Limericks for Mr. Ricks

This week it’s time to ‘mix it up’ a bit with something NOT related to the year’s harvest or recipes or Regular Rural Updates… So, we’ll have a wee dip into Phonetics Phun and the Pharm.

Have been submitting a lot of  short-piece writings lately to various lit magazines, environmental journals, etc. One of the works I  spent some time on this year was a 14-page ‘limerick’ (or rather an extended poem) about a young girl in a fantasy world where conservation and communion with Nature are the norm. Each verse was in limerick form : a a bb a (with the two ‘b’ rhyme-lines shorter than the ‘a’ s). Thus, I thought I’d do a wholly entertaining post for my readers as well, but on a slightly different theme.

I’ve known -and know – a lot of Richards in my lifetime.  All the ones I shall mention have either a connection with Blue Belldon Farm and how I ended up here, or an appreciation of Nature, the Great Outdoors/Environment, or both: To start with my mother’s brother, ‘Richard’, the first Richard I ever met –

An uncle of mine of this name,
Helped an outdoor tree-house game
By telling his son
To join in the fun
Thus, a tree-hugger I became!

I also had  a great-uncle, Uncle Dick – He and Aunt Jessie both inspired me in various ways, she in the tomboy/outdoor hobbies, he in the creative theatrical hobbies – and both entertained constantly with their humour:

There once was a chappy named Dick
 Whose wife was a very choice pick 
She worked with wood
 Whenever she could
 Inspiration was surely their schtick!

As most children my age did, I loved Mary Poppins, and Dick Van Dyke’s speaking (in horrible Cockney!) to the penguins meant , to me, that he would help save them in real life too – just as he himself would be saved a half century later by other water animals in an amazing miracle:

Old Dick was eighty-four'd 
But went surfing on his board 
He fell asleep,
In oceans deep - 
Dolphins pushed him a-shored!

The next Richard of whom I was aware was the author of Watership Down, Mr. Richard Adams, a one-time president of Britain’s RSPCA, who just passed away last year. He and Thornton Burgess began my worrying that someday the animals would all be killed off , either by hunters or because their natural habitats were being taken over by idiot humans:

 He cared so much for each pet
 For a scratch, he'd call in the vet!
 The wildlife hopped
 Through his pages they popped.
 With concern, I'd continually fret...

 

wship down

An amazing young artist with whom I took art classes in high school and whose last name I can’t remember, began my  love of wildlife and landscape art, so that my appreciation for nature became even greater. His first name was Rick. (And I then went on to adore Robert Bateman’s nature paintings, especially since I found out Mom/Joy’s mother had taught school with him in Burlington for a time)…

bateman-edge_of_the_woods-white-tailed_deer
The first Bateman on which I ever clapped eyes at my grandmother’s house – the DETAIL! You even see the page wire fence in front of the deer!

 

Rick's sketches of wildlife amazed
 He calmly drew, was not phased
 By the hustle around
 In a classroom of sound, 
He just penciled a doe as she grazed...

Richard Thomas, of The Walton’s fame, also made me lust after living a quiet, old-fashioned farm life in the mountains.  Most of my friends in England (where The Waltons was  even more popular !)  write and ask me how things are going here on Walton’s Mountain now… I didn’t have a crush on John-Boy, as many my age did. I wanted to BE John-Boy!  A writer who lived in a rural community in the rolling mountains…

John-Boy scribbled and edited his papers
 Calmed Cousin Corabeth's hysterical vapours
 Climbed up the hill
 Where his thoughts could be still
 And reflected on his family's capers!

john-boy

The next Richard to influence me re: life in harmony with Nature and our countryside was a man I worked for one summer, Dickie Lamley.  I got a job working on the farm with ARC industries, where many mentally challenged ‘clients’ from my home town and area were privileged to feel purposeful.  We hoed rows of veg, planted fruit trees, built fencelines and harvested and sold at a roadside stand ACRES of gladioli (which by the way I despised even BEFORE I worked there!) .  Thirty-something Dickie was not only strikingly good-looking, but knowledgeable and sensitive  – a real Mr. Darcy type in all ways.  Very influential on all teen-age girls who worked for him in the 1970s!

