Spring is here! Would you like to know how I know this?
- Slate Coloured Juncos are poking about, feeding on the ground. Back in Southern Ontario, they would have been a sign of winter, but since they “summer” up here, their arrival is a sign of spring. Confused? Don’t be. The birds (and the bees) have it under control, so we’re good.
- The pond is beginning to thaw and overflow its banks.
- I hung a load of bedding out on the line and
- took down the plastic barrier from the bedroom window to air out the house.
And that squeal of delight just now? The one that shattered your ear drums? That was me. The rhubarb is sprouting!
Oh, how I love stewed rhubarb!
Mention the tart fruit and I’m instantly transported back to my childhood home, back, back, way back to the rear of the yard, against the neighbour’s tar-paper shed, behind the four rows of raspberry canes.
Mom canned the stuff in quart jars. The stewed fruit was “good for what ailed you.” Also good for cleaning the grunge off the dutch oven. God knows what it does to your innards, but I don’t care. I love the tart pink stuff.
When in season, mom would hand us a little metal bowl filled with white sugar. We’d play “Lost Kids” – our version of Swiss Family Robinson, and forage for food. Up we’d yank the rosy red rhubarb stems. After slicing off the leaf and the rooting ends, we’d sit on the back-porch stairs in contemplative silence, dunking the tart into the sweet and puckering and gnawing away.
Sometimes, you know? It just doesn’t get any better.
In every garden since, I filled a corner with rhubarb plants. When we moved up to Cobalt, the first question I asked my friend who used to live up North was “Can I grow rhubarb up here?”
“Absolutely,” she said.
OK, then! I’m going to get me some!
But where? Since it was late in the season, the nursery stock was sold out. The gal at the local greenhouse suggested that I make friends with someone who had a patch and ask for a clump or two. OK, great idea, but that would mean at least a year before I got to that stage in making pals.
I mean, do you think this would fly?
“Hi. How are you. I’m new here. Oh, look! You have rhubarb! Can I have some?”
Not exactly Miss Manners, right?
I couldn’t wait for that. I wanted rhubarb, NOW!
One June morning, Reiner and I were driving the back roads of Coleman Township near the old Giroux Lake ghost town – a former enclave of homes and businesses that came and went with the silver mines. We found a large clump of “Lemon Lilies” – a fragrant yellow variety of day lily adjacent to a former residence. We stopped to dig out a tub-full.
“Hang on a minute,” said Reiner. “I want to check something.” He tromped into the woods and crashed and thrashed about. When he emerged, he said, “I found rhubarb!”
Was I gob-smacked? Was I impressed?
How did he know?
He figured that where there’s a century homestead, there’s probably a century garden. He was right. The rhubarb plant was ancient and well-established, surviving quite well on its own, thank you very much, in spite of the trash that had accumulated around it. The root was as big around as my forearm.
He dropped me off at home to prepare the receiving bed, and he returned to the site with heavy digging artillery.
About an hour later, he returned. We transplanted the root, I silently uttered a prayer to the gods of transplanting and tart springtime foodstuffs, and we watered and watched the site for weeks.
Finally, miraculously, new leaves emerged. Then, giant, towering stalks of beautiful pink. I wanted to pluck each and every one, but Reiner urged me to let the plant be, to let it establish a good solid footing. We didn’t want to compromise its ability to survive the winter, right? (Remember when I said that I was patient? I think I need to change my answer.)
And survive it did! The first dessert I make will be for my hubby, in thanks, so that I might continue my spring time tradition.
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Inspired by Greg and his ‘My Stuff Writing Challenge”
You follow Greg over at Almost Iowa, don’t you? No? Oh, you simply must!
This is his challenge: Look around you. Find something of yours that is worth writing about and fashion an essay around it.
Tag your story with MY STUFF, publish it and link it back to his page.