H is for Hollyhocks and botanical delights. Eighth of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck!
Whispering Chimneys, at ten acres, was on the small side for a farm. But it was plenty big enough for me to experience — as a little girl — the hollyhocks and botanical delights that abounded at every turn.
The spectacular nature show started right outside our kitchen door — where my grandmother kept an herb garden.
She grew spearmint and peppermint plants there — and I loved to bruise their leaves and inhale the stimulating aroma. My grandmother fertilized them with used coffee grounds, which I found odd and interesting.
Nearby, next to the chimney, were gorgeous pink peonies with their tender, sweet fragrance. Across the driveway was a large, lush lilac bush — its purple flowers perfuming the air in spring. Also, a crab apple tree that filled with pale pink blossoms as the weather warmed.
Out behind the house stood rows of tall hollyhocks. Their flowers and stalks bobbed and swayed in the western breeze — and their brown seed pods looked like tiny kettle drums.
There was fabulous fruit on the farm, too. Near a creek that traversed our front yard was a huge old Northern Spy apple tree that dropped its lush fruit the ground each fall. I now make special trips to the farmers market to buy the Northern Spy apples I grew to love as a child.
Out near the barn were the berry bushes. Raspberries grew in chaotic profusion near a stand of pine trees — and I learned how to choose the ripest ones and pick them without pricking my fingers.
Elderberries — used for pies or to make wine — grew up the back of the barn. My grandmother, who lived with us, was at constant war with the birds to be sure she got enough dark berries for her recipes. My handy grandfather finally erected protective netting to keep the birds away.
And every spring, wild strawberries popped up in the marshy areas in front of the barn — where I’d wade in wearing my golashes and eat as many as I could.
Brown-eyed Susans and Sunflowers
Rounding out the growing season were two sunny yellow flowers I am still fond of.
Brown-eyed Susans proliferated in the field out behind the barn — the one I had to approach carefully by making a big loop around the scary, water-less well my parents warned me not to go near.
And one year, a sunflower seed from our chicken feed took root near the barn, and a towering plant grew and grew!
My dad photographed me standing in front of this amazing sunflower plant — as tall as a grownup, its brilliant flowers turning slowly to follow the sun.
Up next: Ice skating on the pond. Please stop back!
© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.