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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Summerthyme Sodas Free Printable Recipe Booklet

One of the few things I was able to get after my mother's death was the contents of her recipe drawer. In it, carefully typed on 4x6 pink cards with our old Underwood typewriter, were recipes my sister had copied from her Home Ec class. One entire set was about sodas, back in the 1950s when soda shops still were popular, right before they fell from favor. 

Most "druggists" also had a small shop and a lunch counter. A common job for teen boys was "soda jerk." They also were "baggers" for grocery stores and pumped gas. It's funny to me, but those grocery stores I felt were so modern could fit in the produce and bakery section of our Super Walmart today. 

Here is a little printable booklet form of some of those soda recipes my sister typed up. Her Home Ec teacher was the daughter of the local drugstore owner, and I think some of these were early "copycat" recipes from the business. I put this up on my old blog, too, I think. I like the Brown Cow one best. Sometimes we called it a Brown Cow, and sometimes we just said "Coke Float" if we weren't going to put the chocolate syrup in.

To avoid the unpleasant part of the foam, be sure to put some of the fizzy soda in first each time. Then put in the ice cream. Then top with more soda. It does cut down on the "sea scum" aspect of a float.

I was surprised to see a recipe calling for alcohol! Even just a tablespoon. It's in the Milk Punch recipe. It has malted milk powder, too. I have a lot of that, in my "prepper" grab-n-go bags. Lots of dry malted milk, because it's very helpful in a survival circumstance. I used to have compressed malted milk tablets but those are rare now. I have uncoated malted milk balls instead, in mylar packaging. 

As always, don't save the images of these printables. Use the Google link, so that they will print the correct size and be clear when printed. Cut them out, punch a hole in the top left corner, and tie with a bit of ribbon or string. This would be a cute gift tied to an ice cream scoop or a handful of paper straws. 

Does anyone else remember paper straws, the first time around? When bored, talking after lunch, I remember unfurling them. They were soggy by that time. Now that paper straws are a thing again and we are newly allowed to talk without masks at our restaurants here, I guess I will be back to unfurling them after lunch at a restaurant! Did you hang the spirals from your ears? I remember my seventh-grade self doing that. 

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly

Use the LINK-Sheet 1 and LINK-Sheet 2 <-------- stored in the Google Drive cloud.

free printable soda shop booklet 1950s retro

page 2 of free printable diy soda shop retro recipes 1950


 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Well, This is Awful

A big red horrible warning is on my blog, and all the blogs I am trying to visit. Everything was fine, and then between one visit and another, the warnings started. I already had Google scan my blog, and nothing was found, but the warning remains and I so doubt anyone will even see this post. 

For me, the blog is a window to the world. These hackers and destroyers make me so sad. From the pipeline shutdown to doing something bad to an old lady's blog.

Yours sadly,

Holly, the Unmerry Olde Dame  

But, Bee Butts!

The "prickly pear" cactus, also called a "beaver tail" cactus but known to us locally as "nopales," ("no-PAWL-ess") are blooming up a storm! And I have seen some lavender blooms on one plant, which I have never seen before. It will require a foray about ten feet into someone's yard to get a good closeup, but I am going to try.  

You know, if you live in the desert Southwest long enough, you become somewhat bilingual. I can understand almost all of the Spanish I hear, and I use many terms daily, but I can express myself very little. Receptive language is much easier than expressive language. I get messed up with the verbs, saying things that are the equivalent of "I seen it," or "I heared the knock." But I can make myself understood, even if I sound goofy.

A lot of people think the fruit of the prickly pear is called an "apple." It is actually called a "tuna." 

Seems a very strange name! The tunas are not fishy, however, and not near as popular as the pads, the "nopalitos," are. The pads are sliced up and used in many "casera," or "homestyle," recipes, but I can't stand them due to the slime they make. Funny, I can eat okra in gumbo with great gusto, and always get a side of fried okra at Cracker Barrel restaurant, but get weak-kneed at slimy nopalitos, even when it's washed away. Oatmeal makes me queasy. And I just discovered that my beloved mulberries have a bit of a slime problem, too. 

