If you come here often, you’ve heard me mention our friends Al and Christl. Besides being our friends, they’re the people we want to be when we grow up.
They’re older than we are – in their seventies, I think – and they’ve done, or are still doing, a lot of what we do. We grow mushrooms, they grow mushrooms. We go clamming, they go clamming. Although they don’t have chickens or bees right now, they’ve had them, and know all about it.
Every time we think about a new project, and we mention it to them, it seems they’ve tried it. When I read that there was a kind of hardy kiwi plant that could grow in partial sun and produce abundant fruit, I got all excited about planting them along the shady side of the house until Christl told me about her experience with the hard, sour inedible little fruits.
When we told them we were thinking about a grape arbor, they showed us where theirs had been, and Al told us how Christl had slept on their sunporch (a greenhouse, really) so she could get up in the middle of the night to chase the raccoons away.
Sure, we built our chicken house, and it’s a fine, award-winning chicken house, but they built their real house. Their people house. And it’s so well-insulated that they can keep it warm all winter, with a crazy Russian stove, using only half a cord of wood. And it’s also beautiful.
But it’s the garden that gets me. Christl can grow anything.
Yesterday, I called them because we have a surfeit of clams, which we’re taking off our oyster grant. When I asked Christl if she’d like some, she said, “Oh, what a question!” When I told her we’d stop in that afternoon, she said, “Oh good, then I can show you my winter squash.”
If Christl says a squash is worth looking at, you definitely want to see it.
It conveniently stopped pouring just as we pulled into their driveway, and after I gave Al the clams we all went around back to take a look at the squash.
The squash bar is high, when it comes to size. Last year, Christl grew a behemoth I christened the Sasquash, which probably weighed about fifteen pounds. This year, though, she’s shattered the record. She’s got seven giant squashes still on vines in her backyard, and the biggest of them must weigh thirty pounds. All told, it’s probably over 150 pounds worth.
“They said in the catalog it was a big squash,” she said.
Christl always assures me that developing a garden like hers takes many years. The gardener, with practice, gets better at gardening, and the soil, with regular amendment, gets richer and more productive. If I stick to it, perhaps the time will come when I, too, can grow a squash the size of a Volkswagen.