 Be glad with gladioli, gals
 And help your less-lucky pals 
To pick and prop, 
Display their crop
And fence out deer with those corrals.

The next Richard is important to me for many reasons, and he has twisted in and out of my life, both himself and through 6 degrees of separation, for decades.  Richard Farnsworth has been a stuntman (mostly as a rider) since the 1930s, when my sweet friend Kay Linaker, the actress and screenwriter, was also starring in a variety of films.  Kay (aka Kate Phillips) used to say that she and her hubby ‘found’ Steve McQueen, in fact, and made him a star in their co-written The Blob.  Later Richard and Steve would star together in Tom Horn. Untitled Kay starred in a serious of Westerns and frontier films herself – with Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda in Drums Along the Mohawk (directed by the great John Ford) and with Buck Jones and “Buck Benny” (Jack Benny) in some gritty-riding-and-roping scenes – she told me she did a lot of the riding herself, and she once laughed at Jack Benny when his horse ran away with him. Apparently, as soon as he was rescued, he vomited violently!  During those years Richard worked in such films as Gone With The Wind (an uncredited soldier) A Day at the Races (as an uncredited jockey) and in The Ten Commandents (as an uncredited chariot driver!)  He was always, his whole life, in outdoor films, and usually working with horses.

Kay in Buck Jones
Kay and Buck Jones, stuntriding in Buck Jones’ Black Aces – jumping a big ole grey is to come up again below!
kaylinaker_buck

Richard still doing stunts
Richard Farnsworth 1954, The Adventures of Kit Carson

From the 1930s through the 1950s Richard worked as a stunt man and in crowd scenes (By the 1950s Kay was working as a screen-writer, which is how I met her). By the time the early 1960s rolled around, Richard had decided he quite liked acting and began taking more and more speaking roles, still in outdoor films primarily – and with a horse wherever possible!  But of course most of us came to know him when Sullivan Productions introduced him as the driver of a certain buggy through the White Way of Delight and past The Lake of Shining Waters:

Richard played Anne's Matthew hero
When he told her she could stay and grow
At his Green Gables
(Where, in his stables,
His compulsory horse did stomp and blow).

Richard Farnsworth and Megan Follows, Anne of Green Gables, 1985

Sullivan Productions then went on to do a spin-off series, Road to Avonlea, in which two of my fellow competitors in the eventing world would stunt-ride for the episode The Great Race.  Hugh Moreshead, now a well-known Canadian course designer, and our pal Dick Bayly (yes, ANOTHER Richard) had loads of fun steeplechasing for the cameras during the filming of that one!

But back to Richard Farnsworth.  Although we all came to love him as Anne’s beloved Matthew (and it was at this time that he began being nominated for awards in nearly every single movie of quality in which he starred right up until his death – not bad for a stunt rider!) it was as the crotchety Mr. Foster, ex-cavalry rider and now-trainer of future Olympic event rider “Charlene Railsworth” (Melissa Gilbert, all grown up from her time as Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie, another influential show for my dreams of living self-sufficiently in a rural area). This 3-day Eventing film, Sylvester, was produced in the same year as Anne of Green Gables (actually filmed close to us in Ontario, not PEI – how I wish I’d gone to meet Richard Farnsworth at that time!) Richard did several other movies and television shows that year as well, so it was one of the best and busiest of his career! And although I had some vague ideas that I wanted to be an event competitor someday, it was Sylvester that clinched it.  This film, already exciting because it had two of my favourite actors as leads and was about the sport I was thinking of pursuing as a new adult, was also a pleasure to me for two other reasons: 1)  I had been a dusty cowgirl for the first part of my riding career (age 10 to 16) and then turned to riding English and enjoying all the many disciplines offered in THAT style.  Sylvester started in Texas – where I’d visited and ridden when I was 11 – taking place on a dirty horse ranch (thus, Richard fit in perfectly!) and then the film moved for the English/Eventing scenes to the Kentucky Horse Park (where I’d also visited on the same trip through the United States when I was 11!)  2) One of my favourite eventers whose magnificent career I’d been following for several years , was Kim Walnes. With just her ONE horse, The Gray Goose, she was climbing the world-leader board in the Eventing world, and inspiring those of us who would only ever HAVE one horse at a time TO DREAM BIG.  She was (and still is) an inspiration to many of us, and when I discovered that she and Gray were the stunt doubles for Melissa Gilbert for all the dressage, cross-country and show-jumping scenes in Kentucky, this movie was destined to be extremely influential for me.

