Nothing can revive a guy

Quite like a piece of rhubarb pie

Serve it up

Nice and hot

maybe things

aren’t as bad as you thought

— Garrison Keiler

Those in the know hear this little song every week on the Prairie Home Companion (Saturday at 6 p.m. or Sunday at 1 p.m.) on National Public Radio.

I have been thinking of my rhubarb. It has been in the same spot in my garden for well over 20 years. I probably have eight or nine large clumps. For the past several years it has had the irritating habit of going to flower almost immediately. Now, granted, the seed stalk and flower are extremely attractive, but it does ruin pie potential. I may use a few in the back of the perennial border and let it have its own way.

Rhubarb is a heavy feeder. I give it a healthy dose of compost every year about this time. I do believe this is the time to divide. When we were children coming up in Rew, we stole some rhubarb from a neighbor’s garden and placed bets on who could eat a whole stalk raw. I don’t think I won the contest, but believe me, it was memorable.

I have used rhubarb in pies, crisps, and as a sauce. It can be canned, frozen or dried. I cut it into half-inch pieces, add honey, heat, and pack into pint jars. Process time is 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath. The pint can be added to apples for mid-winter pies.

The star magnolia in front of the Hebrew Center is about to burst into full bloom. The magnolia stellata from Japan is slow-growing with small dark green leaves. The flowers are white and very fragrant. It is the first magnolia to bloom right along with the forsythia.

Thank you, Margaret Logue, for your kind words in last week’s Letters to the Editor. The poem you shared was so wonderful it bears repeating:

The golf links lie so near the mill

That almost every day

The laboring children can look out

And see the men at play.

— Sarah Norcilffe Cleghorn


I have jumped the gun but I started some annuals in the unheated greenhouse. Both nicotianas and petunias germinated. I was barely able to see the emerging seedlings with my reading glasses when it froze overnight last week. The dirt in the flats was hard in the morning. Both survived. Good to know.

I am late getting the potatoes into the ground. Traditionally, we Irish like to plant on Saint Patrick’s Day. I did get some bales of hay hauled to the vicinity. This year I am planting on the site of my old rabbit pens. Thankfully, I have not replaced my rabbits which finally died off last fall. I had them for years thanks to children promising they would care of them. As if.

After last Friday’s lovely rainy day, the season is springing to life. The daylilies are up just enough to start feeding the deer. Get out there with some repellent spray and hit the tulip leaves while you are at it. I saw an entire herd on West Spring street the other evening happily munching in someone’s yard. They were polishing off what the turkeys had inadvertently missed that afternoon. The price we pay for rural living.

I removed the Reemay from my pea seedlings. They are finally big enough to no longer interest the crows. I have them in large plug trays and plan to get them into the ground any day now. They don’t mind freezing a bit in the spring.

I attended the annual spring potluck supper at the agricultural hall. There must have been 100 people there — an eclectic mix of young and old. After enjoying one another’s feed, we saw The Real Dirt on Farmer John. It is rentable and well worth the time. I saw another great bumper sticker at the charter school parking lot: “I’d give up chocolate but I’m no quitter.”

We were trying to make up gardening jokes the other day. Do groan along:

It is trying to rain, but mist . . .

And . . . what did the hens and chicks say to the hostess? Sedum!