Take cover, zucchini are exploding

We have long kept a small backyard garden to teach our children, and now our grandchildren, a few basics about gardening.

The biggest lesson they have learned is this: If we had to live on the food we grow, we would all be very thin and very hungry.

Unless, of course, you could be well fed on cherry tomatoes. We do well with cherry tomatoes and any other plant that thrives on neglect.

We are currently yielding 11 bright red cherry tomatoes for every one minuscule raspberry.

We like the itty-bitty tomatoes and are grateful for them, but man does not live on itty bitty tomatoes alone. Man also needs olive oil, mozzarella and pasta to accompany tomatoes, all of which we have had no success growing.

Tomatoes are like cucumbers and zucchini—plants that start out as unassuming frail seedlings, emerging a leaf or two here and there. They keep you guessing whether they will endure the dip in night temperatures, the torrents of rain or the scorch of the sun. You check on them every day. Then one day, in a matter of seconds, they are mature and fully grown, virtually exploding, intent on taking over the entire garden. They become, shall we say, overbearing? They multiply like crazy.

Last week I dropped off a friend at her home after having lunch. Her husband ran out of the house when he saw the car pull into the driveway and said he wouldn’t take his wife back until I agreed to take some cucumbers home with me.

She is a good friend, and because our cucumbers had not yet started exploding, I agreed to take a few.

He reappeared on a dead run, cradling a basket with 16 cucumbers.

By the time I got home (90 seconds later), our cucumbers were also exploding. I’ve made cucumber soup, tossed cucumbers in salads, on sandwiches, in vinegar and sour cream, and even tried wearing slices of them under my eyes to reduce puffiness.

Every backyard gardener is giving cucumbers and tomatoes to neighbors who already have more than enough, so they give them to other friends and neighbors who give them to other friends and neighbors. Some tomatoes and cucumbers have been known to travel three time zones in a single day.

We also do well growing herbs that thrive on neglect thereby complementing the produce we grow that thrives on neglect. There’s a pattern here, isn’t there?

Last week I tucked a bag filled with rosemary in my purse for a friend and forgot to give it to her, or force it on her, whichever you like.

My purse is now permanently fragranced like rosemary. On the upside, every time I open my purse, my sinuses clear.

We have foisted all the cherry tomatoes and cucumbers we can on friends and neighbors. The time has come for us to draw the curtains and bolt the doors in case they have plans to reciprocate. We’re taking no chances. Zucchini season is coming.


Sprinkle that doughnut dash with fun

We conducted a Doughnut Dash not long ago. Our goal was to hit as many doughnut shops as possible and find the best doughnuts in town.

It was a worthy Saturday morning endeavor, although the dash part of the Doughnut Dash was a misnomer. We had five little ones in tow.

You don’t dash anywhere when passengers require car seats with five-point harnesses, booster seats and stubborn seat belts.

Our mission was noble, but overly ambitious.  We made a total of two stops, which was probably one too many.

The kids are at an age where they talk a lot—all of them—all at the same time.

We are driving along when a 4-year-old yells, “Hey! I know where we are. This is where the policeman stopped my mom!”

“Is that so?” I ask.

“Yes. But we’re not going to tell Dad about it!”

We reach our destination and unload like clowns bursting out of a phone booth.

They scramble to the counter and begin placing their orders. Sprinkles—any and everything with sprinkles. If there are doughnuts that are nothing but sprinkles, we’ll take those, too.

Wolfing them down, one announces, “I made a card for Mommy with a heart that says, ‘I love you.’ Mommy says it is so special she is going to save it forever.”

“Wow!” exclaims her older sister with sprinkles plastered to her face. “She usually trashes everything I make.”

“I need to use the restroom,” announces another. “My hands are sticky.”

Five kids parade to the restroom to wash their sticky hands, each returning with clean hands only to re-engage sticky doughnuts.

“THESE ARE THE BEST!” one of them yells. She is loud because she is the youngest of three and must be loud to be heard.

The staff behind the counter hears her, smiles and nods approvingly.



“Keep your voice down,” I whisper.


“Look at my arms,” shouts one of the girls.

“What about them?”

“They’re HAIRY! I think I’m turning into Daddy.”

Laughter explodes, the table rocks and napkins fly as everyone compares arm hair.

“I have long legs like Daddy,” another says.

“Dancers have long legs,” says another.

“You know what I’m going to be when I grow up?”


“A Rockette.”

A couple stops by to comment on how well behaved the girls are. The table begins bouncing as the soon-to-be Rockette warms up her high-kicks from below.

“Thanks,” I say. “It’s still early.”

The husband begins reading coffee selections aloud from the menu.

“Dark Roast Caribou–”

They are wiggling and giggling, an uncontainable mass of life, motion and energy. Sprinkles ricochet off the table in every direction.

“Dream Bean Coffee–” he continues. There’s now a kid on his lap, another one draped around his neck and he has sprinkles in his hair.

“Look at that last coffee.” he says. “It’s called Jamaican Me Crazy”


Business as usual under the stars

The chief topic of conversation has been the would-be intruder. I noticed the footprints while cleaning the glass on the French doors. The culprit had tracked through mud before stealing onto the patio, leaning against the door and peering into the house. There was no mistaking the prints. They were large, distinct and clearly those of a raccoon.

Naturally, this sort of news spreads fast. Many of the grands have had a look to analyze the situation for themselves. Theories abound. Maybe he was hungry, maybe he heard the music, or the laughing, or nothing at all. Maybe it wasn’t a he but a she—a momma looking for food for her babies.

And to think that something as thin as window glass separated us from a night visitor. It is a reminder of an entire world that operates largely unseen beneath the cover of darkness.

Raccoons explore, deer forage and bats dip low over streams for a quick drink. Frogs telegraph news bulletins to one another across the pond.

Clouds glide through the sky, pulling entire weather systems behind them. Some carry nothing more than a whispering breeze, others release gentle rains that soothe the grass and awaken blooms. Still others jar those sleeping with bolts of lightning and a barrage of thunder.

Not only animals and the elements stir at night, humans do, too. Night shifts keeps power plants running, planes landing, and hospitals operating.

Even if we don’t work the night shift, our bodies are working as we sleep. According to a book on learning how to learn, the brain rehearses new information acquired in the daytime while we sleep at night. Electrical signals travel again and again through the same set of neurons strengthening brain-link pathways, like practice runs before the big race.

The human body regenerates in a myriad of ways under the blanket of night. Worry dissipates for a time, the limbs relax, scrapes on children’s knees grow new skin cells, surgical incisions knit together, and even broken hearts may slowly begin to heal.

Of course, not everything that happens under the stars is of a quiet or healing nature.  Clothes hangers multiply, dresser drawers gleefully rearrange their contents, and storage containers and lids in the kitchen cabinet party like it’s New Year’s Eve.

An entire unseen world surrounds us, and even supports us, yet we tend to gravitate to that which we see. Makes you wonder how life might be different if we paid more attention to the things that so often go unnoticed and undetected. We might find ourselves a little more resilient, a little more hopeful and lot more appreciative. We might even be a little more enthralled with the wonders and mysteries of life.

To the furry nighttime visitor at the back door —“Sorry we missed seeing you. Maybe next time.”