Here are a few more photos of prickly pear blooms. I have not take any photos of the yellow-blooming cactus yet. The yellow is the most common and I believe the most hardy of the bunch, but I greatly prefer the hot-pink and red ones. And those lavender ones! In the photo below, a bee is dive-bombing the blossom.

bee butt in nopal flowers



I got rid of a huge patch of prickly pears in my front yard. I might have kept them, had they bloomed pink or red. It was a very old, very large patch, towering up about five feet, and in my opinion dangerous to the pets. I still haven't replaced them with something else, and we are still finding (ouch!) the spines. But better my foot, than a little paw!

beavertail cactus bright pink bloom


Out in the "raw desert," the barrel cactus are blooming, too. In the second photo, you can see another "bee butt." The bees get in the blooms, and go round and round and round, luxuriating (?) in the pollen and nectar. Then they pop up, punch-drunk.

barrel cactus blooming blooms



I hope you are having a lovely Friday! 

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly



Wednesday, May 12, 2021

An Eternal Blending

An interesting facet of living in "the borderlands" and in an area where three distinct cultures -- Mexican, U.S., and Native American -- existed, is to see the blending of those cultures into a new, hybrid culture.

The "ghost cow"  (<--link) of a previous post stands right outside the cemetery in Old Mesilla. It's a fitting sentinel, as it prepares the visitor for the juxtaposition of beliefs within.

In the cemetery for members of the Basilica of San Albino, the strong Mexican Catholic culture is evident.  Most headstones are in Spanish, and many are extremely modest, yet all richly illustrate the deep faith of the "gente humilde," the humble folk.

san albino cemetery in the blazing sun


Without romanticizing poverty and lives impacted by prejudice, I will say that whenever I have been lucky enough to interact with such individuals, I have been touched. These are the people who have what I call "natural class" and sweet, clear, glass-like hearts.

While our house here was being built, the first time I lived in Las Cruces, I rented an extremely modest house of perhaps 600 square feet in a very tumbledown neighborhood. One next-door neighbor was handicapped with scleroderma and extremely poor, yet she loved to invite me over for coffee in thanks for rides to church. These dear kaffee klatches consisted of a cup of Taster's Choice (because I was company), and a carefully split flour tortilla, with me somehow always handed "the big half." A little saucer of cinnamon sugar was placed between us, and the rolled-up halves were to be stuck in the mixture with each bite. She would barely touch her tortilla to the sugar, eager for me to have the lion's share. Every movement caused this gracious lady pain, yet move she did, to fuss over me. And I have yet to see the match of her hospitality.

san albino graveyard mesilla new mexico


But back to the graveyard. Doesn't that sound strange? Who says that? The ghosts, as the sun nears rising? "Ah, back to the graveyard, my fellow spirits. Day is nigh." I imagine these spirits never being into mischief, but gathering peacefully at the Basilica to say the Rosary for their brethren.

I do have to smile at the designation "Basilica." It was actually declared a "minor Basilica," after much imploring, but they don't use the "minor" part of the name. I do not think God frowns at such an innocent pride.
 
shrine grave


Mexican tradition has joined with some uniquely U.S. aspects in the San Albino cemetery. There are no typical restrictions of a cemetery here, and free reign is given to the families, yielding a gravesite where a four-foot Virgen de Guadalupe stands guard over silk flowers and little angels playing with pretty pieces of glass. A huge "wall rosary" has been draped on the headstone, and the gravesite has been neatly tiled. The idea of family is taken very seriously here. La familia is tantamount. When I first saw this grave, I thought it had plaster squirrels on it, due to poor eyesight. But no, they are angels with arched wings. But squirrels would not have been a surprise.

If you'll excuse a pun, the grave poverty of this area shows in this cemetery. There is no room for strict codes here.

