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Hello everyone, and greetings from New Mexico! This is son Jim filling in again for mother, as she’s currently a little under the weather. Mother had a really good weekend, with visits from a number of friends, and she was feeling quite good until today (late Monday afternoon as I write this column). About a month ago she started a new chemotherapy to which her body did not respond well, and she had several down weeks, as she wrote about in her previous columns.
Then late last week she started to feel much better and seemed to be taking a turn for getting back to normal. In consultation with her doctor, she has switched chemotherapy treatments again, and after a few days of feeling pretty good and even having an appetite for fried fish and all the fixings, she’s feeling a little worse again around the time her column is normally due.
As many of us do, from time to time I tell her stories on myself or send her funny tidbits so she has material to use or make fun of me with in her column. I told her the following story last week, but it was too late for her most recent column, so as a fine upstanding southerner, I’ll tell it on myself.
Celeste and I have a home with a very nice, secluded courtyard that has some space that we’ve been using the past few years to try and grow vegetables and herbs. We’re pretty good with mint, parsley, basil, sage, and such, but we’ve had a lot less success with vegetables. A few years ago, we grew some very tall, beautiful, and green cornstalks that then proceeded to just up and die and produce no corn after several months of daily care. I showed Celeste how to run strings for beans, and we almost grew enough small green beans for one meal between us. Now they were delicious, but between the soil I had to buy and put in, and the water we had to use, which is actually rather expensive out here, I suspect that little plate of beans cost $20 – $30, or more. Not to mention the hours of daily care.
The worst by far, however, have been our pathetic attempts at growing tomatoes. For three years running now, I’ve bought ludicrously expensive tomato plants growing very nicely in buckets at the store, sometimes with actual tomatoes already on the vine, only to put them in the ground (again with new expensive soil), water them with precious New Mexico water, and either watch them die triumphantly or produce tomatoes so small you can’t even use them for a decent salad.
Well, this year, I just gave up! We put in a fresh herb garden, and I decided to fill the other spaces with things that would look pretty, smell nice, and would be easy to care for. Now, to really understand the complexity here, you need to know that my mother HATES honeysuckle. She’s allergic to it, she hates the smell, and she gets quite annoyed at how it just takes over everything. Whereas, my lovely wife, Celeste, loves honeysuckle. So, I decided I’d put in a nice climbing jasmine plant where the tomato cages were and run honeysuckle up the bean poles and strings.
So, off to the store (remember this is New Mexico) to buy honeysuckle. Well, I asked at the local greenhouse if they had the vine in question, and the young lady said, “sure, follow me.” Off we went to the back of the property where she said, “here you go, this bucket is $80,” to which I replied, “are you kidding me?!?” She was not. Eighty dollars for a bucket of honeysuckle vine. Then, reluctantly she said, “well, we do have this smaller bucket for $20, but that will take you a lot longer to get it established and growing.”
All I could hear in my head was my mother shouting at me: “…you can’t be serious!” Followed by an emphatic “ICK” (her most common word for all things distasteful), and a final “…that’s just the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of!”
And while I love and respect my mother, I love my wife too, and I currently live in New Mexico, not Mississippi, so I sucked it up, spent the $20, and I now have a gold-plated crop of honeysuckle vine successfully growing (so far) where the beans used to perform in a rather lackluster fashion. I’ll report back later in the season to let you know how it’s going. Because, seriously, if I can’t grow HONEYSUCKLE, I really do need to give up on farming!
On a side note, if any of you are coming out this way for a visit anytime soon, I strongly encourage you to load up your car or truck with as much honeysuckle as you can bring. Obviously, you can pay for your entire trip and go home with money in your pocket. I’d say bring kudzu too, but these fine folks out here are just crazy enough to buy it because it’s green, and I don’t want to be the person blamed in the history books for bringing kudzu to New Mexico! I’ve already embarrassed the Shearer name quite enough by paying actual money for Honeysuckle vines!