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I spent last week with my ass in the air and my head in the dirt. I was cleaning hedges.
It's something I didn't know needed doing until we moved here. My mother had a hedge: a perfect, neat, compact row of shrubbery about 10 feet long, 3 feet high and 1 1/2 feet wide. I don't recall her ever having to clean it. It's purpose was to keep the patrons from the tavern next door off her lawn.
We lived in a very small Wisconsin town, no zoning laws, so when our neighbor's mother decided to move closer to her favorite son and bring her tavern business with her, she did. No problem.
I was about 5 at the time and I thought it was wonderful. Gramma kept a freezer in the back with Popsicles in it.
She was a somewhat unconventional tavern owner, even for a small town. She was tremendously old, (late 60's), notoriously cantankerous, limped on both legs, and looked to be the image of a kindly grandmother: steely gray permed hair, short and chunky. Her cuddly image was a lie. Gramma didn't suffer fools gladly – of any age.
She loved flowers and planted them all around the tavern and her house across the street. In summer, the large space in the tavern that, perhaps under other ownership, would have held a pool table plus tables and chairs for patrons, acted as her potting shed and nursery, filled with seedlings and plants. In winter it held her huge quilting frame.
She was open for business when she felt like it: usually early evening for the after work crowd of 4 or 5, and afternoons so we kids could get our Popsicles. If she wasn't there we'd just help ourselves and leave our nickels on the bar.
If there were no customers in the bar Gramma saw no reason to be there either. She'd be out working in her flowers. If someone had the audacity to stop for a cold beer and found the door closed they could go looking for her or wait until she noticed them.
Sometimes she just ignored them.
Sometimes she yelled at them that the door was open, go in and help themselves.
Sometimes she yelled at them to 'Hold your horses, I'll be there when I'm done', at which point she would finish her project, put away her things and slowly waddle across the road, muttering under her breath the entire time.
Sometimes they left.
Mother didn't need the hedge then. It wasn't until Gramma died and one of the grandkids took over the bar that she planted it. That's when there could be as many as 3 cars in the parking lot on a busy night…and my father planted the hedge.
It never had brambles.
Here's my clean hedge. It's not our only hedge; but right now, it's our only clean hedge…and likely to retain that title for some time. That's Emma, admiring it, and Sedi at the far end, under the laurel tree. They were of no help at all.
This is the first time we've lived in place where stuff grows year round. (Ireland didn't count because we had a garden the size of a postage stamp.) I've come to appreciate the effects of a good solid freeze!
I remember having an ivy as a house plant, once, long ago, when I had house plants. It was fussy and I failed miserably with it.
Now it is the bane of my existence. I pulled miles of it out of the hedge. This poor apple tree is a bad example of what can happen in a year or two without constant vigilance. And that lighter green clump on the right? Mistletoe, a tree killing parasite that is everywhere! You notice it most in winter; the clumps of green on bare, soon-to-be-dead, trees.
Fortunately, I still have green growing things that I like. Some of my herbs, the summer lightweights like basil, are giving it up but my sage is still going strong. Time to fry up a handful and toss it with some pasta. A warming side dish on these cool fall nights, it's my entry this week for Presto Pasta Nights. Founded and hosted by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast, PPN presents a plethora of perfect pastas each and every Friday. Don't miss it!
1 cup uncooked farfalle
2 tbs olive oil
15 – 20 fresh sage leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain. In same pan, over medium low, heat olive oil. Add sage leaves, minced garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Add drained pasta and toss quickly. Remove from heat, add Parmesan and serve.
Don't you just love the simple things?
I'll feed you this every day if you come and clean my other hedges….. You can have the wine, too, I promise.