eventingGray7
My inspirational friend and mentor, Kim Walnes on her tremendous world-famous The Gray Goose, dropping down the Lexington Bank during the filming of the movie Sylvester
Sylvester
Richard Farnsworth, Melissa Gilbert, Michael Schoeffling, 1985, (c) ColumbiaR with one of the 8 grays they used to film all the amazing footage!

Two of my favourite shots from the film, Melissa getting told off by Richard after she falls in the water jump and  Kim and Melissa on their two primary grays (Gray Goose and the real Sylvester).

For more of Kim’s memories during the shoot (like having to jump over cameramen in ditches, read this article  http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/tbt-summer-sylvester

(For the last year I have been corresponding almost daily with Kim to try and organize  a short documentary  that I’d like to see made about her life – she is truly an amazing woman.  If you’re reading this, and have any access to film-makers or video production companies, please contact me!  We have a keen film editor, permission granted for many of the old clips, but not yet someone who wants to do the actual present-day filming! For more of Kim’s extraordinary life (though she’s too humble to admit it has been so) read this article:    https://sidelinesnews.com/sidelines-spotlight/sheer-will-and-determination-the-story-of-eventer-kim-walnes-and-her-extraordinary-horse-the-gray-goose.html

If the link above doesn’t work and you want to read more about Kim’s WOW lifestory, type in “Sheer Will, Sidelines, Kim Walnes” in google – it’s a really good article, and at the end is her website address if you want to read even more!)

There was an old fellow named Farnsworth
Who seems connected to me since my own birth
He rides, trains and acts
He's full of farm facts
And of horses and tractors there's no dearth.

Right to the end, Richard Farnsworth played roles that kept him outdoors, and RIDING.  His last part in 1999 was the lead role in The Straight Story,  (directed by the famed David Lynch) which won him an Academy Award nomination. He could no longer ride horses at his age, so the role took place with him primarily riding a John Deere lawnmower, very much like ours.  He rode it in nearly every scene in the film!

richard-farnsworth-as-alvin-straight-in-the-straight-story-19991

If my own Richard keeps not bothering to shave, he’s going to soon look exactly like the above, tooting about Blue Belldon on our own nearly-identical John Deere!

There’s another former steeplechase jockey (like Hugh Moreshead and Dick Bayly) who also titillated my love of countryside and eventing. Author Dick Francis.  Of all his English countryside/riding-based thrillers, my very favourite is Trial Run, centred around the fictional Russian Olympics lead-up for horse-trials (eventers) competitors.

A Dick who once rode for the Queen
Is another to whom I will lean
When expounding my faves
He has many raves
On the covers and pages between

When I moved to England, the first time,  in the late 1990s I LOVED taking the trains as they allowed me to see so much of the countryside I’d dreamt of and read about my whole life.  I didn’t especially like Richard Branson’s Virgin line, though.  However, in 2014, Branson joined forces with African Wildlife Foundation and partnered with WildAid for the “Say No” Campaign, an initiative to bring public awareness to the issues of wildlife poaching and trafficking, and for this I gotta admire the man.  He does lots of other philanthropic works across the globe with his billions as well… which means he has certainly TRUMPED other billionaires…

There was a tycoon name of Branson
Who said "no" to animal lancin'
Or of shooting outright
The beautiful sight
Of magnificent beasts. Now they're dancin'!

