Where Violets Grow and other thoughts from the garden

Who bends a knee where violets grow, a hundred secret things shall know.” – Rachel Field

I’m putting in a little herb garden at the cottage.
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme.
Basil, Dill, Cilantro, and Chives, too.

It rained this morning and I bought plants in the mist. It seemed right somehow, to be buying seeds and plants in the spring rain.

In early early spring Mr. H.C. tilled up a long space of dirt in front of the peonies, day lilies, and the lilac bush. These old favorites were here when we moved in — just a long line of perennials that had weeds and grass in the bed and really needed something else to make them look pleasing. It’s in the back of the house, so I mulled around various ideas: a cut flower garden, more perennials, even transplanting the peonies so they could bloom where people could see them. Because really, peonies need to be seen, not hidden away in the back yard. But from what I’ve read, peonies don’t really take to being transplanted. And these two peonies are Very Large, Old Favorite varieties from way back when…

What do you think of a long line of herbs in the front?

Yes, I liked the idea too. And because there is lots of space, four blueberry bushes will be planted there next to the herbs. And caged. Because we have deer, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and a groundhog (with two babies!) who live under the tool shed. And a large opossum knocked on the front door last night. I really don’t know if opossums like blueberry bushes, but my guess is they probably do… And the rabbits around Apple Hill are unafraid of anything. Look how close little Flossie let me get to her last night:

So I’ve been weeding this new herb bed. I don’t really mind for it lets me breathe, think, pray, drink in the beauty of spring, and lean on the shovel. For awhile I was pulling up all the little violet plants, and then I wondered why in the world was I pulling them up? Violets are among my favorite spring wildflowers, and I certainly don’t care if they grow among the herbs. Violet flowers are edible and look beautiful in salads or sugared on cakes. In my old back-to-the-land hippie days I made violet jelly once. It didn’t taste like much, but oh, it was the most beautiful shade of fuchsia. The leaves are edible too, so I tried a couple of young tender violet leaves. They don’t taste like much either, but then neither does spinach raw from the garden…

My second favorite wild flowers are daisies. I’ve found several patches growing wild around the cottage, so I moved them into the bed as well. And if the little herb garden gets taken over by daisies and violets, well, that’s fine with me. It’s called the Que Sera Sera method of gardening.

My herbs are planted, seeds and plants both, and the blueberries are being planted as you are reading this. And there’s plenty of shovel-leaning going on too…


Everywhere i look i see a poem waiting:
Kentucky Wonder Beans
the muddy garden shoes by the door waiting
for my feet
to deliver me to a place of peace and solitude
where peppers bow and dance on heavy laden stalks.
Arugula sings as it grows — Taste me Taste me —
and beans swing through their jungle playing
hide and seek with the leaves;

the two flannel shirts shrugged off in haphazard heapsOkra
on the chair in the mudroom
— his and hers — sleeves entangled, plaids clashing,
waiting for him to say (In the cool of the evening)
Have you seen my flannel shirt?
and she will know exactly where it is;

the okra on the counter, cut into symmetrical flowers,
waiting to be made into thick aromatic okra stew.
A friend brought it —
His wife said Don’t bring me any more okra.
I love okra, he grinned.
Maybe i won’t plant so much next year;

the glossy green peppers piled precariouslybasket of peppers
in the wicker basket — waiting their turn to be
sliced diced and frozen for winter’s
friday night fiestas;

the dark brown just-plowed garden dirt
drinking up the rain
waiting for the creamy garlic cloves
in their smooth purply skins
to spend the winter buried
in the snow-covered earth;
freshly plowed

the lime green clock on the kitchen wall
bought at Walmart for $3.99
ticking away the seconds minutes hours
ticking away summer into fall
ticking away seasons into years — waiting
for someone to notice minute and hour hands
colliding with dizzying disorienting
kitchen clock

the rowdy beans


jungle of beansI pulled up one row of the rowdy jungle of green beans this morning. A few tiny white and yellow blossoms were dangling on the ends of brown leaves but I have a pantry full of beans.

a mess of beans

We can eat beans every day for a month this winter and still have some left

but those unruly beans shaded the pepper plants that are still growing.

And the autumn sun will love those peppers and caress them and grow them;

we don’t have enough peppers to eat every day for a month this winter.

It’s like life that way —  choices every day.

I hated to chop those Blue Lake Pole Beans down.

Kentucky Wonder Beans

They have been a wonder this summer.

Not only have they been charming in the garden on our string trellises,

but we ate them as often as we liked;

I’ve canned them, frozen them, pickled them;

I have them drying for shell beans in every spare spot in the kitchen and back porch,

and enough to plant for next year.

And yes, there’s a recipe here…

Dilled Green Beans or Dilly Beans

Fill pint jars with lovely long green beans. Holding the jars on the side,  put the beans in one at a time until you have a filled jar. To each pint jar, add some grinds of crushed red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed, 1/2 teaspoon dill seed, and a garlic clove (or two). If you have dill flowers, you can add one to the bottom of the jar before you put in the beans, or the top of the jar afterwards. (If using the dill flowers, omit the dill seed.)

Make a brine of equal amounts of vinegar and water. I used 5 cups of each. To 10 cups of vinegar and water, add 1/2 cup pickling or kosher salt. Heat the brine to boiling; then carefully pour the brine over the beans leaving 1/4 inch head space in the jars. Seal with canning lids and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

You can see these were canned earlier in the season when my dill was still plentiful...

You can see these were canned earlier in the season when my dill was still plentiful…

These will look (and taste) delicious on the Thanksgiving relish tray

with pickled beets and gingered yellow squash pickles.