The Beekman Farm at dusk
The Beekman Farm at dusk

To:

Either I have a very good memory or I have not yet reached the age where the brain becomes so overloaded with new information that it sacrifices some of the old.

Do you think it is the sheer brightness of the sun that makes childhood memories of summer remain so vivid?  I remember playing kickball with the Johnson children in the backyard, the feel of damp morning grass under bare feet, drinking lemonade out of brightly hued aluminum cups that got so cold with the ice that you could barely stand to hold them, and reading through my parents’ childhood libraries—including every single one of the Hardy Boys AND the Nancy Drew mysteries—that had been carefully preserved on the bookshelves of my grandparents’ homes.

But the brightest memory I have is not of summer days at all, but of the summer evenings.  The time after dinner was so precious as we kids tried to cram a couple of more hours of play into the day.

In the spacious backyard of my maternal grandparents (who we called Nanny and Pootsie), lived two huge chestnut trees.  I used to hate having to pick up the prickly hulls that fell from the branches, but I loved using the hammer to crack open the nuts and access the buttery yellow flesh inside.  Each summer for about two weeks, the trees would erupt with long pollen-coated tendrils that would paint the picnic table underneath its branches with a yellow film and fill the air with a pungent odor that I have never smelled since but can remember just like it was yesterday.

Evidently, fireflies found this smell to be a powerful aphrodisiac, as during those two weeks, they would appear by the thousands to mingle and mate.  The trees twinkled like they had been wrapped with a million tiny yellow Christmas lights.  You could literally pluck one of the tendrils off the tree and have a collection of 50 fireflies, but we were an active bunch, so we would run around the yard like lunatics trying to catch them in our hands.  As inhumane as it may seem now, my grandmother would give each of us an old mason jar.  We’d fill the bottom with some grass, maybe throw in a stick or two and punch holes in the lid with a nail.  We assumed that this would make a good home for the bugs that we collected, but, alas, even if we cradled the jar carefully until we sat it on the beside table, our blinking little treasures never lasted to morning.

Like so many things that burn brightly, they burn out fast, and I don’t think we actually shortened the lightening bugs lives by too much.

This summer on the farm, the surrounding fields at dusk are filled with the pinpoint flashing siren calls of these little faeries.  And while I’m now content to sit on the back porch or down by the pond instead of running around crazed by the moon, I am still filled with glee and wonder at the spectacle that greets us every Friday night when we pull into the driveway.

The mist rolls in
The mist rolls in
The mist rolls in
The mist rolls in

I could not capture the fireflies’ fleeting light with my camera, but you can use your imagination.

THE TRAIN REPORT (each week I’ll also give you a glimpse on what our train ride was like):

On time

I was lost in reverie while writing this blog entry on the train, so I didn’t even notice my neighbors.  Perhaps they noticed the far away look in my eyes and the smile on my face and decided to leave me alone

From:

I have frequently documented my struggle with weeds, and while I try to find the beauty in them, I simply cannot tolerate when they grow up among the gravel of the driveway.  I have a sneaking suspicion that they know exactly how much this annoys me.  I think they also know that we are a chemical-free farm and have become a little smug lated.

But no more.

I’ve learned of a new weed killing concoction.  You mix white vinegar (I buy the cheapest kind in the largest jug) and you mix it with water at a 1:1 ratio.  You then add a few drops of clove oil.  Using a spray bottle, you mist each of the weeds making sure to cover each leaf and voila—the weed shrivels and dies by the next day. It’s proof that harmful chemicals are neither easier or better.

We had a perfect evening of entertaining on Saturday.

Our guests showed up around 4:00, and we started dinner in the garden.  With the help of our company, we harvested peas, new potatoes, carrots, fresh salad greens and herbs.  While the grill was warming up for the steaks, we sat around the kitchen table shelling peas and sipping homemade sour cherry mojitos. (Modified recipe here.)

The bounty
The bounty

After dinner we went for a swim under the stars and the fireflies, and then had homemade strawberry ice cream for dessert.

Another complete meal raised and prepared entirely by our own hands.

We went to bed at 10:30 with our bellies round and our heart and souls content.

THE TRAIN REPORT:

Hideous
Over an hour late getting home
Thankfully fuming and seething burns extra calories

by Dr. Brent

Reader Comments

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Connie

Thank you for bringing back great memories. I too loved catching the fireflies, drinking from the colorful aluminum glasses, and playing until the last bit of light was gone. That's when firefly-catching began. I usually let mine go soon after I caught them, though, as I felt sorry for them in the jar. The kid next door would tie a string to a June-bug and fly it around like a toy plane.

I love my memories of paying softball with the neighborhood kids on empty lots, riding my purple Schwinn Sting-Ray bike with the banana seat, sitting in the porch swing listening to the radio, sipping an icy glass of grape or cherry Koolade, and listening to the sweet tinkling of the $1 dime-store Chinese glass chimes, which are about $25 now on eBay! But it's worth it for the memories! I bought a set of the aluminum glasses, too….also $25! Memories are expensive, but are also priceless, and the actual item is never as good as the memory.

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Belinda Richards

Thank you for the tale of the fireflies and writing about shelling the peas. It brought back memories of sitting on my grandmother's front porch with her snapping green beans and talking about when she grew up. Fireflies are like little angels showing us there is nothing to be afraid of in the night.

Thanks again for sharing your lives with us and showing the importance of communities!!

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teri tighe

thanks for the tip for the weeds. I also have the same hate for weeds but I will try your concoction.

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