Monday, April 21, 2008

In Memory of a Best Friend

I met Crystal Snyder in my 1999 Northumberland County Penn State Master Gardener class.  We immediately hit it off, having so many similar interests.  We were close to the same age, I being 3 years older, and we nearly shared the same birthday...hers was October 9, and mine is October 7.  Our firstborn sons even share the same name, Jeremiah, and they are the same age.  Our similarities were pretty amazing, really, everything from our love of organic gardening to a similar childhood.

Crystal and I performed lots of Master Gardener duties together, went to various gardening trainings and workshops, went plant shopping together, and just had a blast whenever we'd get together.  She had a quick, contagious smile, and would do anything to help a friend or neighbor.

Tragically, Crystal became a statistic.  She was one of the many women who contracted cervical cancer due to a prescription drug her mother had taken while Crystal was still "in the oven".  She fought a long, hard battle, and confided in me of her fears of how this would all end.  Sadly, she lost her battle on October 23, 2006.  I was devastated.

Spring is a difficult time since Crystal died...I'm always thinking how much she'd be enjoying the flowers and planting her garden.  And I'm sad that I can't share my gardening joys with her, call her up and talk gardens, go to a nursery and buy plants, and do all of those things that best gardening buddies do together.

Last fall I bought some little tete-de-tete daffodil bulbs with the intention of planting them on Crystal's grave.  I thought that would be pretty cool to see a wave of those cheery little yellow guys waving in the spring breeze there, but unfortunately when I went to plant them, I couldn't find the exact spot!  I was close, but the family hadn't put a headstone up yet, so I couldn't be sure where to plant them.

So I brought them home.  I planted them around my yard in various locations.  Some by the mailbox, some in my Secret Garden, some in a flower bed in front of the house, and some by the cellar stairwell.  They're blooming now, and every time I see them I think of Crystal, and how she must be having a blast now gardening in the most incredible garden of all.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

First Spring Veggies

In past years, I don't recall the asparagus popping up quite as early as it has this year. Maybe I never really took note of when the asparagus peeked out of the earth simply because I've never had a decent crop of asparagus in the approximately 8 years since I planted those little octopus crowns. This is the first year that I haven't seen asparagus beetles snacking on, crawling on, and using the asparagus as an egg incubator.

Perhaps the asparagus truly is early, or the beetles are late. At any rate, I had a beautiful bunch of asparagus to accompany our Sunday dinner of steak on the grill, mashed potatoes, fried yellow squash, Indian puppodums, and a yummy dessert of whole wheat berries cooked in milk and honey with golden raisins and seasoned with cinnamon. The dessert was like rice pudding, but wheat berries were used instead of rice.

I must tell you here, that in the past I tried all sorts of things to eradicate the asparagus beetles. I tried planting petunias between the asparagus plants (I'd read somewhere that petunias repel the beetles). That seemed to help initially, but eventually the beetles came. I tried spraying insecticidal soaps, I tried hand-picking the beetles and crushing their eggs. As soon as the spears would poke up from the ground, the beetles would be on them, devouring them and laying their eggs on them. The spears, in addition to being eaten by the beetles, would also be grossly misshappen. I'm not sure if that was due to the beetles snacking on the spears, of if there was a deficiency of some sort in the soil. The poor little spears would just...shrivel.

Today's asparagus feast was simply "brilliant". Since I'm the only one in my family that even likes asparagus, I had it all to myself. Nothing fancy today, just butter and a hint of salt tossed on and it was pure bliss.