By: H. Anne Thurston-Brandley
We have a large cement leaf in the center of our eight foot raised garden Ray has placed in our back yard. A combination veggie and flower square built with railroad ties overflowing with tomatoes plants, green beans, broccoli, eggplant, cukes, onions and squash plus herbs and flowers the garden is extending itself skyward at an unbelievable rate because of our rains and hot weather.
The leaf is the work of my friend, Judy. I have visited her home on Lake Charlevoix to view the plants she grows for their enormous leaves and toured their two car garage which has been completely turned into a ceramic studio. Of many sizes and various leafs the pedestals can be made into beautiful fountains or simply filled by their owners to furnish drinks to birds.
The robin which has claimed our leaf as her Jacuzzi visits it mid-morning on an almost daily basis. Only six feet from our wide kitchen windows I find myself standing quietly mesmerized as she submerges her head and body into the water, emerging to fluff her feathers and scatter the water like a sprinkler over the surrounding plants. She acknowledges my presence briefly with a straight-at-me-stare each day which I acknowledge with a gentle hand wave. Once this bit of routine is accomplished she returns to her bath and ignores me.
At least half of my life I lived in the country. In Ohio it was across the road from an enormous corn farm. There the saying was ‘Knee high by the Fourth of July’ and it usually was. By harvest time it would stand taller than most men. I remember so well a time on Ed’s uncle’s huge farm the day his uncle’s two year old granddaughter wandered off into its dense rows. Uncle Norton raised hybrid seed corn so the plants were exceptional in size and height. Over two dozen family members and neighbors gathered to form a very regimented search team because from past experience they knew the child would be moving up and down, back and forth randomly as she sought to find ‘home’. Only when exhausted would she be likely to curl up on the ground, crying to fall asleep. The goal was to locate the little tyke before night fell.
That search ended in late afternoon, about five hours after the little girl was missed. She was curled, sound asleep, into a ball between to sturdy corn plants, not in the row between them. No one had spotted her looking down the rows, but rather it was someone who had walked the row.
At our home in Ohio we sat about twenty feet above a small creek. Wooded on both sides it flowed diagonally through what we called our ‘lowlands’. It was there in the damp, fertile soil we had our veggie garden. The first year we excitedly planted three long rows of sweet corn to enjoy at the summer’s end. As its harvest time approached we would walk down to check its progress, even pulling back some leaves to peer at the kernels. The day before the day predicted as being the one to harvest the ears we discovered every single one was hanging, leaves stripped away, upside down on its stalk and the cob with its kernels missing. The raccoons had done a complete harvest before us. We never again included corn in our gardens.
Having been a Michiganer for over fifty years now I have to admit Boyne City’s Farmers Market brings us the best corn in the world. I can’t wait for the time to arrive when it is picked and brought to market. Last year I purchased about a bushel basket of it, took it home and shucked it, boiled it one minute, cut it from the cob and froze it in pint bags. We enjoyed it all winter long. It tastes as if it was just in from the field. Today I stemmed, washed and froze ten quarts of strawberries from this area. Gradually over the winter months I will use them in making freezer jam.
Other than the tomatoes in our little garden I doubt if any of the other veggies will produce more than we will enjoy as it ripens. The tomatoes we can using a recipe of Ray’s which includes peppers, onions and herbs – So good!
But with our Farmer’s Market each of us in Boyne, whether we are gardeners or not are certain to have fantastic fresh veggies and fruits throughout the summer and fall. In fact we’re on our way to the park this morning.
H. Anne Thurston-Brandley is a Boyne City resident, and the author of “E-Males” and “The Book of Anne.” Her column, Beautiful Boyne, appears in The Boyne City Gazette each week.