Virgen de Guadalupe at san albino graveside


Nearby, a patch of outdoor carpet sets a comfortable tone. The yellow-and-green color scheme of a devoted John Deere Tractor fan is seen.
 
outdoor carpet and john deere theme of grave


A few yards away, a grave is decorated with "calaveras" (skulls), spiders, angels, and crosses intermingling freely. Instead of changing out seasonal decor, some choose to just keep adding more throughout the year.

old world meets new san albino cemetery


Pocket rosaries are everywhere, often simply laid at the base of the crosses. There are many homemade wooden crosses marking graves, with handpainted names and nicknames on them.

simple graves at san albino



Some graves have all wording worn off. Nothing remains but a simple wish it be remembered that here lies a Christian. 

simple worn headstone



So many of the old names are here, the gentle, devout settlers of the region, the original farmers of the valley. These are the same names you will see on the war monuments, including so many on the monuments devoted to those who were on the Bataan Death March, which hit New Mexico very strongly. The people of the area are very patriotic.

I hope these pictures from a desert cemetery have not depressed you, but have cheered you with the knowledge that God has sprinkled the "humble people" among us like gems among the dust.

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly






Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Ghost Cow of Mesilla

I was driving down a part of the nearby village of Old Mesilla, when I saw something so strange and wonderful: An ethereal cow looking out from a small pecan orchard and tumbledown house right before the entrance of one of the oldest cemeteries in the area, the San Albino Cemetery. 

ghost cow of mesilla


Once, this holey cow was plastered and painted (maybe it got plastered when it painted the town red), but the weather has reduced it to its amazing inner framework. Whoever made this was a sheer genius.

This is clearly a quality-made bovine objet d'art.

I would dearly love to have this cow in my yard. I always, always wanted a concrete deer in my yard. For literally decades I dreamed of it. My beloved Granny had a pair of concrete deer and I loved them as if they were family members. Hmm, I loved them more than most family members. My family members were not all nice. 

And I would love that crazy cow! 

I have that little donkey in the courtyard, but I want a sizeable concrete animal. I am very unlikely to get one, but I'm going to try! 

burro in the snow


In the Deep South, the concrete deer were popular. When I moved to Arizona, the Sleeping Mexican abounded, despite being horribly stereotypical. 

In the DC area, there were gnomes before gnomes were a thing. I had a neighbor who must have had ten of them. Joking, I offered the loan of a "ten pound sledgehammer" to "take care of his gnome infestation." He was unamused. Yeah, talk politics all you want up there, but DON'T bring up the gnomes. 

In Ohio, I saw endless geese, DRESSED UP in little clothes, depending on the season. It was difficult to reconcile the dour kinfolk I met with the idea of those same people making or buying clothes for plastic or fiberglass geese. "Since when ve spend money on geese? Vat?! Go play in ze snow."

In the Pacific Northwest, I saw many small boats in yards as planters, and what we called "porch sitters:" Life-sized doll people. Or People Dolls. Sitting in chairs, swinging on porch swings, sitting in the boats. And totem poles.

Midland had many fake oil wells and pumpjacks and lots of "Texas Stars" on the sides of homes. 

Here, there are many shrines. The area has an affinity for St. Michael the Archangel, too, so you will see versions of him calmly spearing demons in many homes. But the Virgin of Guadalupe reigns in most hearts and is most often depicted in tile mosaics.

las cruces shrine

virgin of guadalupe mosaic


So, each area seems to have something tacky, er, unique! 

What is in your area?

Monday, May 10, 2021

Walk Like An Egyptian...Onion

Tra la, tra la, some of the Egyptian Walking Onions from the community garden have made "pups" and I have some planted in my garden at home now!

pups on egyptian walking onions


 You may recall, a nice gardener invited me to harvest both pups and big onions to get them started in my garden. I "traded" a big lemongrass clump for them. I also got a Jerusalem artichoke to plant from the deal! Made out like a bandit, as they say!

egyptian walking onions tree onions pups bublets


The pups of these unusual onions are tiny bulblets that grow atop the flowering stalk. They start growing right on the mother plant, and even start making roots. The weight of the developing pups causes the stalk to arch over eventually, and they then anchor themselves in the soil and in this way "walk" aross the garden, gaining about a foot each time. The bulblets ask, "Mother, May I?" take a giant step forward? "Yes, you may."

Each pup can be broken off from the top cluster and planted, and will make an onion plant.

radish onions going to seed

Goin' to seed...ha ha me and the plants both. 

The plot above in the community garden belongs to a REAL gardener. She is letting the Egyptian Onions make their bulblets and also letting her radish, I think, make seed. She has baby radish to eat in another plot. 

