Death and Garlic

It all started with one bulb.

He was elderly with no family.  He gave me, direct from his garden, one bulb of garlic with specific directions to separate the bulb into cloves, plant on (exactly) September 4, lightly water throughout winter, and reap the benefits the following summer.

I was a little late on the planting date, but I got it done.  I couldn’t wait to show him my bounty last summer, but was unable.  He killed himself.  He had cancer and couldn’t bear the pain anymore.  He was alone and tired of asking for help.  He left a garden full of lovely vegetables, and a lot of questions never to be answered.

I was just someone he met through a fluke, and I loved listening to his stories.  I looked forward to his visits and flirted with him shamelessly.  He was buried in Arlington Cemetery but no one who knew him attended the service.  It was his greatest pleasure to be recognized as a Veteran.  He bled red, white and blue.  In his youth he’d been a cocky pilot during WWII.

I cried for hours when I was received the call.  If it hadn’t been for my horrific former boss, I would have still been able to be there for him.  She sure wasn’t.  He was just another person for her to use and discard when he quit giving her money.

I used the garlic last summer and saved two bulbs.  I gave one bulb to a friend (with instructions that upon harvesting, she too must pass on good karma and a bulb to be replanted) and separated the remaining bulb into cloves, planted them a little later (sorry Mr. M) than September 4, watered carefully, and again, am reaping the benefits of Mr. M’s generous gift.  I’ll always replant Mr. M’s garlic, and you can bet that every single time I use one of his cloves I say a silent prayer of thanks for knowing, albeit a brief time, this kind gentle man.

Maybe the title of this post should be Living and Garlic. . . .

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Saturday Snapshot

Pears, Peaches, and a Painter

No Del Monte cans allowed here!

Our house painter’s name is Curley.  When our builder introduced him we were speechless.  Six years ago Curley was pushing 80, worked alone, and had this mop of white hair that was (and still is) unlike anything we’d ever seen!  Thus began our love affair with all things Curley.

Our house has loads millions of painting flaws.  Better Half “supervised” the building of our home.  When I’d point out a painting problem, BH would sheepishly shrug his shoulders and say he would mention it to Curley.  Nothing ever got fixed and BH finally fessed up.  Curley was always proudly asking, “How’s my painting?” and BH couldn’t bear to disappoint someone who could be his grandfather.  Ah.  I got it.  I still get it.

Curley lives in a teeny, tiny house near a railroad.  There is a big sign above his carport painted Curley Loves Here.  Yes, loves.  His living room is a Nascar shrine.  His kitchen is covered floor to ceiling (literally) with delicate teapots.  He gardens like nobody’s business.  The only spare spot in his home has been turned into a virtual food cellar filled with home-canned veggies and fruits.  I never leave his home without jars.  Good karma to Curley.

We like to stop by and visit with Curley every few months.   His innocence puts things into perspective for us.  His patriotic mailbox makes me proud all over again for Better Half, my oldest stepson, and Curley, the former Navy cook.  Sometimes we take Curley berries from our garden, or we just stop by to trade smiles, recipes, and laughs.  Haven’t you heard? Curley loves there.

Pumpkins and a Great Read

Start to finish.

A friend recommended a book to me that (honestly) I wasn’t sure I would really “get.”  Oh, I got it, and I really, really liked it.  It fit along with my whole, “I wish I was a prairie girl.”  Seriously, I was born in the wrong era.

The book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was written by Barbara Kingsolver and documents her family’s year of eating locavore (eating only locally produced food).  If you think it sounds like a strange book, it’s not.  I felt the same way until about 15 minutes into the book.   The book actually makes you think, really think, about those bananas in your fruit bowl and how the heck they showed up in your local supermarket when bananas don’t grow anywhere near your region.  It details the family’s struggles, their miracles (e.g., baby turkeys), some yummy recipes, and much more.  If you grow a garden; if you’ve ever dreamed of having chickens; if you wish your food tasted better; if you love visiting farmer’s markets—this book is for you.

With that in mind, here is my weekly contribution to eating locally.  I grew the above pumpkins in my garden.  I baked and froze the puree for the seasons when pumpkin is not available.  I then roasted the pumpkin seeds for snacking.  To finish the cycle, I tossed the pumpkin shells into our compost pile!  Start to finish pumpkins.  Good karma to my friend for the great book recommendation, to Barbara Kingsolver and her family, and every person who craves better food.

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