on its way.  Every year I am diligent in my search for a week or so.  Then, I get distracted for a few days and when I remember to search again, I’m too late.  The once tender sprout seems to shoot up 12 inches in a day and the stalk becomes fibrous and the top turns to seed.

This year, I got lucky.  We just happened to be out working in an area where the wild asparagus grows on the day it was ready to eat.  I spotted that one lone spear and I snapped it off at the ground.  Perfect.  I could tell by the crisp pop it made when I bent the stem to snapping that it was still tender and good.  I dropped my rake and left Al to the brush as I took off down the fence row on my search.  I scanned the fence line until I found the telltale sign.  A wispy brown bundle four feet high revealed where the seeds had fallen last autumn.  There on the ground I hit the jackpot.  Ten perfect tender spears of asparagus.  It was just enough for…me.  I didn’t share either.  Yesterday, while the kids were in school and Al was downtown at work, I started a pot of water to boil and dropped my bountiful treasure in.  I cooked them till they turned a brilliant green.  Not too much, I like them slightly crisp.  And with a quick rinse in the strainer, and a dressing of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, my masterpiece was complete.  Mmmm, sweet memory, unless I get lucky next year.