The onions are also called "Tree Onions." They look like a Dr. Suess tree!

I am fussing, fussing, fussing over my little courtyard. Some of the new plants were not happy in their places, so I did some switching around. It will be another month before everything hits its stride, I think, and soon I must rig up some shade cloth to shield them from the desert sun. And to think, some in northern climes are still waiting for their weather to warm up and plants to awaken! 

Yesterday I drove hubby to see a little manmade pond on the campus of his alma mater, NMSU. This was put in after we moved from here the first time, so I did not even know it existed until I saw it on a Google map. There were a few ducks, too! And some anglers. Evidently they stock it with trout. 

ducks in the desert



Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly 




Thursday, May 6, 2021

Ollie Ollie Um-Come-Free

That's how we used to call it: "Ollie, Ollie, um-come-free," but I have heard others say they called "Ollie, Ollie, All Come Free" or "Ollie, Ollie, In-Come-Free." Hide and seek was popular among the kids of our block and the next block over to the west, but we didn't play with the kids from the next block over to the east. Strange, but there were lines of demarcation and we didn't think much about them or cross them. The "Ollie" call was what we shouted to let everyone know to stop hiding and come back out for the "One Potato, Two Potato" count to decide what game to play or who was first or something. When it was a huge crowd of children, we would hold out one fist as the potato. When it was less kids, we held out two fists. 

My little memories of the past amuse me sometimes, and depress me, other times. But there is a blog, and I think he may have a Facebook page as well, that is just astounding to me. For those who love "primitives," it is really a must if you want to really explore the past, especially the colonial past. But this blog is written by a "living historian" who immerses himself in the past. Please stop by his blog if you love history or colonial times or primitives. It is a treat to read and look at, too. Each post could be a chapter or a couple of chapters in a book! Passion for the Past blog.

I took some pictures on my errands this past week. I keep my cheap little phone at the ready and sometimes I have to really force myself to stop or backtrack to get a photo. But with these flowers, sometimes if you come back the next day, the flower is wilted or even gone, or the light is too harsh. So I try to stop and snap a photo if it seems safe to do so. 

I hope you enjoy these blooms! TGIF! Today is First Friday for those of us Catholic, and I am excited to be able to be annointed today in the Sacrament of the Sick. I find it helps me better accept being ill, even if it doesn't alleviate the symptoms. But I hope this Friday finds you "in the pink" as they said in the olde days! 

red prickly pear flower
Red prickly pear blooms
orange cactus flowers
Unusual cactus
ice plant with magenta blooms
Magenta-bloomed Ice Plant
purple weed with bee
Honeybee visiting a pretty wildflower along an irrigation ditch
iris purple and gold
Iris along irrigation ditch
peony white and pink beautiful
A peony in the desert!
pomegranite blossoms
Pomegranate. I can just taste them!
weeping mulberry twisted trunks
Weeping Mulberry. I love the twisty branches!
pecan tassels blossoms
Pecan in bloom. See irrigation water in background?
close up incredible orange cactus blooms

Cactus blooms say, "Have a beautiful day!"

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

hOnEySuCkLe tHyMe

Showing my age again, and my roots way back when blogging was new! It was common on "prim and rustic" blogs to use the mixed capitalization. For some reason, it reminds me of when "knee warmers" and "cummerbunds" were popular, but that was in the 1970s.

Anyone remember that, the knee warmers? Ringing any bells among the belles who read my little bloggie? I had a little pair of red acrylic knee warmers, of knitted fine-guage acrylic, but still; scritchy-scratchy acrylic yarn of the day. And I had a red cummerbund that matched, but of a fine-guage material. Oh, I was so thin. But the advantage was I could wear anything. I was so thin that people felt I had an eating disorder, as I did. Eating disorders were just getting known then, in the 1970s. But I looked well in clothes and I bought the "display" clothing from fine stores in size 3, and took them up. The display clothes were sold for a song at the end of the season, as were the shoes. I had tiny feet, size 5 narrow, the usual display size.

