Posts Tagged With: thistles

Questions to Ponder While Weeding the Garden

Questions that only occur to curious minds during the summer:

1. If scientists ever discovered a significant use for dandelions and thistles–biofuel, maybe, or a cure for cancer–which turned them into valuable commercial crops, would they suddenly become hard to grow?

2. Why is it that, no matter when you schedule a summer trip, that week turns out to be the precise time that the tomatoes ripen?

3. Do all those other people in the produce department thumping the melons really know how to tell when a watermelon is ripe, or are they just faking it the same way you are?

4. Isn’t it useful that corn on the cob comes with those little threads of silk? It’s so convenient, while you munch your way down the rows of kernels, to be able to floss your teeth at the same time.

5. And perhaps the most troubling question: Where do fruit flies come from? You have some peaches or plums or bananas on the counter, ripening quickly in the summer heat. Then one day you walk into the kitchen and see a cloud of tiny flies, darting in erratic circles like drunken ultralight pilots, spending their brief lives buzzed on overdoses of fructose.

Obviously, the flies hatched out of eggs. But the question that’s almost as annoying as the flies is, “Where did the eggs come from?” Were they inside the window frames? Had they been hidden for months in miniscule crevices and crannies of your apparently clean counter, until they were awakened by the seductive scent of overripe fruit?

Or, even worse, did they come with the fruit? Maybe they were right there all along, on the skins of the peaches or the peels of the bananas. It’s possible that, over the years, thousands of unknowing vegetarians have been supplementing their diets with secret insect protein they never knew they were eating.

Eeeew.

Excuse me for a minute; I need to go wash some plums and peaches. With bleach.

Categories: Food and Drink, Just For Fun | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

How Come Everybody Knows This Stuff But Me?

Maybe it's because I spent grades kindergarten through eight in a rural school that never had more than five pupils. (I was the only person in my high school physical education class who didn't know how to play softball.) Maybe it's because we didn't have television when I was a kid. Maybe it's because I spent most of my teenage years reading instead of dragging Main Street or sneaking out to illicit parties.

Whatever the reason, there is a surprising amount of stuff "everyone" knows that I don't. Not just who Snooki and Lady Gaga are, or whether the Kardashian sisters actually do anything or simply are famous for being famous. I'm talking about a more fundamental layer of shared cultural background that I seem to have missed.

Every now and then I am reminded of some odd bit of apparently common knowledge that isn't common for me. These are things everyone else seems to understand and take for granted, but I don't get. Either I've never had a chance to learn them, I've never needed the information, or—more likely—I never wanted to admit my ignorance by asking.

Now, for the first time ever, the depths of my ignorance are about to be revealed. You read it here first, folks. These are some of the things I don't know:

1. Jumping-rope rhymes. As far as I can remember, I have never chanted one in my life.

2. When a vehicle with a standard transmission won't start, and you push or pull it to get it moving and then start it by "popping the clutch," how exactly do you do that? Do you begin with the clutch in, then let it out at the crucial moment? Or do you push it in? Or push it in and then let it out? Confusion over this issue is probably the major reason I have always driven an automatic. At least I know exactly what to do if that ever fails to start: dig out my cell phone and call AAA.

3. How exactly do you play "Rock, Paper, Scissors?"

4. I've done enough hiking to be able to identify poison ivy. I'm rather too familiar with thistles and creeping Jenny, since the yard is full of them. But what precisely does a pot plant look like? Yes, I've seen pictures, but to the best of my knowledge I've never seen one in the flesh. (Of course, since I'm not sure what they look like, how would I know?) The stuff could be flourishing in the overgrown back half of our yard right this very minute, along with the thistles and that one tall asparagus plant. If anybody should ever discover marijuana growing wild back there, could I go to jail?

5. Did Gilligan and company ever get off that island? If so, how?

Instead of whining about it, of course, I could just look up some of this stuff online. Or maybe I should focus on all the other things I do know. Like what a "gerund" is, or a "stoat." Or what part of a car in England is called the "bonnet." Or what Harry Truman's middle initial stands for. I'd be perfectly willing to enlighten you on any of those important facts.

Right after you explain how to pop a clutch.

Categories: Remembering When, Words for Nerds | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Forbidden Fruit

It was chokecherry-picking heaven. The bush stood by itself, only a few steps away from the road, surrounded by nice hospitable grass with no thistles or tall, scratchy weeds. It was loaded with clusters of fat, ripe berries within easy reach. It was a perfect spot for filling our bags.

Except for the minor detail that it was on our neighbor's property.

It wasn't as if we didn't have enough chokecherries of our own. The bushes near our house were loaded as well. We had already picked most of the berries we could easily reach. Even though our chokecherries were protected by prickly plum bushes and overgrown thistles (never mind whose fault that was), we could have gotten more with a little bit of effort. Or we could—theoretically at least—have stopped with the four gallons we already had in the freezer.

But I walked and drove past the neighbor's bush every day. I had watched its abundance of berries turn red and then grow darker and darker until they ripened into deep black perfection. I knew he wasn't going to pick them. In all the time I've lived here, he never had. I knew that, because in all the time I've lived here, I've been casting covetous looks at his chokecherries.

Those berries were so perfect. So ripe. So plentiful. So tempting. Every time I walked by, I could practically hear them calling, "Come pick us before the turkeys get us! Pleeeease! We're too good to waste!"

Finally, one morning this week, I allowed myself to be led eagerly into temptation. An accomplice in crime and I, carrying bright red grocery bags (nothing like being conspicuous about your thievery), walked up the road and trespassed. We stripped handful after ripe, juicy handful, filling our bags with satisfying speed.

We didn't even flinch when cars went by, though it did cross my mind that we might have been wiser to do our chokecherry-filching after dark. I had never noticed before how many of the neighbors drive down the road first thing in the morning. Fortunately, the owner of the berries that we were so busily helping ourselves to wasn't among them. Not (or so we told ourselves) that he would have really minded, anyway.

Eventually, my henchman managed to drag me away, leaving plenty of ripe berries on the bushes for the birds. We made it safely home with our heavy bags of stolen fruit.

I now have six gallons of chokecherries in the freezer. That ought to be enough for plenty of jelly—even after I soothe my conscience and acknowledge our neighbor's unsuspecting generosity by taking him several jars. It would be the right thing to do. While I'm there, I might even ask permission to pick his chokecherries next year.

Categories: Food and Drink | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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