Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ghosts of gardens past

Digging out a weed-choked 4×7′ section of our garden last spring we found, not dirt, but an archeological site:
  • The remains of a 50-pound bag of rock chips from the “shrine” to a former place of business. Never use rock chips in your flower beds, because you will Never. Get. Rid. Of. Them. We ended up trying to sort them out by sifting the dirt through a lawn chair.
  • Netting from a decades-old planting of bulbs. The bulbs are long-since disintegrated or moved, but the anti-squirrel netting lives on.
  • Two bent wires that I think once propped up the “volunteer” maple tree we attempted to grow here. I put that in quotes because this tree seemed to me to be a volunteer, but it turned out that my son planted it when he was about 3 or 4. I had apparently told him that the helicopter seeds littering the lawn were maple seeds, so he took one and planted it. This charming story came to a sad end when the very weak tree toppled over one day. ( I seem to have problems with trees toppling over; we’ve had three do this.)
  • Yards and yards of green twine, which I only ever used for bean props; however, I cannot recall ever planting beans in this area.
  • Tiny yarrow sprouts. The large pink yarrow that was here was dug out, divided and transplanted at least 3 years ago, and I had no idea it was still hanging on in the weedy underbrush.
The old bed was really pretty, with a bird bath and a rock river, as well as a plaque and sculpture from my old job. This year I'll put concord grapes and blueberries here. The garden morphs on!

Are there ghosts in your garden?

Cheese Straws
From Fannie Farmer Cookbook
In keeping with the theme of ghosts, this recipe is similar to the lost cheese cracker recipe that my mother used to make.

1/4 pound butter
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1 egg yolk, well beaten
water if needed
salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cream the butter and egg yolk until light; add the flour, cayenne, cheese, and salt. If needed add enough water to make dough cohesive. Form dough into a ball, then flatten and roll out to 1/8" to 1/4” deep on a floured board or pastry cloth. (Thinner will give you crispier crackers.) Cut into strips 5-inches long and 1/4-inch wide. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake 6 minutes until golden.

Notes from my friend Patte, who found this recipe for me:
Sometimes this dough needs some water to bind it together. I have also seen recipes that use 1 egg yolk in the dough. I prefer to use parchment paper instead of greasing the cookie sheet. I also make my straws shorter than 5 inches because they have a tendency to break when they’re longer than 3 (or so) inches. Bake them until they’re brown (but not burnt). Depending upon your oven, this may take longer than 6 minutes. Cool them and store them in an airtight container. This assumes that there are enough to store. If you’re making them when others are around, they will be consumed as soon as they are cool enough to handle!! Warning: Addictive.


  1. The people who lived in my house prior to me seemed to use the area that I've been clearing of buckthorn as a trash dump. I've found all kinds of odd things digging there--broken toys, a broken badminton racket, oodles of plastic bags, one 5 pound dumbbell, rusted bits of metal, bullet casings (!)... The thing is, the house is not in the country--we have weekly garbage pickup and at the time they lived here you could set out any number of size and shaped bags. (Now everything has to fit in one city-supplied cart.) People. Who can figger 'em!

  2. Most of the flagstones making up my various patios and paths were excavated from some forgotten patio. I don't think the people who were here before us (for 17 years) had a clue that there was an entire patio buried back there.

  3. I haven't found many things in my garden. I occasionally find bits of rusted metal or marbles I played with as a kid. One time I found a gold baby ring and I've decided that it must've belonged to some cousins. Their parents were big on baby rings when we were growing up. The alternative explanation as to why there is a child's ring buried deep in the Earth is too creepy to even contemplate.

    BTW, I was thinking you were going to say you found the birdbath/fountain in your garden.

  4. The birdbath was a scavenged item, but not from this garden. I did however find my other birdbath (just the bowl) buried under the porch. In fact everything in the picture including the plants, except for the sweet potato vine and the green glazed pot, were scavenged items. In other words, I never pay for anything if I can help it. (Scored several large rocks today, in fact)