My mind is off and running now! White sales! The White Sales -- we would wait for them and then get our linens. And the department stores had whole floors of china and stoneware and flatware, and so many pretty silver things. The peasant in me chose a Mikasa stoneware design for my first wedding: Strawberry Festival. Funny, I don't have a single piece left and I loved that pattern so much. Strawberries have always made me smile. And my flatware pattern was Oneida American Colonial. Gosh, haven't thought of that in years. 

In New Orleans, we had a beloved department store, D.H. Holmes. Its colors were a light cream and dark chocolate brown. The bags, the boxes, the giftwrap, the name tags were all that color combination. I loved those stores, especially the big store on Canal Street. At the very top floor, there were hats and wigs and the offices. We would take the escalators up and up and up. It always made my heart race a little bit to step on the escalator and start rising. One of my aunts was a "window dresser" for a local department store in a smaller city. She had such style, and store windows in those days were glorious things. 

If I have been slow to comment on your blog, I apologize. I have been very tired and I am also racing back and forth from work taking care of my husband, who has had some procedures done. He's pretty independent in general, but anything out of the ordinary hits him hard, making him more oppositional and not do the things he needs to do to heal and stay healthy. And yesterday I drove a teacher from school to the ER and stayed with her for hours, as I could tell with one look that she had cellulitis starting on her leg, and indeed it was so. She is deeply hypochondriac, but sometimes she does get sick for real. But it all makes for long days and I have little energy, sometimes just falling asleep with my head on the desk where the computer is. 

But I did go see if I could get a cutting from a wild Queen's Wreath vine and a Silver Lace vine. [Success! And I saw a pretty old-fashioned fence it was growing up!] And then I stopped by the church to light some candles.

If you have read this far, you are probably saying, "Cough up the honeysuckle! Where is it?" This honeysuckle vine surprised me! It is growing all mixed in with the wisteria vines at church! Right now it is smothered in blossoms and I did allow myself to stand there and pull off about a dozen blossoms, pinching the end off and pulling the stamen through, carrying that tiny drop of nectar that we dab on our tongues. 

honeysuckle blossoms in cracker barrel syrup bottle


Then of course, just as if I were ten again, I have to suck the open end and get the rest of the nectar out. I can think of so many "wild foods" we ate as children! Gosh, the list is just forever. Pepper plant, honeysuckle, wild onions, wild garlic, grapes, figs, plums, loquats, maypops, rabbit grass, elderberries, blackberries, huckleberries (which I disliked), digging sassafrass roots, climbing to get at pawpaws and persimmons. I know I'm forgetting a lot. 

silver lace vine in las cruces


May the rest of your week be "just as you like it." See you around the blogs!

old fasioned fence child and pail


Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly

Monday, May 3, 2021

Lavender Wands, Dilly Dilly

lavender wands


"Lavender's blue, dilly dilly
Lavender's green.
When I am king, dilly dilly
You shall be queen."

Once upon a time I had an ample supply of blooming lavender, and a wonderful co-worker showed me how to make lavender wands. This was, oh, perhaps 40 years ago now? 

Alas and alack, I have a very limited supply of blooms this year. Between three small two-year-old bushes, I had enough blooms for three wands.

It's easy to make them, and it's a bit of lore I'd love to pass on.

All it takes is the fresh lavender cut with as long a stem as you can manage (it can have little leaves and side-buds on it); 1/8" satin ribbon or similar narrow ribbon of your choice for a small wand, and wider ribbon if you are lucky enough to make a big wand; and a toothpick to help you move the ribbon among the stems evenly.

Skip down to read about how to make wands! 

But first, some garden news! (1) The Egyptian Walking Onions at the community garden are making "pups" and I have planted some at home. WILL THEY MAKE IT? (2) The lemongrass in my courtyard seems a lost cause. It is not visible any longer! The doggies have eaten it all. I always call one of my dogs "my little curly lamb," and indeed she is like a sheep, chewing grass. The chiweenie was in on it, too. They split up the lemongrass between them: He ate all of it at ground level, and she climbed into the raised beds and ate the rest! (3) The Sweet Meat squash is up and looks like it might make it. 


Back to our wands:

Gently remove any side leaves or side-buds. Work with fresh lavender. The type doesn't matter. If needed, put the cut lavender in water in a vase in the fridge, like the florist does.

ribbon and lavender for lavender wands


I could not put my hands on my plastic canvas sewing "needle," made of plastic with a huge eye for yarn. But that might make the weaving so very much easier.

