Trout and Cabbage

61012No; this is not a recipe. It is two brief stories about my first fishing trip and the first vegetables I ever grew.
My first fishing trip was at Silver Lake, past my grandparents summer house in Pioneer. I was just a little tyke. I think I had just a small cane with a hook on a string tied to it. I doubt that I was expected to catch anything with it. I sat on a bare granite shore with my Uncle Bill behind me to keep me from falling in, and my hook on a string in the water.
‘Fishy’ took the hook almost immediately. He was a slippery and shiny trout who startled everyone around with his eagerness to grab onto the hook in order to come home with us. I pulled him up so that my Uncle Bill could take him off of the hook. However, to my surprise, my Uncle Bill explained that Fishy had to go back into the lake because he was too small! I was baffled. I told my Uncle Bill that Fishy could not bee too small because he was bigger than any other fish in my grandfather’s aquarium!
Of course, Uncle Bill then explained that the objective of fishing was not to relocate fish from the uncomfortably cold lake to the cozy warm aquarium. As he continued to explain what the real objective of fishing was, it became very obvious that the lake was the best option for Fishy! Uncle Bill put Fishy back in the water, where he happily swam away. I am pleased to say that I never saw Fishy again.
Shortly afterward, my grandmother gave me a six-pack of cabbage seedlings that I planted in a neat row below my mother’s kitchen window. I was so pleased with them. I watered them and talked to them and sometimes just petted their waxy leaves. They grew quite large, and started to crowd each other.
Then, one day while I was out playing with my pine cones and favorite dirt on the patio, my mother came out with a paring knife and walked by without saying anything. To my HORROR, she returned with a severed cabbage! I totally freaked out! Of course, my mother explained to me that the objective of growing the cabbages was to eat them, and that they were the same vegetable that I liked so much in a cooked form. That was not much consolation. If I had known that, I would have planted them up at Silver Lake so that they could live happily ever after with Fishy.
Well, I did not eat any cabbage with supper that evening. By the time the second cabbage was murdered, I was able to eat it. I did not want it to die in vain; and it really was quite good. So were the third, fourth and fifth cabbage.
The last cabbage was the runt of the litter, so my mother allowed me to care for it all through winter. When it got muddy from splattering rain water falling from the eave, I washed it with soap, which is how I learned that plants do not like soap. As the weather warmed in spring, it bolted. The outer leaves got rather crispy, and a floral stalk stretched upward from the center. It bloomed with small yellow flowers and even made little seed capsules. I do not know if it ever made viable seed, because I did not collect any. By the time it deteriorated and died, I knew that it had lived a full life, so was not too sad about it. The funeral was brief before it was interred behind the apricot tree.
In the end, I ate neither the first fish I ever caught, nor the first vegetable I ever grew.

Sesame Street Was Wrong!

P71231It was probably one of the best television shows for children back then, and probably still is. Everyone of my generation in American remembers Sesame Street. We all identified with it, even if our neighborhood did not look like Sesame Street, or lacked the variety of neighbors. Sesame Street sometimes took us on television field trips to other neighborhoods. Some were more familiar. Those that were more foreign were presented within a compelling and inviting context that got us interested in how other children lived within their respective societies.

Some kids lived in big cities and rode on buses. Others lived in suburban areas with big gardens. Some lived on farms with hens and cows. There were even kids who lived near a forest surrounded by big tall evergreen trees. The trees were probably the firs, spruces and hemlocks of New Hampshire. I do not remember. I just knew I was fascinated with the trees.

I certainly did not need Sesame Street to show me how excellent my first silver maple was. It was my second tree, after my incense cedar. My mother thought of it as ‘her’ maple tree. Yeah, right. When it defoliated in autumn, I ‘raked’ the leaves by pairing them all up, and then pairing all the pairs into groups of four, and then pairing the groups of four into groups of eight, and so on, until there was only a single pile of leaves. When the tree was very small, it had only about sixty-four leaves, so this technique worked just fine. It was a bit more work by the second autumn. By the third autumn, I had learned how to use my little leaf rake.

During this time, I happened to learn something from Sesame Street that I had not previously known about maple trees. They make maple syrup! The kids who lived near the forest in New Hampshire went with their father out to where their maples were, to collect syrup. It was simple. The father gouged the bark, drilled a hole into the trunk, stuck a hooked device into the hole, and hung a bucket onto the hook to collect they syrup! I do not remember if that was the correct sequence of events; but how difficult could it be? The video was only a few minutes long, so I knew that it did not take long for the bucket to fill will with syrup that the kids poured over their pancakes at the end of the video.

What the video failed to explain adequately is that after the bucket was hung, it was left there overnight, and was retrieved the next day. To me, it looked like the kids got distracted and left, but then came right back a few seconds later. The video also failed to explain how involved the process of concentrating the sugar by boiling off the water from the sap. Again, to me, it looked like a pot of boiling sap was ready for pancakes a few seconds later. Like I said, the video was only a few minutes long.

Getting syrup from the maple tree was just too tempting. I took my little plastic beach pail and a small hatched for kindling and went out to get my own syrup. I smacked the trunk with the hatches and grabbed my pail to catch the sap that was supposed to come pouring out; but nothing happened. I smacked the tree again; but again, nothing happened. I gashed the trunk a few more times, in various spots around the trunk, but never got any syrup. Eventually, I got distracted with something else. I left my pail and the hatchet there next to the tree, believing that Sesame Street was wrong.P71231+

If you want your garden to grow, you have to talk to it.

P80131So the spelling is a bit . . . off. Ignore the ‘E’ before ‘If’ and the ‘n’ after ‘grow’. They are crossed out . . . sort of. ‘wont’ means ‘want’. ‘haf’ means ‘have’, as in ‘have to’ or ‘need to’. It made sense at the time, more than four decades ago. Perhaps I should rephrase it.

If you want your garden to grow, you must talk to it.

You must talk to your garden in order for it to grow.

Your garden requires regular discourse for healthy growth.

This concept dates from a time of big Boston ferns and spider plants suspended by coarse macrame with big wooden beads. Coleus and rubber tree were popular house plants too. Remember terrariums? There were big flowered daisies, tam junipers and big petunias in the yard. A group of three European white birches was cool, as if it was somehow unique . . . even though everyone else was doing it too.

Some people believed that gardens and houseplants were healthier if they were regularly engaged in conversation. Some of us would say that this is true only because those who talk to their gardens and houseplants are more involved with them, and are therefore more attentive to their needs. That makes sense. Otherwise, the theory has been neither confirmed or disproved by any reliably documented data.

I do not need data. My gardens did quite well with this technique. So did many of the annuals, perennials and trees I got to plant back then. The little disfigured Monterey pine that I met on my way to school ( ) is still doing well, long after all the others that I did not converse with are gone.