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 ~ life during 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. (Wise words, don’t you think?) 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 and steel, seeds and soil. 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, heart-nuking gifts from plants that ask for so little ~  heat, water, and Dad’s 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.

Ah, the Joy of Pickles. They bring strangers together. People gather round the pickle man at the farmers’ market, crowding in for that crisp salty experience.  (I’d rather have my salt coarse and crunchy and sprinkled on dark chocolate.) But the best pickles are the ones you make yourself.  Like these.

Homemade Refrigerator Bread-and-Butter Pickles

 1 c distilled white vinegar

1 TBS salt 2

1 c white sugar

6 c sliced cucumbers

1 c sliced onions

1 c sliced green peppers

Some garlic and dill

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.

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

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.

 Fill the jars with the brine so that the cucumbers are completely covered. Cover the jars with plastic wrap, secured with rubber bands, or with the lids and refrigerate.

Want something a bit more sublime for afternoon tea?  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.


Look at summer, showing off as usual.

What’s running amok in your garden? 

Are you in the kitchen like me?



Toni 7/28/14

78 thoughts on “DO TRY THIS AT HOME

  1. What a lovely post. I will think about Stafford’s words…and be reminded of my love for cucumbers as a work through a tenacious funk. Thank you.


  2. This perfectly beautiful entry is winging home with me from family reunion in Utah
    to east coast garden where reports of weeds amok in my absence await. First though for sure will be cuke sandwich here and there.


  3. So apt a post as have just been trying out chutney recipes for the first time on un ripe pears. And was given a jar of pickled cucumbers by a German friend!


  4. I made several quarts of fermented asparagus when it was organic local asparagus season this year. I have no garden so I buy fresh produce at my farmers market.

    This Saturday, I’m doing cukes! They are abundant in N. Cali just now.

    Like your blog.


  5. Thank you so much for this beautiful moment! Poetry, tea and gardens: some of life’s greatest gifts. If you feel a bit wild, snip a bit and stir a bit of dill into the butter for your cucumber sandwiches.


  6. Thank you for sharing your cucumber recipe. I used to make orange marmalade before work and widowhood took up too much of my time. You have given me encouragement to write about my life, to share my experiences.


  7. Very evocative words. Love the way you told 2 stories and linked them, thanks to vegetable gardening! I live in the Gulf desert..you think I could grow cucumbers in summer ? Just joking..the sandy soil need plenty of feeding.


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