We live on the corner of two streets frequented by many walkers, joggers, visitors and prospective residents looking over this senior community. So, yes, we feel a little additional obligation to maintain attractive plantings on the front and side of our home.
Only my husband has a green thumb, but his interest is toward vegetables and he claims to know little about flowers. At the same time, mobility issues at 86 have curtailed gardening extensively, even with the community’s rental garden plots a couple of blocks distant.
This year and last, despite his claim, we had blooming flowers that evoked compliments from residents and others who pass us. But he has also found ways to feed his real interest, planting what turned out to be dual-purpose veggies.
That is, they have provided privacy and concealment, as well as produce.
He planted butternut squash both years. They have produced lovely, large leaves that hide past-their-prime flowers and sun-burned hostas while snaking around the long side of the house, past the patio and around the back. He has turned back the vine now sneaking toward the neighbor, but assured her that if it persists, she can cut it off.
Last week he counted 15-20 butternut squash hidden under those leaves, including at least one he estimated at five pounds. Presumably they will be as delicious as those he harvested last year, for us and for neighbors.
This year, for the first time he planted sun chokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes. They have grown up and up, now above the patio awning, and provide privacy from prying, curious or more often, friendly, eyes as we sit in the chaise or chairs.
Eventually we will harvest the tubers for added crunch to salads, stir fry meals or other dishes.
Only his large tub that gave us fresh tomatoes and has ripening green peppers have no secondary concealment benefit.
Nor does a planter on the front porch hide anything, but it has attracted friends to share the bountiful harvest of basil this year.
No longer do we harvest garlic or onions, perhaps his favorite crops. They come from the grocer. Only once did I object to any of his efforts, and that was to protest the site he chose to dry his garlic bulbs. It was years ago, when we were in a small rental house with the washer and dryer in the tiny basement. What looked like a trapeze hung just above the dryer door.
It was an ideal place for hanging those garlic bulbs, except that I complained of asphyxiation. I don’t recall the exact outcome, but suspect the garlic braids with their “aroma” were moved.
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On an entirely different topic, two recent books are stark reminders of West Virginia’s longtime natural resource controversies. Both focus on lawyers who took up challenge of what appeared to be losing causes.
The just-published “Soul Full of Coal Dust,” by investigative reporter Chris Hamby, relates the years-long effort by community activist-turned-attorney John Cline. Advocating for black lung victims seeking benefits, he took on government bureaucrats, Congress, mine operators, well-heeled attorneys and highly respected doctors.
The 450-page volume, with copious footnotes and source lists, is worthy reading and challenges stereotypes of miners:
“The miner is, in essence, part geologist, part engineer, and part all-purpose handyman with at least a passing familiarity with principles of aerodynamics and hydrology.”
Just a year before Hamby’s book, attorney Robert Bilott, who had been defending chemical companies, published his account of a 20-year battle opposing DuPont. In “Exposure,” he relates his efforts for a Wood County farmer who linked landfill runoff from a DuPont plant to the death of his livestock. Eventually Bilott’s research led to a class-action suit on contamination of public water supplies by the chemical PFOA.
I recall reading news accounts of the Teflon chemicals controversy for years, many by former Gazette-Mail reporter Ken Ward Jr. (also mentioned several times in the book). We, too, eventually received a letter asking if our Mason County home was in the area of contaminated water. It wasn’t.
In his book, Bilott excels at explaining complicated law; Despite my many hours covering court cases, I now understand better the pros and cons for weighing proposed settlements.
True, with retirement, my days covering court cases are over. But both “Exposure” and “Soul Full of Coal Dust” reveal issues important to the lives of West Virginians.