Thursday, August 29, 2013


This summer I began a job at a 5 acre home garden in nearby Maryland. Various LGP (Longwood Graduate Program) grad students have worked in the garden over the past decade and the owner is convinced it is collaborative nature of the job being passed down from student to student that makes the garden so unique.

I started in the heat wave of July with weeding and mulching. Then I tried to dig up, separate and replant a large clump of Day Lillies.  These seem to have been there since the land was a farm, 100 years ago,  and so after about an hour or so, I was a little defeated. The Day Lily is certainly the most tangible example of "Steadfastness" that I have ever encountered.

On numerous occasions this summer, I've run into my old nemesis: Poison Ivy.  After a short stare down with the shiny devil, I always back away slowly.  For now, the nasty little vine is winning in the ground cover department but at least it isn't covering my skin too!

In between the Poison Ivy and the heat, I ran across some interesting Fungi co-habitating with the Termites in the mulch pile.  The same day I began digging up a clump of eager Black-eyed Susans only to realize that they were covering the home of some very possessive Ground Bees. A few minutes after that I unknowingly got myself into a losing battle with two angry Yellow Jackets...At least, I discovered, I'm not allergic to bee stings...

Now the heat wave has essentially ended and each week there is less humidity.  This week there was a special scent on the breeze. After weeks of anticipation, finally the figs were ripe.  The buzzing of the wasps and bees around the tree confirmed it. It took a little finesse to avoid a showdown with them but I can't think of a better way to end the day than harvesting figs. We collected a few pounds and then I planned an impromptu dinner party to celebrate.  The evening was marked by abundance.  The sweet aromas of roasted figs and goat cheese toasts, not to mention a delicious yet sneaky little Sangria, were the perfect hint at the beginning of the end of the summer.

In Evie's garden the opportunity to work that is exciting, and though sometimes it's difficult work, it is the opportunity to share--the Harvest, the recipes, the ideas and the time, that are most remarkable.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Trees of Life

Recently I visited Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston, Mass.  Generally graveyards are sad places.  Representing loss--lost time, lost lives, mystery and even fear. Yet, in addition to those common aspects, cemeteries are also known to contain some of the world's oldest trees.

It could be because centuries ago Druids used to gather at Yew trees.  Already known to be sacred spots, eventually churches were built near those trees. And the area containing the trees became the churchyard or the graveyard.  Eternity becomes a real concept in these places but also a fantastic place for trees to take their time and spread their roots. 
Boston Skyline

With the creation of Mount Auburn, America's Rural Cemetery Movement began. Consecrated in 1831, its founders were innovators.  They dreamed of a cemetery that could serve as a peaceful place for burials in addition to a landscaped place of beauty where nature could thrive and life could be celebrated by everyone. 

Bigelow Chapel
And why not? Weddings, christenings, and baptisms are celebratory rites  conducted at churches.  These rites are often performed right next to the grave yards where the deceased from the same families lie in eternal rest.
Mighty Oak

Why not take your children to visit their loved ones while smelling the flowers and breathing the fresh air?  After the tears, they can enjoy the pleasure of the shade, the towering trees and the textured look and sound of the leaves.  It's as if we're teaching them to say, "I will enjoy my time because it won't last forever." 

Auburn Lake
The creation of Mount Auburn marked a shift in the American psyche regarding funerals, burials and death. Romantic notions of Death prevail in the serene loveliness.  Here life and Death become peaceful bedfellows, in a romantic and cyclical dance, as opposed to stark contrasting enemies at war. The vision and foresight of Mount Auburn eventually inspired the Public Parks Movement with the creation of Central Park in 1857.

At Mount Auburn the gardens, the detailed memorials, the hilly landscape and spectacular trees make "in perpetuity" seem like an opportunity to celebrate beauty and cultivate life forever.
European Beech