There are many tutorials on the web on how to make these wands, but many of them are bunk. Why do I say that? They don't share the most basic part of making the wands: YOU MUST HAVE AN ODD NUMBER OF STEMS. The simple over-under weave will not work with an even number of stems. You are going in a spiral pattern, a basketweave, and thus an odd number is a must.

But the other tutorials have nicer photos. I was doing this, oh, around 3:12 a.m. I had intended to do it in the morning, but I had already picked the stems and taken a photo of them with the ribbon,then put them in the fridge. Since I have terrible trouble sleeping more than an hour at a time without having to get up, it seemed like a good idea to get up and make wands at that hour, but it didn't lend itself to clear thinking or clear photos.

Gather as many stems as you want together, with the HEADS of the lavender together. Make sure to have an odd number. Tie a piece of ribbon right under the heads. Don't make the knot too tight. Don't cut into the stems. 

how to make a lavender wand


I just use one piece of ribbon, so I make sure the knot has a tail that extends down several inches. I'm going to tuck that tail in the middle and let it just hang, and let it be covered by the weaving of the other end of the ribbon, and then once I am done weaving and wrapping the unwoven stems about a half-inch to an inch, I use that bit of tail between the stems to tie off the weaving ribbon, and cut the excess from both tails.

The other way is to just make a nice knot and cut, then tuck in the end of another piece from the ends of the stems and coming out from the top of the "cage" described below. 

Making the cage: Once you have the knot in place under the heads of the lavender, you carefully pull up each stem to make a "cage" around the heads. At this point, just pull them gently, one at a time, up and over the flowerheads. You will use the toothpick or your fingers to arrange the stems as evenly as you can. Now turn it over. You are holding the stems and the caged flower heads are at the top. 

lavender wand DIY


Some people with a LOT of lavender make wands that are practically CLUBS. I envy them! If you want to make a huge one, limit your weaving to just the outer stems.

To figure out how much ribbon you will need to cut to do the weaving, I put my fingers together, like two fingers for a small wand (I have tiny fingers), and wrap the ribbon round and round in a downward spiral until it's as long as the caged flower heads. Then I add about two inches. CUT. 

If you are using the one-ribbon method, the other end is still inside the cage, part of the knot that is under the flower heads. Come up under a stem, pull the excess ribbon through, and go over the next stem. Then under the next, over the next, under the next, again and again until you have covered the entire head. Don't overthink it.

This is the part that is difficult. The first few turns are hard to do, and the basketweave isn't very visible yet. You are working from the TOP down.

lavender want showing the "cage"


Use your toothpick to push up and tighten the ribbon as needed. It might be like lacing up a shoe. You pull up some excess, and kind of sequentially pull the slack up between each stem, all the way down. Then wrap the stems without doing any over-and-under once you are past the "caged" part. Pull out that tail and tie an overhand knot with the weaving end of the ribbon.

basketweave lavender wands


Make sure the weaving is pretty tight, because the flowers will shrink as they dry. My darker wands came out much better than the first pale ribbon one I did. The blue ribbon above needs to be pulled and the slack taken out before continuing.

To refresh the scent, just squeeze gently on the woven end of the wand.


I hope everyone had a good weekend and is having a good Monday!




Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Black Beauty

Black Beauty...That is another childhood favorite book, although I would cry myself sick when reading it. I don't think children were shielded as much from life's hardness back in the old days. Many of the books we read were quite distressing.

To avoid chit-chat overload, you can scroll down to the paragraph in bold!

nmsu black smokebush


But also I call this Smokebush on the NMSU campus "Black Beauty." There are three strong bushes and one struggling bush over on a skinny street in the ag area. The struggling bush has its water drip "emitter" not working well. Surely the landscapers can see that it needs more water. Maybe I'll call about it. "Hi, I'm that crazy lady who stands by the smokebushes down by the sheep barn, and cries when she sees the newborn lambs. Ya got a weak tree down here, can someone help it?"