More than a nod must be given to another screen legend – Richard Briers.  My own Richard and I have long watched dvds from the library of the first 3 years of Monarch of the Glen (after that, they killed off Richard Brier’s hilarious character)- in fact on a trip to Scotland before I moved there, in late 2008, we even saw the small castle and wandered the wilderness estate at which Monarch was filmed – in the stunning scenery of the west side of my grandfather’s native land.  So, as if that wasn’t enough, Richard Briers has inspired me.  BUT, since moving here and watching so many BBC shows (we have no television so watch shows online in the winter evenings…) we have very much enjoyed one of his first series for the BBC, the 1970s popular “The Good Life” – all about, guess what? A couple who are determined to live self-sufficiently.  If you’ve never seen it, you must watch a few episodes at least – we’ve actually had TIPS and GOOD IDEAS we’ve considered from this fun but ‘thinking-outside-of-the-box’ sit-com.

briers

 

Richard 'Briers Rabbit' they called this guy
In the back garden digging, and he'd try and try
To make veggies grow
In the mud and the snow
While inside his wife'd have a pig-fry!

I’ve mentioned him before in this blog, but John Rikards, a different type of  “Rik” ,is another author who has intrigued me – by writing about this very county where we’ve moved, without ever having laid eyes on North America !

Young British writer, Rikards, became a FB friend
When I wrote him we'd moved here, setting of "Winter's End"
I read it many years ago
Never dreaming we'd be here in snow
A decade later, now part of Appalachian trend.

winters end

Of course the Attenborough brothers, both Richard and David, have been highly influential to me in their on-screen and in print formats.  As a drama major, I’ve long admired Richard in his many roles, but David has been an activist for ending climate change and trying to save the planet for decades before it even became ‘trendy’ (for those of us that know it isn’t all a ‘hoax’, anyway!)

 

Dear Dick and Davie, brothers true
Bring nature's joy to me and you
Attenborough Pride
So dignified! 
And always they have something new

This has been an especially hard year for my own Richard’s good friend Rick Madden, and I’d be remiss not to give that particular Rick a special tribute of his own:

There was a pure gent called Rick Madden
Who, this year, has had much to sadden
But so many love Rick
And they close 'round him quick
That we pray his heart will soon gladden!

I’ve written of my friend Remy, whose real name is Richard McEvoy. He spent 3 weeks with us here in the fall because he wanted to work on his North American bush-and-survival skills. He and his son Joe run a company in West Yorkshire called Brigantia Bushcraft.   http://www.brigantiabushcraft.com/about-us.html

Last month I posted a photo of the two Richards going down the Saint John River in our new/old canoe ( search for the Lorne Green/ Long Green post). This was part of the goals Remy had, but he also had another important one he wanted to accomplish whilst here – and did!

A man called Richard built a lean-to
With knife and hatchet, tools so few
He nearly got shot
By hunters, alot
But still helped us to make partridge stew!

 

2nd limerick for Remy:

But though time for ole Remy was fraught
With listening to quibbling a lot
About how to farm
No, there's little charm -
When Richard wants you to garden, you're CAUGHT!
Richard Reich takes it easy whilst supervising Richard McEvoy, September, 2017

And lastly, and the real driving force for writing this particular blog, is my own Richard Reich, who agreed to buy this farm and give trying to live off the land a chance.  He’s been a good sport about most things, giving the production of maple syrup a good go last spring, learning how to do ‘barn chores’ with crazy animals he’s never had anything to do with prior to this year – and incidentally this week we went to the woods with Chevy and Richard had him finally hauling out logs (photos and blog on this in a month or two)  – and working especially hard on his two chief projects: the composting for the garden and the wood for heating (also devising ways we can harness solar and wind for future…)

There once was a family of Reichs
Whose Richard bought a farm and said "Yikes"!
Now I have ALL this work
It will drive me berserk
And I've no time for quiet drives or hikes

But after a while he did realize
That much to his happy surprise
The livestock were sweet
They made life complete
This farm life has opened his EYES!
Taken earlier today, after our first ‘sticking’ snowfall yesterday. Richard, with his charges.
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Poppies, Parsley and Profundity

