Monday, June 22, 2009
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor.....
"Do you want strawberry plants?"
My sweet neighbor was standing in my doorway. His demeanor makes me think he could have been Mr. Roger's twin brother. Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won't you be my neighbor. Soft spoken, tall and thin. He is an incredibly kind and generous man. Do I want strawberry plants? Are you kidding?
"I'm just digging them up to throw them away. I can't keep up with the fruit. They're yours if you want them."
Mr. Wonderful and I headed over to the neighbor's back yard to see where the plants were and discuss what to do with them. Our neighbor's yard is an oasis. He is back there daily, planting, wedding and mowing, or relaxing with Mrs. Neighbor. It's gorgeous. Lots of trees, a cute garden, beautiful flowers, and the best lawn on the entire block.
Mr. Wonderful Mr. Neighbor started a discussion on the merits of owning a tiller while I watched the Thirdborn and The Love Magnet around the strawberries. TLM doesn't like strawberries. she constantly wants to try them because she loves the color, but she immediately spits them out. She doesn't like the taste or texture. Thirdborn wanted to pick a strawberry and couldn't find one. I pointed out to him that these strawberries are small and nothing like the gigantic berries at our local grocery. He immediately started hunting again a popping berries into his mouth as fast as he could. He was always a good raspberry picker. Strawberry hunting wasn't much different.
The Love Magnet wanted to try one. I found a berry no bigger than the tip of my thumb and popped it in her mouth. Her eyes got big. I realized that The Love Magnet had never eaten a perfectly ripe, sun-warmed strawberry. It was manna from heaven - and she wanted more.
I grew up on local fresh produce that I picked from my grandma's garden. I've done the same for my kids. I think that this was the first time my younger children had really noticed the difference between produce at the store and the ultimate in fresh grow-your-own food. Home-grown is smaller, slightly different, doesn't look as perfect, and smells and tastes infinitely better. Sure, they've eaten tomatoes, corn, wax beans, pole beans, carrots, lettuce, japanese eggplant, zucchini, and squash from the garden. I guess the stark difference in strawberries was a better lesson. This will be the first year they will have strawberries, apples, okra, and (hopefully) plums. (Apricots and cherries will have to wait - I made a mistake and planted only one of each, thinking that my neighbors surrounding me would also have one.)
The neighbors around here share their bounty and we often trade for something we've never grown before. I have plenty of rosemary and thyme and I'm eyeing the kohlrabi in Mr. Neighbor's backyard. Last year he grew daikon and purple heirloom tomatoes. This year we'll have honeycrisp apples come fall and another neighbor has raspberries (and she will be sharing canes this fall so we can grow raspberries next year.)
Tomorrow will find me ankle deep in the dirt that Mr. Wonderful tilled up this evening. The kids will be helping me plant strawberries. This time next year I won't have to buy strawberries to make Mr. Wonderful's favorite freezer jam, thanks to Mr. Neighbor and his berry-sweet generosity(oh, yes, that pun was most definitely intended.)
There is something wonderful about sticking your feet in the dirt.