black smokebush blooming


These small trees/bushes are called cotinus coggygria. At a plant nursery, they are devilishly expensive -- out of my pocketbook's range, certainly. I did help myself to three twigs left at the bottom of the bushes after a trim. Okay, that is in effect a LIE. I trimmed them. That's how they got trimmed. They weren't found trimmed. Sheesh, lying on a blog. FOR SHAME. I have them planted but I don't know if they will root. 

smokebush pretty leaves and blooms


My photos do not do this plant justice. It truly looks startlingly black in person. The leaves are so very dark. It is now blooming, and that is the most delightful thing about it. It truly does look like a puff of red-purple smoke when in full bloom.

smokebush bloom


I had a wonderful happening at the community garden. Another gardener was there, a very petite lady of a certain age, and she came up to tell me that my plot had too many weeds in it. "All weeds," she said. "Too many weed. Next time, put plastic, poke a hole for you plant. Weeds under the plastic, they hungry, no sun, no food, they die." She pointed into my plot: "Ha ha, you got so many volunteer sunflower. Too many." She pointed at several other plots. "No weeds. Those mine."

My initial thought was to give her the evil eye, but I decided maybe a language barrier was in play, so I thanked her for her suggestions, and also decided it wasn't really rude for her to simply state the truth, which is that weeds are creeping all over my plot and the volunteer sunflowers are becoming a mob. She didn't leave and go back to her weedless plots, which are beautifully planted, but got closer and pointed at my prized clumps of lemongrass. "You know that not weed, right? You know that something good?" 

I do indeed! "Yes," I said. "It's lemongrass." She looked at it wistfully. "It very expensive. It too expensive. I love the smell, you smelled it? I love the smell, also good for cook. But I love the smell so much."

I, too, love the smell "so much." I said, "Why don't you take some? There is plenty." Her eyes got so bright! But she said, "Oh no, not even one small piece. That yours. I could make a small piece grow, but it not mine. Every plant I have, somebody give to me. I can make anything grow, even small piece, but that yours." And all the time she was looking so wistfully at that lemongrass.

"Nonsense! Please take some. Do you want this clump, or this clump?" The things you can learn about manipulating people, for good purposes: Give them a choice. Suddenly, the question is not whether something will be chosen, but which item will be chosen. The far clump, or the near clump? 

"Far clump, please."

My new gardening friend kept protesting that she was taking "too much" but I just kept trying to dig up a clump with a trowel. We were getting nowhere fast. She said, "I have shovel in truck" and took off to get the shovel. I dug for awhile with a big old shovel, but wasn't having success. She said, "I have machete in truck," and took off and came back with one. After that couldn't separate the clumps, she said, "I have ax in truck," and took off and came back with an ax. I was determined to make the ax work, for fear she would say, "I have nuclear device in truck" and run get it.

She was hugging that clump and just breathing it in. And then she said, "See those onions over there? Those very rare. When they bloom, I give you some pups. You can grow." Oh boy, she wasn't kidding. She has pink Egyptian Walking Onions! These are permanent, perennial onions, and can be used like a green onion and a leek! And they are beautiful!

We talked a bit more, mainly about how some gardeners won't share, even down to not sharing the name of what they are growing! Then we tried to find the toad for awhile and I left feeling uplifted at having met another gardener, and having played a version of Toad Catcher. 

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Games of Childhood

Here is a bit of "growing sunshine" to brighten your morning. I think it is called Damianita Daisy. The blossoms are born on short, woody stems, and these plants are always in xeriscapes.

damianita daisy desert low shrub


The comments on the "Toad Catcher" and Mulberry Time posts got me to thinking. It is common now to think children don't play as we used to do. The world is certainly changed, and I can remember when childhood went from quite free to greatly curtailed, from considered safe to considered unsafe, when it went from outside exploring to inside lives, from being raised by family, usually mothers, to spending much of the waking hours in some sort of paid care.

I am not weighing in on judging it all, today. Rearview mirrors and rose-colored glasses are not reliable ways to view the world! What is that grammar joke? "We tend to find the past perfect, and the present tense"? I think both past and present have their good points and their bad. And I also think life is lived forwards, understood backwards.

But the children of today may be playing more old-time games than is realized.

