Potpourri

Other Stories- Jane 4 / Jane 5
by Jane Keown Oliver

     Spring is moving along nicely, with its usual compliment of rain and sunshine, frost warnings and windy days. The greenhouses have filled up with growing plants, and we have had to empty them of hardier and larger stock. On the nights of the frost warnings, all the tender plants have to be loaded onto trucks to keep them safe from the burning of the cold air. In the early morning, they are off-loaded onto the plant tables, and we keep a watch on the weather predictions to see if a repeat is needed for the next night. On my wish-list: a new hoop house. 
     It occurred to me that both Mother's Day and Father's Day are celebrated in the spring. Since new life in the natural world comes in the spring, it makes sense to honor the scions of our families at that time of year. Mother's Day weekend usually coincides with the apple bloom, and I always recall my mother's story of visiting the farm on the first time on May 10, 1941. Bloom was nearly over, but Dad took her on a tour of the Greening block, since this variety is one of the latest to flower. She got a similar ride on Mother's Day for the next fifty-one years. [I guess the first tour was a success!] Since the farm became the focus of the rest of their lives together, it was appropriate that they spent their first time on the farm together in the midst of the hopefulness of the apple blossoms.   
   

     Without the flowers, their would be no crop. On my to-do list: drive up to the Greenings and check out the bloom. 
It has become our custom on Father's Day to hold an annual Herb Weekend at the farm. The herbs were my addition to the product list, since I have been growing them personally for over twenty years now. I learned to cook from my mother, and she used many dried herbs to spice up her dishes. I like to use fresh herbs whenever possible, although I remember the days when I had herbs drying in two of the upstairs bedrooms in the farmhouse, making the place seem close to the way I imagine heaven will smell. I would crumble the dried leaves and store them in mason jars in a dark cupboard, allowing me to season all my winter dishes just like my mother. Now we have access to fresh herbs year-round in most supermarkets, so I haven't bothered to dry herbs 

lately [notwithstanding the fact that the "drying rooms" have reverted to use as bedrooms by Artie and Christine's lively children!] We have a wide-variety of herbs for sale at the farm, and I plant many kinds in the field to sell as fresh bunches both at the farm and at farmer's markets. I experiment with new ones every year, and some become favorites and a few become "also ran's." This year I am intrigued by a new cilantro from Viet Nam....it grows for the entire season and doesn't need constant replanting. It is quite exotic-looking, having two-toned leaves in maroon and green. Maybe this will become a new staple in my annual herb garden. [It obviously won't overwinter in our climate, coming as it does from southeast Asia!] 
     As the summer progresses, the work will increase. Planting will give way to harvest, and everyone will be busy making the most of the good weather. It is interesting to note that Grandparent's Day comes in September [the autumn of life?], just as the pace at the farm reaches the hectic stage. We have more work and fewer daylight hours, and it sometimes feels as if we won't be able to get everything done on time. But most things are accomplished before the first fall frost.  But right now we are still concerned with the question of whether or not we have seen the last spring frost, and whether there has been much damage in the orchard from the frost last week. What with this and that, we try to keep a high energy level as we continue to prepare for the new season. In the back of my mind, I think of my parents, and how their life on the farm gave me my life on the farm. As I seed and transplant, plant and pick, I remember riding in the back of the 56 Ford pickup [when it was still its original green color] to go out to the Greening block to view the apple blossoms. My mother enjoyed seeing them every year, and Dad enjoyed showing them to her. We kids were along just for the ride: now I guess Artie and I are in the driver's seat. The view is still grand, and the work is still worth it. Despite the many herbal fragrances I have added during the years, the potpourri of my life still smells strongly of apple blossoms.
     Now it's time to get back to the greenhouse and see what sprouted during the night. Time is flying, and there's still a lot to be done.