During the Depression, William Stafford’s family moved from town to town in search of work. He contributed to the family income by raising vegetables. Stafford grew up to be a poet of ordinary life ~ the plain life of the hours before first light, his quiet time for toast and coffee and writing. He didn’t believe in writer’s block ~ if you get stuck, lower your standards and keep going. Every morning, this modest guy went inside himself to find small words and write big thoughts.


It could happen any time, tornado,

earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.

Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could you know. That’s why we wake
and look out—no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

~ William Stafford

And may I be so bold as to add ~ like cucumbers. I have tons of small, bumpy-skinned beauties with dotted spines in all sorts of oddball shapes. They hang from trailing vines and hairy stems, at rest under three-lobed leaves.

My dad was a humble guy like Stafford.  He rose while the streetlight still gleamed, raised vegetables for our family, and, during the Depression, worked three jobs. But Dad didn’t make poetry with a pen. He made it with cement, steel, stone and dirt. What I know about growing things, I got by osmosis ~ near him in the garden, digging in the dirt.

This summer I have a tyrannosaurian yield of cucumbers from plants that ask for so little ~  heat, water, some dressing on the side, as in manure tea. (That’s another like for the poem, with apologies to William.)  The cukes grow day in and day out.  They don’t murmur, they shout.  Nonstop.  The drill is ~ Wash. Slice. Eat. Repeat.

And then, there’s the Joy of Pickles. They bring strangers together. People gather round the pickle man at the farmers’ market, crowding in for that crisp, salty, sour experience. But the best ones are the ones you make yourself.  I like bread-and-butter pickles.  I’d rather have my salt coarse and crunchy and sprinkled on dark chocolate.

Try this for the perfect hamburger pickle ~

Homemade Refrigerator Pickles

1 c distilled white vinegar

1 TBS salt

2 c white sugar

6 c sliced cucumbers

1 c sliced onions

1 c sliced green peppers

In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil.  Boil until sugar is dissolved.  Put cucumbers, onions and peppers in a bowl.  Pour vinegar mixture over them. Transfer to sterile containers and refrigerate.

Or if dill is your thing ~

Kosher Dill Pickles

2 quarts water

10 TBS white vinegar
3 tablespoons coarse kosher white salt
cucumbers, scrubbed
cloves garlic, unpeeled and lightly-crushed

some peppercorns

1 large bunch of dill

1/2 small onion

1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil with all ingredients except cucumbers.

2. Prepare jars by running them through the dishwasher or filling them with boiling water, then dumping it out.

3. Pack the cucumbers vertically into the jars, making sure they’re tightly-packed. As you fill the jars, divide the garlic and dill among them.

4. Fill the jars with brine so that the cucumbers are completely covered. Cover the jars with plastic wrap, secured with rubber bands, or loosely with the lids. You can store them in a cool, dark place for 3 days. Or do what my farmer friend does ~ put them in the sunniest spot on your deck for a day or two, with a few air holes in the plastic wrap.

5. Taste.  The longer the fermentation, the more sour they’ll become. Then refrigerate.

Want something a bit more sublime??  Thin-slice a cucumber, lay the slices on petite little triangles of buttered bread ( note: that’s real butter), brew a pot of loose leaf and sip it in a proper china cup. Just like the Queen. Oh, and invite your gal pals over for afternoon tea.

Toni 8/12/12