The students at school line up by the front office on their way to the playground. Sometimes I can hear their conversations as they wait to file out. At school, they wear traditional uniforms and walk with their hands behind their backs, and wait with hands still clasped. And they chat about what they are going to be playing. 

Oh, it is so cute, their ongoing games. Last week among the "lower school" it was all talk of being Day Bats. Now, don't ask me, but it seemed to be they are different color bats, of different ranks. They are awake in the day and fix problem situations. I thought it was charming to hear them excitedly speak of moving up to be Blue Bats, or bemoaning dropping back down to an Orange Bat. I think it's based on the rainbow somehow.

When I go get the mail, I see also the little "houses" the even younger kids have created, out of the landscape rocks and the flowerbed bark. 

And I hear the old, old chants from childhood repeated now, fifty years later: Ring Around the Rosey, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, London Bridge. 

Grades 3 through 12 all have jump-ropes, too. The boys are as good as the girls at it. And they play tag a lot of the time. The big kids are not above chasing each other: Flirtation disguised as a slow game of tag.

Some of the kids are bookworms, of course! That was me, nose always in a book. And the students are reading the same series, the "classic" books! The horsey series by Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry; the Little House books; The Borrowers; The Witch of Blackbird Pond; On Your Toes, Suzie; and the late Beverly Cleary's books. All the old favorites are there.

Something I haven't seen, nor do the students seem to know about, is clapping games. Girls played a lot of clapping games at recess, played to a chant, when I was young. I can still recall some of them. Girls and boys alike played table-slapping games clear into college. 

When I was young, we played four-square in the street. It was probably our most favorite game in the preteen years. Mudpies was my absolute favorite as a younger child. We used the little foil tins from pot pies to hold our creations. Pot pies were a weekly meal for many of us, so there were pie tins galore.

The streets of suburbia were thronged with kids in those days! Kids were literally in the streets with the four-square games, or riding bikes, or digging up tar and popping tar bubbles during the summer. There was lots of roller skating and pushing box scooters along the sidewalks. I can, to this day, "skate" my block, remembering the idiocyncracies of every inch of sidewalk, and sometimes at night I return to that long-ago childhood and skate along in a sort of waking dream. I can see each house and recall every neighbor, yet I can not picture my current neighbors' homes in any detail. 

Housing was still being built apace during the Baby Boom, so there were lot-sized gaps along the route, and we'd run across those weedy areas with our skates still on. Skateboarding was not common in our area, and I didn't know of it back then.

Of course, we drew hopscotch on driveways and sidewalks, too, and girls played jacks, but by my childhood, jacks was waning in popularity so I didn't play it often. I was glad; my hands were so tiny I couldn't gather more than three jacks up. To a child's mind, it is important to win, or at least make a good showing.

So take heart; it isn't ALL video games and TikTok now. Some of the old games still survive. Can you recall games of your childhood? 

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Sunday, April 25, 2021

Mulberry Time!

The shortlived mulberry season has begun, and they are raining down by the hundreds while the dogs walk slowly around the tree trunks, hoovering them up. The backyard has both fruitless and fruiting mulberry trees, and, a bit rare, pale white mulberries that are especially sweet and taste far better than the dark berries. They are the last to ripen; the dark purplish-black berries ripen first. 

red black mulberries


Mulberries don't pull cleanly from the stem. The stem, a few millimenters long, stays with the berry. I just eat them, stem and all.

mulberries in the sun
Mulberries have a bland sweetness without a distinct flavor, but they are fun to eat fresh off the branches. 



When I was young, I would use berries to stain my lips, like a lipstick. I think most young girls do that! With mulberries, they get stained unintentionally. The berries are very soft and are dewed with juice.

Besides using berries as lipstick, I remember making clover chains and dandelion crowns for "jewelry." We'd also use the dandelion blooms as "powder puffs" and powder our noses with the pollen. We would light matches and then blow them out, using the burnt ends as "kohl" around our eyes.

Sometimes, we'd smooth a patch of damp dirt, and pack it down tightly by bumping it with the heels of our hands. Then we'd scratch a "floorplan" into the dirt with a small stick. We'd get various blossoms and use them as the inhabitants of the "house" and play for hours, moving them here and there and chattering together as the story of the Flower Family would unfold. Sweet times!

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly