, , , , ,


During the Depression, William Stafford’s family moved from town to town in search of work. He contributed to the family income by raising vegetables. Stafford grew up to be a poet of ordinary life ~ life during the hours before first light, his quiet time for toast and coffee and writing. He didn’t believe in writer’s block. If you get stuck, lower your standards and keep going. (Wise words, don’t you think?) Every morning, this modest guy went inside himself to find small words and write big thoughts.


It could happen any time, tornado,

earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.

Or sunshine, love, salvation. It could you know. That’s why we wake and look out—no guarantees in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning, like right now, like noon, like evening.

~ William Stafford

And may I be so bold as to add ~ like cucumbers. I have tons of small, bumpy-skinned beauties with dotted spines in all sorts of oddball shapes. They hang from trailing vines and hairy stems, at rest under three-lobed leaves.

My dad was a humble guy like Stafford.  He rose while the streetlight still gleamed, raised vegetables for our family, and, during the Depression, worked three jobs. But Dad didn’t make poetry with a pen. He made it with cement and steel, seeds and soil. What I know about growing things, I got by osmosis ~ near him in the garden, digging in the dirt.

This summer I have a tyrannosaurian yield of cucumbers, heart-nuking gifts from plants that ask for so little ~  heat, water, and Dad’s manure tea. (That’s another like for the poem, with apologies to William.)  The cukes grow day in and day out.  They don’t murmur, they shout.  Nonstop.  The drill is : Wash. Slice. Eat. Repeat.

Ah, the Joy of Pickles. They bring strangers together. People gather round the pickle man at the farmers’ market, crowding in for that crisp salty experience.  (I’d rather have my salt coarse and crunchy and sprinkled on dark chocolate.) But the best pickles are the ones you make yourself.  Like these.

Homemade Refrigerator Bread-and-Butter Pickles

 1 c distilled white vinegar

1 TBS salt 2

c white sugar

6 c sliced cucumbers

1 c sliced onions

1 c sliced green peppers

Some garlic and dill

In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil.  Boil until sugar is dissolved.  Put cucumbers, onions and peppers in a bowl.  Pour vinegar mixture over them. Transfer to sterile containers and refrigerate.

 Prepare jars by running them through the dishwasher or filling them with boiling water, then dumping it out.

Pack the cucumbers vertically into the jars, making sure they’re tightly-packed. As you fill the jars, divide the garlic and dill among them.

 Fill the jars with the brine so that the cucumbers are completely covered. Cover the jars with plastic wrap, secured with rubber bands, or with the lids and refrigerate.

Want something a bit more sublime for afternoon tea?  Thin-slice a cucumber, lay the slices on petite little triangles of buttered bread ( note: that’s real butter), brew a pot of loose leaf and sip it in a proper china cup. Just like the Queen.


Look at summer, showing off as usual.

What’s running amok in your garden? 

Are you in the kitchen like me?



Toni 7/28/14



, , , , , ,

UnknownAristotle had a beautiful mind. And a hunch about honeybees. He thought they collected honey from rainbows. He may not have gotten the science right but he sensed that there was more to bees then their bristling good looks.


This year I see fewer bees than last year.  And the year before that. And the year before that.  Actually, I see more bees in the news than in my gardens.


It’s official ~ bees are the new backyard chickens.  And they’re riding in trucks.  Beekeepers are renting them to big farms. 




Honeybees live in artificial hives built for them.  And housing starts are way up.


But there’s an invisible elephant in the room and we’re tripping over its trunk. Honeybees are dying from CCD, or Colony Collapse Disorder.  The bees literally disappear.  Open the hive, no one’s home. No dead bees. Nothingness. I wonder what Aristotle would make of this disappearing disease. 


When we use the expression “elephant in the room” today, the elephant we’re usually talking about is something that’s too obvious to go unnoticed but uncomfortable to mention.  However, there’s an older “elephant in the room” with a different meaning ~ something huge or perhaps unprovable. Scientists have a pile of theories about CCD. But this one fact is thuddingly true: there are serious declines in native solitary bee populations, in wild bumble bees, and in honey bees that are reared commercially.  Should you care?  In a word, yes.

When it comes to bees, the elephant is too big to ignore.  In the US, there were 5.9m maintained colonies in 1947; today there are only 2.44m. Wild honey bees have all but died out. If bees keep disappearing at this rate, it’s estimated that there will be none left in the US by 2035. So researchers are generating some positive buzz. And showing us what life without bees will look like.

The Bee Problem is a complex issue involving many species. The research is far from finished.  We need those little yellow hive dwellers ~ they put good food on our plates and plenty of sweetness in our lives. Like Blake Shelton and his Honey Bee tune. (Click the YouTube icon, lower right.)

Toni 7/26/14


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,203 other followers