May Day

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When I was a kid, we made the most of May Day. We would take a waxed Dixie cup, add a pipe cleaner as a handle, and then fill it with lilacs and spirea blossoms. These May baskets would be delivered to grandmothers and the babysitter. It was great to ring the doorbell and run! When the lilacs bloom it is a signal to spring. I like to just bury my face in the branches and drink in that lilac smell. They are such a hardy bush with flowers of such a delicate odor. Just taking in the smell is like “time travel” back to that childhood memory of May Day and May baskets.

According to Wikipedia, “The common lilac or Syringa vulgaris is a species of flowering plant in the olive family Oleaceae, native to the Balkan Peninsula, where it grows on rocky hills.” They are completely domesticated in the U.S., and it was chosen to be the state flower for New Hampshire in 1919. The website statesymbolsusa.org indicates, “It was chosen to represent the hardiness of the men and women of the Granite state.”

According to HGTV.com, “There are thousands of varieties that come in white, blue, pink and lavender. There are even selections that feature purple flowers with a white rim.” I must confess that the purple blooms that surround our outdoor cooking area are my favorite. They have been there for years – I am guessing at least 60. The older varieties need a cool dormant period. Here in the Midwest this is not a problem, but I spent 25 years in California and a gardener friend of mine put ice at the base of her lilac bushes for a period of time to induce that change of climate. As I travel back and forth between Kansas and Minnesota, I have the pleasure of enjoying both blooming seasons. When I am north, we are approximately three weeks behind southern bloom season. So I get to repeat the pleasure again.

The asparagus is producing well. One of Dad’s favorites is Creamed Asparagus so we had a batch last night. I think it is one of those vegetables that should be enjoyed in the moment. I have never found a way to preserve asparagus that met my expectations. When it’s producing I eat it raw, steamed, roasted and creamed.

The Strawberries are blooming and setting on. Some of the green ones are the size of your thumb. Dad likes the June bearing berries. It won’t be long until we are enjoying Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp. My husband’s Granny Odetta made an amazing Strawberry Rhubarb pie.

I walked around the garden today and noted the things Dad has been planting. The potatoes did not go in on St. Patrick’s Day this year. It was frigid! Dad looks at the almanac and the signs of the moon, but he says the best time to plant is …”When the sign is in the hoe handle.” Another way of saying this is “make hay while the sun shines.”

The potatoes are in – Pontiac, Kennebec, Purple Viking and Deserie. The sweet corn (10 rows) is up about 2 inches along with peas, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, beets, and 200 tomato plants. Dad will be 87 this July. He enjoys gardening – both the physical and the social aspects. People come from the surrounding communities for his tomatoes, corn, green beans, etc. The market comes to the farmer in this respect.