The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


I've come to the realization that yardwork is like Viagra for the back when you're my age. Stiffens it right up. Not that I recommend the same sort of treatment for penises because they don't have hands and because, well, that would just be gross.

Crudeness for today out of the way (it's a chore, I can tell you), I can enlighten you as to the joys of the day at Camp Knitingale, where we decided that the lack of deluge from the heavens for a few hours was reason enough to go tend to the (wild overgrown insanity that might well be hiding more than just our garden gnomes...a hound dog, maybe, or a '57 chevy) yard. This meant bending over approximately 800,000 million times to pick up 800,000 million slimey sticks and branches to put them in wheelbarrows and haul them over to this burn pile:

It is now approximately 2.5 times the size it was when I took the photo (yes, I went back and helped him...I'm not that mean, or that clever that I can come up with an excuse not to) with Mr. K for perspective and I'll remind you now that it is the third such burn pile we have compiled from the sticks the heavens saw fit to throw at us back in December. Mr. K says we're only about 2/3 finished....which makes me question my choice to use him for perspective, as that particular perspective makes my back muscles throw up their hands in despair before packing a bag for parts unknown. But anyway.

It has been said many times that zucchini could just about resolve the world's hunger problems in that every beginning gardener hereabouts has, at one time or another, innocently planted some of the stuff, only to find that it produced more than enough to assure that they would no longer have friends by the end of growing season....and those souls at work who are stuck with them to scurry away in fear at the mere hint of any sort of basket that might hold produce. (Such gardeners often have to smuggle their knitting into the office in pockets, lest the knitting bag be mistaken for a cache of zucchini and both bag and knitter beaten to death with sticks). Given that I don't care for zucchini (I think I've said that I'm a veggie-phobe...I sometimes wonder if my mother was terribly frightened by a veggie platter while pregnant with me. If so, it apparently wasn't one of the ones with dip, because I love ranch dip.) you can sure that I've never planted so much as a single seed of the stuff. However, the people who owned the house before me planted--not zucchini, but it's fruity equivalent, at least in these parts: rhubarb.

Although I love most fruits, rhubarb is a puzzle to me in that it seems like nothing so much as red, sour celery which I have a hard time imagining a pressing need for. And so, not surprisingly, I ignore this rhubarb year after year and, year after year, it dies and disappears in autumn like it should, only to return like Lazurus, growing up from apparently barren earth in the Spring and spreading out like chicken pox in a daycare. I don't even water this stuff. And, at least a few times every season, I manage to mangle huge clumps of it in the mower. It forgives me, though, or it withstands it because it is hatching a sinister plot to take over the world. I'm not completely sure which. But I did get to looking at it today and it IS kind of cool-looking while it's growing:

For the unitiated (and trust me, I was not initiated willingly--gardens and I share an uneasy alliance at best), this is how those giant leaves look when they first come out. They're all wrinkled and wadded up, (kind of like my green silk panties that got caught in the washing machine workings a few years ago and I had to watch while a burly guy named "Earl" hauled them out of the bowels of the machine with a leer and said "I'm guessing these are yours?" Good times.) and they kind of explode out of the little red thingies. (Quality botany terminology all the way, baby. Don't say I never offered you anything educational.)

In the middle of this picture you can see another of the red thingies, not quite as far along in the "giving birth to wrinkled leaves" process.

It is possible that I am way overfascinated by the workings of rhubarb. But compared to the relative merits of stuffing pine boughs into wheelbarrows while watching Ed whack another salamander (I don't know what he has against salamanders...maybe one of them said something about his mama. But I will tell you that he is very frugal with his toys, playing with them long after they're dead...either that or he was trying to perform CPR with no small amount of enthusiasm), it can be downright uplifting.

Just for Celtic Jo, I offer this unexpected pleasure:

Tons and tons of these lovely shamrocks were growing underneath a layer of pine branches that I would have thought might have crushed the life out of them, but no. They were growing along cheerfully, apparently secure in the knowledge that I would eventually come along and free them. Shamrocks are nothing if not optimistic.

Just as we were gettting ready to come in for a bit, Mr. K and I paused for a bit of reminiscence. I reminded him of our early courtship, when I came out and worked with him in his yard and helped him pick up all the sticks the heavens were throwing back then (the heavens have kind of a bitch on for those of us with trees around here). He agreed, with such a sweet smile on his face that my heart swelled with love. And then he placed a hand on his lower back and added:

"Hurt like hell then, too."


  • At 5:42 PM, Blogger Marianne said…

    Rhubarb...there's a reason they toss the strawberries into that particular pie! Pretty plant, though.
    Zucchini bread is YUM. can be frozen for yumminess later on in the year. 'cake with fibre'.
    Ed, Smooch wants to come and play.


  • At 11:44 PM, Anonymous angie Cox said…

    Oh not the dreaded Rhubarb..much loved by my mother for pies. We have never grown it and never intend to. I think you mean Courgettes ( Zuccinis) which are fine added to a pasta sauce otherwise bland as a bland thing on bland day. My dad grew morrows too which was a mystery as for the space they took up were disgusting unless hollowed out and stuffed with something else that out for sense .We grow soft fruits in our tiny garden as for taste they seem the best proposition.

  • At 2:42 AM, Anonymous Suzie Q said…

    Hi MS knitingale,

    In defence of rhubarb, try stewing it with a little water, and when it all falls apart add lots and lots of condensed milk a blend the hell out of it. It tastes pretty good then!

  • At 5:49 AM, Blogger ccr in MA said…

    Ahh, how romantic. Nothing like back pain for a good bonding moment.

  • At 8:36 AM, Blogger Kitty Mommy said…

    Dudette. Got to get you a copy of my grandma's rhubarb cake recipe (if I can track it down). I am totally with you as far as rhubarb pies, rhubarb sauce, and all the other sour celery dishes go, but the has a sauce that goes over it (mostly butter and sugar as I recall) that takes the rhubarb edge right off. Mmmmmm.

  • At 9:01 PM, Blogger Kali said…

    Amazing how perspective can change perception...your viagra comment had me rolling! A few years ago I planted zucchini which outperformed my wildest dreams. I resorted to leaving regular mounds of it in the company lunchroom with a sign that read: Free Zucchini Bread! (some assembly required)

    The past two years I have not have such a bumper crop, but I keep planting it anyway...

    Dinky seeds. Big plants. Lots of edibles. Amazing thing, don'cha think?

  • At 6:02 PM, Blogger Lynn said…

    I will not covet my neighbor's rhubarb. I will not covet my neighbor's rhubarb. I will not covet...

    Oh do I ever wish I could drive up there over the weekend this summer and solve your rhubarb infestation problem for you. Rhubarb sauce on vanilla ice cream. Rhubarb sauce on pound cake. I like strawberries as much or more than I like rhubarb, but the classic combination leaves me un-classically cold. Much the same as for peanut butter and chocolate; love them individually and oh please no, merciful heavens, not together.

    About every other year I overcome my aversion to paying retail and buy a bundle of gold-plated rhubarb with the lovely, poisonous leaves removed, and I come home and make some sauce, which thankfully none of my kids like, so it's all *mine*.

    I'm nearly as veggie-phobic as you and am right there with you, sister, on the subject of zucchini. As far as I'm concerned it's only fit for zucchini bread. With or without rhubarb sauce.


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