How many soldiers carried photographs of their loved ones or their heroes on their person at all times? Or how many had an object or small picture that brought them delight, even in the muddy, cold, smelly trenches with explosions of lethal noise and chaos over their heads? On this Remembrance/Veterans’/Armistice weekend, I feel it’s important to ponder over how objects or images might have brought even the slightest happiness to the soldiers who fought throughout their short  -or even long- lives. (For the ones who died in war were perhaps in some ways the lucky ones.  The ones who had to come home crippled in body or mind, or both, who have struggled with alcoholism, drugs, homelessness and mental health issues due to what is now labeled “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”, these are the ones for whom I believe our sympathies and gratitude should really be expressed!)

Below is an example of photographs which LITERALLY saved a young private from being killed by shrapnel.  There were of course so many of these types of stories emerging from the battlefields of so many horrific wars.

(story here:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2629391/Photos-loved-ones-World-War-One-soldier-kept-wallet-pocket-saved-LIFE-stopping-shrapnel-entering-body.html )

sol

This past summer, Mom/Joy read one of my favourite books/films : “Fried Green Tomatoes (at the Whistlestop Cafe).  This is a wonderful book about Remembrance, and how an old warrior of a different sort learns to deal with her imprisonment in a nursing home where her young and humourous mind refuses to see herself.  She was only allowed a few mementos to help her through each day, just as the soldiers in the trenches or planes or ships could only have with them a few special tokens.

“I brought a picture with me that I had at home, of a girl in a swing with a castle and pretty blue bubbles in the background, to hang in my room, but that nurse here said the girl was naked from the waist up and not appropriate. You know, I’ve had that picture for fifty years and I never knew she was naked. If you ask me, I don’t think the old men they’ve got here can see well enough to notice that she’s bare-breasted. But, this is a Methodist home, so she’s in the closet with my gallstones.”
                                                                                             -Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Yesterday I read an article from CBS about the gardens in Chicago that are completely tended by veterans. My, if only there were gardens such as this in every city and town,  how much more purposeful and important our former protectors of our nations would feel, and how the peace of being close to nature each day, seeing seeds blossom, ripen, die would make them soulfully feel connected to the constant circles of life!  To perhaps help them make sense and come to terms with some of the travesties they’ve had to endure! https://www.cbsnews.com/news/veterans-find-peace-at-chicago-botanic-garden/

tom.

This theme will continue throughout this blog posting, but – when you need food (living self-sufficiently) and items in your garden aren’t yet ripe, what are some ideas? We discovered that by July this year we still hadn’t had much ready to harvest and eat yet, due to the very poor growing season.  So, as Mom was reading Fried Green Tomatoes at the time, and as I remembered preparing these southern delectables once before (being curious after seeing the movie, I believe), I started frying up for breakfast some mornings (see below, and yes those are my pajamas.)

I simply mixed up a bowl of seasonings (from our herb garden – more on this below) with some milk and egg and a bit of chicken fat from the night before. In another bowl I put flour and cornmeal.  Then I sliced the green tomatoes, dunked them in the moist bowl, then flopped them about in the flour bowl and fried them up with a good bit of hot oil – delicious! (You can’t really do this with red tomatoes – they are already too ripe and will just fall apart).

  1. Whisk eggs and milk together in a medium-size bowl. Scoop flour onto a plate. Mix cornmeal, bread crumbs and salt and pepper on another plate. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat. Then dip the tomatoes into milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumbs to completely coat.
  2. In a large skillet, pour vegetable oil (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan) and heat over a medium heat. Place tomatoes into the frying pan in batches of 4 or 5, depending on the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the tomatoes, they should not touch each other. When the tomatoes are browned, flip and fry them on the other side. Drain them on towels (NOT paper towels – stop using so much of that stuff!)

