My Hands Smell like Thanksgiving

I have not just stuffed a turkey, nor is there any company expected to join us for an extravagant meal.

I have been working in the yard off and on this weekend, enjoying the warmth of sun on my back and the heat of muscles being put to use.  Tired muscles and sunshine make for a good night’s sleep.

There is still a LOT of work to do in our half-acre suburban yard, but this weekend I decided to clean out the herb garden while TT transplanted the cucumbers and tomatoes and move them from the front porch to the greenhouse in the back yard.  He also painted the trim around the six new windows we installed just before the hard winter weather hit.  And he fed the bees.

I love to clear out the herb garden in the spring, and yesterday when I uncovered the spot where the chives grow and found them sprouting, I decided while chewing on a short stalk of succulent oniony goodness that this would be my opportunity to indulge in the uncovering of awakening dirt, pruning out of dead stalks, raking out leaves, and delighting in each little discovery of green sprouts.

The oregano always surprises me with how much it has spread.  The two little plants I put in the ground 22 years ago have grown into each other, and come June it will be a fragrant mound of delicate leaves and flowers nearly four feet across and two feet tall.  A regular oregano bush.  When I first tried cooking with fresh oregano I decided that I prefer dried oregano for the stronger flavor and aroma and rarely use fresh except to toss in a salad or as a garnish, but I left the plants in the garden because they are pretty, and it smells wonderful when I run my hands through the tender branches, and now that we have bees, the tiny blossoms are a source of nectar for them.

The sage is my favorite. Once it has matured, it can become quite woody, so every year, I have to go and prune out the dead branches, but it never loses all of its leaves, so as I work on it, my senses are filled with the heavenly aroma reminiscent of Thanksgiving, and it reminds me that indeed, simply by virtue of the fact that I am out in the sunshine working in the earth, I have much to be thankful for.  Sage leaves are long, textured, silvery, and supple, and like oregano, in June it blossoms.  The blossoms, spiky and purple, are also good a source of pollen for the bees.

The horseradish is just beginning to sprout, and quite honestly I have done my best to be rid of it.  I really like horseradish as a condiment, but when I planted it, I had no idea that it was so invasive, so every year I spend quite a bit of energy digging, ripping, and cursing in close proximity to the horseradish roots.  It just laughs at me and tells me it will be back next year, which it is, always in a surprisingly distant location from where I had so diligently labored the previous year.

As I rounded the corner and started to clean out around the blueberry bushes, I caught several whiffs of mint, but neither the spearmint nor the black peppermint have sprouted enough to show above ground yet, but I caught something underneath, and it let me know it would soon be showing itself.  Mint is another invasive herb, but it is easy to uproot, not anchored like the horseradish, and it’s response to being uprooted is generally agreeable and without malice.

I love to add freshly picked mint to taboule when I make it with my own tomatoes, and I find it very agreeable in small amounts when added to my herb mix for roasting potatoes.  And of course, mint tea is always a cooling relief on a hot summer’s day.

The garlic is planted in one of our vegetable beds, and I was pleased to see that it has survived the winter and has sprouted.  Garlic is planted in the fall, it winters over, and we pull the bulbs at the end of the following summer, hang them in a braid, and if all goes well, I won’t have to start buying fresh garlic until late spring.  Last year was not such a year, however, so I am especially hoping that this year will be a better one.

Finding that the thyme I had planted last summer had survived the winter was especially gratifying.  The thyme was a gift from an innkeeper turned friend by the name of Bobbie Farrell.  Bobbie and her husband, David Farrell, both retired college professors from the Cleveland area, own a bed and breakfast inn called The Green Man, about 9 miles south of Wooster, Ohio, where JT went to college. Quite independently of each other, on what we knew would be our last trip out, we each had gifts of plants for each other so that we could always have a fond remembrance of our visits, which were much more than just visits.  On that last trip, David was recovering from a heart attack and we were the first visitors since the event in April, and so TT spent some time mowing their lawn for them, which made David uncomfortable, but I know he appreciated it.

I dunno, to my sensibilities anyway, gardening is so much more than food production.  For me, it has become an approach to living, one that is honest, vulnerable, and clean in spirit.  It means that every meal is a celebration of life and worth a moment of thanks, not just for the food, but for the times when sharing the planet with someone can be a fragrant memory.

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