All Around the Mulberry Bush

Much like our beloved Philadelphia Phillies, I’m in a rebuilding period. Trying to find my way back to normalcy while still not feeling 100%. Monday, I did a pick-up order from Shop Rite, then supplemented that with some items from Whole Foods Tuesday. I remembered to use my reusable bags at Whole Foods, so I must be improving somewhat. Tote life!

Yesterday, I went for a walk for the first time in forever. Took my usual route up by the park, checked in on my favorite houses. Everyone’s trimming trees and landscaping their yards. It was brisk, in the ’50s. While walking, I was thinking about when I was young and how interested we were in our yard and what grew there. We had a mulberry tree next to our house, and every summer when the mulberries ripened and fell to the ground en masse (around June?), we would methodically gather them and press them through a sieve to make juice. Then there would be a conversation about whether we should drink the juice or not, the never-solved question of whether mulberries were poisonous (we couldn’t just Google it!). Heck, we didn’t even know they were mulberries; that’s something I looked up as an adult. They were just “berries.” I don’t remember ever drinking the juice myself, but I’m sure someone in our gang did, perhaps with sugar added. The ripest berries would be fat and deep purple-black. The sidewalk and the bottoms of our bare feet would get stained purple, and my mother would deplore the stains on our clothes.

We actually have a mulberry tree in our yard now, but it doesn’t seem to produce berries by the bucketful like that old one did, and the kids aren’t particularly interested in them. I think back then there must have been a money angle to it; we thought if only we could sweeten the juice up, we’d have a nice little commodity to sell, and it would be pure profit since the berries were free. Not sure; I just know we made a lot of juice.

I also remember pulling up a lot of “onion grass” — the spiky green stalks that would have a small white onion attached to the end if we pulled them out of the ground carefully. If we were playing house, the onions would be part of a “salad” served for dinner. Don’t think anyone ever actually ate those onions, though.

Speaking of playing house, we were always trying to find a way to have a “just kids” space. We had no trees in our yard for a treehouse (that would have been the best), and not much room for a freestanding playhouse (nor did my dad possess any building abilities). Sometimes we would squeeze under the back porch; it was all enclosed except for one spot, but it was tight and the floor was dirt. We had a garage, but it was a hulking concrete windowless structure, again with a dirt floor, and home to wasps and bees, so I mostly avoided it. For a time I made a home in the hedge that ran between our front lawn and the neighbor’s. Different hollows in the hedge were different rooms, and I crawled from room to room acting out whatever we were playing. The hedge ended at the mulberry tree, which was also probably a room. I can remember sitting cross-legged in the hedge, ants and God-knows-what crawling over my legs, a little canopy of leaves over my head, feeling pretty fine.

I guess this is what happens when your house is small, you share a room with your sibling, you’re a one-car family, you don’t play any organized sports, and there’s no playground within walking distance: you make the most out of your yard.

We didn’t have a vegetable garden, growing up, but my mom always planted impatiens in the small garden area by the front steps. I remember a few stabs at gardening myself: planting apple seeds to see what would happen (small plants with tiny circular leaves, as I recall). Growing little plants from a kit that came in the Life cereal box (coleus was one of them). And I can still tell you everything that grew in that yard of its own accord, and where, and when it poked up and bloomed. Lilies of the valley, tiger lilies, lilacs, honeysuckle, rose of Sharon…

So you can see that my interest in the land-at-hand goes way back. Back here in my current yard, the arugula is about to be thinned.


And the potato plant is doing something. There are definitely new green shoots.


There will be lots to do in the yard in the next few weeks. I spent some time Sunday refiguring my whole garden plan. My first plan failed to take into account that you shouldn’t really be planting the same things in the same spots two years in a row. And I have so many different types of plants now that I also have to consider which can’t be near each other and which can. Add in the varying depths of my containers and beds, and the different heights of the plants and the shade they cast — it suddenly got complicated. But I think my new plan is workable.

Yesterday afternoon I finally transplanted some broccoli seedlings.


Probably not a  great idea to do it when we had another freeze warning last night, but they seem OK today. What I really need now is dirt. Lots of dirt. I can’t do much more planting without it. Lettuce, sugar snap peas and runner beans need to go in next, as well as the rest of the broccoli.

Tonight: school fundraiser at Chick Fil A, so no cooking 🙂



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