I visited Saratoga Springs as a 15-year-old on a 4-H trip of some stripe. I suppose it had to do with Horse Bowl or another equine-related activity. It was meant to be a treat, spending the day at this classic horse-racing center.
I don't remember how we got there, or why we were sitting in a dining room listening to some adult talk about something or another. For seemingly eternity.
But what I do remember, with vivid, visceral detail? The sensation of the tiny packet of catsup between my restless fingers. I flipped that packet between my fingers the way a magician moves a coin from knuckle to knuckle. It had a particular squeezy resistance to pressure when I flexed a fist.
And then it didn't.
A small packet of catsup, I have every recollection, can be propelled by hand to a distance of two banquet tables.
The teaspoon of tomato-based condiment can, demonstrably, touch base with at least five innocent bystanders. And for the remainder of that day in Saratoga Springs was divided into thirds: first third: horror and mortification. Second third: silent apology. Third third: suppressed hysteria.
I competed in a horse show at Skidmore College when I was in college. I don't remember anything about the horse I rode, or how I performed, but I can recall exactly the swoop and sway of the car on its way. The upperclassman driving us in his car talked to his audience of student sardines with liberal use of both hands, regardless the conditions of the road.
This time, the trip Saratoga Springs was just delightful.
A pleasant drive. The Saratoga Lake Yacht Club welcomed us with extraordinary warmness, our visit to the racetrack was unmarred by condiment incident, and we came home with the sailing equivalent of blue ribbons...
The Would-Be Farm has had a wet 2021 summer. The grass grows like weeds. The weeds grow even faster. But the flowers have been pretty glorious, honestly.
Last year, my long-suffering sister agreed to start some of my eccentric seed choices. In March, when gardeners in the North Country begin to stare longingly at anything green in hopes that it might be alive, grow-table real estate is valuable. It was a generous offer.
So I sent packets of ground cherry seeds, monarda seeds, borage seeds with my hope.
The ground cherries refused en mass to start, and the borage, once started, too closely resembled a weed and in June was twice accidentally whacked and gave in to entropy without fuss.
But monarda –– monarda was the standout: each seed sprouted and refused to be cowed by last summer's drought.
Back in April in that first plague year, under the grow-lights, my sister sister looked at the monarda starts with suspicion. "Are these," she asked me dubiously, "bee-balm?"
Me, consulting the inter webs: Um, yes.
No wonder these seeds had sprouted: the stuff had taken over a whole corner of her flower-garden. I could have as much as I like yanked out of her garden. For crying out loud.
Sure enough. Those wee four-leafed starters from last year turned into thigh-high big bursts of vivid color: clear red, pink, deep fuschia. The scent is a bit like oregano, strong and –– allegedly –– unappealing to some of the hungry natives of the Would-Be.
I don't know if deer and rabbits and porcupine and woodchucks and all will continue to avoid the plantings. It's all one big experiment. I've put tasty fruit trees in the midst of all that color, hiding them among the strong scent and bright color until they are tall enough to avoid the predators themselves.
Meanwhile, call them bee balm or Monarda, them what you will, the flowerbeds are hugely popular with the pollinators
We'll see if they take over the orchard. We'll see if they protect fruit trees. Knock wood, we'll see.
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