In the photo of me frying you’ll note a lot of parsley stalks.  Like the photos, pictures or mementos tucked into many soldier’s uniforms, parsley was also considered, from as far back as Roman times, an aid to ‘protection’.  I use copious amounts of parsley each year, so am experimenting with just how much is enough to plant, and also the best way to preserve it.  Of course, the romantic way I’ve always dreamed of , is to just hang it, let it dry, and pull off a bit every time I need it. Same with dill.  But sadly, our house is SOOO inundated with fruit flies and house flies throughout the latter part of the summer and into autumn that there is no way I can deal with the thought of their excrement all over the food we will eat… I don’t know HOW our ancestors dealt with this, or maybe they just didn’t think about it… but the hanging bouquets also ATTRACT more fruit flies, which we certainly don’t need.  Many people suggest keeping parsley and dill fresh by simply freezing it in water in ice cube trays. Then, you just take out a cube or two, let it melt in your soups, stews, or over your roasts, etc and VOILA.  While this is a lovely idea as well, I need WAY too much for that kind of fiddling… and a) have no place in freezer for all those trays and b) REFUSE to add that much plastic to my own carbon footprint.  So:

From my little herb boxes on the front porch (off the kitchen, just out the Dutch door, where you may remember, I upcycled two cupboard doors and two drawers last year for this purpose) OR from a larger patch I planted in the main garden, I pick a lot of parsley, wash it all, put it to dry on towels (NOT paper towels – please stop using disposable EVERYTHING!) Then when it’s dry I run my fingers backwards over the leaves and spread them on to cookie sheets and put them on ‘Warm’ (or very low) in the oven to fully dry out.  Lastly, I put them in my little painted wooden boxes that I keep in the pigeon holes.  The ONLY problem with this is that you will get some stems a little bigger than you would find in a package from the store – but I have just been telling my guests it’s proof-positive that they are eating ONLY Blue Belldon Farm ingredients~!

As I’ve mentioned previously, we planted cilantro and borage this year PRIMARILY for the bees and the cross-pollination so important in any veg. garden! Although we will use a borage leaf for some tea or a pinch of the bitter cilantro once in a while, we decided to mostly just let these grow tall and flower, as the bees go for this more than anything I’ve ever seen!

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Our organic seed supplier, Hawthorne Farms in Ontario, encourages the use of borage for the bees, and they weren’t kidding!  (Plus, they are a lovely blue, so we plan to continue with more and more of this plant to beautify up other corners of Blue Belldon Farm!) Regular readers may remember that the previous owners here had planted two wonderful diagonal strips of wildflowers through the veg garden for the cross-pollination purpose. They were wonderful last year – an absolute profusion of colour, esp. the poppies! (“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow…”)  I hadn’t realized how much I would love poppies – they were especially wonderful in my jars of scented potpourri which were part of our Christmas gifts last year.

Sadly, though, I guess after a few years of blooming (one prior to us purchasing the farm, and then last summer) the wildflowers were overtaken by too much grass.  Many of our guests this year, led by Mom (in charge of all Blue Belldon flowers) had a turn at pulling up all the grass in the diagonal strips to make it easier for the rototiller. And, since I’ve discovered the borage/cilantro trick, and while I’ll miss the poppies terribly, we’ll have to find another few spots to plant them because we really need every inch of that garden for vegetables!  Here’s Mom/Joy at work on a COLD summer day in August, pulling up said grass, with barely a stem of wildflowers to be seen (the yellow is of course the squash patch).

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For Remembrance Day, my friend Anne found the below photo -a different look at a poppy, I think.  Because it is showing the fragile paper-thin, blood-red petals and its closed-up state, plus- the background fading away, it makes it poetically metaphorical in my opinion!  I’ll play English teacher now – what ELSE metaphorically does this photograph bring to mind with its content, or lack thereof? What other things can you think of that pertain to what the poppy has now come to stand for? (ie: the sunlight filtering in, the creases in the petals, the rough edges, the stem with a blossom not yet opened????)  Feel free to comment on the blog about this! You never know, I might reward you with a big gold star!

poppy

Sadly, from the large bouquets of poppies I was able to pick to brighten the kitchen table last summer, this was the ONLY one I dared take away from the few plants remaining:

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Soldiers and Poppies are interchangeably considered now. But what about Soldiers and Gooseberries?  WHAT?

