Those of you who have been here from the beginning may remember my lovely, aged cat, Miss Thing, who danced her way to the Summerlands many years ago. Since then, I’ve resisted the imprecations of friends and family who kept suggesting that I bring another manifestation of Bast into my life; I just wasn’t ready, I kept saying. Last week, G/Son was staying with me and he said, “Nonna, I’d love to go to the animal shelter and spend some time with the cats.” I don’t suppose the outcome will surprise my readers. So please welcome Merlin & Nimue, who will, no doubt, be making frequent appearances. You know Witches and their cats.
Another thing my regular readers will remember is my passion for bringing back the American chestnut tree. American chestnuts once populated the forests of almost the entire East Coast. Then, in 1904, after the Bronx Zoo imported asian chestnut trees, a fungus quickly killed off nearly every single American chestnut tree. For years, the American Chestnut Foundation and other have been working to cross-breed chestnuts that can resist the fungus while retaining as much of the American chestnut gene pool as possible. A Virginia experimental farm has been growing a group of these trees for several years, letting them mature, exposing them to the fungus, and then, culling those that were not resistant. The Green Man and I had gotten attached to one of the trees and drove up into the Blue Ridge yesterday only to discover that “our” tree had been cut down along with all but about three of the others. Those standing, we believe, have been judged able to survive the fungus and reproduce. And, I’m glad that science is doing what can be done to bring back this important bit of the landbase. But I did have to stop over and over today, weep a bit, and then get back to work. If you feel like pouring a blot for a tree or sending some energy to a tree whose roots will continue to send up shoots for decades, only to have the trunks cut down by the fungus, I’d be grateful.
It’s finally squash season. Here in the Magical MidAtlantic, you have to be careful what you plant or you can end up with so much summer squash you don’t know what to do. We’ll just not discuss the year that I planted too many and wound up having to make squash blossom frittatas every day because I couldn’t allow the blossoms to turn into squashes, given my already full freezer, burdened friends, and overwhelmed co-workers. I find it easiest to cut them up with peppers, onions, and garlic; sauté in olive oil; and serve with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and grated parmesan. But there are lots of ways to cook squash. This winter, I read Virgin Earth by Philippa Gregory and I think of it every time I plant anything in this Virginia clay.
Speaking of garlic, I recently harvested this year’s crop. I got 60 cloves, enough for me to use one a week, every week for the next year, while saving the few largest ones to plant for next year. I grow Music, a hardneck variety that gives me garlic scapes a few weeks before harvest. I’ll buy more in a month or so, plant them in mid-September, and then dig them up next Summer. I use a soft child’s toothbrush to clean them and then store them in my cool, dry basement.
Now that the garlic’s dug up, the Green Man has planted beans and tomatoes in the empty space. These are experiments; I usually just grow lettuces and bok choy, so we’ll see how this goes.
Every summer in the garden seems to be the Summer of [Something]. This summer is the Summer of Queen Anne’s Lace in my garden, along with the Summer of Day Lilies. Even if you swear that you can’t grow anything, you can grow day lilies. They call the “common” orange ones ditch liliess because, well, because they will grow and reproduce even in a ditch. What’s thriving this year on your landbase?