“Gooseberries” was a code name used by the Allies, for older ships used as a breakwater, to calm the areas around the Norman shore in the summer of ’44. These breakwaters had the effect of reducing currents to facilitate the landing of soldiers and material resources on the beaches. There were five gooseberries set up in the harbours around 5 different beaches, preparatory to the D-day landings starting June 6th.  Early that morning, the waters along the beaches, (code-named SwordJunoGoldOmaha and Utah,) were swarming with troops from the United States landing on Omaha and Utah, Great Britain landing on Gold and Sword and Canada landing on Juno.  These major assaults, of course were the beginning of the end.

Gooseberry bushes were also important to many soldiers – they have shielded and held many on different occasions, and a war series “Soldier, Soldier” even discussed this happenstance.  Here’s an example from the book The Eloquent Soldier by Lt. Crowe:

sold,gsb

I had my first experience with gooseberries this summer.  While I barely had time (as everything else was ripening at exactly the same moment, it seemed!) to pick raspberries, the jam of which we all adore in this family, I CERTAINLY didn’t have time to pick the gooseberries offered to us up the hill at our neighbours’.  But Charles was good enough to pick the berries himself for us, and I in turn (as he’s a diabetic) made him some honey-sweetened juice for his smoothies and some sugar-free jam (it was still pretty tart!) Here are the many Charles picked:

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Gooseberries, of course, are a close cousin to the currant, and the only experience I’ve had with currants is the knowledge that Anne Shirley invited Diana over for tea and, whilst thinking she was serving a light raspberry cordial, instead got her drunk on Marilla’s red currant wine.   A gooseberry’s shape may explain why the term ‘being a gooseberry’ means being a third party.  There’s that extra bit you have to cut off before you can start boiling them:

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Or the term may have come about simply because they are so sour that they are ‘unwanted’. My efforts for Charles (and us) to have healthy, sugar-free jam resulted in my using copious amounts of Boyd’s honey (I’ve mentioned Boyd in other postings, he’s also part of the New Denmark Minstrels I organized to sing for the 150th celebrations) and the very-expensive but all-natural Stevia.

I added vanilla and ginger to try to counter-act the tartness and taste as well, but the only way we really enjoyed the sugar-free type was to have the juice in some smoothies with yogurt and other fruits.  Later, I just followed regular old-fashioned recipes and poured in the  white sugar.  (too bad!) One mistake I made though – like  our crabapples, you aren’t supposed to need pectin for the jam to thicken, because they are full of the natural stuff.  However, it didn’t seem to be thickening and I finally DID add some – only to end up with jam into which a spoon couldn’t even be stuck! So now when I open a jar, I have to add a few dollops of boiling water and give it a stir!

I did, however, for winter eating with some warm custard or cream, flash-freeze a huge amount of the gooseberries as well. I’ve discussed flash-freezing before, esp. with the green and yellow beans.  The secret is to put the berries on cookie sheets and not have them touch in their first hour or two before you put them in a container to permanently keep in the freezer. (That way they don’t stick/attach to each other, which would ruin them and also not allow you to just take out certain amounts at a time from the container).  And, back to the tomatoes now – I got sick of canning, so decided to just flash-freeze both cherry AND larger tomatoes that had ripened.  And that’s when I invented a smart way to keep them separated for their first few hours of ‘flash’. (Whole tomatoes need about 3 hours before they are ready to place all together in bags):

Now, I have lots of ideas that I THINK are terribly original, only to discover that loads of people have come to it before me… but I haven’t found this done anywhere on the internet, and it sure worked well!

To close, we all know what the poppy represents at this time in November.  However, parsley not only can be tucked into ones clothing for protection and vitality/strength, but can also signify a removal of all things bitter – not just in taste, but in emotions.  Would that all veterans find a place of solace, close to nature,- “A Garden To Tend, Where Broken Souls Mend” – to remove the bitterness that must remain in their hearts . And may there, one day, just be peace.

“I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”  – Stephen Crane